thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving Approaches and Here’s Our Dinner Plan

The image above is not from my dinner table but it contains all the necessary items for a decent Thanksgiving meal, in my humble opinion.

My son smokes the turkey on the grill. He just bought his favorite Jack Daniels Wood Smoking Chips which are made from old oak barrels that once held whiskey. The turkey was delicious last year, so I am leaving it up to him. 

This will be our second year together for the holidays and the guest count total is three!  Yes, it’s a small gathering.  So the focus is on the food.

Our dinner planning has begun. Turkey, stuffing and gravy are a given.  It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without them.  Also high on the list is mashed potatoes, Acorn squash and rolls.  I don’t eat much bread these days, so I will most likely skip adding the rolls to my plate.

Personally I can’t eat any of it without cranberry sauce as an accompaniment.   Last year I made my own cranberry sauce and I will do so again this year.  I added the recipe to this blog so I would remember how to do it.

cranberry sauce
Boiling the cranberries

Another new thing I did last year was to make my own broth. I used the turkey innards / gizzards or whatever all that extra stuff is called that is packed inside a big frozen bird. The broth is used in place of water in gravy and stuffing. And boy does it make a difference in flavor! Any leftover would make an excellent soup stock too.

turkey stock broth
Making Stock

Many people already know to do all of this, but I didn’t grow up with a mother who was a good cook. Most of my life I had to make most of the Thanksgiving meal myself, for my husband and kids. We never had much family around. After all the cooking, serving and eating, I had the clean up.

Thanksgiving meals of old, back when I was growing up and tables had to be pushed together to seat all fo us, the menu was larger. Aunts and grandmothers slaved for days to bring their homemade specialties to the table. Boiled onions, turnips, carrots, homemade breads, and many pies and desserts we included. My grandmother made cookies called monkey faces. There were so many before-dinner appetizers I had to be careful not to fill up.

Our simple menu will also include apple pie which I will make.

I need to find some recipes for after Thanksgiving. Usually sandwiches and soup use up the leftovers nicely. This year we have a new refrigerator which means plenty of room for keeping the carcass until I can use it to make soup stock the next day.

Have a wonderful holiday!

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October and November Vegetable Gardening in Florida

raised garden bed in fall
Raised Garden Bed November 2017

Now that the weather is cooling off here in central Florida, gardening is on my mind.  I can comfortably step outside and work in the yard.  October was a little hot, but November has been nice.

My Gardening in Florida book says that October is the time to think about growing cool-season crops.  Now it’s November and I still don’t have enough dirt for planting.  But if I did, this is what I would have planted.

Also, further down the page, see what is still growing and beginning to produce vegetables!

What to Plant in Fall

Suggested planting includes carrots, beets (I seldom eat) and turnips (I never eat), which can be started as seeds.  No need to buy seedlings.  Last spring I planted carrots in a fabric pot and they did pretty well.

My book has a section about building strawberry pyramids – so I assume I should plant strawberries this time of year. I don’t really have the space for them, so maybe I need a pyramid? There is probably no time or money for that this year, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Or maybe I will use one of the ideas found at this page: Top 30 Stunning Low-Budget DIY Garden Pots and Containers. Some look cheap and easy enough to do! Makes me want to go to the dollar store.

What I really need is a fence. It will give me some place where I can add containers and keep the raccoons out at the same time. There is no money for that right now.

I must deal with reality, so here is my list of vegetables I could have planted in October.  My garden is 10 feet long by 3 feet wide.  So not a lot of space, but I do have fabric pots to use as well.  If only I had a garden full of good dirt.

Lettuce
Kale
Onions – plant around the edges, take up little space
Peas – Will need a trellis

Some Plants Are Still Growing Well After Summer

I all but gave up completely on growing anything over the summer.  I had planted tomatoes, eggplant, squash and peppers in Spring.  I did get some small tomatoes but the raccoons helped themselves.  The squash plant got bugs and died before it gave me any squash.  The Eggplant and Peppers are still going strong.  In fact they are now doing well.

My neighbor, who does no gardening in summer, said that when it’s too hot the plants won’t produce. She covers the ground with plastic to kill the nematodes. However, I wonder if she realizes that burning out the bad also affects the good. I’m not sure it is wise to do that.  And because my plants survived the summer and are now looking good, I plan to keep the garden going all summer long next year.

eggplant in raised bed garden
My Eggplant “Tree” and green pepper plant in the raised bed

I honestly thought everything would eventually die in the summer heat.  I kept watering, just in case.  My eggplant grew into a small tree!  It was pretty, and has plenty of purple flowers, but never gave me an eggplant to eat.  Finally I cut it back hoping the excess energy put into growing would be used to possibly give me some eggplants.

And then…. today (maybe 2 weeks after trimming it) I was watering in the morning, as I do every day, and I found a small Eggplant beginning to grow!  Yay… more please.

title eggplant beginning to grow
November 15th – Finally, a Little Eggplant is Growing!

The only other vegetable producing plants that have survived are the peppers.  The hot pepper plant gives me a pepper here and there.

I have 2 bell pepper plants.  One is in a fabric pot and it has produced a couple of peppers over summer.  Now that the weather is cooler, the other pepper plant is producing like mad!  I’ve never been able to grow peppers but maybe the secret is to plant in Spring and wait until Fall to eat them.

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 9.50.47 AM

So, what I’ve learned so far is that planting in Spring gives me vegetables in Fall. The plants seem to go dormant over summer and then produce when the weather gets nice.

I’m continuously amending my soil and will continue to do so.  I think poor soil was inhibiting growth.

walking trail among tall pine trees

Walking in Fall and Finding a Tree Tunnel

When I visited New Hampshire recently, one of the first things I wanted to do was get outside and take a walk.

Fortunately my daughter lives in a rural, wooded location with a walking trail nearby. We could have walked down the road to reach this trail, but we decided to take the (nonexistent) path through the woods instead.

We only got lost once, but at least we were headed in the right direction! The section of the trail we walked is only a small part of the 6.5 mile long path. No motor vehicles are allowed, but walking, biking, cross-country skiing, skating and fishing (it follows a river at places) are allowed.

There wasn’t much foliage to view, but this cool “tree tunnel” was interesting.

walking trail among tall pine trees
Walking Trail

walking path
Tunnel of Trees

Moose have been seen in this area and I would love to see one. On the other hand, I have heard about how they can be aggressive. It could be scary to come face to face with such a huge animal and have nowhere to hide but behind a tree!

covered bridge
Covered Bridge

This is the river that the trail runs parallel to. My daughter’s boyfriend was nice enough to take us out on his boat and we cruised up and down this section of the river. The water was icy cold!

Black cat on white sheets

The Croton is Flowering, Cats, and Other Happenings This Saturday Morning

flowering croton
Flowers on the Croton

Before I left on my trip north, I checked (and watered) all my plants and discovered that my croton is flowering! Pretty fluffy little off-white flowers are shooting off the tops of the big-leaved stems. Long ago I may have seen croton flowers, but if so, I had forgotten that they have flowers.

It’s Saturday morning already. I lost a few days this week it seems.

All my mornings begin with me making coffee for myself. While the coffee brews I take care of the cats. My two black cats simply want to go outside. I change their water and make sure there is food in the bowl.

Then I deal with Earflap aka Mr. Mites aka Bitey. He is the stray who adopted us months ago. He manages to fill his litter box every night, so I empty that. He gets special canned food, so I serve him breakfast. The porch door stays shut overnight so the raccoons won’t come in and eat his dry food, so I open it and give him his freedom. Usually he goes back to sleep on the chair inside the porch.

stray cat on the patio
Earflap the stray cat

Two days ago I walked into the garage at 8AM and it wasn’t sweltering. I put the door up and a wonderful breeze hit me. As I walked into the driveway I stretched my arms and breathed in the air – something I haven’t done in months. Trying to breathe outside here in summer is like slowly drowning. Okay, I am exaggerating a bit but the humidity here is stifling – 24 hours a day.

With the breeze blowing for the past three days, the heat seems less and it gives me hope that cool nights are in the future. Daytime temperatures seldom stay cool, but overnight it can get nice. I’m thinking about gardening, and considering having a yard sale.

Saturday is not my favorite day of the week, Sunday is. Sundays are quiet – not even the mailman is out. No one will come to the door and I feel secluded from the world. I search for good movies to watch (which Saturday doesn’t offer) and hope to catch a Patriots football game. Down here in Florida the games are rarely aired, unless the Pats play a Florida team.

Every day I work. After I get my coffee and take care of the cats, I go online. Weekends mean that lots of people will probably be online and I promote my products a lot on the weekends. Designing is mostly left for weekdays when there is more time.

Once I check in with work, and do a little sharing of products, I take a break and work out. Get exercise. Move my body. I put on some favorite saved music and walk on the treadmill or dance (it ain’t pretty but it’s effective).  As an older woman, my choice of music may surprise you.  I look for a good beat to keep me going.  Some of my favorite songs are by Shinedown, Foo Fighters,  Seether and Train.

I don’t go crazy, and I’m not trying to look good – I’m trying to stay healthy. Soon, when mornings are cooler, I may be able to ride my beach cruiser around the neighborhood or take a walk outside.

There are things I never do on Saturday.  Never go out on the boat – the ramps are packed.  Never go to the grocery store.  I leave that to people who can only do it on Saturday.  I’m lucky to have a work-from-home job where I can do that type of stuff during the week when the crowds are less.

That is my typical Saturday.  It looks a lot like most of my days.  Hope yours is peaceful, exciting, or whatever you want it to be.