Monday, November 22, 2010


   Are you a trivia buff?  If so, perhaps you'd be interested in knowing a little bit more about the poinsettia plant you buy every Christmas season.  This knowledge should really impress your friends and family at the holiday dinner table.
   Did you know that the poinsettia's main attraction is not its flowers, but its leaves?  The flowers of the plant are the yellow clustered buds in the center.  The colored leafy parts are actually bracts or modified leaves.
   Red is the most popular color, accounting for roughly tow thirds of all sales nationwide, followed by white, pink, marble and peppermint candy.   Poinsettia's also come in a variety of other shades of salmon, apricot, yellow and cream.  There are also unusual speckled or marbled varieties like "White Glitter".  New varieties are introduced yearly with even more variation in height and colors.

   How many poinsettias do you think are sold each year?  Would you believe over 5 million!  In Canada, Poinsettia's accounted for one third of sales of all flowering potted plants.
   Because of the plants dislike of traveling long distances, there are growers of poinsettias in  almost every state and in Canada they are in every Providence.
   In the wild, the poinsettia can reach heights of 12 feet with leaves measuring six to eight inches across?  It is actually a small tropical tree belonging to the Euphorbia plant family.  Its botanical name is Euphorbia.  A native of southern Mexico, the poinsettia blooms in December and has been used in that country to decorate churches for centuries.

   In the 14th to 16th centuries, the Aztecs used the poinsettia leaves to dye fabric for clothing and the sap for medicinal purposes, including to help control fevers.  They also considered the red color a symbol of purity, and so poinsettias were traditionally part of religious ceremonies.
   Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett, an amateur botanist and first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, introduced the plant that became known as the poinsettia to this country.  He discovered a shrub with brilliantly colored red leaves growing by the side of the road in Taxco,Mexico.  In December 1828, he sent cuttings home to his plantation in Greenville, South Carolina.
   However, most botanists at that time dismissed the poinsettia as a weed.  Fortunately, Poinsett continued to study and breed this plant in his greenhouse, sharing plants with his horticulturist friends.  It soon gained acceptance as a holiday plant, despite its very short bloom time.  It wasn't until the 1960's that researchers were able to successfully breed plants to bloom more than just a few days.

Some painted poinsettia's

   True or False?  The poinsettia is a poisonous plant.  If you answered false, you're correct.  The plant has been tested repeatedly and cleared of this charge by the National Poison Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and the American Medical Association.  The POINSINDEX Information Service reports that even if a 50 pound child consumed more than 500 poinsettia bracts--the amount tested in scientific experiments--the consequences would not be fatal.  Even at this high level, no toxicity was found.
   However, this doesn't mean that poinsettia's are meant to be eaten.  If ingested, this plant can cause stomach irritation and discomfort.  Cats and children also may choke on the fibrous parts, so be sure to keep these plants out of their reach.  The sticky white sap also may cause skin irritation for some people.

   Do you know the best way to prolong the life of this Christmas plant?  Avoid hot or cold drafts, keep the soil moist not soggy, and place in a room with sufficient natural light and temperatures of around 60 to 70 degrees F.  Water when the soil begins to dry.  Once the leaves begin to wilt, it's too late.
  Above all, protect it from exposure to wind or cold on the way home from the garden center.  Poinsettia's are highly sensitive to cold temperatures and even a few minutes of exposure to 50 degree or lower temperatures will cause them to wilt.  But when care for properly, poinsettias usually will outlast your desire to keep them.


   I finally got around to getting the pictures from my  camera onto my computer.  I always took pictures in the day time, but this year I decided to take them at night with just the lighting I used on them.  Some didn't turn out like I planned, it might be time for me to upgrade my camera.  Everything was hand made, the windows were covered with styrofoam boards, the ground breaker coffins were also made from styrofoam.  So without further ado here they are:


The vacancy sign blinked on and off




This is the front door where the trick or treaters would come

The ravens eye blinked on and off



   It's simpler than you think. Years ago, it was red wine with beef and perhaps a robust pasta and white wine with chicken and fish.  This is fine to use as a general guideline but the main thing to re member is to drink what you like.  Having said that, here are some good pairings.
   It's fun to pair wine with food to make a meal more enjoyable.  The light-bodied wines go best with lighter foods and the heavier wines with heavier, very flavorful foods.  The body of a wine is how powerful and weighty it feels in your mouth.
   As you pair wine with beef, wild game, barbecued meats, and/or pastas in a heavy red sauce select a heavy-bodied, flavorful red wine.  Consider there wines-a Syrah, Merlot or a Cabernet Sauvignon.  If you're serving light seafood dishes, poultry, ham and mildly flavored cheeses look to the lighter wines.  For a red wine, these would be Beaujolais, burgundy or a Pinot Noir.  If you prefer to serve a white wine, consider a Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc.  Rose Wines also go well with the lighter fare.

   And, sometimes you throw the rules out completely.  Pairing by regions also works well.  A nice Chianti goes well with hearty Italian dishes.  An Italian import, Bolla Soave, goes nicely with lighter chicken dishes and salads.
   For dessert you'll want a sweet wine like Sherry, Port and Muscats.  Or, even a very rich burgundy paired with very rich chocolate dishes.  Muscats are very sweet and don't pair well but both Sherries and Ports go well if the dessert is not sweeter than the wine.  A well known farmstead cheese maker, pairs Port with many of his white cheddar cheeses-delicious.  You'll often find Port served with Stilton cheese.  Sherry pairs nicely with nutty deserts also.

Here are a few guidelines about which wine goes well with what food dishes.

Steak- Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon

BBQ Meats- Zinfandel, Syrah, Chianti

Salmon- Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Chardonnay, Bolla Soave, Burgundy

Shellfish-Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Chablis, Bolla Soave

White Fish-Chardonnay, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraiminer

Pasta in Red Sauce-Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chianti, Burgundy Pinot Blanc