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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Upcoming holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas and Kwanzaa

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November 24
Thanksgiving - is an annual one-day holiday to gratitude|give thanks at the close of the harvest season. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. In Canada, it is celebrated on the second Monday in October.

Canadian Thanksgiving greeting card




In the United Kingdom, Thanksgiving is another name for the Harvest festival, held in churches across the land on a relevant Sunday to mark the end of the local harvest. This tradition was taken to North America by early settlers.
Happy Thanksgiving greeting card

Happy Thanksgiving greeting card

Happy Thanksgiving greeting card




December 25
Christmas - is a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. With many aspects, both religious and secular, including the exchange of gifts, the Santa Claus myth, decoration and display of the Christmas tree, religious ceremonies, and others.

Christmas greeting card. Add your own photo.

Humorous Christmas greeting card



The word "Christmas" is derived from Middle English "Christemasse". It is a contraction meaning "Christ's mass". The name of the holiday is sometimes shortened to Xmas because Roman letter "X" resembles the Greek letter (chi), an abbreviation for Christ.

Christmas greeting card
Humorous Christmas greeting card with cat





Ballet Christmas greeting card
Christmas greeting card. Add your own photo.










The Nativity refers to the birth of Jesus. According to tradition, Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem in a stable, surrounded by farm animals and shepherds, and Jesus was born into a manger from the Blessed Virgin Mary assisted by her husband Joseph. 
Christmas greeting card with horse

 














December 26
Kwanzaa - is a week-long secular holiday honoring African-American heritage, observed from December 26 to January 1 each year, almost exclusively by African-Americans in the United States of America.

Kwanzaa greeting card
Kwanzaa greeting card




 Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift-giving. It was founded by controversial black nationalist Ron Karenga, and first celebrated from December 26, 1966, to January 1 1967. Karenga calls Kwanzaa the African American branch of "first fruits" celebrations of classical African cultures.

Kwanzaa greeting card

Kwanzaa greeting card
Ron Karenga created Kwanzaa in California in 1966, during his leadership of the black nationalist United Slaves Organization (also known as the "US Organization"), in order to give African Americans an alternative holiday to Christmas. He later stated, "...it was chosen to give a Black alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society".



All cards shown plus many more are available in my stores at:


and



All photos, cards and designs are copyright of Cheryl Hall.



Holiday information on this page provided in part from the GCU Holidays page for 2011.










 


 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Growing fruit trees in a small yard

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Our garden has been loving all the warm weather the past few days. The apple trees have been blossoming and I think this year we might even get a few apples from them. We will be lucky if we do as we have only had them for a year now and don't expect to get too many apples from them in the first year. It will take at least a few good years too get a vast amount of fruit as the trees get more branches thus producing more fruit.

Dwarf varieties of Pink Lady and Granny Smith apples in a small garden plot

Blossoms on the Pink Lady
You don't need a big backyard these days to have fruit trees as there are now many varieties of dwarf trees available. The fruit tree is grafted onto a root stock to dwarf or stunt the growth of a fruit tree while keeping the fruit the normal size. This creates more compact trees suitable for small Australian backyards. 











Fruit developing on the Pink Lady
We have two apple trees. One is a Pink Lady because this is my favourite apple to eat. The other is a Granny Smith - chosen because I wanted something opposite to the Pink Lady flavour. We have these two trees near each other so that they pollinate one another. Because these trees are dwarf varieties it means that they will only grow half the size of a  normal tree, meaning that they will grow just a little higher than the height of a normal fence.




Fruit developing on the Granny Smith




















Just about all nurseries in Australia carry dwarf varieties and not only are they available as apple trees but in many types of fruit including: lemon, mandarin, lime, orange, fig, mulberry and  mango to name a few. Check your local nurseries, they are bound to have some of these or doing an internet search will show you nurseries that carry these.

In my previous blog I spoke about drying fruit in my dehydrator so I am hoping to eventually grow enough apples so that I can dry my own instead of buying them. :-)





Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dehydrating fruit

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Today I finally got around to starting my blog...and about time too!

Dehydrating fruit. 

Kumquats and apples in the dehydrator.

Last week I bought a food dehydrator. I had seen these before but never thought that I would really use one. I thought it was finally time to give it a go since I had been buying dried fruit pots at the supermarket lately and found that just about all of them are loaded with extra sugar. Since buying my dehydrator I have used it twice and I love it! 
The natural taste of the fruit really does come through and you don't need the extra sugar in it. The fruit is sweet enough on it's own with it's natural sugars. In fact I think it tastes much, much better without that extra sweetness added and we all know it is much healthier for us too.

Pink lady apples.
I started with kumquats as we have an abundance of these on our tree out the back and no one really eats them apart from my husband who will pick at them occasionally but mostly they go to waste. I also had some pink lady apples in the fruit bowl and I just knew these would taste great as chips.


Mandolin used to slice apple thinly.

 
Firstly I sliced the kumquats using a knife and then I used a mandolin to slice the apples very thinly. One apple takes up approx. one tray.

 
Kumquats sliced and placed on dehydrator rack.











Once I had all the fruit sliced and loaded onto the dehydrator racks it was time to turn it on and let the dehydrator do it's thing. It takes a few hours for the fruit to dry so you have time for a nice cuppa or to catch up on other things.

 










Apple slices on the rack ready to be dried. 














 The apples were the first to be ready as the kumquats have a higher juice content so they take longer. You will find this with different fruits that they will vary in drying times. I took the apples out of the dehydrator and placed them on a paper towel to cool before putting them into an airtight container. I then did the same with the kumquats once they were ready. You need to let the fruit cool so that they don't sweat and go soggy. The dried fruit can last for about two weeks if kept in an airtight container or plastic bag as long as you get most of the air out to keep them fresh. They only lasted us two days before they were all eaten!

Dried apple resting on a paper towel.

If you wonder what the kumquats taste like when done like this, just think of tangy sherbet or those sour candy lollies that are a favourite with kids.

Dried kumquats resting on a paper towel.
The next time we dehydrate kumquats we are going to dip the end of each piece in melted chocolate as a special treat. I saw this recipe on the internet and thought it was too delicious not to try.


I also want to try drying vegetables like zucchini and mushroom etc. as they would be great added to soups and other dishes. Tomatoes would be perfect for this!

I think I will get a lot of use out of my new dehydrator! :-)