The Language of Flowers


With Valentine’s Day soon approaching our thoughts turn to hearts and flowers, candy and romance of all kinds, or the massacre of a rival gang with tommy guns á la Al Capone – everyone celebrates it a little differently. I, for one have always enjoyed Valentine’s Day, probably because of my unnatural obsession with the colour red. Everything is red and pink and I love it!
With so many options with which to celebrate this (some would say, over-hyped )holiday, let’s look at flowers. In the Victorian era, flowers were used as a way of expressing emotions, especially to a person someone fancied, or in some cases didn’t fancy. Definitions were developed for each kind of flower and several dictionaries were published to help people decode the messages. One could only hope that the person you were sending flowers to used the same dictionary.
So, let’s take a look at some flower meanings for flowers found in popular Valentine bouquets.



For instance, this bouquet has  light pink roses which symbolize “grace and joy” and white roses to symbolize “innocence and secrecy”.




The Gerbera daisy in all colours has a general meaning of “happiness” in all it’s forms. The colour orange with the daisy symbolizes “sunshine of life”. Red roses symbolize “love and respect”.




Yellow carnations may not be the best choice to give on Valentine’s Day as they mean “You have disappointed me” and/or “rejection”. That is unless, you are trying to  send a certain message.

Red carnations are more romantic with the message “my heart aches for you”.










A cactus is a lovely gesture, as it will thrive despite any neglect it may receive and symbolizes “endurance.”





Say it with flowers this Valentine’s Day!



Use these helpful sites to create a personal message for your loved ones.

Waldorf Jello Salad

The next Jello salad on our Salute to Jell-O Salad journey is the Waldorf salad. Generally a salad that can be eaten prior to or in conjunction with a meal, suspending the ingredients in Jello allows this to become an after dinner salad treat as well. According to the Joys of Jell-O cookbook this is a “Two- way Recipe”. If serving as a desert one must consider garnishing with whipped cream, as a salad- serving it on crisp greens and topping it off with mayonnaise is preferred.

For my salad I used Cortland apples, red grapes, celery, chopped walnuts and whipped salad dressing (Miracle Whip) as well as two boxes of lemon Jello.

Technically this is my second attempt at this salad as the first one didn’t set properly and turned into a revolting, oozing blob.
Also, you may remember from my previous Jello post that I found that using only one box of Jello did not give the desired ingredient-mixture to Jello matrix ratio as the picture would suggest, so two boxes is what we will try this time.


1 pkg                         Jell-O Lemon, Mixed Fruit or Orange-Pineapple Gelatin

1/2 tsp                       salt

1 cup                         boiling water

3/4 cup                      cold water

2 tsp                         vinegar

3/4 cup                      finely diced celery*

1 cup                         diced red apples

1/4 cup                      chopped walnuts

1/4 cup                      mayonnaise (optional)

*Or use 3/4 cup halved, seeded red grapes.


Dissolve Jell-O and salt in boiling water. Add cold water and vinegar. Chill until very thick. Fold in celery, apples, walnuts, and mayonnaise. Spoon into individual molds or a 1 quart mold. Chill until firm. Un-mold and serve with cheese balls (cream cheese balls rolled in chopped walnuts) if desired.

Easy Waldorf Mold: Dissolve 1 Jell-O Lemon, Lime or Mixed Fruit package in 1 cup boiling water; then add 3/4 cup cold water. Chill until very thick. Then fold in 1 1/2 cups prepared Waldorf salad (home-made or commercial). Pour into a 1 quart mold. Chill until firm.

My variations other than the double Jello packages ( 2 c. boiling water & 1 1/2 c. cold water) include using both grapes and celery to equal 1 cup.
Also, in my first attempt I did use the long method with the vinegar and salt, but on tasting a sample of the oozing blob, I decided that it had too much bite to it for my taste. I am working on the faith of the “tangy zip” that a “whipped salad dressing” provides instead of mayo to compensate for the absence of the  salt and vinegar.

I found that the the mayo/salad dressing separated off the fruit when mixing, leaving small white specks suspended in the Jello.

Using a Tupperware ring mold circa ~ 1980’s, the full mixture fit perfectly.
While letting the Jello set I prodded it gently to try to  keep the fruit in the centre of the mixture and spread out. Since I started folding in the fruit just a shade too soon of “very thick”, I was concerned that they would all just float to the top and there would just be a base of fruit with lemon Jello on top once it was un-molded. My concerns were not totally unfounded as I discovered that the fruit was not evenly dispersed throughout. Did my prodding help? Maybe. If I waited a smidge more, would that have helped? Maybe. At the end of the day, does it really matter? Nope.


Ta- Da!

Here is the Waldorf Jello Salad in all it’s glory. I chose to garnish it with grapes and lemon, because there would’ve been too many cream cheese balls for only two people to eat. 😀

The Christmas Stocking


One of my favourite Christmas traditions is the stocking. It’s the first thing that you open on Christmas morning. Tiny little presents and candy just for you in your own special stocking that you use each year. Nobody ever takes or wants your stocking, like underwear it is all yours. Each time you reach into the festive sock, it’s a surprise. What’s also surpising is how many things can fit into a stocking, especially if it stretches, like mine.


My Stocking


But where did this delightful custom come from? Who decided that socks were good receptacles for presents?

According to the holiday movie  Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970) hanging stockings by the fire was an everyday occurrence and when Burgermeister Meisterburger outlawed Kris Kringle and his toys, they served as a covert way of delivering the toys to the children of Sombertown.


bluetoesThen you have Bluetoes the Christmas Elf (1988) where stockings began because Small One (aka Bluetoes) the elf was too small to help the other elves and Santa. In this version of events, toys grow on trees at the North Pole. Small One picked toys from the trees that were too small and wouldn’t be ready until next year. Having been scolded, he goes and falls asleep in Santa’s sleigh and wakes up as he is making his deliveries. Santa finds he is short on toys and rushes back (warp speed magic) to the North Pole to get more. Small One who is left behind, thinks that Santa has forgotten the children and remembers the tiny toys in his pockets. Taking off his socks and filling them up, he pops in and hangs them by the chimney for the kids. Santa having returned finds the kids having a great time with their tiny gifts and Small One’s toes are now frostbitten and blue. Santa loves Small One’s idea of tiny toys in stockings, he makes him in charge of that department at the workshop and re-names him Bluetoes.


Or you can go with the legend that is commonly circulated around, where there once was a poor widower who couldn’t afford a dowry for his three daughters to be married. At this stage of the game St. Nicholas wandered around from town to town doing good wherever he could. Hearing of the family’s problems and knowing the man would not accept charity, St. Nicholas put a few gold coins in each of the girls stockings one night as they dried by the fire. When they woke up they had a wonderful surprise and could now afford to find husbands!
No one really knows when this custom started, it is at least as old as the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore (aka Twas the Night Before Christmas), published in 1823. “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…”

However and whenever it came about, I’m glad it did. Charming in it’s simplicity, personal and memory filled, the stocking is one of Christmas’s most treasured traditions.

So, be sure to hang your stockings by the chimney with care tonight, and here’s hoping that  old St. Nick fills them full of goodies!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight!



Links to articles read for this post.,8599,2037505,00.html



Sunset Salad

The first Jello salad on the menu is the Sunset Salad, it is made with lemon Jello, grated carrot and pineapple tidbits.
This recipe is adapted slightly from The Joys of Jell-O cookbook circa ~ 1967.
I have not followed the recipe to the letter in that I did not add pecans as optionally suggested because I think that they would be too dissimilar in texture to the Jello and unsettling to the soul. Also I did not investigate as to the volume of my mould, it just looked like it would fit.


1 pkg              Lemon or Orange-Pineapple Jell-O (3 oz. or 85 g)

1/2 tsp           salt

1 1/2 cups      boiling water

1 can               crushed pineapple/ pineapple tidbits (8.75 oz 0r 258.8 ml or 1 cup + 1 1/2 Tbsp)

1 Tbsp             lemon juice

1 cup               coarsely grated carrots


Dissolve gelatin and salt in boiling water. Add undrained pineapple and lemon juice. Chill until very thick. Then add grated carrots. Pour into individual moulds or a 1- quart mould. Chill until firm. Unmould and garnish with additional pineapple if desired. Makes about 3 cups or 6 side salads.

The final mixture of ingredients was poured/scooped into a simple aluminum mould.
After leaving to set overnight, the gelatin was inverted onto a prepared plate and garnished with maraschino cherries and lemon slices.


Voila! A Jello salad fit for any vintage magazine feature.

The picture in the book suggests to me that there is more Jello than pineapple- carrot mix than what I experienced. My salad (pictured) was very full of carrot and pineapple with not a lot of jello matrix to spare. I think that I will experiment with either halving the pineapple-carrot mix or doubling the Jello and using a larger mould, to suite my own tastes.
All in all a tart salad that is refreshing and a nice addition to a hearty plate of food such as a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.



It’s Poinsettia Day!

What is Christmas decor without the classic Poinsettia plant hanging out in corners and clogging up stairways and adding a festive air to any room?
Even without a physical plant there are fake Poinsettias to decorate with, Poinsettia print fabrics, housewares and fashion accessories. Poinsettias are everywhere at Christmas, and that suits me just fine. They are my favourite holiday flower and most of the time I can keep them alive all through the Christmas season!


Native to Mexico and South America, there are over 100 varieties of Poinsettia. Once only available in red, they now come in many different colours.  The bright hues are created through phototropism, they require 12 hours of darkness at time for at least 5 days in a row to change colour. Which is why they bloom in the shorter winter days.

The coloured “flower” parts of the Poinsettia are actually modified leaves called bracts. The flowers are the yellow centers in the middle of the coloured bracts. Both flowers and bracts are dropped when the flowers have shed their pollen. For the longest lasting plants, choose ones with the least amount of pollen.


Joel Roberts Poinsett was the first United States Ambassador to Mexico and introduced the Euphorbia pulcherrima to the United States from southern Mexico in 1828. This resulted in this beautiful plant being named after him and thus we have the Poinsettia.
December 12 marks the anniversary of his death and has become Poinsettia Day.


Since it’s introduction as a potted plant it has become the best selling potted plant in Canada and the U.S and has become the most popular Christmas plant sold, worth about $60 million in revenue. 80% of those sales are attributed to women. When growing naturally in the ground, Poinsettias can reach 10-15 ft. in height.

Now after all that, why do we use them, love them, buy them at Christmas?  As good a reason as any is a story about a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to bring to church for the baby Jesus. She picked a bouquet of weeds from the side of the road. Embarrassed of her small gift, her cousin told her that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves Jesus will make Him happy.
Remembering this, she felt better and put her bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene at the altar. Suddenly the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers and everyone was sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on those bright red flowers were known as Flowers of the Holy Night.

Another, simpler reason is that Christmas colours are red and green.
In the 1920’s a horticulturist named Paul Ecke decided that these plants would make a fantastic Christmas flower and started growing them in earnest in fields in what is now known as Hollywood. Later Ecke who became instrumental in the promotion of Poinsettias moved south to Encinitas where now the Paul Ecke Ranch is continuing to grow Poinsettias for our enjoyment.

So, there you have it. Whatever the reason, Poinsettias are the Christmas flower of choice.

May your Christmas be as merry and bright as your biggest Poinsettia and may all your bracts stay in place until New Years.






Links to where I found my info!






Salute to Jello Salads!


With the holidays approaching, all the traditional foods come out with dyspepsia promises blazing from ovens – like guns at a wild west shoot out. Cookbooks long forgotten and worn out recipe cards are dug out of shelves and drawers. Every pot and pan in the house has something bubbling in it. The freezer is stuffed with goodies. Your pants feel snug… All this and more happens at Christmas.

But what if you could provide a make ahead treat? What if you could prepare some of your edibles in advance?
Great glittering snowballs, that would be marvelous!
Enter the Jello-O salad.

You may be thinking, that jello is jello and no amount of whipped cream is going to make this a time saving, impressive dish to serve at Christmas. This is where you are wrong, my friend. Maybe you aren’t old enough to appreciate the salads served to you in the 1960’s, maybe your grandparents had all of their teeth and didn’t need soft, easily chewed food, maybe your childhood sucked. Any of these reasons are good enough, but your excuses will not be, for you are reading this blog, and therefore are coming with me on this gelatin journey. We will be nostalgic and refreshed with these culinary delights and yes, so will your guests.

So, I bring to you another small mini series event. From Pumpkin Palooza we go to Salute to Jell-O Salads, where I will be bringing you the practically extinct delights of the Jell-O salad both sweet and savory. I am going to try to extend this mini series throughout the coming year so that we may enjoy the summer recipes as well as the winter ones.

So, grab a spoon and let’s dig in!




We’ve reached the time where we can carve our pumpkins!
Jack-O- Lanterns, those delightful things that pumpkins become at Halloween, originated with an old Irish folktale about a fellow named Jack who was doomed to wander the earth – having been too much of a stingy drunk to be let into heaven, and after having once played a trick on the devil, considered too mischievous and thus barred from hell. He carried with him a lantern carved from a turnip and  lit with an ember from satan’s vast personal supply to light his way as he roamed thither and yon until Judgement Day.
When this tale traveled with Irish immigrants to North America, it was found that pumpkins were more common and easier to carve than turnips. So it was a no-brainer that they won out and became the traditional jack-0-lantern that we use today. Personally, I think it would be much too hard to carve a turnip and I would end up throwing it out the window.


Most of us have carved a pumpkin or two in our lives and we all have our own methods that prove infallible each year. I personally find a keyhole saw most useful in cutting through that thick, orange rind. This year I decided to go a slightly different route, using a serrated knife from the kitchen and purchasing my first commercially manufactured pumpkin carving utensil for $2 at the drug store. After using the little pumpkin knife,  I  would recommend this orange plastic utensil for any fine pumpkin carving work that needs to be done. I’m no pumpkin artist, but I find carving the classic face works nicely for my Halloween needs.

Nothing says Halloween like a carved pumpkin, hauntingly lit by a flickering candle. All the rest of the world is in darkness but a jack-o- lantern will guide you to the haunts, the horrors, or the candy.


Pumpkin Tarts!

What food is more autumnal than pumpkin pie? Nothing. Nothing is the answer we’re looking for here. Though, sometimes a whole pie seems dauntingly large when all you want is “one piece”. This is where tarts come in.
Tarts are bite sized pieces of heaven that allow moderation if needed. They are also so small and delicious that you realize you’ve actually eaten a whole pie’s worth of tarts and the whole idea of “one piece” has gone out the window.
Surprisingly, pumpkin pie is not my favourite pie. I know, I know “How can this be?”. I don’t know, it’s just not – I find it soft and weird and brown. At least that was my opinion before stumbling onto this recipe. Now, instead of avoiding the pumpkin pie, I embrace it, I make it, I eat it, I love it. I’ve been converted.
Tarts are my favourite form of this recipe but it also works well as a whole pie.
The original recipe is from the Eagle Brand website and to tell the truth I think that’s the secret to this recipe’s deliciousness.


1 Can             sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 Cups    canned pumpkin
2 Tbsp           brown sugar
1                      egg
1/4 tsp           pumpkin spice
24                   unbaked tart shells


Pre-heat oven to 375ºF. Whisk together condensed milk, pumpkin, brown sugar, egg, and pumpkin spice. Pour evenly into tart shells. Bake for ~ 18 minutes or until centre is just set and tart shells are golden.


Original recipe can be found here:

Pumpkin Spice


Ready to be sprinkled like fairy dust all over the land!

What is fall baking or fall in general without pumpkin spice?
Apparently, it’s impossible to imagine a world without it. This is the time of Pumpkin Spice: lattes, muffins, tea, cookies, t-shirts, tires, air… It seems like everything must have pumpkin spice in it, on it or under it.
Go Pumpkin Spice or Go Home!

So in the interest of this seemingly world- wide obsession, I am submitting to you, a recipe of how to make your own pumpkin spice.
I find that making your own pumpkin spice is much more economical than buying it at the store. A small tin costs almost $5 and is gone in the blink of an eye if you make any of the pumpkin recipes I’ve posted previously.

So, here we go.
You will need a mason jar or similar container, a permanent marker for labeling and this recipe.

Pumpkin Spice

3 Tbsp          Cinnamon
1.5 Tbsp      Allspice
1.5 Tbsp      Cloves
2 Tbsp         Nutmeg
2 Tbsp         Ginger

Pour into jar, and use again and again for all your pumpkin spice needs!



Note: In above pictures, recipe was multiplied by 3 for my needs at the time and filled 1 avg. sized mason jar and  6 small spice jars with a bit left over.