Have you wondered what happens to the pumpkins after Halloween? Several were bobbing up and down in water from a culvert by my house. Store pumpkins and many still had the attached labels.

Have you wondered what happens to the pumpkins after Halloween? Several were bobbing up and down in water from a culvert by my house. Store pumpkins and many still had the attached labels. The wildlife had already begun to nibble the orange globes in their version of bobbing for apples. Pumpkins were lying about next to a deserted corn field, abandoned and forgotten after Halloween and Thanksgiving. Is Charlie Brown out there somewhere still waiting for the Great Pumpkin? My hollowed out and carved Halloween pumpkin is sitting outside, beginning to cave into the middle, turning into a flattened effigy of its former self. The other solid pumpkin slowly disintegrates, exposing seeds that will attempt to germinate the next spring.

Faced with limited cookware and even less time, Whole Foods was our Thanksgiving source. Their health conscious bakers supplied the turkey breast, stuffing, gravy and go-withs. Everything was heated in the oven for about an hour except the cranberry sauce. The consensus was, surprisingly, the meal was tasty and fast but the pecan pie just wasn’t up to our standards. Next pie will come from my mother’s 4 eggs, dark Karo syrup recipe.

Saint Nicholas Day came the night of December 5th. Nicholas of Myra (270-343) Greek bishop from Turkey/Greek border area, was known for his many miracles. He had a reputation for giving gifts and putting coins in people’s shoes. St. Nicholas was the inspiration for Santa and Father Christmas. In Europe, children place a boot or shoe by the front door or in front of the fireplace at night to discover them filled with small gifts or coins the next morning. A large milk chocolate St. Nicholas often appears.

Christmas Eve and Christmas last 2 two days, but if you celebrate Yuletide, you can keep fortifying your spirit with goodness from December 22nd 2019 to January 2nd 2020. Yule is rooted in pagan beliefs as far back at the Iron Age and was tied with many festivities during the winter season. The Yule log (whole tree or chocolate sponge cake covered in chocolate buttercream frosting), Yule songs (Deck the Halls, Carol of the Bells, Holly and the Ivy, the Wassail Song), Yule boar (tied in with ham at Christmas) and other traditions are rooted in history. European folklore tells of the Wild Hunt when a troop of supernatural hunters annually fly though the sky. This myth may have Herne the Hunter, the Norse god Odin, the goddess Hecates or even the angel Gabriel as leader. However you do it, make the most of this upcoming winter season.

“The crows finally stopped coming and here you are, putting out more birdseed” was the comment made this Thanksgiving. I had been gone a few weeks but was now back in Maryland. It took five crows, three squirrels and several smaller birds one day to rediscover the seeds, bread and leftovers from our small feast. It took a team of four landscapers equipped with loud leaf blowers to blast away the birdseed and bread the next morning. The neighborhood was under assault by leaf puffing dragons emitting horrific groans and roars throughout the morning. The four foot tall freshly cut Christmas tree standing in a bucket of water on the front porch was toppled, splashing water across the concrete, exposing the tree stub to air while the branches were filled with leaves. On the other hand, the porch was squeaky clean.

Weather in Maryland has been cool and crisp, but the nights are cold. The autumn decorations that lined the roads in the little village of Countryside were taken down the day after Thanksgiving. Large red bows and greenery now grace the light poles. Early Black Friday morning my friend was picked up by an limousine driver and whisked away to the airport. He had finagled a first class ticket on Emirates Airline to the Middle East. We tried to not compare our Oklahoma to Maryland trip on a fully-booked Southwest jet. After all, we each did get a complimentary non-alcoholic drink and a small bag of Lorna Doone cookies.

The Airbus A380 is the largest passenger airplane in the world. It has two decks, the lower for the steerage class (439 seats) and the upper for first class (10 seats which are actually full recliners) and business (76 seats). There was even a residence apartment with bedroom, living room and en-suite bathroom. In- flight Wi-Fi and external cameras kept the passengers entertained. Each first class seat was partially surrounded by tastefully designed shelves. One housed a fold out drawer that contained the hot towel, champagne and dates. Another served as a computer station. He made a reservation to freshen up in the shower spa. Only three were in first class. My friend stopped chatting when his smoked salmon and macaroni with lobster arrived.

Fruitcake. Yum. My fruitcake is a confection of rich nuts, dried fruits and flour all bound together in a sugar-honey egg mixture. It is not the cloyingly sweet fruitcake sold on the market. A better description would be whisky or brandy soaked fruit and nut ambrosia. The family fruitcake legend: My grandmother made her fruitcake at my folk’s house one year. She discovered the aged Johnny Walker Whisky my dad had hidden under the sink and liberally doused her creation with the fiery liquid. My father practically blew a gasket, but being a good sport, he focused on eating as much fruitcake he could, figuring he’d get his whisky one way or the other.

The best nuts for fruitcake are those cracked at the table to assure freshness. This tedious time-consuming work leaves fingers tender and sore. Pieces of shells show up for weeks everywhere in the house! Walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and almonds may vary from year to year. Fresh non-rancid Hazelnuts and Brazil nuts are hard to find.

Unsulphured apricots, dried apples, dates, prunes, raisins, pineapple and even candied fruit may find their way into the batter. The angel food cake pan has never made an angel food cake, but has participated in dozens of fruitcakes. Grocery sack brown paper lines the metal surfaces and buttered on both sides. The batter is spooned inside and the fruitcake cooks until done. The pan is put on cooling rack and alcohol poured on top of the fruitcake. When totally cold, the cake is removed from pan and paper, wrapped in cheesecloth and soaked with more alcohol. The fruitcake is then tightly wrapped in plastic and placed in a tin which sits on a cold closet floor for at least four weeks.

The flavor develops as the fruitcake ages. So important. Remembering the fruitcake after so long is even more important. No problem. Fruitcake is great on the fourth of July!

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.