Poinsettias: Perks of the Job

December 6, 2012 § 3 Comments

With the nature of what I do for a living, I get free stuff. I write about plants and gardening, and companies send me free plants and gardening equipment. It’s nice. Really nice. And if any of those folks are reading this, I could really use a new pair of Felco hand pruners.

The “free stuff” slacks off in the off-season. Except each December I receive a nice gift from the folks at Ecke Ranch. Paul Ecke Sr. and Jr. “invented” the poinsettia as a holiday plant by giving away hundreds of plants for the sets of talk shows back in the 50s or 60s. And, well, now poinsettias are everywhere.

Being “everywhere” can backfire. Being everywhere can give any product the image of it being commonplace and worthless. And what’s happened is that you can now find poinsettias in your local Walmart or other big box store for 99 cents. And they are in pretty bad shape, too.

This gift I received from Ecke Ranch contained 8 samples of the antithesis of the throw-away poinsettia. They’re well-grown and beautiful—even shipped clear across the country via two-day FedEx. There’s something comforting in this plant that represents such such a hallowed season. The big, bushy, well-grown poinsettia really is not to be missed—and it’s well-worth the money, too.

poinsettias

And don’t they look so holiday-cheery grouped together?

holiday cheer

holiday cheer

As you can see, not all poinsettias are red. This one is called Sparkling Punch. Pinks and off-whites—why not?

Poinsettia Sparkling PunchP

Poinsettia Sparkling Punch

And this one looks like it’s covered in tiny glittery dots. Kinda like Pointillism. Get it? Pointillism? Poinsettias? And it’s aptly named Monet. (This one plant has kinda slacky leaves—they aren’t all like this.)

This variety is called Monet.

This variety is called Monet.

I do like the large, bushy poinsettias, but something I like even more are the tiny tiny ones that are about 4 in. tall. Very cute, and you can set them around the house wherever you want. If you see one, grab one—or a half dozen—you’re gonna find them adorably fun to decorate with.

Oh, and about that “Watch out! They are poisonous to cats!” thing. It’s a myth. Well, it’s not a myth. They are poisonous. BUT, your cat or puppy or baby or you would have to eat several whole plants before anyone starts getting ill. And how likely is that going to happen? So, don’t fret about it.

boos and poinsettia

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Hello, ‘cello

January 5, 2011 § 5 Comments

Sunshine in a bottle.

'cellos give any gathering a citrusy kickoff

That pretty much describes the essence of lemoncello and orangecello (and limecello and … ), that quintessential citrus aperitif  of Italy. (Did I just say “quintessential”? Who am I?)

In Dainty-speak, these ‘cellos rock it. For a bunch of reasons:

  • They give alcohol a tasty, refreshingly clean kick in the pants.
  • They bring back memories of an awesome tour through the Amalfi Coast. (Never been? It’s a must.)
  • And, best yet, they can be made at home – no distillery needed. That’s brilliant!

Not that I’ve made ‘cellos, of course. But they’ve been given to me, as recently as this past holiday. It was a double gift – lemoncello and a blog post in the making. I like that.

During our New Year’s festivities in Provincetown, where 11 compadres destroyed convened on our friends’ home, Karen gave out a bottle of the liquor – made in her very own kitchen – to everyone in the crowd, with a spare to give New Year’s Eve a celebratory kick start.

The goods:

  • 12 decorative bottles purchased at The Christmas Tree Shops (i.e. inexpensive and cute!)
  • 100% proof good-quality vodka, enough to fill said bottles
  • oranges and lemons (how many? she didn’t tell me), zested separately

The low-down:

  • Soak the zests (one batch orange, one batch lemon) in the alcohol for four to five days
  • Strain out zest and discard
  • Add simple syrup* to infused alcohol
  • Bottle and insert cork!

You’re wondering, “Yo, dude, what’s the ratio of alcohol to simple syrup?” I had the same question. Here’s a direct quote from the ‘cello maker herself:

“The mixture of alcohol and simple syrup is a matter of taste and courage … the more you mix, the sweeter and lower alcohol content you have. The less you mix, the more lethal it becomes!”

Gift-giving tip

Karen made both lemoncello and orangecello. Which bottles contained what? The ribbed bottles were filled with one flavor, the bumpy bottles had another flavor.

*A simple simple syrup recipe: Boil together 1 cup water and 1 cup white sugar until sugar is dissolved. Cool. You’re done. Make more or less depending on how much you need. Keeps for a few days in the fridge.

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