HOLIDAY GARDENING - During the Christmas Season, many guests choose to give their hosts a beautiful Christmas cactus. Bright and cheery during the season, these beautiful plants don't always continue to be as radiant after the New Year celebrations. However with some TLC this does not have to be the case. With proper care, you Christmas cactus can thrive all year long and brighten many holiday seasons.
One of the first things to remember about the Christmas cactus is that the blooms do much better in a cooler environment. The plant can be maintained nicely at a moderate temperature, while still placing the cactus where it can get natural sunlight. Also be mindful of any nearby air ducts or fireplaces. The drafts of warm air are not good for the plant.
In like manner, it is important to remember that a Christmas cactus requires moist soil, unlike its desert cousins. The good old-fashioned finger test will help you to know when to water your cactus. When you find the first inch or so of the soil is beginning to dry out, water the plant thoroughly. Attempting to water the cactus on a regular schedule, such as once a week, will most likely not keep the plant healthy. Because the moistness of the soil will vary, depending on such factors as humidity level, lighting access, and how quickly the cactus is growing, it is important to check it on a regular basis and water accordingly.
While there is no need to add fertilizer to the soil when you first acquire the cactus, you may find it beneficial to add nutrients to the soil throughout the year by periodically adding a fertilizer blend that is recommended for blooming plants. This will help keep the soil rich in what the cactus needs to not remain healthy, but also to grow and thrive.
While natural light is good up to a point for your cactus, avoid placing it in direct sunlight. Over time, too much direct sunlight can actually brown the leaves. A better solution is to locate the plant where it can get the gentler rays of the morning sun, but be protected from the harshness of protracted exposure during the day. The smaller amounts of direct sunlight, coupled with indirect lighting throughout the day will result in a strong healthy plant that will yield more blooms next season.
Be mindful that it is important to repot your cactus as it grows. As with any plant, it needs room to grow and be healthy. Use a good quality potting soil mixed with clean sand. Be sure to prune the cactus as well. The pieces you prune may be in good enough condition to root and allow you to grow additional plants.
Toward the middle of October, increase the amount of time your Christmas cactus spends in the dark. During this period, the darkness will stimulate the production of blooms that should be open and vibrant in time for the holiday season.
HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING – Should you have an economist in your family or have someone who follows current economic issues, we recommend “Too Big To Fail” by Andrew Ross Sorkin. The New York Times reporter gives an accurate and entertaining review of how the US got into its current economic mess.
Give Rink Rats for the holidays, you can’t beat the price and the weekly posts are entertaining and informative. Rink Rats is offering a special, sign up by the end of the year (12/31/10) you receive a copy of the University of San Francisco “How To” Manual signed by Homa Shabahang.
BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Steve Buscemi (52), Tim Conway (77), Al Kaline (76), Ray Liotta (56), Brad Pitt (47), Keith Richards (67), George Shultz (90).
COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 12/18, the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl from Boise Idaho begins our Bowl Season picks. The Northern Ilinois Huskies (10-3) meet the Fresno State Bulldogs (8-4), 5:30 PM ET, ESPN. Northern Illinois is making its third consecutive bowl appearance for the first time in school history and is 2-3 all-time in bowl games. Even though the Huskies lost a heartbreaker in the MAC title game, they still have a chance to go for a school-record 11 wins. Fresno State is making its fourth straight bowl game and is in the Humanitarian for the first time since 2007. The Huskies are 3.0 point favorites. Take the points and Fresno State to upset The Huskies.
Season to date (13-2).
SMALL COLLEGE PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 12/18, for the sixth year in a row the Stagg Bowl (D-III Championship game) has the Mount Union Purple Raiders #2 (13-0) vs. the Wisconsin Whitewater Warhawks #1 (14-0). Talk about a rivalry in Salem Virginia. We like the Warhawks to win.
Season to date (11-3).
NFL PICK OF THE WEEK – Sunday 12/19, New York Jets (9-4) visit Pittsburgh Steelers (10-3), 4:00 PM ET, CBS. The Steelers are 6.0 point favorites. The Jets will continue their decline, Rink Rats takes Pittsburgh and the points.
Season to date (6-8).
WELL DONE – Congratulations to the Bonita High School Bearcats for completing a successful football season (12-2). Though losing in the final championship game they represented the community well.
Dear Rink Rats:
I supervise three people at my work. This time of year I am always troubled on whether I should give a gift to the individuals I supervise. Should I just take them to lunch, buy them a gift, if so how much should I spend? These individuals work very hard for me throughout the year but I do not want to upstage other employees whom I work with.
- Puzzled Santa
Dear Puzzled Santa:
It is refreshing to see a supervisor care for their employees. Rink Rats recently had a similar question from an Associate Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer (just that title alone indicates this person is clueless). This individual expressed not knowing what the Holidays are or represent and saw no need for employee recognition. We say this person could not be farther from the truth. As a supervisor you should acknowledge your staff throughout the year not just during the holidays. Then for the season a simple gift of what you can personally afford is appropriate. But we stress recognition should be yearlong as a way of showing your appreciation to the staff.
Peppermint Holiday Cookies
• 3/4 stick Crisco® Butter Shortening Sticks or 3/4 cup Crisco® Butter Shortening
• 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons milk
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 1 large egg
• 2 cups all purpose Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup crushed peppermint candy canes or 3/4 cup peppermint hard candies
Prep Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 35 mins
1. HEAT oven to 350ºF.
2. BEAT shortening, brown sugar, sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl of electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Beat in egg. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Mix into shortening mixture at low speed just until blended. Stir in 1/2 cup crushed candy. Shape into 1-inch balls. Place 2-inches apart on ungreased baking sheet.
3. BAKE 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately sprinkle each cookie with about 1/4 teaspoon crushed candy. Cool 2 minutes. Remove to rack to cool completely.
4. TIP - To have enough crushed candy for this recipe, use 9 medium candy canes or 36 peppermint hard candies.
The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for any religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin.
Somehow, not only for Christmas,
But all the long year through,
The joy that you give to others,
Is the joy that comes back to you.
And the more you spend in blessing,
The poor and lonely and sad,
The more of your heart's possessing,
Returns to you glad.
John Greenleaf Whittier
Next week, our year end best and worst begins.
Until next Monday, Buone Feste!
December 13, 2010