The Day Before Thanksgiving

November 25, 2014 moss garden 003


It is the day before Thanksgiving and the house is warm and fragrant.  I’ve been cooking since shortly after noon.

The nor’easter which blew in late yesterday has almost pulled away.

We had heavy rain and wind all night long.  And our initial plan was to just stay inside all day; off the roads and out of the storm.

Which was fine, until I remembered our promise to pick up the Christmas wreath we ordered weeks ago from the Patton Family at the Homestead Garden Center.  It is a gift I had planned to take tomorrow to the host and hostess of our Thanksgiving Day dinner.

Once we made up our mind to get out into the storm, and had on enough clothing, the rest was easy.  Made even easier by the nearly empty roads around Williamsburg today.


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In truth, we saw at least three accidents and one speeding trooper along our way.  But we still enjoyed a short visit at the garden center and came home with an exquisite, freshly made wreath.  The Pattons have been preparing for wreath season since Halloween.  They make fragrantly beautiful evergreen Christmas decorations of all shapes and sizes, and each is custom made to order.

And then the cooking began in earnest.  First up was a pot of vegetable soup.  Then I began washing the cranberries and oranges for a beautiful chutney to contribute tomorrow.

As soon as the pots were happily  gurgling I mixed up a batch of cheddar cornbread for muffins.  And last, but not least, I scrubbed the sweet potatoes and carrots and got them into the oven to bake to sweet perfection.

They will end up sliced into a casserole with orange slices, butter, maple syrup and spices for tomorrow’s dinner.

There is some lovely sweet potato bread dough in the refrigerator, and I’ll set that out to rise so it can go into the oven by sundown.  Not that there is any sun to go down, mind you.

We’ve had a heavy low sky all day.  Thick clouds have blocked most of the sun and left us in grey twilight since morning.  We know that were it only a few degrees cooler, we would be shoveling snow.

Which makes Thanksgiving even more fun, if you ask me.  This is the perfect weather for cooking.  And it has me in the mood to string twinkle lights and break out the first of the Christmas decor.

Every red bow and evergreen wreath is a welcome sight on this cold, wet day.


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And now I’m ready to curl up on the couch with the cat and a good book, looking forward to what I would argue is the coziest and most enjoyable holiday of the year.

Here is my cranberry chutney recipe for this year, should you have a bag of cranberries lurking in the fridge and you’re looking for inspiration:

Wash and pick over a 12 oz. bag of cranberries and add to a heavy saucepan with a cup of sugar, 1/4 c. of water, the juice of an orange, and 3 tsp. of red wine vinegar.  Sprinkle with 1 tsp. of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. of ground cloves, and 1/2 tsp. of ground (or freshly grated) ginger.

Turn the heat to medium low while you dice a medium apple, washed but with skin left on.  Add the apple to the pot and stir.

Remove both ends from a washed medium seedless orange.  Slice the orange as thinly as you’re able, reserving the juice.  Stack a few slices at a time, and cut them into tiny bits so that no piece of the orange peel is more than 1/2 inch wide.  Add all of the orange, peel, pulp and juice to the cranberry mixture.

Cook over low heat as the berries pop and  the sauce reduces and thickens, stirring occasionally.  I keep the lid on the pot as it cooks.

Turn off the heat after about 45 minutes and let the cranberries stand for another hour or so, undisturbed.  Stir, and turn the heat back on to medium low for another half hour.

Package in clean hot jars, and process in a hot water bath if you plan to keep the chutney for more than a week or so.  I skipped that step, and mine is cooling in the pot.  I”m going to assume we’ll eat it up quickly

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your travels be safe, your meal taste  delicious, and your loved ones come within hugging distance.


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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014


Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Holiday Wreath Challenge 2014

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

8 responses to “The Day Before Thanksgiving

  1. Your house must smell yummy! The sweet potato casserole sounds so good – could you share the recipe?

    • Good morning, Eliza, The house smelled even more delicious once the bread was baking. I love that yeasty smell. I’m going to peel and thinly slice the sweet potatoes, layering them in a large casserole pan with with fresh orange slices, cinnamon, maple syrup, the carrot slices, and pecans. Trader Joes here carries a bag of mixed purple, yellow and orange carrots. I roasted purple and yellow ones for this dish. I’m cooking for diabetic loved ones today, thus the maple syrup and orange juice in place of brown sugar for this dish. If you try it, please let me know what you think 😉 Safe travels today, Eliza. Happy Thanksgiving! WG

      • Thank you. We did travel and though not great (only 2 shots of adrenaline- I hate that stuff!) we made it there and back okay. Sadly, because of the storm the restaurant was empty because folks couldn’t travel from CT, NY & NJ where most the ski business comes from. I felt bad for our friend who had cooked so much food. It was delicious!
        Hope your day was warm and cozy.

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