Do you remember the story of Cinderella? It is a story about transformation, and kindness, and about seeing magical possibilities in our everyday surroundings. Cinderella’s fairy godmother offers her the opportunity to fulfill her dreams of attending the ball and meeting the prince. To take her there, a pumpkin is transformed into a gilded coach, mice into horses, and a rat into a coachmen. Everyone gets a fresh chance at life.
I love sharing this story with children because it encourages us to take a fresh look at our circumstances to see the possibilities we might otherwise overlook. It invites us to step out of whatever limitations we perceive for ourselves, and find the path which will lead us to a more fulfilling and enriching future.
Pumpkins are a symbol of abundance. Full of plump, tasty seeds, they remind us to plant the seeds of possibility in our own lives, which will bear fruit for us over time. Whether we make new friends, read useful books, join an organization, continue our education, learn a new skill, or volunteer in our community; we can all take small actions now which will bring us happiness and greater opportunities to live our dreams.
These little pumpkin arrangements are also about seeing fresh possibilities in everyday materials. They are constructed from locally grown pumpkins we have been enjoying on our mantle since September. I clipped Nandina leaves and berries, sprigs of Kalanchoe, some Echeveria rosettes, garlic chive seed heads, and Hibiscus seed pods from the garden. The Hibiscus have a lovely shape, but aren’t a very festive color at the moment. A quick spray of metallic gold paint allows them to bring a little sparkle to the arrangement. The only purchased materials are the reindeer moss, and the hot glue, which holds the arrangements together.
The pumpkin stems are left in place. I began by gluing the heaviest living materials, the Kalanchoe and Echeveria, to the pumpkin and pumpkin stem with hot glue. I don’t expect these to take root in this much lighter moss, but will take the arrangements apart after Thanksgiving and plant these pieces in potting soil. The Nandina berry sprigs and leaves were the next items glued, then the garlic chives and Hibiscus. Moss is used to cover the stems and visually anchor the arrangement onto the pumpkin. It can be pushed into place on the still hot glue on the stems, or glued directly onto the pumpkins. I haven’t put any water on these arrangements.
These little pumpkins will complete the decorations for our community event on Tuesday. Afterwards I’ll most likely give a few of them to friends, and bring the others home to enjoy through the end of November. They will complement the large pumpkin and succulent arrangements I made a few days ago.
Pumpkin bread has been baking this morning as I type, and the whole house smells sweet and spicy.
If you would like to bake some for yourself, here is the recipe for two loaves. I’ll slice this bread fairly thinly, spread on the cheese filling, and make tiny sandwiches for the refreshment table on Tuesday. It is a healthy and delicious late autumn treat, and I hope you will enjoy making it.
(Roast 1 c. of walnut meats at 350F while gathering the other ingredients)
Prepare two loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray and a narrow sheet of waxed paper on the bottom of each pan.
Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl:
6 c. self-rising flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. grated nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. ground cloves, 1/2 tsp. ground cardamon, 1 c. dried cranberries and 1 c. roasted, chopped walnuts.
Mix together in a large stand mixer at low speed:
2 eggs, 3/4 c. sour cream, 3/4 c. melted butter, 1 1/2 c. light brown sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. orange extract.
Add 1 can of pumpkin puree. (read the label and make sure you are buying pure pumpkin with no added sugar)
Mix at low speed until smooth.
Stop the mixer and add 3 cups of the mixed dry ingredients and 1/2 c. apple cider. Mix at low speed until nearly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and repeat with another 3 cups of dry ingredients and another 1/2 cider. Mix at the lowest speed until just combined. Scrape down the bowl again, and pour in the remaining dry ingredients. Stream in apple cider slowly as you mix the ingredients at the lowest speed until the batter is moist and all of the flour is combined (about another 1/2 c. of cider).
Remove and clean the beater. Fill each loaf pan 1/2 full. Scrape down the mixing bowl again to incorporate any ingredients at the bottom, dividing the remaining batter between the pans so they are equally full. Bake at 350F for an hour, and then begin checking on the loaves. They will probably need about 75 – 80 minutes total cooking time to be done all the way through.
Allow the loaves to cool completely on racks. Turn out of the loaf pans after the first 10 minutes. Wrap each loaf in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours before trying to slice it thinly.
Combine in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade:
1 large container whipped cream cheese, softened; 1 tsp. onion powder; 1/2 tsp. garlic powder; 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper; 1/2 tsp. sea salt; 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary; 1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese; 1/4 c. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. For a little more heat, add a teaspoon of chopped hot peppers.
Process until smooth. Scrape into a lidded plastic container and use immediately to fill the sandwiches. If making ahead, store in the refrigerator, but allow to soften before spreading.
Make the sandwiches ahead and chill before serving. Each loaf should make 2-3 dozen small sandwiches, depending on how thickly the bread is sliced, when every slice is cut into 4 small squares.