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Sazerac December 2023

Unsolicited Advice

Our fav cold weather activity is staying inside under a weighted blanket. But in the spirit of celebrating the winter solstice, we’re tossing off the covers and steppin’ out.

  1. According to our partner, we’re always skating on thin ice. May as well test that skill outside on thick ice at Piedmont Winterfest located in LeBauer Park. Don’t miss Tuesday night curling. Just one question — foam or hot rollers?
  2. Heart-pumping exercise always warms us up. How about rushing through local shops while carrying heavy bags? You — and your credit card — will get a workout .
  3. Hot cocoa anyone? Hit up one of Greensboro’s many coffee spots for a mug of steaming milk chocolate with whipped cream. Into chocolate mint? Forget the peppermint crumbles and bring on a hot shot of peppermint schnapps instead.
  4. We’re often told to take a hike when offering friendly advice, and now’s the perfect time. The local trails are sure to be a little less people-y. Just you and nature. And maybe a black bear who’s prepping for winter, too. NBD — bring a trailmate you can outrun.
  5. And the activity we’re looking forward to most? Walking back into our warm home and sending a note of thanks to the heavens for Alice Parker, who patented the first central heating system. Siri, put the fireplace screensaver on TV — we need a little winter ambience.

Last Call: O.Henry Essay Contest

Several years ago, readers responded enthusiastically to a contest challenging them to write an essay entitled “My Life in a Thousand Words.” Last year, we revived our challenge with a theme of “The Year That Changed Everything.” And this year, in honor of our namesake, who was known as one of America’s most popular  — and highest-paid during his time — short story writers, we’re thrilled to announce that the 2023 O.Henry Essay Contest is all about “The Kindness of Strangers.”

We’ve all had a moment in our lives when someone we didn’t know stopped without hesitation to lend a hand. And now, we want to hear your story — whether you were on the receiving or giving end.

Of course, there are some rules:

  • Submit no more than 1,000 words in conventional printed form. Essays over 1,000 will be shredded and used in our office hamster’s cage.
  • Deadline to enter is December 24, 2023.
  • Top three winners will be contacted via email and will be printed in a spring 2024 issue.
  • Email entries to

We can’t wait to hear the clickety-clack of keyboards across the Triad as you write your stories — stories that are sure to remind us of all the goodness that exists in the world.

— Cassie Bustamante, editor

Window to the Past

Photograph © Carol W. Martin/Greensboro History Museum Collection

“What kind of tree did you say this was, Betty?”

“It’s a shrub. Just keep stringing it with tinsel and no one will know.”

(Coeds at Greensboro College decorate a Christmas tree in the 1940s.)

Just One Thing

The artist ransome, the full name he goes by, writes on his website (, “My artwork centers on my African-American lineage, which is traced back to sharecroppers of the American South who migrated to Northern cities along the East Coast.” Born in Rich Square, a tiny town east of Roanoke Rapids, he was raised by his grandmother before moving to New Jersey as part of the Great Migration of African Americans seeking broader economic and educational opportunities. With a B.F.A. from Pratt Institute and an M.F.A. from Lesley University, ransome writes, “My pictorial narratives are personal, yet the symbols I use are universal and interplay with larger social, racial, ancestral, economic and political histories that inform our nation to this day.” His work, “Come Sunday, You Can’t Hide,” 2022, is a collage on exhibit as part of Art on Paper, Weatherspoon’s biennial show that features artists “who demonstrate the breadth of ways in which one can deploy the humble medium of paper to extraordinary ends.”

Sage Gardener

One of my favorite memories of Christmases past is anticipating what gardening tool Wofford Malphrus, my late father-in-law, was going to give me. In the spirit of his generosity and thoughtfulness, the Sage Gardener polled the elite testing unit of gardeners at O.Henry and came up with a list of sugarplums for the naughtiest and nicest gardeners on your list.

Editor Cassie Bustamante was the first to answer: “It’s cheap, fits in a stocking and is a miracle worker on hardworking hands: Badger Balm,” she writes. “I grab mine at Deep Roots. And don’t worry. Not made from real badgers.” In fact, it was “created by Badger Bill to soothe his rough carpenter’s hands during a fierce New England winter,” says the website: “It’s packed with antioxidant-rich ingredients like beeswax and extra virgin olive oil and formulated with wintergreen oil.” 

O.Henry’s garden writer, Ross Howell Jr., suggests a packet of wildflower seeds from American Meadows, Shelburne, Vermont. Half an hour after typing in, the idea of a gift for someone else wilted and I couldn’t decide whether I wanted the pollinator wildflower mix, the butterfly-and-hummingbird mix, the Indian blanket seeds or love-lies-bleeding. Plus, I discovered that some people actually BUY and PLANT morning glory seeds. Since I have the greatest abundance of them, maybe I should gift them instead of American Meadows’ carefully curated seeds?

“Life’s Funny,” Maria Johnson reminds us every month, but there’s no funny business about manure from this backyard gardener. She swears by Daddy Pete’s Plant Pleaser’s line of products, deposited right here in North Carolina. Maria gets hers at Guilford Garden Center. Read all about it at, as in, “Something that seems to be spent or dead to one, brings life to another. Thus it is with Daddy Pete’s Cow Manure and the belief that we help you grow.” Can you say, Pete and repeat?

Photographer and world traveler Lynn Donovan says, “For the movers and shapers of the gardening world, Felco Pruning Shears are the bomb.” Made in Switzerland and extremely rugged, this could be the last pair of shears you buy. After all, they are guaranteed for life. Cutting to the point, my question always is, my life or the product’s life?

My daughter is itching to tell you about Tecnu. Got poison ivy or oak in your yard or garden? (Of course you do.) Tecnu is a specially formulated soap that washes off urushiol, the sticky stuff that makes you look leprous and drives you nuts. The sooner you apply Tecnu, the better it works, but you’ve got up to eight hours! “Don’t be fooled by the power of urushiol!” says the website, “The resin from poison ivy is incredibly potent and lasts for months, even years on certain items.” I can confirm that, as on car seats.

Me? According to the Farmer’s Almanac, this winter may be colder than usual. I suggest you curl up on the couch with Beautiful Madness: One Man’s Journey Through Other People’s Gardens by no less than Jim Dodson. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? Read about exotic day lilies and stolen cuttings from a Founding Father’s shrubbery. Then hang out with Jim as he himself hangs perilously from a limb on the side of a cliff akin to Mount Crumpit in search of rare Southern African plants:

Let’s give the last word to Cynthia Adams. And no, she doesn’t draw from her mother’s or father’s gardening experience on the ranchette where she grew up, Hell’s Half-Acre, though she does turn to the theme of pain. “I swear by Willow Balm, a topical painkiller in a tube.”, though she gets hers at Tractor Supply. “I carry it with me and use it so often, Jim Dodson once accused me of eating it on toast for breakfast.” Since it contains white willow bark extract, menthol, camphor, eucalyptus oil and geranium oil, we don’t recommend regular consumption, but, says Cindy, “When I’ve overdone repotting, moving heavy pots, digging, this stuff IS the balm. My doc likes it, too.” In no time, that black-and-blue thumb will be green. 
        David Claude Bailey