Books · hygge · make do and mend · Making things · out and about · Random Thoughts · the gardens · The Great Outdoors · Uncategorized

Hello again

Well it has been much longer than I had anticipated to get back to the keyboard and write a blog.

Winter around here does tend to get a bit dismal. After all of the colour and excitement of Christmas and blogmas I went into hibernation mode. You can imagine how pouty I get when we have to take down all of the Christmas lights and my garden is so dark at night.

We have had some lovely weather in amongst many cloudy days. This sunset last week was spectacular. Of course way better in real life that this picture can ever convey. The pinks were vibrant and shimmery.

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Today, February 22nd has been incredibly warm. Late in the afternoon it was 15 Celsius. I had the windows open in my office!

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You can see there is hardly any snow out there, and actual blue sky. I go nuts on a nice day.

I get all sorts of energy.

I even get around to blogging for the first time in 2 months!

I haven’t been entirely idle over the winter. I finished a knitting project that is making me very happy.

imageThis is the Light and Up Shawl designed my Caroline Wiens. The pattern is available on Ravelry for free. It is an easy pattern and was a good choice for the beautiful yarn I purchased at the Kitchener Waterloo Knitters fair last fall.

It is called Gobstopper yarn and is a 50% Merino and silk mix. Lovely to work with, deep colour penretration and a beautiful luster. I highly recommend it. You can find it here

https://gobstopperyarn.wordpress.com/

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I added an additional repeat of the lace rows to allow the full gradient of the yarn to show. Blue and brown are one of my favourite colour combinations. It turned out lovely, and is so soft to wear.  The colour name is “sinkhole” which made me laugh because I am terrified of sinkholes. But I believe this is the nicest one I have ever seen.

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I was knitting by the fire in January when the weather was much less friendly than today. I’ve been embracing the Hygge and all round cozy-ness. I loved these books.

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“The Little Book of Hygge” by Miek Wiking which is widely available. And “The Year of Cozy” by Adrianna Adarme.

I have read both cover to cover and keep them beside my chair so I can dip in and enjoy again. Lots of inspiration and ideas to make life more enjoyable.

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Nothing better on a winters day.

The weather today is making me think of spring. I have been out poking my fingers in the soil, standing and squinting at areas of the garden that are up for transformation this year, and yes I have already ordered some seeds.

The open window had my nose twitching at the prospect of garden time soon.

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · out and about · the gardens · The Great Outdoors · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 4 outside trees

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Hello my little Pinecones!

There are only two reasons when I don’t like the snow. One is when I have to clean it off my car the other is when I am driving my car and can’t see the road. Other than that I love snow. I would miss it if I lived in a warmer climate.

I miss it a lot right now because it would make the pictures of the outside tree look more seasonal and festive.  So again the picture above is not from this year.

It was nice to put up the lights on the big tree this year as it wasn’t even cold. But is is still a huge process that takes 3 of us. The tree is now about 20 feet tall. I am amazed at how much blue spruce grow every year.

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Trying to wrap lights is a good way to understand that it grows a lot in one year. Last year we could wrap both the big and small tree but this year it is only the big one.  It takes this 8 foot ladder, a long pole with a hook on the end and the fairly tall Mr Murfin to reach the very top. Then my son and I do a May pole dance feeding out the strings of lights  and loop over the branches.

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But we did not have enough lights for both this year. So yet again a picture of last year. These tress are right at the end of the drive way very close to the road.  I love that you can see it for a long way as you approach the house at night.

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I love Christmas lights and decorated houses. But I have rules…in fact I have a rating system. When we are out and about at this time of year I like to look at all the house decorations and I call out what score each house gets as I pass. Certain things get you more points. as well as an overall effort score. I prefer multi coloured lights – that’s an easy 5.  I don’t like all blue lights that will lose points. I like it when people include trees as well as house lights, but I’m not keen on those inflatable figures and scenes. All white lights is good if you have lots of them. I’m especially fond of the white lights in balls hanging from deciduous trees that look like over-sized Christmas baubles.

Some houses – when all my favourite items are present, get the ultimate “full marks”. In fact I will drive out of my way just to go past those houses. It pleases me to think that people enjoy our tree as they drive down our road and I hope we score at least an 8.

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the gardens · The Great Outdoors · Uncategorized

Seeds

We humans seem to have a need to categorize other humans. We define each other by our colour, religion, gender, sexuality, and more options than may be necessary. It’s sad really because all humans are essentially identical as a species and at the same time made up of so many factors that we are all unique. Sometimes it is how we are born, and sometimes it is the choices we make. But there is really only one difference that truly matters.

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You are either a person who gets really excited by the arrival of seed catalogues –  or you are not. If you are not, feel free to move along, this may not be the blog for you.

It is the bright spark of hope that keeps me going during the dismal days right after Christmas. Leafing thorough the colourful pages, scribbling notes, calculating space and growing time, staring at the dormant space that will be full of life again in just a few months.

I don’t claim to be any kind of expert gardener. I rather hope that I make up for lack of skill with my enthusiasm and wonder. I am simply amazed when things grow, in awe when I pull a carrot from the soil. Every new season offers a chance at renewal, new growth and possible experiments.

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For the first few years here at the Hedgehog Hill I marvelled at all of the plants and bushes and trees we inherited with the property. Last year we finished much of the structure which is home to the veg garden. Next year we will be adding more soft fruits, moving the lilies (I know absolutely nothing about lilies), and building a new garage that will offer opportunities to change the landscape again.

It is the chance to do it all over again that excites me. And there is another place where you are one kind of a person or the other. You either like things to stay the same or you like the change. I would have pegged myself as a stay-the-same person about most things. But in nature and in the garden that is simply not possible, plants are on a life cycle much like ours. They have their seasons…turn, turn, turn ….

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So you have no choice but to adapt. The trees will get taller, the annuals live up to their name and need re planting every spring, even the perennials may need dividing or pruning.

I made a mistake when planting bulbs a few years ago, I stretched them along an edge, when what I really wanted was bunches of them here and there. I meant to move them last fall, but didn’t. I expect it will bother me again this spring and I will make a note to myself to move them. But does it really matter? The daffodils and tulips fight through the snow and bloom and I love them anyway…even all in a row.

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I thought when I started writing this there would be some kind of moral to the story, but I can’t think of one. I also can’t find the Stokes catalogue and I need to compare seeds and varieties and prices. But no hurry, I have all winter to consider.

Ahhh I found it intime to change the picture. Also snow just started to fall. There is time, there is time.

Cooking Things · the gardens · The Great Outdoors · Uncategorized

Hedgehog Hill Coffee Cake

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As you can see we are under a blanket of snow at Hedgehog Hill. We had a green Christmas and New Years then a week of streamers off the lake that swirled around the house and yard. This means long dark nights and bitter cold days. When it has been nice enough to venture outside I caught a few images of the drifts.

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Snow is so hard to capture in a photo, it remains stubbornly flat and one-dimensional. Yet I marvel at all of the shapes and drifts it forms.

The overhang in the first picture has continued to grow for over a week, how does it just hang there?

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The winds have been fierce at times.

Earlier today I was dreaming of warmer times in the garden and remembered that I still have a lot of lovely produce frozen that should get used up before the next harvest.

Maybe it was all the swirling, but I got to thinking about a layer of sweet black raspberries in a golden, rich cake.

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See the resemblance? Is it piles of cake and drifts of raspberries? Or is it lashings of sweetness between crumbly goodness?

I posted a picture on Instagram (you can link to my account over on the side bar or simply search for Mrs Murfin) and someone – @katkommentary asked for the recipe. It is a bt long for instagram so I decided to finally dust off the blog again.

On a side note I was happy to find I could drag and drop photos….has that option always been there???

Back to the recipe. Since I did not plan ahead I don’t have cake-in-progress photos so you will have to just read about it.

First I took a healthy cup – a cup and a half of frozen black raspberries from the freezer. Any fruit will do really, or you can make the same coffee cake with just nuts and cinnamon.

I put the berries in a pot with about half a cup of white sugar and a teaspoon and a half of cornstarch. I mixed them together and put them on a medium heat, melting the sugar in and thickening as they came to a gentle boil. I turned them down and let the mix bubble for a few minutes until they were a runny jam consistency. I took them off the heat to cool. Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.

I make this cake in a ring pan, but there is no reason you can’t make it in a 9 X 13″ cake pan. It rises quite a bit so make sure whatever pan you use has room for it. I do grease and flour the pan…I hate it when things stick.

Meanwhile I made my favourite sour cream coffee cake batter. I have a real phobia about running out of sour cream at Christmas. Something about having guests in the house, I MUST have sour cream! Never mind that I am the only one who eats it most of the time. Anyway I somehow ended up with 3 – yes 3 – tubs in the fridge. This is a great way to use up the end of the tub. (I did throw out one tub that was fresh dated to last September…..yikes!) So measure out 1 cup of sour cream and set aside.

Cream 1/2 cup of soft butter with 1 cup of white sugar and 2 eggs with a mixer. In a separate bowl combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, and a 1/4 tsp of salt.

Mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture alternately with the cup of sour cream. This is where a stand mixer is really nice, or help in the kitchen because other wise you need three hands.

I like to give it a good beating so it gets nice and fluffy,and thick.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread around. It doesn’t look like there is enough, but there is. It will rise and bulk up so don’t panic, just spread it out.

If you are making a plain cinnamon nut coffee cake you can sprinkle half of it over the batter now. For that I mix 1/4 cup of white sugar, 1/4 cup of chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans), and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

I decide to add that today along with the raspberries but it could be optional.

Pour the cooled raspberries over the batter and spread a little gently with a spoon.

Drop spoonfuls of the remaining batter over the top and spread as best you can. Again it will spread as it bakes. Sprinkle the top with the remaining sugar and nut mixture.

Bake at 350 F for 35 – 45 minutes. You really have to do a poke test to see if there is any goopy batter before you pull it out.

Cool and enjoy.

I think I will make some Birds custard tomorrow to pour over and make it even more decadent.

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the gardens · The Great Outdoors · Uncategorized

Spring blooms

You may remember that last spring was a bit of disaster for blooms. My heart broke when my much-anticipated magnolia was frosted.

Thankfully this year we did not get summer in March and had a traditionally cruel April with lots of hints at spring warmth, but very little actual sun.

May has dawned and we are into full summer – bang –  just like that. The forsythia is shinning and you can smell it all over the yard.Forsythia

Inside I have a lovely bunch of Daffies to brighten the fireplace wall.

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And look! Buds on the magnolia! Stay tuned!!!

Magnolia buds

the gardens · The Great Outdoors · Uncategorized

Fall, autumn, time passes…

Don’t you just love that GLOW?

The air is crisp, the ground is crunchy. We had a very dry summer and it has changed the landscape this fall. For most of the summer the pond was, well, more of a puddle. Here is what it looked like last week, very little water, lots of leaves.

But happily today, after several days of rain, we have a real pond again!

Another outcome of the strange weather over the last year is the total lack of apples.

This was taken about a year ago(October 2011). More apples that I could keep up with.

and the same view September 25th 2012

Not an apple to be seen. How strange it looked!

I am looking forward to next year. A new chance at this garden. We have been here for a year now, I know what comes up where, and what I want/need to change. I have many, many plans.

So soon we will put away the chairs.

Start bringing this in load by load…..

and settle down for a long winters nap. To dream of gardens and browse seed catalogues, and craft away the evenings.

Did somebody mention Christmas! Only 68 days!

Cooking Things · the gardens · Uncategorized

Red Currant Jelly

You may wonder what happened to those red currants?

I did manage to save some from the birds. It was a lot of work to pick even a few.

It took quite a bit of stretching and bending to find this many on the underside of the bush where birds could not find them. Then the sorting , stemming and washing. Some recipes said you could leave the stems, but I didn’t.

Really only about 2 cups of currants which made …..

exactly one jar of jelly! This is being saved for a special occasion!

Thanks to our weird spring weather I didn’t have any raspberries or blackberries, I hope they do better next year! But I did purchase some local raspberries and made some lovely jam from those.

Mmmmmm This is eaten for breakfast most days.

I have not made peach jam in many years but tried it again. Now I remember why I gave up making it. It won’t set for me. The flavour is good so I am going to use the slightly runny peach “sauce” in tarts and muffins. But the fresh peaches, they were yummy!