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 · Random Thoughts · The Great Outdoors

Blogmas day 22 the solstice

 

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Hello my little pine trees

Now if I had been thinking ahead about this I would have posted this topic yesterday. But it really didn’t occur to me until I saw a bunch of posts on Facebook that it would make a good topic.

Personally I like to mark the solstices as a special day. My reasoning is that both the longest and the shortest day of the year are something that is real and tangible, and the same all over the world (yes given that they occur on opposite days based on if you are in the Northern or Southern hemisphere). So on this day it was either the longest or shortest day no matter where you are, or what religion you are, or what language you speak. We all experience the completion of the season cycle and the return towards the other extreme. So why not celebrate that? Something all humans, indeed all life forms on earth experience?

I’m not suggesting we ditch all other holidays or celebrations. But if you think about it even though Valentines Day has roots deep in Christianity (St Valentine)  it is really something encouraged by greeting card makers and then florists and chocolate makers got onto a good thing and now it is a multi million dollar day. Except for the very devout, no one is really celebrating St Valentine.

The same can be said of Mother day and Father day which are not even the same calendar day in all countries. Halloween which has become a huge marketing scheme is actually the Celtic/Pagen holiday of  Samhain. Thanksgiving is celebrated in October in Canada and late November in the USA.

Again these are all fine holidays and I’m not suggesting we stop celebrating any of them if we choose. But none of them are experienced by everyone in the world the way the solstices are. They are fact and science and humans have recognized the significance of this change to the worlds axis at least since the building of Stonehenge. So why have we lost touch with the significance of these 2 days?

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If you are expecting an answer here you won’t find one because I don’t know. But I will continue to take some time to be quiet and thankful on these days that the earth still turns towards and away from the sun. I will be grateful for the changing of the seasons and respectful of Mother Earth.

And tomorrow the days will start to grow longer and we approach a weekend of family and food and fun and I’ll raise a toast to that.

Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · hygge · out and about · Random Thoughts · The Great Outdoors

Blogmas day 8 waiting….

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Hello my little snowflakes!

Well the day job has been keeping me too busy to do any Christmas projects for a day or two. so I was scrolling through my pictures to find something to chat about.

As I was out and about today the number one topic was the weather. Today’s weather was fine, cold but mostly clear. It’s the weather for the next few days that is on everyone’s minds. We are under a snow squall watch. Even now the wind is starting to pick up. The temperature is still above freezing but everyone is aware. And secretly hoping for a snow day.

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A snow day is a day to wear your PJs – all day. It is a day to watch movies while snuggled under blankets and stick a pot of soup on the stove. As long as you do not have to brave the storm to drive to work, or better yet if all the roads are closed, (Yes, sometime they do close ALL the roads) it is the best day of the year.

Puzzles and games come out, The fire is roaring, the hot chocolate is full of marshmallows and the topic is how little you can see out the windows.

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Everyone in Canada has an epic snow day story and as you nip into town to grab some extra supplies it is perfectly natural to great your neighbours, also at the store grabbing a bag of milk, extra bread, and maybe candles, by grinning and saying “Stocking up – hoping for a snow day!”

img_1585You bring in extra wood, check the flashlights or make sure the generator has fuel. Call your friends to make sure everyone has a plan for getting where they need to go. Check on Grandma and make sure she is ready. (but let’s face it she has seen more snow storms that you have)

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Put the new Christmas flannel sheets on the bed.

and then, we wait.

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Blogmas 2016 · Christmas · hygge · Random Thoughts · The Great Outdoors · Uncategorized

Blogmas day 7 – Hygge Hy-what?

img_1709As this blog goes live we are just two weeks away from the shortest day of the year. As I drove home this evening at 6:30 PM it was raining, just on the edge of snow. The road was wet and black and hard to see, the headlights of the other cars were blinding me and I longed to be home in my PJ’s and curled up under a blanket eating a grilled cheese and sipping a cup of tea. And all of that is hygge.

It is a Danish word and concept that became a bit of a buzz word over the last few years. I am not sure who started to export it from Denmark but from everything I have read the Danes are rather amused by outsiders trying to grasp something that they take for granted. In one article I read it compared it as – hygge is to Denmark what chic is to France. So much a part of their culture that there is no single definition.

The closest and most commonly used definition is a sense of cozy-nes. But equally it is an appreciation of the simple things, like PJ’s, grilled cheese and a cup of tea.

teacup 1  It’s no wonder it has caught on. And as like most trends in the fast paced world it spread like fire. Alex Beauchamp of the website http://www.hyggehouse.com recently tweeted “I get about 5 media requests a day for hygge & have had about 15 book offers in the past 6 months. A craze!”

But lets face it the world can be a bit scary these days. Is it any wonder that people want to retreat to safe, more comforting ground? While undoubtedly there are many advantages to the world that includes the internet, fast food, and instant 24 hour news, the downside is that many of us feel like our heads may explode at any moment. I would never want to give up my smart phone. Living in Canada, just lee of Lake Huron, winter travel without my own weather radar in my purse seems unthinkable now. But all this connectivity is still very new, and we all need to learn our own boundaries and levels of restraint.

knitting1Hygge is not the only craze that has seen an increase over the last few years. People are turning, or returning to things like journaling, knitting or yoga to help them find balance in their daily lives.

But back to Christmas.

As I mention at the start, this is the darkest time of the year. Most cultures have some sort of celebration in late December to help pass those long dreary nights. They almost always include, family and friends, warm and hearty food, and lights and candles. Often they are about reflection of the year past, thankfulness for the growing season recently completed, and showing gratitude to friends and family with the exchange of gifts and the sharing of food. There is much talk of Peace on Earth and Good Will Among Men. Resolutions are made, and promises to keep in touch, or we should do this more often. 

IMG_2397All of this is hygge too. And part of why I love this time of year. For me the week between Christmas and New Years is the one week a year that I really let out a sigh and completely relax. Usually I will have several new books to peruse, or new gadgets to play with. There is not much left to do for the old year, and plenty of time to figure out the new one. I light a fire, bake some bread, and only venture out to do the fun stuff.

snowshoesBut for everything good, there is also the bad. We should never forget that the whole reason for down time is the recharge for the up time. Sooner or later you have to go back to work, or school, fight the traffic or sit through a ridiculous meeting. It would be so easy to let ourselves forget the problems that exist in this world, to let it all slide over us as we snuggle under the eiderdown. So let us use this hygge time help us be ready for the world of 2017. Because man, it is going to be a doozy.

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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