So I know I know it is only September and there is some new form of political correctness police that hate all mention of Christmas before some date. Whatever – my blog, my rules.
Really I only blog about once every 12 months so when I get an idea I might as well roll with it. And we could all use a little more Christmas and a little less reality. In fact I could happily live in a snow globe some days. I think there was a bad TV movie made about that…. That is a whole blog topic in itself, bad TV Christmas movies. There are so many of them.
Yes! score for Google. A Snow Globe Christmas – Lifetime Television 2013. But wait there is more! Snowglobe by ABC Family made in 2007, and Snowmageddon in 2011 which is a sci-fi action film about the end of the world caused by a mysterious snow globe in a small Alaskan town. Really? Who thought that was a good film idea? It makes the first one look brilliant by comparison and now that I have watched the trailer for A Snow Globe Christmas I am remembering it fondly. I’ll be watching for it in December.
But back to my idea. I am considering doing a blog advent Christmas countdown thing…as in blogging everyday from the 1st to the 25th of December. Inspired by the wonderful Vlogmass of Zoella (She is a You Tube super-star if you don’t know who I mean – Google her)
The only reason I mention this here is to keep myself honest. If I write it here I have made it public….and might feel slightly more compelled to actually do it. Plus I feel like it will take a lot of preparation so I might as well get started now. Not that I need another project.
By my quick count it is about 74 days until the 1st of December. Let’s see how much I can get ready by then. I have already started on this.
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.
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.
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 ….
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
One of the reasons this site has been silent is because the wifi at Hedgehog Hill is so slow, posting is painful. I am testing the wifi at the local library today and this seems like a good solution. More to come…
So let’s talk books shall we? All my intentions of getting a crafty blog written this weekend fell away after my visit to the bookstore on Friday. I had a gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket and there is no better gift to me than a book.
I had been waiting eagerly for the next installment of the Flavia de Luce tale. I could hardly wait to crack the cover of The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. The titles alone make these books intriguing.
The previous book in the series, Speaking From Among the Bones, had left the reader hanging on the final words. Exciting and frustrating at the same time, when forced to wait a year for the action to move on.
To be clear, I have not been asked to write this review, I am doing so because I just love this series and I wish everyone could read and enjoy the adventures of the 11-soon-to-be-12 year old Flavia. I will also attempt to not give any spoilers.
This is a series that you simply must read right from the start. It opens with the first book; The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, in the dawning of 1950’s England and introduces you to young Flavia as she cheerfully navigates the murky waters of that space between child and woman. I am continually astounded that the author, Alan Bradley, can capture the essence of an eleven year old girl so well. As I read I am transported back to my own tween years and find myself saying – yes I remember feeling exactly that way. She is both wise and naive in equal measure, incredibly brave, possibly because she is young enough to not see her adventures as dangerous, and she is as resourceful, as she is fearless.
The books move along with fast-paced plots and have a wonderful set of characters that you come to cherish quickly. The immediate mysteries are resolved with Flavia’s determined, though unsolicited, help thanks to her remarkably well equipped laboratory, love of chemistry (particularly poisons), and her ever steadfast bicycle – Gladys.
The entire series of six books is spread over a transitional year for Flavia and you see her grow. While each book has a satisfying puzzle of its own, there is also an underlying mystery of what really happened to Flavia’s long lost Mother. Here lies the tricky landscape of spoilers. This most recent book answers many of Flavia’s questions and lays a path for her future. I am not sure if Mr Bradley will continue the series, I sincerely hope he does, but even as a standalone series of six, these books are not to be missed.
There has been talk of a TV series and I heard someone from the wonderful Call the Midwife is involved. This gives me great hope that it will be well done. It is essential that characters so well drawn be cast with care so as to not disappoint the legion of Flavia fans.
One of my measures of a good book is how often I notice something in my world and wonder how it would be viewed through the eyes of a favourite character. Flavia continues to live in my heart.
Some of my copies are pictured below, not in order or a complete set.
Author : Alan Bradley
Series in order:
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s bag
A Red Herring Without Mustard
I Am Half Sick of Shadows
Speaking From Among the Bones
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches
“Meanwhile,’ said Mr Tumnus, ‘it is winter in Narnia, and has been for ever so long, and we shall both catch cold if we stand here talking in the snow. Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?”
― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
My my it is more than a bit dusty in here don’t you think? What! Almost a year and no posts? I think it is time Mrs Murfin puts her pinny back on, cleans up the place and writes something. I have been doing a lot of sewing, and a lot of knitting and crochet too, so it’s not like I don’t have stuff to show you. The weather has been nasty and I have cabin fever. So let’s warm this place up a bit. Don’ you love this divided fabric basket? Pattern by Noodlehead . I’ll make some tea and be back in a flash or in a day or two.
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.
Inside I have a lovely bunch of Daffies to brighten the fireplace wall.
And look! Buds on the magnolia! Stay tuned!!!
I thought it was about time to have a little spruce up. There are hundreds of themes you can choose for a blog and while I liked the one I had it was a bit starkly white.
I like this one for the slightly retro, country feel. The pictures seem to stand out better and it looks more …finished.
Comments are welcome!