Tuesday View (31st December) and a Happy New Year!

Alfred Tennyson’s famous words:

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow…”

What snow?! I think I need to change that line to “green, green grass”!

Here’s the view today, as the light faded at around 3.30pm (compare with the next photo, taken last summer!)

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And my message for 2014…

Embrace the new year with upturned eyes and an open heart

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Look forward, stride forward, over new ground

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Leaving footprints behind you as you step into the unknown

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It’s time once again for me to thank you all for a great blogging year.

Thank you for being there, for liking and commenting on my posts, for your loyalty and support, and for putting out such inspiring, interesting and positive posts yourselves. All this means an AWFUL lot to me!

So now I wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year, full of joy and harmony, kindness and laughter, and good food and flowers! I hope it brings with it all you could wish for.

Talking of wishes, here are a few things I’m hoping for this coming year….

A sudden exodus of slugs and snails to the woods beyond the garden

Success with my poppy seeds

That our resident mole does not bring his family with him to settle down for good

A glimpse of a rare butterfly

To smell the elusive scent of Hepaticas in the woods this spring

Time for the hammock (and no mosquitoes!)

Plenty of sunshine

😀

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What are your hopes for 2014?

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Happy New Year!

 

Fourth Sunday in Advent 2013

This is the last flower featuring in my Advent Sunday series, and I think it looks rather festive too!

Ricinus communis

AdventRicinus

I grew two of these from seed, and was amazed at how well they grew! They loved it in my dry and very hot rockery, and looked good until the first frost. The large glossyy leaves are an exotic addition to the garden – not really fitting in with other plants at all. In fact they are almost gaudy, but the small flowers and seedheads are somehow very attractive and every time I passed this plant I would admire it.

The common name in German is Wunderbaum (Miracle Tree) and this seemed very appropriate as I could not believe its growth and stature! It was not until I looked up the English common name – Castor Oil Plant – that I realized this is where castor oil comes from. I had never given it a thought before.

Only one drawback if you have pets or small children – this plant and its seeds are toxic. Ours was tucked well into the barely accessible rockery.

Have you ever grown anything exotic?

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Here’s another (more seasonal) plant that is exotic for us in Europe. Do you have these at Christmas time too?

4thAdvent

Enjoy the last few days before Christmas!

Chocolate Yule Log

This is a Christmas classic for all those who appreciate chocolate and buttercream… 😉

I had so much fun decorating it with the cake decorations kindly sent from the UK by my Mum. For although the Germans are famous for their cakes and tarts, they don’t have Christmas cakes and don’t decorate their stollens with plastic ornaments… I wonder how and when the tradition began in England! (Any ideas anyone?)

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You don’t think I went over the top with the decorations, do you?

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I loved the snowman – he looked so real. (Can a snowman look real?)

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But Father Christmas and Rudolph were pretty cute too!

This was surprisingly easy and didn’t take me as long as I thought it would.

Chocolate Yule Log

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You will need:

  • 75g caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 70g (1/2 cup) self-raising flour
  • 5g (1 tsp) cornflour
  • 3 tbsps cocoa powder
  • butter/flour for greasing pan

Filling/topping:

  • 100g (7 tbsps) softened butter
  • 100g (4/5 cup) icing sugar
  • 75g (3 0z) milk chocolate
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 6 tbsps blueberry (or any other) jam

Preheat oven to 200°C/400F and grease and flour a 23x30cm (9 x 12 inch) swiss roll tin.

With an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy – about 5 minutes. Gently fold in sieved flour, cornflour and cocoa powder. Pour mixture into pan and bake for 7-10 mins until just coming away from the edges of the pan and springy to the touch.

Prepare a sheet of greaseproof paper a little larger than the pan and turn the cake onto it. Roll up tightly straight away, in the paper, from the short side. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bain marie, or in a dish over a pan of boiling water. Allow to cool a little. Beat the sifted icing sugar and butter together until very smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate and cocoa.

Now unroll the cooled swiss roll and spread the jam over it. Then spread a quarter of the buttercream over that and roll the cake up again with the join at the bottom. You could now slice a little off the end at an angle to put at the side as a branch. Place on your serving dish and then carefully spread the rest of the buttercream all over the roll. Finally, use a fork to create the effect of the bark on your log. Then chill for a good two hours.

Now you can decorate it with whatever takes your fancy… after all, it IS Christmas! Sprinkle a little icing sugar over it too, for a snowy effect.

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Enjoy!

(As you can see, we did! 😉 )

Do you go over the top at Christmas? Do tell!

Tuesday View (17th December)

Before I show you the view today,

Happy Birthday Mum!

Here’s a picture for you as a reminder of what summer has in store next year!

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And here’s the view today, 8.30am, – 4°C, just as the golden morning sunlight came over the hill to shine on the birch trees…

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Hope you all have some sunshine today – especially since the days ar so short right now.

😀

Third Sunday in Advent 2013

Through Advent this year I have been picking out favourite flowers and saying why I like them. This week’s flower is a white Peony, given to me by a friend several years ago, so I cannot say what kind it is.

AdventPeony

It flowers in June and the main reason for loving it is the wonderful perfume that wafts across the garden for a couple of weeks – sometimes longer. But it is also a signal that spring has turned to summer as the last tulips fade and the sun gets stronger. The little spots of pink on the petal edges are a detail that becomes more prominent as the flower unfolds into huge frilly heads. Yes, they tend to flop over, especially if it rains heavily, but the past few years I have managed to stake them early enough, and a rainshower is the perfect excuse to cut some and bring them indoors to enjoy the scent to the full!

Do you grow flowers for their perfume? What’s your favourite?

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Enjoy the third week of Advent everyone!

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Winter Reading

This hasn’t been a year for reading for me; partly a matter of time, but also because I have been struggling for months(!) with a novel I was determined to finish before starting something else. I failed! I’m still reading the novel: “The Cider House Rules” by John Irving, but have also started some short stories by Lydia Davis, along with some other short fiction.

The best book I’ve been reading recently was this:

Casting Shadows

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This is a collection of short stories, published by Word Machine Press, from new writers who developed them as part of their MA course in Professional Writing. These stories were immediately singled out for publishing.

Fancy a good chilling read by the warm fireplace this winter? You will feel your spine tingling, shivers on your goosebumps, your hair standing on end! Each of the eight ghost stories will draw you in making you feel as if you are really there. You can’t put this book down in the middle of a story. However, each is just a few pages long, and if time is short you could fit one in over lunch. You’ll be hooked though, and impatient to read the next! I found these writers all succeeded in making their stories very vivid, and very real… I am reminded of Roald Dahl’s “Tales of the Unexpected”, with a twist at the end – at times almost expected but not always.

An extra point – the illustrations are also remarkable.

The reason I chose this book was one of the writers, Danielle Charles. Danielle has a blog called

The Teacup Chronicles

which was the first blog I ever followed, two years ago. Since then I have taken much pleasure in her moving tales and prose, and her delicious natural recipes. There is something magical about the way she writes, and her photographs are also always a delight.

I hope you will drop by her blog, or even better – buy the book!

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Another book I’m dipping into at the moment is also a collection of (relatively) short stories and writings, this time by an old favourite: Charles Dickens, and his Christmas stories in

Dickens at Christmas

Dickens

Of course, “A Christmas Carol” is in there, which I re-read at least partly every December. But you will also find all the Christmas Books as well as many other Christmas themed tales.

I particularly enjoyed the first story “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton” from “The Pickwick Papers”. A miserable grave-digger is kidnapped on Christmas Eve and shown the error of his ways, in a similar way to Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”. This time it isn’t ghosts that “spirit” the character away, but a group of rather violent goblins…

There are several very short stories, and a few slightly longer. Perfect for selecting some reading for half an hour or a whole afternoon. Another attraction of this book is its binding and cover. If you are going to look at a book again and again, it has to be a hardback, and my Christmas Carol paperback was beginning to look a bit scruffy. This version is well bound and the cover is very seasonal. A classic.

So, what have you been reading recently? Any tips?

😀