Winter’s Joy – Snowdrops

snowdrops blooming 2013 12 27
photo by SVSeekins

The solstice passed & each day is just a little brighter than the last.  With optimism I step outside searching for signs of the new year…

JOY !!  Snowdrops in bloom  🙂

If these little bulbs can thrive during the cold, cloudy winter, then so can we.

Happy New Year!

P.S. Ok, to be honest:  these blooms are not from my yard.  I searched & searched but found no signs of them yet. BUT  – –  Just 6 houses down the street, there they are!  Talk about micro-climates.    🙂    All the more reason to go for a walk, eh?

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© SVSeekins and Garden Variety Life, 2013

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Baking Party Nerves

What’s more fun than going to the mall in December?  Well, many, many things… FAR higher up on my list is a party.

holiday music
photo by SVSeekins

It’s an opportunity to pull out some seasonal music…. go through the cupboards… and dress up in something special…

That’s when I like to head to the kitchen.  The season is about getting together with family & friends. Playing together in the kitchen is no exception & one of my favorite kind of parties.

Christmas baking is mostly created for others as gifts.  Gifts of time & effort…. gifts from the heart …. Guilt Free calories.

gathering ingredients
photo by SVSeekins

Every year it surprises me how much skill is required to make a truly good butter cookie or an extremely fine shortbread. I mean, recipes look like paint-by-number instructions.  It SHOULD be so easy.  Gather ingredients, combine – – ta da!

But sometimes greatness balances on humidity & barometric pressure.  For real!  My Dad told me this & I’m totally going with it.

Either way, every baker experiences failure.

How can he / she best deal with that disappointment?

Christmas Tins & sprinkles
photo by SVSeekins

Well, to use a culinary cliché:  When faced with a lemon, make lemonade.

This year I made peanut brittle.  Sort of.  It looked perfect … but was cement in the Pyrex.  Through extreme ingenuity I was able to rescue the pan, but not the candy.

It turns out we’d stumbled upon the procedure for creating an incredibly tasty batch of sprinkles for ice-cream.  It was really good, but still wouldn’t cut it for gifting.

Danish Butter Cookies
photo by SVSeekins

So I moved on to cookies.  Gosh, cookies are so PARTICULAR!  Thirty seconds one way or another can make the difference between raw & burnt.  Well not burnt – but BROWN..

I reckon that a gradient of brown cookies should go into every gift, proving that they were handmade.  This sounds totally reasonable, so that’s what I do.

But there are still a few really brown cookies leftover that just won’t do… They’re tasty, just too dry…. So, now I’m thinking they could be crushed & replace graham wafer crumbs in another recipe… Do you think that would work?

AB wearing 'something special'
photo by SVSeekins

I also need an evolutionary plan for the fudge that  didn’t harden even after I’d meticulously heated it up past the important soft-ball temperature.  It turned out like really stretchy toffee…. Granted, toffee is a delicious treat.  Perhaps  I’ll wrap it in wax paper & rename it?  Maybe not.. too sticky.  Ideas?

It’s amazing how any challenge seems easier when taken on together.  We keep each other on track, share skills, and offer support & laughter… And when it comes right down to it,  we relax & spike the lemonade.

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© SVSeekins and Garden Variety Life, 2013

Garden Chores For Birds

goldenrod & Shasta daisy blooming in august
photo by SVSeekins

So much for the golden haze of summer.  It’s been below freezing here for almost a week.  That’s not a complaint, because we’re cozy inside, but I feel badly for the creatures living outdoors.

A couple of winters ago C & I started hanging a suet log.  The birds love it!

They also clean it out fairly quickly – –  which means one of us must refill it.  We’re pretty good at that, but not perfect.  😦

goldenrod gone to seed
photo by SVSeekins

This autumn I decided to make a change in garden maintenance that would help out the birds just a little more.  I chose to NOT cut back some of the perennials when their bloom finished. I reckon the seed heads might come in handy when the suet log is empty.

Goldenrod has really funky looking seed heads. This perennial is native to North America, so I figure the birds have learned to make use of it over the centuries just as the First Peoples did.

lychnis in bloom
photo by SVSeekins

And if the birds don’t eat these seeds, perhaps they’ll use the fluff to insulate their nests?

ernest fenceline in november
photo by SVSeekins`

Lychnis is another with great summer blooms & and an abundance of winter seed.  This patch along the fenceline is left standing in hopes it’ll be useful for the birds too.

Happily I’m not worried about those seed heads foretelling a full future for weeding.  We mulch the garden beds quite heavily, which (aside from keeping roots warm) has the added benefit of slowing down scattered seeds turning into unwanted plants.  

But hopefully the seeds will all be eaten before my pruning hand become so itchy that I just HAVE TO cut the plants back for tidiness sake. (I have good intentions, but I also know my nature.)

Even as we speak the crocosmia & the hardy fuchsia are dying back & will soon be luring me outside to tidy up.

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© SVSeekins and Garden Variety Life, 2013

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