Friday, November 21, 2014

Traditional Shortbread


Knowing that the holidays are really just right around the corner, I purchased a couple new kinds of tea from Harney and Sons; Vanilla Comoro and English Breakfast. It's always nice to have something on hand for when company pops in for a visit. And if there's anything makes a cup of tea more delightful, it's a buttery, homemade cookie.

When the tea arrived in the mail, it was clear that the best thing to do was to make a batch of cookies to enjoy a cup with. I've been collecting cookie recipes to test for an annual cookie exchange I host each year and I was eager to bake something instead of just drooling over delcious photos.


Not wanting anything too complicated, I decided to make a classic butter shortbread. Basically butter, flour and sugar. How much more simple could it get?


I began by sifting one cup of powdered sugar.


I then creamed the powdered sugar with one cup of soft unsalted butter in my mixer with the paddle attachement. After about 10 minutes, I added a teaspoon of vanilla.


Next I sifted 2 cups of flour with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder.


I then added the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar, and continued to mix it until it was well combined.


Once the dough started forming a ball in the mixing bowl, I emptied it out onto a sheet of parchment paper and made a ball.


Using the parchment paper, I rolled the ball out into a log shape. The parchment helps make a smooth, even log.

I then sliced the log into even slices of dough, roughly 1/2 inch thick.


I arranged them on a lined baking sheet and sprinkled them with raw sugar for added crunch and sweetness. I baked them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Now, the recipe only called for 10 minutes, and warned not to over cook them. I prefer my shortbread a little drier and more crumbly however so next time I might leave them in for a few minutes longer. Just don't let them brown too much.


While they were baking, I lined a takeout box with parchment and took out some Christmas gift tags I had been working on the day before.



A little ribbon and twine made a perfect little package. I sent them to my Papa, who's favourite cookie is shortbread.


And then I enjoyed one with a cup of tea.

The original recipe was found here, I just altered it slighty to my personal taste.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

An Early Winter Wonderland


In the most unexpected and splendid way, winter is suddenly upon us.

It began snowing early this morning, and the sky hasn't stopped blanketing the woods and yard with it's thick, fluffy flakes since then.







We are cozy and warm inside with our cocoa and tea. Even the birds are seeking refuge in the branches of the hedgerow, though they seem happy enough fluttering around in the soft snow.


And soft it is. It's a perfect light, delicate snow, settling softly on each bough and branch.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Winter Bulbs


At this time of year, with Thanksgiving come and gone, and the stores filled with everything for the holiday season, I have the urge to start decorating the house for Christmas. Especially if there's been some snow. However, putting up a real tree now, and keeping it in good condition until at least all of the Christmas festivites are past is nearly an impossible feat.

During this mid-season time, I start to add little bits of Christmas decor around the house, while trying to keep our home from seeming like it's completely decorated for the holidays. It's actually quite nice, because it gives the house a bit of a change, without much effort.

Urns were arranged with fresh boughs on the front steps where the cold air will keep the greens fresh for much longer. Inside, my Paperwhites and Amaryllis are in bloom. A couple natural wreathes were hung as well, one of pine cones and the other a real Boxwood wreath.


(While there may appear to be a tiny grey mouse running across my floor, under my cabinet in the mirror, rest assured, it's not. It's in fact one of Hudson's toy hippos. There's always something I don't see until later!)




Some white Lilies also fill the house with their perfume scent.





While I will soon force some winter bulbs myself, I brought these ones home from the shop.



I also brought home two of my most favourite scones, chocolate pecan. We shared them at breakfast the next morning.



We've also been enjoying watching our Amaryllis grow taller each day, and burst into these grand, ruffled blooms.


One after the other, they unfurl.


Our first one is now in full bloom, and the second cluster of blooms is beginning to grow.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Crow Farm Stand and Christmas Urns


Willen and I made a stop after school one day this week to pick up a few things from a farm stand down the road from us, Crow Farm Stand. It's a unique little stand, mostly filled with interesting branches and quirky trees.

We picked up some birch for our Christmas urns, as well as a whimsical potted spruce tree for the boy's room. Since it's potted, I'm hoping to transplant it later if it makes it through the season.

As with most farm stands, they go by the honour system, which is always something I find cozy about our community.








We then spent our Saturday cleaning up the gardens for Winter, and raking leaves. The pumpkins were brought to the compost, and we made urns for at our entrances.

You can see our new roof, which went up in the nick of time! It was so hard to pick shingles that gave the house character and matched our current siding, all from these small samples that were viewed up close. Eventually, we will replace the siding, and so we wanted to be sure that what we selected would suit whatever we would decide on in the future. In the end, we decided on the shadow shingles, which were more expensive, but gave more definition to our roof. It draws out more of the taupe and makes the siding seem less yellow. We not only replaced the shingles, but we built a second layer to add space for air flow that is vented out throuh our roof's ridges. This will greatly help with the efficiency of our house. In the summer, our second floor won't be so warm, and in the winter, it won't be as cold.



This year for our urns I used Cedar, Scotch Pine, White Pine and Spruce boughs, with Magnolia leaves, Variegated Boxwood clippings and Birch.




This is the planter at our back entrance.



Temperatures have plummeted quite quickly here, bringing with them a few light dustings of snow. It makes closing the gardens a little easier to know that soon they'll be blanketed in beautiful snow, and not so bare and brown.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Celebrating Fall



We've been making the most of the beautiful Fall weather we've been having recently (for the most part): trips to the pumpkin patch, an afternoon at one of our many conservation areas, even a weekend camping trip the the Finger Lakes.

It seems this year that the leaves have taken their time changing colours. They've slowed this usually short part of their life cycle down just slow enough to allow us a few extra moments enjoying their colourful transformation.


My sister Becki and I spent a few hours on Thanksgiving weekend browsing the local craft shows. It's held each year at a historic conservation area, amongst a beautiful old homestead complete with antique barns, a mill and a beautiful waterfall.






Willen has been learning all about apples at school, so we've tried to do a few activities together that have to do with apples. We visited an old orchard in a valley near us. It's one of many, many orchards in our area. We then visited one of our market stands and took home a few Honey Crisp apples, which he brought into school and made apple sauce with. While there, we also grabbed some apple cider to enjoy later, warmed with some spices. I discovered neither of the boys cared for it warm, but can't seem to get enough of it cold.


The trees were bursting with the brightest, biggest red apples.


On our trip to the pumpkin patch, Willen enjoyed a hayride, corn maze, and visiting a few farm animals. He took home a tiny pie pumpkin, and didn't seem to be bothered by the bad weather. Of all the days, that was the day the temperature decided to plummet. It actually hailed on our way home!



We've also spent many afternoons with the boys, wandering around some local trails. They have so much fun running around and exploring. We don't usually get too far, but they see so many interesting things, and are ready for bed by the time the sun sets.



Their favourite part is always the hot chocolate and cookies that accompany a good hike.


One of the most beautiful places we've been this Fall is camping at Watkin's Glen in New York. We did the walk to the one mile point, and couldn't believe how amazing the waterfalls were, and how well kept the path was. It was this stone walkway with many stairs and little bridges and caves and basically, it was the coolest place for the boys to explore. There were plants growing all along the path, and it was quite relaxing hearing the constant sound of rushing water beside you.

And the camping alone was an adventure! It was freezing cold at night, and preparing all meals by fire, or small stove was quite the challenge. We had lots of fun though. Willen even learned how to ride his bike.





And of course, there is enough Autumn beauty to take in even in our own back yard.