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

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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?

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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.

😀