A Very Short Day

To mark this short day I found a lovely, if somewhat sober sonnet by Edmond Holmes, from ‘The Triumph of Love’ collection, which I would like to share with you.

Like as the thrush in winter, when the skies
Are drear and dark, and all the woods are bare,
Sings undismayed, till from his melodies
Odours of Spring float the frozen air, –
So in my heart when sorrow’s icy breath
Is bleak and bitter and its frost is strong,
Leaps up, defiant of despair and death,
A sunlit fountain of triumphant song.
Sing on, sweet singer, till the violets come
And south winds blow; sing on, prophetic bird!
Oh if my lips, which are for ever dumb,
Could sing to men what my sad heart has heard,
Life’s darkest hour with songs of joy would ring;
Life’s blackest frost would blossom into Spring.

Moss

The winter solstice occurred here in Germany at 5.48am this morning. I was not up to experience the moment, although I doubt very much if anything would have marked the moment anyway. Since it is, quite simply, just a moment – albeit a moment many of us have been waiting for – and it is over in a tick and leaves that little itch of a thought behind… Yes, the days will not become noticeably longer for a couple of weeks yet, but they ARE getting longer. And do you sense that tinge of excitement at the thought of snowdrops, daffodils and tulips popping up in the garden to greet the spring?

We haven’t had winter yet though, so I mustn’t count my chickens…

I had in fact been looking forward to a snowy winter, but now I think I may be happier to forego snow and ice and skip straight ahead to the March winds and April showers! I have been reading how the winter appears to be just as mild in most of the US and UK too. And John at A Walk in the Garden in North Carolina has already spotted some daffodils in flower! Have you seen any daffodils yet?

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Whatever the weather, I wish you all a very happy and harmonious Christmas, full of all the things you wished for. And I look forward to seeing you in the New Year to share another year of my garden and kitchen with you and to be delighted by all your wonderful posts too.

Merry Christmas!

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In a Vase on Monday: Sugar and Spice (and all things nice)

It is one of those grey, wet, chill days, where venturing further than just outside the back door is not at all appealing. Nevertheless I managed to find a few items without getting wet so that I could join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden again for a Monday vase.

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This dear little sugar bowl was the inspiration for today’s vase, along with some cinnamon sticks which still haven’t been put to good use. The crystalized sugar next to the vase is perfect for adding to spiced winter teas too.

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Some silver fir, hellebores, heuchera leaves, beech twigs and a few violas from the patio were enough to create a small but satisfying arrangement, with little time on hand!

This will probably be my last vase of 2015, as I will be away next week. So thank you to Cathy for the inspiration and encouragement, and especially your dedication in hosting this meme.

I’ll be posting one more time this week, but for all those too busy to drop by again, and to my fellow Monday vasers:

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

 

In a Vase on Monday: The Past, the Present and the Future

‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!’

This was what Scrooge said, after the three spirits had visited him in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

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These three Hellebores (Christrose in German) demonstrate the three stages of life that the spirits made Scrooge visit on his eventful Christmas Eve… the Past, the Present and the Future.

Thanks go to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden once again for the opportunity to show some materials from my garden in a vase on Monday. And this week I have a new “vase” too!

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I found these three glass tubes mounted in a wooden block while hunting for Christmas gifts last week; exactly what I had been looking for, and so reasonably priced I decided to treat myself. :D

The ivy and silver fir around the base are added for the seasonal touch.

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I like to look at some Dickens every Christmas. It became a habit while I was still teaching, since a production  of “A Christmas Carol” is shown  in English in our town theatre every year and I have often been with students. My own English teacher at school also managed to convince me of the positive side of Dickens, and I admire his ability to entertain with words/wordiness and social comment.

Another couple of Dickens quotes, appropriate for the season:

‘There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.’

and

‘Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days’.

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… and finally
‘Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.’

Have a wonderful week, stress-free with time for some fireside or candleside relaxation and contemplation!

:)

Christmas Cookies: Linzer Cookies (Vegan)

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A novelty twice over for me – not only are they the first Linzer Cookies I have ever made, they are also my first vegan Christmas cookies – and I am absolutely delighted with the results!

I must give all the credit for the recipe to a wonderful vegan cook and baker, Stina Spiegelberg. Her blog Vegan Passion is also written partly in English, so please do go and visit her. Even better, if you know some German then buy one of her books. I bought her Vegan Xmas cookbook recently and have tried her delicious non-cheese “cheescake” (Zupfkuchen) already too.

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Stina, you have made my first vegan Christmas a delight!

Linzer Cookies

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  • 4-5cm round cookie cutter and small cookie cutters for the centres
  •  460g (3 and 3/4 cups) wholemeal (spelt) flour
  • 80g (1/2 cup) ground hazelnuts
  • 100g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 250g (about 2 sticks and 2 tbsps) vegan butter
  • 4 tbsps soya milk
  • 200g (7 oz) raspberry jam/jelly (I prefer the seedless jelly ;-) )

Mix all the ingredients together except for the jam. Add the soya milk at the end as you bring the dough together to form a smooth ball. Then chill it for at least 30 minutes, wrapped in clingfilm.

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F and line large baking trays with greaseproof paper. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 3mm thickness. Cut out circles using a 4-5cm cookie cutter. In half of the circles cut out tiny hearts, stars etc from the centre. You are aiming to make about 50 cookies.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Don’t let them get too brown! Let them cool on a rack and then spread the jam over the bottom halves and gently press the top halves onto them. You need about a third to a half a teaspoon per cookie.

The jam filling does mean that they go a little soft after a day or two, but they still taste wonderful and can be kept for a couple of weeks in an airtight tin.

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Have you done any Christmas baking yet?

 

 

In a Vase on Monday: Getting in the Festive Mood

We had lovely sunshine this morning once the mist had risen, so I was able to meander around the garden this week and choose at leisure some materials for my Monday vase… the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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With Fennel stars, Euonymus and Hazel baubles, and a few berries from Cotoneaster and Berberis, the collection of evergreens and stems took on a festive look.

The shiny Mahonia and laurel leaves are my alternative to Holly, which doesn’t appear to grow well around here. And the sprigs of fir are ideal for the festive mood too.

Are you getting into the festive mood yet?

Have a great week!

4th December 2015: A Barbara Branch

Today is the day I nip out into the garden, regardless how inclement the weather, and snip a branch or two of an early flowering shrub or tree to put in a vase.

Why?!

In the hope that, according to tradition, it will flower by Christmas Eve!

Since my dwarf cherry tree is still very small, I chose some Forsythia again this year – it is cheerful, reliable, and does not shed irritating pollen like the hazel catkins I sometimes bring in.

Here it is today…

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And I will of course do an update at Christmas. On the right are a few green strands of Kerria japonica – I have no idea if any flowers will appear (I doubt it!), but I do hope that at least a few leaves will sprout.

And here are a couple of past “Barbara Branches”, the tradition of which can be read about in this post here.

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Barbarazweig 2014

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Barbarzweig 2012

So go on now, out you go with the shears and join me in picking a piece of spring!

:)

 

 

In a Vase on Monday: Tis the Season…

It may not be a vase this week, but our host Cathy of “Rambling in the Garden” has often reminded us that we can use any material from our gardens to bring indoors, regardless of how it is displayed!

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So here is my Advent wreath – homemade for the first time using a straw ring from the local DIY store. My Man of Many Talents braved the rain and wind yesterday to cut some high branches for me from our Douglas Firs and the beautiful Silver Fir (Weißtanne). The Silver Fir has large rounded needles and lasts very well indoors, even in a heated room. The Douglas Fir doesn’t last as well, but it does smell wonderful – orange and spice is what comes to mind, perfect for Advent. The tiny fir cones are from our Larch trees.

Right on time for the first Sunday in Advent one of my Amaryllis/Hippeastrum started flowering:

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Amaryllis “Tres Chic” was only planted on November 4th, so has broken all records. I have planted several others, none of which are showing any signs of life yet.

Talking of Advent, I visited a local Christmas market on Saturday as they always open the weekend of the first Sunday in Advent. Sadly there are no photos, as the snow rapidly turned to rain and we were too busy dashing from one stall to the next for cover! But I will describe the lunch I had there, as I don’t know if this typical Southern German dish is well-known elsewhere in the world: “Schupfnudeln mit Sauerkraut“- potato noodles (like elongated gnocchi!) fried up in a big pan with spiced white cabbage, or “sauerkraut”. So warming, and just one of the delicious smells coming from the stands all around us. Mulled wine, roasted almonds, roasted chestnuts and potato pancakes were just some of the other aromatic and traditional specialities on offer. And sausages of course, in all variations, but no vegetarian ones yet… I’m sure that will come too one day!

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Schupfnudeln mit Sauerkraut: Wikimedia

I wonder what smells make you think of Christmas? I shall be starting my Christmas cookie baking this week, and promise to post a recipe soon. :)

Have a great week!