Book Brief: Holiday Cookies and Other Festive Treats.

Okay – let’s talk holiday baking! Cookie exchanges, gifts from the kitchen, and treats for yourself and your family and friends and co-workers – is baking a big part of your holiday traditions? What recipes are your standbys, and which ones are you trying for the first time this year? Is there a special meaning behind your very favourite recipes? Feel free to put up any links to posts (past and present) about what you like to create in the kitchen at this time of year…I’d love to hear about it! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

The Door is Ajar

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Holiday Cookies and Other Festive Treats – Linda Collister (2008, Ryland Peters & Small, London, New York)

If you’re planning to give cookies or other treats as gifts this holiday season (or hogging them all to yourself), this is the book for you.   The photographs are beautiful, the layout is organized and clean, and the recipes are designed for home bakers and seem very accessible.  Of course, I may not DECORATE the cookies as wonderfully as the photos show…I mean, if you get a box of cookies from me that look like they have big, strangely coloured icing blobs on them instead of delicate filigree stars or snowflakes, please don’t be offended – it’s not the fault of the author.  It’s all me.  But I’m sure they’ll still taste pretty darn good.

RECIPES I’M MAKING PRONTO:  Swedish Pepper Cookies, Gingerbread Mini-Muffins, Chocolate Brioches, and Pistachio Sables.  There’s also a recipe…

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Happy New Year!

A frosty canopy on the morning of the last day of 2013…. 

I’m so happy to have spent time with all of you this past year!  I look forward to 2014 and wish you the very best! 

Do you have any dreams and plans for the new year?

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Skeletons in the forest.

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It DOES have a bit of a spooky quality to it, doesn’t it?  On a hike a couple of years ago, my hubby and I came across this grove of dead trees in Sibbald Flats, Kananaskis.  The trees were originally planted in 1974 as part of a logging reclamation project.  Something tells me even more reclamation is in order….

Wishing you a safe and happy Hallowe’en!  Are you doing anything to celebrate?

Drifting, dreaming.

No way.

I’m not going to do it.

I’m not going to mention the fact that it’s been snowing on and off since September.

I’m not going to consider the notion that it will be another FIVE months until we can even think about getting back into the garden.

I’m not going to whine about the lack of tropical vacation in my immediate future.

Nosiree, I’m just going to take my mug of hot cocoa and browse over photographs from the summer. And here are some I thought I would share with you – I took these in August. The landscapers at this apartment complex in a neighbouring community really did a super job of these drift plantings of (mostly) petunias, didn’t they? I thought it was fabulous.

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Go ahead, make me jealous help me dream! Where did you travel to on your last vacation (tropical or otherwise)? What were the highlights of your stay? If you’re planning an upcoming vacation, where are you heading to?

Flowery Prose gets crafty: a catgrass centrepiece.

I’m not a particularly crafty person (see Exhibit A, above), but last year’s Easter-themed e-newsletter from Jim Hole’s Notebook featured a fun project I just had to try out for the upcoming holiday.  Because you still have time to grow the anchoring plant of the centrepiece, I thought I’d share!

Have you ever planted catgrass for your feline companions?  For that matter, have you ever planted it for your own consumption?  The term “catgrass” refers to either the popular juice plant wheatgrass or oatgrass (Avena sativa, which can also be juiced).  The kind I’ve planted for the centrepiece is oatgrass – the same annual cereal crop that produces the seeds that make up your breakfast porridge.  Oats are a very old cultivated crop, domesticated for over 3,000 years (and probably enjoyed with cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins for nearly that entire time).  If you’re not keen on porridge, you can sprout organic, untreated oat seed and combine the greens with mesclun for a delicious salad.  Oats are usually palatable for people who suffer from an intolerance to wheat (it’s also interesting that oats will grow where wheat will not, in poor and acidic soils).

We know why we like to eat oats.  (Actually, some people really, REALLY like oats – the plant has a bit of a reputation as a natural aphrodisiac!).  But why do cats like catgrass?  It’s probably just that they like the sweet taste and slightly crunchy texture, although cats may benefit from the roughage and the vitamins in the grass.  Green oatgrass is a source of chlorophyll, which can freshen nasty tuna breath – always a good thing for those of us who have to live with it.  😉  Offering catgrass to your cat as a tasty alternative may also save your houseplants from certain destruction…possibly.  Regardless of why cats like it, catgrass is cheap and fun to grow – and it makes a fine Easter centrepiece, don’t you think?

If you get a chance to make a catgrass centrepiece (or any other holiday craft with plants), comment with a link to a photo of your project!  I would love to see it!

(Too bad this handsome gentleman lives 800 kilometres away – I’m sure he’d really, really like my centrepiece). 

Photo credit – R. and H. Mueller

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Oatgrass takes about three to five days to germinate, and then it grows like crazy.  You don’t need to cover the seeds when you sow them; as well, the crop is surprisingly drought tolerant once it shoots up.  Keep it growing for a few weeks, trimming (either with scissors or with the assistance of some feline incisors) regularly to manage.  Start a new batch every month or so – don’t let it get too mature, as flower heads and other bristly plant parts may actually be damaging to a cat’s digestive tract.  Grasses are actually very difficult for both humans and cats to digest properly – which is why we soften them by juicing, and why cats sometimes vomit after ingesting.

Interestingly, oats are listed on the Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System site as a crop with toxic potential:  apparently if oat hay is left outside in damp conditions, a dangerous chemical change in the stored nitrogen may occur, resulting in illness or death for livestock that eats it.

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Check out these sites for more information about oat grass:

Related posts:  Mmmmm is for microgreens.