Alberta snapshot: Wedge Pond.

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Don’t let that perfect blue sky fool you. We took a ridiculously cold (and quick!) snowshoe around Wedge Pond in Kananaskis Country on December 23. The snow was blowing from the tops of the peaks and the humidity in the air was literally (and I mean literally) breathtaking.  Given the assault by Jack Frost, we weren’t even halfheartedly debating whether or not to cut the trip short…and then my hubby saw two wolves on another part of the trail.  They were skittish and promptly vanished, but we suddenly got to worrying a bit (especially when the tree branches were cracking just so), and besides, there was hot chocolate and Irish Cream waiting at home.

 

Book review: Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva.

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Samantha Silva – Mr. Dickens and His Carol (2017 Flatiron Books, New York)

Just in time for Christmas comes this heartwarming, exquisitely-told story from Samantha Silva.  A fictionalized account of Charles Dickens’ struggle to write A Christmas Carol under extreme pressure, Mr. Dickens and His Carol is just the sort of sweet holiday tale perfect for cuddling up with during an hour of two of quiet over the festive season.  (Don’t forget the hot chocolate and Bailey’s, the warm cat nestled at your feet, and the crackling fire in the hearth).  I think I smiled from the first sentence until I reluctantly closed the covers at its conclusion.  Holiday cheer in book form – who could ask for more?

*Project Gutenberg has archived a digital copy of a first edition of A Christmas Carol from December 1843. It includes some fabulous illustrations and a marvelous scan of the front cover – click over to enjoy it here.

 

Merry Christmas!  

Recipe: Cranberry persimmon jam (small batch).

I know, I know, you’re probably tired of cooking for the holiday season already and the thought of doing more at this very moment doesn’t exactly inspire or thrill.  But, actually…this recipe pretty much cooks itself and the combination of ingredients is rather festive.  An added bonus: while it’s on the stovetop, your kitchen will smell delightful and afterwards, you’ll have something unique and special to serve up to your guests.

This jam isn’t subtle or summery in flavour – it’s full-on winter celebration, warmly spicy and rich.

Cranberry Persimmon Jam (small batch, yield: just over 2 cups)

12 ounces fresh cranberries, washed well (this year, I was so pleased to find cranberries grown in Canada – straight out of Nova Scotia!)

3 fuyu persimmons, peeled, mashed (a potato masher should do the trick, as will a hand blender)

1 heaping teaspoon ground cardamom

1 piece star anise

juice of 1/2 lime

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Throw all the ingredients into a large saucepan and stir together.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately turn the heat to low.  You want a consistent low boil – if bits of cranberry and persimmon are festooning the frosty kitchen windows in a pulpy sort of garland and colourful hot fruit dribbles are being catapulted into your Christmas tree as it stands sedately in the living room, you’ve got it on too high.

It will take time to boil this all down – about one hour, more or less.  You don’t have be present the entire time, but you cannot forget about it for too long.  Every once in a while, in between topping up your wine glass and wiping the cranberry-persimmon spatter off the chandelier (because you accidentally had the mixture on too high when you first got started), you will have to stir it.  Just so the sugar doesn’t burn.  Trust me on that one.  Burnt sugar sets off the smoke detector.  And your neighbours really don’t like that when it’s only six in the morning.  But, that’s another recipe from another time….

When the fruit and sugar have cooked down and everything is all jammy and fragrant and you can’t resist taking a bit of a taste, then it’s time to remove it from the heat and pack it into clean mason jars.  Don’t forget to remove the star anise chunk or someone is going to get a tooth-destroying, aggressively licorice-y surprise when they bite down.

Seal and refrigerate the jars when the contents have cooled down and enjoy!  Try to use it all up within three or four days.  That won’t be difficult.

*I think you could substitute a good honey for the sugar without any problems.  I am going to try this next time, and I will update this post if I find that it works.

**I think cinnamon would be lovely with this as well.  I’m also thinking about a whole vanilla bean.  And cardamom pods, versus the ground stuff.  Hmmmm….

***You could definitely process this in a boiling water canner for longer, safe storage.  You could also increase the size of the batch.

****I took a photograph of the jam as it was cooking in the pan, but let’s just say I’m a tad better at shooting landscapes and flowers.  You know what jam looks like.  😉

What are your favourite recipes using cranberries?

 

 

 

Alberta snapshot: Chester Lake.

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I completely understand why this is considered one of the finest snowshoe treks in Kananaskis Country, in the Canadian Rockies.  My hubby and I did this one a week ago, and we were fortunate to share this utterly incredible space with a few cheeky gray jays and a moose that gave our salt-flecked truck a helpful (!) scrub.  😉

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March blog fun.

I haven’t posted one of these roundups in a few months (to say it’s been an insanely futile effort to get anything done busy lately is a massive understatement), but I’m always coming across interesting things to share, and I’ve been saving up links from a bunch of sources. Hope you enjoy this collection!

This amazing photography technique using UV light takes floral imagery to new heights – check out the breathtaking work of Craig Burrows here.

Granted, winter is officially over in the northern hemisphere, but it’s still well worth it to watch these jaw-dropping video timelapses of frost and other wintry occurrences, shot by Danish filmmaker Alf Pilz.

The 51st American football (NFL) championship game is also a done deal, but I love this fun post by Alys of Gardening Nirvana so much I have to share it: click over and enjoy The Super Bowl of Gardening.  

I was not previously familiar with the poetic form the Etheree, but this beautiful offering from Linda of The Task at Hand is a perfect welcome to spring.

Very early in the year, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) posted a collection of fascinating and funny wildlife photos from northern Ontario – you can take a look at them here.  There is a link at the bottom of the page which takes you to the CBC Up North Facebook page and more pics.

Finally, a smidgen of the freelancing work and fiction that I’ve been working on has been published in the past few months, including:

My very short story “Gardening in a Post-Apocalyptic World” is included in Third Flatiron Publishing’s newest anthology Principia Ponderosa.

“The Forest Formula,” my article about designing forest gardens, is featured in the Spring 2017 issue of Herb Quarterly.

The Spring issue is at the printers right now (and I have an article in it as well!), but “Grow Delicious Microgreens Indoors This Winter” was published in the Winter 2017 issue of Archive, a fantastic new print magazine out of northern Alberta.

 

Enjoy the start of your week! It’s finally starting to look and feel like spring here in Calgary!  Many years we still have a lot of snow on the ground and winter-like temperatures in late March, but we are super fortunate this year and my hubby and my brother and I were delighted to get out on the golf course this afternoon. Temporary greens, of course, but it was so great just to soak up the sunshine and play!  I love this time of year! 

 

Glow festival.

Over the Family Day long weekend (February 17-20), Calgary held its inaugural Glow Festival downtown. For four evenings, you could walk around a course of a few city blocks and enjoy various light sculptures and art pieces.  Some of them, like The Door (artist Paul Magnuson) were interactive: you opened up a door that sat in the middle of the sidewalk, to be greeted with a blast of visual and sound effects that changed each time the door was reopened.  Some were cute inflatable bunnies (Nibbles, a series by artist Amanda Parer):

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And my very favourite was an amazing lighted sculpture made by Jeremy Tsang, called Chopsticks=Chandelier. This stunning piece was made completely of clear chopsticks and chopstick rests and was lit both within (by a rope light) and from without, by flood lights. According to the Glow brochure, “This work explores the Chinese culture and the migrant workers that build the Canadian Pacific Railway, while celebrating the Centennial Year in the winter season through a visually stunning outdoor chandelier sculpture.” Absolutely beautiful, creative work.

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Seriously – chopsticks!  Fantastic.

Alberta snapshot: Wintour snowshoe.

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Amazing views, bright sunshine, and perfect crystalline snow made this snowshoeing trip to the winter road in Kananaskis a few weekends ago a real treat.