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Archive for December, 2008

Happy Holidays from the snowbound! Belated best wishes for a joyous Christmas season!  As usual, we are a day or two off the pace. The mountains of snow, while picturesque, haven’t really helped. Nearly all of our plans came a-cropper because of the unusual snowfall.

Christmas Eve church service was cancelled – and along with it went the Chinese feast we’d  planned to share with neighbours afterward.  Instead, we built a bonfire and had toboggan races down our steep road. Great Fun!

Christmas dinner with the whole family was also a non-starter owing to the poor road conditions. Luckily, my parents were in town and have a place in our neighbourhood, so we were able to share a ham dinner with them. 

On Boxing Day, we were meant to be off to the Cottage!  But it snowed all day – again – and we never left home.  By yesterday, the snow had started to melt, but there was so much of it that roads were flooded, and the Sunshine Coast was hit with massive power outages, so we had to throw in the towel.  

Now we are just hoping to get over to the cottage on New Year’s Day, for a couple of nights, and hopefully the power will be on, the roof and decks will have held up and the ancient, leaning-cherry-tree-of-doom (slated for imminent removal) will still be upright behind the house and not actually inside the house. 

Here are a few photos to illustrate my modified adage “When life gives you snow, make sno-cones!”

A Christmas Eve bonfire with our wonderful neighbours

A Christmas Eve bonfire with our wonderful neighbours

A Dickens of a fun Christmas Eve

A Dickens of a fun Christmas Eve

On your mark!

On your mark!

Boxing Day Evening - Still Snowing!

Boxing Day Evening - snowing again!

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Early this year I was fortunate to come across a post on a gardening blog called Always Blooming, written by Jan in Covington, Louisiana. She wrote about salvia elegans, more commonly known as pineapple sage. I’d never heard about it before, but quickly determined that it was suitable to zone 8.  Not long after, I stumbled across some young plants at the nursery, and made room for them in my garden. 

They are my greatest success story to date: While the  clematis had a bit of a shocky start and the jasmine is planning a big push for next year, the sage is in bloom now and looks gorgeous. At more than 4 ft, the plants are taller than promised and the bright red spikes are a cheerful spot in an otherwise done-for-the-year garden. The leaves give off a lovely pina-colada scent when crushed in my hand.

Sadly, at this moment, we are having an unexpected and quite unusual cold snap.  As I was not perspicacious enough to take some cuttings when last at the cottage this may be a eulogy for my salvia elegans.

If so, I will certainly plant them again next year. I love mixing up some tropical drinks and using the leaves as a garnish. But I’ve also dug up some other interesting uses for this marvelous herb.  Some suggestions include flavouring home-made ice cream, chopping it into mango salsa, combining with mint, olive oil and vinegar to make a salad dressing,  freezing it into ice cubes made of cranberry juice, or enhancing the flavour of chicken or turkey salad. One page has recipes for smoothies, salsa, fritters, bread and a chicken dish, all incorporating pineapple sage. 

Thanks for introducing me to this wonderful herb, Jan!

pineapple-sage-in-bloom

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Coming up to the one year anniversary of acquiring Keats View Cottage and time to cop to our successes and failures with the garden.  In our defence, I would just like to say that we have never owned a fertile piece of ground before.  As a result, all spring and summer I went about with a pair of garden clippers in hand, making timid cuts at wayward vines and branches.

Complete under-kill! We must have trimmed that rassa-frass’in laurel bush that keeps trying to obscure our sea view THREE times. I didn’t want to overdo it – didn’t want to inflict any damage, as it were. But now I know better. When your garden is well established AND planted over your septic field, a little aggression is required. Come spring, I will take no prisoners. 

Here are a few pics of Cottager, on a recent, unexpectedly sunny weekend, trying to take on the surging tide of the cedar/rose/blackberry hedge that separates us from our neighbours, who have adopted a “nature reclamation” attitude towards their own yard and are clearly content to share it with us. 

Hacking at the impenetrable hedge

Hacking at the impenetrable hedge

hedge-under-trim

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So my last post on Frugal tips did not seem to strike a chord, but I am undeterred. While for some, the word ‘frugal’ remains a bit of a dirty word – perhaps particularly so when associated with Christmas gifts -I am embracing the frugalista within. I’ve been too busy having fun and being creative to fill you in, but here goes.  Here are some small homemade hostess-type gifts that I made with tea candles, beach shells and rocks and some garden-shop plant saucers. 

small gifts for friends on a budget

small gifts for friends on a budget

To make the shell candles: Scrub shells clean and allow to dry.  Sniff.  Maybe scrub again?

Dismember some inexpensive tea candles. Place wicks in shells; line them up on a cookie sheet covered with newspapers to ensure easy cleanup. Melt the wax from the tea candles in a clean soup tin in a pan of water over low heat.  Pour wax carefully into shells and allow to harden. Arrange on plant saucers or other lipped plates along with some pretty rocks. Add other bits and pieces to taste: These might include bits of ribbon or tinsel (secure away from candles using glue gun to avoid fire hazard) small glass ornaments or some other forgotten or unrealized treasures. Wrap with cellophane and ribbon for pretty presentation.

I am also making generous bags of homemade caramel corn and pretty jam jars filled with spiced nuts as gifts for our neighbours and friends. My kids are more than willing to help out when simple recipes like these yield quick and impressive results. So, to summarize…. pretty, easy, fun. . . Frugalicious!

A larger version

A larger version

nicely wrapped for giving

nicely wrapped for giving

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