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Monday, August 3, 2015

Honey, Lemon, Oat Scones

These scones are delicious on their own, with a bit of butter, or with the homemade blueberry jam I make to go with them. You will not be disappointed!

2 cups All Purpose flour (bleached or unbleached is fine)
1 and 1/2 cups rolled oats (I used quick)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, very cold, and cut into small chunks
2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup honey (I used organic orange blossom honey)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt with a whisk. Add in the lemon zest and stir it in with a fork.

Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter chunks well, until there are no large pieces left.

In a small bowl, whisk together the beaten egg, honey, buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla.

Make a well in the center of flour mixture. Pour the liquid mixture into the well, and mix together with a spoon just enough to evenly moisten the dry ingredients and form a soft dough.

With floured hands, gather the dough into a clump and place it onto a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough into a circle roughly 9" in circumference.Using a sharp knife or a pizza wheel, cut the pieces into 12 triangles (I cut mine in to 6), like you would a pie.

Place each piece about an inch apart on the lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on top of each scone if desired. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until just lightly browned on the top and bottom. They bake quickly, so check on them early.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Kelpie...

If you have seen Celtic artwork, I am sure you have seen this image, but did you know the meaning of it? It is of the Kelpie. The Kelpie is a supernatural water horse from Celtic folklore that is believed to haunt the rivers and lochs of Scotland and Ireland. The name may have orginated from Scottish Gaelic cailpeach or colpach 'heifer, colt.

It's hide is supposed to be black (though in some stories it was white), and it will appear to be a lost pony, but don't be fooled, you can identify it by it's constantly dripping mane. It's skin, like that of a seal, is smooth, but is as cold as death when touched. The horse's appearance is strong, powerful, and breathtaking. Water horses are also known to transform into beautiful women in order to lure men into their traps, and vice versa. It is understood that the nostril of the horse is what creates the illusion of grandeur. The water horse also creates illusions to keep itself hidden, keeping only it's eye above water to scout the surface, much like the illusion of a fish's pupil. (Could this be what is in Loch Ness???) It is wise to keep away from them.

As the fable of the Kelpie differs depending on the region in which it is told, other versions of the story says that the Kelpie is "green as glass with a black mane and tail that curves over it's back like a wheel" or that even in human form they are always dripping wet and/or have water weeds in their hair.

The creature can take many forms and has an insatiable appetite for humans. It's most common guise was that of a beautiful tame horse standing by the riverside, a tempting ride for a weary traveller. Anyone foolish enough to mount the horse, perhaps a stranger unaware of the local traditions, would find themselves in dire peril, as the horse would rear and charge headlong into the deepest part of the water, submerging with a noise like thunder to the travellers watery grave. The Kelpie was also said to warn of impending storms by wailing and howling, which would carry on through the tempest. This association with thunder, the sound it's tail makes as it submerges under water, and storms, may be related to ancient worship of river and weather deities by the ancient Celts.

In an Irish tale, towards the end of the mystical period of Ireland, a water horse fails to travel to Tír na nÓg with its fellow mystic folk, and instead rises above water, seeking a wife. However, after attempting to court a clever girl, who consults the wiseman about the situation, he is captured and forced to work in order to be taught compassion. After learning his lesson, he is given the choice of departing to Tír na nÓg, or drinking a magic potion that will make him a real man. The water horse, now full of love decides to drink the potion which erases the memories of his life as a water horse and gives him the chance to live with the clever girl with whom he has fallen in love.

What's On Sale For August?

Can you believe that it's August already? The months are flying by and it's time again for me to post what's on sale for the month. Did you know that August is the second month of the year for the biannual white sale event? It's also a good time to snap up school supplies. Not only do sales beckon, as retailers try to get a leg up on one another, but the selection will be generally better than in the last minute September school sales.

Here's what you'll find on sale:
"White sale" merchandise -- sheets, pillowcases and related accessories
Outdoor furniture
Fresh produce
School supplies
Pre-season fall fashions
Swimsuit and other summer-wear "steals"

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Peridot...August Birthstone

"Wear a Peridot or for thee,
No conjugal fidelity,
The August born without this stone,
`Tis said, must live unloved alone."

The Properties of the Peridot
For those who were born in the month of August, the Peridot is the traditional birthstone. The August birthstone poem reflects some of the properties with which the Peridot is associated - love, truth, faithfulness and loyalty. The Traditional Metaphysical Properties for the August Birthstone Peridot are fame, dignity, and protection. The healing properties of the August birthstone are reputed to be effective for health problems relating to the lungs, lymph, breast and sinuses. The Peridot is also used to enhance prosperity, growth, and openness.

August Birthstone Zodiac Sign
The twelve Zodiac signs are an astrological version of birthstones in addition to the twelve calendar months. The August birthstone of the Peridot is considered to be the birthstone for Leo (The sign of the Lion) and relate to those born between July 23 - August 22. The Zodiac sign of Leo also responds to Onyx, Diamond, Carnelian, Sardonyx and Ruby.

Information from The Birthstone List

August Produce Calendar

Earlier generations were much more in tune with the Earth's natural seasons and cycles. What they ate was determined by what could be grown locally and what could be grown, stored and preserved thru the cold winter months. In today's world, we've gotten used to having any kind of food we want, whenever we want it. Not the best way to eat, as we depend to much on processed foods when we eat that way.

The wide array of fruits and vegetables are nature's most precious gift to us. By eating what's in season, you will not only support the Earth's healthy ecosystem, but also in turn support a healthy you!

These are the fruits and vegetables you'll find in season for the month of August.

(n = newly in season; p = peak of season; w = winding down)

Avocado, Hass
beans, green p
beans, fresh shelling
such as cranberry, n
black eyed pea
corn p
cucumber p
garlic p
okra p
onion p
pepper, bell
squash, summer p
tomatillo p

apple, Gravenstein n
blackberries w
raspberries p
blueberries w
figs p
grapes, Red Flame p
limes w
melons p
nectarines w
orange, Valencia p
peaches p
pears, Asian n
pears, Bartlett p
plums p

Thursday, July 30, 2015

August...Celtic Month of Hazel Tree

It's hard to believe but the month of August is upon us!

August is the eighth month of the current Gregorian calendar and the third month of Summer's rule. It has derived its name from Augustus (Augustus Caesar).

The traditional birthstone amulets of August are the peridot and the sardonyx; and the gladiolus and the poppy are the month's traditional flowers.

August is shared by the astrological signs of Leo the Lion and Virgo the Virgin, and August 5th continuing through September 1 is the Celtic month of the Hazel tree. The Hazel is considered a tree of knowledge especially in Ireland. The nuts from the Hazel are considered to be a symbol of great mystical wisdom and there are 15 different species of the Hazel tree. The fruit beared from it is the filbert nut or hazel nut as it is more commonly known. To fell this tree was considered a crime and was punished by death. Bearing close affinity to the element of water, the Hazel twigs were favored by water-diviners and it was believed that the mushrooms that grew on this tree could help a person recover lost items.

If you are born under this sign, you are wise and have the ability to communicate ideas, making you capable of transforming the thoughts and opinions of others. Hazels are rational and organized people. They tend to be cool and reserved though may become paranoid and suffer headaches if their mental energies are not properly channeled. Hazels are loving but often overindulgent with spouses and children.

The Hazel person can be of two distinct types, and it is as such with every tree in the zodiac: a first type called "the new moon", related to the first two weeks of the sign, and "the full moon" that goes to the last two weeks of the sign.

The "new moon" individuals embark themselves in a quest to seek out knowledge. Their inquisitive natures can, however, turn them into impertinent and deceitful characters.

The "full moons" are more communicative and cordial in their temperament. They have a tendency to become public figures or teach arts to people. A "full moon" Hazel has a strong sense of honesty, but may become a bit too critical in attitude. If Hazels do not express their creativity, they can become irritable and moody.

The lucky gemstone of those born under this sign is the Amethyst, its colors ranging from pale lilac to deep purple. This gem is the symbol of sincerity and peace of mind and is said to improve memory, provide immunity to poison and, if placed under a pillow, assures good dreams. For the Amethyst to work at its best, it should be set in gold or silver jewelry.

9th Moon of the Celtic Year - (Aug 5 - Sept 1) Latin name: European hazel - corylus avellana; American Filbert - corylus americana.
Celtic name: Coll (pronounced: Cull). Coll means "life force within you".
Folk or Common names: tree of Wisdom, Lamb's Tails Tree, Collo or Coslo (Gailic), The tree's name shares a common root with the walnut tree and its nut, or cnu and hnot in Europe and Nux in latin.
Parts Used: Nut, leaves, branches, wood.
Hazel can be used as a drainage remedy and can help restore elasticity to the lungs. Hazelnuts, of course, can be eaten, and are a good source of phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, copper, protein and fatty acids. The nuts can be powdered and be mixed with mead or honeyed water to help a cough.

Magical History & Associations:
The bird associated with this month is the crane, the color is brown, and the gemstone is band red agate. The Hazel is associated with the element of air, the planet of Mercury, the day of Wednesday, and is sacred to Mercury, Thor, Artemis, Fionn, Diana and Lazdona (the Lithuanian Hazelnut Tree Goddess). Hazel wood is one of the nine traditional firewoods that is part of the Belfire that the Druid's burned at Beltane - it was added to the fire to gain wisdom.

It is often associated with sacred springs, wells and salmon. Celtic legend tells of a grove of Hazel trees below which was a well and a pool where salmon swam. These trees contained all knowledge, and their fruit contained the knowledge and wisdom in a nutshell. As the hazelnuts ripened, they would fall into the well where they were eaten by the salmon. With each nut eaten, the salmon would gain another spot. In order to gain the wisdom of the Hazel, the Druids caught and prepared the salmon.

Fionn, the young man stirring the pot in which the salmon were cooking, accidentally burned his thumb with the boiling stew. By reflex, he put his thumb into his mouth and thus ingested the essence of the sacred feast and he instantly gained the wisdom of the universe.

Hazel also has protective uses as anti-lightning charms. A sprig of Hazel or a talisman of two Hazel twigs tied together with red or gold thread to make a solar cross can be carried as a protective good luck charm. The mistletoe that grows on hazel protects against bewitching. A cap of Hazel leaves and twigs ensures good luck and safety at sea, and protects against shipwrecks. In England, the Hazelnut is a symbol of fertility - a bag of nuts bestowed upon a bride will ensure a fruitful marriage.

The Hazel is a tree that is sacred to the fey Folk. A wand of hazel can be used to call the Fey. If you sleep under a Hazel bush you will have vivid dreams. Hazel can be used for all types of divination and dowsing. Until the seventeenth century, a forked Hazel stick was used to divine the guilt of persons in cases of murder and theft. Hazel twigs or a forked branch can be used to divine for water or to find buried treasure.

How To Clean Household Sponges

Did you know your household sponges should be cleaned at least every other day? I clean and sterilize mine often but didn't realize that every other day was needed. They are nice for scrubbing and wiping up, but make sure to wash frequently to help prevent spreading germs around your home.

According to Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in the Home:
”A sponge that’s been in use for no more than two or three days in a kitchen will harbor millions of bacteria,” said Elizabeth Scott, co-director of the Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in the Home at Simmons College in Boston. That’s a problem, she said, ”if you pick up the pathogen or a pathogenic E. coli, salmonella or campylobacter on the sponge.”

She added: ”That means that any time you use the sponge to wipe up a surface you are potentially spreading those pathogens.”
Source: NYTimes

Well, that's a little more than disturbing if you ask me! I decided to post this because I don't want any of us doing more harm than good when all we're trying to do is keep a clean little cottage.

How To Clean Household Sponges
Methods for cleaning household sponges depend on what they’re used for and what chemicals they’re already holding.
Sponges Used For Kitchen Counters & Dishes:
Toss the sponges in the dishwasher when you do a load of dishes. The dishwasher detergent and the heat should sterilize the sponge. You could also wash the sponges in hot soapy water with a good splash of vinegar, rinse well, then when still wet microwave for a couple of minutes. This is what we do but beware, that sponge is steaming hot when you take it out so be careful! Bleach and water could be used as well, rather than soap and vinegar.
Sponges Used For Wiping Up Toilets, Bathrooms, Showers & Floors:
I prefer to throw mine out after I use them for this but you can soak them in a bleach solution, then toss in your washing machine. I find sponges break down very quickly when using bleach, not to mention I don't like using bleach in my home. If you do decide to do this, and you're going to wash them with other items, don’t mix with clothing, dish cloths or towels...wash them with other household cleaning rags.
Sponges Containing Ammonia:
Don’t wash with bleach. Clean and rinse in hot soapy water, then wash in the washing machine.
More Cleaning Methods:
Soak sponges in bleach and hot water (as long as the sponges haven’t been in contact with ammonia). Use one ounce of bleach per gallon of water.
Soak sponges in vinegar and hot water.
Bring water and vinegar to a boil, then add sponges. Boil for a few minutes, cover pot and remove from heat. Let sit for an hour.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pumpkin Cake In July?

Yes, and it was wonderful! Autumn is my favorite season and anyone who knows me knows I love pumpkin and fall scents all year round. I baked this cake as a belated birthday cake yesterday (Happy Birthday Irene!) and it was a hit! Love pumpkin as I do? Don't wait! Get out your baking pans and let me know what you think after you taste it! It's not lowfat so don't count calories on this one!

2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (I used 1- 15 ounce can pumpkin puree with no spices)
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
4 beaten eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (I did not put them in cake, I sprinkled them on top)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the pumpkin, sugar, oil and vanilla in a large bowl. Add eggs and mix well. Combine dry ingredients (except nuts if you're using them) and gradually add to pumpkin mixture. Mix until well blended. Fold in nuts.
Pour into 2 greased 8 inch rounds or a greased 9x13 baking dish and bake for 35 - 40 minutes. I test with a toothpick at 30 minutes. If it comes out clean the cake is done.
Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1- 8 oz. package of cream cheese
6 tablespoons of softened butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 to 2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
3 tsp milk
chopped walnuts for top if desired

Beat all ingredients except the nuts together until smooth and creamy. Frost your cake and add nuts to the top if desired.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Powers Of Jade

The soothing green color of jade makes it a wonderful healing stone. It helps the body in self-healing while working through underlying, non-physical reasons for a precipitation for disease. It is particularly helpful for kidney, liver, heart and stomach complaints. It strengthens the body and aids in longevity.

Jade is an ancient stone that has historically been used to attract love. Carved into a butterfly, in China it is a powerful symbol used to draw love.

Jade can be used to bring money into your life. Create a positive attitude towards money and visualize yourself using money creatively and productively while holding the stone in your power hand. When making an important business decision, use the prosperous energies of jade by holding it while contemplating your course of action. Jade strengthens your mental faculties and assists in clear reasoning.

Jade is also a protective stone, guarding against accidents and misfortune. Place a piece of jade between two purple candles and let the candles burn for a short while. Then carry the jade with you as a protection amulet.

A butterfly carved from jade holds a special romantic significance. Ancient Chinese legend tells of a youth who wandered into the garden of a wealthy mandarin in pursuit of a multi-colored butterfly. Instead of being punished for trespassing, his visit led to marriage with the mandarin's daughter.

Today, jade butterfly symbolizes successful love.

Make Your Own Butter...

It's one of the easiest things to do! It takes less than 10 minutes and you can make salted or unsalted. Do you have a few minutes and a bit of cream? I will be making some again today, will you?

2 cups whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon salt (if desired)

Put 2 cups whipping cream in your mixing bowl. Turn mixer on high (cover with a dish towel unless you want splatters) and start whisking away for 9 minutes.

Stop the mixer after about 9 minutes and add your salt if you want salted. You will see your butter starting to form.

Please note that I like unsalted butter but if you don't plan on using it right away, you really need to make the salted so it doesn't turn rancid quickly. Mix another 2 minutes or until all the liquid is separated from your butter. You'll see what I mean, it's unmistakable!

Pour liquid out into a glass (you now have buttermilk that you can use for scones, biscuits etc) and put cold, clean water back into bowl with butter. Squeeze butter well, rinsing it (I used my hands). Pour water out again, this time into the sink, and repeat procedure until water is clear. It only took me 3 rinsings. Squeeze water out of butter and place in container! So easy and quick, you'll wonder why you hadn't done it before.

2 cups cream made approx. 1/2 cup butter.

Stop by again soon!