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If you want to be happy for a lifetime, plant a garden.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Love Fresh Strawberry Jam? This Is Quick And Easy!

If you love fresh jams but don't love canning, try this recipe. It's especially wonderful this time of year, when it's chilly outside and you have the scent of summer wafting through your cottage. If you have fresh (or frozen) whole strawberries, blackberries or raspberries, sugar and 15 - 20 minutes, you can make a jar of jam! This recipe does not use pectin, other than what's already in the fruit, so you have to make sure to refrigerate it after it cools and eat it within a couple weeks. Usually this is no problem in our cottage, it's so good it doesn't last long! You can use blueberries as well. Also, if you want to make a smaller batch, just use the same amount of berries to sugar. So easy!

2 cups crushed strawberries (leave large chunks if that's what you like, thaw frozen berries if using)
2 cups sugar

Jar or glass container ( I used a 16 oz. jar and it fills that to the rim plus a small glass bowl)

Crush your berries to the consistency you like in a jam. Place in pot and add the 2 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil on the stove, stir often to make sure it doesn't burn or scorch. Boil for approx 15 minutes. It will thicken but will still appear runny. Not to worry, it will thicken as it cools and even more after it refrigerates.

Ladle into your clean jar or container. I leave the lid off for about 20 minutes so it can cool a bit. Then I cap the jar and put in refrigerator. Enjoy!

The Hawk In Celtic Lore

Like many birds, the hawk is considered to be a messenger between the physical and spiritual worlds. The hawk is a keen hunter and symbolizes skill, boldness, strength (for one's size), clarity of purpose, decisiveness and nobility. To be compared to a hawk is the highest of compliments. Celtic oral tradition lists the oldest animal as the Hawk of Achill. If you hear a hawk cry during a journey, be alert to upcoming situations that need boldness and decisiveness to keep from being thrown off balance.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Spiced Soda Bread

I love the smell of bread baking in the oven. This soda bread is wonderful and perfect for breakfast or tea, and it's what you'll find scenting our cottage today!

A tip when making Irish soda bread, don't over knead the dough as it will produce bread which Irish mums call "hard as the hobs of hell."

3 cups raisins
2 cups water
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup liquid from soaking raisins

In a saucepan, combine raisins and water; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes; drain and reserve 1 cup of liquid (if not enough liquid left, add a little water to make 1 cup).
Set raisins and reserved liquid aside.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and allspice.
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar; add eggs and the raisin liquid and mix until well blended.
Stir in dry ingredients until blended; add raisins.
Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.
Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes.
Cool soda bread in pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

In Memory Of My GG Grandmother Elizabeth...

The O’Sullivan MacCragh Sept is an ancient family. It is universally agreed upon, by all credible annalists and historians, that it represents the most senior bloodline of the Gaelic families. The royal family of the Gaelic Celts in Ireland was known as the Eoghanacht (pronounced Owen-noct), the descendants of Eoghan (pronounced Owen). The most senior branch of the Eoghanacht was the O’Sullivan clan. The O’Sullivan MacCragh, in turn, was the most senior sept of this illustrious family. The significance of this can only be appreciated by comparing the status of the old Irish aristocracy with that of the rest of Europe. If the Irish had followed the English system of royal descent by primogeniture, and if Ireland had maintained its independence from England, an O’Sullivan MacCragh would be king of Ireland today.
Interested in more? Click Here!

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.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Clothesline Tips

Do you like to hang your laundry out for drying? Are you planning to put up a clothesline this spring or summer to save energy? Here are some tips I've come across that may be helpful!

There's nothing like the smell of laundry that has dried in the fresh air. The average load of wash uses about 35 feet of line and your clothesline should accommodate at least that. Unless the height of a pulley-style line is significant, the clothesline shouldn't be a lot longer than that, as the sag factor increases with length.

A load of wet laundry weighs about 15 to 18 pounds if it's spin dried. It will shed about a third of that weight as it dries, and though this may not seem like much weight, it won't take long for your new clothesline to get stretched out a bit. By leaving a little "tail" when you tie your knot for either style of clothesline, you'll be able to undo it, pull the line tight, and retie it as often as you need to.

There are three common clothesline types to choose from:
Basic plastic clothesline has the advantage of being waterproof and cleanable (you can wipe off the inevitable mildew). With wire and fiber reinforcement, it is stretch-resistant and it's cheap. You can usually find a 100-foot roll for less than $4. However, it is thin, which means that it will be harder for you to grip, and the clothespin is not going to hold as tightly as on a thicker line.

Multifilament polypropylene (nylon) is tempting because it is lightweight, water- and mildew-resistant, and strong. However, its slippery texture deters a firm clothespin grip, and it doesn't tie well.

My top choice is a basic cotton clothesline. It's about the same price as nylon, which is about $7 to $8 per 100 feet. In theory, it is weaker, but unless you're hanging out pots and pans to dry, it should hold up fine.

Victorian Cure For Swollen Feet

This may or may not work but the next time I find myself with swollen ankles I may just give it a try.

FROM 1890...

To cure swollen feet quickly, bathe or soak them in a mixture of half water and half natural apple cider vinegar. You could also wrap them in cloths soaked with this mixture. You will soon see the swelling go down.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Maple Oat Nut Scones

If you like the Maple Scones at a certain coffee house, you will LOVE these!! They freeze well so I always double the recipe.
If you have other maple lovers in your home beware, if you don't double the batch you may run out of these at lightening speed!

For The Scones
1 cup oats (quick or old-fashioned)
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 1/2 tablespoons cold butter (small pieces)
1 large egg
1/2 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
1/2-3/4 teaspoon maple extract
2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Maple Glaze
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
5 teaspoons water

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Using a food processor or blender, finely grind oats.
In a mixer, mix flour, oats, sugar, salt and baking powder.
Add maple syrup and butter and mix well.
In a small bowl, beat the egg with the cream and maple extract.
Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix well.
Add pecans and mix just to incorporate.
Place dough on a floured surface. Knead and pat dough into a 8 to 10 inch circle and cut into 8 wedges.
Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place wedges on top and bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until light brown.
Remove scones from oven to wire rack. Let cool about 3 to 5 minutes.

Mix glaze ingredients until smooth. Adjust the amount of water to get to the desired consistency. I find it works best when the glaze is thick. Spread lots of glaze over each scone and dry about 15 minutes before serving.

The Bubble Machine

Have you ever accidently placed to much laundry detergent in your washer only to have the bubbles seem to take over? Placing to much soap in your washing machine can cause problems. If this happens, here's a tip to neutralize some of the soap. Pour 2 tablespoons of white vinegar or a capful of fabric softener into the machine and it will tame those bubbles.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Proper Demeanor...

Admittedly, some of the rules of a Victorian Lady's Proper Demeanor no longer fit in with today's society, however this one does. I have seen it occur time and again over the years and often thought it quite a rude behavior indeed. The following is an excerpt from "Keeping Hearth and Home in Old Massachusetts: A Practical Primer for Everyday Living" by Carol Padgett. It's a book not unlike one that your great grandmother might have read at age 17 to prepare herself for the etiquette of courting, to learn how to conduct herself in public, and to learn what would be required of her during marriage. Pity that this is not a subject taught in our schools today, as I've seen more bad manners displayed in the last decade than ever before.

Have you noticed this blatant display of rudeness? The excerpt reads:

"Refrain from Eyeing Over Other Women. Few observant persons have failed to notice the manner in which one woman, who is not perfectly well bred or perfectly kind hearted, will eye over another woman, whom she thinks is not in such good society and, above all, not at the time being in so costly a dress as she herself is in. Who cannot recall hundreds of instances of that sweep of the eye, which takes in a glance the whole woman and what she has on from to-knot to shoe-tie? It is done in an instant. No other evidence than this eyeing is needed that a woman, whatever be her birth or breeding, has a small and vulgar soul."

Now that this habit has been brought to your attention, count how many times you see it while out on your daily errands. I see it most while standing in the checkout line at the market. Women eyeing other women and making judgements on them by the way they dress while marketing or carrying about their day.

Stop by again soon!