Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My Mother's Shortbread Cookie Recipe

By special request, I'm sharing my Mother's Shortbread Cookie recipe. It's not too late to whip up a batch for your own enjoyment or to take along with you to a friend's home over the holidays, as a hostess gift. 

Without any further ado, Merry Christmas from my kitchen to yours.

My Mother’s Shortbread Cookie Recipe
(This recipe is okay to double)

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream the butter. Add the remaining ingredients slowly and beat on a high speed. (Tip: The more you beat it, the better the cookie!) The resulting batter will be very thick.

Form the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter, or less, and place on a cookie sheet. Press the cookie flat with a cookie press or with your hand.

Bake at 300 degrees F for 15 - 20 minutes and set out to cool on a cooling rack.


Friday, December 18, 2015

I'm Ready for a Fresh Start

Frosted Flakes
Original Photograph
by Carolynn Anctil © 2015

Lately, my hand , when I sit down with my journal each morning, wants to write 2016. This past year has been hard on us and I think I'm primed and ready for the fresh start a New Year represents.

We have received enormous blessings over the course of this past year, it's true, and I don't disregard these. There were new friends made, financial blessings, mild weather, creative expression, and moments of real soul peace. 

2015 did, however, begin will a tenancious illness and ends with death. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, it has been a memorable year for all the wrong reasons.

Frozen in Time
Original Photograph
by Carolynn Anctil © 2015

I've always wanted to incorporate a ritual cleansing in my New Year's Eve tradition, but have never been prepared. Past years have been hectic and busy with Christmas preparations and I typically remember I'd wanted to do something, after the event has come and gone. This year, I've slowed things down considerably, and I have the mental capacity to actually plan ahead with intention. 

This year, I'd like to do something significant to mark the passing of another year. I will gently, respectfully thank it for it's lessons, bid it farewell and close the door with a firm click behind it. I'm not sure yet, how it will all look, but I plan to make it personal, powerful, and sacred. It will likely involve the written word and the ritual burning of stuff.

For now, I'm content to sit with the intention and see what rises to the surface.

Do you have a New Year's Eve ritual that you engage in? I'd love to hear.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Super Delicious Bird Treat

Winter days spent confined to the coop can be long and boring for chickens so I'm always searching for ways to entertain them. This treat is quick, simple, easy to make and inexpensive.

It's a delicious, healthy treat that can be served up for your hens to enjoy or you can hang it outside for wild birds who are fending for themselves in the cold.

What you'll need:

- 1 apple
- A sharp knife for coring and one for spreading the peanut butter
- Wild bird seed*
- Natural peanut butter - no added sugar or salt
- Plate
- String

Simply wash and core an apple. It's not absolutely necessary to core it, but apple seeds do contain a small amount of cyanide and it makes it easier to hang the treat later.

Spread a thin layer of peanut butter on the outside of the apple. This part can get a bit messy, but it's worth it. Pour a generous amount of birdseed on a plate and then firmly roll the apple in it until it's well coated.

I run a string through the centre of the apple so I can hang it in the coop for the hens to peck at. It makes it a little more of a sport for them and lasts longer.

When they've picked off all the seeds and nuts, they can enjoy the fruit, too.

*Note: Take the time to read the ingredients on the bird seed you purchase. I found several that had added food colouring and/or artificial flavoring. I don't think birds need either of those, so I kept looking until I found a mixture that contained only seeds and nuts.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In Appreciation of Winter

I've recently developed a new appreciation for peaceful Winter mornings. 

As much as I love Spring and Summer, those days are full and start immediately upon waking with a garden that needs tending before it gets too hot. There is no time for quiet contemplation over a fresh cup of coffee, or for writing in my journal. During the height of Summer, the sun rises at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m., so curling up in a chair by the fireplace to watch the sun brighten the sky is a pastime that is best enjoyed during the dark winter months. 

True, during the Summer, I'm outdoors enjoying the rich scent of loamy earth and new growth, a symphony of birdsong and coyote calls. But the sense of rest and gentle awakening is missing in a rush and flurry of chores.

During the Winter, time seems to stretch and lengthen and there is enough of it to spend within the pages of a book or luxuriating in scented bathwater. The smell of fresh baking cooling on the counter feels especially soothing and cozy on cold days with snow falling outside the kitchen window.

I've been impatient with Winter up until now, constantly checking my watch to see if it'll be leaving soon. Now, I find myself savouring the sense of calm and peace that comes with a fresh blanket of snow and a fire banked against the chill.