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Playing For You From Our Scented Cottage


So often in life a new chapter awaits. You ride off into the sunset and discover it's the sunrise. -Robert Brault

Sunday, August 28, 2016


Or Bachelor Buttons as I have always called them, are one of my favorite flowers in the garden. No matter how crowded my flower beds, I have to tuck at least one plant in my garden area each year.

Did you realize you can make ink from the flower? It makes a mystical, magical blue color perfect for your garden diary entries and letters to loved ones.

To make your ink is easy. Pick enough flowers to fill a coffee cup (packed down a bit). Using a non metal container, boil 2 cups of water and drop the flowers in. Boil until the water becomes a beautiful blue and has evaporated enough to fill a small jar (such as a baby food jar) with a tight fitting lid.

Using a strainer, strain the liquid into the jar. Add 2 drops of vinegar to hold the color and a pinch of salt to prevent mold. Shake lightly and keep in a dark place.

Use a beautiful quill or calligraphy pen and enjoy using your handmade ink!

Irish Guinness Cake...

Cakes rich in fruit have always been popular in Ireland. One favorite variation on the fruitcake theme was the "porter cake". Since Ireland had an active porter tradition of it's own before Guinness came on the scene, it was only a matter of time before it made its way into the local fruitcakes, and the tradition very quickly spread downcountry.

There are hundreds of porter cake recipes across Ireland. Most of them now call for Guinness since porter is harder to find. If your desire is to bake something a little different, give this cake a try!

Have ready a 9-inch springform pan, or a 9-inch round or square pan with high sides
(3 inches high or so).

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon mace
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup butter or margarine, cut into cubes
1 cup seedless raisins
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup finely chopped citron, candied orange or lemon peel
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 3/4 cups soft dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2/3 cups Guinness or other stout
4 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 325° F / 160° C.

Line the bottom and sides of the cake pan with waxed paper (butter the sides a little to help the wax paper stick), and brush with a little melted butter or margarine.

Sift the flour and spices and half the baking soda together into a large bowl or food processor with the metal blade fitted. Mix well or pulse until combined. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender, or pulse, until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the fruit, lemon rind and sugar, and stir or pulse to combine. (If using the food processor, you can pulse the mixture a little more to chop the fruit more finely.)

Add the beaten egg to the mixture and mix or pulse briefly again. Dissolve the remaining baking soda in the Guinness; then add this to the mixture as well and stir or pulse until well combined.

Pour (or scrape) the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour. Then lower the temperature to 300°F / 150° C, cover the top of the cake loosely with a sheet of waxed paper, and bake for a further 1 1/2 hours.

The cake should be a deep brown color and firm to the touch when finished. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely in its pan before turning it out and peeling off the waxed paper. When it's out, dust the top with confectioners' sugar or icing sugar.

This cake keeps very well in an airtight container for a week and also freezes well. Some like to pierce it with a knife and "feed" it a little more Guinness before serving, say a few teaspoons full. Don't overdo this, you don't want the cake to fall apart.

Serve it with fresh unsweetened whipped cream.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Rainbow Of Stones...

The rainbow is a visible, cosmic declaration of the power inherent in each of us. In today's modern world, many of us sense that the connection with nature is something deeply lacking in our lives. Is it merely coincidence that so many people in so many countries, in different ages and times, from different cultures, attribute the same healing qualities to the same gemstones? I think not.

The seven color rays contain energy that can affect our emotions, health, activity level and much more. Use gemstones and their colors to increase the positive energies that already exist all around you.

Are you stressed out and feeling worried? Wear or place in your surroundings Agates, Green Adventurine, Rose Quartz, Rhodonite, Amethyst, Blue Agate, Herkimer Diamond, Yellow Topaz, Azurite Malachite, Black Onyx, Chrysocolla, Lapis Lazuli and Silver Gray Moonstone.

For serenity adorn yourself with Rose Quartz. It is the perfect teacher of self love. And with that love of self comes serenity and the peace that transcends understanding. What greater gift can we give ourselves than this? Rose Quartz enhances tenderness and kindness and encourages us to be loving and gentle.

When serenity lies within, peace lies without. Quiet confidence surrounds us when we know all is as it should be, and it touches all those in our circle, family and friends alike.

Breakfast The Night Before...

This dish is made easier by mixing it the night before so you can enjoy a leisurely morning. It makes a great addition to a brunch buffet as well.

1 pound bulk, fresh pork sausage, mild or spicy-hot as desired
8 slices bread, cubed
2 cups cubed cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 (10.75-ounce) can condensed or golden cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk

Cook sausage in large skillet until brown, breaking up with wooden spoon; drain. Pat sausage dry with paper towels.

Grease 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Place bread cubes in baking dish. Sprinkle cubed cheddar cheese over bread. Sprinkle sausage over cheese.

Combine eggs, 2 1/2 cups milk and dry mustard in medium bowl; mix with mixer or fork until well mixed. Pour egg mixture over layered mixture in baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.

Heat oven to 300°F (150°C).

Stir together cream of mushroom soup and 1/2 cup milk in small bowl. Pour over mixture in baking dish. Place baking dish on baking sheet and bake, uncovered, about 1 1/2 hours or until center is set when baking dish is slightly jiggled. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Makes approx 8 servings.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Swan In Celtic Lore

A mystical bird who finds it's way into several Celtic stories is the Swan. It's feathers were often used in the ritual cloak of the Bards. Swans are connected with music and song and also help with the interpretation of dream symbols, transitions, and spiritual evolution.

In Ireland, it was believed that swans pulled the bark of the sun across the underworld sea each night. Swans also bore the souls of Celtic chieftains to the afterlife and had magic powers that could make mortals sleep. In County Mayo, the souls of virtuous maidens were said to reside in swans. In Scotland, three swans flying together was an omen of national disaster. Celtic swan deities were generally solar, and, like Brighid, possessed the healing powers of sun and water.

In the Irish tale of The Children of Lir:
The four children of Lir — Fionnúala and her brothers Àed, Conn and Fiachra — were changed into swans by their evil stepmother Aoife, who condemned them to spend 900 years in the form of swans, 300 years at each of three places in Ireland. They could only become human when a prince from the north married a princess from the south and a church bell was rung in Ireland (signaling the coming of Christianity). To protect the children, when the Milesian chieftains came to Ireland, they are said to have made it illegal to harm a swan. At last the conditions were fulfilled and Saint Patrick’s bell was rung. The children were restored, but they were 900 years old and immediately died of old age.

Scent Your Cottage With...Pumpkin Bars!

I LOVE pumpkin, and what better way to enjoy a nice fall day (even if it's only autumn in my mind at the moment...ohhh the heat! :), than to spend it having tea and nibbling on moist, fragrant, pumpkin bars with your family, friends or neighbors. This recipe will be sure to delight. Enjoy!

4 eggs
1  2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
15-ounce can pumpkin
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

To make the icing:
Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.

Decorate For The Season...

The days are shortening and the nights are growing cooler. Autumn is approaching in all her natural splendor, and with the crispness of fall, the foliage explodes with color. This is a time to warm the inside of your home with all the brilliant golds, amber, oranges and deep reds nature has to offer.

Switch out some of your home accent pieces, add a couple of new accessories and put out a couple of nice fall flower arrangements to give any room in your home the look of the season. One inexpensive way to change out accessories is cloth napkins in wonderful earthy tones of fall, or placemats for the table, inexpensive throw rugs, etc.

For fall decorating, choose flowers with yellows, reds, and oranges. Roses and Chrysanthemums are always popular. Or, pick lilies in yellow or orange and long-stemmed Gladiolas. Find dried grasses and leaves to give your arrangement the finishing touch.

Mix things up, try one idea or theme for a fall wreath on your front door, another in the garden and yet others for tablescapes and fall accents inside the home. The variety of plants, flowers, fall foliage and other autumn decorations gives you endless possibilities. Use Pumpkins as a vase (you can line the inside with a jar or plastic container that holds water), small pumpkins and apples make wonderful votive candle holders if you hollow them out. Make the scented pomanders that I have listed in my archives with fresh oranges and enjoy the fall color of orange and the wonderful aroma.

To make your tablescape or floral arrangement last, it’s worth taking time to prepare your materials properly. Fresh flowers should be hardened by re-cutting the stems and placing them in fresh water for at least an hour before placing into your vase or floral foam base. A sideboard, display shelves, end table or coffee table can be transformed with colors and hints of autumn.

If you use flowers or foliage with thick stems, split them so that needles and wire used to hold things in place can easily penetrate the woody stems. Thin stems can be re-enforced by binding thicker stems to them with floral tape or wire.

And of course, once you have your fresh fall floral arrangement completed, be sure to add water to the container every day and mist with water to keep them fresh. If you plan wisely, you can simply replace flowers in your arrangement to extend the lifespan of your fall arrangements.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Did You Know...

The Victorians considered green an unlucky color? It is also said to be an unlucky color for a nursery, or for the stone on an engagement ring (i.e. no emeralds!). This superstition actually had a basis in fact; many green colors in fabrics and wallpapers used to be made with arsenical salts, and it was not unknown for people to absorb these arsenical salts through their skin and die. Interesting, since in the 16th and 17th centuries, girls in their teens married in pale green, a sign of fertility.

Green is also associated with fairies, and its wearing is also said to foretell a change into clothes of mourning. Green has been deemed so unlucky that in the ancient times in Lowland Scotland neither bride nor guests would consider wearing it to a wedding. No green was even permitted in their wedding decor and green vegetables were banned from the feast menu.

It's Monday And...

If you believe in magical days of the week, as I do, you may find the following interesting. Here are the associations of the day, make it a magical one!

Planet is Moon
Element is Water
Sign is Cancer
Color is Silver, White, Gray, Pearl
Stones are Moonstone, Pearl, Aquamarine, Flourite, Quartz Crystal, Geodes, Azurite
Trees are Birch, Willow
Flowers/Herbs are Orris Root, Motherwort, Vervain, Night Flowers, White Flowers, White Rose, Iris, Moonwort
Oils are Poppy, Rose
Incense is Myrtle
Deities are Hecate, Moon Dieties
Angel is Gabriel

Influences of the day are:
Psychic Ability, Psychology, Dreams, Astral Travel, Imagination, Reincarnation, Women's Mysteries, Intuition, Fertility, Psychic Powers, Psychic Sensitivity, Tides, Water, Emotional Issues, Clairvoyance, Home, Family, Medicine, Cooking, Personality, Merchandising, Theft, Reconciliations, Receptivity, Love, Voyages, Messages, Women, Children, the Public, Magic, Spirituality, Nursing, Antiques, Initiation, Astrology, New Age Pursuits, Totem Animals, Shapeshifting, Religious Experience, Visions

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Make Your Own Fly Repellents

We don't have many flies here by the coast, but when we do, they are most annoying! Here are some ways to make your own fly repellents and fly repellent strips.

Use mint as a fly repellent. Small sachets of crushed mint can be placed around the home to discourage flies.

Bay leaves, cloves and eucalyptus wrapped in small cheesecloth squares can be hung by open windows or doors.

Place a small, open container of sweet basil and clover near pet food or any open food in the house.

A few drops of eucalyptus oil on a scrap of absorbant cloth will deter flies. Leave in areas where flies are a problem.

You can make your own flypaper with this simple recipe:
Mix 1/4 cup syrup, 1 tbsp. granulated sugar and 1 tbsp. brown sugar in a small bowl. Cut strips of brown kraft paper and soak in this mixture. Let dry overnight. To hang, poke a small hole at the top of each strip and hang with string or thread.

Stop by again soon!