Friday, June 28, 2013

June in Photos

June's been one of those months.  Without further ado:
The Rams and Yowes blanket is finally finished.  Let's be more precise:  when the time came to sew the 700-plus border stitches down, I pressed the blanket into my mother's hands with quivering lips and batting eyelashes, and pleaded for her to put it out of its misery.

This blanket would still be stuffed in it's dedicated bag on top of the dryer if not for my mother.  A big round of applause goes out to dear Mom.

Never has a project been fraught with more neurosis.  I confidently stated that I wasn't interested in getting gauge, since it was a blanket.  Well, I should have listened, because in the end I ran out of several of the lighter colours to complete the edge, which is folded back upon itself:
Normally the back side would have the same dégradé effect as the front.  I toyed with the idea of ordering more wool just to complete the backside, but then decided against it.  To hell with integrity.  This project has been simmering on the back burner for over a year now, and I really wanted to get it done.  Now.  In the end, I'm okay with it - the blanket is complete and the end result is more than I hoped for.  Anyone who comments on the back gets a well-deserved smack.
Here's the front for your viewing pleasure.  Kate Davies is brilliant, always has been, always will be.  And Jamieson and Smith Shetland Jumper Weight?  Yes...yes please.  There will be more of this in my future.  What's insane is that NONE of the nine colours in this blanket  are dyed - they're all natural and named for the shades of Shetland sheep they come from:  white, gaulmogot, katmollet, mooskit, sholmit, shaela, moorit, yuglet and black.  And the smell?  I want to bury my face in this blanket and sniff away:  it smells of lanolin with just the right hint of barnyard.  Yummm.

Cue the rubber boots:

Our weather has been absolute crap, for lack of a better meteorological term.  It's been pouring for weeks, and the fields are beyond soaking wet.  It's definitely rubber boot time:
When it's not raining and we venture outside where mosquitoes make our lives miserable.  Last year our spring and summer was win/win.  This year, it's lose/lose.  We even light the wood stove some nights, if just to cut the humidity.

The only plant happy this year are the roses:
These gorgeous pink roses have been run over by the mower endless times, but they resurrect themselves brilliantly.  This year, they were given a reprieve and have shown their gratitude by blooming profusely.  Maybe they can stay.
This climbing rose is one of the very few I left standing.  When we moved here, the grounds were over-run with badly maintained roses.  One of the first things I did besides buying stock in Band-aids and Felco pruners was to cut most of them down.  My dislike of roses knows few bounds.  When given a bouquet, I remain gracious, but take them with outstretched arms and do a quick about-face to hide the resulting facial twitch that comes from repressed memories.  Thanks, I think.

That said and done, this year the pendulum is swinging back and I'm finding that I quite appreciate their beauty.

My guess is they like cold, wet weather, because that's exactly what they're getting.

We had a lot of wind and rain today.  Our wheat is now lodged:

I'm not sure what the next step will be.  We've never had lodged wheat, so this is a first for us.  I guess time will tell if the wheat is going to right itself, or if it's down for the count.  I'll keep you posted.

This elderberry bush is in full-bloom now.  Again, it's a wait-and-see approach regarding the berries, but the blooms sure are profuse this year.  If the birds don't get the berries, there will be lots of elderberry juice in our future.
Last weekend, we had a deer nibbling on the seabuckthorn berries.  The doe made her way up and down our hedgerow and perked up when she saw me.  I don't discourage deer when I see them, because it's quite rare they venture onto our property.  I gave her lots of room, hence the poor-quality zoomed-in picture.   Humidity hovering around the 90% mark doesn't help, either.  She sure was tall, though! 

With apologies for yet another poor-quality photo, here's a big coyote-wolf hybrid.  I've never seen a head on a coy-wolf as big as this one:

I was too stunned to get a better picture, because trailing behind was a little coy-wolf puppy.  I don't have a lot of sympathy for them and normally chase them away, but since it was my first time seeing one of their off-spring, I took the scene in from a distance.  I don't want to know how far they'll go to protect their young, so I turned back towards the house, throwing a glance over my shoulder a few times for good measure as they sauntered across the open field.

Our sunsets are few this month, and this is the only semi-decent one I have to offer for June:
There's still hope for July.  There's sun in the forecast for July 1, which is also Canada Day.  The timing for a Monday off couldn't be any better.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Viennese Banana Cake

This recipe was printed in the "Weekend" magazine that came with "The Montreal Star", of that much I am sure.  Since "The Star" went under in 1979, this recipe obviously predates that.  I don't have the original copy anymore so I don't know who to attribute it to, but it may well have been the venerable Margo Oliver, Canada's first "Betty Crocker" when General Mills expanded into Canada, if I believe everything I read on Wiki.  Provenance aside, this recipe has been made hundreds of times since then, and remains one of my tried and true favorites.  And I have no clue what makes this cake "Viennese", but that's the title, and I'm running with it.

I've come across a multitude of banana cake recipes on the web in recent weeks, each claiming to be the best.  Oh, I've tried others to compare, but return to this one again and again.  It's perfection epitomized as far as I'm concerned.

Your search ends here:

Viennese Banana Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, or 114 g, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup mashed bananas (usually 3 bananas)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, beating well after each addition.

Add vanilla and bananas, mixing thoroughly.

Combine all dry ingredients, and add alternating with milk.

Stir in nuts.

Grease and line a standard loaf pan.

Bake in a 350°F preheated oven for 1 to 1-1/4 hours, checking often towards the end.  Cake is done when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

My notes:

I've never been bothered to measure my bananas, I always use 3 and leave things at that.

It's safe to tent the loaf with a piece of aluminum foil if the top starts to brown and the cake isn't completely baked.  Or crank the heat down a bit.  Or do both.  This cake is hard to ruin - the milk keeps things nice and moist.

I use a Pyrex loaf pan, and find I need to tent my cake with foil at about the 50 minute mark, generally baking for the entire recommended time of 1-1/4 hours, sometimes cranking down the heat of the oven if the thermometer registers too high.

This cake keeps infinitely well in the fridge, and is best served cooled, in my opinion.

The smell of this cake baking can make grown men weep for their mommies, and bring strangers in from off the street.
 (Consider yourselves adequately warned.)

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