Greetings to my readers, and let me wish everyone a safe and Happy Holiday Season! Whatever you celebrate – and even if you don’t – I hope you are able to find some downtime, some rest and rejuvenation, not *just* over the holidays but moving ahead into 2021. It’s become a bit cliche to say, we are all going too fast, we need to slow down and winter is the best time to do this, but I’ll say it anyway. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of Hygge,  it’s a beautiful idea and way of life that emphasizes slowness, savouring life, the simple things, and making quiet celebration a part of everyday life, not *just* the holidays.

A few links for your perusal (yes, this post is about YOU, human! and the need for self care especially amongst care-givers).

My version involves making peanut butter sandwiches for squirrels, but we can keep that between us….

I’m a notorious over worker, and even so I don’t get half one of what I need to; hence, my break will involve *some work* – I plan to organize my office (you don’t want to see it as it is now) finish a large client handout I had to shelf a few moths ago when I fractured three more vertebrae in my back, and finish a herbal course I really enjoyed, and have just been slow to get done.  I’ll be setting up my tutorials for a New Year and new approach, but yes, over the Holidays I do plan to bake, watch some seasonal movies, open a few books I bought over the year that I haven’t even glanced at yet (and by books I mean non-work related). 🙂  Above all, I plan to spend more time with my animal family, especially the two Very Old Boys – Daniel, who was 14 in August, and Zeke, whose age is not 100% clear but we estimate to be about a year older than Daniel. It is very likely their last Christmas, and I want to make every moment count.

2020 was a difficult year to put it mildly, for us all – hardly bears repeating! and many of us are not feeling the seasonal spirit, or worse, are ill/have lost loved ones/are struggling financially. By posting good cheer I don’t mean to make light of any of that. I’ve not been touched by COVID-19, yet – but I’ve had enormous health challenges and personal stress (can you say dogs?) over the past two years. I’m not one to put a  false positive face on life, but I do believe in accentuating the positive when we can.  Even if the glass is less than half full, if there is still some water in there, there is still hope. And I’m going forward in 2021 with hope, personal and collective, and continuing to work towards personal goals that have evaded me in past. Even if none of them materialize, I remember, each day, that I am still blessed in so many ways. And I hope you are too, in all ways, not the least of which is the grace of canine company.

I will leave you with a recipe I developed a few years ago, it was based on something or other online and now forgotten – cannot give credit! but, I did adapt a fair bit. 🙂  it was special to me as I had really never eaten pine needles – but after this cake I began to use all kinds of conifers in syrup, salts, honeys and more. I brought this cake to a class on herbs I taught locally many years ago, and it was such a hit! Now I make it every Winter Solstice, and just thought I’d share with you today.
Whatever you love to eat, however you spend your holidays, I hope this season is healthy, happy and safe for you all.


Conifer  Cake

6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup really super finely chopped conifers – best to dry about three days first, chop a little then whirl in the food mill – too fresh and the resin is everywhere (NOTE: you can use any conifer leaves at all, any pine, spruce, fir or hemlock- white pine is by far the mildest)
1 1/2 cups strong black tea
1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I used half dried cranberries, and half currants)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Icing drizzle

2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/8 cup finely chopped conifer needles
1/4 cup water

In a saucepan, heat up the black tea. Add the dried fruit, and half of the chopped conifers. Simmer on the stove until most of the tea is absorbed, and the fruit is nice and plump (about 1 hour). Remove from the heat, strain the raisins, and set aside the tea.

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a bowl, beat the butter, then add the sugar, then the egg, plus about 1/4 cup of the remaining cooking liquid. Stir in the dried fruit, then add the rest of the chopped conifers, the baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Then add the flour. It should be quite a thick batter.

Pour into a greased loaf pan, and bake for 1 1/4 hours, until a knife inserted comes out clean.

While the loaf is cooling, prepare the drizzle. Mix the ingredients together in a saucepan, and heat until the sugar is melted. Remove from heat, and allow to cool for a few minutes, then, using a spoon, drizzle it over the cake.

Can be served slightly warm, in slices, with a pat of butter. Can also be wrapped up and taken on long winter walks, to be eaten under a tree.

(ALWAYS leave a slice for the tree spirits!)