It snowed! Not our usual heavy onslaught, but light, delicate flakes that landed softly on every surface. I love this type of snow. The flakes nestled in the dried spokes of this bronze fennel plant, showing off their amazing and varied designs.
Light, feathery snowflakes filled this Rose of Sharon seedpod...
...and coated this pine bough.
I played around with Photoshop in an attempt to get more of a contrast, and liked this outcome, which doesn't give a nice contrast but does convey, a bit, the frozen feeling in my fingers when I was outside taking photos!
By the next day, the wind had carried away most of the snowflakes, but it was cold enough for a hard frost. Hoarfrost is formed in very cold temperatures when a source of water vapor is nearby. It adorned this marigold seed pod like a spiky hat.
Cold weather outside means bored cats inside! Everyone was yawning yesterday, stuck inside with a slight case of cabin fever.
Thankfully, a big box arrived from Emma Bridgewater. My mugs are here! They are really amazing.
These are Jack Snipes, secretive birds that have a mating call similar to the sound of a neighing horse. Listen for yourself!
Bitterns are funny-looking birds that live in wetland areas. They use their long, pointed beaks to catch insects and small fish.
Waxwings are beautiful birds whose feathers are so soft and downy, they almost look like fur. They're so named for the colored tips of their wing feathers, which resemble sealing wax. They have a unique courtship ritual, in which the male and female pass a bit of fruit back and forth until the female decides to accept the male.
These are male pheasants. The females are brown and plain; only the males have bright plumage. They live in open grasslands and are frequently hunted for sport.
The red grouse is another game bird found primarily in Great Britain. They're a bit dumpy, but I think they look quite arresting with their rusty feathers and large feet.
My favorite is the great bustard. They remind me of a young English courtier in years gone by...strutting, with plumage fanned and a bit of a ruff at the neck. These are large birds, with a wing span of up to 8 feet. The largest recorded great bustard was almost 50 pounds! They have a loud, guttural call:
Great Bustard sound
When not admiring my mugs, I've been working on my sock yarn blanket. It's grown significantly. I've almost completed my fifth row!
Every diamond is different. I haven't yet begun to repeat colors although I will soon. Some people have blankets consisting of over 1,000 squares! When you consider that each square takes about 30 minutes and costs around $1 (if you're buying pre-measured "sock yarn mini skeins" and not using leftover sock yarn), it's a considerable undertaking. I'm making mine on the cheap. Each square only takes about 2.5 grams of sock yarn, and I've got enough bits and pieces to go much farther without having to purchase more yarn bits. Most of my yarn has been acquired through swaps, or gifted to me from another knitter.
It's really easy to make, if anyone is interested. You can make your squares as big or small as you'd like. For this particular pattern:
Cast on 31 stitches.
Turn your work and knit one row.
Turn your work again. You're facing the wrong side. Slip one, knit 13, PSSO (slip 2, knit one, and slip 2 slipped stitches over the knit stitch), knit to the last stitch, knit last stitch through the back loop.
Knit your right-side row, slipping the first stitch and knitting the last stitch through the back loop. When you come to the center stitch, slip it! If you have trouble finding it, just look on the front side - it's the stitch that remains after your PSSO.
Repeat, knitting each side until you come to the center, and then either slip or PSSO (depending on which side you're working on), until you have just 1 stitch left. Draw your yarn through, secure, and weave in ends.
I've really been on a baking kick lately. I'm excited to expand my horizons in the kitchen in 2011. Here's a sweet, spicy offering from Deb at Smitten Kitchen that was quickly devoured and praised by every recipient.
Applesauce Spice Cupcakes
From Smitten Kitchen
Makes 18 cupcakes
2 cups white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
5 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each egg, and then beat in applesauce. Stir in flour mixture and mix until just combined. Spoon into greased muffin tins. The batter looks a little funny, but don't worry!
They bake up nicely. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes and cool on wire rack.
For frosting, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla. Mix in cinnamon and powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
I was originally going to frost mine the "regular" way, but I stumbled across an old Wilton tip and decided to try something new. I topped the cupcake with several small points.
I liked the way it looked. Before I knew it, I'd decorated the whole batch!
They remind me of little hedgehogs. The cake is spicy and dense, more muffin than traditional cupcake, but they're sweet and tasty, and I'll definitely be making them again.