Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sunset Snowshoeing

Snowshoe tracks winding through untouched snow.
There's nothing like snowshoeing through a quiet forest to clear the mind and shake off the weight of a busy day. It's a wonderful experience at any hour, but even more so late in the afternoon on a clear day, when the sun casts a golden light against the trees before sinking behind a rosy horizon.

Warm sun, cool sky, fresh air.
Remnants of a strange track (I'm thinking porcupine) lead off into the trees.
The pinkening sky over the next ridge.
Happy snowshoer catches some rays.
 Photos were taken on the private snowshoe trails here at Fern Glen Inn. We provide complementary snowshoes for guests to use to explore our 10 km of trails on our 120 acre forest property.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Arrowhead Park Ice Trail

Imagine gliding through a frosted forest, under a starry sky, on a ribbon of ice lit by flames reflecting on snow. You don't have to imagine it! You can experience it yourself on the ice skating trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park, just north of Huntsville, Muskoka. Now in its fourth year, the trail has become a must-do attraction for winter getaways.

Photo courtesy of Arrowhead Provincial Park

The skating trail is a 1.3 km loop through the forest at Arrowhead Park, and it's maintained by the park's own zamboni-like grooming machine. Cross-country ski trails, snowshoe trails and fat-biking trails also traverse the park grounds. Don't have your own skates, skis, snowshoes or fat bikes? Rent them at the park for reasonable rates. The park also provides inner tubes to use for free on their tubing hill. And, wow, it's a hill!

Perhaps the coolest thing about the ice skating trail at Arrowhead Park is the weekly Fire & Ice Night. Every Saturday (weather permitting) beginning December 27 and continuing through February, the skating trail is lit by tiki torches from 5-9pm for night time skating under the stars.

Arrowhead Provincial Park is located an easy drive from the inn. Looking for a winter getaway package to include accommodations and a day in Arrowhead Park? Try our Snowshoe in the Park package. It includes: 

Snowshoe in the Park Winter Getaway Package

  • Two nights accommodations
  • Breakfast both mornings
  • Handmade biscotti and gourmet hot chocolate
  • Use of snowshoes for the day
  • One-day Ontario Parks Pass for admission into Arrowhead and/or Algonquin Park

Rate: from $279/couple + tax (higher during Christmas/NewYears holidays and Family Day long weekend)

Visit the Fern Glen Inn website for more information, or call, email or book online.

See you at the park!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Quick and Easy Cocoa Brownies

Last week our good friend, Ed, was here helping Jim with some renos and maintenance. Normally, my job during this kind of work is to make supply runs to Home Depot and feed the guys so they can keep working. This time, however, I wasn't going to be here and they'd have to fend for themselves. Still, I wanted to leave them with a little treat before I flew out the door so I whipped up these quick and easy brownies, mostly because I had the ingredients on hand and it's one of the fastest recipes I've got, but also because nothing says "thanks for installing a new sink vanity" like chocolate.

I wasn't planning to share this recipe with you since I already have one (delicious!) brownie recipe on here, plus a recipe for fudgy cocoa cookies, and not to mention this ever-popular mocha porter chocolate cake. I thought maybe enough is enough, but then I came to my senses and remembered there is no such thing as too much chocolate!

So the next time a chocolate craving hits when you're in a hurry and your pantry is down to the basics —or you want to thank somebody in a deliciously meaningful way— whip up a batch of these brownies and lose yourself to chocolate in no time flat.

Quick pan prep: just press in a sheet of parchment paper and crimp over the edges.

Quick and Easy Cocoa Brownies

These brownies are made with cocoa powder instead of chocolate, which makes for a soft, tender texture. It also means they mix up quickly by cutting out the extra step of chopping and melting chocolate. Another time-saving trick is to use a 9" pan instead of an 8" pan because the thinner layer of batter in the larger pan bakes more quickly than a thicker layer in a smaller pan. If all you have is an 8"pan, go ahead and use it but add a few minutes to the baking time.

  • 5 oz (1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 oz (3/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder*
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9" square baking pan with parchment paper or spray with non-stick baking spray.

Melt the butter in a large glass mixing bowl in the microwave or in a medium size sauce pan on the stove top. Whisk in the cocoa until smooth, then the sugar, vanilla and salt. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.

Sift the flour and baking powder over top and stir with the whisk until just combined. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is slightly puffed and dry, about 24-26 minutes. Let cool (if you can) before slicing and serving.

* I used dutch process cocoa powder in the brownies pictured here, but the recipe works just as well with regular non-alkalized cocoa powder. Use whichever you have on hand.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Winter comes early

The snow is deeper than the Coop Deck and nearly to the top of the Muskoka chairs.

 It's not unusual to have the occasion snowfall or short blast of flurries in November. In fact, most years we get a little taste of snow as a prelude of the winter to come, but it's usually an insubstantial dusting that melts within days. Not this time.

The snow started for earnest in the second week of November and it basically hasn't stopped. It is now November 21st, a month before winter officially arrives, but it looks like February out there -- a particularly snowy February at that!

I don't know if all this snow is here to stay until spring. We've got some more seasonal, above-freezing temperatures and rain in the forecast so we may see the grass again before winter arrives for good. Until then, we'll strap on our snowshoes and enjoy the fluffy stuff!

Jim had to snowshoe to the chicken coop to check on the ladies.

More snow falls.
That's the picnic table in front of the gazebo frame.
The Muskoka chairs around the fire bowl.
This way to winter!
Walking in a wonderland.
 There's plenty of winter still to come. Find out how you can enjoy the snowy season with a Winter Getaway package for snowshoeing, dog sledding, or a cozy weekend in the country.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cool-weather Friends

The chickadees aren't always eating out of our hands... 
Not when we're taking a break on a lovely autumn afternoon.

If you've never heard the expression "fair-weather friends" it refers to those who only want to spend time with you when all is (figuratively) sunny and bright in your world. Well that certainly does not include the chickadees and nuthatches who share our forest. Quite the opposite, in fact.

These little feathered friends ignore us throughout the bountiful days of summer and only honey up to us when autumn sets in and chillier days are upon us. They don't even have to know you. They'll be your new BFFs, quite happy to hang out with you -- as long as you've got a palmfull of birdseed -- until well into spring when the sunshine and warm temps bring back all sorts of natural food sources for them. 

We don't mind this fickleness. Cool-weather friends or not, it's always a treat to share a feast with these little birds with big personalities.

A chickadee making sure it finds the *best* seed. Yes, they're choosy!

Aerodynamic nuthatch grabbing a snack.

The nuthatch keeps coming back for more. Must be stockpiling!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Screaming Heads in Autumn

Raise your  hand if you love autumn!

The Screaming Heads outdoor artscape is a fascinating place to explore at any time of year, but the "wow factor" goes into overdrive in autumn. Add a backdrop of brilliant fall colours to the already striking vistas of cast concrete sculptures, geodesic domes, pyramids and house-turned-castle, and it's an autumn experience that can't be missed. It got even more interesting this year when it was yarn-bombed by a group of knitters as part of the Almaguin Highlands Sweater Weather weekend.

Jim and I made time for an afternoon fall drive last week and meandered up to Midlothian Road for a fantastical walk in, around and through the Screaming Heads.

Well hi there!
Pull yourself across the pond on an old-fashioned guide-wire ferry.
View from the ferry crossing.
Through the geodesic dome.
Even the sunbeams are getting their groove on!

Trail through the woods.
Expansive view.
I call this one "Jazz Hands". :)
Colour me happy -- love those hills!
"A pyramid, a horse and a hand walk into an artscape..."
The glove fits! Yarn-bombed sculptures for the Sweater Weather weekend.

Do you want to see this for yourself? We provide maps, directions and itinerary suggestions to our guests at Fern Glen Inn; or stop in at the Burk's Falls welcome centre and ask for directions to the Screaming Heads.