Tuesday, June 30

Lemon Buttermilk Shortcake with Red Fruit and Cream

Early summer days, fresh local strawberries, and Canada's 148th birthday all had me hankering for an old-fashioned, fresh-flavoured dessert. I wanted something not too sweet or fussy but with enough "wow" to serve to company.

For inspiration, I found myself leafing through one of my favourite cookbooks, Food That Really Schmecks by Edna Staebler. First printed in 1968—just a few years after the iconic Canadian maple leaf flag was inaugurated—it's full of recipes and notes of Mennonite country cooking. A recipe for a simple shortcake caught my eye. Notice I said shortcake, singular, which is baked in a cake pan, not shortcakes, which are generally baked as individual biscuits. Nor is this shortbread, which is yet another similar but different concoction. Rather it's a cross between cake, biscuit and shortbread and it hit a nostalgic note that appealed.

With the shortcake as a starting point, I made a few tweaks, including fresh lemon to brighten it up, and decided to pair it with red fruit and white cream in honour of the upcoming Canada Day. The result is just what I was aiming for.

You have some options in how to serve this. Because the cake is tender with an even profile, you can spoon some fruit right on top and alongside a piece, adding a dollop of whipped cream. Alternatively, you can slice each piece in half horizontally like you would a biscuit and then layer the whipped cream and fruit between the halves. I'm showing you both ways (they were equally delicous!).

Whether you make this recipe for Canada Day or just because it's summer, I hope you enjoy an old-fashioned day of sunshine and fresh air!

Lemon Buttermilk Shortcake with Red Fruit and Cream

Serves 6-8 
The texture is a cross between a cake and a biscuit. The flavour is subtle and complements all sorts of fresh fruit or compotes. Try it with grilled peaches in late summer.
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • zest from 1 lemon, grated
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut in cubes, plus more for the pan
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 cup buttermilk (approximately)

For Serving:
  • 4-6 cups mixed fruit, such as pitted cherry halves, sliced red plums, sliced strawberries
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
  • squeeze of lemon juice (or a splash of red wine)
  • 1 cup whipping cream, well chilled
    2 tablespoons sugar
  • lemon zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 9" square baking pan. Line with parchment paper and butter paper.

In a small bowl, set aside 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Stir in ground ginger, if using.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine remaining 6 tablespoons granulated sugar, flour, icing sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. Add the butter and mix with the paddle attachment until incorporated and mixture looks crumbly.

Pour the juice of half a lemon into a measuring glass. Add enough buttermilk to make 1 cup liquid. With the mixer on low, slowly add the lemon-buttermilk, stopping the machine as soon as the wet and dry are almost combined. Finish mixing by hand with a spatula until no more dry bits remain. Don't overmix.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading as evenly as possible (it's sticky and thick, just do your best). Sprinkle the reserved sugar-ginger mixture over top. Bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for at least 10 minutes.

Slice into 6 or 8 pieces. Serve warm.

While cake is baking, mix fruit with sugar and lemon juice and set aside, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar and release the juices. Whip cream and sugar to stiff peaks just before serving.

To serve, you can simply tumble some fruit and whipped cream on the top and alongside, or split horizontally and fill it in the classic shortcake style. Garnish with a sprinkling of lemon zest, if desired. Enjoy!

Vanilla Variation:
Omit the ground ginger, lemon zest and juice. Add 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract to the buttermilk. Sprinkle the batter with vanilla sugar before baking. 

Thursday, June 11

Jim and Jackie go to Peru

Jackie in the doorway of Inti Punku (Sun Gate) with Mount Veronica in the background.

We are often inspired by the tales of travel, adventure and daily life we hear from our guests, whether they hail from around the world or closer to home. It's one of the great side effects of life in a B&B. The flip side, though, is that in 10 years of running this business and living in this beautiful region, we've never been able to tear ourselves away for a big trip of our own. Until now.

Last month, Jim and I closed up shop, hopped on a plane, and crossed a big destination off my bucket list with a two-week trip to Peru, including the iconic Machu Picchu. And it was amazing!

Since conversation around the breakfast table often turns to dream destinations, I thought I'd share some of our experience with you...

After arriving in the city of Cusco in the heart of the Inca empire, we started with a few days of sightseeing and day-hikes.

The fortress in Ollantaytambo was impressive.

We based our first few days out of the living Inca town of Ollantaytambo.

We explored pre-Inca ruins at Pikillacta in the south valley.

We included a modern-style adrenaline rush with an afternoon of zip lining.

A 400m climb up to the first zipline. This is the closest I'll get to mountain climbing.

One of seven ziplines, including a 700m single span.

After acclimatizing for a few days, we embarked on a three-day trek taking us 4,400 metres above the Sacred Valley.

The Perolnioc waterfalls below ruins.

Our trek took us up above the tree line into the puna.

Camping at night, hiking all day, feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Climb every mountain!

After our first trek, we spent an easy day in the city of Cusco before embarking on our second trek, the Salkantay route to Machu Picchu.

Jim doesn't just live on the edge, he naps on the edge!

Cold nights at high altitude make for frosty mornings.

On top of the world!

We were part of a small group for this trek. Here we're celebrating reaching our highest point at 4,630 metres!

Getting warmer as we descend. Passing waterfalls and bridges as we enter the high jungle.

At Llactapata ruins, we can see Machu Picchu off in the distance.

 After four days hiking approximately 70km, we arrived in the town of Aguas Calientes, our launching point for two days in Machu Picchu.

The classic view -- totally worth the effort.


The craftsmanship and sheer work involved boggles the mind.

Hiking an Inca trail up Machu Picchu Mountain.

Tired but happy!

Awe and inspiration everywhere.

Your intrepid innkeepers cross a biggie off the bucket list!

Friday, March 27

Spring Fuel & Fun 2015

After a long, cold winter for many parts of the province, the first signs of spring are a welcome sight, and one of our favourite harbingers of the awakening season is the Spring Fuel & Fun promo from Explorers' Edge!

In case you haven't heard of Fuel & Fun yet, it's the regional tourism program that gives you $100 in free gas and goodies when you book your Spring Getaway to Muskoka, Algonquin Park, Almaguin Highlands and other parts of the region.

It gets even better, because you ALSO save $20 off your two-night stay with our Fern Glen Inn Spring Discount (save $10/night off the regular rate when you stay two nights or more between April 1 and June 30). And, yes, you can combine it with your Fuel & Fun freebies!

We love Fuel & Fun because we get to give you a great gift -- who doesn't like to get free gas and spending vouchers? -- while shining a light on the understated beauty of the fresh season. Whether you're looking for a quiet retreat to recharge your batteries or a few days of hiking and exploring, we hope to see you here this spring!

Quantities are limited -- first come, first served -- so act quickly to avoid disappointment.

When do you stay?
Any two consecutive nights (or more) between April 17 and June 30

When do you book?
Make your reservation and register for your vouchers (we'll tell you how) by April 16

What do you get?
$50 gas card plus $50 in spending vouchers to use at participating shops, eateries and attractions during your stay. Of course, you also get two comfortable nights and two delicious breakfasts at Fern Glen Inn.

What's the catch?
There is none! You don't have to "buy one" to "get one" nor spend a minimum amount of money. Consider the free gas and vouchers as an invitation to come explore this beautiful region, courtesy of Explorers' Edge.

The Spring Fuel & Fun Getaway at Fern Glen Inn

Your getaway includes:

  • 2 nights accommodation for two people in one room
  • fresh and delicious breakfast each morning
  • $50 gas card
  • $50 in Experience Vouchers to use-as-cash at participating attractions, restaurants and shops during your stay
  • $10/night discount off the standard or holiday rate
Price: $220/couple

Lower rates available for solo travelers. 13% HST is extra.

Call, email or book online. Visit Fuel & Fun at Fern Glen Inn for details.
: :   : :   : :   : :

* Quantities are limited. Only the first 500 "Qualified Bookings" within the entire Explorers' Edge region will receive the Gas Cards and Experience Vouchers. To be a "Qualified Booking", you must:
• book by April 16, 2015
• register your confirmation number directly at Explorers' Edge
• stay between April 17 and June 30, 2015
• stay for 2 consecutive nights or longer
Experience Vouchers may only be used between April 17 and June 30, 2015.

In partnership with

Friday, March 20

Saying Goodbye to Saba

Earlier this year we had to say goodbye to Saba. I shared a note with our facebook friends, and am writing about it here, because so many of our guests have enjoyed the hospitality of our four-legged innkeeper over the years.

Saba was just shy of three years old when we uprooted from Toronto to buy this B&B on 120 acres of woods and meadows 10 years ago. Saba must have thought it was the best thing to ever happen in her short life—and she was probably right! Here she got to run leash-free in fresh air, to roam the woods on daily walks full of fascinating smells, and best of all, she got to meet new people all the time, people who had surely come just to play with her!

I think she loved everyone she ever met. Saba would greet people with enthusiastic and happy barking if we let her, which is why she was NOT part of the official greeting team. But whenever guests were interested in sharing her company, she was delighted to play hostess. She would often tag along with guests out hiking or snowshoeing our trails. Some days she would be out for hours, starting first with one set of guests, then heading right back out with another set. Before we had trail maps to give out, we just told the guests "follow the dog home if you get lost".  Sure enough, Saba always led them back home.

One guest who was here with a group of eight girlfriends told us how they were all out for a walk, spread out along the trail as their paces varied, and that Saba would travel back and forth from the front of the group to the back the whole time. Our guest lagged behind at one point while maneuvering a bad leg over a fallen tree, and said that Saba sat and watched until she was over and on her way again before returning to the front of the hikers. I guess Saba's shepherding instincts extended to include her "flock" of guests.

Saba taught many a guest the fine art of throwing a stick. If she couldn't find a stick, she'd raid the wood pile for a nice hardwood log. Sitting around the bonfire on a summer or fall evening, guests might find a stick dropped by their feet and Saba staring intently, willing it to be thrown. When the stick would inevitably be chewed down to a soggy bit of wood no bigger than a match box, Saba would deposit it on a lap and still expect to be rewarded with a throw.

We miss her dearly and I'm sure our repeat guests will miss the "ohmygoodness I'm so happy to see you again I can't believe it's really you I'm going to explode with joy!!!" greeting that only a dog can give. Saba was a natural at this business and lifestyle and she loved it as much as we do. As hard as it is to say goodbye, she lived a long, healthy, happy 13 years which we were blessed to share.

You'll see Saba in tons of photos from the inn and the area if you browse this blog, our website or our facebook page, so I'm posting some photos below from Saba's days before the B&B.

We brought Saba home at 7 weeks old.

Meeting one of our friends. First taste of hospitality?

Geared up for interior camping in Algonquin Park.

Another camping trip, this time flying in to Temagami (Saba's first & only plane ride!).

Quiet time in the park.

Sunlit after a swim.

Wednesday, January 14

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

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!