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The Luxury of Time

Ned Tillman commented on yesterday’s post about taking time. “My wish for everyone is that they make the time to spend more of their life out in the woods, on the rivers or in a meadow.”

It is a great resolution, to spend more time outdoors, just enjoying nature. Not even “doing” things. Just walking or sitting.

For so many years, between commuting and traveling for work, we didn’t always take time to sit and do nothing. Or, to leisurely do things without feeling stressed. Like making cookies.

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I spent three days making this year’s cookies. Taking the time to do them right. Slowly. No rush. But I made them simpler, too. Using one basic recipe and making three cookies from it. Thanks to my trusty old Gourmet magazines. These are from 2003.

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I made basic butter cookies. Recipe is on Epicurious web site. I also made the almond spice cookies. And, one more. Basic cookie baked like a shortbread and then covered and baked again with a brownie topping.

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The ones above were the sugar cookies, made with the basic dough. They almost taste like my mom’s, but since hers used margarine and these use butter, the taste is a bit different, as is the texture.

I did other things in stages, as well. Like wrapping presents. And putting the lights outside. I just finished that task this morning. So what if we are last in the area at putting them up. I did get there eventually.

I know I am lucky to be retired. I know I can hit the stores tomorrow morning for those last two items I wanted to get. After everyone else goes to work. Not competing for parking or standing in lines with those who have the limited time on weekends and at night to get it all done.

Still, I realize that I used to get caught up in the frantic rush to get everything done. Wanting to be finished, and then being totally wiped out by the time the holiday came around. No more, I say. I intend to keep this resolution. To do less than I did before, and to make what I do meaningful. To spend more time with friends and relatives. To spend more time outdoors.

And less time trying to overachieve. A less ambitious garden. Easier meals. Less TV. I’ll see how I do when spring comes.

Over the River

Yesterday I headed out to combine CSA and Friends and Farms basket pickups with a few Christmas preparation errands. A cold blustery day, but sunny for the most part. After the third time I crossed the Patuxent River, I realized how dominant the branches of the river are in our landscape, and in our travels.

With the leaves down you can see more of the trails along the river. From Rte 32, Broken Land Parkway, Guilford Road, Murray Hill Road. Over and over, I crossed the Patuxent and thought to myself, we really need to get out on those trails along the river and reconnect with this part of our community.

Howard County is bordered on most of its south and west sides by the Patuxent River, and on the north and east sides by the Patapsco River. Both rivers have thousands of acres of parkland and pathways.

I decided for my New Year’s resolution this year to get back out there and hike the parks on the rivers. And, to learn more about those rivers.

If you are still looking for stocking stuffers, or last minute gifts, check out a couple of books that Ned Tillman has written. I already have the first one, The Chesapeake Watershed, and need to get one of his new book, Saving the Places We Love. Ned is a local resident and one of our Howard County bloggers.

You can find his books at Barnes and Noble, and Shoemaker Country in Ellicott City, at the Robinson Nature Center, and at the Howard County Conservancy.

I first met Ned when he was a hike leader for a HoLLIE class. He still leads many hikes in the area. He also teaches one day at the Legacy Leadership Environmental Institute, which is the newer version of the HoLLIE curriculum. Check this out if you are inclined to learn more about our community.

Me? I just think I’ll spend more time out on our rivers. It’s a big part of why I love living here. The Triadelphia Reservoir and the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area are close to home, and good places to start. Maybe I’ll see that eagle that was in our yard the other day, and was down the road again yesterday.

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Home for the Holidays

Yesterday we took a trip back to my husband’s home town. Mainly because we hadn’t been there in 18 months, and we wanted to check in on some things (and buy some of his favorite kielbasy). Most of the family is gone. Moved, passed away. A few friends still in the area, but not many.

It’s a deeply depressed coal mining town. We found my husband’s old house on the market again. Like hundreds in the area. We were lucky to sell it quickly 12 years ago when my MIL moved to a retirement community in Pottsville.

The cemetery. Covered in fog and snow. Too wet, windy and cold to try to take pictures. We were there to check on the gravesites, before paying our yearly maintenance fee to the man who the church uses to maintain graves for those who are no longer local. The cemetery is on a huge hill outside of town. At 1800 feet elevation according to our GPS.

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This picture, taken last year shows the wind turbines installed on the ridge. Yesterday we couldn’t see them, the fog was so thick.

As for getting that kielbo, we forgot that Kowalonek’s gets really crazy at the holidays. Lines out the door, through the parking lot and around the corner. Not our idea of what to do in the rain and wind. We decided to head south to Manheim and look for fresh kielbasa at the Roots Country Market and Auction.

We found some at Hummer’s meats. A three pound ring of fresh, not smoked kielbasa. It almost is as good as his hometown version but not quite. We also picked up some of Hodecker’s celery, a real delicacy harvested in the fall and early winter. The web site is from the Bed and Breakfast at the farm where the celery is grown.

Some of that celery went into stock tonight. The leaves were frozen for later use.

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We took the back roads up and back. On the way up, we stopped at the Peters Orchards to get some gifts like this one.

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Cranberry salsa. Made in PA. Peters carries a nice selection of hot pepper jellies, all sorts of jams, honey, syrup and much more. They are open year round and are on the way to Carlisle on Rte 94. My husband couldn’t resist the molasses cookies either.

All in all, on a rainy blustery day, we had a good time, even though traffic was awful on the way home. I have to admit, I don’t miss that commute in really bad weather up I-81.

Now, off to bake cookies and other goodies using things I picked up at the market.

Local Butchers

It’s almost the holidays. For us that means celebration food. Like crown roasts. Osso Buco. Tenderloin for my birthday and maybe New Year’s Eve.

As far as I know, there is only one butcher left in Howard County. Boarman’s. We get so many special orders there. Like the osso buco.

Not too far away we do have lots of choices.

Mt. Airy. Wagner’s.

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Oella. JW Treuth’s. They did change hands recently but the quality is still there. They were a major source for our Zahradka winter CSA a few years back.

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Northern PG County in Laurel. Laurel Meat Market and Beiler’s in the Amish market on Rte. 198.

I have tried all but Laurel Meat Market. I should try them as Howchow loves them, and I respect his opinion.

If you want to buy small business and local for your main course at any holiday meal, you can’t go wrong with these choices. I mean, how good looking is this?

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The Dark Days

The time of year when the sun is in the opposite hemisphere, and our daylight hours get shorter and shorter. On December 21st, we here in Howard County only get 9 1/2 hours of daylight. Then, thankfully, the days get longer after that day.

A few years back, I did a food challenge. Called the Dark Days Challenge. The challenge, simply, was to make a meal once a week in the winter that used almost completely regional, seasonal items, and/or items you preserved from the summer.

I found out we had lots of sources here in Central Maryland. I didn’t have to eat food flown halfway across the country or halfway around the world. I learned about the Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and DuPont circle year round markets. I found farmers in the area where I could procure local meats.

I found a year round CSA. Bottom line. I changed how I ate. I changed how I cooked. I reduced my carbon footprint by using more and more local foods.

Last night, I made dinner. Afterwards, I realized how that dinner would have rocked the Dark Days Challenge. Almost all of it was local. And I didn’t even work hard to do it. I had just changed my food sources over the years.

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My lamb stew dinner. Using Mt. Airy Meats lamb. CSA potatoes, turnips, onions and carrots. Friends and Farms kale, garlic and rosemary. Trickling Springs butter. Secolari’s olive oil and balsamic. Wayne Nell’s bacon ends.

And the wine.

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A 1999 Linden Glen Manor from Virginia. Like inhaling cherries. Dark, delicious. Nowhere near its peak. A bargain back when we bought it. A treasure to be savored with the lamb.

My husband declared I now make a braised lamb stew that rivals those that Marc Dixon used to make at Iron Bridge. Falling off the bone lamb. Simply cooked in the oven at slow cooker setting, with the potatoes, turnips, carrots and onions in a chicken stock I made last month.

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Yes, I know I need to clean the oven. Ignore that. I did the stew in one pan. Seared it first, added the vegetables and stock and cooked it for four hours at the 250 degree setting in the oven.

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The kale. Started out with scallions from Laurel Amish Market. Olive oil. Bacon ends. Added the kale and garlic. Sautéed until wilted.

So easy to eat fresh food around here.

Blurring the Lines

Between markets, delivery services, cooperatives, and CSAs. I can’t help but notice as a result of being part of most of those choices that things keep changing. To keep customers. Take for example.

The presence of my CSA cooperative’s items in my Friends and Farms basket.

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Yes, that’s an LFFC sticker on my butternut squash in this week’s Friends and Farms basket. Just like the sticker on my carnival squash in my LFFC CSA pick up basket.

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And that Bowman Mountain applesauce in my fruit share. Was in the refrigerator at F&F when I got there.

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And, yes, Mother Earth mushrooms were in both deliveries. So was LFFC garlic.

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Here’s this week’s F&F individual basket. I am also pretty sure the leek was from Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop, too. I do like their use of a mostly organic non-profit Amish cooperative to give us great produce and fruit.

Just like I am thankful that our LFFC CSA share keeps going into the fall. And, hopefully into the winter if we get enough interest.

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This was my half share, and my fruit share. Anyone know a killer recipe for rutabagas? The one “weird” item in our share this week.

As for cheese.

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Lancaster Farm Fresh continues to give us artisanal cheeses at much more reasonable prices than Roots, Wegmans, and Whole Foods. We generally get 24 ounces for $25. Check out the per pound price of the best cheese at any of those retailers and you will see what a good deal we are getting.

So, where am I going with this post? I see a shift in my CSA. Giving more options. More individual choices. I see a shift in Friends and Farms. Using more and more reasonably priced organic items. And, more flexibility there too.

The old model, one farm CSA isn’t doing as well as those who broaden their sources. Consumers have lots of choices around here. A one farm CSA with limited veggies won’t survive against the cooperatives and regionally sourced food services like F&F.

I also see the value in these current choices. Better pricing. Fresher foods. I like Friends and Farms comment from a recent TV show. Wegmans and Whole Foods quality at Giant and Safeway pricing. We can get really great food around here. Year round.

The trick in all this? Knowing how to use it. Staying home and cooking. What have I done with the above, and what will I do this week with the rest of it?

One of the carrots went into tonight’s dinner. There will be a post tomorrow about that dinner. It was simply an awesome local meal. Spinach and mushrooms went into a salad yesterday taken to a friend’s house for dinner. Same with the garlic, in a potato casserole. Taken to that dinner.

As for LFFC, one of the onions in that potato casserole last night. Red cabbage in a salad tonight. I am making apple bread this weekend to give as Christmas gifts. Same for that jar of applesauce. One of my mom’s favorite treats, it will be in her “stocking” from me.

The lines may be blurred these days from my food suppliers, but I still can make flavorful meals and use these items over a two to three week period. Can’t say the same about grocery store produce, which wilts and slimes in less than a week. Fresh food is amazing. We are very lucky to have the choices we have here in Howard County.

Tis The Season

Christmas season is well underway around here. The tree is finally trimmed.

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The Christmas cards are done.

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I picked up the poinsettias from Greenway. I need to stop there again when they get in some garland so I can decorate the front doors.

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Lovely, aren’t they?

More into the season? How about a horse parade? In Lisbon on Saturday. I finally get to go this year. I have to remember to bring a bag of canned goods for the food bank. Get there early to find a parking space.

Or, how about the Geminids? What are the Geminids? One fantastic meteor shower, peaking every December. At the Howard County Conservancy beginning at 10 pm on the 13th. With Joel Goodman and Alex Storrs, our favorite leaders for our meteor watching events. The weather may actually cooperate this year, as it should be mostly clear, but a bit cold. Never fear. There will be hot cider served. Bring a comfy chair (lounge chairs work well) and blankets or a sleeping bag to put around you. See you there?

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