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Category Archives: Family

To Honor Our Dads

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Both of our dads loved to cook. I remember watching my father in law at the stove, frying up something special. And my dad, with his favorite foods. That he made the way he liked them.

Our dads are no longer with us. My FIL, 33 years ago. My dad, 11 years ago.

We still have memories. Pictures. Favorite moments.

Tonight we honored them by cooking things from their birthplaces, and using techniques they loved.

Like pan frying.

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These are baby bella mushrooms from PA. My husband’s home state. The hanger steak. Also from PA.

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I pan fried a hanger steak with red wine mushroom sauce.

I also made one of my dad’s specialties.

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Cole slaw. A simple one. Cabbage. Carrots. A simple slaw dressing (I cheated and mine was from a bottle). My dad made his own.

The food tonight came from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, in PA. And, Friends and Farms, mostly sourcing items from PA and MD these days.

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The salad. Baywater Greens. Strawberries from the community garden. Cheese from MD. A simple lemon vinaigrette.

The wine. Not local, but our dads were beer drinkers, and this steak begged for wine. My dad, Natty Boh. My FIL. Yuengling.

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For us, though, a toast using a ten year old cabernet reserve from California.

Here’s to memories. Here’s to dad.

#hocofood

And So This is Christmas*

*credit to John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

One of my favorite holiday songs. Particularly the line “and what have you done?”

Interestingly, Christmas isn’t my favorite holiday. Thanksgiving is. But, Christmas is when almost all the family gets together.

Tonight, three generations of my father’s side of the family gathered. The closest ones. The first cousins. Their children. Grandparents.

To me, watching the little ones smile is my favorite part. We don’t do presents much anymore at our level. We don’t need lots of “things” these days.

I prefer giving to getting now. And, I like to expand the giving in the days after the holidays.

So, I will head out to the food bank with all the extra items purchased for cookies and candy that wasn’t made. Things like butter, sugar, nuts. Add a stash of items like beans and rice and grains. Stop and pick up some “on sale” foods, now that the holiday is past. This is the time the food bank can use items. After that holiday rush of giving.

Plus, I will compensate for those new items we do get, like the scarves and sweaters. I will do another run through the drawers and the closets looking for warm clothing to add to the St. Vincent de Paul bin, down at Kendalls’ hardware store.

The holidays are special. Let’s keep the remainder of the year, and beyond, just as special.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Christmas Cookies Round Two

The cookie baking marathon continues. This time I am striving to make thin crispy buttery sugar cookies, similar to my mom’s.

I used the Bon Appetit Ultimate Sugar Cookie recipe, with a few very slight modifications.

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My first sheet of cookies. A little thicker than I wanted. But, they have a really good taste so I soldier on, learning to make them thinner and getting into a rhythm so as not to have them stick to the paper.

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The dough starts out as one that is pretty difficult to roll, unless you get it to just the right temperature. I had quite a few messy cookies, and of course, we make ugly ones to eat (just to see how they taste).

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I like that one in the middle that looks like the state of Indiana. Cookie blobs, made specifically to taste, are part of the fun of baking for the holidays.

Finally …

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… a container with about three dozen for us and friends, and a separate container of the best, to give to my mom.

She called today and we talked about her cookies. Hers are made with margarine, and I just can’t bring myself to use it. This recipe is the closest tasting to hers, the right balance of sugar. I don’t frost my cookies, just use the sprinkles on them.

Up tomorrow, the chocolate pistachio cookies from the same Bon Appetit. They are chilling in the fridge overnight.

Finally, there will be gingerbread. And, maybe some chocolate toffee bark if I have time.

Getting in the spirit now. Three days to go.

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Not A White Christmas

Well, the snow was pretty while it lasted, but these warm temperatures are making it go away rather quickly.

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This Sunday we may see temps near seventy degrees, and maybe a thunderstorm. All on the first day of winter.

It is one of the more endearing aspects of living here. The weather can take a rollercoaster ride, from below freezing to short sleeve weather. All in the same week.

I gather we are above our rainfall requirements. That is good for the water table, and our wells should be healthy for the time being.

I have to admit, around here, it is never dull. We have the hawks back. The bluebirds visited the bird bath during the freezing weather last week. The robins are all over the lawn now that the snow has melted.

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We are overrun with deer again. Although they seem to be getting hit by cars on a weekly basis not far from our house. They also are starting to eat the tips of our azaleas, a sure sign they are having difficulty finding enough food.

Enough about the weather. This is the final weekend before Christmas. Time to finish the shopping, wrapping, cooking and keep the Christmas music as the background as I work.

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Only a few days left. Have a safe holiday. And, do something nice for someone who doesn’t expect it.

Cookie Monster

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It’s December, and my focus turns to cookies. Christmas cookies. One of the first planning items, right before doing the Christmas cards, and getting the live greens for decoration.

Mickey Gomez, a fellow hoco blogger, had me looking for potential candidates for sugar cookies.

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On her Facebook page, baking with her grandmother. Prompted a search for old Rumford recipes.

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My mom’s cookies. Something I can’t seem to duplicate, so I may be messing around for the next few days, trying recipes.

I need a few dozen to take to the Conservancy crafts fair Saturday. Might be time to try some experiments in baking.

I have decided to use those lovely molasses cookies from my post last week, as my new cookie in the box.

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The ones from Bon Appetit, post was here.

I got a good supply of Trickling Springs butter, and lots of chocolate, sugar and flour. Time to get baking.

After all, it is December!

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Giving Thanks …

… after another holiday with our family.

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Thanksgiving has to be one of my favorite holidays. Even more so than Christmas.

We always spend the day with relatives. For our entire 35 Thanksgivings since we met.

This year a smaller gathering, as my nephew and his wife weren’t able to fly up to join us.

We give thanks for family, freedom and commitment. The type of commitment that those who serve us make when they choose what they do.

The sort of commitment that the armed forces, the police, fire departments, hospitals, and utilities/infrastructure companies make.

We thank these dedicated people working on holidays. I know there was much discussion all over the news, and the web, about stores opening on Thanksgiving.

In my world, I can’t imagine choosing time at Target or Walmart over time with family and friends.

But then, I don’t do Black Friday either.

I will just hang around waiting for Small Business Saturday. To get my Christmas greens, my small holiday gifts for family, and whatever else we may need.

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Keeping it in our local family, in places like TLV, Breezy Willow, Kendall, Clark’s, Maple Lawn Farm, Big Cork Vineyards.

Buying Christmas gifts at the Conservancy crafts fair next weekend, the 7th.

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Like Green Bridge Pottery. MD Beekeepers. Local artists.

Just giving thanks for living in such a wonderful small community.

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Successful Programming

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At the Howard County Conservancy, where I have been volunteering for the past three years after retiring. Things keep getting busier.

So successful that preregistering for events may become even more important in the future.

Like for this weekend’s CREEPY CREATURES!!!. Ashley Jarvis and Billy “Box Turtle” Heinbuch will be presenting this Saturday’s free “Wonder Walk”. Only it will be a morning in the Nature Center with all sorts of critters.

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Who knows what they will bring? Last fall’s event was a huge success. This year you won’t want to miss them.

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Those who do sign up in advance guarantee a spot. Those who come Saturday morning without being on the list, do risk not getting in, if the maximum capacity of the room is reached.

The Conservancy events keep getting more popular. The Fall Fest last weekend set a record. Over 800 people came for some part of the day. The twilight hike in late September attracted a mind boggling 140+ people.

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It’s nice to see the expanding participation.

I have been working on the program committee putting together next year’s calendar. This is such a fun “job” in retirement.

If you want to have an interesting, easy learning, hands on, experience, come on out this Saturday. 10 am. Just up the road in Woodstock.

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The Family Reunion

My father came from a large family. On his mother’s side there were seven children, she was the oldest.

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My dad was the oldest of 16 cousins in his generation, children of the seven brothers and sisters.

On his dad’s side, it was more complicated and not as close knit. But, his mother’s family held annual reunions on Father’s Day. Below was one of the reunion shots from about 50 years ago.

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Most of the young men in that picture were my dad’s cousins. His great grandfather was married, had three children, was widowed, married again quite a few years later, and had four more children. It ended up that my dad has an aunt who is younger than him.

In other words, as a child at those reunions, I was really confused. My dad had cousins close to my age.

This weekend, my dad’s youngest brother contacted and organized a reunion of almost all the living cousins. We were missing just a few of them.

Today at the reunion it hit me. I am the oldest of the third generation. We have one family member left of the first. My great aunt, the one younger than my dad. She was there. More than half of his cousins made it, many from Florida where they retired. Quite a few do still live in the area, but most have moved south.

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One of my favorites of the pictures I did take. The after shot of the cousins, after they all posed nicely to be photographed.

As for my generation, there were a half dozen of us who still live around here and came to my cousin’s house here in the county. I am lucky to have close relatives in the area, with a number of us living within 30-45 minutes of each other. Four of the five first cousins, the children of my dad and his brothers. The picture here was me with my uncles including the one who organized our reunion.

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Today, since everyone loved to take pictures, there were lots of “formal” group shots taken by a neighbor. They will get emailed or sent by snail mail to the generation not plugged into the internet (like my mom).

It was great to see everyone. Our last big family get together was my dad’s funeral ten years ago. The after service get together then was my cousin’s house, so it was good to get there under happier circumstances.

We hope to have these get togethers more often now that quite a few of us have retired. We don’t want to only see each other once every 8-10 years.

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And, in keeping with the spirit of our heritage, we did have crabs and beer. A fuzzy shot taken with the tiny camera. I didn’t do much picture taking. I was too busy catching up with those who watched me grow up.

Buy Local Success … Big and Small

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The Buy Local Challenge ends tonight. Pledging to eat at least one locally produced item every day for nine days. Still time to enter the challenge contest using pictures that will be uploaded to the facebook page.

Guests at our picnic get together at the Howard County Conservancy took pictures to upload. Attendance was a little sparse because the weather didn’t cooperate until an hour into the picnic time, but those who came out got some undivided attention from our volunteers and our animals.

After all, how many of you get to feed the goats and take them for a walk with a volunteer. One of our guests did. He also brought one of his Boy Scout projects. Pine needle tea. They served it alongside some awesome looking BLTs using bacon from a farm in Cecil County. Home grown tomatoes, too. They had peaches for dessert.

We saw local cheeses. Local tomatoes. Easy fun simple. And, then believe it or not, the sun came out.

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We made caprese, and brought some Stone House focaccia.

Thanks to Casey Caulder Todd from Breezy Willow who came out to meet people and enjoy the picnic goodies with a small bunch of friends, volunteers, family who showed their support of our local farmers.

As for us, we made it easily through another local challenge. Our farmer’s markets and farm stands make buying and eating locally a real cinch. All nine days of it.

Now, if I could have had a working sandisk card in my camera, there would have been pictures. Note to self, never pick up a card and stick it in the camera without checking to see if it registers.

And thanks to Love Dove I had a farm bag to put some local goodies in as a prize for the best picnic spread.

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Hope the winners enjoy the local treats from Breezy Willow, TLV, Lewis, Stone House, Great Harvest and from our gardens.

Farm to Table restaurant weeks are still going strong here in the county. We should be at a couple of them this week.

And, just six days until the county fair begins. Crossing my fingers that more Box Car Willie tomatoes ripen before it rains again. I do have a good collection of herbs for that category. I hope to enter herbs, cherry tomatoes, heirlooms and romas this year. Sadly, all my cukes are done for the year. I may dig up some of my white sweet potatoes. They look pretty healthy and are spreading in the garden.

See you at the fair?

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Build It and They Will Come … Building Fairy Houses

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In the woods at the Howard County Conservancy this Saturday, the 13th. Down by the stream near the Hodge Podge Lodge, “construction” of the homes for the fairies will take place. Last year, the children got incredibly creative.

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The description from the web site:

JUL 13- Saturday 10am Fairy Houses: Magic in the Woods with Florence Miller, Van Wensil and Audrey Suhr– In the spirit of “Build It and They Will Come,” bring your children and join other families to build beautiful dwellings for the fairies in the Conservancy’s woodlands and stream edges. We will have bark and twigs and cones and nuts as “construction materials.”

Before you come, how about grabbing a basket and taking a walk with your children to hunt for natural building materials near your home – and bringing them with you. We’re sure the magic of our woods will bring the fairies to appreciate your constructions! We’ll photograph the beautiful “country homes” and tree-side “villages” your families build, and add these images of your ephemeral master-constructions to our Fairy House Memory Book on the Conservancy’s classroom display table – where you can re-visit them…. “forever!” Ages 10 and under. Parents, please plan to remain with your child during the program. FREE

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As you can see from the description, a few hours in the woods with the materials provided. Just bring your imagination.

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