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Category Archives: Howard County

Storm Hype

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It never fails. They predict snowmageddon. We get nothing. They miss it completely and call for insignificant snow. We get blasted.

Who knows what Monday and Tuesday will bring. Will our volunteer day at the Conservancy get canceled? I hope not. I was looking forward to REI’s presentation, and to that free breakfast. The Conservancy is looking to add volunteers. You know, for when we aren’t :rolleyes: snowed in.

Just in case though. We are prepared. Snow blower ready.

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Comforting food made this weekend, like this split pea soup, so we can easily heat food while trying to deal with the weather.

It was 2010 when we got slammed. Twice in one week. Right before I retired. Open your door to this.

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Try to find the grill in case the power goes out.

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It is under there somewhere. I swear.

We won’t be getting this kind of snow tomorrow or Tuesday. I wonder if New York and New England will. No matter what. I hope they have staples to eat while they deal with snow.

Now, what was this nonsense about Thursday night?

Meesy Micey

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A fact of life out here in the rural communities. Field mice. This year I thought we had thwarted them. We did make it much farther into the winter before they struck.

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A brand new bag of tortilla chips. Of course, we had become complacent. Forgetting to put everything in jars of canisters in the pantry. We thought that our two resident hawks, and the neighbor’s outdoor kitty, who pops through daily to check out the bird feeders and anything else that looks interesting would take care of it.

The cooper’s hawk hunts daily in the meadow. For long stretches. On the tree. On the ground. On the tree. On the ground. I can empty the dishwasher and watch him hunt. He isn’t interested in our birds.

But, one little field mouse (hopefully just one) managed to infiltrate this past weekend. We found the evidence Tuesday. Besides the tortillas, they got into a brand new bag of rice flour I bought for a cookie recipe I found.

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This was on the second to top shelf in the pantry.

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At least the brown sugar is still intact.

We haven’t trapped him yet. He eats the peanut butter right off the trap. Three times now.

Ten years ago on my first evening coming into the house. Right after settlement. I saw my first field mouse who had squeezed up through the opening where the water line feeds the refrigerator. The laundry room and the dishwasher connections, and sometimes the downdraft vent opening under the stove. All have to be protected. We have stuffed steel wool. We have plugged holes in the crawl space. They still manage to squeeze in. At least this year we made it two months farther into winter than in the past.

I will win this battle. It may take a few more days.

Just another fun week in the country. Oh yeah, it’s going to snow and sleet again twice this weekend. I am so ready for spring to get here. How many more weeks to go?

Plus, somebody has to start doing a better job around here. They show up nicely against a snow covered landscape.

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Yes, you. Mister sharp shinned hawk. Keep those mice out of my house.

A Lifetime of Service

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We lost someone special this month. One of “our” paramedics. Erik Steciak.

Photo from Firehouse.com

Photo from Firehouse.com

We live near West Friendship. They are our fire station. We support them and value tremendously their dedication to keeping us safe. Every time we hear the ambulances on Rte. 32 we know they are dealing with yet another crash on that dangerous stretch of road.

Erik gave his life to this vocation. He loved it and spent countless hours between his paid and his volunteer service. I found a remarkable blog post while researching mine. Here.

This quote stays with me. Thanks to Dan Ciarrocchi for writing this article.
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It’s a position that he hasn’t second-guessed often, but occasionally, that moment arises. If so, he defers back to one of his earliest memories, where the firehouse he worked at had an open house. Firefighters spoke to interested crowds, displayed their equipment and allowed children to explore the trucks and ambulances.

“There was a girl, she was about 4, maybe 5 years old, cutest thing you’d ever see.” Steciak said. “Her mom knelt down beside her, put her arm around her and pointed straight at me and said ‘Look. There’s a hero.’ And the look that kid gave me…I just keep telling myself I can’t ever let her down.”
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Erik was a hero. He went out and helped people no matter how bad it was out there.

For me, I want to honor this young man and all like him. They are our future. They are our unsung heroes.

Rest in Peace, Erik. Know that many of us who may look like strangers aren’t. We are all a family if we care about others.

The Counter

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At the Columbia Whole Foods. Diner not in the classic sense, but still a place with really interesting and satisfying diner food.

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Fries anyone? How about chickpea fries with truffle salt?

We were lucky enough last night to attend a media event that kicked off the new menu at the Counter, the instore diner at our local Whole Foods. For me, finding places that aren’t chains, that showcase local, seasonal, organic and/or sustainable ingredients is a priority. Having this counter as a choice now when I’m in Columbia and need a quick delicious meal is exciting.

The thing I do like most about this diner option is the juxtaposition of healthier choices with some favorite comfort foods, and standbys that will tempt the omnivore, vegetarian, paleo, vegan, or gluten free person who may be looking to eat out together without compromising.

Like Southern food?

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Chicken with a biscuit and sausage gravy. This was one of my favorite dishes last night. Good for breakfast or lunch.

Nodding to a love of kielbasa, and making a breakfast sandwich my husband really liked.

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Their breakfast menu has all sorts of options. A scramble that uses tofu. Wheatless pancakes.

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We got to sample many of the items from both menus last night. My favorites were the chicken and gravy, and the burger made with a short rib blend, the cacioepepe, and that kielbasa sandwich. I have to admit there were two that weren’t my cup of tea, so to speak. The curry dish just a tad too spicy. The avocado taco. It was OK but just a bit bland to me. Weird, how my tastes are somewhere in the range of spicy but not too spicy.

I have to stop in and try some things that look good but we didn’t sample. Like the falafelsammie and the crabcake (not the vegan “crab” cake). As a Baltimore born and raised lover of crabs, I have to see how this version stacks up to my all time favorites.

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Thanks to Chef Michael and his team for putting out great tasting fresh food. Thanks too to Mia the marketing team leader who put together this event.

As one of the local bloggers whose focus is on small businesses, local foods, organic foods and eating seasonally, I am pleased to see how Whole Foods is becoming integrated into our community. Many of the farms where I purchase cheeses, meats, produce and a few of the small specialty businesses are featured here at Whole Foods.

Check out their Maryland food vendor page for a list of those who supply the Columbia store. Many of them are on my local resources list, and I am discovering new ones all the time like Koinonia and Homestead.

So, try out the Counter someday. Like maybe a Sunday where another local blogger, Bill Santos, has a weekly get together for coffee and conversation. One of those biscuits would be great while discussing the latest goings on in Columbia.

Third Time Lucky

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With a winter CSA. We finally got enough participants to create a winter pick up spot for a 13 week Community Supported Agriculture program from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative.

For those of us who like that weekly infusion of a surprise basket of vegetables, getting this off the ground meant quite a bit to us. I chose what is called an “Omnivore Package”. 5-8 vegetables. One pound of meat. One half pound of cheese. One pantry item. Every week. We may get bison. We will get raw milk or aged goat, sheep and cow’s milk cheeses. We will get staples for our kitchen, like honey or maple syrup or horseradish. All from right up the highway in Lancaster County.

They changed our pick up from Thursdays to Wednesdays. I like that too. Gives me more time to get things done before the weekend comes. Then, we can easily heat up and eat, with a good made from scratch meal.

During this four week hiatus from the CSA I have been cleaning out some items from the freezer. Like all the chicken wings we got last fall.

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Perfect for a play off game day. Covered in raspberry jam, sriracha, honey, onions and garlic.

Or my meat loaf.

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Made with a half pound of hamburger meat and a half pound of pork sausage. A couple of eggs. Bread crumbs. Onions. Salt. Pepper. Drizzled in ketchup. Do you remember your mom making meat loaf? Didn’t you love it? Leftovers made great sandwiches.

I have also been making chicken salad from the chicken breasts. Egg salad from my Friends and Farms eggs. Some days I do feel like we have regressed into that world from my childhood, with all our food made from scratch.

Can’t wait to see what we get next week. Between Lancaster Farm Fresh and Friends and Farms, I don’t need markets or grocery stores this winter. Well, except when we run out of toilet paper.

Fun for the Whole Family

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I hear the pileated woodpeckers are back. At the Howard County Conservancy, this Saturday at 10AM at the free program, Backyard Birding, you just might get to see them.

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I took this picture a few years back when I was leading a program in November. Winter is the best time to find the birds, when the leaves are off the trees.

I was visiting with the program leaders Wednesday. They tell me they have all sorts of great things lined up for this weekend. The program will be given by two Howard County Bird Club members. Additionally, one of the children’s favorite hike leaders, Caroline Kosisky will have activities for the younger attendees. Bird related activities, but geared to the preschool set.

The other attendees will get the chance to use binoculars and a couple of birding scopes to look for those elusive woodpeckers.

Most of the program will be done upstairs above the Nature Center. There, protected from the cold and wind, through the large windows, you are at tree height. Just above the feeders.

The program leaders, Robin Todd and Sue Muller have lots planned for those who want to come out and learn more about how to attract birds to your yard, and how to identify them by sounds and sight.

If we’re lucky the woodpeckers will show up, since we will be indoors. They won’t know we are behind those glass walls.

If not, you will definitely find some of our abundant local birds.

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Like the bickering blue jays trying to find the heaviest peanuts while trying not to share. You never know what you might see.

A White Little Christmas

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So, on the Feast of the Epiphany we get snow. About 4-5 inches on my patio table. That’s the best place to measure it. At least we have the luxury of not having to commute anymore.

For me, January 6th is the final day to leave the Christmas decorations up. Before we do that recycling thing and take down the tree, to drop it off at one of the Merry Mulch sites in the county.

My problem this year?

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The tree is still fresh looking, isn’t dropping needles, and it’s just hard to take it apart yet. At least I have until the 16th to make it to a Merry Mulch site, or if I’m still loving it, we just will haul it to the landfill wood waste area for it to be mulched.

As for the rest of the decorations.

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There’s something magical about those tiny white lights out there with the snow in the background. I think they will stay up a little longer too. Besides, the good excuse is how cold it will be for the next couple of days. Way too cold to try and wrestle down those nets of lights.

On this 12th day of Christmas, I think I’ll go open the last pint of Eggnog and play Christmas music one more time.

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