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Category Archives: Howard County

Tired of Winter

Officially, over it.

We have been working on the planning for the annual hike to the river out at the Howard County Conservancy.

It is scheduled for March this year. It gives us the opportunity to look for signs of spring.

March 8th, at 10 am. This hike is appropriate for most skill levels, but they are asking for a minimum age level of eight years old.

Last fall, we had groups go out. With lots of volunteers to shepherd groups.

If people felt it was too difficult, we had leaders who could bring them back to the building.

This is a fairly long hike, by our standards. It is a couple of miles in each direction. The first half, obviously, is DOWN to the river. The second half, you guessed it, uphill for quite a bit.

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When the group reaches the railroad tracks above the river, they are roughly halfway between Woodstock and Ellicott City. This land down there is part of Patapsco State Park. You don’t see houses or roads. It is quiet and really scenic.

This hike is one of the monthly free events, called the Second Saturday events. Many of us who regularly volunteer enjoy getting out and leading families, couples, friends, and singles to show them the little things about nature we have learned as volunteer naturalists.

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And, as a lead in to a request for new volunteers, the training for elementary school and middle school hike leading volunteers begins in two weeks.

Schedule for training is here.

I may be jumping ahead to promote spring events, but the thought of getting outdoors and saying farewell to the snow has me looking at the calendar and saying “Come On Springtime!”.

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Slammed Again

Mother Nature is winning. Howard County got slammed again with snow, sleet, freezing rain. Oh, and after it stopped for a few hours, it started again.

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And, they lied. The 1-3 inches predicted is already 4 1/2 inches. On top of the 16 inches this morning.

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Getting the snow away from the garage to get the snow thrower going. Thankfully, our neighbor’s son assisted with their ATV to clear part of the driveway.

Tonight though, I am worried about the weight of this snow. Trees are getting bogged down all over again.

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I always worry about the lace maples.

As for tomorrow, there is another storm coming in the evening. I wonder if we will even have the Conservancy event Saturday. Check out the website to see if it gets canceled.

As for us tomorrow, we are crossing our fingers that we make it to the ribbon cutting and grand opening of Secolari, in the Mall.

Did I say I hate winter?

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Tuesday Night in Turf Valley Towne Square

Before the snowmageddon being forecast. We went out to meet friends for dinner.

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Facci has lots of company now along the main street in the newly developed “Towne Square”. Last spring I blogged about the anticipated center, built between Marriottsville Road and the Turf Valley resort properties.

With Facci there closer than Maple Lawn. Grille 620 closer than Stanford Grill for steaks. Xitomate now open for good Mexican. Red Parrot for Asian.

And, of course, Harris Teeter, for getting all those supplies before the snow hits.

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We heard some news from Gino, who was bussing tables and visiting, that Pisco, his Peruvian restaurant, will open sometime in April.

That should be a welcome new ethnic restaurant over by Trader Joe’s and Costco.

We also heard that Facci will be adding a roll back roof on the outdoor seating and a few new surprises in design.

It just keeps getting better for dining out options, out here.

By the way, Tuesday night is half price selected wine bottle night there. And, happy hour daily from 3-6 includes half price appetizers.

The highlights of tonight’s dinner included very nicely made calamari. Hand made pasta, a pappardelle with a Bolognese sauce. Dessert, hazelnut gelato with espresso and whipped cream, shared.

After dinner, we hit Petite Cellars to grab a box of Italian pinot grigio, and off to Harris Teeter for some rolls for sandwiches, coffee for the Keurig, and some cream of coconut for some baking I want to do. No toilet paper or milk or loaves of bread.

They were doing a brisk business tonight with people getting ready for the snow. Will this be another bust, or will we really get snow?

Glad to see crowded parking lots and many people enjoying the new center.

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Heading Back Out There

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Putting together my spring calendar, in hopes of the weather changing. As usual, the Howard County Conservancy and my volunteer work will keep me busy for the next few months.

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How?

A hike and lecture this Tuesday. For naturalists and potential new volunteers and our friends.

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A lecture on the history of Belmont. The site over in Elkridge that the Conservancy will be managing. Where there will be events and summer camp and future field trips.

Saturday the 15th, we are celebrating the lunar New Year with a free event highlighting Chinese and Korean traditions to celebrate. 10 am.

Naturalist training begins in a few weeks. Field trips in April and May. I can’t wait to get outdoors and look for emerging signs of spring.

That’s because I am so tired of winter.

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Ice Isn’t Nice

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In the ongoing saga known as the winter of 2014. Now, we get ice.

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It was close to half an inch on every surface around our house. Now, as I write this, the wind is howling. I hope not to hear the CRACK, THUD we heard all day today.

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Only a fraction of the evergreen damage. Our property is surrounded by mature pines, spruce and fir trees. 20-30 year old trees. These by the driveway were many of the Christmas trees bought with the root ball and planted after the holidays by the original owners of this house.

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The tops still looked fragile, and the warming temps made us feel a little better. We have cleaned up huge amounts of branches over the nine years we have been here. It was nine years ago today that we moved our first things here and spent our first night out here.

Back then, we learned about the wind across the fields. How it blasts through these wide open spaces. How it is colder here than in Columbia. Whenever I venture into town, the temps in my car will rise 3-4 degrees sometimes.

Thankfully, my favorite tree, the lace leaf Japanese maple, is doing OK. Just don’t go near it, or the branches will crack.

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If it ever does stop raining, snowing, sleeting or freezing, we will have our hands full doing clean up.

Just another crazy winter week in the west parts of Howard County.

And, a lead in to reminding people to sign up for a very interesting program this Saturday night at the Howard County Conservancy. “Seeing Trees” — appropriate for what we are doing here. All of us “tree huggers”, and nature lovers.

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Monday at the Mall

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I am not usually a Mall person. I think the last time I visited Columbia Mall was when we bought our new ovens from Sears. A very long time ago.

My husband, has his hair cut at Cavallero. Right across the way from the scene of the shootings last weekend. For 35 years, he has been going to “Rex’s Place” which became Cavallero. He was just there earlier this month.

For me, the locavore and small business advocate, my only recent dealings with the Mall have been specialty stores, like Secolari.

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A family owned business that opened before Christmas.

To show support for the stores, we were there around 2 PM today, right after the Mall reopened. I went in and tasted olive oils and vinegars. Bought a few things. Met Casey from cookieride. And a few Chamber of Commerce members.

My husband popped over to Starbucks to get a small coffee. Ran into the governor’s entourage. That was interesting.

The Howard County community wants to show that we support the people who work at the Mall. That we know they need to get back to work, and they need our business to continue to succeed.

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It was a bittersweet afternoon. The tribute to the victims at the entrance. The fire and police presence. The reporters and cameras. Not the normal Monday afternoon scene.

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If you get the chance, and love good pasta, olive oil, honey, sea salts, and vinegars, stop by Secolari and welcome them to Columbia. Try the white balsamic vinegar with the black truffle sea salt.

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I will be making some interesting dishes using their ingredients to compliment my next basket from Friends and Farms.

And, caring about the health of the businesses in my county. My home for almost four decades. Which is still an amazing place to live.

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#hocounited

Coping

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With everything. The cold. The snow. The burst pipe damage. The trauma of watching the TV with the senseless shooting news.

Yeah, sometimes things just pile up. You wonder just how much you can take. I have lived here 39 years this month. Howard County is one awesome place to live.

The people are wonderful. The location, close to DC, Baltimore, a train ride from NYC, a couple of hours from the ocean. A couple of hours from the mountains.

A place with all four seasons.

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Frankly, it is difficult to watch tragedies. Senseless tragedies. But, we get used to it as we age. 9/11. Hurricanes. Derechos. Tornadoes. Floods. Ice storms.

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This afternoon a Facebook friend talked about how the children are affected by the “Run, Hide, Fight” approach to dealing with the senseless violence. They talked about their parents who lived during the cold war.

Wow! That would be my generation. In grade school during the Cuban missile crisis. The civil rights riots. The Kent State shootings. The war protests.

I keep hearing those song lyrics. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I grew up during some scary times. Did the Drop and Cover thing under our desks in fifth grade, while we hoped that missiles wouldn’t drop nuclear bombs on us.

I was in DC watching the Pentagon burn on 9/11. We lived with the fear of dirty bombs while commuting to DC.

In other words, we coped. We learned to deal with tragedy and stress. A week after 9/11 we drove to Montreal for a planned tour of the Gaspe Peninsula.

We won’t avoid Columbia Mall because of a shooter. We believe that showing strength during adversity is the way to live.

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Lunch or Dinner for Charity

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Before all the chaos that hit Howard County today, with the Mall shootings, we got information about six very special meals at a new lakefront restaurant.

Those of us who volunteer, and care about the nonprofits in our area were extremely pleased to hear that Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman were opening Petit Louis Bistro in the space across from Tomato Palace and Clyde’s. On Lake Kittamaqundi.

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This coming week, two lunches and four dinners (soft opening) will be offered with all proceeds going to four local nonprofits. The Howard County Conservancy, where I volunteer, is one of the four. Lunch for $30. Dinner for $50. Includes three courses and a glass of wine. ALL money donated to the nonprofit you choose.

If you are like us, and care about the county where we live, and want to take a little treat and give back, consider signing up for one of the six offered times.

Those of us who love it here, even in the midst of the chaos, will be thankful for your support.

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Meal Planning

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Something I vow to do. But, it doesn’t always get done.

This week, though, we have quite a full calendar. Lots of people coming, for work estimates, including those to clean up from the burst pipe.

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My better half has two amateur radio dinners, so I need food for my dinners at home.

A fellow blogger, part of my group that did an Eat Local challenge, had a post today that reminded me about the importance of planning ahead and using items in their prime.

Slow cooker recipes are always my favorite. Like my venison chili.

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Using my freezer items. The last of the ground venison. My roasted peppers aka the chili starter. Larriland tomatoes, that were blanched and frozen whole.

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Half the turtle beans from the Friends and Farms basket. They were soaked overnight. Drained, rinsed and cooked until almost done (making sure to boil them for ten minutes before simmering for two hours). Also adding that tablespoon of baking soda, recommended for those of us with hard water.

The other half of the beans were simmered on the stove, with half the basmati rice I made the other day in my Christmas present. My rice cooker. The half of the beef sausage not used in the frittata.

I now have three more meals from the chili I made. A meal from the black beans and rice with sausage. And, leftover lasagna. Most of those leftovers were flash frozen in order to keep them fresh. I bring them out early in the morning into the fridge. Put them in the oven on the slow cook setting, while we handle all our daily things.

Dinner is ready and waiting without time spent on our busy weekdays.

I have to say, my favorite items around here are: the crock pot, the rice cooker, and the chest freezer. It makes it easier to cook in advance, when I have spare time. During those hectic days, I have the equivalent of “TV dinners” in the freezer, that are simple to pop in the oven.

The other thing I did Saturday was cook all the potatoes, and half the eggs, for salads.

I wasn’t always this organized when I first joined a CSA in 2010. We gave away quite a few items, and some rotted before use. It has taken three years to get to this state. Where I can efficiently use CSA items and make use of those frozen goodies.

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This week, though, I need to find something more interesting to do with those lovely portobellos still in the fridge. They are really nice looking, and I am thinking about stuffing them. Or maybe a mushroom lasagna. I still have some Secolari noodles in the pantry.

Even when I plan, I get that urge to be creative. Great ingredients from our local sources make that easy, too.

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The Sausage Inspired Frittata

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The beef sausage just screamed, make something with eggs and sausage.

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The Friends and Farms basket contained eggs, potatoes and sausage. All great ingredients to make a frittata (or a Spanish tortilla). The difference, flipping in a pan or finishing in an oven. I chose to finish in the oven.

My cast iron skillet has a cover that doubles as a shallow frying pan.

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This morning I slow cooked the sausage in the oven. All of it. Half went into tonight’s dinner. The other half will be used in another dish. I also parboiled the potatoes we got. Peeled and sliced.

Some became potato salad. One went into this dish. Along with some chard from Harris Teeter and a few scallions.

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The sausage, scallions and chard were all cooked first. Then I added five eggs that had been whisked with a splash of milk, salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence.

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Cooked on the stove top until the bottom set, then finished in a 350 degree oven, sprinkled with Parmesan, cut and served with a salad.

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The bibb lettuce from F&F also.

A simple Saturday night dinner, served with a Virginia wine.

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Early Mountain does make one very flavorful Pinot Gris. It went well with the frittata.

A very good beginning to cooking with our new source for food. Thanks, Friends and Farms. Today, a frittata. Tomorrow, venison black bean chili.

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