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Category Archives: People

The New Blogs in Town

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Howard County has been blessed with some really interesting writers, particularly when it comes to food. Using hocoblogs and HowChow as my go-to sources and my morning coffee accompaniment, I get what is happening in and around the area. And find new things to cook. And to blog about.

Like my latest finds in the food world.

Three Beans on a String. A fellow LFFC CSAer who loves to cook and takes amazing photographs. I met Elizabeth at Petit Louis Bistro, at a hocoblogs party there. I regularly read her posts and envy her photography skills. Her food looks great. I bet it tastes that good also.

The Unmanly Chef. Love the name. Jessie from hocoblogs sent me a link. HowChow had him guest post today. I see from that post we are both customers of Friends and Farms. And, I have to get my hands on these skewers, highlighted in his kabob post. I also need to try the egg in my kofta.

The Bare Midriff. Yes, Elizabeth’s blog isn’t new, just new on my regular reading list, that I just updated. I have been reading her blog for a while, but haven’t written about it. We met at the Gadsby event, another hocoblogs get together.

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Next month we have an event planned at Secolari, my favorite place for olive oil, seasoned salts, vinegars, and of course, that awesome Pappardalle’s pasta. More on the event later.

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Now, it’s nice to see more company on the food blogs column of hocoblogs. Bon Appetit!

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Holiday Crafts Fair

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Another first Monday. Another program committee meeting. Where I spent this morning on last minute planning for this Saturday, and on longer term planning for our 2014 programs.

The fair at Howard County Conservancy. Have you ever been to it? For those who live in Howard County, this weekend marks the beginning of what I call holiday fair overload. There are certainly enough of them out there.

Why is the one I volunteer for so unique? It is a natural crafts fair. One where local artisans like GreenBridge Pottery from Dayton, and Breezy Willow Farm from West Friendship bring items they have crafted.

There is also a demonstration by a master gardener, on how to create greenery. And a critter craft table for the little ones to keep busy while their families shop.

Want local honey?

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Or alpaca wool clothing? Or children’s books and puppets? Or pottery? Or, much more!

The fair has no charge to attend. It takes place from 10 am until 3 pm. Come visit and browse the collections. Have a holiday cookie. Partake in some awesome hot chocolate.

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Get in the holiday spirit with us. And, don’t forget to pick up our new bookmark with the list of our 2014 programs on it.

Our creative committee came up with some amazing new programs for next year. You will be surprised and we hope you are delighted with what the volunteers are offering.

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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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Information Saturation

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I think I reached the point of brain overload today. Almost seven hours of nonstop information to help me better manage and socially integrate my blog. Along with strategies for tweets, facebook shares, and an introduction to other social media available, if you have the time to use it. Things I never heard of, like VINE. Things I have used like Foursquare.

David Hobby of Strobist was one amazing workshop leader, providing tips and strategies, whether you were a passion blogger, a small business, or what he called “suits” aka people who worked for companies, governments, or in other words, not for themselves. We are really fortunate here to have him providing his expertise, not just at the workshop, but everywhere else he pops up, like at the Conservancy, where I first met him. He really is amazing in his skill, but also in his ability to teach us what he knows.

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Today he gave us so much to think about, in an easy to understand manner. Still, it was a huge amount of data to absorb. I know I came away with dozens of ideas. Can’t wait to get our package of what he presented.

I am still processing, in my feeble brain, everything available from Google Analytics, that can help me identify who reads my blog, and what they read the most. WordPress gives me a fraction of that information, including a year end summary of top posts, and other statistics. They piqued my interest in focusing my blog towards the areas I see people reading the most.

David’s examples, using one months worth of that Google Analytics data for his blog, were eye opening. Search engine optimization, for example. How can we pull visitors to our own sites?

What I realized today too, and am thankful for, is the tremendous benefit we derive by having hocoblogs as an asset for the bloggers (and readers of blogs) in Howard County.

I met people from all over the country at this workshop. I had one conversation in particular, where a business owner was impressed at the content on hocoblogs. All grouped in one site. Always up to date. A place where we have created a synergy, and where we learn from and share with one another.

Thanks to Jessie for getting David to offer this workshop. Thanks also to the local bloggers who continue to work together. To promote each other. And, to Jessie and Robin for managing hocoblogs. I don’t think we all remember to tell them how much they mean to our community of writers, and readers.

Oh, today we also saw the announcement of our next regular “get together”. What we have called our “blogtail” parties. Which we will be doing again two weeks from this Wednesday (on the 6th of November). At the Second Chance, again (we do need to find somewhere with enough space for us, on the western side of the county).

Now off to wonder what I would do if my monthly statistics told me I had 1,922,000+ visits to my blog! David, you truly are one amazing blogger.

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Insaporire

A tribute to Marcella Hazan. Who inspired me in my pursuit of Italian classic cooking techniques.

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“Really tasty”. An understatement.

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It was Marcella’s cookbooks that taught me to make risotto. Taught me technique. Taught me patience in browning and prepping vegetables. Taught me how to make bolognese.

Saturday I picked up another of her books at the used book store in Glenwood. The next day was the day of her passing. I didn’t buy it because she signed it.

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I bought it because I learn so much from her. I was reading through this new book, new for me at least, yesterday. Then saw that at 89, she left this world.

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Rest in peace, one of the extraordinary Italian home cooks, who gave her knowledge to all of us who love to cook.

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The Bug Man Cometh …

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… and he brought his wife. And, they talked about butterflies, pollinators and so much more. At the Howard County Conservancy last Saturday, we were treated to a “twofer”. Dr. Mike Raupp, and his wife Dr. Paula Shrewsbury, spent a few hours talking to the crowd gathered around them in the picnic area.

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Looking at bugs. Talking about bees. Going on a hike through the gardens, looking for pollinators, and identifying butterflies, moths, insects and bees.

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Fun for all ages. Mike has this ability to connect with all ages, from the youngest enthusiasts, to the master gardeners, and master naturalists there to learn even more than they might have known about insects.

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I always learn something new from his talks. And, from his wife’s, too. This time I learned about solitary bees. And, how to attract them to make a home in our yards and pollinate our vegetables and fruit. Like making bee hotels.

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The last part of the program was a hike out into the meadows to see what they could find there, amongst the grasses and the milkweed.

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Getting back into the swing of things, most of us volunteers are preparing to take the refresher training, for the fall field trips at the Conservancy. I see there will be new activities for the school children and we will be learning how to present them.

One of my favorite parts of my volunteer “job”. Learning new things, and then seeing them through the eyes of the children. The training schedule is here, for those who want to join our group of volunteer hike leaders. And then, just like me …

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… you will then know the name of this plant, and the butterfly. Answer: Joe Pye Weed. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

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Life Skills

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Every year we spend more time at the Fair watching the 4H club members show and care for their animals. Every year I marvel at just how mature, responsible and talented these children are. I can’t believe how poised, articulate, and unflustered they are, even when their animals don’t always behave.

Today we watched the junior swine judging.

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These are the eight year olds.

The other day we watched the Jersey cattle show.

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Tomorrow we will be there watching the sheep. Today there was quite a bit of grooming going on.

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I also had to wander over and take pictures of the pygmy goats that are being raised by friends of ours.

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If you go to the fair, don’t just spend time on the midway. Head down here.

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Stop in and watch the 4Hers take care of their animals. They are truly learning life skills. How to be responsible. How to gracefully lose. How to gracefully win.

Worth the price of admission.

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Stretch Goals

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Making the most of our lives. Finding something new and exciting that continues to inspire us.

There has been quite a bit of discussion within the Howard County blogger community that reflects this. Posts about Comfort Zones by Julia. About volunteering by Tom. About connecting with neighbors by Bill. About community by Lisa.

It was Bill who proposed the #summerofneighbors and I wrote a post about being neighborly. It sparked some of this discussion.

For me, I found that pushing the comfort zone after I retired meant learning to use and understand the connective tissue known as social media. It also meant pushing my hobby to a higher level, by entering the county fair. Not being afraid to fail with my tomato entries. Learning and growing and every year doing better. Meeting and talking with the people who make this county fair so special.

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It meant taking responsibility for some large events at my volunteer location. Like bringing together farmers for a panel and an opportunity to connect.

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It also meant changing how we cooked, ate, shopped and traveled. Locavore, locapour, foodie. All those interests merging into a driving force that influences us.

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In other words, “Do Not Go Gently into That Good Night” (Dylan Thomas)

For both me and my husband, retirement was the entry point for doing those things we never had time to do. Things like his pursuit of DXCC (an amateur radio program that credits you for contacting each separate entity around the world).

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And, his desire to have the time to do home projects, and bird watch, and take trips, and just walk in the woods. The slow pace outside that commuter world. The time to read. Books, newspapers, magazines.

For me, it has been the hobbies and the volunteering. The cooking and the writing. The garden.

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We will probably spend four days at the fair this year. Saturday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Talking to friends there. Watching the auction. Checking out the exhibits.

Tomorrow we will be learning more about county history at the fair. Later this month I will be volunteering to clean up the CAC garden. Next month leading family hikes at the Conservancy. In October taking the social media class offered by David Hobby.

After all, isn’t what makes life interesting is the constant challenge, the “stretch goals” that keep us active and involved? I have to admit. Howard County certainly has enough going on to keep us busy.

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Opening Day at the Fair

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My favorite day to visit. There aren’t large crowds yet. Things are getting organized. But, our favorite part of the fair are the young farmers and the animals.

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There are still more than 300 farms in Howard County. Over 300 members of 4H clubs specializing in agriculture. Over 600 if you include other interests.

I love watching the little ones handle their livestock.

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Today we were watching the 4H and open Jersey cattle show. And waiting for the farm and garden building to open after judging. Talked to a number of friends who farm, including friends from the farmers markets.

A trip down the midway to watch those on the rides, even though it was drizzling.

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Then off to see how I did. I had four entries this year. And, THREE RIBBONS. OK, batting .750 isn’t bad. I got my highest ribbon in tomatoes this year. A third premium for my orange romas.

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A fifth for my heirlooms, and a third for my herbs. Not bad for a rainy frustrating year. In four years, I went from four to seven ribbons this year.

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The herbs.

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The Paul Robeson. One tomato is eaten. The other left for display. Heirlooms are judged on taste more than looks.

This year the grand champion veggie was a really nice specimen of squash.

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We will be out at the fair at least three more days this week. Lots to see and do. If you have never watched the 4H shows, you really should take the time some year to watch.

And we will be there to cheer our friends on, at the shows and the auction Friday.

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Don’t Buy Food From Strangers

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The Lancaster Farm Fresh logo on their web site and produce bags.

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After finishing the Buy Local Challenge, and attending events where we could talk to the farmers, this logo is even more meaningful to us.

This morning at 9AM, the cell phone rang. It was the Amish farmer (yes, some of them use phones and computers in their business, they just don’t allow them in their homes) who gave us the fava beans. One of the farms that supplies our CSA, Sandy Spring, through the cooperative non profit venture now totalling close to 80 small farms.

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He wanted to know if it worked out OK. We again thanked him for his gift, and told him we got almost eight pounds of beans. Some were frozen. Some were used.

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To us, this connection with those who grow our food is something special that we have realized after a few years of buying locally.

With the latest food problem, that of cyclospora infecting people all across the USA, we feel that minimizing our risk of infection, by using locally produced organic fruit and veggies whenever possible, is one of our smartest decisions.

Buying local produce, meat, dairy, fruit and eggs, and belonging to an organic CSA all help us stay healthier and, definitely, eat fresher, better food.

So, here’s to the Howard County Farmers Markets, full of great local farms. Here’s to the local farmstands with fresh produce and fruit. Here’s to CSAs that connect us with the producers and make us part of their “family”.

Here’s to dinner tonight.

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A frittata. Made with Love Dove eggs, Misty Meadows milk, TLV’s fingerlings, Bowling Green Farms feta, Trickling Springs butter, Sandy Spring CSA chard, onion and green pepper, Breezy Willow ham, and served with Stone House bakery’s focaccia.

I know the people who feed me. Do you?

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