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Daily Archives: April 1, 2012

Even Though the Challenge is Over …

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… I am still cooking locally produced foods.

Today was one of those crock pot days. At the market yesterday, I picked up those beautiful short ribs from the Amish farm. Plus, chard to go along with my CSA mustard greens.

Add to that some stuff from the fridge and pantry.

I made a sauce using the organic fire roasted tomatoes, some tomato paste, and added tomato preserves, harissa and some honey. Added fresh herbs from the garden and garlic and spring onions. Used a turnip and a couple of carrots from the CSA, and put it all in the pot but the meat. The meat I browned first, before adding it to the top of the crock pot. Seasoned it with ground ginger and cinnamon, too. Smelled like Morocco in here.

I have been using the crock pot liners since I can’t lift and wash the insert. I know I could get my husband to clean it but it’s just easier to do it this way. They are an interesting invention, as I am amazed at how strong they are. I think more people would use crock pots if they used this easy clean up time saver.

After setting up the crock pot, I made a local breakfast for us. The last two pieces of chicken fried steak that I made the other night from the cube steak I bought at Wagner’s. Two eggs from the CSA. Atwater’s rosemary bread, toasted with fresh butter. Yum, steak and eggs for breakfast.

Back to dinner, after spending time cleaning out the pots outside so I can plant some chard and arugula, and messing around on the internet, I came down the cellar to look for wine. I needed a big wine to stand up to the beef with all those intense tomatoey, spicy notes. Ended up digging around and found a 2000 Linden Red, not one of the individual vineyard designations, but a blend of grapes from the three sites. 63% Cabernet, with more than 30% franc and the rest petit verdot. This was a big wine. It just goes to show that if you have the talent and the patience, you can make great wines in less than stellar growing years. This wine had gobs of fruit. Still dark, dense and chewy. I bet we paid around $20 for that wine, and it would stand up to a Cabernet from California that costs at least twice the money.

Dinner was equally impressive, even if it looked a little messy.

The salad was nice, too. We used some of the Cherry Glen goat cheese, the Monocacy Gold, with CSA greens, plus arugula and tomatoes from Mock’s Greenhouse.

I am finding it very easy to make good meals using local items and no processed foods. Check this one off as something I will make many times.


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Today is a special anniversary for me. Two years ago, on April Fool’s Day I got up and went to work for the very last time. That was it. My thirty year and one day anniversary of Federal employment. I would have reitred the day I was eligible but adding one day gave me the total, including unused sick leave, needed to add another month to my pension calculation.

I always said I would only work thirty years and then walk. I wanted to work, but no longer needed to, once we got our town house paid off. We were lucky that we bought our town house before the crazy real estate market in Maryland. We were smart to keep cars for 12-15 years, and never buy on credit.

We saved like crazy to buy this place we wanted for our retirement, so we could enjoy it and our hobbies, away from the traffic and the noise. The view from the front porch alone is worth it, most sunsets are spectacular.

I know I am lucky to be retired so young. I was 57 when I retired. I started working in 1968 when I was 15 1/2, in order to afford Catholic schools. Worked through college. Became a teacher. Met my husband, and at 27 fell into a mathematician job that had me coding computer models and traveling the world. I loved what I did back then. Of course, 30 years later, I was tired of bureaucracies, but the early years were fun.

My job took me cool places, so that now people say “Are you going to travel?”, and I say “No, not for a while.” Been there, done that, as they say. I spent so much time on the road in the 1980s and 90s, I was glad to take a headquarters job at the Navy Yard and stay in my office. Working for the Navy meant cool travel. Hawaii, San Diego, Bremerton, Port Canaveral, Ft. Lauderdale, the Bahamas, Newport RI, the Arctic, and the UK. Bath Iron Works in January stunk, but the rest was pretty amazing.

Add to that, the cruises and trips with friends while we were unencumbered by a mortgage and we have hit four continents and about 60 countries.

Later, when we are finished enjoying the nearby attractions, we may go places again. Now, it doesn’t seem to matter if we hang around here for a while. We have done all sorts of projects, like the roof and the siding.

I just like staying home and tending my gardens.

Cooking up a storm.

Going to the Conservancy a few times a week.

Taking day trips.

Visiting wineries.

Whatever strikes us as interesting. Driving to Chicago for a week, for example. Or, taking trips to markets.

My recent surgery and the extended recovery is a wake up call as well. Health is something we should never take for granted. Putting off retirement if we have the means to do it is risky. I have so many old coworker friends who had health problems soon after retiring. All those years planning and dreaming, then endless doctor visits, surgeries and treatments. Life is precious and not predictable.

Today, one of our closest friends retires after almost twenty five years at the hospital. She is six months younger than I was when I walked. She knows she is lucky to get to do what she wants. She also started working at 15, and like me, worked at one place or another for 42 years. Never taking a break.

I wish her well, and hope we all have years of good times to come. Taking that big step into retirement is scary, we know. Those last few weeks test you as you keep wondering if it is the right thing to do.

I know it was for me.