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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Looking Forward to the New Year

I think my husband said it best coming home today from a visit to my mom. It is so nice not to have to go back to work Wednesday. The fact that we are retired has really finally sunk in. This is his second year of retirement. I will hit three years in April. Last year there was much upheaval, with my impending surgery, and uncertainty. We both are grateful I came through it, and slowly am mending, but mending nonetheless.

sunrise new year's eve

sunrise new year’s eve

The sunrise today was impressive. It inspires me to look forward to the coming year, a new beginning, and full of choices. I already came up with those sixty things I want to accomplish. They are my resolutions.

I will still plan projects for the year, just not calling them resolutions. Projects like decluttering. Home improvements.

And, I want to be more focused in my volunteering. Expanding what I do.

And, get back into walking and hiking again. Maybe do some county hikes. So many things. I just need to focus.

Here’s to 2013, the blank slate we write upon, the 33rd year of marriage, and the 38th year in Howard County. I think it’s time to watch a few bowl games. Even though they now have stupid names. Like the Autozone Bowl? Really??

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A few more nights, then the decorations will come down. I leave our decorations up until the Epiphany. It still feels like the holidays until I have to put them away.

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They survived the wind, rain and snow, even though I had to batten down the deer more than once. And, I just noticed one string of lights on the tall tree shaped stakes burnt out. I suppose we will be restringing those before they get stored away.

Random thoughts, these are. Random thoughts in our corner of the world. A corner where both the Ravens and Redskins made the playoffs. Water cooler conversations should be fun all around DC and Baltimore this week. Let’s also not forget that the Orioles and Nationals both exceeded our expectations last summer. Here’s to continued success for our local teams. May they meet in a Super Bowl or World Series sometime soon!

Hope all our friends and family stay safe tonight, and stay healthy for 2013. Happy New Year, Howard County!

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The Year 2012 In Review, from the Blog

I was going to do a highlights post. Lo and Behold, WordPress did a year in review for me. Weird that I clicked on my dashboard and found the year summary just as I was sitting down to write about the most popular posts.

In my summary page, it showed many views of the local resource page, and my About page. I decided this afternoon to update them to make sure they were current. Including more detail and a few more pictures.

As for my most popular posts, the top five came out this way.

Number Five — Baby Chicks at Tractor Supply — people still click on this one. It is from last April. I suppose this year I need to take pictures of the chicks. I only did a superficial summary last year without finding out how many people buy chicks from them every year. They certainly had a nice variety, and they sold out quickly.

Number Four — CQ Field Day, CQ Field Day — my account of the amateur radio weekend at the local school yard, with the local clubs. I cook for them, and I blogged about it. It got picked up on a national radio club feed and it still gets views, when people search on their call sign, W3AO, or Whiskey Three Atlantic Ocean. We won this past year. We are used to winning. A large group of very competitive hams.

W3AO Field Day 2012 Class 27A

W3AO Field Day 2012 Class 27A

Number Three — Brighton Dam Azalea Gardens — I shouldn’t be surprised by this one. Lots of people want to know when the azaleas peak. This year, again, I will be monitoring them and taking pictures, and posting them. We live right up the road from the gardens and visit them frequently. We also have been all over the property doing bird counts with the local club. One of my favorite places in Howard County.

Brighton dam azaleas

Brighton dam azaleas

Number Two — The YEMMies are Coming — Why? I have no idea, but lately every time I look at the sidebar where it lists most recent popular posts, the YEMMie post is there. It has over 200 views, most of them recent. Obviously, there is adequate discussion on the media about the Young Educated Millennial Mothers. I discussed in my post about mothers in my CSA making baby food themselves from the organic veggies and fruits, and of former coworkers looking for pasture fed, and/or free range meat and eggs and dairy. We certainly see an increase in younger patrons at the farm stands and markets we frequent.

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And, the Number One post for the year, my personal view after the fatal accident that closed rte.32 in November, that was picked up by the Preserve Woodmont facebook page, was My View from West County. That was one of the crazier days out here, with people we know stranded, or rerouted, or lost trying to get through the clogged roads.

Our visit that night to Bistro Blanc included conversations with a number of people who had real problems getting anywhere that day. If we had medical emergencies, or a fire out here, the gridlock would have made it next to impossible to get emergency vehicles in. It took people three or four hours to get through west county that day. I lamented the fact that our infrastructure upgrades that were in process when we moved here in 2005, have pretty much not materialized.

They are only now working on the second interchange up near us, with the Rte. 144/Rte. 32 one still in the planning stages. Even then, the two lane road is still overcrowded, and has been overwhelmed by commuters traveling from north and west of Howard County.

It will be interesting to see what happens once they finish the Linden Church interchange next fall. Will the clogged up area move north to 144? Will they see the bailing out of traffic on roads like Pfeffercorn? We see it now on Triadelphia, Linthicum, Burnt Woods, Ten Oaks and Howard. I think it will just make the funnel move further north, but still create hazards for those living here.

I really wish they would just at least do something about the mailboxes, trash collection and recycling. Having only one way delivery for mail, and one way pick up for trash and recycling has made driving even more dangerous due to the sheer number of cars, trucks and buses on our roads.

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I find it interesting that my most viewed post had to do with west county infrastructure. I have noticed, reading the local blogs, that most of them focus on Columbia and Ellicott City. I am not sure how many of my fellow local bloggers have been out here other than to pick strawberries at Larriland. At eight years in, we have seen many changes, but also have seen much that keeps us rural and disconnected. Not a bad thing, most of the time. It still is a lovely place to live. And, to blog.

Have a safe New Year’s Eve. We are staying in, eating well and popping the cork on a split of champagne, if we can stay up until midnight. A few people will shoot off fireworks at some of the more remote properties not far from us, if the weather cooperates. We hear them and see them every year.

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One Lovely Birthday Dinner

Compliments of my husband, Wegmans, Raimondi’s and England Acres. Today really turned out nice, in spite of the snow. My husband had flowers and strawberries sent to the house, even though it took a while to get here. Seems FedEx delivered, as we are out in the boonies beyond the normal delivery area for the florist. He was sweating them getting here, but at 4:30 they arrived.

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It was an easy dinner to do. Rockfish, and cauliflower, both baked in the oven. The cauliflower went in first, then the rockfish.

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A simple salad using those pomegranate seeds. Oranges picked up at England Acres last week, and fennel from Wegmans. Lemon olive oil, orange juice, red onion, salt and pepper. Served over arugula.

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Dinner in the dining room. All decked out for a party. Finished later with the strawberries and a dry sparkling Domaine Carneros. Dinner served with a Puligny Montrachet from Chanson. Not a bad celebration, and a fraction of the cost of going out. My better half did the dishes for me. What more could you ask for?

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birthday dinner 60 077

Here’s to many more happy birthdays!

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Sixty @ Sixty

Yes, sixty years young, today. This is one of those significant birthdays. Worthy of doing something different to commemorate.

I recall one of my fellow volunteers talking about traveling to celebrate a milestone birthday. Something like 50 days for the 50th birthday. We traveled way too much when we worked. We are really enjoying our surroundings and doing things we never got to do while we were in the work force.

So, I decided. Sixty is, of course, six decades. Six times ten. Six things, ten times. Or, ten things six times. I settled on more experiences with less to accomplish in each. It looks simpler to do. We shall see. I have been doing research already to find things that interest me.

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This year, no New Year’s Resolutions, just the pursuit of these stretch goals, for lack of a better descriptor. Some are fun, some may be difficult. If I enjoy this journey, I may make it into a page. A journal of sorts. Since I am an avowed locavore, locapour, and still a foodie, many involve cooking, eating, gardening, farming, the county and nearby places.

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My list —

Visit six festivals and/or fairs that are new to me
Taste at six new wineries never visited before
Seek out six new farmstands or markets to expand my locavore network
Do something different or visit someplace new in six states other than MD
Eat at six small business restaurants and/or diners
Eat/drink or experience six childhood memories
Log six new birds not seen before
Cook and eat six new proteins, i.e., meat, seafood, beans or nuts
Grow and/or eat six exotic fruits, veggies or herbs
Tackle six rightsizing projects

Some are self explanatory but others will take some initiative. Rightsizing projects include things we inherited from our families and things we accumulated over our 60+ years. Things like pictures, CDs, books, tools, clothes, shoes, whatever lurks in closets and cabinets. Having the space here makes it one of those often avoided projects.

The childhood memories include things like — riding a ferris wheel again, or a merry go round, or eating cotton candy, or a root beer float. Things we did as kids.

fair and anniversary and csa 083

For my first project, my husband bought a pomegranate at Wegmans yesterday. I have had pom juice, and pomegranate balsamic, but never tried getting the seeds out and using one in cooking. Tonight’s salad will have pom seeds on it. Maybe using my fennel we bought, and oranges. I am making my own birthday dinner, doing things I want to eat. Rockfish. Salad. Roasted cauliflower. None of it hard to make, and no worries about driving in the slush/snow/ice/whatever we have on the ground tonight.

It is still snowing out here. The red bellied woodpecker and one of the squirrels were out there chowing down this morning while I was prepping the fish in a marinade.

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This is a new young red bellied woodpecker, who is more skittish than the older ones are. He bolts when he sees the reflection of my camera. As for the acrobatic squirrel, he is lucky today. I don’t have the two layer baffle system on the large suet holder, and he can defeat just one. Besting the squirrels is a major undertaking here. Or, at least keeping them under control.

Who knows what this year, 2013, will bring to us here. I do know I intend to make it somewhat memorable, and certainly don’t intend to be bored.

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Wegging Out

As opposed to vegging out. We went to Wegmans today, after not getting there for months. There was a very good reason. Rockfish. We got an email about it, and since a significant birthday is tomorrow, one of those ends in zero ones, I wanted something nice for dinner.

Who cooks on their birthdays, you say? Really. You think I wouldn’t be cooking? Well, we were going to do Ruth’s Chris but the weather is supposed to be somewhat dicey all day tomorrow. I think we will save that gift card for a better weather day in the future.

I don’t mind cooking great food for birthdays. I also love rockfish. My husband bought a lovely Puligny Montrachet to have with it. A simple lemon butter topping on the fish. Baked potatoes. An arugula and goat cheese salad to start. Specialty cookies with a late harvest wine for dessert. The cookies are rum balls and raspberry filled wafers from Wegmans bakery. My foodie world and locavore worlds had one of those collisions today.

I did get some other interesting things there. For tonight, spicy shrimp spring rolls before I put out an oven baked brined turkey breast from their rotisserie cart. I did throw a few Brussels sprouts from an earlier trip to the store into the mix.

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Wegmans now has their own brand of K cups.
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Plus, we found another source, one that is environmentally friendly, San Francisco Bay. Price the same as going to Costco.

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These cups generate less waste, as there is no plastic surrounding container. Should be something different to get used to using. We shall see. We ended up getting scallops for New Year’s Eve, and other staples I normally only find at grocery stores. They had Meyer lemons. I have Aranciata. I only need to find fresh basil to make the Meyer Lemon Basil Fizz cocktails we love. Wegmans disappointed us, as they were out of the local Virginia potted fresh basil. Don’t need sage, or the other ones they had. No fresh basil there. Interesting.

We don’t get over to the eastern side of Columbia often anymore. It is a 35 mile round trip. I only ended up using three coupons. Too many of them were for frozen or processed or prepared foods. Not what we normally use. Let’s see what comes this month in the mailings. They haven’t let up on sending us things. The holiday version of the Menu magazine had ten coupons. They obviously want customers from west county. The little booklets keep coming, as well. I did get some pepitas in the bulk food aisle.

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Next week I don’t think I will be running out there for frozen waffles or packaged meat. Their promotional giveaways don’t rank up there in fresh food items most of the time, and today, I never found any of the carrots. They must have run out of them.

Still, all in all, a decent store. Now off to have some turkey with a local white wine. My last day as a fifty something. Wait until you see what I want to do in my sixtieth year.

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Fall CSA Final Analysis

It feels strange not picking up a CSA today. Since the first week of May 2011, we have had CSA pickups or deliveries every week, but two, for over 20 months. Well, at least I get to visit lots of local markets including the new indoor Olney market starting in a few weeks. Plus, the Saturday farm stands at Breezy Willow, TLV and England Acres. England Acres will continue to offer Lancaster Farm Fresh veggies that they buy wholesale from the same cooperative that supplies our summer and fall CSA. Fun to go out there and see the same unique varieties that were in our box during the week.

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I did a final analysis of what we got, and what it might have cost us to buy organic veggies for the same time we got our fall CSA deliveries. We had seven deliveries, missing one due to the hurricane. They made up for it in volume. Lots of heavy deliveries of things like potatoes, squash and turnips.

The most unusual items were: yacon, which is still in the fridge. It is destined to become a fritter with a few of the carrots, maybe over the weekend. Viola turnips, an heirloom variety, long and thin, but tasty. This is also the first year we got popcorn. And, many new varieties of squash, like Thelma Sanders, Jarrahdale, carnival and seminole.

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The priciest items to buy at the store seem to be organic leeks. They cost $2.99 each at Harris Teeter, and at Wegmans. We got nine of them, which would have cost me $27 to buy. And, organic celery. We got 8 bunches of celery. Not as big as those in the store, but in the store they cost a whopping $3.49 each at Harris Teeter and $2 each at Wegmans. I used the $2 each for my final tally.

Lots of potatoes. Red potatoes. Russett potatoes. Beauregard sweet. White Hamon sweet. Japanese sweet. Fingerlings of many colors. Organic potatoes cost either $1 or $1.29 a pound, depending on where you find them. All told, we got 31 pounds of potatoes.

There were 44 unique items this fall. Not bad for seven weeks. By unique, I mean with slight variations, like French heirloom carrots versus purple carrots. Or, four different types of turnips. Five different squash varieties.

The total, sort of. I had to round it out a bit and I didn’t have exact weights to the ounce, but it came out to about $307 worth of veggies. The cost was $250 for a subscription. Not as good of a comparison as you get with a summer CSA, as many items in the fall are very reasonable in price, like scallions and potatoes. Sweet potatoes cost $1 a pound.

Will we do it again next fall? Yes, as I have found it easy to use up most of the items and that they do well in the crisper drawer for weeks. The last of the potatoes and onions and squash will be used during January, meaning I won’t need to buy any until February and my early bird Breezy Willow CSA starts in March. Then, it’s a weekly trip out to the farm for pick up.

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On a final note, thanks to Erin and Dan, who ran Sandy Spring CSA, and who are retiring. The local CSA is supplied by Lancaster Farm Fresh and has close to 1000 members in the DC,NoVA, Montgomery and Howard County area. We will have new leaders in May, and will be back getting our summer delivery to Columbia. Until then, I will be savoring more of the goodies from the freezer that I put away last summer.

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Stay tuned to hear how I will now be using the vacu-seal my brother is giving me. He and his wife no longer use it, and they know I will put it to good use.

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Snow Days

I don’t mind snow days like these. We needed the rain, and we got almost an inch so far today. It is snow mixed with sleet and rain, so it will be gone soon. The birds are frantically looking for food. It’s junco and blue jay reunion out there. Although the blue jays flew away once the camera came out.

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Today was one of those stay inside and do projects kind of days. I am cleaning out the bedside nightstand drawers and doing some shredding. I did put tuna and tomatoes, with a base of canellini beans, in the oven on slow cook. A good hearty cold weather dish. Using some of my oven dried tomatoes that I froze. Plus, that end of the Costco tuna loin. It looks so dark and meaty, you wouldn’t think it was a fish dish.

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We are keeping a close eye on the trees to make sure they don’t get weighed down with wet snow. We lost too many branches during those storms a few years back. We were supposed to have the final high tree pruning today, but the weather forced a cancellation. Without leaves, though, the deciduous trees will do OK, it’s the coniferous trees that worry me. We have a wind advisory for tomorrow with a potential for downed power lines again. The big question always is, “Should we fill the tubs with water in case we lose power and can’t flush toilets?” With all the weakened trees after the hurricane, power losses are still possible.

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I do have to admit that it is beautiful out there. All Christmasy with the twinkling lights. Glad we don’t commute anymore, but can enjoy the view.

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