RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: December 2013

2013 In My Rear View Mirror

Getting the yearly statistics from WordPress is one of those little pleasures. How did the blog do? Did more people read it? What did they like? Who commented the most? Where did they come from?

Fun stuff. Trivial. But fun. This year my most read post (not counting how people come to the blog on the home page) was this one.

Replacing River Hill. With Turf Valley Towne Square. Why so popular? Simple. HOWCHOW linked to it.

bug man, caterpillars and turf valley 050

Last year, most people clicked here from hocoblogs and from howchow.

Except for the hundreds of people who came for number two in my list. The Tractor Supply Baby Chick people.

Oh, and next on the list. The hexbeam builders.

hexbeam and csa spring week two 066

Followed by a few of the amateur radio W3AO Field Day posts.

And, my reaction to losing Dennis Lane, our fellow blogger we lost tragically this past year.

It was interesting to see that my locavore posts weren’t the highest read. But, my pages on resources and farms got a fair amount of traffic.

As for comments, I have two very prolific commenters noted. Lora and Marcia. Marcia, Lora beat you out this year by just a few comments. I greatly enjoy what you add to the discussion.

A blog can be so many things to those who write it, and to those who read it. I still enjoy writing about my life in retirement. So, Happy New Year all! See you tomorrow.

With or without baby chicks.


The Winter Locavore

I miss the Dark Days Challenge. Back two years ago when I thought it would be hard to find local foods to cook a meal.

These days, after learning how bountiful our area is, I miss the challenge as a way to connect to other bloggers, who value eating seasonally and locally.

It is simple to eat mostly local foods at every meal, here in the MidAtlantic.

Breezy Willow Eggs

Breezy Willow Eggs

Breakfast is simple, if you use local eggs, bacon, locally baked breads, butter, yogurt, milk.

Lunch, lots of simple salads with high tunnel greens. Sold at markets. Like the winter indoor Olney Market at the Sandy Spring Museum, or the Saturday Silver Spring Market. Things like potato salad. Beets. Spinach. Mock’s greenhouse tomatoes, arugula, basil, chard.

Fritattas. Chicken or turkey salad made with local meats.

We have a freezer full of local meats. Fruit picked at Larriland. Tomatoes from my garden. Pesto. Greens. Corn. Fava Beans.


I can easily use local food sources and my freezer to make meals most of the week. Saturday farm hours at Breezy Willow and Copper Penny. Saturday and Sunday at England Acres.

I just wish we still had that challenge to keep us interested in blogging about it. And, I am crossing my fingers that Mom’s in Jessup gets enough sign ups to make the winter CSA a go. We will know in about two weeks. CSA would start up again the week of the 20th.

As part of my resolution, I will cook a local meal most Sunday nights, and blog about it. Not a bad resolution.


The Birthday Dinner

OK, I already know I can cook better than most restaurants in the county. At least for 90% of the food available.

Today I easily made a feast. No real effort. Just good ingredients.

Starting with lobster.


Steamed lobster tails bought at Harris Teeter, and steamed here. Served with honey mustard butter.

Followed by sirloin tips from The Common Market in Frederick. Sides of tomatoes and potatoes. Tomatoes from Costco. Stuffed with basil and mozzarella. Potatoes from the CSA parboiled, then finished in the oven with honey mustard, onions, and mozzarella.


Served with a couple of lovely wines. One, the barrel select Chardonnay from Breaux. The other, a nine year old Merlot from California.


The rest of the white is in the fridge, waiting to be an aperitif tomorrow. The merlot. Later tonight will be dessert with some awesome dark chocolate bought at Roots.

This dinner, decadent as it was, was a fraction of the cost of going out. It took minimal effort to make. Fitting it in while watching the Ravens self destruct.

Seriously. Buy good ingredients. Make simple preparations. Serve with local wines.


Making Resolutions … Or Not

Last year I replaced resolution making with my “Sixty@Sixty” challenge to do in my 60th year. I found it was much more fun but still productive.

Like in my rightsizing challenge. Taking on the kitchen and pantry, the overload of books not needed, the work clothing we had in the closet.

I made it through most of those categories, failing when it came to finishing six items in traveling, birding, festivals and diners.

I blogged a few days back about whether I would forego resolutions again in the upcoming year.

I decided on a hybrid of the two. A couple of challenges, mixed with some real resolutions.

We need to clean out our garage of things that don’t get used. Or that should be stored elsewhere. I think it’s one doable goal. That we can get done.

I want to expand my baking. Using yeast for things like bagels, pretzels, and some other challenges brought about by reading Smitten Kitchen after finding that great granola recipe from Deb’s cookbook.

I am also committed to break out of my rut and get us to those new destinations, even if just for an overnight trip.

I want to redo the garden, and I have seeds for some challenging plants, like cardoons and Malabar spinach.

I want to go to The Common Market once a month and bring home something from the bulk food bins that I have never cooked myself, like those exotic rices, beans, grains and nuts.

As for blogging, I made it through the year (well, I have three days left) with blogging daily. Sometimes it was posted after midnight, but there are posts for every day.

Next year, cutting it back, to eliminate some redundancy, to 4-5 times a week and focusing on local things to do, places to go, and my farm series needs to be resurrected.


I also need to update those pages here on the blog, and finish the two draft pages I want to add.

As for time volunteering. The big challenge this year is the food preservation program I am working on. Plus, more time out on the trails around the Conservancy.


It is good to be busy. To have goals. To keep retirement interesting. 2013 has been pretty eventful.

Here’s to turning 61 in a few hours. That’s not old. That’s just getting started in the seventh decade. And, soon it will be 2014. Amazing how time flies when we’re having fun.

Field Trip Fridays … Again

We were off and wandering again today. Our favorite day to just head out and go wherever looks interesting.

Starting at Breaux, where we needed to pick up cellar club wines. We haven’t been there since May, so had three two packs to pick up.


Big construction happening there. Another addition. To make a cellar club room and more space to handle tastings. Harper’s Ferry Road is getting to be a popular wine road, with other wineries being built, and opening up between Breaux and Harper’s Ferry.


Like this one. Which opened since our last visit down to Breaux. A 100% female owned winery. We didn’t stop in today, but will put it on our “ToDo” list. Particularly since they grow Albarino and Petit Manseng.

Another one with no signs yet, but they are definitely building.


After we headed back into Maryland we detoured up Route 67 to Rohrersburg to see where Big Cork is building. Vineyards look good, but they still have lots of construction to do.

At the top of 67 in Boonsboro, we headed east and stopped at South Mountain Creamery for some of their wonderful ice cream, for my birthday this weekend. What could be better than peppermint stick ice cream?

Nice crisp winter sunny day. Back road driving. Loving the view while having a glass of wine, baguette, red pepper and feta spread and cheddar.



Christmas Dinner

Better than Ruth’s Chris. Worth way more than what it cost to make. Our quite simple to make yet amazingly flavorful Christmas dinner.


Start with the tenderloin. I’ll let you in on a secret. Hit Wegmans on the 3rd or 4th of January, when they sell off the tenderloins at huge savings. We bought two last year. Half price.

One grilled this summer. This one saved for Christmas. A very simple recipe, thanks to Ina Garten.

This was a three pound loin. I didn’t need to tie it off. I didn’t use the tarragon. Just olive oil, salt, pepper and I did add garlic powder. Slow roasted for about two hours at 250 degrees.

It registered at 140 degrees when tented. Came out absolutely perfect. Fork tender.

The sides. Brussels sprouts in brown butter with pecans.


Another simple technique. Brown some butter. Add pecans and toast. Add very small sprouts. Get them nice and seared, then lower the heat and cover the pan. A few minutes until they soften up.

We opened a very fruity, lovely velvety soft William Cole wine. A gift from a friend.


This wine was a 1998. Let’s just say I couldn’t afford it at a restaurant. Fifteen years old. Still with structure. My husband’s comment was “Delicious”, something you don’t always hear about wine. It still has a few more years to improve, for those lucky enough to have some.

The dinner.


Baked potato. Brussels sprouts. Tenderloin. I made a quick mushroom gravy from a box of Pacific condensed cream of mushroom soup (picked up at Roots) that was heated with some sliced CSA button mushrooms. Salt and pepper.

It was something special. We still have half the tenderloin and half the gravy left. It will probably be Saturday night’s dinner, over a salad of baby spinach and bleu cheese.

I may never go to Ruth’s Chris again. I just need to get to Wegmans for a few more tenderloins to put away.


My Local Little Christmas

This year I managed to buy almost every gift I gave from local artisans, farms, small businesses and people I know.

With the exception of regifting some books and some vintage jewelry from my late mother in law’s collection of fun costume stuff.

I didn’t post until after the presents have been given.

For me, reducing waste and my carbon footprint have driven me to look locally for my food, my services, my choices in giving, and just generally in how we live.

Call it that “greening” thing.

I still have a few indulgences that can’t be found locally. Like avocadoes. Spices. Citrus.

But, by and large, I prefer supporting people I know, all year round.

Some highlights.

Local wines. Taken to drink at my brother’s. And given as gifts. This year, it was mostly Big Cork.


Drinkable, approachable wines, to take to dinner when ham is on the menu. The Vidal Blanc and the Traminette.

Fun gifts. Like the soaps from Breezy Willow. Wild Woman is one of my favorites.

An alpaca scarf for my husband.


The greenery around the door from TLV Tree Farm. The tree from Greenway Farms. Not from North Carolina, but from right up the road.


The shrimp I took to my brother’s came from Boarman’s.

Dinner tonight featured many local items too. Tomorrow, my post will be about replacing those expensive dinners with easy to prepare local feasts.

To paraphrase, have yourself a local little Christmastime. Think about it as you get ready for New Year’s Eve. More on suggestions for the upcoming holiday later this weekend.

Makes for a lovely holiday week.


And So This is Christmas*

*credit to John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

One of my favorite holiday songs. Particularly the line “and what have you done?”

Interestingly, Christmas isn’t my favorite holiday. Thanksgiving is. But, Christmas is when almost all the family gets together.

Tonight, three generations of my father’s side of the family gathered. The closest ones. The first cousins. Their children. Grandparents.

To me, watching the little ones smile is my favorite part. We don’t do presents much anymore at our level. We don’t need lots of “things” these days.

I prefer giving to getting now. And, I like to expand the giving in the days after the holidays.

So, I will head out to the food bank with all the extra items purchased for cookies and candy that wasn’t made. Things like butter, sugar, nuts. Add a stash of items like beans and rice and grains. Stop and pick up some “on sale” foods, now that the holiday is past. This is the time the food bank can use items. After that holiday rush of giving.

Plus, I will compensate for those new items we do get, like the scarves and sweaters. I will do another run through the drawers and the closets looking for warm clothing to add to the St. Vincent de Paul bin, down at Kendalls’ hardware store.

The holidays are special. Let’s keep the remainder of the year, and beyond, just as special.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!



I didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions last year. I decided to challenge myself in my 60th year to do sixty things.

It was interesting. Fun. Not totally successful. But fun. I may try something similar this year.

Like finish the list in the areas I didn’t do very well in accomplishing.

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

I am proud of myself in really taking on those rightsizing projects and pushing myself to get rid of things.

I hit more than enough wineries. Getting out of the rut of going to the same places. Discovering new and not so new places in MD and VA.

Farmstands and markets were successful too. Fruits, veggies and herbs, yep, did those too.

Where did I fail? Not getting out of MD, VA and PA. I really have become a stick in the mud when it comes to traveling. We did the trip to Roanoke and a few trips to PA. Found a few new towns in MD.

Never made it to DE or WV or NJ or NY, like we planned.

I was lucky in getting three new birds. Not by traveling, though. What were they? The guinea hens, the screech owl and the great horned owl. Thankfully, the program on creatures got me two close encounters with delightful creatures.


Cooked with some new grains like wheatberries.

Hit more than enough childhood memories, too.

I should take inventory of how much I did. And, decide what to do next year. I am a firm believer in challenging myself, so as not to get stodgy and set in my ways in retirement.

After all,

chayote 001

cooking with chayote was a highlight of my adventures into new foods.

As for wine, we can add Big Cork, Old Westminster, Early Mountain, Doukenie, Port of Leonardtown, St. Michael’s, Villa Appalaccia, Ankida Ridge and Valhalla to the list of new wines and wineries discovered this year. Not bad.


Here’s to a great year. And many more adventures.

One Week Left

Until I turn 61 years old. This last week before my birthday has been pretty crazy. The weather has been amazing, with spring temperatures.

The last minute holiday baking and cooking has been intense. I got shrimp from Boarman’s the other day, in order to make steamed shrimp with Old Bay. The requested dish for my brother’s Christmas Eve party.

I made two kinds of cookies today. Chocolate pistachio and chocolate chocolate chunk.


These cookies again came from Bon Appetit. Hard to make. They tended to break up when slicing. But, very good. Particularly with red wine, for dessert tonight.

As for the weather, with the doors open today (it hit 72 degrees here), the starlings made a huge racket in the trees out back.


Thankfully, they weren’t nailing my bird feeders.

As for the last week of my 60th year, I did request that we try and go to the newly opening Highland Inn for brunch on my birthday. That is, if they open in time.

On the way home from Boarman’s yesterday, they looked like they were close to opening but who knows.

I saw their new menu on Facebook today. A bit pricey, but for special occasions, like those where we used to go to King’s Contrivance, they might be a new local special place.

We shall see.