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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Another Trip Around the Sun

Title credit to Jimmy Buffett.

One more year down. Another big birthday. Can you say “Eligible for social security”? I find it a bit hard to do so. Sixty two years old. Ten years in our “new” house. Almost five years retired.

These trips around the sun just keep getting more interesting.

And, I really do detest making resolutions. But, they seem to help me focus, even if just for a little while.

I did pretty well for what I wanted to do in 2014. I moved my garden. We took a few trips.

I haven’t done that baking thing yet. I have, though, continued to read new blogs for inspiration. I made it all the way through the Smitten Kitchen archives.

This year, I am reading David Lebovitz. I will either get an ice cream maker as a result, or I will book a week long trip to Paris. Amazing what kind of inspiration you can get by just reading something.

Now, I need to get that local business page done. No more procrastination. It will be up and running soon (famous last words).

As for that birthday. The dinner was spectacular. Again, home cooked. Locally sourced.

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With a wine that has local connections.

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Axios means “worthy”. Axios wine is a product of a Howard County resident, Gus Kalaris. Those of us who frequent Iron Bridge know Gus quite well. He has a release party there every year. Gus is following his dreams. To make amazing wines. I think of people like him, as I consider that we can always find new challenges. New passions. New endeavors.

No matter how many trips around the sun we take.

Here’s to another awesome year. What will 2015 bring?

Fresh From the Farms

To the table.

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The Friends and Farms delivery today. Right from the basket to the table. With minimal work. Salmon. Green beans. Lettuce. Tomatoes. All from today’s pick up.

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We had salmon, filet mignon, and sausage as protein. It was an egg week for me. I did buy extra filets and salmon. The prices are incredible. We got cranberries, tomatoes, hydroponic greens, an acorn squash, a red onion and quick frozen green beans.

I haven’t posted my baskets for a few weeks. Too busy getting ready for Christmas. But Friends and Farms does continue to provide us with quality foods at way less than other stores. Example, today. That salmon was less than $11 a pound. The filets. A dollar an ounce. Two six ounce filets. $12.

Compare that to the $22-$25 you would be charged at any of the grocery stores in the area. Many of us were buying extra filets. There will be filet on the table for New Year’s Eve. A simple sauté followed by a steaming in a red wine and butter sauce.

And, no, I haven’t forgotten about making a #hocobiz page. I am almost ready to launch. Who knew how many businesses we used in the area that were family owned?

As for right now, we are enjoying the quality product that Friends and Farms gives us weekly.

Mother Nature’s

Focusing on those small businesses and trying to sort out the dozens of items on the page I want to create. Today I decided to highlight one of my favorite Howard County family owned businesses.

Mother Nature’s.

For years we have bought things from Claire and Dave. We have taken bird watching hikes locally and in northern VA with Claire. We bought our best bird watching binoculars from them.

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If you go there often, you may stumble upon their binocular clearance sale. Half price for these awesome Nikon binoculars.

Right now, it is inventory season and a recent email told us they didn’t want to count it or pay taxes on it, so there were great bargains to be had.

I buy seed from them. Books. Like my bird compilations, and this one.

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This one is fun. It teaches you how to attract certain birds. How to make your own suet.

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How to make nachos.

Claire runs a Facebook Friday contest. To win prizes from the store. She is convenient to those in Columbia. Just around the corner from the post office, and just across the way from Bon Fresco.

For us, in the winter, attracting lots of birds to our yard is entertaining, and the goodies from Mother Nature’s keeps them healthy and happy. Even when they get into fights at the birdbath.

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Season’s End

Last Tuesday was our final fall season pick up of our Community Supported Agriculture box from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative. In previous years, we lamented the loss of fresh organic seasonal vegetables until the May start of the spring and summer share.

This year, we are crossing our fingers that we get the minimum number to keep us going through the winter. I am impressed with how this cooperative continues to deliver so much for our dollars. No, I don’t get anything in remuneration for shamelessly promoting our CSA. I just can’t believe we get so many great items for significantly less than shopping in the organic aisles of the stores.

What I find most interesting though, is the changes the CSA is making in order to market themselves. More a la carte options. We are trying a new option, the Omnivores package. Five to eight vegetables, one pound of meat, one package of cheese, and one pantry item every week. We are hoping to get enough of us to keep the Columbia site going. Otherwise, I am driving an extra three miles to go to Olney.

I haven’t shown the last two boxes from the fall share, but here is what we got on the 18th and the 23rd.

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Ok, so the newsletter said “garlic”. They didn’t tell me we were getting 17 heads of organic garlic. And, the carrots. A couple of pounds of purple carrots. Plus, popcorn. Red orchid chicory. Jerusalem artichokes. Potatoes. Celeriac. And leeks.

Five days later. The final share. Thankfully a bit smaller.

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I did two swaps this week. I love the Beauregard sweet potatoes, and have had enough of the radishes. Plus, I couldn’t resist the arugula. I am addicted to arugula. I gave up a butternut squash for the arugula. More carrots in there. Two different onions. Lettuce, I think it is speckled troutback, because it certainly wasn’t chicory like the newsletter said it would be. Also, a green cabbage.

We got our final cheese delivery Tuesday.

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We get cheese every other week. Cheese that just continues to amaze us. I have become a huge fan of the aged cheddars from PA Noble. Nothing like wine and cheddar for watching those endless bowl games.

I am hoping we get the minimum members to keep us going. Winter is so much nicer with fresh local foods making us feel like it isn’t cold and dreary out there.

Ho Ho #HoCoBiz

First of all, Merry Christmas to all celebrating today. Here, the dinner is in the oven. The brunch dishes are cleaned up. There is Christmas music playing. We had a great kick off to our holiday, even in the rain, at my family’s annual get together on Christmas Eve.

A few days back, inspired by the interest in finding “mom and pop” businesses in the area, I published my last minute Christmas shopping suggestions. It prompted me to consider a new page here on the blog, called the HoCoBiz page.

I want to launch the page in the next few days, with places that I frequent year round. With family owned businesses outside the scope of my food pages. Any and all suggestions for new places I should discover will be most welcome. I hope to include services, restaurants, shops and suppliers, centered here in the Howard County area, but maybe expanding just a bit to include those who service this area, but who live across the county lines, in Frederick, Carroll, Baltimore and Montgomery counties.

Places like Atwater’s, The Breadery, Treuth’s that I have mentioned on my local resources pages. Just east of us in Oella and Catonsville.

What I have found just in starting the draft is that I use dozens of local suppliers, mostly family businesses. I guess I’m not just a locavore and locapour, but also a mom and pop business advocate. I don’t know if there’s a catchy name for it.

Just to whet our appetites, so to speak, I’ll mention a few places you might consider using to celebrate New Year’s. Or, places where you might buy birthday or anniversary presents, or celebrate Valentine’s Day, or just use when something breaks down at your house. How about this?

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I found jumbo Gulf coast shrimp at Boarman’s Monday. Five pound bags, or buy what you need. $13.99 a pound. These are marinating for dinner tonight, to be sautéed and served as an appetizer. Three pounds, steamed in Old Bay, went to my brother’s last night. The last pound, still frozen, to be thawed for a New Year’s Eve appetizer.

It’s not just for Small Business Saturday what we buy from the locals. If we only did that, they couldn’t survive.

For those who want a unique New Year’s resolution, vow to eat at a family owned restaurant instead of a chain, on a somewhat regular basis. Like maybe once a month. Replace Lowe’s and Home Depot with Clark’s and Kendall’s when you can. For garden needs, use River Hill.

Want to do a small remodeling or replacement in a bath or kitchen, check out Ken Griffin plumbing. They do all our repairs, and have replaced faucets, garbage disposals, and done repairs on our well. They also came out the morning we called when a pipe burst, in the midst of all that mess last winter.

Replace those national chains with local auto shops, like British American or Hillmuth. British American has serviced our cars since 1983. Thirty years.

So, stand by to see what I get put up in the next few days. In the meantime, have lunch or dinner at a local family owned place. Skip Subway or MickeyD’s.

Buy your celebration champagne, or beer for the New Year’s bowl game marathon, from one of the small liquor stores. The one really good thing about our liquor laws here in the county. There aren’t huge “Total Beverage” warehouses here. If you can, try a local beer or wine, even closer to home.

Small Business Christmas

Last minute ideas. Inspired by a fellow blogger’s comment on Facebook this morning that started a thread about small businesses (or the lack thereof) in the area other than in Ellicott City.

Two days left. You can avoid the big box stores and all those lines.

Mother Nature’s Near the post office off Snowden River Parkway.

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You could pick up all sorts of unique gifts. The de-icer is a great gift. So are the books. Like my Feeding the Birds cookbook. Or, our Nikon binoculars. Or, the squirrel baffles to put over the feeders.

Secolari’s in the outdoor portion of Columbia Mall. Family owned. Gift packs. Olive oils. Vinegars. Honey. Pastas. Salts. I go crazy in that store.

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Conscious Corner aka Roots, Great Sage, Bark and Nest (and RED, which is next to Roots and owned by a former Roots employee).

For those who want to support planet-friendly, organic, vegetarian, vegan, biodynamic, sustainably produced and socially responsible products, to paraphrase a quote from a recent interview with the owner of Red.

David’s Natural Market in Wilde Lake. Bigger and better, and with lots of very nice gifts even in the non-food arena.

Of course, Boarman’s. For those really nice gift packs of local artisan beers. They also have all sorts of little goodies too, for the holidays, like fresh chestnuts.

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River Hill Garden Center in Clarksville.

The link above shows all the local vendors whose products you can buy at the Center. The gift area is not to be missed.

Last but not least, for those looking for something special. Greenbridge Pottery.

According to their web site, they should be open Christmas Eve. If not, their pottery is available other places, like Bean Hollow in EC.

Just a few suggestions here. Others off the top of my head. Any of the locally owned liquor stores. Gift cards to family owned restaurants, instead of chains. Places like Iron Bridge. Bistro Blanc. Aida’s. Victoria’s. Elkridge Furnace Inn. Facci.

Have a great holiday, and shop those local stores when you can. All year long. Not just at Christmas.

The Luxury of Time

Ned Tillman commented on yesterday’s post about taking time. “My wish for everyone is that they make the time to spend more of their life out in the woods, on the rivers or in a meadow.”

It is a great resolution, to spend more time outdoors, just enjoying nature. Not even “doing” things. Just walking or sitting.

For so many years, between commuting and traveling for work, we didn’t always take time to sit and do nothing. Or, to leisurely do things without feeling stressed. Like making cookies.

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I spent three days making this year’s cookies. Taking the time to do them right. Slowly. No rush. But I made them simpler, too. Using one basic recipe and making three cookies from it. Thanks to my trusty old Gourmet magazines. These are from 2003.

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I made basic butter cookies. Recipe is on Epicurious web site. I also made the almond spice cookies. And, one more. Basic cookie baked like a shortbread and then covered and baked again with a brownie topping.

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The ones above were the sugar cookies, made with the basic dough. They almost taste like my mom’s, but since hers used margarine and these use butter, the taste is a bit different, as is the texture.

I did other things in stages, as well. Like wrapping presents. And putting the lights outside. I just finished that task this morning. So what if we are last in the area at putting them up. I did get there eventually.

I know I am lucky to be retired. I know I can hit the stores tomorrow morning for those last two items I wanted to get. After everyone else goes to work. Not competing for parking or standing in lines with those who have the limited time on weekends and at night to get it all done.

Still, I realize that I used to get caught up in the frantic rush to get everything done. Wanting to be finished, and then being totally wiped out by the time the holiday came around. No more, I say. I intend to keep this resolution. To do less than I did before, and to make what I do meaningful. To spend more time with friends and relatives. To spend more time outdoors.

And less time trying to overachieve. A less ambitious garden. Easier meals. Less TV. I’ll see how I do when spring comes.

Over the River

Yesterday I headed out to combine CSA and Friends and Farms basket pickups with a few Christmas preparation errands. A cold blustery day, but sunny for the most part. After the third time I crossed the Patuxent River, I realized how dominant the branches of the river are in our landscape, and in our travels.

With the leaves down you can see more of the trails along the river. From Rte 32, Broken Land Parkway, Guilford Road, Murray Hill Road. Over and over, I crossed the Patuxent and thought to myself, we really need to get out on those trails along the river and reconnect with this part of our community.

Howard County is bordered on most of its south and west sides by the Patuxent River, and on the north and east sides by the Patapsco River. Both rivers have thousands of acres of parkland and pathways.

I decided for my New Year’s resolution this year to get back out there and hike the parks on the rivers. And, to learn more about those rivers.

If you are still looking for stocking stuffers, or last minute gifts, check out a couple of books that Ned Tillman has written. I already have the first one, The Chesapeake Watershed, and need to get one of his new book, Saving the Places We Love. Ned is a local resident and one of our Howard County bloggers.

You can find his books at Barnes and Noble, and Shoemaker Country in Ellicott City, at the Robinson Nature Center, and at the Howard County Conservancy.

I first met Ned when he was a hike leader for a HoLLIE class. He still leads many hikes in the area. He also teaches one day at the Legacy Leadership Environmental Institute, which is the newer version of the HoLLIE curriculum. Check this out if you are inclined to learn more about our community.

Me? I just think I’ll spend more time out on our rivers. It’s a big part of why I love living here. The Triadelphia Reservoir and the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area are close to home, and good places to start. Maybe I’ll see that eagle that was in our yard the other day, and was down the road again yesterday.

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Home for the Holidays

Yesterday we took a trip back to my husband’s home town. Mainly because we hadn’t been there in 18 months, and we wanted to check in on some things (and buy some of his favorite kielbasy). Most of the family is gone. Moved, passed away. A few friends still in the area, but not many.

It’s a deeply depressed coal mining town. We found my husband’s old house on the market again. Like hundreds in the area. We were lucky to sell it quickly 12 years ago when my MIL moved to a retirement community in Pottsville.

The cemetery. Covered in fog and snow. Too wet, windy and cold to try to take pictures. We were there to check on the gravesites, before paying our yearly maintenance fee to the man who the church uses to maintain graves for those who are no longer local. The cemetery is on a huge hill outside of town. At 1800 feet elevation according to our GPS.

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This picture, taken last year shows the wind turbines installed on the ridge. Yesterday we couldn’t see them, the fog was so thick.

As for getting that kielbo, we forgot that Kowalonek’s gets really crazy at the holidays. Lines out the door, through the parking lot and around the corner. Not our idea of what to do in the rain and wind. We decided to head south to Manheim and look for fresh kielbasa at the Roots Country Market and Auction.

We found some at Hummer’s meats. A three pound ring of fresh, not smoked kielbasa. It almost is as good as his hometown version but not quite. We also picked up some of Hodecker’s celery, a real delicacy harvested in the fall and early winter. The web site is from the Bed and Breakfast at the farm where the celery is grown.

Some of that celery went into stock tonight. The leaves were frozen for later use.

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We took the back roads up and back. On the way up, we stopped at the Peters Orchards to get some gifts like this one.

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Cranberry salsa. Made in PA. Peters carries a nice selection of hot pepper jellies, all sorts of jams, honey, syrup and much more. They are open year round and are on the way to Carlisle on Rte 94. My husband couldn’t resist the molasses cookies either.

All in all, on a rainy blustery day, we had a good time, even though traffic was awful on the way home. I have to admit, I don’t miss that commute in really bad weather up I-81.

Now, off to bake cookies and other goodies using things I picked up at the market.

Local Butchers

It’s almost the holidays. For us that means celebration food. Like crown roasts. Osso Buco. Tenderloin for my birthday and maybe New Year’s Eve.

As far as I know, there is only one butcher left in Howard County. Boarman’s. We get so many special orders there. Like the osso buco.

Not too far away we do have lots of choices.

Mt. Airy. Wagner’s.

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Oella. JW Treuth’s. They did change hands recently but the quality is still there. They were a major source for our Zahradka winter CSA a few years back.

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Northern PG County in Laurel. Laurel Meat Market and Beiler’s in the Amish market on Rte. 198.

I have tried all but Laurel Meat Market. I should try them as Howchow loves them, and I respect his opinion.

If you want to buy small business and local for your main course at any holiday meal, you can’t go wrong with these choices. I mean, how good looking is this?

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