It has been 18 years since I lost my dad. Every Father’s Day for me is hard because he was a very special person. He believed in me and encouraged me.
I was digging through old photographs today while cleaning up my “Peter Rabbit Room”. It’s what a friend calls that spare room full of stuff. I found one of our Alaska pictures. Probably the last time I had my picture taken with my dad, in Ketchikan.
My dad had been to every state but Alaska. It was my parents’ 50th anniversary and my friend and I went with them to help them navigate their first cruise, and a trip to celebrate that milestone.
It was special for me to watch their joy at seeing glaciers and whales.
I was the first grandchild on both sides of my family. I don’t think there was a person who didn’t hold me for pictures. But this one, of my dad with me for my first Easter shows all that happiness.
The first and the last. This was my first Easter in 1953 when I was just over 3 months old.
The Alaska trip pictures were my last ones with my dad, who passed away 2 1/2 years later.
I am sitting here watching the news and thinking about eleven years ago. And not having to get up to go to work on Monday morning. Ever again.
I retired April 1st 2010. A good way to spend April Fool’s Day. I have never regretted retiring as early as I could. Particularly when years like 2020 come along and recalibrate your plans.
I think retiring in the spring is a smart move. My husband retired in January. Dark. Cold. Stuck indoors most of the time. It is hard to transition when you are limited in things to do.
I found my hobbies and interests kept me busy. My garden. Cooking.
I then discovered the Conservancy and volunteering and the last ten years have been filled with activities that keep me busy even during the pandemic.
Last year I spent every other day for six months in the community gardens, tending my own plot, and helping with the food bank.
We have done more than a ton of food each of the past two years. Many of us who are retired use this outlet as our way to give back, while keeping active.
I also volunteer in many ways to support my husband’s hobby. Amateur radio. I cook for Field Days. For the annual “Fowl Fest”. I hope we get to conduct those activities soon, as we miss our friends and the good times we have when we are together. Like our crazy summer emergency preparedness field days. In the heat. Or rain. Or wind. But still, enjoying our hobbies with our friends.
I miss cooking for the radio guys. They are so appreciative of what we make for them. Yeah, we enjoy our meals here, but I have been cooking dinner every night for almost 400 days now. I really want to have those restaurant nights again, and want to cook for friends and family.
I know. This evening I am reminiscing, and also whining a bit about this lost year. Missing friends. Missing family. Missing my 50th reunion, which I hope will someday take place. Missing the gatherings. The sharing.
We just need to hang on a while longer. Beat this virus. So we can enjoy decades more of retirement.
But one good thing about this forced isolation. My husband got back into cooking. making a number of dinners now. Like the clam and fennel chowder I wrote about. And just simple things like pasta.
Here’s to better days. And meals with friends. And dinners at restaurants. And travel. Yeah, I miss travel. We will get there. Won’t we? I have faith. And I want to get out there.
Do you sometimes crave those simple desserts from your childhood? Like real gingerbread. Not the cookies, but the cakey moist flavorful version, made from scratch.
For me, a few minutes spent sifting through my old recipe cards yielded this oldy but goody.
From the McCalls Recipe Box, which was my husband’s. I had the Betty Crocker box. I was cleaning out some stuff in the bookcase back in the bonus room over our garage I was trying to decide whether it was time to let go of the recipe cards. But they were how I learned, and so did my husband, to cook.
I was looking for comfort food, and gingerbread certainly fits the bill. I made a few adjustments. I went a little heavy on the spices. I used Grandma’s molasses, which I believe is dark molasses. I used the last of the self rising flour from one of my curbside pickups, where it was a substitute when flour was scarce. That meant no baking soda. I used a 10 by 15 pan so my gingerbread wasn’t the same height as the recipe showed.
Still, it is a wonderful trip back to the days of homemade goodies baked by my mom.
I really enjoyed doing this. I will have to dig through the cards and find something else to evoke those memories. Baking from scratch. Nothing from a box even comes close.
It’s been over a hundred days since we’ve been anywhere. Except for curbside pickups and a few quick trips to grocery stores and markets. Oh, and the hardware store.
Thankfully we have enough space around here and enough to do to keep busy. Plus, my garden. It gives me peace and quiet while dealing with the squash beetles and the weeds. And harvesting asparagus.
I did get my first four yellow cherry tomatoes yesterday. No squash yet, and the cucumbers don’t look great. Lots of asparagus though.
The peppers? Hanging in there but the weather isn’t cooperating either.
I have been cooking quite a bit. Making the most of my Vegetable share. Particularly all the greens. I have been cooking from Toni Tipton-Martin’s book Jubilee, this month’s cookbook club selection.
Collards with cornmeal dumplings. This was a serious undertaking. Many steps. But the result was delicious. Those dumplings were awesome.
Island banana bread. Transports me back to Jamaica. Full of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, with dates and pecans. This cookbook is full of absolutely flavorful trips down Memory Lane for me.
I found lots of new favorites along the journey. Like this broccoli and cauliflower salad with curried dressing. You assemble and dress this salad and let it marinate in the fridge for hours. These are the spices from the deep Caribbean, like we encountered in Trinidad.
I found that cooking from this book allowed me to reminisce about travels from decades past, while staying “safer at home”.
I downloaded the iBook version of the book. No trips to stores for much of what I made here. Thankfully Harris Teeter has curbside pickup and could provide us with many of the needed items. They also waived the pickup fee for senior citizens so kudos to them for their accommodation to us while we are taking care of ourselves.
The Book? It is written by Toni Tipton-Martin and is titled Jubilee, Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking. Paired with my other iBook from the exploration of the South, Deep Run Roots. Together they explore the rich history of Southern cooking through two separate perspectives but with very similar results in many recipes.
Vivian Howard learned how to prepare numerous items by watching Mrs. Mary and Ms. Lillie who cooked in Southern homes for decades. If you get a chance to record and watch Somewhere South or A Chef’s Life on PBS, both of her series delve into recipe origins and the complexities of Southern cooking are revealed.
Are you a collard eater or a turnip greens eater? What are the differences between Creole and Cajun? How did rice and okra and sweet potatoes get into the Southern diet? For me with my interest in cooking, baking and gardening I find that cookbooks with history in them give me a deeper understanding of life in the past.
To summarize from a very long story today, I have been staying sane by “traveling” and learning in the comfort and safety of my kitchen. I have also been supporting local small businesses for ingredients to do so. Not ready for restaurants yet, but farmer’s markets and farm stores have returned to our lives.
Thanks to Jenny’s market drive thru when I need something quick. To Breezy Willow and Mary’s Land Farm stores when I need meat or fish. To the Wheelhouse Market. To TLV and the other farmers at the markets here in HoCo.
I am staying sane by gardening, cooking and baking. What are you doing to stay sane?
What a difference a year makes. Last spring we barely had enough members to get our pick up site renewed. Now, Community Supported Agriculture is booming, with twice the number of people at our site. Lancaster Farm Fresh is showing on their web site that some of the shares are sold out. Including meat, chicken and cheese shares.
My monthly meat share provider, Evermore Farm in Westminster, is also slammed. The owner was telling me that they aren’t accepting CSA shares right now because of the demand. They also suspended sales of sides of beef and pork. We are lucky that we have locked in a medium share for the foreseeable future.
Now if I can find a local source for flour that would be nice. I am baking twice a week and can’t find bread flour or yeast. I may end up buying the grinder option for my KitchenAid mixer and grinding the wheat berries and rye berries from our winter CSA pantry share. They are in my basement fridge. I have been experimenting with a mix of whole wheat flour and some soft winter wheat which isn’t the best bread flour but it seems to be working.
Also, did you know there are local restaurants offering meat bundles, produce bundles, and packages to help with the much larger demand for fresh foods? We have replaced restaurant eating with home cooking and the once adequate supplies in the stores are quickly gobbled up. Walker’s Tap to Table up the road from us is offering these. Using JW Treuth for meat.
Jenny’s just opened their farm stand, giving us really close access to fruits, veggies, plants, and more. The farmer’s markets are back, as drive throughs. I think I can minimize my once every ten day visits for curbside pickup from Harris Teeter. Maybe drop back to biweekly. For the staples, like oils and vinegar, spices, and cleaning supplies.
Thanks to my meat share, and my vegetable share, I had everything to make a big pot of bean soup today. Because of course the weather isn’t cooperating and it’s cold out. Not grilling weather at all, but stay inside, make bread and soup, and cover the plants at night weather. I hear that Western Maryland had snow flurries last night. Not your typical Mother’s Day weather at all.
So, here’s to the wonderful bean soup.
Ham hock from Evermore. Seared with onions from CSA. Add six cups of water. Simmer a long time. Add pepper, oregano and thyme. Celery, carrots, green cabbage. A large can of white beans with the liquid to make it creamy. This soup spent six hours on the stovetop on low heat. It was awesome with my homemade bread. Who needs to go out? We can enjoy good food at home. Fresh from the farm to table.
It’s been three weeks of not going anywhere non-essential.
It’s not fun being “old”.
In two days we were going to go celebrate my ten year anniversary of being retired. Now, we will raise a toast here at the house. We are really glad we have the luxury of staying home, and the privilege of getting things delivered.
I have been working on updating my resources, sadly neglected, on this web page to highlight the small local businesses that we support.
I also realized that maybe writing more will calm the nagging anxiety we can’t shake.
I know we are lucky. Right now, we get our weekly farm share from Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op and our monthly meat share from Evermore Farm. We have curbside service at Wheelhouse and at Harris Teeter.
Thankfully, my chest freezer in the basement is still full of tomato sauces and roasted tomatoes, blueberries, stocks, soups, grains, flour, nuts and pesto. The freezer up here has a good variety of meat and some frozen vegetables.
The pantry? Beans galore. Condiments. Oil. Vinegar. Spices and herbs. Pastas and lentils. Oats. Rice.
I started making my no-knead bread again.
The simple version. Flour, salt, yeast, water. An 18 hour rise. Google Jim Lahey no-knead bread if you want to try it. We were lucky to find yeast at Harris Teeter. This recipe only uses 1/4 tsp so we can make 8 loaves from one envelope.
The other staple? My simple tuna dish. Tuna, onion, white beans, salt and pepper.
The recipe calls for tuna with olive oil but anything will work. Over greens is our preferred way to eat it.
I am making soups. Omelets. Pasta with sauces. Eat one night. Freeze the other half for later. Minimizing the amount of protein in the dish. Heavy on the greens and grains.
Hanging in there. Praying for friends and relatives on the front lines.
It’s been fifteen years. Since we packed up the boxes and started moving from the city to the country.
So much has happened. Natural disasters. Family crises. Medical setbacks. Still, I have to say. Leaving Columbia for a kinder gentler life was definitely worth it.
We came here so my husband could have towers for his radio hobby. So I could have a garden. Things we couldn’t do when constrained by HOA’s.
I really can’t believe we have been here so long.
Some highlights. Putting up that tower.
It used to be hidden from sight before the trees were toppled by the tornado. Now, it is visible from my kitchen and from the highway behind our neighbors.
The landscape has changed. We are adapting. I am planning a new garden since my yard is clear of tall conifers. I don’t want to give up my community plot because I love it, particularly the deer fence and the large stand of asparagus. Can I maintain two gardens? Time will tell.
I want to put in a large area of onions and I want to plant the most tomatoes I have ever attempted. They will go in the community plot.
Here, where it is most convenient, I want cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, herbs, and flowers.
Hopefully, there will be a couple of the tromboncino vines running through the dirt and producing those large unique squash which make perfect fritters.
I want to fill the freezer again with jars of sauce and roasted tomatoes. With caramelized onions. Zucchini fritters. Roasted peppers. This winter I am missing all those delicacies. That pesky tornado which ruined our summer and appropriated all my time meant I didn’t have my winter reserves. I miss it. Not much preserved at all in 2019.
My New Year’s resolution? Get back to those things that made me happy. Gardening. Canning. Birding. Cooking. Baking. Simple pleasures.
my garden haul one day in 2014
I will get there. There are many more milestones I want to make. Here’s to years more in my happy place. The oasis on the edge of the cities but far enough away to still be peaceful and quiet.
It’s been four months since the tornado. I have serious respect for those who soldier through natural disasters and put their lives back together.
We spend many hours dealing with the clean up, the restoration and the insurance claims. We finally finished the tree removal. Five days of a full crew, removing over a hundred trees.
The Cutting Edge did all our tree work. Highly recommended. Between them and Absolute Landscaping we have almost cleared it all. Absolute now begins the repair work.
Two small locally owned companies. Howard County at its best.
We have half an acre being cleaned up and reseeded. Days of milling and scraping, adding top soil and lime, and then putting in a hardy grass to prevent erosion. We were covered in invasive plants, which we are trying to eradicate.
Things look pretty bad at times, but we do have faith.
Some of this land will hopefully end up with trees from a grant to reforest with native nut bearing deciduous trees. We are included in a proposal by Howard Ecoworks to use native trees to increase the forest canopy in the county.
Until then we are just stabilizing the area because we had major erosion in July when those three inches of rain ripped through our area.
Beyond the current work load around here, I did still make time to try something new with some native grapes. Muscadines. We had two quarts of them from our farm share.
I turned to Vivian Howard again for a recipe. Deep Run Roots.
Grape Hull Preserves.
Things are always better when you can add food making to your day. It’s my release valve. My escape from noise and dust.
Hopefully one day we will finish and can return to our hobbies, and our peace and quiet.
Time flies when you’re having fun. This week it’s been 14 years of living here. I actually find that hard to believe. Nine of those years I have been retired. Looking back I wonder where the time went and what did we do during those years.
I was a city girl. Now, I just can’t imagine living someplace not surrounded by nature. I don’t miss the smog, the congestion, the hurried pace, the light and the noise. I really like the peace and quiet, and the darkness. Sitting on the porch on balmy evenings watching the sun set. Getting up early and watching the animals at the feeders and the bird bath. Battling the squirrels as they try to destroy my feeders. Moving the occasional snake.
The first time I saw the sun turn the trees to “fire” I was hooked.
We have been lucky out here. The chance to put up the radio towers for my husband’s hobby. The garden, for about eight years. Then I did have to move to the community space which keeps me involved with others in a social gardening setting. And giving me protection from the deer who tried constantly to defeat my fencing in the yard. I still put certain things in the small enclosed space in my yard, like potatoes, garlic and herbs.
I have become a homebody. Not wanting to leave for extended periods of time. Letting the passport lapse for the near term.
While decluttering, I found a box of old government papers that included many travel forms. I estimate I spent years of my career on the road. Easily five years, maybe more. I don’t miss it at all. We still take overnight or weekend trips but being cramped in an airplane isn’t my idea of a fun time. Give me a B&B in the country and good restaurants and I am happy.
The outdoors and the weather drive our activities these days. There’s garden season. And the prime time amateur radio season. Let’s not forget mowing season. We fill our days with activities and projects, and keep relatively fit taking care of things.
I also don’t think I would have gotten into cooking and baking if we lived in an urban environment. Certainly the way we eat has been influenced by the farms and family businesses in our area.
Fourteen years have flown by. We are happy we took the plunge and moved out here, and look forward to many more years in our peaceful place.
As I noted last month with our 40th Thanksgiving, this is also the 40th time we have celebrated Christmas together. Now, retired, and free of the shopping angst of the season, we are enjoying the peace this year. No big commitments. Just a few cookies baked. A completely different approach in decorating. We are spending today at home, after a Christmas Eve dinner with some of our longtime friends.
This year, I did the massive grouping of poinsettias again. I also decided to pull out my favorite decorations from my mom and my MIL. They grace the stairs in the foyer, along with a ribbon wrap, a wreath and tiny white lights. Flowers in the kitchen and dining room. A few candles. That’s it. No tree. No outdoor lights. I have embraced the concept of minimalizing. No stress.
I had a good time a few weeks back, when I answered a request from an old friend to help them decorate their new place. I was happy to see some of my old decorations getting a new lease on life and get used, instead of being stored away. Large wreaths. Folksy hanging items. Ribbons. Wrappings. All those things that we no longer use.
Soon, I will head off to pan fry a couple flat iron steaks. Roast some root veggies. Try out my latest fermentation goodies. I pickled beets last week, and spicy rutabaga relish. Using the last CSA veggies.
Doesn’t everyone have spicy, Korean style pickled vegetables with Christmas dinner?
I am in the process of making a list of things I want to do in 2019, including writing more than I did this year. I may actually get another one or two posts written this month.