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In Search Of

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Replacements. For my favorite restaurant and favorite food source.

I was pretty shocked and, for lack of a better word, bummed, when Bistro Blanc closed. It was our “Cheers”. Our local bar, where we could order a burger and a bottle of good red wine, not expensive. We could sit and chat with the locals. We could banter with the bartenders and the owner.

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We celebrated many special occasions there. My husband’s 65th birthday, with all the trimmings. Prepared to what I wanted, by Chef Diego. Paired with wines from my cellar. Surrounded by close friends.

I really hope Raj finds a new home soon, and opens again. But it won’t be walking distance from my home, like the old location.

Then, another hit.

Friends and Farms ceased operations. That was a real blow to us. We have been customers for 30 of their 46 months of operation. Phil and Tim created a friendly family style business. Personal service. Care for the customers. Some of the best meat and seafood we could buy.

I miss them greatly. That weekly visit to tease the staff, and pick up their specials. And my staples.

I know I won’t find another one stop shop to fill that gap.

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We did visit Local Homestead Products in New Windsor yesterday. They could satisfy my local cheese, dairy, egg and meat requirements. But not the seafood.

I have been buying at Annapolis Seafood when visiting my mom in her senior apartment. Good stuff there, but not the same as that freshly prepared fish from Reliant, that Friends and Farms provided.

Homestead sells beef, chicken, pork, lamb and goat. Once I work my way through my freezer, they may be my go-to source for meat. They also sell Pequea Valley yogurt, Shepherd’s Manor Sheep Cheese. Trickling Springs dairy. All sort of eggs, including quail eggs.

Yesterday we picked up some sausage, wax beans and ice cream. Just to try them out, and establish a baseline.

Those other really great products from Friends and Farms. Like the peanuts, the rice, the tomato puree, things we enjoyed and bought regularly. Now, back to markets and farms. No longer a one stop shop.

Why is it that we don’t support local businesses? Chains stay around, while good small businesses struggle. I suppose cheap does beat out quality around here.

Needless to say, it is sad we can’t keep the small places in business.

The rumor here. Dunkin Donuts will go in where Bistro Blanc was located. Great. Another chain to hurt K9 and Coffee next door to it.

Memorial Day

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I can’t find my flag.

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The one that we flew over the tower on 9/11 last fall. I know I folded it up and put it away in a plastic bag. So, this year no flag out there for the commemoration of Memorial Day.

I used to not get Memorial Day. How was it different from Veterans Day? Then, it hit close to home, when colleagues at the Pentagon were killed by the crashing plane. Now, it is so significant to me.

I don’t do Memorial Day Sales. Memorial Day picnics. I just reflect on what it means to have friends and relatives risk their lives, and sometimes lose them, in order for us to be free.

I think I need to find a smaller flag to hang out front. And, if I find that lost bag, to hang the large flag on the tower again.

To remind us that we are lucky to be free, because of the sacrifice of the brave.

Some Enchanted Evening

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One of my very favorite evenings to enjoy the beauty of Mt. Pleasant. And the Conservancy where I volunteer.

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Wandering around the Honors Garden, sampling wine and food from a large number of caterers. Mussels. Shrimp and grits. Lovely little mini caprese salads.

Heading up to the barn, for the Jailbreak beer.

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And Mission BBQ, and Elkridge Furnace Inn.

It was a fun evening. The only fundraiser the Conservancy does. Close to 500 people pre-registered and there were many more walk up purchases of tickets.

Makes for a great event, for a treasure in our county.

The wine was great, too. Thanks to Cindy’s Liquors for that.

Now, I get to put together those community garden baskets for the winners of the silent auction.

All Over the Map Friday

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Because. There are so many things happening that I can’t focus on just one.

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Like how happy we are to have rhubarb and garlic greens and scallions to celebrate spring cooking.

Like the fun we have in the rain while leading field trips.

Like looking forward to grilling season with all the good food we get from local vendors.

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We’ve already done the hanger steak but if the sun actually hangs around, I will be grilling chicken wings. Drenched in butter and hot sauce.

Tomorrow, I will try to hit the River Hill and Ellicott City opening day. Glenwood, I’ll save for my regular weekend trips but I want to check in with Copper Penny at Ellicott City. Their market in AACO lost its site, so I am glad they found a new home next to the Wine Bin.

Speaking of the Wine Bin, we need Rose wine. And they have lots of it.

After I help with check in for Hike to the River at the Howard County Conservancy I am off to check out the markets.

Now do you understand why this post is all over the map? There is so much going on, and it’s that time of year when we love to get outdoors. Click on my links to hear more.

Come Monday

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Peace and quiet. No alarm clock. For the first Monday in about six weeks we haven’t had to set an alarm and wake up ready to go with painters, carpenters, plumbers, electricians or other subcontractors.

I realized that six years ago today I set an alarm and got up to go to my last week of work before retiring. My last Monday wake up, for the commute and the stress. Most of the time now, we get up when the sun wakes us. Being on a schedule was almost alien.

I look back on these six years. People told me, you will get bored. You will want to go back to work, if only for the social aspect of it. Interestingly, we have found our social circles in fellow retirees who are active in our hobbies.

Gardening. Ham radio. Volunteering. Cooking and baking. Blogging. Day trips. Wine tastings. We haven’t lacked for things to do.

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What have we done? In 2010, I went through naturalist training and started leading field trips at the Conservancy. I signed up to take the Howard Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment and became part of that community of “senior” volunteers.

I joined my first CSA in 2011, and became very interested in changing what we ate, and how we cooked it.

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In 2012, after surgery, I got back into my garden, and my kitchen, and slowly recovered from spinal fusion. It took a while but now I hardly remember the long road back.

We do so many things with the local amateur radio clubs. Dinners, contests, lunches, picnics, field day weekend.

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In 2013, I became even more active in giving programs at the Conservancy. I got into preserving foods, and totally changing what came into this house. Eliminating most heavily preserved and processed packaged foods.

We have tackled some major renovations here. Making the house a more energy efficient and “senior friendly” place to live.

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We put up a radio tower, no, two of them.

So, I have to say it hasn’t been boring. I have never even once considered working again. Don’t have time for it. On April 1st, I will raise a toast to commemorate that last day of working. And the beginning of my journey, which thankfully almost never needs alarm clocks.

Controlled Chaos

It’s not easy going green, to paraphrase Kermit the Frog. I know why we procrastinate when it comes to home repairs. The chaos is sometimes overwhelming.

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We just finished using Dr. Energy Saver to seal our dormer crawl spaces, and condition our attic. A world of difference in the temperatures on our upper floor. We decided to do the Super Attic. Massive difference.

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Before.

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After.

With a 40 degree difference in temperatures. No more drafts down the stairs. No more cold bedrooms.

We have been slowly working our way through the tasks necessary to make our house “greener”. A warmer, better place to live, while saving energy. It’s been an eleven year journey and we are almost done.

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Insulating crawl spaces, too. Before we started the massive painting job. Which will go on for at least a month.

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The study is close to being finished. Just need to add the new carpet, now that we insulated under the floor (above the garage).

Dr. Energy Saver in Glen Burnie is part of a national chain. They are one of the sponsors of our county Greenfest, and they do energy audits. They have no idea I am blogging about them, and I don’t take advertising dollars. If you want to go greener, and make your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, you might want to check them out, wherever you live.

Now, for us, on to the rest of the painting and repairs.

Choosing Community One More Time

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I must admit. I feel at times that extreme weather events bring out the best and worst in us. Most of the time it is the best, but when it’s the worst, it’s epic.

I have blogged before about the “civility” thing, here where we live. For me, being civil to one another doesn’t foster a sense of community, caring, compassion and commiseration. We have much better choices for those C words than civility.

My post about cabin fever prompted feedback, positive and negative. For me, I was happy to report that once again, after losing it in my old Columbia neighborhood, I found that sense of friendship, caring, support and teamwork here where we call home. It wasn’t meant to be a slap against my old place. I just missed that sense of pitching in and getting out of bad situations.

In 1983, 23 relatively young (well, 30ish to 60ish) new neighbors dug ourselves out after a blizzard. Not waiting for the county. Not waiting for the private contractor for our private cul de sac. With beer and chili when we finished, and all sorts of help from the big diggers to the more frail helpers, who did their part in clearing off the cars, we got it done.

It was the beginning of a very fun series of neighborhood events. For years we got together on a Saturday night every other month, except for the massive New Year’s Eve event. Crab feasts. Picnics. Progressive dinners. Themed dinners. Rotating the hosting duties.

Then, somehow, in some way, it ended. The majority of the core moved away. New neighbors declined to attend. We lost that sense of community, and regressed into the dreaded bedroom community.

When we left in 2005 we barely knew our neighbors. Not that we didn’t try. They just didn’t respond to invites.

That is why I love it out here. That community spirit is alive and kicking.

I was happy to see so many great stories about neighborhoods digging out in other parts of our state, and in other neighborhoods in Columbia.

As for whether I believe the county did OK in snow removal, it’s not a priority for me to judge. We are lucky. It has nothing to do with politics or favoritism. It has more to do with the people who live here.

We live in an area full of hard working people who may have moved here because it was more affordable to live here, decades ago. People who ran businesses from their homes. People who drove school buses. Or who had small service companies. They have trucks. They have all those things necessary to survive out where power outages can be long. Out where land is plentiful but you have to take care of it yourself.

Yeah, we have trucks with plows. We have tractors. We have snow throwers. We have generators. We have ATVs. Many of our neighbors provide services to other communities in Howard County. With their equipment, they also take care of the elderly, or the families with many little ones, or the newbies who haven’t quite adjusted to living here.

For me, it’s a great place to live. Reminds me of what I found in Columbia in 1975, but that we lost somewhere along the way. I am glad to see so many tell me it is alive and kicking in many places. That spirit needs to spread.

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Besides, I am really, really happy. My mailbox survived.

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