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Napa and Sonoma

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I think if there was one place that we would love to live, and that we loved visiting, it was California wine country. For me, the combination of agriculture, culture, climate and activities made it one of our favorite vacation spots.

It depresses me to see it burning out of control.

We spent 10 days there, a decade ago. Rented a house. Visited wineries. Cooked. Grilled. Strolled through amazing farmer’s markets. Ate at awesome restaurants.

Chateau St. Jean. In the news now for the damage to their property.

It was one of the first places we visited. Picnic in the gardens while enjoying a glass of wine.

We went to over two dozen wineries that trip. Some of them were known because of our wine dinners at Iron Bridge.

Like Corley.

Family owned. Transplants from Virginia. We still get wines from their wine club, and we hope they are doing OK. They are between the Silverado Trail and Highway 29, fairly far north in the valley.

We first met them at a wine dinner in 2005. Out there, they remembered my husband and were so nice to take us everywhere on the property.

We made other friends out there. One, St. Helena Olive Oil. I would order their oil on line to be delivered here. They lost part of their production facility, although Peggy posted that her house was spared.

The impact on all of us. The loss of produce and fruit. Sonoma was a humongous producer of vegetables and fruit, for the US market.

US olive oils. Hopefully, those old, heavy producing olive trees survived. Otherwise, it could be years before production comes back to normal.

Avocados. Nuts. Citrus. Berries. The melting pot in Sonoma.

Makes me nervous when Florida and California have losses in citrus. Between the hurricane and these wildfires.

Add to it all, the disruption in income when all these businesses can’t open. For them, and their workers.

It’s been a crummy year here in the US, hasn’t it?

San Francisco Bay

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Coffee.

If there was only one environmentally friendly packaged coffee out there, I hope it is this one. We have a Keurig for convenience, for those days we don’t want a whole pot. I do buy some Green Mountain coffees, but don’t like their wasteful packaging.

Way back when, I discovered this family business that packaged their coffees without all that extra plastic stuff.

Use it. Put it in the compost. Even their outer wrap for the 10 pod packages is made of compostable material. I made special trips to Wegmans to buy it.

Now, it’s gone. Probably because it doesn’t work in K-2 machines. It was a bargain. Less than 40 cents a pod.

But, you know, when you can’t find something, you can always turn to Amazon, can’t you? Yep, the 80 cup pack on line for less than what we paid at Wegmans. With Prime, and free shipping, 30 cents a cup.

And we wonder why brick and mortar stores are hurting.

By the way, this is an excellent dark roast coffee. Low in acid. High in flavor. The dark roasts are so much nicer for those of us who want to avoid acid.

Fifty is Nifty

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If you are a city, that is. Even though people think that 50 years is a long time, it certainly isn’t when it comes to cities. The place I lived the longest, Columbia MD, turns 50 this summer. The celebration started last weekend.

The storytelling event this Friday night at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center will feature many long time residents. Who may remember the tiny little town of the 1960s and 70s. When there were just two lane roads, and not all that many traffic signals.

It was an interesting place to live, but it certainly isn’t old, even now. Heck, I might have a pair of boots or two older than Columbia.

I grew up in Baltimore, in a house built in 1920. I considered it really old when it was only 50 years. Back when I started college. I couldn’t wait to graduate and move to the New Town. The one with the cool people tree.

And the even cooler downtown, that included a lake, instead of high rises and congestion.

I remember ice skating on that lake. Spreading blankets on the grass before the fireworks. Making reservations at The Tomato Palace, to have dinner and watch the fireworks (in the years after I made enough money to do that).

Still, it isn’t really old. Sitting out here with a next door neighbor in a renovated farmhouse that was built in 1894, I have a different perspective.

No matter what. It’s been my home county for 42 years. Columbia was the town I lived in for 30 years, so there are lots of memories.

You bet I will be enjoying the storytelling events. And many of the other events celebrating the occasion.

I think I’ve even gotten used to this no longer being the Rouse Building.

Change is Hard

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First of all, Happy New Year! I have been fairly busy with the painting around here, and haven’t kept up the blog. At least I remembered to change the copyright notice date to the current year. Hopefully, I can remember to write the correct year on all these checks we keep writing.

As for the past, current and future, I admit, not sorry to see 2016 go away. To us, 2016 brought Medicare, Social Security and lots of other reminders of getting older. Like realization that bad weather is worse when you aren’t a spring chicken anymore. Last year’s blizzard and tornado proved to be problems for us. In minor ways, but still problems.

We learned that we had to change things. Make things more accessible. Eliminate possible accident sources. Update bathroom, kitchen and other interior spaces. All these things are disruptive. Sometimes I think even more so because we are retired and here most days. We didn’t get to run away to the office and come home to the chaos only at night. Or, have the luxury like those on-HGTV people who could stay elsewhere while their houses were under renovation. I understand why people resist doing renovations. It can literally stress you out to the point of wanting to give it up. Yes, the results are nice, but living in complete disarray gets to me.

Every item from my pantry is in bags and boxes on my family room floor. Cooking is difficult.

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Add to it, the sheer shock factor of going to a bright yellow.

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Let’s just say I really like it. My better half? He’s still adjusting to the major color change.

We at least had New Year’s Eve dinner even while working around it all. I have to say that this recipe is a keeper, and it was a simple meal served with an excellent bubbly.

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Emeril Lagasse’s Oyster Stew. Recipe from online. Oysters from the Jessup Seafood Market. A side salad. Champagne savored from beginning of cooking through to a glass just before we gave up and crashed around 11:30. Yep, we couldn’t make it until midnight.

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Here’s to a better brighter 2017! At least my kitchen will be bright and cheery.

Life Skills

AKA Home Ec. Shop. Personal Finance. You know. The stuff we really should add to the high school curricula. Are we really preparing children for life, or just to get into the top colleges?

Julia wrote about VoTech in her post today. It triggered a response internally from me. Based on watching and reading and just wondering about how well we really are preparing children to survive when they go out on their own. Can they make a simple meal? Can they fix anything? Can they pay attention to their bank balances and adjust their spending?

We had life skill classes when I taught high school in the 70s. They seem to have disappeared.

We also have a shortage of skilled tradespeople where we live. We seem to push everyone into the college prep option and forget about those skills necessary to support our county. Those trades pay well. Better maybe than going to college and majoring in an area that won’t guarantee a high paying job. We need to allow children around here to choose their passion, and to follow it.

Artisans built our deck. For much more per hour than some of the degreed folks around here are making.

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Food for thought, so to speak.

Giving

It’s not just for Tuesday.

There are so many worthy causes that can use our help and our monetary support all year long. One “Hallmark holiday” day may be cute and trendy but the reality is this. The other 364 days of the year (OK, 365 this leap year) we can still make a difference.

Give time. Give money. Give publicity. Help in any way you can. Share a Facebook post from a nonprofit. Support an event at local charities and nonprofits.

Just recently I saw requests from places locally. Like:

How Girls Code
Howard County Conservancy
Howard County Community Action Council
Voices for Children

Today I realized I supported the food bank three times before 11AM. Once by pulling some items from my CSA share, to take up to our community food bank garden. Then, by harvesting collards and cabbage to add to my contribution. Then, at Harris Teeter, donating to give them money. It’s easy to do. It’s those little things that add up.

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It’s the season of giving. Find something that you believe in. Something that ignites a spark within you.

Every little contribution is worth it. I got hooked on food bank gardening years ago. It’s one of the most rewarding things this old lady can do. I can still harvest veggies.

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Five Years Old

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I made it to five years writing this blog. On November 2nd 2011, I opened a WordPress account and started writing. Somehow I have gone from a handful of readers to over 500 followers. Amazing to me that I continue to find topics that interest me, while plodding along in retirement. Keeping busy. Still dedicated to eating well, volunteering, gardening, and not quite as dedicated to remembering to write about it all.

My second post. About my fall CSA. Which just began again yesterday. I have continued my commitment to eating from small farms, local and regional, as much as I can.

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This fall I expanded my options to include flour and grain. I hope to bake more than I used to do. I do know that the flour will find its way into holiday baking, and that cornmeal just inspires me to make polenta more often than I did.

As for new exotic things to discover, we found a Thai Kang Kob squash in our box. I just made squash lasagna from the triamble squash from a few weeks back.

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It was a good dinner last night for us, and leftovers will feed my better half while I am out with the local bloggers checking out The Turn House, a new restaurant that took over the space in the Hobbits Glen Golf Course.

Both the squash recipe and a report on the blogger party will follow in a few days.

I also need to write about the construction at the Conservancy, and about two great events in the next week.

There is much happening around here. Definitely enough topics to continue my blogging. Think I can keep this thing going until it’s ten years old. Let’s see.

Anyway, I will be seeing the locals tonight in Columbia. Can’t wait to try out a new farm to table option, with a locally raised chef.