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Christmas Past

It’s been a very quiet Christmas. We changed plans of visiting friends this afternoon, and we weren’t going to travel anywhere for a while. So, the Packers and Browns have to entertain us.

I have been digging around in the old photo albums and decided to digitize many of them. Today is a perfect chance to share a few of those. And to remember.

I have also been spending time rummaging around on Ancestry and adding pictures from our boxes in the attic.

I think this one below was from my second Christmas.

At my mom’s parents. We lived with them while my granddad was ill but this picture was a year before that. I was the first grandchild.

I am still cataloging the boxes with my husband’s early pictures but found one of him and his younger sister.

I can tell you some of those train garden houses under their tree are in my attic 60 years later.

We spent most Christmases in PA with my mother in law, but still had family get togethers at my parents when we returned home to exchange presents. I remember years of the tree being in the basement rec room. And us swapping gifts with everyone down there.

My mom loved to get us lots of little things to open. Christmas really was a big deal for her, and we reaped the rewards of her shopping for us. We moved it all up into the living room as they got older and our families grew.

My kitchen has many items she bought us. She brought things home from trips and outlet visits for most of the year and had them wrapped months in advance.

I miss my mom. Christmas just isn’t the same.

And I miss my dad. I found this picture from Christmas sometime in the 1980’s when they still had Jake, their husky.

This was typical Jake pouting and pretending that he wasn’t being talked to. He was the sweetest, gentlest dog who let us live with him in his kingdom for 14 years. But he could be so stubborn and would let us know his feelings with his distinctive husky vocalizing.

Yeah, the holidays are tougher when you get older and lose family and friends. I feel for those going through this as their first Christmas after losing a loved one.

We all just need to hang in there and hope for a better 2022. So that our Christmas futures can all be brighter.

Water Works

December has been a real pain in the butt when it comes to water. A leaking faucet. A pinhole leak in the pipes above the hot water heater. Coliforms in our water supply. The hits just keep on coming.

It all started here.

A pinhole leak which signifies a low pH. We need a water treatment system. Unfortunately those tests revealed bacteria, which prompted us to do a well shocking.

Chlorine put in the well. To kill the bacteria. The chlorine is still in the system after two days. When will it clear?

Who knows? But it is definitely interfering with my cookie baking. And the dishwasher is full. And I need to do laundry.

Our Christmas presents this year? A new faucet. A new water heater. And later this month. A water treatment system. Gee, isn’t that romantic?

I do like my faucet though.

Thanksgiving Weekend

So, the weekend is almost over. Just the Ravens game to watch tonight. It was a quiet weekend here. A little cooking. A little outdoor radio planning. A visit to W3LPL’s QTH to pick up an award plaque for our service to our local club.

I don’t do much on the radios around here but supporting the local club members is something I enjoy.

Just like supporting my local farms. Like Wheeler Farm at their market, and South Mountain for their ice cream.

We don’t do Black Friday. Never have, but small businesses get our money year round. Not just one day a year. Don’t do Cyber Monday either.

But Giving Tuesday? A big deal for us. Who benefits? The Amateur Radio Relay League and the Howard County Conservancy.

So yeah, the weekend is over but our lives are enriched by those organizations. Year round. They are our extended family.

Milestones

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Today is the tenth anniversary of this blog. I registered the domain name on 2 November 2011. Because? I wanted to write about my retirement and the things that interested me.

I was pretty prolific in the early years. Sometimes daily. Now, new topics are rare but I still enjoy writing. My phone has replaced my camera for taking the pictures. The iPad is my writing desk and the big bulky PC is a door stop, so to speak.

I am sitting at my desk in the study and looking at the scenery in the rain.

Waiting for the conditions that made this shot more than a decade ago.

Autumn is our favorite time here. Even with all the yard work to prepare for winter. We still suck up all the pine needles for our friends who use them on their berry plants. Many of the trees in the picture above are gone. Between the tornado and other wind storms that large grove across the street is no longer a dense screen and we see the neighbor’s lights in the evening.

What else has changed in this decade I have been retired? More traffic. More houses. More businesses up the road. I think we have more restaurants and carry outs less than a mile away than we did when we lived in Columbia. Five restaurants. Two carry outs. A coffee shop in the doggy day care house.

Jenny’s Market is now open seven months, and is taking turkey orders to fill with TLV farm turkeys. We have the ShoNuf turkeys in Maple Lawn and at Boarman’s market. No turkey shortage here in Howard County for Thanksgiving.

I will be getting a half turkey at Jenny’s since it’s just us again this year. Not quite ready to travel or eat indoors yet and I am not a fan of the choices from the local restaurants for the Thanksgiving packaged deals for take out and reheat at home. I like making the turkey my way and having all those leftover parts for future meals.

So, where am I going with all this rambling? Do I continue to occasionally write what I am thinking? Do I return to those endless posts about what I got in my farm share?

I hope we have more road trips, more restaurant meals, more new places to review in 2022. We are cautiously venturing out more and more. Have a visit planned to Linden Vineyards for a pre-release party.

Attending Iron Bridge University in the tented dining area where Rob is doing crazy things like pairing wine and potato chips. Seriously. By the way, Utz’s Dill pickle chips go really well with lightly oaked Chardonnay.

Well, enough rambling. I am off to do some errands and pick up my first fall CSA share which includes boneless chicken breast, chèvre and honey in my omnivore basket. Sounds like a ready made trio to make dinner this evening.

Dad’s Day

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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.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. Miss you.

Turkey Day

The end of a quiet holiday weekend. Watching the Packers. After spending time cleaning up the cars for winter. Certainly not an exciting or sexy way to spend Thanksgiving.

I did do a turkey, but only a half one. Thanks to Triadelphia LakeView Farm and Jenny’s Market.

Not a particularly small turkey, at 10.9 pounds for the half. This was fairly easy to do. Dry brine overnight with salt, orange zest, sugar and lemon juice.

Roasted first at 400° for 20 minutes, then finished at 325° for two more hours.

We had the wing and part of the breast for dinner. I then made soup from the drumstick and the bones to have Friday night. Turkey noodle soup. Yesterday I made the breast meat with a covering of buttered cheesecloth to give us another meal.

Today we were turkeyed out so I made a rump roast. Slow cooked in the oven with veggies.

This was a small business Thanksgiving meal. Local vendors.

Time to start working on our small business Christmas. Poinsettias from Greenway Farms. Greenery from Triadelphia LakeView.

We can get through this year by continuing to be careful, and by supporting our small local farms and businesses. We are thankful for them being here for us.

A Quiet Christmas

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.

In the meantime  —

Home for the Holidays

The holiday weekend is over. Now to get ready for Christmas.

I realized this was our 40th Thanksgiving together. Our first, we headed to PA so I could meet my future in-laws. After that, we regularly spent the day with one of our families.

Usually we went to PA. Then, for the past 12 years we headed to Annapolis to visit my mom and my brother’s family. All of that changed this year. With mom’s passing, and my brother in the midst of a move to eastern VA, we found ourselves without plans for the weekend.

It was weird but also quite peaceful. No last minute crises. No traffic woes. We spent the last five days doing what we wanted when we wanted.

It was heavy with local influences, in a series of meals. We spread it out. I did oyster stew one night with oysters from Boarman’s. We had our Maple Lawn turkey on Thanksgiving.

I made sides and seasonings that we like. My dressing used chorizo and fresh bread cubes made from my CSA ancient grain bread. My homemade cranberry sauce was tangy from the lemon and orange in it. I made creamed spinach instead of green beans.

My husband went up to Dandelion Bistro Wednesday night to pick out a dessert for Thursday. Smith Island cake. Not traditional at all. So, so good though.

Tonight we used more of that leftover turkey along with some of the stock I made from the turkey bones. Pappardelle’s orzo bought from Secolari at Mary’s Land Farm.

We have enough turkey left for sandwiches, and enough soup for another dinner.

As for other things we did, we had a wonderful meal to celebrate my husband’s birthday at Hudson Coastal. We went Saturday night during our latest deluge. The restaurant was busy but not overwhelmed, and the food was excellent.

Today I watched the traffic backups and was thankful our days of nail-biting drives are over. But, we miss our parents. We are thankful we had so many years to share holidays. We just need to adjust to new routines and make new memories.

Tomorrow? Baking for the Conservancy holiday sale, where we make a potluck lunch for volunteers and vendors. The sale is Saturday and is a highlight of the start of many activities leading up to Christmas.

Baking

German Baking. Classic German Baking.

Most of my family is of German descent. I grew up with German influenced cooking and baking on both sides of the family. For me, the discovery of Luisa Weiss’s book, Classic German Baking, was a special treat for the holidays.

I opted to download the eBook when I found a great deal for it. I am glad I did it. I have already made two cookies for the holidays, and have dozens of treats bookmarked for the future.

Luissa’s Pfeffernüsse is far beyond those dry things you buy in the store.

I had to hide the container that I want to use for my Christmas gifts so my husband wouldn’t eat them all. I have to make more of these. I love them. Not really sweet, but just right. The secret to good German baking is finding ingredients. Like Baker’s Ammonia.

Thanks to Amazon Prime and “OliveNation” I had what I needed to make these cookies. For those of us really old, this is smelling salts. Seriously. But, it works to make the cookies vastly different from other non-traditional recipes.

I also made Vanillakipferl. The authentic version of almond crescents.

I went with the use of almond meal, and I also made my own vanilla sugar, by blitzing a vanilla bean, pod and all, in the sugar, and letting it mellow for a few days before using.

Fragile. Fresh from baking, and dredged in confectioner’s sugar mixed with vanilla sugar, these melt-in-our-mouth morsels are a memory of cookies my mom used to make. My paternal grandmother was born in Austria. These cookies are something special to me, as I pay tribute to my heritage.

Next year? I will work in advance to try Lebkuchen, which need time in advance to “age”, and who knows. Maybe I will spring for those Springerle molds.

I also have my eye on a cookie that reminds me of Berger’s cookies. That would be really bad for my waistline.

Turkey All Ways

Thanksgiving is over. That 14 pound turkey is history. Or, is it? Quite a bit of it is in the freezer in some form or another. Stock. Soup base.

This year my local Maple Lawn Farm turkey was the subject of an experiment. How best to cook the big bird.

I did three different preparations. Using The Food Lab as inspiration. I cut the turkey in half. Cut half of it in half. That gave me three blank canvases to use. Half of it I dry brined. Mixture of salt and Provencal herbs. Massaged under the skin.

It went into the oven on 300 degrees for the first 45 minutes and was finished at 400 degrees to crisp it up.

The verdict? This was by far the best turkey I have made for the holidays. Dry brining is the way to go. It took 24 hours in the refrigerator to brine this turkey. We ate the wings, thighs and drumstick for dinner, and broke down the breast meat to make a simple turkey Bolognese for two nights of dinner this weekend.

Take your favorite Bolognese recipe and substitute turkey for beef.

The other breast was dry rubbed. Just a variation by using spices instead of herbs.

The dry rub included cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano, cinnamon, cayenne and salt.

This part of the bird became salad. So tender and juicy. We mixed it with cherries, celery, pistachios, mayo and pickle juice. It has been lunch for most of the past week. Never getting tired of this mix.

As for the other quarter, I followed my old wet brine recipe. Cider, oranges, and brown sugar, boiled with a healthy dose of salt. I do agree with the Food Lab assessment. It made the meat mushy instead of sharp and flavorful. Most of this meat went into my soup base.

We ended up with two containers of soup base in the freezer. When I bring them out, they will get heated with egg noodles and a bit of stock to thin them down.

Also done this weekend, a large pot of stock. Two quarts in the freezer.

That one 14 pound bird will be yielding 16 meals for the two of us. Not a bad return on investment. Besides, who gets tired of turkey? Not us.