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Twelve

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Another year. Another anniversary of retirement.

We still live in the same place. We aren’t looking to move. We really want to “age in place” and are taking steps to make our house even more comfortable for us old folk.

I am happy these days being a homebody, since we spent so much time on business travel when we worked. I also am not enamored of living in close quarters like we would be if we moved to a retirement community.

What are we doing differently than when we first retired? Anything? We are having more outdoor work being done by contractors.

We have been retired twelve years. Are we bored? Certainly not. Could we stay here if we want a single level home? Definitely.

Coming up? A summer of renovation. New second story windows to make the house much more energy efficient.

A newly configured laundry room, and maybe the master closet. Still not ready to tackle the master bath or the kitchen.

I decided to cut back on the garden plantings since we will be dealing with contractors all summer, but I still plan to have tomatoes, onions and herbs. Most of my plot will be planted for food bank harvest.

I did find my first asparagus of the season which will go onto a flatbread tonight with some leftover Easter lamb.

I actually cut these below the soil line to get them out of the ground before our Sunday night frost warning. Gives them that white asparagus stalk.

Besides that, the cooking bug is still alive and kicking. Lots of experimentation using old magazines and a few new downloaded cookbooks.

Yes, that’s a nine year old Virginia Chardonnay, the last one from the cellar. Absolutely exquisite, served with another version of the clams and pasta dishes we’ve made this winter.

Here’s to many more seafood experiments this spring and summer. Can’t wait for crab season to get here.

Retirement. Doesn’t get much better.

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.

Eleven

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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.

Springing Forward

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Let it be known, I hate DST. Always have. I call it Daylight Stupid Time.

It is just stupid to mess with the science. Should we replace “High Noon” with “High 1 PM”? The time zones pretty much align with the transit of the sun. Yes, the edges are off a bit. But, equal daylight on either side of noon is what a time zone delivers.

Plus, I hate that complete disruption of sleep that springing forward creates. If our teenagers are already sleep deprived with early school start times, why are we messing with them by making them get up in the middle of the night to go to school?

Thankfully now we are retired. We get up with the sun and ignore alarms.

Next week we pass the equinox, and enter the months of 12+ hours of daylight, whatever the clock says. We enjoyed the great weather this weekend and finally got out to celebrate the slow return to normal after vaccination.

Local, as usual. Our forays into The Common Kitchen Friday. And, Black Ankle Winery Saturday.

We did take out Friday at Anh-mazing Banh Mi.

They have a new Banh Mi. Cajun Seafood.

Banh Mi reminds me of Po’ Boys, but with serious additions. We also got a noodle bowl.

The Common Kitchen has so many options for good food. Our favorites are Namaste Indian and The Koshary, Middle Eastern. Now, we can add Banh Mi to that list.

Then, Saturday we had errands to run up towards Frederick. On the way home we decided, time to eat out for our first time in a year. Enter Black Ankle Winery.

We have been going there since they opened almost 15 years ago. Right now, over 80 tables socially distanced, where you can sit out and enjoy wine, food and sometimes music because Ed and Sarah have one incredible location catering to those of us who appreciate small businesses full of local choices.

We loved the hour spent there having lunch with a very good bottle of Albariño.

Best al fresco dining view in the area.

I am so glad we can get out and support local businesses. Making our way through the transition and springing forward.

Ruby

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The 40th Anniversary. According to Hallmark, it is Ruby. You know, incentive to buy cards and other things from that Hallmark store.

August 9th 1980. In 95+ degree heat. We got married.

We thought that we would be going away to celebrate but Covid-19 ruined those plans.

As our celebration, like we do for minor events where I cook and we open old wines, we decided to commemorate that Ruby theme by opening an old Port. From the year we were married.

Yeah, it’s no longer ruby red but it was really incredible. We bought these Ports from Wells Liquors in Baltimore. They were from the closed Brentwood Inn. We figured they would obviously survive for anniversaries far beyond what a bottle of wine could do.

I served the Port with a few lovely dark chocolate salted caramels from Sweet Cascades. We picked them up at the Wine Bin.

I made simple pan fried tenderloin filets. Bought at Boarman’s. Seared to perfection. Opened a Beringer reserve cabernet. Buttered fingerlings. Sliced heirloom tomatoes. Nothing difficult to make.

It’s been an adventure. Forty years together. These days far more time together since we don’t get out much. Not the way we intended to spend retirement but thankfully having a larger hone and a big yard we can get some alone time when we need it.

Let’s hope better times are coming. So we can go out and celebrate my husband’s 70th birthday later this year.

Fourteen Years

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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.

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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.

Eight

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Eight years retired. This weekend. Time does fly when you are having fun.

What have I learned? Have I made mistakes? Do I regret it?

I have learned much about myself. Made just a few errors, nothing big, though. Don’t regret it a minute.

Retiring can be immensely rewarding, or a real let down. I know many people who went back to work, because they were bored and retirement wasn’t what they thought it would be. So, here’s my top five things that make it work for me, and for us – when I include my husband’s retirement a few months after mine.

One — have a passion for something other than work. Without that passion, things get boring very quickly. My passion. Gardening and cooking. My husband’s? Amateur radio.

We have so many things going on with these hobbies. Groups. Social activities. Trips. Immersion into the processes. Maintenance. You get the picture. It’s a time sump. Keeps us busy enough, and provides structure to our days.

Two — social networking. Find new friends. The work ones will disappear. Trust me on this one. You lose the connection quite quickly. We have many new networks. Blogging friends. Garden people. Radio people. Wine lovers. Locavores. Volunteers.

Three — projects. We try and keep up with the house, the grounds, the decluttering. We do it in small batches. We tackle something every year. It may be maintenance. It may be renovation. It keeps us focused, and maintains those project management skills from our work years.

Four — travel. We don’t travel far these days. We did that for so many years. Touched five continents. Cruised 160 days. Now, we like our simple weekends and day trips. Exploring our local world. Getting very deep into it. Weekends in Virginia. Overnights in PA and DE. Festivals. Concerts.

Five — challenges. Mine is cooking. The cookbook club. Learning to bake. Learning to cook ethnic foods, like India, or next month, Thai. Exiting my comfort zone.

We don’t feel old. We still love the challenges. The new experiences. The new friends. Retirement has been awesome, to say the least.

My advice, though. Before you decide to retire, find your passion. Without it, you may not be satisfied, or you may not find enough to do to fill your hours.

Us, we go crazy. Not enough hours some weeks. But, it is great. Doing what we want, day in and day out.

Can’t wait for the azaleas to bloom. Picnic at the reservoir.

Summer in the Winter

The weather here has been crazy. Short sleeve weather. Open the windows and eat outside.

Tuesday, we just decided we needed a road trip to our favorite flea market, farmer’s market and lunch stop. Manheim PA. The Roots market and auction.

It’s a throwback to the large markets once common across the country. Not that far off from some of the best markets we found on our trip to the Mediterranean.  Lots of local stuff. Some not so local stuff. Many vendors selling goods. Used items.

Everything and anything. Even a live poultry auction in one of the buildings.

Flea markets are fun. I found a treasure trove of Time Life cookbooks of the world here a few years back. This year, wandering around we did find a book seller that had many of the westerns that my mom loves. In large books, without faded print.

We had lunch. Did a bit of shopping. I picked up some of my favorite celery. Some herbs. A couple avocados to go with the Tuscan kale in my CSA share.

A lazy day in almost perfect weather.

This celery was the real reason for the trip. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Head up to the area just west of Lancaster, on any Tuesday. Find Hodecker’s. Their celery is so sweet, and so different from that in the stores. The family sells their home grown product part of the year, and the rest of the year imports the same variety from California. It’s different. It’s awesome, and a treat for those of us who enjoy the best produce we can find.

We must be crazy. Driving for two hours just to buy celery. And have PA sausage subs. And home made cookies for dessert. Maybe pick up a shoo fly pie.

 

The Yeast Beast

Conquering yeast breads. One of those “bucket list” type items on an old list of things I wanted to do in retirement. With the challenge in my cookbook club this month being “Genius Recipes”, this one had to be included.

The famous No Knead Bread from Jim Lahey. Catapulted into the limelight more than 10 years ago by Mark Bittman in the New York Times. According to his website, it is one of the top ten recipes that are visited there.

There are many variations. The ratios, though, are fairly constant. The one from the book is a bit different in that it calls for active dry or instant yeast. As I learned later, every other recipe calls for instant yeast. It works with active dry as that is what was in my pantry at the moment, but I think it would be better with instant.

Here is what I did. Twice, now. Once plain. Once with dried rosemary added. First, I invested in a digital scale and made this recipe using weight, instead of measuring with cups and spoons.

Not a fancy scale, but certainly useful. Zeroed out with the bowl in it. Started with 400g of bread flour. Added 5g kosher salt, 1g yeast (I just used a 1/4 tsp for the yeast as it was so little change in weight). I thought it was interesting in the recipe that the 1 1/2 cups of cool water (55-65 degrees F) to be added used 360g for the measuring.

You mix it all together and then let it sit covered with a towel in a warm corner of your kitchen, out of direct sunlight. I let my first one rise for 12 hours, the second one for 20 hours. The longer rise gave me a bread that was definitely different. This scientific approach, although simple, is really quite educational and erased my trepidation with using yeast.

After the first rise, you flour a board. Dump the wet, sticky dough and pull into a round shape. Recommendations to use parchment paper for this will decrease the messiness of using a floured towel. This second rise or 1-2 hours wrapped loosely in the towel will just about double the dough ball. I used cornmeal for my first bread, and flour for the second.

Here is the first bread.

The crunchy cornmeal coating added to the flavor. It was crusty on the outside and dense, chewy, but with lots of air bubbles inside.

The directions call for you to use a heavy covered pot, like a Dutch oven. I used a Pyrex baking dish. It has to have a lid because what you are doing is creating an oven in your oven. The dish has to be preheated for a half hour at 475 degrees before dumping the dough from the towel into it. It will spread across the bottom. If you want a higher small boule, you need a pot that size.

This was my rosemary bread, dusted with flour. It was baked, covered, for 30 minutes, and uncovered for an additional 15 minutes. I have convection ovens so that last timing with the cover off will vary for those without air circulation. The recipe calls for 15-20 minutes uncovered.

The rosemary bread rose a bit more than the first bread.

Fresh from the oven, lifted out of the pot with a large spatula. Be careful as that pot is screaming hot at 475 degrees.

I will be making this easy recipe every chance I get. I do want to try some of the variations, like using a drizzle of olive oil, and adding sliced olives. Or, making a sweet bread with mini chocolate chips and chopped walnuts.

Google NoKnead Bread, if you want to mess around in your kitchen. Me, I need to get some instant yeast and see if it makes the bread rise more than mine. The slow “fermentation” of that 18 hour rise time makes this bread. It is almost foolproof.

Thanks to the Genius Recipe book by Kristen Miglore for rekindling my interest in baking bread, without fuss.

Daytrippin’ Again and Again

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It is the season. To get in the car and head out looking for new places, and enjoying the weather.

The red buds are in bloom. So are the Kwanzan cherry trees. I have to head out to Brighton Dam to check on the progress at the azalea gardens. Maybe tomorrow we will do that.

We did get out to a few favorite places, and a new one.

We hit the Hawaiian Shaved Ice place on Liberty Road. Just northeast of where Wards Chapel meets Liberty Road. Had one absolutely awesome egg custard shave ice.

We went looking for Carhartt shorts. To National Harbor, no less. There is a Carhartt store there (go figure, a very traditional work oriented clothing company in a tourist destination). This was our first visit to the evolving tourist spot. We had an excellent lunch at Rosa Mexicano, and then slogged our way home through downtown DC. It made us remember just why we retired, and don’t regret that commute every night. By the way, the fish tacos at the restaurant. Amazing.

Spring is our favorite time to hit the back roads, enjoy the scenery and venture into previously unexplored sections of the tristate area.

Any suggestions for places to go?