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Tag Archives: traditions

Sure Signs of Spring

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When spring is truly here, in Central Maryland, there are those annual rituals in which I participate. You know the ones I mean. The annual visit to Brighton Dam to assess the azalea gardens.

The search for those first wild asparagus to forage. Or the first fat bundles at the newly opening farmer’s markets. Or, in my case these days, the first asparagus from my garden plot.

The dogwoods blooming everywhere you look. The progression of springtime blossoms here goes pretty much in this order. The forsythia, the daffodils, the tulips and the cherry blossoms, the azaleas, the dogwoods and the rhododendron. Mixed into these, it’s somewhat random that the other bushes and trees flower and then leaf out.

We are only a month away from the first strawberry picking.

Jenny’s Market should be opening next week. Then, I won’t have to drive far to get some fruit, particularly citrus which I always need for cooking.

Grilling season is about to commence in earnest. Not just the occasional good day to uncover the grill, but the long stretches of time when every night is perfect to eat al fresco. Not yet buggy season, or high humidity to interfere with the enjoyment of the outdoors.

I noticed this year. My asparagus came in three weeks earlier than last year. The azaleas are already peaking out at Brighton Dam. Weeks before they normally do.

The weeds are early, too. And prolific, due to our relatively mild winter. No long hard freezes that would kill them off. I will be battling the bittersweet much earlier, as it threatens to invade my flower beds.

Next week, my spring/summer CSA starts. The farmer’s markets aren’t far behind it. Can’t wait to visit the new one in Clarksville Commons or my favorite one down at the Wine Bin in Old Town EC.

This coming weekend is supposed to be lovely. Check out the azaleas if you get a chance.

A Betty Crocker Christmas

Remember these?

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My first recipes. Back in 1975 when I moved to Columbia. I found the box up in the attic inside a moving carton, along with my husband’s recipe cards. His were McCall’s and bought when he first moved to Columbia in 1977 (he learned to cook from them, in his new townhouse before I met him).

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That budget casserole up in my cards? Made an appearance many nights for my two roommates and me. Just 1/2 pound of ground beef and one egg. Really cheap eats. Back when we couldn’t afford anything fancier.

I decided to pull out the cookie cards and make some of them for Christmas. Along with an old favorite. This one.

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Which was on the menu tonight.

As for the cookies, check these out.

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Shortbread. Crescents. Caramel-nut bars.

I still have spice cookies and toffee to make tomorrow, but this is a trip back in time. And, no, I didn’t succumb and use Crisco, even when the recipes called for it.

Any old memories being resurrected for your holiday?

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I may be tempted to make that fudge too.

Strawberry Social

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Yesterday I attended the annual volunteer appreciation party up at the historic farmhouse on the Howard County Conservancy grounds. I have been volunteering since 2010 and have made it to most of the annual Sunday afternoon appreciation parties.

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The farmhouse is only open for viewing a few times a year. If you wander around outside though, you can find the viewing portal that will show you under the siding original logs.

The volunteers get together to celebrate the end of another busy season. All of the field trips are done. There are the monthly programs still, and of course, summer camp. Still, the crazy field trip schedule has wrapped up. Some weeks, there were field trips every day. Some days, more than one. Without the dedicated volunteers this would not be possible.

The social is simple and fun. Strawberries from Baugher’s Orchards and Farms in Westminster. Vanilla ice cream from Hoffman’s. Lemonade and iced water. Time to mingle and relax. Followed by a short series of presentations including the big reveal of the volunteer of the year.

Some highlights this year. Gwen Morrison, honored for volunteering at 50, yes, FIFTY field trips. Sometimes twice a day. Our requested commitment is a minimum of three in fall and three in spring. The naturalists usually can do more than that, but think about the commitment in hours (2-3 hours for every trip) to be there for dozens of trips. Way to go, Gwen. We worked together this year on BioBlitz at Belmont, one of my favorite activities.

This year’s winner of the Carol Filipczak Volunteer of the Year award was Bob Grossman. Bob is one of those faces seen over and over at all sorts of programs and field trips. He definitely deserved being recognized for everything he does.

There were other fun awards too. Like Rookie of the Year. Guys With Trucks (you have to go ask about that one, I love it). Parking Kings. Jump In. And more I can’t recall right now.

The dedicated drop in gardeners were recognized. For their willingness to wait out rain, over and over and over again, in May. Just when you need to get the gardens in shape, Mother Nature kept sending showers and storms on them.

One other special award to staff this year. Tabby Fique, the land manager, who was the education manager when I started volunteering was honored with one of Alice Webb’s paintings, of the farmhouse, for her 10+ years on staff. To most of the visitors, Tabby is the owl whisperer.

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She was Ranger’s original handler when he came to the Conservancy in 2010. Many people who come to Wine in the Garden were greeted by Tabby and Ranger.

Congrats to all the volunteers who were recognized this year and in years past. I can’t emphasize enough how much rewarding and fun this non profit is, for the volunteers and staff. A great place to work, to help, to visit and to support.

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Thanks for another fun year. Now, we’ve got to get in gear for the arrival of the Fiddlers next week, and hopefully there will be fireflies.

Oh, I almost forgot. We all got little packs of milkweed seeds to sow, wherever we can find a spot that may be a good habitat for the monarch butterflies. And, anyone new got their magnet for their car, to show our volunteer pride.

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Hoppy Easter

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As the Easter Egg hunts, and egg rolling events accumulate this weekend, we have yet to establish if there really was an egg laying hare, aka “Oschter Haws” as the Germans called it. You have to admit, for those of us scientifically inclined, it is mind boggling to contemplate bunnies laying eggs.

I did dye eggs this year. Kept some older ones around, to be used for display purposes, so I cheated and used the Paas dyes.

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Brown eggs are always interesting to dye. And, the slightly speckled eggs come out very nice. I should have done the natural thing and made dyes from our red cabbage, or from the turmeric in my spice cabinet, but with all the painting and sanding and hammering this week, I was surviving in a corner of my kitchen.

They are done, more or less. Just some carpentry and plumbing to finish. I even got my grandmother’s china back into her cabinet in the dining room. Just in time to make the bone in ham from the CSA last week.

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Traditions for the holidays? Do you have them? Are they ecofriendly and healthy, or are some of them bad for you but you do them anyway. One of ours is the ceremonial Peeps. Has to be just one small box. The other one, Rhebs Candy.

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Who hasn’t been in that long line to pick up candy, up off Wilkens Avenue by St. Agnes Hospital. When we were young, my Dad brought the candy home from their stall in Lexington Market, which closed down in 2008. You can get the candies ordered online now and have them sent to you, but going into the store, smelling the chocolate, and picking out your own assortment was a real treat.

Well, I need to stop reminiscing and get a few things done for Easter. While putting the rooms back in order, hanging pictures and curtains, and finishing up from the six weeks spent making half the house look great.

They Say It’s My Birthday

Or at least it was, yesterday.

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My better half even remembered to get the card, the flowers and a tiny box (just the right size, 6 truffles) of chocolates. He is pretty good about remembering dates, and almost as good at getting the little things that make it special.

Sixty three years old. I have to admit, I think there is some truth to how quickly the years seem to pass as you get older. I am amazed at how fast I feel that 2015 went by.

We have lived in this house almost 11 years. I realized it is the second longest time I spent at one address, in my entire life. The 23 years in our Columbia townhouse is significant. I wonder if I will spend 12 more years here, until I am 75. Who knows? It certainly is peaceful and lovely out here.

I grew up a city girl. Twenty two years. Then, 30 years in suburban Columbia. Commuting elsewhere after the first year of living there. Eleven years now a rural route resident.  Almost half that time as a retiree.

Reflections of why we did what we did in life. And speculation about what we want to do in the future. Those things always seem to come up on birthdays and anniversaries.

A few highlights of our dinner and evening.

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A very simple appetizer. Homemade bagel crisps (easy, just thinly slice a Wegmans plain bagel, then toast it). Served with Firefly Farms chevre and housemade smoked salmon from Bardines Smokehouse in western PA. The smoked salmon was picked up on one of our day trips. To Petrolia PA to buy some tower accessories for my husband. He gets to go look for radio stuff. I get to stop at someplace to indulge my locavore and small business habit.

We were actually there looking for fresh kielbasa. Theirs is award winning and we have to compare it to the homegrown style in my husband’s PA birthplace. It’s good. It’s close, but not as garlicky as what his hometown favorite is. For us, we have to have that homemade kielbo for New Year’s.

I can’t let the opportunity pass to say something about this wine. It is a six year old Chardonnay from my favorite VA winery, Linden. If you closed your eyes, or covered the bottle, you would not know it to be a VA wine. It tastes just like a good white Burgundy. Not premier cru, but up there. A perfect mate for the tartness of the chevre and the richness of the smoked salmon.

Dinner, too, was fairly simple, yet elegant. I put beef short ribs over a bed of white beans, onions, Brussels sprouts and mushroom gravy. Slow cooked it for six hours in the oven.

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Not the best light for pictures. I served lightly glazed carrots with the beef. A yellow one, a white one and an orange one. CSA carrots come in all the colors of the rainbow around here. I am working my way through that full root vegetable drawer since the end of the fall CSA. Good thing carrots last a long time.

The splurge for my birthday dinner. The 2012 RdV Rendezvous. Just released in October. Quite an austere wine. In the manner of a Bordeaux, it does best when paired with food. The beef short ribs did OK as a match. This wine needs a few more years to mellow. Still, it’s a lovely balanced wine. Who would guess it’s from Delaplane Virginia.

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We finished this wine later in the evening with one of those truffles, while watching the Kennedy Center Honors. As for the Linden, here’s hoping the half we didn’t drink survived a night in the fridge. That’s the thing about older wines. They don’t tend to hang in there for the next day.

This birthday, like many of ours, was spent here at home. Leisurely. Relaxed. Full of great food and wine. Easy to make dishes. I really enjoy putting together a make ahead meal, and spending time just having uninterrupted conversations with my better half. While also enjoying locally produced beef, vegetables and wine. Not a bad way to turn 63.

 

A Very Merry

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No, that isn’t our view this Christmas morning. I had to look back to 2012 to find a white Christmas around here. It was more like this out there.

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And, right now it is pouring rain. I should be thankful it isn’t snow, as all the moisture the last few days would have created large amounts of the white stuff.

It’s been a quiet day here. We do our big thing on Christmas Eve, and then we spend today recovering before another week of visits and celebrations. We still have my birthday, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to enjoy the excesses of the season.

I would be remiss to not mention again just how awesome our local shops and farms are. With great examples. Like Boarman’s market staying open to help someone who went to our big chain grocery only to find out they were out of parchment paper. Those last minute cookie baking sessions always seem to find us missing one thing we need. Boarman’s employees stayed after normal closing time to come to her rescue.

Breezy Willow opened on Christmas Eve with more cookie tins and plates, since they sold out of everything they had made for their normal Saturday farm stand times. I was there because I forgot a few little hostess gifts for my family.

Kendall’s came to the rescue again for us, as we had another run in with someone who doesn’t like mailboxes, and who smashed ours overnight before Christmas Eve. We do have a spare mailbox just for these occasions but I didn’t have numbers for it.

So, after all that last minute running around we spent a lovely afternoon and evening with my family and friends.

We are always asked, what are you getting for Christmas and usually our answers are a bit strange. This year, I got my dining room chairs redone, with The Cover Uph getting them finished in less than a week.

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Decking out that dining room for dinners is one of my little pleasures. Replacing the 30 year old wool covers was a splurge and a gift to me.

Tonight we will have a simple crock pot dinner. The house smells like cinnamon from the red cabbage and apple dish that has been slow simmering for the last few hours. We are making a smoked kielbasa and opening a bottle of Virginia wine.

We’ll have some eggnog as dessert while watching Andy Griffith. I mean, seriously. Talk about wild and crazy holidays. With all sorts of partying. We gave that up long ago, and on a wet and dreary evening, we are having “A Very Merry” holiday just chilling out at home.

Hope you all are having a great time too, and are making your own memories.

Be It Resolved

Do you do New Year’s resolutions? Do you keep them?

I have been putting together a simple list of things that I resolve to continue. I don’t need to add to it. In basic English. Just Do It.

Like “EAT HEALTHY”. Not that hard to do with a CSA and Friends and Farms. When someone gives you vegetables and other basic staple items, it is easy to make healthy meals. Like this one.

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Rainbow trout with vegetables. Compliments of Friends and Farms. Some quick frozen corn and green beans. A baked potato. If you wanted to eat better, this is a simple way to begin. Buy a sample basket. Pick a size. If you like it, order a monthly basket. Customize it. Right now, we buy a Protein and Dairy basket. We get meat, fish, eggs, cheese and in place of milk, I chose to get a random vegetable. It can be anything. Like the acorn squash a few weeks back.

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Stuffed and ready for dinner.

Another resolution. EXERCISE. We tend to do that by working outside. Tower work.

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And gardening.

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Crawling around in the dirt planting vegetables.

My last big resolution. BUY and EAT LOCALLY.

More and more of what comes into this house takes a short trip from the source. Whether it is food, or wine, or beer, or plants, or just services, we use local farms and stores for most of our purchases.

So this year I will be eating locally, buying locally and traveling locally. Not hard to do. For lists of sources to buy locally, I have numerous pages on my blog. Just check the header above.