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Tag Archives: travel

Opening Doors

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And discovering the world.

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In two days a blogging friend who also volunteers with me at the Conservancy is leaving on a one YEAR trip around the world. Something many of us dream of doing. She is starting in Istanbul, one of my absolute favorite cities that we visited during our travels in the past.

I am following her family’s journey on their web page. I admire their quest to travel the world with only a backpack a person. Husband and Wife. Three girls. Their nanny.

Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

Travel to places where they speak a different language. Eat different foods. Live their lives in totally different ways than we do.

Their journey reminds me to dust off my bucket list. Look for those things I want to do, but haven’t yet. I’ve done quite a bit of it, but there’s always more mountains to climb. Seas to sail. History to discover.

In the meantime, those grounded items on my list keep getting checked. The garden. Check. The house in the country. Check. That radio tower for my husband. Getting closer.

First prize for my heirloom tomatoes at the fair. Sometimes I think it’s unattainable. The weather keeps conspiring against me. But, the search and the challenge is what keeps us going.

I wish Lisa and her family fair winds and following seas. We will be following their adventure, and maybe planning a dream trip of our own.

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When He’s 64!

So yesterday was my husband’s 64th birthday. As for that needing or feeding part of the Paul McCartney reference, I at least fed him well.

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Part of it was even local! We tend to stay home for birthday dinners, and break out the good wine, and make something fairly simple but matching the wines. Last night it was a simple lamb chop dinner. I should have gotten the lamb from Mt Airy, but the Whole Foods lamb looked good. It did end up having a little too much connective tissue and fat, but had a good flavor. Simply sautéed with a red wine reduction. Marinated earlier in some rosemary and my roasted garlic. We split a baked potato. And, I made some of those Baugher’s Brussels sprouts. Not that difficult to make, and just the right amount. The dinner rolls were also from Baugher’s bakery.

As for wine, we didn’t do local. We did old.

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A special Chateauneuf du Pape, from the year we went to Provence. 2003.

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Memories of those caves, and the time spent eating and drinking locally produced market fresh foods. It is what created our appreciation of good food and wine from local farms.

We did go out yesterday, on the spur of the moment for lunch at Ananda. In Maple Lawn. An Indian luncheon. A treat my husband loves. Which is Indian food. Thanks to HowChow and his followers for letting us know about this new addition to Howard County. It certainly is a lovely restaurant with very good food. We will be going back for dinner, that’s for sure.

I think my husband had a pretty nice birthday. I certainly fed him well.

Resolutions

I didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions last year. I decided to challenge myself in my 60th year to do sixty things.

It was interesting. Fun. Not totally successful. But fun. I may try something similar this year.

Like finish the list in the areas I didn’t do very well in accomplishing.

My list —
Visit six festivals and/or fairs that are new to me
Taste at six new wineries never visited before
Seek out six new farmstands or markets to expand my locavore network
Do something different or visit someplace new in six states other than MD
Eat at six small business restaurants and/or diners
Eat/drink or experience six childhood memories
Log six new birds not seen before
Cook and eat six new proteins, i.e., meat, seafood, beans or nuts
Grow and/or eat six exotic fruits, veggies or herbs
Tackle six rightsizing projects

I am proud of myself in really taking on those rightsizing projects and pushing myself to get rid of things.

I hit more than enough wineries. Getting out of the rut of going to the same places. Discovering new and not so new places in MD and VA.

Farmstands and markets were successful too. Fruits, veggies and herbs, yep, did those too.

Where did I fail? Not getting out of MD, VA and PA. I really have become a stick in the mud when it comes to traveling. We did the trip to Roanoke and a few trips to PA. Found a few new towns in MD.

Never made it to DE or WV or NJ or NY, like we planned.

I was lucky in getting three new birds. Not by traveling, though. What were they? The guinea hens, the screech owl and the great horned owl. Thankfully, the program on creatures got me two close encounters with delightful creatures.

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Cooked with some new grains like wheatberries.

Hit more than enough childhood memories, too.

I should take inventory of how much I did. And, decide what to do next year. I am a firm believer in challenging myself, so as not to get stodgy and set in my ways in retirement.

After all,

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cooking with chayote was a highlight of my adventures into new foods.

As for wine, we can add Big Cork, Old Westminster, Early Mountain, Doukenie, Port of Leonardtown, St. Michael’s, Villa Appalaccia, Ankida Ridge and Valhalla to the list of new wines and wineries discovered this year. Not bad.

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Here’s to a great year. And many more adventures.

Root’s

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In Manheim. Pennsylvania.

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Checking off items on my “resolution” when I turned 60. A new city in a surrounding state. A new market. Lunch at some locally owned family type place.

I found this market on an app on my iPad. Food Network on the Road. Every Tuesday a huge food market, auction, flea market, antique dealings, collectors, and who knows what else.

Including lots of locally produced items.

I was on a mission. See if anyone sold salsify. They didn’t. Find a reasonably priced butter for baking. Found one. Maple syrup. Yes. Ground coriander. Check.

Oh, and this. Which I did not buy!

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As for my favorite item, it was this one.

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Can’t wait to try out the yellow bell pepper pappardelle. I went on the web site when I got home and found out it is available locally. At Casual Gourmet in Glenwood, and at Secolari, the new shop in Columbia Mall.

I need to bookmark those locations, as these pastas may become my new standard. I plopped a little of the soup mix in my turkey soup. At $2 a package, it was a great bargain. Mix and match, it seems.

Oh, and of course, in Amish country, I couldn’t resist one of these.

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What a lovely day we had today. Temps in the 50s. Nice lunch at Hahn’s in the market. Cookies in the car on the way home. And, the promise of some very good pasta this weekend.

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Mezze

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Inspiration.

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If there was ever a moment that defined how my cooking changed, and how our view of dining also changed, it was a trip to Greece and the Islands in 2004. Third time lucky, I would say. We planned this trip three times. First, 9/11 canceled my 50th birthday present cruise scheduled for late fall 2002. The cruise lines pulled their ships from the Med. Our next attempt, on Windstar, was canceled due to the fact the ship caught on fire and sunk six months before our scheduled cruise.

Finally in 2004, we made it there. Right after the Olympics. There, in the islands, we learned to enjoy small plates of fresh food, simply prepared and eaten at leisure, with wine, a view and good friends.

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Doesn’t this view beat that of a parking lot, or a storm water management pond?

This trip, and our trip to Provence, greatly influenced how I cook, and how we dine. We love putting together a mezze assortment. Mezze being the Greek equivalent of tapas.

And, we love dining out back watching the birds, squirrels, bunnies and butterflies.

Tonight I grilled some old pizza dough I found in the freezer. It looked ugly but tasted great. Put out an assortment of tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, and a jar of my ajvar. Nothing really fancy, just “flatbread” to dip and pile. Mix and match.

With a side arugula salad with balsamic.

No pictures of dinner tonight. Sometimes those messy plates of leftover goodies paired with bread or naan, are all we need to remember trips from the past. And, how good the fresh seafood, veggies and fruit tasted. Bought and enjoyed in exotic settings.

I don’t have to go to Greece to eat well. I can’t come up with a view that compares, but love my ajvar spread on charred warm pizza dough. Watching the crape myrtle in the sunlight. Not bad.

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With a glass of old red wine. Loving the Saturday night. What’s your inspiration?

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Celebrating the Super Bowl

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I knew somewhere I had pictures of a raven. It took a while to find them. They were taken five years ago on our trip to wine country. Who knew? I had to fly to San Francisco to take pictures of the Baltimore mascot.

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While out there, we took a ride down the coast and found quite a few birds. Seeing a raven up close, and seeing my crows who live in the yard, the difference becomes noticeable. The raven featured in my header through the rest of this week has that shaggy throat, is very large and has the slight difference in beak curvature.

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Compare them to my backyard crows.

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Now, back to deciding where we are going and what we are making for the Super Bowl. I do know there will be venison chili, from my stash of venison in the freezer.

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Sixty @ Sixty

Yes, sixty years young, today. This is one of those significant birthdays. Worthy of doing something different to commemorate.

I recall one of my fellow volunteers talking about traveling to celebrate a milestone birthday. Something like 50 days for the 50th birthday. We traveled way too much when we worked. We are really enjoying our surroundings and doing things we never got to do while we were in the work force.

So, I decided. Sixty is, of course, six decades. Six times ten. Six things, ten times. Or, ten things six times. I settled on more experiences with less to accomplish in each. It looks simpler to do. We shall see. I have been doing research already to find things that interest me.

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This year, no New Year’s Resolutions, just the pursuit of these stretch goals, for lack of a better descriptor. Some are fun, some may be difficult. If I enjoy this journey, I may make it into a page. A journal of sorts. Since I am an avowed locavore, locapour, and still a foodie, many involve cooking, eating, gardening, farming, the county and nearby places.

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My list —

Visit six festivals and/or fairs that are new to me
Taste at six new wineries never visited before
Seek out six new farmstands or markets to expand my locavore network
Do something different or visit someplace new in six states other than MD
Eat at six small business restaurants and/or diners
Eat/drink or experience six childhood memories
Log six new birds not seen before
Cook and eat six new proteins, i.e., meat, seafood, beans or nuts
Grow and/or eat six exotic fruits, veggies or herbs
Tackle six rightsizing projects

Some are self explanatory but others will take some initiative. Rightsizing projects include things we inherited from our families and things we accumulated over our 60+ years. Things like pictures, CDs, books, tools, clothes, shoes, whatever lurks in closets and cabinets. Having the space here makes it one of those often avoided projects.

The childhood memories include things like — riding a ferris wheel again, or a merry go round, or eating cotton candy, or a root beer float. Things we did as kids.

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For my first project, my husband bought a pomegranate at Wegmans yesterday. I have had pom juice, and pomegranate balsamic, but never tried getting the seeds out and using one in cooking. Tonight’s salad will have pom seeds on it. Maybe using my fennel we bought, and oranges. I am making my own birthday dinner, doing things I want to eat. Rockfish. Salad. Roasted cauliflower. None of it hard to make, and no worries about driving in the slush/snow/ice/whatever we have on the ground tonight.

It is still snowing out here. The red bellied woodpecker and one of the squirrels were out there chowing down this morning while I was prepping the fish in a marinade.

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This is a new young red bellied woodpecker, who is more skittish than the older ones are. He bolts when he sees the reflection of my camera. As for the acrobatic squirrel, he is lucky today. I don’t have the two layer baffle system on the large suet holder, and he can defeat just one. Besting the squirrels is a major undertaking here. Or, at least keeping them under control.

Who knows what this year, 2013, will bring to us here. I do know I intend to make it somewhat memorable, and certainly don’t intend to be bored.

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Anniversaries

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Today is a special anniversary for me. Two years ago, on April Fool’s Day I got up and went to work for the very last time. That was it. My thirty year and one day anniversary of Federal employment. I would have reitred the day I was eligible but adding one day gave me the total, including unused sick leave, needed to add another month to my pension calculation.

I always said I would only work thirty years and then walk. I wanted to work, but no longer needed to, once we got our town house paid off. We were lucky that we bought our town house before the crazy real estate market in Maryland. We were smart to keep cars for 12-15 years, and never buy on credit.

We saved like crazy to buy this place we wanted for our retirement, so we could enjoy it and our hobbies, away from the traffic and the noise. The view from the front porch alone is worth it, most sunsets are spectacular.

I know I am lucky to be retired so young. I was 57 when I retired. I started working in 1968 when I was 15 1/2, in order to afford Catholic schools. Worked through college. Became a teacher. Met my husband, and at 27 fell into a mathematician job that had me coding computer models and traveling the world. I loved what I did back then. Of course, 30 years later, I was tired of bureaucracies, but the early years were fun.

My job took me cool places, so that now people say “Are you going to travel?”, and I say “No, not for a while.” Been there, done that, as they say. I spent so much time on the road in the 1980s and 90s, I was glad to take a headquarters job at the Navy Yard and stay in my office. Working for the Navy meant cool travel. Hawaii, San Diego, Bremerton, Port Canaveral, Ft. Lauderdale, the Bahamas, Newport RI, the Arctic, and the UK. Bath Iron Works in January stunk, but the rest was pretty amazing.

Add to that, the cruises and trips with friends while we were unencumbered by a mortgage and we have hit four continents and about 60 countries.

Later, when we are finished enjoying the nearby attractions, we may go places again. Now, it doesn’t seem to matter if we hang around here for a while. We have done all sorts of projects, like the roof and the siding.

I just like staying home and tending my gardens.

Cooking up a storm.

Going to the Conservancy a few times a week.

Taking day trips.

Visiting wineries.

Whatever strikes us as interesting. Driving to Chicago for a week, for example. Or, taking trips to markets.

My recent surgery and the extended recovery is a wake up call as well. Health is something we should never take for granted. Putting off retirement if we have the means to do it is risky. I have so many old coworker friends who had health problems soon after retiring. All those years planning and dreaming, then endless doctor visits, surgeries and treatments. Life is precious and not predictable.

Today, one of our closest friends retires after almost twenty five years at the hospital. She is six months younger than I was when I walked. She knows she is lucky to get to do what she wants. She also started working at 15, and like me, worked at one place or another for 42 years. Never taking a break.

I wish her well, and hope we all have years of good times to come. Taking that big step into retirement is scary, we know. Those last few weeks test you as you keep wondering if it is the right thing to do.

I know it was for me.

My Inspirations for Blogging

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For whatever reasons, I got to thinking about what tipped me over that precipice into wanting to write a blog. I never really read blogs except for travel ones back when we were big into traveling. There was a time for about six years that we worked like crazy and couldn’t take lots of time off, so when we did, we did it big. One big vacation a year. Travel blogs helped us decide new areas we wanted to visit.

Like Turkey. Without reading a travelogue we never would have thought of visiting Istanbul. Turns out we loved it. And, we wouldn’t have thought of visiting the Spice Market without reading about it in a blog.

We also would not have known that a great way to travel is to rent houses using on line assistance, like VRBO. It is how we found a house in Sonoma for a great deal off season in November, and from reading travel blogs I found out it was less crowded and easier to spend time at the wineries without feeling like part of the Disney World sized crush of people. Also found that having a house with a grill and a deck made us feel more a part of a community than a tourist. We shopped at the farmer’s markets and grilled many nights.

So, blogging inspired me. Eventually even I started taking pictures of our food.

One day, for whatever reason, I noticed an email about the 50 Best Food Blogs, by the New York Times. One of them caught my eye.

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I started reading Molly’s blog. I had read articles of hers in Bon Appetit, particularly finding it interesting that she wrote about sauerkraut at Thanksgiving. It’s a Maryland thing. Other parts of the country don’t traditionally include sauerkraut at dinner with their turkey.

I also found The Slow Cook through some linkage and clicked on it, since the name resonated with me. I started reading it as well.

Both those personal blogs made me think that I too could find enough to write about, and really, how hard was it to start a blog?

When I began, I also had been reading the Patch pages, and found HowChow and HoCoBlogs while wandering around links. The internet really has changed how I operate. Not to mention getting an iPad as a retirement present from my husband and learning all these social media, which are replacing the paper and magazine world we grew up with.

What direction do I want to take this blog? Originally, I wanted to record things that interested me, and also have friends who have moved away keep in touch by commenting back and forth. I wanted to keep a journal, actually, and found it more simple than I expected.

Now, recovering from surgery with nowhere to go (Can’t Drive) and not much else to do (Can’t lift, bend or strain my back), this blog is my daily entertainment. The iPad is light, and I can prop it up and write away.

Not how I originally envisioned spending my spring, but still fun. Now, I am going to send some west county posts back and forth with HowChow. Blog about living out here, eating out here, shopping, activities, events, sights and sounds, plus info on the “over the Border” spots easily reached from here.

It is a great way for all of us to network, as well as make new acquaintances at the HoCo blogtail parties. From years commuting to DC and not knowing many others than coworkers and a few neighbors, blogging has its own social world. And, a nice one at that.

Eating Relatively Locally

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Over the past years, we have been migrating much of our food choices to those locally produced, where we can find them. Beyond that, we have also committed to buy from small or local businesses when possible. Since 1980, we have also supported MD, PA and VA wineries, as well as those in the Finger Lakes. We pick our own fruit when we can, and have begun freezing and canning.

In 2006, we took one of my favorite vacations. Ten days renting a home in Sonoma, in order to experience wine country in a unique way. We bought at farmer’s markets and food stands, purchased local wines and cooked dinners on the grill, using the freshest and finest ingredients. I envy those who live there, as Sonoma County is a perfect climate for year round production.

We also bought and loved the local olive oils from the area, and to this day we order California olive oil and grapeseed oil and have it delivered once a year. Beats getting oil from Europe in terms of carbon footprint. We add a half gallon of balsamic in order to support the small business, even though I know it comes from Europe. Can’t get everything in our back yards, but we at least think about it.

St. Helena Olive Oil Co., owned by Peggy O’Kelly, is a truly wonderful source of goodies. I have had no regrets in continuing to support them and love their products, even though they are expensive, they are worth every penny. These are my salad dressing olive oils, not for cooking. Their grapeseed oil I use in baking and cooking, when I have my best meats and seafood to make.

Now, my vinaigrettes are made with products I love, and they taste so much fresher than any store bought dressings.