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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.

Orangette

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.

Adventures in Food and Wine

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Saturday here was lovely. One of those gifts of a day that you can’t waste indoors. We decided to bag the planned yard work, and the house projects and go for a ride.

We haven’t been to our favorite wineries in ten months. We have been pretty much home bound doing renovations and repairs, and the entire first year of my husband’s retirement had us working here and not playing. We vowed to remedy that lapse of adventures and trips this year.

We chose to travel the back roads to Virginia, and to stop at a popular year round farmer’s market in Leesburg on the way. I wanted to get some goodies from Mock’s greenhouse, but they weren’t there. Bummer! We did get some apples and some yoghurt and butter though.

We then went down to Linden Vineyards in Linden, VA. It is a lovely site just below the Appalachian Trail near Front Royal VA.

We did a cellar tasting of their new individual vineyard designated reds and chardonnays, and sat on the enclosed deck drinking a glass of library wine, the 2003 Claret. Jim Law, the owner and winemaker likes to open old wines in the winter and offer them by the glass paired with local cheeses and sausages. So, I could count this as a Dark Days lunch, but the baguette wasn’t local.

The 2003 Claret — in the winemaker’s words, from the Linden website library section:

Aromas:

Black raspberries and plums, aged balsamic, pipe tobacco and herbes de Provence.

Palate:

Pine resins, candied blackberry, tapenade and cedar; full bright acidity & gripping tannins.

Food Pairings:

Robust meat dishes with reduction sauces.

Vineyard:

Hardscrabble Vineyard (65%), Fauquier Co. on top of the Blue Ridge at 1,300 to 1,400 feet with an eastern to southern slope. Deep, well-drained mineral soils give cherry character and good structure. Vine ages from 12 to 19 years. Glen Manor Vineyard (25%), Warren Co. is on the western slope of the Blue Ridge about 7 miles west of Linden Vineyards at an elevation of 1,100 feet. The deep, fertile soils give roundness. The vines are 9 years old and trained on the French lyre system. Avenius Vineyard (10%), Warren Co. is just 1 mile north of Linden Vineyards at 1,300 feet contributes good acidity and verve. Vine age is 7 years.

Vintage:

2003 was a difficult vintage both in terms of yields and concentration. As the growing season unfolded, it became evident that in order to ripen our red grapes we would have to greatly reduce yields. This is because of a cool, cloudy summer that slowed vine and fruit development. Severe cluster thinning began in July and continued into September. It was not until October that we experienced some good warm sunny weather. Harvest was from October 20 to November 10, 2003. No single vineyard wines were bottled in 2003. All our best vineyard sites were declassified into this Claret.

Winemaking:

Native yeast, warm fermentation and early pressing give the wine its pretty aromatics and supple texture. Aged in 50% American oak, 20% Hungarian puncheons, and 30% French oak for 19 months. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 12% Petit Verdot. 1,040 cases produced.
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As you can see, we love going to Linden. Jim Law is a master, called a perfectionist by many, and cares deeply about what he grows, makes and sells. Sitting on the deck and watching the skyline changes on the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of our favorite activities. We also bought some wine to bring home and cellar.

We then wandered down to Glen Manor, sitting just below Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive. From the description above of Linden’s Claret, you can see that Jeff White used to grow grapes for Jim at Linden, but for the past few years has opened his own winery. His setting is even more spectacular, and you can sit outside and watch the cars far up in the hills driving the Skyline Drive.

He makes just a few wines so far, but still some winning varietals. His sauvignon blanc is made in the style of a New Zealand wine, all citrusy and perfect to pair with seafood. We had to indulge in some of it to bring back for a treat for seafood dinners.

All in all, a beautiful day in the mountains just two hours southwest of us.