Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Channeling Gene Hackman

We were at a *great* party the other night. Lots of friends and a buffet table loaded with homemade food...fall favorites. Roast turkey with all the trimmings, pork, salads, veggies. You know, the stuff you start craving this time of year. In the midst of it, Brendan - a neighbor and good friend - commented how wonderful it was to settle into home and hearth this time of year. Get together with friends for good times. I agreed.

In fact, it had been a long weekend of "good times."

Thursday night we met friends for dinner in nearby Frenchtown. We had not seen them in a long while, so we had much catching up to do. A later night than usual for us.

Friday night brought more friends to our house for drinks and dinner out at our local inn. More good times.

Saturday it was my turn in the kitchen. Two couples for dinner. Lots of wine, laughter and food and another late nigh.

So as we loaded outselves into the car Sunday night to head out to yet another party - as mentioned above - I guess I should not have been surprised to hear Chris mutter to himself, "This is a bridge too far."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Directions

Are you a picker or a thrower? Not sure? Let me elaborate...

Maine seems to be breeding the pioneer woman in me. Back to the land. Grow your own food. Raise sheep and spin wool (not!). Learn to make jam without poisoning family and friends. Simple things...good things...humble things. Like afghans - small "a" - something to cozy up under in front of the fire with a good mystery. It all started two weeks ago...

Amy was up for a visit and whilst taking her leisure, pulled out the cutest pair of socks she was in the process of knitting. "AHA!" my mind screeched. "A new endeavor to tackle and conquer," visions of warm socks and sweaters for Chris and me. Beautiful afghans on every bed, chair, bench and sofa. And if I took it to the level of Chris's cousin Viola in Iowa - curtains, bathroom toilet cozies, shower curtains(I kid you not), bedspreads, placemats, throw rugs, hand towels, kitchen sink cloths, chair arm and head covers, pillow covers, small appliance covers, handbags, table scarves, bureau scarves, chest scarves, neck scarves...all over her house. All at the same time. Really. In her favorite color yellow. But I digress. Eagerly I peppered Amy with questions, hungry for the knowledge of all things knitting. That led to a wander to locate yarn shops one rainy afternoon. That led to "EyeCheMama! They want HOW MUCH for that skein of 100% hand raised and spun Alpaca wool! Doing a slow and laborous calculation in my brain (you thought I was going to say "speedy," dint ya) that works out to $50 for a pair of socks. Are you kidding me?

So, of course, I bought enough to make a small lap throw. Size 10 needles will be perfect. Hey, it was all Walmart had in stock. We get back home and I tear into my new-found passion. Hours and hours of furious knitting pass, days of more furious knitting pass, a week gone - poof, just like that - and I have produced three inches of a 60 inch blanket. Hmmmmmm. New plan.

Maybe larger needles would help. And a simpler pattern. And more basic stitches - leave double seed stitch for another day. And MAYBE I could loosen my knitting tension just a wee bit. Afterall, the guage was 7 stitches to the inch, but I was producing 42 per inch. Oh, and just to be clear...stitches is written in knit speak as "sts." So, for example, a typical instruction would read CO 52 sts, on next R, *k 2, p2, yo,* repeat from * to end of R. Easypeasy, right?

So I get bigger needles, find an easier pattern with simpler instructions and commence again. The second half of the afghan came out beautifully. Especially once I mastered the proper way to insert the needle to create a knit stitch and the proper way to insert the needle to create a purl stitch. See, I THOUGHT I knew what I was doing, but through the miracle of the internet and video, I realized I had been DOING IT ALL WRONG. Aaarrrggghhhhh. Well, I was half way through the damn thing and damned if I was going to rip out the damn thing now. So here is a picture of the damn thing!

The piece next to the geranium looks lumpy because the yarn was lumpy (not evenly woven - thick and thin as spun). Amy and I thought it would give interesting texture to the afghan, but it just looks...lumpy. The very bottom section was done in the same yarn but a diffent skein. It doesn't look...lumpy.

To be fair, the last time I tried to knit I was a teenager. Being dyslexic, albeit a high functioning one, it was - shall we say - a painful experience. Add to the fact my teacher was left handed and tried to teach me by having me look in a mirror. (Do you have any idea what a mirror image does to a dyslexic person???? OMG) As an interesting side note, Chris does not let me navigate anymore. That's because there is only an 80% chance I'm right when I say turn left here, which can get really, really exciting when we are in the motor home. But now I am older, wiser, more patient and I have discovered something new (to me, at least) in the world of knitting, something amazing, something better than sliced bread, a Godsend if you will: pattern charts. A pattern chart is a visual "map" of the project; not lines and lines and lines of written instruction. Pictures I can understand!!! It was a Eureka moment for me. Yippeee!

Maybe knitting is my new life calling. My mother told me many times of her Irish grandmother, who was a farm wife living along the coast of Nova Scotia. She produced 15 sons and 3 daughters. Family legend has it she knitted a pair of socks a night. Can you image? Apparently she wore a large cork on her belt and maybe that somehow figured into pushing the needle as she knit along. I have this mental image of someone dressed like Whistler's Mother knitting away in a rocking chair by oil lamp through the long, dark winters of Canada.

Back to my original question. There are two ways to knit - hold the yarn in the right hand and "throw" it over the right needle to produce the next stitch or hold the yarn in the left hand and let the right needle "pick" the yarn for the next stitch. I'm a picker.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Toast...

Dillon had to leave us today. It was time.

He was the beneficent ruler of the farm and its environs. He bowed to none and all paid homage to him...even the fox.

He greeted all who came to the farm...guests, workmen, delivery people. They were all HIS guests. He devilled more than one worker by stretching out on the hood or roof of their vehicle and he could not be persuaded to get down, sometimes even as the person drove down the drive. My heart stopped more than once to see him atop a pickup truck roof headed for the road.

He took one mate in his life and remained loyal to her memory to the end. They were each other's shadow while together. Often, in winter, they would sit shoulder to shoulder looking out the barn feedroom's south facing window, basking in the sun and each other.

My garden thrived under his watchful eye. No squirrel dared come close and I wouldn't be surprised if he kept the deer away too. Voles and field mice were regularly left at the front door as love offerings. The barn was free of pigeons and rats. Raccoons rarely sighted.

More than once I saw him walk a fence top to get onto a horse's back. The crabbiest of the horses on the farm never objected and let Dillon sit as long as he wished on their warm rump.

He had an ancient soul. Wisdom shown out from his eyes and he carried himself with quiet authority. It was child's play for him to convert the most ardent non-cat lover to a loyal fan. I saw it many, many times.

In the last few years of his dotage, he was granted his heart's desire...to be a house cat. He conducted himself with all gentlemanly manners, I think his polite way of thanking us for the privilege of a soft cushion and warm spot to sleep away the days. His claws stayed sheathed and he bowed to the resident cats and dog with all deference. There was only one incident when Remy decided it would be fun to play with Dillon by pretended to bite him. The only movement I saw on Dillon's part was a very slight movement of his ears and a narrowing of his eyes. Remy froze mid-leap. Game over.

In the end, because we travelled so much, Amelia, Tony and especially Eliana took him in and made sure he knew he was loved. They are special to me for that kindness.

So tonight, when you raise your glass, please say a small toast...

To Dillon

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I know, I know...

Happy Fourth of July!

It's been so long, I don't know where to start! So I'll go with pretty... This is the Eden Climber that has FINALLY reached up to the top of the arbor on the west end of the house. I think it has taken at least five years to get this far! My goal is for it to absolutely smother the arbor...won't that be spectacular?

Leaving pretty behind, let me move on to ugly...

Here you are looking at a ripped window awning on the motor home. Behold its bent arm and banged up cover. Chris created this lovely mess when he was putting the motor home into its barn. Smacked right into the barn door - OUCH! Considering the side mirrors only clear the doors by an inch on each side - really - I'm grateful he hasn't removed an entire side. Speaking of mirrors...while driving across the Frenchtown bridge a couple of weeks ago, he clipped the Jeep's side mirror on an oncoming car. Poor Chris. Anybody know the karmic significance of mirror smashing?

Looks like I've got a theme going here, so on to...gaudy! Every year opening day of polo is also a tailgate competition. So this year I wanted to pay homage to polo's roots in India. After some scrounging around in my brain, I decided I would create a Polo Lounge. Scampering around the house, I pulled together anything looking remotely "lounge-ish, polo-ish or India-ish." Walmart came through with $1.75 a yard hot pink fabric and the orange sheers - that was a stroke of luck, if ever there was one.

We won, so we received a wonderful gift basket of food and drink goodies. It was fun.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Yippeee...Maine Pictures

As excited as we are to be in sunny Florida (that's a small inside joke down here…a very bitter inside joke. We have not been outside to sit, eat or entertain ALL season because of the cold weather. But that's a story for another time.) we were even more excited to receive pictures of the kitchen reno in the house in Maine.

Here's a look at what we started with…first the picture from the realtor's website. The second picture is how it looked after we moved in. To open up the gorgeous view, I took down the curtains and Chris took down a row of cabinets over the peninsula.

Here is a longer view from the living room toward the far wall of the kitchen. The windows are to the left of the big black round tray hanging on the wall. The door standing open to the right of the tray goes down to the garage. Lovely carpet on the floor, even in the kitchen - ick. This wall and doorway will be completely gone in the finished space.

The demolition begins!!! Yeee Haw! Now the kitchen is completely open to the living room. The smaller window to the left was over the kitchen sink, but it will be removed in the renovated kitchen. The other two windows will be replaced with new casements.

Layer upon layer it comes back together... Just look at that beautiful new wood floor. Tom did a fabulous job blending new and old flooring together. This picture offers a great look at the new 6' slider which replaced the old steel door out onto the front deck.

In the picture below, the wonderful vintage Frigidaire stove is in place.

The countertops are South American cherry, but still wrapped in plastic. The cabinets are off white except for the unpainted ones visible in the foreground. They will be painted a dark spruce green. The light fixtures are still just hanging by their wires from the ceiling, but they will eventually be put up flush with the ceiling.

Other details include wainscoting with a plate rail. The peninsula below waits for the sink and dishwasher.

This will be my view when I am standing at the sink - looking toward the living room. Just after is the living room picture from the realtor.

We can hardly wait to see it in person.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Celebrating the Irish in Me!

On Wednesday we had fun with a golf cart parade here at the resort. I decided on the theme Irish Spring...mostly because the stores were out of all things Irish by the time I got out there to shop and because the "flowers" were 40% off at Michaels. Saving money always pleasing to the Irish soul. And, no, I don't think the cart actually looks like the hanging gardens of Babylon.

I am one-quarter Irish from my mother's side of the family. The Rodgers hail from Peggy's Cove, near Halifax, Nova Scotia. My grandmother Rodgers was one of 18 - 3 girls and 15 boys. Family lore has it my great-grandmother could knit a pair of socks in one evening.

The other story I remember my mother telling was the night my great grandfather decided it was too cold for the draft horse to sleep in the barn, so he brought it into the kitchen...onto the new linoleum floor. I think they both ended up back in the barn that night. Seems great grand da had a love for a nip of the whiskey from time to time. Well, at least I know I come by it legally.

I look a lot like my mother, who looked a lot like her mother, so maybe someday I'll meet myself coming or going during a visit to Ireland. That would be fun. Visiting Peggy's Cove (of the famed Swiss Air jet crash) is also on my bucket list. With 17 great aunts and uncles there have got to be a few cousins running around up there!

Our board president, Tom, Grand Marshall Larry "O'Whitlow" and Chris waiting for the parade to start.

There are more pictures up on my Facebook page.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lazy Sunday Morning

My favorite time of the week is Sunday morning. Quiet, full of promise and lacking deadlines or chores. Except maybe a egg-centric breakfast...which is always a treat. This morning we indulged in potato pancakes as I had some left over mashed potatoes to deal with since my refrigerator is not working too well. That's another story, however I'm not going to let that annoyance disturb this beautiful morning!

The cats are in their post-feeding nap mode. Dillon and grandson Spike (foreground) have an uneasy truce over the sofa as a prime nap spot, the center between the cushions being all things perfect for comfy kitty dreaming. It is the only thing they will agree on and Spike is a perfect little snot at all other times toward his grandfather. I guess I am grateful Dillon is so tolerant because in his day he could take down full grown rabbits and big barn rats with one pounce and shake of his victim. We were still in California when Dillon came to us from another horse farm. Our best guess is he is about 20 years of age. A recent change in his diet has brought on a greater level of energy and he seems to be far more comfortable moving around with his broken hip.

While I enjoy a second cup of coffee and contemplate my day, Remy keeps a watchful eye out for squirrels, a word which we have to spell in front of him, by the way. He has quite the vocabulary and the tree-rat word sends him into a frenzy of whining, "Let me out...let me out...let me OUT!" Not that he has a prayer to catching one and I think he really just wants to play if his wagging tail is any indication. Another favorite word is "Lunch!" which I yell to Chris who is typically in his office at that time of the day catching up on emails (or maybe playing solitaire?). Remy dashes to his bowl and begins wolfing down his food...it's so cute. Say "Jeep" in front of him and he almost wags his back end off..."Let's GO!" He has full command of his toy collection and when you ask, will correctly bring you his ball, the ring, the snake or his squeeky toy.

On my To Do List for today is dream up an appetizer to take to our friend's house tonight. Roast beef dinner - yum!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dipping My Toe in the Oven...

I know we have been gone a long time...but you all understand, right? Thanks for your patience.

I know I probably write about cooking more than anybody cares, but I have special reason to rejoice today...I FINALLY have a stove again. My oven conked out last June and it has taken until now to get it fixed. Now I admit it is partly because we are gone so much so the scheduling of service appointments gets difficult. But a large part of it is the imcompetent manufacturer and back ordered parts, non-existent parts, wrong parts and parts that don't have anything to do with fixing other parts. Sooooo, a $1,000 later, my oven works and we move on...

to scones! About 30 seconds after the repairman left, I fired up the oven and it has hardly had time to cool off! This morning I made Cherry Almond Scones for a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast. Heaven! So to thank you to you for your patience, here is a simple satisfying recipe with endless variations. This goes together in a flash and will make you look like a rock star.

Basic Scones

Pre-heat the oven to 425 F.

Place a shifter over a large mixing bowl and sift all the dry ingredients into the bowl:

2 cups AP flour (300 g.)
2 t. baking power
1 t. salt
1/4 c. sugar

Cut in 6 T. unsalted, cold butter until the butter is in pea sized pieces.

Add any other dry ingredient desired now: dried cherries or raisins or walnuts or fresh blueberries, orange zest - you get the idea.

In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients:

3/4 milk
1 egg
and any wet flavoring desired like a teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Mix gently until reasonably combined. Scrape it out of the bowl onto a well-floured counter. It will be messy and wet, so use enough flour and knead no more than ten times. The less handling the better.

Pat the mound of dough into a square or a round about 1/2 to 3/4 inch high (it will be about a 7" round) and cut into squares or triangles. Or use a cookie cutter to make large or small rounds. I like triangles.

Bake on a ungreased cookie sheet for 12 to 15 minutes.

Make these savory scones by omitting the sugar and using minced onion, spices, herbs or chives.

I found this scone recipe in a cookbook from one of the windjammers that glide by Ash Island out my Maine living room window with their week-long compliment of guests. I figure my house guests would have to like them too...

I was so frustrated without my oven as I use it almost every day. For example, yesterday I roasted root vegetables for a soup recipe I am trying to re-create from Chase's Daily in Belfast, Maine where we had lunch a couple of weeks ago. Here is an article in the Boston Globe about them. Big chunks of oven roasted beets, potatoes, turnips, carrots and shallots in a garlicy vegetable broth, drizzled with olive oil and croutons. I am drooling just thinking about it. This afternoon I am slow cooking beans to use during the week. Tonight will be shepard's pie with oven roasted brussel sprouts that I guarantee will have even the most ardent brussel sprout hater asking for seconds. Maybe an apple crisp or rustic tart for dessert if I have time. And tomorrow no-knead bread will make an appearance on our table once again. Oh my, have I missed baking bread. And pizza!!! Toasting nuts for salads and making spicey hot roasted tomatoes or caramelized chunks of butternut squash to marry with cool globs of goat cheese over brown rice or lentils. Sorry...I'll stop now.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Euro Trash Talk

Well, I missed it. We were watching CNBC a month or so back when a report came on about the euro falling against the dollar.

I said "If it gets to 1.10, I'm buying some to hold for our next trip to France."

"Good idea. You could use some of that cash you're hiding in all those envelopes under the mattress." Chris replied.

"No way! I'm saving that for a *real* emergency."

Chris looked at me with the Where does she GET this stuff from? expression. "And what emergency would that be?"

"Like if some wacko terrorist drops a nuke on Port Newark and we have to run like scared rabbits for the hills. You won't laugh at me then, when I have cold hard cash so we can barter with the mountain folk. No sirree Bob"

"I see, so that money is for food, fuel and ammunition."

"Food? No, that's what the ammunition is for." Note to self…add varmit rifle to the Emergency Plan Packing List.

I sleep better at night when I have a plan, you know.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spring Business or Maybe Busy-ness

While Chris was off grunting his way through the installation of a new air filter on the motor home, I decided to take a wander in my garden. First stop was the rhubarb stand tucked away behind the David Austin roses in Brent's entry garden. After wrestling out a goodly amount (and one Borer Beetle) I pondered on what to do with it all. Growing up, my mom used to make rhubarb sauce, which we dumped over vanilla ice cream. Serious yum, to say nothing of the sugar buzz. Didn't know about all the evils of sugar back then, I guess. I'll post later on my culinary decision. Next I came upon the scrouge of spring, bane of gardeners everywhere, shame of nurseries who continue to sell it...Chameleon houttuynia. Bad, very bad, berrrrrrry berrrrry bad.

The most infintesimal of root left in the ground will sprout a thousand offspring. In other words, there ain't no gettin' rid of this sucker once you plant it. Agent Orange won't kill it either. (Don't ask, I won't tell who my contact is at the DoD.) Oh, and the smell? Think of cilantro on steroids. That alone seals the deal for me...hate cilantro.

So why is it in my garden you may well ask. Well, go ahead, ask! BECAUSE I'M AN IDIOT IS WHY! There, you happy? Back in my baby gardening days, when I knew C&#P about anything, I was beguiled by a poetic description of this "carefree groundcover with spring flowers like strawberry plant blooms, pretty color and easy care." Huh! This is the kudzu vine of the north.

Still grumbling, I headed back inside and was stopped dead in my tracks by this....

Each of those flowers is almost six inches across. It is clematis Dawn and she is blooming about a month ahead of schedule. A freakish hot weather spell a couple of weeks ago got the ball rolling early this year. I keep trying to convince her to go UP on the arbor over Brent's door, but she prefers smothering my prize Japanese cut leaf maple.

What I am most pleased about is how the Lolly garden bed is shaping up. (I name some of my garden beds for special people in my life.) I completely revamped the bed last year...started from scratch with a design of my own. I think it is going to work out! Yeah!

Allium 'Lucy Ball' is blooming; nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' offers softness underneath. Tucked in among that are peonies and Blushing Knock Out roses. Way at the back are oriental lilies. Later there will be catmint nepetoides, smaller alliums and queen anne's lace. The obelisk will support a couple of clematis and a climbing rose a bit later in the season.