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'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.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Sweet Girl

On the left is my "goddaughter" Abby. Just as her "mom" Donna is Remy's "godmother. Abby fell ill two weeks ago and did not recover despite the best efforts of her veternarians at Cornell U. She will missed deeply by us and her family.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


There is a popular cable show where the hosts have a special expression when something amazing, usually good, happens…they look at each other and one of them says, "Shut UP!"

My dad used to say in his succinct way, "If you have nothing to say…shut up."

My mother phrased it as "If you have nothing to add to the conversation…shut up." Or if we were in polite society, she would say it to me in French. I know it was French because when I repeated it to my high school French teacher, I got detention for a month.

Mom also had "The Look" that said shut up in great, big CAPITAL LETTERS, italicized, bold, underlined.

My brother would roll his eyes and say SHUT UP Pea Brain. (His favorite pet name for me.)

My early years were steeped in mastering the art of shut up. So you can believe me when I say I am very, very good at it.


Most of the time. Really.

OK, there was that one little, tiny incident at a business conference where I provided some audience participation to a strictly rhetorical question. Even though the audience was appreciative, Chris's boss was not amused by my contribution. But the speaker, I think he was chairman of some big Swiss bank, kissed me on both cheeks when we met later that evening.

OK, so I have lapses. But I am not entirely without other social aids. Oh, no. I have the Voice Inside My Head. It's the Immodium to my diarrhea of the mouth disease, if you will.

Allow me to illustrate. I will be about to say something monumentally stupid when...

ViMH: "Shut up Barbara"

"Why? I have something *** to say [ *** amusing, clever, poignant - you fill in the blank]."

ViMH: "It's not ***. Just shut up."

By now I am practically twitching in the effort to open my mouth. "But it's really, really ***," I argue.

ViMH: "No, it's not. Trust me."

"Puleeeeeze!" I whine.

ViMH: "NO! Shut UP Barbara!"

And on it goes until the ViMH wins. Usually wins...

Unlike the other evening when I said to a complete stranger at a perfectly lovely pool party,

"Oh my God, what happened to you?" looking at what I thought was a large bruise and she replied,

"It's a birthmark."

I prefer white wine with my foot, thank you very much.

A few weeks ago, the contractor working our Maine house emailed pictures of the snow storm. He said the house looked like a frosted cake.

No kidding!