Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Eleven years

I just wanted to note that it has been 11 years since I began writing this blog. Things in the world and in my world have changed in ways I never, ever could have imagined. I was still in my fifties and now I am 3 months away from 70. How is that even possible?!

Since that day, there have been two marriages, three grandchildren, a child building a house on our land. Animals have died, and new ones have come into our lives. Thankfully, so very thankfully, the family is doing well. Nina (Tom's mother) will turn 90 the day before I turn 70. Her husband is now 94. My 'babies' who were 24 and 21 when I began the blog are now 35 and 32.

My immediate hopes for the blog are to write more often, and a bit more in depth. I kind of miss writing about the books I've read. I want to write more about gardening and cooking, and the little ones, Hazel Nina, Campbell Walker, and Indy Thomas.

Thank you to all my readers who are still here. I write a post and before I can blink you have taken the time to write back. I am encouraged by you and warmed by your caring. I don't get to visit any of you nearly as often as I think of you, and yet you still stop by and read any letters I have the chance to write.

I'll leave you with a photo from yesterday of the yard off the kitchen. I think my favorite time of day at Windy Poplars Farm is between 9 and 10 in the morning. The light is so wonderful.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Grocery shopping

This week's installment of Weekend Cooking is a collection of questions. How do you shop for food? Do you go once a week, twice, more often? Do you plan your meals and buy accordingly, or do you just have a vague idea and buy things thinking you might use them?

I am prompted to ask because I seem to be throwing away too much produce. When I buy watercress and some leeks, I'm positive I will make soup, but somehow the days fly by, and they must be thrown out. It is wasteful, and a bit embarrassing to be so cavalier with food that I am lucky enough to be able to buy. I must change the way I shop. I looked back on the blog and found that just a year ago I was talking about sort of the same thing. Really? How long does it take me to learn, to try a new way of shopping?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Homemade popsicles

When the kids were little we used to make them yogurt popsicles from yogurt and frozen orange juice. I decided it was time to make them again. Not just for the grandchildren but also for Tom and me.

Just two ingredients - frozen, concentrated orange juice and vanilla yogurt.

I emptied the frozen juice into a bowl and let it soften. Then I mixed it with half a quart of yogurt using a hand whisk, added to popsicle molds and put them in the freezer.

Today I ate one, and it was delicious. No artificial colors or flavors, no pesticides, just purely good food. This is a perfect snack, or even a lunchtime meal.

These particular molds have a cool little straw for when it melts.

Please do visit Weekend Cooking for more food related postings, or to add one yourself.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Today's picture/house painting

The last time we had our house painted was thirteen years ago, and that was just the front because of a special occasion. The rest of it had been peeling away for decades! We are so very pleased. We hired two young guys and they were done in a couple weeks.

Back side of the house, before - it had been scraped at this point

and after

We went with a darker gray, painted the porch ceiling which was just wood before, and decided to change our Tomie dePaola doors for a red that we love. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017


I thought some of you might get a kick out of this clip from New Tricks.

Then he and his wife go to The London Library. They walk in and he says, "This is heaven." Later he tells his colleagues: "No racks of CDs or DVDs. No misery memoirs. It smells of books."

 A little addendum. At the end of the show, in which Brian was almost killed in the library, he says "I've had it with libraries. They're full of weirdos. This is the way forward (he holds up an e-reader). Linked to the internet, it allows me to access the world's literary culture from my own armchair. I've just downloaded The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin."

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Quote du jour/John McGahern

On this very hot and humid late September day, I am sitting in front of a fan, reading How Many Camels Are There in Holland by Phyllida Law. She says that she read the following quote on the flyleaf of a book she bought at an Oxfam shop. I think it is just wonderful.

The best of life is life lived quietly where nothing happens but our calm journey thru' the day, where change is imperceptible and the precious life is everything.
-John McGahern

I had never read the name before so looked him up, and he is a well-thought of Irish writer. How could I live this long and never have heard of him?? You may read more here. I am interested in reading That They May Face the Rising Sun and his autobiography called Memoir.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Quote du jour/Pearl Bailey

My kitchen is a mystical place, a kind of temple for me. It is a place where the surfaces seem to have significance, where the sounds and odors carry meaning that transfers from the past and bridges to the future.
Pearl Bailey

This quote is in my birthday book. Yes, even in these days when various social media and our own phone alerts can tell us when it is someone's birthday, I use my book. I keep it open to the next birthday coming up, and when that is past, I go to the next one.

The Susan Branch drawing that accompanies the Pearl Bailey quote.

Isn't it wonderful? I love this kitchen. I want to peek in the drawers and cook on those green tiles. Pretty much as different from the kitchens I see in magazines as is possible. Mine is more like this one. My butcher block counters and lower cupboards are from 1981. I don't expect I'll ever change them. I did get rid of the upper cupboards years ago, and Tom replaced them with open shelves, which I love.

I was just saying yesterday that most of my favorite things are in the kitchen -that new-to-us kitchen table and my aunt Mabel's cupboard I told you about earlier this summer,

the Larkin desk, and the Hoosier.

Together they make the kitchen homey to me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Today's picture/Week nine CSA flowers - 2017

This week I thought I'd try something fun, and made three bouquets from one. I so love these flowers.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

FaceTime fun

Even though the cousins see each other pretty often, it is still great fun for Hazel, Campbell, and Indy to FaceTime. What a great invention, especially for families that live far apart.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Pictures of Grammies

I thought after yesterday's posting I would put up some pictures of my grandmothers.

My paternal grandmother holding little 15-month-old me in 1949. You can see the stockings and shoes. And check out that hat!

1961, on the right. It is that placid, kind expression I remember best. She lived another eight years and died at 97, I believe. She is with her first born child, Effie. Are there any Effies anymore??

My maternal grandmother in 1929, still in the thick of raising her ten kids. At this point her oldest was in his twenties and her youngest was four. Unbelievable.

In 1961. Much the same sort of dress as thirty years earlier. She died four years after this photo, at 81.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Grandmothers, then and now

I saw this picture on Facebook,

and it coalesced so many thoughts that have been swirling around in my head for the past almost 4 years since I became a grandmother. Look at that woman. Isn't that the way most of us who are in our 50s and older remember our grammies looking. Floral print dresses with a half apron tied around their waists. I can picture the shoes - what used to be called 'sensible shoes.' And one of my grandmothers had those thick, cottony, brownish stockings. As I've noted before in my letters, I have no cooking memories with either of my grandmothers, except for my paternal one making homemade bread. And even then, I didn't see her make it. She just came into a room with it. This probably happened only once. Both my grammies were old when I was born, and already had a passel of grandchildren. I didn't live in the same town as them and visits were quiet afternoons with me sitting and listening to the grownups talk. I loved them both intensely but I just didn't see them enough.

Back to those rambling thoughts. My grandchildren have seen me in a dress only once at our niece's wedding. All my shoes are 'sensible' but not those clunky, heeled ones like old women used to wear. I never wear an apron, and if I did, it would be the long ones that go over the neck. But I look at the woman in the picture and I just think she is oh, so beautiful. Maybe in my seventies, I shall begin to dress like that. But I know I won't. Dresses aren't really very practical, though I love Lily Tomlin's in Grace and Frankie.

My babysitter when I was a kid had antimacassars on her furniture. I don't know how long it has been since I've seen one. And doilies. Many of my women relatives seem to have made doilies. And they embroidered pillowcases. All gone. Or at least they aren't anywhere in my travels.

I'm not one of those women who try to look young. I'm 69 and look every year of it. I'm happy with my grandmother status. But I feel kind of badly that Hazel, Campbell, and Indy won't ever see that woman in the picture. I have taken to wearing my hair back in a clip which feels 'grandmotherly' to me, but I think there will have to be another wedding before the kids see Nana in a dress again.

Here's a goofy-pose picture Hazel Nina took recently. I don't often put up photos of me, but I thought it fitting for this post.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Masala Alu

My daughter's enthusiasm for The Great British Bake Off (or hashtag GBBO, as it is known in social media) convinced me to give it a try. Well, I went through all three seasons on Netflix streaming and the fourth season on PBS, one right after the other. I am now a huge fan.

Over here, we don't have the first few series that were on in England. Our 'first' season is really the fifth. And I also see that our 'second' season was actually the fourth over there. I so don't understand how television works. Why can't all the shows be on over here, and if not, why can't the ones we have be shown in order?? Despite that little annoyance, it is THE BEST SHOW!

I have learned so much about cooking. I've bought three cookbooks, one by Paul Hollywood, and two by one of the contestants, Chetna Makan. I follow several of the contestants on Instagram and Facebook. I also have subscribed to Chetna's YouTube channel, Food with Chetna. This recipe comes from her. I love the way so many Indian dishes include potatoes, my personal favorite food. Here is the video of Chetna making Masala Alu, Spicy Potatoes.

I followed it exactly except I had no chili peppers, and I forgot to substitute chili powder. Next time. And there will be a next time because we loved it! I was able to buy fresh curry leaves online from Mr and Mrs Amazon. I had white mustard seeds not black. I chopped the ginger the way she did, but another time I think I'll try grating it. I didn't top with coriander because I am not fond of it. I didn't use mango powder because I didn't have any. Will look in the store or online for it. I have never used in cooking before:
curry leaves
mustard seeds
garam masala

And a cool little aside. One of the baked goods from Season 1 (in the US), episode seven was a Breton pastry that no one had heard of or could pronounce. Kouign-amann. I had to write out a way to remind me how to say it. As near as I got it - cooweenamon, with the accent on the last syllable. It is the pastry that most appealed to me on all the shows. And miracle of miracles, a young couple have bought an old farm in town, and are doing various things to support it. One of them is pastries. The woman used to work in a French bakery, and her work is divine. She sells her wares Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and believe me, we are there all three days! Croissants, brioche, cookies (sables), and yes, Kouign-amann. It is the most delicious pastry I've ever eaten. And it is a big hit among her customers. We take care of Hazel Nina on Fridays, which we now call pastry day! She used to be a croissant girl, but now she requests the 'ticky' (sticky) one, which is the Kouign-amann.

I haven't had much chance to write my blog (or read blogs) this summer, but finally here is something to offer for Weekend Cooking.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Blueberries - 2017 report

Last September I took note of the blueberries we bought from our neighbor. Today I froze the last batch of the 2017 season, and there is quite a striking difference from 2016.

Last year he picked from July 27 - August 28; this year July 31 - August 23. In 2016, we bought 61 quarts, and this year only 43 quarts. 18 fewer quarts than last year. We all attribute this to the very rainy spring.

Here is the breakdown for this summer.

July 31 - 3 quarts
August 2 - 3 quarts
August 3 - 2 quarts
August 5 - 3 quarts
August 7 - 4 quarts
August 9 - 3 quarts
August 11 - 5 quarts
August 12 - 2 quarts
August 14 - 3 quarts
August 15 - 2 quarts
August 16 - 2 quarts
August 17 - 2 quarts
August 18 - 2 quarts
August 21 - 4 quarts
August 23 - 3 quarts

Price was same as last year, $5.50 per quart, and worth every penny. Buying organic blueberries in the store costs a lot more, and they rarely come from the US. Serbia and Turkey, most often. These are as locally sourced as possible without growing them ourselves.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Today's picture/Week seven CSA flowers - 2017

I thought I'd show you how they look before I put them in a vase. These flowers truly take my breath away. Such color. The essence of summer.

And in the vase which is always on the wood stove, being the only place in the whole house which is safe from Raya the cat who would munch away at them.

As you see, there is plenty of basil for this week's pesto!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Today's picture/Week six CSA flowers - 2017

Today's beautiful flowers are back in my mother's vase. 

Check out all the basil! Both purple and green. Pesto coming right up! 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Quote du jour/Jane Grigson

Cooking something delicious is really more satisfactory than painting pictures or making pottery. At least for most of us. Food has the tact to disappear, leaving room and opportunity for masterpieces to come. The mistakes don't hang on the walls or stand on shelves to reproach you forever. It follows from this that the kitchen should be thought of as the center of the house. It needs above all space for talking, playing, bringing up children, sewing, having a meal, reading, sitting, and thinking. . . . It's in this kind of place that good food has flourished. It's from this secure retreat that the exploration of man's curious relationship with food, beyond the point of nourishment, can start.
Jane Grigson, Good Things

More about Jane Grigson here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Today's picture/Week five CSA flowers - 2017

This week's vase is made in Italy, and a present from my friend, Judi.

A close-up

Little apples and basil! So, so beautiful.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A long-winded attempt to catch up

I can't believe how long it has been since I've posted. I promise it is not because of re-joining Facebook! I am managing my time there very nicely, I think. And I've actually found it to be very helpful. The woman from whom we bought our sheep three years ago, wrote on my timeline and messaged me to offer two ewes who were done being mothers. They are nine years old, and are going to spend their retirement years at Windy Poplars Farm. Here they are in the back of Matt's truck.

They have settled in well, and I like having six sheep. They are more of a presence in the pasture.

Nebby, the donkey. In the back, close together, as always, the mother and daughter, Aberdeen and Angelina. On far right, Maybelline. In the foreground, L to R: Cappuccino (new), Maggie Mae, and Kiah (pronounced Kyah - also new).

Our Dominique chicks, born May 8, lived in a box in the cellar for a few weeks, and are now in the barn and moving around just like the big chickens.

Tom's parents made the big decision to move to a smaller place. They do not have to be in assisted living, but they wanted an easier life without having to shop or cook. They have a kitchen so still can make meals when they want, but both breakfast and supper are provided. It's a lovely place with a swimming pool which will be a big draw for the great-grandchildren. There is a library which I naturally love. It has chairs by a window and many shelves with all kinds of books. We've gone down a few times to help move smaller things, and to receive a few lovely rugs, Nina's framed needlepoint, some things for the kids, and this beautiful kitchen table.

It was Tom's grandmother's and we have loved it for decades. So happy to have it. Since the kids were little, we've had a round table which became oval with extra leaves. But I have always wanted a rectangular table. It feels like a real farmhouse table, and I love the little drawer. I put grandchildren treats in it. Incidentally, the white cupboard belonged to my aunt Mabel, and it was given to me when she died. It was in her kitchen and both Margaret and Michael remember she always had a can of Pringles in it. I love it so much. For fifteen years, it has had the 'distressed' look, aka, chipping paint. Tom recently painted it and we moved it into the kitchen. The books are my food related books, like Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking.

The final move-in was this week, and they are very happy. Here are some pictures from a few weeks ago. When we go down next, I'll take some more photos.

A lovely patio and garden

 Great kitchen

The living room looking out the sliding doors to the patio

It is a big change for them, but they are both such sports, always looking forward not back. They have a gift for enjoying life.

I've missed posting two weeks of my CSA flowers, so here you go:

Two weeks ago, I decided to use the little pail provided last year as my vase. And this week I used a pitcher that belonged to my aunt Gladys.

I've made a batch of pesto both weeks with basil that was in the bouquet! Just like last year.

After a rainy spring and early summer, we are finally having real summer weather. It has been perfect really - sunny, but not too hot. The gardens are going great guns, but there is still 'witchgrass' amongst the daylilies, and it has been hard keeping the weeds down in the garden as they all got such a hold during the wet weather.

Remember the rust on the hollyhock last summer? I actually decided to not plant any this year, but lo and behold, a plant came up, in the same place as last year!

The first flowers appeared this week.

There's something going on with the leaves again. Not sure if it is rust or insects, but the nearby Chelsea Prize English cucumbers seem to have it, too.


We'll see. The cuke in general looks okay, and I hope it stays that way.

The Clarimore Middle Eastern zucchini is doing great. I've made two meals with it already.

The really tall French Gold filet pole beans are just coming. If there is a big enough crop, I think I'll freeze some this year.

I've eaten 3 or 4 Sungold orange cherry tomatoes, but most of them are still green. There is nothing like eating a warm tomato right off the vine.

As usual, I have too many plants in too small an area, but I can't seem to help myself. In the spring, the two we started under lights were so small, and I decided to buy two more plants from a local farm. Of course, ours have pretty much caught up with the ones I bought.

And now to my favorite gardening subject - the daylilies. The stars of Windy Poplars Farm which make July and August as pretty as could be around here.

I'm sure your eyes have glazed over by now, and you're wondering, when will this end? Well, now!