Friday, April 26, 2013

Notes From The Country

This past week and a half has been about bringing life back into balance one step one day at a time. About sharing others' pain, and ultimately focusing on love and strength of spirit and life.
 After this and a following storm passed through last week, and as soon as all that snow melted, I went in search for signs of spring.
and discovered baby columbine leaves poking through.

As well as iris leaves

and these soft little lambs ears

and catmint

Knowing that each of those little plants will overcome most of what nature will throw at them and will grow into this scene in a few short weeks is inspiring.  It reminds me of faith and hope.

I discovered a few spring onions, garlic tops, chives, tarragon, and a very small amount of green thyme leaves

And made some spring herbal vinegar

I spent one day vacuuming, cleaning house, doing laundry, then made potato cheese soup with corn and cauliflower, turkey bacon and homemade croutons for dinner. It was a simple gift for my family so when they came home from work and school, there would be a clean home, clean clothes, candles lit and a comforting meal for dinner. Sometimes it's the simple things, the simple moments that bring a sense of balance to our everyday lives.
I reacquainted myself with my cookbooks
I made herbed kale chips, peppery sweet potato chips, and rosemary sweet potato chips...

I ground peppercorns

                                                      and filled my salt bowls for cooking

I played with my dog
I took care of the chicks daily and was again amazed at how fast they grow.
And spent some doctoring time as well. Yes, this deserves an explanation. ;) Tune in to the next post.
My heart still hurts for everyone in Boston and beyond. Living in fear and anxiety is not a choice I am willing to make, so with love and gratitude for this day and even the smallest of blessings, I will make the most of this gift of life.
      "It takes both the sun and the rain to make a beautiful rainbow."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Notes From The Country

April in White

No that's not Santa and it's not Christmas. It's mid-April. Hefty snowstorms happen every once in awhile here. This is a little unusual though. It's been snowing for three days and still going strong as I write. We're up to 20 inches on the path to the alpacas. The happy teenager doesn't have school  again. I'm going to go make some soup and some biscuits and maybe some ginger scones for tea this afternoon.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Notes From The Country - Extra

My thoughts are with everyone in Boston

Sweet Dreams

Good Night. Sleep tight. You haven't properly met the Queen cat yet. She vacillates between the Step Queen from Disney's Snow White (Just give her an apple and see's what she does with it) and......hmmm, is there a good Queen in a Disney movie? They kill off all the good queens, aka mothers in the first 5 minutes of every Disney princess movie. I think Walt had issues. Just sayin.

Afternoon Pick Me Up

Listen to Mickey

Lunch Break

 Spring Weather
Here's some music to enjoy. Take your pick.
Today's fantasy...April in Paris
Today's reality...Baby It's Cold Outside
Today's fantasy

Today's reality

Today's fantasy

Today's reality

Today's April snow storm calls for soup. This is called appropriately "Spring Pantry Soup". Notice how I mixed in a little Spring chick crouton...It's all in the details.

Spring Pantry Soup
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, diced small
1 clove garlic, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh minced basil, chives, and green onion
1 bay leaf
1/2 of a  (16-oz.) bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed, plus 1 cup diced carrots and broccoli (or whatever fresh vegetable you happen to have)
3-5 cups chicken broth, plus water to cover
1 (14.5-oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
2 cups cooked rice
1 (15-oz.) can white beans such as great northern
Salt and pepper
 Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large dutch-oven or stock pot set over medium heat. Cook onions until they are translucent but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Stir in herbs, bay leaf and thawed mixed vegetables and fresh vegetables and a large pinch of salt. Add broth and water as needed to cover vegetables. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and continue cooking, uncovered, until vegetables are crisp tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream of mushroom soup, rice and undrained beans. Simmer until all ingredients are heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with a generous amount of parmesan cheese. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

This is my adapted version of this recipe because these were the ingredients I had on hand. It was delicious! The original recipe can be found at another of my favorite food blogs here!

Don't forget to wear an apron whilst cooking. ;)

Morning Wake Up Call

Good Morning! Nutella + fresh baked croissant from French bakery = mouthwatering breakfast probably not on anyone's diet list.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Notes From The Country - English Countryside Walk

Before we left for our trip to England, I looked up walks on the internet. I literally just picked a random walk in Derbyshire where I knew we were going to be, printed out the route (I favored this one because it included a hermit's cave and a grouping of rocks on a hill called Robin Hood's Stride - and if you know me you know I have always been a touch obsessed with Robin Hood) I printed out the route directions and tucked it in the luggage.

We did find the walk and it started in the town of Elton, which is described as an unspoilt village popular with cyclists and walkers. Basically, there's not much there. Some adorable houses, one pub, and the village is situated such that it is exposed to some harsh weather from the cold Northeast winds. We parked in front of this adorable house. The garden in front, if you look closely had Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs tucked into flower beds. That just put ordinary garden gnomes to shame. I knew then I had picked the right place.

Here's an example of the walking route instructions.
1.Walk from the church along the main street towards the B5056 and turn left at a stile just beyond the edge of the village, to cross the corner of a field and a farm access road.

2. Continue to angle to the left as you cross the next field, to reach a stile into Dudwood Lane.

3. Walk down to the bottom of the lane, and cross over the stile opposite and walk up the drive towards Cratcliffe Cottage, bearing left by a wall after going through an open gateway. 

Seriously!!!! First time in England. Here we are in this tiny remote village in the middle of nowhere and these are the instructions. gets better

4. Go through the cutting between Robin Hood's Stride and an area of woodland on the right. To make a detour to visit the Hermit's Cave, turn right at the footpath sign and then return to the same point to continue the walk.  So here's what happened. Obviously we found the stiles. That is what is shown in the picture above. Then it just got better and better.

I have to mention that on these walks you pass through peoples' property. Apparently everyone's property is up for grabs on walking tours. So we passed by this lovely field where someone was out feeding his sheep.

Yup. Just mingle. Did you know British sheep have accents? Their baahs have a certain lilt. ;)

This is me talking to British cows. I was asking them why their milk is richer than American cows. Not really those cows abide in Devonshire.....I fell in love with the little wild purple foxgloves all over the countryside in England. Digitalis purpurea. (Of course it was my dream to go to England in June when the gardens were blooming, and voila!) So on with the walk...

The Hermit's Cave, at Cratcliffe Rocks, where under an overhang of rock a carved crucifix remains, was at one time home to a hermit. In the middle ages, hermits were looked on as holy men. Appointed to lonely places by a bishop, they rendered hospitality and assistance to travelers.  You learn something every day

Legend has it that Robin strode between the tower-like stones at either end of the tor (I choose to believe this legend)
An alternative local name is 'Mock Beggar's Hall' and from a distance it is easy to imagine the tumbled rocks and turrets being mistaken for fortifications, especially in semi-darkness or mist. But there are real fortifications nearby, for Harthill Moor Farm, which can be seen from the Stride, is built on the site of Castle Ring, an Iron Age fort. This is one of the forts built along the ancient track known as the Portway, which passed just alongside Robin Hood's Stride.
And yes, I have a video of me pretending to shoot an arrow, to the accompaniment of my husband whistling the Robin Hood tune from ....the Disney version of Robin Hood. You know the one with the fox and the rooster and the little baby rabbits? Oh cmon!

This is the farm just past Robin Hood's Stride...I love saying that "Robin Hood's Stride"....

Continuing on ...this is what I call the Jane Eyre portion of the walk. All I needed was a long, grey, flowing, uncomfortable gown...minus the underarms....

As I envisioned, there are stone walls....everywhere along the countryside...and little stonehedges as you can see in the distance.

We also passed through Robin Hood-esque fern forests. You know how people always told you when you were out hiking or camping and you had to - you know - pee - they told you to avoid poison ivy? Well in England...don't pee by stinging can affect the rest of your trip. Don't ask.

After a very long, breathtaking, dreamfulfilling, weather-changing walk through the English countryside, we were, of course famished. The only pub in Elton was closed. But, never fear, pubs are not difficult to find in England, and we happened upon this lovely one in Tissington. The Bluebell. It just happened to have horses and chickens and was all muddy and damp and chilly and lovely in an English way.

And, I had one of the best meals of my travels in England there. A steak and kidney pie. Don't laugh. It was exquisite. And I had a Speckled Hen beer. And no, contrary to what I was told, the beer in England is not warm and soapy tasting. We can be such snobs here. ;) I bought two glasses which said Speckled Hen on them...and of course, left them at our Hotel. Which I am pissed about to this day.

If you ever make it to England, which I highly suggest, go for a walk!!