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I am personally not a stew fan. The guys all love stew and I’ll make it, but I would just as soon make something else for myself rather than eat the stew. It’s nothing personal, I’m told I make good stew, but it just doesn’t hold a whole lot of appeal to me. There are things that are just so much more appetizing. That being said, since yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day and since Irish blood does course through these veins and since we don’t eat corned beef and cabbage, I thought I’d make an Irish stew. I looked online for some Irish stew recipes and decided to go with a hybrid of sorts. A total lamb stew, I’m not sure how that would have gone over since we are not super big lamb eaters. An all beef stew, well, I already stated my opinion on that one. So I mixed them together, threw in some stout beer. I bought a single bottle of chocolate stout from a local brewing company since I couldn’t get a single Guinness (and since we don’t drink beer, I refuse to take up refrigerator space with any) and a bottle of red wine. I started this stew at 4 and we ate at 7. So, it really didn’t take very long at all and came out tasting quite good and coming from a non-stew lover, this is really, really high praise.

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Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs lamb stew meat cut into bite size pieces

1 1/2 lbs beef chuck stew meat cut into bite size pieces

2 T. tomato paste

1 t. sugar

1 t. Worcestershire sauce

1 bottle chocolate stout beer of your choice

1 c. red wine (I used Shiraz)

4 c. beef broth (I used 1 T beef base with 4 cups water)

3 T. butter

6-7 carrots cut into bite size pieces

6-7 Yukon gold potatoes cut into bite size pieces

1 large onion cut into bite size pieces

2 bay leaves

olive oil for searing

salt and pepper to taste

Process:

1. I took the cut up beef and lamb and browned it in the olive oil in my dutch oven. I did the lamb first and then the beef. Removed it to a bowl when each was done.

2. I put the cooked meat back into the pan and added my onion, sauteed for a few minutes.

3. Add stout, red wine, beef broth, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, tomato paste and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cover.

4. In a separate pan, add butter and saute carrots for about 15 minutes. Turn off and leave in pan.

5. Allow meat to simmer, covered, for one hour. Then add potatoes and carrots, season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Allow to cook uncovered at a medium heat  for approximately 40 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are cooked through.

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On Tuesday, the grass was showing in spots and it was almost 50 degrees. What a difference a day (or two) can make around here. Starting Wednesday morning the snow started falling and continued until this morning. When it was all said and done, we had about 2 1/2 feet on the ground although it is windy as heck here so an exact measurement (assuming that I was going outside to measure) would be next to impossible. Let it suffice to say, it is a LOT of snow.

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There was a lot of shoveling out this morning.

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Believe it or not, those sap buckets are actually hanging off the top of our three foot fence and hold flower in warmer weather.

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The sunlight coming through the window in the late afternoon when I was cutting the tips off of the green beans for dinner caused me to grab the camera and take some pictures of things on the counter that my photography teacher would (hopefully) have been happy to see for a class assignment.

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Ridiculous Lawsuits Infographic

Courtesy of http://www.mycase.com

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As many of you know, I am an attorney. Today in the mail I received a letter from a business known as the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys. Inc. advising me that I am a spectacular attorney and I have been chosen from their “rigorous selection process” to receive their “prestigious” Top 10 Attorney Award. The letter goes to tell me that this association has been in existence since 2013 (really?) with the primary goal of recognizing the top 10 family law lawyers in each state for their “hard work”. I am urged to return my acceptance by a specific date or my spot will be given to the first alternate. The second page entitled “Award Acceptance Form” contains spots for all the necessary information for me to receive my “prestigious” award including the spot where I can indicate how I want to pay the $250 Award Administration Fee to them for this honor. When I fork over $250, they will provide me with a plaque telling me how wonderful I am as a Top 10 Attorney.

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There are days when my self confidence may slip a little low, but  honestly, I don’t think I need to fork over $250 for a plaque to remind myself of how special I really am. Plus, it would help if they got my name correct. I haven’t been “Smith” since 1992 and I am not licensed in Vermont under that name at all. That, and the fact that a Google search doesn’t come up with any such organization on the first page of hits, is more than enough to make me say, thanks, but no thanks.

I think I’ll file this one where it belongs…..in the trash.

Dinner last night was homemade French Onion soup with homemade baguettes. It was delicious and well worth the effort of making it from scratch. While I was at it, I made some more sandwich rolls for lunches.

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Lunch rolls all ready for tomorrow.

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The onions, about 8 cups of them, thinly sliced sauteed for a nice long time to get a beautiful golden brown and form the base of the soup.

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The baguettes right from the oven. These were thinly sliced and popped into the toaster to crisp them up to use as the croutons. Of course, had I prepared better, I could have made the bread a day or two earlier and let the slices crisp up without the use of the toaster. Alas, I am not that prepared.

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The soup bowls are getting assembled and prepped for some broiling.

 

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The finished product …. was …. delicious.

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Photo

If nothing else, living where we live teaches one patience. When it snows, yes they plow the roads and yes, they do a wonderful job of it….but they do not have the city-it’s-gotta-be-done-now mentality. Usually the plowing comes toward the tail end of the storm, after all we have 2 guys plowing about 60 miles of roads and they do a fantastic job. Same as with ice, the hill will get sanded, but there have been a few of us that have gotten stuck or it took a few tries to get up the hill or we gave up and caught a ride with a neighbor. At the tail end of winter, frost heaves make an appearance and the roads have some wonderful whoop-dee-doos to contend with while driving. During mud season, which is fast approaching, no one goes anywhere too fast since our dirt road, like many others throughout New England, turns into a gloppy mess. Today is one of those days that teach you to be patient.

We woke to an internet problem, the DSL router was not working and the telephone company confirmed that they were experiencing a problem that left us disconnected. For a lot of people that is not a problem, after all we survived for decades without the technology that we take for granted now. But, when you work from home and your internet connection is necessary to do a day’s work, it can be a problem. So…this morning, we packed up our stuff and headed into town to Panera to get some work done while the internet problems are being resolved. I try really hard to find the up-side for my own mental health. Normally, Tom and I are working in our respective offices, in two different parts of the house. Today, we are seated across for each other, stealing a smile every now and again…it’s pretty nice.

Patience, it all teaches us that sometimes, we need to be a little patient.

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The veggie ends that I saved are growing nicely. The kitchen window sill is filled with lots of green things which is a welcome sight when you look out the window and realize that nothing green will be growing out there for quite a while yet.

Right now, I have about a dozen scallions in various stages of growth, a bunch of basil and a lovely bok choy. The other day, when I chopped up the last of a stalk of celery for some roasted cauliflower soup, I added that to the dish. I am anxious to see how that works.

While the leeks and scallions by far have the most roots, the bok choy, which has grown beautifully, is only just now starting to sprout a couple roots from its base. The basil is not showing any real root growth yet, but lots of leaves.

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We had about 30 inches of snow on the ground before the weather got warm the other day. Then, things melted and it rained and as predicted, it got cold again and everything froze. Our driveway is crunchy and icy and challenging to say the least.

When the snow was falling though the other day, it was time to bake some rolls. These are my new favorites, and the boys’ favorites, too. Quick and easy to make, they bake up quite nicely. I got this recipe from The Kitchen Whisperer and while, my rolls and her rolls looks different, (which I haven’t quite figured out why yet) they are absolutely a great sandwich rolls.

 

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Valentine’s Day has always been a somewhat strange holiday for Tom and I. He used to sell roses years ago so the whole holiday has a different taste for us. The holiday is quite a manufactured money maker and we have tried to instill in our boys that fact. There are 364 other days of the year to show the one you love how much you care and how special they are to you.

For years, we used to go out as a group and probably one of our best Valentine’s Day stories has nothing to do with us, per se. We had made reservations with a few other couples to go down to the Ironbound section of Newark for Portuguese food. Turns out that one of the couples had to cancel. While we were standing in the lobby of an extremely crowded restaurant waiting (we only had to wait 1/2 hour since we had reservations – weren’t we lucky?) a young couple came in and the guy walked up to the maitre d  and politely asked for a table for 2. At least they were kind enough not to laugh in his face when he said he didn’t have a reservation, instead they told him that he could be seated at 11:30 (yes, that’s p.m.) mind you, this was around 7 ish. Turns out, we happened to have an extra two seats, so we went up to them and asked if they’d like, they could sit at the end of our table (and we promised to leave them by themselves as much as possible considering we were all sitting at the same table). Turns out, they agreed. We bought them each a Valentine’s Day drink, wound up laughing and talking together for a good part of the evening. It was a very nice Valentine’s Day.

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Valentine’s Day has morphed through our relationship from the initial over-advertised guilt ridden day created by a card company with the expensive flowers and traditional dinner in a restaurant that was over crowded and overbooked through those days of group Valentine dinners with friends, to the occasional missed Valentine’s Day altogether when it managed to coincide with Tom’s snowmobile treks, to the take out Chinese dinner eaten in front of the fire on the floor. Tonight, the plan was that our youngest son and his girlfriend were cooking us dinner. They were going to then watch a movie and we were going to watch a show by the fire. Plans however, still change. A couple hours ago, I got a call from my oldest that he and a group of friends were driving down from school to go snowboarding and obviously to have dinner at home. While Tim and his girlfriend are still cooking us dinner, I am cooking sushi for the boys that are descending upon us any time now. It will be a different kind of Valentine’s Day once again — but a good one anytime you are surrounded by the ones that you love and who love you back.

One thing that has not changed through the years, the constant tradition, is the chocolate covered strawberries. Every year for as long as I can remember, I have made chocolate covered strawberries for all my men.

However you choose to celebrate or if you even celebrate at all…..Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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My boys amaze me. I am constantly in awe of how much they do and how very capable and talented they are at what they do. While we certainly are supportive, I honestly cannot take the credit for exactly how much and how well they manage to do things. For example, this past weekend, Tim was a participant in the American Choral Directors Association Eastern Conference. He, and four other Mill River students, who auditioned last year were selected to be part of the honors choirs. Tim had the privilege of performing in the Chinese Honors Choir. He learned and memorized about 8 songs in Chinese which he performed with 99 other students from all along the Eastern United States. He and his classmates, who were 4 of the 9 Vermont students that qualified for this distinct honor, performed in the Symphony Hall in Baltimore, Maryland with nationally recognized choral conductors.

We drove down to Baltimore this weekend meet Tim and see the concert. It was an amazing experience and still would have been an incredible event even if my own flesh and blood wasn’t one of the students performing. The entire experience was wonderful. My boys have the ability to constantly amaze me and make me incredibly proud. Enjoy the pictures here and share my pride and the pride of my fellow parents in how wonderful these students were and what an incredible experience they had.

Our ACDA participants with their choral instructor, Kristin Cimonetti.

Our ACDA participants with their choral instructor, Kristin Cimonetti.

 

The conductor of the Chinese Honors Choir – she was wonderful and explained the words to the songs that the students performed in Chinese.

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The entire Chinese Honors Choir performing at Symphony Hall in Baltimore.

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There’s my guy…..

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Today is a snow day and it’s our first real, actual snowstorm of the winter. Can you believe that? While other parts of the country were getting hammered with snow (talking about you, Jersey folks) we could see mostly grass on our lawns and fields. We awoke to several  inches of snow on the ground and for the first time this season, I got to pull out my Sorrel boots and wander out in the snow. Honestly, there really hasn’t been enough snow at once to warrant boots – muck shoes have been fine.

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Things are finally totally white — now this, this is what winter is supposed to be like here in Vermont.

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I was out, bright and early, visiting with my other kids – the ones that are somewhat hairier than the ones that live inside the house. Honestly, who can refuse this face? Lots of goat love (or maybe it was just that I was feeding them).

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http://tammyheff.wordpress.com
2012.
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There have to be 5 things even on a really bad day.

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