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We went away to do some cross country skiing for our anniversary. Both of us used to downhill ski, one of us was much better than the other, but we don’t want to give him a bigger ego so we won’t mention any names. Then I took up cross country skiing since I could literally walk out my side door put on my skis and go off into the woods behind our house and ski, no lugging of skis, boots, poles, accoutrements into and out of vehicle, driving, etc.
Some days, I would bundle up like I was headed off into the tundra, which sometimes best describes that area in our yard where we park our vehicles, and then as I made each loop through the yard I would shed gloves, the hat, a scarf or even my jacket – you get the picture, I obviously bundled up too much. The nice thing about skiing right outside your door was that I could just go inside by skiing back to my doorstep, no lugging of equipment, no driving, no changing.
Tom started joining me and the loops through the woods got longer, mostly because he knows his way around the woods far better than I. To say I am a bit directionally challenged would make those that know me laugh hysterically, but I wouldn’t wander too far into the trails alone in the woods for fear I might never make it out.
This was the first time that we actually went to a nordic center to ski. It was nice, the trails were well groomed and wide. While it was nice and we had a fun day, it did make us appreciate our own little “trail system” all that much more. Often, you need to wander away from home to realize just how lucky you are with what you have and often take for granted.
When I was growing up, the Christmas tree never came down before Little Christmas. Little Christmas is also known as the feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany is when the three kings arrived to visit the baby Jesus. Do you know the names of these kings? Not something that I remembered learning during my Catholic school education, but their names were evidently believed to be Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Little Christmas also marks the end of the 12 days of Christmas which run from December 25th through January 5th. It is the traditional end of the Christmas season and I guess that is where the tradition of “de-Christmassing” the house came from in my family. Taking the decorations down before that date is considered to be bad luck in some countries.
In Ireland, Little Christmas or January 6th is known as Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas since, particularly in Cork and Kerry (happens to be where our families were from), it is the day that the Irish men take over the household duties and watch the children so the women can go out and celebrate with friends and other female family, marking the end of their duties as hostesses in charge of the holiday visitors.
In Italy, they celebrate Epifania, which is a holiday where Italian children would put out stockings and find gifts from La Befana, an old woman who is said to deliver gifts to children on the Epiphany. She is said to sweep the floors when she arrives, to sweep out the problems of the old year. Italian children leave her a glass of wine and a bite to eat a better deal some would say than Santa has going for him).
So, see no matter which side of the family you look to for me (Irish or Italian) Little Christmas has significance. There is another reason the day has special meaning in our family.
January 6th marked my dad’s brother, my uncle’s birthday. Here’s a picture that my brother recently found of my dad (on the left) with my uncle Eddie (on the right). Both of them have left us (too soon) but I can never think of Little Christmas without also thinking of him. Somewhere, I am sure the both of them are smiling down on us. They are both dearly missed.
During a snowstorm.
In a cemetery.
On cardboard boxes.
36 years ago.
He will always argue it was actually tomorrow since it carried on past midnight…..
He is wrong.
But I still love him. 🙂
Years ago, my grandmother gave me her Belleek tea set. The set was packaged up very carefully by my mom more than 25 years ago so that it would be safe since at the time I wasn’t married and didn’t have a place for it. It has been packed away safely like that up until last year, when I finally worked up the courage to unpack that box. It required a complete rearrangement of the cabinet that would host it in order to clear a special shelf for the delicate Irish bone china set that was cherished by my grandmother.
When I unpacked the box, I realized that while I had the tea cups, saucers, dessert plates, creamer and sugar bowl, I did not have the tea pot. Somewhere in my mind, the tea pot was supposed to be there, but sadly it must have got damaged all those years ago and never made it into the box so carefully packed. For Christmas one year ago, my husband bought me a Belleek tea pot with the same pattern as the tea cups. I now had a complete set, but still not enough courage to actually use it.
Today, more than a quarter century later, it was finally used and enjoyed. Four of us carefully took down the pot, cups and saucers, brewed some delicious tea (Monkey Picked Oolong) and enjoyed that beautiful china Nanny gave to me all those years ago. Somewhere, I am certain she was smiling, watching her great grandson, his girlfriend, Tom and I enjoy a few cups of tea and the warm, delightful memories of family on a cold winter afternoon.
The end of the year we are taught is always a time to take stock of your life, your world, your body. Explore what you like, vow to discard or improve what you don’t. It is a time of hope, promise, a blank slate. Honestly, though, isn’t each day a chance to do all those things?
Last night, we were fortunate to spend some wonderful, quality time with friends, sharing food and laughter. Grateful always for my family, dear friends who share the bonds of many years, tears and laughter with us and those that have touched our lives and become an important part of our world here in Vermont. Most of all, grateful for the men in my life, who are my personal reason for living each day.
Instead of wishing our lives away, be thankful for what was and enjoy what will be and live each moment you are blessed to have. Mindful of your blessings and with a heart full of gratitude, welcome the new page on the calendar. Happy 2017!
The state of New Columbia. Yesterday, the voters in the District of Columbia were given the opportunity to decide if they wish to become the 51st state in our union. According to the voters in the District of Columbia they voted 79% in favor of a petition requesting that Congress vote to permit Washington DC to become the 51st state. Yesterday DC voters said that they want (1) the State of New Columbia to be recognized by Congress as the 51st state in the union; (2) the approval of a state constitution; (3) the approval of the boundaries of the proposed new state; and (4) approval of elected representatives for the new state.
The approved petition will now be taken by the DC mayor to Congress with the hope that it will be presented on or before Inauguration Day for consideration. DC voters who do get three electoral votes have no representation in Congress. They hope that will change and that this petition for statehood is approved.
There are days that I wonder why it is that I choose to do what I do. There are days and then there are weeks. This was one of those weeks. It perfectly culminated in two things, a phone call where I actually couldn’t remember who I was calling or my own name since I had been on so many calls back-to-back this morning and then a short while later, when my phone rang, I couldn’t find it under all the papers on my desk. So, folks, I thought I’d share this little gem which just about sums it all up.
It happens to all of us at one time or another. We get knocked down, either figuratively or as more usual in my case, literally. I am really quite clumsy as those near and dear to my heart will confirm. I could go on at length to recount stories of this physical ineptness, but I diverge.
Here in this blog post we are discussing the figurative falling down. Last week almost exactly at this time, I had an interesting conversation with a company’s recruiter about a very interesting job possibility. It was exciting to have someone contact me, pretty much out of the blue, about an interesting opportunity that would meld my love of writing with my capabilities as an attorney. The weekend that followed was one that I haven’t had in a while, daydreams full of possibilities about what might be while working on some supplemental documentation that was requested from me. I have learned that I am not a lucky one in a lot of respects and therefore generally resign myself to the pessimistic side of my own abilities and capabilities, but I succumbed on this one and actually became more and more intrigued by what seemed a pretty real potential opportunity and ever so slightly, more excited about this possible new chapter.
Did it work out? Short answer, no. Was I disappointed? Absolutely. But I did what a responsible adult that’s on the other side of the half-century mark would do (after my little emotional breakdown and pity party) and stood back up after that fall. I got up the next morning and did the job I have, not having the time to give much though to the remotely possible imaginary job I might have loved (or I might have hated). It was the stuff of daydreams and I had a great couple days imaging “what ifs” and feeling pretty flattered about being contacted at all. Lesson learned is that I was probably the most upset with myself that I let someone clear across the country have that kind of control over me and that I was that quick to fall. People don’t just get phone calls for potentially awesome job opportunities out of the blue that actually happen. At least not in my world.
If I were feeling optimistic, which I try to be, I would say that this means there is a better opportunity that awaits. Not sure I have gotten there yet. For now, I stood back up. That is enough.
This weekend’s project (which really did take most of the weekend) was to make tomato paste. I never tackled this before but seemed like it was a worthwhile project to use the overabundance of ripe Roma tomatoes that had suddenly appeared in the basement.
When they were predicting frost a few weeks back, I picked pretty much every single tomato that was left on the vine, most of them, sadly still green as anything. It always is such a pain to do pulling all the tomatoes, particularly when its usually last minute and freezing out, but it seems so wasteful to let these beautiful summer fruits just freeze on the vines. Hence, my basement is now filled with trays and trays of green tomatoes. The problem is that many of them decided to ripen simultaneously. So what does one do with a bounty of tomatoes? There are many things that you can do and I have done a lot of them, yet the tomatoes continue to ripen and beckon for someone to do something with them. This seemed the next logical step.
What is absolutely amazing to me is how concentrated it becomes. I started out with 10 lbs of Roma tomatoes, which is a lot of tomatoes for this batch of paste. I then split them in half, taking out the seeds and put them in a pot. Even split and cored, these tomatoes still filled a huge pot. The tomatoes boiled down for about an hour until they were soft. I then allowed them to cool and put them into the fridge overnight, for no other reason but my own schedule which did not permit me the time necessary for the next steps. The following day, I took those tomatoes out, put them through the food mill on a fine setting to get rid of the skins. I still ended up with a sauce pot full of cooked tomatoes. I added a couple teaspoons of kosher salt and allowed this to boil down for another hour or thereabouts until it was reduced by half. This mixtures was then spread onto a silicone sheet on a baking sheet (covering the whole sheet pan) and cooked for several hours — probably about 4-5 total at 200 degrees, stirring every 1/2 hour or so to keep it from burning until it was reduced down to a thick concentrated paste. This paste amounted to two tiny little jars of paste. But these are not just ordinary jars of paste, no sir, they are tiny little jars of summer. Summer concentrated and squeezed into half pint mason jars covered with a thin layer of olive oil.
They will now reside in my fridge and I will dip into them every time my cooking needs a little taste of summer. Covered with oil and refrigerated, they will last a year. Just in time to do it all again next summer.
I love the autumn — the crisp air, the colorful leaves, the warmth of the wood stove with a cup of tea and a good book. What I don’t like very much is when it’s dark in the morning and then dark again early in the evening. Evidently, I am not alone. The state of Massachusetts is exploring time travel of sorts. Massachusetts’ Bill H4569 creates a legislative commission to study the proposal of moving time in the state of Massachusetts. Rather than remain in the Eastern time zone, the bill charges the commission with exploring the possibility of moving time zones to Atlantic Standard time for a period of four months starting in the middle of November if the proposal was accepted. This would mean that folks in Massachusetts would have light lasting longer into their day. According to the Portland Press Herald, a sort of “sunlight happy hour” while the rest of us are in the dark before we leave our workday behind us during those months. Don’t get all practical on me with things like “it will mess up the rest of us” or “what about business hours and flight schedules, yada yada yada….” A girl can dream can’t she?
Now, if they could just make it so that the hour happened in the morning instead of the evening, I would be totally on board.
Sounds like a great mystery book or a movie title, but it’s not. This week in Vermont is Open Farm Week. It gives those of us who love to wander through farmers’ markets and eat fresh from the farm produce a chance to see what actually goes on at your favorite farm and learn more about agriculture and farming in our lovely state. This opportunity gives a whole new meaning to “learning where your food came from” as you have the opportunity to not only see where it came from, but meet the folks behind your favorite fare in their own environment — and even lend a hand and see what it’s like to be a farmer for a few hours. A great opportunity to gain even greater appreciation for the men and women who are behind the farmers’ market tables each and every week.
There are farms all over the state of Vermont that are opening their barn doors for you! Of course, Vermont farmers are so friendly and welcoming that you don’t need a special week to visit your favorite farmer. But, I digress.
Here is a sampling of some of the things you can do this week at a farm near you. You could even schedule a whole week of farm fun and take a tour of Vermont farms, taking in their uniqueness as each of these places puts their own special twist on farming and for that, we are very grateful.
Merck Forest and Farmland Center will teach you all about draft horses and maybe even get the opportunity to help drive them around the farm.
Health Hero Farm is having cooking classes demonstrating how to cook their fresh beef.
Have a Farm to Table Dinner by the gardens at Boyd Family Farm in Wilmington. The proceeds for this dinner go to charity.
Take a nature photography course at the Smokey House in Danby.
You can also visit an alpaca farm, visit a vineyard or visit a mushroom farm. There are lots of choices and really something for everyone. Take advantage of really learning where your food comes from this week. You’ll be glad that you did.
Here’s the recipe for bracciole, let me say up front that I cannot take any credit for the recipe, it is my mom’s and my grandma’s recipe. I am merely proud that I am able to continue the tradition.
- 6 pieces of bracciole meat (for those of you that are local to me Wallingford Locker has great bracciole meat)
- 12 slices of bacon
- 1 cup raisins divided into six portions
- 6 pieces of garlic finely chopped
- grated cheese of your choice (I use asiago or romano)
- salt and pepper to taste
- butcher’s twine cut into six pieces each cut about 2 feet in length
- Take meat and season with salt and pepper.
- Place two slices of bacon on each piece of bracciole
- Sprinkle with grated cheese of your choice
- Add one portion of raisins sprinkled on top
- Add one chopped clove of garlic to each piece of meat.
- Roll each piece up. I find that it is easiest to roll up starting from the smaller or thinner end. If any of the raisins or cheese fall out as you are rolling, just stick them back inside.
- When meat is rolled, tie each with a piece of butcher’s twine.
- Place in tomato sauce of your choice and cook on low heat for 3-4 hours. You could probably put them into a slow cooker with your sauce and cook for 6-8 hours although I have not tried this myself.
- When ready to serve, remove each bracciole packet from sauce, cut the twine off (this is important, no one likes string in their dinner!), slice each with a sharp knife into four pieces and serve.