A thick blanket of fresh snow on the ground is all we need to acknowledge that our property is just teeming with wildlife. I love finding their tracks all over the yard...big tracks, like these, of deer. And the tiny little scritch-scratches of mice and voles.
With my final push of sewing before I turn my full attention to preparing for our trip to England, I just completed two George Washington/Alexander Hamilton costumes for your historical costuming needs! The shop will be closing on April 14th (for my vacation), so don't delay if your child needs one!
This is Maple Weekend in New Hampshire. Sugar shacks around the state are open for visitors...welcoming people to tour their little wooden structures in the woods and sample their syrup. We started the day off with pancakes and maple syrup. Quick tip: buttermilk always makes pancakes better, lighter, and fluffier. Just substitute buttermilk for the milk called for in any recipe.
Then, dodging raindrops and big, sloppy snowflakes, we visited a sugar shack in our town that is run by a family whose roots go back in this town to the 1700's. We traipsed across a mixture of snow and mud to reach the weathered door of the sugar shack.
Just inside, we could barely feel the heat from the wood-fired evaporator, so inched our way ever closer to keep warm.
We were offered homemade donuts to dunk in a sampling of maple syrup. Mmm. A taste of early spring in New England! We peered into the bubbling evaporator and smelled the sticky goodness of the sweet steam rising up and out of the roof.
After chatting with plaid-clad neighbors about weather and sap production and whether or not this is a good year for syrup (it is!), we purchased a pint to carry home.
It's a New England spring tradition I love...a bonding of a community after a long winter. Spring is here!
Neither Colette nor I drink coffee, so no coffee breaks for us. But whenever we go to Boston, we need a late-afternoon chocolate break at L.A. Burdick in the Back Bay area of Boston. Sinfully rich hot chocolate and tempting pastries!
I know this is the time of year that many of your children have historical school events coming up, so I've been working hard at restocking the shop with George Washington/Alexander Hamilton Costumes AND Revolutionary War Soldier Costumes! One just flew off the shelf, but several remain. And do order early, as the shop will be closed from April 15 to early May while I'm on vacation! Click here to view this one.
In January, as a birthday treat, I requested a day in Boston with Colette to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. But the dog needed a minor surgery and then had to be watched while she recuperated, I came down with a head cold, Colette didn't have time off work, snow storm...one thing after another. But we finally made it! And it is ever so lovely! A passionate art collector, Isabella Stewart Gardner amassed an impressive collection, which she housed in her Boston Italianate-style mansion. The home is built around a soaring indoor courtyard.
A violinist was playing in the courtyard while we were there. Every room looks out upon the light-infused atrium, and we found ourselves drawn to the view of it from every room.
Isabella Stewart Gardner was a personal friend of John Singer Sargent, and there are several of his paintings throughout the museum, including this one of the woman herself.
But it was this John Singer Sargent work that enthralled me that day (a small portion of which is shown here). I was captivated by his ability to capture the weight of the fabric in the skirt of the woman's clothing, and yet include the dainty details of her shoes and the glittering bead work on her bodice.
Some of my other favorite works were this pretty redhead and this 14th century stone head...what curls!
Sadly, the museum was the victim of an art heist many years ago. The missing pieces of art, including Rembrandt's only seascape, have never been recovered. Their frames hang empty...awaiting their return.
It was lovely...top to bottom! We will definitely be returning some day!
In a crazy fit of warm weather, the mercury in the thermometer reached 66 degrees today at our home! In February! In New Hampshire! It was all the excuse I needed to throw every window in the house open wide for several hours and let the winter breezes blow all the stale, trapped air right out of here.
Last weekend, Colette made plans for her friend and us to go ice skating on a pond and have a winter picnic. Alas, unseasonably warm temperatures rendered the pond too soggy for skating. But that same warmth made for great winter picnicking weather! We had a simple meal of sandwiches (Black Forest ham, Brie, apple, and arugula on baguette), clementines, coffee, and Colette's famous hot cocoa. Piles of warm wool blankets kept us from getting damp. And we had a gorgeous view of the frozen Connecticut River! It's our favorite picnic spot in all of New England!
It's wintertime and comfort food season! So, looking around for an easy recipe for roast beef that I could put in the crock pot, I combined Ina Garten's Balsamic Roast Beef from her How Easy is That? cookbook AND Brisket with Sweet Mustard Sauce from The Ski House Cookbook. And the end result was delicious!...tender and flavorful and ohhh so comforting!
The combined recipe goes like this:
1/3 c. Dijon mustard
1/3 c. brown sugar
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 t. kosher salt
1 T. freshly cracked black pepper
2 medium, yellow onions
2 1/2 lb. roast
1 c. beef broth
Quarter onions and scatter onto bottom of crock pot. Rinse roast and place on top of onions.
In small bowl, combine: mustard, brown sugar, minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour mixture over meat.
Pour beef broth around roast. Cook on low setting for about 4 hours.
We knew today was going to be a crazy Valentine's Day. So crazy, in fact, that for the first time ever, we exchanged Valentines and gift last night. Today was filled with two doctor's appointments, two trips to the pharmacy, work for all three of us, Hubby flying off on a business trip, and me grabbing a quick dinner at Whole Foods. Not exactly a day of fun and romance. BUT, it did start out great! Breakfast for two for the win!
I hope you found joy in the small things today too! Love to you all!
January is generally the coldest month in New Hampshire, although this year was fairly temperate. And February tends to trend toward the snowiest of the two winter months. February looks to live up to its reputation, which is very happy news for this winter-loving heart!
This was the scene yesterday...for about 12 blissful hours. We got a foot of snow all told. Colette did not have to go to work. Hubby came home early. So, we were all snug indoors! It was a good day to have a dreadful head cold, if you have to have one, which I did.
I contemplated reading. I thought about binge watching Netflix. But in the end, I spent the day curled up on the couch beneath cozy blankets practicing hand lettering. If you're interested in learning hand lettering, calligraphy, brush calligraphy, or more, I highly recommend the self-tutoring worksheets and video tutorials that can be found at The Postman's Knock! Click here. So much fun!
I've always had an interest in learning hand lettering and calligraphy, but our trip to Europe this coming spring (AND discovery The Postman's Knock) was the push of motivation I needed. I'm planning on keeping a travel journal throughout our trip, and being able to accent it with different types of lettering will make it more visually appealing. More on my travel journal in a future posting!
My shop is having a sale! I've decided to focus more completely on historical costuming, so I'm clearing out all the Photo Note Card Sets in Wonderful Life Farm! All sets are 50% OFF! (Stated price reflects discount.) There are many themes from which to choose: Autumn in New England, Lost Arts, Flowers, and more! Click here to take you to the shop to see all of them. And here are links to take you to just a few... Herb Note Card Set (four different images):
Happy Groundhog's Day! I love this holiday, because it's just so silly. I mean, what's not to love about a chubby rodent surrounded by a bunch of men in top hats? It's the thing of which children's books are written, yet it's real and it happens, much to my delight, every year!
And this year, when pulled from his cozy burrow, America's premier rodent weatherman predicted six more weeks of winter. I suspect about 85% of the nation groaned. I, however, was thrilled! So, lest you be tempted to grumble at the groundhog, here's some winter inspiration to help you enjoy the season to its fullest!
- Plan a sledding party...thermoses of hot cocoa or warming soups, wool blankets, and a group of friends. Bring the dogs too! - Nights are long in the winter, so find a good television series to watch. We've immensely enjoyed "The Crown" (available play instantly on Netflix) and the latest in the "Hollow Crown" series this winter. The currently playing "Victoria" is excellent as well. - Go ice skating at a local rink or lake. - Read a novel aloud as a family in the evenings. - Light candles every night for dinner. - Go for a walk in the falling snow. - Start a collection of warm scarves, mittens, and earmuffs, so bundling up becomes fun. - Make a new soup recipe at least once a week. Here's one new recipe we've enjoyed this winter, click here. - Have a fondue party! Ask everyone to bring an ingredient or two. Feast on fondue and then play games. - Mull wine. - Have a snowball fight. - Make orange marmalade, since it's citrus season right now. - Experiment with hot cocoa by adding flavored syrups, flavored whipped creams, homemade marshmallows, or spices. I've been adding turmeric and cinnamon to mine...mmm! - As the sun sets early, enjoy the coziness it creates by turning off or dimming overhead lights and turning on lamps. - Keep a basket piled high with cozy blankets and quilts. - Have a taffy pull. - Go snowshoeing. - Build a snowman. - Wear a bright scarf to add a pop of color to a gray day.
- Learn to ski or snowboard. - Knit. - Go for a sleigh ride. - Bake cinnamon rolls. What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy winter? I'd love to hear!
For years, I've taken January as a quiet month. My birthday is in January, so I can reasonably justify a little self-indulgence. Even with small children, I tried to keep January to a low hum. Tired of the errand running and shopping that the Christmas season demands, I'm content to hunker down at home and focus on the little things. This year, I also needed to concentrate on organizing our upcoming trip to Europe. And I needed to set in place some personal disciplines. - The trip is completely planned, with just a smattering of advance tickets to this and that left to be bought and one tea reservation to be made. - I'm working on reading through the Bible this year, and find the discipline works well with my life using the MacArthur Day Bible app on my phone. - Colette and I started Carnegie Mellon University's online French class. She, learning French for the first time. And me, brushing off my high school and college French skills. - Exercise. That's a bugaboo, isn't it? With Lyme Disease, I've realized that exercise can no longer fall by the wayside for me, even on busy days. It has to be a priority...like eating. Making a simple 3 x 5 card, that moves from day to day on my calendar, with boxes to color in for each time I exercise has kept me on track. Yoga - three times/wk. Weights - three times/wk. Walking - three times/wk...1-2 miles each time. - Quietly practiced my hand-lettering skills. - I've spent the last 10 days watching over the dog after she had surgery. She's on the mend, has been as good as gold, and her stitches come out tomorrow! - And in the last two days, I've made a flannel baby quilt for a baby born months ago. Long overdue gift. Coziness heading to the west coast tomorrow.
Now that I feel rested and rejuvenated and set on a track for the new year, I think I just might be ready for February.
A few days ago, Max texted me from the top of the world. He was at the observation deck of the new World Trade Center. Despite the cloudy weather...what a view! I was thrilled he had the opportunity to do some exploring in New York City. But mostly, I was thrilled that he's curious about the world around him and has the adventurous spirit to go along with it.
Snowy January days are the best for garden planning. A cup of hot tea and a gift of herb stakes made it all the more pleasurable. And now everything is ready when it comes time to order seeds or mark out the beds one warm spring day. "To everything there is a season." - Ecl. 3:1
A dear friend gifted me with Julia Child's cookbook a few years ago. And although the two-volume set sits on my kitchen counter, I had not actually cooked anything from them. Colette and I discussed that today and decided it's because we find them intimidating. That is pretty silly, since Julia Child's intention when she wrote them was to make French cooking accessible to American cooks. Casting aside all caution, I tackled her Soupe a l'Oignon today!
Superb! The cookbook was very easy to understand, and even though it took 2 1/2 hours to cook, from first chop to steaming bowl, it was worth it. Excellent! And since snow was just starting to fall, it was wonderfully warming.
I suggest serving it with a Cabernet and a salad of fresh field greens topped with an excellent bleu cheese and dressed lightly with a champagne vinaigrette.
Our big plan for 2017 is a trip to England, Scotland, and Paris! It's been a lifetime dream of mine and it is coming true! *giddy happy dance* Plane tickets have been purchased. Tickets to tour Highclere Castle were purchased next. (Priorities, you see.) And I just finished booking all our lodgings. I've been pretty much planted right here for the last two weeks...surrounded by maps and Rick Steves' London guide and endlessly studying hotels and tea shops and street views on Google maps.
Two weeks to make a few hotel reservations seemed ridiculous on one level. But we've never done this before, and I wanted the full experience in each place. I want to immerse myself in each, distinct location and feel like each place is the quintessential experience for that locale. Our lodgings include: a London hotel in a row of beautiful white buildings built in the 19th century, a classic Parisian apartment with tall ceilings and equally tall windows that open onto a wrought iron ringed balcony, an 18th century former country estate in Scotland that turned into a hotel when the aristocracy took a down turn post-World War I, a hotel in the Scottish Highlands (haggis served there), a farmhouse in the Lake District (our Christmas present from Colette) outfitted with wellies and a hamper of treats, a stone cottage in the Cotswolds with robin's egg blue kitchen cabinets and an Aga range (can't wait to try that out!), and (at the end) a London hotel built when Queen Victoria was on the throne.
If you're planning an extensive trip, here are some things I learned in my planning:
- Set a budget and try your best to stick to it with each booking. If it's a bit over, but includes breakfast, it's probably still on budget.
- Maps are your friend. And Google Maps street view is your BEST friend. It enables you to check out the surrounding area.
- Rick Steves is a good starting place, but don't overlook Trip Advisor reviews too.
- Check out the traveler photos of hotels on Trip Advisor.
- Hotels are great, but get creative and check out Airbnb and other such sights for more distinct offerings.
- And when all else fails, try Expedia, which, despite what the hotel sites tell you, sometimes beats the hotel's best price.
This week, I made good on my resolve to keep fresh flowers in the house more often this year. My favorite, reasonably-priced sources for fresh flowers are: Trader Joe's, Whole Foods (these beauties came from there), and local farms (in season).