Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bundled Up

I didn't put many decorations out this year for the holidays. A little of this and a little of token that, and of course the window candles, de rigeur if you live in a colonial. Since I neglected to put away my steel family in the fall, I made them red mini mufflers. Sorta cute. They may just have to wear them until Spring.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Corn Chowder

This recipe was given to me years ago.

5 slices bacon
1 medium onion thinly sliced and separated into rings
2 medium potatoes, pared and diced 1 1/2cups
1 can of cream-style corn
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
Dash pepper

In large saucepan, cook bacon till crisp. Remove bacon; crumble & set aside. Reserve 3 tbs bacon drippings in saucepan; discard remainder. Add onion slices to saucepan and cook till lightly browned. Add diced potatoes and water; cook over medium heat till potatoes are tender about 10 minutes. Add corn, milk, S&P. Cook until heated through, Pour into warm bowls; top each serving with crumbled bacon and a pat of butter. Serve with crackers.

Serves 4-5

Monday, December 7, 2009

First Snow of the Season

It started as an occasional flake, and soon grew to a light flurry like dandruff scratched by taloned fingers against the leaden sky. Within a few hours the earth had cooled enough for the snow to start to blanket the yard. It continued throughout the day and into the night. I awoke to a marshmallow world. The prediction was for 6 inches and I would say we came in at 5 1/2. It is always lovely the first time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I topped the hill at Brady Farm and slowed down as I always do to take in the view of the valley. It is one of my favorite places; I am a flatlander after all and I do not get big sky often. As I crawled past the fields of Black Angus, barns stuffed with round bales and the white farm house with its enormous kitchen garden; I saw movement in a field. I pulled up and stopped to see a coyote lounging with just its head poking above the waving grass.

I have not heard or seen a coyote in 9 years, since I moved to the mountain. I used to have them when I lived on the farm. They would bring me straight up out of bed in the wee hours of the night with their eerie howling and yipping. Instead of their constant presence, I now have the eerie silence of the deep woods with only the occasional owl hoot to keep me company in the dead of night. I sort of miss them.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Teensiest Frog I Have Ever Seen

I flipped on the outside light while I was writing last night hoping for some interesting moths. Truth be told I was really hoping for a Luna Moth, they have been reported south of me. When I went out to check what was happening in the darkness, I found a weensy green frog on the deck railing. It was maybe 1/2 inch long, and that may be too generous. That is a begonia leaf in the background. I have no idea what it is. Do you know?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Red Eft

I was getting ready to leave the house for a weekend jaunt to Massachusetts. Scurrying to and fro: packing the car, dashing back in the house for a hat, suddenly remembering it would be helpful to have cash, gathering the perennials I had dug; I had just watered the flower pots on the driveway when I happened to look down and there was a glowing orange eft. I hadn't seen one in years. Shortly after I moved to the mountain, there was one summer when we had efts everywhere. Hundreds got squashed on the road. On my morning walks, I would gather them up and put them on the grass. Maybe this will be another year like that one.

I am taken with them. They are the terrestrial juvenile stage of the Red-spotted Newt. They live in this stage for a few years then migrate back to a permanent puddle to live out their lives as an aquatic adult. Red Efts live in forests. They are one of the wonderful things about living on the mountain.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sounds of Summer

Summer sounds for some it is the chirp of crickets on warm summer nights, or the ring of horseshoes tossed against the metal stake, the insistent whine of a mosquito trapped in the bedroom, or the high buzz of the cicadas in the dog days of August. Yes, we have all of those on the mountain, but the loudest and single most extraordinary sound of summer is the cacophony of Katydids. It starts out slow the first week of August, but soon the chorus will be so loud it will drown out every other night sound.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer Time and the Eating is Easy

Strawberries - buy one get one. That's a no-brainer.

Seeing them at the market and heading off to a birthday party down in Long Valley at the weekend, I had the inspiration to make a strawberry glacé pie. I had not made one this season. It is super easy and perfect summer food.

Well... then I got sidetracked with a trip to the farmers market and making gazpacho so I didn't get the crust and strawberry goo made the night before. I figured I'd get up early the next day. And I did, BUT, well, by the time I had coffee and emptied the dishwasher and thew in a load of wash, and finally finished pa-diddling around and read the recipe for the crust; I realized it so wasn't going to happen. I was planning on a buttery tart crust. It needed to rest in the fridge for a few hours before I could roll and bake. And, of course, the glacé needed to sit overnight to firm up.

While pacing the house in a funk considering and rejecting the yellow spongy cakes next to the strawberries at the store as well as angel food cake (which really is a good alternative), I hit upon actual short cake. I hadn't made them in years.

I pulled out the Silver Palate cookbook, actually sifted the ingredients, cut in the butter and added heavy cream instead of light (Seriously light cream? What is the point? If you are cutting calories then you should not be having cream at all.) The recipe calls for a 3 inch rounds; I used a wine glasses. Close enough. They only took 10 minutes to bake. I cut and juiced the strawberries while they were baking.

I would say they were a hit or at least there was nothing left. The only thing better would be to have the cakes hot, split open with some butter before the berries and whip cream were shoveled on.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Steaks on the Barbie

Does anything scream summer more than steaks on the grill?

I love entertaining at my house anytime of year, but summer is fabulous. There is no chance of snow (the worse that would happen is that we have to retreat indoors from the mosquitos); the yard looks terrific with all the flowers blooming (we have had a lot of rain this year); the kids can run around the yard exploring the flowers and bugs (There was much excitement over a Monarch butterfly) and the parents can relax with a glass of wine and catch up.

The theme for dinner this time was herbs. (You know I have a weakness for themed dinners.)

Tomato basil bruschetta
Grilled mini pizzas with choice of toppings.
Ribeye with Chimichurri sauce
Parsleyed new potatoes
Cesear salad.
Homemade vanilla bean and mango ice cream


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Flowers in the long light

I love taking pictures of just about anything in the long light of a perfect summer evening. On a walk around around the flower beds in the front of the house, I was entranced by the light.

Towering Yucca blossoms

Variegated Phlox that has reverted back to its wilder self.

Flaming self-sown Butterfly Weed

Mahogany Lilies glowing in the sun.

Ah, summer.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Waiting for the Repairman

I paced the house, coffee cup in hand waiting for the contractor. He had said 9 o'clock on Sunday morning and it was already 9:15. I had been stood up many times before. Sighing, I went outside to look at the door again. I could no longer avoid the fact that the trim on the door needed serious help. It is beautiful, but aside from needing to be scrapped and painted, there was rot.

The phone rang. I dashed inside, sloshing coffee on the front steps on my way in. Jamie, the contractor was not late, but lost. I should have guessed. It is impossible to find the house. I stayed on the phone with him until he arrived in the driveway.

I showed him the rotting bits and we discussed the various options. He said it would take at least 2 days. He would know more once he started to pull the overhead and panels off. There are two seriously bad bits.

He fingered the side panels, the split on the mounding around the side windows and spoke of silicon caulking. He tapped the tin drip edge and thinking out loud, wondered if it needed replacing. In the end he asked for patience in fitting in his schedule and said it would likely be a few weeks before he could get to it. All I really want is to come home one day and it is done and spectacular and it didn't cost me an arm and a leg. Stay tuned

Thursday, July 9, 2009

70th Anniversary of Gone With the Wind

For the 70th anniversary of arguably the greatest movie classic of all time; The Tarrytown Music Hall will be having a showing of Gone With The Wind on the big screen. The fact that it will be shown in the same theater where throngs of people saw it in 1939 adds to the experience, in a ghostly shades of the past kind of way. I'm looking forward to stolling the streets. poking in shops, maybe having an ice cream, then sitting down for a 4 hour show. They just don't make them like they used to.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eco-cleaning the deck

You know it is bad when the deck not only gets slippery from the accumulated algae but the slugs start to feed and leave trails where they have noshed their way across the boards. For me that is the sign that it is time to deal with it. And, that we are so having way too much rain.

Last time, I had someone powerwash the deck, which was great, but cost money. The time before I scrubbed it on my hands and knees with one of those chemical deck strippers. While explaining my staycation plans to an old friend, I mentioned the deck dilema and she heaved a 70 year old sigh (I'm sure she was rolling her eyes too, but I couldn't see it through the phone.) She told me to use vinegar. Huh! I went out and throw some on the deck. Nothing happened. Then shades of a 6th grade erupting volcano project reared its head. Silly me. There also needs to be baking soda.

I bought 2 of the biggest sizes of baking soda and 2 gallons of distilled vinegar. A sprinkle and a glug and voila! chemical reaction. Safe, eco-friendly deckstripper.

But, of course, there still is scrubbing involved--on your hands and knees. Can't get away from it. The algae and the baking soda turns into a slimy-yet satisfying-green ooze. So I sprinkled, glugged, waited 10 minutes, scrubbed, and hosed it down. Repeat, over and over.

It is not quick (took me 2 days to do 2 small decks) but it is safe to breathe, safe to handle, safe for the plants and bugs. Now if only it would stop raining so I can put on the sealant, which, alas, is not eco-friendly.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lazy Summer Afternoon

Is there anything better than whiling away the afternoon sitting on a pillow in the summer sun, watching people work? Oh, am I disgruntled? Not really. At 16 1/2, she deserves it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I'm Going Through a Red Phase

Have you noticed? Every annual I have bought this year has been blood red. I wish you could see these Zinnias. They are deep saturated red. Like a hankie after a nosebleed. Mmm, maybe too gross. How about freshly washed fire engine red? Or the puddle-of-ketchup-next-to-your-fries red. I can't remember the last time I saw pure red Zinnias.

It started with the Red Petunias matched with red verbena and white petunias in the face planter. I didn't pick the white, they came already planted together.

I thought to mix this Verbena to go with the red Zinnias, but I sorta like it alone on the pedestal.

The splash of color certainly brightens up the yard.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Curried Black-eyed Peas

2 cans of black-eyed peas (or you can use 1 cup of dried peas, soaking, boiling etc)
1/2 c unsalted chicken stock
2 bunches of scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp wine vinegar (red or white)
1/2 Tbsp honey
1 1/4 tsp curry powder
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp virgin olive oil
1/2 sweet red pepper, seeded, de-ribbed and slivered

Rinse and drain the peas.

Heat the stock in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and partially cover the skillet. Cook the scallions, stirring often, until almost all the liquid has evaporated (8-10 minutes). Transfer the contents of the skillet to a large bowl.

In a different bowl, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, honey, curry powder and some pepper. Whisk in the oil and set the dressing aside.

Add the peas and red pepper to the scallions in the bowl. Pour the dressing over all and toss the salad well. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Delicious and easy. This recipe was given to me by Marion Greenup.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Variegated Willow

Everyone who comes to my house comments on the Japanese Variegated Willow by the driveway. It is light, airy and enormous. Hardy to zone 4, it is in full sun and being on the mountain slope has excellent drainage. The plant tag said it would be 8' by 5' at maturity. Well, let me tell you, it is at least 8 feet high and way more that 5 wide. It is fast growing, to the point that I whack at it (OK, heavily prune) in mid summer every year. Added bonus? The deer won't touch it.

The foliage is mottled green and white with a blush of pink on the new leaves. Bear in mind that it is deciduous so it will be bare in winter. But it does provide winter interest. It is truly spectacular and would work well as a privacy screen. In fact I have often considered taking out the ancient Forsythia hedge by the road and replacing it with a row of these. I think it would look awesome. But I also think it would take a lot of work and I'm too lazy to put in the effort.

Think you might want to try one? You can't go wrong with this, but buy a good pruner at the same time. You are going to need it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

1st Day of Summer

The French door stands open. A finger of flavor lurks just outside, beckoning, teasing. Stepping out onto the deck, I inhale the sweet summer scent of tomatoes and basil and meat sweeten with milk. La Nonna, who lives beyond the living screen, has been stirring sauce for hours; long enough that the aroma wafts through the neighborhood. Even the children stop their games to sniff the air before bouncing their basketballs again in the street. The tinkle of glasses and the rumbling bass drum of laughter filters through the hedge. Her boys must have come for Sunday dinner. I wander nonchalantly, hands behind my back, to examine the flowers in the backyard, stopping to peer through the thin spots in the evergreens. Long tables are set with white cloths, thick red crockery and small vases of Evening Primrose. Her family sits on folding lawn chairs; glasses of red wine in hand, nibbling on olives and slivers of cheese. The aroma tickles again, carried on the breeze. La Nonna stands at her backdoor looking out with a summer Sunday smile. I wander back to the house intent on thawing out some pesto for my own Sunday supper.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Stone made Flesh

Meow. Meow. Meow. Come quick!

I strolled over to see what the fuss was about. I peered through the screen. Nothing in the trees. No bears in the yard. No bird in the bushes. I shrugged and went back to making chicken Tikka Masala.

Oscar was insistent. Meow. Meow. Meow. Ever since the waterheater sprang a leak and the cats came to get me; I pay attention if they continue to carry on.

Meow. Meow. Meow. I washed my hands. "Ok. Ok."

I walked back over to the door. "What?" I looked through the screen. I didn't see anything but when I opened the door, something moved. I just caught the motion out of the corner of my eye. I stood on the side porch trying to figure out what I had seen. When one of the gray rocks moved and it was stone made flesh.

He sure is cute until he starts to eat everything in sight. I came back in, picked up the cat, kissed the top of his head in thanks and walked to the notepad on the fridge to write FOX URINE on the shopping list.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Come take a Walk with Me

It has been raining on and off (mostly on) for 2 weeks. Today the sun is peeking out, so I dashed out to get some weeding done since it is going to rain again for the next 3 days at least. sigh. C'mon. Let's take a walk around the house to see what we can find.

You know I live on a mountain in the woods, right. This is a photo of the back yard, looking up the mountain. All of the tall shrubby stuff at the top of the yard, is native Mountain Laurel.

And the short shrubby stuff is low bush Blueberry. These are the tiny native variety. Alas, native things eat them too, I have never seen any ripe.

Listen, can you hear the lilting song of the House Wren, the chatter of the Robins and the burr of the Chipping Sparrow? Sounds like everyone is happy to see the sun. This year a pair of Wrens have take residence in the Wren House that Uncle Mel built. They flit around too much for me to get a photo of them, but I'll keep trying.

When I was stalking the Wren, a flash of orange caught my eye. I don't know what they are, but they look kinda of snacky to me.

Let's check the fern bed since we are up here. Japanese Painted Ferns are one of my favorites. I'll do a post on all of the ferns later. I started collecting them since the deer won't touch them.

And speaking of collecting and the deer not eating; I also LOVE Allium. But it's in the front of the house out by the street. Let me show you.

There are lots and lots of flower beds at my house, I promise I won't make you look at them all or at least save some for another time. One last shot of a perennial Foxglove. Hardy to zone 4 and the deer won't touch it. Digitalis, don't ya know.

What's happening in your yard?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Love at First Sight

I fell in love at the nursery today and had to bring him home. I know, I know, I said no more terracotta planters. But how could I resist that face?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Beard Tongue

If you are looking for a hardy perennial, look for farther. Penstemon 'Husker Red' is hardy to zone 3 and self sows like there is no tomorrow (I'm in a microclimate at zone 4). It has woody stems and grows to about 2, maybe 3 feet. The leaves are a beautiful dark burgundy. It likes dry soil and does best in full sun. It will grow in rock walls, between the cracks of the sidewalk and out by the road. She is very much a fertile myrtle (pardon the crossover). In fact, if I would give you some if I could. Thanks West, for adopting some of her babies.