Strawberries and Chocolate

May 29, 2010

I got the strawberry ice cream churned the other afternoon and it turned out great!  It is creamier than the coffee flavor.  Miss Phoebe tasted it and loved it. 

I had decided that I wanted to be able to serve chocolate shortbreads with the strawberry ice cream, and I found a recipe online that I thought would be great.  It was not a disappointment.  The shortbreads melt in your mouth.  They’re very fragile, so next time I’ll make them smaller–no larger than a one-inch diameter.

I tested out this combo with our guests just today, and yep, it was a hit!  A nice treat on a warm spring day for our very first Chestertown Tea Party guests!

The bad news is that the strawberry ice cream is almost gone….but I cooked the custard base for a batch of Vanilla Heath Bar Chunk, so I hope to get that churned soon.  Chestertown, though, is already hopping with our biggest weekend of the year, so it might not be tomorrow.  But there will be so many treats available downtown tomorrow that I doubt anyone will be disappointed! 

We’ll all get an early start in the morning, since we don’t want to miss one thing!  And…. if I can find the outfit I used to wear each year when our girls were young, our guests could be greeted by Colonial Cheryl as their breakfast server!  Now wouldn’t that be fun?!

Coffee to go…

May 24, 2010

Our Oregon guests just drove out of the driveway–without coffee to go.  Their coffee cups had been refilled a few times this morning, and they really couldn’t drink another drop at their departure time, but as they were leaving, we all agreed on the front porch that I should suggest that future guests bring their own travel mugs!  There’s always some extra coffee, it seems, (or at least almost always), and it’s such a shame to waste it. 

Eventually, we’ll get our coffee locally, at Play It Again, Sam’s, but not yet–since I have a good supply still from other places.  The coffee that our guests drank this morning was “what everyone drinks in Philadelphia,” which was what our older daughter, Emily, told me when she gave us a Simply Bed & Bread “housewarming” gift of 3 pounds of La Colombe.  I’ve just gone through the last of one of the pounds, and so far, everyone has agreed with her statement.  It really is good coffee.  Seems, though, that there really is a lot of “good coffee” out there….

From the get-go, we knew we wanted to have really good coffee at our B&B.  So I had originally ordered Tanduk coffee (check out their website) from New England because it had come so highly recommended by a personal friend and coffee connoiseur, and also because it’s a company that is tied to a humanitarian outreach program.   It just seemed like a great connection to make.  But one day when I was downtown at our local coffee hang-out (but which has also garnered some wider acclaim), the proprietor asked me point-blank, “Why don’t you get your coffee locally?”  We do love buying local, so I stuttered a bit and said honestly, “I don’t know!”  I had a sort of story, but the bottom line really was that it hadn’t occurred to me.  So that is my plan — to indeed buy from our local Play It Again, Sam’s shop, once my existing supply runs out.

I still have a wonderful coffee cache here in our downstairs freezer.  I have a couple of pounds of La Colombe still, and I have some more Tanduk.  The Seattle coffee, (which was also amazing) — the coffee that was a gift from a Seattle guest, is long gone.  But right this moment, I have a coffee pot that is still full of delightful, hot coffee, but no guests coming in.  So this is your official notice, if you’re either driving through Chestertown a bit later today, or if you plan to travel here soon, or even to stay here:  bring a travel mug with you and fill up on your way out of our door!  We hate pouring it down the drain and we’d love to share!

Our neighbor

May 23, 2010

After I clean up a bit around here, I’ll be heading up the street to Miss Phoebe’s.  She has agreed to help me with my lines for a 10 minute play I’m in at The Prince Theatre.  This is another new adventure for me–being involved this go-round with things at The Prince, and Miss Phoebe has graciously agreed to help me study.

Miss Phoebe is a beauty.  With a peaches ‘n creamy complexion–no lines there (or if there are, I haven’t noticed them), eyes that light up when they see you, a wide smile that invites you into whatever she is doing–whenever she is doing it, and with arms that pull you close to her soft-ness, she’s got a real magnetism to her, and I love going to her house.  I was finding my minutes more numbered since the opening of Simply Bed & Bread, but with this need to study, I have a ready excuse to pop up the street to sit with her.  And oh, did I mention that she is 93? 

One reason I love going to visit Miss Phoebe is that she’s a cheerleader.  Plus she has a way that makes you know that she loves all that you love and she’s 100% interested in what you have to say and in what you’re doing.  She’s a people person–doesn’t matter who or what kind or what color or what anything; she listens long and she sees deep.

Miss Phoebe is my official “taster,” too.   I know she’ll help me out with the homemade strawberry ice cream verdict, so I’d better get going!

Farm Fresh Eggs

May 22, 2010

Terry showed up at my door the other morning at 6:30, rang the bell and left 4 quarts of strawberries that he’d picked, along with a dozen eggs that the chickens had been sitting on not that long before the delivery. 

This was what had happened:  I had seen Terry’s van out in front of his mom’s (“Miss Phoebe’s) house and I had called out to him.  He called back, saying, “You know, we need to work out a deal!”  And that was why the berries and eggs showed up on our front porch when they did. It was the beginning of our “deal.” He said for me to phone him when we had guests and needed something, and he’d bring me what he had; some times he might not have anything, but other times he would.  Sounded great to me, and our mid-week guests agreed.  They were thrilled with both, and kept saying over and over, “Oh my, these eggs are sooo good!”  Just knowing where they had come from is 99% of it, Terry and I think. 

I had planned on freezing the extra berries but ended up saving them in the fridge.  Tonight I squished them for homemade strawberry ice cream….then  added them to the custard base that I cooked on top of the stove.  The mixture will chill overnight, then tomorrow afternoon I’ll try my second batch of homemade ice cream!  I’ll give the report on Sunday about how it turned out….and I’ll even add a picture, too!

New Press Release!

May 19, 2010

Check out!

Ironing 1940’s-era napkins

May 17, 2010

The  cloth napkins were part of a treasure trove that I unearthed from David’s mother’s house after her death.  The ones that I was ironing today were in pristine condition when I found them, so I assumed they had never been used by her…. wedding gifts, perhaps?  That’s my guess, anyway.

I wonder if all no-nonsense, very practical, middle class moms of boomers allowed themselves this one luxury of saving, since I can remember my own mother putting  one special thing aside also.  Her keepsake was a  nightgown that was “too good to use for every day.”  She kept it tucked away in one of her drawers for “going away.”  And I actually do remember seeing her wear it on the only overnight trip that I recall us taking.  It was the one  to Expo ’67, the World’s Fair in Montreal.  There wasn’t a lot of extra money on our small farm in the 60’s, so that trip must’ve been the one that she’d been waiting for.  She died in ’69, so I’m glad she got to wear it.

Today, as I was ironing the cloth napkins that had been “Grandma’s,” I couldn’t stop my brain from continuing to go back.  I thought about how the napkins fit well with the Simply Bed & Bread feel of cozy warmth and home that is evoked as one walks in the door here.  I thought about how I’m glad that it is this way.   An image of Ward and June came to mind; it is more or less the same sort of era. 

I suppose no one ever has a Leave It To Beaver Cleaver  family.  It might seem like it as we look out of our own front doors, but I believe it’s much more elusive than outward appearances suggest.   Mr. and Mrs. Ward Cleaver had some seemingly big problems to solve on that show, but they were wisely, beautifully and succinctly resolved in each 30 minute episode.  It was easy for the viewer to get sucked into the illusion, as he could imagine the grown-up versions of Wally and Beaver as happy, at-ease adults, (each comfortable in his own skin because of the sensitive upbringing he enjoyed),  and any Cleaver family reunion snapshot as a Hallmark greeting card.   But in the real deal of every day relationships, they’re more complicated than 30 minute segments allow, and they don’t iron out as easily as a set of 1940’s-era cloth napkins. 

I have complete sets of these lovely linens, and I do enjoy the part that I can play in their preservation and their use.  I love it that they’re keepsakes, but that  have become an everyday item here.  There is such a comfort and a beauty in the loveliness of the “every day” — just like with families, even if things do get wrinkled sometimes.

Tiny Tarts

May 16, 2010

Chestertown was hopping this whole weekend because of Washington College Commencement, and we had a small celebration of our own, since David’s cousin, Nancy, graduated with her master’s.

Today at 3,  her graduation party was at our house.  It was a perfect day and we gravitated to the back porch to have our meal there.   I had made chocolate mint toll house cookies, but I wanted something extra to round out the dessert offerings.  I remembered that I had 2 boxes of tart shells in the freezer, along with some vanilla ice cream and more fresh strawberries that I’d picked up at the Farmer’s Market yesterday.  I washed and halved the berries and put them back in the fridge.  I put a teaspoon of ice cream in the tart shells,  added a drop of chocolate syrup to each one, then placed them back in the freezer until I was ready for them.  When it was time to serve them, all I had to do was to add the strawberry halves on the tops of each prepared shell, then voila!  Done!  It was exactly the touch I was looking for! 

These tiny tarts will show up on our Tea Time table soon, I’m certain!  They really were perfect:  just a little something special — dressy, dainty and delightful, and just right for any afternoon treat!

The coffee ice cream

May 11, 2010

Ready to eat!

The ice cream didn’t scoop out into a domed shape, so that was a bit disappointing.  But it tasted rich and creamy, even though the consistency didn’t allow for a round, smooth appearance.  I’m eager to try making a different kind with all milk, since maybe it was the coffee that caused the texture problem.  We’ll see!

Homemade ice cream

May 10, 2010

My mother’s job was to cook the custard base for our homemade ice cream. My father would pour that into the ice cream can, along with the rest of the milk, and then carry it outside to where the freezer stood waiting. He would put the can into it, and then the ice and rock salt would go in. The churning would begin after the top section of the freezer (the part with the handle) was snapped onto the lid of the can. Each of us would take turns: my sister, Bobbi, and I, sometimes my mother, and always, my father–until the turning became more laborious (which seemed to take forever!), meaning that the ice cream was done! At this point, speed was key. The handle would come off; the freezer can would be whisked into the house, and Bobbi and I would be on pins and needles waiting for the next part: the paddle and our spoons for the “licking,” the part that we had been waiting for all along. And then lick we would! Until we got caught fighting with our spoons over who was getting more! The can would go into our chest freezer in the cellar and we would have to wait until it was solid. It was a real treat–no getting away from that! And I can still see and taste that softened chocolate (my favorite), stirred into a creamy paste at the bottom of my ice cream bowl….which was why…..

I decided we had to have homemade ice cream here at Simply Bed & Bread! And which was also why I high tailed it over to the W.I.N. store to find the ice cream freezer for $ 15 that I’d heard they’d had earlier. They still had it, so I took it home, gathered the ingredients for a batch of homemade coffee flavor, found the recipe in my 1975 Betty Crocker cookbook, and cooked my own custard base and put it in the frig to chill. I made it today and it is now in our upright freezer in our basement waiting for it to turn solid. I hope it’s not icy. We’ll see how it is tomorrow! Can you picture it in a small ice cream dish with a fresh strawberry garnish?

Berry Picking

May 8, 2010

I had heard that Lockbriar Farms was easy to find:  that heading north out of town,  it was just about a mile after turning right off of 213 N at 297 (right past Suds ‘n Soda on the left side of the road.)  I was to look for it on the right, and sure enough, I couldn’t have missed it.  I’m not sure if I saw the sign first, or the red and white striped tent. 

The same friendly guy who had been at the Park the other day was working at the farm, and he called out, “I know you!”  It’s always nice to get a warm welcome, so I told him I was there to pick a few berries and to take some pictures.  He asked if I had anything to put my berries in, and I didn’t, so he pointed to the flat boxes and said that they were 75 cents each, which was fine with me.  I should’ve thought of bringing something and so the 75 cent deal was a life-saver.  I certainly couldn’t carry them back in my hands!  Since I had told him that I would be posting about my experience on our B&B blog, he wanted to be sure I mentioned that 75 cent price for the boxes.  I guess some people are a little snarly to find that you don’t get everything handed to you for free, so I told him I would.  Consider you’ve gotten fair warning! 

Shannon walked me out to the field where the picking rows were.  There were 4 from which I could choose, and the berries were lying thick off of  the plants, just ready for the taking.  So that was exactly what I did!  I didn’t need many for just the two of us, and besides, David wants to go back with me one day soon so we can put some in the freezer, so it didn’t take me long to get my quota.  They were gorgeous and so easy to get!  It only took me minutes.  I took them back to the tent to be weighed, to find that my bill was $ 6.71–a real deal!  (There are more in the box than it looks like!)Even though I kept popping them into my mouth the whole time I was driving back to town, there were still some left by the time I got back home.  You see, I never worry about washing them first, since they are sprayed (when necessary) by organic sprays, and these hadn’t been sprayed at all.  I still had plenty to put in the refrigerator for tomorrow and so that was that! 

I’m still waiting to find out when the Ice Cream Day is at Lockbriar.  They weren’t quite sure because it’s still early.   (There had been no berries at all till May last year, and these started coming on in April).  I had seen on the website that there had been homemade ice cream served for free one day last year during the strawberry season, so I wanted to be sure to get that on our calendars!  Check back for that date!

 U Pick Info — 10 – 6 now; 7 – 7 (Memorial Day – Labor Day) $ 2 / pound

Have fun!

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Location, Location, Location.

You might notice the WAC Administration Building cupola out of the corner of your eye as you walk onto Simply Bed & Bread's brick path, since our house is just a stone's throw away from the college. Or it might be the ...
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