Summer Gourmand

June 29, 2011

The occasional thumping and bumping upstairs makes me smile…It’s such a boy-thing.  And since we have a mom and her 2 boys here, with the older 11-year-old son being in Erin’s Room by himself, it’s a sound that we hear from time to time, and I love it.   I don’t think I would’ve loved it when I was younger–there was too much to do and I had girls who didn’t crash about and I was always glad about having girls–but now, the curious incidents of the noises in the night (and day) put a grin on my face.  I don’t know what he is doing up there, but I bet he’s feeling pretty good about it….

Unlike the pancakes that I made him for breakfast, which he was not as pleased about.  But that makes me giggle, too, because apparently, my food wasn’t quite up to the par to which has become accustomed!  🙂  They were the best that I could make, but I really don’t ever offer pancakes to guests; I just thought they were a guaranteed kid-pleaser, and a sure-fire hit with the boys, so I had prepared for them, in case he had requested them.  (Because I did give him a choice.  But right away, I should’ve known he’d been around plenty on the fine cuisine set because he asked me what type of omelettes–yes, plural,–I was offering for the day.) 

In preparation, I had googled Paula Deen’s best and determined that the chocolate chip pancake reviews were at the top.  Although chocolate chips in pancakes wasn’t going to happen (the thought of the 2 things together just doesn’t sound quite right on an empty, first-thing-in-the-morning stomach), so I put in dried blueberries instead.  Then like Amelia Bedelia,  I separated those eggs and used 4 bowls to do everything separately and I beat the egg whites until they were as light as air, then folded them in and I must say, that batter looked divine.  I cooked them in real butter and asked our early guest (the other 2 were still in bed) if he wanted warm blueberry syrup or warm maple, and thought I was good to go. 

He had sampled my homemade cinnamon buns which were on the table when he came down, and he’d finished his yogurt (and oh my, I was glad I’d splurged and gotten the Greek yogurt), even scraping the dish vigorously (so that had been a hit, although just for the record, he did not comment on my homemade granola which was on the side as garnish), but when I asked him expectantly, with a brightness on my face, how the pancakes were, he said, “OK.”  “Oh,” I thought.  Paula Deen’s recipe didn’t cut it?  My best effort didn’t quite make it?  Nope.  So that’s why I’m giggling.  OK, Cheryl, so your pancakes just aren’t all that.  I’m OK with that.  I’ll just stick to the omelettes instead–oh, yes, and the cinnamon buns, because after he asked, “What’s that?” and I told him,  then he said, “That was good.”

Summer Plenty

June 27, 2011

Summer produce from the Farmer's Market

You may notice the blemish on the tomato right away and wonder why on earth I put a picture of that on a blog post…. Well, it was because it was in with the rest of the veggies, so why not?  And besides, the 2 tomatoes that were in the pile were free.

Getting more than you bargained for at Redman’s is why they are my favorite vendor in the whole market.  They’re usually the cheapest and they never sell things by the pound.   (Although the Amish tomato guy has the most incredible tomatoes around — out of season — and they’re worth the wait in line and the weight charge that you pay.  And while we’re on the topic of those deep red Amish works of art, I can tell you that I don’t know how they get the tomatoes to be so delicious when tomatoes aren’t supposed to taste like that when they first start selling them in the spring, but they do.  So I get it that they charge by the pound.  I’ve paid top dollar for them, too, for a special treat.  Instead of a fancy coffee, you can get a tomato.) 

I’m guessing that other vendors probably do things like they do at Redman’s but I don’t have personal experience with those.  Since you hit Redman’s first from our direction on foot, that’s just where I started going years ago, so now I always go there.  But I think they’re great.  I just like the way they sell their produce.  They think on the spot and change things because it works–you know, like if you buy a bunch of stuff, then it’s like they’re feeling like you deserve to get a little bit more of something and you’re feeling that way, too, because fresh produce isn’t cheap, so they throw something else in.  I’d say that this way of doing business is definitely a crowd-pleaser in my book.  Last Saturday was a perfect example of this.

I had bought cucumbers 3 for $2 further down the line of vendors  because I’d missed them at Redman’s.  But I saw them on my second trip past — 50 cents a piece….Well, our around-the-corner neighbors were in line right behind me and the boys were there to spend some of their money on a “treat.”  Since one of them wanted a cucumber, he had his 2 quarters ready.  But when the boys’ mom laid down her small melon to pay for it, the lady behind the table said, “Oh, for both of those (the melon and the cucumber) — $3.”  (She had thrown in the cucumber for free, saying, “Oh, I hate 50 cents-es.  I always did hate 50 cents-es.”  See what I mean?

This principle of getting more than you expected is what makes people smile.  I guess you could say it’s why I put Barbara’s 100 year old summer quilt on one of our guest beds:  it’s more than you think you’d get and I LOVE that.  I love people’s faces when this happens (not that I see their faces when they discover the vintage quilt, but I can imagine).  It’s like a grace-shadow.  Grace is when you get good stuff that you don’t deserve or expect.  Vegetables and blankets aren’t quite in the same category as real grace, but being surprised by even a hint of it on a Saturday, or any other day of the week, is pretty darned nice.  And I just thought you’d like to know where you could find it.

Summer Reunion Story 2

June 22, 2011

Linda Creighton’s most romantic high school memory, (and the most movie-worthy moment of her life) of being asked to dance by senior Phil Kratzer when she was a lowly freshman reminded me of a dance memory, too. Mine wasn’t a romantic one; but it was a life-changer.

I, too, was in 9th grade, and new to the school–a very tough place to be. It was my very first CHS dance ever, and I was the quintessential wilting wall flower, plastered to the sidelines with no hope of rescue in sight. I was dying a slow, painful death, and the night had dragged on into a never-never land of time. I was beginning to glaze over….. Until…out of the darkness of that school cafeteria, out of nowhere, my knight–(a junior, no less!) glided over to my side. He wasn’t in white satin, but he had on the coolest white tie against his ultra-cool black shirt that you ever did see. And in a heartbeat, in the blink of an eye, I re-entered the land of the living. My vision cleared, my breathing quickened, and my senses popped back to alert-mode. My reputation instantly skyrocketed and my inner core went from lily-weak to oak-strong. I was going to live through high school and it might even get good. Even though my 11th grade savior was my cousin, Harry, no one else knew that. I was a new kid, so the secret was safe. It only mattered that I had been rescued from that awful place by the wall. I had gotten un-stuck. And my life would never be the same again. Thank you again, Harry!!

Summer Reunion Story

June 21, 2011

It had been 40 years, so about 1/4 of our class gathered at the Frank M. Jarman American Legion Post just outside of town for our high school reunion. The excitement had been building, due to Facebook posts, chats, planning meetings and pre-parties, and the evening had finally come. It was the time on the program for the Open Mic Opportunity and Vanessa came from the back of the room to take her turn. With a broad smile and a warmth in her manner she said, “We were the class that was not only the last, but the first….” She was glowing as she was speaking.

Vanessa, along with some other former brave, black Garnett students, had entered CHS in 7th grade, having been a part of the first classmates to integrate into the formerly all-white schools in the county. Since we were the last class to graduate from CHS just 6 years later, we were the class that had come full-circle.

I didn’t go to CHS until 9th grade, and that was also due to integration and the changing of the school zone boundary lines. Galena was the school that I had attended prior to that, from grades 1 through 8, and I remember the first black student in our school. I’m not sure whose idea it was to put just one boy in an all-white school (and maybe my memory is incorrect about there being a single black student, but I cannot remember any other student that year but that one boy who I think was in the 11th grade), but even as an 8th grader, I knew that wasn’t right. I knew nothing about differences, really, or about black history or about black anything until I went to 9th grade at CHS and was in the same classes with Vanessa, Annie, Rita, Jackie, Priscilla, Diane, Delores and others; (which was when I learned that we were all the same) but I knew that boy must’ve had a hard time being all by himself. I remember thinking that it must be awfully hard for him, and that he must’ve felt bad. I knew that I would’ve and I just couldn’t imagine how he could do it. I don’t remember his name; he was a lot older than I and it has been a long time. But I knew that Vanessa would’ve known how he felt. So as I stood next to her the other night hearing the pride in her voice, I was proud right along with her to have been a part of it all.

Thank you, Vanessa, and thank you to all of you who had to fight a fight that we white students could not even imagine. You are our heroes and we’re proud to call you friends and fellow alumni.

Summer Blueberries

June 21, 2011

Blueberry bushes bulging with berries!

It was a breezy day, and not too hot, so the couple of hours spent at Lockbriar Farms picking blueberries and the quart of raspberries went quickly. I love blueberries, and love serving them at breakfast time, plus they keep great in the fridge, so I was eager to go and fill up my cardboard tray. I didn’t fill it, but I got plenty of berries last week before my Thursday guests came in. And they’re still just as good today, 4 days later. They’ll be fresh for several days longer. I had planned to freeze some, but I’m going to run out before then. I made a batch of blueberry-lemon scones, but I have served the rest just plain, which is the way that I prefer them. Although I also love trying new recipes, and I know a jam might be nice, it’s just not my favorite way to eat them, so usually they just get popped into a fruit cup with other fresh-from-the-farm-fruit and a sprig of mint, then breakfast is served! Simple, sweet, and just right!

Summer Reunion

June 15, 2011

Aunt Bernice at age 25

Our 40th high school reunion is this Saturday–class of ’71, the last graduating class from Chestertown High School. A county-wide consolidated high school would replace the 3 smaller, geographically-spaced schools that next year, but being members of that particular class gave us eternal bragging rights about this claim to fame, which we will celebrate shamelessly in just a few days.

It was just the other day that one of our class members heard from our vice principal, Mr. Kiefer, or “Scoop,” as some called him. (I didn’t call him that, but only because this particular nickname escaped my ears. I don’t remember having much contact with the vice principal, except to say hello in the hallways, or to know that he was the dad of one of our classmates, with whom I was good friends. Plus she was Mrs. Gibbs and I was Emily in Our Town, and theatre creates bonds with all those who share in it together. So I knew who he was.) So when Barbara, our classmate, posted his message on facebook and encouraged us to “drop him a line,” I did. It seemed very important to me not only to say “thank you” to him, but to write for other reasons as well….

“…It’s so good to hear from people who knew us when we were young. When my Aunt Bernice died (she was my mother’s sister) at age 93 almost 3 years ago, she was the last one in that generation who knew me when I was a little girl. And I hadn’t been prepared for that particular end-of-an-era sadness that accompanied her death, but that’s how it hit me. There was a finality that came with her dying, as though an entire section of my life had died.

Each of my aunts was special to me, but my Aunt Bernice was the one who had been with us in our home from the time I was born, since she visited every other weekend without fail. We even had “Aunt Bernice’s room” in our tiny house; it was not a “spare room;” it was her room, and was always referred to by that name. She carried me in her arms to my first formal Sunday School class when I moved up from the nursery to the class that had a table with little chairs. She watched Bobbi and me lick the paddles after we all made homemade ice cream outside on the sidewalk in front of our house. She was sitting in the living room with us when we opened our presents on Christmas morning. She had always been there. So when she died, that was the end of that whole picture–until the plans for our 40 year high school reunion began. I hadn’t anticipated the thrill that would accompany the re-connections with those who had known me when I was a teenager, but it was there…almost like I had my parents and my aunts back, to a time that was long ago, but was also now. I wouldn’t have to explain things; these peole had shared them with me, so they would know. I have done very little work for this reunion, but just being with these classmates has been a joy….”

Saturday can’t come soon enough.

Summer Quilt: A Gift From Barbara

June 14, 2011

Barbara loves stories as much as I do, and I had the privilege this morning of sitting with her for a couple of hours and listening to some of her’s. I was also the grateful recipient of several gifts that she had brought along with her, one of which was this summer quilt, which was a part of the backdrop for one of her stories.

The quilt is quite old–Barbara had no idea how old–and she got it after her aunts’ deaths, in the 50’s, while Barbara was in college. It is very lightweight so it wouldn’t have helped much in the NY wintertimes, but that was of no importance, since Barbara’s Aunts Ida and Jenny spent most of the winters with Barbara’s family. Ida and Jenny lived in a 2 story house without indoor plumbing or heat, so they needed the heavy coverlets (more treasures that Barbara brought to me), to keep them warm. During off-seasons, the wool coverlets and other woven blankets were in a gray painted carpenter’s box that was stored in the attic.

Barbara told me how much she loved visiting her aunts: “Their house was like a museum…with scopes that had pictures that moved and globes with falling snow, and they had a piano, which I played for them….The house looked small from the outside, but it had a parlor, a pump, a porch, and a pantry, along with an enclosed stairway that she never went up, even once, until after they died, and it had a summer kitchen with a small bedroom that could be closed off.” Barbara wasn’t sure where each one slept, but she guessed that there must’ve been 2 beds in the bedroom downstairs. And you could bet that the covers on them were thick and high with all of those blankets. Barbara brought me a high pile of them, along with some lovely, interesting table linens which I’ll use and change like bulletin boards in a teacher’s classroom.

I’m eager to use this summer quilt, but I’m not sure what to do. Part of me knows that it should be treated as an historical object. But the practical part of me says, “Use it,” which would tickle Barbara, too. I know also that there is probably a rule written somewhere that says to never, ever, as long as you live, never wash such an old quilt. And for the record, it doesn’t stink; it just doesn’t smell, well, fresh. It does smell old, though. And that’s OK for museums but not for a B&B. So stay tuned. We’ll see what happens…. (And actually, I think I know what’s going to happen….I think that if you walk past our house tomorrow, you’ll probably see it on the clothesline, drying, after a freshening-up in the gentle cycle of our washer. Like I said, just stay tuned.

Summer: Farmer’s Market

June 11, 2011

Lavender, pattypan + onions!

I always approach the Famer’s Market with a spirit of adventure, since you never know what might be just around that corner! So on Saturday mornings, I head out with my bag to see what I can find. I did have one thing on my mind, and that was lavender. I don’t have any growing here–really didn’t even know exactly what it looked like–but I had decided that I needed it. My neighbors probably already have some and I know that they would share, and my friend, Beth, in Galena, has a ton of it, and she’s a good “share-er” too, but there I was at the Farmer’s Market and there was the little pot of it at Redman’s for $3, so you’ll see that in the left corner of the picture.

I had decided that I needed the lavender because I wanted to make lavender scones. I’m going to try roasting the pattypan and the onions for breakfast tomorrow, so we’ll see how it all goes! (The scones will have to wait, though, until the lavender grows flowers. But it’s OK; tomorrow morning’s breakfast guests want the homemade cinnamon buns, so we’re good!)

Summer Soup

June 10, 2011

Summer = Chilled Soup

OK, so summer doesn’t equal soup for everyone,….but you really never know what might be on the breakfast table in the mornings here!

Our guest came in late last night and is leaving this morning, so Tea Time has passed her by. But who says there is a rule about not serving soup at Breakfast Time? Our last two guests have loved having it for breakfast, so I made another batch for today and this weekend. When fresh produce is in season, you just have to run with it!

The recipe for this Chilled Strawberry-Rhubarb Soup is found on my facebook page; if you’re not on FB and would like it, I’ll be happy to post it here as well. Just ask!

There is one note that I want to add about making the soup: do not drain the rhubarb after cooking it. I didn’t the first time, but I got distracted while making it the second time (yesterday) and drained it out of habit. By doing that, I lost all of the water that is needed to make it true “soup.” What I have is a thick, sweeter version and I prefer the thinner, not-as-sweet one. I plan to serve it, though, with just a hint of yogurt on the top, so I think the combination will be a nice twist. And it’s just a little bit anyway, since it is served in a demitasse cup, so it’s just really the thought–one of those little touches on the table that add just a little extra, which is always a lovely thing.

Summer is here.

June 3, 2011

Roses = Summer

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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