Bee Update

I am happy to report all four of my bee hives made it through the winter. Here are a few pics from a quick inspection we did this past weekend. I will continue to feed them a sugar/water mixture until the dandelions appear – so probably another 7 -10 days. The second pic is of bees festooning or hanging from the inner cover.  Nothing to be concerned about, but definitely a hive to watch closely during the next few weeks leading up to swarming season.  I like to think this festooning I am seeing is akin to NFL players heading to spring training camp. You can never start preparing/working out too early…

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Get Lost: My Hometown: Bloomfield, Kentucky

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Have you been to Kentucky?  You should!! It is the home of some of the greatest bourbon, horses, home cooking, hospitality, farmland, and college basketball in this country. During my most recent trip to the “Bluegrass State” I visited Lexington, horse country, and Bloomfield (home to my favorite antiques shop).

I met Vicki Robinson years ago during one of my first visits. She graciously agreed to participate in this travel series.

How long have you lived in Kentucky?

64 years

What does it feel like in spring in Bloomfield?

The birds are singing, the grass is green, and the trees are already budding out. Tulip trees, fruit trees, redbud trees, and dogwood trees are just a few that are full in bloom. Lilac bushes and beautiful tulips are in every yard. The temperature has been warm, and after a cold and snowy winter it is welcome relief.

What do you miss most about your hometown when you’re away?

I love the rolling hills. I miss the smallness. Big cities are nice to visit, but the fact I know most people in town takes away any loneliness I might have in my heart.

What would surprise a newcomer to your area?   The friendliness of the people in my town. You won’t be a stranger very long.

Where are your favorite places to go with friends?

Bloomfield has Hometown Pizza in town. Hometown has excellent food in a very friendly atmosphere. If antiquing is your favorite thing to do, shop at Nettie Jarvis Antiques that has 5,000 square feet of high quality American Antiques. The Old Sugar Valley Country Store has the feel of an old country store filled with antiques, KY Proud Products, books from KY authors, artists and potters.

Bardstown 13 miles away has many places to visit. My Old Kentucky Home which is the Rowan House who invited Stephen Foster to visit and it inspired him to write the song, “My Old Kentucky Home,” In the summer there is and outdoor theater that shows “The Stephen Foster Story.” Bardstown has an excellent Civil War Museum of the Western Theater. Nelson County is considered the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” Some of the local distillers are Barton Brands, Heaven Hill, Four Roses, Jim Beam, and Makers Mark.

Some of the restaurants in the Bardstown area are Kurtz Restaurant, Mammy’s Kitchen, Harrison Smith House, RickHouse, The Old Talbot Tavern, and Kreso’s Restaurant.

Where do you go for weekend getaways? (e.g. any favorite places to stay/eat/shop in Lexington and/or Louisville – I loved visiting both those cities during my visits to Bloomfield) Louisville, KY has a spring and fall meet at Churchill Downs. Of course, the Derby is the first weekend in May. Two weeks prior to the Derby is Thunder over Louisville where fireworks are happening on a bridge over the Ohio River. Keenland Race Track meets in the spring and fall in Lexington, KY.

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Weekend Reading

Happy almost weekend!!

It’s been a few weeks, but here’s another “Show and Tell” entry,  in which someone tells us about something special to them.  *In case you missed the last one on my friend Samantha of  Gathering of Stitches check it out here.

Here, Allison Carroll Duffy (Master Preserver and author of Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin) writes about the mortar and pestle a family member gifted to her. (Copy and Photos by Allison)

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Mortar and Pestle
by Allison Carroll Duffy

Almost twenty years ago, my parents decided to sell their house and live aboard their boat. They brought a handful of things with them, put some items in storage, held massive yard sales to get rid of other things, and gave a lot away. One my most favorite things in my kitchen today is a mortar and pestle that my stepmother Ann gifted to me at that time. I remember it displayed on a shelf in our family’s kitchen when I was growing up, and I recall it being quite special to her. She’d acquired it in her twenties, during the decade that she’d lived in Germany and Greece in the late 1950s and 1960s, earning her Doctorate in philosophy. It’s not a time of her life that she ever talked about very much, at least not with her children, but I’ve always imagined that the mortar and pestle must have held strong memories for her of that time long, long in her past–though I’ve never known what these memories might be. I don’t actually know what the mortar and pestle is made of; it looks like ceramic, but it’s heavy as a rock. It’s probably the heaviest implement in my kitchen. It has a smooth, almost dull, off-white finish, yellowed a bit from age. The handle of the pestle is made of wood, now well-worn and slightly cracked. I’ve used it for so many things over the years–grinding all kinds of spices, cracking dried grains, crushing nuts, crushing ice, grinding coffee beans when my coffee grinder was broken, and attempting to break up blocks of beeswax (the last one of which, admittedly, was only marginally successful, and gummed up the pestle a bit). I’ve always kept the mortar and pestle in a place where I can enjoy looking at it as well as using it–it’s currently displayed on an old pine hutch in my dining room. To me, it is truly as beautiful as it is useful, and in my mind, that’s about the best kind of kitchen tool there is.

Better Late Than Never

Soooo excited for this new series from Netflix on some of the world’s great chefs. Here’s the description: Chef’s Table goes inside the lives and kitchens of six of the world’s most renowned international chefs. Each episode focuses on a single chef, featuring Ben Shewry (Attica Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia), Magnus Nilsson (Fäviken in Järpen Sweden), Francis Mallmann (El Restaurante Patagonia Sur in Buenos Aires, Argentina), Niki Nakayama (N/Naka Restaurant in Los Angeles, CA, USA), Dan Barber (Blue Hill Restaurant at Stone Barns and in New York City, USA) and Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy) and thier unique look at their lives, talents and passion from their piece of culinary heaven. Chef’s Table premieres exclusively on Netflix, April 26th, wherever Netflix is available. And, a link to the trailer.

Because I’m oddly obsessed with prison culture (gardens, food, drink) – this recent Lucky Peach article by Kevin Pang on the food at Westville Correctional Facility. While a good article, personally I am far more interested in “Spread” – there was a fantastic article in an old issue of Gastronimca on the making of this inmate made food.  Want to go down that rabbit hole with me? Here’s a link to the article.

Have a fantastic weekend!!

Easter Weekend in Vermont

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flowers and sweet rolls

bacon and irish sausage

Easter breakfast – sausage from Ireland!!

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Wink laid another egg (did you know Australian women can lay eggs – me either till this weekend).

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Oh, sweet Millie.

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Shhh, secrets.

painted eggs

Aren’t these beauties – painted by some seriously talented folks up from NYC.

hunting for eggs

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Easter Egg Hunt – A found the golden egg (made by the lovely Australian lady who lays eggs) !!

 

 

Weekend Reading

The snow is melting and I’m sooo excited. Goodbye winter cold, gray days. Let’s have those spring daffodils. The next week’s forecast makes me want to sit on the porch in a cute outfit blowing bubbles.

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Better Late Than Never
This recipe for Homemade Butterbeer, yes just (a lot?) like what Harry Potter drank in the movies.

THIS Michael Bay-Inspired ‪#Girls Parody Features Brian Krause (Video) is SO awesome.

These “Magic Rabbit” images OMG SO CUTE!!!

Seed Libraries Are Sprouting Up Across the Planet, and Corporate Dominated Govts Are Trying to Stop Them

Have a great Friday and a fun weekend!!

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Culinary Diplomacy : Cuba

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The second post in DM’s culinary diplomacy series focuses on that Caribbean island Americans now frequently refer to as “post-Fidel Cuba” or “a future vacation spot.”

I’d say Cuban cooking, at least as I know it, is one of my favorites cuisines – pile on the fried plantains (more more!!), avocado salads, Adobo Chicken, Frijoles Negros, Yucca Fritters, and for drinks yes please to daiquiris and mojitos. Mmmm.

The idea of walking through Havana’s streets and eating at recommended paladares (privately owned small restaurants – some are in resident’s apartments…) is up there on my dream travel list. That said, all the complications involved in traveling there have prevented me from seriously thinking about going – until a few months ago when President Obama’ made his historic “Charting a New Course on Cuba” speech.

Along with all the goodness insinuated in the U.S. re-establishing diplomatic relations and opening an embassy in Cuba rhetoric, was a bit about the lifting of certain barriers permitting some Americans to travel there.

In bars from Orlando to Manhattan, members of the American tourism industry were likely ordering another round – of Mojitos for everyone. After 50 plus years (some) U.S. citizens could again travel legally to the land of jazz and salsa, classic cars, cigars and brightly colored buildings and no one was wasting any time gearing up the American tourist invasion.

Now, here’s the zinger, travel is still illegal for the average American unless you fall into one of a dozen categories including: have family there, are a journalist, attending a workshop or professional meeting, participating in a competition or humanitarian project, or want to study there (with an institution).

What these categories do is provide a legal loophole for solid (think Smithsonian) and not so on the up and up (depending on your ethics meter) tour companies to take those American citizens who have several thousand dollars to pony up on a ride through Havana on an educational tour.

This brings me to a small troupe of successful Miami chefs, few with Cuban connections, who are promoting food tours to Cuba. At first I thought that’s great, but after reading a few articles from Miami outlets and checking out one chef and the agency he’s partnered with I think it’s a big stunt – a gimmick – certainly nothing I would want anything to do with. When people with no connection to a place (one chef’s grandmother is supposedly from Cuba, but all his training comes from England, Japan, and Wolfgang Puck – seriously??) are suddenly called “culinary ambassadors” that makes me laugh and groan.

Here’s the tour company’s description, check out the words I underlined (more groaning on my part):
“Join our ‘ambassador’ Chef, Jamie DeRosa (of the award winning Tongue and Cheek restaurant in Miami), as we explore Cuba via its cuisine. This trip will allow you to see the sights and enjoy the flavors of all that Havana has to offer. It will feature visits to organic sustainable farms with an authentic, organic farm-to-table meal, and will culminate in a collaborative cooking event between Chef DeRosa and one of Cuba’s top Chefs at the #1 restaurant in Havana! This trip is a first of its kind and will fill quickly!”

Um, seriously?? There is no denying Cuba’s agricultural practices are positively advanced, but I find the agency’s use of the terms “organic” and “sustainable” followed so closely by “authentic” suspicious –  is it  just trendy marketing speak? Groan. Organic farm-to-table – double groan. Who says this is the #1 restaurant and how about letting Cuban chefs do all the cooking/teaching – they’re probably 100% more interesting and “authentic” than a guy who has made his career working for a chef (Wolfgang) best known for his chopped salads and frozen aisle meals. Just saying.

This is where the use of culinary diplomacy as a form of marketing lacks greatly. It becomes a cheap tool in the hands of a creepy salesperson.

Want to create something meaningful and “authentic” dig a big deeper folks. As someone who has participated in a number of culinary education programs what would impress me is involving folks who live in Cuba or have a long history with that country.

Take Smithsonian Journeys Cuba trip – you meet with Cuban scholars, visit a training and advisory center for future Cuban entrepreneurs, visit the National Museum of Fine Arts with one of the country’s historians, meet with farmers and members of the community at a local urban garden, meet a local journalist, attend a local community block party, visit a former sugar mill town and with a historian tour the town and meet inhabitants and so on and so on. No gimmicky terms – this is the real deal. I’m not much for tour groups, so you won’t find me on it – but it sounds cool doesn’t it!?

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All the News That’s Fit to Print

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As is reasonably well documented in this blog, I have a never-ending list of books that I want to read one day – while always being immersed in at least one or two books. But, I don’t just read books, far from it. At any given time I will have a stack of open magazines in the office, on the dining room table, and even bed. Right now I am reading the April issue of Marie Claire (the one with the beautiful Kerry Washington on the cover) and the article “The Invisible War on the Brain” by Caroline Alexander in the February issue of National Geographic. I just read and greatly enjoyed the article “Pure Hawaiian” by John Lancaster in the same issue of National Geographic.

Sometimes I find books or subjects I want to know more about, while reading articles. Lancaster’s article on surfing, once the sport of island chiefs, as a way for Hawaiians to maintain their cultural identity led me to watch ESPN’s film “Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau” about the legendary waterman. Last night I watched “Storm Surfers,” the documentary following two best friends on their quest to hunt down and ride the biggest and most dangerous waves in Australia. One of the guys, Ross Clarke-Jones, is the first non-Hawaiian to win the prestigious Eddie Aikau Memorial at Waimea Bay. Not a bad way to pass by some of these cold winter days!?

A really well-written article I read recently is “Bring Up the Bodies” by Patrick Radden Keefe in the March 16 issue of the New Yorker. That publication consistently has the best writing hands down and this article was no exception. It is the story behind the real Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president and former I.R.A. member who continues to deny his responsibility in authorizing murders.

On the (much) less serious side I enjoyed the too brief interview with Kate Winslet “Portrait of an Artist” and the beautiful photos of her by Giampaolo Sgurain in the April issue of In Style. I have been a fan of hers since “Heavenly Creatures” and am super excited to see what she does in the Steve Jobs biopic. P.s. all the pics/bits on white jeans – my get into summer purchase – are fun.

As someone who swore off fashion magazines (Vogue, Elle, Harpers Bazaar – so dull, ugly, unrealistic), I have actually found Glamour and Marie Claire to have some substance. Hey, fun no brainer material mostly anyhow. I mean, while waiting for the snow to melt or your manicure to dry what’s better than articles w/ titles like “Find Your Best Hair Color” or “337 Ways to Own Your Own Look” …? ox

Get Lost: My Hometown: Aroostook County

and view from my house

view from my house

Aroostook County, otherwise known as “the County” or “The Crown of Maine,” is the northernmost region of Maine and one of the places I most enjoy spending time. The thousands of acres of farmland offer a spectacular view anytime of the year and the families that farm them are good people – kind folks who open their homes to you offering homemade meals and friendship.  One such family are the Bucks, who I feel privileged to know. Felicia Buck, the glamorous matron, is a hard-working mother who values family above all else. Her cooking is hard to beat and the crews who have worked for her family’s farm (primarily potatoes – run by her husband and his family) have been blessed with her homemade cinnamon rolls and other baked treats through the years. Lucky people!

I met Felicia a few years ago while working on a potato farming story. We kept in touch and she invited me back up for a day of candy making with her and her friends and continues to keep me abreast of fun happenings in her neck of the woods. I was thrilled when she agreed to participate in this post.

How long have you lived in Aroostook County?

I have lived in Chapman, Maine for almost 23 years. I grew up in the town 5 miles from where I currently live (Castle Hill). My community is a tri-area community consisting of the 3 small towns of Mapleton, Chapman, and Castle Hill. Population around

What does it feel like in spring there?

I know that spring officially starts in March but in Aroostook County I don’t personally consider it spring until we can get on the ground planting our crops. That is the farmer’s wife coming out in me. I don’t particularly like the rainy season and mud, but I do like the smell of newly tilled soil ready to be planted. I also LOVE the scenery in my community as the flowers start blossoming and the trees start budding. Also the fields look so neat and tidy after they are planted and the crops start sprouting and your can see the rows in the fields. Spring is a very busy time of year in Aroostook County since we are a farming community. There is so much to be done and a short window of opportunity to achieve the goal. The fields are filled with tractors and farming equipment and the roads have large farm trucks loaded with potatoes or whatever crop is to be planted.

Not only are the farmers working hard but everyone is getting their lawns ready, flowers planted and gardens growing. It is almost like a fresh start.

What do you miss most about your hometown when you’re away?

When I am away from my hometown I miss the relaxed environment our community has and the peacefulness. There isn’t the traffic or the rush to get from one place to the other in my area. Most everyone is so friendly and you always bump into someone you know. Some may think that it isn’t easy to live where everyone knows each other, but I believe for the most part it is a blessing. There is always support and friendship in a community like mine.

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What would surprise a newcomer to your area?

I think that the biggest surprise to a new comer to my area would be the beauty. There are a lot of beautiful places in the world but I believe that we have one of the most beautiful. We have 4 DISTINCT seasons and all are truly breath taking with it’s fields, hills and forests.

Where are your favorite places to go with friends?

Here are a few of the places to eat in my community:
Boondocks in Fort Fairfield – They have delicious seafood and steak
Cafe Sopresso’s in Presque Isle – fine dining, lunch has unique sandwiches and the best lobster rolls around
Gram Russo’s in Presque Isle – delicious italian food
Rosella’s in Presque Isle – best homemade pizza. Homemade crust and homemade sauce. (sweet sauce, alfredo, buffalo, etc)
Irish Setter Pub in Presque Isle – pub style, burgers, nachos and a whole lot more
Long Lake Sporting Club in St. Agatha – beautiful view of the lake, leisure dining, delicious steak and seafood, french ployes, fun atmosphere

Here are some places and events we like to attend in our community:
Haystack Mountain in Mapleton – previoiusly a volcano , not a long hike to get to the top but breath taking views
Balloon Festival in Presque Isle – takes place in August, hot air balloons (about 10 – 15) take flight. You can pay for a ride, they have balloon glows at dawn and dust. It usually last a few days. Absolutely beautiful!
Maple Meadow Festival in Mapleton – takes place a weekend in June. A mixture of local merchants, antiques and demonstrations of antique farm equipment , horse drawn plows. Food, music
Potato Blossom Festival in Fort Fairfileld – Middle of July. It is a celebration of farming in our community. It is a week long event. Many festivities, street dance, pageants, celebration of Farm Family with legislatures, mashed potato wrestling, cooking contests, LARGE parade and so much more.

Where do you go for weekend getaways?

If we were going away for the weekend we would generally go downstate to the coast, Bar Harbor or Old Orchard Beach. Somewhere very different from our hometown. It is always nice to experience something completely different than what you are use to. I must say that it is very nice to visit other places, but I have found that it also makes us appreciate what we have right around us in our own hometown.

Potato Blossom Festival

and Potato Blossom Festival

**All images provided by Felicia Buck. Top two – views from her home. Middle two images of her home. Bottom two of Potato Blossom Festival.

Bookends: My Early Spring Reading List

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All three are non-fiction.

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston. I read it and now I want to climb trees – big ones! In Northern California and Oregon, and the Skeleton Forest in Victoria, Australia, there are magical botanical worlds thirty stories up in giant trees. Most people driving or hiking through the Redwood Forests out west will stare up at the beautiful – enormous – trees and pass near the largest species of living trees without ever knowing it. This book is about those amateur and professional botanists and scientists who climb those ever so tall trees – their personal stories, and climbing adventures. I geeked out over the science and the gear and loved the joy Preston brought to his family and the reader with his learning to climb. Did you know there are facilities where you can learn to climb tall trees? Yup, and you better believe I’ve made note of them – that’s gotta happen!!

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. It is the tale of the 238-ton whaling ship the Essex that set sail from Nantucket in 1819 on a routine voyage to hunt whales and was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale. Does the story sound familiar? It should, it is the inspiration behind Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1852). It is a story full of superstition, horror, and survival – told my a master storyteller/researcher it is one of the most famous stories of the sea vs. man.

Ron Howard’s film based on the book, starring Chris Hemsworth is slotted for a December, 2015 release (don’t skip the book thinking you will see the movie and get the full story – there are a LOT of screenwriters attached to the picture and the release date was already moved once = could end up being a film you just want to watch on video. The book, however, is excellent. ).

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller (LOVED this book. Could not put down. Will read her Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness soon as I make my way through the to-read stack glaring at me from my bedside table.)
This beautiful book is Fuller’s first memoir (she has since written two more) – from 1972 to 1990, she grew up on several farms in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Malawi, and Zambia. She has an extraordinary story that demands an equally great storyteller, and thankfully she is that – she is a keen observer who has lived through seriously troubled times. From an early age she had to resilient and self-sufficient. Before and after the tragedies, there is racism, fear, wildness (her parents and Africa’s), dancing and humor and great beauty. This book matters. **If you love this book I strongly recommend Peter Godwin’s incredible Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa – also a memoir of growing up in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). It remains one of my favorite books.

**The Circle by Dave Eggers – I read it and cannot believe I am writing this, but do not recommend it. The semi-fictional book is essentially about a tech company (think Google/Facebook) taking over the world – this New Yorker review is (too) kind and accurate. His 2012 novel A Hologram for the King, was good, but not great. It’s his early work I am passionate about and strongly recommend.  Rumor has it Tom Hanks will star in the film being made based on the book. Now, that I want to see.

In my to-read stack:
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy by Kathryn Miles (a Maine author!!)

about this blog

About Me Sharon Kitchens and Delicious Musings. Welcome and thank you for visiting my blog. I write about all the things I enjoy - Culture, Food, Photography &Travel. Read more on my about page.

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