April 5, 2014

New York Botanical Garden 2014 Orchid Show

It is that time of year. Yes, spring and today truly was one of the first warm, sunny days. But, what I am really referring to is the annual New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show! I clipped the ad from the paper and it has been sitting on the counter for over a week. Probably Jim would rather poke hot needles into his eyes, but yesterday when I got home there was the sweetest blooming phal on the kitchen table and Jim gamely, bravely announced he thought we should head to the orchid show by 10.

Jim's warm up gift to me--a tiny sweet phalaenopsis.

Jim’s warm up gift to me–a tiny sweet Phalaenopsis.

The show was good. The theme was Key West, but it was at best a loosely defined theme. The orchids were amazing. I think even Jim was mesmerized by the infinite variety of unbelievable colors, flower and leaf shapes. It was an unworldly array.

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February 23, 2014

Scads of Scones!

I am not much of a baker. Maybe because I am not hugely fond of sweets and cakes and pie, but baking has never been my thing. I do like scones. A few weeks ago the New York Times had a recipe for scones. I clipped it and one Sunday morning when everyone was still asleep, I mixed up a batch of current and pecan scones.

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They were a big hit. Peter, Ellie and Jim came down to a nice Sunday breakfast with fresh baked scones. They seemed to like it.

The recipe was for Currant Cream Scones and I added the pecans on my own.

So, a couple of weeks later, I made another batch, but this time I made a double batch so Peter and Ellie could take some scones back to school. There was general clamor and acclaim.

Now scone frenzy has erupted in the Frost household. Scones are in major demand. Texts arrive on my phone during the week entreating, demanding, reinforcement of scone supplies. Much discussion takes place of alternate recipes. Ginger, blueberry, with nuts, without nuts–this is all the subject of hot debate.

Peter came home this weekend to keep me company while Jim is off visiting his mother in Florida. Scones were, without doubt, a necessity. Remembering his previous request for ginger, I checked out potential recipes. The winner was Ginger Scones as found on Simply Recipes.  

A double batch was whipped up. Scones for Peter to take back to school. Scones for the freezer for Jim when he gets home and Ellie when she next visits. Scones for tea and breakfast. We are scone replete.

Next up: Blueberry with nuts.

February 16, 2014

Wondrous Winter Weekend

Friday did it. I finally threw in the towel and called “hookey!” It wasn’t having almost made it through yet another week of snow and storm and delayed trains. Yes, Metro North declaring Friday a “Saturday schedule” with 40% of train capacity, provided somewhat of a justification, but mostly I just couldn’t stand the idea of missing more gorgeous snow! This is the BEST WINTER EVER!!

Jim and I headed up to the country Friday morning with the prospect of three nights and almost four days of hanging out at the house, playing in the snow and just enjoying the peace and bright white snow of a real wintry weekend.

This winter reminds us of the winter of 1982. The snow was so deep that the path to the garage door and the driveway was lined with piles of snow over our heads. We could actually step off the front porch roof right onto the front yard. We don’t have quite that much snow this year, but it is a bumper crop.

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There is enough snow that I got to break out my trusty roof rake.

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When we arrived Friday, the drive hadn’t been plowed and I will confess to a momentary frustration with the snow, but Jeff arrived almost immediately and we were plowed out in less than half an hour.photo (17)

We dug out the back door and the all-important access to the fuel tanks.

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Raking the porch roof is always a good workout. The snow was deep enough, just walking to rake the roof was a workout.

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After some bush maintenance and shoveling, we headed off for a walk up the road.

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Normally no one loves snow more than Dakota. He runs like a crazy puppy and loves to dig his nose into the white, fluffy flakes. But this snow is so deep, he can only walk where the snow is cleared. I think he still loves the cold, but his crazy puppy circles are confined.

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We’re all having a wonderful weekend. This is the best winter ever!!

January 20, 2014

My First Fleece–Part One

One of the big events of my year every year is the New York Sheep and Wool Festival. Always the third weekend in October, I start getting excited for the next Sheep and Wool on the way home in the car from the one I just finished.

Ellie has bravely attended NYSW for two years running with me. Without complaint she accompanies me through the show from packed aisle to packed aisle looking as interested as possible at the thousands of permutations on fiber mania.

This year her loyalty extended to getting up at 5 am and driving two hours with me from Northampton to Rhinebeck. We arrived to heavy traffic at the 9 am opening. Aside from the normal rush of adrenaline, this year was particularly exciting as I had decided to make a big commitment. After much thought as a spinner of one year’s duration, I had decided to buy my first fleece.

This was not a decision lightly arrived at. Buying a fleece would be a major step. After all, as I had pointed out to Jim, after a fleece there is only one more step back to the source for a knitter and a spinner–buying a live sheep. To prepare for this undertaking I had spent hours watching high drama and compelling videos on evaluating fleeces, washing and processing fiber and preparing a fleece for spinning. I had studied breeds and thought carefully about the properties I most valued in the fiber I had spun and what I might want to knit with the output of my spinning. The more I learned and the more I thought, the greater my anxiety. This was a big leap into the unknown.

The area where all the fleeces are displayed would be uncharted territory. Previously I had eyed the building with the fleeces with wariness and concern. Long tables ran in parallel lines the length of the structure. Each table was loaded with plastic bags spilling over with various fleeces; Primitives, Longwools, Medium wools, Alpaca. The varieties were endless. Colored fleeces in greys, browns and, of course, white added to the mix of choices. The air was thick with the smell of lanolin and unprocessed fiber. Many of the fleeces were labeled with breed, type, weight and price. Some fleeces bore ribbons and prizes from judging as well as the judge’s report cards on the quality of the fleece.It would have been heaven except how in the world could one choose? No wonder reports are legion of spinners leaving with six or even eight fleeces!

Slowly we walked the length of each table. Touching first one fleece, checking the crimp on another. We attempted to eliminate potential acquisitions. Color was a factor. I knew I wanted a white fleece. Wool type was also a factor. I wanted a versatile fleece with a fairly high micron count–softer and better for yarn for clothing. At last we chose…The fleece we picked was a Romney/ Border Leicester cross. It seemed a good all-purpose fleece. Attached to the bag was a sheet of information. My fleece came from a sheep named “Logan.” It weighed 5 lbs 15ozs–some of which was dirt and lanolin. The fleece was coated and skirted. This meant that Logan had worn a coat to keep dirt and vegetative matter out of his fleece and the unusable parts of the fleece had been trimmed away. Logan was raised on a farm in Carlisle, PA. When I took the bag brimming with unprocessed fleece up to the register, it turned out Logan was raised by the daughter of the woman who was ringing up the sale. She said that her daughter raised only dark-colored sheep for fleece, but Logan’s fleece was so nice, she kept him for his white fleece anyway. Below is the sheet of information:Wooly Wonders Farm (color)My excitement over acquiring Logan’s fleece was now only matched by a sense of great responsibility. I must do my best to honor Logan’s fleece. He had spent long months growing his fleece, it must be cared for, prepared and put to good use. It was a solemn pact.

The next step would be to wash my fleece. This was going to be a job. A very big job. I waited until I had a full Saturday at my disposal. In all the videos I had seen, triumphant fleece purchasers spread their new fleeces out and easily recognizable was the outline of the former wearer of that fleece. It wasn’t like that with Logan.

photo (18)Logan’s fleece looked like a garbled mess. Logan, like my two younger children, clearly never folded or hung up his clothes. You can’t really get a sense of how much fiber there is here in this photo, but believe me, it is a lot.

The first step in processing fleece is a good washing. Out must come the dirt from the field and at least some of the lanolin. Spinners in New Zealand are famous for spinning in the grease which means spinning unprocessed fiber straight from the fleece. This will make a water-proof garment and insure the spinner’s hands are soft and supple, but it is not good for creating yarn which isn’t going to be used in stormy weather or which is expected to take a dye. The lanolin coats the fiber and will eventually dry out and will also refuse to let dye into the fiber.

photo (17)I loaded too big pots on the stove with hot water simmering away. One pot was for washing and had some dishwashing liquid added to the water. The next pot was for rinsing.

photo 1I took Logan’s fleece in sections and let each section simmer in the hot, soapy water for about 15 minutes.photo 5

After squeezing excess water out wearing rubber gloves against the heat, I dunked the fiber into the rinse water. After rinsing, I squeezed the fleece gently and then used our trusty salad spinner to get as much water out as possible. The difference between pre-and post-washed fleece was remarkable.

photo 4Even wet the now washed fleece was white and fluffy. The kitchen was hot and steamy and smelled wonderfully of lanolin and wet sheep as I worked my way through each portion of Logan’s seemingly ever-larger fleece. It took well over four hours but by the time I finished I felt I knew my fleece intimately and I was in love with every lock of his wool. Just look at how lovely it is…

photo 3My hands were permanently pruned and ached from all the hot water. My back was killing me, but Logan was washed and laid out to dry. It would take a full week for all of that fleece to dry. And then the next step would be figuring out how to process the cleaned fiber and get ready to spin.

The next installment will cover my first spinning attempts with Logan and will feature some finished yarns. Stay tuned…

January 7, 2014

Moans and Mohs

Jim at the second pass, you don't want to see the fifth.

Jim at the second pass, you don’t want to see the fifth.

Sometimes you just get kicked in the butt by life. Poor Jim has had problems with the skin on his nose for years. He went to the doctor regularly and several years ago all was pronounced okay. In November he went back to see the doctor and they said he had basal cell cancer.

Today was the day he had it attended to. They said he could go alone. They said it would not be a huge deal. It was a whole lot worse than they ever expected. Clearly that last biopsy was wrong and his cancer has been growing for a long time. He arrived home after six hours of ambulatory surgery with his face swathed in bandages, a real shiner on his left eye and in a whole lot of pain. They did five passes with the Mohs procedure (do not click this link without a warning)–way more than usual or anticipated. He will have to have two passes of plastic surgery.

Sometimes life just kicks you in the butt for no reason at all…

January 5, 2014

PBR–The Adventure Continues

What can you say about a spouse who not only buys his wife amazing tickets to PBR , he buys two, goes with and seems to actually enjoy it? He’s a keeper.

Every January, PBR starts their new year off in New York City at Madison Square Garden. You wouldn’t think there were that many cowboys in the tri-State area, but guess again.

We had great seats and the action was unparalleled. It was two and a half hours of pure bull adrenaline. It was a fantastic afternoon and was over all too soon. Thank you, honey.

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January 1, 2014

Welcome to 2014!!

Happy New Year!!!

We woke to a sparkling winter’s day in Connecticut. There was a light sprinkling of snow on the ground and the temperature hovered just above 10 degrees. The world looked fresh and new and just the kind of day which should welcome in a new year.

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Looking out the front, the walkway stones were barely visible.

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The backyard was empty and inviting for a stroll or a four-legged romp.

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The pond is almost empty of water and the sun breaks across the tops of the trees its light streaking through the frosty air.

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  Dakota surveys his realm and all is well in his world.

The last thirteen days of break have been delightful. Long stretches of relaxation were punctuated by activity. Countless hours of knitting and spinning balanced out with a bit of cooking and family outings. We had a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a quiet and enjoyable Christmas Eve and Day with just the four of us at home, a transition from Rye Brook to the country and a good stretch of time at one of our favorite places on earth. It has been a good ending to the holiday season and a great start to a brand new year.

2014 lies before all of us with opportunity, challenge and the prospect of happiness and love. 2013 was a good year for our family, I hope the same for 2014–for our family and for our friends and extended family.

December 15, 2013

Christmas Letter 2013

2013 Christmas letter

Please click on the link to read our Christmas letter.

December 8, 2013

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

The snow flurries were just beginning to fall as we brought the tree into the house. This afternoon we left the house in CT early and headed to a Christmas tree lot we had noticed in town.

The first tree we looked at just seemed like the perfect choice. We loaded it up in my red truck and headed home to Rye Brook.

Got 'er done!

Got ‘er done!

Several years ago Peter and I made the most cat-impervious Christmas tree stand ever. We took a 4′ x 4′ piece of plywood, drilled holes to match those in the base of the Christmas tree stand and wired the stand to the board. The Christmas tree is still a giant kitty toy and the ornaments will be strewn about the room, but the tree will never tip over.

Hurry up, I'm nekkid!

Hurry up, I’m nekkid!

September 29, 2013

Hannelore’s Amazing Fish Sauce

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This past April Jim and I traveled to DC to visit our friends, Hannelore and Didier. Newly relocated to DC from Vienna, Hannelore is the Bureau Chief for the ORF (see this link for more) and Didier is a retired French journalist. They had led an amazingly romantic life with postings all over the world. Most recently, they have been in Vienna where they have raised their children, Charlotte and Alex.

Hannelore is one of those cooks who seems to effortlessly assemble ingredients, no measuring, and everything tastes fantastic. We arrived after a difficult drive down I-95 to a delightful dinner of salmon, fresh salad and rice. Hannelore threw this Thai Fish sauce together in about 30 seconds and it has become a standard in our household.

Equal parts lime juice and fish sauce

Diced dried chili pepper

Cilantro

This sauce was so simple and yet so tasty. The trick is to not go overboard with the chili pepper. One is fine, two makes it pretty hot. You can see the chilis in the photo above.

Of course, having this base recipe is a great launching pad for variation. If you are pressed for time, the basic sauce takes two minutes. If you have more time, there is room to riff. I love to add chopped scallion and diced ginger. It amplifies the Thai theme and adds more body and chewiness. This sauce works well with tuna, salmon and would probably do wonderful things with chicken.

Try it. Play with it. Heaven knows where Hannelore learned of this sauce, but it is the perfect example of something which can be shared and amplified. Enjoy!!

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