Good Luck food for 2019

Here’s wishing everyone out there peace, happiness and much good luck in the new year…. including mister gardener and me!

We decided to celebrate the end of 2018 in a style that’s quite rare for us. It’s usually a cozy night at home and an early evening, but we upped the ante with dinner at a local upscale eatery, the Epoch, with a six course New Year’s Eve meal. Oh wow!

Epoch Restaurant

We thought it’d be a terrific time to treat ourselves while marking the end of an up and down year and celebrating the beginning of a new year full of good cheer and happy plans.

Epoch

We loved all the courses… new tastes for us like Arpege Egg, a soft-boiled egg with maple syrup, sherry, and a coriander floret, and for mister gardener, a favorite of tender bay scallops, but the highlight for me was Hoppin’ John soup. Not the Hoppin’ John recipe I grew up with, which is whole black-eyed peas served over a bed of rice, but a creamy rich soup topped with sprigs of water cress. Yum!

Epoch Inn 'Hoppin' John Soup"

It was so good that today I tried to make my own version of the Hoppin’ John soup using ingredients I have at home. No watercress. No cream of celery soup. Not sure included in their ‘Trinity’ they printed on the menu but I could guess it was the Trinity of celery, onions and bell peppers found in Cajun cooking. No bell pepper in our refrigerator.

I began by sauteing onion and celery in bacon grease until tender, then added chicken stock. I scraped up all the pan bits, added the peas, a chopped potato and seasonings and simmered until done.  I threw in a handful of spinach leaves and with the immersion blender, I made a pureed soup that passed the taste test. A dollop of sour cream and voila!

 

Hoppin' John Annie

It doesn’t taste exactly like Epoch’s tasty soup but my version is good enough. I may never eat traditional Hoppin’ John black-eyed peas over rice for good luck on New Year’s Day again.

 

A New Day, A New Year…

Last night, mister gardener and I enjoyed a lovely filet mignon dinner for two to celebrate New Year’s Eve. An early to bed guy, we expressed our Happy New Year wishes and he tucked in well before midnight, giving me the go-ahead to make the appropriate noises at midnight to frighten off all evil spirits that might be lurking. Well-wishes for the new year flew across states and timelines via texts and emails from family until 12:30 or so when I faded and hit the hay.

Today we hit the reset button for the new year of 2017. Christmas decorations have been put away. Our lovely tree sits outside providing a haven for small birds and today mister gardener and I talk about our gift of a brand new year and shared thoughts, plans, ideas, and desires.

Christmas Tree 2016

I don’t make a list of resolutions but it is a good time to reflect on the past and think about future wishes and dreams. We will do a little traveling, I plan to pick up my needlework again, and we both plan to move forward in a more positive direction. I feel bruised from political chaos and polarization that has become the new norm these days… and remedies seem remote. However, no one can take away HOPE.

Have a Happy, Healthy, and Vigorous New Year!

A Marshmallow World Today

Exeter NHWe were told it would be a big storm for most of New Hampshire but living on the coast, we expected mostly rain and wet snow yesterday. And that’s exactly what we got. The city, with help from the sun and rising temperatures, took care of snow and ice on the roads and we could be out the door early on our errands.

The year is drawing to a close and we are looking forward to moving on in 2017. We had a wonderful Christmas with the wee grandchildren doing all the things that make the holiday special. Baking and dining seemed to take up a lot of our energy so resolutions for getting back in shape top the list for 2017.

Christmas Cookies 2016

Christmas Dinner

Phone calls, FaceTime, photo sharing albums of family, festive decorations, gatherings from Kentucky, Virginia, and Ohio brightened our December days. Garden club activities… Christmas luncheons, a fun Yankee Swap, decorating the Exeter Historical Building, and annual neighborhood gatherings capped off the month…..

Neighborhood Christmas Party 2016

…..until finally the big day arrived and excited wee youngsters hurried up to bed with visions of sugarplums keeping them awake way too late!

Off to bed...

Hope everyone had a wonderful and meaningful Christmas. Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2017 and I’ll be right back here in the new year.

 

Almost Summer Camp

In the dead of a New England winter, I can only post about what I see… and it’s all snow or ice. So I am taking a trip back and posting about a warmer time, a time 2 summers ago when I spent a week on Star Island with a friend from Virginia. Star Island is a part of the Isles of Shoals, a group of nine small islands located a few miles off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine with names like Appledore, Smuttynose, Duck, and White. Groups arrive and leave all summer attending conferences, yoga camps, retreats, marine classes, photography, watercolor classes, or a family having a relaxing day-trip on these craggy shores. For us, it was the closest thing to summer camp for adults.

The largest building on the right is the old wooden Oceanic Hotel from the late 1800’s, the focal point of Star Island where we checked in and dined morning, noon, and night, where we showered, attended lectures, visited the gift shop, met friends, and enjoyed ice cream at the snack bar. Other buildings were guest rooms, guest cottages, the chapel, and lecture halls/classrooms/activity centers. The islands have been inhabited since the early 17th century (or earlier) by fishermen… some working their way up from Virginia colonies. In fact, Captain John Smith visited in 1614 and named the isles for himself, Smyth Isles. I guess it didn’t stick.

IMG_7951-X2Oceanic dining hallroomsYes, it was a lot like summer camp as we were roughing it on the island. We chose to share a miniature room with a bath (toilet/sink) rather than have a room in a cottage or the hotel with a shared bath, an upgrade we think, but showers were limited to certain days for certain hours in the basement of the Oceanic Hotel. Staff, dozens and dozens of young adults (“Pelicans”) of college age for the most part, showered on opposite days.

Watercolor LectureWe were free to wander the island in between activities and lectures. One day I poked around to see what flowers called the island home. The most abundant bloom I saw was the Rosa rugosa, a salt tolerant scrubby rose. It is prolific non-native that made the island look like a monoculture of rose. I searched for the scarlet pimpernel that grew on the rocks but to no avail. Mostly I saw blooms common to all.

Rosa rugosa

The black-backed seagulls outnumbered people by thousands. The breeding season was over but we were still warned about aggressive seagulls. I found the youngest gulls delightful and sometimes posing for the camera. This one went through his entire yoga routine for me.

young black backed gullOver the island, there were a number of grave sites and I couldn’t help but wonder if they brought soil from the mainland to cover the coffins on this thinly earthed rock. At the bottom of Eliza’s stone, it reads:

Death has cut the brittle thread of life
And laid my body in the grave.
Yet my spirit lives in heaven above
To sing the praises of God’s love.

Eliza

We signed on for an outing to another island, Appledore, the site of a Cornell/UNH marine science lab and the home and cutting gardens of Celia Thaxter (1835-1894), famed poet, writer, the daughter of the lightkeeper on White Isle. He eventually built two grand hotels in the mid-1800’s, one on Appledore and one on Smuttynose (both burned down). Celia became his hostess and her cut flowers adorned the hotels. Guests flocked to the island for relaxation and inspiration, among them famous writers and painters like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Sarah Orne Jewett, and the artists William Morris Hunt and Childe Hassam.

AppledoreWe followed the rocky path upward and across the island to the stone foundation of Celia’s home. This is a popular tour to visit a replica of her cutting gardens planted according to the plan she outlined in her bestselling book, An Island Garden. Our summer visit found only those late-blooming flowers at peak… but it was exciting to be there and catch a few photographs.

Back on Star, we followed paths, rutted roads, climbed boulders and rocks to explore every inch of the small island. Click to enlarge.

And at night we gathered with our cameras on the decks and on the gazebo called the summer house and watched the sun go down.

"                               " IMG_8079-X2Yes, we went to camp that summer….the discomforts of lights out early, limited cell phone use, no television, no cars, few showers paled in comparison to a week of great experiences with lots of new friends on what the locals call The Rock. Hope to go back!

Sandy and me with new friends on Star Island