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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Living in New England: Good Neighbors

There are many aspects of life here that are so unique from other parts of the country, and I want to share those things with my family, and perhaps with you- if you have never been to New England.  I do a collection of posts called : "Living in New England" that highlight quintessential New England sights, events, situations, and experiences.
I know of many people who have lived here in New England their entire lives and perhaps don't realize that some of the events and sights that I will describe don't happen elsewhere in the country. Or, maybe you are originally from New England, but have moved away... I hope these posts will bring back some fond memories for you. 
In any event, I wish to share New England with you through the eyes of this Southerner!

(To read other "Living in New England" posts HERE. On the bottom of the page click on "older posts" to continue reading)

This post could also be named "Boys and their Toys," (insert eye-roll;) but I instead decided to include it in my Living in New England series since "good neighbors" really are the back bone of New England.  A good neighbor takes many forms here, not only can a good neighbor be the person who lives down the road or a mile away, but it is your community as a whole.  Neighbors helping neighbors is an unspoken credo in New England.  Volunteerism plays a major role, and "community" is a powerful element since small towns and villages can be spread out far and wide.  For example, since so many small towns and villages do not have the funds for their own fire departments, the building and equipment will be funded by the town but the firefighters and first responders will all be trained volunteers.   Need help raising a barn, plowing your driveway, getting your Christmas wreath down ;) or getting your tractor out of the mud?  When the word gets out someone (or many someones) will willingly offer to come help.  There is a kindness here that is undeniable.  Several Thanksgivings ago I noticed in the "free" section on Craigslist (fyi- our Craiglist covers the entire state of New Hampshire) that many people were giving away the makings for Thanksgiving dinner to people who were in need, other listings offered to pay for a Thanksgiving meal at a local restaurant, and even others were inviting those in need to join them for Thanksgiving in their own homes.  Thinking this might be a new trend I looked on different Craigslists from all over the country, and in no other place (I that looked) did I find these random acts of kindness being offered.  Being a good neighbor is a New England way of life.

Back to "good neighbors" and "boys and their toys"... this post is for all the husbands out there who, I've been told, read the blog sometimes with their wives.  Since Big Blue seems to be a favorite amongst the men readers I thought they might enjoy hearing a Big Blue story... 

We've had a very warm winter this year for New Hampshire, last heard it was at present the 5th warmest on record.  We've had snowed, then had a run of temperatures in the 50's, then the melting snow would refreeze at night and every surface would be covered in ice. Trying to walk down the driveway to get the mail has, at times, been dangerous and impossible.  I've gotten the car out to drive down the drive just to get the mail to avoid a fall.  We don't need any more trips to the emergency room this year ;)  During one of the high temp days of 56 degrees Dan decided to move some  dog poop   sugar-by-product  debris that had been "stored" behind a tree close to the front of the house since the ground was too icy to dispose it daily, as we usually do.  He was moving it using the scoop on Big Blue, the tractor, to the "compost area" that is located off of the "tractor path" which is located just below the "motor court" just off of the barn.  Got that?:)  Let's just say that three dogs create a lot of daily "debris";)   Now, if he had asked his wife (which of course, he didn't ) I would have told him that it was waaaaaay too snowy, muddy, slippery to go down the tractor path.  Since he didn't ask me he went down the path to dispose of the pile of "debris";) and got Big Blue stuck in the mud which had the consistency of quick sand.  
Dan chained up Big Blue and I tried to get the tractor out with our Yukon XL, to no avail, (we brought the Yukon with us from Texas and it is not a 4 x 4 much to the astonishment of every mechanic who works on it as they have never seen one that wasn't a 4 x 4 up here!) after that a neighbor came down with his 4 x 4 Jeep and that also was a bust.  The next day Dan left for a 4-day trip. During that time we got another round of 4" of snow.  The whole time Dan was gone he worried and fretted over Big Blue being left out in the snow.  It was as if he had left one of the puppy-girls out there all by herself.  Dan spoke with another neighbor, who owns a tractor, while away on his trip and the neighbor was very excited to help Dan get big blue out of the mud; even coming over to the house one dark pouring-rain night to check out the situation so he could devise an exit plan!  Hence the boys and their toys comment ;)  One fretting, one scheming and the whole time I'm thinking "if he had only talked to me..... :)

Poor, stuck Big Blue :(


Please note the decorative antlers in the back of the yellow spreader.  I even decorate our tractor.... kidding-  they are being stored there til I found a home for them inside:)

The cavalry arrived in the form of our neighbor Phil with his Kuboda tractor (which definitely needs a name don't you think?!  Big Orange?  Tiger? )   Phil had come up with an ingenious plan to extricate Big Blue using four tree posts and some ice melt.

The tracks to the left take you down the tractor path (the path is hidden from view from the house) where things like firewood on pallets, extra tractor blades, Big Blue's aerator,  granite stones and the compost pile can be found.

Phil turning down the tractor path.

 The discussion of the removal plan commences. 

The plan is further discussed at the incident site.

The tree logs are carried to the site...

and placed perpendicular to Big Blue's bucket.

Phil smartly had chains on his tractor as opposed to Dan someone else who shall remain nameless ;)

Phil's plan was to place the tree logs under Big Blue's bucket and use the logs as stability to push Big Blue back to the salted area where Dan could then get some traction.

Slowly and carefully...

the two worked together moving Big Blue backwards out of the mud and...

within just a few minutes Big Blue was freed!  Phil's plan worked so well he didn't even have to use his tractor to pull Big Blue out of the mud.
"Phil, you're the man!" was the phrase of the day!

After Big Blue's rescue the two men talked and debriefed the mission as "boys and their toys" are wont to do;) 
Thanks Phil, you saved the day!

Couldn't live here without Big Blue or "good neighbors!"

(To read other "Living in New England" posts HERE. On the bottom of the page click on "older posts" to continue reading)

Friday, January 29, 2016

a recipe (Italian Sausage Soup) & some helpful tips

I thank you for your condolences on the loss of our friend.  Your kind, thoughtful words were very comforting.  You are all so dear.

When I asked for ideas/suggestions for posts many of you said you would like to see recipes.  So, I thought I would oblige with some of my go-to recipes.  You might remember from one of my kitchen drawer posts that I showed a draw with folders of recipes  HERE;  several people asked to know what was in my "go-to" folder.

(By the way... I loved that so many of you mentioned the kitchen drawers as some of your favorite posts!  Loved!  I still adore the quote from Barbara Barry's beautiful book Around Beauty where she writes...
 "As much as I love the part of my work that is all about what is seen when we walk into a room, I also love the part of my work that is about what is not seen.  Or at least not by everyone- the inside of the cabinets, the full refrigerator, the silver drawer, and the well-stocked pantry; they too can be things of beauty, artfully arranged to inspire when given a cursory glance."

 I have had a number of people tell me that because of my posts they organized their own kitchen drawers using pretty baskets and containers and feel a sense of calm and happiness when they open them.  Proof that it really is the simple, little things in life that bring us daily joy, yes?!)

Back to recipes.... several weeks ago I made this recipe (which I have been making/tweaking for 11 years now per the date stamp on the original printed copy) and was told again how wonderful it was and how much comfort it brought.  I am always amazed when I look at the ingredients and how simple the recipe is to make that it becomes this wonderful, delicious soup.  I hope you will try it and let me know how you like it.  In the recipe I've included in italics how I make the recipe.  We like spicy/pepper hot, but if you don't, or have children, I would suggest you make it with sweet Italian sausage.)

Italian Sausage Soup


1 lb. Italian Sausage (sweet/hot/mixture of sweet&hot. I use hot) casings removed and sausage broken up
4 cloves minced garlic
32 oz. Beef Broth (l carton) (I use Trader Joe's Organic)
1 (14.5 oz.) can Italian-Style stewed tomatoes 
1 cup sliced carrots (approx. 2 carrots)
2 (14.5 oz.) cans Great Northern Beans, UNDRAINED (I use Trader Joe's Organic)
2 small/medium zucchini, diced/cubed
2-4 cups FRESH baby spinach- rinsed, torn and packed into a measuring cup (I use a whole small plastic-box of the pre-washed organic baby spinach)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


In a stockpot or Dutch oven, brown the sausage.  After sausage is brown add garlic for one minute until fragrant.  (If needed,  drain sausage well to remove any grease)  Stir in broth, tomatoes, carrots, and season with salt and pepper.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Stir in beans WITH liquid and zucchini.  Cover and simmer another 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and add spinach, pushing it down into the hot broth.  
Replace the lid, allowing the heat from the soup to cook the spinach leaves.  
Soup is ready to serve 5 minutes after adding the spinach.

(Soup freezes well) 
(Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com) 

Last weekend, at the celebration of my friend at her house, a catered chili was served.  The chili had a rather soup-like consistency, so I shared with the sweet teenage girl who offered to serve the chili a tip on how to keep the ladle from dripping when serving. 
After filling the ladle to the desired amount and before taking it out of the pot, reinsert the bottom half of the ladle back into the soup then serve to your bowl/cup. The ladle will come out without any drips!  Magic ;)

Another tip (learned on Instagram, but can not remember from whom;  I think it was their grandmother's tip)  came in handy when my friend and I were de-constructing flowers from the memorial into smaller arrangements.  
Place hydrangeas in HOT, even boiling water.  The water will help open the woody stems and allow water in.  I tried it on some very wilted hydrangeas- dipping the stem into a pot of boiled water and they came back perfectly!

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Monday, January 25, 2016

intentions and reality

I had every intention of starting the year off by posting more often. Your suggestions in the comment section of my last post have been wonderful, inspiring and some, very funny ;) I thank you so much for every one.  You have given me some great ideas for things to "talk" about with you.  
Thank you. 

But, as life is known to do, even with the best of intentions things do not always work out as planned.  A dear friend of ours died suddenly several weeks ago.  Myself along with two other women have helped her husband plan her memorial, her reception, and a private celebration for 75 close friends and family at their home .
She and her husband moved into the neighborhood several years ago; they hired me to help them renovate their kitchen/gathering room and sun room in their gorgeous 18th century home.  During this process which has been going on for almost a year now they have both become very dear friends of ours.  

My friend was a joy in my life, as a friend and as a client.  She never missed an opportunity to tell me how much she loved her new kitchen and about all the compliments that she received on it and she never missed an opportunity to tell me she loved me.  
I can still hear her saying "Joan will make it beautiful" which she said many times over the course of the renovation whenever there was an issue or a problem.  It was always such a gift to me to hear as it meant she trusted me and knew I would fight hard to make it right and make her house her dream which only made me want to work that much harder.  It was my honor and truly my pleasure to turn her vision into a space that she loved.  Her husbands response to all final decisions was "Whatever makes my wife happy!"  I had the honor of planning the private reception at her home in the kitchen that we designed together using my antique and vintage hotel silver, vintage cake stands, antique white English ironstone along with gorgeous flowers brought from the church reception.  I desperately wanted to make it beautiful, one last time, for my dear friend who trusted me so much.  Her husband and several lovely people have told me that she would have loved the reception, so my heart is full.
She was a very special person and I am grateful to have called her my friend.  I will carry the joy that she gave to me in my heart forever.  Love you Marcie...

Her memorial was the past weekend and I wanted to write this post so you would know the reason for my absence here and also to remind you (as we all need the reminder sometimes) to tell your wife/husband/partner just how much you love and appreciate them.  And to contact a friend, maybe a lost friend, and let them know how much you love them and how much they have meant in your life. 
Life is short and getting shorter with each passing day, so don't miss an opportunity to tell those you love how much they mean to you.

Last night one of the other two women and I were back in our friend's beautiful kitchen to deconstruct several of the large flower arrangements from the church/reception into smaller bouquets.  Several large arrangements were left at the church, many others were taken to a nursing home, but two large arrangements remained.  While our husbands and her husband watched the Patriots play in the sun room my friend and I stood in the kitchen drinking wine, making individual arrangements (the husband did not want the flowers.)  We both decided it was such a special, therapeutic gift of time together as we quietly talked about our friend and the events of the past several days and all the new people we had met from their past. We each took several arrangements home.  I wanted to share the idea with you-  it was so nice to see none of the flowers go to waste and to see them remade into smaller, yet meaningful displays that will allow us to hold her in celebration for a few more days.  

For those in the area, the flowers were done by Apotheca in Goffstown, New Hampshire.  
Apotheca was wonderful to work with and all the arrangements were stunning.  

Thank you sweet Dan.... I could not have done this without all of your help, love and support.
Thank you and love to my dear friend Sara and my new bff ;) Sorrell- 
you are both, quite simply, amazing.  xxo


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