Make Your Own Instant Oatmeal

Today we awoke to softly falling snow. Bliss. Hubby pulled the shade up, so we could see watch the snow from bed. There are few winter delights that beat snuggling deeper into the warmth of a duvet and watching snow fall. 

But duties call and eventually snow blowing and shoveling must be done and breakfast must be made. Oatmeal is made for snowy mornings! This winter, I experimented with making my own instant oatmeal, so it was a quick and easy, warm breakfast.

I used Half Baked Harvest's Instant Oatmeal recipe (found here), and I got creative with my own flavors. It's super easy to customize her recipe by adding your own choice of: nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and extracts. I made four different batches in the following combinations:

- dried cranberries, walnuts, flax seed, and vanilla extract
- dried apples, pecans, cinnamon
- dried cherries, unsweetened large flake coconut, and vanilla extract
- dates, pecans, maple extract

Here's to cozy winter mornings!

Lake Skating

This was my view for a small portion of today. Isn't it gorgeous? That's my daughter and her friend ice skating on frozen Lake Morey in Vermont. The resort on the edge of the lake clears a 4-mile track around the lake for skating, and it has long been a dream of ours to go skating on it.

My knee is not quite up to ice skating this winter, and certainly not for four miles. But it was beautiful to watch the two of them skate. Beautiful and bitterly cold. The temperature outside was 15 degrees with a whipping wind. 

I was the chauffeur for the day (not that they really needed one), and I treated everyone to gelato at the end of the day. We took the dogs along (we're dog sitting one), and I thought the sweet doggies and I would have a lovely, long walk lakeside. But it was so cold, I didn't think it was safe for them to walk too long in those temps, so we had a short walk and then watched the girls from the shore a bit before taking refuge in the car, heater running.

And there was homemade hot chocolate in a thermos keeping warm for the ride home!

Counting Down Winter and Making a List

I have this sense that winter is waning. That groundhog did see his shadow...drat. Maybe it would be prudent to make a list of foods to make, things to do, and places to go before the season is done. I'm feeling a bit convicted that most of my list is food. Is that a problem?  

- go snowshoeing

- visit Stowe, VT

- make gingerbread pancakes

- make baked apples with vanilla-cream sauce

- have a waffle breakfast for friends

- make Chocolate Guinness Pudding for St. Patrick's Day...SO good! (recipe here

- make Truffle Mac-n-Cheese...again (recipe here)

How about you? Are there any things you want to savor still while winter is with us?

Happy Presidents' Day!

Costume link:

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain 
what I consider the most enviable of all titles,
the character of an honest man.” 

― George Washington

Winter Beach Walk

This week had some unusual twists and turns, and I found myself in Maine for a day...a bit unexpectedly. But a trip to Maine is nothing to sneeze at...don't need to twist my arm...I'm there! I spent most of the day exploring the charming shops in Portland and leisurely browsing through an enormous antique store. And I was really, really hoping that the timing in the day would work out such that I had the opportunity to take a walk on the beach. By 4:30 in the afternoon, I had made it to Goose Rocks Beach, where the snow and the sand met, and commenced my walk.

On our recent trip to Florida, I was shocked at how many people were on the February! As a native southern California girl, you would never see that many people on the beach in the winter there. And you certainly don't see it in New England! But I was looking forward to this bit of solitude. As I stood there and scanned the landscape, it was just me and one other woman and her dog way, way down on the far end of this beach.

I found the ripples on the sand were fascinating. And they were hard they were frozen.

I was thrilled to find a large, intact clam shell!

I walked briskly, because...well...I'm a brisk walker and because I only had about 30 minutes of daylight left. But I did manage to make it to nearly the end of the beach area before turning back. Lately, I've been changing up my exercise routine and trying to go for a walk or do Barre closer to sunset, when my body is starting to feel a bit droopy. So far, I've been pleasantly pleased by what a boost the exercise gives me at that point in the day. It just seems to energize my body and my mind and propel me forward with more energy than I normally have going into the evening.

The beach houses all around were standing silent. Maybe some of them are lived in now, but I suspect that most are utilized only in the summer time.

Heading back into the sunset. More people, all of them walking dogs, were on the beach at this point.

I left the beach feeling completely refreshed! I was so glad I took the time for the walk!

Winter White

We had a delightfully snowy day this week. I was giddy that I got to spend the whole day at home...sewing...and watching the snow fall. My little helper seemed quite fascinated by it too and spent a lot of time looking out the window and cocking his head side to side.

Everything outside was white. And everything on my work table was white...ripples of white linen. I'm working on finishing up nine new costumes for the shop. Coming soon!

Garden Planning for Summer 2019

At some point, I'll share with you our last day in Florida (waiting for Go-Pro footage to be downloaded and made into's a process). But Sunday afternoon, I turned my attention to garden planning for this coming summer. I'm trying to keep it simple this year by not trying out anything new, keeping the layout simple, and not overwhelming my time with things that require lots of care (like winter squash that needs to be checked for beetles daily). This is the plan!

In the main garden will go:

- corn
- Roma tomatoes
- three cherry tomatoes (including Atomic Tomatoes, click here, for the first time)
- onions
- jalapeno
- zucchini
- crookneck squash
- basil
- chives
- sage

And on the trellis will go:

- cucumber
- green beans
- jack-be-little pumpkins
- sweet peas (for pretty!)

Florida - Day 2

On our second day in Florida, we drove to Tarpon Springs. It is a Greek community whose claim to fame is sponge diving! These brightly-trimmed boats take divers out to harvest sponges from the sea.

All up and down the streets near the shore are small shops selling the harvested sponges. It was amazing to see their variety in both size and shape as well as texture.

These are called finger sponges. I typically set out a small collection of shells for the grandkids to examine during the summer months. So, I bought a finger sponge to add to the display. I was told that you can get them wet, shape them into a different shape, and they will dry that way. Can't wait to try that with them!

Amongst the sponge shops, there are excellent Greek restaurants and bakeries! We had lunch at one, under the watchful eye of a bird. Delicious!

After returning to my in-laws home, Colette and I tried our hand at shuffleboard. As a child, every few summers, my family would rent a cabin in the mountains and there would be a shuffleboard court. I would ask my dad to explain to us how to play, and he would say something vague like, "Try to get it in that square, and you get 10 points...or something like that." My father-in-law gave quite a few more details than that, so now we actually understand how to play.

But it did us no good at all. We are clearly TERRIBLE at this game! I's laughable, is it not? As my most competitive child, she was at least happy that she beat my score, which was even worse than hers!

We have no plans to enter any tournaments!

Ski Lodge

Our home is being used as a ski lodge this weekend! And I couldn't be happier! Colette has a bunch of girlfriends up from Boston for a weekend of skiing, and they're using our house as a base. 

I used to ski. But I gave that up about a decade ago when fear of careening out of control and damaging myself or an unsuspecting innocent on the slope overshadowed any fun I was having. The last few years I've been thinking that, although I'm not out on the slopes, I would love to be the ski lodge mom...making warm, comfort food to welcome back the weary ski crew. So this was the menu for the hungry crowd:

- Friday Night -

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Baked Potato Soup
green salads
baguette and whole grain ciabatta

steaming cups of hot chocolate for a late night treat

- Saturday Morning -

Belgian waffles topped with fresh fruit and chocolate ganache or maple syrup
fruitwood smoked bacon
orange juice

- Saturday Night - 

chicken pot pie
green salads

chocolate chip bar cookies

- Sunday Morning -

Greek yogurts
Icelandic Skyr
fresh fruit
made-to-order omelettes
English muffins
orange juice

Florida: Day 1

Last weekend was our whirlwind trip to Florida. It was state #48 for me! We went to visit my in-laws, who have lived in another state for most of our marriage. And then they did the "snowbird thing" for several years. But they've been full-time Floridians for a while now, and we finally made it there for a visit. We kept plans to a calm pace...nothing too terribly ambitious.

Day #1's plans were:

- brunch at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa
- a stroll around the Don Cesar in St. Petersburg
- a sunset walk on Clearwater Beach.

The Oxford Exchange is an intriguing mix of venues...part coffee house, part tea house, part book shop, part restaurant, and more. The interior is an eclectic blend of eye-catching art and bold graphics punctuated by streams of light and cozy recesses. 

We ate in the sun-filled atrium room. Guests are seated around a burbling fountain and the energy in the room was lively!

Colette and I were thrilled to discover an extensive list of teas (freshly brewed in the tea house portion of the establishment) which could be served either hot or cold. I ordered a Limoncello-Vanilla White Iced Tea, and it was a subtle and refreshing accompaniment to my sirloin salad. Yum!

Then we moved on to strolling about the Don Cesar Hotel. It was built in 1928 and was a fixture of the Jazz Age scene in St. Petersburg. Many celebrities, most U.S. presidents (since 1928), and even Al Capone have all stayed here. It towers over the city in all its pink glory, and we enjoyed exploring it and savoring the views from its tower.

Then it was on to Clearwater Beach, one of "the prettiest beaches in the world" we were told. And I quite agree! Although the large number of people on the beach rather surprised me. Certainly there is almost no one on the beaches of New England in February. But even in southern California, there aren't very many people on their sunny beaches in February. But not so, Florida. I did manage to crop most of them out from my pictures, but they were there. We watched the sun set.

After turning our backs to the water and examining the shells for a few moments, we turned back around to find that the light had shifted. It was now bathing the water and sky with a lovely blue-gold-pale green color that was positively captivating!

More Florida pictures to come!

Presidents' Day

President's Day is less than two weeks away, and the shop is stocked with costumes! There are even a few haversacks still in stock, if you want to add an even more authentic touch to a costume. Click here to visit the shop!

Click here for the George Washington/Alexander Hamilton Costume.

Click here for a Revolutionary War Soldier Costume.

Click here for a haversack.

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