I am in love with this glass of peachy orange goodness. And that splash of red on top? It’s raspberry puree! No need to add alcohol to this refreshing summer thirst-quencer. Want to feel like you’ve spent a week at a spa? Make this punch and invite some friends over for a Play Day!
During the past month I have had more free time as my church choir is on their summer break and only a few piano students are coming for lessons during school vacation. I was remembering the days when our kids would have friends come for a play day, and the moms would end up visiting too. One day I was chatting with a food blogger friend who is also a mom whose kids are grown up, and mentioned that maybe WE should have a play day just for us. The very idea of a day OFF made us both positively giddy! We set a date and mentioned it to a few more gals that we both knew. Each of us marked our calendar, reserving an entire day just to spend together for no reason but fun and laughter! Why didn’t we think of this before?
Everyone arrived mid-morning, having driven two hours from Los Angeles. The first thing we did was take a long hike through the avocado groves, stopping to notice the baby avocados growing, fruit that had fallen on the ground, and the beautiful new red and rust colored leaves appearing at the tops of the trees.
I had already decided that I would not spend the day taking photos and documenting everything we did. After all, this was a Play Day, not a work day! As I’m writing, I’m finding photos taken at different times to tell this story. I must admit, I wasn’t even going to write about our day, but now I want to share how special it was, and plan more days to enjoy with friends. Thankfully, my friend Nancy took a photo of our lunch, a salad made of fresh greens and shredded carrots, with sliced avocado, sliced burgundy pepper tri-tip roast, and cold shrimp on top, dressed with Champagne Pear Dressing from Trader Joe’s. (I actually heard one of the gals say she wanted to drink that dressing with a straw! It’s that good!)
It was utter luxury to dawdle over a leisurely lunch, letting the conversation ebb and flow, punctuated by belly laughs and collective sighs. Each one of us are connected because we write food blogs, but each of us has life experiences to share that put our present lives into perspective. For the rest of the afternoon we lost track of time, just enjoying a warm pool and each other. None of us wanted the day to end, but that drive back to Los Angeles could not be denied. We vowed that next time our retreat would include an over-night.
By the next morning I was wishing we could do it all again. When I opened the fridge for breakfast I found a jar of homemade peach vanilla jam with bourbon that Nancy made and brought to to our Play Day. So I made biscuits, and savored that peach jam along with the happy memories.
Right now I just have to say how grateful I am for that day. We all need to take a day off to just be friends, to just play, to share laughs, to share good food, and to make happy memories.
Early in the morning a sunflower turns it’s face to the light and every detail of the flower is clear to see.
The same sunflower appears to be translucent in the late afternoon as the setting sun shines it’s light through the petals.
I’m so glad we took a whole day off. Can’t wait to do it again.
My friend Nancy brought the ingredients for this punch to our Play Day, and told us she learned to make it from another mutual friend Todd, who found it at the Zinc Cafe. I found the rest of Nancy's ingredients in my fridge and have been enjoying this refreshing beverage as a special memory of our day!
Today I tried a new potato salad using Del Real Foods Chicken Tamales in Green Sauce. Remember when I made the Beef Tamale Pie with their Beef Tamales? Now that it’s summer, I’m craving potato salad, and I’m looking for ways to add flavors and ingredients for a one-bowl dinner that can be made ahead of time. Del Real Foods is hosting a recipe contest, so I requested some more of there products to try. Continue Reading →
Isn’t this the cutest kitchen? A few weeks ago I was treated to lunch here, hosted by The Golden Door Resort and Spa, which is just a few miles from our ranch. I flew all the way to Chicago to attend the Eat Write Retreat food bloggers’ conference and so did Chef Greg Frey Jr. from the Golden Door! He carried ruby red grapefruit grown on the resort property in California to make those refreshing mocktails you can see on the table! A busload of food bloggers from all over the United States arrived Continue Reading →
Have you ever imagined spending a night all alone in very old house from the Revolutionary War era? I had no idea that I would be the only guest at this historic B&B until I arrived and was given a key to my room as well as a key to the house. The friendly hostess stays in a separate building on the property, so I wasn’t completely alone, but it was still a big surprise!
The ElmRock Inn in Stone Ridge, New York is a farmhouse bed and breakfast that was originally built in the late 1700’s. I stayed there for one night recently, in a 2nd story room with a four-poster bed and a private bath. The gardens and grounds were lush and green, with irises and roses blooming. The owners host weddings on the property. Former restauranteurs, they are in demand as caterers for events in the area. We enjoyed their prime rib and roast lamb with accompaniments at the wonderful family event I attended at Wightman Fruit Farm in Kerhonkson, NY, not far from Stone Ridge.
I had driven from my mom’s home in Vermont crossing the state line into New York, and south to the Hudson Valley. The purpose of my trip was a gathering of family and friends of Dr. James Wightman, whose family adopted me while I was in college in Potsdam, New York.
Over the years I had heard stories about an apple farm that belonged to their grandparents in a place called Kerhonkson, south of Albany. John and Lori Wightman operate the pick-your-own apple farm now. When I was invited to attend a special memorial for my beloved professor and friend at the farm, I knew I had to find a way to go. I was long overdue for a visit to my mom and daughter in Barre, Vermont so I booked a flight with my favorite Jetblue Airlines via JFK to Burlington, Vermont. The view of New York Harbor and Manhattan from the air is always so exciting!
Usually when I travel all the way from California to my home state Vermont I stay for several weeks, but this time I needed to fit my visit with family and a trip to the Catskills into one short week.
I love waking up on the first morning of each visit to Vermont. The sunrises are spectacular and the sight of the lush green meadows and the mountains of home are like taking a much needed drink of water after months in dry California. I can’t wait to tiptoe downstairs and out the back door to breathe in the freshly cut grass and wildflowers.
June in Vermont means the dandelions have finished blooming, but they are almost as pretty when they have all gone to seed. The lilacs were still fragrant, and the lilies of the valley underneath the lilac bushes were peeking out from the shiny dark leaves. The friendly little chipmunk that lives under a block of Barre granite is already busy gathering sunflower seeds that are dropped from the bird feeders by the front window. June is a glorious time in Vermont; the ending of spring and the beginning of summer.
Winds and rains blow the dandelion seeds away, and soon the clover, daisies, black-eyed-susans, and vetch will appear in the fields. The flowers, bushes, berries, and shrubs that grow wild in the fields and woodlands near my mother’s home are so familiar to me that a calendar is hardly needed to know which month it might be. I don’t miss the constant sunshine of California at all. The summer rains and crashing thunderstorms are like old friends stopping by during the week.
On Saturday mornings the Farmer’s Market in Montpelier is the place to be. Not far from the capital building, this is a small market that is big on spirit! Artists, farmers, bakers, and performers are there each week. We enjoyed watching Morris Dancers with live music on June 6th. There are lots of little shops and eateries to explore and enjoy, but many of the buildings and landmarks that I remember from my childhood are still there too. I was born in Montpelier and we lived in an apartment for several years before moving to a house out in East Monpelier. On Saturday mornings in those days my father would take us with him to the bank in Montpelier where we would be given lollipops, or to the barbershop where we’d beg for a penny to put into the gum ball machine.
Avocados from our family farm in California arrived in the old mailbox while I was there. Even though there are no avocado farmers in Vermont (avocados don’t grow in a cold climate) my mother and daughter look forward to receiving beautiful California avocados via priority mail to enjoy with their meals.
When I’m in Vermont I love finding Cabot Creamery products that we don’t have in California like sour cream, yogurt, and butter. (Thank goodness we have Cabot cheese in California now!) For a special treat I bought some Maine lobster and made lobster salad for lunch!
We took Mom out for lunch one day to a new place that is a combination deli/wine bar/ gift shop. Located near the old Barre Opera House, Ellie and Shirl’s Simply Delicious recently moved to a beautifully restored old brick building in downtown Barre right across the street from the City Park. There are rocking chairs in the front window where guests can enjoy a snack and look at the band stand in the park, the war memorial, and the Aldrich Library where most of us who grew up in Barre spent many hours in the days before internet research.
I rarely leave my mom’s home when I visit Vermont, but this time I had planned the trip to Kerhonkson, NY. Getting an early start at 6:30 am, I drove south on I-89, stopping at the Randolph exit for a breakfast sandwich and coffee at McDonald’s Drive Thru (yes, even in Vermont) and again in Rutland for some Dunkin’ Donut munchkins. (I was a naughty girl.) I caught a glimpse of the Bennington Battle Monument as I headed toward New York State, and finally made it to I-87, “The Northway”. Such a gorgeous drive and hardly any traffic until I reached the Albany area, but there was nothing to slow me down. I arrived in Stone Ridge with plenty of time to eat lunch, and then drove out to the apple farm for a reunion with the Wightmans.
The afternoon was such fun, sharing memories with the Wightman family and catching up with the four (now grown with children of their own) children who were my piano students over 40 years ago. One of those children became my roommate in California and was actually with me on the night I first met The Farmer! We attended each other’s weddings and had our families about the same time, but she traveled the world with the Army and I stayed on the avocado farm. It was such fun to see her and visit with her children and grandchildren.
Jim and Jan Wightman traveled to our ranch and knew our children, and once they met The Farmer and me in Florida for a cruise to the Panama Canal with my choir group. I could never have predicted when I registered for my classes as a freshman at SUNY Potsdam and first met Dr. Wightman of the economics department that our families would be linked for a lifetime and we would build such special memories together. Another student who Dr. Wightman mentored journeyed all the way from Turkey with his wife to attend this special day, and it was a pleasure to meet him again after such a long time.
At the end of the evening I drove back to the ElmRock Inn, used my key to go inside, and imagined how much fun it would be to have other guests in the two-story dining room, or the charming little upstairs bar.
I climbed up the old steps, and thought about the families who may have lived in the house long before it became an inn. I stayed in the “Toile Room”, a queen bed with private bath. And yes, I did lock the door!
I didn’t hear any ghosts during the night, and there was no scary thunderstorm, just a peaceful night’s sleep. I decided not to wait for the promised breakfast because I wanted to get an early start on the drive back to Vermont.
Carl Hackert and Cathy Kleinshuster Hackert, friends from college days at Crane School of Music
Just north of Schenectady I stopped for coffee and breakfast at the Malta Diner and met up with friends from SUNY Potsdam Crane School of Music who I had not seen since 1975. We picked right back up where we left off, telling about our years of music teaching, our appreciation for the education we received at Crane, and the teachers who influenced our careers. Thank goodness for Facebook so we can stay connected! It was fun to see the area where I had done my student teaching again. Then I drove north and back to Vermont, crossing Lake Champlain at the beautiful Chimney Point Bridge.
On my way through the mountains I stopped a the Lord’s Prayer Rock in Bristol, Vermont where my grandparents once took me for a picnic when I was just a very little girl. My grandmother always made deviled eggs and soft ginger cookies for the long drive from the farm in Shoreham to Montpelier where we lived.
All too soon the my short visit in Vermont was over. I expect to return later this summer for a longer visit with my mom and daughter.
One more selfie with my mom and daughter
Those of us who have grown up in Vermont but live elsewhere consider ourselves “displaced Vermonters”. One of the most beautiful bittersweet views is the one we see as we fly out of the Burlington, Vermont airport looking southeast at Camel’s Hump. The house where I grew up is on the other side of Camel’s Hump, and I choke back tears every time I see it from the air. This is when we all begin to plan our next trip home.
Beautiful Camel’s Hump and the Green Mountains of Vermont.