23 below zero

We’re setting records this morning in the midst of an “Arctic blast” in New England. The temperature outside is -6, with a wind chill temp of -23.

But the sun is shining, our pipes didn’t freeze and there are no trees blocking the driveway despite the roaring winds throughout the night.

There is also no snow. And no ice. And warming expected tomorrow.

Our kids in Austin were out of school for four days last week and the city has been declared a disaster area. Power outages and a gazillion fallen trees and branches have made the Texans’ Arctic Blast a real ordeal.

Meanwhile, back by the ocean, we’re going out to dinner tonight. Just a few miles down the road is the General Stanton Inn, recently purchased and reopened by an energetic couple determined to bring this old gorgeous place back to life.

I very much hope we get the room with the colonial fireplace, originally built in 1667.

Here’s a bit of history from the website:

The Inn’s history begins in 1650 Colonial America. The Niantics, a tribe in Narragansett Nation, rewarded Thomas Stanton property in Charlestown, Rhode Island for brokering a deal to return their beloved Native American princess who had been abducted. The notorious Manese tribe had staged a daring night raid and kidnapped the young princess, taking her to their village on Block Island. Thomas Stanton rowed 12 miles over ocean swells to the island and negotiated her freedom. Upon her return, the Narragansetts gifted Stanton with a four by two-mile tract of land. The General Stanton Inn resides on this land today. 

The Stanton’s were enduring friends and lifelong champions of the local tribes. In 1740, Thomas Stanton’s grandson, Joseph Stanton II, built the Inn next to a small “dwelling” on the gifted land. He converted this small dwelling, which dates to 1667, into what is believed to be the first Native American school in Colonial America. The “schoolhouse” has been preserved in its original colonial-period form.

An early member of the Sons of Liberty, it is believed Joseph Stanton III used the tavern in the 1770’s as a secret gathering place for George Washington’s revolutionary war spy ring. Washington’s trust in Colonel Stanton dated back to their French Indian War fighting days. His nephew, General Joseph Stanton IV would later serve as  the leader of Rhode Island’s first militia, using the tavern to plan Revolutionary War strategies to defeat the British. Having served with distinction, he would later be elected Rhode Island’s very first U.S. Senator.

In the 1800’s the General Stanton Inn became a welcome stop for horse-drawn carriages and stagecoaches on the well-traveled Post Road between Boston and Philadelphia. The Inn also became a hideout for fugitive slaves and clandestine gatherings. In the early 1830’s Brigadier General Joseph Stanton V befriended abolitionist Moses Brown who enlisted Stanton to assist runaway African American slaves traveling north on the underground railroad. 

You can read more about it on the website, http://www.thegeneralstantoninn.com

Last time we were there, in early January, Banjo Man and I ordered the 1740 Prime Burgers and agreed they were the best burgers we’d ever had in our lives.

Definitely worth braving below zero temps for.

 

Posted in food, rhode island | 2 Comments

goodbye january, see you next year

Today Banjo Man will complete his 15th radiation treatment.  Meaning he’s halfway to the finish line.

Feel free to applaud!!!

Meanwhile, back in the office, I overslept and am still in my nightgown, but that’s okay.  Banjo Man’s friend Steve drives him to the cancer center on Tuesdays, which gives me the day off.  Bonus?  It’s snowing, just a little, so it’s a very good day to stay home and make a chicken casserole.  Banjo Man has requested a family favorite, made with layers of broccoli, special curry sauce and stuffing on top of it all.

Between cooking, baking, practicing the violin, cleaning out the basement, etc, here are a couple of things I’m working on:

It’s not at all fancy, but I think the recipient will love it for its old-fashioned fabrics.  These Civil War repro fabrics, along with some 1930’s prints, were a gift from Harley Chick.  I am so glad I can use them!  The rows are pinned and ready to sew together, which I hope happens this afternoon.  Sewing rows together is my least favorite part of quilting and always seems to take forever.

And then there is this:

Yes, it’s a very, very purple quilt.  For someone in Texas whose favorite color is purple.  What you see here is 1/4 of the quilt (the blocks are 8″ square).  I have decided to construct it in fourths to avoid the stepladder and also stitch shorter rows.

We are not very energetic this winter, but that’s okay.  Banjo Man’s health is our top priority, so we’re taking it easy, spending lots of time on the couch and going to bed early.

Check this out, on Apple tv, for an exciting series:

 

Posted in quilting, rhode island, television, the cancer fight | 1 Comment

late to lasso

I realize this is old news, with this tv show having won tons of awards, but we just started watching.

And we love it. What a bright spot in a gray winter! The characters are absolutely lovable and hilarious.   Always kind and optimistic American Ted Lasso is surprisingly hired to manage a football (aka soccer) team in Britain, where he is immediately detested.  Let the games begin!

My friend Mayme recommended it months ago, but it took me some time to break down and subscribe to yet another streaming company, Apple TV, for $6.99 a month. You can get a free 7-day trial and binge the two seasons, though, now that football is almost over.  But if anything is worth $7.00, it’s this show.

I have a crush on Roy Kent, “a veteran at the tail end of his career whose gruff exterior (including multiple profanities and damn near monosyllabic speech patterns) neatly cover up a vibrant inner sensitivity.” (Denofgeek.com)

Really, I can’t recommend this enough.

 

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week 2 is behind us

This was the view from my car in the cancer center’s parking lot.  We’ve had a bit of rain, but thankfully no snow.

Banjo Man is doing very, very well so far.  He’s like Superman.  As usual, the doctors and medical staff are impressed.

I, on the other hand, have had several close calls (fender benders) in the nearby shopping complex and have decided never to enter it again.  In my defense, the huge lot is always full, the spaces are tight, the lanes narrow and the other drivers are insane.

I also hit a curb on the way to my violin lesson, but let’s not talk about that.

Last Monday I dropped Banjo Man off for his treatment and drove past the nightmare shopping center (home of Panera) and went instead to Starbucks.  I used a Starbucks gift card and spent 30 minutes reading inside the shop while the rain poured down outside.


This cup of tea cost $3.53.
Insane.
Never again, except under the risk of hypothermia and dehydration…or in an airport…or in Idaho during the pumpkin latte season.

Then Dr. Angela loaned me one of her giant Yeti coffee mugs, so I made my own peach tea (thank you, Dancing Mandolin Player) at home and stayed in the parking lot of the cancer center and read for forty-five minutes, which was lovely.  Banjo Man took a sip when he returned to the car and burned his tongue, which wasn’t lovely.

We have also remembered that Thursday is the turkey dinner special at Cracker Barrel.  That might not sound like a big deal, but during my radiation days it was a major highlight of each week.  The tradition continues!

One of our recently retired friends has offered to drive Banjo Man to his treatments a couple of days a week, which is SO WONDERFUL.  I’m sure it’s a nice break for my husband, who now has someone else to talk to besides me.  It meant I had the time and energy yesterday to make meat balls for the weekend.  And another blueberry ricotta cake, too.

It also meant I wasn’t running late for my violin lesson and didn’t hit any curbs along the way while trying to get there on time.

But let’s not talk about that.

 

Posted in family, rhode island, the cancer fight | Leave a comment

getting help, 2023 style

Early in December my cell phone stopped taking voice mails.  They would turn up a few weeks later or not at all. I know my friends were baffled when I didn’t get back to them.  Embarrassing, to say the least.

Another very inconvenient issue was the inability to get texts with security codes in order to access a lot of important online accounts.

When I switched from Verizon to Visible (and saved a ton of money) I expected a glitch or two, but the days of zipping off to the Verizon store for in-person help were over.

After searching through the community forums and Google with no luck finding solutions, it was–God help me–time to “chat”.

While waiting my turn in line (I started out at 17), I organized my Stationery bin.  I threw away ten-year old unused Christmas cards and matched a gazillion greeting cards to their envelopes.

When it was my turn to chat I typed in my issue and then It Began.  The person on the chat line was very pleasant, but we would be chatting together for TWO HOURS.

It didn’t take long for me to catch on that this was going to take a while.  The person (he? she?) kept trying things and each time I would attempt to send voice mails to myself using Banjo Man’s phone.  In the meantime, there was this:

What are they, you ask?  440 (yes, you read that correctly, 440) 2 3/4″ squares for a 110 snowball blocks. Each square needs a diagonal line drawn on it, a guide for stitching a perfect corner.

 

This marking project was finished before the phone was fixed, but I do have voice mail and text messages now and that is very exciting–and such a relief.

These snowball blocks are being sewn whenever I have a few extra minutes.  They will eventually become a quilt, but there’s no rush.  We are in the second week of Banjo Man’s radiation treatments and the days are busy.  Even finding the energy to cook and practice the violin is a challenge, but I try.  The important thing:

Banjo Man is doing well.

He has a new blanket.

Posted in quilting, rhode island | 1 Comment

an old-fashioned cream puff

We were invited to Jeff and Dr. Angela’s for a Sunday afternoon of Mexican Train dominoes and dinner.  I offered to bring dessert, because any chance to bake makes me happy (except for last week’s blueberry ricotta cake, listed online with the wrong amount for flour and ending up in the trash).

I filled my cream puffs with sweetened whipped cream (with a little vanilla extract added) and they were a hit, especially with the children.

Cream puffs are the easiest thing I make.  From my Betty Crocker cookbook, the note in the margin reads, “Always good. 1970.”

CREAM PUFFS, a la Betty Crocker:

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs

Heat oven to 400. Heat water and butter to a rolling boil.  Stir in flour and stir vigorously over low heat for about a minute, until the mixture forms a ball.  Remove from heat and beat in the eggs all at once. Continue beating until smooth.  Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls onto ungreased baking sheet.  I actually measured them and ended up with 9 cream puffs, but you can make them smaller if you want.  Just adjust the cooking time.
Bake about 35 minutes until puffed and golden.  Cool away from drafts. Cut off tops, carefully remove any filaments of soft dough and fill the puffs with whipped cream or vanilla pudding.  Replace tops, dust with powdered sugar and refrigerate until serving.

Another filling option:  In mixer bowl, blend one 3 oz. package of instant vanilla pudding with 1 cup milk on low speed.  Add 2 cups of chilled whipping cream and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form.

Another topping, a chocolate glaze:  Melt 1 oz. of unsweetened chocolate with 1 tsp butter.  Remove from heat, stir in 1 cup of powdered sugar and about 2 TBS of hot water.  Beat well.

 

Posted in food, rhode island | 2 Comments

the banshees of inisherin


We watched this movie on HBO Max last night.

It recently won a Golden Globe in the Comedy division, which is baffling.  Described by critics as a “slow and sad” story (after we watched it I realized that description was 100% accurate), we didn’t know what to expect.

Set on an isolated Irish island in 1923, the scenery is breathtakingly gorgeous.  The acting was terrific, the story unusual, the dialogue riveting.  We never knew what was going to happen next.

Just beware: the theme is “loneliness can make you crazy”.  And it seems almost everyone on Inisherin is lonely.

 

Posted in movies | 2 Comments

how to ignore winter

We’ve had very little snow, but the fog and rain make for a gray winter.  It’s January and I’m counting down the days until April.

What are you doing to get through the weeks until Spring?

I am taking violin lessons again, which I like.  My world needs more music…and my brain needs the challenge of learning the notes again.  My new teacher is used to teaching very young children, so we are not quite on the same wavelength.  But I keep hoping it will get better.  At least I am practicing again, which was the reason for taking lessons.

And of course there is this:

A thank-you quilt for Will’s teacher/mentor at his new elementary school.  Her favorite color is purple.

Putting gray blocks on the design board with Nancy.

And then there is the “vintage block quilt” in progress, a gift for someone who loves antiques and has a new home.

One block finished, nineteen more to go.  The fabric strips are all cut and ready to be stitched together.

I’d like to empty more storage bins, sell more “stuff” on Ebay, clean out a closet or two, but honestly?  Lately it feels like my two biggest daily accomplishments are getting dressed and making dinner.

And so goes January…

 

 

 

Posted in music, quilting, rhode island | 2 Comments

new chowder for the new year

I am no stranger to making chowder. Clam chowder, quahog chowder, shrimp and corn chowder, fish chowder? I’ve made it.  I’ve rarely followed a recipe, preferring to combine recipes or just wing it.

And life was good.

But a few days ago I decided I’d better use some of the frozen shrimp I’d bought at Aldi’s in October. I found a new recipe online, made a quick trip to town to buy some heavy cream, bacon and a leek, and prepared to make something new. I figured Banjo Man would need a special meal after his first session of radiation.

The recipe came from Sam Hayward, “the chef of Fore Street in Portland, Maine”, but I had to make some changes as his called for buying whole shrimp and simmering the heads to make the broth. While I have done that in the past, it’s not something that I wanted to do again. Instead I flavored water with ground, dried shrimp I bought in a New Orleans spice shop.

Ingredients:

A package of raw, frozen shrimp (size doesn’t matter because you’ll be cutting larger shrimp into chunks).
4 oz of bacon, cut into 1/4″ pieces
3 medium russet potatoes, diced
1 large leek, white part only, cut into 1/4″ pieces
3 TBS butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried chives (or fresh)
Fish or shrimp bouillon cubes

For the chowder broth:

Cook the bacon in a small pot of simmering water for 2 minutes. I’d never heard of this, but when I researched the reasons why I learned it makes bacon crispier and removes some of the fat. Who knew?
Drain. In your pan (I used my 6 quart dutch oven but I was making a double batch) over medium heat cook the bacon until it releases its fat. Then add the potatoes and leeks, stir well, reduce heat to low and cook covered for 5 minutes, and stir frequently.

Add 3 cups of broth flavored with bouillon or dried ground shrimp granules.  I used 3 tsp for 7 cups of water (I doubled the recipe but found I still needed a little extra broth).  I also used more potatoes than the recipe called for because I love lots of potatoes in chowder.

Simmer covered (or uncovered, your choice) until potatoes are cooked, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

Melt butter in a large skillet over med-high heat.  Raise the heat to high, add the shrimp and the cream, stir well and bring to a boil.  Let boil for 30 seconds and stir carefully.

Add this to the chowder base and stir gently to combine.

The original recipe says to cover and let it rest for 10 minutes, but I put it on the lowest heat possible, seasoned with salt and pepper as needed, sprinkled a bit of cayenne and added some dried chives into the soup.  You could also sprinkle fresh chives on the individual bowls of chowder as you serve it instead of adding it to the soup.

While I was a bit dismayed at the amount of dirty pots and pans this created, Banjo Man and I were impressed by how good this chowder was.  I will definitely use this method to make broth from now on.  It would work with fish or baby clams, I suspect.  I’m going to try it both ways.

Banjo Man’s radiation was delayed a week.  We arrived at the cancer center to set things up.  During that process the technicians realized they needed another cat scan in order to accurately pinpoint three of the lymph nodes.

So next week he’ll have a practice run on Tuesday and start on Wednesday.

Which also means I need to come up with another special soup.  Suggestions, anyone?

 

Posted in food, rhode island, the cancer fight | 3 Comments

pass the tequila

Oh, I am so happy to say goodbye to 2022!

Today I’m planning to make a vat of what I call “Lily’s Soup” (I blogged about it earlier this fall) and freeze most of it for future winter meals.

The Christmas decorations will be packed away.  And I will unpack my suitcase…maybe.

Football games will be on the TV.  Our New Year’s Eve will be spent on the couch, cozy and warm on a rainy night.  I will be sipping tequila while binding a quilt.

Speaking of quilts, the quilty Christmas gifts were a hit.

This was Ben’s:



And this was Amber’s:

John loved his “poker pillowcase” and put it on his pillow before bedtime Christmas night. Maybe he dreamt of straight flushes.

Happy New Year, everyone!  If you are partying, be safe out there.  And if you are cozying up at home, enjoy the evening.

Posted in family, music, quilting, rhode island | 4 Comments