March 19, 2017

The Historic Snows of the Ides of Mid-March

 Historic Snowstorm of March 14, 2017 - 26 Inches in 24 Hours in Upstate New York

The weather prognosticators gave us all plenty of warning...a mega winter storm was coming our way. A classic Nor'easter, meaning the winds circulated counterclockwise off the Atlantic coast, spreading their snowy bounty inland across the Northeastern US (the Mid-Atlantic, New York and New England), and in historic quantities in some areas.

It snowed non-stop from about 4am on Tuesday, March 14 (one day before the legendary "Ides of March") until sometime 24 hours later (on the very Ides themselves). My corner of the region went from literally no snow on the ground whatsoever for the past month or so to an epic amount, with the accumulation logging the most snow to fall in the immediate area of upstate New York in March...ever...26 inches in 24 hours. Areas in the Adirondacks to the north got upwards of 30-plus inches. That's a LOT of snow in just one day.

There were some consolations in all of this white stuff...first, the snow was constant but not heavy, it was like a light, white mist...literally a snow shower for 24 hours. None of that big, white cotton-ball-like heavy stuff laden with moisture. This was white powdery stuff. Great for skiing, if you're into that sort of thing.

One couldn't avoid the memo that the weather media was circulating well in advance. Don't got out on the roads if you could avoid it. Driving was treacherous and unless absolutely necessary, was best avoided until the snows ended. No problem at my end. I was more than happy to stay home, do some things around the house, roast a chicken, and eventually make my way out to clear the driveway before the volume would totally overwhelm my already behemoth snowblower. (Don't let anyone tell you that wrestling with a massive hunk of motorized metal that weighs about 250 pounds isn't pretty serious exercise. It's not for the faint of heart. I've ridden fairly large horses that were easier to maneuver!)

Did I mention chicken? Oh, yes, I picked one up on sale at the grocery on Monday since I knew I'd be stuck inside the next day and thought it was the perfect comfort food for a mid-March snowstorm. There's little about chicken, whether one I roast myself or one I buy already rotisserie cooked from the grocery store (my favorite), that goes to waste in my kitchen. I'll stuff the bird loosely with a chopped up onion, and, if I have some, add apple, fresh herbs, or whatever else strikes me.

 Snow Day Roast Chicken

Once roasted, I'll make an array of things with the left overs from salad, chicken stock and soup - whether classic chicken noodle or an Italian version with some sort of fun pasta and topped with grated cheese - to reducing the drippings to make a gravy base. Any leftovers of those by-products I'll put in containers (labeled and dated, of course) and freeze for another use later.  As I said, nothing goes to waste if I can help it.

From the last rotisserie chicken I bought pre-cooked recently, I made stock, strained it and put it right back in the pot to use it as the cooking liquid for cubed red potatoes. They, in turn,  became the base for a favorite rich, rustic curried potato and onion cream soup that is finished with evaporated milk and seasoned with basil and topped with chopped bacon. It has been a no-fail, go-to fall and winter soup for me for 40 years and I think it originally came from a Better Homes and Gardens magazine recipe in the early 1970s that a friend had made for a lunch we had together. It was wonderful, and my first conscious experience with curry - and the rest, as they say, was culinary history for me. I've never stopped making it since and I do it all "by feel" without a recipe...don't need one at this point.

The other major consolation of this mid-March snowstorm is just's mid-March. The temperatures were unusually warm in February, and while we've had some bitterly cold, January-like days since the storm, the sun in March is that much warmer than it is in the dead of winter, so the snows of March 14 have been quick to start melting.

We also have some pretty solid snow clearing capability here in the Northeast - it's a science that we have pretty much perfected over the past seven decades or so (and, I must add, puts most southern states' efforts to shame when they get an aberrational dusting or glazing). Our main roads were down to bare pavement 24 hours after the storm ended, and the local roads were well on their way to cleared, too. (You wonder why our taxes are so high in the Northeast compared to much of the rest of the U.S., well, there's a bit of part of your answer. It's not cheap to keep the many miles of roads and highways clear of the white and icy stuff when it hits here as predictably as it does, but where would we be if we couldn't get that done? It's essential for safety and for commerce to continue uninterrupted, and part of the price we pay for living here in the "Great Northeast.")

We've lost about half - or a full foot - of the original accumulation of almost a week ago just due to the wonderful, warm, melting effects of the sun, which has been apparent every day since "snowmegeddon" on March 14. Love that! I'm thinking, barring any further colossal convergence of weather fronts blowing in from the northwest and the east, that this last foot could be nearly gone by this time next week. I certainly hope so, because, Spring will be here officially tomorrow...and it has been, in the words of Lennon and McCartney, a long, cold winter, but here comes the sun!

Come on in, Spring - we've been waiting for you!   

February 11, 2017

Valentine's Day and February Snows

I'm not even going to begin to express my regrets that I haven't blogged since July. It has been a very busy time, but I wanted to catch up a little here, and ahead of Valentine's Day, which is one of my favorite of celebrations.

Coming in the middle of February, I've always been grateful to have a holiday that provides us with a warm sentiment - simply love - and also delivers a most welcome explosion of vibrant red during an otherwise frosty, often grey skies and white landscape with trees barren of their emerald leaves.  It's a reminder that life will go on, just have faith in Mother Nature to bring spring soon.

As areas of the Northeast have been blanketed with upwards of 8 to 10 inches of the white stuff in the past few days (where we previously had practically none), and the temperatures are in the 20s and 30s (and single digits at night in some areas), the good news for folks like me, who don't adore winter in the Northeast, is that it won't last  forever and the warmer temperatures and green grass will return. In the meantime, Valentine's Day is a visually colorful, as well as emotional, relief.

So last weekend, I broke out the Valentine's box filled with vermilion treasures accumulated over the years. Among them are a few bears (see the photo above), even though I'm not a massive bear fan, including one that started the collection. It's the one in the center with the enameled red heart affixed to his chest. This sweet bear was given to me by my late dad when I probably was about 9 or 10 years old. He might have made the selection for me, or maybe my mom did, but he certainly was the one who gave it to me. And I've kept it all these could I not? My dad also gave me the pair of sweetly embroidered little pillow sachets...the scented disks that perfumed them are gone, but they're still charming little keepsakes that compliment the bears.

Knowing of my propensity to acquire small stuffed white bears with red ribbon collars as Valentine's keepsakes, my now late mom gave me, many years later, the largest "gift" bear below. He's a Hallmark bear holding a little red gift box with white hearts. I don't recalwhat the box contained, if anything, but he seemed a fitting addition to my small collection of Valentine's bears.

In anticipation of February 14, the bears take up residence on the mantel and are surrounded by a few other items that celebrate the holiday of Love with hearts and flowers.

I've had this cute little rocking horse ornament for many years - I think my mother gave me that one, as well, since I've been a life long horsewoman - and I originally hung it on my Christmas tree. But I decided a few years ago that he really belonged with my Valentine's accoutrements and now he comes out, with his red hearts and lace mane, for February - a perfect Valentine's pony!

This carved wooden angel ornament originally was part of a group of carved natural wood ornaments designed for Christmas, but, once again, I appropriated her for the Valentine's display. She originally came from the charming shop in Rhinebeck, New York, that was owned by dear friend who now lives in coastal North Carolina, so it always reminds me of my friend and reminds me to get in touch with her. 

At the center and just below the mantel is this small twisted twig heart. I don't recall who gave it to me, but I've had it forever, too. It originally Day. It originally hung in the bathroom of my first home in the country and was festooned with a light "country blue" ribbon and small eucalyptus branches, but the leaves became rather aged and tired looking, so I removed them. What I couldn't remove was the dried glue that kept them affixed to the heart, so I just turned that side to the wall and hung the heart this way. I was never a big fan of "cutesy country" and prefer the simple, natural look and it seems to work just fine hanging there, I think.

I painted my dad's classic old olive green Army trunk in bright white with red trim when I was a young teenager 50 (eeek!) years ago. It originally served as my very first real "tack trunk" for my growing collection of equestrian gear, but it is currently my coffee table in front of the fireplace. (I've never parted with that trunk, either. Are you sensing something of a pattern here? On top of the trunk is a red metal tray I picked up at Goodwill a few years ago, I think, holding some stray pine cones (left over from January's mantel and hearth decor) and a sweet heart-shaped twig basket in which I placed a sweet stuffed polka-dot cotton heart ornament that my oldest and dearest friend (from first grade through high school!) made and gave me decades ago. (We've remained in touch and lately we communicate via email almost daily - it's is a lovely thing to have that kind of enduring friendship at this stage of our lives since she lives several hours north of me in northern Vermont.)

Next to the tray is a small bowl from Pottery Barn that I picked up at Goodwill a few years ago - I found its blue and white checkerboard punctuated with pale red hearts so cheerful, so it comes out for Valentine's Day, too.       

I don't usually add much to the Valentine's Day collection these days, but I was in a local thrift shop last weekend and spied a very tarnished, small, metal heart basket for just 50 cents (!) and I couldn't resist it. The label on the darkened bottom read "L'Argentiere - Italy Style" so I knew that it was, at the very least, silverplate, if not sterling. (There was no stamp to suggest it was sterling.) I didn't care either way since it was delightful and, as I suspected, it polished up beautifully.  To borrow and revise an expression from the marvelous Ina Garten, how sweet is that?!

I hope you have a few small treasures and keepsakes to remind you of beloved family and friends, and that your Valentine's Day, and every day, is filled with delightful surprises and that most wonderful of sentiments....lots and lots of Love.