Category: This New Hampshire Life

In the Wind

*Deep Inhale*

It’s spring. The air is fresh. The trees are green and after such a long cold winter, it’s time to enjoy the warmer temperatures before it’s miserably hot and I melt like The Wicked Witch.

My husband has a jeep and this time of year, it turns even mundane errands in to a fun experience. It’s a 2008 Wrangler, and right now, the doors are off and the only thing it’s sporting is a bikini top to keep the sun off the driver and the passenger.

The jeep in shadow as we drive down the road

A trip to buy chicken supplies and chewing gum (the gum is for the kids, not the chickens), turns into some grown-up time. We make a stop at Starbucks to procure beverages. The wind is blowing and the tunes are cranked. There’s no deep meaningful discussion, just much needed time spent together enjoying each other’s company.

Errands completed with a 50% success rate (we got the gum), he says “Where to?” The responsible adult should say “home.” It’s late in the day and dinner needs to be concocted.

I abdicate “You’re driving, you decide.”

He heads away from home and I know we’re headed for some mud. The next town over has trails. He knows most of them by rote from childhood hijinks. It rained quite heavily earlier in the day, so this promises to be fun.

The trails do not disappoint. I’m sure that diehard mud enthusiasts wouldn’t be impressed, but I’m happy with our little adventure. It’s like mother nature’s own roller coaster ride/water park.

We’re back on pavement and the sun is setting, so it really is time to head home. I make him stop at the ice cream stand so I can ruin my dinner with my annual soft serve cone, a vanilla and chocolate twist with chocolate jimmies.

He was in Miami last week and this week he’ll be in San Antonio. There’s karate, Cub Scouts, homework and work deadlines but for a few hours we are “in the wind” and I am at peace.

I first heard the phrase “in the wind” on the TV show Counting Cars , Danny Koker from Count’s Kustoms  frequently talks about being “in the wind”, referring to riding his motorcycles. I’ve been a passenger on a motorcycle once and I really enjoyed it. I have NO desire to own or drive a motorcycle, but I do enjoy being “in the wind”.

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Candles In the Window

'Candles' photo (c) 2010, Lori L. Stalteri - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ Last month, we awaited the arrival of a late day snow storm, and my mind wandered back to the early 80’s in Pennsylvania. I was in 8th grade. I had science last period so we were in Mr Bauer’s room. I had my coat on, but not zipped. It was important to be ready to bolt as soon as my bus was called, but one had to balance that with comfort while waiting for what seemed to always be an interminable amount of time. The room hummed with adolescent energy. We were ready to be done with school long before they were ready to release us.

Unlike recent years, at that time, the mid-Atlantic states weren’t know for heavy snow fall. Precipitation in December was typically freezing rain or sleet. A white Christmas was a rarity. This day was no different. I can’t tell you whether what was falling was sleet or freezing rain, but it wasn’t accumulating, so we didn’t pay it much attention. Just. Let. Us. Go. Already! Five minutes past dismissal, no buses. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes and finally at twenty minutes past dismissal there was an announcement. The roads were awful and the buses were delayed.

Mr. Bauer told us to take our coats off and encouraged us to start on our homework. Yeah, right. We chatted, we read. Eventually some of us caved and begrudgingly pulled out our homework. An hour and a half past our normal dismissal time, the busses started to trickle in. Half an hour after that, my bus showed up. As I skated down the walkway to the bus, I looked out to the road in front of my school and saw nothing but taillights. Uh Oh.

It was 12 minutes from school to my house without traffic. With traffic, it typically took us closer to 20 minutes to make the trip. That day it would take almost two hours. By the time I stepped off the bus it was almost 7pm. I was toast, exhausted, fried, frustrated and hungry.

As I walked to the house, I almost burst into tears. In my absence, my mom had pulled out the Christmas candles and put them in windows. I had always lobbied, for brighter, more colorful decorations, but that day, I came to appreciate the simplicity of an electric candle with a white bulb on the windowsill.

I was home.

She met me at the door with a hug and helped me out of my stuff. She sent me to the living room where she’d lit a fire in the fireplace, a rare weekend treat that was unheard of on a week night. She brought me a mug of hot chocolate and left me alone by the fire to enjoy Andy Williams album Merry Christmas while she finished dinner. I was in heaven.

I haven’t spent Christmas with my mom in more than twenty years (not for lack of trying), but this year, as I made my way through the season, I am noticed her absence more than other years. I’ve carried on the tradition of candles in the windows and I smiled every time my house came into view. I still listen to Andy Williams Merry Christmas, albeit in digital form. I couldn’t change her and I can’t change the past, but I tried to focus on the good memories and let the bad ones melt away like the sleet and freezing rain. Some days I’m even succeeded.

Jeff & Nicole

A photo of my nephew at 4 years old resting his chin in his handsThis is my nephew Jeff when he was four. I took this picture at Disney’s (then) MGM Studios. It was my first trip to Disney with my boyfriend/fiancé’s family (Side note: A-Man and I had gotten engaged the night before I took this picture, but that’s a story for another time).

It was a warm May day and we were waiting for a parade to start. He’d just finished telling me that he didn’t want to get wet. I was confused, but after getting over her shock, Grammy explained. Apparently, he remembered the Aladdin’s camel’s spitting on him when he’s watched the parade two years earlier. For what it’s worth Aunt Lee got wet that time, Jeff did not.

He was the one we spoiled when we were double-income-no-kids (sorry buddy you got gipped after we got married and bought a house and once we had our own kids? Oy!).

He was second only to Grammy on the call list for baby sitters.

He dotes on his little brother and the feeling is mutual. Jason is extremely developmentally delayed, but Jeff ranks as his all time favorite human.

He’s the first one I thought of when my kids’ pre-school needed a teacher. He’s THAT good with kids. He had the nerve to follow his interests and leave education for the business world, but he’ll make an amazing father some time way, way, way, way, way, WAY down the road.

He’s got one of the largest collections of Nerf weapons of any person of any age that I know.

Jeff & Nicole on their wedding day Holding H, the cutest flower girl ever.*

I took this picture a few weeks ago on his wedding day. That’s Jeff and his bride Nicole. Holy cow time flies! He’s married AND a homeowner. They’ve been together for five years. College sweethearts as it were. They’ve definitely faced some challenges and persevered. She’s good for him and he for her.

They are cool in the eyes of my kids and I’m happy they have them as a role models.

Congratulations Jeff & Nicole!

 

 

* They are holding H, the bride’s cousin, the cutest flower girl ever and Jeff’s shadow for the day. I don’t have her parent’s permission to post her face on the Interwebs, so instead you can enjoy the lovely leaf and trust me when I say she was TOTALLY adorbs!

You know you live in the country when . . .

The other day I was out walking with a friend. We’re up to 4 miles with a 16 minute per mile pace. YAY US!! But, I digress, we were out walking and passed a house where a crew of men was taking down some trees.

My friend said “Oooh, that’s a nice one.”

I turned to look thinking she was referencing something like this.

'Construction Worker' photo (c) 2010, Phillip - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

No, actually it was a smaller version of this.

'P5100013' photo (c) 2008, Kid Cowboy - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

For my city slicker friends, she was ogling a wood chipper.  God, I love living in New Hampshire!

Eating Allergen Free – Buffalo Wild Wings

Fish is now living gluten free, dairy free and egg free. Sounds easy right? Just don’t eat foods with gluten, dairy or egg in them right? Yep, that’s it. *Snort* if it were only that easy.

Seven years ago, we discovered that A-Man’s migraines were caused by maltodextrin, a thickener, I started reading labels and stopped purchasing about half of the convenience foods normally in my pantry. I learned how to make home made versions of dips, crispy coatings and gravies and other processed foods I’d come to rely on. I knew from my previous label reading experience, in removing all of Fish’s trigger’s from her diet would be no picnic, but I honestly had no idea how complex it would be.  Most labels don’t say “contains gluten”.  Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s book The G-Free Diet has 12 pages of information about ingredients that can contain gluten.  Some labels say “gluten free”, but then I have to look for dairy and eggs and their derivatives. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are many more gluten free foods in the grocery store than there were even 5 years ago, but you still have be very careful especially with multiple sensitivities. Many people were quick to point out that Udi’s makes the best gluten free bread, but their breads contain egg whites, so they aren’t an option for Fish. The same is true for a number of GF pastas. I read every label and I try to remember to read them every time I shop (manufacturing practices can change quickly).

I can honestly say that eating out and quick meals have been the hardest part of this whole process. It’s one thing to stand in a store and read a label and be able to make a judgement about the safety of the food with regards to your child’s allergies, but it is entirely another to rely on a perfect stranger who has limited knowledge what goes in to the food he or she serves and doesn’t really understand the consequences. Then there’s cross-contamination, when a “clean” food comes in contact with an allergen during preparation. For example when french fries are cooked in the same oil as breaded onion rings or chicken nuggets. It’s enough to make you never eat out again. Oh, but some nights, some nights, eating out is the only option.

Recently we ate at Buffalo Wild Wings. I had heard they had a number of allergy friendly options on their menu. One had just opened nearby and the kids had been nagging me to go. We don’t have that many restaurant choices locally, so anything new is always a novelty, especially a potentially allergy friendly option.

When we sat down Fish immediately notified the server of her allergies and asked if they had a gluten free menu (it’s the easiest place to start). The server said she’d be right back. When she returned, she brought with her 5 lamented sheets of paper. Every menu item was listed along with a complete ingredient list. There was a also grid that listed each menu item and which of the most common allergens it contained. I was floored. This meant we could also determine if any of the sauces would trigger a migraine for A-Man (best as I could tell, none would). If only it was always that easy!

5 laminated pages of allergy information at Buffalo Wild Wings

It was small print (hey you can’t have EVERYTHING), but we poured over the sheets until Fish identified some wings that sounded good and were allergy free for her. She loved it and it was nice to watch her relax and enjoy the meal. Mim ordered his standard grilled cheese and fries and I had a combo platter with cole slaw and fries.

I’ll be straight with you, this is not gourmet cuisine, but it was decent and reasonably priced. I would make different choices next time, (I didn’t realize the boneless wings were breaded and deep fried. DOH!) but I’d go back for the allergy friendly environment alone. I wish more restaurants would follow their lead.

Have you found any restaurants that handle food allergies well?

Maple Sugaring

Have you ever had maple syrup? No, not that artificially flavored and colored corn syrup you buy at the grocery store, I mean REAL maple syrup.

A three pane collage, the "Sap Cow" (patent pending) used to collect from the individual trees, off loading the sap for transportation to the boiler, close up of sap pouring into buckets

If you stand in front of the super market shelves and see the price difference between manufactured goo and real maple syrup, the temptation might be to reach for the goo. I beg of you, resist. There is a difference and it IS worth it.

A three panel collage the wood pile necessary to fule the fire. The homemade maple sugaring stove, Adding more sap for a consistent boil

Our neighbors have made maple syrup for a few years and this year, we (*ahem*, A-Man), got in on the action. Making maple syrup is very time consuming and mother nature has to cooperate for the operation to work well. The process actually starts in the fall, when you traipse around the woods tagging maple trees. Once the leaves fall off, it’s hard to tell the maples from other indigenous species. 

When the daytime temperatures start to climb out of the twenties, and the night temperatures still dip below freezing, then, it’s time to tap the trees to collect the sap. A good sap year has a few weeks of daytime temperatures in the high 30’s or low 40’s and night time temperatures below freezing. Once you have a good quantity of sap collected, it’s time to boil it down to make syrup.

A three pane collage the sap pan in the dark of nigh, finishing the boil on the stove, the final product

Sounds relatively straight forward, why then is Maple syrup so expensive? It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap and approximately 12-14 hours to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. The first boil of the season was yesterday. They started at around 7am and by 9pm they’d managed to make just about a gallon of syrup.

Oh, but what a heavenly nectar it is!

A waffle drizzle with the results of the process.

Note to A-Man: What I wasn’t able to collect with the waffle, I used my finger to wipe up.  Not a drop was wasted in the creation of this blog post.