Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Winter Solstice 2014: Gifts from the Wise

Live mindfully. Cherish the present. You know how important that is -- especially as the years start stacking up like dominoes. Over the weekend, we certainly embraced the "here-and-now" with good friends -- our chosen family -- for our SIXTEENTH winter solstice celebration, hosted by Pat and Rett. And it was our second solstice revelry at lovely Merry Mount.
Pat, as is his custom, had wise readings for us, and a self-penned poem that became the theme of the weekend:

Winter Solstice
Stop and Observe.
Discover the moments
between Winter and Summer.
Embrace the perpetual change.
The distance between
two points in time
is always

Despite missing our good pals Jim and Dave (to a surgery-recovery spell), we managed to Keep Calm and Carry On...and Eat and Drink and Be Merry!

So grateful for good girlfriends.

And guy friends. (Especially guys who are great at clean-up!)

As always, a fabulous dinner created by Rett.
The festive menu included a lovely, pink cocktail of champagne and pomegranate liqueur with plump fresh raspberries, and appetizers of asparagus/shitake mushroom tarts and a sharp cheddar/horseradish spread on crackers. The salad combined peppery arugula, bright pomegranate seeds and toasted walnuts (recipe below). And the mouth-watering dinner was a long-roasted Portuguese chicken and vegetable stew (a specialty from Rett's friend Lee) and roasted Brussels sprouts. For dessert, there was a beautiful salted caramel apple pie, and the bourbon-soaked cherries and chocolate chunk ice cream that I shared the recipe for a few posts ago. Such amazing food!

There were gifts of course -- look at the cute farm wrapping paper!
And my favorite gift -- a photo of me and the late doggie Rio framed in a piece of Merry Mount barnwood!
A little chaos with the dogs. Well, it looks calm here, but there were moments!

 Lots of good conversation and laughter.

A bit of sleepiness on the sofa -- where Piper wanted to snuggle.

And a late-in-the-evening Scotch tasting!

To all a good night!

Next morning dawned with clear skies and even some sunshine -- once the sun actually rose on the shortest day of the year! Piper and I were not not the first ones up (Pat beat me to the punch again) but we weren't Julie's baby either.

 How we could all be hungry again after that feast last night seems improbable. But a Merry Mount farm breakfast is always a welcome treat. So we gathered around steaming cups of (necessarily) strong coffee, fresh eggs from the resident chickens, bacon, roasted sweet potatoes and regular potatoes, fresh fruit and banana bread. So good!

Then it was out to the barns to say good morning to the animals! Hello chickens!

Thanks for some eggs, ladies!

The pretty girl goats were happy to see us.

And enjoyed a little frolic in the pasture.

And the boys -- well boys will be boys, no matter what their species. Here they are competing against each other in the Goatlympic sport of jumping-off-the-wood-spool.

It might have been the shortest day and the longest night (and darkest night because it was a rare new moon on the solstice!) but it was bright and warm in our hearts. Thanks to a circle of friends that seems to grow closer and warmer as we celebrate each year together.

 Pat invited us to bring a quote we liked, so I'll close with a happy thought from J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan):
"All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust."

Oh, and here are a few recipes for you!

Pomegranate and Arugula Salad

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (or pomegranate liqueur)
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 T honey
2 T red wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil (I might try 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup orange juice...)
S & P

6 cups lightly packed arugula
1 pomegranate, seeds only
1/4 cup parmagiano-reggiano shavings (feta would be good too)
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1 shallot, sliced

Whisk dressing ingredients together. Toss salad ingredients together. Dress with vinaigrette.

Cheddar Horseradish Spread
8 ounces sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream or milk
2 tablespoons pure horseradish (the jarred kind)
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar (I used a dash of Worchestershire sauce instead)
1/2 cup (about 6 slices) bacon, crisped and crumbled (I didn’t think the bacon added anything, and instead sprinkled the spread w/ smoked paprika before serving the next time I made it.)
Place all of the ingredients, except the bacon crumbles, into a food processor or blender and mix until smooth.
Remove the cheddar mixture to a bowl and stir in the bacon crumbles (or sprinkle w/ smoked paprika).
Serve with crackers and celery sticks/sugar snap peas, at room temperature for smoother spreading. Cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thankful. . .

I asked Pat and Rett, what they were thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend, after calling Merry Mount home now for well over a year. Here's what they said:

Rett said:

I am thankful for:
·      How much I love living at Merry Mount! The peace and serenity I feel here is so much more than I expected!

·      The joy I get from my animals, even when it’s freezing cold and I have to go out and take care of them!
·      I love the way my friends love to come here and enjoy MM with us. That we can share our special place with those we love!

·      The wonderful blog that you write and how you’ve chronicled our time here! I love to look back at all of the pictures and fun times we’ve had!
 ·      I love the open space all around me, the big sky, incredible sunsets and sunrises and just all of the beauty. I cold go on and on forever…but you said five.

And Patrick said:
 I’m most thankful for:
·      Rett, who shares my love of MM

 ·      Big sky that offers spectacular vistas

·      Seasonal change

 ·      All those who labored at Merry Mount throughout the decades that preceded us
·      Vivi, who has chronicled our year and 4 months.

And I say, CHEERS to Pat and Rett -- I'm thankful to see the pure joy that Merry Mount has brought to their lives, and I'm grateful to be able to share it with them! Rio and Piper have loved it too!

And while we're being thankful, here's an amazing ice cream that I made for my family's Thanksgiving celebration:

Honey Nutmeg Ice Cream  

4 large egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
1 T sugar
dash salt
7 T honey
1 scant t. nutmeg
1 ½ c. half and half

In a med bowl, whisk egg yolks until well combined. Set aside.
In a med saucepan, over med heat, whist together milk, sugar and salt until just steaming. Remove from heat.
Slowly drizzle warm milk into egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return mixture to  med saucepan and warm over low heat. Whisk until mixture thickens to consistency of a warm pudding (or until it coats the back of a spoon and you can run your finger through it and make a line). Remove from heat and strain into med bowl. Whisk in honey and nutmeg. Stir until honey dissolves. Stir in half & half. Chill for 4 hours. Churn in ice cream maker. Enjoy!