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Is it bigger than this, which currently sits next to our parking area?

snowbank

I included the trash can for reference. That’s about 5 or 5.5 ft. Can you top that? We need photographic evidence (send it and I’ll post challengers).

Anna has gotten us back in full-blog mode, and there’s lots to report on. What a few weeks it has been! Last weekend we were in beautiful (cold) Killington, Vermont with college friends of mine. It’s an annual tradition, thanks to our wonderful host, Jessica. My highlight is always making fires — I love every aspect of it, and it’s not the sort of thing you get to do very often in a city apartment these days. The only minus is having to wash every bit of clothing you brought with you because you smell like a campfire. A small price to pay, in my book.

The spot is almost impossibly beautiful in the winter, as is obvious in this picture:

killington_group1

Hiking in the snow is always part of the weekend, and this year’s snow crop did not disappoint. We were waist deep in many spots. On Saturday, we braved the snow and ice in an effort to cross a raging frozen waterfall. We made it, though my foot slipped back in the icy water. To warm up, the two doctors in our group recommended a few glasses of wine. Done.

Anna and I also did some playing in the snow. A few freeze-frame captures:

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We highly recommend this. You will smile like this afterward:

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On our way back to Boston, we made a detour through Williamstown. Of course we got purple cow cookies:

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Tuesday there was this little national matter that we are just now starting to understand completely. Wow.

Then Thursday, we met Loyal Reader Mark, who’s just taken a new job at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for a night of Mendelssohn. Guy peaked at age 20, sort of like a college football player who goes pro to early (insert Maurice Clarett joke here). Anyway, it was our first trip to Symphony Hall, and the world-renowned acoustics are as good as described. Thanks, Loyal Reader Mark!

This weekend, we have had the great pleasure of hosting our good friend Darryl, who made the trip from Gambeir, Ohio. For readers who know Ohio geography (there can’t be many of you, can there?), Gambier is roughly 30 miles north of my hometown of Granville. Right in the heart of Buckeye Country. Can you tell I’m just a little bit jealous?

Anyway, before Darryl got here yesterday morning, Anna, Sammy, and I participated in a volunteer event at the Boston Food Pantry downtown with the Williams Alumni Association. Wet met Jessica there, too (as she too had thankfully unfrozen from Killington). For those of you who have never volunteered at a food pantry, it is good and meaningful work. There were roughly 80 volunteers there, divided into two teams on assembly lines. Ours looked  like this:

food_pantry

Within a half hour or so, as task-specialization kicked in, we were operating as a pretty well-oiled machine. Jessica was a loader (lifting boxes off of the pallets onto the line for sorting), Anna and Sammy were first sorters (inspecting the contents of the boxes, throwing out expired or opened products, and discovering the weird stuff that people thought were a good idea to give to a food pantry — pregnancy tests, anyone?). I was proudly the runner, meaning I did a little bit of everything. Like storing the hundreds of mops and brooms we received:

mops4

If you have never volunteered at or donate to a food pantry, we’d strongly recommend it. In 3 hours, our group boxed up over 15,000 meals, but the Boston pantry helps feed over 90,000 clients a week. Drop me a line if you ever want to go. As a nice thank you, the Pantry gave volunteers beautiful flowers that had been donated by Trader Joe’s. They are sitting on top of my blogging desk now, and are a great reminder of the cycle of generosity that service creates:

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Lots more to report on soon, hope you are warm and well-rested wherever you are.

Anna sure seems excited these days:

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And the feeling is contagious…

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What could it be? Oh right, that little thing…

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Yay! We’re “official,” and ever so happy 🙂

(and here’s one more really cute picture of Anna)

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It’s getting cold in Boston, and we’ve been trying to think of ways to keep the heat inside. We thought that stopping the stiff breeze coming through the living room windows was a good place to start… So, remembering what my grandma had growing up, we decided to make some window and door “snakes.” Basically some old fabric filled with rice. Anna did a great job sewing, even adding some buttons and stitching enhancements — like this:

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We felt the difference almost immediately. Only problem is, some of them don’t stay put and try to escape into other rooms…

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So good thing we have a Gordon to corral them!

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Anyone else have ideas for keeping an old New England house a warm(er) this winter?

Sunday is not only a perfect day for baking bread (as previous posts have documented), but also for making a quiche. This Sunday we documented the process for our LPE readers.

First, you gather ingredients. Besides eggs, cheese, and milk (which are required), broccoli and nutmeg are a great starting point:

Then you prepare the crust. Store-bought frozen crusts suffice. Cover the top with some foil, and then cover the foil with rice (seriously… to keep the bottom from rising up). Then stick it in the oven for 12 minutes at 425. It might look like this:

Then mix up all of the other stuff. Maybe 5 eggs, 1.5 cups of milk, 1.5 cups of cheese, garlic, spices (nutmeg, paprika, salt, and pepper). Then line the bottom of the crust with broccoli and pour in the mixture. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 325 and you get this!

It will be so good that even a hand shaped like a monkey will not be able to resist. Or a hand shaped like a pot holder/oven mitt of any stripe. Just not a normal hand, because the tin will be very hot.

Sunday’s effort was especially good, I think it had to do with whipping the egg batter an extra few minutes to make it extra fluffy.

Oh, and Sunday morning when I was walking Gordon I found $10! Truly! Not a quarter or even $5, but $10!?! Here’s the proof:

And guess what I did with it? I turned it into $10 worth of quarters. And then spent those quarters. On laundry.

Anna, with her endless creativity and digital design skills, has come up with a new logo for LPE:

What a cute little one! It is different than our previous logo (which was inspired by a stamp we found a few years back in Northampton) in a few important ways:

1) He has no tusks

2) His trunk turns upward (a sign of good luck!)

3) He is “rounder”

You will notice that this little elephant has already been inserted into our blog banner. BUT… s/he does not yet have a name. Loyal readers, this is where we need your help. Any suggestions???  A prize of Free Soap (when soap-making time comes around… usually before the holidays) will go to the winner.

Like most Americans, we watched a LOT of Olympics last week. But when it gets to afternoons of trap shooting and 2.5 hours of live marathoning… even we have to say no. And the weather was great on Grove St., which made it easy to step away from Beijing.

As Anna noted in her previous mini-post, there were three real highlights of the weekend: a new living room setup, a cookout with the latest fruits (err, veggies) of our labor in the garden, and our second attempt at baking our own bread.

We decided a few weeks back that our living room needed, more than anything, a new sofa and bookshelf. It was getting a little college dorm room in there, like so:

We thought to ourselves, maybe it’s time to buy some grown-up furniture and have a place we can really enjoy.  We searched Ikea, found what we wanted, and figured we’d get down there in the next few months and pick it up.  Our hearts were set on a large modern shelf the size of our wall and a nice leather corner couch with comfy cushions and plenty of seats for friends to come watch Ohio State Football.  But, you know how it goes… too little money for a couch too far away, to put into a too-little space… alas, we’d have to find something to suit our needs for function, comfort, and style elsewhere… this is where Mark comes in with his savvy Craigslist searching.

Honestly, Craigslist was reading our minds or wire-tapping our house because last Monday, he got on line and there they were. Not only did he find a seller offering both the sofa AND the bookshelf we wanted, BUT she lived 2 BLOCKS FROM OUR FRONT DOOR. Yes! So instead of renting some kind of truck and heading down to Stoughton and hauling a sofa and shelf back home, we carried them across the street. Literally. After some crafty furniture moving, here’s what we ended up with:

and…

Much more cozy, wouldn’t you say?  Gordon especially likes all of the new nooks and crannies for hiding out in during thunderstorms.

So after a Saturday of furniture rearranging, our buddy (and loyal LPE reader) Seth came over to BBQ. We raided the garden for the following:

and combined with some salad fixings from the farmer’s market, a few sweet potatoes, some beef, and a six-pack of PBR, we were ready to roll! Seth was excited to take the helm at the grill. The strangest thing was the package of Hebrew National hot dogs we bought. Actually, here’s a trivia question: How many hot dogs come in a standard package of Hebrew National hot dogs? Answer: Seven. Seven? Seven! Makes no sense, please someone explain this to us.  Well, whatever–we consumed and enjoyed all seven, and Mark used the extra bun to spread butter on his sweet corn. Riiight.

Sunday was a day of rest, bread-making (and cookie-baking), and long walks. Yes! We decided last month to take on bread as a new project. So we bought lots of flour and a massive package of yeast and have set forth to perfect this process. This week we tried a “homestyle white bread” out of a truly remarkable bread book we found at the local library — Beard on Bread. Go find it. It is truly a gem.

Mark is good at measuring things and Anna is good at kneading, so we make a good team. Here is Anna at work (Anna: “The key is to use the palms to push and the fingers to pull.”

Mark tried not to screw it up:

While the dough was rising, we made chocolate chip cookies. They made the time pass much faster. And Anna already had her super-cool apron on:

After a few more hours, we got two nice golden brown loaves:

When we had some slices for toast this morning, we found them to be a bit dense, but still buttery and tasty. We probably didn’t let the bread rise quite enough in the pans during the second rising. So begins the quest for the perfect loaf! Everyone with a kitchen and an oven should try.

We ended the day with a lovely walk through a new part of Belmont and Cambridge. Mark had been reading a new blog on eating locally in the Cambridge area and came across a brand-new community supported agriculture farm located IN Belmont. Based on the Google Map of the address, it was than a mile from our house! So we ventured to find it. And we did:

Hopefully we can sign on next year to receive weekly or bi-weekly shares of crops and yummy earth treats. Maybe even this winter!

What a walk–what a weekend!  Full yet restful.  Another week is ahead of us, but with so many fun projects on our plate, it’s worth it to work for the weekend.

In the last few days, some mysterious signs have shown up on our street:

These have sprouted from all of the neighborhood tree trunks (and phone poles)

These have sprouted from all of the neighborhood tree trunks (and phone poles)

These are clearly awesome. But what do they mean? It’s anybody’s guess. Perhaps…

– There is indeed a “pot” garden in the area (besides ours, which Anna prefers to call a “container” garden) and there are deals to be had

– “Weeddings” are on the cheap for brides and grooms this summer… (although it’s unclear whether the sizes refer to the number of attendees or the wedding party itself)

– A local kid is trying to start a summer business and will share more specific details (like how to sign up for such a service) when the time is right.

I just spotted a new one that is in rainbow colored marker across the street! But I’m not sure if that helps strengthen or weaken any of these hypotheses.

Any thoughts out there?

My sis and I have spent the past week back home in Granville, Ohio in the same house we grew up in. It’s a wonderful time to be here, with the farm fields green and lush, the day’s light still holding strong well past 9 p.m. We’ve kept busy between playing with the family dog (Harry, the labradoodle), walking/running/golfing, visiting family and friends, and, of course, eating.

Eating in Ohio in the summer is a special kind of eating. It fluctuates between the incredibly healthy (fresh produce from gardens and farm stands) to the absurdly unhealthy (fried everything, a la The State Fair Diet). We’ve tended to stick to the former, though a few stops leaning toward the latter have also been fun.

The past few days have been particularly fun. Friday night, Mom, Dad and I did the downtown trio of Nona (wine bar) for wine and apps, Brews (beer bar) for beer and pizza) and Whits (frozen custard… bar?) for dessert. It was the perfect combo. Downtown Granville has come a long way since my childhood.

There was no rest for the weary, though, as we continued on Saturday morning to a fantastic new breakfast place called Early Birds about 20 minutes north in St. Louisville. It’s the kind of place that gets a 25 for food in Zagat’s and a 10 decor — i.e. the food is reallllly good. The highlights were fried oatmeal (see, we fry EVERYTHING in Ohio!), grits, and cinnamon rolls. Service was fantastic, we were even greeted after our meal with a loud “we got four clean platers here” from our waitress, prompting scattered applause from the 20 or so in the spot. They also had a white board posted for customer messages. When I saw one that said “Best fried oatmeal I’ve ever had,” I, being a complete novice to this mind-blowing creation, wrote “ONLY fried oatmeal I’ve ever had!” Has anyone had this before? Here’s a pic of me leaving very satisfied:

Fried Oatmeal? Yes, please!

Fried Oatmeal? Yes, please!

After Early Birds, it was back to Granville for the weekly summer farmer’s market. What used to be a few booths 5-10 years ago has grown into a full-fledged, 20-vendor event. The sweet corn had already sold out by 11 or so when we arrived, but we found zucchini, summer squash, organic stone ground whole wheat flour, and peaches! Luscious, wonderful, locally grown peaches. In fact, these peaches were grown by the Branstool family, a well-known local clan known for farming and Democratic politics. One of the sons, David, who serves as a Licking County Judge, was boxing up the fruit. What a guy and what a place! And what peaches! This picture doesn’t do them justice (pardon the pun, Judge Branstool), but they are near-perfect:

A peck of Licking County's favorite peaches

A peck of Licking County's favorite peaches

Suffice it to say, last night’s dinner was fresh and well-enjoyed outside under the stars.

Today, after more tennis and a trip to the driving range, we took our grandmas to Gahanna (east of Columbus) for brunch. We went to Cap City Diner, a neat place that’s part of the Cameron Mitchell empire in Columbus. It was another great meal. Notice a trend here? After omlets and sandwiches, we ordered one piece of cake to share… because the cake was as big as my head:

A "piece" of cake in Columbus

A "piece" of cake in Columbus

We have a few more days here, so more posts to come about life back in the Heartland. Tonight, we dine with Darryl and Bob, who have just moved from Somerville for Darryl’s job at Kenyon. As you can guess, sweet corn is most definitely on the menu.

After Anna’s post on her triathlon, I feel a little silly saying that I played golf all weekend… but I did. And loved it all (except, of course, missing Anna’s and Molly’s successes!).

Three college friends (Dave, Brad, and Brad) joined me for the 48th Annual Williams Alumni Golf Tournament at the incredible Taconic Golf Club. It’s where I learned to play while working at Williams, and I realize now how spoiled I was.

About 240 players were in the tournament this year, and it always draws alums from across the class years. Teams of two compete in flights by handicaps, and each team ends up playing five nine-hole best ball matches. Brad N. and I ended up faring ok together in our matches, only losing badly to a team that hit a hole-in-one against us. Seriously. The guy had been playing 40 years and it was his first ace. Oh yeah, they also had three other birdies… best 15 handicappers I’d ever seen.

If you’ve ever played Taconic, the golf speaks for itself. The competition is incredibly into it, too, but in that fun, laid-back way that I like about Williams alums. Besides the golf, though, the main highlights involved hanging out on the porch post-rounds. Like this:

A typical scene after a long day of golf

A typical scene after a long day of golf

Among the things we did on the porch this year were:

– Drank about 6 pitchers of BBC Steel Rail Ale

– Ordered calzones from Colonial Pizza

– Talked about the Indians’ many injuries and slumping play with one of the team surgeons (Williams ’84… same guy who did Big Papi’s wrist surgery a few months back)

– Talked about the future of higher education with Texas oil executives

– Played bridge during a thunderstorm

– Were identified as “guys like us” by one guy who said his alma mater (Dartmouth) was being run by socialists (we did not inform him that, as we had arrived from Berkeley, South Beach, and Cambridge, it was unlikely we were, in fact, “guys like him”)

– Recapped nearly every good and bad shot we hit all day late into the afternoon

Anyway, it was a great time, as usual, and we’ve already secured our place in next year’s tournament by being the last teams to leave the clubhouse Sunday.

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