Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Waking Up to a Warm Breakfast

Cold mornings demand a warm breakfast. Our fall/winter weekday breakfast of choice is McCann's Steel Cut Oatmeal. The problem is, it takes about 30 minutes to cook and requires that one stir it every 5 minutes. Fortunately, this slow, steady cooking method suits Ed to a T. The night before, I measure 1 cup of oats to 4 cups of water and add a dash of salt.

Ed gets up before me and hits the "on" button to the coffee maker and then gets the oats to cooking over extra-low heat. He sets his phone timer in 5-minute increments and gives the bubbling oatmeal a quick stir every time his alarm goes off. By the time I awaken, coffee and oats are ready.

Ed doctors his up -- with cranberries, almonds and chopped dates -- and a drizzle of Farm Dover honey. I like to stir into mine a heaping tablespoon of unsweetened applesauce. It's amazing how a bowl of Irish Oatmeal never fails to warm my heart and soul.

Note: We make enough for at least a couple of days. It heats up nicely in the microwave. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

It's Apple Season and I'm Loving It

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
– Martin Luther

Like asparagus, strawberries or tomatoes, there is a time of year for everything and now it time to celebrate the apple. Yes, you can buy apples 12 months of the year, but it only for a few short months that you can get local ones. And, like asparagus, strawberries and tomatoes, it makes a difference.

Last week we went to the farmers' market in Baltimore and could select from a dozen different varieties; some I expected, and some I had never heard of. I wanted to try them all.

Looking at the crates full of apples reminded me of our yearly fall expeditions to Reid's Orchard in Owensboro where we would pick bags-full of Golden Delicious and McIntosh. Ed's Aunt Gladys would be the instigator of the outing and the most productive picker. She loved picking apples and would disappear high up into the trees until she was well into her 90s. We would have to beg her to come down, but she would always say: Just one more; there's a nice one up here that I can almost reach – tottering precariously on the ladder.

Aunt Gladys died the month before we moved to Farm Dover. In her memory, our closest friends gave us three apple trees for our orchard. It may be a few years before we are picking our own, but I can't wait to make Farm Dover cider, apple butter and apple sauce.

In the meantime, I'm making three recipes this weekend, each featuring glorious apples.


The first comes from my friend and awesome cook: Marla Garfield. It's a tasty dip on fall apples and everyone tries (mostly unsuccessfully) to guess the ingredients.

Awesome Apple Dip 

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
handful of peanuts, salted and roasted

Mix all but the peanuts together until smooth. Add nuts and mix. Serve with sliced apples.


The next is an simple apple cake that my Great Aunt Frances would make every September for Ed's birthday. It's the perfect fall-time cake.

Frances Rinehart's Apple Cake

3 eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup Canola oil
3 cups apples (diced)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix all ingredients together and spread in buttered 9x13 inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Top with whipped cream.


Spiced Apple Cider Sorbet

And the last recipe is one I'm trying for the first time. The inspiration comes from a dessert we had last weekend at our favorite restaurant Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore. Mary's friend, John, sent me a recipe link. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday morning note to all: the spiced apple cider sorbet recipe is a keeper. It was smooth, tart and delicious, served with Frances Rinehart's Apple Cake. Try it; you'll love it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Disappear. Reappear.

I'm back. Ed and I took a quick fall break to enjoy the autumn colors, do a little fly fishing, visit Mary in Baltimore and celebrate our 27th anniversary. Given that you have been patient enough with our travelogue about our trip out west, I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, it was a lovely week away.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Debbie and Ed's Wild West Adventure: Final Chapter

Part 5: The Badlands, SD to home

The last leg of our journey brought closer and closer to Farm Dover and included a final stop in Owensboro for barbecue and cider. Homeward Ho!

Day 15:  The Badlands, SD to Omaha, NE
Drive time: 6 hours, 35 minutes; 457 miles

We hiked the next morning in The Badlands, being mindful of rattlesnakes, and watched a Swainson's hawk hunt its breakfast.

And then we set off for Omaha, Nebraska, where we had a Czech goulash dinner at the Bohemian Cafe and listened to an outdoor concert by the US Air Force Heartland of America Band Brass in Blue. Nice way to end a nice day.

Day 16:  Omaha, NE to St. Louis, MO
Drive time: 6 hours, 48 minutes; 435 miles

We started our day at the Omaha Farmers' Market, stocking up on coffee, scones, craft root beer, and listening to some original music.

Then we were off for St. Louis, our final night's stop. Using our trusty i-pad, we located the Italian part of town and headed there for a final trip dinner with the friendly folk at Charlie Gitto's on the Hill. While waiting for our table, we found a nearby hotel using Hotwire, so were all set for the night.  We even parked for free on the street, dodging the parking charge and making Ed happy.

Day 17:  St. Louis, MO to Farm Dover, Shelbyville, KY
Drive time: 4 hours, 44 minutes; 290 miles

Leaving St. Louis on Sunday morning, we crossed into Illinois and felt we were almost home. We made two final stops on our way home: Owensboro for a barbecue lunch with Gay and Steve at Old Hickory and then Reid's Orchard for some fresh-pressed cider and apples.

And from there, it was a straight shot home to Farm Dover. Nice to be home. Really nice to crawl in our own bed that night and know that we had been on a great journey and lived to tell about it. We slept soundly.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Relish the Day!

Debbie and Ed's Wild West Trip: Part 4

Part 4: Yellowstone National Park to The Badlands, SD

Come along on our adventure through South Dakota: Four giant presidents carved into a mountain, America's favorite roadside attraction, camping in the middle of nowhere, even shooting stars across the Milky Way....

Day 13:  Slough Creek Campground, Yellowstone to The State Game Lodge, Custer, SD
Drive time: 8 hours, 38 minutes; 492 miles

We said farewell to Yellowstone and headed east toward the Black Hills National Forest.  We stopped in Cody, Wyoming, for lunch at the Irma Grill located in Buffalo Bill Cody's hotel which he named for his daughter.

We stretched our legs with a walk around the town before heading to the Black Hills of South Dakota where we had a reservation at the State Game Lodge in Custer. The lodge was built in 1920 and served as the "Summer White House" for Calvin Coolidge in 1927.

Day 14:  The State Game Lodge, Custer, SD to The Badlands, SD
Drive time: 3 hours, 38 minutes; 191 miles

Up and out to Mount Rushmore by 8 a.m. I'm not sure why, but I wasn't particularly looking forward to our visit to this national landmark. A bunch of presidents carved into a mountainside? Sounded a bit lame -- plus I had seen photos of it. How much more of it was there to see? Well, I was wrong. It was amazing -- the grandest piece of art ever.

From there, we drove up to Deadwood in hopes of seeing some familiar landmarks from HBO series of the same name. As much as Mount Rushmore exceeded my expectations, Deadwood underachieved them. It was really dead. No sign of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Seth Bullock or Al Swearengen...not even a backdrop from which to take a photo to prove that we were there.

The day picked up as we barreled along to Wall, SD, home of Wall Drug, America's favorite (according to the good folks at Wall Drugs) roadside attraction. Wall Drug has over 500 miles of billboards on Interstate 90, stretching from Minnesota to Billings, Montana. They spend an estimated $400,000 on billboards every year -- many of them promoting free water. We, along with 2 million other visitors, fell for the billboards and stopped.

The afternoon was getting away from us and we didn't know where we were going to stop for the night. Just outside of Wall was the Badlands National Park and so that where we went. It was like landing on another planet.

It looked like nothing could survive this environment. But then we came upon a herd of sheep.

As we got to the south end of the park and evening was coming on, we realized that there was a campground that we could stop at. So we did. We set up camp in the middle of nowhere. Cooked dinner and had a lovely supper.

It was one of my favorite nights of our trip....Dark comes early there and there's little to do but crawl into the tent – so it was easy to wake up in the pre-dawn morning. The clear night sky in the plains with the horizon far away in every direction has not lost its power. We hadn't seen such a sight in years: the bright constellations, the Milky Way, even a shooting star. This was once the birthright of every child on earth. It is saddening to realize that with our thoughtless night lighting pollution only a few children will ever know what it is to see such a sky and wonder about what it means.

To be continued. Stay tuned....

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Debbie and Ed's Wild West Trip: Part 3

Part 3: Glacier National Park to Yellowstone National Park

Follow along on our adventure as we head to Yellowstone and meet up with geysers, wildlife and a stranger.

Day 10: Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park to Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park
Drive time: 11 hours, 41 minutes; 609 miles

Next stop: American's first National Park: Yellowstone.  We left early from Many Glaciers knowing we had a long trip ahead of us. Most of the morning we followed along the east bank of Flathead Lake, a beautiful scenic drive. We travelled to the mining town of Butte, skirted the Big Hole Valley, then around Helena, over to Bozeman before turning south at the Gallatin Gateway to Yellowstone.

On the way, Ed drove, and I read to him from our travel books. I was particularly struck by a passage that talked about Yellowstone's policy on fighting wildfires. In the 1970s, the Park decided to allow wildfires caused by lightening to burn under controlled conditions. It was dusk and drizzling when we finally turned into the Park. I was heartbroken to see that the Park was covered in what looked like dozens of smoldering fires.

But all I was seeing were the steaming geysers and boiling mud pots! I was so relieved and a little chagrined by my naivety. We checked in the Old Faithful Inn and settled into the last two seats at the bar for a beer and burger. It had been a long day and we were delighted to be where we were.

Day 11: Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park to Canyon Village Lodge, Yellowstone.
Drive time: 1 hour, 21 minutes; 42 miles

Early the next morning we walked out of the Inn door and over to Old Faithful. The geyser erupts about every 91 minutes and sure enough, right on time, we saw it blow: spouting 3,700-8,400 gallons of hot water at heights of 106 to 184 feet. It really was pretty impressive.

After breakfast at the Inn we hiked around Upper Geyser Basin, the largest concentration of geysers anywhere in the world.

We had originally planned to camp for the next two nights, but because we arrived so late the evening before, we didn't want to rush off to try to find an available camp site. Fortunately, we were able to get a room reservation at Canyon Village, in the northern part of the park and closer to the campgrounds that we needed to get to early the following morning. So we made our way through the park, pulling over often to see the wildlife in the Hayden Valley: birds, bears, buffalo, sheep, wolves and coyotes.

After checking into the hotel, we headed back out to hike the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone -- one of the most spectacular hikes of my life!

Day 12:  Canyon Village Lodge, Yellowstone to Slough Creek Campground, Yellowstone
Drive time: 1 hour; 30 miles

The race was on. Most campsites are first come, first served so we had to get up and get going in hopes of finding one. We drove up to Slough Creek and back about 5 miles off the road to the wilderness campground. No fancy showers; no flushable toilets, but plenty of fabulous views along the creek. We lucked into one of the prettiest sites and after the standard bear warning from the campground host, set up our tent before heading up the creek -- Ed with his fly rod and me with a book.  Ed caught one trout. How big?  Big enough to take the hook.

By early afternoon, all the sites were taken. As we began to fix our dinner, a young guy appeared on the hill above our site and called down to ask if he could share our table. He spoke with an European accent -- a young man traveling around a foreign country. All I could think of was Jack in Germany last year. Ed and I looked at each other and then both encouraged him to come on down. Turns out, Mario was originally from Berlin and had been working for a German engineering company in Portland for the last couple of years. He was headed back to Germany by year end and decided it was time for him to see some of the States. He was traveling by himself, sleeping in his car as he was afraid of being eaten by a bear, which by now did not seem preposterous to us.

We shared a beer with him and he shared a white chocolate candy bar with us. He was nice company and we wished him well when he took off in the morning. He left us a scape of paper with his name and email address on it. We promised we would look him up if we made it to Berlin next year.

To be continued. Stay tuned....

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Debbie and Ed's Wild West Trip: Part 2

Part 2: Essex, Montana to Glacier National Park, Montana

Our wild west trip continues as we make our way to our most western point. In store for us: a stolen cooler, huckleberry pie, and an encounter with a mama grizzly bear and her three cubs.

Day 6: Cut Bank, Montana to Essex, Montana
Drive time: 1 hour 12 minutes. 75 miles

We were getting closer and closer to the million-acre Glacier National Park, just a few miles south of the Canadian border. We had booked a night at the Izaak Walton Hotel, an old inn that is located just outside the park at a stop on the Amtrak. We arrived mid-morning and since our room was not yet available, we grabbed a hiking trail map and headed into the park.

We took the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the park's west entrance up to Logan Pass. The road, an engineering marvel, spans 50 miles through the park's wild interior, winding around mountainsides, affording amazing vistas.

Starting out from Logan Pass, we hiked toward Hidden Lake, stopping along the way for a picnic lunch.

That evening we dined at the Izaak Walton and walked along the railroad track after dinner. We met some people at the Inn who had boarded the train in Chicago and hopped off 28 hours later at the Inn – what a great way to travel.

Days 7 and 8: Two Medicine Lake Campsite, Glacier National Park
Drive time: 2 hours 60 miles

The next morning we headed back into the park in search of a campsite. Even though it was early September, many of the campgrounds had closed for the season -- leaving fewer sites available on a first-come, first-serve basis. We took our chances on a more remote campground: Two Medicine Lake and sure enough found a great site.

As we had figured out at previous sites, we cruised around the campground, determining which sites were available and finding one we like. We then placed our cooler on the picnic table to "reserve" it while we signed into the campground. When we came back to our site our cooler was gone. Simply vanished.

This act of apparent vandalism dismayed us. It just didn't seem like proper camping etiquette -- stealing someone's food. Eventually, the campground ranger showed up. She had confiscated the cooler and placed it in a nearby metal bear-proof storage box. She then read us the riot act about keeping food out of reach of the bears. Turns out, she wasn't pulling our legs. While in the park we encountered no less than 10 bears. (More later.)

We spent the next two nights happily camping among the mountains and lakes, hiking during the day and fly fishing into the twilight. We celebrated Ed's birthday with a hike up to Aster Falls Lookout. Our second day at Two Medicine Lake, we took a tour of the second half of the Going-to-the-Sun Road in a 1930's-era Red Bus.

We capped off our second afternoon with a trip to a tiny town called Hungry Horse for a slice of world-famous huckleberry pie.

Day 9: Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park
Drive time: 1.5 hours

We spent our last night in the park at Many Glacier Hotel located on Swiftcurrent Lake. The hotel was built in 1915 by the Great Northern Railway as a way to entice tourists to come to the park via rail. Grinnell Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in the park, is a hard hike away (and up) from the hotel. We packed a lunch, grabbed our hiking poles and made our way around Swiftcurrent Lake over to Lake Josephine. Our plan wasn't to go all the way up to the glacier, but just to have a nice, peaceful hike around the lakes.

This is bear country; we saw six of them on the drive into Many Glacier.

When we got to Lake Josephine, some hikers told us that a grizzly bear and her cubs had been spotted way up the mountain above the trail -- and that just happened to the direction we were headed. Keeping  an eye out for her, we made our way along the shore path to a rock outcropping where we had our picnic.

All was quiet.  After lunch, we decided to head back. I led the way. We had gone no more than 100 feet when Ed (fairly calmly) asked me to stop and slowly turn around. I did. He was backing up and whispered that the bear cub had stuck her head out in the bushes just above the path, not 20 feet ahead of me. According to Ed, it looked like a furry Volkswagen Beetle with ears.

We went back to our rock outcropping and watched as the mama bear and her three cubs took their time eating berries, going for a swim, eating more berries and having a leisurely afternoon, never venturing far enough from the path to allow us to escape. Why hadn't we invested in a can of that bear spray?

At the other end of the path was a couple we had passed earlier, lugging large cameras. Because they were on the escape end of the path, they were having a grand time photographing the bears. I was too scared to even think to take a photo. We were stranded for an hour or so before mama decided to take her cubs and head back up the mountain. We headed back to the hotel encountering no more bears -- but looking and listening hard for them.

After our eventful afternoon, we took it easy by doing our laundry at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

To be continued. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Debbie and Ed's Wild West Trip: Part 1

Ed and I have been home for two weeks or so from our epic western trip and before too much more time passes, I wanted to post some thoughts and photos from our adventure.  I can't believe I am 55 years old and had never explored the northwestern part of our county. I just didn't know what I was missing.

The basic plan for the trip was to drive out to Glacier National Park in Montana via North Dakota and return via South Dakota, swinging through Kansas. This plan would allow me my first car trip out west and allow Ed to color in three more states on his U.S. map, leaving only two unvisited states: Alaska and Connecticut.

Here's a couple of things you need to know about this trip. First, our approach to travel has changed in the past couple of years, mostly due to the fact that we don't have a carload of kids with us or jobs that require us to check in daily. We are more flexible with setting (or not setting) our itinerary and the pace that we set for ourselves along the way. For this trip, we had a general idea of how the days would lay out and the stops we would make -- but not every day was accounted for, and we had pre-determined lodging reservations for only about half the nights. 

The other thing that has changed (for the better) is our reliance on our little GPS system that clips to the front windshield. I consider myself a woman of many talents, but reading maps and providing accurate navigation is NOT one of them. So in olden times, Ed was at the mercy of me trying to figure which way was up on the map, squinting to see the fine print, and getting confused between left and right turns. Now, a very nice woman with a lovely australian accent gives Ed (mostly) accurate directions and when he choses to not follow them, she simply says: recalculating

Here's a day-by-day recounting of our trip -- probably more detail than you want to know, but I offer it up, mainly to help me remember the days and nights of our grand adventure.

Part I: Shelbyville, KY to Cut Bank, MT

Day 1: Shelbyville, Kentucky to Mauston, Wisconsin
Drive time 9 hours and 49 minutes. 537 miles.
We packed our Subaru with camping gear, hiking poles, homemade granola and trail mix, and a couple of books on CD and headed out the drive, stopping at the gate to reset the trip odometer and say a quick prayer for a safe journey. 

First stop: Chicago, Illinois, for lunch with our friends Jeananne and Katie Beth, both seniors at DePaul University. It was great to catch up with them and see them thriving in big-city life.

From there, it was on to Madison, Wisconsin, one of our all-time-favorite cities. Maggie graduated three years ago from the University of Wisconsin and we hadn't been back since. We strolled down State Street, stopping to buy some kettle corn and ogle over the cheeses in Fromagination

We then headed over to The Old Fashioned to meet up for dinner with three of our favorite people: Nate, Claire and Ed.

Our intention was to spend the night in Madison but alas, the Madison Ironman beat us to all the hotel rooms, so as the sun was setting on the capitol building dome, we made our way westward, another hour or so to Mauston, WI. 

Day 2: Mauston, Wisconsin to Glendalough State Park, Minnesota
Drive time 6 hours and 33 minutes. 379 miles.

Because it was a Saturday morning, we checked the i-pad to see if by any chance Mauston or another town on our route had a farmers' market and sure enough, Eau Claire did. And it was a nice one too, set up in a city park, right on the river's edge. We loaded up on hot coffee, fruit tarts and some corn-on-the-cob and Italian sausage for a campfire cookout. Too bad I didn't need any fresh flowers; they were beautiful.

Lunchtime found us in Minneapolis, home of the University of Minnesota Gophers and Marlo Thomas's That Girl. From there we pressed on toward Fargo, North Dakota. Using our trusty i-pad, we began our search for a place to stay that night and focused on a couple of state parks just south of Fargo. One phone call to a park ranger determined that there were some first-come, first-serve, cart-in camp sites still available at Glendalough State Park. We pulled into the campsite at dusk.

We had not camped in a couple of years and I was a little worried that we had lost our knack for it -- or our interest in sleeping on the ground. WRONG. It was a wonderful campsite and a great way to stop for the night. In a matter of minutes, Ed and I set up our two-person tent; I crawled in to blow up our super thick Therm-a-rest® and lay out our sleeping bags, while Ed got our campfire going. 

The next morning we got up early to birdwatch along the lakeshore and in the tall prairie grasses. Such a nice way to start our day.... 

Day 3 : Glendalough State Park, Minnosota to Medora, North Dakota
Drive time 4 hours and 22 minutes, 275 miles

I just remember fields and fields of tall prairie grasses and nothing much else. That's North Dakota – and we covered the whole state – east to west – and it all looked the same, until we got about 10 miles from our night's destination and saw a sign to a lookout point. We took the off ramp and found ourselves staring out at the North Dakota Badlands, an eerie scene if ever there was one. I half expected John Wayne and his posse to come riding over the desolate hills.

We spent the night at the historic Rough Rider Hotel in Medora, North Dakota. The town sits just outside the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and not much was going on. We walked around the town and found a bar serving cold draft beer, salad and buffalo burgers. It fit the bill.

The hotel is named to honor Roosevelt's Rough Riders and their service in the Spanish-American War.  It is currently owned by Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation and features many TR memorabilia, including books from his library.

Days 4: Mendora to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Drive time: just an hour of so of driving around the park

We were up and out early the next morning, staying around just long enough for a big western breakfast in the hotel dining room. Then we headed up to the park to search for a campsite. We found a lovely one amid cottonwood trees on the banks of the Little Missouri River. 

As soon as we set up camp, we drove through the hills, stopping at a trailhead. We grabbed our hiking poles and set out along a dry and dusty trail that followed a dry and dusty sage-lined creek bed.

We spent the rest of the morning/early afternoon hiking trails on either side of the main park road.

Wild buffalo roamed the entire park -- we saw them along side the road, down by the river and right at our campground!

That night we cooked over the campfire and turned in early.

Day 5: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota to Cut Bank, Montana
Drive time: 7 hours and 42 minutes. 496 miles. 

Tough driving day through a boring, boring landscape. We were saved by listening to a  Louis L'Amour book on CD. I can't remember the title, but like all his books, it was a western fiction story and kept our attention as the miles rolled by. We stopped in the small town of Cut Bank and checked into the Super 8 Motel. Here's a photo taken from the room's window. See, I told you it was boring landscape.

We left all that boringness behind as we headed toward Glacier National Park...

To be continued. Stay tuned.