Saturday, August 30, 2014

"When things go wrong, don't go with them." ~ Elvis Presley

Well, I guess that it was bound to happen sometime - an epic BITE fail. And as host, the fail was all mine!

The Tale of the Fail

I had chosen "Ireland" as our theme for the month of August. Since two of us are not around during March, which is when we would most likely choose Ireland, I decided to do it now. I debated any number of recipes for our main dish and finally settled on Steak and Guinness Pie. This seemed appropriate for our somewhat cooler days. Knowing that we were eating at noon, and realizing that the dish needed to cook low and slow (four hours), I decided to cook it the night before and then heat it up the next day and add the puff pastry top.

Oh, the best laid plans! I put it all together - all four lbs. of beef, onions, garlic, mushrooms, beef stock, tomato paste, Guinness and one and a half cups of flour to thicken the liquid as it cooked. I placed it all in a large pan which then - completely tipped over as I was sliding it into the oven! All over the fully opened door of our new, two-month old stainless steel oven. Without going through the blow-by-blow details, I  did not completely freak out. I gathered all of the solid ingredients and got them back in the pan and then set about cleaning up the cups and cups of flour thickening liquid. I knew that the dish was not going to be completed that night, but figured that all was not lost - a mess yes, but not lost. That is till I closed the oven door, and the remaining liquid (that I didn't know existed) came cascading out of every crevice in the the door - including down in-between the door's two glass panels - where I could never reach it to clean.

Amazingly, I still kept it together, cleaned up what I could, and left a frantic message on the voicemail of the appliance repairman that we use. Then I bagged up the solids that I had managed to save, put them in the freezer and went to bed. I did NOT take any pictures of the mess!

Ok, the next day! I didn't bat an eye deciding to purchase sub sandwiches as the main course! And of course, my dear friends only cared that the oven would be ok. The happy ending to this fiasco is that our repairman was able to dismantle the door, get it completely cleaned and then reassembled. I can still hardly believe it - I was prepared to have to buy a whole new door. Thank you!

On to our meal!

For our Irish appetizers, Tierney chose Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Squares. Delicious! She also made some that had sauteed potatoes and onions - they were both wonderful!

For side-dish, Chris made Authentic Irish Colcannon, a hearty potato dish - and colorful!

And now for our main dish - turkey and roast beef submarine sandwiches!

Lastly, Ellen prepared Lemon Curd and Jam Tarts - a delicate, buttery crust and wonderful fillings!

What can I say - it all ended ok - a bit frustrating in the process, but when you end with good friends around a table, and are able to laugh at your mistakes (especially when they can be fixed), it's all good!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

"If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont." ~ Calvin Coolidge, 13th President of the United States, 1928

 Earlier this week, right before I headed home from Vermont, Alex gave me a personal tour of the Vermont State House. He is currently an intern, serving as Assistant to the State Curator. As such, he is tasked with any number of projects, but also conducts tours of the State House. In addition to the tour and meeting the State Curator, a wonderful experience, I got to see one of Alex's projects - the recent installation of a display of Vermont furniture makers. 

I must say that dates, information, and enlightenment rolled off of Alex's tongue as we walked the corridors. For fear of getting my facts wrong, I am going to stick with just photos for your enjoyment. 


Fossil in the granite taken from Lake Champlain used in the floors.

Rock split in two by canon ball - representing the divide of our nation between the north and the south.

A wonderful experience with a wonderful tour guide!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing." ~ James Brown

I just returned from spending a few days in Vermont visiting Alex and Hannah. What a beautiful state, and what a wonderful time I had!

The photos below are from a Contra dance that we attended. My niece Laura is a member of the group The Irregulars, and they were the musical group for the dance. It was great fun, though I admit that I was just a spectator this go-round. The photos are a blur - but so was the dancing!

"The Irregulars are a talented and energetic group of young musicians on Vermont’s traditional music scene. The teen band's high spirits, tight harmonies, and driving contra dance tunes delight both listeners and dancers. Performance highlights include performing for hundreds of dancers at the Dance Flurry weekend in Saratoga Springs NY three years in a row, and winning First Place in the Young Traditions Vermont competition held in Burlington in June 2011. The band has entertained at the Champlain Valley Folk Festival for several years running, as well as the New World Festival in Randolph and Burlington’s First Night celebrations. They have played sets for the Queen City Contras and Mad Robin contra dance series and also frequently host benefit contra dances on their own. They have also enjoyed performing at festivals, farmer’s markets, house concerts and other venues. Their first CD (Waiting for Wisdom) was released in the spring of 2013."

Laura, before the dance begins.

My sister, Robin and her husband Mike.

Alex and Hannah take to the dance-floor!

I did a quick phone video of the action. This particular dance was a bit calmer than some of the others - but still spirited and fun to watch!