lofting board ( am I crazy?)

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Looking ahead to the sailing season,  I have invested pondered long and hard about an appropriate dinghy for  Adagio.   Last year I was going to tow my  16 foot dory – built by my son and me around 10 years ago   – terribly out of proportion for a 23 foot sailboat, but  it was ready and willing, and it rows oh so well..  but then I discovered that the state of NJ would require me to  register it, and that meant lots of paperwork and lots of money that I preferred to keep in my wallet! As it turned out,  I sailed without a dinghy most of the summer, and, when I needed one, I borrowed from the previous owner..

But, I really need my own if, as hoped, I head north this summer, leaving NJ waters behind me.  So the second alternative was  the dory skiff that I built while still living in NH 16 years ago.   It has been neglected for quite a while, but I was hoping that I might breath new life into it – replacing a rotten transom and perhaps fixing rot elsewhere with epoxy.  After dragging it into my basement and letting it thaw out, however,  I was dismayed to discover that it is beyond any reasonable attempt at repair.  I will have to give it a proper burial at some point, but, for now, it is in pieces out back.

This brings me to the third option.. buy a plastic dinghy or build a new one..   I firmly believe that Adagio deserves better than plastic.   Of course, she is fiberglass ( plastic) herself, but  from a distance, her classic lines would pass for a boat built in a very different era.  And, even more importantly, plastic dinghies are not built for rowing…  while a true Maine skiff is..  so there we have it.   The picture above is of my lofting board.  The plans come from DuckTrap woodworking in Maine.   I visited there 20 years ago, and the plans have been sitting on my shelf in the interim, and now I will attempt to bring them to life… not that I have oodles of time, of course, but I do have desire, and I needed a new project during this cold snap – it is just too cold out there to work on the exterior of the house!   It was -4 degrees F  as we left for school this morning…  stay tuned for progress reports as well as for another new project that we will begin as spring approaches..   yup – I am crazy! 

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Winter Hiking

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  It does not exactly look like a winter hike,  but the date is  Sunday, the 12th of January,  and it was about 34 degrees when we left the house.   Yesterday it was 50 degrees and raining.  The snow disappeared, and I am afraid that the slopes at Jack Frost were deserted.   We stayed indoors and made the best of it, but this morning, my wife suggested a hike first thing – she obviously has her priorities straight!   So we headed off to the preserve.  And we considered the benefits of winter hiking:  no sweltering heat,  no ticks,  no rattle snakes… how good can it get!   

Yesterday  we watched a video about gratitude  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg

Now,  we tend to lag behind the times technologically speaking, so I suspect that this video made the rounds months ago,  but it sure struck a chord with me.   It was introduced  as an alternative to looking towards the new year with great expectations, but instead to look back and to consider the year that has just passed and to recognize all of the blessings that impacted our lives… to be grateful.  I had to stop and get a few tissues about half way through it..   what a softie!

But, we are wrapping up  a wonderful weekend..  good food,  snuggling on the couch watching the first episode of this season’s Downton Abbey accompanied by stove top popcorn,   sleeping later than the sunrise,   a  5 mile hike on a beautiful piece of property that will be preserved for years to come followed by  a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and  potatoes,   and  a variety of great music thanks to Pandora..   

The year is young, but we already have much for which to be grateful.    High on the list, however, is the family who donated the 3400 acres of land in our backyard to form the preserve and the Natural Lands Trust  and manager Joe Vinton for the  time and resources that they have invested up to this point as they develop a plan of stewardship for this remarkable property. 

Bear Creek Preserve

Today we hiked the red trail in a clock-wise direction, venturing beyond our familiar cut off and exploring a little deeper in the woods.   We spooked a number of deer and delighted in watching their graceful leaps over obstacles as their white tails flashed a message of danger…  How could they have known that we meant no harm and would have been happy to walk quietly by…     We took the second green connecting trail and returned via the black trail.    We were able to do some trail clean up as we went, and we did not run into anyone else along the way.    One goal for the new year is to share the trails with friends and family.  

And now it is time to turn our attention to dinner and a good night’s sleep as we prepare for another week of school.  Although I tend to be the first one to suggest jumping in the car to head out for a new adventure or a road trip, it sure is nice to have the luxury of spending a relaxing weekend at home!

Food

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Sailing has taken a back seat on this blog, but that may be justified as Adagio sits under her cover waiting for the first signs of spring to once again emerge and demand the attention that she deserves.   So what is the topic of conversation in our household,  in our car,  nearly everywhere we go?   Food.   Perhaps that is not uncommon at this point in the year, with the holidays still fresh in our minds, the cookies, the deserts, the special dinners..   but that is not the only reason that food has been on our minds.   Three years ago, my wife and I were moved to become “selective” vegetarians – not vegetarians in the strictest sense, but eating meat only if we know its origin.   The net result of this decision is that we have eaten meat a dozen or so times since then, most of which has come from my ex-wife”s  farm in NH.  

In my younger years, I would have considered this a radical move, but we are quite content with the decision, and we have, what I would consider to be, a healthy mindset regarding the food that we bring into our home ( with the exception of the black licorice that I sneak in from time to time ).   There was relative harmony ( as much as one can expect with two teenaged females in the house)  around the dinner table as my two step daughters began to adopt a similar diet.  We took delight in sharing  mint iced tea and a sandwich of asparagus covered with smoky cheese, and thousand island dressing on the porch on a warm summer evening – watching for hummingbirds to join us at the feeders hung from the rafters.  

And then, over Thanksgiving Break, it happened.  The younger step daughter decided being vegetarian was not radical enough – she jumped off the cliff and adopted a vegan diet.   I have written before about the trials and tribulations of living with teens, but this certainly added a new wrinkle in the family dynamic.   By choice, we live in a small house, and that requires an added amount of  consideration and compromise from all parties.  But having a vegan in the household has put an additional strain on life!  ( I am not convinced that it has to, but it seems to be the case in our situation).   With some misgivings, we opted to take a 3 day trip during the latter part of Christmas Break and found that traveling with a vegan can be even more challenging!  

Of course, we still love her and miss her when she is not around – well, maybe not right away.. but things are not quite the same when she is gone  🙂    While this is not entirely new to us ( my daughter’s former boyfriend adopted a vegan diet for a period of time)  we have a lot to learn about the ins and outs of  a vegan diet.  True to form for a teenager, she already knows it all!  

What I find even more concerning, however, is the movement afoot to frame gluten as the true bad guy on the block.  I realize that there are some folks who simply can’t tolerate gluten, but I certainly am not ready to consider it an evil for all of us.   However,  that is exactly what some folks would have us believe.    At the top of this post is the split pea soup that I made this afternoon.   It is still simmering, and my wife and I are sitting here enjoying the homey feeling generated by the aroma of warm soup on a winter’s day.    No gluten in that.. as far as i know.

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But, there is a competing aroma coming from the kitchen.   I also made cut out cookies..   they have gluten in them, and I love them!   I can’t imagine anyone giving up cut out cookies ( unless truly gluten intolerant, of course)  –  they are the best cookies to dunk in a cup of hot tea..  but there is so much more to it than just taste.    Baking is all about memories –  memories of  my grandmother’s  cut out cookies – she was so proud of how thin she could make them..    memories of baking with my mother –  waiting, sometimes not so patiently, as she rolled the dough and then allowed me to pick the cookie cutter – her hand on mine, showing me how to place the cutter close to the cookies already cut out in order to maximize the number of cookies from each rolling.   memories of sharing cookies and tea with my parents in the kitchen late at night.  memories of baking with my own kids, passing on the tradition – sharing the joy of creating cookies that would bring delight to so many of our friends.  I imagine that one could make gluten free cut out cookies, but they simply would not be the same.  

I am sure that I have used more than my allotment of words for this post, so it is time to bring it to an end.   The pea soup is a favorite of ours, and it may help bridge the gap with my step daughter.. it is vegan 🙂    The cookies are wonderful..  this is the third batch I have made this week..   many were distributed to our neighbors, and this batch will make a nice gift for my aunt and uncle. ( with more than a few left over to dunk in our tea the next few evenings)     How fortunate we are to be able to enjoy a bounty of food along with the simple pleasure of spending a winter day in the kitchen preparing epicurean delights!