Saturday, July 4, 2015

Courtyard Renovation

Our renovated courtyard.
In order for Dan to have easier access to the driveway when navigating with his walker we redesigned the little courtyard between the master bedroom of the house and the garage.  The French door from our bedroom opens out to a small deck with no steps involved.  Going out our front door requires going down two steps. 

We removed the pergola and fence that separated the courtyard from the driveway and built a new fence separating the courtyard from the backyard. 

Original fence and pergola in foreground was removed.  Deck is extended.

New fence and wrought iron gate.
The deck was rather narrow so we extended it by half.  To make an easy transition from the deck to the driveway and to the backyard, we installed stone pavers making a nice wide walkway that easily accommodates a walker (or even in the future if necessary will accommodate a wheelchair.)  We are making changes around the house that will enable us to stay here rather than our having to move to a Continuing Care Residential Center. 
Installing the stone pavers walkway from deck to driveway.

These renovations required that we redo the landscaping in the courtyard. 

Plantings along the space between the deck and the garage.

The "rock" at the base of the arborvitae is the signal for the invisible fence that keeps Maggie in the courtyard. 
(Notice the white flags.  Maggie is  being trained to stay away from the electrical field.  The flags will be removed.)

Annuals in space between walkway and driveway. 

Daniel Johnston pottery shows up nicely at night. 
Joel Haas "mask" made of garden tools. 

Opening up the courtyard has given a whole new view from the driveway and the street. 

The changes that we made are making it much easier for Dan to enter and exit the house.  It has been a fun project. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Brookvale Farm in Northern Ireland

Brookvale Farm, the house.

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Northern Ireland for the wedding of Thomas and Rebecca was visiting with Thomas' parents Ann and David at their lovely Brookvale Farm.  The main crop of the Farm is the orchards of Armagh Bramley apples. 
Young apple tree.
The last of the apple blossoms in early June.
Mature Bramley apples in the fall of the year.  (Photo from the internet.)

We had two wonderful dinners out at Brookvale and a barbecue on Sunday after the wedding.  Ann and David are marvelous hosts and they have a wonderful extended family.  The whole family was there for the wedding festivities. 
David (father of the groom) cooking potatoes on their Aga stove. 
One of Ann's delicious dinners.

The cozy fire in the dining room.
In the yard are two gorgeous copper beech trees.  I am partial to copper beeches, because Dan and I were married in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the beautiful garden of one of Dan's friends under a copper beech. 
A beautiful copper beech tree in the yard at Brookvale.

The leaves of the beech tree are copper colored hence the name copper beech.

The beautiful house has been in the family for several generations.  Soon Thomas' older brother Stewart will be taking over the farm.

Ann greeting Joan and Robin in front of the Glass house.
The parlor:.  Left to right:  Ann(mother of the groom), Joan (grandmother of the bride), Robin(mother of the bride)..
The grandchildren were here for the barbecue on Sunday and they enjoyed playing with the little Jack Russell farm dog, Jack. 

Thomas' niece, Scarlett, playing with Jack the farm dog. 

Visiting with the Glass family at their farm was delightful. . 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Rhubarb in a Savory Recipe

Chicken Tagine.

I had been looking in vain for rhubarb last week. I began to think that the season had passed here in North Carolina.  But yesterday I was at Harris Teeter, and they had rhubarb so I bought all they had---about 10 lbs-- I guess.  What I don't use right away I will freeze.  I  made a rhubarb-strawberry crisp for dinner last night,  I remembered I had seen a chicken recipe in the NY Times that called for rhubarb so I googled and found it.  I made it for dinner tonight.  Chicken Tagine with Rhubarb a recipe from Martha Shulman

      1  whole chicken, 4 to 4 1/2 pounds, cut into 10 pieces
       Salt and pepper           
       2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
       1 small onion, finely chopped
       1 medium carrot, diced
       2 leeks, white and light green parts, chopped
       2 garlic cloves, minced
       ½ teaspoon turmeric
       1 teaspoon sweet paprika
       2 ½ cups chicken broth or water
       1 3-inch cinnamon stick
       ½ teaspoon sugar
       12 to 16 pitted green olives (optional) ( omitted these) 
       1 to 2 tablespoons rhubarb syrup (see Poached Rhubarb recipe)
       ¼ cup chopped parsley
       Poached rhubarb (see recipe)


Poaching the rhubarb.
       Rice or couscous for serving      

  1. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, brown chicken pieces, in batches, on both sides until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove to a sheet pan.
  2. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from the Dutch oven and add onion. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze, until onion begins to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add carrot and leeks. Cook, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about a minute. Season with salt; add turmeric and paprika and stir.
  3. Return chicken to Dutch oven and add chicken broth, cinnamon stick, sugar and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 35 minutes.
  4. Add olives, if using; cover and simmer another 15 to 20 minutes, or until chicken is fork tender. Stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons rhubarb syrup. Taste and adjust seasoning.
    Rhubarb syrup (note the black seeds from a vanilla pod).
6.  Before serving, stir in parsley and poached rhubarb and heat through over low heat. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with rice or couscous.
Ready to eat. 

I served it with couscous to Joe and Bob (after their long day at the lab) and Dan and myself.  It was quite tasty.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Day Trip in Northern Ireland

The ruins of Dunluce Castle. 
The day after we arrived in Northern Ireland, Thomas took a group of us on a lovely trip up to the northern coast of Northern Ireland. 
The route we took from Dungannon north to the Giant's Causeway

Our first stop was in Portstewart on the northern coast. 

Thomas was our tour guide for the day.
Robin enjoying the view out over the North Atlantic.

At some point, I believe when Thomas was in University, he lived here.  This is where we found the Donut Tree, their version of our Krispy Kreme. 
At some point Thomas lived in the apartment above the blue building.  He sure had a nice view.

James about to order a donut at the Donut Tree.  (James is a delight, and he was a great help to Joan and me on this trip.)
The ruins of Dunluce Castle along the northern coast of Northern Ireland.

Then we made our way along the coast we stopped by the ruins of the medieval Dunluce Castle.  Lovely!!!! ! Dunluce Castle is located close to a headland that plunges straight into the sea.  It was abandoned shortly after part of the castle fell into the sea on a stormy night in 1639. 

Dunluce Castle is regarded as the possible inspiration for Cair Paravel in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia.

We finally arrived at our final destination, the Giant's Causeway.  We walked all the way down to the bottom where we saw the columns of basalt laid down by an ancient volcano.  (But most of us took the bus back up.  Some of the younger walked or possibly ran all the way back. )

Stepping stones of basalt laid down by nature.
Thomas points out a feature to Joan.

Here I am standing at the base of the basalt columns perfectly formed as a result of a volcano some 50 million years ago.
We saw much of the beauty of Northern Ireland on this day trip.  Enough to make me want to go back and explore more though.  Thank you Thomas.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Spice Cottages in Dungannon, Northern Ireland

Spice Cottages in Dungannon
On my recent trip to Northern Ireland for Rebecca and Thomas' wedding we stayed in a wonderful self-catering cottage, Clove Cottage one of the Spice Cottages in Dungannon.  Joan and I stayed in Clove and the rest of Rebecca's family stayed in Nutmeg Cottage next door to ours. 
Clove Cottage in what once was a stable.

This was a perfect place to stay.  The Cottage was renovated from 150 year old stables on the property.  You would never know this had once been a stable!!!!  It was outfitted with everything one would need and the hosts, Olive and Perry, had left a "welcome" package for us: milk in the fridge, bread for toast, butter, jam and tea.  We added a few things from a local grocer---fruit, orange juice and scones.  We had breakfast there every morning, but ate the remaining meals out---often at Thomas' house. 

The resident cat, Marmalade, was friendly and often sat on the ledge outside our window.
Marmalade outside our window.
Joan in the living room of Clove Cottage.

In the back, Olive had a wonderful garden with lettuce, peas, strawberries (not yet ripe).  And two Shetland ponies had a small fenced pasture out back. 
Lettuce and beets.
Shetland ponies.
Lupine in the garden.

The main house where Olive and Perry live has a thatch roof.  That was very interesting to see. 
Main house in background with thatched roof. (Photo from the Web.)

If you should be traveling to this part of Northern Ireland, I heartily recommend that you consider staying at Spice Cottages.