Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer in New Hampshire...Lobster boils, Coastal towns, and sand in between toes

Every summer weekend in New Hampshire is precious. We have noticed that New Hampshire-ites know how to play hard all summer long.  After coming through last winter, we understand fully this feverish desire to enjoy every minute of these summer months.  With the winter snow and ice a not-so-distant memory, each summer weekend is anticipated and planned for with relish, cherished from sun up to sun down, and adorned with bursts of colorful flowers everywhere.

We have had no trouble falling in step with this concept of playing hard each and every weekend and have joined right into the fun.  Recently, we took off for the little salty town of Portsmouth.  Hanging just below the Maine border, Portsmouth will always hold special memories for us.  It was in this quaint town at Christmas time 2014 that we made so many important decisions about our  future...which included our move here to New Hampshire.  

It was here in December that we delighted in the frosty little lanes of Portsmouth while graceful snow flakes twirled all around us.  We were bundled up in our down coats and capped by our knitted hats  and we feasted on steaming bowls of clam chowder.  The Christmas tree was lit up like a sparkling gift to delight and dazzle all the shoppers as they strolled in and out of the quaint and artsy shops.  The outdoor ice skating rink had just opened and the street scenes were ridiculously post card pretty.

The Dolphin Striker in Portsmouth, NH

It was easy to tell then that this town would probably be adorable in every season in addition to winter.  As quaint as everything was during the holidays, we surely didn't want to miss out on seeing Portsmouth dressed for summer.  And its summer ensemble was just as seasonally appropriate as we expected.  We were not disappointed at all!  Winter boots were traded in for colorful comfortable flip flops and pretty sandals.  Every breed of dog large and small seemed to be proudly attached to an owner as both happily strolled the bustling sidewalks. Flowers were bursting from window boxes and spilling out of the shop fronts.  The mood in town was as equally festive as it was at Christmas time...but now...boats filled the harbor, musicians fanned their delightful tunes to listeners on street corners, and delicious-looking ice cream cones dotted the hands of many passersby.

Top Left:  Seafood Paella at the Dolphin Striker
Bottom Right:  Seafood Medley over fresh Fettucini

Thank goodness we love seafood.  We LOVE seafood!  It would be hard indeed to live in the Northeast and not dream of clam bakes, lobster boils, and pots of clam chowder.  We had been recommended to try out a place close to the waterfront shops called The Dolphin Striker.   Set in a historic building at the corner of Ceres and Bow Streets, adjacent to the Portsmouth Harbor, The Dolphin Striker is a restaurant that has the wonderful dark ambiance of an old rustic English pub.   We felt as we were possibly sitting in the hull of a ocean faring sailing ship.  Their menu brings in worldly influences but celebrates the New England love of fresh food from the sea.  

Top Left:  Delicious chocolates and ice cream at Kilwin's Chocolate Shop

We sat in the depths of the mocha colored wooden berths that were made into intimate tables and peered out our little porthole window that looked out onto the harbor across the street.  The shops could wait for now while we fulfilled our cravings for all things seafood. The cheery ruby tugboats churned the waters as they moved in and out of the harbor.  Huge dark beams hung low over our heads easily lending the word cozy  and historic to our surroundings.  We eagerly roamed the menu trying hard to whittle down seafood options.  

Merry Hill Farm Antique Store in Nottingham...
my new absolute favorite spot for wonderful finds!

We easily pointed to the seafood trio to get our first taste of fresh seafood. Jumbo shrimp, lump blue crab and shelled lobster claws were served with drawn butter, house made cocktail sauce, and the restaurant's olde bay aioli.  Delish!  Wet our appetites nicely, but we were starving and wanted more.  

We had spent about 4 hours in Portsmouth with our fabulous window guy, Scott.  He spent all morning with us carefully selecting all manner of options with regards to the window replacements that will happen at the farm soon.  

Did we want "double-hung" or "casements"?  Did we want 4, 6, or 12 "lite" patterns?  Did we want them stained or primed?  

The options went on and on and on.  I don't think I'll ever be able to NOT notice windows nonchalantly ever again.

Les Madeleine cakes...easy, pretty, and delicious

We have our calendars packed full of summer time activities on weekends.  When Monday rolls around, the line of trucks comes up the drive, life resumes its temporary craziness for the work week.  Windows will arrive soon after the 4th of July holiday.  I can't imagine the mess that will ensue.  I am the type of person who unpacks every single box as soon as possible after a move to a new location.  I relish  spending hours finding places to tuck everything away nicely...usually not slowing down until the very last box and packing papers have been carted away.

Living now for 6 months with much of our belongings still in boxes, what isn't in boxes is strung all over furniture since closets are being redone, dust that is swept up from one day's renovation tasks resettles and coats everything by the next day...has made me a bit on edge.  

O.K. Patrick would define it as ALOT a bit on edge lately.

I'm finding that my solution to the chaos is to remember to escape, sit down, no matter what noise is happening around me, or how many people are in various parts of the house...and enjoy sipping a hot cup of coffee and enjoying a delicious snack.  There is a very limited amount of cooking happening in the "Thyme" kitchen at present.  The other day, however, it was fortunately Les Madeleine cakes that came out of the one working appliance...the oven. The oven has been our saving grace...little Les Madeleines cakes, warm out of the oven with their delicate scent of vanilla,  made a wonderful afternoon treat.  

Way on the top of the house, we have a little room in the red capped turret.  A tiny little narrow staircase leads up to a room that has views all across the hillside, river, historic cemetery, and covered bridge below.  We think possibly long ago it was a playroom for children.  Strips of red, white, and blue wall paper can be seen here and there.  

Now, it is filthy dirty  and needs weeks of good scrubbing and repairs.  I love imagining redoing this little turret room one day...just as my own little space.   I'll take my afternoon snack, or gouté as we called it in the south, and hide out there in a comfortable chair wrapped in a warm blanket enjoying a home baked treat.  I'll relish every bit of time there...before reluctantly descending and rejoining this tumultuous world once more.  

I'll dream of it...I'll plan for it...I cannot wait for that someday...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It's about time for a chat...about the birds and the bees that is

Apple blossoms in all their glory

Buzz!  Buzz!  Buzz!  You hear those sounds often and everywhere around here.  The birds and the bees, that is.  It is a bit overdue for a chat over here...for a chat...about the birds and the bees!

Spring has exploded into summer here in New Hampshire and everything is...well...procreating! From the expansive variety of birds that are visiting our well stocked bird feeders to the big plump bumble bees that are teetering on the fragile petals of just bloomed lilacs and delicately unfolding irises...summer is indeed a glorious and very fertile event over here.

We drove over to the bustling capital of Concord, NH mid-May to finally...finally...FINALLY close on our New Hampshire farmhouse.  We met our realtor, Hilda, at the title company office...which was located in a quaint little renovated house in downtown.  She carried with her a little brown woven basket of fresh eggs from her chickens and offered them as a gift to us.  It just seemed so perfect that she would gift us with eggs from her henhouse because so many people here are often sharing with one another  items that come straight from their farms as well as their gardens.  Those make the best of gifts I say...

Patrick and I were chomping at the bit to put our much anticipated plans into action for our newly acquired farmhouse.  There is so much we want to do that we found ourselves spinning in one direction after another trying to nose dive into our list of to dos.

Tom, our fabulous contractor, has projects laid out for this old rambling house for the rest of the summer.  We've started work in the kitchen, pantry, and mudroom.  Simultaneously, we're making changes to a couple of rooms upstairs so it is quite a disarray there too.

Top Right: American Goldfinch

As I sort through these photos here and collect my scattered thoughts over the last month, I could probably assume the role of "Where's Waldo?".  If I'm not knee deep somewhere in the yard, I'm knee-deep somewhere in the midst of my jam-packed family room.  "Where's Sarah?" could be called out and one might find me deeply tucked into my floral arm chair surrounded by our mounds of bric-a-brac. 

The kitchen has been moved into the family room.  The dining room and office items have been piled into the living room.  The porch that wraps around the house is cluttered with saw horses, piles of construction materials, and pots of flowers that I keep bringing home to add to my garden.

One wonderful discovery...the dogwood trees outside the kitchen window

Upstairs claims its own page in this long list of Kenney renovation marching orders.  Our bedroom is completely taped off by a huge plastic sheet.  Clothes are thrown on any and all available beds in the other empty rooms.  We decided to take three regular sized rooms and turn them into a master bedroom suite with ample closet space and a romantic bath in one of the turrets that was added in the early 1930's.  It certainly isn't in keeping with the time period of 1828, to have a master suite of any sort, but we decided...to indulge a bit and create a very personalized nesting space.

First sighting of a Baltimore Oriole

We're now on week three.  Three weeks ago, and now ever day, early in the morning, the pick-up trucks beginn rolling in one by one.  I try to have coffee brewing to get everyone welcomed with a warm morning drink before the unloading and banging begins.  It is amazing how many decisions must be made such as, "Where to best place electrical sockets and light switches...two inches this way or four inches that way"  and "Which color wood stain is the perfect one for the kitchen floors out of about 35 different choices of brown, mocha brown, cinnamon brown, nutmeg brown, cocoa nib brown...and then the standards...walnut, cherry, oak, pine, and on and on."

Pasolivo Tangerine flavored Olive Oil from California

Bit by bit, we are watching the plans that we have been dreaming about begin to take shape here and there.  After driving Riley to his college orientation, I ambled back along what is known as "Rt. 4 Antique Alley" popping into one little antique shop after another.  I found a wonderful little cherry cabinet with a smoky grey marble top at what is becoming one of my favorite stops, R.S. Butler's. We are going to modify it into a vanity for the sink. 

The birds and the bees...in addition to the baby foxes living behind the barn

The next quest that we have undertaken is an attempt to resurrect a completely overgrown lot.  A very invasive vine called bittersweet has had plenty of time to wrap itself around lilac bushes and forsythia bushes...stone walls and stone stairs.  In addition, daylilies have stormed through the gardens engulfing every available spot they could find to cement down their bulbous root systems and shoot up tall and unwaveringly proud.  We were first delighted to see the sweet little creamy bells of lily of the valley sprouting up around the porch perfuming the air with their sweet babylike scent... until they didn't stop sprouting and swept through front of the house drowning out the ancient pachysandra ground cover that was one of the established plants we were going to work hard to keep.  

Top Left: Black & White Warbler;   Top Right: Barn Views
Bottom Left: Front lawn;   Bottom Right:  American Golfinch

I clapped my hands with delight when I first saw the purple thorny stalks of blackberry vines that were tangled along the edges of the lot.  They were weaving in and out of the old black iron hairpin fence.  Blackberries!  My favorite berry!  ...ready soon to be picked on a whim and folded into creamy yogurt whenever a craving set in.  Little did I realize how fast blackberry vines spread and take over everything in their path.  Many occasions in the last couple of weeks I could be heard out there deep in the trenches of the lot yelling...ouch!  With the slightest brush of a pant leg or sleeve, the huge prickly thorns on the stem snag anything they can grab. 

So we've been pulling and digging and yanking and unearthing all manner of pesky invasive plants that want to take over every bit of green space.  As Tom, the contractor, pulls up the drive in the morning or Jim, the electrician, gives us the latest update on the impending arrival of his first baby (update: it's a girl!), I get ready to pull on my wellies and arm myself against the buzzing insects.  I grab all manner of tools that we've have been amassing more of each week, say goodbye to the banging and pounding that take over the interior of the farmhouse... and head outside for a full day of land clearing, weed pulling, and eventually flower planting for my emerging garden.

Bottom Left:  Squirrels pairing up with chipmunks to pluck the fallen seeds

What is most wonderful during these long days filled with chaos and change and construction...is to sit back among the weeds and tangles of vines and look out over the hillside at the huge maples overhead etching the sky with their fan-like leaves. I pause for a few moments to watch the variety of birds come for a visit to the bird feeders.  Springtime brought the bold and brash blue jays that swooped in with pomp and ceremony all dressed in their royal blue coats.  They like to hang from the suet feeder that is a block of peanut butter mixed with seeds.  In competition for this nutty concoction are the strong and nimble spotted black & white red bellied woodpeckers. Then, when I put black sunflower seeds out, the petite American Goldfinches fluttered in clusters to light up the tree branches with their bright flickers of yellow as they eyed the sunflower seeds too.  If I keep alert, every now and then, a cardinal will appear. It sits quietly and studiously on a branch like a red jewel amidst a canvas of leafy green. 

One of our surprise treats found in the yard...bleeding heart flowers

So a few days after we officially took on this Nehemiah Ordway homestead, I was knee-deep in blackberry brambles when Paul, who lives in a quaint farmhouse up the road, built in the early 1800's, drives by in a stunning velvety black Ford Model-T.  He rolled up our dirt road in his handsome antique car and called out to me, "Sarah, stop working so hard and come for a ride around your new neighborhood!"  Without hesitation, and with a grin from ear to ear, I brushed off my dirt-smudged face, stomped out debris from my heavy boots and left the mess of overgrowth behind.  I  hopped up in his refurbished "T" and we took a fantastic spin around the countryside.  Paul pushed and pulled all sorts of levers that told his ancient beauty just what to do.  We hand cranked down the tiny windows and let the air flow right through.  Paul is a passionate clock restorer, music box collector and a true bonea fide jack-of-all-trades.  I don't think there is anything the man can't pull apart and reassemble to near perfection.  He refurbished his antique Ford Model T  from top to bottom.  The seats have the most beautiful tweed brown fabric set off with a gentlemanly pin stripe of  black.  

Completely delighted riding around in such a beautiful antique car and feeling thoroughly entranced by our new surroundings, I thought of how different our lives are now from barely one year ago...I thought of the trials and tribulations we went through to land in this very spot in New Hampshire...and we couldn't be happier.

Paul...and his many refurbished collections...like his beautiful Model T Ford

Speaking of getting out and about town...and not just out and about our thick woods and vine covered hills around our home...my nearest neighbor Jennifer threw out an invitation to go to a garden gathering hosted by a friend of hers to meet many of the ladies of our town. Jennifer knows so many women from the town so for the first time, I immersed myself for an enchanting evening in the most warm-hearted, fascinating, and entertaining group of women.

I thought how nice it would be to scrub the dirt out of my finger nails for one night, put on a pretty summer dress, and go to a meet and greet garden party.  We've been so content to stay homebound and work to realize our dreams for this farmhouse, that we probably need to carve out time to get out into the town and see what the community is like around here.

Jennifer mentioned that since it would be a rather large group of women, everyone typically brings a dish to share.  I wondered what I could bring to this gathering but then I looked at our dismal kitchen situation.  

Right around the corner of the barn...baby Robins nested deeply in their nest

I scratched my head at that dilemma.  The only thing in our kitchen is the range. It is sitting in the middle of the shell of a kitchen.  All kitchen items are across the house flung all over the living room floor!  I quickly relinquished all thoughts of pulling something together and thought instead of bringing wine or perhaps a bunch of flowers for the host, Faith.  

But my eye happened to catch a fleeting email recipe from Saveur magazine that came through my inbox.  Darn! It looked so delicious!  I was already missing trying out different summer recipes in the kitchen.  Before I knew it, I was sizing up that lone range sitting in the middle of the empty kitchen assessing the potential outcome of this tempting dish and whether or not I was up for the challenge.

Not just a nursery...a destination.  StoneFalls Gardens in Henniker, NH

It was a pasta dish I spied from Saveur magazine..."Orecchiette with Rapini and Goat Cheese".  It looked so summery and delicious.  I didn't have orecchiette pasta (and neither did the market) but I did have a bag of interesting wild garlic egg fettucini.  I also had goat cheese with dill from Main Street Cheese in Hancock, NH.  The rest of the ingredient list was doable:  garlic, lemon zest, red chili flakes...

I eyed the cooking range in the middle of the kitchen.  A pot of boiling water...how difficult can it be to make this dish?  What pushed me to pull this pasta dish together was that I have been waiting to use an olive oil from Pasolivo Ranch in California.  

 Pasolivo makes olive oils from their orchards out in Paso Robles.  What intrigued me were their flavored oils...like rosemary, tangerine, basil, lemon, and lime.  I ordered a few bottles, the tangerine and the rosemary, and wanted an opportunity to try them out.

As we're always thinking of Europe for olive oils, I thought it was nice that a family owned olive oil ranch was located in the U.S.  They say on their website:

"For over 10 years, Pasolivo has been producing world-class olive oils from our orchard in Paso Robles, on California's Central Coast. On the path to organic certification, we have over 45 acres of trees that are farmed sustainably, and our own on-site olive mill. At harvest time each year, the olives are hand-picked and pressed within hours, producing olive oils of deep flavor and amazing freshness.

A trip to the gorgeous StoneFalls Gardens

I dug out a large pot, filled it with water, and brought it up to a boil.  While I stirred in the wild garlic fettucini, I added a second pot to boil for the rapini (also known as broccoli rabe).  

I used the Pasolivo Tangerine Olive Oil to sauté the garlic.  The wonderful light citrus scent of the olive oil  paired well with the garlic.  With the lemon zest and the crushed chili flakes, it all looked delicious but seemed to missing something.

After draining the pasta and mixing it together with the tangerine olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, and lemon zest...I thought I would jazz it up a bit more.  I added some sliced cherry tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and grilled sausages.

I rolled up the dill goat cheese into little balls so that people could scoop them up with the pasta.  I stood there in the middle of the kitchen.  All 3 burners were busy.  The floors were sanded down, the cabinets were torn from the walls, the windows were half boarded up...but it smelled divine in that room.

Off to the gathering of town women we went...me with my huge bowl of garlic-y pasta with that hint of tangerine olive oil and smoky grilled sausages.  We went through the middle of our small New Hampshire town.  After turning left, we rode up and over hills into a beautiful wooded setting several miles into the countryside.  We were at the home of Faith.  I knew instantly I would like Faith.  She is a woman that is immediately likable and energetic.  I carried in my offering to the dining room and set it on the table next to the most amazing array of dishes I've seen in awhile.  Each dish seemed filled with fresh produce from the many home gardens that exist in this area.  I had to circle the table just to admire the many flavors and taste combinations on display.

Top Left:  Red-bellied woodpecker
Bottom right: Lilacs popping open

The evening was enchanting.  Faith has expansive gardens that border a open hillside that look out on to a serene view of mountains in the distance.  A sweet path winds gracefully through the beautiful garden plantings and end at benches or little tables so that one can sit and relax and enjoy the New Hampshire mountain view.

I met so many women that evening.  We all seemed to be at stages of life where we have chapters of life stories and experiences to share.  Each person I met was so unique and engaging that Jennifer and I stayed at the garden party for hours chatting, listening, and laughing with this eclectic  group of women.

The evening came to a close.  I gathered my empty pasta bowl and chuckled to myself at my attempt to create something out of my meager home surroundings.  Not only was I inspired by the women, but also by the dishes that landed on the pretty dining table, as well as the beautiful garden setting.

I'm back now to the "Where's Waldo?" scenario.  I'm either lost in the yard tugging out what seems to be 100s of day lily bulbs rooted deeply into the soil or I'm hiding out among piles of our belongings trying to stay out from underfoot of electricians, plumbers, dry-wallers, and painters...waiting for the day when I can pull out the pots, pans, bowls, and ingredients to begin cooking up interesting looking recipes again.

Evening sunset from our back porch a few months ago (April)

*** I didn't have the orecchiette pasta so I used some raw garlic fettucini that I had on hand

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sounds of long ago...whispers in New Hampshire

Sweet Potato & Cod Soup with a hint of Cinnamon

The month of May rolled in smoothly adorning the countryside of New Hampshire with her gorgeous blooms and quietly blowing fresh soft winds all over the state to gently sway the newly leafed maples back and forth.  Last month, after thoroughly enjoying the Hancock Inn's first historical tour of the summer...an April trek through the early spring pine scented woods to visit and hear stories behind New Hampshire's abandoned cellar holes... I was thoroughly anticipating May's historical tour.

The next historic tour and dinner evening at The Hancock Inn in Hancock, New Hampshire would introduce us to the history behind the quaint and serene New Hampshire cemeteries.

As I drove from Merrimack county into Hillsboro county, pots of pansies dotted front porches and the little flowers peeked out of window boxes.   It is small wonder the state flower of New Hampshire is the purple lilac, or Syringa vulgaris.  The heady gorgeous scent teases us first like a beautifully wrapped gift that must wait to be opened.  The scent fills the air but the blooms are still tightly shut.  Their blooms promise to open soon but fortunately for us, they send out their lovely fragrance first before popping open second.

I was quite excited about this second historic tour because we would be touring one of the oldest cemeteries in Hancock, NH and learning about the residents who were buried there during the 1700 and 1800s.

Back at our own home, right down the road from our farmhouse, across the covered bridge and to the left of the river is the quietest most serene little cemetery up on a hill overlooking the water.  I very much enjoy wandering through our own little cemetery.  It overlooks the river below and beyond that the train station on the other side. I have become curious about the history of New Hampshire cemeteries in general.  One reason is because they all look like a scene out of the countryside of England or Ireland.  Their inscriptions on the headstones drip with stories of the past as they sit topsy turvy in little nooks and plots all over the state.  

Beautiful Magnolia trees in bloom for May

Hot coffee in hand, I drove up and over the verdant hills from our little village of Warner to the adorable picturesque village of Hancock.  The air felt scrubbed clean.  Where the trees were blanketed in snow just a short time ago, now they were as green as a sea of shimmering jade.

I admired the lake houses nestled along the shore of Lake Massasecum and noted the now bustling flower markets opening for the summer season.  Arriving at The Hancock Inn, I glanced at the busy little restaurant called Fiddleheads across the street.  I noticed the unfurling mass of fiddleheads clustered beneath the little restaurant sign across the inn...aptly named.

Apple Blossoms in full bloom

People were already gathering along the sidewalk to meet our guide, John Hayes, while getting to know one another.  It promised rain that morning so we all readied for our walk through town up to Pine Ridge Cemetery.  

Walkers were wearing knee high Wellies.  Some were crimson red, others were charcoal black.  Many men wore  Bean's Rubber Mocs, perfect for squishing through the spongy moss that covered the cemetery grounds.  The scent of lilacs was everywhere and The Hancock Inn had them in vases in many of the main rooms.

I am enjoying these monthly tours immensely.  I have met people local to the area, from different parts of New Hampshire as well as from the New England area.  I have met naturalists, writers, painters, geologists, historians, and all manner of people interested in the history behind the quaint cemeteries of New Hampshire.  

In 1920, the late Orland Eaton bequeathed the town of Hancock $100 to document as many of the tombstones in the graveyard as possible.  The town of Peterborough, up the road, had gone through a similar documentation and the Historical Society of Hancock decided to do the same.

As we wandered quietly through the Pine Ridge Cemetery, I couldn't help but notice little iron pins with etched numbers and letters on them.  These were placed here long ago so the town could map out the gravestones in order to document the cemetery.

Sweet Potato and Cod Soup with a hint of Cinnamon

The names on the dark smoky grey tombstones were wonderfully classic.  Names like: Elwyn, Orvan, Eugene, and Abbie were easy to read on some stones and harder to make out on others.

My mind tried to imagine life here in this little village during the 1700 and 1800s.  One inscription made me pause with sadness.  The mother's name was Mary, but there was no mention of the daughter's name.  It read:

Here lies a mother and her only daughter, closed in the grave side by side, with hopes of meeting their precious Saviour. (May 28, 1851)

Scenes in New Hampshire

As we stood around John Hayes,  he spoke about the lives of the people buried underneath our feet.  I couldn't help but fully embrace the moment, the images of the time period then versus now.  The time that we each have on this earth seems so fleeting as we each leave traces of our lives that will be recorded for future generations to ponder.

Another sweet grave stone stood wobbling to the left.  Tiny little pink flowers surrounded the earth around it.  Again, the inscription caught my eye.  The tombstone was in dedication to the daughter of Captain John and Millicent Washburn who died at the age of 14 years old.  It read:

But yesterday, her eye her smile, were sweet as thine Her heart as gay.  Fair flower she bloomed a little while, Now earth resumes its native clay.

How utterly bittersweet, heartbreaking,  and lovely all at the same time.  Again, my imagination soared as we progressed over to the gravestones of those those men who fought  in the French and Indian War.   The soldiers who fought in the Civil War had their resting spots identified with medallions and little American flags that stood proudly waving in the soft May breezes.

Again, my attention was diverted.  I tend to wander away from group situations.  I yearned to sit in front of each gravestone and carefully read  the inscriptions of each one.  While I was reading one little tombstone, barely a granite nub above the ground...a tiny little chipmunk popped out the rock wall to my right.  

He didn't seem afraid.  Possibly, the little guy was used to people wandering dreamily through this historical site.  I exchanged a few words with him.  He shuffled his little chipmunk paws at the sound of my voice.   I stood up to join the group again and he scampered back in his little hole making cute little scuttling sounds with his tiny little feet.  

John Hayes, our tour guide through Pine Grove Cemetery in Hancock, New Hampshire

One tombstone literally made me gasp when John Hayes walked us over to it.  It is the tombstone of Moses Eaton.  The name immediately made me think of the entryway to our farmhouse we just bought. We were told that our stenciling in our front entryway was done by this  renowned New Hampshire stenciler named Moses Eaton.  

Pine Grove Cemetery in Hancock, New Hampshire

Moses Eaton was one of the best documented stencilers of New England in the late 1700s.  As European fashions were making their mark on wealthy Bostonians, one of those fashions was imported wallpaper.  For those who couldn't afford the expensive imported wallpapers, stenciling was the next best option.

Moses Eaton later settled in Hancock and began copying some of the wallpaper patterns by stenciling them in people's homes.  After he died, the original kit of wall paper stencils was found in his attic.  Many of them matched the designs found in the homes of that area of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire stenciling became an art form in its own right.  The stencils were filled with symbols that had important meanings to settlers during that time period.  I found this bit of information about the stencils that helped me define and become even more curious if the stencil in our own farmhouse is one of Moses Eaton's stencils:

The swag and pendant, known as the liberty bell, was a patriotic emblem of post-Revolutionary America. Of those derived from nature, the flower baskets represented friendship; the oak leaf, strength and loyalty; the willow, everlasting life; and the pineapple, hospitality. Hearts, then, as today, stood for love and happiness, and were part of the "redding up" of a homestead for a new bride.

We definitely have one of the floral patterns found in Moses Eaton's collection of stencils.  It can be seen here.  The curious thing is that at the bottom of our entry way wall, there is a stencil of a camel being pulled by a man as well as a stencil of an elephant.  I've looked carefully at all of the Moses Eaton stencils that I can find online.  I only see his stencils of horses, so we'll have to do more investigating on the the origins of these animal stencils.

It is a mystery that we cannot wait to delve into and see if we can put the pieces together!  Meanwhile, we are bouncing around ideas on how to preserve the stenciling as we do some redecorating of the entry way.  

As everyone marveled at the tombstone of Moses Eaton, we eventually moved on to discussing the markings and artwork that adorned tombstones of this period.  What I love about these historical tours is dreaming about not only the wonderful dinner being prepared for us later that evening back at the Hancock Inn, but knowing the  discussion of historical cemeteries will continue into the evenings.

The Hancock Inn in New Hampshire

The group eventually dispersed and everyone went their own way again.  We were going to meet back at the inn for the gourmet dinner.  I took my time and ambled down the Main Street of Hancock.  I passed the tiny little post office building.  It sits on the bank of a pretty little lake.  As I walked further, I looked up at the gently swaying weathervane at the top of the elegant white church.

The Hancock Inn, New Hampshire

Next I walked by a few historical homes.  Their gardens along the street were all nicely tended and some blooms, like purple foxglove and lily of the valley were opened.

I couldn't resist stopping into Main Street Cheese Co. to visit the baby goats in the back.  They were scampering from log to log showing off their cuteness..  Some were munching of wads of hay while curiously looking at me.  Others were nudging each other trying to start up a game of tag.

Sarah, the goat herd owner and cheesemaker,  makes the most delicious goat cheeses.  Basically, anyone can pop into the barn, choose from a variety of goat cheese in the refrigerator, leave some money in the tiny money box and be on their way.  I picked out a goat cheese/dill combination.   When my cousin visited, I put this out with crackers next to my sweet potato/cod soup.  Delicious!

With Wellies discarded and fresh clothes on, Patrick and I returned to The Hancock Inn for the evening dinner.  The speaker, Glenn Knoblock, was invited to join our table and continue the discussion about New Hampshire historic cemeteries.  Glenn is a historian and author of twelve books.  He studied the markings and artistry used during the 1700 and 1800 time periods and unraveled the rich stories of historical events, such as the Great Awakening, the Throat Distemper epidemic, and the American Revolution.

Dinner was delicious!  I believe I had the best meal I've had yet at The Hancock Inn.  I selected the North Star Farm Lamb with spring herbs, split pea & sugar snaps.  Phil and Lisa Webster run North Star Sheep Farm up in Maine.  They have been sheep farmers in Maine for years as their families go way back in the sheep farming industry.  The lamb was cooked perfectly and just melted with flavor.  

New Hampshire scenery

As usual, the meals at the inn inspire me to return to my own kitchen and create dishes based on these experiences.  Last month, I enjoyed the delicious creamy turnip soup.  I decided to make at home a sweet potato & cod soup for my cousin's visit during May.

The soup I made has a slight hint of cinnamon and oregano.  Surprisingly the combination of that with the sweet potato and cod  with that touch of unexpected cinnamon came together nicely.  

The month of June will bring a much anticipated historic food tour.  The theme will be "food" of New Hampshire.  Not only does the theme work perfectly for my never ending thirst for new food endeavors, I will meet Edie Clark of Yankee Magazine.  

With our house being torn up from kitchen to Master Bedroom, these evenings away staying at the inn are much needed breaks.  The hammering and plaster tearing that is happening over here at the farmhouse has left our lives in temporary disarray and on certain days in chaos!  Much of the style that we are decorating our house is of similar time period to that of The Hancock Inn so it is also inspiring for to see their finished product.  

Until next month's tour...