What a lovely thing it is to say friday evening. Whether you are the type of person who looks forward to a night on the town...or a person more like me who just wants to settle in and snuggle at home...friday evenings are the filled with unwinding, de-stressing, and topped off cups of hot apple cider.
I have my feet stretched out as close to the fire as I dare, a kitty on one side of me happily purring away and a fluffy little dog practically enveloped behind my head on the sofa cushion. I can feel his breath on my neck. His little legs begin twitching in rapid fire motion as he chases imaginary birds in his dreams.
How normal and entirely relaxing this Friday evening feels after the tumult of the house going on the market in Houston in September, house hunting all over the New England area through the fall, and then experiencing our nerve-wracking last minute change of heart on one beautiful home days before Christmas leading to the serendipitous finding of another beautiful home...this beautiful old home we are resting our lives in for now.
|Rolling up and down the New Hampshire hills...the air laced with curling smoke plumes
Patrick has taken off again for Italy. Before he left, we took long therapeutic walks along the river trail. We would occasionally talk about the decisions ahead of us that will have to be made at some point. Decisions like where are we going to live? Do we want to buy land and build a home? How many homes might come on the market to look at soon? Do we even want a permanent home base or should we tempt fate and try a nomadic lifestyle for awhile. Blah, blah, blah...
|Lower left: A bit of forest fun...Patrick being impaled with a gi-normous icicle!
But on the trail by the river, we mostly just stop talking and walk. Sometimes side by side. Sometimes one in front of the other, leading the way. Surprisingly, walking through the woods is noisy business. I always imagined that during winter, the still and quiet of the woods would be such a profound experience. It is. But, one has to be very very still to feel the profound quiet and expansiveness of the woods.
Walking through the woods, however, is a noisy affair. If we are talking, we feel like our voices are disturbing the frozen tundra for miles around. If we are silent, the sound of our boots crunching the snow seems to shatter the quiet. Our footsteps sound deafening and so disturbing in the forest.
|Shhh...no walking, no talking. Only then can one hear the forest noise
So, we walk a little bit, we talk a little bit...and then we grow quiet. We end up just standing still in the woods and waiting for the noisiness of our presence to dissipate and let the quiet of the woods present itself. No footsteps crunching, no voices yammering away, just beautiful pristine...quiet.
|The farm up the road has their Angora goats all bundled up
to keep the beautiful fur clean
The sound of the river rushing alongside the trail is soothing. The occasional chirp of a bird is sweet and pretty. The swaying of the pine tree branches is soft and swishy. The earth is so frozen and everything in it must be tucked deep down into it, we seem to be like giants trudging noisily on top of a slumbering earth.
Tonight, I'm looking into the mesmerizing flames flickering every which way within the fireplace. This is a fire that I built. In fact, I have two fireplaces crackling away on this Friday night. Four weeks ago, I had never started a fire in my life.
|Kumquats in the winter...a serious treat
I feel like I should have some sort of badge pinned to my down coat when I go out and about that boasts my recently learned fire starting skills. People would see it...then wink...and remark what a hardy New Hampshire-ite she is turning into in such a short time.
"First get the paper wadded up" Patrick coached before he left, "then put down a layer of kindling." I could hear Patrick's voice instructing me on what to do as I carefully stacked the logs that Riley brought in from the barn. I arranged them in a neat little stack on top of the pile of kindling.
And...then I wait...rather impatiently...
First a few hissing sounds start. Curls of smoke climb their way up the floo. I wonder if it is spelled "floo" or, perhaps "flu"...or maybe "flew". Oh, another thing to google.
Before not too long, a rolling, crackling fire is waving away successfully. I sit back, with a Cheshire cat-like grin of satisfaction and stretch out my toes in realization that I am finally truly relaxing.
I decided to try out a new chicken recipe for supper on Thursday night. I threw out a last minute dinner invitation to our new friends who have been so kind to us to join us. This chicken dish can easily be pulled together two days in advance and then popped right into the oven before guests arrive.
I've been so impressed with the recipes that I have tried from the Ottolenghi cookbook that I keep trying one more and then another. I don't even have the cookbook. I just happen to come across a recipe that sounds delicious enough for me to see where it is from...and then I find that it is another one from this fabulous chef, Ottolenghi. It is probably time I actually buy the cookbook.
This delicious recipe combines the brininess of olives with the rich pillowy softness of medjool dates. The caramel like flavor of the dates, the garlic cloves, white wine and fresh oregano all marinate together for several days with the chicken to make an extraordinarily flavorful sauce. Before the chicken comes out of the oven, the tray is placed right under the broiler to get the chicken skin nice and crispy.
|The gorgeous views from mountain perched homes
Being all flustered with our new guests, I forgot this final step. Too bad, because the chicken is delicious once the marinade has caramelized under the broiler and that crispy chicken skin forms. Oh dear...next time...
Never did I expect to meet so many kind neighbors so soon after our arrival. I dug out our nice plates, set them on the rather makeshift dining room arrangement we've concocted, lit candles throughout the house, added logs to the fireplaces to warm the rooms and looked forward to an evening getting better acquainted with a very lovely family.
We've been trying to get out more and explore the beautiful countryside around us. We've found a couple of plots of land with beautiful mountain views in the distance. Should we build? Should we renovate? As I watch the morning birds playfully toggle with one another on the trees outside the kitchen window, these questions whirl around in my head much as I dreamily swirl around the hot milk in my coffee.
We've discovered the gorgeous drive up to New London. We sampled the locally brewed beers at The Flying Goose. They have delicious clam chowder as well as locally sourced beef hamburgers...all with gorgeous views of Mt. Kearsarge in the distance.
|The adorable optometrist's office
We've popped into one of our little village's restaurants called The Foothills. They make homemade cinnamon rolls the size of my hand! We took one home and cut it into slices to toast as morning bread. It was delicious and now I fear it will be hard to pass through the village without picking up one to take home.
|The lakes are dotted with hardy ice fishermen
The best, Best, BEST part of this week was this southern girl putting on a pair of skis for the first time...EVER!
|Lower Left: The barn from the hill going down to the river
We were invited to tag along on a day trip to Ragged Mountain up in Danbury. This ski resort is only 25 minutes from our house.
Riley and I were like the blind leading the blind. From figuring out what clothes to wear to trying on the clunky cumbersome ski boots...we were nothing short of pure awkwardness and more awkwardness.
Learning to ski is tough business for a southern girl trained in classical ballet most of her youth. The idea of pointing those skiis straight forward, as opposed to a ballet first position, is as abnormal a feeling as trying to write with my left hand.
"Oh, you're a natural" was said to me several times. If that were true, then I imagine that taking one tiny step forward with the skis strapped on, criss-crossing the blades and repeatedly falling in slow motion smack down into the snow is...natural? I became a pro doing that skill for about the first full hour.
After a good hour, though, and learning the "stop" move with the skiis, my shakiness and dorkiness lessened to a tolerable and more manageable degree. The fun of swooping down (a very teeny hill, I know) began to become more and more thrilling with every unwieldy attempt.
Watching the 4 to 6 year old group of kids sweep past us looking like animated super heros is hard for the pride to digest. As I heaved my tangled mess of a self back to a standing position, evil thoughts of sticking out my ski pole in front of one of the adorable pint size wiz kids slipped across my mind. Those little ones are so darn adorable...and talented...and fast!
We are hooked. We are smitten. We are already planning our next ski day on the slopes.
It is rather amusing to watch the three of us in front of the fire on this dreamy Friday evening. Polly, Chester, and I are sleepily sunk deep into the cushions of the couch while the heat envelopes the room and keeps out the deep winter chill.
In contrast, we might be right back on the slopes tomorrow in the throes of the chilly January air. I am definitely planning on making a huge pot of soup in the morning along with some apple spice bran muffins. Perhaps the evening will be a repeat of tonight...the 3 of us sitting in a dreamy stupor staring at the flickering flames performing their dancing ritual that lulls us into complete relaxation.
Life is good.
My heart is full.
Let me pinch myself one more time.
Labels: Baked Chicken with dates olives, capers, chicken, chicken with dates, chicken with olives, sweet savory chicken