Our first Easter as New Hampshire-ites. Being that it was the coldest, most frigid, most arctic winter on the books of New England, most people are surprised that we're still here...that we've lasted until spring. They shake their heads in pity when we reveal that we moved here two days before Christmas in the thick of this winter's powerful punch. Then the head wagging begins. Sorrowful and pitiful head shaking is offered as we tell our tale of woe about trying to settle here when New England's winter tempests decided to wallop the state with blow after blow. After the head wagging slows, most everyone around here starts offering all sorts of help and advice - do you need more wood? Are you keeping warm enough? Can we plow your road for you? Do you know how to roof rake?
We've roof raked. We've wood chopped. We've snow shoveled galore. We have no idea what the ground looks like underneath all of this beautiful white snow. As much as we've thoroughly embraced, and shoveled, and plowed through our first winter, we're starting to get a little antsy to usher in the next glorious season this stunning area of the country has to offer - Spring.
Madeleine flew home from Texas, or I should say, flew to her new home... for Spring Break. Spring Break up here doesn't coincide with Easter. Since we've rarely spent an Easter holiday apart, I decided to have a "faux" Easter holiday during her Spring Break holiday that celebrates the changing of the seasons and the budding of new life everywhere...even if that new life is still under 2 feet of snow up here.
So we declared it Easter holiday in New Hampshire, 2015...in March...two weeks early.
I woke up at the crack of dawn the day of her arrival into Boston. A few days before, I put on my ankle length padded Patagonia down coat,thick cable-knit cream hat, and my new hefty Boggs boots so I could brave the icy temperatures of our big red barn. I dug through boxes and boxes of stored belongings until I located our tucked away Easter decorations.
There was the shoulder-high green fuzzy bunny that has stood at every doorway of each house we've owned since the kids were little. One bunny paw reaches out as if to wave "hello". I used to hang a little basket filled with Easter candies on his outstretched bunny paw.
I shuffled through the crunchy snow from the barn to the back of the farmhouse ferrying an armful of pretty Easter books I've collected, my box of hand blown and painted Easter eggs from our trip to Alsace last year, all carefully wrapped in layer after layer of bubble wrap, as well as my little stack of mis-matched frames with photos of the kids, from one year to the next, in their various pastel Easter outfits.
The house was transformed from winter plaids to springtime linens. I bought bouquets of pink roses and filled candy dishes with pink, yellow, and blue candy coated chocolate Easter eggs. We drove our college weary daughter back home from the airport, lit several fires until they crackled and sputtered and warmed the house all over, and all settled in for a week filled with much relaxation, a bit of antiquing, quite a bit of skiing, and lots of baking and...of course, eating!
We also missed being together for Madeleine's birthday in February...another first. So bunches of roses were in order and cake had to be made as the week morphed from a birthday celebration to an Easter springtime revelry. As usual, I had all sorts of outings lined up but time flew by and only a fraction of my plans were checked off as our list of places to go around here gets longer and longer with the changing of the season.
Getting out and about is such a treat in New Hampshire. The most interesting and delightful finds are in the most un-obvious places around here. Heading north towards Kearsarge Mountain, but off the main path and down a windy old bumpy country road somewhere near the frozen Lake Sunapee and alongside Otter Pond, we stumbled into Prospect Hill Antiques. Located in a rambling beautiful old barn that seems to extend for half a mile this way and then again that way, we waded through farmhouse tables made of thick knotty wood, Welsh cabinets that stand solid through the years, and all manner of paraphernalia for sweeping and sorting the ever present wood burning fireplaces that warm up many farmhouses around here.
We were tickled and anxious to get Madeleine introduced to our new weekend home-away-from-home...Ragged Mountain ski resort. We fitted her into the huge clunky ski boots, snapped her into those unwieldy skis, fastened a ski helmet on and...off she flew down the first ski slope as if she has been skiing for months.
Unlike me, who is still awkwardly schlepping along on the slopes, I've now been out paced by my entire family. I still keep a wary eye on the evil ski lift that dumped me down the slope as I flailed my ski poles wildly trying to gracefully exit the chair lift. Madeleine, with her years of ballet training, I thought would have similar difficulties as me with keeping her skis straight in front of her instead of veering outwards...but she gracefully swooped down the hills with confidence and delight.
So several hours later, cold but happy, we extricated ourselves from the cluster of ski equipment, bundled up into the car and with bun warmers on full blast, bumped our way down the mountain side along the newly discovered gorgeous New Canada Road. This hilly wooded road short cuts us down the mountain but at the same time winds through some spectacular country scenery showcasing distant mountain views that go on and on and on...
With little surprise, we ended up at what is becoming our weekend hang out spot for good New England food and beer...The Flying Goose. Strategically situated at the bottom of the mountain on the outskirts of New London, The Flying Goose is perched perfectly to catch tired skiers, offer them a roaring fireplace to warm up, and a bank of windows that capture the beautiful mountain views to enjoy while sipping on one of the hundreds of New Hampshire brews.
Back at home, relaxing and unwinding from the day, we heard a little tapping at the door. I poked my head outside as Chester unleashed a series of shrill and painfully pitched barks more apt to alert us to a wild bear attack. A sweet little bundled up face looked up at us. She introduced herself as Pam and said she just wanted to welcome us to our little village area. In her mittened hands, she held a carefully wrapped parcel of pound cake that she had just taken out of the oven. It smelled divine against the frosty cold air that was quickly filling up with thick fat snowflakes. We ushered her inside to get out of the chill and into in the family room that was warm and toasty from the wood burning fireplace.
We all settled down again and welcomed Pam into our lives. Pam and her husband Paul live down the road in another of the cluster of historic farmhouses in this small village. They, too, had the dream of living in a rural village in New Hampshire. So we sat back and listened to their tale of relocating to the wonderful life that this area of the country can offer.
With it being maple season in New Hampshire, Patrick just couldn't resist pulling together a batch of cookies to have on hand during Madeleine's week home...that involved maple syrup. The maple syrup is flowing from the many maple trees in this state. This event makes for another end of the winter time treat and the farms are filled with horse drawn sleighs pulling visitors deep into the woods to see and taste the maple syrup that makes New Hampshire known for all sorts of sweet maple flavored treats. We had a fabulous time visiting our first maple farm about 40 minutes away at a family run place called Charmingfare Farm.
As usual, we all end up spending most of our time in this big farmhouse kitchen around the hefty soapstone island. I got to work on making a pretty Birthday/Easter cake for our "faux" Easter celebration. I knew my menu was going to be predictable. Everyone in my family often offers up the same menu suggestions at this time of the year...Easter ham, potatoes au gratin, and roasted brussel sprouts. Just when I think I'm going to get something unpredictable and novel on the menu, the requests come in for the tried and true favorites. No problem...I can do that...I'll figure out how to jazz up each traditional favorite just a little bit.
I decided to make a simple white cake flavored with vanilla that is thick but moist. M. loves lemon curd so I slowly stirred a batch of creamy lemon curd over a double boiler until thick and velvety and put it in the refrigerator to cool down and firm up. The nice thing about lemon curd is that it can be made ahead of time since it does take some patience to get it to come together.
For the cake frosting, without skipping a beat, I went to my trusted blogger friend, Heather from Sprinkle Bakes dessert blog. She always makes amazing and gorgeous desserts and for this frosting, she had a little video to guide me through the process. I chose her Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting.
I wanted a pretty sweet springtime cake, so I tinted the frosting to make it a pale shade of pink and made the drizzle of glaze over the top white.
In between baking cake layers and stirring together lemon juice and egg yolks, I rode along with Madeleine for a few interviews she lined up for internship opportunities for the summer. We were both excited for one interview in particular with New Hampshire Magazine based in Manchester, which is only 25 minutes away from us.
New Hampshire Magazine was pretty much the single source that guided us to interesting sites, beautiful photography, and wonderful writing about this state. When we were back in Texas, with maps spread open on the kitchen table, we were looking at Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts as possibilities for us to settle. We knew very little about New Hampshire and our fingers unknowlingly glossed right over this perfectly situated state.
I googled a few websites on the various states that interested us. I had the New Hampshire tourist office send me a copy of their visitors guide. They sent The New Hampshire Magazine to us. Today, the pages are dog-eared and the magazine is frayed from cover to cover as we have read the articles over and over. Eventually and with growing certainly our curiosity about this state moved our fingers to land here...and the rest is history!
So Madeleine and I drove over to Manchester for her interview with staff from this wonderful magazine that helped us so much in our family search for a new home state. I spied an antique store along the way so I popped in there to browse their wonderful selection. I actually picked up a beautiful set of the green and white floral antique dishes that I used for our Easter table.
I did feel rather guilty strolling carefree around a delightful antique store while my daughter fretted and stressed over her round of interviews. However, I recall the many MANY interviews during my college years looking, or shall I say, begging for summer internships. I had a very ill fitting black and white suit that I wore over and over again to dozens of interviews. My summer internships were nothing as exciting and glamorous sounding as working for some of the exciting magazines she has lined up as hopefuls.
So we returned home to wait for news from yet another interview process. I sliced up potatoes for a gratin and shredded a large block of gruyère cheese to sprinkle on top. I whisked together a heavy thick batch of orange marmalade with spoons of robust mustard to spread generously on top of my ham. I sprinkled a handful of cloves onto my cutting board and studded the ham all over with this wonderful spice.
We peeled and sliced handfuls of brussel sprouts, rolled them with olive oil and sea salt, and spread them on a large baking tin to roast in the oven until caramelized and crisp on the edges. I had some hazelnuts on hand, so I chopped some of those, toasted them for a few minutes and tossed them over the sprouts.
The aroma of the potatoes in the oven, bubbling away in a casserole of cream and thyme began to envelope the house along with the baking ham and roasting brussel sprouts. I had my cake stacked and frosted with generous dollops of lemon custard in between each layer and was now ready to be adorned with fresh flowers on top.
And then the email came for my daughter...The New Hampshire magazine would be so pleased to have our daughter work there as an internship experience for the summer. What wonderful news! What relieving news! As parents, it sometimes seems just as stressful to me as it is to my children to watch them put themselves out into the world and hope they aren't rejected.
Child #2 is also going through a round of interviews as he moves closer to locking in summer jobs. It seems we are doing quite a bit of resumé writing, rehearsal interviewing, neck tie "tying", and interview waiting around here.
So we wrapped up our "faux" Easter weekend celebration just as the rest of the country is embarking on the national holiday this weekend. It was fun to be in this New Hampshire farmhouse and celebrate another holiday as a family together but in yet a new location. The snow is melting quickly each day, the river down below us getting louder and louder as the water melts and begins to rush faster and faster. From Patrick's office window, he can see the water sparkle and dance on the river as springtime ushers in his beauty after a very long and hard New England winter.
I'm looking forward to visiting all of the wonderful blogs out there around the world that I enjoy reading to see Easter celebrations happening in so many different countries. Just moving from the south up here to the north, we've already added maple as a new ingredient to springtime celebrations at this time of year. This is what makes food blogging and travel writing so much fun...the sometimes subtle but delicious taste differences that happen due to the natural offerings of the land from one location to the next.
Happy Easter 2015...wherever you are and however you celebrate!
Labels: baked ham with marmalade, easter dinner, easter vanilla cake, lemon curd, New Hampshire Easter, Prospect Hill Antiques, swiss meringue butter cream