Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Sick House

Three down, two to go. The sickness is moving through the house. I never got sick before I had a baby. Now, it's all the time. And it moves through the house. Sometimes it comes back. Kenny and Grammy got violently sick the other night. I thought it might have been the pizza we ordered. Two days since and now poor Uncle Wally is sick. Willie and I are the only ones still well, knock on wood. Hand sanitizer is my friend. Hand sanitizer is my friend. Sort of like Dorothy clicking her little red shoes together.
With my luck, it will be happy new year--you're sick.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

On Making Soup

"It calls for leeks, should I use the green part on top?"

"Why not," says Kenny.

Sure why not? Probably has more nutrition. I am making soup tonight. After a week of butter, cream, beef, pastries, cheese spread, more cheese spread, I thought it time for a simple meal. And there it was in the newest issue of Cooking Light Magazine, the golden winter soup. It looked so nice in the photo. A shade of golden yellow from the butternut squash in the ingredients.

And here is where the leeks come in. When I used the whizzer 6000 hand held boat motor blender to puree my potatoe, squash and leek soup, it turned green. More like split pea.

I guess that answers the question about the top of the leeks.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Help We're Buried In Toys

Our living room could very well be the newest showroom for Toys R Us. There are toys everywhere. There's also now a jungle gym in the middle of the living room--fully assembled---just in case you feel like a little climb before dinner. Apparently once you have a child "of toy age" the post Christmas clean-up takes on a whole new life of its own. Every grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, the mailman, person on the street can't resist buying toys for a child who now wants to actually play with them. I'm sure once I'm in their shoes I'll be the same way. But now, I'm hoping not to trip over the lead laden Thomas the Train toys and break my arm.
My friend Jason had this to say "Well, Lara, you've lost your living room for good now." He knows what he's talking about. He has two kids and his living room is wall to wall toys. Poor Jason had to build a porch sunroom just so he had a toy free zone in which to sit, watch TV and perhaps enjoy a glass of wine and some quiet. Too bad my porch/sunroom has already been lost to firewood storage or I'd head out there...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Book Reviews Are Coming In

The first book reviews from local readers are coming in.

Here's one from Jen Cronin, an Exeter High Alum who bought it for her parents:

"My dad read your ENTIRE book Christmas morning. In fact he had to read the last three stories in the car on the way to my grandmother’s house because he couldn’t put the book down. My mother said it was a good thing she was driving because he nearly peed his pants reading the last two chapters. He loved the Nookie story. My mom said she nearly drove off the road because he was laughing so hard. I'm pretty sure that they have both read it now.

So glad I saw it at the Water Street Bookstore. I think my dad loved this gift more than the snow suit my mom got for him!"

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Another New Exeter Blogger

First Wayne Patten, now Mike Lambert. The list of Exeter bloggers is growing. Mike is a local watch dog in town who has just started the new Exeter Town Crier blog. Want to know what's happening around town or in local government or boards? The juicy stuff. The stuff the local papers don't necessarily write about? But the stuff you should know about if you want to keep up on what's happening in your town. Well, the Exeter Town Crier is the place to go to find out.

Monday, December 24, 2007

There is butter in my hair and sugar in the air

AHHH. I think I know why Julia Childs has a little nip here and there while cooking. I'm good with cooking. Baking is another story. I don't have the patience for it. And I don't really like following rules, which is imperative in baking. I've spent the last few hours trying to make the very stunning (in the photo in the Bon Appetit cookbook) mocha raspberry trifle for Christmas Day. This involves making sponge cake from scratch. This could push some people to drink. Including me. Every year I swear I will just go plead with Judd my favorite downtown Baker's Peel baker to make me the sponge cake. But I don't. And every year, I give myself an ulcer trying to make the sponge cake. You see, you have to make the egg yolk, butter, sugar, flour part and then the egg white part. Then you are supposed to "gently" fold the two together. Let me tell you, there's nothing gentle about trying to fold something that has the consistency of putty with light, whipped egg whites.

And now to add to my stress, our first guests have arrived 45 minutes early. I have egg in my hair. Butter on my face. And nothing to wear!!! Ahh, more wine I suppose

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I'll Be Home For Christmas (in my Saab)

My Uncle Wally is a man passionate about old Saabs. He fixes them, collects them, even made his own part for one that he was hawking on Ebay for a while. And then sometimes he tries to drive from Ohio to our house in one. This all depends on which of the three or four Saabs seems to have the best probability of making it to his destination.

The last email I had said he'd be leaving Ohio Saturday or maybe Sunday to arrive for Christmas. My mother claimed he might be here Sunday. And Grammy has just been going about shaking her head and saying "Those old Saabs, I hope he doesn't break down."

Surprise--he did. Somewhere in Pennsylvania. He'll be here Christmas Eve. This of course makes me wax nostalgic for my childhood in Vermont when he always arrived Christmas Eve, and of course in his Saab. One year we didn't have a Christmas tree until he arrived and went off in the wilds of Vermont to chop one down.

I must be channeling him these days. Today, less than two days from Christmas, I finally decorated our tree.

I take that back, I may have been brainwashed by the Christmas crab that resides here with me.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hand Cut Fries, Big Food, Good Prices

So we tried out the new Steve's Diner today at lunch time. They've only been open about 5 days and the parking lot was packed. The inside was packed too. I'd say that this means we needed a place like this in town as the one other place like this is always so packed you can't get right in.

They've added new tiles, new hanging lights and some silver metal strip decor thing around the top of the walls. But other than that, it's the same.

I will say they need to turn up their heat, but that could just be me.

Here's the deal on the menu-- hand cut fries! Everything is home made and they have a huge dessert display with things like carrot cake, Boston cream cake, grapenut custard and the list goes on.

I had a cheeseburger. It was made by hand and huge. Pretty good, but I'd like a few more spices thrown in the mix. The handcut fries were awesome! Kenny had a steak and cheese sub, which was also huge. Willie had his standard grilled cheese and grammy had hash and eggs. She said the hash seemed to be homemade.

The menu's standard diner fare. Eggs, Omeletts, French Toast, club sandwiches, burgers (they did have a turkey burger) and spaghetti.

Here's the other cool thing---they're open for diner, which makes for a great family location to hit up. The one thing I would pass on that's on the dinner plate section--liver and onions. Ick.

The Official Moose Milking Video (And A Man Who Likes Moose Milk)

For those of you who are still wondering how to milk the moose. Check out this video

Even better, this NPR piece in which some Russian guy talks about his "first time" with the moose milk. I am a bit skeptical as he sounds like the guy who played Borat.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Case of Mistaken Identity

For months now, my little grammy, age 90, has been receiving calls for a "David" on her new phone number in Exeter. The people looking for David are really looking for him, if you catch my drift. Despite Grammy saying she has never heard of David, they call back again. And again. And again. They leave messages saying David had better call them back right away or suffer the consequences. "We know you're there David," they say. They won't take "Nope we've never heard of David for an answer."

These frequent calls often lead Grammy to walk about sputtering when the phone rings "That's probably those people looking for David."

I know what you're thinking, like I was, that a David must have had her phone number previously. I surmised he must have left some unpaid bills.

They called again last night.

And this time, I got on the phone to explain that David didn't live here. I asked if they could give me David's last name. They did. It was Bridgeham. And so I did a reverse phone look up and low and behold, there's a David Bridgeham listed in Stratham with gram's phone number. I googled David. And, yep, you guessed it, he's in jail. To read the complete story about why he's in jail, click here.

I've no doubt these people looking for David think the sweet old lady is just a cover for David, who's hanging out in her apartment or something. I told Kenny to watch out because if he misbehaves, Grammy's going to call out her secret hidden tenant to lay the smack down on him.

I told Grammy we should change her answering machine so that it included the phone number to the county jail for the people looking for David.

"Oh, no, we couldn't do that, what would my friends think when they called and heard I had a criminal's phone number?"

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Party Games

Maybe it's the snow. Maybe it's the fact that I was inside all day. Maybe it's the season. Who knows. But tonight I found a fun game for the holiday parties. It might be more fun after the holiday eggnog.. Check out the top picks on the Comcast On Demand these days. There it is--holiday karaoke. Yes, you heard correctly. You don't need to visit Stacey Janes down on the beach or long for the days of that place on Epping Road. Right in your very own home, you can host your own Christmas karaoke party.

Kenny is oh so thrilled---NOT---that I found this little fun game. Just think of the fun we can have at the annual family Christmas Eve celebration, I told him.

Now I googled this and found that there is a whole subculture of people addicted to not only Christmas karaoke from Comcast, but regular karaoke as well. Check it out here

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Exeter Inn Closed?

No doubt there are countless Exeter families out there that look forward to going to the Inn of Exeter for their holiday meals and get togethers. Now I'm hearing that the new owners of the inn have closed up shop for renovations and will be closed right through the holidays. When I drove by yesterday I saw scaffolding inside the inn. Where will people go for their fancy New Year's Eve dinner or New Year's Day brunch? What about Christmas? The inn's web site isn't even up any more with information about when they will re-open.
Lucky for me, the inn wasn't up there on my list of places to take a young toddler for a relaxing meal. We'll likely hit the Old Salt or Abercrombie and Finch in North Hampton.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Moose Book on Sale in Exeter

It's a big day! Through frantic scrambling, I was able to get some early copies of the book in time for the holidays. Thanks to the wonderful help of book store owner Dan Chartrand, the moose book is now available for sale at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter. It's still kind of surreal, but how cool!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Life with the Christmas Crab

As the clock ticks down to Christmas, I thought it might be a nice time to revisit a column about how this time of year goes in my household:

Call me cheesy, but I’m one of those people who starts getting excited about Christmas even before Thanksgiving. I tune my radio pre-set buttons in my car to those 24 hour holiday music stations the day after Thanksgiving and ride around singing every Christmas song (even when I don’t know the words) until the big day. I bake cookies. I make decorations. I even watch all of those feel-good Christmas specials on TV. (Yes, I even watch the really bad made for Lifetime TV Christmas movies).
My husband, on the other hand, transforms into a creature I call “The Christmas Crab.” As soon as the holiday decorations start going up in stores and around town, he starts to grumble. He scowls. He frequently growls, “I hate Christmas.” There is nothing I can do to change his mind.
Of course, this doesn’t stop me. It just challenges me. The more he hates Christmas, the more I try to make him like Christmas. And the more I try, the more he claims to hate the holiday season. It’s a never-ending cycle.

To read the complete column, click here

Sunday, December 16, 2007

An Escape Plan

I went outside to put the horses out and couldn't find my winter boots. Instead, I pulled on a pair of Kenny's, size 10 wide hiking boots. I'm a size 8.... I closed my eyes to get across the driveway, thinking of happy thoughts, warm weather of a week ago. Snow is blowing. Coming up under my pants through a hole at the top of the boot.

Freezing cold. Freezing Cold. Freezing cold snowball in my, I mean Kenny's boot. Got in through a big hole in the side. Cold. Cold. Cold. I hope this old retired horse doesn't run away while I have a snowball in my foot. It's burning cold. Stinging cold. I hate winter....

Back inside;

"Hey Kenny, you've got a hole in your boot"

"I know"

"I got a snowball on my foot"

Should've checked it, he says.

And that's when I found the great winter escape--Skybus out of Pease. They are now offering flights to St. Augustine/Daytona area airport on the east coast of Florida and the Fort Meyers airport on the Gulf Coast side. Fort Meyers fares are a lot higher. Most likely because it's near Marco Island and Naples where everything is 3x more expensive. But there are deals to be found on St. Augustine side, from $45 one way! Most in January are $65 each way. Combine that with the fact that you don't have to pay to park and you can get away for a weekend cheaper than going to Boston. I spent a lot of time in St. Augustine growing up and it's a very historic and interesting place to visit. And it also happens to be the oldest city in the US.

And warmer!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I've made

So unfortunately we missed the deadline to the printer for Christmas delivery on the big moose book. Welcome to the world of publishing, which is a lot slower than the frenzy of the newspaper world. It should be available late December/early January now.

So you can't stand not spending some extra money this holiday season? You can order it now through which is pretty exciting and a bit surreal. I find it odd that a book store in the UK picked it up, but who knows.


Steve's Diner in the old Pizza Hut on Portsmouth Avenue is set to open for breakfast on Monday December 17.

A Three Hour Tour

Here are some of our neighbors at the Silver Glen Springs and the approach up the channel. The water was only a foot or two deep at most places, but I'm sure the gators could still hide there to bite my toes off....

Last Thursday morning, we fueled up the SS Ibis, our house boat, and headed toward the Silver Glen Springs and Run. The marina told us it was a four hour trip. It was more like five, but well worth the trip. Though it was a bit scary while crossing Lake George to learn that we had to stay in a very specific area because of the military bombing range on the side of the lake. So you've got alligators on one side and bombs on the other--great! It was about at that point when I decided a cocktail might be in order in case we were lost at sea. I know, I know, it's a lake, but it was huge and seemed like we were on the ocean.

After making it all the way across the lake, we entered the narrow channel to the springs. We saw a woman with a bow and arrow poised on the water while steering her boat with her foot. Apparently the modern day spearing of fish. Kind of scary. I was hoping we didn't encounter her at night...

The water was crystal clear and that perfect shade of green/blue. We saw all sorts of fish, turtles, birds, but no gators. At the end, a half dozen boats were anchored up and there was a roped off swimming area. I was still not sold on swimming in an area where alligators hang out, but at least it was clear so you could see them coming. We saw no alligators that first day, but dozens of jumping fish. Apparently in some cases, these fish can be more dangerous, like this case last year. Think you might lose your limbs to a gator? Beware the jumping fish.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No More Vincent's....

Why is it that every time we get some place in town that actually offers live music on a regular basis they leave?? I was sadden to see the big "For Lease" sign in Vincent's window downtown when I returned from vacation this week. I really liked the place and loved the fact that you could hear some form of live music every weekened. Plus, I loved the fact that Al Lampert, of Al's Automotive, became partners with Vincent after the blond chickie to the right returned to her roots in Rochester.

Vincent always knew it was me when he got an order in the kitchen for shrimp scampi, XXX garlic. What can I say? I'm fending off the vampires.

Why Vincent closed up so quickly or where he went are mysteries to me. I guess I'm going to have to get a tub of garlic at the grocery store to drown my sorrows...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In Search of the Elusive Manatees

See those gray things in the water? They are the elusive manatees heading up the natural springs for winter.
And here is the not-so-nice sign that greeted us at the Blue Springs State Park

Day Two on the House Boat:

We are heading up the St. John's River on our house boat with eyes glued to the water. "Come out manatees, show yourselves," Kate calls out. "Come out gators." I know, I know. I wouldn't call them out either, but she's from Detroit and not afraid of gangs and driveby shootings. So why would a little old gator worry her?

Alas, all we have seen so far are herons, egrets and turtles. But they are everywhere. As we sit in the lap of house boat luxury, we are in the middle of nature.

"Are you sure they didn't warn you about water moccasins," I asked Kenny.

"NO," he says for the 1000th time as he attempts to make sense of the map the marina gave us to navigate. Our destination is the Blue Springs State Park, which is the winter haven for the endangered manatee. It's supposedly close by. We make it in just over one hour. Now comes the question of how we get off this beast. I'm still convinced there are water moccasins in the water. But instead, I find this sign about alligators.

The manatees migrate to the springs during the winter (yeah because under 80 degrees is winter down to these southerners) because the water is always 72 degrees. We saw 6 manatees rolling lazily as they made their way up the clear waters of the spring.

Monday, December 10, 2007

We're Back.....

This is what was lurking behind our boat the first night on board. Some idiot next to us, who was fishing, kept throwing bait at him. Good plan.... NOT.

And here is the bird that hid out behind our boat the first morning. Most likely to hide from the gator that was being well-fed by the not so bright fisherman.

I had grand plans of posting to the blog every day on the house boat. But as usual, technology got the better of me. So stay tuned for some fun travelogue style blog entries this week. One local man's wife asked him why they couldn't take fun vacations like the house boat. You can. There are marinas all over the place on the St. John's River with weekend and week long rentals.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

This is our first trip with Willie and we might as well have rented a tractor trailer to carry the pile of essential baby items that we're carting along with us--play pen, play yard, portable high chair, back pack, life jacket and the list goes on.

Good thing we rented a mini van in Florida to carry all of this plus all of Kate and Sean's essential baby gear. Also good there's a roof rack on the house boat to store the loot.
Oh yes, sorry to see the snow coming. Looks like we're escaping just in time!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

We Might Be Crazy

So, you might ask yourself, what were we thinking? We head out Sunday morning for the Holly Bluff Marina along the intercoastal waterway in Florida for a week on a house boat. With our little monkey climber and our dear friends Kate and Sean with their little female monkey climber. Two toddlers. One houseboat. One week. Willie's trying out his life jacket today.

Some warnings on the marina's web site include one about not swimming in the St. John's River because of alligators. I am also a bit disturbed that the theme song on the marina web site is the Gilligan's Island song.....a three hour tour.