Back in Canada Again
We packed up the pups and ourselves and departed South Carolina on Thursday morning. We had heard there was a big storm coming to the North Carolina and Virginia mountains and wanted to be ahead of it. We did exactly that. We left on a beautiful clear and very cold for South Carolina day. In the low 40’s. The car was packed with our suitcases and a huge box of Christmas presents that I had finished packing at 5:30 in the morning the day before. Seems I don’t like to sleep much prior to departure. Must be the excitement of the adventure. Anyway, I got the gifts wrapped and packed in a big box that fit perfectly in the back of the car. We put the dogs in the back seat where I could easily get to them if needed. Bean was seat belted in but I couldn’t find Wyke’s seat belt so he just hung out behind the passenger seat. They seemed happy to cuddle with each other but I must admit that I think Wyke does not love long car trips. He seemed restless and didn’t really want to lie down, just in case. Towards the end of the trip though, he seemed resigned to his fate and finally curled up with Bean. You can’t really see Bean in this photo unless you look closely.
The dogs are terrific in the hotels that we stay in. We have a very large blanket that is exclusively for their use and since they end up jumping on the bed we put the blanket there to protect the covers. We took a different route from Beaufort to Lexington, VA our goal for first night. Rather than fight the traffic around Charlotte, we went further up 95 and then went cross country. It was a gorgeous day and a beautiful drive. Lots of turns but no traffic. Totally delightful. Timing was actually very good. Overall, it was about 15 minutes longer than the highway but so much more relaxing. We went to our favorite restaurant in Lexington for dinner. Bistro on Main. We are always greeted as long lost friends by Jackie who owns the place. Such a nice thing to have happen when you are on the road.
The second night was at The Avon Old Farms Inn which is our home away from home. We have been going there for years. We have had weddings there and christenings and funerals. They never disappoint. Two of our favorite people were there and we were once again warmly welcomed. Bean wasn’t happy about staying in the room and I could hear her barking so I put her in the car while we ate our dinner. It worked well as she is very content in the car.
We headed north on Day 3 with a stop at Yankee Candle – you cannot believe the crowds waiting to get in. However, our timing was again perfect and I was in and out in less than 15 minutes. This is a situation where you really need to know what you want, get in there and get it, and get out. We then worked our way to Katie’s house where we picked up more packages and left off a very few. Katie provided us with a delicious pumpkin soup and a sandwich for lunch. It was incredibly cold but again very clear, blue sky and sunshine. Time to get out the down jackets!!!
We arrived back in Canada at 5pm. What I can’t get over is how dark it is here so early. We were lucky enough to have a dinner invite for our first night back at the cottage so we unpacked the car with just what we needed and fed the dogs and took off for dinner with our good friend Jennifer. A really wonderful tradition. Surprised that Jen still feeds us as it was after dinner 3 1/2 years ago that I ended up having a heart attack. It wasn’t the food, guaranteed!!
We left the kittens behind. They are much happier there and for a few weeks it really does upset their world to have to move from one location to the next. They have a wonderful kitten sitter who comes in every day to play with them and to clean the litter box and fill their food bowls. I feel guilty for not bringing them with us but I know they are probably much happier not having to be uprooted. Can’t figure out how Cleo might have turned on the Christmas lights!!!
I love that our sitter sends me pictures so I know they are doing well. We miss them but really it is much easier to travel without them. We certainly will bring them with us when we come back up for the summer.
It’s Cold Outside
Lots and lots of snow up here. Bean had no idea what the white stuff was but it only took about 10 minutes for her to figure out this was great fun. She has been outside and running around looking for the chipmunks she left behind in October. They are not around at all. There are a few ducks on the water but that’s the wildlife we have seen so far. It’s snowing as I write this and looks very pretty outside. My personal opinion is that there should never be snow in the city only in the country where it can stay white.
It is quite an undertaking to get this house pulled together for Christmas. Lots and lots of decorations are stored in big plastic boxes in the under stairs closet. It is fun to get things out but it isn’t easy. Seems the stuff I need first is always in the box that I put in first so I have to empty the whole closet to get to what I want. Lighted greens on the two mantles and my wonderful Byers Choice dolls that I have been collecting for over 40 years. The first ones I got were from the Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, Vermont which happens to be where we are headed next week for my nephew’s wedding. I may just have to see if they have one in the gift shop that I can buy.
Walking and Recipes
Walking took a back seat this week. We did manage a couple of good walks around the island but then once we got in the car, no more walking except to stretch our legs and switch drivers every couple of hours. I’ll give it a go once I find my warm walking clothes for here. It’s just not that easy compared to South Carolina.
We had a wonderful dinner last weekend with the Crown Roast of Pork but let me tell you the Sweet Potato casserole was outstanding. So I get to share it with you here, this week. We are going to make this again, it was that good. Enjoy!
5 pounds sweet potatoes (5 to 6 large potatoes)
1 large (1 1⁄2 oz.) shallot, grated (1 1⁄2 Tbsp.)
1/3 cup whole milk 2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter, melted, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons black pepper, divided
1 1/2 cups pecan halves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups coarsely ground day-old sourdough breadcrumbs (2 1⁄2 oz.)
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded (about 1⁄2 cup)
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place potatoes on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until very tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 1⁄2 hours. Cool 30 minutes. Peel and discard potato skins.
Stir together potatoes, shallot, milk, eggs, sage, nutmeg, 1⁄2 cup of the melted butter, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1 teaspoon of the pepper with a fork until mostly smooth. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
Combine pecans, breadcrumbs, cheese, and remaining 1⁄2 cup butter, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Sprinkle pecan mixture in an even layer over potato mixture.
Bake, uncovered, at 350°F until topping is golden brown, 28 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.
To make ahead, prepare recipe through Step 3. Cover and chill overnight. Let baking dish sit at room temperature while oven preheats. Proceed with recipe as directed in Step 4, increasing bake time to about 45 minutes.
The only substitutes that I made were cream for the whole milk and I used regular bread crumbs. I didn’t have any whole milk but the cream certainly didn’t hurt the recipe.
Grating garlic and shallots is very different but the flavor is wonderful.