Spent about SEVEN HOURS today visiting with Uncle Randy and Aunt Mary Ellen at the lake! I got there at 3:40 and didn’t leave until 10:30. I told them several times they should kick me out (in case they were getting tired), but nope! (I think Aunt Mary Ellen was starting to get a little tired near the end, but that Uncle Randy didn’t want me to leave and kept talking and talking!) The coolest part is, I had never even exchanged more than just a few words back and forth with them until just a few years ago. I was always sort of scared of them when I was younger! But they are actually insanely easy to talk to and incredibly enjoyable to spend time with. And I’m not usually good at talking to people and get easily worn out by too much socializing. But I was chatting away the entire time!

I think the reason they are so good to talk to is: 1) they make you feel really comfortable and at home, 2) they actually talk about interesting stuff, 3) they let me talk, too, so it feels very balanced and engaging.

Because I’m quiet and reserved, sometimes when people talk to me, they don’t really let me say anything. Like I say one thing about myself or what I’m interested in, and then because I’m not that forward about it, they proceed to take over the conversation and just talk about themselves nonstop so I only react/comment on their topics and never really get to share anything myself. I’d like to (in some cases), but I need the right feedback to open up. Uncle Randy and Aunt Mary Ellen don’t do that. They talk about all sorts of different topics, and actually let me contribute to the conversation. And because they make me feel so comfortable, I’m much more animated with them, and more casual/relaxed. I like it!

I’m really tired tonight for some reason, but I wanted to write about this afternoon before the day is over. I had volunteered to bring Dean’s car in to the car dealership for a service appointment, and I wanted to visit the Ancient Burying Ground in Hartford today, so he suggested I ask them if I could get a courtesy shuttle to take me there. (I actually told them I wanted to go to Travelers’, which is across the street, since that sounds less weird than going to a cemetery.) The car dealership is right across the river from Hartford, so it was super quick and worked out perfectly! I didn’t have to drive in Hartford, find a place to park, or anything—they just drove me and dropped me off, then picked me up again after the car was ready! And I didn’t have to wait around bored at the car dealership. So brilliant!

The Ancient Burying Ground was closed this spring for renovations, but they reopened at the end of June, and I had been wanting to go and check out the changes, which include a revamped and more welcoming entrance, lovely new pathways and benches, and improved landscaping. Most of all, I wanted to see my brick! Dean originally tried to get me the brick as a Christmas present back in 2010, but it didn’t work out at the time because the walkway improvements were stalled. But the very gracious secretary remembered me from my e-mails and contacted me again this winter when they planned to put in new bricks (!), and it’s there at last! It looks fantastic, and I love knowing that the money went toward preserving the Ancient Burying Ground.

The best thing, though: the coolest and most amazing coincidence happened…! When I arrived at the burying ground, I was slowly pacing back and forth on the walkway looking for my brick, and one of the Hartford middle school students who are in a summer program to give tours of the burying ground approached me and asked if I wanted a tour. I had had one a few years ago, but I said sure, and she started the tour. Less than a minute later another lady walked up and asked if she could join the tour, so I said of course—we had just started and I didn’t mind starting over.

When the girl passed us off to the boy who was doing the next segment of the tour, he said to my companion, “I recognize you! You’re Mr. Holcombe's daughter, aren't you?” I turned to her in surprise and asked, “Are you Anne Holcombe?!” I introduced myself and she knew who I was immediately. Anne is the secretary of the Ancient Burying Ground Association, and the person I have to thank for my brick being made and installed! (Her father, Shepherd Holcombe, was the president of the ABGA and the spearhead behind the ongoing restoration program that started in the 1980s, the reason the site is in such beautiful condition today.)

We continued the tour together and then talked for quite a while afterwards. It was such a pleasure meeting her and I can’t believe the incredible coincidence in timing! Wow!

After she had to leave, I stayed for a little while longer and took some photos. It was the first time I had been back in the Ancient Burying Ground since meeting my friend and gravestone mentor Rick there last summer, so I was thinking of him a lot (especially because his memorial service and burial were this weekend in New Hampshire), and I made a point to visit the mulberry tree where he had introduced me to picking mulberries. Mulberry season has passed, but as I stood inside its leafy shade, I missed him very much and thought about how lucky I was to know him. I smiled fondly as I wandered through the stones and was greeted by the familiar Gershom Bartlett and Glastonbury Lady Carver faces (both of which Rick was studying, and we’d admired together).

It was a lovely day, and only about 80°, so I stopped at Carini’s on the way home to pick more blueberries, then realized as I was picking that it was a fitting tribute to Rick. I didn’t know it until he died, but berry picking was one of his passions. When my berry bucket was almost full, I heard something struggling on the ground in the netting that protects the berry picking area. It was a robin with his head caught in the net. When he saw me, he started squeaking and flapping ineffectually. Poor robin! I put down my berries and carefully lifted the netting, freeing him, and he flew away! I was so happy!!! :-)

We had such a nice weekend!  ♥  The weather was cooler, and it was perfect for sitting outside on the patio.  We had a cookout and ate outside, and even had a fire with s’mores Saturday evening.

Saturday afternoon we bought two new bird feeders to replace ones that were destroyed by time and use, and had lots of entertainment watching the birds and squirrels figuring them out after we set them up.  One is a new tray, which the squirrels are allowed on, and the other is a new tube feeder that’s exactly like our old tube feeder except it has a copper anti-squirrel cage around it!  (The bird store person said it was the most beautiful feeder in the store, ha!  It’s pretty nice.)  The poor squirrels were very tortured by the delicious smelling seeds and nuts that they couldn’t reach, and kept doing all sorts of wacky things to attempt to get at it.

So far, only finches and titmice have ventured inside, so I don’t know if Mrs. Downy will be comfortable with it or not.  Larger birds can’t fit, but the downy woodpeckers should be able to get in.  We’ll see.  I really hope Mrs. D. will use it and feel safe in there.

Oh, and Red and Mrs. Red have a new Red, Jr. again this year!  He or she was around a lot, at the triple-and-feed, and is really cute—pretty large, but immature looking compared to the adult red-bellied woodpeckers, and with no red on top yet.

We had such a nice weekend! ♥ The weather was cooler, and it was perfect for sitting outside on the patio. We had a cookout and ate outside, and even had a fire with s’mores Saturday evening.

Saturday afternoon we bought two new bird feeders to replace ones that were destroyed by time and use, and had lots of entertainment watching the birds and squirrels figuring them out after we set them up. One is a new tray, which the squirrels are allowed on, and the other is a new tube feeder that’s exactly like our old tube feeder except it has a copper anti-squirrel cage around it! (The bird store person said it was the most beautiful feeder in the store, ha! It’s pretty nice.) The poor squirrels were very tortured by the delicious smelling seeds and nuts that they couldn’t reach, and kept doing all sorts of wacky things to attempt to get at it.

So far, only finches and titmice have ventured inside, so I don’t know if Mrs. Downy will be comfortable with it or not. Larger birds can’t fit, but the downy woodpeckers should be able to get in. We’ll see. I really hope Mrs. D. will use it and feel safe in there.

Oh, and Red and Mrs. Red have a new Red, Jr. again this year! He or she was around a lot, at the triple-and-feed, and is really cute—pretty large, but immature looking compared to the adult red-bellied woodpeckers, and with no red on top yet.

I spontaneously went to the Bozrah Farmers Market for the first time tonight, and it was GREAT! I got some chocolate truffles from my favorite truffle lady, a hot doughnut (which I wolfed down), a shepherd’s pie pasty (also wolfed), delicious Danse de la Lune cheese from Beltane Farm in Lebanon, and a package of three huge frozen turkey necks from Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm in Sterling! (I’ll have to ask my mom how to cook them!) It was on the green and had live music, a pony train, and lots of friendly vendors and customers. Super pleasant atmosphere. It was sort of like a mini-version of the Coventry Farmers’ Market, with much less insane parking. I really liked it and will definitely go again. Bozrah is easy to get to, and it’s sort of at a cool time: 4-7 on Friday evenings.

The best part was that I stopped at Susie’s house on the way home and had a lovely time hanging out with her and Charlie and Noel the cat. So much purring! I couldn’t resist petting and petting and petting the cat the whole time I was sitting on the couch, even though I’m allergic. He was just so crazy about me and was loving it so much, and so was I! I washed my hands lots afterwards, so hopefully I won’t get a cat rash. Heh.

!!!  Wow!  Look what happened to the broth I made from the chicken feet & giblets!  I reduced it a bit more yesterday evening by boiling it for longer, and then it really did gelatinize in the refrigerator overnight!  So cool!  (Okay, maybe I’m easily impressed by kitchen magic, but I’ve never done this before and it’s pretty neat.)

!!! Wow! Look what happened to the broth I made from the chicken feet & giblets! I reduced it a bit more yesterday evening by boiling it for longer, and then it really did gelatinize in the refrigerator overnight! So cool! (Okay, maybe I’m easily impressed by kitchen magic, but I’ve never done this before and it’s pretty neat.)

Today was a PERFECT day for pick-your-own berry picking at Carini’s! Lots of nice fluffy clouds, so it wasn’t too hot, and I was practically the only non-employee there. I chose Carini’s as my picking spot because I think their blueberries and raspberries are the best tasting, but it turned out to also be a really nice place to pick.

I picked two pints of raspberries and almost seven pints of blueberries! (Blueberries are a lot easier to pick and are also a lot cheaper.) I did the blueberries first, and kept noticing I was picking with my left hand, which is weird because I’m right handed. The bushes were FULL of blueberries. The best raspberries were on the inside, but then you had to be willing to get scratched, which I mostly wasn’t. They are so so good, though. The best part was EATING warm, fragrant, newly-picked raspberries while driving home.

I just got a massage and at the end the therapist said, “All done, Sweetie Pie.” It’s not like she was old, either… she was probably younger than I am! Maybe she forgot my name?

It was a good massage; I just thought it was odd/amusing.

I’m making my homemade chicken stock using the “mix” I got from GourmAvian Farms at the Wethersfield Farmers’ Market!  It’s just a frozen mass of chicken feet, hearts, and gizzards, and you put it in a big pot with herbs and veggies and simmer it for four hours, then strain it (to catch the nails!), EAT the giblets (yum!), and save the liquid!  Chicken feet are supposed to be the best for producing a really nourishing gelatinous stock with lots of glucosamine chondroitin, collagen and trace minerals.

I included carrot greens (and carrots) from Berruti’s farm stand, celery and celery greens, English thyme, lemon thyme & rosemary from my herb garden, peppercorns, and some Chardonnay smoked sea salt.  It’s simmering away!

I’m making my homemade chicken stock using the “mix” I got from GourmAvian Farms at the Wethersfield Farmers’ Market! It’s just a frozen mass of chicken feet, hearts, and gizzards, and you put it in a big pot with herbs and veggies and simmer it for four hours, then strain it (to catch the nails!), EAT the giblets (yum!), and save the liquid! Chicken feet are supposed to be the best for producing a really nourishing gelatinous stock with lots of glucosamine chondroitin, collagen and trace minerals.

I included carrot greens (and carrots) from Berruti’s farm stand, celery and celery greens, English thyme, lemon thyme & rosemary from my herb garden, peppercorns, and some Chardonnay smoked sea salt. It’s simmering away!

BTW, book update: I am still re-reading Interview with the Vampire, but I think I’m going to quit. I’ve been reading it for about three and a half weeks and I’m only about halfway through, so obviously I’m not very into it. It’s so tedious and I can’t figure out why I ever liked it! I really don’t like any of the characters very much and I don’t think I’ll care if I stop reading now and never find out what happens to them. (Which, so far, has been nothing much!) I guess my Past Self didn’t always have good taste.

Yay, the air conditioner is all fixed, so no more repairmen visits!  To celebrate, I made liver (using my Hannibal-inspired lemony recipe, natch) and fresh fava beans  from Preli farm!  

Fava beans served like this are kind of a pain to make because first you have to remove the individual beans from the big pods, cook them lightly (I do it in the microwave), and then also remove the tough outer coating on each bean by hand, so they are a good thing to eat when you don’t have very many people around!  All the steps are worth it, though, because they are very delicious served simply with a light drizzling of olive oil, sea salt, and freshly-ground pepper.

I didn’t have any chianti, and I also don’t have a new episode of Hannibal to watch.  Drat.

Yay, the air conditioner is all fixed, so no more repairmen visits! To celebrate, I made liver (using my Hannibal-inspired lemony recipe, natch) and fresh fava beans from Preli farm!

Fava beans served like this are kind of a pain to make because first you have to remove the individual beans from the big pods, cook them lightly (I do it in the microwave), and then also remove the tough outer coating on each bean by hand, so they are a good thing to eat when you don’t have very many people around! All the steps are worth it, though, because they are very delicious served simply with a light drizzling of olive oil, sea salt, and freshly-ground pepper.

I didn’t have any chianti, and I also don’t have a new episode of Hannibal to watch. Drat.

Oh! Earlier this evening, this patch of sunlight was projected onto my wall. I couldn’t even figure out where it was coming from, but it was extremely beautiful, especially the mesmerizing constantly changing flickering leafy pattern.

I think I’m temporarily obsessed with labneh + zatar. Dried sumac is such a great ingredient!

I discovered that listening to “Bolero” on my iPod whilst simultaneously playing Bejeweled with the sound off is a really, really good combination when my brain is very tired. It becomes extremely focused and good at concentrating in just the right sort of way. That is, until “Bolero” nears its end and everything unravels. Then it’s impossible to concentrate and brain chaos ensues! It’s almost like a science experiment.

The science experimentiness makes a weird kind of sense, as the whole reason I was listening to “Bolero” in the first place was because I just listened to this Radiolab episode.

Ugh, berry-picking tourists who drive 20 mph on Matson Hill Road! Excruciating.

I had to get up early today for the air conditioner repairman guy, but I lay on the couch resting while waiting for him to arrive and then the entire time he was down in the basement working. It was a pretty long time: 8 AM to 11. (He didn’t arrive until 9, but the window of possibility for him showing up started at 8.)

I must have dozed off at one point, for I dreamed that he was standing right next to me because I hadn’t heard the doorbell so he let himself in, along with a whole bunch of friends who were unwrapping sandwiches and settling down to have a little picnic in my living room, using our coffee table to eat off of. Once I realized what was going on, I told them they needed to take their picnic elsewhere. How silly!