September 29, 2017

A Bounty of Figs!

Not this little Figueimage

It’s been an amazing year for figs, except for my tree, which still hasn’t fruited after three or four years. After a very rainy June and July, much of August and September has been dry, so that’s helped the figs ripen without getting too sodden, making them very sweet. Usually, we get figs closer to Labor Day, but they are much later this year, and my friend expects to have them well into October.

Friends who are overwhelmed with figs are picking about 60 a day, so they have shared their bounty, as you can see above! Of course, I had to pay it forward. I gave another fig-loving friend a dozen, and made my Drunken Fig Jam with the remainder.image

I have a recipe I’ve used the past few times, but this time I felt like I could switch it up a bit. Instead of using lemon peel, I used orange peel, paring it into very thin strips with a julienne peeler. You can see some of the peel above. I also used sugar in the raw instead of white sugar and then tossed in a tiny bit of vanilla sugar, too. The original recipe called for 1/4 teaspoon of bourbon – I mean, really? What is the point of that??? I used about a half a cup!

This mixture sits for an hour or so to macerate and draw out the juices, and then it’s cooked over a low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally. I do add a bit of pectin to make sure it sets, because I don’t like it to be too runny. I also give it a whizz with my immersion blender to break it up a bit. I serve the jam with a nice goat cheese and good crackers or slices of French bread. It is really marvelous. I might have to beg for more figs!

September 21, 2017

#ThisIsBaltimore2017: The Crazy Busy Edition

I can tell it’s almost fall, because I am super busy with my actual real job, some consulting work, events, and classes I am teaching. It’s all good, but it’s also hard to come up with creative and interesting posts for you. So I am going to do a few brief posts in the next few weeks. Hope that’s okay!

When I got back from Canada, I realized Figue needed a MAJOR grooming.
It was a little shorter than I expected, but she’s still cute as a bug!image

I was really excited about the eclipse, but of course, it was cloudy here.
I did get this shot through the clouds though.image

It was a beautiful evening for a concert in the park!image

My friends’ dog, Scout, with his Maryland Pride bandana.
He’s checking out the carpet fringe for future consumption.image

Tulips from Trader Joe’s in September.
Although there are tons of flowers everywhere, I couldn’t resist these.image

I spent the weekend at a friend’s house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
You can just see Baltimore on the horizon, but it takes about 1.5 hours to drive there!image

To me, this is perfection: fresh Eastern Shore tomatoes, Duke’s mayo, salt & pepper and white bread.image

This is a Datura. It’s about 12 inches long. The smell is so subtle, but just gorgeous.image

See you next week!

September 11, 2017

Carriage House Conversion

One of my best friends is a Realtor, and she sometimes grabs me to come look at houses that she is listing. So when she texted me that she was taking some pictures of a carriage house conversion, I jumped at the chance to see it, since I know the architect who did the re-design. image

This picture, taken from the Baltimore School for the Arts, right across the street, gives you an idea of what a little treasure this place is. It’s in the elegant Mount Vernon neighbourhood of Baltimore which is filled with beautiful townhouses, museums and other cultural attractions. This house is lucky enough to have enough off-street parking for three cars, and we even managed to get my Volvo wagon in behind the gate, with room to spare.

It’s also got a wonderful outside space for entertaining or just sitting and having coffee early in the morning. image

The house has a new kitchen which opens to a laundry room and imageto the living room where the architect has creatively solved the problem of having lots of light combined with complete privacy. imageHe’s added an opaque window, and used a set of old carved doors to shut out the light when needed. The western light is diffused and provides a great solution to an eternal problem.

Much of the original brickwork has been left intact, but is broken up with huge windows and glass doors. image

Upstairs, there are two bedrooms, one with another fun set of windows with another pair of old doors. These details, along with the original beams and bricks, really make this house special. image

The shady patio was one of my favourite things about the house, along with its great location in the middle of the city. image

If you’re interested in this house with two bedrooms, one full- and one half-bath, and two or three off-street parking places in the heart of Baltimore, or would like to see additional details, contact Tracey here.

September 5, 2017

Another Old House and a Monastery

Last fall, I was doing some research on the early 1900’s Baltimore architects, Palmer & Lamdin, and came across a listing of all of their works. Most of their work was done in several Baltimore neighbourhoods, but one address stood out – it was about 20 miles west of the city, in what would have been a very rural area of the state. I looked up the address and found that it was actually a monastery! IMG_4746

For months, I’ve been meaning to drive out and check it out, but it was only this past weekend that I had the time. Luckily, after a day of heavy rain, Sunday was gorgeous and cool, with tons of great clouds.

The old house, and by old, it dates from 1732, was a bit of a surprise, since I was only expecting a monastery! It’s called Carrollton Manor, and you can read its history here. It was given by Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, to his grand-daughter, Emily MacTavish. Interestingly, I was on the Board of Directors of Carroll’s house in Baltimore City.IMG_4727It was originally intended as a five-part Georgian manor house, but the wings were never built, resulting in a rather plain edifice. In this image, you can see the cupola on top of the house – a great way to provide ventilation. IMG_4737The view from the house is lovely – overlooking fields which are now farmed by the University of Maryland’s agriculture program, and provide income for the property. IMG_4726I was able to take my “signature peek” into the house, by flattening my camera lens onto a window. I combined two images taken from either side of the front door, so you can get an idea of the grandeur of the main hall. My understanding is that this house is being renovated and will be in use once again, instead of lying fallow. IMG_4731xThere was some beautiful ironwork on the house and I had fun taking pictures of it. IMG_4720

After I left the house, I wandered up to the monastery, which is actually the Shrine of St. Anthony of Padua. He’s one of my personal favourite saints, as he is, among other things, the finder of lost objects. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve summoned his help, and he’s promptly found the object. IMG_4744Honestly, this place was so unexpected! The shrine is based on the Sacro Convento of Assisi, the friary in Italy where St. Francis for whom the Franciscn Order of monks is named, is buried. It’s a little piece of Italy in the Maryland countryside.

Four arcades surround a formerly cloistered courtyard with a fountain in the center. Luckily, when I was there, it was very quiet and I could walk through the space and contemplate… things. IMG_4748IMG_4750x

Of course, there’s a chapel at the monastery and it was not what I expected, either. Parts look like the original from the 1920’s and other pieces are clearly the from the 70’s. IMG_4758

There is a long passage that’s behind the arcades where the offices, dining room, library and other rooms are located. IMG_4761

As I mentioned, it was just a gorgeous day, as you can see by these pictures. IMG_4762IMG_4771

It is always such fun to find places like this that are hidden in plain sight!