Tuesday, December 22, 2009

3 Seasonal Treats

The season has come for treats and goodies, and though I'm not typically a chocolate person (ice cream is usually my sweet of choice), this winter I am craving dark chocolate delicacies -- and more. Here is my top 3 list this season:

Sipping Chocolate from Trader Joe's
This rich chocolate drink is amazingly better than any hot chocolate I have ever had. Most hot chocolate is too sweet and too thin. But this chocolate is deep, dark, and lightly sweet. Add it to hot whole milk, and you have the perfect winter drink.

Atkins Vanilla Caramel in Dark Chocolate
Something happens in the holiday season, and I invariably start craving caramels. I tried making them once, but I didn't pay enough attention to them and they didn't quite work out the way I had hoped. This year I found my happiness at Atkins Farms in their candy department in the form of vanilla caramels wrapped in dark chocolate. One of these satisfies a caramel/chocolate craving. Two of these brings a smile to my face.

Fresh Gingerbread with Hot Orange Sauce
This can't be purchased -- it must be made from scratch and eaten warm. Don't skimp on the spices in the gingerbread, and definitely don't skimp on the orange sauce -- smother the gingerbread with it and you won't be sorry. Delightful.

Treats for the season. Comfort foods for the darkness and cold. Enjoy!
Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Milk: Fresh, Local, and ... Raw

Raw milk first caught my attention when it was recommended to me in mid-May of 2009. A mother was explaining to me, in response to learning that my husband is lactose intolerant, that raw milk can often be drunk by those who are lactose intolerant -- that the pasteurization process kills important enzymes and bacteria that are actually beneficial to the processing power of the digestive system. She went on to tell me about her children and how much they love raw milk and how raw milk is the only milk they will drink.

I did a little research on the topic and then filed the information away for future reference.

That future came a few weeks ago when my husband came home from a farmer's market and started telling me about how raw milk had been recommended to him by someone else who was lactose intolerant but had no problems drinking raw milk. We did a little more research, had a bit of discussion, and decided we needed to try it.

There are a number of small dairies in Massachusetts that sell raw milk, and one of them, Flayvors of Cook Farm, happens to be right on my shopping route. So I made a visit to Cook Farms to put my name on the raw milk list (it is only available by pre-order), and I waited just under a week before picking up my first fresh gallon. We went through that gallon (just the two of us) in about 4 days -- and that was holding back; we've had to order more for subsequent weeks. I find it delicious, my husband can drink it without consequence, and it works wonderfully in recipes. (I'm looking forward to making authentic buttermilk with it one of these days.)

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized -- milk that has not been heated to 160+ degrees in order to kill bacteria that can be found in the milk. The lack of heating helps it retain its natural vitamin content, enzymes, and amino acids. It is whole milk, and therefore higher in fat content (4.0% butterfat at Cook), which in my opinion just makes it taste better (I love a little cream, don't you?).

Raw milk is available at Flayvors of Cook Farm for $5/gallon or $2.75/half-gallon, day-of fresh on Mondays & Fridays.
More information about raw milk and where you can buy it in Massachusetts can be found on the NOFA (Northeast Farming Assocation) website.

Milk -- it does a body good! -- and this stuff is SO good, it does a body even better!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

School Closings, Take 2

Just a repost from last year around this time:

Where to Find School Closings for Belchertown, Amherst, Hadley, Ware, Palmer, Granby, and other local areas.

The links on this post are especially useful if you don't have cable access or if you don't want to wait while the cancellations scroll on and on and on.

Enjoy the winter!

PS -- I've added bunches of new events to the calendar. See below.

Winter Cardinal

I just can't help myself. Winter comes, the feeders go out, and all of a sudden I'm obsessed with birds. It's a hereditary obsession... my grandmother was also obsessed with birds and feeders, and my mother has quite a few birdfeeders in view of the windows of her house. We've added a few of new birds to the list since my last post: blue jays, a goldfinch, and a carolina wren -- a lovely little bird with a large voice -- the first wren I've seen!

Today's winter picture: one of our male cardinals. I love when the male and female come together, which they sometimes do in the evenings. I like to think they're on a date, trying out the new cuisine at The Deck Feeder, the new hotspot in town....


Saturday, December 5, 2009

All for the Birds

It must be a cold day in December -- the birds are out in full force at the feeders:

Hairy Woodpeckers
Red-bellied Woodpeckers
Downy Woodpeckers

Haven't seen the parakeet in a while, though my husband says it came by for a visit earlier this week.

And as I write this, a wintry mix has started falling from the grey sky. Time to curl up with a good book.

(Bird pictures coming later.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eating the Plates: Pumpkin & Apples

In honor of the great Thanksgiving holiday, I thought I would share a recipe from a book I found in my library -- a very interesting book about the food and manners of the pilgrims (citation information below). There were a number of tasty recipes included, but this one seemed particularly pleasant and appropriate for the season. I'm looking forward to trying it someday.

Whole Baked Pumpkin Stuffed with Apples
1 medium pumpkin
6 small red apples
vegetable oil
maple syrup
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Wash and dry the pumpkin. Carve a circle around the stem and open the pumpkin. Remove the seeds and pulp (roasted seeds are awfully good!). Brush the outside of the pumpkin with vegetable oil.
  3. Wash and dry the apples. Core them. Spoon a teaspoon of maple syrup into each apple, then place the apples upright inside the pumpkin. Spoon two teaspoons of maple syrup over the apples. Replace the pumpkin top.
  4. Put the pumpkin on the prepared cookie sheet and put it in the oven. Bake until the pumpkin and the apples are tender (1.5-2 hours).
  5. When the pumpkin is done, remove from the oven. Remove the top and take out the apples. Slice the pumpkin into 6 slices. Serve the pumpkin with a baked apple and maple syrup.
If you get around to trying this recipe, let me know -- I'd love to know how it turns out.

Penner, Lucille Recht. Eating the Plates: a Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.

Thanksgiving Guest

I was busy preparing my homemade cranberry relish and talking to my mom on the phone while she baked cranberry bread, when I looked out my kitchen window and saw a brilliant splash of yellow and chartreuse on my clothesline -- a parakeet! And a hungry one, at that. When he figured out how to manage the birdfeeder, he sat there for 5 minutes eating and eating and eating. I hadn't the heart to tell him that Thanksgiving isn't until tomorrow. He's been back 3 times since then, and is a joy to watch. While the chickadees, titmice, and woodpeckers all flit and scurry, he sits calmly -- except while he's eating.

Do you know anyone who has lost a parakeet recently?


Monday, November 16, 2009

Restaurant Review: Baku's African Restaurant

After more than a year of going out to local restaurants and mentioning them here and there on the blog, I have finally decided that it is time to start reviewing them -- at least some of them. First up -- Baku's of Amherst.

Baku's African Restaurant is on North Pleasant Street in Amherst. A small restaurant featuring no more than five tables and seventeen chairs. We had passed it by many times on our to and from the Toy Box, frequently commenting that we should actually stop and try it -- one of these days. "One of these days" finally arrived a few weekends ago, on a warm and damp Halloween night.

Baku's features southern Nigerian cuisine, and its small menu lists appetizers and meals in variations of rice, beans, meats, and vegetables. The menu is gluten, dairy, and dessert free, representing the traditional diet of the African region. The owner and head chef is also authentically Nigerian, a great cook, and quite a character.

When we arrived at Baku's, a group from Connecticut was just finishing, leaving the restaurant all to us. We took the menus from the counter, consulted with each other on our meals, and ordered back at the counter, paying when the order was complete. Water was served, our drinks were delivered, and small salads presented to occupy us while our food was being prepared. Our meals arrived quickly: the Flavorful Lamb entree -- stewed lamb in a rich curry tomato sauce over jollof rice -- and the house special Curry Chicken. Delicious. The lamb was succulent and tender and the sauce was just as not-spicy as I had asked. The curry chicken was also good, but a touch dry. After eating ourselves full, there was still plenty to take home -- which I packaged up to take to work.

The meals at Baku's are simple but savory and range from $10.95-$13.95 for a dinner entree, with appetizers and small plates starting at $3.95. The kids menu stands at $5.95 and family meals begin at $29.95 for 3 people. Baku's also caters events and delivers through Delivery Express.

Baku's has been open since 2005 and attracts customers from all over -- and when you try their home-cooked food, you'll understand why.

Definitely recommended.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Library Vote: I Voted

Yes.  I voted YES for the Library, and before I get into a description of the goings-on at the Special Town Meeting, I would like to thank those who came out to vote.  As my husband likes to remind me, democracy in action is a great, invigorating thing, even when it doesn't go the way you'd like.  More than 1000 people showed up last night to debate and vote.

My condolences to the Director and Staff of the Library, the Friends, the Trustees, and all those who volunteered time and money toward the Clapp for Community Campaign -- and also to the entire town -- half of which does not even recognize the importance and worth of what they lost last night in failing to invest in the future of the town.

The meeting began with general articles about roads and budgets; they were all approved with fairly limited discussion.  The article on the library was introduced around 7:50pm by the Moderator.  Selectman Reardon presented the article and spoke for it.  It was then spoken against by the majority of the Town Finance Committee, spoken for by the minority of the Finance Committee.  The head of the Clapp for Community Campaign gave details and answers to questions that had been asked in previous weeks.  The floor was opened for the townspeople to speak.  A motion to make the vote a secret ballot was declined.  A few members of the community spoke for and against the article.  Selectman Aponte spoke against.

At about 8:40 a motion was made that further discussion end and the vote be taken.  This motion passed, and the vote was made; a 2/3 vote was required to pass.  The vote was vocal, and the Moderator declared that the Nos won, but a recount was demanded, and this time the vote was made and counted by raised ballot.  The Nos carried the win with ~480 votes; the Yeses had just over 400.  More than 100 people in the gymnasium did not vote.

Emotions were high, and there were more than a few tears at the close of the evening.  However, according to the Clapp for Community website, the campaign for an upgraded and expanded building will continue, and I can only hope that success is found.  Having a strong library is a powerful benefit to the community -- it supports education, finance, business, growth, recreation, families, individuals, adults, children, and more.  I'm saddened and sorry that more of the residents of Belchertown could not see their way to improving their town by supporting the expanded library, and I wish luck and hope to the Clapp Memorial Library as it seeks alternatives.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Reposting

Tonight is the special town meeting for the Library.  Details at the link:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Seasonal Craft Fairs

I'm putting the call out -- if you know of a local seasonal craft fair coming up in Nov or Dec, drop a comment here.  I'll take a look and hopefully get it on the events calendar.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Library News Update

Don't forget that tomorrow night at Town Hall is an information session about the proposed library renovations.
Next Tuesday evening (no school the following day) is a Special Town Meeting for the vote on the project.  Educate yourself about the project at the forum tomorrow night and/or by visiting the Clapp for Community website.
The November newsletter from CfC related information about the combining of two Town Meeting Articles into one.  Read this to see what you'll be voting on next week.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

On This Last Day of October

A few reminders for you on this Last Day of October.

Be on the lookout tonight, if you're out and about.  There will be haunts, and ghouls, and trick-or-treaters in the streets.

Dickinson Farms, Sapowsky's Farm Stand, and King Creek Farm all close this weekend.  Dickinson's will reopen in November for the holidays and King Creek will reopen in December when their next batch of grass-fed beef comes in.

Don't forget to change your clocks tonight -- we end daylight savings time and "gain" an hour!

FYI -- if you have questions about the library project, there will be a public forum on Tuesday evening in the auditorium at Town Hall at 7pm.  The special town meeting and vote will be on Nov 10 at the high school.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Autumnal Sunset


Monday, October 26, 2009

Leaves in Late Autumn

Photos taken Sunday afternoon after a long walk down Shay Street in Amherst.
View from the Grass photo taken by my wonderful husband.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Visit to King Creek Farm

My new route to work takes me past Sapowsky's Farm Stand (become a fan on Facebook) and Dickinson Farms, and I enjoy popping in on my way home to pick up apples, squash, flowers, pastries, bread, tomatoes, and other such fresh & local items. And so it saddens me that this is the final week for them to be open (they both close Oct 31, though Dickinson Farms does reopen for the holiday season). However, it seems that there is one farm stand that will remain open for a bit longer (I'm hoping), and it is the newest farm stand of my local experience -- King Creek Farm.

King Creek Farm (also on Facebook) is located on Rt 9 in Ware on the Belchertown side and is open Friday through Sunday. Their featured product is their beef, which is 100% grass-fed -- not finished with corn. They also carry pastured pork, eggs, and a variety of seasonal vegetables, flowers, cider, cheeses, sauces, salsas, honey, syrup, Pierce Brothers coffee, and home-baked bread. My husband has been the go-to guy for that farm, stopping in on his way to work and picking up beef, squash, donuts, and even our holiday pumpkin; my first visit didn't happen until 2 weeks ago, on Columbus Day weekend.

The first striking thing about KCF is the setting. Located at the top of a hill, it overlooks fields, pastures, wooded areas, and more hills. A spectacular view -- especially in the autumn. The farm itself has been around since the 1800's, and was purchased by the current owners in 2004. Since then the farm has been completely renovated, and it is now clean, bright, and welcoming (be sure to check out the pictures at the farm stand about the renovations).

We went on a Saturday morning when the barn was also going to be open for their barn sale. Our first stop was at the farm stand itself to see the vegetables, meat, and other available products. They were colourful, bright, well-arranged, and plentiful -- I would have happily walked out with a car-ful.
The day was nice, so we took a few minutes to enjoy the rocking chairs on the farmer porch before heading off to check out the chickens.
After our chicken visit we went to the barn -- I'm a sucker for barn sales, antique sales, tag sales. The barn was stocked from floor to ceiling with everything imaginable -- coats, dishes, games, toys, antique stoves, armoires, kitchen gadgets, liniments, clothes, books, decorations, windows, buttons, milk bottles, pewter pieces, suitcases, jewelry -- and even a string bass.
We had a delightful visit, and I highly recommend the farm and its goods.

The King Creek Farm website offers information about the farm, current produce available, barn sale dates, info on raw milk, and even tips on how to cook grass-fed beef. If you get on their e-mailing list, you will be privy to updated food availabilities and recipes (see below for this week's recipe).

KCF is located at 337 Belchertown Rd, Route 9, Ware, Massachusetts 01082

**Pictures in this post are courtesy of our Columbus Day Arizona guest, who remembered her camera when I forgot mine.**

Sausage, Kale, and Bean Stew

1 pound bulk mild sausage

12 ounces kale

2 tablespoons water

1 cup mushroom caps, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

3 cups white beans

1 14 1/2-ounce can vegetable broth

Shape sausage into 1-inch balls. Arrange sausage balls in a single layer in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until brown on all sides. Remove sausage from skillet and drain. Remove any fat left in skillet.

Meanwhile, remove center stalks from kale; discard stalks. Coarsely chop kale (should have about 16 cups). Add kale and water to skillet; cook, covered, for 10 minutes or until kale is just tender, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 5 minutes more. Add sausage, beans, and vegetable broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until kale is very tender.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

**Special Town Meeting**

The time has come!
November 10 is the date of the special town meeting for Clapp Memorial Library expansion project. This meeting that will help decide the future of the Clapp Library, so it is vitally important that Belchertown residents take the opportunity to participate in this meeting. The Library is a fundamental part of the Belchertown community -- its history and its future -- and this is a significant moment for both the Library and the town. The two main issues for the special town meeting are the transfer of ownership of the library to the town and the possibility of the town issuing bonds to help pay for the expansion. Come, listen, ask questions, learn about the project, and cast your vote.

Tuesday, November 10, 7:00pm
Belchertown High School
Baby-sitting available

For more information about the special town meeting or about the expansion project, visit Clapp for Community FAQs.

See also this article from the Republican on MassLive: Clapp Library Meeting Booked

The Red Red Oak


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Going on This Week

What's going on this week? Columbus Day Weekend is generally the final hurrah of the season in Western Massachusetts -- town fairs, art & craft fairs, leaf walks, and lots of visitors to the area for leaf-peeping. And now that all the excitement is seemingly over, you may wonder "What's going on this week?"

On the calendar for the week is the Belchertown Library Book Sale -- 50,000 books for sale, with videos, comics, and more -- with most items costing only a dollar. That $1!
This weekend there is the Fall Foliage Walk starting from the Amherst Town Common.
The farmers markets in Belchertown and Amherst are both still on this week.

If you're looking for more to do, check out some of the following links:
Five College Events Calendar: http://calendar.fivecolleges.edu/FiveCol/calendrome.cgi
Pioneer Valley Entertainment Links: http://www.filbert.com/PVFS/events.htm
Valley Advocate Music Listings: http://www.valleyadvocate.com/events.cfm?uid=59

There's always a lot to do -- don't despair just because the majority of the fairs and festivals have been put away for another year. Find something fun -- and do it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Autumn Visions

Western Massachusetts is truly in its glory in autumn.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Beauty of the Quabbin in Early Autumn

With thanks to our supporting photographer for the photo in the middle.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Eagle Hill Cultural Center Season Opener

Last winter we discovered a great little cultural center in Hardwick at the Eagle Hill School and enjoyed there a lively presentation from Northern Lights. The Eagle Hill Cultural Center is about to open its new season with The Rivalry -- a drama of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. There appears to be a mess of tickets still available ($25 for adults) and the show runs this weekend. If you have an interest, take a look. (We recently had the audio version in the house, and it received rave reviews.)
"Direct from a triumphant off-Broadway run at the Irish Repertory Theater: don't miss this rare opportunity to see fine actors perform this riveting drama directed by Vincent Dowling, former Artistic Director of Ireland's National Theater, the Abbey Theatre of Dublin!" (from the EHSCC website)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Seaonal Calendar

Just another reminder that there is a calendar at the bottom of this page with Belchertown events and events in the Pioneer Valley. Each entry has information or a link to the event webpage, when available. It's updated regularly and has fairs, festivals, parades, and more! Check back often!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Saturday at the Fair

If you missed the Belchertown Fair this year (or even if you didn't), here are some scenes -- see someone or something you recognize? Perfect weather, fun day, good food. Already looking forward to next year!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Scene Around Town: 1

The view of town hall from 202 at the lights.


Belchertown Fair

The Fair starts today! Tents have been set up, rides are ready to go... yesterday afternoon the ground looked like this:

Music begins tonight at Chestnut Hill School at 5pm, to be followed by fireworks at 7:30. And don't forget the parade on Saturday that runs through the center of town!
For more info, see the Fair insert in this week's paper.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Catch & Release

Yesterday, at the Quabbin -- Swift River. It was a beautiful day, and the perfect day to be out and about. We took the short drive to the Quabbin, where we saw a number of fellows enjoying the cool waters and the rainbow trout. We even saw a catch.
Catch & release fly fishing is allowed year round. Visit this link for more information.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Where to Buy Corn...?

I love corn on the cob -- and so does just about everyone I know. My current favourite place to buy it is at a little stand on the corner of South Maple Street & Mill Valley Road in Hadley -- the farmer parks a cart and fills it with corn for the taking (and paying). Fresh and sweet and delicious. When I don't have time to get there, I pick up local corn at Atkins (Amherst) or at Sapowskis (Granby).

Where do you buy the best local corn of the season? Let us know in the comments below!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Name That Spider

I love my well-used copy of The Natural History of Western Massachusetts, but unfortunately it does not help me identify this spider (unless it's a shamrock spider, which are really creepy because they kind of look like ticks, but it doesn't really look like the pic in the book). Do you know what it is?


Sunday, August 30, 2009

From the Sentinel...

Every once in a while, I post things of interest that I find in the Sentinel. For this week:

The Pioneer Valley Therapeutic Riding Association is continually looking for volunteers, and are currently looking for volunteers for their fall season. Horse knowledge is useful, but not necessary. Visit http://www.pvtra.com for a volunteer form. For more information and contact info, visit http://pioneervalleytra.org/. This is a great opportunity to volunteer a few hours of your time to make somebody's life a little better!

The Trustees of the Clapp Memorial Library are seeking citizens interested in serving on the Building Committee for the proposed library expansion plan. Send a letter with a brief statement identifying your expertise and interest by September 4 to:
Clapp Memorial Library
PO Box 627
Belchertown, MA 01007

You can read the full announcements in this week's paper -- at home or online.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


The local shagbark hickory trees have been dropping nuts for a few weeks now. I thought I'd take this opportunity to identify the tree for you. I love their bark!


Photographs and text copyrighted by Livin' In the Belch blog author, unless otherwise stated.