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Saturday, January 29, 2011

The New Old Black Dress

Another fabulous find from Roz's Place, Northampton.
No tears, no stains, no holes, no spots; near-perfect condition, near-perfect dress.

(Photo credits: Mr. Madley.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

So Spicy: SNE Spice Company

Last Friday was excursion time -- a small excursion to nearby places of interest.  One of those places included the Southern New England Spice Company.  You know the place -- you've driven past it on 47 dozens of times but have never stopped in because you never quite knew what it was about and there were never any cars in the lot.  And each time you drove past you thought "One of these days I'll just stop in and see...."

Last Friday was "one of those days," and I stopped in to see.
The public space inside of the SNESC is deceptively small -- just a single room.  But that single room is stocked with large bottles of spices, salad dressings, jams & jellies, dried fruits & veggies, rices & beans, marinades, dips, extracts, oils, salsas, relishes, Mexican chilies, cooking agents, sauces, honey, and more.

Amazing how much variety can fit in one uncrowded room.  If you've ever wanted,needed to stock up on spices, this is the place to do it.  (Preview the list of spices here; an even more extensive list is available at the shop.)

Here's the kicker -- the SNE Spice Co. supplies over 700 restaurants in New England, so if you've ever been frustrated because you can't get that great restaurant taste at home with your kitchen oils and spices, you might want to stop in and see what they have.  They might have just what you're looking for.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ice Cream In January

It's the coldest day of the year so far, so I figured this was a perfect day to post this.  (No, this is not a recipe for snow ice cream.)

For some reason I start craving ice cream during the coldest months of the year.  It's kind of sad, seeing I'm always cold during the winter and most of the ice cream shops are closed.  I resort to take-home ice cream of the packaged variety.  Saturday was grocery day and on my list was ice cream, but I was only visiting two stores, so the pressure was on.

Trader Joe's didn't do it for me, so I passed up the frozen food aisle in hopes of finding something at Maple Farm Foods.  There I hit the jackpot and brought home a 1/2 gallon of Berry Best Strawberry by Maple Valley Ice Cream Company.
Ingredients?  Local milk & cream, sugar, native strawberries, natural stabilizers.
Reaction?  A spontaneous "yummm!"
Verdict?  Delicious

This ice cream is not syrupy or goopy; it is not bright fake pink; it is not overly sweet or overflavoured; it has a smooth crystally texture; it is light and fresh; and, it actually tastes like strawberries and cream, which in my opinion is a fabulous combination.
Not a strawberry ice cream fan?  There are many other varieties to choose from, so there's bound to be at least one to tempt your taste buds.
This is good stuff.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Eating: 2<$20

In trying to economize, Mr. Madley and I came up with a list of restaurants where we can eat for under $20 -- both of us.  If you've ever tried it, it's not necessarily easy to do, but at most of these restaurants it's fairly easy to find a good variety of dishes that 2 can eat for under $20 (desserts and drinks excluded -- water is free, tip is variable).
PS -- we're a gluten-free, dairy-free group, so that cuts out most pizza & sub places....

Mi Tierra (Mexican, Hadley)
Miss Saigon (Vietnamese, Amherst)
Thai Corner (Thai, Amherst)
Whole Foods (Hot & Salad Bar, Hadley)
Local Burger (Burgers, Northampton)
La Vera Cruzana (Mexican, Amherst & Northampton)
Rt 9 Diner (Diner, Hadley)
Hillside Pizza (Pizza, Hadley)
Amanouz (Mediterranean, Northampton)

Do you know of another good local restaurant where 2 can eat for under $20?  Please share!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Best Bird Day So Far

This has been the best bird day.  As I write this, our Carolina Wren is hanging from the suet feeder.  I have a special affection for the Carolina Wren, though I can't rightly say why. Maybe it's their rareness at my feeders, or maybe it's their beautiful songs, or maybe it's just their shape.

Mrs. Cardinal is in the bush, showing off her brilliant orange beak and red-tinted wing and tail feathers.  She and Mr. Cardinal, who has also made a showing today, are frequent visitors to our feeders, but never stop amazing me with their colours.

Earlier this morning (this was immediately posted to my twitter feed) while I was writing the post on the snow storm, a red-tailed hawk swooped in and perched on a telephone pole just across the street form my window.  He sat there for a few minutes surveying the territory before flying off.  What a magnificent sight.

I just identified my first American Tree Sparrow -- with the bi-coloured beak -- one of the sparrows I've been trying to identify.  I had thought it was an American Tree Sparrow, but I had to see it through binoculars to see the beak.  I'm quite excited to know what it is!

Shortly thereafter I saw my first red-bellied woodpecker since moving from Belchertown to Hadley.

And between all these, I am watching black-capped chickadees, goldfinches, robins, mourning doves, house sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, tufted titmice, downy woodpeckers, and an assortment of other small birds.  I wonder if we'll see turkeys in our yard this year.

Later this afternoon (I'm editing the post to add this), a flock of robins came flying to our apple tree and red-berry bush (possibly some type of holly?), and along with these robins came cedar waxwings!  I have never seen these in person (only in photos), and I have been hoping to see some ever since I found out about them.  At least four of them in our apple tree right now!  They are beautiful. 
Yes, this has been the best bird day so far.

Find out about birds by clicking on the links above or by visiting All About Birds by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

I think, perhaps, I should join a birding club....

(This post was delayed by a day.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Storm of 2011

The storm of January 2011 hit on Wednesday -- schools were out, banks closed, businesses shut down, and plows were kept busy.  If you were in the area, there was no way to miss it.  Mr. Madley and I spent 2+ hours hand-shoveling the deep snow in our driveway -- and that was a lot of work -- two shifts worth, in fact.  But it was (is) beautiful (just look at those bottom two pictures, if you don't believe me).

When we started shoveling, shortly after 11 Wednesday morning, our yardstick read 21 inches.  It continued snowing until mid-afternoon.
Taken from the garage door, looking out over the driveway that needed shoveling. 
Starting the shoveling.

A picture from the back door.  It doesn't quite capture the depth of the snow back there, but almost.

The following morning, the sun rose bright and strong. It eventually warmed the bird feeder enough that its cap fell off.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Breakfast for the Birds

On a day like today, the birds are more concerned with getting their share of the food than if there's someone in the kitchen taking pictures of them.  Here's part of the breakfast bunch (house sparrows, cardinals, titmice, juncos, chickadees, unidentified finches and sparrows, downy woodpeckers, mourning doves):

(The pictures were taken inside, during the storm before 8am, so if they're a little on the dark side, and a little on the fuzzy side, I hope you'll understand.)

I certainly am enjoying the show this morning!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

School Closings & More

In my Livin' in the Belch blog, this was one of the most popular pages, so I thought I'd copy & edit it for MH.

Most of you probably have cable television or local stations and can tune in to find out about school closings. Others of you may be on the phone-tree list and and will get a call on mornings when school is canceled or delayed. However, for the rest of you, and for anyone who would rather find the closings online and read through them more quickly than the scroll at the bottom of the news channel, check out these two websites for area school closings:

WWLP 22 News
100.9 WRNX

These links are also good for town programs, libraries, churches, community centers, parking bans, and other such things.  Look as soon as you wish -- there are already closings in anticipation of tomorrow's predicted storm.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

January Snow

I love a covering of snow in the winter.  I admit to constantly complaining about being cold, but a covering of snow makes winter so much more palatable.  I think I still get just as excited over the first snowfall as I did when I was a kid.  I love the freshness a layer of snow gives -- the bright white that glistens in the sun and hides all the dirt and the sleeping plants.  Snow is for building snowmen and making snow angels, and for skiing and snowball fights, and for studying wildlife and enjoying crackling fires in fireplaces.

I don't necessarily need snow that buries cars and wreaks havoc on a city,

But I do love to see the footprints of the birds,

And the tracks of the squirrels

Around the bird feeder.

Watching the birds and the squirrels in winter is one of my all-time favourite pastimes.  I hope to get some decent bird shots posted sometime, but the bird feeder setup at this house isn't quite as camera-friendly as the setup in Belchertown.
(As I write this, a large flock of medium-sized birds has swooped over the house and landed on the tips of the trees across the street.)