Musings about life, love and genealogy.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Nation Comes Together

October 15, 2015 |

The small plastic bag that I’ve been carrying around since we left Gettysburg reads, “Our Country’s Common Ground.” It was a turning point in the Civil War, and its bloodiest battle. We spent three days there, just like the warring armies. Robert E. Lee was in command of the Army of Northern Virginia and General George Meade led the Army of the Potomac.1 However, the casualties were not limited to the battlefield. The aftermath of the three days of fighting left dead and dying soldiers in fields, public buildings and private homes. It took until January 1864 for the last of the patients and medical staff to finally leave the small Pennsylvania farming town the war disrupted six months earlier.2

Even before the war was over, concerned citizens looked to preserve portions of the battlefield as a memorial to the Union soldiers and in 1864, the Gettysburg Battlefield Association (GBA) was formed.3 When the GBA transferred their land holdings to the federal government in 1895, Gettysburg was designated a National Military Park.4 Within 2 years, there were no less than 90 monuments on the battlefield. There are more than 1,300 today.5

The monuments range from simple to spectacular, including the towering Celtic Cross of the Iron Brigade and the Pennsylvania State Monument, the largest on the battlefield with an impressive 90 bronze plaques listing the names of each of the 34,530 Pennsylvanians who fought there.6 Among the names inscribed on that monument were Loren and Ira Burritt, members of Company K, 56th PA infantry. Loren and Ira were Jason’s great-great uncles, the older brothers of his great-grandmother, Lilian Burritt Brock.

The 56th PA was the second regiment on the battlefield and part of the opening fire on the afternoon of 1 July 1863.7 The company’s monument, on Reynolds Avenue, is a bronze sculpture of three rifles supporting furled colors, a symbol that the regiment has completed its work.

A trip to Gettysburg is something every American should experience. You don’t need to have a veteran ancestor to appreciate the enormity of the sacrifices made by soldiers and citizens on both sides of the conflict. The blood shed on those three days in July, regardless of which flag it was lost for, defines our history as a nation, and in that recognition, we come together on common ground.

Click here to see additional pictures of monuments at Gettysburg.


  1. “Gettysburg History and Culture,” NPS, ( : accessed 15 October 2015).
  2. “Gettysburg History and Culture,” 2015.
  3. “Gettysburg History and Culture,” 2015.
  4. “Gettysburg History and Culture,” 2015.
  5. “Veterans, Monuments and Memory,” Civil War Trust, ( : accessed 15 October 2015).
  6. “Veterans, Monuments and Memory,” 2015.
  7. Monument, Company K, 56th PA Infantry, Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA, photographed by Donna Brock, 12 October 2015.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Ghost by Any Other Name

October 13, 2015 |

I’ll admit, I’m writing this blog in between innings of game 4 of the NLDS series. The Mets – my Mets – are down 3-0 after 3 innings. Grrrr...... but, I’m already behind on blogging about our vacation so I’ll soldier on. And speaking of soldiers, yes, we’ve left Gettysburg, but I'm going to re-engage a time or two before I fully retreat.

Our ride from NJ to Gettysburg was scenic, beautiful and relatively uneventful. And then this happened...

...requiring a detour to a Verizon store to buy a new phone. With the new phone safely stashed in the Harley’s tour pack, we mustered on to Gettysburg traversing the pristine and perfectly manicured farmlands of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

We arrived in Gettysburg and checked in to The Swope Manor, a fabulous bed and breakfast a quick double time walk from the center of town. The inn was originally the home of George Swope. George, his wife Margaret and son John were living in the home during that fateful summer of July 1863. We stayed in the Meade Room, a nod to General George Meade, and our friends were in the Lt. Pohlman Room, named for the Union soldier who died there on July 21.1

Does the ghost of Lt. Pohlman still walk the floors of the Swope Manor? Someone does. At breakfast on Saturday morning, while telling the tale of the lieutenant’s demise, and assuring Liz and Jeff that he died in one of the first floor parlors and not the room they spent the night in, my teacup unexplainably started to rattle in its saucer.

That was the closest we got to the paranormal this trip, despite the ghost we took through the Farnsworth House, advertised as one of the most haunted houses in Gettysburg. It started in the garret (attic) of the Farnsworth House (where we had a lovely dinner prior to the tour) and tales of sharpshooters volleying ammunition across Baltimore Avenue and a mischievous young ghost who is drawn to blonde with blue eyes and likes to untie shoes. My bright white laces remained untouched, but Jason’s ball cap was pushed up on his head.

But it was the story of the Murphy brothers, James and Brady, soldiers with the 54th NY Infantry, that had us most intrigued. Brady, after losing his sight to exploding cannon fire, is escorted to a tree near the medical tent by his brother, James. Long story short, and believe me, it was a looooong story, James was killed in that explosion, so how could he possibly have taken care of his younger brother? My curiosity got the better of me and I researched the Murphy brothers and the 54th New York.

The 54th New York Infantry, under the command of Major Stephen Kovacs, was part of the Army of the Potomac’s First Brigade, First Division, 11th Army Corps. One of several German regiments in the division, the 54th NY, also known as the “Hiram Barney Rifles”, saw action in the Confederate attack of East Cemetery Hill on July 2, 1863.

Unfortunately, neither James nor Brady Murphy were on the roster of the 54th New York, so the bigger question is, how could they haunt a battlefield they were never on?

Not a ghost of a chance.


  1. Melody Asper, “Gettysburg Swope Manor Becomes a B&B,” 2 May 2013; online edition, The Evening Star, ( : accessed 13 October 2015).
  2. National Parks Service, “The Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg”, NPS, ( :accessed 13 October 2013).
  3. National Parks Service, “The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System,” NPS, ( accessed 13 October 2015), search for Brady and James Murphy, New York. Search yielded no results.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Wedding Belles

October 12, 2015 |

It’s now Day 4 of our 2015 Harley vacation but the first day I’ve blogged about it. Unusual, yes, but after a stopover in NJ to see the munchkins, 3 amazing days in Gettysburg and a daylong Harley ride to Elkins, West Virginia, there’s finally time to sit and put thoughts to keyboard.

There’s so much to tell about our Gettysburg experience - battlefields, monuments, ghost tours and a photo shoot as a Civil War officer with his southern belle. And speaking of belles, the sweetest one on this trip was the wedding variety.

We haven’t seen our friends Jeff and Liz since we left Massachusetts for Virginia. Since we’re both motorcycle and history enthusiasts, we thought Gettysburg would be a phenomenal opportunity for North and South to meet for a fall getaway. Unknown to us, they hoped to get married while we were there and two weeks before our rendezvous, they honored Jason and I by asking us to be witnesses at their wedding. It was a privilege to stand with our very good friends as they exchanged vows, rings and giggles. It was a simple but touching ceremony in the courtyard of The Swope Manor, the lovely bed and breakfast we called base camp while we explored the battlefields and history of Gettysburg.

The bride was radiant and the groom dapper. The love in their eyes was as beautiful as the sunset over Little Round Top and their future as promising as this morning’s sunrise. The ceremony was followed by champagne, the giggles became belly laughs and we celebrated the nuptials with dinner at The Dobbin House Tavern, Gettysburg’s oldest and most colonial home.

There’s something to be said about writing the first chapter of your history together in one of the most historic towns in our country. Congrats, Jeff and Liz!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

All's Well That Ends Well

September 17, 2015 |

It’s been a busy summer. I completed a very intensive genealogy research course through Boston University, which had me up to my elbows in citations for 15 weeks. We helped our daughter and son-in-law get settled in their new house in New Jersey. And, we decided that 110 inches of snow was too much, so we sold our house in Massachusetts and moved full time to our house in Virginia.

As we trekked from one cradle of history to another, I considered other Brock ancestors who also made significant moves with their families.

My late father-in-law, Richard used to tell a story of an ancestor who, while serving in the Civil War, got a drink of well water from a Virginia farm and exclaimed it was the best waster he ever tasted. The context for that life-altering libation may never be known, but according to Richard, the ancestor vowed to come back and buy that farm.

Since Richard had a reputation as a bit of a storyteller, I chalked this tale up to another chapter of Brock family lore. Several Brock relatives served during the Civil War, including great-great grandfather Alvan D. Brock and two of great-grandmother Lilian Burritt Brock's brothers, Loren and Ira.

None of the three went from field command to farmer.

Alvan was commended for bravery as part of the storming party during the assault on Fort Mahone1, but headed to California and the west coast real estate boom after the war. Loren Burritt served at Gettysburg and was promoted to Lt. Colonel with the 8th Regiment Colored Infantry. He was severely wounded at the battle of Olustee, Florida2. After the war, he returned to Athens, Pennsylvania where practiced law.

Brother Ira returned briefly to his native Pennsylvania3 after the war before relocating his family to Washington, D.C.4 where he was the proprietor and editor of The Sunday Herald.

Discounting these ancestors as the man at the well, I leveraged the tools from my new arsenal of research weapons and followed the signals - literally - to the Signal Corps and Sobieski Chapin.

Sobieski Loander Chapin was Richard’s great-grandfather. A native New Yorker, Sobieski initially enlisted with Company E, 76th Regiment and then transferred to the 76th NY Infantry Signal Corps,6 which was stationed in Virginia. After he mustered out, Sobieski returned to West Union, NY, collected his family, and headed back to Virginia. By 1880, the family is living in Dranesville, Fairfax County.7

In 1881, Sobieski purchased a 61 plus acre piece of property in Fairfax County, Virginia from Maria L. Barlow $203.37.8

Sobieski’s property was originally part of Sully Plantation, built in 1794 by Richard Bland Lee (an uncle of General Robert E. Lee). Lee lived there with his wife, Elizabeth Collins Lee until 1811.9 Alexander Haight and his wife Phebe Sweet owned the property during the Civil War.10 Phoebe and her sister-in-law, Maria Haight Barlow were left to defend their homes after Alexander and Jacob Barlow fled Alexandria to avoid incoming Federal troops. Alexander and Jacob were suspected [correctly] of being Union sympathizers. Alexander was under the protection of the Union Army near the end of the war.11

Sully Plantation is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now on my new list of Virginia to-dos.

Now that I know Richard's stories may be more embellishment than lore, I'm anxious to start researching some of the others. For Sobieski, all’s well that ended [with a] well.

  1. Daniel S. Lamont, War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, (Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.: 1894) , Series I, Volume XLVI, p. 1056; online version, Google Books ( : accessed 10 September 2015) Report of Brig. General Simon G. Griffin.
  2. “U.S., Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1861-1865,” service return for Loren Burritt, Co. B, 8th Reg’t, Colored Infantry; digital image; Ancestry ( accessed 10 September 10, 2015). Loren served as a Major and as a Lt. Colonel with the 8th Reg’t after serving with Co. K, 56th Reg’t , Pennsylvania Infantry at Gettysburg. Loren eventually died from the wounds he sustained at Olustee.
  3. 1870 U.S. census, Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Herrick Township, p.1 (penned), dwelling 3, family 3, household of Amanda Burritt; digital image, Ancestry ( : accessed 10 September 2015) citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1455. Ira, his wife Elizabeth and daughter Effie were living with his mother, Amanda, a 56-year old widow, and several of his younger siblings.
  4. 1880 U.S. census, Washington, District of Columbia, population schedule, p. 16 (penned), enumeration district (ED) 74, dwelling 146, family 164, household of Ira N. Burritt; digital image, Ancestry ( accessed 10 September 2015), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 124.
  5. De Benneville Randolph Keim, Society in Washington: Its Noted Men, Accomplished Women, Established Customs, and Notable Events, “The Washington Correspondents, “ (Harrisburg Publishing Company, Pennsylvania : 1887), p. 215; online edition, Google Books ( accessed 10 September 2015).
  6. “New York, Town Clerks’ Registers of Men Who Served in the Civil War, ca 1861-1865;” Sobieske [sic] L. Chapin, enlistment, 18 July 1863; digital image, Ancestry ( accessed 10 September 2015) citing New York State Archives collection number (N-Ar) 13774, box 58, roll 31. Sobieske L. Chapin, enlisted as a private with Co. E, 76th Regiment, NY for a term of 3 years. Also, U.S., Civil War Pension Files, 1861-1934,” for Sobiescki L. Chapin, database index and digital file, Ancestry ( : accessed 10 September 2015). An invalid’s pension request was filed on 22 August 1891 in Virginia.
  7. 1880 U.S. census, Fairfax County, Virginia, population schedule, Dranesville District, p. 17 (penned), enumeration district (ED) 39, dwelling 149, family 151, household of S.L. Chapin; digital image, Ancestry ( : accessed 10 September 2015), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1364.
  8. Fairfax County, VA, Deed Book A: 320, Barlow, et. al to S.L. Chapin, 31 August 1881, County Courthouse, Fairfax.
  9. “Lee Family Cemetery at Sully,” Fairfax Genealogical Society ( : accessed 15 September 2015). Information abstracted from Volume 4 of the Fairfax County gravestone books.
  10. “Guide to the Alexander Haight family collection, 1764-1977,” online index and biographical information, George Mason University Libraries, ( : accessed 10 September 2015) search for Alexander Haight.
  11. Julius Stahel, Fairfax, VA, letter, 20 June 1868; digital image, George Mason University Libraries ( : accessed 15 September 2015). Stahel certifies that Alexander Haight of Sully Farm is a good and loyal citizen deserving of the protection of the Union Army.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mary Jones: The Tavern Keeper's Wife

March 3, 2015 |

One of my interests is history, and locally that includes the Golden Ball Tavern, a National Trust landmark in Weston, MA. The tavern, built in 1767 by merchant Isaac Jones, served as tavern for more than 20 years and as home to six generations of the Jones family for nearly 200 years.

As a member of the Golden Ball's Education Committee, I volunteer time to give tours of the tavern, telling the remarkable story of Isaac, the role the tavern played during the Revolutionary War and its resurgence as a hotel/boarding home in the mid-19th century during the tenure of Isaac's great-great grandson, George and his wife Lettie Frost Jones. Taverns, ordinaries or inns as they were called, were the social and cultural centers of life in the 18th century and tavern keeping was an important and viable profession, even for women.

Today, the Golden Ball Tavern Museum recalls an integral part of local Weston history through tours to school groups, civic and social organizations and any other groups or individuals interested in an up close and personal glimpse into the lives and history of the Jones family. The tours focus on Isaac Jones, Tory and then Patriot, highlights of the home and tavern, its role in the Revolution and the Weston "Tea Party", but recently, the Education Committee agreed to add a first-person interpretation as well, and that will come in the person of Mary Jones.

Mary was the widow of Stephen Willis and the second wife of Isaac Jones. She married Isaac in 1762, he himself a widower. His first wife, Anna died of small pox, leaving him with three young children. Five years later, when Mary and Isaac took up residence in the newly opened Golden Ball Tavern, their young family had grown to include eight children (4 more would follow).

Little is known about Mary specifically. Unlike Lettie Frost Jones, Mary didn't leave a diary or journal, but conclusions about her daily routine can be drawn by her role as a mother and the wife of a wealthy 18th century tavern owner. A typical day would have included cooking (for both her family and the tavern guests), sewing, cleaning and home management. In 18th century New England, women played active roles shaping their own lives the communities in which they lived. Given her status, Mary Jones was likely no exception.

Clothing, like the furnishings and architecture of one’s home were visual representations of wealth and stature in the 18th century. The quality and quantity of Mary’s wardrobe, and that of her daughters and step-daughters, would have been directly influenced by their position in the community. Although fabric was expensive, the cost to make a woman’s gown or petticoat was not, and It’s probable that Mary owned several gowns, jackets, petticoats, aprons and caps, both for daily wear and for more formal or social occasions. I’d venture to guess that like any woman of prominence, she had multiple pairs of shoes as well.

Clothing, given its expense, was considered property and often listed on probate inventories. When she died in 1813, Mary Jones’ clothing and accoutrements were likely bequeathed to her surviving daughters or daughters-in-law to be refitted, repurposed or restyled.

An abundance of period fashion plates, paintings, websites and blogs are available online to give you a better sense of the fabrics and styles worn by women like Mary Jones in 18th century New England.

To learn more about the Jones family and the Golden Ball Tavern, visit their website or Facebook page.


[Colonial gown image credit:; A Colonial Lady’s Clothing: A Glossary of Terms]
[Isaac Jones 1770 tavern license credit: The Golden Ball Tavern Museum]

Monday, March 2, 2015

Colonial Clothing Re-fit

March 2, 2015 |

The calendar reads March, but Mother Nature clearly doesn’t care. There’s still three feet of snow on the ground and another storm in the forecast for later this week. Since I can’t do anything about the weather, I decided the best way to chase away the winter doldrums and put a little spring in my step is with a new sewing project and some bright and sunny fabric.

The timing for a new sewing project is perfect. It’s school tour season at the Golden Ball Tavern Museum, a Revolutionary War era home and tavern built by wealthy Weston, Massachusetts merchant Isaac Jones in 1767. After chatting with other docents and museum guides at the Burnley & Trowbridge workshop I took in February, I suggested to my GBT Education Committee colleagues that we consider doing a few more first-person interpretive tours with accurately outfitted guides for our younger and most impressionable visitors. A local Girl Scout troop is scheduled to visit sometime in March, touring the tavern to earn a “Playing in the Past” badge. Call me crazy, but it just makes a lot more sense to me to have them learn about colonial clothing by someone who is wearing it.

Be careful what you wish for.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the idea of first-person interpretation and think it will make the experience much more realistic and memorable for the Girl Scouts. However, I’ve lost 50 lbs since I made my first set of stays and English Gown. None of my garb fits and I’m back to colonial clothing square one. My shift and underpetticoat are finished thanks to the Burnley & Trowbridge workshop. I’ve been working on my new stays for a few weeks now and started the leather binding the other night. While they aren’t finished, the stays are far enough along that I can use them to help size and fit my new gown.

In the 18th century, the colonial clothing nomenclature was a bit different than it is today. A ”gown” was worn by every woman of every class, differentiated by trim and fabrics. Wealthy women wore gowns of silk; working women wore more linen and cotton. The gown itself was a single piece garment consisting of a bodice and skirt joined together, with the skirt open in the front to reveal the separate petticoat.

Rather than a new English gown, I'm opting for a jacket with contrasting stomacher and petticoat. As a tavern keeper’s wife and the mother of 11, Mary Jones would have been quite the busy lady with all the cooking, cleaning and sewing she had going on every day. While she probably spent most of her days in a short gown, petticoat and apron, it would have been entirely appropriate for her to greet young visitors in a more stylish jacket and petticoat suitable to her status as the wife of one of the wealthiest citizens in pre-Revolutionary Weston.

I found a paisley and flower cotton print in the clearance section of my local fabric store and decided to pair it with a great sunshine yellow linen that’s spent way too much time in my fabric stash. While the cotton print isn’t 100% historically accurate, it’s close and it’s much easier to rationalize working on a gown I need in a hurry using a new pattern and $8/yard fabric rather than fabric that costs twice that much or more. Even for Mary Jones, the cost of fabric far exceeded the cost to make her gowns.

While some things haven’t changed, even centuries later, sunshine always brings a smile even if it only comes in the form of yards of linen fabric.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

February 24, 2015 |

Honestly, I have been doing more than just cooking and baking since I’ve been home. Promise. But, the luxury of being home has afforded me the opportunity to give much needed exercise to both my body and my culinary muscles. Yes, I’ve done some sewing. I’m still stitching up my new 18th century stays and recently attended a great colonial clothing workshop with Burnley & Trowbridge in Williamsburg. Yes, I’ve done some crafting, and my latest altered art shadowboxes are featured on Etsy, but with all these great recipes pinned and waiting, I have had no choice but to momentarily indulge my inner Julia Child. So, I ask you to indulge me for a few more foodie posts.

One of my favorite new recipes has been a Chocolate Quinoa Cake with a coconut chocolate frosting. I know you’re grimacing at the idea of using quinoa as cake ingredient, but you need to trust me on this one. It’s flourless and super moist. When I made it for Jason’s birthday, he was halfway through his second piece before he asked if it was healthy.

I pondered - if the cake is chocolate heaven, why not Chocolate Qunioa Cupcakes? Using a recipe I modified from Making Thyme for Health and my brand new Hamilton Beach Texas Size silicone baking cups, I served up six delectable, wonderful proportions of (nearly) guilt-free chocolate goodness.

The decision to make these cupcakes can’t be spontaneous, unless you’re like me and always have a spare can of coconut milk in the fridge; your coconut milk needs to hang out in the coldest part of your refrigerator overnight so the cream separates.


  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance, melted (or use 3/4 c. coconut oil only)
  • 1 cup organic palm sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used a half and half mix of Hershey’s Special Dark and Ghiardelli Unsweetened Cocoa)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2- to 1 cup shredded coconut (optional)

Whipped Chocolate Coconut Cream Frosting

  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can of full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil


  1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions (about 3/4c. quinoa will yield enough for your cupcakes).
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare your baking cups with a non-stick spray. (I use Pam).
  3. Wisk together the eggs, almond milk and vanilla extract for ten seconds to combine.
  4. Add the cooked and cooled quinoa along with the melted and cooled Earth Balance and coconut oil (could also use all regular butter) then blend until completely smooth, about 30 seconds to one minute.
  5. Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl (cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt).
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and blend together with a hand mixer until well-combined.
  7. Divide the batter between the baking cups and bake for 28-30 minutes (until a toothpick in the center comes out clean).
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.


  1. Grab your refrigerated coconut milk and open the can. DO NOT shake or turn the can upside down before opening. (Save the remaining coconut milk. You can use it to lighten the frosting later.)
  2. Scoop out the solid parts with a spoon, placing them into a bowl. With a hand mixer, beat the coconut milk until it is the consistency of whipped cream.
  3. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate and coconut oil together. When melted, fold in the coconut milk and mix thoroughly. Transfer the melted chocolate/coconut mix to a bowl and let it cool on the counter. Cover and refrigerate the mix for about an hour (longer is better, but I know you can’t wait to get your hands on these babies!).
  4. When your ready to frost the cupcakes, remove the chocolate/coconut from the refrigerator and beat on high for thirty seconds to one minute, until a fluffy icing has formed. If you’d like the frosting to be lighter in color or texture, add a tablespoon or two of the saved coconut milk.
  5. Roll the cupcakes out of the silicone cups, frost and enjoy!

These cupcakes may not be haute French cuisine, but I’m fairly certain Miss Julia would be proud.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mother Nature 2, Massachusetts 0

February 4, 2015 |

The New England Patriots may have beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, but when comes to the Snow Bowl, Mother Nature is kicking New England’s butt.

In less than a week, a second storm has tackled Massachusetts, and another 8-12 inches of snow threatened to sideline the Bay State. But Mother Nature pulled her own version of the Quarterback Sneak, and the 8-12 inches became 20. And there’s another potential storm brewing for Thursday. If this keeps up, we’re going to start measuring snowfall in yards, not feet. Someone definitely needs to throw a penalty flag!

My hubby watched the weather report to determine his next play - muscle the snow blower and crush his way to the end zone of our driveway (again), or grab another cup of coffee and take a knee. My defense to Mother Nature’s offense? A great, healthy, hearty soup.

This Vegetable and Farro soup is more like a stew, steeped in a flavorful stock and thick with nutritious vegetables.

It’s definitely an MVP in our kitchen.


  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 sliced carrots
  • 3/4 c. chopped yellow onion
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped into thick pieces
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp. garlic paste
  • 1 carton (32 oz) low sodium chicken
  • 1 carton (32 oz) low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) no salt diced tomatoes
  • 1 c. farro (rinsed)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 2 tsp. Frank’s Red Hot
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 package (10 oz.) chopped spinach (defrosted)
  • 1 can (15 oz.) cannelloni beans, rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • Asiago or shaved parmesan cheese for serving


  1. Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the vegetables and salute for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped garlic and garlic paste and salute for another 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, farrow and seasonings (including the hot sauce) and bring the soup to a boil.
  5. Cover and cook for another 20 minutes until farro is tender.
  6. When about ready to serve, add in the spinach and beans and cook for 15 additional minutes.

If needed, add more broth or water to thin the soup (the farrow will absorb the liquid as the soup rests) before serving.

Sprinkle with cheese and team the soup with some crusty bread for a winning combination!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Honey Nut Granola

January 30, 2015 |

Granola is an easy, healthy snack. Munch on it by the handful, tossed in your ice cream, yogurt or oatmeal or enjoy it with cold milk and fresh fruit. Made with rolled oats, coconut, agave nectar and nuts, not only is it good and good for you, it’s super easy to make.

I like the nuts finely ground, but a combination of fine and coarse nuts will give the granola a different, crunchier texture.

In less than an hour, you’ve got a wonderful, nutty, satisfying snack that, if you’re not careful, will disappear as quickly as you can make it! Enjoy!


  • 1 cup almonds or cashews
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar/honey mix
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add the oats, coconut, salt, and brown sugar into a large bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Using a food processor, blender or hand chopper (I love my Kitchen Aid chopper for this) crush the nuts until they are finely ground. Pour them into the bowl with the oat mix.
  4. Combine the agave/honey and coconut oil and heat in a small microwaveable bowl for 45 seconds. Stir to dissolve the coconut oil, then add the vanilla and almond extract.
  5. Pour the honey mixture over the oats, and stir so that they are evenly coated.
  6. Pour the oats evenly onto a parchment lined, lipped baking sheet.
  7. Bake the oats for 6 minutes then stir them around a bit. Bake for 6 more minutes.
  8. Remove from baking sheet from the oven and let the granola cool.
  9. After it cools completely, break the granola into clusters and store it in an airtight container or Ziploc bag.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Blizzard of 2015

January 27, 2015 |

An epic blizzard is pummeling Massachusetts.

Snow isn’t my cup of tea… or coffee for that matter, even when enhanced with a shot or two of Amaretto. We’re into hour 24 of the Blizzard of 2015, and the flakes just keep on flying.

And flying.

And flying.

At last measure, 28 inches of white powder had fallen and we’ve (well, mostly Jason) made three passes up and down our 200 feet of driveway trying to keep ahead of this frosty assault. Unfortunately, Mother Nature keeps winning.

Luckily for us, (hhhmmmm…) the temperatures are on the chilly side, so it’s a light fluffy snow and not the wet, pasty stuff we got a few days ago. But chilly means layers - lots of them - body-hugging Under Armor, jeans, two shirts, three pairs of heavy socks, gloves AND mittens, and my fingers were still frozen.

If I put my Pollyanna hat on, and trust me, it’s not nearly as warm as my crocheted beanie, I can always find some good news, even though it’s buried deep in this arctic edition:

  1. We didn’t have to go to work (even though there was LOTS of work to do)
  2. .
  3. Our fridge, freezer and cabinets are stocked, and lucky me, I snagged the last two boxes of chicken broth as we maneuvered our way through the masses at the local Stop & Shop on Sunday afternoon.
  4. We didn’t have to dig a plowed-in car out of a parking spot on a Boston side street.
  5. We didn't lose power.
  6. I had the chance to make some really yummy, homemade vanilla and coconut granola to keep us fortified during round after round of snow blowing and shoveling.

This record-breaking blizzard has shattered the serenity of a relatively quiet winter, which, up to this point, had only been lightly (and infrequently) dusted with snow. Be careful what you ask for, I caution the folks who have questioned where the traditional New England winter has been, because this is what we get!

Time to grab another handful or two of that granola, don my extra socks and mittens, and head back out for what I hope is the last snow blow/shovel escapade until morning.

Did I mention that we have 28 inches of snow? And that it's still coming down?

Oh, and if 28 inches wasn’t enough, the local weather gurus are watching another storm brewing for Friday, and hinting that it could bring us another measure of this madness.

I'd raise the white flag, but with all this snow, I'm not sure anyone would see it!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Oatmeal Banana Muffins

The first snowfall of 2015 is gently filtering down this morning, covering the ground and trees in confectionary sugar white.  

From my perch at the kitchen island, I sip my coffee and look dreamily at the beautiful, serene scene outside and determine it’s definitely a morning that calls for a warm, friendly breakfast - without the confectionary sugar. 

I’m a fan of oatmeal, whether it’s a bowl of overnight oats sprinkled with fresh fruit or warm and drizzled with agave nectar for a little healthy sweetness. This morning, I’m taking oatmeal in a new direction by making muffins.

These oatmeal banana muffins are easy to make and put all the healthy benefits of oatmeal in your hands - literally. There's no flour or sugar added, just the natural sweetness of bananas.

3 ripe mashed bananas 
1/2 c. shredded coconut (optional)
1 tbsp Baking powder
3 cups rolled oats 
2 eggs
1 cup Vanilla Almond milk 
1 tsp vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  • Beat the eggs in a small bowl then add in the almond milk and vanilla.
  • In a separate bowl, mash the bananas (a fork works). Stir in the oats, coconut (optional) and baking powder.
  • Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine to make a thick batter. 
  • Spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray (or use muffins liners) and keep ready. I used a oversized tin that yields 6 muffins.
  • Divide batter equally into cups and bake for 20-30 minutes until the edges start to brown and the muffins are firm to the touch. Be careful not to over-bake!
  • Allow the muffins to cool completely so they turn out of the pan easily

Hubby and I are going to grab some more coffee and enjoy. 

We'll have to grab the hats, gloves and shovels soon enough.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New Year. New Recipes.

My husband gave me the best gift this Christmas - retirement.

Admittedly, I’m a bit young for a rocking chair on the front porch and my hair is certainly anything but gray, but the notion that I am now in charge of my daily routine, whether that’s crafting, sewing, writing or volunteer work, is tremendously exciting.

My first week of "retirement" was a bit overwhelming and quietly chaotic. Without a regular routine, I was akin to a pinball - bouncing here, there and everywhere. I was still up with the sun, but 6:30 is a lot better than 5:00 am, and at the gym by 7:00 am each morning. The first floor hardwood was washed, waxed and polished. Within a few hours, to my hubby's surprise, I zipped up new window valances for the master bath and laundry rooms. Since that wasn’t enough sewing, I registered for a historic fashion workshop with Burnley and Trowbridge and decided to start on a new pair of stays (Since I lost 50 lbs., the first pair I made can’t be laced tight enough any longer.).

I even made a chocolate cake!

One of the benefits of my new-found entrepreneurialship is the luxury of time, including time to try new recipes in support of our healthy and healthy eating lifestyle. My Pinterest board is full of interesting and potential candidates, and the winners are ceremoniously moved to a Recipes I’ve Actually Made board. The latest is a healthy treat modified from a Chia Oatmeal breakfast cookie recipe I found on These fun little snacks are easy to make and surprisingly delicious.

Here goes.

1-1/2 tbsp. chia seeds
1/4 c. unsweetened almond milk
2 ripe mashed bananas
1 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1/3 c. carob chips
1 tbsp. sun butter (or almond butter)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions: (Makes about 16 cookies)

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the almond milk and chia seed. 
  3. Let it sit for about 10 minutes until the chia seed have a nice gel-like consistency. 
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the oats, coconut, cranberries and carob chips together. 
  5. Stir the mashed bananas, sun butter and vanilla into the chia seed mixture. 
  6. Scoop the mixture (1-2 tablespoons worth) onto a greased cookie sheet. Press it down to form a more rounded shape. 
  7. Bake for 17-19 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies have browned a bit. 
  8. Cool and enjoy!