“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” – Edith Sitwell

I love winter, and winter never seems to be quite long enough for me. There are simply too many projects; books to read, closets to sort, new recipes to try, letters to write (yes, I still ‘write’ letters) and fabulous garden catalogues to absorb. And, never enough hours for a cup of tea and to simply “Be.”

So, before we talk about garden catalogues, books, recipes, letters and the dreaded closet, I want to share one of my all-time favorite teas, Lady’s Slipper. This lovely tea is named after the provincial floral emblem of Prince Edward Island Canada. I have read much about Prince Edward Island, and I believe it must be an enchanting place. It is high on my list of places to visit. Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote in detail about Prince Edward Island in her novel Anne of Green Gables, written in 1908. If by chance, you have not read this treasure, I encourage you to place it on your reading list. Also, at the end of this column I have listed the source for Lady’s Slipper tea. The folks at Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Canada, are happy to ship to the US.

Next, the dreaded closet. I know you have one or maybe more than one. Let me tell you about mine. Mike refers to it as the “black hole.” When I hear, him say “black hole” it makes me think about an abyss and, he is pretty much on target with his perception. The “black hole” in our home is a large cedar-lined closet in a spare bedroom. This closet goes the entire length of the room, roughly 10 feet. Now, I am not complaining about the size – most 1939 homes were not built with large, long closets. But, my-oh- my, what happens in this space is amazing. Truly, I know fairies party and play in there while we are sleeping. Also, I believe it is possibly being used as a storage space by another family. Because, we simply could not have that much STUFF.   I have waged war on this closet many times over the years – but, this is going to be my year to win the war. And, why I am at war? Because, I know in my heart you cannot have beauty without order. This great space should be reserved for clothes and items being used, not the “I might use one day.” Additionally, I know others need and will benefit from the donations.

Another winter project is, an evaluation of our home. Winter is a good time to have a serious look around to see if a room or rooms need painting. This is the time of year, I enjoy making our home sparkle and shine. Our sweet home receives a thorough cleaning, and I check all window treatments to see if they need to be laundered or cleaned. If you have draperies that are not washable, an easy way to keep them in their best condition is: Take them down annually, remove all hooks and put them in the dryer on the Air Only cycle for about 20 minutes. This pulls the dust from them, will keep them lovely for years and helps to avoid dry cleaning. Dry cleaning is expensive, and can be harsh on fine fabrics and trims.

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Now that you have finished a few chores, think about something pretty – the garden. Winter is the perfect time to give thought to your spring planting. Think of colors you want to use and decide if the color shows against your home. Example: Red flowers are not noticeable against a red brick home. Whereas, white would be noticeable and visually appealing. Also, if you are interested in special plants, something different and unique, now is the time to order. Ordering now is advisable, as there is often a limited quantity of unique plants available. When you order, provide a delivery date suitable for your planting zone, and Harrison County, West Virginia is zone 6A. I am listing a few sources for plants at the end of the column. I know these sources to be reputable and sell quality plants.

Hopefully, I have given you a bit of needed inspiration to accomplish a few things on your list, and to begin thinking of spring and your garden. Do take a few precious moments to “Be.” Pick up a book – read, travel and enjoy. I enjoy having books recommended to me, so I am sending along a list of a few wonderful books I have recently read. Find a comfy chair, a good lamp, your reading selection, a lovely cup of tea and enjoy. And, if you might be looking for a new recipe to try, I am providing one guaranteed to give you grand reviews. It takes a bit of time, but it is worth every second spent in preparation.

I wish you and yours a Healthy, Happy New Year! Scatter joy, love and kindness. Love your family, your home and your community! And, Create Beauty!

See you soon,
Sandra


Tea

Lady Slipper Tea – Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley – www.ladybakersteatrolley.com

Books I Have Enjoyed

The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

All the Light We Cannon See – Anthony Doerr

Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreams – Susan Branch

The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd

The School of Essential Ingredients – Erica Bauermeister

On Rue Tatin – Susan Herrmann Loomis

Plant Sources

Klem’s Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery

RareFind Nursery

Wayside Gardens

White Flower Farm

Recipe

Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Stew with Red Wine)

1 Tbls. good olive oil

8 oz. bacon, diced

2 ½ pounds beef chuck cut into 1 inch cubes

Kosher salt – Freshly ground black pepper

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1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1 inch chuncks

2 yellow onions, sliced

2 tsp. chopped garlic – (2 cloves)

½ cup Cognac or good brandy

1 (750-ml) bottle good dry red wine, such as Burgundy

2 -2 ½ cups canned beef broth

1 Tbls. tomato paste

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

4 Tbls. unsalted butter (1/2 stick) at room temperature, divided

3 Tbls. all-purpose flour

1 pound frozen small whole onions

1 pound mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thickly sliced

Crusty bread, for serving

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3-5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Toss the carrots, onions, 1 Tbls. of salt, and 2 tsp. of pepper into the fat in the pan and cook over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the cognac or brandy, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Add the wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a boil, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, and place it in the oven for about 1 ½ hours, or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the oven and place on top of stove.

Combine 2 Tbls. of the butter and the flour and mash together with a fork. With the fork stir this mixture into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium pan, sauté the mushrooms in the remaining 2 Tbls. of butter over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned, and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

Notes: When seasoning the carrots and onions, I used 1 tsp. salt as opposed to 1 Tbls. of salt as the recipe indicated.

If you are unable to locate fresh thyme – use ¼ tsp. dried.

I used a Josh Cellars – Cabernet Sauvignon and it is readily available locally.

I used Brandy in place of the Cognac.

Take the butter from the refrigerator the night before or very early in the morning – it needs to be really soft.

The recipe is from Barefoot In Paris, by Ina Garten. Bon appetite!