Goodness is the only investment that never fails. -H.D. Thoreau
October 28, 2015
“Growing up with Quaker Hill Granola”
That’s the theme for today. I often send Quaker Hill Granola to my nephew and his family. They live in Dresden, Germany so when my nephew is in the States for business travel, he packs the granola in his luggage and it flies with him back to Germany
Several years ago my nephew sent photos of the kids posing with bags of Quaker Hill. I recently asked him to update those pictures.
That’s Maria pointing out the brand you should buy. Maria loves animals and when she is not pitching Quaker Hill Granola, she can be found playing with the neighbor’s puppies and rabbits. Her sister Sarah loves to ride and care for horses. Their brother Daniel plays sports, piano and sings with a well known boy’s choir. You can learn to do all those things when you grow up eating Quaker Hill Granola!
Someone else grew up eating Quaker Hill Granola. My son Ethan was born the same month I started the business. That’s 25 years ago. Somehow the date of the 25th anniversary slipped by without an enormous staff party. That would have amounted to me sitting in my office eating cake since I’m the only one here.
Ethan grew up with Quaker Hill Granola as the subtext for his life at home. In the early years I rented space at a church kitchen to do the baking. I would pack the car with a couple hundred pounds of ingredients and spend 4-5 hours there twice a week baking. As an infant, Ethan went with me, sleeping in a baby seat in a corner of the kitchen or being entertained by his mother singing to keep him happy while I worked.
Until Ethan was in high school, the business was located at home. Cartons of granola were stashed all over the house. The shipping department was the front porch. He earned money by gluing labels on granola bags and organizing invoices. When Ethan got his drivers license, he drove around making deliveries for me.
Now he is about to do some very different driving around. In the next 24 hours he leaves for Utah. What’s in Utah? Big mountains and this boy loves to ski. He has an apartment lined up, a job at a ski area and a car that we hope will make it 2,300 miles. Along with my love and wishes that he will be happy in his new home, I’ll stash some granola in the car for him to take. Maybe it will help him settle in. There are no stores that carry Quaker Hill Granola in Utah, yet.
October 25, 2015
Life can throw interesting stuff at you from time to time. A few weeks ago I was touring around Vermont with my sister and her husband, admiring the foliage. As we pulled up at a lake to take some pictures, a group of folks arrived driving beautifully restored antique cars–and one truck. The driver of the antique truck walked over and asked “Aren’t you the granola lady?”. He reminded me he was Alan, my UPS deliveryman from 25 years ago when I started the business! His next question was: “So, how’s the little guy?”. That would be my son Ethan, now age 25. Alan remembers that at age 5, Ethan would run out to the porch when the UPS truck pulled up and show Alan his cowboy hat or pirate sword or whatever was his favorite toy of the week. What fun to run into this nice man who remembered the early days of Quaker Hill Granola when the boxes were shipped off my front porch. Here’s a picture of Alan and his wife with the 1933 truck he restored. It seems fitting that the UPS man would have an antique truck.
A few weeks later, a guest (Rex) arrived at my B&B driving a Tesla. This was the very first Tesla car I’ve ever seen and here it was in my driveway! Rex gave me a ride in the car with the newly installed software which allows the car to steer itself and change lanes without input from the driver. This is how we will all be driving someday but I might need a little sedation before I hand over the controls to the car.
This particular Tesla has an espresso machine and a refrigerator! Geez, you could fix yourself a bowl of granola and an espresso for breakfast and let the car drive you to work. Rex was good enough to let me pose a bag of Quaker Hill on the hood of the car before he took off. Then the granola wanted to show off and climbed inside for a picture next to the dashboard display.
There we have it–an antique truck encounter followed by a visit from the latest in electric car technology. Quaker Hill Granola likes to hang out with all the cool cars and trucks.
August 27, 2011
Sometimes Quaker Hill Granola gets to travel to wonderful places without me. Recently I hosted a young couple from Germany at my B&B. Hannes and Sina are on an around-the-world trip, making stops in several cities in the U.S., then heading across the Pacific with stops in Fiji, Australia and South Africa among many other places.
Who could imagine that Randolph, Vermont would end up as part of their world tour? Before they took off, I fed them granola and asked if they would slip a Quaker Hill Granola label into their back packs and take a picture in Fiji. They have managed to keep track of that label and have sent me these photos from Fiji and from Fraser Island (the world’s largest sand island). That’s a famous shipwreck near Fraser Island that is posing with the Quaker Hill label.
Hannes and Sina are having wonderful adventures and seeing places I will never visit. We are so lucky to live at a time when we can send and see photos instantly and experience travel in this way. So, I am thankful that this young couple have included me in their circle of friends who are following them on this trip.
Since Hannes and Sina write in German, I was happy to discover that Google will translate for me. This results in some hilarious phrases but you can at least follow the text. In the past, Quaker Hill Granola has gone to other fun locations with other travelers: Athens, Singapore & Marseille, France among other places. Check out the photos on the Quaker Hill Granola Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/QuakerHillGranola?fref=ts. And send me photos if you take Quaker Hill Granola along on your travels!
May 23, 2015
For many years Quaker Hill Granola has been sold at the Oryana Food Coop in Traverse City, Michigan and I’ve noticed that the Cherry Almond flavor is the favorite at that store. Why is that? I had no idea until I learned that Traverse City, along the shore of Lake Michigan, is known as the Cherry Capital of the World. In the land of analogies: Cherries are to Michigan as maple syrup is to Vermont.
In the early 1900’s Michigan farmers held informal “Blessing of the Blossoms” events to insure a good fruit harvest. Eventually folks got the idea of creating a local event to promote the fruit industry with pie contests, a parade and the crowning of a Cherry Queen. Traverse City now hosts a week long “National Cherry Festival” (July 4-11 this year) full of parades, races, concerts, foodie events and even an air show. My personal favorite on the list of planned activities is the “Cherry Spit Pit Contest”. Wow. Sounds like a competitive event I might qualify for.
I’ve never been to Michigan but I hope to get there some day because our family has ties to the town of Allegan. My great, great grandfather, Elisha Mix, grew up in Connecticut but left there as a young man and headed west to Michigan with his buddy Elam Fenn. Elisha built a sawmill and started farming in Allegan during the 1840’s, a time considered the pioneer days of Michigan
At the start of the Civil War, Elisha was in his early 40’s. He joined up with the 8th Michigan Cavalry. While he was away for three years, Elisha’s wife and two young children had to learn to run the farm themselves. The letters that Elisha wrote home during that time survive and are an amazing record of the hardships and experiences of those years. I wish I could meet Elisha because the letters also reveal a great sense of humor and a depth of feeling for the men he served with, his country and the family he hoped to return to.
Elisha did make it home after marching and riding over 12,000 miles with his men, being wounded and captured as part of his personal adventure. He continued to farm but also dabbled in many other business ventures in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Michigan. As a young man he had learned the trade of surveying and shortly after the War he was employed by the State of Michigan to conduct a survey for a road between Allegan and Traverse City. He and a team of men worked their way through what was then 155 miles of wilderness to do the work that eventually led to what I believe is now known as State Road M-37. Their two bound volumes of field notes and maps survive in the archives of the State of Michigan.
Do you think that Elisha would be tickled to know that his great, great granddaughter now benefits from his survey work? Those UPS trucks probably make use of State Road M-37 to transport granola to Oryana Food Coop in Traverse City.
And this July, folks will be traveling State Road M-37 from Allegan County up to the World Cherry Festival in Traverse City. Thanks to you Elisha!
June 24, 2014
This past weekend I attended The Vermont History Expo in nearby Tunbridge. This biannual fair is a spectacular display of crafts, tools, music, costume, animals, toys and more from Vermont’s past all on display in a beautiful valley surrounded by rolling hills.
There are presentations by authors and historians and dozens of booths featuring interesting or curious persons or events from Vermont’s history. Also on the grounds are encampments by historical reenactors, craft demonstrations and live music performances.
The weather this weekend was glorious and I had a fabulous time being outdoors, wandering the grounds, absorbing information, listening to the music and of course eating maple ice cream.
One of the presentations I enjoyed most was by Jeff Howe who has written a book called How Do You Get a Whale in Vermont? about the unlikely finding of a fossil whale on a Vermont farm. Lots of good humor and a great story made for a fine lecture.
Elka Schumann presented a first hand account of how she and her husband Peter came to their love of presenting stories and political commentary through puppets. Their Bread and Puppet Theater is located on a farm in northern Vermont and I make it a point to travel there every summer for a performance. Elka’s presentation was incredibly personal as if she was sitting in her home recalling for friends how she and Peter have spent the past 50 years.
Of course I had some granola along for the trip to the History Expo. Here is a bag of granola posing next to the campfire of a group of Colonial rangers. They probably were not having granola for breakfast–maybe some oatmeal cooking over the fire?
February 25, 2014
My dear friends Shirley and Richard are nearly at the end of a two month visit in Sarasota, Florida. We three became friends when we worked as audiologists at the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic in the mid 1970’s. Richard and Shirley ran the Mobile Clinic Van which toured the province delivering audiology services to rural areas. Prior to their work on the Mobile Clinic, the only audiology services in Nova Scotia were based in Halifax, where I worked. That was more than 30 years ago and we have all gone on to an assortment of other types of employment.
Shirley was having lunch today in Paradise,
feeling a little sad about the prospect of returning
to Winter back home in Indiana. As she ate her lunch she
snapped a picture of the beautiful palm trees overhead
and she sent the photo to me on her iPhone:
I was also having lunch but did not have any palm trees nearby so
I ran outside to take this picture and sent it back to Shirley.
Notice the bright mid-day sunshine in Vermont:
The palm tree photo reminded me of some photos I took the last time
I visited my sister in Sarasota, Florida. This is what bags
of Quaker Hill Granola do when they are transported to Florida
–they gallivant in the palm trees and refuse to come home.
May we all do our best tolerating the
remainder of Winter. The temperature is
headed down below zero again tonight.
More of the same tomorrow. Plus wind.
Plus snow. Enjoy!
November 17, 2013
Oh my—it has been months since I sat still long enough to post something on the Quaker Hill Blog and believe me, the desire to sit and write has been nudging at me for many weeks.
Life took an unexpected detour 5 months ago when I purchased a house in Randolph, Vermont and spent the summer moving and settling in .
Seven years ago I sold the house at the foot of Quaker Hill where I started the granola business and raised my son. When he hit high school age we moved twice, searching for a school that would be a good fit for him. We eventually found the right school and he is now in his fourth year of college. The moving around was worth the disruption in our lives but we both missed having a house.
This has been a very happy time for me. I love the process of settling in—setting up the kitchen, arranging furniture and generally figuring out how to make things work in a new space. I have spent the past five months unpacking items that have been stored for many years and it feels like reuniting with old friends. This morning I opened a box labeled “Grammie’s green vase”. This green glass vase was always present in the windowsill of my grandparent’s living room and now I’m pleased to have it in my new home. As I set it into the kitchen cabinet this morning I realized I now have a small collection of green items that all have fond memories.
There is a small green pottery pitcher from my other grandparent’s house. My grandmother used to fill this with milk and set it on the table next to my grandfather’s breakfast bowl so he could pour milk over his oatmeal. On one rare occasion when I spent the night at their house, my grandmother set out my cereal bowl and let me use the pitcher to pour my milk. That felt very special to me as a child because at our house, you poured milk from the carton. Years later, when their house was sold, I was able to claim that pitcher as a remembrance.
The green glass cookie jar in the photo sat on the kitchen counter of my childhood home. I used to practice setting the glass lid on the cookie jar silently so that I could snitch a cookie without Mom hearing me.
I picked up a set of 8 green and white dinner plates at a yard sale when I lived in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. They are nearly 100 years old. I love these and have used them daily for the past 29 years. They cost me 10 cents each in 1984. When I recently searched for them on the internet to buy a couple of extras, I saw they would cost $75 each. Guess I’ll live with what I have.
So now you know what your granola lady has been doing for the past several months instead of writing blog posts. Don’t you think you should go get a bowl of granola and pour some milk over it from your own special pitcher? It will taste better if the pitcher or the bowl (or the spoon!) have special memories.
May 19, 2013
A few weeks ago I drove to Burlington to pick up a friend at the airport. In the corridor near the gates there is always a display of artwork. This visit I discovered a set of posters done by Vermont artist Kevin Ruelle. He has created a collection of 15 scenes featuring various landmarks and themes associated with Vermont (Lake Champlain, Skiing, Maple Syrup, The Long Trail, Bicycling, and more). These are done in the style of 1930’s-40’s travel posters. The scenes Kevin Ruelle has created say to you “This is the Vermont we hold in our heart” and you want to take them home to enjoy. I was traveling with a bag of Quaker Hill Granola (doesn’t everybody?) and I posed the granola with a few of the posters. You might be surprised to know that granola likes to hang with fine art. Take a look at Kevin Ruelle’s posters and other artwork at his website: www.ruellefineart.com
May 1, 2013
When my son was quite young we started a tradition of preparing and delivering May Baskets each May 1st. He loved the fact that these were secret deliveries made early in the morning. He was usually assigned the task of running from the car to the house and dropping the basket on the porch without being spotted.
When he was older and had his first two wheeler, he would deliver baskets up and down the road on his own by bicycle. This was also a novelty he enjoyed. Then the teenage years hit and this flowers and baskets business was not necessarily his thing anymore. But I’ve kept up the tradition and have just returned from deliveries to 13 friends in the neighborhood near Quaker Hill.
Here is a photo of the basket by the door of my friends Sanders and Mary. Note the sweatshirt and work boots–evidence that Sanders has already been outdoors to take care of the chickens and will probably be out in the garden soon.
It is a spectacularly beautiful day. Spring is coming on gradually. The only flowers in sight are crocus, primrose, daffodils and the few forsythia bushes that are hardy enough to survive winters in this area. Our May baskets usually hold some pansies or a few daffodils but this year the baskets feature pussy willows.
Before I left the house this morning, I posed some Quaker Hill Granola by one of the baskets to welcome in the Spring.
March 12, 2013
This is the season for Hot Cross Buns. My Mom always bought these for Sunday breakfast during Lent when I was a child. As an adult, I have done the same. I assumed everyone was familiar with this seasonal treat but I’m learning that is not the case. At least 12 years ago I noticed our local grocery was not carrying hot cross buns in the bakery aisle during Lent as they once had. Each year since I have had to make a special request to have them brought in. When I go to customer service to make this request, I am often met with a blank stare or a comment like this one: “Oh, I think we had them during Christmas but they’re all gone now.”
This year I gave up on the grocery store requests and started buying hot cross buns at our local natural food store, Chef’s Market. They carry hot cross buns made at Manghi’s bakery in Montpelier and they are delicious.
I just did a quick exploration of “hot cross buns” on the internet and learned that the Encyclopedia Britannica, like the folks at the grocery store customer service desk, did not recognize this request. But Wikipedia did. They describe these as “a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins and marked with a cross on the top, traditionally eaten on Good Friday.”
Wikipedia mentions several traditions surrounding hot cross buns that I have never heard before: a hot cross bun served on Good Friday will not spoil or mold—so one was sometimes kept hanging in the kitchen all year to protect against fires or to ensure that all breads will turn out perfectly. They were carried on board ship to prevent shipwreck. When served to the sick, they aided recovery and when shared with a friend, they ensured friendship through the year.
Apparently the cross on top of the bun was originally just marked with a knife or was applied with pastry dough to the bun. But the version of the cross on top I’m familiar with is made with confectioner’s sugar. It dries to a firm crust but melts in the mouth.
Here’s a little hot cross bun story from our family: One very cold snowy day when my son was about 18 months old I had to go outside to shovel the drive and defrost the doors of the car before we could go to town. I couldn’t take him outside because he was too little to stay out of the way while I worked and it besides, it was terribly cold and windy. So I left him alone inside set up by a window in a chair where he could see me and I could see him as I worked. I gave him a plate with a hot cross bun to eat hoping this would keep him anchored in the chair by the window. Every time I looked for him he was there by the window. Once the shoveling and defrosting of car doors was complete I came inside. There I discovered that at some point he had slipped out of the chair, fetched the entire package of 6 hot cross buns off the kitchen counter and brought them back to his chair by the window. Then he had eaten the sugary white cross off each bun in the package, leaving behind the buns themselves. His first act of mischief!
So, it you haven’t had any of these sweet treats yourself this Lenten season, go look for some at your local market before time runs out. And don’t get into any mischief!
February 14, 2013
On Valentine’s Day several years ago the local food co-op handed out a small paper heart to each customer. Since that paper heart was the only Valentine I had coming my way that year, I was delighted. I kept it as a decoration on my refrigerator for months.
That was the inspiration for my Valentine marathon this week. I made several dozen paper heart Valentines and delivered them Wednesday morning to Chef’s Market—a great natural food store here in Randolph. The owners, Tammy and Scott, were busy arranging the display of Valentine candies, cards and flowers when I arrived and they included the basket with my paper hearts in the display. The sign on the basket says: “Emergency Valentines. Need one for yourself? Need one for someone you love? Help yourself. We can all use some extra smiles and hearts”.
Scott and Tammy have been providing fabulous produce, a large assortment of local foods and delicious salads, sandwiches and soups to the Randolph community for nearly six years now. Chef’s Market is a regular gathering place –you stop by to pick up a few items but always cross paths with two or three friends and before you know it, you’ve been standing there for 15 minutes catching up on the news. Scott and Tammy foster this friendly, lively atmosphere with their smiles and conversation. And just at the moment, they are featuring some lovely Valentine chocolates and bouquets of flowers to help you make it through until Spring.
Here’s wishing you a lovely Valentine’s Day. If you can’t get to Chef’s Market to pick up your “Emergency Valentine” compliments of Quaker Hill Granola, go get yourself some chocolate or whatever else will make the day feel special.
February 6, 2013
The current copy of Vermont Magazine has an article about rural post offices. The town of Randolph where I live has three villages: Randolph Center, East Randolph and “The Village” or “Downtown” Randolph. These three villages are separated from each other by several miles, hills and a mountain. Each village has its own post office and zip code. Randolph is small enough that if you were to write my name and zip code on an envelope and mail it from California, it would surely land in my post office box.
Bill and Bruce are the two employees who are generally at the counter when I stop by the post office to pick up the mail. They are their own two man show and the reason that most customers leave the office smiling. They spend their days patiently answering the same customer questions over and over and repeating the post office mantra: “anything liquid, hazardous or fragile?” And still they have the grace and good humor to make jokes about the lack of air conditioning on a 90 degree day, the state of the economy, the outcome of the latest Red Sox game or whatever else comes up for conversation among the cluster of customers at the counter.
They are pretty snappy with official post office business too: Need to compare rates for shipping that package by Parcel Post or Priority? They will run the numbers. Need to know what it will cost to send those books to your daughter in Turkey? They will figure it out.
On days when a package arrives for me, I get a little yellow card in my box, alerting me to come to the counter to collect it. But I generally don’t need to turn in that card—Bill or Bruce spot me coming through the door, remember that I have a package and by the time I get to the counter, they have it waiting for me. That’s great customer service.
They have come to recognize the little white boxes that I use to send samples of Quaker Hill Granola to new stores. Once I jokingly asked Bill to give his blessing to the box, explaining that I was really hoping a certain store would agree to carry the granola– he did his best to send it on its way with good karma. And yes, I got that account.
January 16, 2013
“Hey. Could we get some more sunshine around this place?”
If Mother Nature had a customer service department, this would be my request . I’m Soooo ready for more sun. I just checked the sunrise/sunset chart for this part of Vermont and see that over the past two weeks we have gained an extra 16 minutes of afternoon light. That’s something at least. Sunset today is at 4:39. By late June, sunset will happen at 8:38. That’s more like it.
Of course the sunrise/sunset charts do not take into account the days when all, or nearly all, the “daylight” hours are filled with overcast skies. This has been happening way too often recently and it means that in addition to minimal hours of daylight, the quality of the light is pretty grim.
Last week I brought home some sunshine in another form. I found a perfectly beautiful cantaloupe at the store and it spoke to me. It said: “ Yup, I was flown here from far away. I know you almost never buy fruit out of season because that’s bad behavior but come on…you have not had any melon in months and I’m sitting here waiting for a good home. I am a beautiful orange color inside and I’m full of all good sunshiny things. And besides, I’m on sale.”
That baby did not disappoint. It was worth waiting for 3 days for the cantaloupe to ripen because once cut, it proved to be perfectly delicious. And look at the picture. Doesn’t it actually look like it’s full of sunshine? Oh, what’s that next to the sunshine fruit? I think it’s a dish of Quaker Hill Cherry Almond granola. Fancy that. You can eat them both for breakfast.
I wrote this post early on January 16th. Later that day I received a note from a regular customer (Debra) who orders Quaker Hill Granola from me directly because it is not available in her area. She wrote: “2013 got off to a great start with the arrival of the Maple Cashew granola. Thank you for making such delicious granola—morning sunshine at my house!” Really. I’m not making this up. She made that reference about sunshine and it arrived on the day I was whining about the lack of sunshine. Thank you so much Debra. It cheered me right up.
January 8, 2013
January in New England can be a tough month. Most of us are heading out to work before the sun is up and coming home after dark. And in that darkness, there can be snow and ice under foot or coming at you from the sky. It’s cold too. And wet and windy. Plans are often cancelled at the last minute due to storms. The driving can be scary. The temperatures can cause even your car to protest; mine demanded a new battery last week in -11° temperatures.
I have not been handling this January with my usual sense of humor. We are only 8 days into this New Year and I’m already worn out with it all.
There is one simple thing I try to have on hand for this situation each year. Paper white bulbs. My sister Judy introduced me to these about 15 years ago and I latched onto them at once. They are the easiest, most affordable winter treat I can recommend.
I buy at least a dozen bulbs sometime in early December. I plant three in a pot several weeks before Christmas and they start growing at once. It’s a daily ritual to watch the stalks shooting up. Typically they reach 20” in height, then decide they are close enough to the sun to launch into bloom. As one batch of 3 bulbs starts to bloom, I plant the next set of 3 and so we go through the winter months—always a set of bulbs growing or blooming in the kitchen.
It is not too late to start growing some paper whites. Get to a store that sells garden items and they are likely to still have bulbs on hand. Rather than planting the bulbs in soil, I use a dish with small chips of stone which hold the bulbs in place. The bulbs only need water to grow and produce flowers. Everything else they need is in the bulb.
My first set of paper whites started to bloom yesterday. They are as important to me as the first little crocus will be in April. They are a reminder that although we are slugging our way through winter, there is still beauty curled up under the snow and we can get a little sample of that with these blooms.
What does this have to do with granola? Granola can get you through a tough morning. Paper whites can get you through a tough season. See the granola in the picture?
January 3, 2013
Ooohhh…my first blog post. What shall I talk about? How about biscotti?
One of the recipes on my brand new web site (Oh thank you so much to the magical and talented Matteo, master of web mysteries) is for biscotti with granola woven into the recipe.
After checking with friends, I discover that few have ever tried making their own biscotti. This is a shame because it’s no more difficult than making cookies, just more time consuming. And home made biscotti are generally far superior than any of the packaged choices made by big manufacturers.
The thing about biscotti is that you bake each batch twice. Well, actually thrice. You make a free form loaf and bake it on a cookie sheet, remove the loaf, slice it up and then bake the slices 10 minutes on each side to get them perfectly browned and crispy.
As I was thinking about this the other night I suddenly remembered the little crunchy biscuits called Zweiback that used to sit on our kitchen shelf at home. Now, I don’t think I’ve seen these in our local grocery store for some time but they turn up on the internet so they must still be sold somewhere. The packaging I recall had a baby on the wrapper. I grew up with the understanding that these biscuits were given to babies who were teething and appreciated something to gum around in their mouths. My memory of them is that they were slightly sweet and certainly crisp and dry. They were not delicious, but they were a bit of a novelty and I liked them.
As I was thinking about the twice-baked element of biscotti the other day, I considered the name “Zweiback”. “Zwei” means “two” in German. “Back” is a shortened version of the German word for “baked” (“gebacken”). When I ran this by my relatives in Dresden, Germany they confirmed that these biscuits are widely available in markets there.
A little time on Wikipedia informed me that “biscotti” derives from a medieval Latin phrase, “bis coctus” referring to “twice cooked”. This may also be the origin of our word “biscuit”. Various types of twice-baked breads have been around for centuries in different cultures. Because they were so dry, they were a nonperishable food useful for long journeys.
Well, there is no need for us to keep our biscotti around for long periods of time. They are too delicious. A little biscotti making would be a good start for 2013. Check my recipe on this site for biscotti with granola in the recipe and get baking.