Saturday, December 24, 2011


Wishing all a Joyous Holiday Season
a happy , healthy and peaceful New Year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December in the Gardens of Strawbery Banke, Portsmouth, NH

This is the Sherburne Garden at Strawbery Banke Museum. It is the oldest garden here and dates to 1695. It remains on it's original site framed by a Colonial house, a board fence and Roxbury Russett heritage apple trees. These raised beds supplied not only food but medicinal herbs for the family.

"Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine your food."

A quote by Hippocrates from text at the museum.

Continuing our garden walk......

Up the path, inside a fenced yard of this 18th Century house is this wonderful pergola. This is my favorite garden structure here at Strawbery Bank. If I could duplicate one for our garden this would be it.
Portsmouth was as important trade port in the 18th Century, so new plants, from China for example, were introduced into gardens .

James and I were both interested that Strawbery Banke Museum has an Heirloom Seed project. It made sense since their mission here is to preserve not only buildings that span four centuries but also the gardens. We are certainly interested in learning more about this and the program Historic Foodways.

Follow a path towards a multi-tiered fountain, through an arch formed by the cedar and find yourself in the formal Victorian garden, circa 1862. I love walking under the cedar arch, it sets the stage for a romantic Victorian garden.

Paths lead to this garden building with decorative painted iron chairs. Here in the Victorian garden things taken on a more formal appearance, and the use of annual bedding plants for color and pattern.

A rose post adorns the corner of the Victorian garden. We first saw a rose post in the gardens here several years ago, when we were fortunate to have a private tour of the grounds and gardens. Our guide was John Forti, The Curator of Historic Gardens & Landscape at the Strawbery Banke Museum. It was a memorable tour that we often recall. Back then there was a small garden shop on the grounds where we bought a number of herbs including sweet cicely and bronze fennel that remain in our garden.

Here we are in the restored 20th Century Colonial Revival garden. There is so much going on here with plants and structures. Come along as we wander through .....

In this Colonial Revival garden the use of textural paths of stone and brick lead to an interesting pergola that connects the garden to the house. I have never seen a garden structure quite like this. I can imagine dining under the shade of the pergolas canopy in the warm months. It is impressive.

This garden will be glorious in the spring and summer, but this time of year the structure is the star.

The urn sits proudly on top or the trellis like structure. This garden has a good sense of scale.

The Herb Garden
This garden has been planted as a teaching garden. The bench adds an interesting focal point against the dark greenery of boxwood. The pea stone gravel paths are like what we have in our own gardens, I love the feel under foot and the sound of footsteps walking through the garden.

One of the reasons we are visiting the gardens here today is that we are considering changes to our garden. Our plan is to revise and edit our rose garden. Certain rose will remain others moved. Moving roses is a task and not always successful, but we must be courageous and move ahead! In their place herbs will be planted. So we came here today to see and fill our heads with the herb gardens.

A detail of the Herb Garden. It looks very pleased to share the names of all the plants.

Here we are at the Victory Garden reading the helpful text. Many American households relied on their backyard Victory Gardens to help provide food for their tables due to food rationing during World War II. We learned of a tomato that was new and planted in many of these backyard gardens called "Mortgage Lifter" a name appropriate to those difficult times. We have
since planted a couple Mortgage Lifters in our garden each summer.

The Victory Garden

The stakes remain where summer tomatoes grew. Next summer,with the cooperation of nature and human hands tilling, renewing and enriching the soil,they will once again be heavy with ripe tomatoes. Canning fruits and vegetables became more common in the American kitchen in efforts to let the garden feed the family.

In another garden, summer finds cabbages, garlic and foods that represent the cultures of the immigrants that came to America and to this area of the seacoast.

The shadows grow longer as the afternoon passes. On our way out of Strawbery Banke we stop for a few moments, we each make note of this garden entrance. How inviting it must be on a warm summer day to rest on the benches beneath a cover of shady green. This is the entrance to the Heritage Orchard, where heirloom apples are being grown.
I think we will return next summer to see what this all looks like then, and return home to our garden with a few ideas.
May I suggest taking along a sketchbook or notebook on your visit.

For information on the historic gardens click on: Strawbery Bank Gardens

The museum offers programs on traditional recipes cooking including hearth cooking, as well as use and preservation of heirloom produce. For information on these interesting demonstrations and programs, click on:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The Strawbery Banke website opens with,
"Strawbery Banke is about connecting with the past."

This is a living museum. It is our opportunity to have a glimpse of life in this seacoast village from the late 17th century to the mid-2oth Century.
Dirt roads and paths lead past ordinary houses , fancy homes, a store, sheds, artisan shops and gardens. The oldest of the 42 buildings dates from the Colonial times circa 1695. The most recent building here takes us up to World War II, with a Victory Garden behind it.

With Four Centuries collected here, we find many of the buildings have been preserved and several are in the process of restoration. These buildings are here thanks to citizens that understood the importance of historic preservation.
The restoration continues. There is a program called
The Heritage House Program,
it's goal is to restore and preserve ten additional properties on the site.

We visit on a warm and clear December afternoon. The sun is low in the sky creating long shadows and of course there will be an early sunset. But the day is beautiful and it is quiet here. We are happily lost in time.
Along this street some of the buildings have been restored others stand waiting their turn to be brought back to what they once were.

A window draws attention to itself against the plain wooden boards. One of the oldest buildings on the grounds, this house has spectacular form and the diamond window panes are a lovely detail.

On the other hand, down another street we climb into the time machine and travel ahead a few hundred years. A feeling of nostalgia seeps in when approaching this building, a restored general store.....from an era not all that long ago.

A restored home is seen in the distance with a dory here in the foreground, put up for winter. Portsmouth has been an important seaport since the 1600's, so boats, both large and small have played an important role here. Boat building, trade and fishing are central to this seacoast community.
This area where Strawbery Banke was once an immigrant community known as Puddle Dock.

This fence is just a glimpse of some of the details and structure of the gardens that can be seen on a visit here. But more on that soon. Here we look through the fence to the surrounding neighborhood that is Strawbery Banke.

There are some interesting gardens to explore at Strawbery Banke. Behind this fence is one of those gardens that we will enter in an upcoming story!

As we exit the grounds we follow along the edge created by this unique white washed fence. This December evening is the annual Holiday Candlelight Stroll, a very festive occasion celebrating the season and this special historic place in the heart of Portsmouth.

Strawbery Banke

Strawbery Banke Candlelight Stroll
Sat. & Sun. Dec. 10& 11
Sat. & Sun. Dec. 17 & 18
For further information and tickets for this season's Candlelight Stroll click on:

Gundalow Company
Puddledock Boatyard

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Travel Journal......With darkness setting in early the travel plans begin!

Rome, the pines on the Palatine Hill

Now, with Thanksgiving behind us we move forward into the dark and cold part of the year. Although I must say that the temperature outside today is in the 50's, unseasonably mild and welcoming. With the darkness setting in early by late afternoon the light in the studio becomes too dim to paint. It is then that I work on travel plans for the spring trip to Italy. Later in the evening James will often light a fire and we dine in front of the fireplace. These are two remedies we have found to brighten this time of year.
I began this blog, At Home and Away, prior a trip to Rome when James was a Visiting Artist at The American Academy in Rome in spring of 2010. So in part the blog became our travel journal. This time the blog will again serve as our travel journal beginning with the planning and preparations for our trip.
Thoughts and suggestions are most welcomed.

When we travel it is to Italy. James and I go to look at art and gardens. We find the Italian people really lovely and kind. We love eating, cooking and certainly drinking Italian wine. The landscape of Tuscany and Umbria is breathtaking and Rome is an incredible city.
So, where do we begin? Where do we go this time that we have not gone in the past?
One change, on this trip our daughter and her husband will be with us for about two weeks.
James and I generally rent an apartment in Panicale, Umbria as a home base. Renting an apartment works well for us due to the fact that it is economical and we can cook. We are renting again, but the Panicale apartment is not available for our entire stay this year, so we have to consider other options for the remainder of our time there.

There are places we love that we want to share with them, Rome, Siena, Florence, maybe Lucca. There are small villages and hill towns to explore with medieval alleys to walk. There are cathedrals and abbeys of remarkable architecture filled with art. Palazzos with loggias and courtyard gardens. Gardens both hidden and small as well as the grand gardens to visit. Art, there is art in museums, but for us the best place to see art in the place it was meant to be, the place where it was created; a fresco on the ceiling of a Baroque Basilica or Renaissance fresco on refectory wall of an abbey. There are trattorias that cannot be missed. Always, always new places to find.

So, it is now the planning begins. The apartment in Panicale is rented, for at least a portion of our visit.
I am reading Rome, by Robert Hughes. I just completed a book on
the design genius of both Bernini and Borromini.
My notebooks and sketchbooks from past trips sit on my desk, pages open. Travel guides line the bookshelf for reference. My mind is filled with Italy...Rome, Tuscany & Umbria.
I will keep you posted.
Ideas to share? Know a great place to stay, a delicious trattoria, a place to see a remarkable painting, a quiet and hidden garden. Something not to be missed, let me know!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving

Bon Appetit, November 1980
Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey

This 1980 issue of Bon Appetit magazine helped to ignite our desire to cook. We were familiar with both Craig Claiborne from his New York Times articles and cookbooks and Pierre Franey from his cookbooks and history with Le Pavillion restaurant.
I am fairly certain we have prepared every recipe in the article from the Jalapeno Cornbread Stuffing, Kathleen Claiborne's Pecan Pie, Roast Fresh Turkey and so on. The article not only gave us recipes but taught us how to truss a turkey, and gave us ideas for wines to pair with the meal.
Remember, this was 1980. This was eye opening for us. Now 2011, the magazine remains part of our tradition. Some years we may use only one recipe that Craig and Pierre brought to us, or just have it on the table for a quick reference, but it remains a treasure in our kitchen.

We have a collection of Johnson Brothers "Wild Turkey" and "Barnyard Turkey" plates that we use on Thanksgiving. The fancier Barnyard Turkey plates were a gift to me from James, along with a large platter. The Wild Turkey plates, cups & saucers came from a church sale in Maine. I spotted the familiar trademark Johnson Bros. plates barely visible in a box on the floor where the white elephant sale items were. A great find!

The very first cookbook that James and I bought decades ago, was Craig Claiborne's Herb and Spice Cookbook. That took us to the New York Times Cookbook. From there we found James Beard, Pierre Franey, Julia Child & Elizabeth David. We collect cookbooks , and we read about food. When we find a recipe we always cook directly from the recipe, after that we often make changes....adapting it to our own needs and likes.
Cooking and eating well is important in our kitchen and dining room and garden. When the opportunity to dine in an exceptional restaurant arises we jump at it. We also love eating at small trattoria family run places.

But for us, Thanksgiving is about home and sharing food with family and friends. This year, along with our daughter and son-in-law, we will host 20. We will have sheep and goat cheese and eggs from local farms to begin.
Fresh organic Vermont Turkey will be the star accompanied by two stuffings, gravy (started with a great turkey stock). A puree of sweet potato with praline topping, mashed potato casserole a la NY Times Dining section, Cranberry- Lingonberry Sauce ( a nod to New England and my Swedish ancestry), haricot verts with pancetta, garden fresh multi- color carrots, and of course an assortment of pies will all be part of our feast.

As you can see this magazine is well worn. It has seen us through many Thanksgiving Feasts.

Keep cooking.
Be thankful for family, good food, home gardens and small farms that provide fresh food for us all to enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Morning

This October morning brings an unusual sight for this time of year, an abundance of snow.
Here the rose garden with the trellis crowned in white while everything else is blanketed in the snow that fell overnight. A strange looking landscape with so many trees still hanging on to their autumn color leaves.

With the early snow comes some interesting patterns in nature with form and color.

The golden yellow of the maple leaves creates a stunning contrast against the fresh white snow and the greys of the distant woodland.

The crab apple that is outside our kitchen window is heavy with fruit, leaves and now snow.

The view from my studio across the field. The oaks with their branches full of russet and burnt orange color leaves the trunks and branches outlined in white by snow.

James was able to get most of the terra cotta pots and garden furniture stored. These remaining benches where on nice evenings, sometimes even in October, we enjoy a glass of wine, can now measure the snow fall amount.
I guess we will be sitting in front of our lovely fireplace in the evening, at least until spring.

Sadly, one of our old apple trees was quite damaged during the storm. This year the tree was in it's glory full of bright red apples and still in leaf. We will get a better look at it in the next few days when the snow begins to melt.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Despite the Snow,We Still Have Flowers

It is October and the snow has already found New England. The garden chores that James and I usually spend late October and November doing, storing garden furniture, terra cotta pots and tools all must be done now. This early storm may leave us with a foot of snow. The arborvitae is wrapped to keep them from becoming a meal for a family of deer, wood is stacked, our boots and gloves brought out into the mud room....far too early.

But here, in our studios there are still flowers in bloom!
Here is the story
told in a few pictures.

Helen Elizabeth Poppies
Elizabeth Johansson
charcoal on paper

Late Summer Hydrangeas
Elizabeth Johansson
oil on panel

Siena:Still Life with Agapanthus (detail)
James Aponovich
oil on canvas

Calla Lillies ( in - progress detail)
James Aponovich
oil on canvas

With the snow just beginning to fall, I took the pruners out to the garden. First I cut an assortment of herbs, thyme, parsley, tarragon, mint, sage and oregano. If the forecast holds true, the herbs will be under a foot of snow by morning. Then, I searched through the garden and found a large handful of remaining flowers, foliage and added a few herbs to create the final bouquet of the season.

When I came in to the kitchen with the herbs James began cooking. We will prepare a warm meal for tonight's dinner and prepare something for tomorrow, a ragu Bolognese I think, for we might just loose our power in this storm.
But we still have flowers.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tomatoes.....Gifts From the Garden

Our garden has seen a frost, so the final harvest of tender plants yielded plum tomatoes,peppers, eggplant and swiss chard. One of our favorite ways to prepare plum tomatoes is to roast them. Roasting the tomatoes provides a delicious ingredient as well as creates a wonderful aroma in the kitchen . A duel pleasure.
The first step is to peel, core and seed the tomatoes. This is accomplished by putting the tomatoes in boiling water just long enough to loosen skins, then transferring them to an iced water bath. Cool, core, remove skin then cut in half and remove seeds. ( I like to save the seeds along with the pulp and juice for possible use later). Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
I line a baking sheet with parchment, then arrange the tomatoes cut side up.

The tomatoes are readied for roasting with a generous drizzle of good olive oil, salt and pepper. I like to add an herb such as chopped fresh basil, but in this case I use fresh thyme. What little basil that remained in the garden succumbed to the frost.
The tomatoes go into the oven for several hours, generally 4-5 hours. I check them after about 3 hours and determine whether to continue roasting. I would say on average to plan on about 4 hours roasting time at a low heat or 200 degrees.

The Roasted Tomatoes.....out of the oven at last!

Allow them cool then place them in a bowl with any of the pan drippings and then drizzle additional olive oil ( high quality) coating them. They can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.
The tomatoes can be served as is, as part of an antipasto plate, in a salad, served on toasted bread as a bruschetta ( with or without cheese). For a simple pasta dish, spaghetti tossed with olive oil,
garlic, red pepper flakes and grated pecorino or parmesan cheese.

A more complex pasta dish would be to prepare a ragu featuring roasted tomato.

Bowl of Pasta with Ragu of Sausage , Porcini, and Roasted Tomatoes

Recipe : Ragu with Sausage, Porcini and Roasted Tomatoes

A ragu is a sauce, a meat sauce found in kitchens and on menus all through Tuscany and Umbria. A ragu might contain sausage meat as this one does but boar, veal , lamb or duck are commonly used as well. This recipe is very adaptable to any ground meat or even a braised meat shredded into bite sized pieces. James and I both are fond of porcini mushrooms, so we add those to this dish, here we use dried that are soaked in water just brought to a boil, turned off and left to stand for about 20 min. , then removed from water ( reserve liquid).

In the meantime finely chop : 1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 stalk of celery and 1-2 cloves of garlic.
Heat oil in saute pan, cook onions until translucent, not brown. Remove from pan and reserve.
Saute carrots and celery until they begin to become tender. Add garlic and saute, being careful not to let brown. Remove vegetables from pan and reserve with onions.
Heat oil in pan to saute meat, in this case about 12 oz. of Italian sausage removed from casing. Cook slowly, do not quite brown it. When fully cooked, add chopped porcini mushrooms and cook through. Add 1/4 red wine...hopefully Italian wine! Add one and half to two cups chicken stock ( or other meat stock) along with reserved porcini liquid. Add the roasted tomatoes and reserved juice.
Season with salt and pepper, a bay leaf and a few sprigs of fresh thyme ( alternatively, fresh sage can be used).
Simmer on a low heat letting the sauce slowly reduce, adding additional broth a quarter cup at time, as needed. Adjust seasoning. This should simmer for about one and a half to two hours. Toss with pasta. I prefer to use wide pasta like papperdalle. Serve with grated pecorino or parmigiano reggiano cheese.


The best duck ragu we ever ate was at a trattoria, La Porta, in Tuscany in the medieval village of Monticchiello that looks over the Val d'Orcia. It was heavenly yet balanced with an earthy richness. At La Porta the duck ragu is served over the regional pasta called pici.

Friday, September 30, 2011


Here is a behind the scenes look at the filming of a television segment at our home/ studios for WCVB Channel 5, Boston for Chronicle.
Ted Reinstein, reporter for Chronicle, is interviewing James on his year long project
52 paintings in 52 weeks.
This is what we refer to as a painting marathon.

A break in the questioning!

James at his easel talking about the Aponovich 52 project, also demonstrating that there is work beyond the project that continues in the studio.
The paintings in this project can be seen in a weekly blog for all interested in following along.
There you will find still lifes, a portrait and a few landscapes of places James has visited in the past 26 weeks.
So,now 26 paintings down, 26 paintings left to go.

Our thanks to Ted Reinstein and Chronicle Crew for taking interest in this project. In the art business this undertaking in known as working in a "time-based arena". I like the sound of that, it keeps me working. At the conclusion of the 52 weeks ( and after a few weeks of rest) these paintings, along with sketches and related works
will be on exhibit at Clark Gallery, Lincoln, MA, June 2012.


The segment airs on Chronicle / WCVB TV/Thursday, September 29 at 7:30
Chronicle Website; CHRONICLE HD

Lincoln Station, Lincoln, MA
781- 259-8303

The Blog: