Category: Traditions

A Birthday to Crow About

Let me tell you all about my birthday. It was a birthday to crow about.

all about my birthday

Is a birthday just a party? Must there be balloons, cake, and ice cream? Is there some magic and mystery in the passing of a year? If you live here at Serendipity Farmhouse you really never have to ask, “What is it that makes a birthday special?”

That’s because you already know – Here at SFH, Birthdays are a great blessing from God.

Family Traditions

Our three children are grown and have their own wonderful children now. Over the years, they’ve created their own family birthday traditions. But when I have a birthday, each of my children makes a special effort to let me know how fondly they remember the time when we were all together. – This year, their special expressions of love for me have filled my heart with great joy. Thank you, sweet children. – I am blessed!

My Dear Friend

For 38 years, Nancy and I have shared in an enduring friendship. We’ve helped each other during hard times, and we’ve enjoyed the good times together. There are few things greater than having a good friend. – I am blessed!

This year, Nancy spent the day with me. I made a special meal using a recipe for Silver Palate Pasta. She gave me the recipe years ago. It’s a superb blending of garden-fresh cherry tomatoes and basil with linguine and melted brie – it was all so good.

After opening of presents and sharing in good food, Nancy, Hubby, and I made our way to my favorite Quievremont Vineyard & Winery for just a “splash” of wine.

A Birthday to Crow About

all about my birthday

My loving Hubby set the theme for this birthday. It was the combination of two of my great passions – simple French-style cooking and decorating my kitchen with every conceivable type of chicken.

Knowing that our favorite chef, Jacques Pépin, is also a painter and lover of chickens, Hubby decided on the perfect gift for me. And there it is hanging on my kitchen wall, an autographed print of Jacques’s painting Black and Yellow Rooster. Could there ever be a birthday present better than that?

But the Jacques Pépin-Chicken theme went on beyond the rooster print. Dear Hubby also presented me with Jacques Pépin Art of the Chicken: A Master Chef’s Paintings, Stories, and Recipes of the Humble Bird. And if that wasn’t enough, Son #1 also added to my Jacques Pepin collection with the book Jacques Pépin Heart & Soul in the Kitchen.

It’s been a wonderful birthday with family and friends. You might even say it was a birthday to crow about. Yes, it’s what a every birthday should be – a great blessing from God.

A new specialty page for the SFH Blog

So, as my birthday week draws to a close, Hubby and I are making plans to have the Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen staff try out many new recipes by one great, inspiring cook – Jacques Pépin. His Black and Yellow Rooster print will get to watch all the action. And if you’d like to see what we’re cooking from Jacques’s cookbooks, just check out our new blog page – Recipes by Jacques Pépin – Serendipity Farmhouse. (To see it, click here.)

Until next time – Happy Cooking!

Back Porch Baby Back BBQ

What could be better than baby back ribs for the 4th of July? Here at Serendipity Farmhouse, the answer is nothing could be better. For eight years, we’ve used our special back porch baby back rib recipe. We’ve enjoyed it, refined it, and perfected it.

Whether it be for honored guests, for close family, or just for Blondie and me, this recipe has never failed. And today, I’m going to share our family tradition with you.

Let’s Get Cooking!

Okay. I’ve donned my official SFH Test Kitchen Chef’s apron. I’m ready to go out onto the back porch. It’s hot and humid out there! (After all, this is Virginia in July.) But I’m not worried about that. Nope! – With the exception of little bit of up-front tender loving care, I won’t be out on that hot deck for long.

Allow me to lay out for you our baby back rib BBQ cooking secrets using Persnickety Pierre’s Criteria of Excellence.

1. Level of the challenge

We originally came across the basic recipe for Foolproof Baby Back Ribs at It worked well for us, but we soon realized tweaks and changes were in order. We had a good recipe in hand. Our challenge was to make it better.

A large part of our testing would be focused on documenting the proper cooking temperatures. That’s because the original recipe was not specific. – If the goal is to have a good recipe that’s repeatable, it’s necessary to eliminate as many variables as possible. Temperature is a tremendously important variable. So, our big challenge was determining and documenting the cooking temperatures that would bring about consistent results.

2. Selection of good-quality ingredients – It’s the Baby Back Ribs

Our Test Kitchen staff emphasizes that proper sourcing of the baby back ribs is critical. We’ve found that the ribs sold at Sam’s Club are consistently high in quality and they are affordable. – Make sure you shop around and get the best in quality and price.

3. Use of cooking techniques

Earlier, I talked about not being concerned about the heat on the deck. That’s because the first steps in cooking the ribs are minimal. The ribs will spend an hour cooking, and they should remain covered. All you need to do is check the temperature of your covered grill periodically (Every 10 to 15 minutes).

When you preheat the grill, try to get to 450℉. Once the ribs are on the upper rack of the grill and the cover is in place, let the temperature drop to about 350℉. That’s where the temperature should remain for the entire first hour.

Note 1: Suppose it’s a rainy day or a blizzard is heading your way. This recipe can be adapted for use in your kitchen oven.

Note 2: If you want to cook some corn on the cob like we did, feel free to open the cover and quickly place the corn on the lower rack. When you do the periodic temperature checks, quickly turn over the corn and close the lid immediately.

Except for a few temperature checks, you can vacate the hot deck and seek out a cool place to relax.

For sweet Wife and me, that means it’s time to enjoy the SFH signature drink – The Serendipity Cocktail! (See: French Cuisine & GRITS)

4. Development of superior taste and flavor

Pay attention to the spices you choose for the rub. For example, my dear, sweet Blondie has trouble with some types of garlic powder. To avoid this problem, we have substituted onion powder in the rub. – Voila! That solved Blondie’s problem and good flavor is retained.

Consider the personal tastes of your guests and their dietary preferences. Be prepared to modify the ingredients for the rub accordingly.

5. Presentation of the Baby Back Ribs

Remember, this is a 4th of July or other summer holiday meal. Presentation is not the primary concern. However, keep a large supply of paper napkins or paper towels nearby.

Happy cooking!

Back Porch Baby Back Ribs

What could be better than baby back ribs for the 4th of July? Here at Serendipity Farmhouse, the answer is nothing could be better. For eight years, we've used our special back porch baby back rib recipe. We've enjoyed it, refined it, and perfected it. - Whether it be for honored guests, for close family, or just for Blondie and me, this recipe has never failed.
Note: This recipe can be adapted for use in a kitchen oven.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people


  • 1 Gas grill or oven


  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp onion powder You can substitute garlic powder.
  • salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 3 lbs pork baby back ribs
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce Use your favorite or make your own.


  • Place aluminum foil on lower rack to capture drippings and prevent flare-ups.
  • Preheat gas grill for high heat. (Try to get to 450℉)
  • In a small bowl, combine cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder and salt and pepper Mix well.
  • Trim off the membrane sheath from the back of each rack. You can do this by running a small, sharp knife between the membrane and snip or "shimmy" off the membrane as much as possible. (We prefer just to slit the membrane between the bones.)
  • Sprinkle or "throw" as much of the rub onto both sides of the ribs as desired. Do not rub the spices in, because the ribs will turn too dark and spicy. You may have some spices leftover, depending on your taste.
  • Brush grate with oil, and lay ribs on top rack of grill.
  • Reduce heat to 350℉, shut grill, and leave undisturbed for 1 hour. Try not to lift lid at all during this time period! Check temperature every 10 to 15 minutes.
  • After one hour check for doneness, depending on your grill you may need to continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes (our grill takes one hour exactly). Brush ribs with barbecue sauce and grill an additional 15 to 30 minutes until sauce is slightly absorbed and a little brown around the edges.
  • Serve ribs as whole rack or cut between bones and pile individual ribs on the platter or plate.
Keyword Baby Back Ribs

Hallow ✠ this New Fire

“Hallow ✠ this New Fire” is a phrase the priest prays as part of the blessing of the new fire at the Easter Vigil Mass. In this prayer, we make use of the fire or light as a symbol of Christ. The cross (✠) inserted in the prayer marks the moment when the priest makes the sign of the cross. By this sign he asks Christ to sanctify the fire.

In the eyes of the world, that cross is an instrument of physical death. Now, the sign of the cross, through Christ, sanctifies the New Fire and inflames the hearts of those who believe with heavenly desires. Therefore, we pray that we may join in this feast of perpetual light.

Here at Serendipity Farmhouse, we take Holy Week very seriously. With the exception of Holy Saturday, we made our way to St. Peter’s every day. There, we spent time in reflection on the mysteries of this singular week in human history.

We usually don’t attend the Vigil Mass. Instead, we attend the Easter Morning Mass. But, at about the same time the Vigil Mass begins at St. Peter’s, we light our own New Fire here at SFH. We use this time to consider what we have done during Lent and Holy Week. The bright flames of the fire fill our hearts with “heavenly desires” and we look forward to the great feast of Easter.

Last year, the weather was mild and the full moon rose over our river. It was the perfect night for a fire.

This year, it was cold when we lit our New Fire. It was also the perfect night. That was because, with the cold, we were reminded in a very real way, that this fire not only brings light. It also provides warmth and consolation.

How great is our God! He has bestowed on the faithful the fire of His brightness by His Son!

Resurrexit Sicut Dixit, Alleluia!

Onward with Our Farmhouse Life

This is our Anniversary Week. It is our tradition to keep anniversaries low profile. We make this our time to be together here in the home God chose for us. We were made for each other and this old farmhouse was made for us. So, it is only right that the central focus of our anniversary week is the twofold desire to recommit ourselves to each other and to move onward with our farmhouse life.

And what does it mean to move onward?

Well, it most certainly doesn’t mean what Mr. Monte implied in his recent post – Serendipity Farmhouse Blog Upgrade – What You Need to Know. His mistaken perception is that his “two big cats are running around like their hair is on fire.”

What Mr. Monte thought he saw and what was actually taking place were two entirely different things. He thought he saw a frenzy of activity and panic. What actually was happening was our methodical preparation for the coming warm weather season.

Whatever my dear Wife and I do, we do together. When Spring arrives, together we plan for the seasonal changes brought about by warm temperatures and longer days. This is a serious business. Necessarily, our work pace accelerates and our planning sessions intensify. There is no time to dilly. Nor is there any time to dally.

Of course, from the vantage point of a grumpy, old Maine Coon cat, our heightened level of activity might be viewed as disordered and chaotic. But no, our hair was not on fire. Everything was under control – well, for the most part, everything was under control.

Serendipity Farmhouse Warm Weather Season Plan

While some plans still need to be drawn up, dearest Blondie and I have identified three primary areas of interest for the 2023 warm weather season. We say Warm Weather Season because, in this part of Virginia, warm weather extends from mid-Spring into mid-Autumn.

Many of our future posts will discuss these aspects of our farmhouse life. You will have the opportunity to join us as we try out new strategies and various techniques. Perhaps you might help us out by making some comments and giving us useful pointers based on your own personal experience.

Farmhouse Gardens

We added two raised beds to our farmhouse gardens last year and we experimented with 10 tomato varieties. This year, we will focus on four favored tomato varieties. We will reduce the number of okra plants and increase the number of green beans. Also, we intend to expand our selection of herbs.

New Test Kitchen Adventure – Bread Making

onward with our farmhouse life

The soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen is moving into the world of bread making from scratch. Since New Year’s, we’ve been milling our own wheat, experimenting with ancient grains, and bringing our own sourdough starter to life. We will show you how it’s done.

RV Season 2023

On March 21st, I removed the cover from El Camino Del Monte, our Class-C RV, and announced the official start of the 2023 SFH RV season. Our first trip is booked and we have tentatively planned an interstate trip for later on. This year, we will hook up solar panels and increase our boondocking capabilities. Come along for the ride.


Serendipity Farmhouse is just a little place in Virginia. Our Warm Weather Season is very hot and extremely humid. Some days, we won’t want to work in the Farmhouse Gardens. Likewise, our Test Kitchen will be uncomfortable when we’re making bread. Even El Camino Del Monte, with its air conditioner running, will be less than enjoyable under the hot Summer sun. – This is all part of our farmhouse life.

But none of that really matters too much. Just as we do during our Anniversary Week, we strive to make every day our special time to be together here in the home God chose for us. Work in the Farmhouse Gardens might be hard, but we benefit greatly from our labor. The Test Kitchen might be overly hot when we’re baking or canning, but the brief discomfort provides us nourishing meals all year round. And of course, our RV provides us the means to retreat from everyday cares and worries.

We would be foolish to ask for anything more than He has already given us.

Happy Anniversary, Blondie!!

How to Start a Family Tradition

How to Start a Family Tradition

I haven’t spoken to you, my 23,417 feline followers, in a long time. As you know, we cats don’t have any family traditions. We have something far superior – instincts. However, humans both need and enjoy traditions. That is why many years ago, I persuaded Ol’ Fuzz Face and Miss Blondie to have a yearly First Robin of Spring Contest. Since then, I’ve learned that all of us cat should know how to start a family tradition.

But, before you try something like this with your humans, you should take these three tips to heart.

3 Tips on How to Start a Family Tradition

The three tips I have listed below have been compiled and developed here at Serendipity Farmhouse over the course of eight years. They are practical and based on feline common sense. If you follow these tips, you and your humans will bask in the warmth and wonder of family tradition.

Tip 1: Make the Family Tradition Guidelines Clear

First, you should institute a family tradition that has a set of clear and well-defined guidelines. If you fail to do this, the result will be needless squabbles. Here are a three sample guidelines from our contest:

  • There must be a picture of the alleged robin;
  • The bird in the photo must be a real robin; and
  • The picture must be dated on or after March 1st.
How to make a family tradition

This year, Daughter-in-law #1 submitted the winning entry. As you can see, this is an American Robin. The metadata on the photo confirmed the picture was taken on March 2nd.

Congratulations, Daughter-in-law #1

Tip 2: Ensure that Everyone Gets the Message

If your adoptive human family is large, extended, and includes close friends, you should expect some communications problems. Your guidelines should provide an explanation of how to inform all concerned about critical events, like the confirmed sighting of a robin. If some extended family member doesn’t get the message, you can be sure there will be a moment or two of anxiety.

This year, dear friend Miss Nancy got the word late and registered a minor complaint. The communications oversight caused some rather unfortunate use of terminology to be brandished. Apparently, all is well now and there are no more ruffled robin feathers.

How to start a family tradition
Poor Communications and the Robin Grinch

Tip 3: Be Prepared to Start a New Family Tradition

The panel of judges might encounter seemingly insurmountable problems at times. No, I don’t mean problems like the submitted photo is blurred or difficult to view. I mean problems of the type that might disrupt tranquility throughout the entier galaxy. One of those problems occurred on February 25 this year.

It was on that date, that the panel of judges (Ol’ Fuzz Face, Persnickety Pierre, and myself) received a contest submission photo from Miss Blondie. Obviously, the photo should be automatically disqualified because it was submitted days before the start of meteorological Spring. As you will see below, there was another problem with the photo.

How to Start a Family Tradition
Miss Blondie’s Submission

According to the article Vultures in Virginia (All You Need To Know) the photograph that Miss Blondie submitted was not an American Robin. In reality, it was a Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus). – This forced the judges to go into an extended huddle.

Miss Blondie is Never Wrong!

Under normal circumstances, the panel of judges would have just laughed at the submission. These were not normal circumstances. By definition, here at Serendipity Farmhouse, Miss Blondie is NEVER WRONG. – This was when the huddle began. We were two desperate men and a Maine Coon cat. Heads would roll if we couldn’t find a solution.

Huddle Results – A New Family Tradition

It took several hours. Fuzzy lost more hair than usual. Pierre said things in French that probably shouldn’t be translated. And I felt my skin crawl as if I had been attacked by a thousand fleas.

Then the answer came. We were trying to solve the wrong problem. The problem wasn’t that Miss Blondie was wrong – because Miss Blondie is NEVER WRONG. Rather, the problem was that the family tradition was wrong.

In a flash, the panel of judges instituted a brand new family tradition – The Last Vulture of Winter Contest. We immediately wrote clear set of guidelines; set up communications protocols; and complimented ourselves on our ability to be prepared to start a new family tradition.

From 2023 forward, Serendipity Farmhouse has two wonderful family traditions;

  • The First Robin of Spring Contest, and
  • The Last Vulture of Winter Contest.

So you see, my dear feline followers, if you follow these three tips, your adoptive human families can also bask in the warmth and wonder of a new family tradition.