Category Archives: Family time

Memories – December 11, 2017

Our memories of Christmas together go back 40 years and most are wonderful memories, a few sad, a few where a silent primal scream in the kitchen was in order.

As our daughter was born in late November, as soon as she had a voice and an idea of what a birthday was supposed to be, decorating was forbidden until the day after her birthday.  Usually the outdoor wreaths would go up the day after Thanksgiving whether it was the 23rd or the 29th, but the indoor decorations were left in the boxes in the attic or storage closet (depending on the house) until the 30th.

Early on in our relationship, a Santa collection was begun and as the family grew, so did the collection as it made a great gift from the kids or from hubby.  We lived in the Hampton Roads part of Virginia at the time and in the town of Portsmouth was a Nursery and greenhouse that in addition to selling Christmas trees, turned the entire property into a winter wonderland with animatronic displays of various themes, the Santa workshop, Candy factory, train displays, with one room of one building selling tree lights, ornaments, gifts, and hot cocoa.  Our first Santa and his Mrs. came from Coleman’s Nursery.

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Several of the more than 100 also came from there as I discovered the gnomes of Tom Clark and they became my favorites.

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At some point, a tiny village was also started and occupied the mantel when the children were small and later the corner of the hutch.

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Sometime in the late 1990’s, Coleman’s burned and they lost a lot of their displays, but vowed to rebuild.  In 2003, we heard that Coleman’s was closing and selling off their  remaining animatronics and trains and though we hadn’t been in a couple of years because it just wasn’t the same after the fire, we returned and came home with an addition to the village.  Most of the Santas and village pieces are dated by me and often have either where they were purchased or who gifted them to me.  One year at Coleman’s, we discovered that daughter, then maybe 4 was breaking out with chicken pox.  I always wondered how many children we infected that night before we realized, she never felt ill and fortunately didn’t get too many pox, but another memory.

There were Christmases when money was tight and we struggled to make sure that the kids got at least one major gift from their list.  Of course our kids were of the age to want Cabbage Patch doll or Transformers, sending us on merry chases to try to locate the gift that every other child of that age wanted that year.

One year, a small animatronic Santa with a working clock and tape player that played the Night Before Christmas Story appeared.

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He always sat in our foyer at Christmas, but has been stored away for more than a decade.  This year, not knowing if he even still worked, he was brought out for the resident grands and with a battery in the clock and a good dusting, he still works, including the cassette.

There were the sad Christmas times as I lost both of my parents in December, many years apart and the unwrapping of ornaments and Santas from them bring tears of love and sadness.

The memories, oh the memories.  I hope my children have mostly good memories of Christmas, I do.

Olio – Nov. 24, 2017

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of things

The blog has been quiet of late, but not for a lack of activity.  Jim and I continue to strive for a daily walk, though the past few days because of extra folk in the household, prep for Thanksgiving, child keeping for daughter and SIL to get their house painted inside before they move their furniture in, my walks have either been missed or have happened on our mountain road with visiting son, DIL, and eldest grandson.  Last evening, we walked our road so that I could show them the fossil.

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Grandson had been shown it before, but couldn’t find it again to show his parents.  It stays hidden and you have to know where to look to uncover it.

Today is  resident granddaughter’s  sixth birthday.  She was born on Thanksgiving and celebrated on Thanksgiving last year but won’t hit the holiday again for a few years.

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Her Dad is not a fan of spiders so her wicked sense of humor requested a chocolate cake with a spider web and spider on top. Above is daughter, our resident cake decorator, molding a purple spider from Rice Krispy treat mix to go on the cake that will be revealed tonight.

Yesterday’s feast was a treat.  We worked together to pull it off, with DIL helping with side dishes,  son’s assist to spatchcock the 19.5 lb turkey.  He also is in charge of rubbing the herb butter I made under the skin and lifting the monster onto and off of the baking rack and carving it.  This process produces the juiciest, tastiest poultry in such a short time.  It only took 90 minutes cooking time with this method.

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We don’t put the whole bird on the table to carve so it’s unconventional appearance is okay.  The aromatic vegetables under the turkey are pureed and added to the backbone, neck, giblets, and carcass to cook down for broth.  We ended up last night putting 2 1/2+ gallons of broth in jars for future gravies, cooking rice, potatoes, or beans.

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I survived turning 70 this past week.  It was a busy day of cleaning, food purchase for the feast and to feed the 9 people currently staying here, but ended with Jim taking me for a delightful meal at a local upscale restaurant.

This morning, eldest grandson (12), resident grandson (10), and the birthday girl, helped me stack the load of firewood that was delivered earlier this week.  This required removing the old wood from the makeshift rack first, driving a couple new T posts, scrounging for a few more old cedar posts to use as the base, and stacking high enough to have room, low enough to not topple over. The old wood then piled back on top to be burned first.

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It is two rows thick at one end and the chick raising water trough is full of old wood, set on it’s side behind the stacks as additional storage.

Today, being Black Friday, I won’t venture from the house.  I don’t like to shop when it is quiet, I sure don’t want to be out in the chaos that even our smaller towns seem to have.  I will support some of our local businesses later, and will purchase some gifts online next week.

I hope my readers, had quality time with family or friends yesterday or will be able to this weekend.  I am thankful for the time with my husband, children that could come and their families.  Hopefully, we will soon get to visit the one that could not come.

It is that time – October 16, 2017

Facebook reminded me of a post from two years ago yesterday when a frantic harvesting was undertaken as we were expecting three consecutive nights of frost.  Tonight we are forecast for our first potential frost.  Right on time, mid October.  A few years we have gotten an extra couple of weeks, and a few years, it has come a week or so earlier, but our average is mid October.

The weekend was busy.  Daughter and family went overnight camping with their Taekwondo group and one from a near city for their belting ceremony and fun.  Eldest son and eldest grandson came in Saturday to tackle some needed work.  While son did some set up, I headed to the garden and harvested 2 peck of hot peppers for him to take home.  His garden, though productive with some vegetables, did not produce many peppers. The 7 old chickens and the rooster were sent to freezer camp Saturday afternoon.  It is going to take an extra slow cook to be able to chew those old birds, they were tough as shoes.  With early sunsets, that was all that we got done Saturday afternoon, but took a post dinner trip to Lowes to price out deck rebuilding materials.  I actually missed hearing Mr. Croak the past two mornings.

When we built our house, we built a huge deck on the south side, using a new borate treated wood.  Decks have a 10-20 year life expectancy and that one only made the lower end of that.

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Many of my blog photos have been take of or from that deck.  A couple of years ago,  when it was stained, the spindles that had all be hand cut had to be replaced.  They were replaced with pre routed boards top and bottom and new spindles that were pre cut at a top and bottom angle.  Last autumn, someone (maybe our 200 lb dog) put a foot through one of the boards on the decking, and we ended up replacing three boards with new pressure treated.  In the past year, more and more of the deck boards deteriorated until it just wasn’t safe to go on it.

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You can see the three replaced boards and two places where we stepped through it yesterday in preparation to resurface it and put on new railing.  Unfortunately, as son and I worked to remove the old railing, getting the nails and bolts out of the logs holding the balusters and spindles and assessing what would be necessary, it appears that most of the joists under the large part of the deck are rotting too and we just can’t rebuild the whole thing.  The 7.5 foot wide section coming out of the french doors of the dining room has sound joists, so it will be re decked with one of the composite decking materials, that will eliminate the need for the every other year re staining of this south facing deck, and wide steps will come off the side of it to the ground.  Over time, we will try to gather enough flat field stone from the piles on our property to make a ground level patio in the spot where the large part of the deck now stands.  It is disappointing, but because it is south facing and unprotected, it didn’t get the use we had planned for it to get over the years.

In anticipation of the next two very cold nights, the rest of the peppers will be harvested or if the wind dies down today, perhaps just covered with row cover or a tarp.  If the asparagus ferns burn, they will be cut back along with the raspberry canes and the sweet potatoes dug and put in storage for a couple of weeks curing time before we begin to enjoy them.  The garden is shutting down for the winter and the chickens will be given access to it for the winter.  If I can get some seed garlic, it will be planted in a couple of weeks and covered so the chickens don’t dig it up.  Until next spring, the garden is going to bed.  Bye bye sunflowers.

 

Music Weekend Away – July 23, 2017

A delightful opportunity presented itself and we took it. Early Friday morning, we set off, grands staying with their Dad for the morning as he took the morning off, and the afternoon with their Mom who worked from home. Our destination, about 3 hours away for a weekend of music and each other’s company without any other responsibility. The Shenandoah Valley Music Festival opened on Friday with Arlo Guthrie and we had 10th row center seats. When we arrived at Shrine Mont prior to lunch we discovered that we had a second floor corner room just feet from Arlo’s bus and the Pavilion in which the concert would be held.
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This visit included a stellar concert, some time with my brother and his lovely wife, some nice meals, a short visit to the chapel where our children were baptized, our daughter was married, and where a memorial plaque is mounted on a stone wall for my Dad.

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Day two of our weekend, took us about an hour away to Big Meadows Lodge.  We have many fond memories there with our children when they were young, hiking during the day and going to listen to local music at night.  Our favorite musician from then was Charlie Mattox, an Art History Professor at James Madison University that performs  Appalachian folk music, old sea shanties, and other traditional songs.

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Unfortunately, we got there at 11:15 a.m. and couldn’t check in until 3 p.m., but the performer for the night was Charlie Mattox.  We had our lunch, sat in the lodge with our books, took a short drive on the Skyline Drive looking for wildlife, and finally could check in in time to take a short nap while the storms rolled in and heavy rain fell.

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Our room was tiny, dark, and stuffy on an interior hall in the main lodge but we didn’t have to venture out in the rain.  By the end of dinner, the rain had stopped though it was still overcast and we took a short walk in the Meadow, hoping to see deer.

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Wildflowers, interesting trees, lots of people, but no deer.  We drove back to the lodge in time to get a table right in front of Charlie.

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We had a fun evening listening to him and participating in his program as he encourages everyone to sing along.  It was not the same as when we had our children with us, but still a very enjoyable evening.

This morning we began our leisurely drive home along the Skyline Drive and down to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a total of about 80 miles of slow scenic travel, finally seeing the deer.

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Three doe and three spotted fawn just off the side of the Drive in the woods and as they are protected there from hunting, they are not skittish when you stop the car to take their photo.

We finally needed gas and lunch and got off the scenic byway to rejoin civilization and take care of those needs and proceed on home to put away our weekend suitcases.  It was a relaxing, music and scenery filled three days, arriving home to find daughter’s family had cleaned house, a bonus.

Whew, what a week – July 10, 2017

What a whirlwind the past week.  The garden has been neglected as the only time I was home to work on it, it was either raining or too hot to want my fair skin out in the sun.

Last Monday, eldest continued on the high lifter, staining high parts of the house while I worked on removing screens, staining the windows that tilt inside, passing supplies out the window from the upstairs to him on the lifter bucket.  We moved the lifter as night fell up to the gravel of the driveway before the predicted rain was due.

Tuesday, being Independence Day in the USA, the historic house, Smithfield House, where I go to spin in costume, held a 4 hour celebration of the day with hourly cannon fire, apple pie contest, reading of the Fincastle Resolution and the Declaration of Independence, re-enactors, the blacksmith, weavers, spinners, tours, and fun by all.

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Wednesday it rained and we stayed home with the grands, getting them to their evening Taekwondo classes.

Thursday, they were loaded in our car and off we drove east nearly 3 hours to meet youngest son and his family who drove west about 3 hours and met in Charlottesville to let the cousins play, us to get some snuggle time and to visit with our son and his wife for a late morning, lunch, and early afternoon before the trips were reversed back to our respective homes.

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The car time allowed knitting time as I rode passenger and good progress was made on the fingerless mitts to go with the Fiesta hat from the playful handspun yarn.  The second mitt was finished yesterday.  The set has been uploaded to my shop for sale.

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Friday was laundry and get my act together day as Saturday, Jim and I were taking off in opposite directions for the weekend.  He left on the BBH for a very long ride with his club.  They went way west in the state to various sights and parks and to overnight in a hotel in Norton, Virginia.  I got the groceries for the week purchased, brought home and put away and then took off north to eldest son’s house.  They were not home when I got there, though their car’s were, so I settled in the cool quiet and knitted on the second mitt and spun on a drop spindle.  Finished a novel I had been reading, but it wasn’t worth a review or the time spent reading it.

Sunday, their young one had archery day at the Isaac Walton League facility and I went with daughter in law to watch that while son went with another group from the league to pick up trash from the road into their community.  Sunday afternoon, son, young one, and I drove south about an hour and a half to the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriar’s theater to see Love’s Labors Lost in that wonderful setting, the second one that I have had the opportunity to see this summer.  We were fortunate to be seated on three of the Gallants’ stools, the 12 stools on the side edges of the stage.  It was such a great experience, being right there in the action, seeing the facial expressions, having lines spoken directly to you.

After a couple of days and nights away, a drive home early this morning to help with the summer’s swim lessons for the grands and back to the “normal” routine here, I am worn out.  As I went out to secure the hens and pullets near dark, my one little pullet that wants a nightly hug awaited me outside the coop.  In the several years of raising chickens, she is the first that wants to be handled.

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Though the rest of the week is supposed to be record hot, I hope to get the yard mowed, the chicken runs trimmed with the string trimmer, the garden weeded, the onions and garlic pulled and cured and perhaps some other veggies that may have matured in our week of travel and chaos.

Blue Skies and Garden Firsts – 6/27/17

The past week went so fast having eldest grandson here for a visit.  He spent his first years here as we watched him grow from 9 weeks to Kindergarten before they moved for schooling for Mom and Dad.  I see him more often than Jim as I will go up for days or a week or so at a time to help out with care.  He is so big now, soon to be as tall as I and he just turned 12.

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Many activities were planned, a day trip to Smith Mountain Lake Dam, a play day at the Frog Pond (a local pool with slides, basketball, and shallows for tiny people), basketball, ping pong , and a movie with dinner evening with Jim, lunches out, books to read, and lots of good food at home for a growing kid.  His Dad, our eldest, came Saturday in time for dinner and ping pong with the young one, and Sunday, son climbed the 28′ extension ladder and got a good portion of the very exposed west wall of our log home re-stained.  They left after dinner Sunday to return to their home for a work and camp week.  Son is returning alone this weekend with hopes to finish that wall and the south upper dormer.

Friday night, daughter’s family returned from their vacation and resumed their house hunting, possibly finding one that will allow their kids their own bedrooms and a start of the school year in their new home.

For the next few of weeks, the grands are in our care during the day with some swimming lessons scheduled soon, transport twice a week to Taekwondo to meet parents.

The weather has cooled and dried out for the past few days.  This morning, a much needed garden session was done with some tomato brutality as I cut suckers that should have been cut before now and the plants tied to their stakes.  Last year there was a huge mess as a new support structuring was tried and failed miserably with many lost tomatoes as they were on the ground for the pill bugs to attack and hidden for purposes of harvest.  This year, there will be only one main stem per plant, determinate varieties, and tied regularly to garden stakes until they reach their full height.  The process revealed many small green tomatoes and one that is already ripening.

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Tied and before the cut stems were removed.

Today there was a first sunflower set against the prettiest blue sky.

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I’m not sure that any of the sunflowers that I planted are going to produce.  The two volunteers may be all we get unless I can get some seedling going soon.

Last night, preparation for the two days of camp that I will be teaching was begun.  One day will be a plant walk, herbal medicine discussion, and making of an herbal salve to take home.  The other day, with my friend that worked with me last year, we will again teach some fiber arts with homemade drop spindles that they get to keep, a chance at using one of our spinning wheels with help to make a necklace with “their” yarn, and a chance to weave a few rows on a rigid heddle loom.

The haying for this year is done and the hay scattered around our fields like big sedentary buffalo.  Farmer Jeff came by as I was mowing a few days ago to pick up a piece of his haying equipment and it always amuses me to see his behemouth tractor with my tractor beside it.  Mine looks so small, though it is a full size, but small tractor.  Pictures of them together in the header.

I love summers in our mountain home.

The Adventure – June 18, 2017

The backpacking trip with eldest son and family was to commence on Friday, but a necessary trip to town and persistent rain causes us to postpone and redo our itinerary to leave on Saturday morning with only one night in the woods.  The trip plan had us hiking 8 to 10 miles each day, returning late this afternoon.

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All packed up and at the trailhead, preparing to hike up from the their town to the Skyline Drive, across and down to a shelter to prepare lunch, rest, and then move on.

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Entering the park.

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It was very humid in the morning, hiking into the clouds,  All day, along the trail, we spotted these tiny red efts, the immature stage of the Eastern Spotted Newts.  A few toads, a number of large deer, verbal warning of a bear ahead though we didn’t see it.

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A pensive moment by daughter in law at a trail side rest break, much needed especially by son who carried a car camping tent for his family, a car camping sleeping bag, the main cookware and eating utensils for his family, and all of the food for us except for an emergency ration and snacks each that we carried.  His pack was entirely too heavy for him to carry and before we try this again, he is going to get them a lighter tent and bags.  My pack is an ultralight and with my solo backpacking tent and backpacking bag, even with second alcohol stove, fuel, and a smaller cookpot, and water my bag was reasonable.  Daughter in law had her sleeping pad, water, sleeping bag, some emergency gear and clothes for son and her. Grandson without an appropriate backpack, used a school pack with a hip belt with an ultralight summer weight sleeping bag I brought him, his sleeping pad, and a change of clothes with his water and snacks.

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The trail was really backcountry and not well maintained, so there was a lot of poison ivy and some tall brush. Because it was backcountry, and the trail followed a contour line, there were few places to set up camp and the one we sought had several tents of young men already set up,  we stopped down from them to prepare and eat our dinner so we wouldn’t cook in our campsite.  We moved on to another potential site to find it overgrown with nettles and poison ivy.  At that point, we had hiked about 12 miles, were all worn out from the climb up to the ridge, then down to the contour to hike, then back up to the ridge. The lack of a place to camp, the quickly falling night put us in a dilemma that resulted in son hitchhiking off the Skyline Drive, grabbing a cab in town to get home to get a car and return to the Drive to pick us up.

A very long day, a good hike, a failed backpacking experience though we carried the packs, we arrived back to hot showers, tick checks, and real beds last night.  Today everyone is tired and sore, but my knees survived, other than sore muscles and a bruised bum from falling off the wet, slick outhouse ramp where we stopped for lunch, I feel good about being able to still carry the pack and hike that distance in a day.

What a day! 6-12-2017

Typically the rising sun and lighting morning sky is my wake up call.  Laziness until absolutely necessary is the routine, but while helping out at eldest son’s, my bed is a cot and though it is comfortable enough for sleep, it isn’t conducive to lounging about so the morning began around 6 when they got up to go to work.  Having been away for a few days with no rain while they were gone, the plants and seedlings on the porch needed watering and the vegetable garden was dry.  The porch plants were an easy fix.  After they were done, a leisurely bowl of cereal, fruit, and yogurt and a cup of coffee were enjoyed sitting on the porch by the creek, listening to the burble of the water against the rocks while the young one slept in having arrived home very late last night from his birthday celebration with his other grandparents many hours from here.

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An attempt was made to do the garden, but a shoe packing failure meant that I spun barefoot yesterday and couldn’t get in the creek to get water today, not wanting to wade in my Birkenstocks or hiking shoes.  Daughter in law’s boots are too large for me, so I waited.  The young one finally got up and a trip the 15 miles or so into town to fill up my car with gas, get a few groceries, especially dairy and meat, and to seek a pair of sandals that could get wet, were comfortable, and not expensive was planned.

We got across the bridge and almost to the shoe shop when braking, my car made a metal on metal grinding noise.  Knowing this wasn’t normal and certainly not good, we headed back toward home, but stopped to call son for a mechanic reference in the town.  Fortunately, the indy shop was able to take my car right in, assist me to get a rental car from across town so that we could get the groceries home and not have to figure out how to spend several hours in the 90º heat, and diagnose the problem as a rear brake issue on the back right side.  The groceries made it home, the water sandals allowed me to step into the edge of the creek to reach a spot deep enough to fill a 5 gallon bucket and the garden got watered after a dozen or so trips from the creek to the garden.  By then I was wilted and ready for a meltdown.

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There is a big rock in the middle of the creek and there I sat in the shade with my feet in the cool water until a big crawfish decided my toes looked delicious.  A cool shower to wash off the mud and sweat and a couple of bottles of water refreshed me.

The shop got my car fixed in under 4 hours without putting us in bankruptcy, the rental car was returned and the young one and I returned home. That was the shortest car rental I have ever done, but the cab fare here and back would have been more than the rental and they picked me up at the shop and returned me to the shop when my car was ready.

It has finally cooled down to a reasonable temperature.  Dinner is prepared and awaiting the arrival of son and daughter in law and we will eat.

I am glad my car is back, she is 13 years old this month and has over 200,000 miles on her.  I hope to keep her on the road for much longer.

Easter

It brought egg dyeing for the kids, with the eggs that our hens produced.

Egg dyeingBaskets with Play Dough eggs, jump ropes, some eggs filled with coins, and a few other small gifts, a family board game.

Lilacs in bloom, a few cut to add to the tulips and other small flowers on the table.

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The table is set for ham, au gratin potatoes, deviled eggs, rolls, and a green veggies.  We were hoping for enough asparagus from the garden, but not yet.

Enjoy your family today.