Category Archives: Family time

The Stockings

Growing up, the tradition at Christmas was to have Christmas dinner on the eve of Christmas day.  After dinner, stockings were hung and my sibs and I were shuffled off to bed so Santa could come.  As an adult, I have heard some tales about this gift or that requiring assembly that only a child can handle.  Our stockings were red felt stitched with white yarn and decorated with white felt cutouts, commercial and not very sturdy, fading and failing a bit more each year.

When I married and we started our family, I was committed to handmade stockings for each of us.  I bought a crocheted pattern kit for hubby and decided that the same pattern could be made for me.  The yarn for his is nice and firm and holds it shape well, mine on the other hand stretches and distorts.  As each child was conceived, I bought a crewel work stocking kit which I lined for stability and wearability for each of them and the first two children got theirs for their first Christmas, the youngest didn’t get his until his second Christmas.  Hey, after all, I had three children under the age of 7 and was outnumbered even with hubby’s help.  Each of those stockings moved with the adult child to their new home, except eldest son’s and he generally spends Christmas here.


The tradition allowed the children to have their stockings as soon as they came downstairs to the living room, but the rest of the gifts had to wait for breakfast and the Christmas story.

When our second grandchild came along, daughter asked only a month before Christmas if I would make her son a stocking.  Not having enough time to do a crewell work one and having yet to make socks successfully to knit one, I quilted it.  It is cute, but firm and tight and hard to stuff.

Two years ago, daughter was due with her second in late November, but she asked way in advance and my knitting had improved to the point where I felt I could handle not only knitting the stocking, but doing colorwork to have a pattern on it.  This stocking led to youngest son, who had also had a child that year asking if I could do one for his two children and our eldest grandson had never gotten his own stocking, so he also entered the queue.    That meant I had 4 knit stockings to complete and send off by Christmas,

Traditionally, the toe of the stocking holds a small mesh bag of gold foil covered chocolate coins.  They have become more difficult for me to find here in the mountains, but generally I can get them at Target.  Not this year.  There will be no gold foil covered coins, but the other traditions will live on.

I hope you and your family celebrate your special holiday with love and peace.


Mexican Night

Today is the day that our eldest son and family arrive to spend Christmas with us.  Today is Saturday and Saturday at their house is Mexican night.  The family is trying to learn Spanish, so on Saturday night, when son hasn’t had to work all day at the University, he prepares a Mexican dinner and they watch a movie in Spanish.

If you have been following my blog for at least a few weeks, you know that we spent the first week of December in Mexico, Zihuatanejo, on the southern Pacific side of Mexico, a quaint fishing village with lots of seafood as their traditional food, but it is in the state of Guerrero which is also noted for its Pozole Verde.  It is traditionally served in restaurants on Thursdays and we had a Pozole Verde lunch on our second day there.  I have had white and red Pozole before, but this was so much better.

When we arrived home, I searched the web for a recipe and found this  It looks like the soup we had in Mexico and I decided to give it a try to help them carry on their tradition.  As we raise some meat chickens, I had a nice plump bird in the freezer for the meat base.  Being a locavore, the other ingredients don’t really fit my life style, limes, avocados, and tomatillos (this time of year) and as dry hominy is not available here, I bought Mexican style canned.  The recipe says it is better reheated, so Thursday afternoon and evening, I stewed the chicken in the crockpot, deboned and shredded it and added it back to the broth.  It was put aside in the soup pot in the refrigerator until Friday, when I added the Mexican hominy and made the verde sauce and added it.  It went back in the refrigerator until just before dinner today, it will be cooked for the last 30-45 minutes and the garnishes will be cut and put in service bowls and we will see how authentic it tastes.



Now if I could just find recipes for the tiny hot pepper stuffed empanadas and the tiny cheese stuffed fried cones of masa to accompany it, I could at least dream that we were back in Mexico on a Thursday.

The Tree Event

The first year in our farm home, hubby had not yet retired and moved to join me in the mountains.  Eldest son and his family were still working on the house and lived with me.  We moved into the house in September and this was to be the first Christmas and for the first time in my entire life, I had a room that soared to the heavy timber beams supporting the roof two stories up.  I drive a Honda CRV, and though son had a huge diesel truck, it really wasn’t designed for a passenger, the driver and a car seat, as my grandson was less than 2 years old at the time.  We hopped in my car and set out for the tree lot.  At the time, I didn’t know that Christmas trees are a cash crop around here and that there are several cut your own lots within about 10 miles.  We drove into the town to a lot that is run by a local farm and as soon as we drove up, I pointed to a huge tree, at least 10 feet tall and said, “I want that one!”  Son looked at me like I had lost my mind and asked if I was sure.  I repeated, “I want that one!”  By now, the lot attendant’s son, a teenager had sauntered over and he also looked at me like I had lost it completely and said, “Ma’am, do you know how tall that tree is?”

I knew exactly how tall that tree was and also knew that it would fit even if it was 12 feet tall.  Son and the attendant managed to tie it to the top of my car and home it came.  It did fit.  It was glorious.  The living room was only half furnished as I had brought half of the furniture to the mountains and the other half had been used to furnish the apartment that hubby and youngest son were residing in on the coast until hubby retired.

Subsequent years, there have been live trees, a couple of which have survived the time indoors and the planting outdoors and are now fairly large.  There have been trips to one of the local cut your own lots with trees sometimes only 6 feet and not too pretty, sometimes large full trees.

Today was scheduled to be the day to go cut our tree.  Yesterday was warm and would have been a good day to do it, but it didn’t fit into the schedule.  Last night the temperature plummeted, it rained, then snowed a bit and the wind picked up.  Today it is cold, and windy.  We went into town and had breakfast out and over the last of the repast, discussed where we were going to get the tree.  Hubby has been a bit under the weather for the past several days with a head cold and didn’t really feel like walking acres of trees looking for the right one to have cut, so we elected to go back to “The Lot of the infamous first tree.”  There was a 9 footer in the same place as that first tree, but I really didn’t want to expend that much effort this year as we are so late putting it up.  A healthy, heavy and full 6 plus footer was found and tied on the car to be brought home for decorating.



Our tradition beginning the first year we were together in 1977, has been to get an ornament together and if it isn’t dated, we put a date on it.  It is exciting to pull them out and remember where we were that year and what significant event may have occurred as the ornament is hung on the tree.

Normally we don’t travel much, but this year has been an exception starting with a ski trip last February to Steamboat Springs, Colorado; a family reunion for my Dad’s 90th birthday and the baptism of two of our grandchildren in August in the northern Shenandoah area; a Bahamas cruise with our youngest son and his family in October; and lastly our early December trip to Mexico.  Two of these trips have resulted in souvenirs that we utilized on the tree.  This year’s tree topper is a huge starfish that our youngest son’s family bought for us on the Bahamas cruise.



It seemed an appropriate tree topper, especially as our older electric one no longer is safe when plugged in.  Our annual ornament is a painted pottery bell from Mexico that we simply added the date to it.



The tree could be much larger, but it is beautifully decorated, fills the space allotted it well, now that we have all the furniture in one location again.



Even if we do have to rearrange and move a table and rocking chair.  Though, I only put out about half of my Santas this year, the house is festive and waiting for visiting family to warm the space and share the season.

Life is good on our mountain farm.

Wrapping Done . . . well almost

Today was wrapping day.  The guest bed was getting out of control with the unwrapped gifts.  At the end of the year last year, the wrapping supplies were purchased half off and a new storage bin to keep it unwrinkled and dust free had been added just before the holidays.  I tend to use a lot of the cute reuseable boxes and no paper, just line them with tissue and tape or tie with curling ribbon.  The store boxes or gifts that come in their own box are wrapped with seasonal paper, taped, tagged and sorted by family.  Youngest son’s family gifts were mailed last week, so they had been done first, boxed in a large recycled box and UPS’d to them.

Eldest son and grandson will be here Christmas morning, so their gifts are stacked on the bed.  Daughter’s family gifts are bagged and awaiting delivery.


I’m still awaiting one gift in the mail that will have to be wrapped and hubby is notorious for waiting until a day or two before Christmas and coming home with items that need to be wrapped at the last minute for grandkids.  At least most of it is done.

One gift this year is special.  About 8 years ago, I knit a heavy wool sweater for eldest son.  That sweater was one of my first, it never fit him very well and was altered to try to make it fit better, but then it got felted by a couple of machine washings.  The sweater has been sitting in a basket at my house for over a year awaiting a new life.  It was given a new life this Christmas as my daughter by love’s new art tote as she is a student at the Corcoran School of Art.  I hope it serves her well.



Now to get a tree, finish knitting a pair of socks and knit a pair of toddler socks and I will be done, I hope.

Traditions and Memories

Our daughter was due the day before my birthday 31 years ago, but she  lingered until November 29.  I would never decorate for Christmas until the weekend after Thanksgiving, but with that birthday, sometimes Thanksgiving came the day after my birthday, which meant I could technically begin decorating on November 22, but once daughter was old enough to realize, she made an edict that we couldn’t decorate for Christmas until after her birthday. I would sometimes put the outdoor wreaths up before, but would otherwise wait and still do.

As I started pulling out boxes, the reminiscing began. My sister in law quilts and cross stitches and many of the decorations were made by her.

One of my dear friends has given me many hand crafted gifts over the years.

When our children were young each Christmas my hubby would help them buy a Santa or village piece to add to the collection. My favorite Santas and the only ones out so far, are Tom Clark gnomes.

As I handle and place each piece I am flooded with memories of Christmas past and anticipate Christmas futures with our grandkids. Due to scheduling, the tree with it’s collection of a dated ornament for each year of our life together will have to wait for another weekend.


Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving.  In our family, it is a time for family, falling between my birthday and my daughter’s and her daughter was born on Thanksgiving Day two years ago.  When our children were young and still at home and we still lived on Virginia’s east coast, my Dad and I took turns hosting Thanksgiving dinner, including as many family members as we could.

This year, my Dad and stepmom are in the midst of a kitchen rebuilt due to a dishwasher leak and the discovery of old asbestos floor tiles, so they will be having dinner at my stepsister’s house.  Our daughter and her family spent last Thanksgiving here from Florida, we recently spent two weeks with our youngest son and his family.  Our eldest son and his family are currently on a bus travelling here from Northern Virginia to spend tomorrow with us.

Yesterday, it rained and rained and rained after an ice storm the night before and today it is snowing.  We are hopeful that this weather doesn’t impact their travels.  The preparation for a turkey dinner with all the fixings was begun and the house was cleaned up to help reduce son’s allergy to the dogs.


The pumpkin pies made with the last pumpkin, cooked and frozen last winter.  The fixings are all in the house and we are awaiting their arrival.

The chickens were let out this morning, poked heads out of the coop and drew back in.  We are experiencing very high winds and the morning temperature of 31f was the day’s high, it has been blowing and plummeting all day.  Normally, I don’t have food or water in their coop to keep the rodents from visiting, but today I took pity and though the pop door is open and they can go outside, they are holed up with food and water indoors.



We wish you a happy Thanksgiving from our farm to your home.

Home at last

The journey finally ends.  After waking early, closing the suitcase for the last time on this trip, packing up the laptop, rolling the sleeping pad as I sleep on the floor in daughter in law’s studio when babysitting in NoVa, I fixed breakfast for grandson, took son to campus and headed for home.  Son had told me that I would head northwest from his campus and not have to backtrack to I-66.  This seemed like a good idea, giving me less time on the interstate.  However, the Gods were against me making it home in a timely manner.  As I pulled up the ramp onto the interstate, traffic was dead stopped as far as I could see to the west so I went right back down the off ramp and took off in a westerly direction on an unknown rural road.  About 30 minutes later, I rejoined the interstate, clear of the accident or traffic blockage and traveled smoothly along for the next couple of hours.


As I approached the midway point of the trip, two interstates intersect and as I approached this area, an electronic warning board announced that I-81 S that I was on was totally blocked a few miles ahead.  I rounded a curve, fortunately at an off ramp and sure enough, nothing but stopped traffic as far as I could see.  Off again on a rural road looking for an alternate route home.  Somehow, though no one seemed to be following me, a 20 minute jaunt through a rural part of the Shenandoah Valley, I spotted State Rd. 11, an alternate north/south route.  Knowing this route would get me past what turned out to be a tractor trailer accident, I finally made my way the rest of the way home, about an hour and a half later than I expected.




During the 21 days gone, autumn, which was not very pretty this year left.  The trees are barren, the garden gone, but the garlic did arrive and one last day will be spent getting it in the ground and mulched for next year’s crop.

An Outing

The morning dawned gray and quite chilly.  Son was sluggish, but with a day of teaching to do, he mounted his bike to ride either to the campus or to the Metro station to catch the University Shuttle over to campus.  Daughter in law has hours to put in on a piece of art due for a class tomorrow, but was slow moving to get to her campus.  Grandson, who had the day off from school was up at the crack of dawn and stayed in the shower so long that I finally poked my head in the bathroom and asked him to turn off the water, so that the rest of us would have some hot water, then he snuggled under a towel on the floor of his bedroom until his Dad got up and asked him to please dress.  The apartment is cool.  They, like us, keep the thermostat low to keep their hard earned dollars out of the hands of the local power company and sweaters indoors are in order when the temperatures outdoors are low.

Once they left for their respective campus, grandson completed his homework with my supervision and practiced his guitar in preparation for his lesson later this week.  We discussed how we wanted to spend this gloomy day, not just sitting inside.  We agreed that a metro trip into the district was in order with the American History Museum the goal.  First we needed to go mail a package to his cousins then decided to try to park at the Metro station instead of making the mile plus walk over to it.  The garage lot indicated it was not full, but once in, it costs you a daily rate of $4.75 to get out.  We took our chance and after driving every aisle on every deck twice, passing the same half dozen other cars looking for spots, decided that the garage was indeed full in spite of the sign and paid the fee to leave.  The only other parking near the Metro station was a quarter for 15 minutes up to the limit of the meter, but the meter did not tell you what that limit was and I was unwilling to start feeding it quarters only to find out that the limit would be insufficient for us to make the round trip and see anything once we got there.

The other possible outing was to drive to Great Falls National Park, about 20-30 minutes away and check out the Potomac River gorge there, tour the visitor center and walk one of the paths through the woods along the side of the river.  Three years ago, hubby and I both got Lifetime Passes to any National Park, available to seniors for a nominal fee.  Prior to our cruise, we each emptied our wallets of all “extra” cards, to avoid their loss while on the trip.  This card, sitting in my drawer at home, would have saved us the entry fee into the park, but the fee was a small price to pay for an outing with the eldest grandson.  He is 8, an age of motion, fearlessness, and a desire to climb.  It was fun watching him climb around on the rocks safely within the barrier walls, reminding him off and on to read the signage that implored him to not climb the railings or walk on the remnants of the C & O canal walls.   Though we didn’t stay but about 90 minutes, he did expend some energy and I got some photos of the gorge and the grand enjoying the visit.



Entering the overlook that gives the best view of the falls, which we were told drop about 80 feet was this sign.


This sign was about 10 feet tall. Each number represents the year and the height of flood waters, that would put the water above the banks of the gorge with a total depth of 90 to 100 feet.  The immensity of the volume and power of the water in those floods stages must be staggering.  Oddly, the visitor center is within a flood stage depth that has occurred within the past 20 years.

Tomorrow, my 21 days away from home finally comes to an end.  I will leave Northern Virginia when they all leave for school around 8 a.m. and will drive to our home, my own bed and the comfort of our own home.  I have enjoyed the past 21 days, but I am looking forward to that.

Still Away


Today is day 17 of suitcase living.  Leaving home 17 days ago with a suitcase packed for a cruise, a backpack packed for the week of fall weather in Virginia Beach and the half week of even cooler fall weather in Northern Virginia and my laptop, and a large leather tote style bag that serves as my travel tote with knitting, necessary papers, a lotion bar, anti inflamatory meds, anti seasickness meds, and antacids, just in case, a camera plus a paper back book.  The backpack remained in Virginia Beach during the cruise and after the return week there, the suitcase was relieved of its summery cruise clothing which were sent home with hubby and repacked with the fall clothing.  The backpack, then lightened to the laptop and the newly acquired bag of fiberfill as my knitting projects are finger puppets to go along with two story books for the 2 year old granddaughters for Christmas.  The two stories have 5 of the same animals in them, so there will be two of each of them, then 3 other animals must be completed to make the two sets complete.  They are quick knits, however, the first was done while I was a passenger in the car and my attention was not there, so it ended up looking less like a rabbit than I had hoped.  It was knit from my homespun which I feel contributed to it being less than perfect.  Today, while entertaining grandson, we went to a local yarn shop and bought a small ball of commercial cream colored yard to make rabbit # 2.  The first Badger seems the correct scale and Badger #2 is on the needles.  The girls should have fun with their puppets and their new books.



I realized after two weeks of suitcase living, first on shipboard, then in son’s home that I am definitely a homebody.  Not pathologically so, not to the extent of not wanting to leave the house, but certainly becoming more uncomfortable about the absence from home each day.

Retirement is quiet, the daily routines have become so ingrained that each passing day away has increased the stress on my system.

It was fun going on a cruise with son and his family and being there for Halloween and our grandson’s birthday. This is the first birthday since our son adopted his stepson.
This morning, hubby left to return to our home, to pick up our pups from the doggie camp where they have been for two weeks, to take over my chicken care for a few days. I left for Northern Virginia to help out with childcare as the eldest grandson is off of school for the next two days while his parents are not. On Wednesday morning, I too will get return to our quiet life for a while. While gone, there have been two nights of temperatures in the 20’s, so whatever was left in the garden is now gone. The garlic that was to be planted before the trip did not come prior to our leaving, hopefully it will have come while we were gone and there will be one last garden day to put it in the beds for the winter with a heavy mulch of straw to bed it down.