Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Knitting Fool

Over the years I have done a lot of fiber arts. I love knitting, crochet, needlepoint and crewel. I have made numerous afghans but all for others. I made them for family members for Christmas. This year I decided to make one for us to keep.

Then our older daughter said she wanted one. We spent quite a bit of time trying to find the right yarn. There is no point in making an afghan and using crummy yarn. They take hundreds of hours and why end up with a substandard product? We ended up with some beautiful yarn from the Yarn Explosion in Roanoke.

Halfway through the project I realized that if I made one for one of the kids, I would have to make one for ALL of the kids!

At the time, I was still working at the library, so that limited the time I could knit. I took it to work and got about 30 minutes in on my lunch hour and then I would knit each evening for a few hours and on the weekends. It took about 4 months and roughly 260 hours. So when people say i should make these and sell them, I wonder who would be willing to pay thousands of dollars for a hand knit afghan? However, this was a labor of love!

I finished Trista's afghan in October and then thought to get started on Tara's. Her birthday is in March and I thought I could easily finish by then. I left the library at the end of October and was making a lot of progress on the second afghan and then decided to work every day and get them both done for Christmas. Our son and his wife were not going to make it home for Christmas and it was going to be just the two girls with us. I really wanted to give them both an afghan.

Talk about stress! I finished on December 20, just a few days before they were to get here! But now they have them and I can blog about the project and I won't spoil the surprise!

I have the pattern from years ago. I made the same pattern for my sister back in the 80's. I learned a trick to keep you on track. Most patterns have a set number of rows and then the pattern repeats itself. I write each row on a 3X5 card. When I finish a row, I remove the clip holding the cards together and move it to the back, so when I pick up my piece I always know where I am.

Each afghan is made with three panels. The panels are then sewn together with large needles. I saved yarn at the end and beginning of each new ball of yarn, making sure to finish on the start of a new row. Rather than hiding the ends in the rows as I worked, I used them to sew the panels together when I was finished.

Both afghans were made using the same pattern. I like it because it has a lot of interesting stitches. There are seed stitches and cables so it is fun and challenging.

Trista's is sort of a greenish khaki.

Tara's is almost teal.

I loved making them and hope they love getting them. Travis may have to wait awhile for his. Not so interested in starting another project any time soon. Ours will have to wait QUITE a while!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Baked Apple Cinnamon French Toast

Whenever we have company I spend a lot of time trying to come up with new and delicious recipes. When it is our kids I try to mix this in with old favorites or variations on a theme. I have made the croissant Bread Pudding recipe from Ina Garten, but I wanted to make a few changes. Tara wanted croissant French toast and Trista had a few comments about that, but here is the compromise I came up with. By the way, there will be no more fancy breakfast. Too fat and too full.

Baked Apple and Cinnamon French Toast

4 Croissants
1 cup or more chopped up apple, I used a VERY large Granny Smith. (I bought 2 to use, but one disappeared from the fridge)
8 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (I mixed it up with half and half and 2 percent, about half of each)
3/4 cup Splenda brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
maple syrup or whatever you have in the cupboard

Pre-heat oven to 400.

First I put a large chunk of butter in a glass dish and heated it in the microwave for 20 seconds or until melted. Pour this in a 9X13 dish and spread it around. Chop up the apples and place in a large bowl. Add the cinnamon and brown sugar. I used the kind with Splenda. If you have the regular brown sugar double the amount to 1 1/2cups. Mix well.

Cut the croissants in half lengthwise and place the bottom half in the dish. I broke off pieces where they overlapped and put those pieces where there was no bread. Distribute the apples over the bread and then add the top pieces of the croissants, fitting them where necessary to cover all the apple pieces.

Using the now empty bowl, add the eggs and the milk. Mix well and add the vanilla and the maple flavoring. Carefully pour this over the bread and apples.

Place the dish inside a larger pan. I used a roaster. Then add hot water about half way up. Don't over fill and spill the water inside the bread pan. Carefully place the pan in the oven.

I set the timer for 45 minutes. You may want to check it then. Use a clean knife and insert it in the middle of the dish. If it comes out mostly clean, you are done!

While I waited for it to cool, I put another hunk of butter in a ceramic gravy bowl. Heat it in the microwave until it is melted. Add the maple syrup and heat about 15 seconds longer until warm. Cut and serve the Baked French Toast with the syrup poured over the top. Yum. And it covers all the breakfasty food groups. Eggs, bread and fruit. All in one pan!

I made another recipe compromise for which I have no pictures and they really are not needed. We wanted a green bean casserole for dinner Christmas night. But not the cream of mushroom kind. However French fried onions are definitely needed.

I put butter and olive oil in a large fry pan. Add about 1/4 cup of slivers or slices of almonds and about 1/2 cup of onions. Saute. Add the frozen green beans of your choice. Saute until all is mixed well. Dump everything in a casserole dish and sprinkle with the French fried onions. Bake for 20 minutes or so in a 350 degree oven. Delicious and easy. Maybe our new tradition.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shacklegate Update

I just received this update about Shacklegate from my Aunt Suzy. It is slightly different from the way Mom tells it, but it's probably like playing telephone. The more times a story is told little things get changed and Mom's memory is a little shaky these days. So let's go with Suzy's version.

"Becca, loved the painting but our grandfather built the log house – my mother’s father. My Daddy probably didn’t know how to hold a hammer as he was a city boy, but my Mother did. My grandfather also built the brick house across the street from the log house where my grandparents and my mother lived after they moved to Ashland from Huntington, WVA. My grandfather helped run the brick factory that his brother owned in Huntington . The house they lived in there is still standing and is still beautiful. Just thought I’d let you know.

Luvs, Suzy"

It is cool to think my Great Grandfather actually built this house. Even better than thinking my Grandfather just hired a builder. When it came for sale a few years ago I had a the idea of buying the house and moving it to our property to use as a B&B. I even bought a lottery ticket so that I could afford it. I didn't win the lottery and now the house is owned by someone else so maybe it was meant to stay in Ashland.

Maybe I'll go buy another ticket and if I win I'll STILL buy the house and move it here. Based on past lottery buying experience no one needs to worry about how to move the house any time soon.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Oh, Dear

I have hired a trainer to help me with the horses. We recently took them on a trail ride. The trails were covered with leaves and it was difficult to see what the footing would be like. There were a lot of rocks on the trail and they were narrow with a steep fall off. A little scary. Scary for me. The horses did great. There was a little hesitancy going through the two large rocks on either side of the trail at the beginning, but after that they did great.

The weird part was at the end. At the edge of the parking lot, I could see a part of a deer head with the antlers attached. I went over to see, thinking it was a road kill that someone had moved off the road. I even considered taking an antler as that is a favorite dog treat of RJ's. No, we don't kill deer for that, but antlers are shed every year and RJ has found and loved them in the past.

When I got closer the smell was bad and I could see multiple carcasses in varying stages of decomposition. I saw everything from some neck bones to the entire front of a deer. The only parts missing were the tenderloins and the haunches. There was a bag of intestines. There was even a decomposing bear head and a skinless body. Yuck.

So I guess there are some hunters that only want a few parts of the animals they hunt. Maybe just a pelt or a small portion of meat. Then they can't be bothered to dispose of that which they don't want properly. Perhaps they want to leave the rest for scavengers, but I wouldn't think it a good idea to attract large carnivores to a place where people hike or ride horses.

I am not a hunter, so maybe those of you that are can tell me the way this is supposed to work. Should you bury a carcass? Or is leaving it in a pile of others the proper thing to do?

Saturday, December 17, 2011


When my mother was young her father built a log house for the family. Her mother loved all things old fashioned and had always wanted to live in one. So my mother and her 3 brothers and one sister grew up in a log house. One day my mother told me that Grandmama had named her house Shacklegate and that if you wrote that name on the letter it would be delivered. So I wrote her a letter with the only address as follows
Saja Montague
Ashland, Kentucky

There were no zip codes then. It took a few extra days, I can imagine asking around for an old-timer who knew my grandmother, but it got delivered.

Now my mother lives in a beautiful assisted living community. She has all her needs taken care of and she doesn't want anything, so gift giving is a real challenge. Outside each resident's door is a small shelf where you may display any art work or picture. Mom currently has a vase with some fake flowers. On a recent visit I noticed that one woman had named her home. This reminded me of Mom's story.

I asked Mom if she wanted to have a plaque outside her door and name her place. She liked the idea, but couldn't come up with a name. I reminded her of Grandmama's name for her house and she then decided to name her place Shacklegate.

My artistic talent is non-existent, so I wondered how I would get something for Mom. One of the best thing about working in the Fincastle Library was the many friends I made there. The Kattenbrakers were some of my favorites and Dreama is a marvelous artist who frequently donates art for the various fundraisers for the library. ( You can see her work at her web site I approached her with the idea and she was excited about the project. I have a stained glass I made of the house for my parents and my cousin Phillip was kind enough to go by the old house in Ashland and send me a current photo. My father had written several genealogies so they were also provided to Dreama to work her magic.

Dreama sent me an email this week and said that she was done. You can't imagine how thrilled I am with her finished product. It is so wonderful and I am excited to be sending it to my mother. My sister and two brothers will all be giving this perfect gift for my mother. I hope we do what all kids want to do for their mother for Christmas. I hope we make her cry.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Free Heat....eventually

It was 27 degrees when I went to the barn this morning. The tank heater was working great so I didn't have to chop ice. That's a wonderful thing. The horse "apples" in the turnouts were frozen to the ground. After a few minutes of scraping I gave up and decided to finish that part of the daily routine at a warmer time. There was frost everywhere so we have started feeding hay in the mornings in addition to the evenings. This adds a bit of time to the barn work, but I bought some new gloves, so it's not as bad as it could be!

Lee has found that working in the shop when it is this cold is impossible. Cold weather and bare hands on metal is not conducive to a pleasant day. So we have been looking for a wood stove and today we bought one. The stove weighs about 300 pounds, so the man we bought it from loaded it in the a long pipe attached to his tractor front loader. Sort of a jury rigged fork lift. I love the ingenuity of the local farmers! Lee then backed the truck into the shop and we used the engine hoist to get it out and on the ground. Boy, that thing sure comes in handy. Lee said it was worth buying even if you didn't use it for engines! It sure makes moves moving heavy items around the shop easy.

The stove has a bit of rust, so we think we will paint it. A bit of cleaning will help! Then we have to figure out the location of the chimney and then buy and install all the sections. It is a TALL roof to accommodate lifting up trucks to work under them. We may need to consult a contractor or do it ourselves and hope for the best. And THEN we will get "free" heat.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Plague of Worms

Last night was a windy mess. It was the kind of day when I wish to have a wind turbine to generate free electricity. Because it has been reasonably warm I didn't close the barn doors. When the wind started howling and the rain began blowing sideways and shaking the house I woke up and worried about it. I tend to worry about things I cannot change on a general basis. Ok, I could have gone down to the barn at 3:30 in the morning when the wind was threatening to blow the house off the hill, but I didn't want to.

So this morning I was apprehensive as to what I would find when I got to the barn. I slept in (8:00) as I had been awake during the night for a few hours listening to the wind and worrying. I wish I had taken my camera as the whole front part of the barn was covered in worms. Not tens of worms, but hundreds of worms. A plague of worms, if you will.

After doing the usual clean up in the stalls and letting the horses out, I had to sweep the wee little beasties out the door. Sadly most of them were on exposed concrete and had mostly dried to a not quite crispy yet not fully functional mess. I tried not to make it worse, but really, I wasn't going to pick up each one and carefully place them in the dirt. They had been blown in about 15 feet into the barn and 10 feet on either side of the doors.

When sweeping them out of the tack and feed room portion of the barn I noticed that most of the mouse traps had been sprung when the wind had flipped them over. I have a preference in mouse traps. I like the ones that kill them dead and have a large piece of faux cheese as the trigger. Setting them is tricky, but I wear gloves. This makes it harder to do yet less painful when it snaps ME.

One of the traps held a dead mouse and so I dumped him in the trash and reset the trap. Sure, you can dump the whole thing and not touch anything, but, once again, I wear gloves and I am cheap. They cost about 50 cents each! I must admit that when I haven't found the dead mouse until a few days have passed and it is a disgusting mess, I do toss the trap with the mouse. Not THAT cheap.

As I was sweeping mostly dead worms and disposing of a very dead mousie I was thinking of my breakfast up at the house just waiting for me. Yes, an Atkins bar is breakfast if that is all you eat in the morning! Is there something wrong with me that I am not grossed out by gross things? Or is it good that I am turning into a country girl and not squeamish about silly things? All I know is, I won't be butchering a hog anytime soon. Not quite there yet.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I got up today with the intention of riding. I have about given up on Libby. So now I am going to concentrate on Claire and look to sell Libby. So I put on my riding jeans. Those are the jeans that about 4 inches too long. That way when I am in the saddle they don't ride up and expose my boots. Lee Riders. Fashion statement.

Then Lee comes in from cutting firewood and tells me it is getting colder and windy. Well, poo (insert scatological comment of choice here). So I went out with the electric trimmer to start on the garden for the winter trimming. I used up the battery and then realized it wasn't that cold or windy. Of course, I was working on the leeward side of the house, but I had it in my mind to ride so I finished up and changed boots and went to the barn.

I have ridden Claire quite a few times, but never on my own with no one around and with Libby screaming like a 2 year old being dropped at preschool for the first time. Assuming 2 year olds run and buck and fart and generally make a big fat scene! We started off slow with lots of turns, working our way towards the far side of the pasture. At this point Libby kicks it into high gear (you mean all that other WASN'T high gear?) and I start easing Claire back to the barn. Naturally the wind also picks up and Claire starts to speed up. I slow her down and she starts to buck. I was afraid of this. I am too old to fall off a horse. Fortunately for me I have been bucked by meaner horses than Claire, who usually is a sweetie. So I was able to pull her head up. She wasn't really serious about getting me off. Then I was able to think clearly enough to use one rein to pull her head sideways and up and get her stopped.

My heart was pounding at this point and I wanted to jump off and quit. If I did that it would almost be as bad as letting her dump me and then quitting. (Bad behavior means I get to go back with my very best bud, Libby? Let's buck!) So I forced myself to lower my hands, sit deep and walk a lot of patterns until we were both settled. Of course, I kept the barn between me and the wind and the crazy nut in the pasture! Then I stopped on a high note and put Claire away.

I know horses are herd animals and love to be together, but I think I will go down to one animal. That way she will have to attach to me and maybe even RJ. I think that will make for a calmer ride.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cauliflower Leek Puree

Lee and I had our Thanksgiving meal more than a week ago. Travis and Vanessa were unable to come, but our girls came and so we had it early. It is jarring when in a grocery store and they are still touting Thanksgiving and shoving turkeys at us. Wasn't that last week??? The good part is that Christmas music doesn't seem all THAT early....

So, while it is Thanksgiving, we didn't want or need a huge carb laden meal. So we decided...wait, that sounds like we had a meeting and figured all this out...I decided to have a turkey breast and use the Cauliflower-Leek Puree recipe from the Atkins web site. It looks rather bland and cauliflower is not my favorite, but Lee likes it and I shouldn't be having potatoes any time soon. So that is what we had with the small edition of peas because it was such a bland white bread appearing meal. Well, there was that whole grain roll with which we indulged.

On the subject of peas, our daughter, Trista tells us that there is a "sauce" called pea wet. It seems that when you prepare Mushy Peas, an English treat, well, food item, there is a greenish foam on top. This is then scooped off and ladled over chips (the English version of french fries). Chips with pea wet sounds disgusting, but never having eaten them, I can't speak from experience. Try it yourself and report back.

Cauliflower-Leek Puree
original recipe from

3 cup cauliflower, separated into florets
1 leek, white and green part
1 tsp salt, divided
3 Tbl butter
3 Tbl heavy cream
1/8 tsp nutmeg

You will get almost 6 cups from one cauliflower, so I made the whole thing. The leeks I bought came in a package of three, so I used all the white parts from the three and a bit of the green.

Cook them in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water for 15 minutes, until very tender.

Drain and return to the pan to remove excess moisture. The recipe call for a food processor to be used to puree this in batches with the butter and cream. I have a hand blender and that is far superior. Just add the butter and salt to the pan and puree until smooth. Then add salt and pepper and a dash of nutmeg. I like to put a dollop of butter on the top to look , well, buttery.

In keeping with a low carb meal, I sliced some strawberries and sprinkled some Splenda on them. Stir and set aside. When ready to serve add a dollop of Cool Whip or a spritz of whipped cream. It looks decadent, yet it isn't!


In anticipation of pigging out over the next few days, I made a quiche and a salad for a light dinner. I used the recipe from Rich Donnis. He was a very good friend of ours from our old stomping grounds, Granite Bay, CA. His father was a chef and he grew up making wonderful food and he and his wife Mary were wonderful hosts. We went on a trip to Tahoe together and they made this wonderful quiche and generously provided the recipe for us.


9" pastry shell
8 slices bacon, diced
1/2 lb swiss cheese, shredded
1 TBL flour
1/2 tsp salt
dash nutmeg
3 eggs beaten
1 3/4 cup milk

I tend to use shortcuts when available, so here is what I did. I bought a frozen pie shell. Use one and save the other for a future date. Bake for 7 minutes in a 350 oven. I use pie weights that I place on a bit of foil to keep them clean and so they don't sink into the crust. When removing the pie shell lower the heat to 325.

While the crust is cooking I microwave some pre-cooked bacon. I cook as many pieces as will crowd their way onto a plate ( 10 or 12, they're thin) and then turn them out onto a paper towel. Blot. Then whisk the other ingredients except the cheese and the nutmeg. It tends to fall to the bottom of the bowl.

Using the paper towel, crush the bacon and dump...I mean place, it in the empty pie shell. Save the paper towel to wipe the plate used for cooking. It can then be placed in the dishwasher. Add a 6 oz package of shredded swiss. Sure, you can buy a block and then shred it, but I am talking easy here.

Add the egg mixture and then using a microplane, grate a bit of nutmeg over the top. OK. Here is when I am inconsistent. I like the fresh stuff better and I have a microplane, so that is what I do. You can sprinkle it from the spice container. I doubt it will make a difference.

Bake at 325 for 35 to 40 minutes. You can slide a knife in the center and if it comes out clean, but damp, you are ready. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Major Wood

Two things happened to get Lee and me in the woods, today. First, it is getting colder and Lee has been looking into something to keep the shop a bit warmer in the winter. Not warm, just not freezing. Last year he got a heater that attached to the propane tank we use for the grill and it was not enough. Now he is considering a wood burning stove. After all we have wood to burn up in the woods...get it???

So, last night found us driving to Vinton after dark to look at a stove we found on Craig's List. It wasn't until we were partway there that Lee said that he hoped we weren't heading to our doom. (Cue scary music) Perhaps we were being lured there to be murdered and robbed as has been done in the past. The house was old and had narrow hallways and the stove we came to look at was in the basement. The dark, scary, under lit basement. The dank ...OK, you get the idea.

Suffice it to say, the stove was too small for our needs and we left, all in one piece. In fact the owner was the youth pastor at his church. I called Tara on the way home and we decided I would clue her in next time we go on a "dangerous" excursion. What if we were killed and there was no one to feed the animals? And when did things get reversed and we have to check in with our kids? I thought that was WAY down the road!

The second thing that happened was the loss of some big trees. I mean really big. Oak tree from Daniel Boone days big. (OK. I am a child of TV in the 60's. I have no other reference point for way back when in some vague place close to here.) It seems to be the neighbor's tree, but it has fallen into our "yard". When you have around 60 acres, yard is not the right word, but work with me on this. We have about 10 to 15 acres of woods up to the ridge line and the neighbor behind us has about the same down the back side our the hill behind our house. He runs cows and sometimes a tree will fall and take out the barbed wire between our two properties. Then we get bovine visitors. RJ LOOOVES bovine visitors. Or maybe the right word is hates them. At any rate he runs and barks at them. If they run home, this is very fun. If they stand there staring at him he has no clue what to do. Except more running and barking. All of these things are fun for RJ.

So now a HUGE tree is blocking our trail to the top of the ridge and it has knocked down the barbed wire. We don't have cows here, yet, so maybe he has sold them or moved them to another pasture. Or maybe it is just a matter of time, but we have to do something about it.

Lee and I went up to cut enough to at least allow us up the trail. This is no small undertaking...remember that whole big tree thing? Lee used the chain saw and I used the loppers and the machete to get the smaller branches off. These we moved to the side of the trail to be dealt with another time. The trail is maybe 5 feet wide and we cleared it and loaded the wood worth burning into the truck. The plan was to cut them into lengths at a future date. We loaded until we were too tired to heave the logs up any higher. We barely made a dent in the tree.

Enter Roy Gross. On my last visit to the library, Jackie told me that Roy had cut up a tree for her. She didn't have to deal with a dead tree and Roy got some free wood for his fireplace. So now I have placed a call to Super Roy. (Faster than a speeding delivery truck more powerful than our too small chainsaw.) He will be coming in a few days to see what he can do. I hope he has a big chain saw and then we can cut the tree into lengths that the tractor can pull down the hill. We don't want to chew up the road or have the trunk slide down the hill and take the tractor (and Lee) with it!

It might not be possible, but I want to try and use part of the trunk to make a bench. I have seen them where a wedge, one quarter of the circumference is removed and then legs or saved portions of branches are used to fashion a bench. I don't know if I'm capable of fashioning one that is comfortable or at least usable, but I think it would be fun to try. I have some wood carving tools I would like to use and surely there is enough wood to sand out any errors, or chainsaw any errors, and try again! I'll let you know.

After 4 years of living here, I have finally worn out my leather gloves. I thought I could keep using them, but the middle finger is worn through and every time I threw a log on the truck it scraped my finger. So out with the old and in with the new. As for the title of this piece, I will have you know that that is the comment Lee made when he saw how much work this little project was going to be. So all of you shaking your heads and commenting on my lack of decorum, shame on you :-)!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mug Rugs

Even though I no longer work at the library, I don't want to lose the friends I have made there. Doris is a crafter and former co-worker and we both wanted to take a class at the Trinity School House Quilt Shop. They were not offering quilt classes until next year, so last Saturday we took a wool felt applique class to make mug rugs. I have done some applique, but it sounded like fun and I'm glad I went.

Now what, you might ask, is a mug rug. Well, it seems that they are something along the lines of a coaster for hot drinks, you know, those in mugs. The pattern book we purchased for the class had a lot of rustic type patterns for different seasons and themes, but our kits for the class were for the snowman. It had these little fingers all around the out side of the circle and then we were to cut out rounds of red felt to attach to the fingers. It makes for a rather unwieldy mug rug, but that was the pattern.

I learned some tricks to make applique go faster and easier. If you trace the pattern onto freezer paper, you can iron it to the felt and it will stay in place while you cut out the pattern. You can even peel it off and reuse it a few times. We also learned about Steam A Seam (SAS). You trace and cut out the pattern on the SAS and then remove the backing and steam it onto the fabric. After cutting out the pattern, you remove the remaining paper and it leaves a thin layer of glue that doesn't become permanent until you steam in onto the fabric. You don't have to pin it to the fabric and then stitch it in place. It goes a lot faster and doesn't move around and is very cool. Because of the rustic nature of the pattern, I didn't have to worry about perfect even stitches and that was very freeing and made the project go a lot faster.

After a morning of camaraderie and lots of tracing and cutting we all came away with a partially completed snowman and an extra kit to make another at home. I wasn't fond of the fingers all around so I left them off and had extra red and black felt. Enough to make two more rugs. I didn't quite have enough cream colored felt for another face, so I covered the gap with a red scarf. Then I had to do some hats in red and I changed the stick nose for a carrot and added a pipe. I was thinking about adding a black hatband, but I ran out of oomph.

Plus, once the rugs are in use, you can't see the face anyway. I could just cut up black felt and be done with it. Of course, where's the fun in that!

So I put them all together and they are kind of cute. If I was a better artist or had some cute patterns, I might make some more. That is, if I heard from various children that they were dying to have a mug rug of their very own. And they told me the theme they wanted. I DO want to try making a tea cozy.

Here's the thing about black felt, though. People with white cats should not use it. For any reason. And that's all I'll say about that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nashville Night in Buchanan

One of the really cool things about living in or near a small town is the community spirit. Most weeks there is a fund raiser of some sort. We've gone to meals to fund missions and bake and yard sales to help out families with medical problems. Last night it was a fund raiser to help the Food Pantry. There are a lot of people in Botetourt that live paycheck to paycheck and an unexpected expense that can mean a little belt tightening to us may mean no food on the table for them. The Food Pantry fills a real need here and helps a lot of families.

So when our neighbor, Rose called and told us about a fundraiser we thought it was a good idea. We love the historic Buchanan Theater and there was to be a concert there called Nashville Night in Buchanan. Now I love country music and thought it might be a pleasant evening with friends for a good cause. It turned out to be so much more than that.

There were four young men up on the small stage with guitars and stools. (Well, one man complained of being 35 and creaky. Seriously? Suck it up buddy. You are in the prime and it goes downhill from here!) It was not a polished performance with light shows and pyrotechnics. It was four hot young songwriters from Nashville that had come here with a friend from Buchanan, Matt Ramsey. (Hometown boy makes good and comes back to help the local Food Pantry.) They were relaxed and easy to listen to and when they forgot a lyric they laughed and hummed and kept on going. Matt Ramsey pointed out that if you remember all the words to all the songs you wrote, you weren't writing enough songs! They had all collaborated in different combinations with each other on songs and went down the line picking a favorite they had written. They told funny or touching or just plain interesting stories on the songs and what they were thinking when they were written. Quite a few of them were currently being produced with top performers and it was fun to get a sneak peak of some wonderful new songs. It was so good.

The four young men were Matt Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Matt Jenkins and Josh Osborne. Remember those names. I am the type of listener that likes to read the liner notes on an album. OK. THAT ages me. Are they still called albums? Nonetheless, I like to see who wrote the song or who played what instrument. Now I will have some more names to look for.

After hearing of their writing retreats and some of the collaboration that goes on in the Nashville music scene, I think that following these young men would be a better reality show than that of the Kardashians. Let's hear about some talented people making good decisions for a change. Could a show about the positive work? I don't know, but I sure would like to see someone try that. Wish I knew Ryan Seacrest.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple Butter

Our daughter Trista was supposed to come for a visit. She lives in England and we rarely see her so we had a fun-filled month of activities jam-packed into three days. We were going to go apple picking at a local apple farm and then make stuff with the fresh picked apples. I had enough plans for many people over many days, but we would manage to fit it all in to 3 days!!!

So of course, Trista got sick and had to cancel her flight. In the meantime, her sister Tara had traded days with a co-worker and had plans to come and enjoy the visit with Trista. So Lee, Tara and I had all the fun ourselves in a frenzy of enjoyment and gluttony.

After a morning spent picking apples in a mostly picked over orchard, we came home and tried to peel and core them with my handy dandy machine that I got in California and had used many times for pies and cakes and mostly for peeled apple slices for the day care kids I watched. When I pulled it out, one of the three prongs that hold the apples in place was broken and when I tried to use it with just the two and a half left, one more broke off. How did the metal get weaker over time? Perhaps one broke in our move and then the other two were unable to stand the strain. At any rate Tara and I had to peel and slice the apples by hand. Not a terrible ordeal, but it took longer than I had anticipated.

I used two or three recipes on crock pot apple butter and here is what we used.

Crock Pot Apple Butter

10 cups finely chopped apples
2 1/2 cups sugar I used a mix of granulated and brown
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

I mixed everything in the crock pot and turned to high for one hour and then low for the rest of the night. In the morning I tried to whisk it smooth, but then had to use the food mill to make it smooth enough.

We then canned the apple butter and it made 4 cups.
I absolutely couldn't let Tara leave with out trying my latest favorite appetizer.

White Chocolate, Brie and Marmalade Phyllo Cups.

It's easy peasy and so delicious.

First you can buy the phyllo cups and then chop up a bit of brie. Place 5 or 6 white chocolate chips in the bottom of the cups. Then a small portion of brie. Top it with a bit of orange marmalade and bake it in a 350 oven for 7 or 8 minutes.

Eating it is a timing issue. You want it warm enough to have the brie all melty and gooey and yet not so hot as to burn the roof of your mouth. The crispness of the phyllo adds just the right bite. I may have to try them with brie and caramelized onions and maybe some sweet hot mustard! I hate being on a low carb diet!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Glebe, Rena and Genealogy

Rena is a co-worker of mine at the Fincastle Library. She loves, loves, loves genealogy. I think she likes dead people because they can no longer disappoint you. She helps people from all over the United States find members of their family from long ago. She also helps people trying to get into the DAR even though she thinks it's silly to brag about something over which you have no control or responsibility.

That being said, she also loves to go to various groups and teach them how to do the research they need to flesh out (or leaf out) their family trees! For the last month or so she has been going to our local senior living gem, The Glebe. It is a large complex similar to the San Clemente Villas where my mother is living. They have libraries, restaurants and a multitude of activities for the residents. Rena has been giving classes in genealogy research to a group and the culmination was a visit to the Genealogy Room in the Fincastle Library.

Now, I don't know how Rena does this. She has several groups a year in to tour and use our resources. She always manages to have a nice buffet table of delicious food and a modicum of decor to match. One thing you have to know about Rena is that she does not cook. Not ever. Except microwave coffee...blecch. It is something about which she is most vocal. So while Rena sits in her blue throne at the front desk of the library she has her minions do the work. And by minions, I include Paige who is the HEAD LIBRARIAN. Paige and I bake, Doris and Cathy organize and decorate and Rena gets the kudos. (Insert surprised and amazed face here!)

So The Glebe crowd loved the food and thanked Rena as they all filtered out.

As I was the scone baker, I was very pleased to hear the conversation between a husband and wife as they left the library. She was either much younger or just in better shape than he was. I got stuck behind him in our hallway as he stopped many times to breathe heavily and rest. She kept urging him on because the bus from The Glebe had come to pick them up. As he walking slowly out the door, I heard him complain, "But I want another scone." I wish I had thought fast enough to grab one and take it to him. Next time we should include doggie bags.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I spent the last week in California to visit my mother. It was great to go back and see her, but I can't say I miss California any more. I tried all the restaurants that aren't in Virginia and that I miss. The food was great, but not as great as I had built it up in my mind. The traffic was crazy right from the get go. I got in around 11 AM on a Thursday and already all lanes (6?) were busy. Not packed and at a standstill like they would be later in the day, but still busy. There was concrete everywhere you looked and all night I could hear people talking and laughing outside the window. What a great relief to return to our beautiful green valley and the peace and quiet of our hilltop home.

I stayed with my friend Marcy in Laguna Niguel. She has hosted me so many times and won't take any money for it, so I try to do something nice for her each visit. This time she was working at the Orange International Food Fair in the city of Orange. It is a big event with around 450,000 people over the three days and she needed help. Instead she got me!

We demonstrated the hair clips that she sells and sold quite a few. Women are thrilled to find a non-plastic hair clip that is pretty, strong and easy, so that part was fun. You can check out her website at\marcy The non-fun parts involved the heat, the intense noise from the various bands, although they had a lot of good bands and the port-a-potties we were expected to use. Portable potties in the sun after 10 hours of people drinking beer? Oh, I think not. We took turns buying food we didn't have time to eat just to go into a restaurant and use their bathrooms! We met one lady who was with the Elks Lodge nearby and she kindly let us use their bathrooms. GO ELKS!

It seems their is an unspoken law of street vendors. They give a discount to other street vendors. So we were able to get some fabulous olive oils and balsamic vinegars at a nice price. When my bags went through security at John Wayne airport they must have been concerned with the amount of liquids I had in my suitcase as they opened them after X-rays! I got them home safe and they will make some nice meals for us. I will have to go back to the store in Irvine when I next visit my mother. The store is 41 Olive or They have a lot of wonderful oils and vinegars. I bought loved all I tasted and ended up with the Tuscan Herb Olive Oil and Persian Lime Olive Oil with the 18 year old Balsamic Vinegar. You can really taste the herbs and the lime and the vinegar is dark and sweet and wonderful. It was the centerpiece of my first dinner back and we may have more like this soon!

Mom is happy at the Villas and it was fun to see her again. One of the reasons I am quitting the library is to have more time to go see her. I don't know how many more years she will have and I want to see her as much as I can. I can't convince her to move here, so I have to step up the visits there.

I hope I can convince Marcy to visit here. I may have to find a festival of some sort to get her to come. I am not sure she will want or need my help, but I may go along just for the backstage look into the life of a street vendor!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

New Digs

I think (knock wood) that we are done with the Invasion Of The Scratches. It is also know as dew poisoning and hoof rot so you would imagine an oozing pus-ridden mass of sores. That I would be able to diagnose with a glance. It really just looks like scratches. A few scabs or a small bloody spot. If you found it on your own foot, you would wash it and forget it.

When I first saw it on Claire, I was unconcerned. Then it got much worse and spread to Libby. Big concern. Every morning for weeks I had to scrub legs. It never got better until Lee stepped in. He found a web site that I had not. It had a lot more information and was very helpful. I have no idea what it was, but here is what it said and what we did.

It is contagious. Don't share brushes. OK. Too late for that. But it is a good idea and I should get more brushes and have a tack box for each horse. Put that on my list.

Clip the feet and legs so that the bacteria is more easily scrubbed off. We did that. It also said to scrub off the scabs to get rid of the bacteria under them and we did this....mostly. Some scabs were quite stubborn. And I didn't want to be digging at their feet too much. It seemed to be painful and I did the best I could.

It also said to clip the pasture low to get rid of any high grasses. Lee mowed the whole field and the outside perimeter, then used the weed eater under the fence line to have it all clipped. Mowing also breaks up the manure so that if it ever rains again in my lifetime, it can break down more easily.

We scrubbed and scrubbed twice a day. When it looked like we had a handle on it we started using Desitin (actually the Dollar General brand) to dry the sores up and to coat the foot above the hoof line. I didn't have time to wait for the feet to dry from the scrubbing. I had to get to work. So, I would scrub and clean stall and buckets and then put the horses back in their stall. Lee would go down an hour or so later and goop up their legs and let them out. By this time the dew was off the grass and that may have helped also.

So this morning was the last scrub day. I clipped them again yesterday and gooped them up. Then this morning I scrubbed all the scabs off and gave them one more dose of Betadine. I hope we are DONE!

Lee put the rails and gates up all by himself on the new turnouts. Is there any question as to why he is my mother's favorite son-in-law?? (In fact this has become a family joke and all my aunts are now required to call him their favorite son-in-law, too. The fact is, my mother has only one son-in-law.) I had some minor surgery and have been too sore to help, so he went and did it all alone while I was at work! See why he is my favorite husband?(Once again, the one and only, but still.....)

We have been planning on and working on these turnouts for quite some time. It is just serendipity that they are done at a time when moving the horses to a different stall might also help with their recuperation. If there was also bacteria in their old stalls and turnouts, then they will no longer be there to be reinfected.

We scrubbed the new stalls and moved the salt blocks and put in fresh shavings. New Digs! I have no idea if they like the new digs or not. We waited around and all they wanted to do was eat dinner. If I didn't know better, I might think they were male. "Just feed me and I don't care what you do with the place."

Next week is soon enough to disinfect the old stalls. We swept and hosed them out. Have the Lysol. Just don't have the energy. Gotta save something for next weekend! Of course there is a fund raiser for the Eagle Rock Library at the Blue Ridge Winery next weekend. I have to reserve some energy for that. We love going to the local wineries for a meal and some music. This vist has the added benefit of supporting the Eagle Rock Library. It is the newest of the Botetourt libraries and still has a lot of shelves to fill up. They have an active Friends group and I will go to support them. We'll share a bottle of wine, have a meal and not think about horse hooves at all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Books I Want

I think there should be a BOOKS I WANT link for all libraries. It could be a place for people to request a book they want that the library system does not have. Or it could be a place to request an author that they have heard about. Then other patrons could vote on the choice. Or maybe you have a book in a series and you want to be sure the library orders the next one. Put in a vote!

Another cool thing to have would be the option to transfer the names requesting a title to the hold list before anyone else. This would encourage people to vote and let the libraries know how many copies they might need in the system. Not every library need purchase a not too popular book. Every library would know to order if the book was extremely popular.

Libraries should have a review function for books. The Roanoke Valley Libraries has a method of reviewing (0 to 5 stars) for the ebooks or audiobooks but no place for the bookbooks. (A bookbook seems to be the old fashioned paper books we all know and love.) You should be able to tell others that the author that you have always loved has written a stinker this time and not to bother.

There is a suggestion box/email option, but maybe I don't want a long conversation with a faceless library email. I just want to make my request and move on. One request gets you a place to tell others of your new find or to discover that you are a newcomer to this great author and to jump on the bandwagon. And then you are on the list! I can't wait for the call. My book is IN!!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ridge Rifle and Roy

My cousin Saja is visiting from Memphis. She brought her two girls and her mom, Suzy and our Aunt Donna came to visit, too. It's a small scale family reunion! In addition to Mule driving and horse riding and pedicuring (is that a word?) we took them shooting!

I am a library assistant in Fincastle and Roy Gross is the library courier. He makes sure the books get to the libraries that need them and then get to the right library when they are returned! There are a lot of libraries in our consortium and Roy is a busy man. So it was extra special when he heard the girls were coming and he offered to take them shooting at his shooting club, Ridge Rifle Association. You can see their website at They do a lot of community service and they are a responsible and active shooting club. There are rolling hills and different areas for shooting at different ranges. It is a wonderful club. Roy is the range officer and he took good care of Evan and Addison.

First Roy spent quite a bit of time ensuring the girls knew about safety and the rules of the range. He set them up at targets and let each girl shoot.

Aunt Suzy has a pistol for personal protection and she shot her gun and both she and Aunt Donna got a turn with the hand guns. The girls were taught to load the clips for the pistols and also to load the rifles. Roy had rifle stands to help them aim and they were quite good at it! At the end of the lesson they each got to take home the target that they had shot.

The girls and Suzy had a great time.

Donna even shot and she had had no intention of doing so. I hope my cousin Roland is good to her now that she is a dangerous woman! I think Saja might have shot a bit. It's hard to know what is happening when you have the ear protection on! I think she mostly enjoyed the fact that the girls were having fun. Next time she comes she should have hair again and I'll have to arm wrestle her to get my turn. For now she just enjoyed her girls and her family having a fun day together.

And, NO, Monty, she does NOT look like Howie Mandel.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Budding Carpenter

The library has a Summer Reading program every week during the summer. Jackie, the children's librarian for Botetourt County spends a lot of time all year picking programs that everyone will enjoy that can be obtained for a small budget. She does a great job. Lots of kids and their parents come through the doors in Fincastle every Wednesday. It is so crowded that the staff has to park across the street to have enough parking spaces.

Last Wednesday my new cousins came in also. Joe Desai had a shoe box in his hands and he wanted to show me what was inside. He had made a miniature replica of our Kawasaki Mule!. He even had the roll bars and the dump bed! The wheels turned and everything. Karlyn, his mom, told me that his grandfather had helped him. He had done a fine job and was justifiably proud of his work. I predict big things ahead for that kid!

I wish I had had more time to talk to him and have him tell me about the project. Wednesdays is our busy days and I couldn't spend the time I wanted to. Maybe he'll bring it back on a quieter day!