Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bird Village

We now have an official bird village.


We have the rustic bird house.


The bird apartment.


The bird chalet.


And the run down bird house with the distressed metal roof.


The church bird house makes this a village.  Drive down any back country road in the south and you will come across a wee church.


So now we have the bird village at Shenandoah Gateway Farm.  Let's hope the Reverend Byrd can minster to his flock.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Just Need a Couple More Tables

I guess I never realized how many tables people use.  Ones for lamps and eating.  Bedside tables and a place to put a cup of coffee while you read the paper.


I bought this one at an estate sale.  It must have been near a window, because one side had the finish burned off from the sun over many years.  Sure, I don't mind stripping and finishing ANOTHER table, she said with a smile...while gritting her teeth.


So we bought more furniture refinisher and I spent more time with gloves and steel wool and sandpaper.

Then a bit of stain.  It doesn't take the stain evenly, of course.  So I have to obsess on that for awhile.  And try more stain.  And then Lee, the resident genius says that it is an old piece and the color variations gives it character.

First he saves me from wasps and thorny patches of blackberries.  Now he saves me from sanding this furniture to toothpicks.  And that is why I married him and why I'm not giving him up!


Then three coats of Tung Oil and it looks great.  I am almost finished with this small portion of the B&B.


Chair or no chair?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Too Old For This

We tried to hire someone to come and clear our hillsides along our driveway.  We were convinced to let them spray an herbicide that would kill the weeds and small trees growing close to the edge of the drive and leave the grass.  Then the weeds would fall over and we would just have to cut down the nuisance trees.

Nuisance trees: trees that grow where they are not wanted and don't die when sprayed, as opposed to wanted trees that won't grow where planted and die when sniffing any Round Up.

This was not a successful experiment.  We have spent two hours each day for three mornings clearing out the dead and dying weeds and cutting the dead and dying trees.  Two hours a day, because then we are wiped out and have to go so something else less physical.  That two hours fills the truck up about three times for dumping or burning.


It is difficult to work on the hillsides because they are steep and the grass is thick so it disguises holes and rocks.  It is slick, so footing is a problem.  My feet and ankles hurt from trying to keep upright and I fall on my tush about every thirty minutes.

I use the battery powered trimmer, hand saw and loppers.  Lee uses the chain saw.  They scare me.  When trimming in vines and berry bushes, bugs fly around your face and you get slapped by the freshly cut berry vines.  It hurts.  Especially when they hit you in the face.  But if you are going to clear the area, you just have to put on your big girl panties and power through the unpleasantness. 

Yesterday I was clearing a big thicket of vines.  I saw a bunch of flying insects, but kept on using the noisy trimmers, even though I was getting stabbed by a blackberry at my neck.  Wait a minute, That was a sting.  A wasp sting.

It seems I had cut into a wasp nest.  They objected to this invasion in a serious way.

I yelled and tried to stop the trimmer.  I back up and tried to run down the hill, while waving them away.  Naturally I fell and rolled to the bottom of the hill in a small patch of dead, but still thorny, blackberry canes.  I landed in the ditch with my head downhill and was unable to get up.  I was still being stung and yelling for Lee who had no idea what happened, other than I had fallen.

This is where I landed and the trimmer I dropped.


"Help me up.  Wasps."  was about all I remember saying.  Lee reached out and pulled me up.  I was still being stung and I ran down the drive, swatting at the wasps.  Now Lee is getting stung.  When he reached for me they must have flown up his sleeve into his shirt.

"Take off your shirt."  he tells me.  So I did.  No wasps in there, but whoever drives by will be surprised.  I shook out my shirt and put it back on. We finally got far enough away that the drone strikes stop.  I am stung through shirt and pants.  The worst are on the face and neck.  Lee also.  I head up to the house and get the wasp spray.  These guys are going to have to move or die.  Wasp spray is great because it fires about 20 feet.  I am not getting close to that nest any time soon.


I sprayed the entire can and could still see a bunch of wasps flying around.  We decided discretion is the better part of valor and gave that section of the drive a wide berth.  We cut for another hour until we were both too sore from the work and the stings that were swelling, to continue.

You can see the section we left for another day.  Or year!

I took Tylenol PM and finally slept the night.  Lee tried to tough it out and was scratching all night.  His hand and jaw are swollen.  I just have red sore spots, except for my neck that is also swollen.

This morning was a recon and destroy day.  We bought wasp spray in quantity and I will spray this evening when the wasps are in the nest and not out flying around.  I pretend to care about the environment and recycle and try to go green.  But, when push comes to shove, all bets are off and other clichés like that!  This is war and I have Lowe's insecticide aisle on my side.  And while I am at it, I am spraying the whole outside of the house for those damn stink bugs that are starting up again after a minor reprieve. Take that!  DIE!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

3rd Quilt

I woke up this morning at 3:00 and couldn't sleep.  No reason.  Just couldn't.  I finally got up about 4 and finished the quilt.  That's right.  Finished.  This quilt took more time than the other two I made.  Partly because it is the biggest.  I made a queen size quilt for the first and last time.  They are just too unwieldy to try and sew on the middle of such a big quilt.  And I want to be able to do it all.  I don't do it particularly great, yet, but I am getting there.  The other reason is that we have so many things going on here, that sewing has taken a backseat.

The last week or so I have been sewing every day after I do a bit of brush clearing and a bit of furniture refinishing.  That means I spend a LOOONG time washing hands before I start.


I used a template to sew in the widest border at the edge of the quilt. 

The template is 6inches wide and the border is 8 inches wide so I cut a piece of cardboard to run along the seam side to keep the chalk lines even for stitching.  


Cats, no matter what they think, are not helpful in this process. 


I will not use this template again, because when I stitch the curving lines, the quilt tends to pull, even with the walking foot on the machine. I am sure I am the problem, but it made for some tearing out of stitches and some puckered places.  I am taking a class at the Trinity Quilt Shop next month on free motion quilting and I hope to be able to use that technique on my next quilt.  Not everywhere.  Just in the spots where there are no obvious lines to follow.

After I finished the border, it was time to do the last bit.  The binding.  There are two different instructions, depending on which book or web site you read.  Some say to sew the binding on the front and then trim the quilt to finish it.  I like to cut it first.


Some sites say to cut the binding 2 inches wide and I did that.  I wish I had cut them 2 1/2 inches wide, suggested in other places.  There were some corners where it was a struggle to get the edges to fit properly and a bit more room would have been nice.  I must have done 2 1/2 inches on my other quilts.  I need to keep a journal or something.  Still, I think it looks nice.


After you cut enough strips to go around the whole quilt, plus a foot or two extra, you have to sew all the strips together.  Place the strips at right angles with the right side together and sew across. 


Then trim off the extra and iron them seams open.  You will have a lot of fabric for the binding of a queen size quilt.


While doing that, press them with the raw edges together with the right side out.  This makes a double thickness and it is supposed to make them last longer.  But what do I know?  This is only my third quilt.  My problem isn't hoping they will last.  It is trying to keep the cat hair off the quilt!

Start sewing in the middle of one side.  Instructions tell you to leave 8 inches unsewn.  I suggest leaving a bit more than the suggested 8 inches.   At least I had to undo some stitches. 


When you approach a corner, stop 1/4 inch from the end.  Stop and cut the thread.  Fold the binding up at a 90 degree angle and then back down on top of itself.  make sure the edges line up and then start sewing in the new direction.  The fabric will be thick and you may need to help your machine get through it.


When you  have it mostly sewn, open the folded binding and lay one piece going down in a 90 degree angle and one going up at a 90 degree angle.  Use your fingers to crease the edges. 


Then place the creased edges, with the right sides facing, together.  It helps to mark the creased line and then sew along it.  Make sure it fits and then cut off the excess.  MAKE SURE IT FITS.  Iron the seam open and then finish sewing.  It should be perfect!


Now comes the tedious (for me) hand sewing.  Fold the binding over and make sure it covers the seam you just sewed.  Do a blind hem stitch.


When you get to a corner, sew all the way to the end.   Try to keep the needle from piercing your thumb.  Try harder.


 Then fold it back to miter the corner and take a few stitches to keep it flat.


Oh, my gosh. Are you done?  No.  you have to get up at 4 AM (!) and sew a few more places where you didn't get enough quilting done to suit you.  THEN you are done.


Now go clear more brush and put another coat of Tung Oil on the table.  Then go work on the stocking you never finished. 

Then take a nap.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Just A Few More Pieces

We are getting closer to having furnished the whole basement.  Many pieces were bought at antique stores.  We love to go and browse and now we get to actually purchase a few things.

Some pieces we got at Estate Sales, here and near Alexandria, where my brother lives.


Today we picked up few things from a Crowning Touch auction.  We have been looking for and pricing electric fireplaces.  We have a spot we tiled and thought to put one.  We even have the English Hunt print ready for over the mantel. 


We saw two at Crowning Touch and when the online auction happened over the weekend, we bid on the oak one.  We also bid on a few other pieces.  By the end of the auction, we had a side table, an oak chair and two lamps.  All for less than the cost of a new fireplace.


Sure it has a few minor scratches.  But that means we don't have to kill a cat or two if they scratch it.  NOT that they are allowed down there, but things happen.  It works and gives off quite a bit of heat.  So we are happy.

A couch, a few more pieces and we will be ready for business.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Sunset, September 21, 2013.


Viewed from our front porch.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Spaghetti Sauce

I haven't had spaghetti in probably a year.  Trying to eat low carb and all that.  I must have seen an advertisement for spaghetti sauce, because all of a sudden I had such a craving!

Store bought spaghetti sauce is OK.  I have used it, myself, especially when I had young kids at home.  Then throw together a salad and you have dinner!  But making your own sauce is easy and reasonably fast.  So why not do it yourself!  Sure you can cook it for hours to meld all the flavors together, but you don't have to. 

So here is my easy spaghetti sauce.  The nice thing about it is that you change things around to suit yourself and your family and it will still be good.


Spaghetti Sauce

1 pound Italian Sausage, Sweet, Mild or Hot.  Or leave it out and you have a vegetarian sauce.
1/2 to 1 onion depending on size.
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 15 oz. canned Tomato Sauce
1 15 oz. Diced or Crushed Tomatoes.  This gives it some texture.
3 oz. (1/2 can ) Tomato Paste  The leftovers can be frozen for a future use.  It's great in soups.
1/2 teaspoon sugar  This cuts the acidity.
1 teaspoon Italian Herbs, crushed in your palm.
1/4 cup fresh, chopped up or 1 teaspoon dried parley
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Burgundy (optional)


If you're in a rush, start the water for the pasta now.  Then when you finish with the sauce, the water will be ready and you can cook the pasta and everything will be done at the same time.  You can simmer the sauce for an hour or two if you want.


Put a Tablespoon or so of Olive Oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Dice the onions.  It may look like a lot, but it cooks down.  Add them to the hot oil.  Cook until soft and then add the sausage, if you are using it.  Continue cooking until it is no longer pink, breaking it up into small pieces.


Add the garlic and the s&p.

Pour in the two cans of sauce, the diced tomatoes and the tomato paste.  I discovered that I had some frozen, so I put the can back and used the frozen paste.  It will melt as you cook the rest.  Bring the sauce to the start of a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer.  The Burgundy adds a depth and richness, but isn't necessary.  Use it now, if you like.

Put in the sugar and stir.  Give it a taste.  If it is still too acidic you may add another 1/2 teaspoon.  No more than that.  This isn't catsup we are making here.


Add the herbs and stir them in.  Taste.  You can add more if you like, but not too much. You don't want to overpower the sauce.   Basil is good, too.


Let it simmer while you cook the pasta. If it seems a bit thin, cooking it longer thickens the sauce

How hard is that?

Serve it over pasta cooked al dente, or with just a bit of bite to it.  Be careful.  It goes from too hard to too soft fairly quickly.


This makes enough sauce for four to six servings, depending on whether you are making a salad and having bread, etc.  I froze the remainder and now I can cook up the pasta and heat the left over sauce and have a super fast dinner when I don't feel like cooking!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Panera Treats

Lee and I frequently stop in at Panera when we are out and about and hungry.  I like that their Chai Tea Latte is not the same as the one served at all Starbucks and most other coffee chains.  It is peppery and I really like it.  Their salads, soup and sandwiches are the best and let's not even talk about their baked goods.  I prefer a New York Style bagel for a plain bagel, but their flavored ones are delicious.


I recently received an invitation from the Panera at Valley View Mall.  They were having a tasting party for My Panera card members.  This is a free card that you get through Panera and you swipe it when shopping there, similar to other cards.  If you use the My Panera card, you get occasional treats, like a discount on a salad or a free baked item.  This time we got a great opportunity to try the new food offerings and to contribute to a good cause.


Feeding America was collecting non-perishable breakfast food at the event.  Feeding America, Southwest Virginia,  supplies food to local and distant food banks and other places that feed the hungry.  I know that Panera does not sell their day old bread and pastries.  They donate them to organizations that feed the hungry.  Would you rather have a loaf of day old white bread or some focaccia or sourdough from Panera?  No contest in MY book.  So we fed ourselves and helped out a struggling family.  A nice evening.


We were given tastings of Vegetarian Autumn Squash soup.  It was a bit sweeter than Butternut Squash Soup and very creamy.  It was topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.  Delicious.

They had Roasted Turkey Harvest Wheatberry Salad.  I love wheatberries and used to buy them to use in my whole wheat breads.  Can't find them around here.  They are the berries of wheat that are ground up to make flour.  When soaked overnight or cooked in a simmering pan of water they become plump and have a bit of bite to them.  I used to know someone who would soak them overnight and then have them for breakfast in a cereal bowl with milk.  Yum!  Panera has tossed a few with field greens, thin slices of turkey and a maple balsamic vinaigrette.  Don't forget the Gorgonzola cheese.  This will be the next meal I have at Panera.

Another new menu item is for breakfast.  It is a creamy soufflé.  In fact it is a Roasted Tomato and Feta Baked Egg Soufflé.  Their flaky bread dough is used as a bowl to hold the tomatoes and feta and baked with a luscious egg mixture to creamy perfection.  It was delicious and vegetarian, for those who care about such things.  Hi, Tara!  She is not fond of sundried tomatoes, but these are sliced, roasted tomatoes and just perfect.

Panera rounded out the meal with a few other treats from their regular menu and even gave a demonstration on scoring baguettes before baking, that you could eat after it was baked.  I even "scored" a recipe for French Bread Margherita Pizza to fix at home, using one of their baguettes, of course.  And now, you can, too!

September is Hunger Action Month, so consider Feeding America in Salem if you are looking for a place to donate time or money.