Sunday, May 31, 2015

Downtown and the 611

     Things are about to radically change around here. (more on that later) In lieu of that, I've been having a few of what I call, "last meals". Last night we met up with friends whom we have not seen in many months. Rod and Farhana travel extensively for their art shows and getting hold of them on a weekend is a tricky thing. They were showing in the Roanoke art show this weekend, so we all agreed this was the weekend to get together. We met right around the corner from their art booth at a Lebanese restaurant called Cedars. I like Lebanese food and Cedars was okay. (But it was only that for me.) The company was a lot more satisfying. B. and John rode with us and the six of us had a great time catching up on our lives and sharing what's what.
     Being early summer, it was still light outside when we finished dinner. The sidewalks of downtown were filled with people, not only from the art show, but also because the 611 Norfolk and Southern steam locomotive made its homecoming this very weekend! The arrival of this train was a big deal for Roanoke and folks came out with great fanfare. From bits and pieces I've read, it's the only steam engine of its class to survive the scrap heap. Built in 1950 in Roanoke, it's been out of commission for twenty years until it was restored in North Carolina. It will be making excursions over the next few weeks and tickets are still available for a few of those. You don't need to be a rail enthusiast to appreciate the beauty of this locomotive. It's a piece of living history!

     We weren't ready to part company with our friends so early in the evening, so we walked a couple of blocks to Corned Beef & Company where they have pool tables and a shuffleboard, (and beer). The guys came up with this idea, I think. It was early enough, perhaps 8:30, that the young people weren't out yet and we had the big, cavernous place practically to ourselves. One of the bartenders came over and talked to us a bit, explaining how he kept score and how to keep the board sprinkled in sand to make the pucks slide better. I had never played shuffleboard before and it turned out to be a lot of fun! We played guys against girls, which upped the competition just a bit. We had a hilariously good time. The guys probably won both games, I don't even remember because it was fun regardless. We finished up around 10:30 PM, just when the volume on the music cranked up and the young people started streaming in for their Saturday night fun. It was a perfect time to make our exit. They can have that scene...Been there...Done that.

Friday, May 29, 2015


     Sometimes, for lack of binoculars, I will grab my camera and zoom in to get a close up look at something far away. In this case, it was the bird sitting on the fence post. I snapped a few shots using the 'sports' setting which snaps off two frames per shot and this was one of the surprise photos it caught. It blurred with cropping, but the Robin's preening is still fun to see.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Strawberry Cheesecake

     Tess baked this Strawberry Cheesecake last night for her boyfriend's birthday. The recipe called for dollops of strawberry puree to be swirled (marbled) through the cheesecake batter with a knife before baking. When she made the first cut through the circles of puree it created pretty heart shapes, so she left it that way. It held this exact pattern as it baked and looked just as pretty when it was done. I showed her how to use a water bath to bake the cheesecake so it wouldn't crack and it turned out perfectly. She said everyone loved it, so I guess it tasted as good as it looked. Here is a link to the recipe she used. We'll have to make it again so I can taste it!
* I have no idea why the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of water. She did not use it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

No Alarm Clock and What to Do About That

     I'm getting into the groove of summer vacation by having my day begin without an alarm. It's a little disconcerting and I feel like I'm floundering on how to make best use of all this "free" time. It's not a problem. However, I want to use my time wisely and to it's fullest potential and it seems that I'm only good at wasting much of it. I think I'm too daydreamy.
     Today was full of all kinds of things that were mostly a bunch of nothing. It was perfect. Now that the weather has turned humid and warm, we're walking in the cool of the morning. I love to bring my camera because I never know what might pop up along the way and I would hate to miss a surprise. We startled plenty of deer this morning. One of them (it looked like a young buck) came crashing through the woods and bounded across the road right smack in front of Henri. It was quite a sight, both of the deer and of the startled Schnoodle. So follow along! It's a two mile walk.
     I love the sun and shadow this early in the morning as we leave the house behind. There are deer in the tall grass across the field and they leap away when they see us approach. Farther up the road, Honeysuckle grows all along the banks. It's scent rivals the Gardenia in sweetness. I tend to go on and on about how wonderful the honeysuckle smells and I'm sure Steve is tired of my raving. But honestly, I could swoon over that honeysuckle. All the land that you see in these photos, hundreds and hundreds of acres, was once entirely owned by one family. Can you imagine?! The little log structure with the chimney was fully standing only five years ago. It's part of the original owner's history. Right next to where it disintegrates stands a modern aluminum barn that has also become also mostly abandoned. Two of the three brothers that currently own much of this land have died. Their gardens have disappeared and only a few cattle now graze their fields. Even the farmhouse at the end of our walk is no longer lived in. It's rather sad. I envision it as it once once, alive and thriving. We see the history on this acreage crumbling even in the few years we have lived here. Now, my own history is being written on a tiny piece of this massive, beautiful countryside. There it sits, alive and full of life, (well, sleepy life at this time of the day) with the sun shining brightly on it...for a lifetime or two. I do like vine-covered, crumbling, old structures though. So I won't mind when ours becomes that way, too. One day.

Honeysuckle covers the road bank!

Peaks of Otter with wispy clouds

An old cabin with what looks like an add-on.

A hay wagon waits for its load.

The farmhouse marks the end of one mile.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

From Daisies to Flower Girl


Granddaughter was contentedly lost in the daisies this morning. She was careful about choosing daisies that did not have "bubbles on them because there are bugs in there." After she picked each one, she patiently stripped off the the leaves, forming rounded bouquets. You know the house was full of daisies this weekend : )

Angels Come and Care for Mom

Lord, please protect my mom today
May she forever find kindness in her path.
Guide her bent and troubled fingers
With a strength from long ago.
Make her footfalls sure
To find a destiny she cannot see.
Where memories are clear
And reality too difficult to endure
Bring your love and assurance
Of better days yet to come.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Well Done, Daughter #4

     Our fourth and final daughter graduated from high school this night. I can't begin to describe the rush of emotions. Most of them are held at bay due to the busyness of finishing up the school year at work, having Claire et al here for the weekend, a wedding in the extended family on Saturday, and otherwise pure craziness all around. Sometime in July, I will be sitting alone on the porch one evening and it will  catch up with me and I'll have a good cry then. It's fine.
     I am so proud of this daughter for not bending to the crush of peer pressure and for seeking truth rather than seeking popularity. The first school award she ever received was for kindness. It's maker found its mark in Tess. It's who she truly is. So, with academic success wrapped around her shoulders, it's onward and upward, reaching for something she isn't exactly sure of just yet. She has a general plan and we shall see where it takes her. After all, it's only just the beginning, right?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Making Hay

May 2013
     Spring is morphing into summer very quickly around here. The fields are lush and the grass is heavy with seed. Certain meadow birds seem to love the fields this way. We hear them sing from within its depths and answer one another's calls. We have been endlessly entertained watching the them and there is always a new-to-us bird popping up in the yard. This week it was a Northern Flicker, pecking at the ground and looking every bit like a woodpecker. The distinct, black crescent at its neck quickly helped us identify it. It is in fact a type of woodpecker, but one who pecks for bugs on the ground.
     The fields come alive on breezy days when the wind blows the tall grass like ocean waves. Now, with the presence of seed heads, the waves shimmer as they oscillate back and forth with the wind. The movement is hypnotizing to watch and I try to follow the wind's patterns, but it shifts and plays with my eyes every time. I can only enjoy it because I do not suffer with allergies the way poor Tess does. She looks forward to the day when the grass is mowed and she gets a reprieve from her itchy, puffy eyes.
     Speaking of mowing, I finally found someone to cut our small field. Without horses on the field, the grass has come back thick and hearty. The man who used to mow for us has sold his animals and has moved on, so we needed to find someone else willing to come and take the hay. I've always liked the idea of this exchange; we get a nicely mowed field and the farmer gets bales of hay. It's a win-win situation. However, with the cost of diesel fuel and equipment maintenance, it's not really worth it for a farmer to cut a field like ours that only gives a small yield. Also, many farmers have other day jobs and do their farming on the side so, time is tight for them. As is done in the business world, I figured "networking" was the solution to our problem. I started networking by putting word out that we needed our field cut. Most networking might occur in offices, coffee shops and power lunches, but my successful connection was made in the road, literally. On one of my walks, the man from whom we used to by our hay stopped to say hello. When we bought our land fourteen years ago, this man's father was the one cutting the hay. They are kind and gentle neighbors who live on a farm a couple of miles behind our road. I asked him if he had time to cut our hay. I knew he had another job in addition to helping care for his parents' farm and cutting the hay for the people across the road from us with 300+ acres. He said yes and on his word I know he will do it. I am thankful for neighbors like this. It is no small task for him to bother with our few acres when he already has so much to do.
     The land will look entirely different after it is mowed. It never fails to startle me when we drive up to the house one day and see all the grass is gone. Tess will be glad, of course. When the girls were young (and sometimes still) they would jump from the hay bales and have a day or two to play around them. Who needs playground equipment when there are hay bales?! A field dotted with hay bales creates another beautiful landscape of which many an artist has painted. I often grab the camera and photograph the fields in this state. I'm sure most people think they are the most boring pictures ever, but I love them. By the way, the 300+ acre property across the road is for sale. The photo above is a small section of it. For a cool one and a half million dollars, it comes with a house... and beautiful, waving grass.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Days and the Years Will Go Streaking By

     The days are so busy that if life were a moving picture I would slow it down and view it one frame at a time, frame by frame, minute by minute. I knew it was out of hand when I found myself making a list for my list. "Sub-lists? Seriously! How did life ever get to be this hectic and how did it ever get to be May?! Amidst the frenzy of the end of another school year and the end of Tess' public school career, those moments when there is nothing happening have become stand-out moments.
     Steve was brewing beer this evening and I don't like the smell (he thinks it's heavenly) so I went outside and found some mowing to do. He wants to have a batch ready to share when the family is all here and perhaps some to take to New York. So, while he boiled and stirred, I bonded with the yard and field. When I came in, he fixed me a ginger beer and I read my book out on the porch. I realized it was the first time I sat and read by lamplight on the porch since last summer and it was very pleasant. This is the frame speed I needed.
     Tomorrow there's a load of garden soil to shovel off the truck, tomatoes to plant, some cooking and baking to be done, more car repairs for Steve, and a room renovation under way. This particular 'to-do' list is in my head, but I may have to write it down in order to corral my mind from wandering away from it. I see a sub-list surfacing and this is never a good thing. As a matter of fact, I've already remembered there's something else I need to go and...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Impressions in a Window Frame

     As the school year winds down with only two more weeks left, there is a flurry of activity and programs. Tess' high school held their arts night where we heard the choir, the jazz ensemble, and browsed a cafeteria chock full of art. Among Tess' things were these window frames she was commissioned to make for one of the teachers. The bottom one is inspired by Monet's poppies and is still a work in progress. She said there are many layers of paint upon paint and I know she's been working on these for weeks. I'm partial to the top painting because it is a scene we see here in our own county. I'm keeping an eye out for a nice, old, chipped window frame. I only hope I can afford to commission the artist.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

There Goes the Christmas Tree

     It was with childish glee that we threw the old, dried out Christmas tree on the fire. It was so bright when we first tossed it on that we had to shield our eyes. I was surprised the buckets we were using for side tables didn't melt.

An example of why a dried out Christmas tree is a fire hazard in the home. The sizzle sound was intense!

I love B.'s body language. I'm certain she was making an important point to me. : )

     John's photos make the night appear pink, but it was actually a perfectly black night with "ice floe" clouds as John called them. They moved slowly across a full moon and star-studded sky. If you looked straight up at those enormous ice floe clouds, you got dizzy. The bonfire was a spontaneous decision, made around 4:00 PM. We had worked outside for most of the day, planting this and fixing that, when we decided to burn some dead winter stuff. We called B. and John to enjoy the fire with us and it was a perfect ending to a perfect day.