Monday, January 31, 2022

Visiting Raphine, Staunton, and Waynesboro Virginia

     We took a little weekend getaway at an Airbnb in Raphine this weekend and it was lovely! We and  another couple, who are friends of ours, rented a comfortable cottage on a working cattle and horse farm. The farm is situated on four hundred and thirty-five acres in a beautiful valley. The driveway into the property is half a mile long, bringing us to the 1900's cottage where we stayed. The cottage sat near the main house, a brick colonial built in 1820, and it was all very pretty and secluded.
     It was gently snowing when we arrived late Friday afternoon. It added a fresh coat of white to the snow already on the ground from two weeks prior. It looked very pretty but the side roads were becoming slick so we decided not to venture too far away for dinner. We drove to a German restaurant, nearby called Edelweiss. The restaurant is located in a big old house and has been there for decades. I became a little concerned as we walked up to the front door when I saw dead potted plants strewn about and trash overflowing out of a can along the walkway. The front porch had an entire Christmas village on tables flanking the front door with some lit and some not, and lots of odds and ends thrown about. It was all very unkempt and kind of trashy looking. All I could do was trust our friends who had eaten here before and assured us the food was good. When we stepped inside, the sound of German music greeted us at the door. They had a duo playing tuba and accordion. It really sounded fun! The restaurant was bustling with customers and it had a jovial, festive atmosphere. It turned out that the food was very good and plentiful. The cuisine is in the Black Forrest style, down to earth and hearty. Sauerbraten, Bratwurst, Weiner Schnitzel, Sauerkraut, Black Forest Cake, and other items extensively filled the menu. We left in good spirits and headed back to the cottage to settle in for the night.
     The next morning we woke to single digit temperatures and sunshine! I took these photos from the porch of the cottage as the sun came up over the mountains. We had a leisurely breakfast and then headed to Verona and Staunton for some antique hunting. I can never get enough "looking" at antiques and it is one of my favorite hobbies. The four of us looked for our favorite things to collect and we spread out over the stores, coming back together at the register to see what the others had found. I'm getting pickier these days as I don't need to bring more "stuff" into the house but, I like to search for Christmas ornaments, picture frames for my stitching, and the occasional piece of furniture that would be useful to have. Steve likes to hunt for old musical instruments. I can always tell when he has found one because I will hear the sound of bugle, trumpet, saxophone or whatever echoing across the aisles. We laugh at the fun stuff we find like an old stuffed squirrel, mounted on a log with a nut in its mouth. On this visit Steve came away with a very large Bausch and Lomb magnifying glass to use on his technical drawings for work. I found a crisp white dresser scarf and a lovely old oak picture frame. We were happy scavengers!
     We stopped for lunch (and craft beer for the guys) at The Green Room on Beverley Street in Staunton. Along with craft beer they have a simple menu with baguette sandwiches, and tater tots. I had a delicious salad with citrus fruit on greens and a "pomegranate molasses" dressing . After this, we browsed Beverley Cigars where Steve found two of his favorites to purchase. It was bitterly cold and windy outside and not fun for strolling the sidewalks so we left town at this point. Our next stop was to Cross Stitch Station in Waynesboro. This shop owner has a great inventory for stitchery. We first dropped the guys off at Basic City Beer Co. where they could sample beer and not be bored while we shopped threads. When we returned an hour later to pick up the guys, we stayed and played some shuffle board. The place also had a pool table and other games along with big screen TV's for sports viewing. The guys did not care for the beer that was brewed here but business was busy and it was a fun place to hang out. It was getting late when we headed back to the cottage so we picked up some take-out pizza nearby at Giovanna's Pizza and we stayed cozy inside for the night. We played a game, the guys watched a movie, and it was good day. 
     We took our time with coffee and breakfast the following morning. We packed up the car around 10:30 and decided to drive home via the back roads. Route 11 is a very pretty drive and it took us through Lexington. As we approached Devil's Backbone Brewing Co. and Duke's antique mall, we decided to make more stops. At Duke's I found three Shiny Brite Christmas ornaments, a bottle brush tree, and an interesting little brown bottle. Next, we settled in at a table at Devil's Backbone where we all ordered hamburgers for lunch. The food is really very good here and Steve likes some of their beer. We included two sides; fried mushrooms and roasted Brussels sprouts. They have a large outdoor deck overlooking the mountains. For the winter months, they installed several geodesic domes made of plastic and looking like igloos. Inside the domes are chairs and some sort of heater. They weren't in use this day due to some safety issues with the extension cords to the heaters but they looked like they could be fun to sit in to enjoy the views on a chilly day.
     We arrived home mid afternoon and quickly unpacked our single suitcase and got our bearings back at our own home. We had filled our weekend with the right balance of activities and relaxation and Steve got a break from the hours and hours he spends working out of our basement every day. I would love to go back to the cottage in the spring when everything is green and spend more time outside and on the porch. I appreciate these Airbnb's for the service they provide as an alternative to hotels and regular Bed and Breakfasts. It's a more private experience to have a place all to yourself and you need not interact with staff or other guests. These Airbnb's can also be unique experiences like this farm where we stayed. In better weather, we could have wandered the farm, visited the animals, and made a fire in the outdoor patio fireplace. Had we brought children, there were pony rides and a swing set. We did purchase several pounds of their pasture raised beef to take home with us. That's not what you would typically experience at a hotel.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Putting Winter Away

     We are having a real, true winter season in the Virginia mountains this year. I am not a native of these parts and the seasonal cycles have never become intuitive for me here as they were up north. Although we have been here for nineteen years, I still can't get a grasp on the seasons and know them. Each season blurs into the next and they are hard to define. Maybe that's how they roll in these parts, I just don't know. Many of the winters here have been mild and we have gone a few years without a significant snowfall or a frigid spell. Not so this year and I like it.

     Even though winter is still going strong outside, I decided it was time to take winter down from inside and box it up. As I gathered things together on the kitchen table, I noticed how pretty the trees were all by themselves. They looked like a little forest.Wouldn't a little frozen pond be pretty in there?

     In the afternoon, Steve and I bundled up and took a walk. The cold air was invigorating. As my cheeks began to chill and I breathed in the cold air, I took in the setting winter sunlight and it reminded me of childhood. Back then, we would squeeze every possible minute of outdoor play into a short winter day. Winter offered so many activities in the north, especially if it was a good, snowy, cold one. We went sledding, we built snow forts, and we ice skated on ponds and streams from December though March. 

     I remember how we layered up in whatever odd bits and pieces of clothing we could rummage together in order to keep warm enough. Oftentimes we donned a pair of cotton tights as a base layer, two pairs of socks over that. Then we added stretch pants and winter snow pants over all. On top, we would wear an undershirt, a T-shirt, a sweater and then a jacket. Our necks would be bound in a scarf and a wool hat pulled on top of our head and over our ears. We wore gloves with a pair of mittens over them on our hands. Those were the days before nifty waterproof and insulated fabrics were common place. I didn't know anyone who had a down jacket or water repellent pants. Our boots were rubber and that was it. We were lucky if they kept the wet out. All of our clothing was cotton or wool and it got soaked and heavy in wet snow. All of us kids looked like ragamuffins in the snow, but, boy did we have fun!

     As Steve and I walked today, I recalled a similar walk home in setting sun just like this. A bunch of us had been skating all day on a frozen stream down on Mannix Road and it was a long, two mile walk home. With skates slung over our shoulders, we made the trek home. My toes were so cold and frozen that every step of that two miles was painful. When we finally reached our back porch, where we shed our boots, and then stepped into the warm kitchen, it was a welcome relief. We were not done with the pain in our fingers and toes, but the house was cozy and it smelled like a good dinner was close at hand. After shedding our layers of clothes, we ran our fingers under slightly warm water in the bathroom sink to get the feeling back. Oh, how that hurt as our fingers began to tingle and the circulation started to come back! Then, I would lie on the living room floor with my feet propped up on the radiator while my toes thawed and throbbed in pain. It hurt too much to rub them and there was nothing to do but wait until they thawed out in their own good time. As I lie there thawing and complaining, I knew I would be back out there tomorrow and for as many days as the weather held out. We had to grab these days of frozen ponds while they lasted. Before we knew it, we'd be scooping up tadpoles from this very same water come spring. 

     I still dream of flying over expanses of ice on my skates. There is no freer feeling in the world. The beauty of the woods, our voices echoing from the trees, were all evoked for me on this day of table top forests and chill air at sunset. 

Skating on Crooked Lake, NY during the annual winter carnival with my younger sister in the late 60's.

On our road, in front of my aunt's house with my younger sister in the early 60's.


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

During the Snow

    It wasn't the kind of snow you could play outside in and enjoy. The snow changed to sleet for a few hours and then back to snow. The worst thing was the wind. It whipped up tornadoes of  snow that swirled across the fields. It charged out of the west, down the mountains, and blustered across the open spaces to rattle the house. We stayed inside and kept warm and cozy with hot chocolate and mulled wine. Claire took these two photos with her phone, looking out the kitchen windows. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

While We Wait

      Waiting for snow. Waiting for spring. It feels indulgent to know that we can have both. 

     The forecast promises an excellent snowstorm today with multiple inches, perhaps even a foot! It is expected to be so wonderful that Claire and her family have driven up from Raleigh to play in it. We are ready. We have one battered, metal snow shovel, painted blue, that we have carted with us from New York to Alabama to Virginia. Steve refuses to buy a plastic snow shovel and since none of the stores sell metal snow shovels, we make due with our old, dented model. 

     We are also well stocked in food. I baked bread...and cookies. Steve drove out yesterday on errands and filled the gas can in case we need to use the generator. I asked him to see if the store had fresh raspberries. He came home with a rack of baby back ribs and a tray of frozen stuffed scallops. No raspberries. I doubt these items were on anyone's list in Food Lion that morning but they caught Steve's eye. I guess both of our ideas were indulgent and only his came to fruition. We had scallops for lunch and ribs for dinner. 

     We are prepared for a blizzard of the century although chances are we will be able to drive out tomorrow afternoon. However, we both grew up in upstate New York and we were taught to be prepared for winter. Back then, we carried a blanket in the trunk of the car, flares, and ice scraper and brush and sometimes a shovel. Depending on road conditions and how your car handled on slippery roads, it was not out of the question to drive around with a bag of sand in your trunk. The bag of sand served both as ballast at the rear of the vehicle and it could be shoveled under the tires for traction if you got stuck.

     I recall one harrowing experience I had while driving home from work one afternoon during an April blizzard in 1982. Nothing in my trunk could have helped me that day. We lived in the city and there was a steep incline on the last block back to our apartment. If it was icy and you didn't gain enough speed at the bottom of the hill, you wouldn't make it to the crest. I wasn't able to gain enough traction that day and halfway up the hill, my wheels were spinning but the car was no longer moving forward. I experienced a split second of panic as I began sliding backwards and sideways down the hill, brakes and steering wheel useless. I was at the mercy of gravity, inertia, and ice. Parked cars lined the road and all I could do was grip the steering wheel with a false sense of control and pray that I wouldn't hit anything on the way down. The feeling of helplessness was nerve wracking and frightening. Thankfully I hit nothing as slid backwards, slowly coming to rest at the bottom of the hill. I have no recollection of what I did after that. I suppose I must have taken a detour home.

     As I sit here this morning, forty years later, I have no plans to venture out onto the roads while it snows or soon thereafter. I will enjoy the beauty of the snow. I hope to play outside in it a little bit and maybe even coast down the hill a time or two. And then I will wait for spring or the next snowstorm, whichever comes next.    

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Finishing Up 2021


Hearth rug hooked as a gift for our daughter. "Garden Gone Wild" pattern by Sally Kallin

     My resolve this winter is to finish up projects I began last year before I start up too many new ones. I usually have multiple projects going on at the same time and I jump from one to another depending on what I am in the mood to work on. 

     I keep a photo file of all the things I make. I am not really sure why I do that except that my friend who taught me how to rug hook does so and she encouraged me to do the same. Rugs, quilts, and cross stitch projects can take weeks and months to make. On any given day it doesn't feel like I'm getting very far on a project. However, looking back at the photos from last year made me realize that I actually accomplished a lot!

     For the past four years I have mainly only made rugs. It's a craft that can be picked up easily and quickly, if one is so inclined. A good friend taught me how to hook and she shared her vision to start a rug hooking group in our area. She saw it as an opportunity for local hookers to gather together once a month, spend the day hooking, share ideas and know-how, and teach their craft to a new generation. This friend is in her late eighties and she wasn't inclined to do this on her own so I joined with her on the idea and two years ago we formed Blue Ridge Ruggers. We are an affiliation of ATHA, the Association of Traditional Hooking Artists, and we now have over thirty members! The women of the group are talented and inspiring. We have had several beginners join on and they have learned beautifully from the experienced hookers. The group took off much better than we anticipated and it is wonderful to be a part of it.

An old footstool that I recovered with a hooked rug. "Garden Hideaway" pattern by Marijo Taylor


I hooked this rug for the grandchildren's room. "Feeding the Hens" pattern by Winter Cottage

     Last year I decided to revisit some other crafts that I used to enjoy but had given up. My mother taught me how to embroider and cross stitch when I was around nine years old. I taught myself how to quilt when I was in my early twenties. There wasn't much time to make anything at all when our family was growing. I mostly made dresses for the girls and items as gifts. Decades went by without embroidering or quilting a thing. Now, at this stage of life I wasn't even sure I would be able to see the threads on cross stitch linen any more! I was very pleased when I found that I could still see well enough with my glasses to stitch. I was also encouraged and inspired to get back to quilting by another friend who sews beautiful quilts of her own. It is fun to explore fabrics, threads and above all, color! I have discovered that we are never too old to start something new and there are crafts for all abilities.

     With the start of a new year, I gathered a gallery of some finished projects from 2021. I can always use some inspiration from other crafters and I hope in turn that I can inspire others to create. If you live in the Roanoke, VA area and would like information on our rug hooking group, send me an email.  I have discovered that there are also quilting and cross stitching groups in most cities and towns as well. Crafters are always eager to share their knowledge with beginners and help anyone interested to get started on a craft. The community that grows out of people crafting together is a beautiful, supportive one that reaches far beyond the items created within that circle.

Cross stitch on linen. "Turkey Hollow" pattern by Stacy Nash.

Cross stitch on linen. Pattern was a freebie found online. I stitched this when I was recovering from Covid. I recited Psalm 23 often while I was sick so I added a portion of that verse on my stitching. This had to go back to the framer for straightening and they made it right. I didn't notice that the border design was tilted until I got home.

Little Valentine bowl fillers, cross stitch on linen. I forget the pattern designer.

I just finished this little cross stitch. "Jingle All the Way" pattern by Brenda Gervais

Assorted bowl fillers taken as I was packing fall away. All cross stitched on linen. The squirrel pattern is "Autumn's Bouquet" by Brenda Gervais. The other three patterns are by Blackbird Design.

More bowl fillers cross stitched on linen. I can't recall the designer. (Oh boy, my little shelf is dusty!) 
Another pattern by Blackbird Design, cross stitch on linen. I bought the frame at the Waterford Fair last fall. It was hand painted by a folk artist who was selling paintings there.

One of my final projects of 2021 was lavender sachets that I cross stitched and filled as gifts to friends. 

The first quilts I made in thirty years! I used patterns by Amy Smart and bought all 1930's and 40's reproduction fabrics. These twin quilts are on the beds in the grandchildren's guest room.

I used scraps from the twin quilts to make this little baskets quilt top. It measures only 12"x16" so I think it is destined to be a doll quilt for our youngest granddaughter.

Not quite squeaking in for 2020, I just finished this quilt top yesterday. It's a lap quilt from the book, "Simply Fat Quarters" by It's Sew Emma Patterns.

          And there we have 2021! I have a rug on my frame, an embroidery on my hoop, and fabric ordered for a quilt. The Blue Ridge Ruggers meet tomorrow and I am excited to see what the other women have going on. Some of our members are sick and others are needing surgery. A few members are away for the winter and we won't see them until spring. And yet, we make plans, we move forward and we keep our hands busy while encouraging one another with notes, texts, phone calls, and home visits. From the book, "Grace for Every Season":

"To create is to be at peace....
Handcrafts open the door to friendships and creativity."