Spring, finally.

spring 442When we left here a week ago Sunday, it was snowing. We drove south, seeing more snow, in the snow, for a few hours.  Honestly, we were at the Tennessee state line before I stopped seeing little snow piles here & there – especially on the northern facing slopes of roofs.  By the time we stopped to gas up & stretch outside of Gatlinburg, the sun was out, the temps were warmer and we were starting to see those little hints of green that signify the arrival of spring. Continue reading

Not Camping.

DSCN3472In talking about a little getaway with my husband, I suggested that perhaps we could go camping.  As I pretty much never offer to do this, I thought he’d like the idea.  It’s not that I don’t like camping, it’s just that almost every camping trip we’ve ever gone on has been rained on.  Sometimes spectacularly and memorably so.  Like the time we camped out in a tropical storm on the beach at the Outer Banks.  Or the time we did a three day canoe trip with Smiley & the gang.  Then there was the trip when I was pregnant with Edie were no rain was in the forecast – Allison didn’t even bring her rain gear and as soon as we put in, the bottom of the sky fell out and we got something like 3 inches of rain that weekend.  We had friends with us that were covered in head to toe goretex who pouted the entire time – which considering I was pregnant, cold, uncomfortable and wet the entire time should have been my job.  Continue reading

In which Clara got on a boat.

Progress on the dining room was interrupted this weekend for a stop on the annual ‘summer by the water’ tour.  This one was particularly glorious as it was a girls’ weekend with some of my college gals at Andrea’s St. Michael’s house. This is what Friday night looked like:

DSCN2135DSCN2142 DSCN2113

Wine & cheese and a sunset on the dock, just me & Andrea.


Breakfast was coffee & a big bowl of cherries while I sat outside reading.

DSCN2170It was one of those picture perfect June mornings – clear, just warm enough but not hot, with a gentle breeze to keep the bugs away.  I had no cell reception, there’s no internet, no land line, no TV.  Nothing to do but sit and read a book.

DSCN2171That was the sky.  Divine, isn’t it?

After Andrea woke up, we puttered in the yard some – as she & her family are moving to San Francisco, this house is going on the market.   After she met with the realtor and we filled in a hole left by the digging of the new well, Clara & Sheilah showed up.  Which meant it was beer time.

DSCN2222On the dock again of course.


Because when you have access to something like that, I believe you take full advantage of it.  Then again, we all know how obsessed I am with spending my summer by the water.

Eventually, it was decided we’d get cleaned up and head into town for something to eat.  And that’s when the fun really began.

1015369_10151661131378695_1972160316_oAfter wandering around the streets of St. Michael’s, we eventually made our way to the waterfront and found a place to eat.  We had to wait at the bar for a table, which was fine with us.   Us being us, we engaged everyone around us in conversation, including most of the staff.  We were sitting by the door they use to go in & out of, as well as near the hostess station.


I have noted here before that as a group, we are loud and foul mouthed – Andrea & I especially.  We call each other names  – terms of endearment to each other, but we’ve realized others can be slightly offended at how we speak to each other.

1025859_10151661131663695_1104214719_o966252_10151661131683695_37112120_oSome might say we are badly behaved, but really, Andrea & I just don’t care.  It’s the defining quality we share along with the ability to make the saltiest sailor blush with our language.  If you knew us in college when we were practically inseparable, then the way we behave when we get together as forty-something soccer moms doesn’t phase you.  It actually makes perfect sense, unless of course you thought certainly we’d have grown out of that by now.

We haven’t.  In fact, it may have gotten worse.

When our table was ready, our bar tab was handed to us.  We couldn’t help but notice the name the staff had put our tab under:

play 001Which thrilled us to no end. Clearly, they got us.  And appreciated us, as we had half the staff stopping to chat with us.   A woman at the bar holding her crying toddler in one hand and a beverage in the other looked at us and sighed, “I’m having my girls weekend next weekend”.

I snapped this shot and posted it on facebook, tagging the girls at their request.  We were all taken aback by the comments of friends who thought the staff should be fired  – not at all.  We were completely in on it.    As someone who still works as a server,  it’s always nice when you have a group or table that’s fun & easy, as I know we were.  Well, other than the loudness factor.  And the name calling.  And the language.  When we sat down at our table, there was  a family with two small girls behind us that we tried out best to behave around, but well, they were at least quite understanding…

1014566_10151661131668695_1645036720_oWe discovered this little guy and he proceeded to hang out around us all night long.  We took that as a good sign.  We might be loud and obnoxious, but hey, we have good karma.

play 010As we sat at dinner on the patio of the restuarant on the waterfront, Clara saw some boats for hire coming back into dock.  “I want to get on a boat”.  Bless Andrea’s heart, she whipped out her phone and made a few calls, trying to get Clara on a boat.  Everything was booked, but we assured her, she’d get on a boat before she left.

And so, after dinner, we wandered around the marina.  We came across a lively group sitting on their boat that we engaged in conversation.  Next thing you know, they invited us to come aboard for a drink.  Seeing this as how we were going to get Clara on a boat, I hopped aboard.  When everyone else realized I wasn’t coming ashore until I finished my Coors Light, they all came aboard too.

965893_10151661131698695_495970521_oThe text I sent to my husband at about this point of the evening was “Made new friends.  We’re on a boat.  Not sure who’s boat, but we’re on a boat”.

His reply?  “Woo-hoo!  Glad you’re having fun!”

Love that man.

463780_10151661131938695_675165600_oMeanwhile, Sheilah here was our sober driver and herder.  She did it with much grace & style, as she has always done.   Yes, that’s a bird on her shoulder, because when you storm a boat, isn’t there supposed to be a bird on someone’s shoulder?

We eventually made our way back to the house where the fun & games continued with late night swimming in the river, improvised ladders and glow in the dark jelly fish.   As we drove home on Sunday, Andrea noted that every time we get together, we have some sort of adventure.   Perhaps that is what binds us together after all these years.  That and the name calling, the foul language and the fact that we just don’t give a shit what you think of us.


My weekend:
Up early Saturday morning to hit market.  I bumped into neighbor Brian and wandered some with him, comparing notes on the chickens (they live in his back yard) and talking about what we need to do to winterize the chicken house.  I then ran into our friend Straz and wandered around with him.  Normally I make a quick run to the stands I like to patronize and then cut out of there.  Straz hadn’t been to market in a while and I found myself wandering and exploring the market like I haven’t made time for in at least a season, if not more with him.  Bonus, I got some impromptu quality time with Straz, which set my weekend off on a good note.  Thanks Straz.
Came home, packed up the fam for a quick little roadtrip.
Destination?  The Cowpasture River Preservation Association Annual picnic. The Cowpasture River are the headwaters of the James, along with the Jackson River and fall under the duties of my favorite Riverkeeper.

The Cowpasture is one of the cleanest rivers around.  It runs through the western most part of Virginia, in the Allegheny mountains.  It may be one of the most beautiful parts of the state.  As you can see in the above shot, the water is low.  We didn’t go out on the river, but we did enjoy mingling with the members of CPRA. They are a lovely group of folks.
This hollowed out tree was a popular topic of conversation.  Somehow it withstood the derecho while more solid trees around it were blown over.

The hostess of the picnic said there was an article published about it, but I haven’t been able to google it to link it.  It’s big and old and incredibly hollow.  It will no doubt outlive us all.
Another popular topic of conversation was the ensemble worn by the mini-me. The Picasso dress with zebra print rain boots.  Pretty sure only she could pull that off.  And don’t let this picture fool you – she was much friendlier to people who weren’t her mother and didn’t have cameras in their hands.
The ‘tween ‘tude is strong with her.
Johnny, one of Pat’s River Rats, so kindly put us up in his cabin farther down the river that evening.
Yet another quiet unplugged evening by the water….

I love the view from the front of the cabin.  Mountains and cow pastures with the river running behind it.  Quiet and soothing and a little bit of heaven. 
Sunday morning, we had to get up and book it back.

Cville Swaps  had our third swap this weekend.  We had planned it before I knew Pat had so much going on this weekend, so I didn’t have time to whip up any baked goods, but thanks to my pickling habit, I did have a good number of jars to bring.

Which Edie proceeded to swap to get herself some new earrings that Stephanie had brought.
I also brought home some BBQ sauce, peach honey, some of Vikki’s jams as well as her pickled blueberries.  (I am not the only pickling fool around.) My child is much more inclined to eat Vikki’s jams than she is mine.  I chalk it up to years of my bad jam.  I get it. It’s a big reason why we do the swap – so that I can get Vikki’s jams and jellies.  I got some cherry vanilla, peach butter and a peach jalepeno jam that I think is going to go well on a ham sandwich.

Robyn also brought some Paw Paws, so we covered all the bases of home made, home grown and foraged for foods this swap.
Swap over, we dropped Edie at a friend’s and headed south.
The James River Brewing Company was having a pre-opening celebration. Pat’s been working with them on a few things (including a possible pawpaw brew), so we were quite happy to pop in and try some of their new brews.  They officially open this weekend. Their tasting room is beautiful. In addition to the breaktaking white oak counter at the bar, they used reclaimed wood throughout. Warm space, good beer, worth the trek to Scottsville.


I sampled a few, the Green Eyed Lady being my favorite.  Pistachios were used in the brewing.  It has a higher alcohol content, which led me to calling it the One Eyed Lady.  A few of those and I’d definitely be one-eyed. 
We headed back into town and grabbed a quick bite at Beer Run.  It was packed and as we were finishing up our meal, we had the pleasure of being forced to listen to the rant of some returning UVa kid who had his parents and grandparents in tow, complaining how they had to wait 10 minutes for a table.  Oh the humanity of it all.  I was surprised they didn’t just pack up and leave he bitched so long and so loud.  Clearly he’s never worked a day in his life in the food service industry.  I was trying to have a pleasant conversation and date night with my husband, after spending a weekend running around going to work with him and here this guy stood right behind us yelling about how horrible it was he had to wait for a table.  It took quite a bit of willpower to not say anything to him, but I realized he’d just start yelling at me too.  It was bad enough I had to listen to him. It was bum ending to an otherwise busy, but good weekend.
And now I need a weekend to recover from my weekend.  The last three roadtrips I have just pulled dirty clothes out of the suitcase, made sure there were clean ones in there and headed back out.  I think it might be time to unpack it, maybe put it away and spend some time at home?  My house is starting to get that September old lady house smell that inspires fall cleaning and I really need to crack down on this regular bedtime thing.  That child must start getting to bed at a reasonable hour on a regular basis before I will allow her any wiggle room on weekend.  That didn’t go over well when I told her that but Pat did high five me on my mad parenting skills. So I’ve got that going for me. 

Catching up.

Since I last visited this space, we have had a few adventures.
Going to pick up Edie from camp was the first.
After last year’s camp closing ceremonies, Edie announced that her goal for this year was to be recognized for archery at the closing ceremony.  Which she was.  Her face as her name was called for that was absolutely beaming.  She was quite proud of herself, as were we. Is there anything better than seeing the satisfaction of your child’s face when they hit a goal they set for themselves?  She was also recognized for Dance & Lacrosse.  She was surprised by the lacrosse recognition as she doesn’t care for the sport.  I told her she didn’t have to like it to be good at it, but wasn’t it nice to know that if she wanted to play it she’d be good at it?  She was only slightly sold. 
There was a dirt road involved on the way home.
We are fans of detours that include dirt roads, especially when they include ice cream as well, which this one did.
When we got home, I had her dump her trunk down the laundry chute so I could wash everything.  My basement smelled like someone had been bathing in a pond for 3 weeks and then left all her towels out in a rainstorm.  Which pretty much was her story.
While I was switching out the loads from the washer to the dryer Saturday night, I happened to glance over and see something wriggling in a spider web that didn’t look like it belonged there.
Turns out, it didn’t.  It was a baby Eastern Ringneck snake. The tiniest little snake you’ve ever seen.
Edie really wanted to keep it, but Pat wasn’t sure if it was eating the tiny worms we brought him/her.  Also, when all of Edie’s pals came by to see her the one day she was home between adventures, the little bug catcher the snake was in didn’t get properly closed and we woke up to find Ringo gone.
Hopefully it’s made it’s way out of my house.  But if it eats bugs, then hopefully it will stay out of my eyesight.
As soon as I got Edie’s camp laundry done and my basement smelling like a basement again (a big improvement over pond water believe it or not), we took off for our last family adventure of the summer.
We headed down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to visit our friends the Dorbads.
19 month old Lincoln is cute as can be.  He also had a nasty cold he was more than generous with.  His poor mum came down with it while we were there and while Edie complained of a sore throat for a few days, I think I managed to zinc her up enough to head it off. 
I had totally forgotten that when you have a 19 month old, that’s pretty much all you do all day.
Although they are awfully cute and entertaining.
We had some great beach weather.  It was in the 80’s and thanks to some offshore winds, the water was ICE cold.  After sitting in the sun and ‘getting warm’ as my mother used to say, it was refreshing.
Also, how nice is it to get in the ocean in August and have goosebumps from the water temperature?

We wandered down to Jennette’s pier one day so Pat could fish. 
While he was up there on the pier, Edie girl & I sat on the beach nearby. We had a most fabulous chat over a coke (her) and a beer (me). 
Daddy got to fish, Edie got chocolate ice cream AND a coke and I got to sit on the beach and read not quite an entire book all day, which we all considered perfect. How to top a day like that?

By heading even farther south to Cape Hatteras National Seashore the next day.
That was the view to the left of us down the beach. 
How sweet is that?  I adore Hattaras island and that particular stretch of coastline for just that reason.
The umbrella in the distance marked the set up of a young couple near us for the day.  It was so deserted she chose to sunbathe topless.  (One of us was horrified, one of us was amused and one of us thought good for her because I’d surely burn in a most unpleasant way in some uncomfortable spots if I did that.)
We went for a stroll to collect shells and to get away from all the people.

I couldn’t help but notice that Sandy McSandster, my daughter’s beach alter ego, lives on.
That child has some sort of magnetic attraction to sand.  When she was smaller and would come in from the beach completely coated in sand, I chalked it up to her being a baby, a toddler, three, four, etc.  But now she’s 10.  And still leaves a heavy trail.  I’m surprised there’s any sand left on Hatteras Island, because the inside of my car is completely coated, as is my beach bag, the cooler and I have no doubt her entire suitcase. 

At one point, we let her go into the cooler for something, where she proceeded to coat everything in there with sand as well.  Seriously.  One hand in to grab and everything after was coated.  That beer is fresh from the cooler, after she was in it. You should have seen the one she handed her father.  He took it into the ocean to clean it off. 

I guess she’ll never outgrow it.
Which is okay, because I happen to know 40-somethings that have similar traits.  She’s in most excellent company.

Despite the fact that my child coated everything in sight in sand and our hosts were under the weather, it was a great trip.  The day we spent at Hatteras was one of the most perfect beach days I’ve ever had.  It was 80, barely a cloud in the sky, the water temp and the breeze just right.  And I got to spend a day with those two with no outside distractions besides my book.  (I’ve been plowing through “Game of Thrones”, having watched the entire show the first week Edie was at camp, I picked up the books and am now on the fourth one.)
We spent the week without television and internet.  That was week two for me, unplugged and for Edie, week four.  (She was completely unplugged while at camp.).  It might be habit forming. 
We came back Friday afternoon.  Saturday I taught a pickling class for Market Central.

We pickled peaches, green beans and cucumbers.
It was a good class if I do say so myself.
I had planned on using the Ball Pickling Mix that is all over the market this season for dill pickles.  However, due to a small oversight, there was no pickle mix on hand for the class.  A quick flip through the stack of canning & pickling cookbooks I had brought along and we selected a new one – from my trusty Food in Jars Cookbook.  We just so happened to have everything it called for on hand and so we went with it.
I’ll let you know how they turned out in a week or so when I open the jar I carried home.  I’ve yet to make anything out of that cookbook or from her websites that isn’t good, so I felt safe trying that out in a class, untested.
I do need to brag that I completely guesstimated on the amount of brine to make for those pickles and turns out my guesstimate was just enough.  Not only did I pull it out, I pulled it out perfectly.
I’m good like that.
I can’t say the same for the amount of peach brine I made, there were several quart jars left over that students took home with them.  No one seemed to be too upset about that, as the pickled peaches were a huge hit just on the smell alone and as I pointed out, when you have leftover brine, you can use it to do another batch.  I shared the recipe I came up with as a happy discovery to much rave reviews, which felt pretty darn tooting good as well.
So now we are home for a good while – school starts Wednesday and we need to settle back into that routine.  The weather today – grey, drizzly and cool – was slightly conducive towards that end.  I cleaned out the fridge and found a forgotten jar of bread & butter brine, but I also happened to have a few cukes on hand and some jalapenos from the garden that I threw in, so there was a batch of pickles made today while I was baking bread with the sourdough starter Leni shared with me.  None of us have unpacked from the beach yet – heck, Edie still has bags sitting around with camp gear all over the house, thanks to the fact that she’s slept in her own bed exactly 2 nights since we picked her up over a week ago.  It’s good to have her home, it’s good to be home and it’s good to have a few more days to collect ourselves before it all starts back up again.

Me time.

I just spent a glorious few days out at St. Michael’s.
Technically, the house I stayed in is on a cove on Edge Creek, just outside of St. Michael’s proper.

It’s an absolutely beautiful little spot.
There is no cable tv and no tv reception worth a toot. No internet access. Cell phone reception is spotty. You have to be outside for it really.
What there was was some very good wine.

Of course Caprese Salad.

After all, it’s August.  It’s in season.
We ate it daily.
There was also this completely amazing vegan pizza that we added goat cheese to one night at dinner as well as a linguine with clam sauce that I’m still thinking about.  Damn it was good.
There was some quality hammock lounge time.


And with company.

There was ice cream
and little boys covering me in their ice cream by just snuggling on up to me.
Three year old boys are among my most favorite things in the universe. 
In a moment of brilliance, I handed Ian an empty egg carton box and told him it was a ‘treasure box’.  That game lasted us for days.
There were also some amazing sunsets.

And, in the middle of a serious deluge one morning, a visitor on the dock.

Best of all was quality time with this woman.

 You really only get so many friendships like ours.  Neither one of us are overly sentimental girls so we don’t tend to sit there and declare ourselves BFF’s.  I think we were in our 40’s before we ever really used that the term ‘best friend’ anywhere near each other, despite the fact that we were fairly inseparable throughout most of our college careers, especially Saturday nights.  We had a standing Saturday night date for years. We just hung out well together, with similar habits of reading, smoking, drinking, music and the ability to eat pizza for days on end.  Some of those habits have changed, but not all of them, which is why we still hang out together well for days on end.  And yes, had pizza multiple nights for dinner.
So, between being around her and being completely unplugged and absolutely lazy all week, I feel completely rejuvenated, although I’m not sure I want to fully re-enter the world.  We pick Edie up from camp tomorrow and then head out to the Outer Banks for a few days before I have to completely rejoin civilization.   Thank god, because I already know that first week of school is going to be a doozy.  Oh summer, how I hate to quit you.

The Sisterhood goes to the Lake.

It’s hard to believe that just a week ago we were at the lake, gazing at the full moon to our hearts content.

Having piles of ‘cousins’

and more piles of ‘cousins’

and sunset cruises with fancy cheese & crackers & sausage and the occasional  Barbie doll.

The week our friend Will was offered his Granny’s cabin at the lake this year was the week that happened to have the Fourth of July in the middle of it.   Will and Mollie were kind enough to extend the invitation to us as well as a few other friends.  Granny’s cabin was a full house at the lake on the Fourth of July.

I brought my home made Fourth of July flair, remnants of an old dress I had made myself in college for the Fourth.  I realized the dress didn’t quite fit the way it used to, but I still wanted it around, so voila, I just made it into a banner to hang on the front porch on Patriotic holidays. 
The fabric reminded me of the old tv show, Love American Style. I vaguely remember watching that show with my parents, but I do remember it. Does that make me of a certain vintage? I think it does.

We hung it from the canopy on the pontoon boat, so we’d have holiday flair.  We also had a smaller flag off the bow and a large flag on a pole towards the rear of the boat.  With the exception of the boat that had red, white & blue bunting in light form, we definitely had one of the most decorated boats on the Lake. 
We had flair, oh yes we did.
Edie got to try her hand for a few moments at the wheel one evening when the lake was quiet.
She did a great job and was pretty proud of herself.

Abigail and Teal came down, as did Booty and Elizabeth.  We had met Elizabeth previously and I realized I knew her from around town, so it was good to spend some real time with her, since you know, Booty is part of the extended bromance
You know how sometimes you see a couple and you can just see that they just fit together?  Booty and Elizabeth are like that.  To see that she totally just gets him was even better.  And she showed up with cake.

She had me at cake.
The fireworks over the water were beautiful.  They were set off at a point just on the other side of the little cove the cabin is tucked away in, so we only had to go out about 50 feet or so in the boat to see them.  We didn’t have to enter the lake at all to see them, we just stayed in the cove.  
It was one of those old fashioned good times where the kids get up, put on bathing suits (or not) and swim before breakfast, the boys got lots of fishing done and the sisterhood cooked up some fabulous meals.
Thanks Will & Mollie for having us all out.  And thanks to Granny for letting us stay at the cabin.

I Got A New Toy.

Remember that Fly Fishing and Wine Festival my better half was working last month, that Edie & I at the last minute decided to swing by and visit him?  The one that resulted in us going to the dinner being held at the Country Club, where I was thanked for being such a supportive wife while being fed a dinner of prime rib and chocolate cake that someone else cooked and cleaned up?  Well, I had entered a raffle while I was there and last week recieved an email telling me I had won.

A new fishing pole.
Okay, not a pole.  A rod and reel combo, from the nice fellows at Angler’s Lane down in Lynchburg.  It’s a TFO NXT combo that came with a nice carrying case.  It breaks down into 4 pieces, which means it fits nicely in a suitcase. Pat was down there for meetings yesterday and swung by and picked it up for me, to save them from having to ship it.
Edie, who had also entered the raffle, is slightly beside herself about this.
“You don’t fish.”
“Well, I haven’t had a new fishing pole since I was about your age.”
“It’s not a pole, it’s a rod.  You don’t fish.”
“Well, maybe I’ll start.  You know, try to share one of Daddy’s interests with him.”
“You don’t fish.”
And she storms off.
Not that she fishes all that much.  I guess maybe if she had a rod that wasn’t the pink Barbie one her father bought her when she was a toddler, she might fish more.  Although there is an older neighborhood boy who loves using the Barbie rod, because he always catches a slew of fish with it.  But she does not care about this fact, she think she deserves the new rod because she has never seen me fish.
I told her I’m sure she’ll get to use it, but she’s still pouting about the whole thing.  Pat of course, is thrilled that I’m expressing an interest in his favorite hobby.  I think he also thinks he’ll get some use out of the new rod too.  He brought it home, put it together and tried it out.

 It is apparently the nicest rod and reel in the entire family now, which has definitely not helped with a certain someone pouting that they did not win.  Never mind it’s a 9′ rod that she had a hard time maneuvering in the yard last night.  It’s the principle of the matter.