Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

On our way out the door to dinner out 
and an evening celebration with Barb and Rich 
(aka Murphy's parents)!

Tools of the trade:
A bottle of fancy Peche won at the Herb Guild Christmas meeting,
and a bag of "poppers" left from LSU football game days!

Happy New Year to All!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Festivities

Carter arrived via plane in Roanoke on Saturday 
and Asher via train in Charlottesville on Monday.

Although this was our smallest Christmas 
(re: sons/famly in attendance) in over 25 years, 
we still managed to have wrapping paper strewn everywhere 
and we surely contributed to a slight economic boost 
to Apple, J Crew, and numerous local businesses.

After eating breakfast in the den,
we moved on to opening the presents. 
…. And continuing to eat pound cake, shrimp mold and bourbon milk punch before lunch.
Grandaddy would have been proud of us!
It wouldn't be a normal Christmas without pets in the thick of things….

Not only did Santa bring Atta a gift, 
but her best buddy Murphy also gave her a new squeaky….

Joe seemed to like his new Sodastream….
And was totally delighted by Carter's gift of a favorite album from the 70's 
that he hadn't been able to get on CD.
Hmmmm…. me, I'm wondering if the title of that album is at all symbolic??
"Old and In the Way"

Opening Cathy's unexpected box of multiple gifts was like a delving into a little treasure chest….
so many thoughtful things including a warm toasty robe
and some Community Coffee to enjoy on the back porch…
(see the note written on the coffee bag?)

Every gift that I received from friends and family 
showed the thought and care that they took selecting them.
It may seem trite to say that I'm blessed,
but that's the truth.  

The best gift of all was seeing these two for a few days…..
The house is almost too quiet now…..
I'm slowly getting the sheets washed and the rooms put back in order.  
The decorations will be up until Twelfth Night 
and the wise men have begun their marches toward the stables in our various nativity scenes. 

Now that the festivities are mostly over, 
we're enjoying our new gifts that showed the love of friends…..
but also we're thinking often of old friends, new friends,
 loved ones near and far,
those alive and those have passed away, but who will always be in our hearts.
Seasons come and seasons go….
thankfully the memories linger on.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pre Christmas with Clark

I got a little caught up with cooking, family, parties and working at the shop, 
so the blog posts have been suspended in time with Clark 
(our Advent visitor)
in town for six days pre-Christmas.

My last post showed the tree all netted up.

It's a splendid tree….
and we'll keep enjoying it for the remaining 12 days of Christmas.

Bless his heart, 
Clark volunteered to help us 
out in the woods one day clearing our new trail.
One of the areas we cut through had 9+ foot tall 
briars, rose vines, autumn olive 
and fallen trees from the 2011 derecho
interlaced together.

It wasn't for the faint of heart.
The combined efforts of all three of us still took about an hour to extend the path less than 20 feet.  

Joe and I would probably still be in that one section if we hadn't had some younger muscles helping!

After all that work,
a big dinner was merited.
He's also turned out to be handy in the kitchen.
Which is a good thing because now that he's training for a triathlon, 
he eats more than you'd think humanly possible!
It wasn't all work,
we played our fair share of card and board games,
went for some walks and did some shopping together,
attended the Night of Miracles in Buena Vista
and shared a lot of love and hugs.

He opened his presents early….
And then we wished him goodbye at the Charlottesville 
airport before a few days before Christmas.
So sad to see him go! 

But the house wouldn't stay quiet for long,
because the Christmas visitors were coming!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Our Advent Visitor

I spent the morning wrapping gifts 
and packing them into boxes 
to ship away to family who won't be with us for the holidays.  
I've said all fall and winter 
that I'd get that chore done way in advance.
But here it is right on the deadline 
and I was sorting, searching for tags and tissue
 and then standing in line at the Post Office with other procrastinators!
Some things never change.
After that we had an important errand to run:
we still needed to purchase a very important Christmas decoration!

Remember that trip to the airport last night?
Look who turned up to help us chose our tree and spend a week with us
as an Advent visitor!…..
Our handsome youngest son!
It's been a year since Joe's seen him and 10 months for me, 
so he's a sight for sore eyes!
Atta whined and carried on when he came in
and Noel greeted him within feet of the back door too. 
We did cut the netting off the tree,
but we won't be putting the ornaments on tonight 
since we've got other plans.

It's a grand time of year!  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Few Inside Christmas Decorations….

It was a busy day at the kitchen shop today.
When I walked out of the front door to head home, 
I was shocked that the temperature had dropped to below freezing.
There's no snow but it's windy and cold!!

The old Hoosier hutch was our first furniture purchase as a couple.
We used it as a pantry when we were newlyweds,
as the cookbook storage and baking center in the LA house 
and now it's our "drop zone" for mail etc.
Look what came in the mail today!  
A present!  
(Thanks Cathy!!)  

In the den, the stockings are hung….
Why is it that Noel has what might be the largest stocking on the mantel?  

I had to do some tweaking 
but at last the stair garlands 
fit the bends and sections of the new stairs.  

We've always set up our nativity scene so that it changed with the days of Advent….

Joseph and a pregnant Mary (no there can't be a baby before Christmas!)
are currently roaming around 
and not anywhere near the empty stable yet.
The shepherds are busy out in the field 
and the cattle and horses have the stable pretty much to themselves.
The wise men will start edging toward the stable (from the east) after Christmas day, 
but until then they're out of sight in the cabinet.

 I admit it's kind of quirky that Mary has a Bernese Mountain Dog pulling a milk cart and no donkey!  

And now it's time to hop in the car and make the 90 minute drive to Charlottesville,
because we're picking up a pre-holiday visitor from the airpot!  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Decorations Unpacked!!

It's been a fun week with holiday music playing and lots of reminiscing.  

I unpacked our Christmas decorations for the first time in three years!
"Help" in the form of a 17 year old Tabby!
Noel thinks that since this is her holiday, she needs to be in the thick of it!
In hopes that our LA house would sell, 
I had packed the decorations to survive a journey after the Christmas of  2010.  
The house sold late that summer 
and United Van Lines brought my 10 red and green plastic tubs up here to VA.
Despite her age, she plays like a kitten!  
Knowing that the rental couldn't handle a holiday gathering, 
we rented a ski condo in WV for Christmas 2011, 
so I didn't get out a single bit of Christmas that year!

Last year "survival" was the name of the game:  decorating wasn't in the agenda!
We'd been living in the horse trailer and 
I was painting and staining like a madwoman.

What a difference a year makes: 
no paint fumes, leisure time and no sheetrock dust!!

It was with a lot of happiness that we hauled the tubs up from the basement 
and took our time mulling over where best to place each of our holiday trinkets and treasures.
I made one purchase:
the humongous front door needed a new wreath. 
Pretty stylin' for Lowe's, 
Don't you think?  

Joe's childhood Flexible Flyer sled looks at home in VA;  
who knows it might even see some action this year after a 45 year dry spell!
I hate to leave you out on the porch, but it's not so bad and we'll step inside tomorrow! 


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Anybody There?

There's nothing like the threat of not being able to be on the internet 
to get a wayward blogger back into action!

After numerous odd December days of warm temperatures, 
we're in for some winter weather today. 

Icy rain began to fall shortly after we awoke this AM; 
it's steadily drifting down and in the last hour has begun changing from pellets to flakes. 

And that means the satellite dish might soon fill up and cut our link with HughesNet!
So here I am trying furiously to decide what to write about
after a lapse in blogging of almost a month!

I'm still enjoying the job at the kitchen shop.

It was a shock one day last month 
when a shopper passing through town introduced herself 
and knew me from the blog! 
I was so surprised that I'm afraid I hardly knew what to say 
(something rare for me these days!).

Despite the holiday schedule, 
I'm sticking to my goal of  not being "too tired" after work 
to cancel any planned activities. 

But I admit there have been a few evenings 
when I've been thrilled to put my feet up after getting home 
and have Joe hand me a glass of wine!

We've seen several musical and dance performances at W&L 
and a colorful Fall too beautiful for my meagre descriptive words to do it justice. 

We've shared dinners with friends, lots of bridge games, 
walks in the woods, a few rides with the horses,
work on our trails, experiments in the kitchen 
and generally a peaceful month of quiet "normal" days. 

Is there a song or poem about "frost on the pumpkin"? 

Because it's definitely here!

Despite being under the covered porch, the snow has blown in on our glass table….

My plans for today are to stay inside and start a pot of soup, 
feed the fireplace wood as needed,
play Christmas carols, take away the pumpkins and decorate for Christmas. 

And of course marvel at the snow falling outside…..
still a thrill to this former Louisianan! 

I'd better hit publish before the snowflakes in the satellite dish hit critical mass! 

It's nice to be blogging again! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Methodist Humor?

I've never mentioned the small country church across from our property.  

If it seems unusual to have a church 
on a gravel dead-end lane 
then it helps to know that many years ago
before the construction of Rt. 11 
our lane was THE main north/south road
in the county!

We did think of the incongruity back in early October…..

Really we did.....
Here's hoping that Methodists have a sense of humor!
(especially since we procrastinated and left her up for a full week after Halloween!)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Let the Watering Begin!

There will be lots of perennials to plant in the spring, 
but the front beds are all finished for this winter.  
There's been no rain and the rocky soil doesn't hold moisture well 
so we're watering every few days….
that should be a bundle of fun when the temperatures drop this week!  

Walter and Matt worked hard on trying to get the trashy rocky clay 
that had been compacted and treated as a dumping ground during construction 
to be at least a little more friable.  
I'd expected the soil to be bad, 
but it was much worse than I could have imagined.  
Under the mulch, it was a mess….. 
Ready to plant…. yes there are still no curtains!

They planted the trees and we tackled the shrubs.  
Even after all of the soil amending, 
we found ourselves using a pry bar and pick to get through the rock in some places.  

Grow, grow, grow!!!  
Or at least don't die! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Roadside Buffer

When we sited the house it was a little disappointing that we wound up being so close to the lane.  If I could have waved my magic wand, I'd have pushed the house about 30 yards farther out on the point.  But the width of the house combined with the steepness of the slope dictated where we are now.

Thankfully it's a quiet dead-end so privacy isn't a huge issue, but nevertheless it's been an adjustment after so many years of being set back from the street.

The plan has always been to use the narrow area between the road as a thick buffer:  evergreens in the back and a smattering of deciduous shrubs, other evergreens and small trees to make a band of natural looking "woodsy" screening.

Without Walter and Matt's help and their excavator, I don't think we'd have gotten far past the initial shrubs.  The ground is so insanely rocky and the plants (especially the 12' tall arborvitae) required some massive holes.  It might have been a one year project instead of one week!

I can take no credit for the hard work in this area,  Walter and Matt did all of the digging and planting and Joe did the mulching while I was working at the kitchen shop.

In this area, we've got Arborvitae, chokecherry, serviceberry, leatherleaf viburnum, Callicarpa, juniper, sweet bay magnolia, witch hazel, and oak leaf hydrangeas.

Just starting….
All finished!

Buffer looking down the driveway before
After planting
Way down at the end of the driveway, you can just see 3 "Dr. Merrell" Magnolia Stellata.  They may be a little iffy down there, but I couldn't resist since they reminded me of my old garden.

A bed of perennials will be added in the spring and it'll be a while before the whole thing is thick enough to be a screen, but I can wait.

Tomorrow:  Photos of the front yard!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Woods Trail Update

No photos of the house landscaping yet!    

I feel like I'm bouncing around like a pinball this week, we had the best intentions of getting the last plants in the ground, photos taken and the witch down off the telephone pole today, but a morning visit to see the horses stretched out longer than we'd expected. 

When we finally left the barn, I threw another monkey wrench in our plans by stopping by a couple of stores in Staunton and before we knew it we'd been gone from the house for over 7 hours.  

And thanks to the time change, it's pitch black dark now at just a few minutes after 6.  Oh well.

So here are some photos of our work two weeks ago on the woods trail.  

We're branching off from the original loop trail and aiming toward the back of the property now.  This section is a dense thicket of privet, brambles, autumn olive and downed trees from last year's derecho.  It makes our earlier trail work seem child's play…. this is some hard going!

Tools of the trade:  safety googles, gloves, boots, weedeater with brush blade, chain saw and loppers.  
Oh and a smile!

To go even a few feet, requires clearing away the undergrowth with the brush blade and loppers. so that the chain saw can be used on the bigger downed trees.  
Cutting downed trees

"After" photo from the same point as photo #1.
Taking a break to study which way to go…..
Working around a  beautiful boulder….
The "Sylvester Rock"
It was a hard fought 25 yards and thankfully the whole trail won't be this bad.
Looking back at our progress