Friday, October 31, 2014

virginia trip - part two

Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, was first on my list of things I wanted to see in Virginia.
 Monticello is the building you see on the back of a nickel.  It took Thomas Jefferson 40 years to complete this home, as he made changes and additions to the original plan.

There was a very nice visitor's center on the grounds, with a film about Thomas Jefferson. There was also a museum with artifacts and exhibits. A shuttle bus took us to the top of the hill where the home is located.

We had a guided tour of the first floor only. No photos allowed inside. It was nice, but much smaller than we expected. Underneath the house and terraces are the kitchens, slave quarters, privy, storage rooms and stables. These areas are open to explore on your own. 

It's actually the view of the back of the house that we see on the nickel.

There were also talks on slavery and a grounds tour but we just walked around on our own awhile, enjoying the lovely day (and I might have picked a seed pod off of a Balsam plant).

And here is Mr. Thomas big as life!  He was a bit stiff and me the cold shoulder over that seed pod!

The next day we visited Historic Jamestowne, the actual site of the first permanent settlement in America.
There was a guided talk by an archaeologist who has been working at the site.

It was very interesting. He told about the settlers and their trouble with Indians, and food and fresh water; and also about Captain John Smith and Pocahontas.
Then he explained how, in just the last 20 years, they discovered the exact location of that first fort by comparing post molds with the descriptions in the settler's writings.

There was a visitors center and a museum with all the artifacts that have been found here...including the skull of a teenage girl, that has markings on it indicating that flesh had been cut away...pretty much verifying that the settlers practiced cannibalism (of the dead) during the "starving times".

I have no photos at all from Jamestowne...there was a statue and a monument, a church built later...nothing original remains from 400 yeas ago.

There are other historic places to visit in this part of Virginia...Williamsburg and Yorktowne, but we had absorbed about all the history we wanted for awhile so we drove a couple of hours to Virginia Beach.

It was off season of course, so we had no problem finding a hotel with a room overlooking the beach.

Nice beach with a path for walkers, skaters, bicyclers. 

It's a very touristy area...the street is lined with hotels,shops and restaurants. Some were already closed for the season but we found a nice Italian restaurant and ate at a table outside.

It was great except for the music from the haunted house attraction next door.  There must have been special events going on for Halloween...lots of young people were walking around wearing zombie make up.

We're glad we drove over to see Virginia Beach but it's not really the kind of place we would we only stayed one night.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

a trip heading east...part one

A while back, Lonnie mentioned that he would like to go visit the NRA Museum in Virginia. It came up again recently when we were discussing possibly taking a driving trip while the fall leaves are so colorful.

After doing a little research online and with tour books and maps from AAA, we mapped out a six day driving and sightseeing trip that would include a visit to the museum.

Our first stop was an unplanned one. It was the West Virginia State Capitol Building in Charleston.

 You can see the 23 karat gold leaf trimmed dome as you are driving in on I-64. It is right near the exit, so it's easy to stop and tour the building.   And no, we didn't have to walk up all those steps. There is a side entrance on the lower level.

There were no guided tours, but a map from the information desk showed what parts were open to the public (free of charge too!).

First, you have to go to the rotunda and look up into the dome.  Oooooh!

Next, up to the second level...

We were also allowed to look into the House and Senate rooms. They were very similar, and beautifully ornate.

Those columns are solid marble and weigh 34 tons each!

These outdoor columns supporting the portico weigh 86 tons each.

There were statues and portraits and plaques to read and learn more, as well as a small museum on the grounds...but it was time for us to get back on the road.

It was well worth the time spent and a good place to take a break from driving. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

quilting and the internet

Earlier this year, when I finished up this quilt using this pattern called "Bear's Paw" or "Barrister's Block", I posted pictures of it here on my blog....and also on an internet message board for quilters (HGTV).

It's a place where everything to do with quilting is discussed and everyone shares pictures of what they are working on.

About a month ago, I received a message from a quilter named Susan, who also posts on that message board.

She told me that when she saw my quilt she was inspired to make one like it. Susan especially liked the name "Barrister's Block" because she had an attorney friend that she would be giving it a thank-you gift for some work he had done for them at no charge.

Her message was funny, because she said she had been talking to me out loud as she was cutting out all those pieces!  This just tickled me since I had no idea that someone I didn't even know was talking to me from somewhere else.

I was anxious to see her interpretation of this pattern. Just the other day she posted a picture of her finished quilt. Wow! It is a beauty!

quilt made by Susan

Aren't those warm chocolatey browns and darker colors so snuggly and peaceful looking? Can't you just imagine curling up under that quilt for a nap in front of a fireplace?

Now I am inspired by Susan's quilt. I would like to try making something using color choices like hers!

Thank you, Susan...for the funny story and the inspiration!

Monday, October 27, 2014

dust if you must

Usually, I am not one to forward or pass along all the cutesy sayings and so forth that we all see on the internet.  Usually, I don't even like poetry...but this little rhyme struck a chord with me.

                               Dust If You Must

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake or plant a seed,
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there,
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go - and go you must - 
You, yourself, will make more dust.

Rose Milligan

It's short and to the point...and reminds me again to narrow down the amount of stuff I have around here.
Less stuff equals less stuff to dust and maintain...more time to do something that I enjoy!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

praying mantis

This handsome fellow was nearly ran over when I pulled in the driveway. I didn't notice him until I was getting out of the Jeep.

He was nice sized! About the length of an ink pen. I just do not like seeing all those legs...and it's creepy the way they swivel their heads around to look at you.

I tried to pick one up one time when I was a kid (someone told me you could). I grabbed him by the back and he swiveled his little alien looking head around and bit my finger!

are you lookin' at me?

But let's look at something more pleasant. I have a couple of plants that decided to bloom again before cold weather.
A miniature rose....

And a clematis...

The Magnolia tree is pretty this time of year with their red seeds peeking out.

Wouldn't they make a pretty arrangement with these Juniper berries?

I will just enjoy them on the tree!   The birds will appreciate them this winter.

Friday, October 24, 2014

fall cleaning

Here it is...window washing month already. I like to do this job in April and October.
It's mostly too cool for bugs in those months...and also snakes...which I am a little concerned about when I have to get behind the shrubs when I wash these front windows.

There was no snake problem, but after I finished and was sweeping cobwebs from around the front door frame...there was suddenly a really strong skunk odor!  I didn't see a skunk anywhere but I think there must be one living under the porch. I guess he wasn't happy with all the activity out there!

A couple of times in the past we have had a horrible and lasting skunk smell in the house in the dead of winter. We were worried that one had somehow got in the basement, but never found anything down there.
Later we decided there must have been one under the front porch. 
Whew, the smell was in the house for days!
This time it was just a small warning shot and not the whole arsenal!


This is unrelated (not about skunks) but later, while washing the kitchen windows I happened to think..."It's been awhile since I cleaned behind the fridge and vacuumed the coils".

Well....maybe a really long time!

Oh dear!  Out of sight - out of mind, you know! Time to drag out the shop-vac.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

finished that crib quilt!

That baby girl crib quilt is finished except for filling in the name tag when baby arrives.

Normally, I wouldn't have put a 12" block in a baby quilt - usually choose a smaller size. But in this case I am happy with it. The large blocks and bright colors give it a modern look (to me).
It was fun to work with these girly colors after finishing three "man quilts" this year.

Finished size is roughly 42" x 54"
 I quilted it more closely than I've done on some of my larger quilts.  I like the scrunchy texture it gives.

 There is a small problem with edges that aren't lying flat. I know it's from stretching the sides when adding binding. This is something I really need to concentrate on not doing.  It's happening when I am trying to hold both pieces taut as it goes through the machine.  Remember to relax!

I had a strip of border stripe left over, so I added it to the backing between a pale yellow stripe fabric and a scrap of  Easter fabric that has baby chicks with brightly colored bonnets...cute,cute!

So happy to have a quilt  finished before a deadline. I hope I don't have to keep it so long that I get attached to it and don't want to give it away!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Every time I see the word "lasagna", I remember one time at the grocery I noticed a list in the bottom of my cart that had been left behind by a previous shopper.

Scrawled in big loopy letters at the top of the list was " lazonia noodles".  Now, isn't that the way it should be spelled?  Just like it sounds. I am sure it would taste just as good!

Anyway, I have made lasagna a couple of times recently. The first time I split it into two dishes...sending the larger one with Lonnie to his evening bible class.
In the dish I saved back, there was enough for about one big serving each . It made us wish for a few weeks later I made it again.  This time I had enough to put a few servings in the freezer.

1 lb. Italian sausage
1 lb. ground beef
2  25 oz. jars good pasta sauce
Extra garlic,basil,oregano if desired
1 pint ricotta cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tblsp. parsley
dash nutmeg
1 lb. Mozzarella, shredded
Parmesan or Romano cheese
12 cooked lasagna noodles

Brown sausage and ground beef together in a large pan. Drain grease and finely crumble the meat. Add pasta sauce and gently simmer for up to 2 hours, adding extra spices to taste, if desired.

Get noodles ready while meat mixture is simmering.
I read about this method of softening the lasagna noodles by soaking them in hot water rather than boiling them. It works really well for me. I lay the noodles in my baking dish and pour very hot water over them. When they have softened I lay them on paper towels to absorb excess water. The noodles are easier to handle and don't make the lasagna all watery.

In a bowl, mix ricotta,beaten eggs, parsley and nutmeg, Stir until well blended.

Spray a 10 x 13 pan with non-stick spray. 
Layer 4 noodles, half the ricotta mixture, half the mozzarella, a dusting of Parmesan and a third of the meat sauce.
Repeat these layers.
Top with the last 4 noodles and the remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven, covered for 45 minutes, then uncover  and bake 15 minutes more.

It would be nice to have one of those deep lasagna pans but I've been getting by with using a big glass casserole dish all these years. It works okay and holds a big enough batch.

In that top photo you can see that I was using some precooked pizza crumble sausage that I had on hand (a lot). This was good but it's really better to start with fresh raw Italian sausage.

Monday, October 20, 2014

what I have been working on

Even though I haven't finished binding the crib quilt I was working on, I started cutting for the next one.
It was because Lonnie woke up early one morning and had coffee made when I got up, so I poured a cup and started cutting out some shapes at the kitchen counter.

Well, I should have just stayed in bed because I cut 144 side triangles  from colored fabrics that were supposed to be cut from white for the pattern I wanted.

I didn't realize until I started sewing a block together.

It's not a real big deal though because I was cutting from some of my small pieces...trying to get a nice variety of brights. I will figure out some way to use them eventually.

The good part of the whole thing is that it will be much quicker cutting them from white...because there is no right or wrong side of the they can be flipped to go on either side of the large triangle.

  When I was mistakenly cutting from colored fabrics I was being careful to get an equal number of right facing and left facing ones. 
All for naught!

This time, I only cut a few then stopped to put together a block to be sure everything would go together correctly. 
This is the way it's supposed to look...

I learned I will need to be careful ironing these too. They can get stretched out easy because of those bias sides of the triangles!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

what I've been reading

 I picked this book up from the "discard" shelf at the library...

"Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother" by Dorothy Laird.

I have always been curious about "The Queen Mother" since years ago,seeing her pictured with other Royal Family members...always dressed in lovely pastel colored ensembles with a matching hat. She always looked so good natured and calm and pleasant.

A few years ago, when the movie called "The King's Speech" came out,  it clicked in my brain that the Queen Mother was married to King George VI, the man who became king when his brother, Prince Edward, abdicated the throne in order to marry a woman who wouldn't have been accepted as Queen.

But back to this biography, which was written in 1966.  It starts out with some background information on the Bowes-Lyon family and the childhood of Lady Elizabeth, then on to her engagement and marriage to Prince Albert.
The story continues through the trying times when Edward abdicated and Albert became King (George VI)..and Lady Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth. On through the war years and then the death of the King  from lung disease.
Queen Elizabeth's daughter, the current Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne.

It can be very confusing when reading stuff about the royal family...sometimes they are referred to by their name and sometimes by their title..which can change or they can have multiple titles.
So while reading this book, I skimmed over a lot of parts that didn't seem very interesting And concentrated on the personal stories and experiences of the Queen Mother.

She turned out to be quite a character. Very personable and interested in everything and everyone. Always ladylike and mannerly . She took her duty to her country very seriously and had a full schedule of travel and appearances throughout her life.
Lots of anecdotes in the book about her tireless endurance when meeting and greeting large groups of people and foreign dignitaries, always making time to have a short but personal chat with as many people as she could.

Her entire life story is not told in this book - she was in her 60's when it was written and she lived to be 101 years old!

I liked parts of this book-other parts were boring.  It was refreshing to read about someone's good traits and qualities rather than the latest scandal that's been exposed.
I can't say I would recommend this book and it's out of print anyway...but if you are interested in the Queen Mum or the Royal Family in general, you might enjoy skipping around through it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pumpkin Dessert

I tried out a new-to-me recipe for a pumpkin dessert. I found it on, where I was looking for something pumpkiny...but not pumpkin pie...since I always make that at Thanksgiving.

This is a good recipe, and an easy one.

Pumpkin Dessert

1 package yellow cake mix
1/3 cup butter melted
1 egg

1  29 oz. can pumpkin
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup milk
3 eggs
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Set aside 1 cup of cake mix.  Pour remaining cake mix into mixing bowl and stir in melted butter and 1 egg. Mix well and spread in a greased 9" x 13" pan.

Next, blend together pumpkin, brown sugar, milk, eggs and spices.  Mix well and pour over cake mix layer.

Mix reserved cake mix with sugar in a bowl and cut in 1/4 cup butter. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over pumpkin layer.

Add chopped walnuts over all.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes until top is golden. 

Allow to cool and serve with a dollop of cool whip!

Some of the reviewers on the recipe site thought this dessert was too sweet. We didn't think so at all. The walnuts help balance out sweetness.

The leftovers held up well in the fridge for several days.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

a little bit of fall color

A few trees around our yard are beginning to show some fall color.

the best so far is this Sassafras Tree at the edge of the woods. It catches the evening sun - so pretty!

A closer look. It seems like these colors could be used to put together a beautiful quilt.

There is a huge old Walnut tree right on the property line in back of us. A couple of years ago I noticed it was being smothered by a combination of grape vines and wild rose vines - so I dragged some of the vines down and cut others off at the ground.
It seem like it helped the tree out because there are a lot more walnuts this year. I kicked a few up into a pile but I'll just leave them here for the animals.

It was a beautiful afternoon earlier this week. It had rained in the morning and the sun was out later. The sky kept changing every few minutes.

Lots of mushrooms popping up everywhere...these look like small bloody internal organs when you see them from a distance! 

I saw this walking stick bug on the side of the shed. He was small - about 3" long in the body. I thought it looked somewhat like a praying mantis, but I Googled "walking stick insect" , and found that's what it is.

Berries on a Honeysuckle Bush. 

I mistakenly thought Honeysuckle bushes were native US plants and that the vines were invasive imports. I am going to have to look up more information on that, because the last thing I read about them said that some types of Honeysuckle bushes are invasive.  
Because their leaves develop early in the year and stay green longer, they shade out native wildflowers and tree sprouts. They must be a huge problem in some areas...developing into a spreading dense thicket.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

I picked up a couple of marked down packages of mushrooms at the grocery without a plan for how to use them.
Days were going by without me being able to work them into a meal so I though I'd try making cream of mushroom soup.

I looked at the Allrecipes website and found that if you want to make cream of mushroom soup, you will need to have cream or half & half.
Generally, I would have one or the other ...but not this time.

I kept looking at recipes and came across this one that had good reviews. I had all the ingredients!

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

4 Tblsp. Butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 pound fresh mushrooms,sliced
2 tsp. dried dill weed
1Tblsp. Paprika
1 Tblsp Soy sauce
 2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk
3 Tblsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I used a couple tablespoons of dried)
1/2 cup sour cream (I only had this kind with chives)

Saute chopped onions in  butter until softened. I like to get a little browning and carmelization going on in the pan for more flavor. (That's what to say if you're burning your onions!)

Add mushrooms, dill, paprika, soy sauce, and chicken broth. The original recipe said to saute the mushrooms for 5 minutes before adding the broth. I didn't do this because it seems like mushrooms will always soak up the butter then stick to the pan. 

Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. In a small bowl, wisk flour in to the milk until 
no lumps remain. Stir into the mushroom mixture. Add salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer about 15 minutes longer. Stir in lemon juice, parsley and sour cream.
Allow the temperature to come back up but do not boil.
I had to add more milk to thin mine out...probably because I used an extra half pound of mushrooms.

So it turned out just about like cream of mushroom soup anyway.

Lonnie really liked it.  I think it would also be good with chicken or beef added...if you wanted a heartier soup.

If you want to see the original recipe you can click here Hungarian Mushroom Soup