Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Magnificent places...

I've stayed in some magnificent places in my time but this one has to be one of my favorite (car camping) places I've ever stayed. 

It's on the shores of Lake Moomaw at the Bolar Mountain Recreation Area in Washington/Jefferson National Forest outside of Hot Springs, VA. Quite honestly, we don't have cell service here so we aren't quite sure if we are in VA or WV here. We don't care. 

There are two other campers here: Wesley & Larue - the campground hosts from FL by way of UT and one other gentleman. It's serene. While relaxing after driving many miles we watched a dozen or so loons swimming about in the lake. The peepers are in full swing. I hear nothing but nature (and the snoring of my beloved husband). 

We are sharing this perfect site with my sister, brother in-law and niece in our two side by side campers. It's wonderful. 

We ate three cheese and garlic bacon grilled cheese sandwiches and had no room for the leftover birthday cake Larue brought us. 

Brody and Glacier were off leash for hours and after two long days of travel in the RV, they enjoyed the freedom despite being denied access to the lake on multiple tries. 

We are headed to TN for my nephew's wedding and have spared just three days for the 1,200 mile trip. Last night we got an early jump on the trip by heading out in the late evening. We paid the price by not having any place to stay for the night. Luckily we found an empty gas lane at an all night truck stop and for a small (unrequested) tip, we sidled our two rigs into the lane and slept from 1am to 5am between the sounds of Jake brakes, impact hammers, hollering, and the roar of trucks on the road. We were grateful to have it but it makes this place with its peepers (and snoring...) even more heavenly and appreciated!

We've named our camper Henrietta. She should really have a much more male Irish name for "abused liver" as she was in terrible condition as a result of being taken to the St. Patrick's Day parade. More on that later... Maybe. It's so maddening considering the price we paid for her to find so MANY things filthy and broken that I probably should save my writing venom for the manager of the company we rented it from and the many social media sites I intend to blast with our extreme displeasure since we were basically told "Tough!" when we called to complain about her condition. 

But she got us to the shores of Lake Moomaw where I hope to hear the loons calling before we leave. That would be magical. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas tasties...

This post has one purpose... To remind me next year of what I/we made for various holiday events this year.

For Treats for Troops:
Peppermint "puppy chow" (rice Chex with melted white chocolate and crushed candy canes)
Bacon "crack" (saltines with a brown sugar and butter syrup baked on them with crumbled bacon on top)
Christmas "crack" (popcorn covered with melted white chocolate with red and green m&ms and pretzel pieces and red and green sprinkles)
Sugar cookies - lots and lots and lots of sugar cookies
Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookies
Betty Crocker double chocolate cookies (never ever ever use these again! Tasted like they had wax in them. The store actually gave me a full refund for all six packages when I returned 2 of the 6 packages I bought for TfT. )
Chocolate fudge with crushed candy canes on top 
Pretzels dipped in chocolate with green and red peanut butter m&ms stuck on them and drizzled with white chocolate (a HUGE hit though time-consuming to make)

For Christmas Eve dinner:
Ham with the glaze
Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt, pepper and crumbled bacon

For Christmas dinner:
Roast beef (two cuts of eye round beef totaling 12lbs - one slightly smaller than the other to account for rarer and more well done cuts) with horseradish mustard, fresh thyme, salt and extra black pepper rubbed on it
Yorkshire pudding from Jamie Oliver's recipe (make the batter a day ahead and use a blender/mixer... And a decent sized bowl! If your sister talks you into using the 30 year old blender... Make sure the bottom is fastened on tightly... No repeats of batter running everywhere!)
Beef gravy for the Yorkshire pudding with fresh thyme, shallots, garlic, butter, flour, and beef stock (make early!)
Horseradish cream sauce for the beef with fresh chives, Colman's mustard, and heavy whipping cream (My sister CTH made  this)
Sautéed green beans with fresh garlic (my niece GCT made these)
Scalloped potatoes (CTH made these too)
Fresh greens with homemade dressing (GCT made these too)

The food this year for all of the meals we had was fantastic! Hopefully I can match or top it next year. :-)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Honoring those I respect...

The last three months have involved celebrating people I respect. Thankfully, all of the celebrations have had the honorees in attendance... Not done as a memorial. I hope that some day I have all the people I've impacted come celebrate my life with me there to enjoy it. Skip the funeral service... Let's party while I'm here to see it. 


In October I traveled to Downeast Maine where I went to college to celebrate the 40 year career of my favorite outdoor recreation professor. As I wrote the card and considered a gift, I enjoyed thinking about our relationship which has lasted 25+ years despite him having had hundreds of students pass through his classroom since then. 

I boiled it down to the fact that despite the fact that it was an appropriate  student/professor relationship, he treated us like people, guided us with respect and humor, taught us about much more than the curriculum, and he always welcomed  us back with open arms like family many times over the years. Even when I hadn't seen him for several years, his face alway lit up and he gave me a big hug the minute he saw me every time and he wanted a full catch up. That's a wonderful legacy, in my book. His card reflected that relationship and his gift was a HUGE bag of Snickers bars which gave him several good laughs when I presented it to him. Back in the day on our search and rescue team, when we were doing drills we would often stage in the woods and sit for an hour or two to wait for our mission. He would have us dump out our packs so he could "check" our snacks we had brought. Inevitably, we kept the energy bars and gorp but he always claimed (good naturedly, of course) all of the Snickers bars. Seemed like the perfect gift. (He also had a fire ring and lean-to built in his yard by the students as his retirement gift.)

The second person we honored was my former "boss" at the corps where I worked in Vermont. His departure from the Corps was sudden and uncomfortable but after starting, building and leading the organization for 30 years, he deserved a heck of a party to honor that dedication and commitment. I participated on the planning committee and was proud to feel like we pulled together a fitting send off. In addition to the naming of the campus after him plus several other meaningful gifts, I decided to make him some of his signature caramel rolls that he used to deliver at random times to the crews or staff or during training. 

We planned ahead and got the recipe but a crazy schedule before hitting the road to Maine made me overlook the fact that the recipe called for thawing frozen dough and overnight rising of the dough. Oops! But A and I pulled it off and using the big kitchen at the corps, we made ~200 caramel rolls. I added a little sign to the dessert table to explain the significance and he and his family loved it! It was a lot of fun thinking about the meaningful moments in my relationship with him. From the "Leap of Faith" he took when he hired me despite my lack of grant experience (a decision we were both grateful he'd made!) to my decision to leave the corps and move to MA with my new husband to my many visits back where no matter how long it had been, he welcomed me in, asked for my advice, encouraged my input from the "insider's outside perspective". Over the 12+ years we've known each other, we've locked horns, agreed, disagreed, pushed each other for excellence, pushed back when visions were misaligned, and developed a healthy, professional, respectful relationship and friendship. It was an honor to help plan his party and an even bigger joy to reconnect with so many incredible people that I worked with during my tenure there. It was an incubator for some truly amazing people!

The last group of folks we honored was the American veterans currently hospitalized at the VA Hospital in West Roxbury, MA. With A's Masonic lodge members and their families, we created ~100 packages (35 stuffed stockings, 60 bags of homemade treats and multiple trays of goodies for the staff) to be delivered to the hospital by a small group from the lodge including A and me, the Master of the lodge, and one of the soldiers who received our packages last year while deployed in Afghanistan. 

My good friend helped me pre-bake about 300 cutout sugar cookies, huge trays of popcorn and white chocolate treats, peppermint "puppy chow", bacon crack (saltines with brown sugar and butter syrup with crumbled bacon on top), chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip/Reese's cups cookies, homemade fudge... etc. We had ~25 volunteers come help decorate the cookies and put together the contents of the stockings etc. Then the next day, the four mentioned above delivered them to some VERY happy veterans, family members, and staff of the VA hospital. I don't know these folks personally but I don't need to know them personally to show them kindness and thanks for their service. I wish it could be more!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Frigging water issues...

The theme of repairs to/issues with this house continues to be water. A has spent a lot of time sealing the basement, replacing basement casement windows, cleaning and fixing gutters, digging out basement window wells etc in an effort to keep our basement dry. After the last push, he was 99% sure he'd tackled the last of the problems. We had a big rain a few days after he repaired the gutters and the basement was dry. Yippee! Two days after the rain, the basement was wet. Then dry. Then wet after no rain. 

This morning I thought "I wonder when it was that we last pumped the septic. The company told me we were on a two year automatic pumping schedule so we might be fine... But I should call."

Tonight I took a shower about a half hour before A went to the basement to prepare for the rain coming tomorrow. The words I heard were not good ones. Somehow there was a ton of water on the floor and all over the wall. It hasn't rained in days... But I had just showered. The water was clean so we didn't think it could be our septic backing up but a test of running the tub upstairs for two minutes proved that the water is backing up and shooting out the washing machine drain. Mystery solved. Problem not solved. 

A spent the next hour (until midnight) vacuuming water into the shop vac while I left a message for the septic company to please put us on their list for the morning. If our septic is full, I'll be very surprised as just two people live in a three bedroom home. We are conscientious about our water usage and we NEVER flush anything but human waste and toilet paper down the toilet. Filling out tank just doesn't seem possible to me as it's supposed to leach the liquid out. 

Anyway... Once again, we have a water situation. I work from home and can't use the bathroom etc. I'm glad I showered before we discovered it... We've already turned off the outdoor shower! It might be a looooong day tomorrow! It might be a good day to work at the library! 

Where oh where...

I love Vermont. I also love Maine. How will we ever decide where to retire? We've been looking at property in Maine via the Internet and are quite convinced that's where we are headed in 9.5 years. But a gorgeous weekend back in our stomping grounds with friends in Vermont brings that back up the list. It's a good problem to have. Good friends in two beautiful places that we would love to be near. But the good thing is that we aren't torn between California and Maine. At least Vermont and Maine are only a few hours drive from each other. Luckily we have time to be sure.