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Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Happy Holidays!

The festive greetings seem louder this year and maybe they even mean more.

Bill and I once again managed to put the tree up and got it covered with memories. I am always so proud that each ornament carries its own story going back so many years.

There are the Hungarian hearts sold to me by a woman on a street in Budapest. It was my first trip to Hungary to see where my father was born.

And look at the smallest decorated glass globes! They are what are left of the very first ornaments we purchased 62 years ago when newly wed. We were so young and just starting our lives as adults.

I love the doggy memories too. One real ostrich egg has our pair of Golden Retrievers painted on, and another is of my brother’s Dalmation. The horses are there too – Martini and Lucy.

The list goes on and the finally the fully dressed tree each year is actually a biography of a family.

That is what Christmas is all about – Past, Present, and Future. So, I am wishing you, my family and friends, good health and happiness and more of the same and lots of great memories in days to come.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! HAPPY NEW YEAR! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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Well, the gang was all here for Thanksgiving in the country and it was a hoot (as they used to say in another of my previous eras). Son, daughter-in-law, 3 grandgirls and one Golden Doodle descended upon this quiet, mostly people-less, oasis of calm and serenity in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Even Elsa-the-dog was in shock and only began to adjust by Day 4.

Thanksgiving day and the day before were a frenzy of cooking. And in spite of my Grand-girl, Jessica’s brilliant pre-holiday spread sheet outlining each of our specially owned menu items, we largely proceeded to cook old favorites in our own unique ways. The results were a delicious (if not elegant) meal. This is not a criticism because there are obviously benefits to using paper plates liked fast cleanup and less chaos in the kitchen.

But I had envisioned setting the table with “good china” for the first time since the advent of Covid and in fact, bought a new cloth that would spotlight the glowing beauty, etc.

I think it was the day after Thanksgiving when we almost all went to the Great Valley Farm and Brewery just to check it out and for something to do. And for no real reason we stayed and stayed in a plastic wrapped bubble laughing and talking and of course sipping the wine and eventually the view, and made friends with a giant pit bull terrier named Ed who was happily visiting there with his own human family. And Ed was truly a gentle loving giant.

Since I had not had a drink in years you might understand why the giggles came on strong. I was also chilled since being housebound and not accustomed to real air. The girls noticed me shiver and proceeded to wrap up Grammy and the giggles got hilariously contagious.

After awhile we moved on down the hill to the Halcyon Days Cider place and sampled all their delicious hard cider varieties which only amplified the giggles. There was more of course…. more food, more games, more talking and laughter.

The gang was all here and now gone. There is an odd empty feeling of quiet.

So we decorated the Christmas tree.

And all the while we were wishing the family and all of you wonderful friends in cyberspace a Christmas laced with great food, grins and giggles.

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I never tire of the sweeping view, especially whilst cooking and standing at the kitchen window.

How blessed we are to have found this place and recognized it as home.

Thirty-two years ago I would hum happily en route to this 20 acre plot where there was no home yet . It was a place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where we could imagine a future.

The land stayed unspoiled. The house Bill designed sustained us.

And “the future is now.”

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Sixty plus years of marriage is a lot to celebrate, but once again Bill and I are recalling the “I Do’s” spoken to a justice of the peace so long ago. We wanted to elope but Mom said that would break my father’s heart, so we stayed in town and Dad cried anyway as he predicted Bill would leave me as soon as he graduated from college.

Dad is the one in the background of our wedding picture, hands on hips, predicting doom.

Dad was so wrong.

Because here we are, still together.

And even through self-quarantining for over a year trying to avoid Covid-19, we have still not run out of conversation.

And even through my BigFoot and now arthritic hip, we are still a dedicated pair.

Life has thrown us some curve balls but we stuck together anyway and we still celebrate

the good times and the growing family and the good friends, those who still linger and those who are gone.

It was a day in a lifetime, our wedding day, but it was only

a preface to a long story.

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Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

My father was a painting contractor in that long-ago time when houses were done with oil paint. I understand oil is still available but mostly folks use Latex now. Dad taught me to use a brush up and down with quality oil paint and then side to side to avoid visible brush marks! He had his own business, carried his ladders on a truck, and was much like the painters today in our little rural community in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

I thought I knew it all about how to choose a house painter because talking to them would be like talking to Dad again. I would join the world of estimates, numbers of men on the crew, gallons of paint needed, scheduling, etc. I knew it all.

I wonder though, what Dad would say to this story of trial and error in the selection process.

We would like to get the outside of our house painted/stained ASAP so the question was, “How do we find someone to do a good job and show up when expected?” In other words, we were looking for a professional, trustworthy painter like my Dad.

First we learned over time to go to friends for shared names and experiences. I did that and got two prospect numbers from a trusted friend who had work done a few years ago.

Neither telephone number worked.

Next I went online and got a name and an immediate response! Wow! Impressive. And Wow! We had an appointment with “Ambrose” (fictitious name) to come to our house the next day.

Meanwhile I remembered a company who did some minor painting for us years ago and although the crew were the biggest scariest looking men I have ever met, they had done a stellar job. So I called that number too. Again, a quick response and an appointment for them to come out the next day.

Finally, my son did a little digging and came up with another name we shall call “John”, who was just as responsive as the first two! And we had another appointment for the day after the first day of appointments.

None of this is very scientific but what the hay, this is country living right? They say three is a crowd but in the case of obtaining bids, I figured three was a reasonable number.

APPOINTMENT DAY

Ambrose showed up and was great to talk to and not only said he did painting but he also does handyman work! We were excited. He went around the house, took pictures and measurements and then said he would get an estimate back to us in a week. That was Monday. Bill liked Ambrose. We were both leaning toward Ambrose but needed to see the other two.

John (another fictitious name) was supposed to come Tuesday but arrived on Monday so he was eager. He is a friendly extroverted talker who quickly convinced us he knows what he is doing, but we were still leaning toward Ambrose. Nevertheless, John produced a detailed estimate by email on the same day. We are definitely not used to this level of professionalism in this heavenly place my Mom called “No Man’s Land.”

Finally, the big big guys who had once done some work for us came out and remembered us and our place. We were hopeful and were leaning toward them since we already had a record of their great work in our house. These fine fellows are what people around here call “locals” and of course they, in private, call the rest of us “foreigners” since we were not born here. True locals have a Virginia dialect that is sometimes difficult for us foreigners to understand but we all managed to communicate and they promised to produce an estimate next day.

This they did.

But their quote was twice as high as John’s. Their quote was very very high.

Nix the Big Guys because they were just too expensive.

Ambrose waited a whole week to contact us again. He did call in precisely seven days to let us know he had not done an estimate and to announce that he was too booked up to take on this project. Huh?

Nix Ambrose because he said he was not available.

And so we are now committed/contracted to have our house painted in late May by John.

We trust John,

we think.

I will keep you posted on this yet-to-be-begun project but at least you know some dubious steps to find a house painter :

  • Call friends.
  • Look online.
  • Remember good workers from the past.
  • Enlist family members to help.
  • Or you may have figured out that if you live in No Man’s Land, it will be just plain luck if you find a painter as good as my Dad. On the other hand, you may not want to paint your house with oil paint either.

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

My Dad was Hungarian and a very good cook. I think he even had his own Hungarian restaurant once.

Mom, on the other hand, was known far and wide for her burnt porkchops and except for a few tried and true ultra-simplistic recipes, she was not considered an inspiring cook.

Maybe it is true that opposites attract.

But Mom’s brave attempts at gourmet cooking caused Dad to make a teasing proclamation he repeated often at the family dinner table. It was an anonymous quote guaranteed to make Mom angry when she had done the cooking.

And the impact of those words echo in my memory and remain a constant reminder today of what constitutes a good cook.

What did my Dad say to provide such contemplation and inspiration?

He said, “The cook is not in love!”

And that meant there was not enough salt!

Nowadays we all seem to be “watching our salt” intake. Still, there is something to be said for tasting as you go. And that was the way of the best cooks in my Dad’s experience. Poor Mom stayed quiet and just kept trying.

On occasion Dad would give me his recipes for the dishes I liked best. Here’s a good one, for the most favorite dish in my family.

HUNGARIAN CHICKEN PAPRIKASH

For a family of four: 6-8 chicken pieces or more.

In large pot, melt 2 sticks of butter.

Add 2 large chopped onions and saute until onions are translucent.

Add the larger pieces of chicken (breasts) skin side down.

Spoon some of the onion over each layer.

On top of that, add the smaller pieces of chicken skin side down.

Simmer covered for 20 minutes.

Reverse and turn everything.  Now put smaller pieces of chicken on the

bottom skin side up and the bigger pieces on top of that, skin side up.

Simmer covered for 20 minutes more.

You should now have lots of juice.  If not, add some water.

Also now add lots of paprika – 4 or 5 or 6 tablespoonsful. 

You are looking for a very orange colored gravy.

Simmer another 15 minutes.

Your Hungarian Paprikash is done!

Serve over cooked egg noodles or spaetzle.

Serve with sour cream on the side.

The odd thing about this recipe is the only spice is Paprika. NO salt or pepper are called for and in fact discouraged. Each diner can add salt or not at will. And no comments will be made about the cook not being in love.

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Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Once upon a very long time ago, when I was but a wee bit of a girl, my parents took me and my little brother to semi-professional ball games at a local park. It was a way to cool off in the evenings since we lived in Florida and had no air-conditioning in those good old days.

To us kids, those parktime excursions were wondrous, not only for the star quality of the young athletes in their dashing uniforms, but for the air of excitement and the vendors who went up and down the stands hawking, “Get your hot dogs here! Get your peanuts here!”

And Dad would buy us each a bag of warm wonderful peanuts. I think they were maybe 10 cents a bag. But what I recall is the delightful aroma.

The memory of those rich fragrant little bags of nuts stayed with me for years until I found out how to make my own replica in my own kitchen. Since then I have been giving tins of them for gifts, offering them up when company comes (before and hopefully after Covid), and keeping batches of them in my freezer.

Now, if you are allergic to peanuts, feel free to burn this page. But if you are not, just follow the recipe for Dor’s Home Roasted Peanuts.

DOR’S HOME ROASTED PEANUTS

INGREDIENTS:

One pound of Raw Blanched Peanuts (I get mine at a local Farm store, but I am sure you can order them online too).

Regular salt and if you have it,

Seasoned salt (usually more powdery than regular salt so it sticks better to the peanuts)

1 1/2 teaspoons butter (I use coconut oil but butter is fine too – it’s just to give the salt something to stick to).

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Pour all the raw peanuts into a rimmed pan. I use the bottom of my broiler pan.

Put the pan full of nuts into the oven and the timer on for 6 minutes.

After 6 minutes, stir them up and move them around for more even baking.

Time them again for 6 minutes. Repeat.

Repeat the 6 minute timing and shuffling for a total of 3 or 4 times.

When the peanuts look golden and brown enough, immediately remove from oven and stir in the butter all around to give the peanuts a light coating (just enough for the salt to stick to). If you use 2 teaspoons of butter it will probably be too much.

Now simply start salting to taste. I start with the stickier Seasoned Salt, generously apply and stir around. Then the regular or sea salt – apply and stir.

Serve warm or serve right out of the freezer. Mostly, ENJOY!

The taste of these peanuts is totally different than anything store bought. They are as close to the Ballgame Peanuts of my childhood as I have ever found.

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Bill and I live on top of a hill with a grand view of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a steep 15 acre slope down which I call The South 40. The South 40 requires “bush hogging.” And when I began to see the forest primeval slowly encroaching I realized we were facing an upkeep challenge.

In the beginning we had two horses (Lucy and Martini). There was also Martini’s friend, Rossi, but he was too wild for us equestrian novices. We were told grazing horses would take care of keeping the grass/weeds down but that was “fake news.”

The horses did love grazing but the grass grew faster than they could chew and soon everything became weeds and trees in an overgrown pasture.

We decided to hire a bush hogger person to keep things trim. That was only successful off and on since not too many people have their own equipment who are willing to risk life and limb to clear our formidable hillside.

Finally Bill bought a John Deere – a big but not the biggest John Deere – so he could mow the slope himself. He had to go straight down to the bottom and then straight back up (no sideways trimming due to the danger of tipping over).

I had visions of Bill lying on the slope with the bush hogger machine on top! Twice a year Bill would do the slope and it would take him four or five days each time to complete the job and that long for me to worriedly chew my nails down too.

Note of interest: Bill was halfway up/down the slope when I ran out to tell him about the 9-11 Disaster. This should give you an idea of how long he has been dedicated to bushhogging our slope.

As Bill grew older – and older, and less interested in risking his own life and limb, a Miracle Man arrived. Dennis came from Texas and said he noticed many folks around here have steep slopes that need trimming. He then bought a special mower that allows him to mow across slopes instead of up and down.

Dennis named his new company Slope Goat!

Dennis the Slope Goat finishes mowing our South 40 in three to four hours instead of days. Now we are duly impressed and looking forward to retiring the big John Deere.

Lest I sound too cynical about our steep incline/decline, the slope has some desirable attributes:

  • There is an old forest and a gurgling stream at the bottom. This is great for horses since they must go down to the bottom to drink and come back up for food (lots of great exercise). The problem is, we outlived our horses who were 28 and 32 and had become longtime lawn ornaments grazing on our parklike slope. Our urge to ride slowly receded when it was too hot, too cold, too buggy or we didn’t feel quite like it.
  • The horses did look beautiful grazing though and our three grandgirls loved pony rides.
  • I used to take walks down to the bottom of the slope (but not for long since it’s a killer huffing and puffing back up).
  • When Elsa-the-dog was new and we turned her loose for the first time, she ran down to the bottom, back up, and down and up again. That was the first and last time she ever tried to make a break for it.

And here we sit, atop our hill. It is 30+ years later as we admire the ever-changing mountain view. But if we look down for a moment at the land, we can see all the way to where we know the stream is. And though we may be a bit too rickety to make our way down there nowadays, the memory is fond.

We smile because we are so happy to have found Slope Goat and hope that Dennis keeps at it through 2021.

Blue Ridge Beautiful

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No, I never was one to party on New Year’s Eve.

Not Anti-Social. I like people but not crowds. Perhaps this is an Advantage in the Time of Covid?

However, Bill and I remember many years of “partying” with good friends. And many years ago, in this rural area of Virginia where we settled for over 30 years, we made friends with a retired couple in Camelot. Except for 2020, we four had regular dinners together and rejoiced in differing opinions on most every topic. Mostly we loved sharing laughter.

And many years ago we created our own traditional New Year’s Eves together, following the same plan each year. We met around 6:00 PM, dined amid happy teasing conversation, and then returned to our place to watch a movie. And some of us were already yawning.

By 11:00 PM or sooner, we began checking up on Pete, who would begin snoring even if we had purchased a wildly exciting action film.

The snoring was Bill’s cue to gather glasses and champagne.

And the yearly agreement was this:

  • If we cannot make it to midnight, we will have champagne and wish each other well and our friends can go home.
  • If we do make it to midnight, then there will be something to tell the family about for the next year. “Guess what? We stayed awake until midnight!”
  • We rarely make it to midnight on New Year’s Eve, but we always create fond memories.

In favor of self shut downs and thanks to the threat of the Nasty Virus Covid for most of 2020, we will miss our two laughing friends this New Year’s Eve. At any rate, we forgot to get the champagne. But, at the stroke of midnight I know Bill and I will drift back together from our different movies in different rooms to wish each other good health and good luck in the coming year. And we will call or be called by our beautiful family. And if it’s not too late before midnight we will call our old pals here in Camelot!

I wish you well too, and even without champagne.

“Happy New Year my friends out there in Cyberspace. And Here’s to making and maintaining great connections!”

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