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It has been a very long year – well, almost a year – of high hopes and plans to get the much ballyhooed Covid-19 vaccination. Bill and I have followed all the rules and pretty much hunkered down and separated from family and friends.

And since I am still having trouble walking with a BigFoot that moved to the other foot and then from those two feet to the knees and then to my right hip, Bill is the “outside man” for shopping and errands and I am the “inside woman” with the chores I can handle.

We both decided months ago that we would get the vaccine ASAP! “We will be at the top of the list,” we thought, “because we are over 65!”

That was before a doctor I admire warned that if I was waiting for a vaccine, it would be a long wait. He was sure all the healthy young people would get it first. It made no sense to him but that is what he believed. “And why should I get it before you do when you are at the most risk from dying?” he asked.

Now it looks like we are actually closing in on qualifying for the arm jabs that hopefully will ward off death.

It sounds like vaccination appointments will be coming up over the next two weeks in our Central Shenandoah Health District in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Yes!

Finally there are notices that we are moving into Phase 1b in our specific district!

So why am I plagued with ongoing questions?

  • Is this cause for hope and celebration?

I have a more “believe it when I see it” attitude.

  • Will we really get the first shot?
  • And will we really then get the second one?

Somehow I am not sure of the value of our lives.

  • Will there be enough left for us after the masses of younger Essentials?
  • Will we have bad reactions?
  • How long will the protection last?
  • Will we have to get re-vaccinated every year?
  • Would it be better to wait for the one dose vaccine?

We are on the brink of beating the horrible virus that took over so many lives. At least that is what the experts keep telling us.

When we have passed the finish line and all of us have won the race for immunity, I will try to write another blog post in a real celebration for all the questions answered and all the lives saved.

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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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Is it Halloween yet?
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Today is downright cold. “Sweater Weather,” my Mom called it. In Florida where I grew up Autumn announced its arrival with a delightfully cool breeze that offered blessed relief from Summer heat. We knew more of that was coming and we could not wait to greet the season.

Virginia is different. Things can and do change overnight. Winter’s warnings here are loud, clear and insistent. Last night the warning came with a breeze too cold to leave the windows open and a sudden need to cover up.

Yes, summer tops look strangely out of place in the closet now and shorts, bathing suit and sun hats are ready for wistful hibernation. I should have been prepared for this since the little market down the road has been showcasing mums and pumpkins for many days now. And the internet is featuring autumn decor and Halloween.

Even recipes emerge that I haven’t even thought of all Summer. I suddenly want to make more stews and hearty meals. I am famous for simple, easy, recipes that taste like they took alot of work. Here’s a good one for Old Fashioned Meatloaf with a great tangy twist.

DOR’S BARBECUED MEAT LOAF

1 ½ pounds ground beef

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 onion, finely chopped

1 egg, beaten

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 15-16 oz. can of tomato sauce, divided

½ cup water

3 tablespoons vinegar

3 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

            Combine first 6 ingredients in a large mixer bowl; add ½ can of tomato sauce, mixing well.  Place mixture in a 10x6x1-inch baking dish, and shape into a loaf.  Combine remaining tomato sauce and remaining ingredients in a small mixing bowl and pour over loaf.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done, basting often.  Yield: 8 servings.

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It has been over 30 years since first we came to this bit of Camelot in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. There was nothing here but we camped out on the land and dreamed of the perfect house to shelter us right into old age.

A Home for Living

All on one level with an attached two car garage we have given thanks many times for the cover during rain or sleet or snow. It is a modest house designed by Bill, that has bent with the years to accommodate many changes. In the beginning my mother came to live with us for several years, then Bill’s sister moved to the area and spent every weekend here. My brother and Sister-in-law and kids came too, and long time friends returned and returned. Our son came early on, married, and then grandchildren arrived, and we had dogs and horses and a garden and we grew along with the landscape and we changed too along with the house that accommodated and sheltered us all.

There are rooms with a view, mostly of the Blue Ridge Mountains which really do look blue sometimes. Other rooms look out upon our green green world and what I call the Forest Primeval.

Bedrooms have their own thermostats for individual heat control in case we lose power. But there is a big wood stove which heats the house so efficiently that I sometimes have to open windows in the middle of a blizzard.

Even though I always see this home as almost perfect, we began some upgrades in 2018. A big change was the addition of a “Whole House Generator.” It is still hard to imagine we no longer need candles. Oddly enough I still have a major stash of jarred candles “just in case.” But the generator keeps working its magic and we haven’t had to use a candle yet (except to add romance of course).

In addition to the magical generator, we upgraded the kitchen with a quartz countertop that feels cool and looks so cool that I think I am working in a brand new place. I love the view of the mountains from the kitchen too.

Kitchen Before – Outdated Cabinets and Formica Countertop
Kitchen After – Counter is actually a Dove Grey

Nope, we do not wish to sell the house! And this is not a pre-prepared advertisement. I have simply run out of adventurous things to blog about, and my self imposed isolation means you get a little tour of Camelot. Also, between you and me, I am practising using the new WordPress block editor format. What do you think?

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Many steps from house to pool.

Thirty years ago, when we built our little house in the country, we had an in-ground pool installed at the same time.

I insisted we live by water and Bill insisted on a woodstove instead of a fireplace.  It was a compromise.

The end result was a heavy-duty woodstove in the middle of the living room and a swimming pool!

As it turned out, that woodstove grew on me, maybe because it saved our lives through many a frigid winter.

And the pool meant happy memories with our son and the grandgirls, friends who visited, and our two golden retrievers who loved anything water.  Swimming in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia has always seemed to me to be the ultimate luxury.

Oh, and I forgot – there was once a horse in our pool, but that is another story.

But now (due to sheltering in place from Covid-19)  we are pretty much the only swimmers.  We invite Elsa-the-dog to join in but she is suspicious of so much water.

On July 3rd I was determined to get into the old pool and paddle around as a prelude to celebrating Independence Day 2020.  A swim would also be good for Old BigFoot.

But as enticing as it is, getting to the pool is now an enormous challenge.  Navigating all those steps is out of the question since there are many steps down, and the only other way (I thought) was walking down over uneven terrain.

Then there were the endless preparations… What to take…

  •  A water dish for Elsa.  Treats for Elsa.  A leash for Elsa.
  • Towells, walking stick (cane), suntan oil, bug repellent, sunglasses, first aid supplies.
  • How to get down there.  The pool is not far if you can walk.  May as well be to the moon for BigFoot.
  • Bill to the rescue!   “We will take the car!” said he.  And Elsa jumped into the backseat thinking it was another ride.
  • And off we went for a one minute drive around the house to wind up at the pool.

It was an unceremonious but successful arrival. 

Elsa would not even consider getting near the water.

Instead she began tentative explorations and found shady spots (to shelter in place).  In fact she found a cave under one of the big evergreen bushes where she was cool, hidden from danger, and could watch for bears in case the peeps needed protection.

BigFoot loved the swim and was already plotting how to get down there again without the mortification of being driven! 

The only concern is that Bruno-the-Bear or his sister would decide to join in, but there is always Elsa for protection.

Do you think she would emerge from her new private dog-cave-digs to scare off another bear? 

 

 

 

 

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It was 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon when Elsa-the-Dog begged to go out on the deck. She loves just looking around her “estate” from the safety of the rails and rungs.

So out we went to sit in the shade of the eaves and contemplate sudden fair weather.  Surely the wispy breeze and floods of sunshine would make us safe from the dreaded virus.

As I was about to doze off, Elsa suddenly sprang to life and trotted to a corner of the deck.  She likes to chase bumble bees and I thought that was her goal.

But then she zipped over to the opposite end and then zipped back.  She was definitely on the alert and straining to look in one direction through the rails and I too looked in that direction to see what all the fuss was about.

What I saw was a very large VERY LARGE Virginia Black Bear who was ambling along the edge of our woods.  He had obviously been at both ends below our deck and was certainly interested in my hummingbird feeder!

About the time I put this all together in my slowly emerging brain, Elsa was growling and barking, and the BIG BEAR began to run.  Thankfully, it was running away and not toward us.  Elsa kept up a loud piercing bark that I think made her seem to be a giant adversary instead of a little twerp of a dog.

And the VERY LARGE bear ran all the way out of sight and into the forest.

Thank you Elsa-the-Dog for your grand big-dog bark and for your courage in sounding the alarm.  You are my heroine!

Anyway, who said sheltering in place is not exciting?

 

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assemble challenge combine creativity

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You can only watch so much television when sheltering in place, right?  And how many jigsaw puzzles can you do without getting a headache?  I even find myself reading two books at a time!

But, even though our world started to open up again to allow for haircuts and dining in restaurants, the Corona Virus is angrily re-emerging and forcing us aging vulnerables into continued self isolation.

When I started blogging I had no idea the end result would be the addition of people I not only enjoy learning about, but that many have actually become  friends.

And through all the challenges of self isolation, and through the long months of solitude, as if to prove the value of our relationships, my blogger friends continued to create incredible connections.  You offer your experiences, your humor, your photographs, your ways of coping, your thoughts, and mostly your love.

But for quite a while I was reading your experiences and not sharing mine.  I was absent from the blogging world in a writing dry spell I thought would never end, when suddenly I realized that reading your posts was helping me get through the Covid-19 Pandemic lock-down.

The inspiration was there “in plain sight.”  Writing and sharing were the blessed remedies for coping with odd downturns like lockdowns and forced isolation.

Many of your posts made me think of what I would do in similar circumstances.  And my own responses could certainly have been crafted into blog posts.  But, instead of following the urge to write, I sent comments instead.  It was writing in a way, but mostly done to thank you, my blogging friends, for your words, your time  and your continued contributions.  You kept me sane in the insane world of Covid-19!

I am posting things again but the dry spell threatens to return.

I recognize it looming overhead.

Then, as if it was meant to be, a Virginia Black Bear wandered into our yard today and has inspired me to create another post.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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macro photography of black sunglasses on sand

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Although we have had a few tooth-chattering days here in Camelot, it still somehow feels like summer.  I have almost forgotten that Virginia has a temperate climate but still boasts the four seasons.

But here it comes January and I never finished retrieving winter clothes and never packed away bathing suit or shorts.  First of all, it stayed warm enough for cooler garb than sweaters.

And for a true weather guage there is always my curly-er and frizzy-er hair which usually only happens during the muggy days of summer.  I suppose winter frizz  is due to a mountain version of seaside dampness.  Who knew?

And those lazy hazy days are here again and I am sweating (not whistling) while I work.

This sleeping beauty is also doing a bit more tossing and turning on over heated body-warmed sheets.

This morning there was a summer-like drizzly rain with no coat necessary – just short sleeves for dog walking.

The stink bugs are happy and back in plague mode too, accompanied by a competitive lady bug infestation.

I am confused.  Should I switch the heatpump to “cool”?  Should we re-open the outdoor pool?

Feeling a chill where you are?  Virginia may be just the place to go for the excitement of an off-season-summer.

 

 

 

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Bill and I just discovered a golden restaurant to return to again and again.

Golden Garden3 Sign

 

The Golden Garden is comparatively new in our little town of Lexington, Virginia.  It specializes in Sushi and Pan Asian Cusine.  “What is Pan Asian Cuisine?” I asked Google and came up with foods originating from the greater continent of Asia including, but not limited to, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, and Indian.

Let’s try it,” we said.

Over the years we have devised our own criteria list for ranking local restaurants:

  • Must be quiet enough to talk without yelling,
  • must be very clean,
  • have pleasant wait staff,
  • and hopefully serve great tasting healthy food.

The Golden Garden surpassed all our criteria. The restaurant is quiet enough, very clean, and the staff are lovely, kind, eager to please and welcoming.  Not only is their food delicious but it is beautifully presented and there is so much of it, you inveitably wind up boxing up for lunch the next day.

We were so impressed with this new restaurant in our little town that we returned for dinner the following week.  I loved the Shrimp with Mixed Vegetables (with optional White Sauce and Brown Rice) and also tried their Wonton Soup, Spring Rolls, and the Seaweed Salad  – all truly scrumtious!  To give you an idea of the size of the entree, Bill had General Tso’s Chicken (see photo below).

Golden Garden2 Gen Tso

Bill’s General Tso’s Chicken after he added rice on top and stirred around the initial presentation.

I wish I had taken photos of the entrees as they were presented, as yet untouched.  Guess I was too eager to dive in!

Anyway, if you live in or near Lexington, Virginia, or if you are simply visiting, remember that Dor highly recommends The Golden Garden.

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