On The Blackwater

Musing on retirement, writing, puppies, and whatever else strikes my fancy

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Spending my life in 20-year increments: DC, Calif, Maine, & now in the BlueRidge Mountains of VA, where my YoChon, Sadie Mae, has started to blog...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Thank you, Franklin County

On Memorial Day, we decided to visit the new Smith Mountain Lake Park, off 616 (Scrugg's Road). A dedication ceremony for the white sand beach had been held the previous Friday, and some of our FCL writers' group had visited some time back to check out the covered picnic tables and the gorgeous fishing/walking/sitting pier.
The two of us stopped at Westlake Kroger for sharp cheese and beef stick...three of us, actually, as we took Sadie Mae along. We had no idea how many people would have the same idea, but decided to go enjoy our 'picnic' and scope out the new park.
Well, it was perfect. Just enough families and kids on the pristine white sand beach to look like a calendar picture. The water was clear and blue, and an occasional sailboat passed by. The kids were having a grand time! We noticed some picnic tables at the beach, the colorful playground is nearby, and the sparkling clean restrooms as well. This is a 'carry-in, carry-out' park, so the only trash cans we saw were in the restrooms.
Next to the parking lot, there was a container of plastic bags for doggie cleanup. Well, Sadie Mae must have gotten the message, and cleanup went right into the restroom trash.
A winding, slightly sloping, pathway led down to the covered picnic tables and the fishing pier. There were a couple of families at the tables; all were delighted about the facility. Three women were playing cards while their sons and grandsons fished off the covered pier. One couple's young girl brought me a tiny daisy; her Mom told me they'd driven over an hour to get there and were so happy with the site.
Right now, the park is open on weekends. On June 11th, hours will extend through the weekdays as well. There is no charge, no entrance fee as yet. Probably by next summer season, there will be a modest fee since a lifeguard is at the beach, and we saw another park employee at the parking lot.
What a treasure for us! Soon, the Franklin County Library branch at Westlake will open as well. We owe a big Thank You to so many people in Franklin County, staffers and volunteers and contributors. Job well done at the Smith Mountain Lake Park.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sorry...Must Correct Preacher Cookie Recipe!

Apologies are in order; I am going back to my Blog with the Preacher Cookie recipe to correct it. I had two different PC recipes, and wasn't sure which one I'd made before. I posted the one with 3 cups of oatmeal, but when I made it this morning (for an Awards Ceremony at Moneta Library for student writers) the cookies crumbled and fell into pieces.
Following is the correct recipe. If your kitchen is quite warm, you may have to set the cookies in the fridge for a bit to get them to form into their fudgey perfection.
BTW: They were enormously popular at tonight's function, particularly with the younger kids that were there.

1 stick butter or margarine, chunked up
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
Mix first 4 ingredients in a heavy pot, heat and stir constantly until mixture comes to a full rolling boil. Boil for 2.5 minutes, then remove from heat and add:
1 cup peanut butter, mixing well
1.5 cups dry oatmeal
1 tbs vanilla
Mix thoroughly. Drop by scant 1/4 cup measure onto waxed paper. Let cool until firm. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gold to Go...What's in Your Suitcase?

This is from the current issue of the United Methodist Upper Room, a daily devotional guide. I read this last Thursday morning, and it has stayed with me, the imagery is so strong. This was contributed by Mary Manson of Ontario, Canada.

A story tells about a rich man who pleaded with God to let him bring into eternity one suitcase full of his most valuable possessions. God finally conceded, and the man packed as much gold as he could into his biggest suitcase. When he arrived at heaven's gates he was met by St. Peter, who opened the suitcase, curious to see what the man valued most.

"What!" St. Peter was incredulous; "You brought pavement?"


Monday, May 26, 2008

Preacher Cookies

The theory is that Preacher Cookies came about during the pioneer days, when the preacher arrived on horseback with very little, if any, advance notice. There certainly would not have been time to hitch up the buggy and go to town to shop for flour or whatever you might not have ready in your pantry. You also would not have the woodstove blasting out the high heat needed to bake cookies; if the stove was just a bit hot on one side, enough to heat up the coffeepot, that would take the chill off the kitchen in spring.

Mind you, to receive the preacher without being able to offer him sweets was not good for your chances for a happy after-life!

Some clever housewife, figuring the winter weather was ending with a balmy spring that might find the circuit-riding preacher on his way, came up with these preacher cookies. They are more like a fudge candy than an actual cookie, but I won't mess with tradition. Since my husband has Celiac and cannot eat anything with wheat, this is a favorite around our house.

1 stick butter or margarine, chunked up
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cocoa
Mix these first 4 ingredients in a heavy pot, heat and stir constantly until mixture comes to a full boil. Boil for 1.5 minutes, then remove from heat and Add:
1.5 cups dry oatmeal
1 cup peanut butter (I prefer chunky, but creamy is fine)
1 tbsp vanilla
Mix thoroughly. Drop onto a sheet of waxed paper by tablespoon or 1/4 cup measure. When cooled and hardened, refrigerate (or put in the cool spring house until the preacher arrives).


Monday, May 19, 2008

Local Food and a Recipe

It's strawberry time here, so I went to the Beckner's Farm Stand (on Rt #122 in Burnt Chimney) and bought quarts and quarts of their strawberries, which had been picked early that same morning. The Beckners are German Baptist farmers and grow everything they sell from their stand. If you go there early enough this time of year, you'll find one of their daughters scrubbing and cleaning the greenhouse tomatoes and those delish long English cukes. Sometimes Mom or an Aunt comes running out with a warm-from-the-oven loaf of zucchini bread wrapped in a dishtowel. Yum!

But their strawberries are prized. As big as those huge tasteless berries that are shipped from thousands of miles away to our grocery stores, the Beckner's berries are so ripe and sweet they beg you to take them home with you. Not only that, their prices are comparable to the store's prices in town.

I promised a recipe. Here's my strawberry salad~
2 hearts of Romaine (or 1 large head) chopped
1 quart fresh strawberries
2 tsp good quality Balsamic vinegar
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tsp Splenda or sugar, if desired
1/4 cup sliced almonds
(1) When you rinse and clean the berries, put aside 3 or 4 large berries for garnish. (2) Put about 1 cup berries into a small bowl and mash with potato masher. Add Splenda or sugar if needed. (3) Add Balsamic vinegar and EVOO, then whisk together. Stir in remaining cleaned and sliced berries to vinegar mix. (4) When ready to serve, toss Romaine bits with the berries and Balsamic mixture, top with sliced almonds and garnish with large berries. Serve immediately. Beautiful when served in a clear glass bowl.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Irena Sendler, 98, died Monday in Warsaw, Poland

The headline on page 7 of the Roanoke Times today: Holocaust Heroine Saved 2,500 Jewish Kids. Quoting from the article..."Sendler was a 29-year-old social worker with the city's welfare department when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, launching World War II. Warsaw's Jews were forced into a walled-off ghetto. Seeking to save the ghetto's children, Sendler masterminded risky rescue operations...she and her assistants ventured inside the ghetto--and smuggled out babies and small children in ambulances and in trams, sometimes wrapped up as packages.

"Records show that Sendler's team of about 20 people saved nearly 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto between October 1940 and its final liquidation in April 1943, when the Nazis burned the ghetto, shooting the residents or sending them to death camps."

She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, but did not win. That was the year Al Gore won.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Meet Miss Chloe Louise Nightingale

Isn't she lovely? Five days old when this picture was taken by her GreatAunt Cathie, who drove south to Houlton, Maine with homemade frosted gingerbread cookies to celebrate her birth. Chloe Nightingale was 6 lbs 4 oz when born and Cathie tells me she nearly fits entirely into her one hand! That's her Mom Cassie's finger she is grasping. Dad Andrew was able to stay home from work for Chloe's first week at home and had to very reluctantly tear himself away this week.
With a name like Chloe Louise Nightingale (and a very dramatic singing and dancing Mom, plus ever-energetic Grandmom Theresa) I'm sure Chloe came into this world with trumpets blaring and spotlights shining. TA-DA! Here I am!!
We'll get to see her and hold her this summer when we go to Maine. She is our second greatgrandchild, and already surrounded by loving family and friends. And gingerbread.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

GreatAunt Cathie to report in

This morning when I called her, my daughter was in the middle of baking and frosting gingerbread stars and teddy bears to take down to new momma Cassie, who is home now with baby Chloe Louise Nightingale. Auntie Anna (16) wasn't going with Mom; she has a bad cold not to be shared with a new baby.

Cathie said she had new batteries for her camera and would take lots of pictures to send to me. I'm waiting, I'm waiting!
A serendipitous story: like a snowball gathering speed as it rolls down a hill, the simple act of my picking up Sarah's Key at my local library and reading it continues to bring about more results. From the Book Club to the Ferrum College class on the Holocaust, to the visit to the Holocaust Museum in DC, it continues to gather speed. Now, plans are being made to offer the class right here in the small town of Rocky Mount, bringing the 10 professors here to a new educational facility just built behind the library, offering the class to local teachers and beginning it at 4:30 on one evening a week, 2.5 hours. What an exciting opportunity for this community. I've told several of the church ladies I spoke before last Monday and they are ready to sign up as soon as the proposal is put together.

Since the class, at nearly $2,000 a session, is offered without cost to seniors over age 65, we have an enthusiastic potential student group. No exams, no papers, and a group who actually lived through the years of WW II and who, like me, never really learned the complete history of the Holocaust. From the simple act of reaching out and picking up that book comes the embodiment of Dr. Marcia Horn's dictum: REMEMBER

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I'm a Greatgrandmother again!

No pictures of the baby yet, but in this age of the Internet, I expect to receive them soon.

Theresa, widow of my son, Andy, brought a daughter to the marriage who helped her Mom care for her stepdad, whom she called her Dad. Cassie became a Mom herself at 1 am yesterday morning when, after an easy labor, she delivered 6 lb 4 oz Chloe Louise Nightingale. Isn't that a delightful name for a baby girl?

Cassie and...yes, his name is Andrew...are over the moon. They live in northern Maine, so we'll get to hold this tiny baby girl when we go up there this summer. So Andy, up there watching all of us, is a Grandfather now. Get out! Never having been a father, he's skipped a generation ahead.

Baby and Mom are healthy and doing great. My daughter Cathie (Great Aunt?) and her daughter Anna (Aunt Anna?) will visit them shortly and I'll have more to report then. Like...does little Chloe have a mass of dark hair? Those important details.

Monday, May 05, 2008

United Methodist Women

I was scheduled to give a 20-minute talk to our UMW group, 10 am this morning. This is a group of 15-20 older women, two of whom have husbands who are retired pastors. Our pastor attends these monthly meetings as well. We have a great time drinking coffee, eating fruit and homemade coffee cake, and chatting.

We have a short business meeting, then an inspirational talk, and finally that month's program, which is usually taken from a book with suggested topics, hymns to sing, and a message to convey.

Having finished my Ferrum College Holocaust class, I decided to break with tradition and discuss the class and how I feel it has changed my life. I also emphasized the need for the women in that room, all of them of an age to remember World War II and what they had eventually heard about the Holocaust, to make certain their children and their grandchildren knew about what horrible events occurred in the name of "ethnic cleansing." Several mentioned a desire to visit the Holocaust Museum in DC; I told them that a visit by tour bus to DC (over 4 hours from us) and to the museum was part of my class.

I handed around my journal, complete with picture postcards I'd taped inside so they could see the piles of bluish gray shoes left by the victims, the tower of pictures that reaches three stories (all pictures from a woman whose grandfather had been the town photographer in a small town in Poland)..baby pictures, wedding pictures, anniversary pictures, graduation pictures, in color, in sepia tones, in black and white. Everyone in that town had been put to death by the Nazis.

I had worried that this group of elderly women might not appreciate being reminded of such horrible crimes, but they were enthusiastic, questioning, absolutely supportive of my talk. Several want to take the class next year, especially when I told them Ferrum allows students over age 65 to attend for no cost, the reading materials are all available at our Franklin County Library (or in inexpensive paperback), the bus tour is a field trip, sponsored by a synagogue in Roanoke; in fact, the only cost I incurred was $15 for a parking decal. Since the college is only 11 miles from Rocky Mount, the distance traveled is negligible.

Ending the talk on a positive note, I told them about Irena Sendler, a 97-year-old Catholic woman in Warsaw who saved 2,500 children from death by hiding them, one-by-one, in potato sacks, even in coffins, often sedated, and getting them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, changing their names and placing them with foster families, or getting families to hide them away. She put together lists of the childrens' real names and changed names, stashed the lists into jars, and then buried the jars. Her story, about the four young Kansas schoolgirls who took on a research project to find her, is at http://www.irenasendler.org/ Amazing story of what one woman was able to do.

Beginning my talk by displaying a copy of Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, the book that began this odyssey for me, and then passing the book around the room, I noticed many took note of the name. One woman said she intends to e-mail her California daughter, who is always looking for interesting books for her Book Club to read.

It appears I need not have worried; these women, even an 88-year old sweetheart, were intrigued and passionately involved in the topic.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

E-mail Restored, finally

I'd not realized how dependent I'd become on e-mail until it was gone for several days. Two GFs and I were trying to set up an evening to go out, with Hubby (as my birthday is coming up) with day, time, restaurant. They'd e-mail ME, but my replies stayed in the Outbox. Finally, one would sneak out but it wasn't the current one.

About birthdays: my Mom always said, do not keep your birthday a secret and then pout because nobody remembered it. Write it on their calendar. Remind them several days ahead of time, especially a spouse. My Mom managed to celebrate her birthday for three weeks straight: Let's go out to lunch, 'cause tomorrow's my birthday. We really should go see that movie, my birthday was last week. Dinner out? Of course! This is my birthday month!

Well, I worked it right myself. May is my favorite month, as the 3rd is my birthday, Mother's Day falls mid-month, and the 31st is our wedding anniversary. That's at least three dinners/lunches/movies/flowers...and, of course, diamonds. (HA...) Just threw that in there; that'll not happen!