A Different Presective on Life: Macular Degeneration.

wildflowers Monongahela National Forest Elkins WV

Yellow Flowers at Stuarts Park near Elkins WV

So about two weeks ago I was told that the inherited eye disease that my family carries is beginning to do damage to my eyes too.The usual end result is legal blindness, although they say I may still be able to see some at the edges of my vision field. I am not sure if we ever knew what blinded my Grandmother but we are positive that my mother has battled “wet”  Macular Degeneration for about 20 years. She began to notice the changes in her sight in her late 60’s with a very quick loss of vision over about three or four years. In my case I have a type of “dry” macular degeneration or Age Related Macular Degeneration. The outcome is almost always the same with either disease,  although the my condition is a chronic slow loss of vision and my mother had a very acute fast-moving loss of vision, we both will end up blind at one point or another.

So far there is no real treatment for this type of vision loss and they can not predict when or if I will go completely blind at any point. So I am faced with the most challenging obstacle in my life. A unknown cloud  will slowly yet steadily take away one of the things I have enjoyed most in my life and make even everyday tasks become almost impossible to do on my own. This new challenge has changed my perspective on things that I can hardly explain here.

How do you quantify the value of your sight, or hearing, or the ability to touch taste or smell??? How do I explain the feeling of loss that is trying to drag me into the darkness without even allowing me to try to fight back. There is no recovery,  rehabilitation, cure or corrective device for this progressive loss of sight. So how do I learn to keep my balance in life when I am not even given something to fight against. I am left with trying to make peace with my situation…. and if you know me at all, making peace is not my best quality, by nature I am at my best when the fight is on.

The Dr. suggest that I change my diet to lower my blood pressure and lower the sugars in my diet to at least slow the progression of my loss. Diabetes and high blood pressure cause all kinds of damage to our vision. If  I can reduce my risks for other complications I may reduce the chances of going blind faster. Strange that I am hoping to just slow down something I can’t control in the slightest.

So you may see posts from time to time about my new situation and how it changes my perspective on things in both a literal way and a figurative way. I have a new pair of glasses which I hate… and can’t hardly use comfortably. I now have to see my eye Dr’s every year with other visits if I discover any changes. I was lucky I went for an annual exam when they discovered the changes were more drastic than I thought or could have imagined.

I now  live and look at things with a more studious eye. Drinking in the colors and textures of the things I love as if I may not every see them again. I will continue to read as long as I can. I will read all of your wonderful blogs and drink in the words as deeply as my heart allows. I have made it a point to enjoy more books too. Real books with paper pages and smells of old books stores with torn edges that I can annotate and dog ear. I will reread and re-watch my favorite books and movies until I know them and they become a part of me. I will create this blog until the time comes when I can not see the words on the page but only get to hear them read back to me with a computer voice. I will learn to work with it, around it  and through it and move forward into what ever wonderful things that God still has for me.

In a decade they guess I will no longer drive or clean my house. So I must have something wonderful to do some other way…. Maybe I will become Agatha Christy who dictated every one of her books and had a wonderful editor who transcribed them for her? Who knows maybe I am to be a painter of impressionistic flowers that tour the world as “works of the blind”?? Or  Maybe a Philosopher who spends too much time alone thinking about the meaning in life and discovers the “One Thing” that explains life as we know it.

So my perspective is changing on many things, but mostly on what beauty is and how we express it; What is Art and how do we enjoy it and what is Joy and how to find it.



Categories: About me, blindness, blogging, family health, health, Love, wellness | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Welcoming the TV Show “State Plate” to Our West Virginia Home.

It is so confusing for me that we have not only been invited to appear on one TV program but now two. The second invitation came from a representative from the Television show titled “State Plate” a food show that represents all 50 states here in the US. The show visits a community and talks about regional foods that people love from that state. It would not really qualify as a cooking show, they don’t really show how to make food step by step, they just talk about the dishes famous in that area.The show shares information on the history of that food item and how it is prepared. In my families case, Tom has been asked to talk about one of West Virginia’s most famous foraged foods, Ramps, a wild leak or wild onion that grows wild in the hollows of West Virginia. I on the other hand will be talking about Golden Delicious apples, making an apple dumpling with ice cream. Their will be three other items covered on the show, the pepperoni roll, trout and biscuits and gravy. Other members of our community will be asked to show how they make these traditional dishes in a West Virginia style. So our portion of the show is only about two items out of 5 segments, each being about 6 mintues long.

Field of wild growing Ramps
Field of wild growing ramps

Tom will be the star of the “Ramp” segment and he has 50+ years of experience digging ramps, cleaning and eating ramps. He will visit a family friends farm and dig ramps with the host of the show and then if all goes well the show will visit a ramp dinner here in Buckhannon and see the many ways ramps are prepared and eaten.

fresh cleaned ramps

freshly cleaned ramps ready to cook

Here is a link to some info about the show and their Facebook page if you want to learn more or are just interested in see what states they have visited or will visit in the future.


State Plate Facebook page

Then later the crew will visit our house to film a portion of the show about apple dumplings using Golden Delicious apples. At least this is one thing I know how to make and have made in the past. I am just hoping to not totally freak out about cooking in my house with cameras rolling. Cooking for anyone other than family and friends is a completely new experience, wish me luck on this part of the adventure. I will plan to make a couple of batches and freeze them just in case everything goes terribly wrong. Let’s hope nerves don’t take over and I can’t actually cook on camera. My heart is already doing flip-flops just thinking about the whole thing and the work involved in getting my house ready and getting just the right recipe together.

The filming will take place over Easter weekend and we are going to have a house full off and on all weekend.I am not even planning to make our traditional family dinner this year, we are likely going to get to-go boxes from the local ramp dinner and eat right out of the foam containers this year! I hope you all will fallow along as I work on getting ready for this next adventure into TV.

In a future post I will share my attempt at making apple dumplings for the show and you can see the mess and stress I go through trying to make something worth seeing on TV. I can only hope that we have as much fun making State Plate as we did making the episode of Barn Wood Builders. Who knew, a Hillbilly boy and his family would ever have these kinds of adventures in their own back yards!

Tom and Chris digging ramps

Spring ramp digging Christopher holding his first ramp age 3



Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Apples, country cooking, Country life, Easter, family fun, Foraging, ramps, Ramps, State Plate TV show, TV, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

20 Years of Raising Awareness in Randolph County with the Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group.

For twenty years the members of the Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group in Elkins, West Virginia have worked to educate Randolph County community members about diversity issues. The group continues to sponsor the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration and marked its 20th anniversary planning the event January 14th of 2018.

It was just after this anniversary that I sat down with the founding members of the group to talk about the celebration and the current state of our community’s cultural awareness. The members shared how the group was formed as a grassroots effort to support a multi-racial, multi-cultural, diverse community that is free of racism and bigotry. At the time of the formation of CAEG, surrounding counties harbored hate groups like “The National Alliance” that were putting on rallies and publishing hate documents. It was an unsettling time for the community and people were naturally drawn together to stand against the spread of hate propaganda. It was after a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in 1998 organized by Ann Kingsolver and Catherine Fygan at the Davis and Elkins College that the group formed said Margo Belvin Denton.


Pictured above: Jane Birdsong, Carrie Kline, Mary Alice Milnes, Margo Blevin Denton and Melvin Marks, Founding members of teh Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group 2018. 

The group brought attention to local issues like acts of racism in the Elkins area and attention to the Riverside School Association, the group who worked to preserve the African American regional high school. They held meetings every two months and brought guest speakers to meetings like Paul Sheridan, Former Deputy Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office to talk about the “Not in Our Town” program, Jerry Dale spoke about the white supremacist group “The National Alliance”, and Karla Schantiger from Women’s Aide in Crisis spoke about domestic abuse.

In late 1999 the group heard that a local group of Ku Klux Klan members were planning a rally at the Harrison County Court house. The members of CAEG banded together to attend a counter rally the same day. The “Let’s Get Real Rally” countered the KKK members in downtown Clarksburg and in a peaceful yet strong way. The non-KKK protesters made it clear that the community was not going to stand by and watch the KKK be the only voice herd that day. The amount of community members who attended the “Let’s Get Real Rally” outnumbered the few Klan’s men at the Harrison County Court House. The counter rally was viewed a great success for groups like CAEG and the State’s program “Not in My Town”.  The energy from these events propelled the group forward for years and its annual Martin Luther King Jr. day celebration has remained a staple downtown Elkins event for the past twenty years.

crop of MLK Day with Mayor 2018.jpg

Community members inculding Elkins Mayor Van Broughton gather for the Commemorative MLK JR. March Jan. 2018. 

The goal of the CAEG has always been “to raise awareness” said co-leader of this year’s MLK day celebration Jane Birdsong. The group with help from community members, AmeriCorps service members and students from Davis and Elkins College, shared music, dance, poetry, prayers and a monolog written by Coretta Scott King about the legacy of her husband. The closing song of the celebration had everyone on their feet holding hands singing together about unity and love before a community pot luck began.


Guests fill the sanctuary of the Woodford Memorial United Methodist Church during the MLK Day celebrations in Elkins 2018.

Also during the program a call to action was announced by Barbra Weaner. Emotionally Mrs. Weaner declared that with the current leadership in Washington, D.C. and acts of racism in Elkins that community needed to reinvigorate the Cultural Awareness and Enrichment Group once again. She said the issues of intolerance were just as relevant today as 20 years ago and we must not allow hate to reign again.


Kyle Pajorito walks hand in hand with a unknown woman at the MLK Jr. Day celebrations 2018. 

After twenty years I was looking into the same faces that had stood up to racism, hatred and violence in Randolph County. The members have aged but continue to teach, share and love just like the first day they worked together. The goal of Cultural Awarness and Enrichment Group is still the same: “Make Elkins and Randolph County a climate for tolerance in a world of intolerance.”



Link for the KU KLUX Klan Clarksburg, WV rally:  http://americancityandcounty.com/features/government_one

Link for Paul Sheridan:    https://www.niot.org/category/niot/paul-sheridan



Categories: Appalachina Mountains, community service, Elkins West Virginia, Fairs and Festivals, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial, Non-violence, Randolph County, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saying Goodbye to Elkins West Virginia

I have left jobs, lost jobs, ran from jobs and wanted different jobs, but I am not sure I am happy about leaving this job. I am leaving my AmeriCorps position in Elkins West Virginia to move on to my final year as an AmeriCorps to a smaller town called Phillipi, West Virginia. After two years serving in the community of Elkins, I would have thought this move would be easier. It’s not easy…… and I am not accustom to leaving work that I enjoy and feel passionate about. AmeriCorps has been wonderful to me and I have learned to love my community and state even more because of the work I do.

Henry Gassaway Davis mounted in Elkins West Virginia

Street View Elkins Sky line

It is the people that I hate to leave… they have opened their homes and hearts to me and I spent two years learning in the shadow of giants. Most of them are under dogs, scrappy  hard fighters who have never had a easy time of livinging in the mountains of Appalachia. Most work long hours often on bugets that outsiders would never be able to open a door with. They make due, they know how to stretch a dollar and work past dark for little pay. It is not easy to carve out a new future from the dark wooded mountains of West Virginia’s past, but they move forward. The community of Elkins is a strong, proud group of people who love as hard as they work.

I will say goodbye the 8th of Feb and take a much need rest before I move on to a smaller more remote community. I am excited and hopeful that I can help another community bring to life their dreams for a brighter future. I can only hope that this move will be just as  rewarding as my years in this mountain town.

So as my far well approaches I thought I would share some of my favorite photos of

Elkins and the people who made my term so wonderful.

inter-mountain clipping 1



Art of Elkins Wine Tasting Tammy Dolly and Jolynn Powers




Driver of the Raminator at the Mountain State Forest Festival

Doug Starcher and Jolynn Powers at Selfie Sation

Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, historic locations, Monongahela National Forest, photo review | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge: Hiking The Wetlands of The Refuge.

This past fall Tom and I were encouraged by some work friends to explore one of the hidden gems of West Virginia. The Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge in Davis, West Virginia. An unusual place, high in the Allegheny Mountains, a wetland on top of  the mountain, where you feel as if you have entered a cranberry bog in Main. Tom at the edge of run off pond Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge 17 .jpg

We were not prepared for the difference in environment that the refuge supplies. We planned our hike for a day that was predicted to be the peak fall color in the hardwoods.   We thought we would be hiking in the shade of those trees. We did not bring water or plan for lots of mud. Instead, in the wetland we spent time with thorn trees that provide no shade.We found our trails blocked by wet weather springs and beaver dams. We hiked past rock outcrops and over wild blue berry bushes. We found sandy beaches and twisted evergreens, but not the leaf covered floors of my back yard woods. We spent our day a little bewildered, visiting parts of the valley that felt as if I was no longer in West Virginia at all. It was a splendid surprise and I am so glad we were able to spend our day here.

Toms family for years had a time-share condo in Canaan Valley Ski Resort area. They used it in the off-season during the summer to rest, swim, play tennis, sight-seeing and shop. They never spent time hiking or learning about the unspoiled portion of the valley. Tom was so surprised by what he saw that he now has plans to explore the rest of the refuges 16,550 acres.

Tracking an enormous black
bear one morning in the mid1700s,
George Casey Harness
came to a spot, “on the western
slope of the Alleghenies which
overlooked a wide, well-watered,
wooded and grassy valley. The
breathtaking beauty of the wild
valley so impressed young
Harness that he involuntarily
cried out, ‘Behold! The Land
of Canaan!’” *This story is but
one of the ways that the valley
may have gotten its name.

Within the refuge there are about a dozen trails, all well-marked and made on relatively flat ground (easy to moderate ratings). We spent most of our time either hiking the bowl edge of the valley, while getting wonderful views of the ring of mountains that surround us, or in the bottom land walking through water. The Camp 70 Trail is the best view of the wetlands and is the location of the beaver dams. It is only 3 miles from downtown Davis, West Virginia. It was a photographers dream…. so many colors,textures and reflections to see and capture on the 2.4 mile hike into the park.

When we arrived we drove through the typical West Virginia hardwood forest into a new world that we had never experienced before.

Hwy 7 between Canaan Valley Resort and Davis West Virginia.

Hwy 7 between Canaan Valley Ski Resort and Davis, West Virginia

The park spreads across the highway and covers areas that are very flat to areas that are mountainous with rocky ledges with heath bogs. The  Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge boarders the Dolly Sods Wilderness area with another 17,700 acres of wilderness and the Monongahela National Forest with 919,000 acers.All three are worth the trip even if you can only stay long enough to walk a mile to see the splendor of the area.


Trail to large beaver pond. In the back ground is Dolly Sods wilderness and the Monongahela National Forest.


Rock choppings appear along the trails everywhere In the Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge.


twisted horn tree in the wet land of Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Over the course of a day we did two trails with about 6.5 miles total. We then left the refuge and headed towards Dolly Sods to see the heath bogs and a more rocky terrain. Some where between the two we ended up on a forest service road deep in the Monongahela National Forest and never arrived at Dolly Sods. We followed the forest service road for about 15 miles and ended up seeing some wonderful mountain views that lead us to Seneca Rocks State Park.   We drove through some of the most beautiful places in West Virgina, and never planned it.  The trip home took longer then expected but the day in the wilderness was well worth getting lost and finding our way back home again.

If you plan to visit the Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge keep in mind that many acres of the refuge are not on trail maps and the surrounding acreage are mostly National Forest or State Parks with huge land holdings you will not be able to tell when you have left one place and entered another if you are not on a marked trail. Combined these three land holdings have over 930,700.00 acres of wilderness. Each park, refuge and forest have different rules about their trails and land uses. Also keep in mind that camping is not allowed on the refuge but is in some areas of the State Park and National Forest. Get Maps… if you plan to do any cross over hiking, or off trail exploring. It is rare to hear of someone getting lost in the wetlands or forests but it can happen. Be prepared for Bear! This is bear country, while we hiked that morning (during early bear season) we met a large group of bear hunters who had gotten a bear only 3 miles from where we hiked. The group traveled with a large pack of hunting dogs, 5 or 6 of the sweetest dogs you ever wanted to meet. But, if you are not a hound lover it can be overwhelming to see 3 or 4 running at you down a trail. The men were friendly and we talked with them for several minutes about the success of their hunt and that it was the senior member of the group who at 76years old had taken the bear after hiking 8 miles to find it and another 6 to get back to a truck parked near by. All of this hunting had finished before 11am that morning. This is West Virginia and hunting is legally allowed in all of these locations with limits to non-populated areas. Become part of the “Leave No Trace” program and take back what you bring into our parks, forest and refuges leaving no trace.Making sure that everyone can enjoy all that is Wild, and Wonderful about West Virginia.


Beaver pond with reflections, Canaan Valley National Wild Life Refuge.


Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge, Cannan Valley Ski Resort, family fun, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, Randolph County, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

2017 Photos and Thoughts About 2018.

Stone Fire Place at David CutlipsIn 2017 I found comfort in simple beauty and family. I have spent more time with people who are important to me. I fell even deeper in love with our home state with several visits to new places in West Virginia this summer. Over the fall I  discovered how much blogging means to me as I spent over 4 months struggling with my computer. I  finally just give in and purchased  a newer lap top over the holidays. I want to able to write when the feeling strikes or a topic is burning a hole in my mind. So you should see more from me in the future.

I will change service/work locations in 2018 and will get to build a future working in a field I love. I will still be working in community development but this time in the area of structures and buildings. I will be working predominately with two historical buildings in my region. Taking them from abandoned and run down into useable contributing structures in the communities where I work. One is a 1906 hotel that had fallen into disrepair and had become a low-income housing.The 6 story structure will be turned back into a downtown hotel.  The other is an abandoned retail grocery/ hardware store from the 1890’s. This one will be turned into a 11 unit apartment building for college students with a historical feel. I will be doing everything from cleaning and painting, to arranging for community volunteers to help with planting flowers and trees, to reglazing windows and filing for permits. It takes lots of work to rehab old buildings but I can not think of something that I love more.


The former Tygurt Hotel circa 1906 in downtown Elkins, West Virginia 2017 before rehab begins.

So this photo review is just a portion of the beauty I found this year and a taste of what I will be doing in the future. I hope that you have a wonderful New Year and 2018 brings you prosperity and joy! I am looking forward to an interesting new adventure in 2018.


Gas log fire-place behind antique farm table in modern addition of the Cutlip /Mayes log home.


Barnwood Builders film crew with producer Sean Mc Court at Dave Cutlip and Patricia Mazes home filming Spring of 2017.

I took time to write a story here on my blog about a historic house in Beverly, West Virginia. Owned for generation by my friend Dave Cutlip’s family. The story was then passed on to the Barnwood Builders producers. The producers liked the story so well they filmed the home for one of their TV shows.This gave me a second chance to work with Sean McCourt (producer) and Mark Bowe(creator and star) from the T.V. show the Barnwood Builders.



Doc Holiday sleeping with Christopher June 2017

Tom and I were happy to watch both of these boys grow healthy and strong for another year. Christopher and Doc… both snuck into my bed one Sunday morning while I was making a late breakfast.


Veda Maxine Buffington Lowrey age 87 summer 2017

This photo of my mother is the most beautiful sight I had all year. A family visit to see my mother in Rolla, Missouri turned into a mini family reunion. At age 87 she really enjoyed having most of her children and a couple of her grand children visiting her.As her health slowly fails my future starts to look completely different.


The famious St. Louis Arch from the Old Main County Court House steps St. Louis MS.



Under the Sea Mural at the Newport Aquarium, Newport Ky. 2107

After seeing my mom near St. Louis Missiouri we traveled to Ohio and Kentucky on the way home. Stopping at the Newport Aquarium and along the Ohio River.


Christopher tossing rocks into the Ohio River with Tom watching Newport,Ky. 2017


The 4th of July found us at the Old Hemlock Foundation property. The historic home of George Bird Evans the internationally famous upland bird hunter, artist and writer. Spending the holiday weekend with LeJay Graffious and his wife Hellen Ann tagging birds and releasing them, teaching young people about foraging in West Virginia, hiking and playing with the most beautiful dogs was about the best weekend we had all year.


Old Hemlock Foundation Visitors Center and education outreach building 2017

Then it was state fair time and the heat of summer. Christopher won a trip to the West Virginia State fair with his 4-H project pillow. We rode the rides, eat fair food and spent the weekend taking in the local town of Lewisburg,WV. The heat and humidity just about melted us at the fair, so Christopher slept in the air conditioned back seat of the truck all the way back to the hotel.


Christopher with his 4-H project pillow at the West Virginia State Fair 2017.

flowers at the Greenbier Hotel White sulfur springs WV.png

Full view of the Historic Greenbrier Hotel

The following day we spent touring White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. It was one of the most interesting trips we have made in a long time. We took one whole day to  tour the flood ravaged town and the world-famous Greenbrier Hotel. 

My work had me working on several Heritage Quilt Trail panels over the late summer and fall months this year. Volunteers and I finished 4 of the panels this year. The largest was 8X8 feet and is the bottom photo called “The Tree of Life.”


Emma Scott Garden Club helps paint the panel called “Bear Paw” 2017

Panel made for the Elkins Sewing Center called "The Baskets".

Panel made for The Elkins Sewing Center called “The Basket” 2017


Working on “The Tree of Life” with staff from Citizens Bank of West Virginia 2017.


Close up of color patterns on “The Tree of Life” heritage Quilt Trail panel 2017.

As the summer closed and fall arrived I decided that fall stood for “fun” and I took full advantage of it. I spent a couple of days volunteering for Christopher’s local youth center by helping with Stockert Youth Center fund-raiser The Haunted River Walk. I took Christopher trick or treating twice and spent more time in the mountains then I did all summer. The time spent with both my boys during Halloween made me feel young and many laughs and smiles were shared.

The woods in fall in West Virginia are spectacular. We spent time hiking at the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge during the peak of the leaf change. The high mountain bogs and wetlands are so unusual in this part of the country that you think you have been transported to Maine or Vermont.


Thorned tree in the middle of the wet lands of Canaan Valley Wild Life refuge.

reflection in run off pond at Canaan Valley Wild Life refuge 17.jpg

Beaver Dam pond on a fall day Canaan Valley Wild Life refuge 2017.

country Road in Pendelton  County Wv .jpg

A traditional country road in the mountains of Pendleton County West Virginia.

Then a quick trip to West Virginia University campus with Christopher’s 3rd grade class. How often to you get to stand on the 50 yard line of you favorite college stadium while the kids run the field and meet the Mountaineer Mascot?

WVU college Mascot on Mountaineer feild Oct 2017

Christopher and class mates meet the WVU Mountaineer Mascot on the Mountaineer field fall 2017


Christopher and several class mates run from the 50 yard line at Mountaineer stadium 2017

Finally winter came and we got 5 inches of snow and the temps dropped into the teens. So often I walk alone with my dog in the snow and see things in a different way. The old airplane hangers and airfield are connected to my back yard and make wonderful photo locations when the weather changes.

Veiw of airplain hangers along brushy fork road Buckhannon West Virginia

Veiw from my back yard on a walk with my dog in Buckhannon, WV

Maybe this theme of change is what I should look forward to this New Years. I have no resolutions, no promises or written plan. I just know that life is short and we should all be able to pursue what makes us happy and I hope to accomplish that in 2018.


Categories: Barnwood Builders, Buckhannon West Virginia, Canaan Valley Wild Life Refuge, Elkins West Virginia, family fun, Greenbier Hotel, Halloween, Old Hemlock Foundation, photo review, Photos, State Fair, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Coconut Cream Cup Cakes with Amaretto Buttercream frosting.



quick coconut cake with Amaretto  buttercream icing

It is not often that I have a chance to make something in the kitchen just for the my youngest son. He recently asked me “What does coconut taste like?” I could think of only one thing…. Cake. So I put together what I had in the kitchen and made up a simple white cake made with coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk as the flavoring. Then topped off the cup cakes with my favorite flavoring, Amaretto, in a butter cream icing. I could have made the cake in a traditional two layer style but I really wanted to share the cake so I ended up with 36 white and toasty cupcakes instead. They were a big hit with my husband, my co-workers and my son… he likes the sweet soft coconut not the crunchy topping. I guess you win some and you lose some. Next time we will make it with the regular  shredded coconut as topping instead, even if I love the toasty crunch.

So the cake is really simple I used a store-bought white cake mix and to that I added 1 8oz. can unsweetened coconut milk and 1 6oz. can sweetened condensed milk and 3 eggs  omitting the oil in the directions.



This recipe is one that I will use again when we get closer to Easter and the bake sales for the church and 4-H Clubs start again in the spring

The recipe:

1 box of white cake mix.

1 can unsweetened coconut milk 8oz.

1 can sweetened condensed milk 6oz.

3 eggs

pour one 1/4 cup of batter into muffin tins lined with paper wrappers

The cooking time is slightly longer then what is listed on the box. I think I needed to add about 8 minutes making the cooking time 30 mins. at 350 degrees.

While the cupcakes cooled I toasted one 12 oz. bag of sweetened shredded coconut. placing the coconut on a cooking sheet in a thin lares under the broiler on low heat. Watching constantly, stir every time the flakes on the edge of the sheet begin to brown. This took stirring 5 or 6 time over the 5 minutes.


toasting sweetened Coconut


1 cup real butter at room temperature. This is two sticks.

1  2 pound bag of powered sugar, mixed into the soft butter slowly.

2 teaspoons almond extract, or Amaretto liquor.

1 tablespoon milk

After cupcakes have cooled frost and roll in toasted coconut. Adding half of a Maraschino cherry on top if desired.

the recipe makes 36 to 38 cup cakes.

Coconut cupcakes with Almond buttercream icing and toasted coconut topping.

Coconut cupcakes with almond buttercream icing and toasted coconut toping.

So what would you make if you were asked ” What does Coconut taste like?” I have not cooked with it much other than making cakes or cookies. If you have any other ideas send them my way I would love to try other things too!

Categories: Amarretto, cakes and family deserts, coconut, Easter, family memories, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Warm Feet for Winter Project was a Meaningful Success.



pile of my families mismatched socks

Today was a beautiful West Virginia early winter day. The temperature was 50 degrees, the sun was shining, and my car was loaded with donations to the local homeless shelter. 60 pairs of new socks overflowed into the seat of my little station wagon. I was able to collect them from my co-volunteers at our annual holiday dinner.With each donation my friends said “This was so much better than buying a gift for each other.” That they were happy to help in this collection drive, and things like “I picked theses socks for a woman who needs them much more than I do.” Today I  was happy to drop off the donation and I am filled with  the spirit of what Christmas means to me.

As you can see below I created a graphic to share with my friends and co-volunteers from the Appalachin Forest Hertiage Area, AmeriCorps program. I wanted everyone I work with to have the opportunity to do something different with their money for the holiday days.

24993589_10210613177982515_1372364399492118754_n - Copy

I took my lunch hour  the fallowing day to drive downtown to drop off the socks. As I drove the large shopping bag and box to the local homeless shelter, I had no idea what to expect. I thought I would walk into a house with an office with basic amenities where I would drop off the socks. Then an administration person would hand them out and make sure everyone in the shelter would get their fair share.

What happened instead at the homeless shelter was enlightening. I parked at the front of the building only to find a note on the front door to go around the house to the back,  go up to an office on the second floor. Before I could get my foot on the wooden steps to the second floor, a door opened, a woman leaned our of a doorway and asked if she could help me. She must have seen me coming around the house. I told her about dropping off the donation and she said she would send a couple of people out the front door to help carry everything in. So I headed back to the street and popped the hatch of my car.

What appeared out of the front door of the blue Victorian house was sad for me. Two men, one my husband’s age (in his mid fifties) and the other maybe 35. The older was weathered from years of smoking. He wore a faded coat issued by the US Army and had only a T-shirt under his coat. The other younger man was taller, thinner and darker. He asked if he could help me with the box and I passed it to him out of the hatchback. I smiled and said “thank you” to the tall, thin man. He responded with a smile of  broken teeth of a meth addict. The older man took the large bag and spoke very quietly to me. He hoped that my friends and I  knew how much these sock would mean to them and the others who would not get off the street this winter. He reached into the bag and pulled out a pair of heavy thermal socks. He rubbed his wrinkled, dry hand over the bundle of two socks and said” hummmmm these will be so warm.” The younger man turned and walked up the steps to opened the door to the house.  I watched the older man in his green army coat step away from my car and up to the porch. Holding the heavy bag in one hand, he raised it as if in victory, with the other hand he waved saying “Thank you so much, have a Merry Christmas.” I returned his wave and would spend the rest of my afternoon thinking about him and the 11 other residents of this shelter.

I have known and loved some poor people in my life. I have seen men bundle two and three socks together to make a decent pair of socks to cover the wholes in each pair. I have seen the ravages of alcohol, meth and heroin addiction in my own family. It is never easy to look into the eyes  of a person who is struggling, when you are not. But when we take time to see them, talk to them and be kind to them we raise them up. It also raises us up, together we can share in something meaningful even if it is just warm feet for winter.

I challenge you or your work place to do something kind for someone who needs it more than you do over the holidays. It was an uplifting experience for me and my friends. It could be life changing for a person who is on the street and could get not get shelter over the winter. Even a pair of socks can made a difference and I was happy to be part of the Warm Feet For Winter Project.




Categories: AmeriCorps, Appalachian Mountains, Appalachin Forrest Heritage Area, Christmas, community service, Helping the homless | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Deer Meat, Pretty Girls and The Ghost Women.

It seems to me that family traditions are become fewer and fewer with each year. We talk less, spend time together less and often it is too late when we realize we needed information that has already slipped away. So to prevent that from happening today my husband and I spent the day teaching two of my younger girl friends the art of skinning, quartering and cutting up a deer to make into venison burger.

So when Danielle and Samantha asked me about our life style here in West Virginia, hunting and deer processing came up. They both asked if they could learn more about butchering and how we prepare the meat that we hunt. It was a wonderful day of being outside spending time with  two pretty girls and my husband.


So the morning started with the 4 of us in the garage with a nice buck hung and ready to skin. The process is easier when the deer is still warm but with this deer we wanted to the girls to help learn the process from the beginning. Tom took time to explain the steps needed to cut through the skin and the processes of pulling the hide down over the body to the head of the deer. Each girl taking turns pulling and tugging. Then he showed each girl how the quart the deer and cutting off anything we don’t butcher. Slowly, we moved the quartered pieces into the house to be cut up and ground into burger.

Each took a cutting board and knife and begin to talk about the different cuts of meat that people use. We made roasts and talked about stake and stew meat. We talked about our favorite ways to make jerky and what people do to cut the “gameness” of venison.  We eventually had a tub full of venison chunks that would be ready to grind in a few minutes.


As we talked, laughed and told stories I had the distinct feeling of the past coming to life. As if generations of women were watching us and reflecting on our work. A tribe of woman from Danielle’s Alaska, a group of farm woman from Samantha’s Ohio and a group of homesteading woman from my West Virginia, all crowd around us in spirit. They whispered their comments, talking about how they once smoked, canned, dried and froze the meats that men and boys brought home. How they took pride in their work and how hunting and butchering were shared activities in families. How no one was left out, everyone was expected to help in providing for the long winter months.

As we break for lunch, I make a pot of venison barley soup and thin slices of tenderloin fried until brown for steak sandwiches. We eat together and talked about our homes, fulling our bodies with the goodness that our hard work  produced. The ghost women of the past seem satisfied with our skills for today. They know that their grandchildren have learned some of the skills that kept generations of our ancestors alive. Lessons that the ghost women are happy that we are sharing.

Tom takes time to help with the grinding as I stuff it into bags. We feel the ghost women retreat, they shower their blessings on my family and home as they fade away. I take the bags to the freezer and close the lid. I stop in the gray light of the basement and say a prayer of thanksgiving to all of those who have helped me on my way to becoming one of the keepers of this knowledge and a woman of the woods.

6 point white tail buck

It is not often in the modern world we are asked to share our traditions with others. So, I was so happy to have these two pretty girls come and spend a day with me learning a skill that I have repeated a hundred times over the years. It was wonderful sharing my life with people who want to learn about it and want to be in some way a woman of the woods also.


Categories: Appalachian Mountains, cooking, deer, deer hunting, family traditions, Hunting, organic food, rural life, Venison | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

Child’s View of making a Holiday Cake


Christopher’s Thanksgiving turkey 2017

While getting ready to make holiday preparations yesterday I was surprised and filled with joy by a little scrap of paper my son Christopher  and I made 4 years ago. I was busy that Thanksgiving Eve of 2013, getting our holiday deserts ready for the big day. Christopher was in the kitchen with me on a stool mixing the dry ingredients for one of my families favorite cakes, a Southern Style Carrot Cake. I only make the huge cake once or twice a year. The recipe has been passed down from his Grand Mother Powers. While checking the recipe several times to be sure it all the ingredients and instructions were followed, he asked me if he could make a recipe for a cake also. I suggested that after we finished the cake I would help him make a recipe for his very own Christopher Holiday Cake. As the cake baked in the oven I sat with him at our kitchen table and wrote down what it was that he thought in his 5-year-old mind would make a good cake.

Southern Style Carrot Cake

Southern Style Carrot Cake.

So with a cute recipe card in hand I wrote down the ingredients for his cake.

The Christopher’s Apple Tomato Carrot Holiday Cake.

  • 2 cups of eggs
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 4 packages of sugar
  • 5 tomatoes 
  • 5 carrots
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup sliced apple 
  • 8 cups vanilla icing 

Then we talked about how he wanted to make his cake like his grandmothers. Mixing everything together with a big spoon and putting it in the oven. He  then told me how we were going to make the cake and I wrote down the following. 

In a large bowl crush eggs with a hammer. 

Mix in flour and sugar packets. 

Put tomato, apples and carrots in microwave and boil them for 7 minutes

blend them into bowl. Pour into pan and bake until done , 14 hours. 

top with icing and pour vinegar over top and eat. 

As I read over the notes I had taken on the recipe card, I was struck with thoughts of  how quickly times change. I was taken back to this Thanksgiving Eve 4 years ago and how small and sweet he was. I thought about how now he could write his own recipe cards and could read most of the directions alone. How he will not need me to help him to make a cake in a year or two. I realized how much this silly little recipe card means to me. To have it fall from my cookbook onto the floor was just the very best thing that happened yesterday. It reminded me why I make that darn cake and how much I love my family. Happy Thanksgiving hope you have a great celebration where ever you are!


Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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