Birthday

Making a Minion Welding Hood

Forgive me for being so lax about writing these last few weeks. I finally did what my Dr. advised me to do, I rested . I am not good at resting and even while recovering from my surgery I found things to do that kept the mind active but the body safely still. One of those projects was a to make my 26-year-old son a Minion welding helmet. He had seen them on-line and wanted one but was not able to afford the 175 dollar price tag. So he asked me if I could make something close to this.minion with Banana

I knew it would only take a couple of days and would look wonderful when finished. So while the weather was nice I took the old welding hood and washed any oil and dirt off. I ruffed up the old paint with a scratch pad and sprayed on a  couple of coats of bright yellow spray paint.spray paint to welding hood

.old welding Hood

The details were painted with artist quality acrylic paint. The hood lens frame was painted after removing the making tape. Then I let the whole thing dry over night. The following day I masked off the black strap lines and added hair.I used a Sharpy black marker to block out the areas for the teeth and tong. Then painted in the details on the face. color blocking on Minion hood

 

the eye-ball is actually painted onto a clear hood lens that can be removed at any time and replaces the blue/green lens that my son actually uses when working with his welding torches. The eye can be reversed so that it appears to be looking upwards. finished welding hood Then I applied two coats of acrylic top coat to the paint. Let everything dry a couple of days and gave it to my son for his 26th birthday. He seems to really like it and I think the other guys at work will no longer mix his hood up with theirs!

Cody in Minion welding hood

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Categories: Birthday, Cody, DIY projects, family fun, Personal art work, Uncategorized, welding Hood | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Day trip to Parkersburg, WV and Blennerhassett Island State Park

West Virginia is bound by the Ohio River along its western border. Rising from the deep green water of the river is a 500 tree covered acre island. Blennerhassett Island is now a historical West Virginia State Park that is accessible only by ferry or personal boat. The island is home to a 200-year-old mansion, 17 horses,several old buildings,a refreshment stand and a gift shop. It is one of the most beautiful of West Virginia’s State Parks and we took a weekend trip to see its homes and woods.

We started our day trip in Buckhannon and  drove north and arrived at the city of Parkersburg, West Virginia early in the morning near the Blennerhassett  museum and the river side park. A  wonderful four story building with displays from early stone tools and arrowheads found in the area to Victorian home furnishings and early cars. Tickets for the ferry ride to the island are purchased on the bottom floor of the re-purposed building.

Blennerhassett Museum front Wikimedia

Blennerhassett Museum from Wikimedia

My favorite portion of the museum was the collection of nautical items on the 4th floor. The miniature hand-made river boats and this ship steering wheel made me smile when Christopher had to stand on tippy toes just to see over its frame.

Tom and Christopher with antique ship steering wheel Blennerhassett Island Museum. Parkersburg, West Virginia

Tom and Christopher with antique ship steering wheel Blennerhassett Island Museum. Parkersburg, West Virginia.

After about an hour in the museum it was time to head to the dock to board our paddle driven ferry. This day the boat was full but under normal trips there are open seats either in the cabin below and on the deck above. We rode over to the island on the top deck, enjoying the view, sun, and spray off the paddle wheel.

Island Bell ferry to Blennerhassett Island

Island Bell ferry to Blennerhassett Island

Once on the island visitors are welcome to take the tour of the Blennerhassett mansion, rent bicycles to ride around the island, take a  horse-drawn wagon ride and do some shopping at a gift shop.

Blennerhassett Island Mansion Father's Day 2016

Blennerhassett Island Mansion Father’s Day 2016

My family really enjoyed the covered wagon ride. Christopher liked the horses and the wind in his hair when the driver let the horses pick up speed along the 2 mile path around the black walnut grove. The island is known for its trees and they cover over 2/3 of the island’s land that is actually owned by the DuPont Company. The only open spaces visible are the yards at the mansion and two pastures that are kept cleared for the horses that live on the island all summer. The  hundreds of trees shade keeps visitors cool even on a hot 86 degree day like ours.

Horse drawn wagon ride Blennerhassett Island

Horse Drawn wagon ride Blennerhassett Island

The tour of the Blennerhassett house is a delight and costumed members of the staff show off the lavish life the family lived. The family lived only 6 years in the finished house. Construction of the house began in the late 1790 and was complete in 1800 with the family fleeing the island 1806 leaving almost everything they owned behind. Harmon and Margaret’s family history is filled with scandal and strange political dealings that made their lives turbulent. Harmon and his young wife ran away from their native Ireland due to his Irish political dealings and his scandalous marriage, to his niece who was decades younger than him. Harmon Blennerhassett later again becomes involved in secret political dealings here in the United States. Being connected with Aaron Burr (Vise President under Thomas Jefferson) and his military plans eventually caused Harmon to be charged with treason by the President. As troops invade the island,the family flees trying to keep Harmon from being captured. Harmon is later found and arrested spends time in prison before the government drops their charges and he is released. The family suffers more tragedy with the death of children, loss of their inherited wealth and the return to Ireland. Yet, their love survives all of this and house remained abandoned on the island until 1811 when it burned to the ground in an accidental fire.

During the tour you  are only allowed to take photos without a flash so I chose to take very few of the inside of the main house and study which was very dark. But the kitchen wing of the house(which is the wing on the left in the photo) is bright and filled with windows without coverings I took a few of the large fireplace that was said to never grow cold. The island had a large amount of workers, slaves, family and guests to feed. Margaret is said to have fed everyone on the island from this single hearth.The fire was kept up around the clock to serve the 3 meals a day to the workers and sometimes seven coarse dinners to the family and guests.

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Fireplace hearth of the Blennerhassett mansion

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Tour guide Blennerhassett Island State Park

The rest of our afternoon was spent eating at the island snack bar that serves hamburgers, hot dog and a variety of other easy to prepare foods. But one of the highlights of our day was getting a slice of birthday cake and a scoop of ice cream to celebrate the 153rd birthday of the creation of the state of West Virginia. It was a wonderful way to remind us of the power of the people of this state.They choose to become a state that was different and separate from the state of Virginia during some of the most turbulent times in our countries history.

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West Virginia birthday cake 2016

The return trip back to the shore in Parkersburg was a great time to reflect on some of the famous people who also loved and visited this very unique island. I find it interesting that the list includes, people like Davy Crockett, Walt Whitman, Johnny Appleseed, Vise President Aaron Burr and even King Charles the X of France.The beauty of the Blennerhassett home and island was known throughout the large cities of the east coast.

As our ferry paddled its way back to the dock and I watched the barges move freight up and down The Ohio River, I finally understood Margret’s love for the island. It only took a few hours of our time to forget everything the did not happen on the island. We were lost in the beauty of her home and forest for hours. All three of us enjoyed a day along the Ohio River and would have enjoyed a much longer stay.

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Tug boat with barge on the Ohio River at Parkersburg WV 2016

Categories: Birthday, Blennerhassett Island, boats, family fun, Horses, State Park activities, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grandma Powers Southern Style Carrot Cake

Many of you who know me or read this blog regularly know that I like to  share my families culture, history  and traditions. So to honor the State of Virginia where this cake was first made and to honor my  mother in law I want to share her cake receipt with you. In doing this I am hoping to keep one more of our families traditions alive.

Around 50 years ago my husband’s family  lived just outside of Winchester Virginia. Where they lived with up to 7 children off and on, some are from a first marriage, ( they added one later to make a nice round 8). Moving often due to the nature of Grandpa Powers work as a bulldozer operator. He spent years building the many interstate and highway systems of the two states. I- 79 running north and south in West Virginia is one of the last he worked on. Grandpa would often fallow the construction for many miles often leaving for months at a time.This meant leaving Grandma with a house full of kids to raise on her own. So as a frugal home maker she often made home-made desserts for her children and neighbors kids. One of the mothers that she met while living in Winchester, shared this wonderful cake with her and told her that it came from a very expensive hotel in the area in the late 1950’s. It has been in the family ever since and is my personal favorite cake of all times. So someone in the 1950 got it right and we have not changed much about the cake in the last 65  years.

So as my birthday is only a few days a way, I though it fitting to make myself this cake. It is a frosting free cake. I am not an icing person and neither is my husband so this cake gets served at our house with just a cold glass of milk. I hope that all of you will try it and love it. It is just one of the many traditions that I am so happy to have gained from one of my favorite people.

Southern Style Carrot Cake

3 cups sifted flour

2 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup vegetable oil… ( yes we know that it seems like a lot but it is just perfect)

3 beaten eggs

2 tsp Vanilla

1 20 oz can crushed pineapple ( Use a good brand, generic seems tough in the cake we use Dole)

1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped pecans

Just use a kitchen spoon for this cake no need to get the mixer out. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 1/2 to 1 hour and 40 minutes, test with tooth pick to make sure the cake is dry inside.

I start shredding 2 cups carrots this usually means about two large and one small carrot. If you have slightly more than two cups just add it in.

Mix dry ingredients together, flour sugar, soda, salt and spices.

dry ingredients for carrot cake

dry ingredients for carrot cake

Stir and then add in wet ingredients, oil, can of pineapple, vanilla and slowly at the end add beaten eggs.

adding wet ingredients to carrot cake.

adding wet ingredients to carrot cake.

ready to beat eggs and add to cake

ready to beat eggs and add to cake

When eggs are incorporated in the  batter add shredded carrots and pecans. Pour batter into a large pan like a 13 x 11 deep ( not a Pyrex 11 x 13 glass pan) cake pan or angel food cake pan. The cake can be cut into about 12 to 15 pieces.

two piece angel food cake pan with cooking spray

two piece angel food cake pan with cooking spray

I use this pan so the cake can be placed on my cake stand and it cools faster with out the outside ring.

 

Carrot cake out of the oven

Carrot cake out of the oven

This cake is dense and rich but not overly sweet.The cake stores well at room temperature and with out cream cheese icing it does not need refrigeration.  It does take about 4 hours for the cake to totally cool and get firm to eat with you fingers. Yummy as a late night snack.

Finished Southern Style Carrot Cake with no frosting needed

Finished Southern Style Carrot Cake

 

Thanks for the Birthday cake recipe Grandma it is delicious as always.

Wanda Gay Powers At Christmas 2012

Wanda Gay Powers At Christmas 2012

 

Categories: Birthday, cakes and family deserts, country cooking, grandma | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fall is Coming and so is My Barnwood Builder Episode

Fall has started to arrive here in West Virginia, squirrel and archery hunting season have begun, making my husband and son fidgety to get back out in the woods.The garden that I have not had time to write about was good and I am collecting the last of the tomatoes, peppers and squash this week. The aroma of roasting chilies and sweet peppers fills my house as the garden finally says good-bye. As the weather finally turns cold, I  will be ready to snuggle up and watch the new season of the Barnwood Builders. The season starts the first week in Oct and my families episode  airs  Sunday the 1st of Nov. So the weekend of Halloween looks full. Take the kids out Trick-or-Treating Saturday night and celebrate my birthday on Nov 1st with the a viewing party that includes cake and ice cream and a few close friends and family. The night should be unforgettable and I am still trying to figure out how this all happened to me.

I will post a reminder that week for those who want to see the show on the DIY or GAC networks that evening. Thanks for the support and cant wait to see what they have done with my little story.

Cinderella garden pumpkin

Cinderella garden pumpkin.

Queens Island blue squash

Queens Island blue squash.

Large chili pepper plant loaded and read to pick

Large chili pepper plant loaded with peppers.

two gallon harvest bucket

Two gallon harvest bucket.

fall leaves on wet step

Fall leaves on wet step.

Categories: About me, Barnwood Builders, Birthday, bow season, family memories, Halloween, Home Decor, home improvement, home remodeling, seeds | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Making a gift from the heart

My sweet little grand-daughter turned 4 this month.If any of you have small children in your family you understand the problem with giving them gifts. It seems that small children attract people who love to buy gifts. As they grow older the pile of gifts slowly shrinks until at 19 or 20 you are lucky if your own parents remember your birthday. So as this young lady is so loved I had to really think over what we wanted to give her. I didn’t want to add to the pile of toys that she already had and some how I wanted to give her something that would last past her fickle little girl loves of Minnie Mouse and the movie Frozen. So after talking with her mother and my husband we came up with the idea of making her a toy box.

We wanted to make one that hopefully would stay with her until she at least reached her preteen years. So while I was out-of-town Tom was able to get the supplies and assemble the box portion of the gift. Then when I returned home I painted the box with several coats of white enamel paint.

white toy box freshly painted

white toy box freshly painted

I talked with my son and his wife about what they wanted on the toy box. I could get stencils and put images of Disney Characters or even just put a decal on the box but I quickly realized that they thought that a painting of a horse would be something she would grown into and that it would be so nice for her room. Well that opened up a whole new idea for me.

I do like to paint and have a back ground in art, but the one thing I have never painted or even tried to paint was horses. It is hard to believe but they are my greatest fear in all the subjects I could attempt. I spent years raising, grooming, feeding and caring for loads of horses. I have spent hours photographing them but never ever drawing or painting them. I have no idea why.. I just never thought I could do them justice. They are so amazing and powerful just thinking about it I get over whelmed. So how do you over come a fear that has lasted over 20 years? You have a 4-year-old tell you ” I want ponies MaMa” and you just jump in and hope to not drowned.

So after a few days I found what I thought would look good. No ” My Little Pony” stuff on this box.I got approval from mom and dad and started the hours of covering the front of this toy box into a horse-box.

blocked in colors of horse toy box

blocked in colors of horse toy box

The process took about 10 hours from sketching to final clear coat. Several times I thought I had a total mess on my hands as I progressed through the layers of paint. I would paint a while and let it dry and walk away for a few days and try another coat and another fix. Each time as I sat at my kitchen table with the huge box on top of it I would think. Horses? Why Horses? I have no experience at this and I am sure it will look like I have no idea what am doing.

final coat of paint close up or horse toy box

final coat of paint close up or horse toy box

So the finale painting will pass as for a 4 years old toy box. I can still see my mistakes but, I am so glad that some how a 4-year-old was able to make me stretch my skills. She was able to make me face a fear I have had for years. I am so glad that we made this gift for her and that maybe she will keep it and some day share it with her little girl. It is truly a gift from my heart and made me so happy to see her love it !

Paige A Powers 4th birthday

Paige A Powers 4th birthday

 Happy Birthday Paige you Ma Ma thinks the world of you!

Categories: Art, Birthday, Family, gifts, heirlooms, Horses, Paige | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Flying with a 6 year Old and a Set of Crutches…. REALLY?

So I did it ! Not in the cool comfortable style of young urban hipster, but in the aging mom with a 6-year-old and crutches type of flying. OK, it was worth every effort that me and my family had to put into the trip but I would not volunteer to do this again. Things went down hill quick at my last Dr appointment on 31st of Oct. The Dr said he would remove the stitches and give me my walking cast at this appointment  and that did not happen. It left me broken-hearted.

me in my bandages after surgery

me in my bandages after surgery

As this photo shows, I traveled from Pittsburgh PA to St Louis MS with an Ace bandage, splint and a set of crutches . I had already bought my reservations and car rental when I found out that I was not going to get my walking cast. I left the Dr office thinking I would reschedule my trip, even if this was my birthday trip.I would just wait until the crutches were gone before I traveled. Well with out travel insurance the cost to rebook my flight was going to increase my ticket price from $470 for two tickets to about  another $500 dollars, putting my trip in the $1000.00 range with car rental.I just  could not see paying 500 more dollar for a weekend trip.So after talking with my family we rearranged everything so that my husband would drop us off curbside at the airport, my brother would pick us up and drop us off again when I returned home and finally a close friend volunteered to pick us up from Pittsburgh when we arrived home. I would only be responsible for getting a wheelchair to navigate the air ports and getting Christopher through security, boarding and unloading. Believe me, that was enough to worry about while on crutches.

So in the next 24 hours I packed a 6-year-old and myself for a flight across the Mississippi river to see my mom and brother. The curb side drop off is wonderful at Pittsburgh International Airport.The minute a ticket counter gentleman saw me open my door Larry was grabbing a wheel chair to get me checked in. He did everything he could to get me through check in quickly and talked with Christopher in the nicest way. He arranged for a porter to get me through security and did all of my paper work so I could rest comfortably.He put my faith back in the human race… because he didn’t even work for American Airlines.. he was from US Air.

The TSA is actually not to bad for people in wheel chairs. I got to skip the long lines that are the reason we are all at the airport  two hours early.The agents helped Christopher walk through the metal detectors by himself and wait for me on the other side. He was sooooo goood about all of this. They wheeled me through a side door and we waited on a female agent to do a pat down. Yes, I got the dreaded pat down. This was the first time in all the years that I have flown that  I was one of the millions who get the pat down every year. It was not any worse than a police pat down. Really what are people whining about… the ladies from the TSA were polite, clean, and explained everything that they planed to do and were professionals.I was able to perform everything that they needed me to do while sitting (thankfully). I now wonder what all the fuse is over  when someone has to get a pat down… I have been touch more in a crowed train or elevator… really people unless you are hiding something in you underwear this is not a big deal.

Christopher playing a game at Pittsburgh airport

Christopher playing a game at Pittsburgh airport

I was then taken to my concourse and gate ready to board. Now remember I wanted to fly non-stop because of Christopher. I thought it would be faster and easier on us both to not have connections. That meant I chose to fly a commuter flight. You know the airplanes that have only three seats per row with one single on one side and two seats on the other. Well I am not a small woman and I had completely forgotten how small the loading ramps and aisles are on these small flights. I could not walk with my crutches across the loading ramp or inside the plane, so I hopped to our seats. Christopher needing the window seat was kinda bewildered at the fact that we were all shoeing him ahead of me into the plane.He kept looking back at me with eyes that said where are we going now. I just kept saying “go buddy, go!” until we reached our seats and he was able to get comfortable in the window seat.

This was Christopher’s’ first flight that he actually remembers and it was so funny watching him discover the seats, the lights and A/C and even his seat belt. He was sooooo excited he actually squealed when he realized that we were off the ground and flying above traffic and houses. He was so glad when we were able to get through the clouds and see the bright blue sky above the rain in Pittsburgh.The trip was clam and he played and looked out the window for the next hour and a half.

We landed in St Louis and unloaded last off the plane.Hop hop hop back out off the plain into a wheelchair on the jet way. The crew worked fast and racing me back to the gate and concourse, leaving Christopher to run after us,… scaring us both. Everyone in St Louise was in a hurry and my country bumpkin mind-set was just not ready to race anywhere. Christopher was a little confused too, I needed to make a phone call, we needed a minute to acclimate to the new airport and Christopher needed to get caught up to my wheelchair. Sadly, the next thing I knew we raced down a ramp  and into a long hall at top speed where finally the lady porter asked if Christopher could ride on my chair because he just could not really keep up. “Aaaa Ya, sure just put him in my lap” I said as she power pushed us farther down the hall into baggage claim.

Once we retrieved our bags and got into my brothers car I finally relaxed. I was safe and Christopher was a sleep just a few minutes into our 2 hour drive south to Rolla. It had been a long time since I have left the comfort of my mountains, it had been a longtime since I had to ride in bumper to bumper traffic on a 5 line highway. St Louis even on a beautiful Saturday afternoon was a mess with accidents, reminding me why I hated living in the Denver Metro Area all those years.Then I remembered that this was what the Missouri called mountains and laughed. This mountain girl who lived 22 years at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Boulder Colorado, and the 24 years in the hills and valleys of North Central West Virginia found the description of the Mountains of Missouri a joyful joke. So beautiful yet not a mountain in sight.

Meadow View in Rolla Missouri

Meadow View in Rolla Missouri

We all arrived at my brother’s house to a roaring fire and I was so sore and tired that I was thankful that we had no plans to go anywhere or see any more family that night. Christopher and I had a warm quite bed in the Ozarks and we had managed to stay safe and together all the way. It was a good night  and I was glad I had made the trip even on crutches.

the Lowrey family home in Rolla MS

the Lowrey family home in Rolla MS

Categories: Birthday, Family, family fun, grandma, Healing, health, Ozark mountains, St Louis, Travel, traveling | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Have Books and Friends that Travel

Chandelier of Louise Bennett Library

Chandelier of Louise Bennett Library

Some of you may know that I am a member of a small book club that started about three years ago. That we have a monthly meeting with a new selection every month to discuss. It is one of things that I look forward to each month. We usually meet at our historic county library that I just love but with the many things that have been going on in my life I was just not able to go a couple of times this year and the book club met at my home. Wonderful that I have book loving friends that will travel.

 

 

front of Louis Bennett Library

front of Louis Bennett Library

a 4 story mansion donated to the city of weston  for use as a llibrary

a 4 story mansion donated to the city of Weston for use as a library

 

Woman who live in the country are sometimes limited in their ability to socialize. Distance and lack of events makes it hard for us to get together in places other than church or school functions. So my little book club is a wonderful place to build relationships and share ideas. Country living just makes our trip to get a good book a little longer. From my house it is about 25 minutes to a book store but for my friend Sandy it is closer to an hour to get to a place that sells real paper books. So when my friends found out about my foot surgery and my lack of ability to walk comfortably they were happy to stop at my house instead. In true county fashion the girls showed up with sweet treats to eat during the meeting and Sandy had even gone out of her way and made our family a pot of warm beef stew for dinner that night. Really aren’t all problems better when some one shares their home cooking with you!

Janice, Sandy and Christopher at our Thanksgiving Book club meeting

Janice, Sandy and Christopher at our Thanksgiving Book club meeting

Our book club reads lots of regional authors and we try to support  West Virginian’s who continue to try to share a positive image of our area. One of those authors Joshua Dyer who has written a novel titled “Finding November” about not only our county ( Lewis county West Virginia)  but about a fascinating time period, the  Great Depression and finding the meaning of family and love. He and other authors from Appalachia like our latest author Lee Smith and her book “Saving  Grace”  explore the hardship of living isolated from the outside world and how the traditions of this region are some times surprising and wonderful all at once. In the future I hope to add some posts about some of these traditions to add  my voice to these authors attempt to share and explore life in the rural mountains.

So with my new book club selection packed safely away in my carry on,I am ready to head to St. Louise for my birthday. I am spending some time with my Mother and Brothers family. I am so glad that I have  some thing to read in the airport that will remind me of my home and the friends that I have made. The trip is a short one, but a much-needed break from the 4 months that Grandma Powers lived with us and the couple of weeks that I have been trapped in this cast. The idea of spending time in the Ozarks with a good book and with family is just what a tired girl needs.

 

 

 

Categories: Birthday, Books, Family, Louis Bennett Library, Ozark mountains, regional authors, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Night Train to the Stars.

 

green bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Green Bank National Radio Astronomy Observatory

One of the best things about West Virginia is the amount of wilderness, meaning fewer people and less civilization. Making West Virginia a perfect place to do star-gazing, and Radio Astronomy. Hard to believe that hidden in the woods of West Virginia at Green Bank is The National Radio Astronomy Observatory. These are the type of telescopes that inspired the movie ” Contact” with Jodie Foster. Where the Astronomers are listening to the world of outer space. At Green Bank they also encourage visitors to enjoy their reflective telescopes to see all wonders of our galaxy. So when my son said he wanted to plan his 6th birthday around trains, camp fires and the stars how could I say no.

Cheat Mountain Salamander train ride to the stars

Cheat Mountain Salamander train ride to the stars

One of the offerings that Astronomers from Green Bank give to visitors is the option to do a Star Gazing event once every year on their property that is only accessible by train. No high way, no logging road, no hiking trails on the 13,000 square miles of US Government land. Access is just a historic railroad track built about 2 century’s ago to transport coal from the high lands of Pocahontas County to the lower flat land of the Ohio Valley. The idea for a short ride on a local  tourist train was a perfect way to transport visitors to the remote location to take photos, learn more about Astronomy and ride into the past on a restored diesel train and cars.  Add in the fact that they allow you to have a camp fire and roast marsh mellows you have a great time planed for everyone who takes the night train to the stars.

As this was Christopher’s birthday adventure we made an afternoon and evening out of the trip. We started our train themed fun in Elkins, West Virginia at The Depot Restaurant that uses train themed photos and paintings as the decor. All while being able to walk the grounds of a fully functional and restored 1800’s Depot. This is also the main office for the Cheat Mountain Salamander, the New Tygart Flyer, Mountain Explorer trains. For more information about the trains and their trips Contact www.Mtn-Rail.com. The grounds around the Depot showcase a traditional turn table and tussle style bridge that leads to loading dock of the Depot.

Christopher 6th birthday dinner at the depot restaurant  balcony

Christopher 6th birthday dinner at the depot restaurant balcony

view of train bridge from The Depot Restaurant.

view of train bridge from The Depot Restaurant.

 

train bridge over the Tygart River, Elkins West Virginia

train bridge over the Tygart River, Elkins West Virginia

After a nice walk to the bridge and the river we shopped some at  Delmonte Market across the street from the depot.We found a large selection of hand-made and country themed gifts and toys. This was one of the hand-made items in the beautiful store. Recycled bottles with Decoupage flowers and lights what a nice way to use dried flowers.

flower bottle lamps at Delmonte Marker

flower bottle lamps at Delmonte Market

After the shopping we headed south on Rout 250 to Huntonsville then through two very small towns to the Monongahela National Forest to the  Cheat River Bridge where we found our loading area and started the evening ride up to Linen WV.

restrooms and depot at cheat mountain

restrooms and depot at Cheat Mountain

Christopher looking out the window of our train car

Christopher looking out the window of our train car

We then rode the train for about 45 minutes to a small dirt landing. We disembarked the train and walked up into a field that surrounded us on 3 sides with nothing but trees. A fire was lit, roasting sticks for marsh mellows gathered and the sun began to set as the Astronomers set up their equipment. While we waited for the sun to set I got this last photo of our train before it disappeared into total darkness.

night train parked at Linen landing WV. Darkest location in the state of WV

night train parked at Linen landing WV. Darkest location in the state of WV

by 8:30 pm we were in total darkness and this is what the train looked like.

 

the night train at linen WV in total darkness

the night train at Linen WV in total darkness

What happened next was astonishing, I have always loved the night sky, moon and the many planets, but I was not prepared for what I was about to see. The limited light from a moonless sky was enough to move around comfortably with out walking into anyone and the telescopes had small red lights to help us locate them in the field. I was just amazed that in total darkness the stars  were soooo bright!

I do not have the words to really describe what it was that we were able to see. From tree-lined horizon to horizon there was nothing to block our view, no lights were visible in our valley meadow. The only light was from the stars themselves because we had arrived here on the New Moon making it easy to see the most distant stars with out aide. As Tom and I found a spot for our folding chairs with our backs to the restored train landing we both looked up to the Northern sky to see the slowly dotted sky  fill with a cloudy dust of the Milky Way. Each individual star suspended in space, slowly became two than ten than twelve hundred. The numbers and colors slowly expanded into the ribbon of the Milky Way from one horizon to another. This  river of clustered stars outshone almost every star in the sky. With Millions if not billions of tiny lights glimmering it is impossible to not feel alone and part of a larger whole all at once.  The big planets shown with the red-orange of Mars and the cold blue of Vega. The constellations blinked in perfect form, each one leading the eye from one white pin point to another until you discovered that you were looking at the opposite horizon watching Scorpio slowly descend below a wall of trees. We sat in total darkness for 2 hours barely speaking and those that did speak whispered as if to use an adult tone would somehow effect the reverence for the  stars. We took turns looking into the telescopes and watching the Astronomers point out constellations with a laser pointer. Yet, every time we returned to our seats to enjoy the smell of a smoldering camp fire and the billions of bright white stars in the sky, we felt nothing but Peace. It was the most enjoyable two hours I have had in years.

milky Way Crop

Milky Way Crop

This time in the woods reminded me of the years that Tom and I would set up a camp site in the back yard to our older son Cody.We let him camp in our pasture behind the house on a hill. It was fun for me to lie on my back and look at the stars with him when he was 8 or 9. We shared a moment of happiness at its most simple. This trip expanded this feeling of happiness to something deeper and larger. It was very moving and fueled my interest in astronomy again.

As families and scientists prepared to re-board the train the temperature had dropped to 45 degrees. The air was cold and we could all see our breath but no one complained. We filed to our seats for the short 45 minutes back down the mountain and no one raised their voices. We spent the time laughing with strangers and reminiscing as if we are all long-lost friends… We were all happy, including the sleepy birthday boy.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Birthday, Cheat Mountain Salamander, Christopher, Green Bank NRAO, Monongahela National Forest, trains, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Partying, Wondering and Remembering

Today is my oldest sons birthday and he is 23 years old and  few days ago was my husbands 50th birthday and we celebrated with a nice party with friends and family. It was a great ending to the month that has been very hard. Seems everyone in the family is facing some kind of health issue that needs dealt with in a serious way and it is draining. So a party was the very best thing I could think of  to lighten the load for everyone.

Thomas A Powers, Cody A  Powers, Paige A Powers, Christopher T Powers at tom 50th birthday Party

Thomas A Powers, Cody A Powers, Paige A Powers, Christopher T Powers at tom 50th birthday Party

It is the first time in several years that we were able to get some many of the family together in one spot. It has been years since Tom was able to sit a talk to his sisters and mother all together. I had not really thought about it while planing that party but we were all so lucky to see 4 generations together at this party.

Powers family photo, 4 generations of the family of Thomas E Powers and Wanda G Powers

Powers family photo, 4 generations of the family of Thomas E Powers and Wanda G Powers

It was this same week that we discovered that Toms mother is very ill and will be going to Mary Babb Cancer Center at the Ruby Memorial Hospital for treatments in Morgan Town, West Virginia. She will be finishing up tests this week and the family will have a clearer idea of what the future will hold for all of us. Making this birthday party even more meaningful for my son and husband.

Memories flood my mind as I look at the photos that I have taken over the years of my wonderful sons life and how we  are a really close family. That we are so blessed to see him and his wife every few days and share phone conversations sometimes daily. Not everyone has this and I understand it is a real treasure to have your children close to you, to spend time doing things, laughing and talking. It is hard to really grasp the amount of changes that children go through over the course of 23 years but here are a few moments in time that I found today.

Tom Powers holding week old Cody Powers

Tom Powers holding week old Cody Powers

 

Thomas Powers loading a fishing hook for Cody Powers age 3

Thomas Powers loading a fishing hook for Cody Powers age 3

Cody Powers feeding the deer age 4

Cody Powers feeding the deer age 4

Cody Holding small mouth bass age 7

Cody Holding small mouth bass age 7

Cody smoken the tires in one of his first trucks age 17

Cody smoken the tires in one of his first trucks age 17

Cody A Powers wedding day Dec 10th 2012

Cody A Powers wedding day Dec 10th 2011

Cody Powers with tucker the blue tick hound

Cody Powers with tucker the blue tick hound

Cody Jamie and Paige Powers  a young family 4/2013

Cody, Jamie and Paige Powers a young family 4/2013

I hope that he has a wonderful day and that his life is full of love, adventure, and learning.I am so happy I am part of your life , Happy Birthday!

Categories: Birthday, Cody, Family, family fun, photo review | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Happy unbirthday party at Moundsville State Penitentiary, Moundsville West Virginia

prisoner art work inside family meeting area of Moundsvill state Penitentiary, Moundsville, West Virginia

prisoner art work inside family meeting area of Moundsville state Penitentiary, Moundsville, West Virginia

The un-birthday has been a family tradition of ours for at least 18 years although I did not know that was the term until recently. A fellow blogger Lori at www.waldorfmoms.com  had written about her sons lack of birthday party due to his allergies to glueton and dairy. The traditional american birthday includes cake and ice cream both things he can’t have in the traditional form so they went on a trip instead and eat fruit, vegetables, rice and fish.

veiw of Moundsville State Penitentuary, Moundsville, West Virginia

veiw of Moundsville State Penitentuary, Moundsville, West Virginia

In my case I just hate birthday parties, I am not a hostess at heart. So my children and husband  have learned to do other things instead of renting a hall, buying cake that no one really likes anyway and eating pizza.The whole processes is just UN-FUN for me. So when Cody was little we just started to doing other things for his birthday. Tom didn’t seem to care so the tradition started to travel, explore and seek new things on the one day in the world that is truly yours. I picked the Moundsville Prison Tour as our UN-Party location this year. I love a good murder mystery and ghost story so this is the perfect place to hang out for the afternoon of my birthday.

custom made front entry door for Moundsvill state prison

custom-made front entry door for Moundsville state prison

We took the tour and learned a lot about the huge Gothic structure and about inmates that lived in the prison. The Prison opened in 1876 with 251 inmates who actually help build the buildings and reached a max capacity of almost 2000 in the late 7o’s. Riots and federal laws changed and by 1996 at the closing of the institution their were around 600 to 700 inside the 5 foot thick walls. The history of the penitentiary is a mix of executions, murders and Charles Manson stories.

Cell in high security area of Moundsville state Penitentiary, site of worst murder in thier history

Cell in high security area of Moundsville state Penitentiary, site of worst murder in their history

94 inmates lost their lives to executions inside the grounds of  the prison 85 hung and 9 died by electrocutions. The hangings were frist thought to take place inside the frist building on the property The Wagon Gate and later moved to an outdoor gallows that later became the recreation yard for some of the most violent criminals. The gallows disturbed inmates who spent hours every day looking at them and were eventually removed.

frist structure at Moundsvill state penitentiary.. used as housing and sight of hangings

first structure at Moundsville state penitentiary.. used as housing and sight of hangings

trap door in the wagon gates ceiling moundsville prison

The prison boasts 36 recorded Homicides inside the prisons walls. Most being prisoners against prisoner but some assaults were against state employees who were over taken while performing their duties.  The prison has its own cemetery with simple markers for the bodies of those whom no one came to clam.The highest death tolls taking place during the 3 riots that occurred at the prison. The one in 1986, last 5 days, resolved only after the governor of West Virginia ( Arch Moore) came in person to  the prison grounds.

door into the location of the worst prison riot location at Moundsville

door into the location of the worst prison riot location at Moundsville

It was also this prison that the most notorious prisoner of all, Charles Manson wanted to call home in the late 80’s. The prison displays the original letter that Manson wrote to the then Warden. The letter explains that Manson would like to return home to West Virginia to serve his remaining time in jail. Yea, he and most of his family were from an area near Wheeling and close to Moundsville. The website  Charlie. com  http://www.charliemanson.com/places/lb-moundsville.htm

has a wonderful photo spread of the letter on their website and more information about his past. While our tour group spend time in the “Yard” our tour guide also informed us that Charles Manson lived with his aunt and uncle from about age of 5 to 15, as his mother was also incarcerated most of his youth. Really, are any of us surprised over this information. The tour guide informed us that Charles’ mom had arm robbed a gas station in the Charleston area of West Virginia and was in a prison in the southern part of the state for 10 years.  How crazy is that; puts a new spin on the words”criminal family”.

Christopher and I hanging out in a padded cell at Moundsville state Penitentiary

Christopher and I hanging out in a padded cell at Moundsville state Penitentiary

After spending time inside this chain linked high security area of the prison, I now know that most criminals were generally housed like animals early in the 20th century.  I am not sure how I feel about it really, creeped out yes, but deep inside I wonder if you act like an animal, people generally just see you as one also. Making it very hard for the justice system to “want” to improve things. The cells are very small measuring 5′ by 7′ with three inmates in each one. Looking very similar to the dog kennels that we all see at the local ASPCA or pound. The most violent inmates eat in their cells, used the toilet in their cells and slept in them. Two hours a day these violent criminals gained accesses to exercise in caged area within the high walled yard.

The small exerice area for the worst criminals inside the walled yard at Moundsville State Penitentiary

The small exercise area for the worst criminals inside the walled yard at Moundsville State Penitentiary

Christopher and Paige playing in the large "yard" at the prison

Christopher and Paige playing in the large “yard” at the prison

The Capel inside the "yard' at Moundsville state Penitentiary

The Capel inside the “yard’ at Moundsville state Penitentiary

 

For those who were the most unfortunate solitary confinement was actually in the basement of the main building. The “Hole” was really a hole, deep, dark and dank. I did not attempt to explore the area and was not sure if it was even allowed but some looked into the boiler room and holding areas. If it was any worse than what I already shared with my family above ground it must have been one step from hell. Loud boiler fires roaring, the creaking of hot pipes,sounds of men shoveling loads of coal into the hole and into the boiler. Darkness that was unending, no natural light passing through anything like a window. Mice, rats and roaches and who knows what else would slither into the basement for warmth in the winters. A hole in the floor for you bodily functions. Nothing at all like our world of light and freedom.

vistitor looking into basement area / solitary confinment area of administration building at moundsville Penitentiary

visitor looking into basement area / solitary confinement area of administration building at Moundsville Penitentiary

back of main gate, home of wardon and family, administration building. Moundsvill State Penitentiary, Moundsville West Virginia

back of main gate, home of warden and family, administration building. Moundsvill State Penitentiary, Moundsville West Virginia

 

I found the whole experience moving but not in the way I expected. I had come to see the cells of the TV shows and movies I had seen in the past. I came to see what incarceration meant, I left in confusion. I saw where guards lost their lives and others lost dreams because of the violence inside the castles walls. I walked through community shower halls where men got washed down like cattle to the slaughter. I stood on the bottom floor of four stories of cells packed with 600 men looking out on to a wall of nothingness. I viewed works of art and murals that took hours to paint and great skills to make, wasted on the walls of this institution. I knew that prison life was not some thing I ever wanted experience,but grown adults made choices everyday to return to this system of living. They would return over and over to having nothing and being nothing to the outside world. I learned how some families survived this place and how men had visits from their wives and children through walls and windows always watched by an armed guards. I wondered how their conversations went.

Shower "hall" below three stories of overlooking cells. regular inmate cell block moundvills state Penitentuary

Shower “hall” below three stories of overlooking cells. regular inmate cell block Moundsville state Penitentiary

4 stories of cells in regular cell block home to about 600 prisoners. Moundsville prison, Moundsvill, West Virginia

Gaurds gun used in the visitor are of prison

Guards gun used in the visitor are of prison

inmate art work one of several painted inside new caffiteria

Finally the most disturbing thing of all was the view from the front gates of the prison. The homes built not 300 yards from the fence that surrounds the castle. Families lived in rows of 1940 and 1950’s homes, all with in the reach of hundreds of damaged lives.  To my shock there is an elementary school within three blocks of the leaving the penitentiary property. I find that just so strange. Why, in the middle of very rural West Virginia did some city planner think  this was a good idea.  From what I gathered on our tour, inmates escaped at least 4 times and one escape was of 15 men. The escape of the 15 men took place in 1986 during the day and after that elementary school was in use. This to me was the most disturbing part of the entire trip. You drive through a typical residential area, then arrive at the parking area across from the prison. The neighborhood is in good shape,although old and is homey and seems very happy to have the tourists stopping in to get ice cream at a locals ice cream parlor.

community of Moundsville, West Virginia taken across the street from the prison.

community of Moundsville, West Virginia taken across the street from the prison.

Front view of the Big Dipper icecream parlor

Front view of the Big Dipper icecream parlor

 

Christopher eating at the Big Dipper ice cream parlor across from the prison, Moundsville, West Virginia

In the end the beauty of the building alone is worth the trip to see it. The community surrounding the relic is friendly with restaurants and small shops. Yet, after seeing inside the prison a person can not help feeling differently about the majestic structure. It is a prison and  it is nothing more than creepy and sad. Our country still has no better way to remove the most violent from society then the prison system. This tour really shows off where we started in the containment, control and rehabilitation of our criminals. This was one of the most educational and emotionally driven un-birthday trips ever. My family never even thought about doing the haunted tours and paranormal investigations that they also offer at the prison but here is the link to their website for more information about tours and spectacle events. http://www.wvpentours.com/tours_dailytours.htm.

I will try to return to the prison again. I aim for a less busy day next time and maybe I will be without the 3 and 5 year olds. I didn’t get enough time to see the letter from Manson and I wanted better photos of their electric chair but over all it was worth every penny and I highly recommend the trip to anyone.

Categories: Birthday, family fun, Moundsville State Penitentiary, State Park activities, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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