family fun

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

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

Sights from the Mountain; A Look Back at 2016

So to keep from bitching about how disappointing 2016 was from my point of view and keeping my mind off another medical procedure I am planing to have this week. I wanted to lighten up and share what good things did happen in 2016 and skip my reasons to complain and just share my Joy for life, Friends, Family and Creativity.

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Tom sanding floors of Christopher’s bedroom 2016

 

finished Master Bedroom with new bed and paint

My finished Master Bedroom with new bed and paint

One of the few things I did actually accomplish after Tom and I both spent the spring recovering from surgeries was redoing two bedrooms.This is the first time Tom or I had re-finished hardwood floors and learned tons and will be doing more of the house over the next couple of years. The biggest think I learned was sometime imperfect conditions lead you to perfect resolutions. The floor in Christopher’s room had several places with water damage and some were very dark.  We learned from Dan Antion a fellow blogger at “No Facilities blog” how to lighten them without having to actually remove the damaged sections if they were not rotted.I also learned, more about polyurethane then I ever hoped too this year between this project and the following one.

I poured my heat and soul into a public art project with my AmeriCorps site in Elkins, West Virginia. I helped to plan, paint and install three large 8 X 8 foot quilt block panels on downtown city buildings. It was some of the most fun I have had in years. Not only did I get to work with a great groups of volunteers I got to spend time doing art in a way that I never imagined.That Art degree finally paid off and my mom is so proud.

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“Maple Leaf” installed on the side of the YMCA in Elkins WV

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installed “West Virginia Star” on wall of Davis trust company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Log Cabin” installed on back of the YMCA Elkins WV 2016

The summer was full of time out side whether we were working, traveling or just trying to spend time together as a family. For that I am really thankful and we were able to see some wonderful places that were new to my family this year. One of my favorite hobbies is hunting mushrooms and I think I missed all of the best foraging days this year but was able to find and photograph several that I had not seen before. This photo is from the Monongahela National Forest.

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I got to beat the summer heat at Cannan Valley Ski resort with some of the wonderful co-workers. Picking wild blue berries for a work Team Meeting was one of the most refreshing trips outside I made all year. We rode the ski lift up the mountain, hiked out to a point and sat on rocks over looking  a valley where we ate the berries we had picked. I will never look at work meetings the same again.

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summer wild blueberry picking team meeting July 2016

We ended summer with a trip deep into the mountains of West Virginia with a trip to Green Bank and Cass State Park. In all the years that we have traveled the state I think the trip to Cass is on my top five places to see in West Virginia. The train, the town, the hiking and river all combine to make this a must see place.

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Scenic over look at the top of Spruce Knob by way of Cass Scenic Rail Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then fall arrived and my friends and family descended on our house for almost the entire month of Oct we spent time with people that we had not seen in years. First my brother came for a week to visit. We spent time sight-seeing, eating and drinking are way across the state.

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The Powers family with brother Bill Lowrey at the Mystery Hole just West of Hawks Net State Park, West Virginia

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Road side view of the Mystery Hole Rt#40 near Hawks Nest  State Park,WV

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Mystery Hole front doors… We needed to see what was in that Hole!

After a morning at Bridge Day in Fayetteville West Virginia everyone traveled the next 16 miles to the town of Ansted  to see the World Famous Mystery Hole. One of the most silly and fun road side attractions in the state. This place is something you just can’t really explain unless you have been there. The fun part is trying to explain how they do what they do in the Mystery Hole and joke about what drug induced night mare inspired its construction.

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Street side view of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Oct 2016

Then a life long friend and Haunted House expert Alex came to visit for my birthday and Halloween. It had been years since we got together and it was the perfect time to take him sight-seeing at West Virginia’s most haunted location, the Trans  Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and Haunted House. We had a great time on the VIP tour and got to see every floor of the old mental hospital and take hundreds of photos.We laughed and screamed inside their annual haunted house and spent time taking classic old building photos around the surrounding counties.

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A Beautiful Mess in a Plaster Repair room second floor of the TALA.

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Alex Smits taking photos inside the TALA. This room is supposed to be haunted by a little girl named Lilly who will play with the toys.

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Long corridors along the third floor of the TALA. This is floor was used for farm workers.

Then we also added the most time-consuming project of the year! Doc takes up almost all of my free time with his walking and play times. He is not the dog for everyone but perfect for my family.

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“Doc” Holiday our sleepy puppy at about 3 months old

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“Doc” trying to share a chair with Tom at 5 months old… getting sooo big.

 

“Doc” has been a very active and funny part of our year and If I can just survive the next year with him,he will make a wonderful friend for many years to come. As of today he is 6 months old and weighs about 48 pounds. Full grown he should be about 60 pounds. He is the reason I get out walking every morning and the reason all the neighbors now know me as the lady with the big red dog. Doc will start some  kind of training in just a few months. I hope to see if he is able to be used as a search and rescue  dog for our local county. Time will tell if he is going to help find lost hikers and children in the mountains of West Virginia or of if he is just going eat everything insight and keep Christopher company on our trips planned for next year. I will let you know!

It was a long year in many ways. Health issues were my main topic of worry this year and some seem better while others seem to just keep me from enjoying my life as much as I would like too. So here is to a healthier 2017! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: "Doc" Holiday, Bridge Day, Cannan Valley Ski Resort, DIY projects, family fun, ghosts, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, mushroom hunting, Mystery Hole, New Years Eve, photo review, Photos, puppy, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Exploring the National Parks System on it’s 100th Birthday, Aug 25th 2016.

It is in the woods that I find peace and my spirit is rejuvenated. It is in the forest of my beloved West Virginia that I rejoice that we live in a country that values and protects the most unusual of our natural resources. It is in our countries wisdom that they have saved millions of acres of land and miles of waterways for future generations.

West Virginia is one of the states that does not have a fully designated National Park. So for this August 25th celebration I want to share a vision of one of my  states protected National Forests, Monongahela National Forest. This unique forest ecosystem is preserved at the national level within the National Park System along with West Virginia’s  National Rivers, The New River,and Blue Stone, Two National Recreation Areas,The Gauley River National Recreation Area and Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, a National Historic Park at Harper’s Ferry and of course a National Scenic Trail the Appalachian Trail. All of these locations are protected for future generations buy the National Parks System of the United States of America.

 

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The Monongahela National forest represents a wide verity of rare and unique ecosystems, natural wonders, beautiful vegetation, and abundant wild life. It is here within the forest that my family and I have spent hundreds of hours exploring, searching for that rare moment when the outside world disappears and  nothing remains but the sights, sounds and smells of nature.

This National Forest comprises roughly a million acres of forest land in West Virginia. An approximate 1.3 million visitors come to the Monongahela National Forest each year.The forest spreads across the Southern portion of the state from the city of  White Sulfur Springs to the Northern border of West Virginia to Maryland state line. With the main body of the forest residing on the Eastern side of the state, along US Highway 219.

Within West Virginia’s largest National Forest there is a long list of natural wonders. Some I have photographed over the years and others are still a mystery to me. Some are easy to access and others are miles from civilization. So with the help of my family I have had the pleasure of seeing much of the forest and can share just a few of the wonderful sights that I have explored over the years.

Stuarts Park campground, picnic area. DSC00023

Stuarts Park has several CCC built covered pavilions with in the Monongahela National Forest. Also located within a mile of the campground/ park pavilions is Bickel Knob Observation Tower where it is possible to see about 1/3 of the National Forest and the surrounding towns.

Bickle Knob observation Tower in the the morning sun randolph county West Virginia 2016

The trip up this tower early in the morning lets us see over six different ridge tops and two small towns.

Christopher and JoLynn on top of Bickles Knob observation tower last days of summer 2016

 

The Bowden Fish Hatchery is where the local brook trout, brown trout and the West Virginia Golden Trout are brooded for release all over the state.

Tom Christopher at the Bowden Fish hatchery 2016

We fish in the many streams and rivers in the forest. My son learns to cast at Shavers Fork of the Cheat River.DSC00172

Exploring Smoke Hole Caverns on a hot summer afternoon is a treat.To spend a couple of hours under ground exploring the caves is one of my families favorite summer time trips.

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Smoke Hole Caverns entrance

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The slow drip of the Smoke Hole Caverns ceiling

All of these amazing locations are within the National Forest but what I am most fond of is the simple quiet beauty that we see as we forage and hike through the woods.

mushrooms on stump Monongahela National Forest

Mushrooms growing on a tree stump near Bear Haven Campground

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Young horse at home on public grazing land at Monongahela National Forest

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Summer wildflowers along a forest service road in the Monongahela National Forest

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Wet wildflowers at Stuarts Park, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

 

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Cheat Mountain Salamander takes visitors on rides through hundreds of miles of the Monongahela National Forest. This is my favorite way to see the sights.

This train ride is headed for Green Bank and the National Radio Observatory where in the middle of the Monongahela Forest is the darkest place in West Virginia. It is the perfect location for star-gazing with professional astronomers. This is where my family and I finally got to see the Milky Way with our bare eyes.

As you can see I love my state, love my Forest and am excited to be included in this centennial  celebration. Thanks to Cotopaxi Company  for inviting me to take part in the festivities in my small way. I am proud to share with all of you the great work that Cotopaxi is doing all around our world and how one company with a mission can change the world one backpack at a time. I am so glad that their company supports and loves the outdoors as much a I do. Thanks for reminding us all about how important our Nation Park System is and what would be lost without our ability to explore and enjoy to great outdoors. Again Thank you Cotopaxi for letting me join in the fun!

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Camping, Cheat Mountain Salamander, family fun, Hardwood forest, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, mushroom hunting, natural resources, Potomac river, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 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

All things Strawberry, The Strawberry Festival 2016

So here in Buckhannon, West Virginia, every May we have a week-long festival dedicated to the Strawberry. At one time Strawberries in West Virginia were a large cash crop and it was great way to celebrate the spring. Now 75 years later…. there are less homegrown strawberries but the festival is larger than ever. This year Christopher was even part of three days of  the week-long festival events.

The spirit of the Strawberry Festival really found my family this year. Our excitement grew when Christopher became part of the Royal Court. He rode on the Strawberry Queen’s float with other 1st graders picked for this role from all the elementary schools in the county. He was also the King’s crown bearer for the coronation of the Queen. It was so much fun to see him in a tux being part of all the pageantry.

Christopher waiting backstage for the Coronation 75th Strawberry Queen 2016

Christopher waiting backstage for the Coronation 75th Strawberry Queen 2016

The week starts with the Coronation ceremony practice, with lots of photos and trips to the stage trying to get everything timed right before the afternoon Coronation event. Then there are 6 days of parades, live music events, strawberry food sales and outdoor activities like a 5k run and a canoe race down a local river.

The Strawberry Court waiting on the Queen to arrive

The Strawberry Court waiting on the Queen to arrive. Christopher is holding king’s crown 4th little boy to the left.

Strawberry Queen 2016

Strawberry Queen 2016

The following days are a blur,  4 parades, carnival rides, craft sales and lots of silly contest.

WVU's Mountaineer mascot takes time to walk in the parade

WVU’s Mountaineer Mascot takes time to walk in the parade

 

ROTC drill team passing Friendly Way during the Strawberry Festival

ROTC drill team passing Friendly Way during the Strawberry Festival

 

Christopher and friends riding the first of two floats for the Strawberry festival 2016

Christopher and friends riding the first of two floats for the Strawberry festival 2016

 

Mules pulling a mini pony express stagecoach

Mules pulling a mini pony express stagecoach

 

Sea of people at the Strawberry Festival Carnival 32016

Sea of people at the Strawberry Festival Carnival 2016

 

Chocolate drizzle funnel cake at the Strawberry Festival 2016

Chocolate drizzle funnel cake at the Strawberry Festival 2016

We ate lots of fair food, ice cream and strawberries over the course of the week and had a great time until my surgery interrupted the schedule of events. I was lucky to get to spend both nights watching Christopher pass by on his float ( Thursday and Saturday). I could only watch about an hour of the Grand Feature Parade,on Saturday before getting too tired from the surgery the day before.

As we headed home Thursday night ( the first of the parade nights). Tom and I both noticed that a 10 pm the carnival was still going strong and families walked the streets with stuffed toys and corn dogs on sticks. Friends stood in groups all along main street talking.Old men stood next to their classic cars in front of mains street restaurants talking while and wives eat ice cream in the front seat with the top down. Something seemed different  to me that night, it was like our childhood was happening all over again. It was the best feeling I have had in years. My  young son had somehow reminded me of what it was like to feel young again. We eat fair food and heard live music and walked back to the car long after dark under the street lamps. It was good to be part of the Strawberry Festival again!

Categories: Buckhannon West Virginia, carnival, Country life, Fairs and Festivals, family fun, Strawberry Festival, Upshur County West Virginia, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Mountains Beckon to Young Cyclists

Mountains Beckon Parade & Rodeo winners for 2015

Mountains Beckon Parade & Rodeo winners for 2015

Spring time in West Virginia is the best time to explore the outdoor events. One of the most child and family friendly free events is Elkins’ Mountain Beckon Bicycle Parade & Rodeo. Over the past 5 years families in Randolph County have loaded up little bicycles and headed to downtown Elkins for a morning of riding bikes and winning ribbons.

The event being held the third Saturday in May helps the community celebrate Bicycle Safety Month. With the help of Joey Riddle and his Downtown cycling shop, Elkins Main Street, volunteers, and sponsors, children have the opportunity to learn about the joy of cycling. The event offers a rodeo where young riders can show of their skills riding through a traffic cone course. Enter contests for the best decorated bike and rider in several categories like Flower Power, Wild Camo, Super Hero, Sparkle&Shine, Color Crazy. Even the Mayor of Elkins, Van Broughton, joins in the fun by giving out the Mayors’ Choice Awards and ridding in the Davis Ave Parade.

Elkins West Virginia Mayor Van Broughton with Mayors Choice Award winner

Elkins West Virginia Mayor Van Broughton with Mayors Choice Award winner

Early Saturday morning children arrive for registration at 9 am at The City Building parking lot.With the city blocking off streets, Police and Fire Department giving escort for safety, the young riders fallow a short parade course through downtown.The children eagerly ride their decorated bikes along the parade route on Davis Ave from Fifth to Third Street, ending in Front of Joey’s Bike Shop. Bike safety classes begin with instruction on correct hand signals and how to properly fit a ridding helmet. Then families watch as their children test their ridding skills at the bike rodeo, winners  are announced and photos are taken. The morning wraps up with lots of happy kids and lots of smiling parents who see the value of encouraging youngsters to take part in healthy outdoor activities.

Mountain Beckons Parade starts on 5th street in Elkins West Virginia

Mountain Beckons Parade starts on 5th street in Elkins West Virginia

This years event is Saturday May 21st from 9 am-12 noon. Registration is at the City Building rear parking lot. The Parade progresses from fifth street to 3rd street and ends at Joey’s Bike Shop where the safety classes and rodeo begin. Awards will be given and photos with the Mayor will be taken and lots of fun will be had. Hope to see all of you there!

Teaching bicycle safety, Right Turn

Teaching bicycle safety, Right Turn

Categories: bicycling, childhood memories, Elkins Main Street, Elkins West Virginia, Fairs and Festivals, family fun | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Salt Dough Holiday Ornaments with Kids of All Ages

My older son Cody has always made my life more fun with his unexpected ideas. So you never know what the boy has planned when you see him. Some times its,”Mom you got to see this” or “Mom how do you make this” or “you need to try this”… it is always so much fun when he is around. So the weekend before Halloween ( at little late I know). He arrives at our house for the usual Sunday Dinner with bags of stuff in his hands and the granddaughter  so excited trailing behind him. My daughter in law Jamie explains the Cody wants to make Play-Dough at my house that Sunday afternoon ( he never warms me we are going to make a mess). After looking over the ingredients I quickly realized that what he had brought was not Play-Dough ingredients buSalt Dough ingredients.

Salt dough decorations

Salt dough decorations

Salt dough is a wonderful inexpensive way for kids of all ages ( 4-48 this day) to mold and bake decorations, figures, or models. This dough can be colored and baked to make the craft hard and dry so it will last for years. The hard dough decorations can be painted and sealed with any clear coat. The dough is non-toxic and eating it will not hurt the youngest of artist… but be warned it is very salty.

So with all of us in the kitchen together  we mixed up a large batch of dough. Cody then took the dough and broke it into smaller pieces and added food coloring. All I had on hand was Easter neon colors so we had very bright colors to work with. We gave Christopher and Paige each 4 small bowels of colored dough and turned them loose with my cookie cutters, rolling-pin, tooth picks and watched the fun. With in minuets we were all making things too…

Jamie Powers and Paige Powers making Salt Dough decorations

Jamie Powers and Paige Powers making Salt Dough decorations

Salt Dough family time

Salt Dough family time

I even joined in the fun and made some decorations too. The decorations had both a Christmas feel and a Halloween feel so we covered both holidays with some of our creations. When all the dough was gone I put two full cookie sheets in the oven to bake. I did notice that we made very thin decorations and they do not take as long as the directions say to dry. Worried that at some point they would burn, I reduced the length of cooking time 15 minutes.

Sponge Bob and Patrick salt dough decorations

Sponge Bob and Patrick salt dough decorations

 

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Salt dough ninja

Salt dough ninja

 

So have fun this holiday season, break out the cookie cutters that have not been used for a year and make some lasting decorations with the kids. The kids and grand kid played for about 3 hours making things and baking them before dinner. Now both little ones have home-made decorations for this years trees.

 

Salt Dough: hardening dough

4 cups flour

1 cup fine crystal salt not sea salt

1 1/2 to 2 cups water

mix until can be worked with fingers like heavy bread dough

bake finished work in oven at 300 degrees for up to an hour.

( I bake ours for about 45 minutes because they were so thin)

let cool and paint, glue and decorate and enjoy!

 

Salt dough skull

Salt dough skull

 

Categories: Art, Christmas, crafts, family fun, Halloween, Holidays, Home Decor | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Deep Under Ground, Seneca Caverns Pendelton, WV

At the top of a mountain is the opening into the earth that leads to Seneca Caverns. I have always been fond of tunnels, caves and any old, deep dark place. My husband is of coal miners blood and he too likes the closeness and beauty that is found in places that make you feel the earth wrap her arms around you. Here in West Virginia it seems only natural to mine the ground, drill through rock and go caving, because we are so close to heaven already the only other place to go….. is down.

Mineral Stained Columns , Stalagmites and Stalactites, Seneca Caverns, WV

Mineral Stained Columns , Stalagmites and Stalactites, Seneca Caverns, WV

Seneca Caverns are one of around 100 limestone caves that spread along the Appalachian ridge tops of Pendleton County. The caves range in size from shallow to very wide and deep. Seneca Cavern only reaches 165 feet into the cool earth but is quite long and the path can be twisty. It was first used by the Seneca Indians around 1400 as a shelter and ceremonial center. The cave was then officially explored in 1742 by German settler Laven Teter while trying to find a water source for his family and cattle. The property and cave remained in the Teter family until the late 1920’s when it was sold and the cave reopened to the public in 1930. Not much has changed since the discovery of the cave in the 1700’s. The only additions are the walking path, handrails and lights to make it easier for visitors to see the fantastic mineral formations.

Seneca Caverns' Restaurant and mountain view, Riverton, WV

Seneca Caverns’ Restaurant and mountain view, Riverton, WV

Once below ground the air is cool and damp giving my family a nice break from the hot summer day that we visited. The temperature inside the cave is stable 54 degrees unless over the small pool in the end of the cave where the temperature sometimes drops to 49…. a little cool. Guides recommend jackets for those who get cold easily. This day Christopher was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and began to complain that he was cold over the pool. It is hard to believe that the pool (the coldest portion of the tour) is only feet from the outside world that was a toasty 85 degrees. Before doors  covered the exit portion of the cave it was not uncommon to find deer and other animals drinking from the cool water and staying in the shade of the cave.

Christopher Powers 165 feet underground at Seneca Caverns, WV

Christopher Powers 165 feet underground at Seneca Caverns, WV

This cave is small and low unlike other caves that are known for the high ceilings and wide views. It has some taller rooms but it is wise to wear the hard hat that guides require to enter the cave. Even I hit my head while passing from one room to the next. At 5’8″ I am too tall to not lean over in several places. I also recommend that people who are claustrophobic skip this tour and take another one. Some rooms are small and passages tight… very tight. So tight that a man of 6 foot and in the weight range of 220 fits but it could be a squeeze if you are heavier.

looking down on main room used by Indians at Seneca Caverns, Wv

looking down on main room used by Indians at Seneca Caverns, WV

The tour takes around an hour with groups of 10 to 15 in the summer. The first few rooms are tall and wide and as the tour progresses the unique features of the cave get closer and tighter. You are asked not to touch any of the formations because of the slow growth of the stalagmites and stalactites, some taking centuries to grow a few inches, yet the crowed passages almost force you to touch the wet walls.

Flowstone formation Seneca Caverns

Flow stone formation Seneca Caverns

 

Dripping Ceiling Formation at Seneca Caverns

Dripping Ceiling Formation at Seneca Caverns

Popcorn Walls Seneca Caverns, Wv

Popcorn Walls Seneca Caverns, WV

Floors are WET! Beware if you wear Crocs! I should have worn any other kind of shoe on the planet. Well maybe not flip-flops but the floors are slick and there lots of stairs to go up and down. I am thankful the stairs are a rough concrete so I at least had a chance to keep my balance. I never did fall but it was a constant worry.

3/4 of the way through the cave you drop to its lowest point at 165 feet below ground level. The room is commonly called  Hell’s Kitchen.The room is small ( maybe the size of a compact car) but has a high and narrow opening almost to the surface. The view up reminds you of a stove-pipe or chimney. It is also one of last rooms that has evidence of use by the Seneca Indians. Making it a great place for ghost stories and interesting views.

Hell's Kitchens Chimney Formation, Seneca Cavern, WV

Hell’s Kitchens Chimney Formation, Seneca Cavern, WV

Then my favorite portion of the tour is the formations that look like a fairyland. These formations are Calcite and sparkle in the low light… I think they look like snow or ice frozen deep under ground.

Calcite formations that look like frozen waterfalls at Seneca Caverns, Wv

Calcite formations that look like frozen waterfalls at Seneca Caverns, WV

Calcite Stalagmite Seneca Caverns, Wv

Calcite Stalagmite Seneca Caverns, WV

Then for dramatic effect some of the formations are back-lit to show off the true strangeness of the world underground.

limestone formations

limestone formations

Red lights on drip formations at Seneca Caverns

Red lights on drip formations at Seneca Caverns

Finally the tour ends with all us slowly crossing a narrow foot bridge over the pool of water that Laven Teter was looking for. In his months of exploring the cave Teter finally found the small pool hundreds of yards from the opening where we also ended our journey. Had he continued through the pool to the other side he would have found a small exit way only 20 feet from the pools edge. Where his livestock could get water with little effort.

We return to world of light and heat, I think each of us moaned with dread.The sun was bright, the heat and humidity unbearable.Our eyes had become very accustomed to the dim lighting and dark paths, our bodies liked the cool dampness of the cave. I see where being a hermit in a cave could be very comfortable in the hot humid West Virginia summers. My family really enjoyed the tour and finished up with a stop at the restaurant for some hand dipped ice cream.

As we had only a few more hours to get to our campsite we left the small park and headed back to the main road to continue our trip. In passing we stopped at a road side memorial in Riverton. The stones and flags looked new and I wondered if by some chance it was for climbers, hunters or Veteran’s who had lost their lives near by…. what we found was shocking and kind of creepy.

Riverton Battle Memorial with two flags

Riverton Battle Memorial with two flags

We walk up to the stone to get a better look and read the inscription.

Inscription on the Battle of Riverton stone

Inscription on the Battle of Riverton Stone

The stone tells of two men who died at the battle and one of them shares my husband’s name…… We have family that have lived in Randolph county but did not know of any who lived in Pendleton County. How strange It felt taking this photo, Tom standing next to the stone with his name inscribed on it from 1862.

Thomas Powers at the Battle of Riverton memorial for Thomas Powers

Thomas Powers at the Battle of Riverton memorial for Thomas Powers

Also unique is the fact that  my husband, his father and his grand father were all name Thomas Powers along with this man. All but one was a Veteran of a war, proving that Thomas Powers is a great name for any one who wants to serve our country! What a cool way to end our trip to Seneca Caverns, seeing this made both of us feel like we are  a part of these mountains and caves ,that we have roots the run deeper than any Cavern.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Camping, Caves and Caverns, family fun, photo review, Seneca Caverns, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Helvetia, a Swiss Village Hidden in the West Virginia Hills

A slow, tree-lined mountain road is the only way in or out of Helvetia,West Virginia. Where in the 1860’s a strong and talented group of Swiss and German settlers founded a new community within the isolated mountains of Randolph, County. To visit Helvetia today is to step back in time, to a place where culture and traditions remain very much the same as they were in the 1800’s. It is a place to sample the food, music and dancing that has been lost in the world of the internet and interstates. My love of this community and the ones that surround it started when Tom and I were first married and we would take day fishing trips to these mountains for some rest and relaxation. It was so refreshing to eat home cooked food and buy fresh honey in the country store that I just could not stop myself from wanting to spend time with the people here.

Main street of Helvetia Wv

Main street of Helvetia, WV

Helvetia is home to about 100 full-time residents and has one historic restaurant, a country store with a post office, a dance hall, community building, library and a church. Surrounded by farms, mountains and other tiny communities it is the center of all the events that residents and visitors enjoy. The annual “Helvetia Community Fair” is just one of several festive events that are held in this village year round. Most of people at these events are the descendants of the settlers and their families who work hard to keep these European traditions alive.

The Helvetia Community Fair includes a small  parade, crafters, live music, Alpine Horn Blowers, Swiss Dancers, Swiss Flag Throwers (Fahnenschwingen), a 10 k mountain run with a 2 mile walk, Archery Shoot and great food. The( Kultur Huas) a Post office/small store/ mask museum is open, the library has a book sale and the Honey Haus and Cheese Haus are open to visitors. The Hutte Haus Swiss Restaurant is open and serving the most wonderful Swiss/German food in the State. This is a festival for the whole family who want to know more about the Alpine life of the settlers and eat some of their wonderful food.

While visiting the fair we made sure the Christopher was able to see the parade as it traveled down main street.

 

Helvetia Children leading in the parade

Helvetia Children leading in the parade

Christopher getting candy from Mrs. West Virginia

Christopher getting candy from Mrs. West Virginia

Swiss family on float

Swiss family on float

Live blue grass music during Helvetia community parade

Live blue grass music during Helvetia community parade

After the 4 floats and a fire truck pass us we eat our afternoon meal at the Hutte Haus Swiss Restaurant on main street. It is a one of a kind restaurant voted one of the top 10 best restaurants in West Virginia. The house is over 150 years old and maintains both the interior  and exterior in historic style. The house has passed through a few hands but one ever wanted to lose the history or feel of the house even with it being a restaurant.

Hutte Haus Swiss Restraunt, Helvetia, WV

Hutte Haus Swiss Restaurant, Helvetia, WV

The house has many small rooms with tables and other furniture that are from many of the families in the community. Some are gifts as people updated, some sold to the current owners as families moved away and other pieces belonged to the first owners of the house.

Largest of the dinning rooms at the Hutte Haus restaurant

Largest of the dinning rooms at the Hutte Haus restaurant

Tom and Christopher Powers looking over wall decor at the Hutte Haus Swiss restraunt, Helvetia WV

Tom and Christopher Powers looking over wall decor at the Hutte Haus Swiss restaurant, Helvetia WV

 

Wood stove used to heat our dinning room at the Hutte House Swiss Restraunt

Wood stove used to heat our dinning room at the Hutte Haus Swiss Restaurant

Front dinning room at the Hutte Haus Swiss Restaurant, Helvetia, WV

Front dinning room at the Hutte Haus Swiss Restaurant, Helvetia, WV

Front Porch of the Hutte Swiss Restaurant , Helvetia, WV

Front Porch of the Hutte  Haus Swiss Restaurant , Helvetia, WV

The food is traditional Swiss German fair, with things like brats,  sauerkraut and Swiss cheese soup on the menu every day. Then during the festivals they serve the sample platter to everyone. This is includes hand-made sausage, white bratwurst, brazed chicken, potatoes, home-made sauerkraut and swiss cheese with home-made peach cobbler and fresh whipped cream for desert. It is a feast for the eyes and the stomach.I can can not say I have had a better meal any where that I have traveled or lived.

As our meal ended the rain started and  we walked the main street to the only intersection in town  and turned to see the community hall enveloped with people. The entertainment was thoughtfully moved in doors for the rest of the day and we found our benches and seats inside the wooden hall. In the hall we watched villagers perform the Alpine Horns, singers in costume sing traditional folk songs and young children perform Swiss/German dances that Tom and I remember from when we lived in Germany . The best, saved for last, was watching two young men swing the Switzerland flags to the Alpine Horns.

Young Swiss folk dancers

Young Swiss folk dancers

Swiss community singers

Swiss community singers

This is a short clip of what the Alpine horns sound like and what Flag Swinging is. I found them hypothetical when preformed together.

 

When the performances are over and the crowds slowly file back to the parked cars, Tom and I stop at the Kultur Haus / museum/ Post office. It is the place to get your souvenir tee shirts and post cards, honey candy and a cold pop, but I visit for a different reason. I come for the museum portion of the store. The museum is a loose collection of hand-made masks that  local village members hand make for the Fasnacht Celebration every spring. Some get donated to the shop and placed on display and show off the talent and strange and wonderful paper mache skills of the creators. Fasnacht is held around the first week of February and is the traditional celebration of the end of winter. It is much like a combination of Halloween and Mardi Gras and a Druid Ceremony rolled into one. The village people who attend, dress in home-made costumes, have a community dance with buffet dinner and live music. Then at around midnight the leaders of the community cut an effigy of old man winter down ( a straw stuffed scare crow with pine bows and a rubber mask face)  from the rafters of the dance hall carry him out in the nearby field and set him a blaze. The bonfire roars for an hour or two where the spirit of winter is free from the land. The night ends around 1 am with the start of spring. Some of the wonderful masks from these costumes are on display year round for everyone to enjoy it the Kultur Haus on Main Street.

Drunken Sailor and Zodiac Lincoln with Rams head masks Helvetia WV

Drunken Sailor and Zodiac Lincoln with Rams head masks Helvetia WV

Sun and China dog masks from Helvetia WV

Sun and China dog masks from Helvetia WV

Winter Frost Mask Helvetia West Virginia

Winter Frost Mask Helvetia West Virginia

 

more masks

more masks

Kultur Haus/Post Office/Museum

Kultur Haus/Post Office/Museum

Some of the other wonderful places we visited on the trip are the Honey Haus and Cheese Haus. They are not in operation any more but the structures are wonderful to look at and during this festivals are usually open for visitors. This year the Honey Haus had many hand-made honey products for sale and the Cheese Haus had samples of cheeses made and used in the area.

Honey Haus Helvetia, WV

Honey Haus Helvetia, WV

Cheese Haus Helvetia, WV

Cheese Haus Helvetia, WV

Street Sing Helvetia WV

Street Sing Helvetia WV

So with the rain trying to pour down again we headed to car with a 1/4 of a wheel of Swiss cheese, full hearts and tummies. The day seemed short although we had spent 6 hours at the fair. I was glad to get in the warm and dry of my car, but I didn’t want to leave.I  loved my time here and could have just stayed and worked in the warmth of the kitchen at the Hutte Haus or collected the mail in the Museum…I guess I will just have to come back as often as I can so that I will understand even more about why after 155 years people never really leave this place but always come back.

Swiss family crests flying over main street in the rain

Swiss family crests flying over main street in the rain

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Fairs and Festivals, family fun, Halloween, Helvetia West Virginia, history, rural life, Swiss culture, Upshure County | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Spring Time in West Virginia means Trout and a trip to Seneca Rocks

Spring is here and our family always tries to head out doors as soon as April arrives. The flowers begin to bloom  and the trout are ready to bite.  We took a break from work on the remodel of our family room because the tile I ordered came in a week late. Yea, Tom and I are thrilled that the three-day Easter weekend that we planed to put the tile in was delayed again. So instead of working on the house Tom, Christopher and I spent the day in the mountains. It was a nice break and the weather was perfect… I am so glad we worked this day into our Easter weekend plans.

Easter blooms at Seneca Rocks State Park

Easter blooms at Seneca Rocks State Park

The trip Tom planed was to hit a new  trout fishing stream in Seneca Rocks area of Pendleton County, West Virginia. The drive was about an 1 hour and 40 minutes from where live and is close to Seneca Rock State Park where we would spend part of the afternoon.The trout fishing in this area of the state is excellent and fishing is good in side the state park but the area is catch and release only. Tom was able to catch 6 nice fish in this rural stream in a matter of about 2 hours. The air was still cold when we arrived and the temp on the dash of my car said 28 degrees so Christopher and I would fish a while and then move out of the shadow of the mountain and play in the sun to warm up.

Sign showing the Eastern Continental divide at the boarder of Randolph and Pendleton Counties

Sign showing the Eastern Continental divide at the border of Randolph and Pendleton Counties

Snow on hill side on Easter near Onego WV

Snow on hill side on Easter near Onego WV

Christopher fishing along a trout stream in Pendleton County West Virginia

Christopher fishing along a trout stream in Pendleton County West Virginia

Tom fishing in a stream in Pendleton County West Virginia

Tom fishing in a stream in Pendleton County West Virginia

 

The sun finally crested over the mountain tops around noon. The sky was cloudless and we headed into town for lunch and to the state park for an afternoon of  hiking through some of the most beautiful rock formations in the state.

 

Advertisement on barn on the way to Seneca Rock... and Lunch

Advertisement on barn on the way to Seneca Rock… and Lunch

Seneca rocks is of our favorite places to just spend the day. They have fun shops that remind you of the 1800’s,  they have camping, horse back riding,and a few restaurants. The place is a lazy country town with out a formal plan and no rush hour and no stop light. It very much reminds me of the small mountains towns I grow up with in Colorado. You can fish, hike and watch the rock climbers in the sun. As you walk from one shop to another you relax as the sheep in the fields graze around you.

Seneca Motors, Seneca. West Virginia

Seneca Motors, Seneca. West Virginia

 

Harper's Old County store

Harper’s Old County store

Country Roads take me home Hwy 55 Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

Country Roads take me home Hwy 55 Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

After lunch and buying some fresh made maple syrup from a county store, we headed to the park where we spent a few minutes at the visitor center and observation deck. The view was fantastic.

Seneca Rocks State Park Easter 2015

Seneca Rocks State Park Easter 2015

Tom and I wanted to get a closer look and spent the remaining part of our afternoon walking the grounds and finally  hiking about half way to the summit of the rocks. There is an observation landing on the far left of the first rise of the rocks. The trip is about a mile and half from the base and about 2 miles from the observation deck

Seneca rocks from the parks visitor center

Seneca rocks from the parks visitor center

Time was too short to reach the observation this time, so this up hill hike will remain on my “to do” list for another year. The trail was also crowded with people. The park had just reopened for the season and the weather was good.

Tom and Christopher on the bridge trail at the base of Seneca Rocks

Tom and Christopher on the bridge trail at the base of Seneca Rocks

We then spent some time looking at the home stead cabin that is part of the park grounds. We visited here back two years ago on our camping trip and I wished that it had been open for visitors this time. Here is what you may find at the home stead during summer hours.

 

Home Stead at Seneca Rocks state Park

Home Stead at Seneca Rocks state Park

Bee Balm outside of cabin

Bee Balm outside of cabin

Wagon wheel at the Home Stead House at Seneca Rocks State Park WV

Wagon wheel at the Home Stead House at Seneca Rocks State Park WV

Porch table at Home Stead Cabin Seneca Rocks State Park

Porch table at Home Stead Cabin Seneca Rocks State Park

The drive home was quite, Tom and Christopher both took naps in the warm sun that shone through the windows.  I was so happy that we were able to take some time and get back in the woods after such a long and cold winter. We will eat the trout for dinner and hope to find some Ramps along the way back home. At this time of year people sell them off the hoods of trucks and cars, 10$ for 5 pounds….. yummy fresh spring foods. I could not wait to get home to my kitchen.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Easter, family fun, fishing, hiking, Seneca Rocks, State Park activities, trout, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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