Holidays

Appalachian Food, Trend or Tradition?

So after appearing on the TV show State Plate where my family was featured making traditional Appalachian foods and now that CNN’s Anthony Bourdain  has traveled to West Virginia in his show Explore Parts Unknown, I am a little confused if the food of my home is now trendy or traditional? I wonder what it is that we as people are looking for when we have come back and taken the simple county food that my family eats and made it trendy.

I wonder if our nation has had so much world food exposure that we are looking for something that is truly American, something with traditions and stories that reflect our basic American history. Many Americans have never eaten self butchered meats, home-made breads,home canned fruits and veggies from the garden. So to these people my family and the mountain communities that surround me seem novel. Yet, I view myself and my way of living as traditional to Appalachia and not unique in any way. In reality it is not unique to most  Americans either, just forgotten for a few generations.

Christopher and Cody picking Pumpkins with Paige on the way to pick them up

Christopher and Cody picking pumpkins and Paige on the way with the wagon

Food is just one aspect of a life here that is lived believing you will only be able to count on your family and yourself in an uncertain future. Families still raise gardens to provide valuable nutrition, they hunt, fish and forage as a normal part of the seasons. They can and dry foods for the winter and share the bounty with those they know and love. It is simple and direct to make food from what is growing near by. It saves money and is better for you because it is less likely to have chemicals and pesticides.  It only seems odd or novel to outsiders who would never think of eating wild rabbits or making your own wine from plants that grow like weeds. It also takes skills that many have forgotten over the generations. They say time stands still in the hills, so in this way we are fortunate to have kept the skills alive.

To my surprise, I was recently invited to be part of a historical “Foodways” museum exhibit at the Beverly Heritage Center  in Beverly, West Virginia. I shared some of my families recipes and our way of preparing several items that have been in the family for generations. I even shared some of the cooking tools we use for the display, some being over 60 years old.

BHC cooking display board

As part of the display the Museum created this panel about my family’s food history. It will be on display for the summer placed on a dinner table with 5 other panels. Each one sharing a Appalachian food story and a couple of recipes. Then during opening day Jenny the curator of the project will serve several of the foods that the families have shared with her during the collection process. I hope to make the apple sauce cake for her and the visitors and share some more of my families stories. The exhibit opens June 9th in the lobby of the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, West Virginia. 

After my interview with Jenny, I began to reflect on the resent fascination with our rural foods. Our interview reminded me of why country families and mountain communities have such attachments to their food. Food is the link to each other and the communities that they value. As Jenny and I chatted, I found myself saying that it is often times food that brings us all together. It is church dinners and family holidays, birthdays and funerals, fairs and festivals, that whole communities will gather together to share in someones pain or celebration. Our foods are about nourishment, not only of the body but of the soul. We have family time, say Grace, and keep in touch with friends, families all with food. It is these connections with food that is different in the world today. Today’s families rarely sit down at the table to eat a meal together. Holiday meals are not home-made anymore. Never allowing everyone to get involved in the preparations.  Here in Appalachia often we know who butchered the meat, made the beer and wine that we toast with, know the woman who made the jams, jellies and the children who made the cookies sitting on the table our Thanksgiving table.

Today people have no idea what the ingredients are in their food or even how they  are grown or raised. Kids eat in the car and we get milk in plastic bottles. We have lost touch with the joy of our food.

Appalachian food is about being authentic and natural, full of stories and traditions. Sometimes it is fancy and other times it is simple and filling, but it is often more about who you share a meal with then the food on the plate that is important.

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Categories: About me, canning, cooking, country cooking, Country life, Dandelions, family traditions, Foraging, Hand Pies, history, hobbies, Holidays, Jam, State Plate TV show, West Virginia, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Coconut Cream Cup Cakes with Amaretto Buttercream frosting.

 

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quick coconut cake with Amaretto  buttercream icing

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

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

 

 

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

The recipe:

1 box of white cake mix.

1 can unsweetened coconut milk 8oz.

1 can sweetened condensed milk 6oz.

3 eggs

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

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

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

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toasting sweetened Coconut

Frosting:

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

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

2 teaspoons almond extract, or Amaretto liquor.

1 tablespoon milk

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

the recipe makes 36 to 38 cup cakes.

Coconut cupcakes with Almond buttercream icing and toasted coconut topping.

Coconut cupcakes with almond buttercream icing and toasted coconut toping.

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

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

Hard Candy Christmas, Making Old Fashioned Hard Candy

 

One of our family Christmas traditions since my husband was a small boy was making home-made hard candy to share with the friends and family. So this year I wanted to share the tradition with my Daughter-in-Law so that she could make the candy with my granddaughter when she gets just a little older. I also though we could use silicone molds that I bought several years ago to make the candy into fun holiday shapes.Then YouTube took the whole candy making for kids (and some adults) to a whole new cool level. I watched the attached video and had to add these wonderful Lego molds to my collection and start making Christopher’s favorite flavor of candy.

Close up of hard candy Lego men with powdered sugar

Close up of hard candy Lego men with powdered sugar

Lego silicone molds with hard candy cooling

Lego silicone molds with hard candy cooling

Candy flavoring comes in small bottles of oils that can be used for making almost anything that you eat with out the use of alcohols that are in most extracts. The flavor and color are concentrated in each bottle. So for every batch of candy you need one bottle of your favorite flavoring. I made a total of 5 different flavors this year, root beer, apple, orange, cinnamon, and butter scotch. Each batch is about 1/2 of a pound of finished candy and that is every mold you see above filled to at least half. I did reduce the amount of syrup in the heart molds to half full because they were very hard to remove and to big to pop in your mouth.

Candy and Baking flavoring bottles two pack

Candy and Baking flavoring bottles two pack

Then after pulling the candy from the molds it is wise to dust them with powered sugar so that they will not stick together and this is really important if you want to mix the flavors into gift bags. They will not store for long in high humidity without it.

Hard Candy ready to be sent out as gifts

Hard Candy ready  …This Bag is mine !

So here are the very easy to fallow directions on how to make hard candy and the way to test your sugar syrup with out a candy thermometer…Each box of flavoring comes with a recipe booklet for several things you may want to use this flavoring for. The hard candy recipe is also on the back of the box.

Hard Candy regular Batch

2 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cup light corn syrup

3/4 cup water

1 dram or teaspoon flavoring

food coloring or gel… gel does not seem to burn at these high temperatures.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 2 quart saucepan. I use my cast iron dutch oven. Stir over med heat until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil without stirring. When syrup reaches 260 degrees F. add coloring. Do not stir ;boiling action will blend color for you. Remove from heat at 300 deg F. When drops of syrup form a hard brittle threads in cold water ( Hard Ball stage). When boiling action stops, stir in flavoring. Pour syrup into lightly oiled candy molds or on a greased cookie sheet. When cool break into pieces and dust with powered sugar to prevent sticking. Store in an air tight container or Ziplock bag.

This is what the process looks like

sugar, corn syrup and water beginning to boild

sugar, corn syrup and water beginning to boil. It takes about 6 or 8 minutes for the first stage of the sugar to boil

After the sugar reaches a rolling boil I added my gel food coloring of red in this batch… I think I used about three little drops to get a nice light red color.

Soon to be cinnamon hard candy with red food color

Soon cinnamon hard candy with red food color

Now the wait is on. I raise my burner heat at this point to med high or about 8 this decreases the amount of time it takes the sugar to reach the crack stage. The syrup will go from what looks like water boiling to a foamy tinny bubble stage as it heats then finally when you reach about 300 degrees the syrup will have large clear thick bubbles all the way to the edge of the kettle. This process takes about 10 minutes if you do not stir the syrup, longer if you can not resist the urge to stir.

When you think you are close to the correct temperature, or any time you are nosy, you can check the stages of the sugar with a cold water test. Fill a clear glass over half way full of cold water. With a non plastic spoon, preferable a wooden one, drip a small amount of syrup into the cold water…. DO NOT GET THE SYRUP ON YOUR SKIN IT IS VERY HOT AND STICKY! Burns will happen and skin will be lost when the sugar sets up. If the syrup looks like this it is not ready yet.

Cold water test for hard candy soft ball stage not ready yet

Cold water test for hard candy soft ball stage not ready yet.

wait a while longer and test again. When the syrup is ready is will almost instantly get hard… threads of what looks like glass will appear on the glass, in the water, on the counter… just about every where.

Remove kettle from stove and let the sugar cool until the boiling stops add flavorings and stir. It may pop and hiss a little when you add the flavorings but should not burn. Then pour carefully into molds or a cookie sheet for breaking up later. I did not spray any of my molds and the released fine… if working on a cookie sheet of metal I would spray with a cooking spray.

silicon baking molds used to make hard candy

silicon baking molds used to make hard candy.

You can see the sugar threads here between each tray. Let the trays cool for several minutes I left these for about 30 minutes. Then remove and dust with powered sugar.

Tray of Hard Candy after dunking them in powdered sugar

Tray of Hard Candy after dunking them in powdered sugar

We rub off the excess sugar and put in a Zip Lock bag. Then after every flavor has cooled I take handfuls of the different candy shapes and flavors and fill small treat bags. Each bag had at least one huge decorative candy in the bag and about 15 smaller pieces. The Snow Men and Large Lego man were my favorite to add to each bag. I understand that they are too big to fit in you mouth but they look great when arranged in the window of the gift bag. They can still be eaten but would need broken into smaller pieces.

So after about 2 hours my Daughter-in-law and I finished up started to clean up my sugar covered table and finally  tasted our hard work. It all tasted great and my favorite is always cinnamon. The joy of making this candy is it is great for parties at Halloween you could make grape purple bats, or orange pumpkins, at Valentines day make red cinnamon hearts, At Easter make pink or yellow eggs and share them. Use the large pieces as edible cupcake topper or cake decorations. The ideas are limitless and if you want you can also make the Gummies that are in the video  below… so Silicon Molds are some of my favorite kitchen gadgets and always spark my creativity.

Categories: candy, childhood memories, Christmas, Holidays | Tags: , , , | 5 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

Emotionally Drained and Ready for Change

The Month of November has really hit my family hard. It has brought us through a whirl wind of emotions and challenges and changes. The days have blown by with funeral activities and children’s parties. With our time spent comforting grieving family and friends,followed by happy school children in costumes, and a sick body fighting a cold. I spent my 47 birthday watching the episode of Barnwood builders that I helped to create holding my breath. Trying not to cry at the wrinkles and lines on my face and the heavy body that I still have not dealt with after my foot surgery. I have felt the deepest most satisfying happiness and the most painful sadness, all in a matter of days…and I am tired.

Christopher and Paige Halloween 2015

Christopher and Paige Halloween 2015

Most of you already know that over  a year ago I quit my outside job and went home to take care of Grandma Powers around July of last year. I then followed that with a foot surgery to remove a bone that would not heal after 13 months in a cast. We then moved over Christmas and started a remodel project in the end of April and spent days filming with the Barnwood builders. Then we also got the news that Grandma’s cancer was back and things looked bleak for the future. We finished our remodel and the filming of our show in Aug of this year and watched as grandma’s health began to fail, knowing that we would only have a few months with her. Then as Nov came and went we lost Grandma… I was supposed to celebrate Halloween ( my favorite holiday) With little Christopher at his school with a party and Saturday night take him trick or treating…I just could not do it. With a cold and broken heart I just wanted the comfort of my home and time with Tom. We  handed out candy and enjoyed the beautiful night air on the porch. My faithful son Cody took his little brother out for Halloween tricks and treats and made memories of their own. Then my birthday and the show airing. I was so thankful to have family and friends celebrate with me. Yet… I worried, so nervous, that somehow I would look like a fool on national TV. I would some how not be “Me”. In the end it was good. It was more “Me” then I care to admit, I look my age and I love these mountains and it shows right there on national TV. So I laughed along with the boys at the end of the night. I really might be just a Hillbilly at heart.

Barn with crew, shed and outside wall removed

Barn with crew, shed and outside wall removed

I know I have had more adventures in the last two years then some have in a life time. I have felt more in those two years then I ever thought was possible. I have laughed,cried, felt peace and the hand of God working in my life. I have hugged my children harder and been blessed more than my imagination would let me believe.I have sacrificed my time and money to be a caregiver and a mother. I have worked for no one, but for everyone, and not received a penny and it was all worth it in the end.

Grandma Wanda Powers Mowery, Paige and Christopher Powers, Dec 12 2014

Grandma Wanda Powers Mowery, Paige and Christopher Powers, Dec 12 2014

Some people think riches come in the form of a paycheck or money stored, but it doesn’t. Riches are experiences… and memories…… and dreams shared. They are the only thing that is left in the end. Money can not be taken to the other side… only love can. I have spent the last few years of my life making memories that I will never forget and shared love that I can never get back. I have forgotten about the “Me” and focused on the “We” and have reaped what I have sown in heaping amounts. These years have not hardened, but softened me, softened my heart towards God, my Family and My Friends and even my body. It has been a wonderful time of learning and growing as a person, a woman and mother. 

I am tired now, I will rest a few days, maybe a month, the days will slowly be filled again with work and school and children. I will let life lead me for now, to a new career, to new schooling, or who knows where, but I am ready for a change. That will start me on a new adventure with new memories and more love.

people who love us dont see our disablities just our ablity to love

people who love us don’t see our disabilities just our ability to love

Categories: About me, Barnwood Builders, Death, family memories, Friendship, Halloween, Holidays, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Easter Egg Hunting at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Every Easter we try to spend at least part of our day at one of North Central West Virginia most interesting places, The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum a.k.a. as the Weston State Hospital. This century old building is now the site of many community activities and in is an ongoing state of restoration. It is one of the places that I visit regularly with family and friends because of the wide verity of activities that go one in the stone building and on the 300 acre property.This massive structure and the grounds that surround it are the largest stone cut building in North America and second only in size to the Kremlin in Russia.

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The history of the this wonderful grand old buildings constructions begins before the civil war and official opening of its doors took place in 1881. The Hospital was home to up to 2400 patients in the 1950’s and continued to house the mentally ill until the last of 1994 when the mental hospital was officially closed for use. Finally after sitting abandon for years, in Aug of 2007 the Jordan family bought the building and grounds. Ever since that sale on the court-house lawn, the family have been on a journey to restore and reuse the building and grounds. It is now a place that draws thousands of families, tourists, photographers, ghost hunters and television crews. They offer tours, ghost hunts, plays, outdoor concerts and one of the largest Easter egg hunts in our state.

I try to take Christopher to play on the huge 3 acre front lawn whenever there is a community activity. In the center of the huge yard is wonderful water fountain that is the center of all the outdoor gatherings. Christopher and a school  mate try to capture a balloon that is in the fountain before the 400 hundred colored eggs are ready for them to find.

Fountain at the Easter Egg Hunt at the TALA

Fountain at the Easter Egg Hunt at the TALA

 

 

Balloon caught in the fountain of the TALA

Balloon caught in the fountain of the TALA

view of the fountain from inside the entry of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Assylum

view of the fountain from inside the entry of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

While the 200 children and their families prepare for the day of hunting eggs, the TALA opens its doors to the public, offering tours of the 1-4 floors of the main building. Other tours take place on weekdays and at night if  any one wants to see some of the hospitals famous ghosts. They also offer one of the east coasts best Halloween Haunted Houses in Oct every year. Named “Ward 21” after another building on the grounds it never fails to scare the pee out of several visitors every year.  I have been on some of the tours and went through the haunted house myself and all of the activities are well worth the price of admission. My best friend Natalie and I did the haunted house together several years ago and believe me what we experienced in that dark haunted house could fill a blog post all by its self.

While inside the building Christopher and I took a look around at some of  the rooms that were still in need of  restorations and cooled off in the cool corridors of the 4 foot thick walls of  this massive structure.

Visiting area in side the TALA.

Visiting area in side the TALA.

 

Main hall way to the west  at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Main hall way to the west at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Soon we heard the call for the”Egg Hunt” to begin and returned to the yard, and lined up for the afternoon of racing around collecting eggs. The race courses are divided into age groups to make every thing fair for the littler ones.  The horn sounds and off they ran under huge trees that have seen more years than my short life span.

Easter Egg hunters on the Lawn of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Easter Egg hunters on the Lawn of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

At the end of the race Christopher and some friends sat in the shadow of a large oak and opened the eggs that our community helps to pay for each year. I think we went home with about 20 eggs, each with a prizes or candy inside of each egg.

Kevin Freeman a local business owner and daughter open eggs after the hunt

Kevin Freeman a local business owner and daughter open eggs after the hunt

While the crowds began to filter away from the grounds and head home for more Easter dinners and games. I took a few more shots of the wonderful grounds and some but not all of the buildings.

Outside view of the visiting room

Outside view of the visiting room end of main building

 

 

door into back of modern addition of building

door into back of modern addition of building

window looking out into court yard of the civil war section of the hospital

window looking out into court-yard of the civil war section of the hospital

Easter was another wonderful day at one of Weston, West Virginia’s most interesting places. I hope that you can now see why we try to visit and support one of my favorite historic buildings. For more information on visiting here and taking a tour or visiting the haunted house please take a look at their website at The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. There are many community activities that this old building supports and even if you only spend a day on the lawn watching children play it is a day well spent.

photo of the TALA photo credit to thier wed site

photo of the TALA photo credit to their wed site. Transalleghenylunaticasylum.com

Categories: Easter, Holidays, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, West Virginia, Weston | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Photo review of 2013 with Mountain Mama

I just can’t help the fact that I love where I live and the people around me. I take thousands of photos every year and some never make it to  my blog and others are only uploaded on to Facebook and or sent to friends and family. So, I thought  I would take a few hours and let you see what it is that make my world go around and share in some of the best and worst moments of my year. So hers goes… GOOD-BYE 2013 and hello to a fresh new year.

Birth place of General Stone Wall Jackson, Jacksons' Mill, West Virginia  January 2013

Birth place of General Stone Wall Jackson, Jackson’s’ Mill, West Virginia January 2013

I started taking photos for a photo challenge this past year and it was fun to really push myself for ideas and places to photograph.. I did pretty well until they put my foot in a soft cast where the cold and wet and lack of being stable on my feet made me drop the challenge. This was one of the first locations that Christopher and I traveled to and explored in the very cold 18 degree weather in Jan of 2013. Jackson’s Mill is a State Owned property where they hold 4-h camps, state conferences and have saved historic buildings like this one, home of General Stone Wall Jackson. This large property and air field are only about 2 miles from my home and include a grist mill that I hope to write about in the future.

Snow on the plow at General Stone Wall Jackson's home place Jackson Mill, West Virginia

Snow on the plow at General Stone Wall Jackson’s home place Jackson Mill, West Virginia

The for the month of February Christopher and I made a photo tour of one of our favorite places in Lewis County  our historic Library.This is the location of our local book club that I help to start in the month of Feb. I love the old building and wish If I ever had the money to change the world this would be the place that I would put my money to work for my small community.

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

Christopher hamming  it up with me when we found a not so used bathroom on the third floor.

Christopher sitting the bath tube of the Lewis Bennett Library of Weston West Virginia

Christopher sitting the bath tube of the Lewis Bennett Library of Weston West Virginia 2013

Spring was slowly creeping into the mountain state in March and we were  so happy to start to see life again that I started looking outside for more ideas  and this is what I found.

Tom Powers working with horses at Cross Creek Farm

Tom Powers working with horses at Cross Creek Farm

One of the few days that was really beautiful in March with temps in the 40’s  and warm enough to get started on the spring trimmings again. While Tom worked hard on getting these lovely animals ready to head back up the mountains Christopher and I wondered the country road near by to find things of interest.

Christopher walking along a country road in Lewis County West Viriginia

Christopher walking along a country road in Lewis County West Virginia

April is always a mixed bag of events at our house Tom and Cody have birthdays at the end of March and the first of April so it is always a time of celebration.  We try to adventure some where to shake off the dust and dirt from the long winter spent inside and this year was no different. We headed to Kentucky and had a ball at Makers Mark Distillery, the Kentucky Horse Park and Historic Bardstown, Ky. I hope to return to Bardstown it is one of the most beautiful and friendly towns I have ever visited and this is the “off-season” the Derby would still be a month away and the city is really alive then.

Easter and Kentucky Derby hats in a window store front in Bards Town, Ky

Easter and Kentucky Derby hats in a window store front in Bardstown, Ky

 Historic John Rowan house. Old Kentucky State    Park, Bardstown Kentucky

Historic John Rowan house. Old Kentucky State Park, Bardstown Kentucky

With spring in full force May is always focused on our gardens, yards, flowers and ramps. I did some blogging about the wild onions if you want to learn more about wild onions and how to use them. Our family loves to spend the day in the mountains with a picknick lunch and a bag full of ramps.

Spring ramp digging Christopher holding a the first ramp

Spring ramp digging Christopher holding a the first ramp

I also start to see the wonderful spring flowers appear and could not help myself for taking a few photos of them.

white Peony at the Stoneley Farm

white Peony at the Stoneley Farm

June 20th is our celebration of state hood here in the Mountain State.  This year Tom and I spent the day working on customers horses.Were lucky enough that afternoon to find thousands and thousands of wild flowers in bloom along the long-deserted road between farms. My favorite is the wild roses that have  a million tiny thorns and are in this hot pink color. The smell fills the air for miles and you just want to stop and enjoy the warm sun, the sweet smell and a long country road.

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Terry Washborn's shed with wild roses and trumpet vines

Terry Washborn’s shed covered in wild roses and trumpet vines

July found us Camping near Canaan Valley  in the mountains of West Virginia. We found a remote camp ground where the water of the Potomac was warm and clear and the weekend was lazy and we found time to act  silly and share family time.

Tom and Christopher wearing the big bear hats just being silly

Tom and Christopher wearing the big bear hats just being silly at Smoke hole caverns

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

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

August found us looking for wild mushrooms and boy to we hit the jack pot all summer and fall. I was over whelmed with the variety color and size of the mushroom we and our friends found. What a great way to spend a hot humid afternoon. Head for the cool shaded woods and come home to a feast of wild West Virginia mushrooms.

wild chanterelle Mushrooms found in Harrison County, West Virginia

wild chanterelle Mushrooms found in Harrison County, West Virginia

Wild mushroom, Hen of the Woods, found by the trunkful

Wild mushroom, Hen of the Woods, found by the trunkful

wild Bollete cap

September started a new stage to our lives as Christopher started school. We said good-bye to my little guy and said hello to a student. We also said good-by to Christopher’s  Step Grand father and shared in losing someone from Alzheimer’s and the destruction that it has put my family through.

Christopher'd first day at school Sep 2013

Christopher’s first day at school Sep 2013

Honor guard the funeral of Minter Mowrey

Honor guard the funeral of Minter Mowery

The fall was creeping in and Oct is one of my favorite months if you can miss the rain that begins to fall.  We found a beautiful weekend and took off to take photos in the northern part of the state and see an abandoned State Penitentiary in Moundsville. I found its structure breath-taking and it history ominous. It was one of the most interesting places I have had the opportunity to photograph in years.

veiw of Moundsville State Penitentuary, Moundsville, West Virginia

view of Moundsville State Penitentiary, Moundsville, West Virginia

Christopher and I on top  of the Indian mound in Moundsville West Virginia

Christopher and I on top of the Indian mound in Moundsville West Virginia

The next two months are a total blur. Hunting season begins and the holidays  add to  the already busy time so it seems I must have forgotten to take any beautiful photos.  But my family  had a successful fall with many happy evenings telling hunting stories and me and the kids processing the meat for the long cold winter. I also am happy to report that my little book club has reached its 9th month of  continuous reading and we are still going strong.

Cody Powers with his 8 point buck

Cody Powers with his 8 point buck

Janice, Sandy and Christopher at our Thanksgiving Book club meeting

Janice, Sandy and Christopher at our Thanksgiving Book club meeting

Then as I was just getting ready to decorate for the Holidays I finally gave into the pain that I was experiencing in my foot and came to find out that I had broken a bone in the bottom of my left foot . This is what Santa gave to me about the 13 th of Dec.

My New air cast and 6 weeks off work

My New air cast and 6 weeks off work

I am currently off work  and feeling better. I hope to get things back to ” normal” what ever that is in a couple of weeks. This was also the best time for me to have this happen as work is slow and I could spend more time with my family over the holidays. I also learned to slow down and sit still a little better from this adventure and that was a lesson I found very hard at first but it is growing on me now. I plan  more rest in the new year and learning about that  not pushing my ageing body quite so hard.

fire works over the West Virginia State Capital 2013

fire works over the West Virginia State Capital 2013

 HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERY ONE !

may I see and hear from all of you through out 2014.

Categories: About me, Appalachian Mountains, Death, family memories, Holidays, Kentucky, Louis Bennett Library, Maker's Mark, Mushrooms, photo review | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Building Memories, Gingerbread House

    One of my favorite things about having kids is doing things together that they will remember when they are old and gray. I try to spend time with my sons doing creative things that we will both like to do too.

christopher building ginger bread house

Christopher building gingerbread house

   This seems to always involve food or building something so we finally found a  way to combine the two, gingerbread houses. I am now hooked and will be looking at other houses for ideas. We cheated this year with a kit house and some stale candy from Halloween. I learned tons and am thinking of already making another one from scratch.

The two houses my friends Jacquelyn has written about her Blog  http://quiltofmissingmemories.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/one-sweet-forecast/ made a real impression on me and I hope to get an idea as nice as her “Dance Studio” house for the kids to build in the future. I am sure that I would end up dragging Tom into it also… He could draw out the plans on butcher paper and I would cook the cookies and make the icing.

My older son suggested that we make a barn and I am thinking that would be great if I can maybe make it with animal crackers we decorate or find some cookie cutters in animal shapes… the ideas go on and on.

But in the end it was all about making memories with my son and having fun on his Thanksgiving break and spending family time together.

small ginger bread house

small ginger bread house

Then after all the fun is over mom still gets to clean up the mess.

mess left after decorating ginger bread house

mess left after decorating ginger bread house

Sharing this with Thursday favorite things at Katherine’s Corner.com

Categories: cakes and family deserts, candy, Christopher, cooking, gingerbread, Holidays | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Think Handmade Gifts or Support an Artist This Year

   With the holidays almost here I wanted to share an idea with all of you.

Five hands thinking

Five hands thinking

    I love to surround myself with people who also understand this idea and  make things. It is with pleasure that I share my life with artist of every kind. Most are people I have known for years and have struggled to have a voice for their passions. Most work other jobs to support themselves and pay for their supplies. So while thinking about what you want your gifts to say to those you give them to, think about supporting an artist. If you are not able to make something handmade yourself then let a person who has a wonderful skill help.

These are just a few of the artist that I know and support. They are just part of a wonderful culture of local artist that need all of us to keep working. It is through the arts that we teach our children that there is more to the world then what we all see at the huge chain stores and the value of things that are hand-made. Add a hand-made items to you gift giving this year and open up the door to a conversation about who made it and how. If we are lucky we maybe able to teach our children about how reclaiming, recycling works or about how to learn a new skill or how a tradition continues from our past.

  My brother William Lowrey ( Bill) painted and carved any piece of wood he could find. I still remember having a wooden skate board that he craved and painted while he was in High School. Over the years he as grown as an artist and become a master furniture builder and sculptor in the Denver Colorado area. He has spent years reclaiming lost lumber to make into something new. A favorite piece of mine is a Reclaimed Redwood table that he made a few years back it is the perfect balance of beauty and usefulness.  He also makes sculptures from reclaimed marble and wood. Many of his works are about balance and texture with a very modern flair.

my brother Bill Lowrey

my brother Bill Lowrey

reclaimed redwood  coffee table

reclaimed redwood coffee table

reclaimed marble wall sulpture light-dark

top of reclaimed redwood end table

top of reclaimed redwood end table

Contact him at his website or through his on-line gallery, http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/bill-lowrey-art.html.

   My life long friend and photographer Alex Smits of Seattle Washington is “The King” of Girls-n-Guns photography. Thiers are many great photographers but he has taken his subject-matter to a new level. He has single-handedly removed many of the stereo types about the idea of woman and guns. What once had a fetish following is now a creative statement with a back bone of great skill and creative force. He makes beautiful calendars, cards and enlargements of his favorite subject matter.

alex shooting on the beach

Rear view Jenny by Alex Smits

Rear view Jenny by Alex Smits

Cheryl at Fireplace

Jenny white Sweater

Jenny white Sweater

 Contact him at his website,http://www.alexsmits.com/ or his face book page.

  My friend and mad knitter Jennifer at Lavishcraft in Denver, Colorado has been on her journey to bring hand knitted items from the back of your grandmas closet to the front line of fashion for years. She is a power house of  unique design with a strong understanding of line and texture making the most simple items into detailed works of art. She is also able to do what the chain stores can’t and that is customise her work for you body or your needs.

Purple scarf

Purple scarf

Jennifer with cape

Jennifer with cape

Vault Coul gray

You can contact her at her Esty shop at,http://www.etsy.com/shop/lavishcraft?ref=si_shop.

 This year my family is focusing on making many of our holiday gifts and in my case I have made hundreds of jars of jelly that I will gift to family and friends in the tradition of my Grandmother and Father in Law. Hope every one likes the Apple Cider Jelly this year! What is it that you want to say with your gifts this year. Share something Hand Made !

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Categories: furniture, gifts, Holidays, Knitting, Photos | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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