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Monday, July 29, 2013

Taking My Darlings On A Hike

Of course one might say that they took TheQueen but the little white Nissan was the chariot and that's basically mine so let's pretend that I took them to the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail 
This is my second trip up to King George Co. - last spring we did a short leg of the journey but this was the first time LD had seen this glorious emerald tunnel. The reward for me was the look of delight on his face when we pulled of the road and got out. 
Walking old railroad beds is fun because they're so flat. As you walk along you you might be looking down into a stream bed or swamp
Or be looking up at the roots of tall trees when only moments before you were walking among the branches!

There was very little along the path besides this single sign at the beginning and a few rough and simple benches. It was obvious that someone had recently been through with a saw to clean up storm debris.

Mostly though it was long straight tunnels through the jeweled green of high summer.

A crane here of there in a swamp or a smattering of home geese - a flutter of wood duck across the swamp - but beyond that there was very little animal activity.

Except human animals, that is
Not even very much railroad detritus was evident - of course - a box on a stand in the woods is too tempting to pass by - but it was empty. Wonder what it used to contain?

Roads, most of them much more primitive than this one, intersect the trail all along the way. They tempt you to explore, but we were doing a 3 mile stretch and 3 miles back so we didn't wander off.

So in 6 miles, this was the only blossom I found. I haven't  identified it yet - it looks like a tickseed or a sneezeweed but ... look at those leaves! It's a mystery still for me.

Horseback riding is allowed - I wonder if this guy ever gets to lope down the path. He (she?) sure looked like she'd enjoy it. He was standing there both times we went past.

I always have the best time when I go off with my guys. Two princes they are.

We turned around here - just past mile 11 - beneath this highway bridge. Hmm. I think I need to go back and look at the map to see what bridge this is.

Even though we backtracked over familiar territory, the magic of being in this green arbor continued to hold sway over our spirits. Quiet, but for our soft voices, was the order of the day. We could talk about nothing or everything or say nothing at all.  That's the fun of a straight flat course. Our stopping point was back at milepost 8 - just around the bend from where we parked the car.

By this time it was nearly 2 o'clock and we were hungry. We had lunch at the Port Royal Tavern which has re-opened as Lynn's Inn 1852.  They served huge sandwiches at reasonable prices. They also make something called a Mojo - which is slices of potato rounds dipped in spicy flour and then fried. I am figuring 100 calories for 2. Yes. I ate 3. Then we went home, freed the dogs, walked them out to Robert's Landing and went swimming. 

So it was a happy delicious summer Saturday. I was a little sore on Sunday but only, surprisingly, along my shins. We still walked over to White Oak Swamp and did the circle, but I napped the afternoon away.

Yes. Sometimes summer is just so sweet.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Art in Action

The moment I saw the Zentangle books I knew I wanted to use it to decorate clothing. White t-shirts came to mind, of course – but not exclusively. I knew black and white would look great, just … not so great on me. I also knew color would be fun – but color is always trickier. Here are two versions of Zentangle inspired wearable art. I used Sharpie Fabric Markers on them both.

The important thing to remember when playing with these designs is that Less is More. I'm far too inclined to draw every favorite design all over everything. With this t-shirt I selected 7 patterns and repeated them throughout - carrying one of my favorites, the leafy vines across the back and another favorite - a blossom like design down both sleeves. 

Here I am in classic Librarian Pose

This colored one is nice enough but, alas, too many colors. If I want to do lots of colors on something I'll do it on white or cream. If I start with any more identifiable color as a background I'll select a strong contrast instead. I still like this - but I think the B&W is better.

Like tattoos without getting pricked. 

And here is a picture of the Birthday Girl - because today is our little princess Callie's first birthday. No. She won't get a cake. Yes. She will get extra biscuits. Happy Birthday Callie-Girl!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Very Virginia Vacation

It's Hot.

No duh, you say - it's July, right?

Well. I don't do July all that well. In fact - I have always been so glad my birthday wasn't in July. If I had to pick my least favorite month it would be a tie between February and July - and at least February is short.

And really - I shouldn't complain. It hasn't been hot enough for me to get the ice packs out of the freezer and put them under a towel on the bed. It's just been ordinary hot - and I still don't do hot very well - unless.

Unless I get to do it at the beach. And this week I got there. Cousin H and I slipped out of town on Thursday for a 2 day mini-vacation to Virginia Beach that turned out to be an absolutely magical experience.

From start to finish this trip was blessed by the vacation stars. The traffic was easy getting to the beach and my new little white Nissan is very quiet, so it was easy to chat as we tooled down the road. The weather was hot but just beachy hot and there was always an ocean breeze and the water was gentle and refreshing. The crowds were packed like sardines and as polite as Sunday School teachers. In fact, it was the people we encountered that made this trip so fantastic. Everywhere we went on this little jaunt, we made the most amazing connections with people. The man at the hotel was able to get us into our room an hour early. He gave us fabulous advice on a restaurant which turned out to be the first restaurant I've ever eaten in at VaBeach that wasn't all carnival food and or else cost an arm and a leg. Tautog's - it's called. It's in an old house on 23rd Street between Atlantic and Pacific Aves. Order the blackened tuna - it's local and it's to die for.

Dinner in the cool dining room was totally relaxing, after an afternoon of beach walking (yes, in spite of the crowds!) and swimming - or rather bobbing - in the water. I was actually thinking about an early bedtime when we stepped out into the street to hear a marching band playing theme songs from old television shows. What a treat! The trumpet player asked who was having a birthday that week and I pointed to H. They called her out into the street and did a jazzy rendition of Happy Birthday for her.

And that began the lively night we spent, strolling up and down Atlantic Ave taking in all the fun that's  BeachStreetUSA.  It also turns out that the city fathers and mothers of Virginia Beach have hired performers to entertain people on every corner in an 8 block stretch - every night throughout the summer from 7:30 to 11. Free! Not even tips. All the entertainers were paid by the city. It was pure pleasure. And entertainment of every sort, from hammer dulcimers to HipHop dancers, magicians to folk rock singers, marching bands to jugglers of flaming torches. In front of a restaurant with outdoor seating a cabaret style, Frank Sinatra crooner swept me into an impromptu dance.

There was even a Mayor of BeachStreet in cut-away coat and and top hat strolling with a Miss BeachStreet - in tiara and evening gown- strolling the sidewalks and pausing for photo ops.

The mayor urged us to catch the illusionist act at the old coast guard station and we quickly backtracked and found seats up front. What a show! This was the most amazing magician/illusionist I've ever seen. Krendl - a modern day Houdini with a mind boggling act.

What a night. TheQueen, normally a lark, not a night owl, lingered outside, soaking up the entertainment till closing time. I was so tired I didn't even mind when I got sand in my bed. I crashed.

The magic continued the next morning with a sunrise beach walk and a mid-morning departure. The traffic was easy to drive through - an important thing for this country driver who rarely encounters more than a dozen cars on her daily commute. The only slow down was right before the Norfolk tunnel - which was a good thing - because then even TheQueen got to mosey along, looking at the wide water, the sailboats, air craft carriers and cargo ships as they moved slowly up and down their watery highway.

Shields TavernWe got to Colonial Williamsburg  right at lunchtime to mostly empty streets and open parking lots. There were very few tourists out - scared away by the alarmist weather reports - though, really - it was just plain old hot summertime. But I shall refrain from descending into a rant about the absurdity of 21st century weather reports ... and say merely that we, in sensible sun hats and cool loose clothing, made our way down to Shields Tavern where we were treated to an absolutely delicious luncheon of quasi historic dishes. I say quasi because obviously they're catering to modern diners - but the beef pasties were scrumptious and the salad was perfection. Towards the end of our meal we heard music coming from upstairs and as we were leaving we stopped to talk to the musician - who, in the most charming Virginia fashion, turned out to be married to a woman who went to the same high school as my companion and was best friends with the daughter of a man who worked for my father. And though he grew up in Texas, he was a descendant of two families from my end of the county, including one long gone family whose 17th century land patent was researched and platted by my surveyor husband in 1977. I mean - how Virginia is that?!?

Our last stop was at the W&M bookstore in the corner building that used to house Casey's - a high end clothing store that sent models over to The Trellis Restaurant during the Christmas season - so you could get a close up view of possible frocks to wear at your New Year's Eve Soiree. Yes. Very Frenchie. I miss those days but time does pass and we must adjust to change and even a Barnes&Nobel run college book store can be fun. Especially when there is an author at a table ready to sign a copy of her book.

Virginia native Judy Bloodgood Bander has written a novel, No Borrowed Glory, about her home county Isle of Wight. Told through the words of Nathaniel Chiles, a 13 year old boy, who does his bit for the revolution by helping the wife of the clerk of the court bury county records in a coffin. Based on actual events, the story is just one of Ms. Bander's projects intended to preserve and share the smaller bits of history that shored up the big events that changed the world.

We had a fun time chatting with the author about Virginia, history and the sorry state that has fooled all of America into thinking that the Massachusetts pilgrims got her first. Ah well. We know better and besides - that, too, is a Very Virginia Vacation sort of thing to do.

And now - it is Sunday and the weather dot com guys promise us a break in the heat. I'll leave you with my last words about Virginia summers. When the temperature on your thermometer says 97 degrees - it doesn't feel like 104 degrees. It feels like 97 degrees. That is what 97 feels like in steamy green Virginia - a state that is for lovers - of heat and truth.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Creativity Gone Walkabout

A whole month? I have never gone a whole month without posting here. I'm blaming it on my creativity. It has decided to meander off on some walkabout and left me high'n'dry all the month of June.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

But I have not been dead, you know - just ... um ... uncreative.

How I spent the Last Day of June
I have tried to be creative, but mostly I have been trying to wind up all things fiscal at work while wallowing in Michael Connelly novels at home. BD started reading him a year ago and in a rare alignment of literary stars, I began reading him this spring. We never read the same books unless we read them out loud, but this author was an exception. We're both laughing at each other and ourselves, as we succumb to the torpor addiction to a detailed, skilled, mystery writer.

Of course, June was was the last month of the fiscal year and though I believe I've tied up all the strings, I have a funny feeling that maybe I did not. It all seems too easy this year. Of course, there have been huge personnel changes this year, both in the library and in the county government - so maybe that's what's giving me that odd sensation. Or maybe I screwed up royally - a lowering thought for someone who's had her job as long as I've had mine. At least I know the changes are for the better, so I will just throw out my blessing hook and expect the best.

A wee bit of creativity displayed itself in the kitchen during June. I purchased two good sized pots of lavender this spring. While the brief strawberry season was in flush I managed to get a single batch of Strawberry/Lavender jam cooked up. This is a delicate flavor blend - neither lavender nor strawberry but something unique and heavenly. There is never enough S/L jam and I pot it up in tiny  jars so that I can share it. This particular batch did not set very  hard but it's jam. It doesn't have to be gooey and it set up enough to take it out of the syrup category. I wish I had 10 times this much.

 In the middle of the month BD had a chance to go sailing in NY. It coincided the first week of Summer Reading Club as well as Bess' Girls Camp. Cousin F is such a big girl now and Cousin A makes everything twice as much fun. The weather gods decided to bless us with Perfect Weather so there was lots of outdoor fun - horseback riding, canoeing and hiking - it's a rare week in June when every day is the right weather for doing stuff outdoors. Last year we nearly died in triple digit temperatures. This year was the reward.

I took the Friday of that week off and we went for a hike in the woods. Just down the home path and back by way of the rim path - not that far - but always beautiful. I took that same walk on Saturday only starting out on the rim path and coming back on the home path. When I got home I told BD how proud I was of him for fixing the bridge over the middle swamp last week - when the weather was so wicked-hot. He stared a moment and then said "I fixed that weeks ago".

"No Way" I argued - claiming that I'd just taken the girls down the home path last week and I would have noticed.  I see now that, though I did not notice, I did photograph it. A lowering senior moment here. Isn't this the most magical spot, though? Deep in the woods - like an emerald tunnel?

ThePrince had told me about a tree that had come down right on top of a tree that had come down several years ago. This is a spot where trees tend to blow down - perhaps some vortex builds in this southern stretch of the fields - and the fallen giants are all exposed to the north and north east winds. What I do know is that there can not be a tree down in the woods and TheQueen not itching to climb it. It turned out to be a bit harder to get up onto it than I thought but of course - triumph was inevitable.

Just in case you were wondering how Callie is doing - she is much improved. She still has a row of dimples along that femur where the screws were, but she has completely forgotten the cage and collar.  Here is a picture of her tormenting Jack on a walk. Whenever we reach this spot on the lane she always grabs his cheek and tries to pull him along. He has never snapped too hard at her even though she is digging sharp pointed teeth into his face. Evidently it's a dog thing.

Here they are in action:

 Last Friday evening there was a wine tasting in our local wine shop - She does these about twice a month on Friday evenings and they're like little parties. Afterwards there was a free bluegrass concert down the street at a riverside park. These are sponsored by our local main street organization and this is their second season. Last year I bought tickets for all of them and then never got to go to one - and gave my tickets away. It was fun to stroll down the street and listen to the music after sipping my wine (carefully calculated to fit within the days calories/points.)

And that's something I rarely discuss here at TheCastle - the calories/points/weight loss thing. You can't be an American Woman without having weight issues: weight loss, eating disorders, aging bodies, expanding girth, osteopenia  - you get the picture. I am no different from your typical (gasp 60 year old!!!) woman and have fought the good fight against Fat most of my adult life. It's just that I yammer on about it in a blog on a different website - Spark People dot com.

The weather turned hot almost as soon as the girls went home. Not killer hot, but in the low 90's. This week we are promised rain. Rain rain rain rain rain. I know some of my neighbors have had Enough Rain Already - but if I had to choose between enough rain and not enough - I'd take the rain every time. This is how green it is around here after the rainy month of June.

And so.  And so that's what's been going on at TheCastle. The year is half over. Time for the second half to begin. July July July July July