Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fires, Earthquakes and Hurricanes...Oh My!!

Don't Mess with Mother Nature!! ~Unknown

What a lot of excitement we have had here in Virginia and North Carolina!!  As you probably know, we have had the Dismal Swamp fire for several weeks, that periodically sends it's smoke our way, and it can be so bad some times that you can barely see to drive....then as quickly as it comes, it goes away!! 

Then, the EARTHQUAKE....yes we had an earthquake here and how freaky that started very slight and slow, just enough to make you think you had a case of vertigo, then it increased rapidly and you knew you had lost your mind....until you look around and see everyone else's confused expressions!!  I happened to be at the Dr. Office with my parents, and it felt almost like the wooden chair I was sitting in had rubber legs...then it backed off ever so slightly!! I couldn't believe it was an earthquake as we don't have them here in Virginia....but the TV in the office made the announcement!!

Meanwhile, Hurricane Irene was beginning to churn things up in the Atlantic!!  Whew!!  Hubby and I left here (Tidewater Virginia) Friday night to go to his mother's house as she lives alone and at 88 years young, living among a group of pine trees, we needed to go be with her for the storm.  We picked up everything that could fly around the yard and packed up our tailgating stove, water, flashlights, batteries and anything else we might need and headed down toward Irene as she headed up to the NC coast!! :\  We got to his Mom's about 5:00 friday evening and were greeted with Irene's rain bands and a little wind, before too long the rain became steady and heavy and the wind picked up!! We "rocked and rolled" all night, and the rain gauge already read it's capacity of 5" as the sun came up Saturday morning.  By 8:00am or so we had lost power, and Irene had made landfall Southeast of us and was headed North!!  It was the slowest moving storm we have EVER experienced!! The rain and wind lasted until sometime before sunup Sunday Morning!! Probably 30 hours of solid wind and rain!!  I tried to take some pictures of the birds huddled under the feeder 'hats' and riding the wind, but with all the rain on the windows they didn't turn out very well....maybe you can get the idea!!
There is a female cardinal inside and 2 under the 'hat' on top

2 under the hat, and they just rode up there going round and around in circles blowing in the wind!!

Believe it or not, no trees came down on her lot!! Lots of debris and limbs, but nothing else!! We had heard people in NC mention the smell of sap during the day on the radio, but didn't quite understand it until we went outside about 8 am to survey the area, and it smelled like Christmas!!  Remember how the Christmas tree lots always smell?  It was amazing!!  We picked up limbs and debris and we still didn't have power, so we cooked lunch on our stove ...and headed home to our house to see what happened passed our house much more quickly, which is really good since we leave very near the water, and our town is prone to flooding....Remember Isabel? We made the national news because of the devastation here in our little 'watermen' town of Poquoson!!  We found out later that the water was rising and many were holding their breath, but 2 hours before high tide, Irene's eye passed over and the changing wind direction pushed the water out before too much damage was done!! How lucky is that??  Most everyone lost power, which is not unusual here, EXCEPT our neighborhood!!  We had no trees down, and only a few leaves on our porch!!  We are SOOOO lucky!!    GOODNIGHT IRENE!!

So I guess I can't complain, all in all with all of our attacks by Mother Nature we are doing Great!! Thank you all for you emails and comments....we're still here, still heading toward the wonderful world of Retirement, and getting ready for Hokie Football (Virginia Tech) which begins this coming weekend!! Yahoo!! I'm ready to have some fun!!  We have become big time tailgaters so I will hopefully have lots of pictures, stories and maybe some recipes to share in the coming weeks!!



BTW The Dismal Swamp fire is still going on even with 10+ inches of rain and wind, but it is now to a point where they think they may be able to get it under control!! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Homecoming....and Cauliflower Mac N Cheese!

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.  ~Lin Yutang

Where have I been? I had a little adventure of my own!! 

As some of you know, our daughter Jessica traveled to India for 2 months this summer as part of the Vet School program at Virginia Tech.  She has a blog here of her own in order to share some amazing pictures and to share her adventure. I'll let her tell you all the stories, as she updates. 

What does that have to do with me?? 

Jess had great difficulty with internet connections in India, they had paid for a broadband card, that ended up not working, so communications were slim to none! Facebook chat was nearly our only chance to communicate, and with spotty internet, it was they were 9-1/2 hours ahead of us, so timing was also difficult. 

She was due to fly out on Wednesday, August 17 at 1:45 am India time (~ 4:30 pm here), to Frankfurt, Germany, then nonstop to Dulles, and after a 4-1/2 hour layover, on to Roanoke, VA, which was 30 miles from home!  I had her itinerary, and would track the flights across the world!! I know, it's just a Mom thing, I have to watch all the countries she flies over!! :) 

The plane had just lifted off, and they were in the air about 15 minutes, and her husband Brad called! I cheerfully answered with "I just saw her take off!!"  There was a long pause, the Brad responded with, "They didn't make it on the flight!" "They didn't have the proper exit visas"...Thankfully, he called the Vet School and spoke to them, explaining the issue, so that any help could be provided from this side!! He gets a medal for thinking of that, I couldn't think that straight!!

Without going through a lot of detail, I'll give you the shortened version of the next 48 hours!! They had to deal with the Indian Govt. offices, pay fines, fill out additional paperwork to register and get approved...they started when the offices opened that morning, and managed to push through the applications (normally 3-5 day waiting period) and get them approved in a couple of hours, then had to work closely with a travel agency to find them all flights, they confirmed it all just 30 minutes before time to get to the airport...again!!  Long story short...they made it out 24 hours later (Thursday), same flight!!  The only problem was that Jess couldn't fly to Roanoke, she would get to Dulles (Washington DC), and needed a ride home to Blacksburg VA!! 

 That's where I came in!!  I drove to Dulles, and met her there (THANK GOODNESS!!) and took her home to her hubby that night!! Her plane landed in DC at ~ 3:15 pm, and we had her home by 10:00 pm that night!! As you might have guessed, I have never been so happy to see her in my life!! She insisted I stay an extra day, so we got to visit on Friday and I came home Saturday Morning!!  

Believe it or not, her school started this morning (Monday) at 8:00 am!! Phew!! I know this will be an adventure she will not soon forget, I know I won't!!  I didn't think to take a camera, all I could think about was to get her home, but found this picture they took of themselves at the Frankfurt Airport....on the way home!! FINALLY!!

They looked tired...but so relieved!! 

So I got to participate in the adventure...even for just an instant!! :)

Welcome home Jess (and girls)....we sure are glad you are home!! 

Okay......Enough about matters of the heart!!

I decided that hubby would play guinea pig again this evening, I found a recipe I wanted to try, from Rachel Ray, and as usual, I followed it mostly, but made changes to it (noted) I halved it for the two of us and it's still a lot of leftovers!!...and I think it's a keeper, so I thought I would share!! 

Here goes:

Cauliflower Mac N Cheese

1 lb short cut pasta  (I used  1/2 lb penne rigate)
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil 
1 head cauliflower (I used 1/2 head)
1 cup chicken stock
3 TBSP Butter
1 onion finely chopped (I used 1/2 onion)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 TBSP flour (I used 1-1/2 TBSP)
2-1/2 cups milk (I used 1-1/4 cup)
fresh ground pepper
fresh grated nutmeg
3-4 sprigs sage , thinly sliced (I used fresh chives instead!)
2 TBSP Dijon mustard (I did not use)
1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese (I used 1/2-3/4 cup yellow mild cheddar)
1 cup Gruyere cheese (I used 1/2+ cup)
1 cup shredded parmigiano cheese (I used 1/2+ cup)
1 small bundle watercress (did not use)

As I said above, I halved it and it still would feed 4 easily!!

Bring salted water to a boil for pasta, and under cook the pasta about 2 minutes.

While the water comes to a boil, in a covered dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium to medium high heat, cut the core out of the cauliflower and set the head into the pot and add 1 cup of stock, cover and steam 12-15 minutes until tender. Remove and separate the cauliflower into flowerets, set aside. Discard the water from the pot.

Over medium heat in the same pot, melt the butter then add onions and garlic.

Saute until tender, and in the flour and whisk for 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and chives.  When thickened, stir in 2/3 of the combined cheeses. Add the pasta, cauliflower and stir, transfer to a baking dish, top with remaining cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees until cheese is melted and bubbly....20-30 minutes!

It was really good!!  Rachel says to garnish with fresh chopped watercress...I didn't do that, it was good just like it was!!  Another good one, and healthy too!!


::Hug:: + a special hug to Blacksburg VA tonight!! ;)


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gone Fishin'!

"A reel expert can tackle anything" ~Author Unknown

I went fishing with my Dad yesterday, it had been a while since we had gone, as you all know I was in Sanibel last week :(  The weather was great as it has finally cooled off here the last couple of days...we got up early and were down there in NC by 8:30. I took a few pictures of the creek (pronounced 'crick' in NC), I love this place....even with all the new houses added on the shores, the cypress trees and cypress knees somehow bring me back home! I grew up going to this place and will never grow tired of fact my Dad, who is now 80 something grew up down here, and I have carried on that tradition to my daughter....hopefully her children will have that same pleasure!

As I mentioned before, I love looking at the cypress knees, most of the Bass we catch are somewhere near the cypress knees. We always have said that the fish are at the 'knees and trees'.  I always see people in those knees!

When we first started fishing, we had some squirrels above us that was tossing the cypress tree balls at us, scared us at first, but I think they were having fun!
See the cypress tree balls on the limb to the left?
If you are a bass fisherman, you know that you have to fish between the water and the shore!! :) My dad got hung in a tree, and we looked up and saw this!!

It was about the size of a large man's head!! I was ready to cut the line to his bait, because we were going to have to drift the boat just underneath it to get to the bait! We kept working shaking the line from different angles and it finally came out...I was not looking forward to dealing with that!  It was really neat looking, I don't believe I have ever seen one this close in person!! But I didn't want to have to jump in the water to get away from it's inhabitants! (sorry the pics aren't in good focus!)

The water here is a creek of the Albemarle Sound as the water is considered 'brackish' (mostly fresh water, but has some salt water in it) So we catch bass, bream (pronounced brim), catfish etc here. Once in a while toward the sound end of the creek we will catch an occasional flounder or croaker.  This time the water was so salty we saw lots of crabs!! In fact, I lost several of my rubber worms to crabs that would attach to it and cut the end off!!  I considered crabbing, they are almost as good to eat as the fish!!

The fishing wasn't too bad, I caught 2 bass that we could take home, a 2-1/2 lb and one at the limit of 14"! My Dad caught 15 bream, so we have plenty for a good old fashioned fish fry today!! We will have the standards of a NC fish fry, bream (the little ones we call "crispies"-fried till all the bones, except the backbone, are crispy enough to eat) fried bass fillets, corn sticks (cornbread), boiled 'taters, and coleslaw!! That kind of cooking is hard to beat!!

I'm off to clean some fish!!



Thursday, August 11, 2011

What to do with all these shells!?

“The first man gets the oyster, the second man gets the shell.” ~Andrew Carnegie

Well, we are home and back to the same routine we is amazing how quickly you step back into the saddle and pick right back up we've been home less than a week and it already seems like so long ago we were in beautiful Sanibel!!  Like it says at the top of my blog...Retirement is looking more and more appealing these days!! :)

Everybody always asks me what I do with ALL THOSE SHELLS!! There are so many options, I find new stuff all the time, I have the shells, and the ideas, just would like to have the time to work with them! Working with the shells to me is nearly as relaxing as gathering them up on Sanibel!  Here are some pictures of some of the things I've done with them so far! Every year for Christmas, My Mom, Dad and I make things for the family, so keep in mind, a lot of these are just one or 2 examples of 60 we make for Christmas!!  I've already got a small start on this year's idea....(pics after Christmas!)

This year we gave family pics with a decorated frame!

A candle...shells underneath hold it upright!

These boxes were a lot of fun! Only a Dollar at dollar tree...then decorate!

This was a special box for my Mom, she found this starfish on the beach at the lighthouse at Sanibel, the rest are shells she picked up too!

Side view of the box for Mom

Click to read the story if you don't already know the story of the Sandollar!

Fighting conch shell lamp (mine)

This pic posted sideways, floor lamp hubby bought of 2 I have filled!!

Geocache items I put in! Olive pigs!

Geocache mice!

Jess' Owl

My Owl

Another picture frame

Bunny Butts...I made these for my Grandbaby Girls for Easter!

Front of Bunny

Other Bunny

Floor Lamp

Another lamp!! See the Scotch Bonnet!! Some of these shells are YEARS Old, some from Sanibel, Some from Panama City (1966-67)

Same Lamp, other side!
Della, from Del's shells (here) makes the MOST BEAUTIFUL jewelry, I have dabbled with that a little, but need to work on my skills with that...It is very difficult, and she has the most beautiful stuff...go check out her site, and visit her Etsy shop!! I would love to be able to make stuff like that!!

I just thought it would be fun to show you all what to do with those wonderful shells...I've seen such great ideas online and in stores...can't wait to sit down and try some of my ideas out!!



Friday, August 5, 2011

The last day of total relaxation...

No one can get inner peace by pouncing on it.  ~Harry Emerson Fosdick

This will be my last post from our wonderful week of relaxation at Sanibel!! :( 
We get back on the Auto Train tomorrow headed back North.  I must say, we feel like we did actually get to relax, we spent a lot of time on the beach, and that seems to really make a difference!  The weather has been perfect!!

We got up yesterday and went out early as low tide was at ~11:00, the place where we dug yesterday was 'high and dry' completely out of the water so we decided to shell the tidal pools until the tide came back in some.  We did pretty well....hubby got this super awesome Kings Crown! He always finds one between here and Sundial, but it's always alive!!  This time it wasn't!!  He wins the trip trophy with this one, it's HUGE and so gorgeous!....It will find itself at the shelling place of honor at our house, on top of our stereo where we see them to my Scotch Bonnet, his Junonia and several other special shells! 

 After lunch we went back to 'the digging spot' and found a few things I got this really pretty true tulip....
 All in all the shelling was pretty good this week! I got lots of minis which I will need for this year's project.....shhh it's a secret, can't tell you until after Christmas!!

 We went back to Hungry Heron to have one last dinner with Lori, our favorite waitress...then back out to shell a little more....It was a beautiful sunset here last night, but I didn't have my camera on the beach with me....but take my word for it, it was gorgeous!

During the day we sat under the umbrella once again and took in the sights....I have started naming birds and people so Hubby knows who I am talking about...this is Larry the sandpiper....he likes to just relax on one leg!! He was with us every day!!


This snowy plover hasn't gotten a name, he's new on the scene!!

 We ought to call these guys The Platters.... they hung around together and did everything in sync!!
 And I named this guy Clyde, he and several others fished and fished and fished, Clyde however was the only one we saw catch anything....and what a beautiful Snook he caught....but he set him free, back into the Gulf...(I think there is a season for Snook)

Today we went out before the low tide (noon) and walked the tidal pools, we did pretty well...we have become 'shell snobs' of sort, so we look for all shells in good shape....especially the last day,....(they have to be cleaned and dried in time to pack up!!) 

Pam from iLoveShelling sent me an email yesterday and wanted to meet since we have blogged and emailed but never seemed to  get together and meet face to we emailed our plans and we finally got to see each other!!  She came by and Hubby and I talked with her for a little while!  What a sweetie she is...and I think we have so much in common!!  We both truly love shelling, and all things Sanibel....and the blogging family we have acquired!!

I feel like I have met someone famous, Pam is lucky enough to call this paradise her home, and I hope one day Hubby and I will be able to do the same!! So cool!!

Here are today's finds... as I said...we went out for a short time around10:00 or so, and it quickly got really hot!!  Hubby even took a dip in the Gulf!!

Check out this BEAUTIFUL Alphabet Cone Hubby picked up!!

My favorite...A Horse conch

It's hard to tell in this pic, but the Murex is HUGE!

From L to R a Sanibel Turret, Horse Conch, and Lace Murex

Hubby found this beautiful Scallop too!

I am going to post these pictures, and then join him on our last day in paradise for some final relaxation under the umbrella....and finish up by cooking out some steaks on the grill again!!

We hope to beat Emily up the coast, (we catch the train near Orlando tomorrow) and be safely nestled in our home before she hits....I think she will be going out to the Atlantic soon....(I hope!)