Thursday, July 28, 2011

And The Heat Burns On

After a week with sizzling temperatures of 115F or higher there was barely a respite for the weekend. This year is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and at Manassas Battlefields a reenactment was being played out, but I wasn't there. I just couldn't bear to be outdoors any longer than was necessary so I had to amuse myself indoors. So not really sure how my logic kicked in but I thought it would be a splendid idea to see how my pastry skills were and on Friday evening I spent 1.5 hours making a ground beef and sausage pie, including making the pastry from scratch, with English butter and lard. didn't want to be outside in the sun but I was happy standing next to a hot oven. Go figure!
The pie was perfect.
On Saturday morning I met up with an old friend to see the last Harry Potter movie. We decided to catch the early show at 9:30 as we were concerned about not getting good seats with the crowds. There were 10 people including us! After that it was a bout of shopping running from one air conditioned store to the next. Then we parted as we both had other plans for the rest of the day. I went to the Restore shop in Manassas looking for a nice piece of slate on which to paint a house name for Meadow House. I started down the steps leading to the basement and on the fourth or fifth stair suddenly found my skirt up around my ears. Pushing it down quickly I looked straight into the eyes of a man standing below who had obviously enjoyed the show. I pulled a face and we both burst out laughing. I realized the outside door at the bottom of the stairs allowed gusts of air to blow through, a fact I shall remember in future. I kept bumping into the guy around the store and each time our faces split into grins.
I left the store slateless and decided to go home. A quick stop at the store to grab a few supplies and then then I planned to stay indoors.
But not before I'd taken a photo of my yummy vanilla cream soda with chocolate and vanilla icecream floating on top.Heaven!
Kota and I had a quick tour round the garden so I snapped a few shots of a Carolina Wren, a hydrangea and the dreamcatcher in the fir tree at the back of the house. A previous tenant here had been a Native American whose pet had died. The grave is still visible and the tree was planted in memory of a beloved companion.
Rob turned up later in the evening but I still had one more adventure before he arrived....
I was sitting at my computer when I looked up and saw what I thought was the ears of a German Shepherd dog trotting behind my car. I ran to the lounge as Kota was out on the patio. Imagine my surprise when I opened the French door and came face to face with a black bear, no more than 30ft away from me. I warned Kota to stay but I wasn't even scared. Nor was the bear. We all stood looking at each other for a few seconds then he continued on his way through the undergrowth. I grabbed a pair of boots and my camera then Kota and I scouted along the woodland edge hoping to see him again. No luck. Oh well, there'll be other times hopefully.
Very little was achieved Sunday due to the excessive heat again but we did manage an amble down to the pond to feed the fish.
The fish food is kept in a container that sits in the tree and those fat scaly critters know when there's people about. Barely a second passed from the granules hitting the water's surface before big mouths appeared sucking at the surface. We sat and watched for a while but the heat was too much. We staggered back to the house.
I did manage to put up my new bird box which I'd bought at Tractor Supply that morning. I love that store.
My beautiful roses that Rob bought me on Sunday morning. They're a pale pink and green with the palest green shading at the base of each petal. For some reason they remind me of an English country garden. Despite wanting to sit on the AC units all the time, the weekend passed too quickly. And we get a break with the heat next week. Upper 90's all week. Groan.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Paddle in Big Red

I took the day off on Monday so I could get out on the water. It's been bugging me for weeks that I haven't been kayaking. With the move and settling in, time was passing by. There's a stretch of water nearby called Lake Brittle so that was where I headed. Not the easiest of places to find as it's not sign posted but a friendly local gave me directions and I soon found it. There weren't many others there, just a couple of fishermen in jon boats So I was fine sharing the lake with them!
It felt wonderful to be in a kayak again and I spent the first 15 minutes or so just paddling as fast as I could creating waves over the bow.It was great to release some energy. The lake was alive with dragon flies that darted back and forth or hovered over me. I stopped near some branches that were poking above the surface, a landing platform for the insects to sunbathe.
 There was a pretty water lily patch where golden blooms opened up while the green pads below them collected water that sparkled like frozen ice.
I spotted a green heron on a branch and as I readied my camera for a photo I inadvertently startled a couple of mallard ducks. They in turn made me jump so my photo was blurred. I felt a little bad as in their fright they had shed some feathers. I gathered them up for a shot and then kept the blue one.
I think this bird is a snipe. I haven't seen these before on other lakes so it was nice to see a new species. There were plenty of gooses paddling in the mud too and they all stopped to watch me paddle by.
 A Pearly Crescent-Spot Butterfly landed on my ankle as I had both feet dragging in the water to keep me cool. He visited for about 20 minutes and I could feel little pin pricks on my skin as his proboscis (tongue) prodded for salt or water from my perspiration. A dragonfly also landed for a brief visit so I stopped completely until they left.
A blue heron. I also saw a white egret but was too slow to photograph that.
The sun was unrelenting so I stopped on a shady bank for some respite, enjoying the coolness underneath the trees. I perched on a tree root and read my book for a while.
Back out on the water, I noticed a group of school kids had arrived for a kayaking class. It was time for me to leave but I was fine with that. I'd been out for nearly 3 hours and was ready for some air conditioning. I could also feel that I'd got a little sunburned so I didn't want to bake any further. I'll be out on the water again before too long, I have to explore the water nearer to Front Royal next.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sterling comes to Marshall

Saturday afternoon was hot but thankfully not humid and Debbie, Jim and the boys along with Scott and Kim came down to visit. Debbie had suggested that the boys bring their bikes so without further ado Luke and Max took to the gravel and promptly started collecting boo boos. With plenty of skidding, jumps and a fall after each pass, we all yelled out, "Shake it off!" before the tears started, and the boys continued undaunted.
Luke proudly showing off his war wound patched up with SpongeBob band aids.
Debbie larking about on the swing.
We all strolled down to the fish pond stopping on the way to look at the remnants of some iron works.
I found out later from Maggi that her son had started sculpture and put together a few pieces which are now left on the steps of the old house which burned down a few years earlier. Here Scott is explaining about the abandoned furnace and how it worked.
Big boys fooling around at the pond.
Me and Kim.
Debbie and Kim.
Scott messing with Luke and Max.
My favorite photo of the whole day and it turned out exactly as I hoped, an image of a lazy hot summer's day; Jim and Max walking back from the pond.
The Rabble. Rob turned up later and soon fooled around like the rest of them.
Max hammering down the gravel drive. Did he fall off?
Yup! And was proud to sport his new boo boo.
As with any BBQ the boys hung around the grill, each passing golden nuggets of information on the master skill of grilling. Jim's was, "You keep flipping, Deb, you keep flipping." And Rob was trying extra hard not to look into the camera lens as he usually loves to do. Looks like it's taking every ounce of his concentration.
The boys on Scott's bike. We had a fabulous afternoon and evening. The food and company were unsurpassable. We watched the full moon rise and then as the boys got drowsy, we packed up and said our farewells. But they'll soon return!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cuckoos and Peaches

Rob came up on Saturday armed with his repair kit as my cuckoo clock that he had only given me the previous week had taken a tumble and consequently suffered a, hopefully, minor damage. Everything was working fine except the cuckoo who refused to go back into his house and shut the door once he had heralded the hour. Rob set to straight away and started undoing screws, pulling pieces off and fiddled inside the intricate mechanism with his big paws while I hovered with baited breath. After much poking and moving chains and wires about, Rob sat back declaring it was fixed. We silently trekked to the bedroom and hung it back on the wall. The minute hand turned and the cuckoo burst out of his door and cuckooed loudly and then, Woo Hoo! retreated slamming the door behind him loudly. Well done Rob! I was so pleased and now take great delight in the way the door claps shut behind him, almost as though he were most displeased with having to announce each hour.
I had noticed a few days ago on the way home from work a sign announcing that peaches were available across the road from me. So off we went to investigate. A house had set up signs and based on the honor system you could go and pick peaches, stuffing your payment through the letterbox afterwards. We met the owners, Blane & Jan, as we approached the door and chatted happily for a few minutes before we headed off to the peach trees.
The trees we could pick from had white streamers hanging from them. This was the first time I've ever picked peaches let alone seen them growing on a tree so I was excited. My first task was to hunt and find the bestest biggest and juiciest peach on the trees for me to eat. This took a little while as I could hardly contain myself and flitted from tree to tree before I managed to gain control and concentrate on picking just one delectable globe of heavenly sweetness.
Found it!
It was actually impossible to bite into the peach without some going up my nose, the thing was huge!
As it turned out Rob ended up doing all the picking while I followed him around munching and dripping. I think I put 2 peaches in the bag, the second one right at the end as I became aware of my non-contribution.
Rob fooling around and displaying our peck of peaches.
Cool number plate!
All lovingly placed on the fridge shelf ready for consumption.
We pottered down to the pond again with Kota to feed the fishes but didn't stay too long as a couple of steaks were calling us from the house.
The evening ended nicely with a yummy feast of rib eyes, baked beans and baked potatoes. Rob had the largest potato I had seen for a while, it was humungous and barely left room on the plate for his steak and beans. He declared he could woof the lot but had to admit defeat and leave some, a planned tactic I know, to save room for locally made apple pie and ice cream!