Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Urbexing Crew come to Marshall

Saturday turned into a beautiful day with sunshine and little humidity. I woke up and started baking meringues, my first attempt. Unfortunately I still had to use a small hand whisk so it took over an hour to get them whisked to peaks. In between bouts of frantic whisking I'd stop and have a dance to some music and then once my arms had recovered I'd have another power surge with the whisk again. Finally they were ready for the oven and while they cooked I knocked up some more lemon tarts and mincemeat pies.
I made a coffee butter cream to sandwich the meringues together, marinaded some chicken, made a salsa dip and I was ready for guests. Rob turned up first from his family reunion in New York and then Steve arrived with his poor foot in a support, a result of a pot hole calamity. Rob had brought me back a whisk with a handle so my next batch of meringues will be much easier to make, oh thankful joy. Then Barb drove up so it was time to sit and have a few beers.
 Kota took a seat too and Steve had a beer discussion with him, after which Kota chose a Miller Lite.
Emily and Jason turned up soon after and what a cheerful time we seemed to be having. Look at those faces!
Once again the boys monopolized the BBQ, what is that all about? But I was happy not to have to be involved in the meat cooking. I've realized that I don't even know how to turn the BBQ on because every time it's used, it's my guests who do the cooking. Isn't that grand?
This series of photos cracked me up. Rob couldn't get his thumb up in time for the first photo and Barb was too involved with her chicken drumstick to take any notice. Rob got his thumb up in time for the second shot but Barb's still not letting go of her chicken. So Rob meets her halfway, let's have a drumstick salute!
The pastries went down a treat for dessert with icecream and who ended up with the task of cleaning out the tub?
A happy volunteer! We sat for ages outside chatting with candles for lighting and thankfully no bugs. Then we went indoors. Which turned out to be eventful as the bell hornets were still around and a few got indoors so it was fun and games catching them, and keeping them prisoner inside upturned glasses. Even Kota helped and managed to ground one in the hallway. Emily took many photos of the black and yellow captives and we had glasses dotted around the living area before we managed to group them all in one buzzing glass.
Jason pulled the last Christmas cracker in the house and sported his hat while proudly showing off his new change purse that he'd found inside it.
Kota in a perfect pose by the candles, I think he thought it was a birthday cake.
Then it was a quick clear up and time to get out Emily's air mattress as they were staying the night. 
Kota immediately jumped on board and refused to get off as it started inflating. He really does like to be the center of attention. A goodnight from everyone and then we crashed.
The next morning I cooked up eggs, bacon, beans, home fries and toast for us with big mugs of tea and we watched as a storm rolled around outside. We just relaxed and chatted and waited for the skies to clear so we could go and pick some peaches. We finally got over to the orchards to find bare trees, trees bereft of fruit, no bloody peaches. Disappointed Rob and I sat on the porch of the house but Jason and Emily persevered in their hunt for the golden globes and when they didn't show up we went in search of them. 
They had found a row of trees which were still yielding some fruit, small but still sweet.
The boys had to reach up high to grab the last peaches of the season and Jason even climbed up in the branches, determined not to leave without a full bag.
We were successful in filling our bags, woo hoo! and returned to Meadow House. Emily and Jason soon left to head back to DC with a stop first in Marshall to check out the IGA store and Rob left to go home and unpack from his trip. I tidied up the house and then treated myself to a wonderful drink.
I threw 4 chopped peaches into the blender with a handful of ice and then 2,3 or maybe 4 shots of Bacardi rum. Delicious!
Kota and I went for a little walk and then flopped onto the sofa for the rest of the evening, with me already looking forward to next weekend. We'd discussed an urbexing trip up to PA and so next Saturday we'll be exploring an abandoned lace factory. Hooray! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Lukester's 7th Birthday

On Friday evening I sped down to Gordonsville to spend the evening with Rob which whizzed by and before I knew it I was heading north again to Meadow House. But I took a quick photo of the cuckoo clocks Rob bought on EBay. The gap is where mine hung. I'm hoping he'll fix another couple for me, they're so cool, and really he has so many that I'm sure he wouldn't miss another two birds cuckooing each hour.
Back home I got straight into cooking mode. I knocked up a spaghetti bolognese for the evening when Rob would arrive to stay the night before driving up to New York for his family reunion. And then the rolling pin came out and I made pastry for strawberry jam tarts, lemon curd tarts and mince pies with meringue on top. Before I knew it Rob turned up and we ate dinner then collapsed on the sofa.
Next morning fueled with bacon and eggs, Rob set off. He had sandwiches and snacks and all my baking loaded in his truck. I waved him off with 3 tarts left for me and an apple in the fridge!
No wonder he looks so smug!
I had a couple of hours to grab a nap and relax then I was off to Sterling for Luke's birthday party which was at Peggy and Tom's house in Maryland. But first I stopped at a local farmers market to buy some fresh peaches for Max, a special request from Jim.
These peppers looked wonderful but I had no intention of cooking anything else just yet so no purchase was made. 
It was wonderful to see my American family again. I'm so lucky that both Jim's and Debbie's families have 'adopted' me, it's great having so many relatives. Kim and Scott were there also, we had a fab crowd. The Lukester didn't want to wait too long to open presents so we didn't make him wait.
Both Luke and Max were ecstatic with my present, thanks to Jim giving me a heads up.
 Luke doing his happy dance.
Another happy pose.
 The Toy Story cake. This was chokklit! Scott, my chocolate buddy, and I were very happy, and it was delicious.
 Bits, Peggy, Scott, Jim and Tom all looking as though they were scared about what was going to emerge from the wrapping paper next!
The Happy Birthday song and then candle blowing. It only took one puff. Go Luke!
Lou, Scott and Bits waiting for their slice as Debbie cuts the cake.
Luke almost grabbing his slice.
Jim's granddaughter, Kylie, not happy with being picked up and therefore being further away from the cake!
Dear ole Bits. He told me a great story of how some young upstarts at work had called him an 'albatross' and that he needed to retire. He went on to secure new contracts while showing them up in the process. Don't mess with Bits!
Once cake, food and presents were done with, it was outside to watch the kids in the pool.
Awesome dive by Maximus. It seems only a few months ago I remember this little chap in his life jacket and being too scared to stand on the first step of the pool. He's now the Man from Atlantis.
 Luke and Max looking very cool in their goggles.
 Noah diving over Peyton.
Seems like constant adjustment with the goggles is a necessary part of pool life.
 Jim diving then striking a pose in the 'lifeguard chair'.
Nice hairdo Noah!
Sweet little Max.
Even Mocha likes to hang out by the pool except that she's the only woofer I've ever met that's afraid of water. She spent plenty of time running around the edge and barking but wouldn't even stick a paw in the pool.
Eventually we had to leave and head back to Sterling and then for me on to Marshall. These birthdays are whizzing by, but hey, if they speed up on us, then it means not too long for the next family get together, right?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Birthday Weekend

Yet again we had another stifling weekend and yet again I lacked any intense energy to go in pursuit of any strenuous activity, yet I didn't want to stop indoors. Rob wasn't coming up until later in the day on Saturday so I decided to go exploring locally. There were a couple of small villages which had piqued my interest so with the AC blasting out in Stuart and carrying my smaller and lighter camera, off I set.
The first place was Rectortown. I remembered I'd been here many years before and it had a Maidstone Rd running though it which was significant to me as my home town in England is Maidstone. Apparently George Washington visited here and frowned in disapproval upon the local inn which served alcohol.
It was a pretty little place but I couldn't stay long as I only had a couple of hours on this morning's excursion, but I was happy I'd remembered the place correctly and intend to return soon as I also recalled that fresh watercress grew in the stream. I want a big bag of that.
On the way out, I came across this old building at Lost Corner. Abandoned, but it's surrounding area was a little too busy for me to try and enter so I had to be content with external photos.
Some very cool stuff was piled up around its walls which kept me happy for a while but I was very aware of vehicles passing by and staring at me.
Along the railway track I noticed another vintage building so I strolled along to that. I really didn't have time to check out this building thoroughly but I shall be returning soon to investigate.
Since time was of the essence I jumped back into Stuart and headed for nearby Delaplane. This place was the first station which used the railroad to transport troops to the First Battle of Manassas. There was less here than at Rectortown but I did have a nose around an antique store there.
I nosed around pretty quickly. The prices were astronomical, my purse wasn't going to be opened here.
Awesome sign on a business across the road.
I rushed home after receiving a text from Rob who had arrived at the house, and then had to wait a whole afternoon, evening and night before I got my birthday present from him. To help pass the time though we did have plans and went to Manassas to meet with MJ and Martin where we watched Cowboys and Aliens, which was utter poo, and then went to dinner at Unos.
 I got a free dessert for my birthday, a giant peanut butter cup, which I did manage to share a little of, albeit begrudgingly, and MJ and Martin very kindly paid for dinner. It was a wonderful evening.
I thought I was handling the 'no present situation' pretty well but was getting anxious the next morning when Rob showed no signs of wanting to get up, even when a breakfast at the diner was offered.
Finally he emerged and after my shower I rushed out into the living area not even bothering to dry my hair. I love presents!
I was delighted and impressed to get this very cute little Minneapolis Moline tractor. It was the same size as my other little tractors and being my all time favorite make, it took prime position at the front. He also had got me a very cute card which was special since he hadn't bothered with cards in his past.
Unwrapping the long awaited cuckoo clock. Rob told me he'd bought a stack of cuckoo clocks on Ebay, hoping to find one that he could repair and get working so he could give it to me. Aaaah. I'll take photos of the other clocks when I next go down to Gordonsville.
Very happy with my clock, I absolutely love it.
Here's a little video of it cuckooing and the music, Eidelweiss. It is so nice to hear one going off in the bedroom and the other calling back from the lounge. Makes the house more of a home.
We spent the rest of the day lazily, having lunch in Marshall and then watching the whole series of A Cook on the Wild Side which I'd ordered a few weeks back. Before too long Rob had to leave and he was a little miffed because there was no food to pack up for him to take back home. He'd gotten used to taking home my cooked leftovers from our meals but this weekend we'd eaten out each day. Poor Rob, he's got to wait a whole week!
After I'd waved him off Kota and I went for a stroll down to the pond to feed the fishes. We ended up running nearly all the way but it felt good after being so sluggish recently.
As the sun went down I snapped a few last shots and then Kota and I sat on the bench watching the last of the light fade away while listening to the insect songs build up around us. A last sprint back to the house and we both arrived puffing and ready to flop into bed. The end of a lovely birthday weekend.