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Monday, February 22, 2016

A WEEKEND IN FREDERICKSBURG, VA


In case you don't know: Fredericksburg, VA is 49 miles south of Washington, DC and 58 miles north of Richmond, VA and is graced by the Rappahannock River. This beautiful city is steeped in colonial and Civil War history.  Its location put it halfway between the Union and Confederacy capitals during that "most recent unpleasantness".  George Washington would have slept there, of course, but he really did!  because his mother, Mary, lived there. Other residents included Civil War Generals and future president James Monroe. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in Fredericksburg, something of which he was most proud.

Fredericksburg is a beautiful city full of lots to explore.  I traveled there on a cold and rainy Friday night in January so that I could get a fresh start for exploring on Saturday.  I had worked all day and was tired from the 3 hour drive.  I was hungry and needed a relaxing place to sit. The Tavern, a local favorite, was very close to the hotel and was perfect for what I needed.  I can usually tell you what I had to eat, but have now forgotten.  I can tell you it was quite good.  The service was great and our server had some great life stories, which I coaxed out of her.  I had planned to go back the next afternoon to interview her more, but I did not make it back in time.

Looking out of the hotel window Saturday morning assured me it was going to be a dreary day, but I did not mind.  You simply adjust.
How much can you learn in a day in Fredericksburg, VA?  A lot. I always take a trolley car tour when I first arrive for a great overview.  After purchasing a ticket,  a stroll through the streets of the historic district, which contains more than 350 buildings built in the 18th and 19th centuries, and staying in the downtown area was a perfect way to start the day.  Even the rain could not dull my enthusiasm as I passed by so many store fronts of interest.  Reminds me of Old Town Alexandria.


The 75 minute Trolley tour did not disappoint.  Really, a perfect way to get a feel of the city...especially in the rain.


Afterward, I toured Mary Washington House.  Very interesting.

How long can you pose in George Washington's bedroom at his mother's house before you are chastised.  Not very long!

Tavern talk at the Rising Sun Tavern.
Rising Sun Tavern
The building was constructed by George Washington's brother, Charles, around 1760 and became a tavern in 1792. This is a fun tour.  I learned so much!  Did you know back in the day if you stayed at a tavern you could expect to sleep alongside 4 strangers?  If your husband wanted to sleep with you, he would pay for 5 people. Bath water was typically changed after the 3rd or 4th bather; children always bathed last. Thus, "don't throw the baby out with the water".  If you wanted to chew tobacco, there would be a log of tobacco that would be passed around. You would be told "don't bite off more than you can chew". 

At the end of a fox hunt, you would be served beer while still on your horse. Only it came in one large vessell with a fish design pressed into the  bottom and two handles so that it could easily be passed from one rider to the next. Thus, the "two fisted drinker". The person to take the last drink would call out "this fish can't swim", the vessel would be filled and that person got the first drink and had to pay for the round.

I am always in search of fresh crabmeat when on the coast. We went to a restaurant that was recommended.  Several locals were at the bar , but the kitchen was closed for renovations. We were also told they do not serve crabmeat anymore. Bummer. They recommended the Happy Clam, another local favorite.   It was a bit of a walk to this hole in the wall, but worth the walk.  I had a great crab cake with baked sweet potato casserole and a nice coleslaw.  And I love the painting on the bathroom wall.



















The Sunday drive back was much more pleasant. I prefer driving in the daylight and no rain.  











A stop was made at Lake Anna to enjoy the sun at a marina on Lake Anna.














A Redo? Absolutely. Fredericksburg has much to offer.  I have always wanted to go during the Christmas holidays and maybe I will do that in 2016.  Spring should also be on the list.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

FIRESIDE BY THE JACKSON RIVER IN FALLING SPRING VA


The only thing better than sitting by the fireside outside is when you are by the river.  In this case, the Jackson River in the Falling Springs, VA area.  You should get there before dark.






You watch the sunset.

You watch the light change as it reflects off the water.



You get the fire started.



You stare at it as darkness moves in.


While you check the fire, you also check the sky again.  You comment how beautiful it is.  For me, I take note that it is a crescent moon, soon to be a half moon.



Eyes back to the fire.



You watch the keeper of the fire.  You are so relaxed.  If something happened to the keeper of the fire, you would probably just watch for a while before you could spring into action. 



By now all you know is the sound of the river, the night noises, the crackling of the fire and moon overhead.



At some point, you realize the fire has gone down.  It is late.  You go home, hoping to do this again.





Yes, this is a do over.






Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I'M COOKING SOMETHING UP TODAY - SHRIMP AND AVOCADO-CREAM PASTA



This is another diabetic recipe.  I have high cholesterol so I seldom eat pasta.  Back in the day I ate it quite often. It was my food of preference and definitely what I preferred to cook. Staying away from pasta certainly has not reduced my love of pasta.  And, by the way, staying away from pasta has not lowered my cholesterol.  Rachel Ray says pasta dishes can be an excellent way to eat. It's all in the sauce!  She also says we should make those sauces at home so we control what goes in he sauce.  All good reasons for me to choose this recipe for today.  Note: I am going to disregard the "serve immediately" because I don't want to run to the kitchen to cook as soon as I finish work. Here we go.  This photo is from the magazine.  I took a ton of photos while I was making this dish, but I have no clue what happened to them.

First, I have to thaw out 6 ounces frozen peeled deveined baby shrimp.  (One of the reasons I am making this dish is because I need to use up the shrimp and red pepper already in the frig.) The recipe calls for 6 ounces; I will use the 12 ounces I have. Oh no. Bad kitty keeps trying to get up on the counter. Thought I would take a picture of her before I hisss at her again, thinking she had her head in the sink for a drink of water. Just as I snapped the camera, her head came up and she had some of my baby shrimp in her mouth!  Okay, so I work on thawing and patting dry the shrimp so I can cover it until the recipe directs me to use it. I no longer have 12 ounces, but I still have more than 6 ounces.




Second Step: Cook pasta according to package directions. The recipe calls for 2 ounces multi grain or whole wheat farfalle pasta (3/4 cup). Back in the day I may have had this in the pantry. In my world today, I have half a box of tri-colored rotini, which measures 2 cups. I am going to cook all of it because (1) I need to use it, (2) I need a little more than called for because I am using more shrimp and (3) I can use the extra for something else. A nice sauce and I will have another dish!  I should have put the water on before working on the shrimp to save time because now I am rushing in order to be at work on time.  Why don't they just tell you to do that first? Now I gotta wait for this big ass pot of water to boil.

Third Step: I am getting my food processor out because I need to blend 1 1/4 cups of fresh spinach, 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, 1/2 of a medium avocado, 1/4 cup half and half, salt and black pepper. That will be blended until smooth. I am using 2 cups of spinach because that is just about all I have...the rest will go on a sandwich at lunch. Ummm, most of the basil is no good so I use what I have and add some dried basil. No comparison in taste, but since this is for a puree I will chance it because I really want to bring out the taste of basil  (Oh! The water is finaly boiling.  I need to put the pasta in to boil.  Well, it sounded like it was boiling. That will take another minute.) The avocado is added. It is very large so I  will have more than what is called for. Pasta added to the water and the timer set for 7 minutes.  To get the consistency I want, I added 1/2 cup of half-and-half and a couple of scoops of avocado. I also added a little more dried basil.  Pasta is done and ready to be drained. (Hint: be sure you have removed the shrimp from the colander.)

Fourth Step: In a large skillet coated with nonstick spray and heated to medium heat, cook for 3 minutes the sweet red pepper you have cut into matchstick strips.  Add the shrimp and cook 2-3 minutes or until the shrimp is opaque.  Stir in the pureed spinach mixture and the reserved pasta water. I forgot to reserve the 2 tablespoons of pasta water (Rachel Ray suggests this, too, but I don't remember the reason she gave).  Since the pot I cooked the pasta in has a wee bit of the water left in the bottom, I will use that pot to cook the pepper instead of the skillet. Wow, I need to get to work in 10 minutes. Not sure if I cooked the peppers long enough, but I am adding the shrimp. Next I add the spinach mixture and the pasta water, which we have discussed. Add the remaining 1 cup of spinach.  Wait...what!  Only 1/4 cup of the spinach was to be used for the the puree.  Oh dear. I used all the spinach in the puree.  Tick tock. Would the spinach be opaque by now if I had used a skillet? Naw. Tick tock. Once the shrimp is done, the pot gets removed from the heat and I add the remaining 1 cup of spinach, which I do not have.  I will add the little bit of spinach that is left...the spinach I was going to eat at lunch with the rest of the avocado with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I also now add the cherry tomatoes.

Everything has been combined. Taste test. Needs a little something, like the taste of fresh basil.  I add balsamic vinegar. Yum. I will defintely make this again this summer with basil from my garden. In the frig.  Off to work. Dinner is ready!   I will top with fresh Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.  Funny, Dolly does not get people food, but when I am cooking, she waits, always hopeful that today is the day I will change my mind.



Sunday, February 7, 2016

ANTIQUING ON THE WAY TO THE HOMESTEAD










Sister Cyn and I stopped at The Antique Mall on Lee Highway (Rt. 11) in Lexington, VA on the way to The Homestead in 2014. 
We filled the car with gas at Sheets where Cyn ran into an old friend that she had not seen for a long time.

The Antique Mall has about 40,000 square feet that house all kinds of antiques.  OMG what fun!  They have furniture, glassware, jewelry, dolls,  toys, books, statuary, Civil War stuff, country crafts, quilts, folk art and lots of other stuff.  



























And, of course, sleeping cats.



FAMILY CHRISTMAS AT THE HOMESTEAD 2014

(I am posting this on February 7, 2016 as I just realize the draft I did way back then never got posted.  Where was my head?)

The family decided in January 2014 to have the next family Christmas get together at the Homestead.  We booked our rooms, the months flew by and BAM we were checking in at the front desk.  We ate well  and no one had to cook.  Some enjoyed a carriage ride and a hay ride.  I enjoyed sitting on the front porch.



The whole family attended the Hot Springs Parade.







Sweet Landree was bundled up and rested during the parade.



The shops at The Homestead are always worth a browse, especially at Christmas

 .




The view from my room looked out onto the front lawn.


There are several fireplaces from which to choose if you want to sit and relax by a crackling fire.



There are lots of places to relax. The Grand Lobby is so beautiful and offers plenty of sitting time with two large fireplaces. 





















Growing up close to The Homestead, my family has made it a part of many Christmases, but this was the first time we all stayed there. The family made a very good decision in January 2014 to end the year together at such a special place.