Saturday, June 27, 2009

Setting the table for dinner

Awhile back I had a little visitor. She was about eight years old. I put her to work setting the table --- well I asked her to set the table. Turned out she didn't know how. Her family didn't often eat together and it was sort of a catch as catch can event. What a pity! Meals are the family's daily celebration of eucharist in the domestic church. Please don't misunderstand; it certainly is not the liturgy of the Eucharist (with a capital E) where Christ is really present on the altar. But if the family is the domestic church, the daily meal is the closest we come to gathering to pray and celebrate and rejoice in the gifts God gave us. Dinner should be a time of sharing the events of the day, engaging in the art of conversation, and just enjoying each other's company. One gift for which I'm profoundly grateful to my mother is we almost always had dinner together as a family. With ten children that was not an easy task, but Mom did it.

I was thinking about that today because my husband an I are having a little dinner party to meet with several young couples in our parish to ask what activities they would like to see the Knights of Columbus have for families. I like to set a pretty table with flowers and cloth napkins. If I had any of my grandchildren with me today, they would get a lesson in the art of setting a nice table and how to design a nice centerpiece with flowers from the garden. I'm using my good china and silver, but you can do the same thing for a birthday party with paper plates, paper napkins, and little party favors. And cookies on popsicle sticks make a great kids' centerpiece! Bon appetit!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


If spring turns a persons thoughts to baseball, summertime has to turn thoughts to (what else?) the beach! I've been looking at pictures in my file from our last beach trip -- 2007 when we had a family reunion in North Myrtle Beach.

How I love the sound of the surf, the smell of salt air, kites flying, a continuous breeze, soft sand between my toes. Oh gosh, just thinking of it makes me want to pack my suit and head out. I'm not sure whether we'll make it to the beach this year. Maybe if I keep thinking about it, the beach will come to us.

Here are some photos from our 2007 Kreitzer family reunion reunion. The kids are a little bigger and the grandparents are a little older, but the happy memories are just the same and always bring a smile to my face!

Brendan is king of the sand castle!

Alex, Brendan, and Jonathan are coming at ya!

And looking over it all -- the Jolly Roger! Ho, ho, ho and a bottle of rum.

What's a beach trip without hunting for ghost crabs. This creepy little critter in the spotlight is haunting his pursuers.

Matthew and Paige join forces for sand fun.

"Look at me, Gamma!" That's Lauren.

The village it takes to raise a child...also known as "the family."

Postscript: I wonder how the beach house and the condos family members stayed at fared during the big fire in April. They say tourism hasn't been affected, but it destroyed 40 homes and plenty of beach pines. Fortunately, things recover pretty quickly, but I'm sure visitors this summer will see lots of signs of the damage.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Serendipity and Salad

Larry and I were off on an errand today to the ironworks near Winchester to pick up some wrought iron handrails for our front stairs. Being of a certain age we have friends the same age and older who can use a little support climbing the stairs. (Not us, of course.) The alternative was keeping our hiking polls next to the steps.

The GPS took us the back route across state 55 which heads over toward West Virginia and then off onto several country roads through farmland with the mountains in the background. What a day! Blue sky, wispy clouds, a wildflower show on the side of the road, and a nice breeze. As we came around a corner my eye caught a field of day lilies on the right and a sign - Thumper's Day Lily Farm.

Wait a minute! I've read about that farm and we've been planning to visit. So Larry pulled off and we turned around and went back. It's not a very big place but lilies are everywhere in abundance and a profusion of varieties. There are over 40,000 registered lily varieties and, because growers can constantly cross breed, there is no end to the new varieties possible. One of our daughters has a father-in-law who develops his own lilies and has shared some with us -- a generous and happy hobby in my opinion. Every time I look at the lilies I think of him and quietly say thanks.

At this serendipitous stop we learned something I've never heard before. Day lilies are edible. The young lady working in the lily field picked one, pulled off the pistils and gave us a petal to taste. It was like a piece of firm lettuce with a little tang. When we got home, I pulled up a few articles on the internet about edible lilies. Most said to try a little at first in case of allergy. What a fun ingredient for a summer salad. The gal at the farm suggesting stuffing them -- egg salad, cottage cheese with chives, artichoke dip...yum.

And what a conversation starter..."What do you think of my secret salad ingredient? Do you prefer your lilies, sauteed, battered fried, or dipped in sugar? What's your favorite color flavor?" (The lighter colors are supposed to be sweeter.)

I've put dandelion greens in salads and dipped the flowers in egg and bread crumbs and fried them, but this was our first light lily lunch. The Texas grandkids are coming in a week. Wonder how a lily tastes stuffed with peanut butter and jelly.

Three days of sunshine -- a new record!

When I got up this morning I was shocked to see the sun shining -- again. That's three days in a row! We've had so much rain in the last month that walking around our property is like walking on a sponge. But thankfully it dries out quickly once the sun gets back to work. It must have cheered up the bluebirds because one was looking in the birdhouse outside my office.

I wonder if it's the same papa who already raised one brood. The good weather must have him thinking of another. I was delighted to see him again. Since they raised their family and moved out things have been a little too quiet outside the window. Fortunately my hummingbird feeder attracts lots of little hummers so I can't get too lonely, but there is something special about the bluebirds. We missed the fledglings flying -- such a short window of opportunity. I'd love a second chance. It only takes 17-18 days to raise a baby bluebird. Not too far off from human babies, right? Just change the days to years. And in retrospect that went pretty fast too. Cherish the moments -- they speed by too quickly.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day and Frozen Daiquiris

Well, we had three fathers at our house today. Larry, David, and Jonathan. In honor of the day I made frozen strawberry daiquiris from the last of the three flats we picked about two weeks ago. It's wonderful living out in the country where you can pick your own fruits and vegetables. You can't get fresher than that.

I froze the last of them a few days ago before they spoiled. They added to the frozen effect. My recipe has a secret ingredient (which I forgot to add to this batch), perhaps fortunately, because Jes, David's wife, doesn't like coconut.

So here's my version of the strawberry daiquiri:

one twelve ounce can of limeade
twelve ounces of rum
2-3 cups of strawberries fresh or frozen
a tray of ice cubes
2 heaping tablespoons of coconut cream

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Add a strawberry on side of glass for garnish and enjoy.

Makes six daiquiris.

I like to make these for the children without the rum (and the expectant moms too). Very festive for any occasion.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Knights of Columbus: All About Families

Larry and I just got home from the year-end party for the Knights of Columbus in our parish. It was a delightful affair with awards for outstanding young man and young woman in the parish, the Knight of the Year, and the Family of the Year. Listening to the beautiful stories of each of these award winners was touching. The family of the year have eight children and have been active in Boy Scouts, Little Flowers, community outreach, and many parish activities all centered on family and children.

Larry is taking over as Grand Knight for the coming year and his focus is getting more young families involved and active. Of course I'm along for the ride and our first joint activity will be a dinner party with some of the young member couples to talk about what kinds of activities they'd like to see for young families. Up til now there are few incentives for young fathers to get involved because it's all work and little play and most of the activities don't include the youngsters.

So please pray for the St. John Bosco Fr. Cyril Karlowicz Council and the new Grand Knight (as of the first of July) that this is the year of the family for our parish K of C council.

U.N. Convention on Rights of the Child threatens homeschoolers in England

The United States hasn't confirmed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and we never should. It puts bureaucrats square in the middle of the family as home schoolers in England are learning. Check out my post at Les Femmes.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Love Wildflowers!

Just ask my husband what I bring home when I go for a walk...a handful of wild flowers and grasses from the side of the road. It might be a mini-bouquet of buttercups and tiny daisies with a few interesting grasses and some purple clover for extra color or maybe three big Queen Ann's Lace clusters with some intersting weeds with pretty leaves and some blue cornflowers. I can even make a bouquet out of an assortment of grass mixing the wheaty-looky stems with some long tapering leaves. I like to put them in my kitchen window and admire them when I was dishes..

When I'm out with my camera, though, I often bring home a digital bouquet of wildflower pictures. Here are a few from some recent trips.

Blackwater Falls, West Virginia:

George Washington National Forest near New Market, Virginia:

Not a wildflower but I love the three distinct leaves from the Sassafrass Tree:

Shenandoah National Park near Skyland on the Skyline Drive:

Hit the trails - but don't forget your hiking poles!

There's no better way to explore nature than to lace up a pair of hiking boots and hit the trails. Whether you're in a park or a national forest the variety can be amazing. Even the same trail can look completely different travelled in the opposite direction or at a different time of the day. We found this to be especially true of Blackwater Falls. What a variety of trails!

We hiked about eight miles within the park during our three-day visit as well as a four-miler round trip into the Monongahela National Forest on the Allegheny Trail. Put on your virtual hiking boots and pick up your poles and walk along with us.

The Balsam Trail starts at the Blackwater Falls campground and meanders through a green wood absolutely covered with Christmas Tree ferns. You could have called this the Christmas walk as a matter of fact. Growing up my dad always bought a balsam fir to decorate and they were everywhere. I never realized how large they could grow as you can see from the photo below where I'm absolutely dwarfed by the tree (and you can't even see the angel on the top!). The branches were all weighed down from the heavy rains during the night. I was tempted to lift them up and see if any of Santa's elves were hiding there.

We walked the Elakala Falls and Balanced Rock trails which both meandered through dark woods which reminded me of Bilbo Baggins adventures in Mirkwood. The deep shade from the hemlocks allowed very little underbrush to grow but the rhodadendrons didn't seem to mind the gloom as much. They proliferate throughout the park. It would be a glorious sight to be there when they are in full bloom, but they had already finished.

The trail head of the Balanced Rock path was in the cabin area where someone or a group of someones had built a visual of the trail's name.

My favorite walk of our trip was a cross country ski trail (a portion of the Gee Haw) that intersected to Spudder Track. We picked it up on the road to the nature center and turned right on Spudder Track to head over to Pendleton Point lookout. The track was a grass path cut through a meadow bordered by woodland overflowing with blooming mountain laurel, one of my favorite flowers.

The walk out of the park was an adventure in itself. Once we got into the woods, the Allegheny Trail was narrow and much of it along a rocky, wet track that obviously becomes a streambed in heavy rains. We called it the shlerp trail because we often found ourselve in muddy footing with a sucking slurping sound at each step. We definitely needed our poles and boots for this hike. Even so I lost my footing on a wet rock and went down, but softly and didn't hurt anything but my pride. It did get me thinking about what to do if one of us got really hurt on a hike. You wouldn't walk out with a broken hip, that's for sure. We trecked as far as the first shelter which was about two miles from the point we left the park. It looked like a nice dry place to spend a night in the woods for overnighers. We are day hikers with no interest in carrying the kind of equipment needed for sleeping in the woods. (I love my bed!)

Our last hike of the trip was a circuit made from a section of the Yellow Birch Trail, the Red Spruce Riding Trail (The name is a holdover from the time the park operated a stable.), and the Water Tank Trail (yes, there's a huge water tank). The portion of the Yellow Birch was the most difficult of the trip with lots of fallen trees, very rocky, and several places where we had to look for the blazes to stay on the path. One spot required climbing through a narrow opening between two rocks with a three foot drop on the other side. Wow! I was sure happy we didn't leave the poles in the car.

Once we got to the Red Spruce and Water Tank sections it was a walk in the park -- with a wide path and easy footing. Near the petting zoo we met a group of guinea hens also out for a walk. They didn't mind pausing for a photo shoot.

And then, of course, we found the water tank. Do you think we could have missed it?

If you are hikers like we are and enjoy the great outdoors, if you aren't afraid of getting your feet muddy and having hat hair -- take a walk in the woods. There's plenty to see at Blackwater Falls. I'll finish with a photo taken from just one of the overlook spots (Lindy Point). It doesn't get better than this.

Blackwater Falls Interlude

Every now and then the call of the wild urges me to escape from my computer and head for the hills. When a few free days loomed Larry and I decided on a quick trip within about 100 miles. Blackwater Falls, West Virginia at 114 miles was just about perfect. And after spending three great days hiking the trails, watching the wildlife, and camping in the great outdoors I can sing the song with feeling..."Almost heaven, West Virginia."

Blackwater Falls isn't the only waterfall in the park, but it's the biggest and most impressive. The "black water," which is actually a deep brownish red like very strong tea, gets its distinctive color from the tanins in the pine needles. You can see the red in the white water rushing over the falls. Because of the wet spring the river was raging and the flow covered most of the rocky outcrop which is probably unusual. The photos in the shops all showed much more rock and much less water. What a blessing to see the falls at their most powerful. Although I expect whatever the flow - gentle or raging - it is a sight to behold.

The walk down to the falls is a pleasure with a long boardwalk/stairs - over 200 steps for the intrepid visitor. And that is a sight in itself meandering down through the woodland with the hemlocks towering overhead. The falls are surrounded by the hemlocks which grow to amazing heights. In the Shenandoah National Park they have almost disappeared because of an insect blight, but at Blackwater Falls they are the queen of the forest.

For those who can't physically make the trek down to the Falls, there are several other options. There's a walking path that goes down to an observation area. The view is a little obscured by the trees but you can hear the roaring water and see most of the falls. And for those who want the view without any significant walk, the Gentle Path is a great option. You see the falls from the opposite side of the gorge and higher up and the observation deck is only about 200 feet from the parking lot.

Often when you take a trip, the destination is everything. One of the greatest pleasures about this was the journey itself. From the time we were ten miles from home and travelling west on route 55 we were surrounded by beauty that kept us oohing and aahing all the way to the park. This was our first trip to Blackwater Falls, but certainly won't be our last.