Friday, March 30, 2012

Hiking the Jack-O-Lantern Branch Heritage Trail

Last week Pierce had an extra day off school (an unused snow day) so we went to the Booker T. Washington Monument.  We decided while there to hike the Jack-O-Lantern Branch Heritage Trail, as it was a gorgeous spring day and we had nothing pressing to do.  I love these zigzag fences that you see across southwestern Virginia.  It's a Blue Ridge mountain trademark:

And the boys were off!

First we stumbled upon an old tobacco barn.

Complete with a wooden wagon inside.

Pierce intuitively said that it smelled like smoke inside.

And finally the official start to the trail.
The first part of it meandered beside a beautiful creek, and the creek is called the Jack-O-Lantern branch, which is how the trail got it's name.

We couldn't have asked for a more lovely day.

Taking a little break and listening to the stream.
The trail loop was a total of 2 miles long, and had markers throughout that you could follow along with a brochure.  The markers told us information about Booker T. Washington and his family, about foraging for food in the woods, about local trees, bees, and more interesting Virginia tidbits.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

However, these two seemed to lose their sense of adventure.
Yes, there was trouble in paradise.  X2.
 So I took turns carrying them on my shoulders for a bit.
Finally we found the old Sparks cemetary.
 The simple fieldstones used to mark the graves don't tell much. I could read a letter or two on them.
 The brochure said that slaves frequently used forested ridges like this one for cemetaries.  But the origin of the "Sparks" name has been lost in oral tradition.

And if this slithery guy knows the secret, he wasn't telling.  In fact, he was so quiet I practically stepped right on him.  Lucky for me, he was a friendly sort of guy.  He hung out while I examined the stones and warned the boys not to mess with him.

And finally, we descended to a field, and down a big hill, and we'd made our big loop.
Juice boxes all around!

I think we'll go hiking here again.  It's a beautiful spot and we didn't see another soul.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Booker T. Washington National Monument - Rural Thursday #9

Last week Pierce had Friday off from school, and it was such a beautiful day that we decided to head to the Booker T. Washington National Monument.  Admission is free, and we were able to take a leisurely tour of the park and do some hiking (more about that tomorrow).
First, we checked out their heirloom garden.  I spotted onions and carrots.

 The boys wanted to know if there were any birds at home...

A reconstructed slave cabin:

The boys were glad they were able to go inside.  They were quite curious about the different buildings and their uses.  We put the brochures we picked up in the Visitor's Center to good use, answering our many questions.

A smokehouse-

Pierce is big on fire safety, and he was concerned that there was no fire alarm in the smokehouse.  Note the bell to the far right corner of the pic - the boys had a blast ringing the bell.

A view of the horse barn, corn crib, and chicken and duck lot-

You know who loves ducks?  Reid. He talked about those ducks for the next hour.

And through the fence, we spied this guy, who was really showing his stuff -

I just loved this old barn -

And these overly wooly sheep.  Thinking they might be getting a little warm...

Checking out the interior of the old barn -

This fellow seemed to be taking a break from the sun -

Now if only I could get these boys some wheat.  Maybe we'd have some bread for dinner...

Today is Rural Thursday and you know what that means!  Time to link up your rural blog posts with Nancy from A Rural Journal and myself!  Grab the code beneath the button and paste it into your blog post.  Then come back and add the link to your actual url in the linky.  Even if you don't live in a rural area, if you have a post that is of a simple, country living mindset we'd love to have you link up!  Please remember to visit the blog posts of at least 5 other folks and leave them some comment love.  I can't wait to read what you've been up to this week!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Martinsville Half Marathon Race Report

On Saturday I woke up at 5:30 am to drive an hour in a rainforest-worthy deluge to Martinsville to run their half marathon.  The rain didn't let up during the wait for the race, and standing/shivering in the pouring rain while waiting for the race to begin was unpleasant.  When the race started 10 minutes late, that was even more unpleasant.  But once I got started I was much happier.  I do actually enjoy running the rain.

The race wraps through some town streets and then spits out onto a greenway at the 2 mile mark.  One thing I loved about this course is that there were plenty of water stops and they also had portapotties along the course.  I didn't need one this race, but it's always nice to know it's there. 

I've had some trouble from my right glute for a while now, and I took a couple of ibuprofin before the race as a preventative.  It's good I did, because it was acting up fairly early on in the race, around mile marker 4.  I eased up a bit on my pace since I still had a long way to run at that point.  The pouring rain served to keep me cool, though, and obsessing over whether or not my drenched lavender running shorts were see-through took my mind off my discomfort.  Since no one pointed at me and laugh, I'm going to assume they provided adequate coverage. 

During the race, you head to the right on the greenway, to a turn around point, then head back up to run down the greenway the other direction.  Oh how I loved running down the greenway the other direction.  It was a long downward grade and that made for some speedy leg turnover.  My ob/gyn and his wife passed me along this stretch.  But then came the turnaround.  Which meant I had to run up what I'd just run down. 

The long grade from mile 9-11 slowed me up quite a bit.  A few folks passed me.  My glute, which was hanging in there, at least wasn't any worse.  At mile 10 I ate a Gu, hoping for a little extra energy.  Around mile 11 you come off the greenway, and into the town streets.  There were rolling hills along the last couple of miles.  And finally, soaking wet but happy, I saw the finish line.

I ended up running 1:53:48 and I'm happy with that right now.  Do I want to run faster?  Of course!  But I feel like I raced fine for where I am right now.  Martinsville gave out very nice technical t-shirts, tote bags, medals and hand towels.  That's some great swag!
 I was very happy to get into some dry clothes, and thankful I'd had the foresight to bring a change with me.  I stayed for the awards ceremony, as I placed second in my age group.  I won a fun wooden train whistle.  The boys were impressed when I got home and showed it to them.

I think I'm going to start getting some more frequent ART treatments the next month or two to try to get this glute issue rehabed.  It's been bothering me since January, and although it only acts up when I'm running 'fast', I don't want it to become a larger problem.  My next race will likely be a 5K in April. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pierce Gets Shaggy - Costume Discounters $25 Gift Card Giveaway

Wasn't I just blogging the other day about how much we enjoy costumes and themes around my house?  You can find a huge assortment of kids Halloween costumes through Costume Discounters and I had a hard time choosing just one (they have wonderful baby costumes too!).  I probably spent an hour searching through their adorable boy's costumes - I was especially drawn to the Harry Potter robes (but Pierce isn't, as of yet, into Harry Potter).  I decided ultimately on Shaggy, from Scooby Doo, because Pierce already has a Scooby Doo costume, which he wore for Halloween.  My thinking was that eventually the twins could go as Scooby Doo and Shaggy together, which would be totally cute.  And until that time, Pierce could enjoy dressing as Shaggy -- plus this would be a perfect costume if they ever have a 70s or Disco themed day at Pierce's school!
Pierce was thrilled with his costume - he especially liked sporting the goatee and wig.  He was actually disappointed when he had to take off his goatee to eat dinner.  Lucky for me, he doesn't know that they also carried Super Mario and Buzz Lightyear costumes, because he certainly would've wanted to try those out as well!
The sizing was a little large for Pierce.  He is very small for his age, so in this particular case I probably should've ordered a size down.  We're going to hang on to it, since I know eventually he'll grow into it, but we did receive information with the costume on their easy steps for free size and product exchanges.  You can also follow Costume Discounters on twitter to learn about their other great discounts.  Their prices are very affordable and they often have items on clearance.
Costume Discounters has been generous enough to offer a $25 gift code to one reader!  There are TONS of costumes priced at $25 or less, so you are sure to find something you love.  This is a Rafflecopter giveaway, so just click on the 'read more' under my signature to enter.  Good luck!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Monster in the Lunchbox on Muffin Tin Monday

Oh dear.  It's been a monstrous event here.  I sent Pierce to school with a monster in his lunch box.  I told him to be very careful in opening it, and to eat it quickly, before it had time to bite him.
As if the monster weren't insult enough (just look at that disgruntled face) you may also notice that there is an eight eyed, eight legged spider with huge fangs (made from an orange - which you can't really tell in the picture).  I tried to make up for all these evil lunchbox invaders by a heart shaped homemade cheese danish (those are pecans on top) and some docile barbecued corn nuts.

Anything scary in your lunch lately?

For more cute kids' lunch ideas, check out Muffin Tin Mom. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Child is Afraid of Thunder

Every day when Pierce gets off the bus, I'm always eager to hear how things went at school.  A few weeks ago, he had an uncharacteristic response by telling me he had a horrible day.  Usually he's fairly happy and excited when he arrives home.  Apparently, there had been a big storm that passed by quickly, complete with a loud and startling clap of thunder.  Indeed, I found a note from Pierce's teacher in his folder, explaining that he was upset by the thunder, and that he'd told them he was having a "rotten day". 

And every day Pierce brings home a book that we read together as his "homework".  On that day, one of his thoughtful teachers sent home the book Thunder Cake by Patrician Polacco.  It's a neat tale of a girl who is scared of thunderstorms, and her grandmother tells her they will make thunder cake.  The girl counts between the lightening and the thunder as they rush to gather ingredients for the cake before the storm arrives.  They gather eggs, milk the cow, and even pick tomatoes (the secret ingredient).

After Pierce and I read the story, Pierce was very adament.  "Mom.  We HAVE to make thunder cake!".  Luckily, the book includes the recipe.  I didn't have two of the ingredients on hand, but promised to pick them up.  And a few days later, Pierce helped me with the mixing, and we had our cake. 

Guess who wasn't feeling quite so rotten anymore?

If you like creative ideas involving children's books, go check out JDaniel4sMom for Read, Explore, Learn.

Shibley Smiles

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Adopting a Barn Cat - Meet Radley - Rural Thursday

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know about the problems we have had with mice getting into our vehicles.  The tally in my minivan for the year is seven.  That's right.  I even took the car into Firestone and asked them to look it over - to see if there was any obvious entrance.  They couldn't find anything.  I've tried reader suggestions (from all your awesome and helpful comments) but they still keep coming back for more.  We've had a seat belt shredded, my headphones ripped in two, and a GPS cord device knawed.  I've vacuumed out the car and wiped it down with disinfectant more times in the past 6 months than I can count. 

And so I thought maybe it was time to adopt a barn cat.  Or twenty.  Okay, we'll start with one.  We went through the Barn Cat Buddies program and if you live in southwestern Virginia I highly recommend you check them out.  Low cost adoption, and the animals are sterilized and have their vaccines.  Diane, who runs their program is so fantastic and she will happily answer any questions you have about placement.  So our whole family headed over to meet a few of the cats last week and we decided on a little timid orange kitty, who had been living in the shelter for almost a year.  A lot of the barn cats aren't necessarily friendly, or tame, but they do need a safe place to live where they can happily work as mousers for your family. 

We brought our little orange kitty home and while she came with the name Radiance, I will probably shorten that to Radley.  After all, she kind of reminds me of the reclusive yet watchful and brave Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird.  Radley has to stay confined for 3 weeks until she realizes that this is her home.  I put her in our bedroom, where it is quiet and she won't be terrorized loved on by the boys.  Each day I speak to her softly, and she will allow me to pet her head, but she won't come out of her cubby hole. 

I brought her out for the first time a week into her stay with us.  She was nervous, and camera shy, but she did purr a little when I scratched her chin.  I just love her golden eyes.

However, I think she was pretty anxious.  Considering that in the 2 minutes I held her on my lap to pet her, she lost 90% of her fur and is now bald.  Okay, not really, but I certainly gained a lot of hair:
Hopefully Radley will warm up to us a bit.  Or at least perk up once she gets to go outdoors, to run around our four shed buildings and hopefully chase mice.  She's a sweet girl.

Today is Rural Thursday, hosted by Nancy at A Rural Journal and myself.  If you have a blog post about the rural life (even if you are not living rurally) come link up with us.  We'd love to read about your hiking adventures, your pigeons and your daffodils, your explorations with a camera.  Just grab the code below the button and add it to your blog post.  Then come back and add your direct link to the post in the linky.  Don't forget to go visiting - we'd love for you to hop to at least 5 other folks who link up, and leave them some comment love!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Uncommon Goods $50 Gift Card Giveaway!

Have you heard of Uncommon Goods?  They have the coolest things on their site, and recently they sent me an assortment of spa type goodies to try out.  They must've known how stressed I've been lately!  I received their Comfort Foot Slippers, a Care journal, and a rather unusual tea cup.

The tea cup is really interesting.  It has a side where you can place loose tea leaves, pour the water over, and it will strain and pour into the other side.  Once the tea has steeped as much as you'd like, you can tip the cup over so that it will stop steeping.  I didn't have any loose tea leaves, but it worked just perfectly with some peach herbal tea.  The Care journal is full of little inspiring quotes every other page like, "You are richer today if you have laughed, given, comforted or forgiven".  Nice food for thought, isn't it?  Plus, I love how it easily fits in my hand - perfectly sized.  The premise of the journal is to Care about building a better world.  Right in line with my personality! 

The foot slippers are also unique.  They are not meant for walking, but rather for pampering sore feet.  Perfect for my long run days.  You stick them in the microwave for 90 seconds to get them toasty, then slip them on and let the herbs do the work.  That's right - they are stuffed full of herbs like lavender, chamomile, peppermint, cinnamon, and more.  My tired feet were so happy (and oddly enough, so was my cat Claude, who seemed quite charmed by their herbal scent). 
There are so many fun presents to please the hard to shop for on the Uncommon Goods website - check out their ideas for birthdays here and even gift ideas for Mother's Day here.   And of course, I was drooling over the gift ideas for gardeners like this totally adorable little birdbath (found on this page: :

 And this sweet little wooden ladybug house:
Okay, just one more thing (you can find this under the Dining and Entertainment section) - I can't resist showing you this funny face mug:
How can you not want one?  So wouldn't you love a chance to win a $50 gift card to Uncommon Goods - to pick out something unique for yourself or a loved one?  Just click on the "Read More" under my name to enter.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A New Line of Decor in My House

I was sitting on the couch, taking a quick (and much too infrequent) breather when I noticed something strange on the sliding glass door.  What on earth is that strange circle, I thought to myself. 

My first thought was that it might be a sticker, but as I squinted from the couch, and realized what it most likely was, I groaned inwardly....

Apparently, we are now decorating our windows with bologna.  How this escaped notice for so long is beyond me.  I'm pretty sure I had given the twins a Lunchables as a treat four days prior to my noticing bologna on the door.  Ewwwww.  And I'm pretty sure it was not on the door that whole time.  Which means it was stashed, somewhere (???) and retrieved later to hang on the door.
And yes, I do need to clean the glass.  But there's really no point.  See, it gets little fingerprints again the very next day. 

Two Bears Farm is now leading the world in a revolutionary new line of home decor.  Cost effective, too, to decorate your walls with bologna.  Much cheaper than Rembrants. 

Happy birthday to my Dad today!  I hope this made him smile :-)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lots of Spring Green on Muffin Tin Monday

It's Muffin Tin Monday again!  This past week I was busy creating meat and mushroom pies from our grass fed beef.  We thought they were pretty tasty.  I served the meat pies with oranges, a salad, corn, and water.  Have I ever mentioned we have really tasty water?  It is well water that fills from mountain springs, and it's really delicious!
I did lots of green, since my St. Patrick's Day muffin tin was a bit of a flop.  I think this one looks much cuter!

On a side note, I have turned off anonymous comments for a short time. I am getting way too much spam everyday from anonymous commenters, and I've grown tired of weeding through so much in my spam folder.  Hoping that turning it off for a bit will stop these folks from coming to my blog and leaving 10 comments a day on various drug websites.  Sorry for any inconvenience!
To see more fun ideas of meals for kids, check out Muffin Tin Mom.