Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry and Bright

Here's hoping everyone enjoyed a warm, merry and bright holiday!

And wishing you all a Happy New Year!  May 2017 bring you all much happiness. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hiking on Black Friday

I don't like crowds.  I just feel like I have better things to do with my time than stand in lines with angry people.  So I try not to go to any major chain stores in the period between Black Friday and New Years (because the week after Christmas is still chaotic with people doing returns and blowing holiday gift cards).  You especially won't find me in Sam's Club or Walmart! 

This year on Black Friday I took the boys hiking with my friend, Trina.  Paul was doing a bike ride that day.  We hiked the Star Trail up to the top of Mill Mountain in Roanoke.

It was a beautiful day for a hike and warmed up quickly.  The boys enjoyed using the rain jacket/wind breakers my aunt and uncle got them for their birthdays. 

Cort and Pierce check out the view.  After the overlook, we spent some time at the playground until it became crowded.  Then we hiked back down.

I can't think of any other way I'd rather spend Black Friday. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

When the Cat Brought the Bat In

I've blogged before about the cats killing bats and leaving them on the doorstep.  But recently I let Bobby in the house and Paul said, "He's got something!"

Bobby dropped it on the rug and sure enough, it was a bat.  I had to put Bobby outside while Paul grabbed the first thing he could find - a kid rake.  He put it over the bat so that it couldn't fly off in the house.  Luckily, it seemed stunned.

So Paul turned the rake over and I tried to gently nudge the stunned bat onto the rake.  Which is when the bat spread it's wings, made a hissing sound, and bared it's fangs at me!  Whoa!  This bat was very angry.

Meanwhile, Bobby was outside clawing the door and trying to get back in the house to his bat.  He was angry too!

So the rake went back over the bat and I blocked the sides with my shoes in case the bat tried to escape while Paul ran to the basement for supplies.  He came back with a small Tupperware container, some huge welding gloves, and cardboard.

Thankfully, we were able to place the container over the bat, put cardboard underneath, and relocate the bat to the outdoors where it belonged.  Then I disinfected the rug with Clorox wipes.

People talk about living the quiet country life.  But some days?  Some days there is never a dull moment.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Crooked Road 24 Hour Ultramarathon Race Report

The past couple of months I blogged some about the training I was doing for an upcoming 24 hour race.  The goal was to cover as much distance as you could over 24 hours.  The morning started off as a chilly one, but had warmed up by 9 am.  The race course was a loop of about 1.18 in distance.  This was great because it meant you passed by an aid table for food and drinks, plus a bathroom, every single mile.  And I was able to park quite close to the crushed gravel track so when I needed to get supplies from my car (I removed and added layers throughout the day) it was convenient and didn't eat up much time.

My friend, Gloria, came down from Northern Virginia to do this race.  She had a goal of at least 50 miles (which she met!).  I didn't have any set goal.  I just wanted to push myself and hopefully run further than ever before.

Here's a picture of Gloria, Pam Rickard, and I taken in the first hour of the race (photo credit: Matt Ross).

As the day (and miles) wore on I started having a lot of calf cramping, which was unusual for me.  I think this was a fueling issue.  In a marathon I would've eaten Gus every 3 miles.  But I was craving salty snacks and they had the table of food so I was eating stuff like a handful of pretzels here or a handful of olives there.  In retrospect, this was not substantial calories.  I really enjoyed some salted baked potatoes in the afternoon. 

Two of my running friends, Trina and Steve, came out in the late afternoon to offer company and motivation.  I was just walking at this point due to the calf cramping.  Although I was bummed I couldn't run any longer, I was feeling good mentally and was having fun.  I was so thankful to have friends willing to come brave frigid weather just to cheer me along. 

I saw a guy who had what looked like stickers on his calves and I talked to him for a bit about it (he had calf cramping too).  He recommended Salonpas (which is what the stickers were) so Paul picked some up for me at CVS.  I think they may have helped a bit.  I also took arnica, which is a homeopathic remedy for sore muscles. 
I took breaks for stretching and rolling out sore muscles a few times, plus changing layers.  It became extremely cold and windy as the day went on.  The wind gusts were so huge they blew whirlwinds of crushed gravel and dust at the runners (the next day, my eyes felt gritty and were swollen as a result).  They had warm pizza for the runners around 6 and it really hit the spot (and after dark, they also had some soups).   

My furthest run prior to this was 34 miles.  I ended up covering 46 miles total.  Much of it was walking.  I loved when it got dark and there were glow lights all around the track and you could see the bobbing headlamps of all the runners.  Plus, the stars were amazing.  It was a magical feeling, despite the cold and wind.  I wished I could have kept going, but a muscle back behind my right knee started hurting at a level that suggested injury, and my knee was starting to give with my steps as a result.  In addition, I had long ago lost the battle to some significant chaffing issues.  So I decided to head home, which luckily isn't far from this race.  Once I got in the car, I realized I was starving, and had to stop at Bojangles for a chicken biscuit.

I loved this race!  The camaraderie among the runners and the race volunteers is amazing.  I met so many interesting people and learned a lot from my own performance.  I think I'll give this another shot next year, and try to at least hit the 50 mile mark.  I've run a lot of races over the years, but this one really had that extra something special. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


When I was about 11 or so, I got a pogo ball.  It was purple and green, and I immediately invested massive amounts of time in becoming proficient.  We lived in a neighborhood at the time, and I practiced going up and down the sidewalk in front of my house.  I was relentless.  So perseverant that I pogo balled until I had massive blisters on the insides of both feet from gripping the ball (even though I'd been wearing tennis shoes).  But my persistence paid off.  Soon, I could pogo around the entire block.  I could pogo uphill and downhill and even up and down the curb. 

Not long ago, I was in a thrift store and came across a pogo ball for $1.25.  It was the same color as the pogo ball I had in the 80s.  I hopped on, not expecting much.  But my mind and body?  It remembered how to pogo ball, all these years later.  I was hopping all over the store.  A child in a forty year old body.

I brought the pogo ball home.  My boys were very impressed with my mad pogo skills.  And, as you might imagine, they're working on some mad pogo skills of their own.

Readers, do you have any skills from your youth you'd like to revisit?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Little Drummer Boy

Pierce is old enough this year to be in the steel drums club at school.  Last year we watched their concert and they were fantastic.  They use huge steel drums that actually came from the Caribbean.  I'm excited he has this opportunity.

He was working on a school project where he had to make an instrument from recycled materials.  He built himself a drum set from Pringles cans.  We had to eat a lot of Pringles over the weekend in the interest of this project.  It was quite the sacrifice. 

For whatever reason, the Pringles cans all sounded slightly different, so he organized them by pitch and then duct taped them in order.

He'd been banging around on the cans for a few days.  I was really good at tuning out the racket.  After all, I did survive twin toddlers.  But then one day the sound filtered into my consciousness and I realized I recognized the song.  I went in to Pierce's room and said, "hey, Pierce, I recognize that song."  He said, "Yeah, it's the Fishers of Men song from church."  I was a little surprised.  I suspect the kid is going to have a lot of fun in steel drums this year.  Maybe after the spring concert I'll even have a video to share. 

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Vomit and Ghosts in the Classroom

I've been teaching a lot lately, and the classes I teach are long - either 5 hours or 6.5 hours.  Day classes start at 8:00 and tend to end at 1:00.  Night classes run from 5:30 - 10:30.  A few weeks ago I was teaching a night class and my students had taken their finals and went home early.  The other classes had finals as well, so the building was quiet as I set up my classes online for the following term.  I started to hear someone wretching.  I could tell it was a male.

My classroom was a good amount of space down from the men's bathroom, so it seemed weird the sound would travel so far.  It went on and on.  After a while, I started getting concerned that the guy was very seriously ill and in trouble.  So I walked around the building trying to find him.  The two classrooms set behind mine were empty.  Beside my class was a hallway and then faculty offices, which were empty.  The classroom next to mine was a nursing lab, but as I walked by I could see there were just two students in there with an instructor, and it appeared they were studying vitals. 

I finally walked down to the library, and explained the situation to the night librarian.  I asked if he would mind going into the men's bathroom to make sure the person was okay and didn't need help.  When the librarian walked past my classroom, he, too, could hear the violent vomiting.  But when he went into the bathroom, it was empty.

We walked up and down the halls, searching for the source of the dreadful sound.  I certainly didn't feel like eating any dinner that night, after hearing twenty minutes of heaving.  Eventually the librarian and I roped another instructor into searching for the ill person.  Now there were three of us.  And she finally located the source.

Remember that nursing class right next to mine?  The one that seemed to be studying vitals?  It turns out they had a vomit app on an ipad and had spent the past thirty minutes playing with the app.  I guess if you're a nursing student, vomit apps just never lose their fun!

When I told my boys about how the nurses got me good, they thought this was just hilarious.  I'm pretty sure they wish they had a vomit app.  Yuck.

One more story from the classroom - I do teach some basic level statistics in my Introduction to Psychology class.  I saw this little math joke around Halloween, so as I was teaching what a normal distribution looks like, I drew it on the board.  All my students were drawing right along with me.  Then I drew the paranormal distribution, and they drew that too.  It took them a minute before they realized that was a joke, but when they did, they were all amused.

Here's hoping that all of you are finding much amusement in life lately.  Have a great week! 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Halloween 2016

The boys had a fun Halloween.  Here they are waiting for the bus on the day they had their school Fall Festival.  Cort was Mario, Pierce was Edgar Allan Poe, and Reid was a "Super Banana".  On Halloween itself they wore different costumes.

Signs that your child may be on to your candy pilfering habits:

I have been working more hours, and I've been blogging for 7 years come December, so I'm feeling a little burned out.  This is why my blogging is spotty for now.  I'll try to still write something at least once a week, but it may be a while before I resume 3 days weekly. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Pierce is Ten

Last week Pierce turned 10.  Gone are the days when I crafted theme cakes for him.  This year he said he is too old for that.  Instead, he wanted a "caramel Frappuccino" cake.  I crafted a two layer cake with espresso and caramel.  It had structural issues, but it tasted good.
Pierce loves electronic gadgets.  He has a particular fondness for old Polaroid cameras and old telephones.  His favorite food is anything with salted caramel.  He still loves anything dealing with robots.

In addition to a couple of small things, Pierce got a mummy sleeping bag for his birthday.  Now he'll be all set next time we go backpacking. 
He has wanted a mummy sleeping bag since the twins got theirs for their birthday, so he was pretty excited.  We'll have to plan a backpacking trip soon, before it gets much colder.

I'm taking a little blogging break, but I hope to see you some time next week! 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Autumn Olive Jelly

We have what are called autumn olives growing on bushes in our area.  They aren't an olive at all, but instead a small, edible berry.  We went and picked a bunch recently.  They have little stems on them and a fairly chewy seed.  Because of this, I thought the easiest way to use them would be to make a jelly.

I picked out as much debris as possible and then rinsed the berries.  I just left the little stems on, as it seemed like removing every little stem would take me all day long.  Then I put them in a pot and cooked them down with about half a cup of water, mashing them with a potato masher.
 I don't have one of those sieve stand things, but I made good use of a cabinet handle and some cheesecloth for straining out the juice.  Once things cooled, I squeezed out as much juice as possible.  I got 4 cups of juice from the berries.  I brought it to a high boil with some sure-jell.  Then added 5 1/2 cups of sugar.  I returned it to a high boil and cooked it until it passed my firming test in a glass of ice water.  Then I filled jelly jars and processed in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes. 
I was pleased with how it set up overnight.  It also has a really nice rosy color, which is surprising since the juice was sort of beige.  A good use of an invasive species, don't you think? 

Hope everyone has a Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

100 Cats

The saga of the desire for a cat colony continues with my twins.  They want so badly to build a barn to house all the feral kitties. 

Reid drew this picture from a book he read in school last year called Millions of Cats.  The book must have made quite an impression on him, since he drew the picture now.  I googled the book and it sounds excellent - I need to read it myself.

If you look very closely, you can see that the person by the house is also holding a cat in his arms.  I just love it!

I'm taking Friday off so I will see you next week!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Mutant Sweet Potatoes

Where's my gardening experts?  I need some knowledge!  My sweet potatoes all came out looking like bears clawed them in the middle of their growth.  Perhaps they tangled with some zombies?  Could this be from getting too much rain this summer during a key part of the growing season?  Or is it something in my soil balance?

The good news is that once I peel all that mess, they still taste good underneath. I roasted wedges in olive oil and herbs and they were fantastic. The bad news is that they are not storing for very long (maybe two weeks) before getting soft inside.  They aren't staying firm like they should.  So if you have any great ideas for preserving them let me know. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Bobby Goes for a Ride

On Saturday afternoon I was playing mancala with Reid and he suggested we take Bobby for a ride to see if he would like it.  As you may know, Bobby isn't your typical feline, as he often goes hiking and he also enjoys playing in the snow.

Reid, Bobby, and I piled into the car.  We drove very slowly along the road.  Bobby ran all over the car, looking out the windows.  He never started panting or yowling like some of my other cats have done in the past.  I think he was a little nervous about it, but not too terribly bothered. 

Probably, if we took Bobby for rides more often, he'd grow to enjoy it.  Because you know, taking your cat for a ride is a perfectly normal way to spend your Saturday afternoon, right?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Salem Half Marathon Race Report 2016

On Saturday I ran the inaugural Salem Half Marathon.  They also had a kids' race (1 mile) and the boys came along to do their first race.

I arrived in plenty of time to pick up my packets as well as the boys' (I knew exactly what to expect and where to go because I'd had helpful email communication about the race in the days leading up to it).  This process went very smoothly - no lines; all three races (there was also an 8K) were divided and organized.  They had plenty of safety pins for numbers, and all racers received a nice race t-shirt (the half marathon shirts were long-sleeved technical shirts, the boys got long sleeved cotton shirts). 

I don't wear a watch when I run, but it seemed as though the race started right on time.  They had a huge firetruck parked at the top of the hill with a large American flag hanging down for the American Anthem.  The first mile was a little crowded but things thinned out quickly.  The first hill started at mile 1, and there were hills all through the race.  Even the last mile had a doozy of a hill!  Definitely a rolling course that you would want to hill train to run.

This race was so well-organized.  They had tons of volunteers, water stations, and from mile 5 on portajohns.  They also gave out Gu gels around mile 9.  Every mile was marked (very helpful for me since I do not wear a Garmin) and there were also time clocks at a couple of spots throughout the race.  The race goes through all the high points of Salem - it passes the duck pond, the golf course, the downtown area (it starts and finishes at the Farmer's Market), the Civic Center, neighborhoods full of historic homes, and Roanoke College.  Of course around every curve you get scenic views of the Blue Ridge mountains.  Also interesting is that you will experience a variety of terrain - while the majority of it is on pavement - at times you will run on dirt, grass, and brick pavers. 

I am training for a long distance, slow race next month, so I wanted to be cautious not to injure myself during this race.  I had just done a 26 mile training run on the Sunday before my race, and was concerned about some foot pain I was having afterwards.  As a result, I treated the race as a tempo training run and pushed myself, but did not race all out.  I tried to make sure I kept some healthy distance between myself and the people who tend to be around my speed. 

You can tell as I crossed the finish line that I enjoyed the race and ran with some conservation (most of the time at the finish line I look like I'm dying).  My mom caught this picture with her cell phone (she managed to watch the boys race and then keep them entertained while I ran).

The finisher's area was great - they had Chick Fil A sandwiches, fruit, Gatorade, and water.  There was a band called Uptown (which my boys loved) as well as massage and stretching and granola bars.  My time of 2:02 was good enough to earn third in my age group, so in addition to the very nice finisher's medal that everyone receives, I also got a trophy. 

This was a great race!  I loved the course and had a wonderful overall experience.  Would I run it again?  Absolutely.

Disclaimer:  I received free entry into the Salem Half Marathon for review purposes.  The opinions above are all my own. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Carvins Cove

I took this cell phone picture overlooking Carvins Cove when I did my 20 mile trail run on the Appalachian Trail.  It seems like some mythical world, doesn't it?  Not like something you'd see in Virginia.
Carvins Cove is the water reservoir where Roanoke City residents get their water.  They allow canoeing and kayaking, but no motor boats or swimming. 

By some play of light, this picture ended up in silhouette, even though when I took it at 3:30 in the afternoon, there was still plenty of light out. 

Readers, have you found any mythical worlds in your state lately?

Friday, October 14, 2016

20 Mile Adventure Run on the Appalachian Trail

In training for a race in November I'm trying to put in as much time on my feet as possible.  I thought maybe I should try to do a run that would prove to be very challenging, in an effort to build up resilience and confidence.  I've always wanted to run a 20 mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail that goes from Route 311 to Troutville, passing by a number of scenic overlooks.  I have backpacked the stretch before, but have taken two days to do so.  A normal 20 mile run for me on pavement would take under 4 hours, and I needed to spend more time on my feet than that for training purposes.  It takes a significantly longer time to cover 20 miles on the AT due to the terrain, but it would be a fun and novel way to do it. 

I decided to do the first 3.5 miles with the boys, as it went to McAfee's Knob (some say the most photographed location on the AT - and indeed, it was crowded up top with people and their selfie sticks) and since it was uphill and rocky in places, I wouldn't have been able to run much of it anyhow.  We got an early start, as the day was expected to hit 90 degrees.

Reid stuck with me and we kept a nice pace to the top.  Pierce and Cort quickly lagged behind, and Paul stayed back with them. 
Unfortunately, Reid and I had to kill almost an hour on top before the others caught up!  I wasn't planning on such a long break and was itching to move on, as I knew I had many miles to cover in the heat.  Once Paul and Pierce and Cort arrived, I headed right out on my own.  I carried with me a small Camelbak day pack that included first aid supplies (including a few meds like electrolyte pills, ginger chews, and ibuprofen), headlamp, knife and firestarter, map, water filter, food and water.  I knew some of those things I was unlikely to need, but I wanted to have them just in case things didn't go as planned.

My plan was to run any part that wasn't severely rocky or steep uphill (those parts I would walk).  After McAfees, I had a decent runnable stretch before I had to walk up the section to Tinker Cliffs.  It was getting really hot by this point and I was feeling queasy and concerned I wouldn't have enough water for the amount of heat I was experiencing.  I stopped for a minute to enjoy the view (if you're curious, I wore Hoka Challenger trail shoes with running gaiters over top to keep out debris), check my water situation, and take a liquid lemonade energy form called Glukos.  I only had about 20 ounces of water left and wasn't even halfway.  With temps nearing 90 at this point, I knew I'd be rationing.  I had a LifeStraw in my pack and planned to drink from streams at any places I found them. 

Shortly after Tinker Cliffs, were some fun rock formations I scrambled up and through. 

I was able to run a bit after the rocks and was headed downhill.  I started to feel a little better and was able to take a Gu.  I took a picture here, at the halfway point of my run. 

Not far from halfway, I came to a trail shelter.  I asked the people at the picnic tables if there was water, and they pointed me downhill.  Unfortunately, it had been really dry for weeks and the stream was almost dried up.  Still, beggars cannot be choosers.  I whipped out the LifeStraw, which filters out everything but viruses (which are extremely unlikely in the North American backwoods), and hoped for the best, as the water there wasn't even really a trickle.  I drank as much as I could.

I had so many beautiful overlooks along the way.  The next section had many runnable areas.  It was very hot and I got so thirsty.  I continued to feel queasy off and on, but tried to take a Gu when I thought I could stomach it (throughout the day I only ate 7 Gus and was unable to eat any real food - this is definitely because of the extreme heat that day). 

At one point I came around a bend and heard a loud scritchscritchscritch sound.  What on earth?  It was two black bear cubs sliding their way down a tree when they heard me coming. They were right there!  I smiled so big as I watched them run off.  Then I looked for the mother.  I found her on a ridge above me.  She and I eyed one another warily for a moment (I did have mace in my shorts pockets in case of emergency).  Then I walked down the path until I was out of her sight before I started running again. 
 As thirsty as I was, I didn't encounter another water source until a tenth of a mile from the finish. A nine mile dry stretch. So I got dehydrated because I didn't want to drink what water I did have too fast.  With such high temperatures I really needed double the amount of water I had.  I was even seeing double a bit towards the end.  The views of Carvins Cove were amazing though, and gave me a sense of elation despite the hard conditions.  Even though I had discomfort, I never felt like I was in danger of not finishing, and I kept in touch with friends via text throughout.  Most of the time I seemed to have a cell phone signal. 

The final miles were very runnable and mostly downhill.  I had a sense that my downhill muscles would be trashed the next day.  I had been on the trail over 8 hours (if you include the hour break when I waited for the boys to catch up in the beginning) and my feet and muscles were all feeling it.  I fantasized about buying the biggest size fountain drink I could at the Exxon station beside where I had left my car so many hours earlier (which was exactly what I did - with lots of ice too!). 

I loved this run and hope to have the opportunity to do it again someday.  Next time though?  I'm definitely picking a day with cooler temps! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Helicopter in the Yard

A few weeks ago the utility company was trimming trees in our region.  They asked if they could use our pasture for refueling through the day.  The horses were in a different field at the time, so we didn't mind if they used the hay field.  There aren't a lot of open spaces in our region for them to land a helicopter because the terrain is so hilly and wooded.

All day long the helicopter would stop by every hour or so to get fuel from a truck in our pasture.  Our dog, Bo, made best friends with the guy doing the fueling and stayed by his side all day.  I think Bo wants to be a helicopter pilot when he grows up. 

The boys were disappointed that the helicopter was gone by the time they got home from school.  They had hoped to be able to sit on the porch and watch it while they did their homework. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

No Books at the Book Sale

A couple of weeks ago I took the boys to a used book sale at a local church.  They had thousands of books that had been donated and were selling them to benefit their children's programs.  Prices were perfect - 25 cents per paperback, and if you bought 4 you got one free.  I gave each of my boys a bag to stash books and told them to go find whatever they wanted.

The twins headed straight to the well-stocked kid section and started going through books.  They found all sorts of fun titles like "How to Do Your Homework without Throwing Up" and "Mom, There's a Pig in My Bed!".  Pierce went there and looked through, but was disappointed he didn't find any books in the Maximum Ride series, which he has been reading for the past six months.  He came over to where I was looking through books and said, "Mom, there's no good books here.  I can't find any books in the Maximum Ride series."  I looked up at the room stuffed with thousands of books and said, "Pierce, there are so many books here.  You have to give them a chance.  Look at the backs of the books and read what they are about.  You can't tell me out of all these books you can't find a single one you'd like."  There was an elderly gentleman next to me during this whole exchange.  Pierce scampered off.

Five minutes later, he came running back, "Mom!  Mom!  I found the perfect book!  It's just what I wanted!"

This is the book he had:

The elderly gentleman next to me couldn't help chuckling a bit as he saw the book that was causing my nine year old such glee. 

And now the Electrical Wiring book has a proud spot on Pierce's bedroom bookshelf.  I'm not sure what he's planning to wire, but I sure hope he runs it by me first...

Friday, October 7, 2016

Spicy Stuff - Candied Jalapenos

Last Spring I picked up a few jalapeno plants at a flea market.  I gave two to a neighbor, and kept two for myself.  Peppers tend to come in fairly late in my garden.  But I've had enough jalapenos to make salsa several times.  And a few weeks ago I picked a bunch to make candied jalapenos. 

I'd never made candied jalapenos before (I often make jalapeno jelly though).  Cooking up jalapenos kind of makes the kitchen smell like it's been maced.  I love jalapenos and most spicy things, so it's worth it.

I didn't get a huge yield (next year I'll plant more) but I did get a couple of jars of candied jalapenos.  They are delicious!  Perfect on cheese and crackers.

Readers, do you like spicy foods?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Long Lost Thanksgiving book

I've always loved to read, and have kept the local library busy throughout my life.  When I was twelve or so, I was at the library digging through books and trying to find a book I hadn't read before.  I pulled out a book that I thought had an especially dopey cover, but sounded interesting. 

I was surprised how quickly I was pulled into the story, and it was a book that made me laugh a few times, and in the end, was one of the only books that made me cry when I was a kid. 

For years I tried to find this book again.  The problem I came up against was that my memory had changed the book.  I was remembering it was about a boy who was trying to save the Thanksgiving turkey.  In reality, it was about a boy trying to save the Thanksgiving goose.  One of my psychology students helped me figure this out recently when we were chatting during a break (not sure how we got on the subject!), and I ordered the book. 

It was still a book I loved reading.  I plan to read it to the boys in a couple of years.  I know this book will make them laugh, too.  It has some really great moral messages, too, about kindness for others and the importance of family bonds and hard work.

Readers, was there a book as a child that made you laugh and cry? 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Using What We Have

I love recipes where I can use the foods we harvest ourselves.  I found a recipe on Pinterest recently for lemon raspberry zucchini bread that was perfect with a few modifications for this purpose. 

I switched out wineberries for the raspberries, as we had some in the freezer that we foraged from our land in July.

I switched out shredded rampicante squash for the zucchini, as I had a ton from the garden that needed to be used up.

I used eggs taken from the hens we raised from chicks.

Now if only I could figure out how to grow a lemon tree on the property.  Then I'd be all set!

As for the bread?  I could not stop eating it.  So good! 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Walking, Plus a Discount Code for the Salem Half Marathon

I've been trying to walk as much as possible for an upcoming 24 hour race.  Some days I can't find the time to fit in a walk in addition to my run.  But on the days I can, I always enjoy it.
Most of the time I just walk on the road we live on, or else on our land.  I can walk for an hour, and sometimes not a single car will pass by.  It's always scenic, with fresh air and plenty of wildflowers and nature to see.  I like listening to the bird calls, and wish I knew what all the different birds were.

Some days I can convince a kid (or two, or three) to come with me, and those are my favorite walks of all. 

Two days ago, I was contacted by the Salem Half Marathon.  This is their inaugural year, and in addition to the half marathon, they are also having an 8K and a kids' run.  Salem is so scenic, with rolling hills and an adorable downtown - the perfect place for a distance run.  They have offered Two Bears Farm readers a discount of 20% off registration if you use the code BLOG20.  Come out and run - it's sure to be a fun time, and afterwards they are having a post race party at the farmer's market with food, bands, and kids activities. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Time on the Feet

I won an advanced reader copy of the newest book by Dean Karnazes (scheduled to be released in October) on Goodreads.  The book is about ultramarathoning, and it details the events leading up to the first marathon in ancient Greece.  In reading this book, I had a moment where I completely lost my sense of rational, became weak, and impulsively registered for a 24 hour race.  As in you race for 24 hours to see how far you can go.  24. Hours.

I've never done anything like this before, and can't even begin to be prepared for this sort of undertaking.  The good news is that it isn't too far from home, so I can always just turn in for the night if I can't continue.  In the meantime, I'm trying to run and walk as much as I can.  I'm trying to get used to time on my feet.

I'm doing my usual morning runs, and then am trying to get back out in the evenings for an additional walk or a hike.  The other night I suggested that Pierce come with me.  I told him we could hike over the mountain to a local highway and back.  Pierce did not think such a thing could be possible!  We often drive it, but even driving it is treacherous at times, and it's a long way to go over the mountain and back again.  But he agreed to give it a try.

It was hot, even starting out in the evening, and there were a lot of bugs.  At one point, we heard something big snuffling off in the woods and thought it might be a bear.  Because it is so steep, the four mile trip took us about 90 minutes.  And we even ran about 1/2 mile of it.  Pierce had a blast!  So did I.  It was nice to just catch up with him about school, and enjoy nature.  We only saw one car the whole time.

The next night, Pierce said, "Let's go hike again!"  He wanted to do the same route again.  And the following night?  Again!  I've created a monster! 

Not really though.  I'm glad that he's loving taking these hikes so much.  As long as he wants to go for hikes in the evening, I'm sure Paul or I will indulge him.  Training for a 24 hour race sure is a lot more fun when you have a little friend making sure you get out for your workouts. 

Monday, September 26, 2016


Another amazing piece of nature's artwork.  I saw this shimmering in the sun on our hike to Stiles Falls a few weeks ago.

I marveled at how tight and close together the spider put the threads of this web.  She should have her own gallery!

Readers, what have you seen in nature lately that stopped you in your tracks?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Hiking to Stiles Falls

Over Labor Day weekend we did a family hike to Stiles Falls.  It started as a scenic road.

At the end of the road, we finally turned off onto a single foot path in the woods, often by a nice stream.

Pierce had done this hike before and told us the water was deep and to bring lifejackets.  Trust me - lifejackets are not necessary! 

Towards the end of this path, there was a little bit of rock scrambling just before the falls.  We did see a garter snake on one of the rocks.

The ultimate reward!  This hike is only about an hour from us, so it's strange we had never done it before.  It made for a very nice day.
After a picnic lunch and some splashing in the (very) cold water, we headed back.  It was a fairly easy hike and nothing quite beats a waterfall at the end.

I'll be taking the rest of this week off from blogging.  Hope everyone has a great week.  See you next Monday! 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Texas Tavern

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Deschutes Street Pub festival in downtown Roanoke (Paul won VIP tickets).  I didn't take a single picture except for this one, on the walk to the festival.

I snapped it with my cell phone, as Reid was wearing his Texas Tavern shirt that day.  This little restaurant has been around a long time!  Paul works a block from there, so he eats lunch there once in a while.  Makes for a cheap meal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

More Canning from Summer 2016

We've eaten a lot of the produce from the garden fresh this summer, but I'm still trying to can things too.  I was hoping to can massive amounts of tomatoes in all form, but have been struggling with what I think may be blight on the fruit of my larger tomatoes.  Probably as a result of all the rain we've had.  Regardless, I was able to find enough tomatoes and jalapenos to make a batch of salsa.

While I only got 5 pints (plus about a half pint I didn't can but ate immediately on chips, spoiling both my lunch and dinner) from the effort, I was pleased, since it was my first attempt at canning salsa.  It isn't quite as chunky as I'd like, but it has excellent flavor.

I also decided to try to make pickled eggs.  We have some excess eggs, and I thought maybe the boys would like them.  They seem to like all other things pickled.  I confess that I have never eaten a pickled egg.  They always look so.....creepy....floating around in there.  Like something you'd see in a curiosity cabinet from 1911 on dusty shelves next to jars of double headed snakes and an octopus brain. 

As of the time I am writing this post, the pickled eggs are still curing.  I am going to be brave and try one.  It'll be interesting to see if anyone in the family likes them.  Maybe we'll get lucky and everyone will.  If so, I might try to make a spicier version with jalapenos - since I have excess in my garden to use up.

Readers - have you ever eaten a pickled egg? 

Monday, September 12, 2016

One of My Favorite Things

I bet you didn't know that one of my favorite things is building fences.  I just love to put in new wooden fencing.  I love the smell of the wood, putting up the boards, and seeing the finished product.  Luckily, we have a post hole digger which makes things easier (although it is still tricky to use, since our land is quite rocky).  And I love the reassurance that it will be there for years to come, and will safely contain the horses. 

We recently put in a new fence line along the driveway.  If wood wasn't so expensive I'd put wood fencing all over the place!  I just love it.

On the left you see the new fence.  We still have to take down the electric from behind it - we use that area as one of our horse pastures.  Hopefully at some point we can continue that wood fencing up the driveway to the left, but we've used up our fencing budget for a while.  On the right you can see fencing that we put in about 15 years ago when we started building the horse arena.  The little triangle building in the background is our chicken tractor.

Readers - is there some unlikely chore that you love doing?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Camo Bug

The other day when we were building a new fence I heard a buzzing in the bushes.  I went to investigate and found a fantastic bug.  Look at that coloring!  Isn't nature amazing?
I'm guessing this is some sort of locust or cicada, although I've never seen one so beautifully colored.  The original camouflage! 

Readers - anyone know specifics on this bug?