Monthly Archives: October 2013

A Commonwealth Treasure in the Spring and in the Fall

On her last birthday, my youngest sister entered the retirement decade.  To celebrate she wanted to take a sisters trip. The five of us set off early one October morning, destination:  Fallingwater in Central Pennsylvania. The main attraction was to visit a vacation home built over a water fall, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and constructed in the 1930’s.  The side attraction was to see the stunning color of the leaves in mid fall.  It turned out to be a rainy day in Pennsylvania and the leaves were not stunning or at peak, but the third attraction; being together, enjoying lunch, and having all day to visit was perhaps the best of all.

So happens that I had also visited Fallingwater in the Spring with another small group of people with whom I enjoy spending time.   I thought it would be fun to compare the pictures of the same place in the Spring and in Autumn.

Besides the famous home, much of the beauty around the area can be appreciated by taking walks along the paths that wind around the property in the woodlands.

Here is the house as we approach it in the Fall.  It was designed to be a part of the natural surroundings.  The family thought they would get a view of the water fall in the woods, but designer Frank Lloyd Wright had different ideas.  He wanted to incorporate the house into the falls and built the house right over it.

Here we are approaching the house in the Spring with Kay and Tom and Harry and Linda. You know who was also with us.  That would be husband, Dick.  On that trip we did not tour the inside of the house, but spent our time walking around the outside of the structure and down many tree lined pathways.

This is the mountain creek that runs under the bridge in the above picture, and then right under the house. This would be the muted Fall look.

During the visit with the sisters we got to go inside with a tour guide, who told us the lady of the house used to sit on the bottom step in the early morning summer hours and dangle her feet in the water.

This is basically the same shot taken in the Spring, but gives a better view of the water falls which spills down over the cliff, and the trees do look different.

During the Fall visit we also learned that part of this boulder is incorporated right into the house.  Inside it protrudes through the wall and flattens out beside a fireplace.  The floors are covered with flat stones to fit in with boulder and the whole living with nature concept. 
On the Spring trip, we got to do a lot more walking around the out side of the house and here, got our one glimpse of the inside.  There are no pictures allowed of the inside of the building.

I remember when my Mother and Father went to visit this place many years ago and how they said it was so beautiful and luxurious. Can you imagine how extravagant this swimming pool might have seemed in the 1930’s?  My mom and dad could, as they lived through very hard times in the 30’s.

Here is the Fall view and the Spring view of the same area.

And the view of the waterfalls in the Spring and in the Fall.

You are now leaving Fallingwater, a Commonwealth Treasure.
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Apple Butter Day 2013

The story of how and why our family starting making apple butter is found in my soon to be published book “A Wish Called Wanda.” It’s a tale of a mother’s ingenuity to meet a heartfelt need for her four teenagers. Fifty-five years later it is now a deep family tradition that brings siblings and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends, and relatives of all sorts together on a fall day in October to peel and stir, visit and eat, until the sauce in the bubbly pot is deemed “apple butter.” 
Each year the eating frenzy, disguised as making apple butter, begins with eight families gathering apples of all varieties from different markets and orchards in our apple laden county of Adams in the beautiful hills of Pennsylvania.
 The buckets, boxes and crates full of the tempting fruit, start piling up on my back porch on Friday afternoon.
 The preparation for peeling 10 bushel of apples begins by protecting my floors from dropped peelings, apple juice and many sticky feet with some heavy duty tarps. I think the dog is wondering if this means he can now pee on the floor.
 The peeling begins early, after a supper of chili dogs and bar-b-que with many snacks to hold us over because
the finger staining, hand numbing task goes on way after dark.

Not to mention we take all the help we can get from those cute little guys anxious to turn a handle.

There are those who are dedicated to the proposition of getting up before sunrise, making the 20 mile trip to my sisters farm, to get the 25 gallon copper kettle on, and the fire started and the first apples cooking.  I am not one of them.  My wonderful picture taking daughter is, however, and she captured these last few moments of the awesome harvest moon we had Friday night, that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

 When dawn breaks there is a lot of activity around the kettle as the sun and the steam rises to greet the day.

 Nothing makes a fall picture like a red barn, a flock of hens, a couple of geese, green grass and yellow leaves.

 Brother Ken and brother-in-law, John enjoy the traditional breakfast prepared by host and sister Brenda. It is our once a year taste of old fashioned buckwheat cakes with sausage and worst meat.  We also love her homemade canned grape juice, a sweet liquid, used to wash those heavy duty pancakes and the thick meat sauce down.

Breakfast ends at 9am and the morning passes with people gathering, kettle stirring, tractor riding, and corn cracking so the kids can feed the chickens and turn handles.

When Brenda starts clanging the dinner bell, people come from all over the farm to gather around the kettle for some inspiration.  This includes a prayer of gratitude for our heritage, our families and our food.

 It also includes the passing of what we lovingly call the “coveted copper kettle award.”  Randy, a country boy at heart, received the award last year.  He told us he loves the apple butter tradition and wants to see the young people continue with it.  So this year he presented the flower pot sized copper kettle, filled with Reeces Peanut Butter Cups to 12 year old Dylan who has shown great interest in learning the cooking process from his father,Tom. Tom was quite young when he took an interest in the kettle process, learning from his father, George who learned it from his father, George Sr.

 We are confident the tradition will continue into the next generations and we are all approving as the kettle, concealed in a basket, is passed.  The basket came about when “the cow,” reminiscent of George Sr’s farm, and “the book” with the award presentations written each year, were added to the kettle presentation.

 Ahhh, breakfast is only enjoyed by those who arrive by the 9 o’clock hour but everyone who is coming is there by noon and lunch is served shortly thereafter.  The line winds around several food laden counters and continues with drinks and desserts on the patio.

 The stirring continues into the afternoon.  About 2:30 the water tests begin and the sugar is added one 4 pound bag at a time while the sampling is discussed. Then the few magic spices are added till the tasters;  kettle master Dick, head taster George, and taster apprentice, Gina along with approval from eldest sister, Jeannine declare it’s “Apple Butter.”

The word quickly spreads and the readied jars are filled with the boiling sauce so that they are sealing even before we are finished filling the last jar.

When the kettle is empty and the jars are full, warm fresh baked bread is pulled from the oven and passed around to all those who want a swipe of the good stuff left in the kettle before it is cleaned.  In the house we save a quart or two so that everyone can have a sampling before calling it a long, fun day.

There are just over 116 pints of sealed apple butter to be divided among the families and enjoyed all through the year.
 DONE!

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It’s all about the beauty and majesty of Denali

Both times we traveled to Alaska we wanted to see the majestic Mt McKinley or, as the natives prefer to call it, Denali. It’s no wonder Denali is one of the most popular attractions in this vast and mountainous state, because it is one of the largest and most spectacular sights you may ever see.  Both times we were there we were told that only 2 percent of the people who come to see the mountain ever do actually get to view its mighty peak.  It has its own weather pattern and even if it is nice elsewhere, the mountain could be totally obscured by its own set of shrouding clouds. 

 I am delighted to say that both in 1999 and in 2011, our friend Denali cooperated with us and gave us the same splendid view. We were counted in that illusive 2 percent both times.  We saw it from afar days before our trip to the park.

Perched eagles were often spotted as we journeyed to our distant destination. 

Once in Denali Park the vastness of the land strikes you as never ending.  The mountains put a ring around the Tundra, and dahl sheep were plentiful. We saw them at the very top of the mountains,
along the road side of the  steady, hairpin turn climb and
up close and personal.  
This one paused and posed for the photo shoot.  We saw sheep all day as our tour lasted a full 12 hours. We saw as many as 15 to 18 at different times in different places.

I loved being out of the bus for short times to walk along the paths, enjoying the smallness of me, and being amazed at the surrounding largeness of the land. 
Our day in Denali was September 15th. Ours was the last bus to make the long trip back to Kantishna for the season.
You never knew what kind of animals you could see along the way.  This one was quite peculiar.
The horns belong to a caribou, but that face??  A lover of caribou, but definitely not caribou.
Speaking of faces,  I can’t believe the expression on the face of this bear. His nose makes him look like a teddy that got too much love.
Off he goes looking for more berries.
The long road to Kantishna.  Most tours stop at this point, by the visitors center, but this road goes back past the mountain to where most people go who want to hike in the bush. We took the long tour because we wanted to see it all, not because we wanted to hike beyond where we could see the bus.

Here it is in all its glory.  WOW!  Majestic even in a picture. So thankful that we got to see it like this.

It was a long enjoyable day.  The animal sightings were definitely worth the trip and the scenery was always there and always breathtaking.  We arrived back at our B&B about 9pm.  I was making chicken chunks in gravy over rice, we were eating dinner at 9:45 pm.  We slept in late and woke up to this right outside our door. Did I ever mention that I like B&B’s better than hotels?

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Not just any ole Tom, Dick and Harry in Alaska

Dick and I met Harry and Linda in the mid 70’s and even though they lived in Texas we had opportunity to see them a time or two a year for about 10 years.  Then there was about 10 more years where we didn’t see each other much at all, but kept in touch.  One weekend we met again in Nashville and decided to go to Alaska which we did in 1999.  That was the first of several great trips we took together.  In 2005, while in South Africa for the second time, we thought it would really be fun to have a Tom to travel with us.  He was not hard to find. One of my very best friends from childhood had married a guy named Tom. We decided to ask Kay and Tom to take a trip with us. Our first trip together was to Maine, and that’s another story, but in 2011 we wanted to take them to wild and wonderful Alaska.  The beauty is astounding and the memories we made were for a lifetime.

Meet Kay and Tom, Wanda and Dick, Linda and Harry.  The hats were a gift from Harry and Linda the first time we visited them in San Antonio.Now they are the hat of choice on every trip.  There were sun visors for the gals, but it seems we were not hat wearers.  They were tagged Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.

We rented a car in Anchorage and drove the scenic route to Homer.  
We viewed eagles flying over head and even got this shot of one through a roadside telescope.

A rocky ferry boat took us to Kodiak Island where we saw bears at close range and drove through

moss covered forests that looked like fairy lands.

After the long drive back up through Anchorage on to Denali we were ready to get out of the car and have some fun. Suiting up for a river rafting trip was a barrel of laughs.
Dick and I often “bounce” things off each other so we thought this sumo shot was just the ticket for the way we felt in the suits. It wasn’t terribly chilly, but I’m not taking any chances on cold ears or hands.
While we did see some nice white water and got in on a little wave action, we went for the overall mild ride and enjoyed the scenery.
Let the beauty begin.
Our guide and gal who “manned” the oars earned her wage.  She worked hard at keeping us upright and  made the trip a lot of fun.  She told us stories, pointed out things of interest and kept us dry for the most part. She also stuck out her tongue and made rabbit ears on our pictures.

Let the beauty continue as we travel back up to Denali for more Alaska sights and sounds in the next blog.

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Best places to stay in South Africa

Ever since our first trip to South Africa in 2002 I have always wanted to stay in smaller, family owned inn’s, guest houses, and Bed and Breakfasts.  Five star hotel rooms have nothing over the views and originality of the places we stayed in South Africa.  Luxury was never my cup of tea, just give me the necessities of life, surround it in ingenuity and the beauty of nature and I am a happy camper. In this blog you will see five of the best places we found in SA and a welcoming home.
This is the breaking free tree house at the Sycamore Ave lodge.  We girls were impressed with the beauty. The guys marveled at the handiwork of the Carpenter.

  We could only spend one night here and a few hours before and after sleep time.

The carved workmanship  was evident in every detail of these rooms, including the hinges on the doors.  The rooms were small and the stairs steep, but with a Jacuzzi on the top with a view, who cared.

 I was amazed, and slightly intimidated at this shower that was sorta out there in the middle of everywhere, but the good news was that the house itself was in the middle of nowhere.  The only thing out there was nature itself.

 Since it is so far out the family offers a light supper.  We chose a cauliflower soup with bacon bits and bread.  The texture throws you off for the first couple of bites, but from then on it was delicious and filling. The carrot cake with vanilla sauce for dessert was worth the trip.  Just check out this beautiful table and the unique chairs. And how about the wearing of the jackets while inside, and the roaring fire in the background in the middle of July? Those are the joys of being South of the equator in the winter.

 Too soon we had to be on our way, but you can be assured we were headed for some excitement.  I am pretty sure we left there to spend the entire afternoon ziplining, but that is another blog.

 This guest house is in East London, built and designed by father and son, it is unique and a lovely place to relax and refresh after a long day’s drive.

 Fruit and cereal on the porch of this safari tent B&B near George SA.  From the main house, where we had our first taste of Nando’s chicken for dinner the night before, we walked to the tent after dark and could hear the ocean pounding on the shores of the bottom of the continent.

In 2005 this beautiful guest house was immaculate and a great place to stay.  We had fun with the charming owner of this wild and wonderful Victorian house on a South African farm setting.

 The Berlyn Peacock Tavern B&B has fabulous gardens and roaming peacocks,
 a beautiful courtyard that we could only describe as exotic, 
and the rooms inside were flamboyant to say the least.  We were here in July, the coldest month of the year in 
 South Africa.  There is no heat in the houses and with our morning breakfast you could see your breath when you talked.  It may not be the greatest for the American mindset of a 4 star experience, but for us it was just the ticket for a fabulous time.
It is located within walking distance of the popular Berlin Water Falls where we watched a magnificent sunset.
This lovely B&B went out of business the year after we were there.  It was located near the Drakensburg Mountains and was an operating farm.  They continued the farming but gave up the Bed and Breakfast.  We are so glad we had the opportunity to stay here.
Here  is the view from the back yard just out side the door of this great room. I called it “almost heaven” for sure.
The last place we will visit on this blog is not a bed and breakfast.  It is the home of dear friends of ours whose families have lived in South Africa for generations.  Ouma was 98 years old when she passed from this life.  We met her when she was 95.  She is the lady who told me the story of a pride of lions that approached her home one moonlit night long ago. With her permission, I wrote it down and called it Lions in the Moonlight. It became my first published work.
 The specialty of the farm is landscaping.  Can you tell?

 Our daughter spent 4 years in South Africa and we are so happy to have been able to visit there twice. We love the people we met there, marveled at the places we stayed and were happy with what each one had to offer.  South Africa is a country to be celebrated, with so many diverse and beautiful people.

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