Friday, September 16, 2016

Dinner from the Garden, June 10

I found my roasted garlic photo! I thought I had taken one. I'll have to add a copy of this to my previous post on growing garlics in the garden. 

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I roasted these on the grill actually, while the chicken was cooking. I merely cut off the tops off the garlic. Laid them in aluminum foil and drizzled them with olive oil. Then I set them on the top rack of the grill while the chicken grill below.

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I had also picked some peas from the garden. These were the best peas we had ever eaten...primarily because they were home grown! Secondarily they were wonderful because I sauteed them with a bit of olive oil, salt and the garlic I had just roasted on the grill. Yum!

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After dinner I popped out all the garlic cloves to freeze, as described here.

My June 8th Flower Garden

My June 8th garden (I'm so behind in posting these!) bring me such happy memories of the greenness of early summer. I love summer. I love flowers. I love having flip flops to wear. It's probably all a result of having lived in Hawaii when I was little. My last flowers post showed the array of purchases from the local nurseries on my front porch awaiting a new home in my garden. That was Memorial Day weekend which was insanely hot!

The roasting sun was not the best for the tender new plants so I had to do extra watering to help them get established. I water slowly and deeply so that the water can sink into the soil. The first few weeks  I water anywhere from daily to a few days apart, depending on how long the soil is moist. Once the soil dries up, I water slowly and deeply again. After the planting my husband and I laid out the mulch in deep layers, so that was a great help in keeping the soil moist. When first planted, the seedlings are in shock so this careful watering helps them to get established. After a few weeks I can pull back on the watering. At this point I water about once every week or two. My plants probably suffered in this heat, but the water bill becomes too large if I water too much. Besides, all that slow and deep watering done days apart causes the roots to grow deeply, where there is more moisture.

It is a temptation to water quickly and lightly, but that barely gets to the roots and keeps the roots at the surface level. As a result, the plant never establishes deep roots. In San Antonio I had soaker hoses to help with the slow and deep watering. I've been holding back on this investment but if we have another summer like this, I may have to do that. Also I try to plant pretty xeriscape plants that do well in the scorching heat with little water. That is what I did in Texas. That is more difficult to do in Virginia because I rarely find those types of plants in the nurseries. Most of the plants I find are too tender for the brutal heat of a Virginia summer. I don't understand why they are sold.

This year I decided to experiment with a couple of popular plants I was never able to grow in San Antonio due to the alkaline soils and brutal sun and heat. I wondered if they'd do well in my gardens that get little shade. I also found a couple of Texas xeriscaping favorites, which I will showcase in this and the next few posts. On to the flowers!

The purple clematis in back I've only grown in Virginia. I like how my mini-roses contrast with them. I grew these mini-roses in Texas too. I get them at the grocery store.  They only grow 6-12" tall. They make a lovely border plant and bloom through the summer. I'll cut these clematis back when they are done blooming in order to get a second bloom in August.

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One of my new flowers is the foxglove!

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I hope I can get these established so they come back next year!

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I deadheaded the lavender phlox that I got from the Mount Vernon garden sale when we first moved here. I think this is the 3rd replanting of this plant. I have about 3 huge mounds of this now.
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My foxglove with my early blooming mums. The gladiolas will bloom soon.

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Once I get my garden established it should be quite pretty.

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Our Virginia Fixer Upper...the Before Shots and the Vision

Seven years ago we moved from Texas to Virginia. We were offered scores of homes in Northern Virginia that were 4x the price but of far less quality than our home in Texas. Our Texas house was a mere cookie cutter house that we had redecorated in many ways. But even from day one we had more than anything offered in Virginia for 4x the price.

Our Texas house had:
  • hardiplank siding 
  • best use of space
  • huge pantry/laundry/mud room
  • loft
  • cute backyard
  • ceiling lights in every room
  • mostly one switch per light

Virginia houses had:
  • vinyl siding
  • more square footage but less usable space
  • small pantries, if any at all
  • laundry closets, for the most part
  • hardly any mud rooms
  • no lofts
  • sometimes a cute backyard
  • lacked ceiling lights in every room (nothing like stumbling in the dark, forever, when first moving in and forever after that until more lighting is secured)
  • as many as two and three switches per light, I'm still getting confused!  

How in the world do we justify going into debt 4x more than we did in Texas, when we get so much less. What type of investment is that? Nevertheless, we had to live somewhere. Rentals were just as expensive as ownership. We wanted to own so we could make the house our own. We put offers on several different houses (one at a time) or at least tried to, but the competition was fierce despite being at the bottom of the housing  market.

I kept coming back to one house. Experts always say, "location, location, location." Well, I fell in love the first day our agent drove us to this neighborhood. As we drove through my husband said in amazement, "Laurie, this is like a modern Colonial Williamsburg." Overall, there was that general feel due to many picket fences and colonial stylings of houses, modern though they were. Most homes around here are colonial in style, but there was something about *this* neighborhood, right down to the sighting of some chinisuiot fencing here and there. Some houses even looked more Georgian, and of a few of those my kids dubbed "the Governor's Palace" due to their unique styling. Well, we didn't get one of those. Oh, there were even "ha ha" walls! (Be still my heart.)

However there was more. Great pools, Walking trails. Stream. Tennis Courts. Who could ask for anything more? I can. A view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, please. Done. Can we move here dear? My husband said, "Absolutely not." The house's features (listed above) were hopeless. On top of that, the family room was sooooo small, there was no way more than a recliner could fit in there and there was no where to put the tv. The dining room furniture would never fit into the dining room. Hardly any pantry. The walls were filthy with awful paint colors. The family room carpet was ugly, but newish. The vinyl floors in the bathrooms were ugly. He especially disliked the view from the family room windows looking down into neighbors' backyards. No. He wanted one of the other houses.

We put down offer after offer, just to be beat out. Most of the houses we visited were far worse than the one I was campaigning for. Finally, somehow, I talked my husband to making an offer. I kept telling him that he and I knew how to make a place better. This house might be too little for our furniture, but at this point we had run out of decent houses and we had been looking for 3 weeks. This was crazy. This house had to be the one for us. It had been on the market for 6 months! (Everyone thought it ugly and little.) My husband finally and regretfully conceded. We made an offer. It was accepted that night. The next day the paperwork was signed. Then it was the obligatory 30 day wait for all the financial paperwork to happen before the final signing of our lives and moving in.

Because I was so discouraged of the look of the rooms and outdoors, I did not take very many "before" photos of our new home. I did take a couple. Also everything was such a rush. The movers moved our goods into the house the morning after we closed on the house. Why didn't I use that wait time (because the movers were very late that morning in arriving) but I think that again, I was *that* discouraged about the look of the house. I was very depressed, even though I knew we could eventually make this place cute. I was so much happier buying our Texas house, because it was fresh, newly built, built better, much cheaper, and more nicely laid out. We had more space even though we had far less square footage. The very last night, after cleaning the very last nook and cranny of our Texas house, I'll never forget sitting in the drive way, about to pull out one last time. I saw tears well up in the eyes of the upstairs windows (our loft and son's bedroom) and roll down the cheeks onto the garage and dining room below. I started crying too. It makes me cry now to think of this. I miss that house so much. Yet, here we were and it was time to make our Virginia house a home.

My mom and mother-in-law kept asking for photos of the house, so a month later, I finally ran around the house and took photos. Some rooms were in progress of being painted or had been painted. I've gone through all the photos and am going to do my best to share the before photos. They photos truly did not reveal the awful dirt everywhere. It was so disgusting and icky. But just imagine dirt on all the walls.

First the entry. The first room is actually the living room. We've never had a living room before so it's rather bare of furniture and I'm still trying to figure out what to put in there without spending a lot of money. Ideally we'd love to put a baby grand piano in there! Also there is not a single light in this room. There is no electrical box in the center of the ceiling to put any lighting into either. That is crazy! Well, I never got a before photo of that, so moving on to the stairwell in the center of the house...

This photo was taken on day 1. I brought in a gift from our Sunday School class back in Texas, a group photo from our last night there that everyone signed on the mat. It was good to have as a reminder that they were praying over us during this time of transition. =) I love the pillars, actually. Very Jeffersonian! He liked to use pillars in his architecture. The spiral staircase is interesting but it takes up floor space and makes our rooms teeny weeny. Our biggest plan here was to paint the stairwell walls a new color. I also toy with the idea of removing the carpet and doing wood flooring for the staircase, and to do the spindles in a stain. It would be an asset to my photo shoots of historical clothing. However, that is a lot of work and expense.  Also when reselling the house I am thinking a young family might buy this and prefer carpeting on the stairs for their littles.

Stairwell Day 1

Opposite the stairwell is the powder room. A friend saw this and exclaimed in disgust that it looked like someone splattered blood from their hands on to the wall. The plan was obviously to repaint. Also I wanted to find white cottagy style fixtures, like we had in our Texas house. Sadly, the store where we had purchased them no longer sold them.

Powder Room

Around the corner is the kitchen. The countertops were stained laminate which needed replacing. The appliances did not work. I wanted to paint the cabinets. I also wanted to replace the hardware on the cabinets. The drawer pulls that looked like twigs weren't doing it for me. I wanted to take those two center niche shelves down. They weren't even stable. If I could find some that were French Country style I'd get them. The window treatments had to come down. I was okay with the green color, apart from the stains. However the kitchen was too dark for me. I liked the sink layout at the corner windows. Those windows are quite unique and are kind of fun. This is the only other photo from day 1. The basket was a gift from our real estate agent after closing. It was full of all sorts of yummies and fun stuff from Virginia! The kitchen has can lights! The best lighting I've ever had, in fact! If only the basement had can lighting. We also wanted to tile a backsplash. And of course new window treatments.

Kitchen

Another view of the kitchen after moving in. By now we had found and purchased this cute French Country table and chairs. Our table back in Texas was so huge we left it there, knowing it probably wouldn't fit in the next house. It never would have fit here. However I miss that table greatly. I sort of wish I had kept it. Then I would have squeezed it into the basement to use as a craft table with the kids. The wooden chairs were my choice and the fabric chairs with huge red flowers on the front and stripes on the back were my husband's choice. We couldn't come to an agreement until he said we should compromise and get 2 of each...which would add to the French Country eclectic look.

Kitchen (2)

I was relieved to have a deck! The main floor is at ground level in the front of the house. However the yard slopes to such and extent, that the basement in the back of the house becomes ground level. Lots of houses around here have fencing blocking their french doors because there is no deck from their second story main floor. The tiki torches definitely had to go. Even though we aren't in Hawaii everyone around here seems to have these. Well, not us. The inspector told us the stairs were not to code. It needed a secondary rail with the main rail. My husband took care of that himself to make sure it was done correctly so we could move in asap. He also wanted to refinish the deck.


Deck

The teeny weeny family room! We were shocked that all of our furniture (minus the coffee table) fit! The previous homeowner only had a recliner where ours is. Then he had a huge tv where the couch on the left is. Lots of wiring for the tv and various components were all over the floor. Those few items made the room look awful and impossible to fit furniture into. Surprise, surprise! Just like HGTV says, it really does pay to declutter when selling a house. I couldn't believe the awful clutter at many of the houses I toured. I didn't think we could fit into any of them. My husband's first goal was a flat screen tv mounted over the fireplace. That took a lot of doing but was eventually done. All these photos (apart from the two from day 1) were taken 3 weeks after moving in. Lots of paint samples are on the wall on the far right. I love all the windows. It's like being in a tree house. However there is hardly any space to hang paintings or quilts. Also this means lots of money needs to be invested into window treatments. Of course my husband likes the fru fru type!

Family Room

Back to the stairwell, a peak at the dining room 3 weeks after moving in. By now we had painted some of the walls. The walls were originally this purpley grey color that was very dirty. This color was in nearly every room. I know greys are very popular these days, but it was depressing me! I needed color! Also not seen here were scuff marks on the ceiling. How did that happen? We also discovered that some of those alarms in the ceiling were completely dead.  You can just barely see one of the knee walls in the dining room. I like them for having a place to put things, however they are taking up floor space and making a small dining room smaller. Visually and practically it will look much larger if we take out the knee walls. However to do that, we have to be at the point to replace the flooring. We are thinking about doing wood floors throughout. We'd like to go with a dark wood, but that might make the place look too small. Also, then we'd have to restain the railings a darker stain. That's not always an easy task. A huge irritation is that someone stamped gold flowers onto the ceiling around the chandelier in the dining room. It's going to be such a pain to repaint all the ceilings. Walls are one thing. But ceilings? Oh, and of course we want to replace all the ceiling fixtures and chandeliers. Someday.

Stairwell

At the top of the stairs the first room belongs to my daughter. Again, purply grey. A paint job was definitely needed. She also wanted different curtains and curtain rod. Also she needs a light. None whatsoever! She also needs a fan.

Carolynn's Room

Next to her room is the kids' bathroom. Purpley grey walls. We still need to paint this room. We ran out of steam (though we have done many other rooms) with the busy-ness of homeschooling junior high school.

Kids' Bathroom

The hallway was also pupley grey. For some reason the railings on the stairs came to an end and now we have a knee wall. My husband and I would love to take that down and replace it with railing. That means lots of intricate painting and staining. But we have to be at a point where we are putting down new carpeting...which is what I think what we will do on the upstairs and basement, someday. My son's room also needed paint because his walls were like the basement (below) pink mocha. Ick! He also needed window treatments, light (what is it with zero lights????) and a fan. 

Stairwell Landing

Our bedroom is the largest room in the house! That is crazy! If only our family room was this size. In fact, if only we could squish the family room and living room together and  have one huge space! That would be incredible! But impossible. We have a coat closet and powder room between the two and I think the structures in place are load bearing walls. Poor planning on the part of the architects. They really need to prioritize practicality then give that pizazz. We wanted to repaint and find window treatments. We didn't like the curtain rod so that needed to be replaced.

Master Bedroom

Our master bathroom. The paint isn't bad, but it is dirty. The shades are now shot and we have to replace those. We have already put up a valence (with tassels) and are talking about plantation style shutters. There were zero medicine cabinets in here. Can you believe that? I don't even recall if there were towel racks or not, but we did get new ones.

Master Bathtub

The etagerie came with the bathroom. The shower is a pain to clean. Any tips? We really want to upgrade this room with new tilework everywhere, like my husband did in Texas. We'd also like one of those seamless shower stalls. All clear, no metal? What is the name of those? We can't figure that out though. We ran out of budget (same money we had in Texas but we did far less because Virginia is so insanely expensive). We are thinking of keeping all the white wall tile and tub. Then replacing the icky flooring with a gorgeous 1920's black and white hexagon tile. We were originally thinking Tuscan like we did in Texas and in our kitchen remodel, but that would mean replacing everything. Also we are on the East Coast now and the 1920's black and white tile on the floor, and then a quartz marble look counter top would be cool! Also I'd like to repaint the walls to a light turquoise type, like the HGTV Dream House used a few years ago. Also we want to paint out the cabinets.  Also we want to replace the lighting.

Master Shower

Down the stairwell and we are in the basement where every wall had pink mocha that was sponge painted. I felt as if I were in a cave. Here I am in the middle of painting. I had already painted the back walls belgian waffle yellow. The overall lighting was next to nothing.

Basement Pink Mocha

This is the basement full bath. The paint I sort of like but could be stronger. I like saturated colors in the bathrooms because it's the one room where there can be deep color and I can get away with it because all the lighting brightens it up. So saturated colors in the bathrooms. Lighter tones elsewhere. This room also has beadboard, which I like a lot. However someone put in the trim upside down. My husband shakes his head.

Basement Bathroom

Not shown is the extra bedroom in the basement, which my husband claimed for his office. It was painted a deep purple. It was a type of purple that I liked a lot and would have liked to work with. However he said no way. I asked if he'd like to paint his office a deep blue, or deep hunter green, or deep red or burgundy? Those are such classic  office colors. No. He wanted to paint it the barest hint of yellow. What? But he was after me for using yellow (deeper tones) everywhere and challenged me to find other colors. Also pastel yellow doesn't quite exude a manly office. He said he is painting the room a light hint of yellow. Well, what about window treatment. He has a huge picture window. I could  do a box pleated valence. Perfect for a man's office. He said no. Zero window treatment. ???? I can't tell you how many Parade of Homes my husband has dragged me to, how many men's offices decorated as I was headed towards that he has coveted...only to want nothing more than the barest hint of yellow with a burgundy papa san chair. Well, so that is what he got!

Meanwhile...I never got my sewing room. I continue to plague my husband with my sewing scattered all over the dining room and the rest of the main floor. In the basement, I still feel like a mole. It's still dark, despite the new lighting. 

Well, stay tuned for what we did and are doing! It's much homier now! As much as I'm liking it more and more, I still miss my Texas house. (sigh)

Our Own Fixer Uppers and Meeting Michael Payne from HGTV

I love HGTV! I'll never forget when I first stumbled upon it. I was mesmerized by all the different styles of homes across America and the world. I also learned many basic guidelines for renovating and decorating which paid off when we sold our Texas house. It sold in 24 hours for full asking price during the bottom of the market 7 years ago! Then we moved to Virginia where we walked through scores of homes that cost 4x more than our Texas house but offered far less quality. However, we had to pick one of them. So we did and I will share more fully in coming weeks about how we have been fixing up our house. I'll also dig through old photos of our Texas house and share about how we fixed that house up.

It really helps that my husband has a degree in building construction, and has a hobby as a cabinet maker. He's always asking me, "What can I build next? What would you like? What would you like to do to upgrade the house?" Actually I think it's just an excuse to take me on a date to Lowes. =)

Ever since the beginning of our marriage, we've had strong discussions on style. We were complete opposites. I liked simple. He liked extravagant. I liked Americana country. He liked Victorian. Opulent Victorian. Velvet drapes. Tassels dripping from the drapes. Heavily ornate furniture. In the meantime we had quite the eclectic look of whatever everyone had gifted us. We lived in apartments and then base housing for years. Then in 2000 we bought our first house in Texas. It was a simple cookie cutter newly built house. We intended it to be our forever house (and we still miss it). My husband encouraged me to figure out a style we could compromise on and replace all the eclectic stuff that we really weren't crazy about with something we actually liked.

That was about the time I discovered HGTV. I learned much from all the shows, especially Michael Payne's "Designing for the Sexes." My husband and I would watch that and agreed with everything he said. Hmmm, we were on to something here. I took all that information, along with learning the various styles from the other shows, and presented my ideas for design for our own home to my husband. French Country. He loved it! Happy marriage!

Why is French Country a great compromise for my Country Style and my husband's Victorian style? Well, the country in French Country, obviously appeals to my Country Style. The French flair of tassels, textures, and elegance appeals to my husband's Victorian Style. However it is far more refined than Victorian, that even though there are tassels, there aren't as many tassels. Whereas Victorian is rather over the top elegance, French Country is more refined elegance...which draws me in and I love it!

Now the only problem is that when looking at pictures of French style, my husband is even more drawn to French Provincial which is the over the top luxury. Think of the various King Louis' and the Palace of Versailles. I have to admit, I like French Provincial more than Victorian. However in our modest homes, to install marble floors throughout, huge crystal chandeliers in every room, silk drapes from ceiling to floor gathered and puddled on the floor en masse,...is a bit too large for our space not to mention far to large for our budget. Whenever I remind my husband of that he usually concedes and we are back on topic for French Country. Usually.

One of our favorite restaurants is Le Madelaine which is very rustic French Country.

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The dark tile floors. The dark wooden beams. The dark stone fireplace. I love it there, but that is too dark for me. I need light. My husband loves dark.

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These pictures were taken in October, on a chilly autumn evening which was the perfect setting for a cozy dinner. My husband chose beef bourguinon which I've had before. Delicious!

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I had roasted chicken with caesar salad. Delicious!

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For dessert my husband chose a Napoleon...

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...and I chose Sacher Torte! Yum!

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Whenever I leave I feel inspired to cook like this in a kitchen like this. Well, perhaps lighter than this, but French Country at least!  

Anyway, many thanks to Michael Payne whom we met years ago at a Home and Garden Show in San Antonio, Texas. I bought his book and got his autograph and my family had quite the thrill meeting him in person. (No photos from that moment. That was in the day before blogs and smart phones.)

I'll be sharing various stuff I've learned as I share what we've been doing with our house. It's certainly a learning process and I've still made my share of mistakes, but we've been quite happy with many of the results. We've recently been doing some simple but badly needed upgrades so that is what inspired this overall post. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Liberty Farm Festival

Saturday I drove through the most beautiful countryside of Virginia that I have ever seen. My destination was Paris, Virginia where the Liberty Farm Festival was being held. Along the way there were numerous winding roads, large trees with spreading branches (soon to turn autumnal), quaint towns, pubs and taverns and even a phone booth from London! I'll be back with my family!

At last I arrived on a most lovely farm. Honestly, we all commented this corner of Virginia was the prettiest we've seen. We were in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains on a beautifully maintained farm, with a quintessential farm house with barns and silo near a pond.

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Most unique though was all the security. Secret service agents were everywhere because Vice-Presidential nominee Mike Pence was coming to speak. In fact it was a day to hear many candidates in the various races of Virginia. The speaking line-up included 3 candidates for governor, 3 for lieutenant governor, 3 for attorney general, and scores of others. It was quite interesting to see all the action. Despite all that, everything was run well and all the people were quite nice. I'm not a crowd person at all, but this was a nice group of people to be with. Also all of the security seemed to energize the place. I can honestly say there was nothing stressful this day. It was all fun!
  

My objective, though, was to find the Convention of States booth where I'd be volunteering. I couldn't find it anywhere. I eventually figured out why. They were still setting up. Even though they arrived early, they had to wait behind the entry point so the secret service scouted the area. While the guys assembled all the big modular tubing that would hold the huge banners, I laid out the free pins, pamphlets, etc on the tables, along with the petitions waiting to be signed. If you'd like to sign the petition for your state, you can do that on-line, here.

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Soon after we had everything set up, Michael Farris arrived. He is one of the co-organizers of the Convention of States and would be speaking on Article V of the Constitution later that morning. (I found out that an on-line video is forthcoming. When I find that I will link it here.) Our Founding Fathers wrote Article V for the people to call upon their state legislatures (hence our petitions) to call for a Convention of States to propose Constitutional Amendments so that the states can reign in an out of control federal government (like dealing with the national debt). When I helped the COS booth at the Prince William County Fair all the COS organizers asked me how I found out about Convention of States and I told them about this, this, and this...all placees where Michael Farris spoke about Convention of States. Although I've met Mr. Farris numerous times, I don't expect him to remember me since we always meet in a crowd. Anyway the organizers were all saying, "Wow! You've met him?" "Um, yes." lol So this was a great opportunity for some of our state COS organizers to meet him, at least the ones who hadn't met him yet. They asked him to autograph some of his books and I was wondering, "We could have brought his books to have him sign them?" lol (I've blogged about a few of his books that I have.) Then they assembled in front of the banner for a photo shoot. I walked out to watch all the fun when the event organizer called to me, "Laurie, come join us!" Well...OKAY!!!!!! You see, I feel rather geeked out to be with this group. I admire their work greatly. I get all tongue-tied when I try to talk about COS to the public at events. I feel more comfortable handing out a few pins, answering some easy questions, then directing bigger questions to the organizers. (So if I can volunteer for COS so can you!) They are so articulate! I learn so much from being around them! Also I've been following Michael Farris for over 20 years, so this was pretty cool. Here's a picture of the group. I'm in the front row with the white hat. I'm next to this event's organizer. I'm in front of Michael Farris. The PWC Fair organizer took the photo with all the different cell phones he had been handed.

After a couple of hours of working at the Convention of States booth and meeting some great people, the next team came on duty so I went out and about to see what was going on. I think I missed the pumpkin chunkin'. I've never even heard of that but rumor had it that pumpkins were labeled with political agendas that angered most voters. They would then be catapulted and smashed to smithereens. I meant to get video of that and really have a creative blog post...but I think I missed that! lol  Because there were loudspeakers set up around the booths, I heard a lot and felt part of the action the entire time. But now I could take pictures of everything I had been listening to!

I was quite impressed that there was shade everywhere. Large shady trees with wide spreading branches (I'm guessing old oak trees) shaded all of our booths. That was especially wonderful because it was an enormously hot day...iIn the 90's with high humidity. A bit hot for this time of year in Virginia, but I'm from Texas so it felt like home. The stage had a tarp over it so there was lots of shade for the speakers. Also the sitting area had a tarp so there was shade for the audience too. They had hay bales to sit on. All hay bales were taken so I found a spot in the front stage right on the side of the hay bales.  The breeze was wonderful and made the heat quite endurable! We don't get breezes like this in the Texas heat so I don't complain too much about Virginia heat. lol

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There was lots of great music from a few different groups. I think these are the Four Calling Birds...at least 2 of them.

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Then we had a memorial service to remember 9-11. We sang "God Bless America."

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This is retired Admiral Ace Lyons. He shared the story of one of his colleagues who died on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9-11.

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This is Trevor Loudon. He caught my attention because he is from New Zealand but he had an interesting comment that I usually here only from some Americans. He said American Exceptionalism must continue to exist. The world needs it. If America falls into the abyss of socialism, all the other countries will too. However if America remains exceptional, the other countries have hope.

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During one of the "speeches" (they were all about 5 minutes long) there was a fun parachute drop! This was actually planned to coincide with one particular speaker while he was at the microphone. Turned out they were part of his team.

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Then there was a long break while lots of secret service agents got into place. One thing I learned. Everything I've seen of secret service agents in the movies is spot-on. Despite attending events with 2 past presidents and being surrounded by secret service agents then...this was more...and actually quite exciting! Obviously a certain vice-presidential nominee was on the way. Here is Indiana Governor Mike Pence arriving on stage with his wife.

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Well, what can I say? Pence was great! He was a tough act to follow. I stuck around for a few more speeches. Michael Farris had spoken earlier while I was working at the booth. I guess Ken Cuccinelli had spoken earlier too. I did see him being interviewed by a Charlottesville radio station.

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After a final visit with the Convention of States crew...

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...I drove back home through the lovely Virginia countryside. I was surprised to hear that this was the first Liberty Farm Festival event. It was managed quite well, and I'm a picky person, so I was impressed. I hear they are planning another event next year. The theme of the event was "Farming, Family and Freedom." Apparently there were lots of things for the kids to do. The one activity I am aware of is a tractor that pulled multiple little cars (like a train) that all the kiddos road around the farm. I know if I was still a little one, I'd have ridden that all. day. long.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Becoming a Little Bit of a Patrick Henry, the Convention of States and the Prince William County Fair

I first heard of the Convention of States a couple of years ago when I attended a debate where one of the coordinators, Michael Farris, took the FOR position in the most organized and respectful debate I've ever imagined. I wrote about that here.  A video of the debate is included at the link.

Then last spring I heard Michael Farris talk about Convention of States at two different events I attended. The first was a Constitutional Literacy seminar and the other was at The Unity Summit. Wow! I was coming to a deeper understanding of Convention of States more and more. You can see Farris talking about Convention of States here and here.

All this caused me to consider my possible role in our country. Learning about our Founding Fathers and America has always been a passion for me ever since I was a little girl. Likewise teaching about our Founding Fathers and America has been a passion for me. I even started sewing and wearing historical clothing because of it! One of my favorite people in history is Patrick Henry who never hesitated to take a stand. I'm not as vocal and I'm certainly not as fiery as this great statesman. However, perhaps I could become a little bit like him by educating and sharing with others about Convention of States by volunteering for them. I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy the same freedoms I had growing up...and more! I keep hearing how others want the same for their children and grandchildren.

So...here I am at the Prince William County Fair last month, helping at the Convention of States booth. That's our fearless leader in the back. Wow! It was great meeting him and the others who worked with us. Listening to them articulate what's happening today was thrilling!

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The team did a great job putting our booth together too! We all thought it was the best booth at the fair! Behind me was one of two monitors that was constantly running with interesting videos about the Convention of States. I'm sure that many of the videos that ran are catalogued on this page.

On the opposite table we had a laptop with wifi connection. Yea! We had it set to the petition page at the Convention of States website, which anyone could sign right then and there. That kicks off an e-mail to the signer's state rep to ask them to call for a Convention of States. Easy schmeasy! That was a hit! You can sign the same page here!



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The latest news is that there is going to be a Convention of States simulation in Colonial Williamsburg later this month, which is pretty cool since many of our Founding Fathers were once burgesses in Williamsburg before the American Revolution! You can see excellent videos about it here, here and here! How exciting! I've learned much, not only from Michael Farris over the years but also from the interpreters (many of whom are seen in these excellent videos). What an exciting moment to create history where history was made! What a thrill to discuss Convention of States at the same place where Patrick Henry gave his Caesar/Brutus speech! The Founding Fathers not only experienced tyranny themselves, but they remembered the history of tyrannical governments of the past. Thus they fully expected tyranny could possibly descend once again. That is why, during the writing of the Constitution, they wrote Article V which gives the people the opportunity to reign in tyranny by calling for a Convention of States through their state governments. Some duties are for the federal government, but federal over reach is currently taking power away from the states.

Meanwhile, I will be again volunteering at the Convention of States booth at the Liberty Farm Festival tomorrow. If you'd like to become a volunteer in your state, simply do what I did. I filled out a form here.    

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Peas and Garlic Overwinter Gardening Attempts

One of the reasons why I have been so busy is because I have been gardening. The worst part is that we've been in quite the drought so I've spent a lot of time hand watering. Anyway I've collected a series of photos about my attempt to garden over the winter.

My goal was to do a mini form of crop rotation in my square foot garden. Since I had a prodigious harvest of tomatoes and peppers last summer, and since tomatoes take so much out of the soil, I wanted to try to put more back into the soil by gardening during the winter months with cool season crops. I've always heard that peas are great for this! So I planted pea seeds as soon as I uprooted my tomatoes and peppers last September.

By November they were growing quite nicely. I should have had a crop...but nothing. Not a single blossom, so of course, no fruit. Deep cold fronts set in to Virginia in October, so I'm sure the bees are gone by then. Saddened with the loss of peas, I hoped that at least the plants had at least enriched the overspent soil. I ripped out the peas because I had never read that peas grow past November in Virginia. Besides I had a plan for a winter growing crop...garlic.

I went to my favorite garden center which sells the best quality bulbs and grabbed a pack of garlic. The package said to plant in Nov/Dec and harvest in 3-4 months. Perfect for another attempt at spring peas before I put in the summer plants.

My husband actually planted the garlic bulbs for me, nice and deep in the garden. This southern Texan gal simply cannot bring herself to endure the cold, cold winds of winter that descend upon Virginia from October through the first part of May. Those are my New York hubby's gardening days of choice. Then I take on May-September!

Thus I ventured into the garden on a rare yet mild day in April to collect my garlic. I quit after the last few, because they were so teeny weeny! They looked more like green onions than garlic!

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I brought them in and dug into my garden journal (after the style of Thomas Jefferson and for highly Jeffersonian reasons) to research precisely the type of garlic we had planted.

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Spanish Roja meant nothing to me at the time, but with further research I learned that Spanish Rosa is a most extreme form of garlic. Happily it is heirloom garlic. Unfortunately it is potently strong! Uh oh! I took a tiny bite and oh dear. As much as we like garlic, this was definitely potent. Well, I knew that cooking can mellow garlic, so I threw the few I had harvested onto the grill with the chicken. I tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper before grilling.  

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Then I chopped them up and added them to the butternut squash I had mashed. Yum! Perfectly mellow! This was some of the tastiest butternut squash we've ever had.

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About a month later I finally harvested the rest of the garlic. The garden was overgrown with peas, ripe for harvest. And being close to Memorial Day I was anxious to give the rapidly growing tomatoes space. It was amazing how large the garlic had grown in a month. They were definitely heads of garlic now. I had read that ideally they should stay in the garden until mid-summer but those tomatoes needed space. Now that I had all this garlic, what to do?

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In my original plan, I had thought they'd be harvested in the early spring when I'd have the luxury of harvesting about one a week. We really have nowhere to hang them for dry storage. I finally decided to clean them up and roast them on the grill. I chopped off the roots and tops, placed them in aluminum foil, drizzled them with olive oil and roasted them on the grill while cooking some meat for dinner.

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When they were nice and soft I took them off the heat and brought them into the kitchen to cool. Once cooled, I squeezed the cloves out of their papery cells. I then froze them.

To freeze them I set out a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I put about a tablespoon of garlic in mounds on the parchment paper, as if I was baking cookies. Then I popped the baking sheet into the freezer. Once frozen, I labeled a ziploc freezer baggie which I had labeled "roasted garlic." Then I plopped all the garlic into the baggie and stored them in the fridge.

Whenever I had a great application for garlic, I used it! Yum! So tasty and mellow! Now I don't remember everything I did with them. However one favorite dish was to add some to my roasted red pepper hummus. That was a hit with the family. The garlic was used up about midway through summer.

Memorial Day weekend was intensely hot. I spent much of that time gardening out front (forthcoming post on that). I had to do a lot of handwatering. When I checked on the vegetable garden way in the back of the back yard, I saw that the peas were ready for harvest, and that the squashes, peppers and tomatoes were trying very hard to take over the garden. I harvested the peas and pulled out the pea plants to make room for the summer crops. 

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The peas were absolutely delicious. We actually harvested a lot more than this. I did harvest in stages and this was only near the end of the pea harvest. The homegrown peas were far better than anything from the grocery store.

Well, the overwinter gardening didn't quite work the way I had planned. We weren't able to put in our second square foot garden. I don't think the soil was refreshed despite the garlic and peas crop rotation. Thus the tomatoes and pepper yield this summer hasn't been anywhere close to what it was last summer. All that...and the fact that it was not only a record setting hot summer for the Washington DC area, but we have been in a drought since early winter. Sadness. I'll need to regroup this winter. Stay tuned.