Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fairy Rings

We appparently had some other visitors night before last---fairies! When I went out to get the paper yesterday, I saw two large "fairy circles" or that's what my mother used to call them when they'd appear in the yard on the farm. These two big circles were made up of cream and brown colored mushrooms--I have no idea what the type of mushrooms they are--and I'm not tasting them to see!

I looked around for the fairies, but they had apparently left before I got there.

I walked by the large magnolia tree and noticed that the seed pods were beginning to mature. They're now sort of pink and beginning to form the seeds which will be bright red when they mature. The tree is absolutely full of these "cones" which are 3 or 4 inches long and a couple of inches across.

This native magnolia (called the "grandiflora") keeps its leaves all year round--well, actually, it DROPS its leaves all year round! You have to rake underneath the tree every day the whole year if you want to keep your yard free of leaves, but we just let them drop and stay there. The limbs grow naturally close to the ground so the falling leaves are not really a problem if you let them grow that way--most people cut off the low limbs and then you have the problem with the leaves. I love the tree so much though, it's really not a problem for me--nothing says American South as much as the magnolia tree does.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Morning Visitor

I had or saw some "visitors" here this morning!

This bird--a sharp shinned hawk or a Cooper's hawk --decided to settle on my deck overlooking the river this morning. He/she sat in that same position for a couple of hours--just looking around. A friend in the biology department at William and Mary said the bird was checking out my bird feeders. He had no idea whether he/she would stay around or leave and never return. No matter, it was quite an experience to see this bird on the deck.

The other visitors have been in and out for the past couple of weeks--dolphins. They came in about a week ago-and there were dozens and dozens of them going upriver. I kept looking for them to come back, but I can't stand around all day looking out at the river! So--I don't know what happened to them. My guests were at the Riverwalk Restaurant last night and said they saw dolphins while they were having dinner.

Today, a couple of Navy ships came in at the time we were having breakfast--and the dolphins were playing in the wakes of the tugs that came in to support the ships. I took a lot of pictures--but you can't see anything but some waves. Maybe I'll get some pics to put on here at some point! They are so entertaining to watch.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


The tropical storm, Hanna, passed by without much effect at all here. We had rain on and off all day yesterday—and some wind–but not much more than a rainy windy day! My guests were already planning to go to the Mariners' Museum for the Monitor Center exhibit--or to Colonial Williamsburg to visit the Wallace Gallery--again, all inside. A few leaves blown off the trees--and that's about all it was.

Today, it’s gorgeous! The beach is already full of people–and I’m heading out there myself in a while.

We did not get enough rain to quell the peat fires in the Great Dismal Swamp, but, as I've mentioned before, they are not causing quite the problems that they were a few months ago.

The Alliance, a 3-masted schooner has been here all summer and takes guests out on cruises (schooneralliance.com is the website). Today, it came on this side of the bridge–and I happened to see it.

The past few weeks, I’ve been enjoying fried green tomatoes. Several people asked me for the recipe, so I thought I’d put it on here. I don’t fry them though–I bake them. They take less attention, they don’t smell up the kitchen, they don’t spatter, and they’re healthier too, I guess.

Baked Green Tomatoes, from the York River Inn B&B

4 to 6 green tomatoes, cut in 1/4-inch thick slices
(I really prefer the ones that have already started to turn–not completely green, but sort of orange, but before they’ve gotten soft inside–still very firm--this picture shows them too green in my opinion on the left , near perfect in the center, and way too ripe on the right for this dish)

2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup evaporated milk or cream
1/3 cup water
2 t Worcestershire sauce
2 T vegetable oil

salt and pepper

1 c flour
1/2 c corn meal
1 t sugar
1 t dry mustard
1 t onion powder


Sprinkle tomato slices with salt and pepper on both sides.
In a shallow bowl ,whisk together the beaten eggs, milk, water, Worcestershire sauce, and oil.
Put the flour and meal in a shallow bowl along with the other spices, and mix well.
Dip each slice into egg mixture, then into flour mixture.
Arrange tomatoes in large, shallow, greased baking pans, or bake in batches. I usually use a large glass casserole dish sprayed with Pam.
Tomatoes should not touch. Bake uncovered in 350 oven for about 30 minutes, turning over after about 20 minutes.

Slice them real thin (like on a Mandoline) and they’ll be very crispy; but don’t cook them as long.
This recipe makes a lot—I usually cut it in half, and I get enough to serve 6 people generously.People have heard of "fried green tomatoes" from the movie, and everybody wants to try them even if they’ve never had them before..

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Celebrate Yorktown

We had our Celebrate Yorktown Committee meeting today, and I thought I would mention a few upcoming events in Yorktown.

One of the best events in Yorktown will be this coming Saturday night with the concert by the Virginia Symphony that we put on for free for the public every Labor Day weekend. The concert is held outside with the Yorktown Victory Monument as an impressive backdrop. This is an event that all of us in town enjoy every year. The Celebrate Yorktown Committee raises the over $25,000 needed each year to put on this wonderful concert. There's judging of picnics, a concert by our York Town Fifes and Drums, and some venders as well.
The Yorktown Wine Festival is scheduled for October 4 down on the Rierwalk Landing. The time is 11 am - 6 pm. There's also a wine dinner at Nick's Riverwalk Restaurant. Tickets are available at http://www.villageevents.org/.

Our final "Shagging on the Riverwalk" ended a week ago--but there's another event called "Rhythms on the Riverwalk" on Fridays in September and the first Friday in October--6:30 - 8:30 pm. We are all hoping that this event won't be quite as popular as "Shagging" was! We can all understand why people enjoyed a free event, with the beautiful York River in the background, and a lot of nice people enjoying themselves!

We got word on the news this morning that the fires in the Great Dismal Swamp were finally under control--with about 15 firefighters still involved--down from 250 at the worst time of the fires. There's been no smoke around here from the fires since June--but there's still fire there--awaiting a tropical storm or hurricane to dump enough water on the area to douse them for good.
The Yorktown onions were all recently mowed down after the seeds matured and were disbursing themselves. The National Park Service preserves the onions as long as they can despite the ragged look of the areas where they are saved. Some people even complain to the NPS that they are not taking care of their property! And it's hard to explain to visitors that these plants are protected by law and cannot be cut down before going to seed. Almost everybody in town has them growing in our yards because they naturalize without any problem. I had a picture of one just blooming earlier, and here is another picture taken along the Colonial Parkway with the York River in the background.
And here's a picture after the color has faded and the seeds have begun to mature.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lantana & Native Flowers

This is my lantana that keeps coming back year after year--this was taken the first week in July.

And here is a picture of my first sunflowers blooming about that same time.

This is a quick picture I took this morning--showing how huge the lantana gets--and how enormous the sunflowers get by this time of the summer. The goldfinches love the sunflowers--they're so entertaining to watch--the beautiful birds bouncing around on the maturing seed heads.

And another picture of the sunflowers is here--those flowers are 8 or 9 feet high--and they spread out quite a bit. I let them get out of control almost--but I enjoy them so much:

What a glorious July we had in Yorktown! Summer is hot and humid here--and ideal for the beach, for visiting shady battlefields, for strolling the tree-lined streets of Yorktown, and enjoying a nice view of the York River from a nice air-conditioned room!

The York River Inn welcomes guests for an all-American holiday!

The 4th of July in Yorktown is such a treat! Old-fashioned--families--food--no traffic in town--patriotic parade--and fireworks!

One of my guests for three days was Drew Finley from just across the river in Gloucester. He and his wife decided staying here would give them easy access to all the activities in Yorktown and little of the hassle. He's retired from the Coast Guard and has a business called "Finley Photography." He takes pictures of weddings, family gatherings, individual portfolios, and lots of other opportunities when folks don't want to take the pictures themselves. He took a lot of pictures of our 4th of July events, and he agreed to let me share some of them with you! Thanks Drew!

This is Yorktown's "Uncle Sam" ringing the bell from the now decommissioned USS Yorktown. Our "Celebrate Yorktown Committtee" which I started when I was director of the Watermen's Museum in Yorktown raised the money to have the stand constructed so that we could use the bell at special occasions

Our York Town fifes and drums playing in front of the Nelson House on Main Street. Nelson spent his entire fortune paying for the American Revolution and died owning no property and heavily in debt. Cornwallis used this house as his headquarters during part of the Siege of Yorktown. It's owned by and opened to the public by the National Park Service.

Our area has many military bases--the USCG Training Center is within sight of the beach; Ft. Eustis--US Army Transportation Center--is only 5 or 6 miles; US Naval Weapons Station-Yorktown is within sight up river--so our parades always feature many military marching groups, bands, or other participants.

The fireworks exploding over the town and the York River are always spectacular!

Thanks again Drew for these great pictures! Drew can be contacted at http://www.photosbydrew.com/.

One dish I served on 4th of July was my red white and blue jello parfaits. The recipe is pretty long since it involves making three different colors of jello, each with additional ingredients--and you have to wait for a while between each layer for the previous layer to cool. But--here it is if you want to try it for yourself:

Red White and Blue jello

2 3 oz "berry blue" or blackberry jello
1 can blueberry pie filling
1 3 oz lemon jello
1 8 oz cream cheese softened
1 6 oz frozen whipped topping thawed
2 3 oz strawberry or cranberry jello
1 10 oz frozen strawberries

Take 12 parfait glasses (or large wine glasses), or 4 small loaf pans (3 ½ X 7 1 /2 x 2 1/4) or a large 13 x 9 casserole dish. For the loaf pans, spray them with Pam–then I line the loaf pans with plastic wrap––the Pam makes it stick nicely to the sides of the pan–have a little overlap on the outside all the way around. I spray the casserole dish with Pam too–if you cut it into squares, they'll come out easier. You don't have to spray the parfait glasses.

By the way, don't use the aluminum foil loaf pans--because they're somewhat flexible, when you put in the second or third layer of jelled filling, the top layer will ooze down into the earlier layer.

Make the blueberry jello with 3 cups water instead of 4–stir in pie filling (if the filling has been refrigerated, it helps to set the jello faster) until thoroughly mixed. Divide into the containers. There will be some leftover if you use the 12 parfaits. Keep a Pam-sprayed casserole dish nearby to put the extra in. And be careful putting the blue layer in so that you don't get any on the sides of the glasses.
Cool until firm.

Add 1 cup boiling water to lemon jello. Beat this into the cream cheese. Cool to room temperature and fold in whipped topping. Spread evenly over the blue layer–be careful not to get any of this on the sides of the small pans since it will appear white when the wrap is taken off. For the parfaits, I usually put this into a plastic bag, cut the corner, and pipe the white layer into the glasses to keep from getting the white layer on the sides of the glasses.
Cool until firm.

Make the red jello with 3 cups water instead of 4. Stir in frozen strawberries and mix well. Cool to room temperature and pour on the top.

Cook in refrgerator for 4 or 5 hours until firmly set.

I usually take the loaf pans and turn them upside down on a serving plate–the wrap peels off very smoothly. If I make it in the bigger size, I cut it into squares. I decorate the loaf and the parfaits by using some little American flags on toothpicks, or some red white and blue decorations I've picked up at a decorations or some other store.

Making this dish in this order gives you parfaits with red on the top, then white, and then blue on the bottom. The loaf pans will be blue on top, then white, and red on the bottom, so if you want the loaves to be red on the top--then reverse the order of the preparation.

For Yorktown Day, AMERICA'S INDEPENDENCE DAY, October 19---I usually have a house full of French people who come to help us celebrate the victory! Then, I make the dish in the opposite order---with blue on the top, then white, and red on the bottom since the French flag is the "blue, white, and red" rather than the American "red, white, and blue."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I have some guests from the UK this week--to celebrate our Independence Day! They're lots of fun and we do a lot of kidding back and forth! They actually live near Gravesend where Pocahontas is buried, but they prefered to stay in the Washington Suite instead of the Pocahontas Room!

I'm trying to prepare local things for them for breakfast and some things they don't have so often there. And waffles is one thing that all my English guests love! The recipe for the ones I make is on my website under recipes--and they really are delicious.

I've had more guests from the UK and the continent this year than I've had in all my 12 years of innkeeping--I guess the weak dollar is making travel cheaper for them, so they're taking advantage of it. All of them say that the prices here are quite reasonable for the first time ever for them--they generally rent a car since our public transportation is so poor. And they hear other guests complain about $4 a gallon gas---and they tell the Americans that gas is about $7 or $8 a gallon in the UK or the continent!

And I've had a lot more guests taking a two-night vacation here, but they don't live so far away--Yorktown is so hcarming and different from where they live, and having a room overlooking the river makes them think they're many miles away from home instead of just a few.

Amont other dishes, I'm serving soft-shell crabs on July 4th--the season for them begins here in May with the first big shed--when they're most plentiful--but we can get soft-shells most of the time through September. They're a real delicacy for many people--but some people are turned off by the dangling legs that they eat!

Corn pudding (my mother's recipe), pecan tarts (made with pecans from trees that I planted almost 30 years ago), crab-a-dab-a-doos, "my mother's best eggbread" (spoonbread--very Southern), and clams from the York River will be some of the local dishes I think they'll enjoy.

Monday, June 30, 2008

I meant to mention last week about Yorktown's 4th of July celebration--it's a really great day! Here's the link for this year--and you can use it for next year too in case you want to visit me or to visit Yorktown for the day.


Following up on the smoke comments, we have not had even a whiff of smoke for the last week or more, although the fires are still smoldering. Parts of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach are still having problems. The fire fighters say that only a tropical storm that dumps a lot of water on the area over a short period of time will quench the embers that are still creating the smoke. In the 1930's a similar fire continued for three years! About 250 fire fighters from a number of states are working today.

This past weekend, the first of my native sunflowers bloomed! They look like big weeds until the flowers begin to appear, and then they continue with their display until frost. Not only are they pretty--with hundreds of flowers on each plant---7 or 8 feet tall--and 3 or 4 feet across--but the goldfinches love the seeds. They hang on the bouncing seed heads and eat to their heart's content--and they are so entertaining.

In the background of this picture, you can see the first blooms of the crape myrtles that are so beautiful here in the summer. Most people think that they're native, but they were imported to the US from China in the late 18th century. Now, they give us so much color during the hot summer--and they love it hot and humid--so they are very happy in Virginia! They don't grow as trees much farther north than Washington DC. I have five nice older ones of several different colors, and we've just planted several more. They're even pretty in the winter, because the bark sloughs off and the smooth trunk of the trees have beautiful patterns displayed as a result of the natural process. We call this the "100 day" tree, because they bloom for 100 days--and the bloom can be extended if you clip all the spent heads (but who's got time for that!!)

The other thing that's blooming in the yard now are the yuccas--the huge bouquets of white flowers are spectacular now and the spiky folilage gives an exotic appearance to the plant.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Today, the Coleman Bridge opened just after I finished serving breakfast to six guests, and we all got a great show of one of the powerful ships in the US Navy--the Anzio, a guided missile cruiser came into the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown.

Another ship of this class, the Lake Erie, which occasionally comes to Yorktown, was just in the news in a very important way. Here's the link to the story that was on NPR on June 5:

The bridge opens 2 or 3 times a week--and almost always for a navy vessel, almost always in the morning while I'm serving breakfast, and almost always Monday through Friday. It's quite an experience to see these ships coming in and out of port. This is a view of a guided missile destroyer that was here last week:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The magnolias and the gardenias are both in full bloom today--and they're my favorite flowers! I tried to use magnolias in the house in the flowers that I put in the rooms or in the shared areas, but the aroma is just too much for a lot of people! They seem to be better enjoyed still on the trees!

The gardenias, on the other hand, have a powerful aroma as well, but most people enjoy them in the little arrangements in the bathrooms or in the front hall. They are so delicate and last such a short time when you bring them in the house, but I have several varieties so that one will bloom for a while and then another one blooms, so I can keep them in the house for several weeks of enjoyment.

On the "smell scale" there's been a lot of news about the fires in the Great Dismal Swamp and the drifting smoke. The closest edge of the swamp is about 35 miles south of Yorktown with the far side about 60 miles south in North Carolina.--the fire is apparently on the far side of the Great Dismal Swamp refuge--which is comprised of Lake Drummond in the center surrounded by 1000's of acres of woods, swamp, "lowgrounds" and other areas. The smoke has traveled quite some distance, and two days this week, we could smell a slight bit in the mornings, but by 10 or so there was no remnant of any smell at all.

The natural area of the Great Dismal Swamp is a fantastic place to visit--the name comes from the word "dismal" which means swamp (along with the Algonquin word "pocosin" which means low swampy area--the nearby city of Poquoson is located in an area like that)---it used to be called the "Great Dismal," meaning "great swamp," therefore today we are calling it "the great swamp swamp!" Oh well. Here's a link to information about it--again, it's a fascinating place to visit:

and another link that's accurate and interesting:

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Breakfast today was unique in my 12 years of business!

I had one guest who was vegetarian--and one who was pregnant (which I did not know in advance)

I usually serve 4 things--and I knew the vegetarian could eat three of them---and when I found out the other guest was pregnant, I knew that she could eat three of the four as well.

As I was taking the baked pineapple out of the oven (a dish that everyone could eat), I was holding it with my asbestos gloves--when the 13 X 9 pyrex casserole dish exploded in my hands!

Pineapple, butter, juice, and shattered glass were everywhere!

And everyone at the table heard it---fortunately, none of the glass hurt me at all--and the other food was either in the oven or on the table already, so no shards of glass got into the other food.

Everyone was very understanding, and we all learned something from this--and my guests suggested that I put this on my blog today!

My mother always told be to be careful with casserole dishes--that if you put one drop of water on them when they were hot, they'd shatter. I had listened, but I'd never had that come up.

I figured that I had used one of my thick gloves a little earlier, and some water had gotten on it. When I picked up the casserole dish, the water came in contact with the glass just long enough for it to shatter!

So, use this as a warning---even a little water on your oven gloves on a 350 degree pyrex dish could be a disaster.

We had the baked tomatoes, bacon-cheese bread, and spinach, ricotta, and cheddar pie, and no one seemed to miss the baked pineapple at all.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Weather in Yorktown

This spring has been so great for the flowers---my first jonquils bloom February 15 every year! From then on, it's just wave after wave of bulbs, trees, and other plants. This spring was very cool--so the flowers lasted so much longer than they usually have in the past.

Now? With so much rain, everything's going crazy!

My new amaryllises are blooming and my old ones are just getting ready to bloom.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Today's our Celebrate Yorktown Committee meeting, and I'll be able to announce that 1000 copies of the Yorktown Self-guided Walking Tour have been printed and ready for distribution. I chaired the committee to write this, so it's been quite a labor of love for me (emphasize labor!)

I have a "guide" in each room for guests' use here or to take with them into the historic town of York. The walking tour takes about an hour and a half, not including time a guest might spend at each of the 50 or so sites included on the map. We had to struggle to keep the number of interesting places to about 50 and, even worse, to keep the descriptions of each building or site to 30 words or less! I hardly get started in 30 words!