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.