May 28, 2016

Nostalgia & Small Towns

This past weekend I went to a horse show in a small city close by and photographed one of the contestants. I walked around the stalls and noticed a pair of boots, well worn, and laying nonchalantly with the riders things. The abundance of dust tells me that the owner spends a lot of time with his horse and doesn't really care about how he looks. 

These boots caught my eye too. The horse trainer came over for a chat. She kept moving her feet around until the spur lay on top of her other boot.  I thought how odd it was that someone would stand for a period of time like this. 

The love of old cars is the dream of many. As I was driving home I saw this car and was taken back to my childhood.  The cars were large and roomy inside. The steering wheel was as big as a pizza and the radio had knobs that you turned to find the music that you love. The only way to cool off was by rolling the window down. 

Those old cars needed gas. When I saw this old gas pump I was very excited and felt like I had really gone back in time.  It was a James Dean moment. Even though I was a child of the 60's, I really appreciate living now with all of the luxuries that we have. That is, except for those people who have their cell phones stuck under their noses all of the time. They get on my nerves. 

May 11, 2016

Monticello: Feeling sorry that I slept through history class

I must have slept through history class when I was in school for every grade. Once the teacher opened her or his mouth my eyes began to roll back in my head and then before I knew it I was sleeping.  All of those dates and wars were of no interest to me then. But now it is a different story. This time around it is personal. How?  Well, once I started tracing my family history the men on the Campbell side of my family fought in every war once they arrived here in the early 1700's.  My recent trip to Virginia opened my eyes to how much I lacked in knowledge about the history of my country.   

Monticello is a daunting place. It is a large house that sits on a hill with the Blue Ridge mountains surrounding it. President Thomas Jefferson lived here. We went on a weekday and I was surprised that it was extremely busy. The guests were herded together and every 15-20 minutes a group entered the house, one group at a time in each room.  Once inside I tried to take in as much as possible. The entry hall was large with animal heads hanging on the walls and deer skins draped over the banisters. A few sculptures were displayed on tall pedestals. The rooms off to the side were smaller, which I found to be surprising. The room that fascinated me the most was the library. The original collection of over 6,000 books were sold to the Library of Congress for around $23,000. But shortly afterwards Jefferson declared, " I cannot live without books" and another collection began.  I spotted a copy of Don Quixote tucked securely behind some glass from the original collection. Sadly his second collection was sold too in 1829 to settle some debts. (I might have to do that too if I don't stop buying so many) 

Across from the main residence was a shack. There was barely enough room inside to turn around. And yet, slaves were forced to live in cramped quarters like this. Try to imagine yourself living there.  It was here that I learned a bit more of Jefferson's private life, especially regarding Sally Hemings, his slave, with whom the former President had six children with. 

There were gardens all around the estate. Not just vegetables but flower gardens too. Jefferson took great pride in the plants that were grown around the estate and documented everything that took place. 

I brought the company bear called "Grizz"along and took pictures of our travelling companion at various places such as Williamsburg in the stocks, at William & Mary College, and Monticello. It was great fun doing this and a lot of people commented that their company did the same thing. 

They say that Virginia is for lovers.  I have to agree. There is so much to do in this state and one has basically anything they could want, there are mountains and the ocean is not far away.  I live in corn fields. The land is flat and you can see for miles. The day after I came back home I cried. The weather felt as sad (rained) as I did and cried along with me. I wanted to pack up my belongings and move right then and there. Maybe I am being dramatic or not. Does anyone out there feel like this when they come back from vacation? 

May 7, 2016

Jamestown, Virginia: A lesson in being a tourist

Our first visit should have been to Jamestown. Somehow we did things backwards.  I was so enamored with Williamsburg that I was a bit disappointed when we made it to the First Settlement. 

This is an oven for baking bread. Very similar to what I saw in Morocco.
Three ships arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, the Discovery, Godspeed, and Susan Constant. My companion had to remind me that the first settlers had to build from the ground up. It was nature that they had to contend with and at that point in time it was a bit more brutal in Virginia. They were going thru the Little Ice-Age. 

In truth, the houses were nicely built. They were wood frames which were filled in with sticks. The holes were filled with sticky wattle and daub (mud, clay, and grass mixture). The roof's were thatched, with dirt floors, and on the inside of a few of the houses the rooms were filled with elaborately hand carved furniture. But most were one room homes with a table, chairs, and bed with a straw mattress.  

Armour was also in every house.  It kind of reminded me of Vikings. One always has to be on guard. 

The last leg of our tour was visiting the ships. Even though we visited on a weekday the place was packed with children on field trips.  I expected Captain Jack Sparrow to make an appearance at any time. 

The interpreters were wonderful and spent a large amount of time explaining things to us. I learned how the compass works and where the term "knots" comes from when it comes to navigation. ( I should have taken notes) 

On the way in we talked at length to one of the interpreters. (Sadly, I didn't take a picture of her.)  She told us about the Powhatan Indians that were in the area and that Pocahontas belonged to the tribe. We were encouraged to touch the summer dress that she was making out of deer hide while she talked to us. The interpreter was a former school teacher and I felt that she was an invaluable asset to Jamestown because she passionately talked about the history of the area.  

I came away knowing more than when I went in.  Mission accomplished.   

May 3, 2016

Spaghetti Squash with Brocolini & Bison

Have you seen the multitude of recipes that are posted on Facebook and wished that you had time to make them all of them?   Well, I did make one of the recipes but I changed it up a bit.  When a person just uses salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes and expects something extremely flavorful amazes me. Red pepper flakes only adds heat but not much for the flavor at all. I have done the dousing the noodles with marinara sauce thing, and, to be honest, I am not crazy about it. But this recipe is good.  Ok, so I tried a couple of things that I have never eaten before in this recipe, brocolini and bison. Brocolini looks like broccoli but it is more tender.  Bison is, you know, where the buffalo roam meat.  It was on sale when I went to the store for the brocolini. If you are not adventurous use ground meat of your choice or just go meatless.  


1 tbs olive oil
1 bunch brocolini, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese or an Italian blend of cheeses
1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp Italian seasoning
salt/pepper to taste
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

What I added:

1 onion chopped
1 tbs clarified butter or ghee
1 chicken bullion cube, I use Knorr  
1 lb of bison, or less of the amount that I used. 

Cut the spaghetti squash in half. Clean the seeds out of the middle.  Apply olive oil to the inside of the squash. Place on a pan lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until tender.  

Place a large skillet or non-stick pan on medium heat.  Add the oil and butter. then add the chopped onion and saute until translucent or a little brown on the edges. Next, add the garlic and saute for a couple of minutes.  Place the bison in the pan and cook until brown. Place the meat mixture in a bowl and set aside. 

Add the chopped brocolini in the same pan and add a little butter.  Cover and simmer until tender.  You can add a little water, but it is not really needed if you lower the heat a bit.  Once the brocolini is done stir into the meat mixture. add the cheese but save enough to sprinkle on the top, 1/4 cup or more. Salt\pepper the mixture to your taste. Remember that cheese adds saltiness to the food.  

Fill the shells with the mixture and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.  Serve with crispy bread. Enjoy!