Friday, October 12, 2012

Best Gluten Free Rice Bread

Dry Ingredients (Mix thoroughly):
(You can pre-mix this to have on hand)

2 cups/320g        white rice flour
; prefer Goya Enriched
(can sub another flour: up to 1/2 by Weight)
1 cup/122g         tapioca starch or 1/2&1/2 with Expandex*

½ cup/62.5g       cornstarch 

2/3 cup/45g        powdered dry milk

½ cup/112.5g     sugar
1/2 T                  salt (=1.5 tsp)

Add just before making and mix in thoroughly:
1/2 T                xanthan gum

1/2 T                guar gum*
1 tsp                 psyllium powder*(or Metamucil)
1.5 Tbs            dry yeast 

Liquid (Mix separately and thoroughly):
4/200-230g        eggs, large, beaten well (weigh eggs)

1.5 cups/354g    warm water
3-4 T                  corn oil (It’s still good without)

1 tsp                   vinegar
  • Use a good stand mixer, oven thermometer and instant-read thermometer.
  • Weigh dry ingredients (and eggs) instead of using volume measures!   
  • All ingredients at room temperature.
  • Mix liquids thoroughly and add to thoroughly mixed dry ingredients.
  • Whip until stiff peaks form: 10 minutes (can’t overmix)
  • If it’s too thin to whip properly add a bit more starch.
  • Put into greased regular bread pans.  It will fill the pan.
  • Level with a wet spatula; spray with oil to keep top moist.
  • Let rise until just domed; it will rise a lot in the oven.  If it over-rises it will overflow! Re-mix and replace in the pan to re-rise.
  • Bake 50+ min. at 350 degrees. When making multiple loaves gently rearrange for even baking.
  • Bake until the middle is 205F. If it gets too brown, cover with foil.
  • Close to the end of baking turn it on its side to set the middle. 
  • Remove from the pan and leave in the oven on its other side so it will cool slowly.
  • If thermometer or probe shows a wet interior, leave in oven on 250-300F for a while; retest until drier.
  • Makes good rolls! Cook on parchment or greased pan.
April 2013 Notes:
  • You can substitute almost any other GF Flour for the rice flour up to 1/2 by Weight.  Teff flour makes it 'wheatier'.
  • I haven't yet tried substituting other starches, but you could try the same thing: 1/2 by weight.
  • Expandex may not be necessary. Experiment!
  • Goya brand is the only Enriched Rice flour I have found. Iron deficiency often goes with Celiac.
  • Beating into whipped cream texture is KEY!  See the pictures.
  • Pans with just crisco work well, rarely stick.
  • Don't let it over rise!  It doesn't help the texture.
  • I have had to extend the baking time
  • I've been making 'mixes' of the dry ingredients so I can throw together a couple loaves quickly.
  • Add the gums and yeast just before you make your loaf, not to any 'mixes' you'll store.  They don't like air exposure and won't work as well.
  • I mix my wet ingredients separately and thoroughly.  When I make multiple loaves I mix separate containers for each loaf.
  • Doubling the recipe is not recommended.
  • Timing is everything: in mixing and in baking.  Experiment for yourself.  I'm happier with a darker loaf and a firmer, drier middle than a paler loaf and moist middle. Over 200F in the middle is optimal. Under will be soggier.
  • Slice it after cooling and put in the freezer.  Take out just what you'll use in a couple days.  I've never had it mold, even in a week. When I make multiple loaves I freeze them whole.
  • Failures make good breadcrumbs!
*My changes to the original recipe. Expandex is modified tapioca starch bought on the internet, supposed to help GF breads rise.  Psyllium powder can be bought @ Whole Foods type stores in the digestive area; use Metamucil as a substitute. Combination of Expandex, gums and psyllium mimics gluten.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Mushroom Season!

Pholiota has fruited up on a recently downed river birch. I checked out their edibility and got mixed results.  Some say they're edible and good, others say they're edible but insipid and then some say they'll make you sick if you eat them with a meal with alcohol.  Several call them poisonous.  Hmmm.  I think I'll forgo them since I'm heading to DC to celebrate my brother's birthday.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gluten Free Tomato Soup

Extra Thick, 

2 cans (or equivalent)       Tomatoes, peeled, & diced or crushed,
                                         drain & save juice
1 T                                    Salt
1 t                                     Pepper
2T                                     Italian dressing or any vinaigrette
                                          dressing or dry mix. 
2 cans                               Tomato juice or V8
1/4 C                                Corn starch (or any thickening starch)
1 C                                   Milk or cream to taste

*      Simmer tomato pulp and 1/2 of the juice
*     Add spices to taste.
*     Mix starch and 1/4 of the cold juice to a slurry.
*     Add cold starch slurry to simmering tomatoes.  Stir a lot to ensure even distribution.
*     Assess whether you need more thickening.  
*     If you're going to add milk before serving make it extra thick.  Use the rest of the juice and more starch, a tablespoon at a time. Or use the rest of the juice to thin out the soup.  It will thicken more as it cools, and even more if you reheat it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Best Gluten Free Bread (so far)

This recipe from is 2/3 rice flour an 1/3 tapioca starch. (
I used half xanthan gum and half guar gum rather than all xanthan gum and added a teaspoon of psyllium powder. I also used half Expandex and half regular tapioca starch.  I think that the whipping the batter into a 'whipped cream' state was the main reason it has such a tight texture, though the psyllium and split gums may have helped keep the loaves from collapsing.  The recipe almost fills a regular loaf pan, and the rise only adds a little more volume, but the oven spring really jumps it up!  They didn't shrink after cooling, though I did put them on their side for the initial cooling, removed them from the pans and left them in the oven to slow-cool.

This is the best I've done so far. It toasts well and tastes very good.  I'm going to tweak the buckwheat recipe next. (Did 2 more loaves... same great results!)

Motherhood for Ms Barnevelder!

Ms Barnevelder hatched out a few chicks who didn't survive, sadly.  Undeterred she got right back up and set for another 21 days... Success!  She's now the proud mama to 6 biddies, one of whom is a teensy Serama.  Congratulations, Ms B.

Here is Ms Cuckoo Maran with her 13 biddies and Ms Barnevelder #1 with her surviving 4 chicks.  Ms Maran and Ms Silkie hatched chicks at the same time in adjoining boxes.  Chicks and Mamas bond even before hatching to their peeps and clucks... and these chicks couldn't tell which Mama was theirs.  Mama wars ensued, with little Ms Silkie loosing all but two babies.  Ms Maran is quite capable of mothering all, and the babies sleep with her at night.  Many of my chicken co-mother chicks, especially silkies, who will co-brood a nest and then share the biddies.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Macks (Max) is home again

Our Max is home again.  He ran with his Lady Love, Nala, and swam the swollen Appomatox.  She swam back and he was wise enough not to risk the river a second time.  Luckily the Cumberland County Animal Control men saw him and took him, soaking wet, back to the pound.  John Sullivan recognized him from 8 years ago when he ran with deer dogs.  They read his chip.
A very nice couple saw Max and the Pound-men and called Karla Wilson, our niece, at Trueheart Kennels, and then called us.  Karla posted it on Facebook about the time we called the Cumberland pound.
We talked to Mr Sullivan just as he was about to look up Max's chip number.  He told us he knew it was Max and we could come get him, reminding us about the incident long ago.  He didn't charge us for picking Max up and even said he'd meet us at the Bridge into Farmville to deliver Max!  Of course, knowing how tight their budget is we drove out to get him and made a donation.
Max is still pining after Nala, but they're both grounded!  After a few week things will get back to normal, and they can run the fields again, but I pray they stay closer to home.  She's just a teenager, so she takes more risks than I'd like, but I hope he'll be wiser than this last time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Max was found by Animal Control in Cumberland County, VA Thanks to all of you!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Celiac Diagnosis

Yesterday we got the final results of Sam's biopsy:  Celiac damage in his intestine.

So.  Today is 'Fruit basket turnover' day. Research.  Label reading.  Similar to keeping Kosher, Celiac cooking means that the whole house has to become gluten free.  Lots of food I'll try to use for Susan & myself; other I'll give away to BG. Gradually we'll get tight and this will become the new normal.

I have hopes that this will help us all, but time will tell.

I hope that the demeylinating will, at least, halt or slow down.  Time will tell if remyelinating will occur and Sam will be able to walk better.  I've read lots of anecdotal evidence that give me hope, but anecdotes are not data.

Meanwhile my cooking days are starting, again:  Cornbread, Recipe research, etc.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mother's Stories

Frances Virginia Hogan Howton's Childhood

When I proved to my adoring uncle that I could really read I was four and so I was sent to a kindergarten. It proved somewhat less than educational since I could already write my numbers to 100 and really read. I cannot count it a loss because Miss Rubel, my adored teacher, was French and introduced me early to 'Bon jour', 'Au 'evior' (in the south the “r's” were elided as in French) and 'pomme d' terre' – and a love of the French tongue I would not be able to pursue for another 35 years.

She was not lovely, just winsome, I think. Her sister, father and she had left France just after WWI, for whatever reasons, and the older sister, Rose, had married a Birmingham man named Loeb – so Rose Loeb and my mother were friends. You can't think how odd that was. There was no WASP thing then, but still, now that I'm older I wonder that they each were so lonely that for those few years they joined forces.

Loeb was a devoted husband to this beauty he had the fortune to be chosen by, and their daughter, Alice, was as beautiful as her mother. He was enchanted by them both, and had his greatest misfortune to be a traveller in some sort of merchandise. Related to a prominent family, he had found a good job, but to be away from his women was a curse – Perhaps he realized that his life span was not to be so very long; he resented his absences even more -

As I have said, Alice was a beautiful child. I think I must have been eight when the courts decided I should spend the summer with my father. He was seldom around, but the summers at first were fun.

I was free in the early evenings to gallop down the long garden steps to tell tall tales gleaned from Mort d'Arthur and gothic romances to Alice and Mary Bess, who lived one house away. The stories with floors that opened unexpectedly underfoot or the rooms with hidden entrances – all the bit – made a great impression.

And so Mary Bess entered our lives. Until this time Alice and I had been little sister-big sister, but all children are welcome at story-telling time on the curb under the street light, expecting every minute to be called to bed. Sometimes a huge luna moth would come, too, still, I must say Mary Bess was excitable. Perhaps an hysteric.

Her mother, married and a mother very young, had divorced MB's father and remarried. MB's grandmother was in charge of the house and called my aunt, who was in charge of me, about the horror stories I was telling. She called them ghost stories. So I was asked not to. I honestly did not, but changed to fairy tales drawing liberally on Grimm and Anderson. Evidently these upset M. Bess, too. Stories ceased.

The long summer evenings, too, ceased and I spent a lot of time on our front porch steps trying to hear where the cricket was calling from. I was, and am now, very good at that game.

Now that I am writing this, was my family doing me in with Alice? I loved going with her when her father took us over the hills of Birmingham for a ride and showed us how you revved up the hills so as to coast down. He couldn't have been the French-Rose-Rubel's-Knight-in-Armor, but he was a sweet, sweet man.

In any case, Mary Bess's grandmother and my aunt, who was anyone's patsy, got together and Alice was left aside. Her mother was hurt and she couldn't play with what had become US -

My aunt complained that every time M. Bess stepped on a twig and screamed, her heart missed a beat. I was not sorry for her at all.

The last time I saw Alice – or the time I remember most – whatever – she asked, said, “ Why is it that Mary Bess says my people killed Jesus?”

I had wondered, too, and asked around quite a lot, being older. So I said, as I had been told, “ Christ was a Jew who wanted to purify his religion, but a lot of people had a good thing going – they were Jews, too, but they arranged to have him crucified. They got rid of him”

Was that too simple? Was it even right? I don't know.

FHH: Stone Family

My grandmother Ellen Burkett of Barboursville, KY, married twice. Her first husband was known to us later as Mr. Grant. He was possibly kin to the seldom mentioned Ulysses, but he died (of yellow fever?) very soon. Bama came as a beautiful young widow to teach school in Birmingham and was a sensation -or at least when I was in my twenties an old lady told me so.

Young Mrs Grant was a good teacher, too, for while my father's family were notably not fond of my mother, my Aunt Lanie remembered Bama as her first teacher lovingly, and, although Aunt Lanie was considered 'lacking' by the family she read newspapers and ladies magazines daily. This material was known as 'that trash' by my uncles.

And so Bama's catch was a husband who had opened Birmingham's first soda fountain and was doing exceedingly well with it. I know only that Mims Baker Stone was from a reputedly large family from Talladega, or near there. His grandfather must have been well off since I have a large ladle left of the silver melted down for the confederacy. He was a chaplain. The family story is that the first Stone came from Pepperel Co. VA in 1819, fell ill and was taken in and nursed by an old indian who took a mule with empty saddlebags, returned with them full of silver so that Henry Clay(?) Stone could finance a homestead whereon the indian established his home. So many indians were moved West unless they had a sponsor who could protect them. So, goes the tale, Henry went back to Pepperel and married Virginia Lee (her brothers must have come; two of xxx did) and it is true that around Talladega, AL, there are a great many Stone and Lee families. I think Henry ran true to Stone form for he journeyed to New Orleans to the slave market to purchase help, and may have been reduced in fortune by time or misadventures in NO, for the slave he brought back was little, wiry , very black and had filed teeth. He was the father of my mother's beloved nanny who taught her to cook like an angel. (She let no one into the kitchen, but you could watch from the door.) Her father, with his filed teeth, probably did anything that was done on the farm, for the smell of the putative gentleman who was slave to his slave, persists – and it is true that my mother's family preferred almost anything to real work – she herself excluded. How much else is true?

My grandmother having married the nice Mims Stone proceeded to have six children. Her elegant mode of life put a severe stain on Daddy-Papa and when my mother graduated from high school he was bankrupt – both in his business and his marriage. I never knew of a divorce but he left to live with his sister in North Carolina; my grandmother, Bama, took a job (!) traveling for a two year college on the strength of the students she raked up in Birmingham. Virginia and Helen, the older girls, married rather soon after this, Mims, the older son, ran away, and so did Warren, the very handsome younger boy, who joined the Navy at fourteen. Dedi (Whose real name was Bertha and she hated it, so rechristened herself Suzanne and kept her nickname) ran away to be a pony girl in a dance troupe – one of the small end girls who balance the line. The youngest, Martha, was only 12, and stayed with her mother – or rather was in high school at the two year college. All of the girls were very beautiful. Helen the most, my mother close, Dedi was pocked with acne though still very pretty and Martha, the baby of the family, was really lovely, also spoiled and self willed. Mims was the quiet, self effacing one, alone in that. Warren was not tall, but even as an old man, handsome, and the glint in his eye that intrigued so many women was still there. I used to put myself to sleep by counting and naming his six wives; nearly as effective a soporific an the binomial theorem of Apostles Creed.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Susi’s Granola

Susi’s Granola (makes 56 cups)
Three part recipe
1. Dry mix (56 cups+/-)
Use two large bowls & split the following :
1 box rolled oats
2 lbs walnuts, chopped
1 lb sliced almonds
1 box grape nuts cereal
1 large box rice crispies
1 package rice puffs or wheat puffs
1 jar wheat germ
Cereal or anything else, except dried fruit, to bring it up to 56 cups
Heating this before combining with the syrup will make them blend easily
2. Syrup
a. Orange Granola Syrup (9 cups +/-)
1 can concentrated OJ
1 ½ C Syrup or honey (Neutral flavor)
1 small jar Marmalade (can use large)
1 ½ C Sugar Neutral flavor
1 C fresh OJ or lemon juice (can use water)
1 ½ C Oil Neutral flavor (add last)
1 t salt (optional)
1 OJ can of water to rinse marmalade & OJ can (add enough to make 9 C)
You can vary the juices & jellies to make any kind of flavored granola
b. Cinnamon & Vanilla Syrup (9 cups +/-)
3 C sugar, any combo of white/brown
1 C honey or syrup (Maple, molasses, pancake, etc)
2 T vanilla (may add more)
2 T cinnamon
1 C peanut butter (optional, adds protein, but doesn’t change the flavor)
1 t salt (optional)
1 C Oil
2 C water or juice (apple, etc) to bring it up to 9 cups
Heat on very low, so it doesn’t caramelize. Use ½ of this for 28+/- C of dry mix (your two bowls, above). Stir until all dry mix is coated. Put into baking pans or jelly roll pans, thin layer is best. Bake on lowest heat until mostly dry, then turn off oven & leave in oven for several hours until really dry. Stir several times.
3. Dried fruit (added after baking)
Separate pieces by adding a bit of confectioners sugar & rolling them around with your fingers, otherwise they’ll clump up in the dry mix.
Split between the two bowls:
2 large packages of raisins
1 large package of cranberry raisins
Anything else, but the above is sufficient.
This recipe calls for about 6 1/4 C dry mix for every 1 C syrup. It makes a very crumbly granola. If you want lumpy granola, increase the proportion of syrup to dry & bake longer with fewer stirrings.
If you want to make Granola bars: Candy the syrup by heating to 235F (softball stage). Add the fruit to the dry before mixing. Heat the dry to facilitate mixing the two. Pack the mixture tightly into lined & greased pans and bake until firm. Don’t bake too long, maybe 20 minutes @ 300F, because it will get too hard. Cut into bars while it’s warm. You can also dry it or put it in the sun to meld.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Hen of the Woods

Saturday afternoon I took a walk in the garden to check on the germination of my late sown cover crops and went into the woods on the way back to the house,

I'm always scanning for mushrooms and there it was! I knew almost certainly that it was a 'Hen of the Woods' from the photos I'd seen. I went back to the house jubilantly crowing about it. The books showed exactly that mushroom: Grifola Frondosa It's not like any other mushroom, except that if it's yellow/gold it's called Chicken of the Woods. Both are edible and good.

Usually they grow on Oaks, but this dead tree looks to be a tulip poplar. Hopefully it will follow the book and re-sprout on that tree multiple times.

I took it to the church fish fry and showed it to the guys who hunt so they will know to use it and told the local hunters who came to vote when I was a Poll Officer on Tuesday.

I cleaned it and only got about 2 cups of inedible stuff. I estimate it was about 6 lbs.

I cut it across the grain and sauteed it in butter, a bit of broth, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of boullion powder, then stirred in some sour cream. It was good served over rice.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


I have a mystery:
Went out my driveway about 3:30 PM today and was surprised to see two hives overturned and an empty 5 frame nuc sitting with it’s top off.
I stopped and went over to them... The top boxes (out of 2 boxes for each new hive) had been turned upside down on their tops and the lower box, that had the growing nuc frames, had been emptied and thrown a ways away. Scattered around were the five frames that had surrounded the nuc’s five frames when I’d moved them into the 10 frame boxes.
No evidence of bears. The other nuc that I’d moved into two medium boxes was there as were two larger hives that might have some honey in them. The larger hive had fresh grass caught between the top 2 boxes, as if it had been cracked open. There was a small ball of bees on the upside-down box of one of the hives, and a small bunch in the grass below that hive but no other evidence of bees. The sun had had a chance to soften, but not melt the exposed comb, but there was some slight yellowing of the grass under one of the frames that had been cast aside.

When did it happen? Folks using my driveway hadn’t mentioned seeing this mess.
Why? Bees are getting hard to find! A nuc goes for $85±?
Who? Had to be someone who has boxes to put those two five frame nucs into.
Where did they take them? Obviously to a yard that they keep bees in.
What person would know that those were nucs?

If the person had put the boxes back together neatly I wouldn’t have noticed until I drove around them and checked.
It could have happened at night... That could account for the lack of bees in the air, unless it happened a couple days ago (yellowing grass).
Who would have thrown the boxes around and scattered the frames, unless they were in a hurry?
I haven’t been out the driveway since at least Sunday.

If you have some insight into this mystery, please tell me. Email is usually best!
You might check your bees, too!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

High Summer

Some of the trees are starting to lose their leaves; a few red leaves have been showing in the last few weeks. Summer has peaked and is tapering off. The beehives are getting ready for the winter.
It's time to plant the fall crops that will enjoy the cool fall weather: crucifers, peas, greens, beets, etc.
Corn came in a week ago and now the stalks are bare. We had a bumper crop of beautiful well-filled ears, and I foundered myself processing it all. I canned 7 quarts, but didn't like the caramelization that I saw, since it takes 85 minutes at 10# pressure to can corn. So I've frozen the rest.
We're going to be covered in late tomatoes, and still have oodles in cans in the basement. Luckily this is a poor year for tomatoes, and most have blight of one sort or another. I've eaten so many that my appetite for them has diminished.
Potatoes, both sweet and white, are yet to be dug.
Melons have had too much rain and most have started rotting before ripening, but we've eaten some. OK, but...
This has been a bean year. We can't use any treatments, but have wonderful soil, from the horse manure. The Green Beans have no bugs, and are producing heavily and continuously. There's no telling when they'll stop.
Lima Beans are just starting to get ripe, and might give us a meal soon. They are Thorogreen, bush type, but in this perfect bean year they are sending out runners up to eight feet! I've never seen the like. We'll have a huge crop from them. Luckily one of my bee friends has a lima bean shelling machine. I already have blisters from corn processing!
The peppers have not done as well as I'd like, but the eggplants are just starting to get to picking size. What do I do with eggplant? Any ideas!

Friday, January 02, 2009


Let us count our large blessings: Love, Health, Family, Friends, Resources (enough to pay our bills).

We are all gasping at the price rises at the grocery store, and appreciative that the gasoline and heating oil prices have subsided.
Thanks to the powers-that-be for these small favors.

We are planning for a garden this year... not big, but necessary. We're lucky to have the land and time.

I have two hives, rescued from a family who lost their bee-keeping father unexpectedly. I'm scheduled to get more this spring. Our Bee Group is thriving, and even growing.

We're puppy-sitting an adorable Airedale, 8-weeks old. He is the new baby for my adored nieces, S & A. Their Mom is a real Hero for taking on a baby-dog during Christmas. Wow!

We were delighted to see the new babies. Cecelia is on the East Coast now, so closer; Sophia came to visit at Christmas; Katelyn has almost outgrown her babyhood. They all take after their lovely Mothers! The generations roll on...

GT continues to work at her beloved Profession. Her work hours stagger me, and this is at a very humane Residency Program. Her Attending Physicians are mostly good, and interested in teaching the next generation of Doctors; however the behavior of a few is beyond appalling! Two and a half more years. This is subsidized volunteerism so she can learn as much as possible.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Things I learned in Asia

*Everyone in any small area knows most everyone else. Word gets around. Be nice to your waiter: He is related to someone.
*Don't muddy the water around you; you may have to drink it.
*Don't buy from the children: If they're making money in the streets they won't be sent to school.
*Get lots of small bills: You need to buy from lots of vendors to help them all, especially in the little villages. They don't have change.
*Don't bargain with the poor folks: You look like a cheapskate; relatively, you are rich. A buck/penny means more to them. Let them keep the change.
*Do bargain with the Tourist Market folks: It's fun, and if you both laugh, it's friendly.
*Use your Lonely Planet guidebooks: Wow! They were super accurate. That tiny woodcut-print shop in Kyoto was worth the whole trip!!
*Learn how to say "Thank You" in every language
*Laugh a lot! It's a universal language. Smile when you're not laughing.
*Go with a friend, or find one on the way: Double the fun.
*Take good shoes: Everything worth seeing is a walk.
*Plan on photo storage: We bought a tiny, 120Gig hard drive. Bring extra memory cards and batteries to switch out.
*Memorize the Microsoft/Explorer/Firefox pages: Everything is in Asian Characters, & figuring out how to toggle English is hard.
*You will get used to their harder beds. It'll take some time to get used to yours when you get home.
*Go to the boondocks: They are so glad to see you! The East West Siam Company was our introduction to the tribes all through Northern Thailand. There are a lot of other companies who pay the villagers for visits.
*Smile for at least a few of their photos: At Borobudur we were politely mobbed by folks who wanted photos with us. 'Round-eyes' are rare.
*Condense your purse/daypack to a minimum, & plan for secure storage for the rest. It gets really heavy.
*Early on find out how to get cash in needed quantities. We spent a harried time accumulating enough cash to get those lovely woodcut-prints in Kyoto.
*Take all your credit cards, more traveler's checks than you think you'll need and then as many $20 bills as you feel comfortable carrying. Tell your credit card companies where and when you're going. Authorize someone at home to call them in case they block your card.
*Splurge! You won't pass this way again. Buy it when you see it. Tighten your belt when you get home. Research what each place specializes in before you go.
*Find out when the disabled workshops are: Siem Reap's Artisans store is phenomenal. I regret not asking about these earlier in our trip.
*Plan on mailing things home: DHL & FedEx are the most secure way to send things.
*Don't put valuables in your checked baggage. Temptation is unkind.
*Learn about the local Children's Hospitals. They are all over SE Asia and worthwhile. We visited one at Siem Reap.
*If you're female: Master "The LOOK". It says 'Don't mess with me!' Don't respond to catcalls, or look at men. Learn how to discourage...
*If you're male: Don't look or talk provocatively or touch!
*Don't expect your guides to protect you from beggars and touts. They live there & know these folks have to make a living, too. Ask how to discourage them, & how to say NO.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day Sweet Sam !

Remember when I gave you Brewster the Rooster for Father's Day?
This Father's Day I'm coming home... can I consider that a Father's Day gift?
Does it count if I'd be giving you Myself even if it were'nt Father's Day?
I Love You !!! Susi

Headed HOME !

We're in Tokyo, waiting for our flight to Chicago, then to DC, and home on Tuesday. GT figured it's 20 hours in the air.
Siem Reap, Cambodia, is a burgeoning city. Every corner is sprouting a new building, mostly hotels. Tourism has made it grow too fast for it's streets and other infrastructure. I thought of the gold-rush towns. The roads into the Angkor Wat area are pretty good, and it is a huge area, designated by the UN as a world heritage site. We used three guides, all of whom were licensed by the state. We liked each for different reasons. We took our first guide, who has been licensed for just a year, with us for the helicopter ride. He was both thrilled and terrified. We called a guide recommended on an Asia Travel Forum who sent over an excellent guide, who took us out into the country. The next day we asked a young woman contracted to our hotel to guide us. She brought her adorable daughter with her (our request). We had a super time with them, and she was able to show a lot of her friends how beautifully behaved her youngster is.
We showered, then went to the Children's Hospital to give blood and lounged around the pool until airport time. Gwin donated for the first time; she's inherited type 'O' from her father, making her a universal donor.
We enjoyed the Hotel de la Paix greatly. The treated us extremely well and the food was superb.
But nothing can beat being home!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On to Angkor Wat !

Dear Ones, We're at a 'Boutique Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a night, then to Siem Reap, Cambodia very early tomorrow morning. By direct flight it is only an hour, but we have to go back to Bangkok and then to Cambodia.
Bann Tazala, here in Chiang Mai is a jewel set on a long narrow lot; each room decorated with lovely pieces of art. It's beautiful that I started wandering along the corridors snapping away, and when I moved a beautiful door to get a better shot, the door fell!
We hung out our wet clothes, from the rafting trip at Lisu Lodge and ran straight to the 'Night Market' where we've just finished filling a box to send back home.
Lisu Lodge was as fun and enjoyable as the Mekhala River Cruise was; both by the same company: "East West Siam". Gwin got the run down on all their other tours, so maybe she'll be able to enjoy other trips with them. We really liked our Guide, and hope to stay in touch. We also met some lovely people there. I guess folks who can afford to travel tend to be rather nice.
We'll be home soon!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Thanks for the support, Everyone !

Thank you to Family and Friends for your unstinting support of our trip to SE Asia. We have had a wonderful trip so far; seen and done far more than we expected. Kyoto turned out to be a smaller place than we expected, and we saw the best of the best sights. Our Ryokan, a Japanese Family Inn, was disappointed not to see more of us. Gwin found out how easy it is to walk in that pristinely clean city and walked my feet off. We saw several Geishas and their apprentices and attendants. They are followed by paparazzi like movie stars. We walked around the Goin, or geisha district until fairly late (for us) and saw pretty canals lit by lanterns. We also shopped a la 'Lonely Planet'. These guide books have been infallible in their advice on restaurants and shops. We found some lovely wood carving prints in a tiny shop they recommended, and enjoyed excellent meals in the recommended places. We photographed each of our purchases before sending them home. It'll be like Christmas to see them again.
Bali is as magical as they say! We stayed at the Ibah Luxury Villas, in Ubud, a mountain town known for it's art. We cruised through town the morning after a midnight arrival that had us following the Innkeeper's flashlight to our luxurious Villa. Around every corner at the Villas, and in town in the stores we saw photo ops. Exotic, and fascinating. Our helicopter trip was educational and fun. We flew along the beaches packed with surfers, and then across countryside covered in terraced rice fields and small villages, which we had just driven through to the airport. When we topped the edge of the volcano the ground dropped off: straight down. Wow ! We flew around the lake in the middle of the crater, and returned to Denpasar. Gwin was able to talk to the pilots, who showed her everything she wanted to see. Truly the way to tour.
When we got to Yogyakarta we got to see the real Indonesia. The people are as nice as the Balinese, but the myriad of temples with offerings was replaced by devout Muslims, who are more reserved, and pray (by loudspeaker) five times daily. It's a large city... we stayed toward the volcano, Mt Merapi, next to a golf course that is very popular in SE Asia. Our Villa was very nice, but we were spoiled by the luxurious one with the private outdoor shower under flowering vines, LOL! We got used to it, though, and appreciated having a pool of our own. We toured Borobudar and Prambanan Temples one day. They are marvels of hard work and religious emotion, chiseled into stone. The next day we rested by the pool. Gwin got a book called 'Guns, Germs and steel' which I'm happily chewing my way through. It has enough to keep me ruminating about for a long time; answering the question "Why did these WASPs end up having so much stuff"
So, now we're in Bangkok, after a nice flight on Thai Air. We got in at 4 PM and started trying to confirm the Mekhala River Cruise pick-up time. I thrashed around until the next morning, when Gwin took over and sorted it out. She aroused someone at Lisu Lodge, who gave out the cell number of the River cruise folks. They must have assumed that they'd forgotten us, and waked up Ti-Ti, who picked us up in a nice Mercedes at 9 AM and gave us a truly fun tour of Ayathuya's tourist spots. There are few other tourists, and we only shared the boat with an Italian couple on their honeymoon. We really enjoyed our 'long tail' boat ride from Ayathuya to the river boat. Food and ambiance was up to par. We fed the local insects at dinner, but the bites don't itch, and I believe in donating to the locals!! The Mekhala River Cruise was up there with Bali.
We're off to Lisu Lodge tomorrow, and are looking forward to the tours there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gwin's Graduation and Asian trip

Welcome Dr. Gwin!!

Gwin graduated from St. George's University Medical School May 3rd. (above)
That's (L-R) my sister, Cathy, Gwin, my brother, Pete, and me.

Today we've enbarked on a 20 day trip to Asia. We'll be in Kyoto, Japan tomorrow. We'll be there until the 28th and then to Bali June 1st for 3 days, then to a remote resort in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Then to Bangkok and Chiang Mai (Thailand). We'll be in Siem Reap, Cambodia on June 13th for 2 days and then home by the 16th.
I'll up date as I get the photos. All my best to everyone.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Giving the Honeybees a New Life

This has been a hard winter for Honeybees in this area. I thought I was the only one who'd lost lots of hives. Turns out my Bee Buddy, with close to 100 hives, is down to 35, ten of which are strong enough for splitting. I told him I'd give him my 7 (?) hives for 5 hives at the end of the summer. This summer is going to be busy, especially during splitting and swarming season, so he'll split from my hives and build them up, using my incoming queens and pollen, and give me back 5 regular size hives either this fall (preferable for him) or next spring (probably splits), in my equipment. I'm paying for his labor with my queens and pollen, and he's returning me to where I started. I shed the worry and he can, hopefully, do OK with the bees. It will be a shot in the arm for him, helping him to build up his numbers, and a relief to me.


I'm working non-stop on the itinerary to Asia. It'd be so easy to just call the Travel Agency and say "Book It". But, Noooo! I have to do my own research, etc. Just like I have to figure out my own taxes.
I'm pretty sure we'll go with United Airlines, but getting a response from them is very slow. They're good with taking orders, but this is outside the normal clerk's comfort zone, and they have to send it to the pricing desk. They'll hold the seats for 24 hours, but the pricing desk can't get back to you for 72 hours. Go figure. So, once I get a price, I'll know if I can buy their tickets, or if I need to go somewhere else. I guess this is so you can't compare prices.
I can't book rooms until I have the flights, can't book tours until I know when and where we'll be.
Meanwhile, I can recite the flights in and out of most SE Asian airports: BKK, DPS, CNX, KIX, PEK.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Planning for the Trip proceeds

We're looking at all the options for the trip to Asia. So far we are considering Beijing, Kyoto, Bali, Chieng Mai, Angkor Wat, Bangkok, Delhi, Kathmandu, Bhutan, Kashmir,Varanasi (Ganges), Istanbul, and maybe returning through Vienna. The bold names are under serious consideration, the rest may work out. The dates are getting less solid, since GT has to get some critical paperwork done before reporting to MCV on June 23.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Road Trip! Road Trip!

Yes, We're going on a TRIP!   
GT wants to dip her toes into the bigger world, and Momma can't let her go alone.  Well, it isn't quite like that, but...  Angie couldn't go.
We leave right after her last stint in Brooklyn, on the 27th of May. I pack her out and store the stuff on the farm on the 23rd, and we run to DC and jump the flight to Beijing, then Kyoto, Bali, Bangkok, Angkor Wat, Chieng Mai, Kathmandu, Delhi, Vienna, and home.  We'll stay about two days in each place and travel on the third day.  I'm hoping for Bed and Breakfast type places to stay, and daily tours. We return on 20 June.  GT starts work on the 23rd... no apartment and a rental car... OMG!
I figure I'll be de-toxed from my Diet Coke addiction by the time I return, and sore from all the hard beds Asia is famous for.  The sacrifices we make for our children... Sigh.  Angie, I REALLY wish you'd said Yes!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

So Much Water Under the Bridge: Where to start?

  • Sam's had a heart valve replaced and is still in the local rehabilitation center regaining his strength. I'm at a loss without him; like a rudderless boat.
  • I'm down to 6 hives, and may lose one of those, due to my neglect of them during last Fall's drought.
  • BG has planted the spring garden... with her wages I'd be waaaaay ahead buying on the retail market!
  • Against all odds, GT was matched to the Medical College of Richmond, VA and will be a Resident there for 3 years. We are thrilled they see so much promise in her. She has worked very hard to get the priviledge of working harder!
  • The single woman who rented the Bondurant House ( got a chance to move, and we are hoping that the lovely couple who just looked at it will move in mid-April, on a five year lease. 
  • It's a good thing we upgraded the house when we did; we couldn't afford it today, due to the added costs of shipping. 
  • Our utility bills are the same, despite the drop in usage, due to fuel cost increases.
  • Macks, our beautiful German Shepherd adds to our pleasure every day. He charms everyone he meets with his calm demeanor and lovely manners.
  • We watch the Nieces and Grand-children grow daily; wait for the new crop to emerge, and... 
  • We count our Blessings every day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Time to Recuperate

All the houses are rented, the bees are treated and fed, and the farm and yard work is almost at an end. We are settling in for a quiet winter in which to recover from a year of physical and fiscal efforts.

For our efforts we have a structurally sound home with a renovated kitchen, baths, and two new roofs, a doublewide mobile home rented out with acreage and an updated large rental. We donated our poor quality hay to a neighbor, who was delighted to get it due to the drought. Our vegetable garden was neglected and is now ploughed and seeded. The raised beds did not get much use.

Next year we hope to begin recovering our investments in the properties and use the garden to better effect by using the raised beds for vegetables and the flat ground for bee fodder. The sunflowers were a hit with the bees, providing pollen and nectar during the drought. Next year we plan clovers (crimson and white Dutch) followed by sunflowers and maybe asters.

Our new tenant in the Bondurant House is a single woman with no children or pets. She is excited to spread out in that huge house after long years in a condo. She leaves in June; a good time to get our target rent in a prime market. Our tenant in the other house is also single, dependable and long-term.

I treated the bees during a cool morning while they were in cluster, hoping to kill off the majority of the varroa. There was very little brood, due to the dry conditions, but they'd been storing the HFCS in the upper combs. I combined to 18 hives and gave the nucs to a bee buddy for replacement queens. If I'm lucky and my survivor bees have enough Russian genes in them they'll do OK through the winter with the small clusters they have. The larger hives have 5/6 seams of bees in the top over slightly less in the bottom (medium) boxes. They've stove-piped themselves in the middle of the boxes (a trait of Russians). I made sure they have all drawn comb so they can expand as they wish in the Spring. The main lack is capped honey. Amazingly they are still bringing in pollen. Earlier it was dull off-white, now it's bright orange. Not a lot, but it's a sign that there are still flowers open, even after several frosts. I think the off-white came from mature ivy that blooms prolifically once it's reached the top of its support, but I can't figure what the orange is. The bee sample that the Virginia Bee Inspector took showed no Tracheal Mites and only spores of Nosema. I haven't treated for nosema because of the shortage in the marketplace: Large demand and only one manufacturer.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fall Follies

We don't have a tenant for the big, expensive house. However it is pristine clean! I'm thinking of advertising in the New Jersey papers and I'll carry through with listing it with my Realtor friend. I'm inured to taking it through the winter without a tenant, which will mean daily checks and multiple cleanings to keep up the condition.

The bees need some care and feeding. Since we're supposed to have a warmer winter they will be able to eat more stores and carry on with brood rearing through the winter. This means that the varroa mites will be able to reproduce and build up their predatory numbers. By spring we will have more dead hives. I will need to treat aggressively, soon, to allow them to raise the longer lived winter bees, who will fatten up and keep the hopefully varroa-free brood warm through the winter.

The asters, last of the goldenrod, and mature ivy are blooming right now, so the hives are bringing in some pollen and nectar. With the drought there is much less than is needed, so I have to supplement with pollen patties and honey substitute. Luckily I have both, having stocked up this past spring, anticipating transportation costs to drive prices up.

Fist I have to lower the varroa population. Not wanting to use chemicals, I could remove the current brood frames treat the broodless hives and let them then start over with cleaner, relatively varroa-free winter babies. My treatment could be powdered sugar or oxalic acid mixed with sugar water; both are residue free and natural in honey. Oxalic is used in a 3.5% solution, less than the 5% we see in our cooking vinegar. It acts by irritating the varroa, and less so the bees, who groom themselves of the mites by licking the syrup, scratching the mites off (or so we surmise). Oxalic doesn't work as well unmixed with syrup, so in some way being palatable to the bees makes it work better.
Pollen Patties will make up for this fall's lack. Large-scale beekeepers make it in mortar mixers; I make it in smaller scale in my stand mixer. There are so many recipes.
So... Off I go to get ready to do... Something.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Farewell to our Sweet Dustin Frick

Dustin Frick was one of the nicest people I've known. Watching him grow up, I called him Trusty Dusty. He was a peacemaker among the four cousins. He loved his brother, Alex, and was more brother than cousin to William. He was almost Gwin's twin, just 3 days older.

We have so many stories about his escapades. He was always a charmer; sweet talking helped him smooth any troubled waters that came up during his childhood.

His life's journey came to a sudden end on a dark highway. A piece of our hearts died with him. We cry for his unfulfilled promise; We cry for our loss.

Find this Wonderful Man a Partner for Life

We've known him for 25 years. He's everything women say they want in Love, and in Life. He's the Real Deal.

Here's a wonderful man's info:

Needs a life partner. He's better looking than the picture shows. He looks and acts like a younger brother to the 'Magnum PI' guy.

Love, Susi


It's been a disrupted summer.

The home kitchen got finished; then the rest of the work finally got done... When Sam said "Enough!"

About a week later we bought the doublewide mobile home with the rest of the acreage next to the Bondurant house. We did three weeks of cleaning and updating/upgrading to bring it up to snuff for the rental market.

The State Contracting officer for the Conservation Department promised that they wanted the property for their employees, but dropped us two months later! We've just rented it, having to take a risky tenant due to the late part of the rental market year.

Now, since Sept 1, we've been putting the Bondurant House in order and hope, despite the lateness, to get a tenant. We may have to wait until spring, though.

A landlord only has the gaps between tenants to do the long-term maintenance work that a house needs. It's expensive, but necessary, to do the detailed cleaning and checkouts/repairs that will carry the property through another (hopefully) long lease to a family who will keep up the regular cleaning and repairs.

Choosing a tenant is an art and a skill. Thanks to the Internet it has gotten easier. The application is only the starting point. I ask for an applicant-generated credit report, with a credit score. Credit scores might be low, but often you will find that the actual bills due are small. I do a lot of credit counseling, too.

Gut feelings are most often wrong, especially if they are positive. If they are negative I listen to them. However, if I really like someone I am even more careful to get the paper corroboration to verify my feelings. I always do the paperwork! We have relatives who are Very Charming, but will take your gold teeth while they chuckle!

When I see money flaunted (I'll take it NOW! Here's more cash than you asked for!) I figure there's something that generated that excess that I need to understand. Suspicious old woman, aren't I? Been done wrong to and paid the price for my naïveté!

We had a family that wanted the big house ($1800/mo). A beautiful wife, three really nice children, but a marginal credit score and some worrisome items in their history. We wanted to meet the father, talk to him and figure out the situation so we'd feel comfortable renting our luxurious huge house to them. He kept ducking our questions (on the phone) and dodging meetings (forgot? stood up?). We got more leery.

The sweet wife came and helped us start cleaning. He still wouldn't show. She finally called, after a few days of no contact, and said she couldn't take the stress. Maybe she wanted it and he didn't. My instincts, liking her, said GO. My paperwork and his run around said NO. They might have been great tenants, or they might have been a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The work goes on, and On, and ON...

I really thought the kitchen would be done in two weeks. Yes, I know. How I deluded myself and poor Sam.

It doesn't help that the cabinet maker had to remake five of the doors, nor that I had to have him trim out the kitchen so the trim and cabinets would match. The cabinet maker has gone on to other jobs in his shop, but sends a guy over once a week to do a bit more. Poor guy. He's very apologetic. I'm simmering. I won't pay the rest of the money until they're completely done. I still have my living room full of boxes of food, because they're still making sawdust in the cabinets.

I'm trudging along with the taxes, while watching the bee hives make swarm preparations and the spring pass in a blur.

RJ, CC, and MR keep working on the house. So far we have replaced the brass connectors in the fresh water system, due to corrosion from the 'aggressive' water we have. It's high acid and high mineral and makes lace out of metals. The copper piping we pulled out was very fragile. We have replaced almost all of the spigots and tub faucets. This week we'll finish that work. RJ made the mistake of sending me in to get new tub faucets, and I got the single handled pressure adjusting ones. That's been an education for him and the boys. I've never seen them read directions before. They aren't sending me to town for stuff anymore!

RJ also worked on the drainage around the house, to keep the flooding in the basement down. He used his dowsing skills to locate the underground drains for the downspouts. I was very skeptical, but it works for him. They were clogged up. Now they're open there was only a damp spot after this last rain, instead of a bold creek running out the door.

They've put ceiling fans in the rooms that have little air circulation and repaired the shower that had cracked tiles. Surprisingly we found the green tile that was saved from the original tiling of that bath. It's one of those unmatchable greens. All the baths will have grab bars in the showers and next to the toilets, if possible. We installed higher toilets for our aging knees. We've also put lights in the dark places, especially the stairs.

Much still needs to be done: refinishing and reinstalling the old cabinets in the back hall, the metal sheds need to be coated to stop their deterioration, new carpeting throughout the house, and a long list of other stuff.

Sam's middle son visited for a week, and made himself welcome. I don't remember having such an easy guest in a long time. He and Sam took Macks, our shepherd, for long run twice a day, and for short walks several times a day. We're hoping he'll come back to visit soon.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Congratulations Alex!!

Pvt Alexander Howton Frick has joined a proud military family tradition and graduated from One Station Unit Training (OSUT) at Fort Knox, KY as an M1A1 Abrams Armor crewman. Frick is the son of Catherine Howton and grandson of Harry (USAF Col. Ret) and Frances Howton (both deceased) of Fort Walton Beach and nephew of Samuel V. (USA Lt. Gen. Ret) and Virginia Wilson (USA Lt.Col. Ret) of Rice, VA and former Lt Cmdr Harry M. Howton (USNA Alum). He is a graduate of Baumholder High School in Germany.
The first 8 weeks of OSUT training period, the trainee received Basic Combat Training (BCT) instruction in drill and ceremony, weapons, rifle and pistol marksmanship, bayonet training, chemical warfare, field training and tactical exercises, armed and unarmed combat, military courtesy, military justice, physical fitness, first aid, Urban Operations Training and Army history, traditions, and core values.
In addition to BCT Pvt Frick received 6 weeks of instruction in mounted warfare, field training exercise (FTX), armored capability, mastering the M1A1 Abrams tank through driving simulators, firing practice, PVS-14 Night Vision Device and driving the HMMWV (Hum-V) in combat conditions. The final week was spent in Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) training. Pvt Frick attained expert pistol marksmanship merit, the National Defense Service medal and earned a place in the Excellence in Armor program.
Pvt Frick reported immediately to Smith Barracks, Baumholder, Germany where, ironically, he spent 8 years of his young adult life. Baumholder is home to the largest concentration of U.S. combat troops outside the United States and is the European home of the 1st Armored Division. Pvt Frick is proud to join his family's rich tradition of military history and service to his nation.