Winter Wonderland

It doesn’t quite feel like Christmastime in my community until the Christmas Lighting Ceremony has taken place at the Bedford, Virginia landmark formerly known as the Elks National Home.  The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks is the fraternal organization that has operated the facility for over a century.  The Elks National Home was recently sold and the new owner, English Meadows, has promised to continue the Christmas light tradition.  Although this icon of Christmas has a new name, to those of us who have passed through those festive gates countless times over the years, it will always be ‘The Elks Home.’ This spectacular presentation of lights and scenery has been a tradition every December except one since 1953.  Creating this winter wonderland is a monumental task.  Beginning the first week of November, the Home’s maintenance crew as well as residents work many hours to hang tens of thousands of light bulbs and display numerous pieces of scenery.  According to the Elks National Home, there are upwards of 20,000 vehicles that pass through the grounds each Christmas Season. Here’s the thing:  I wanted to share a Christmas tradition that I’ve delighted in since childhood.  I hope you enjoy this little tour through ‘The Elks Home’ winter wonderland, and may your holidays be merry and bright! If you would like to enjoy a bit of festive music while touring the Christmas light display, just click on the link.  🙂 “Winter […]

Read More →

The Weekly Bleat: Warm Woolly Sheep

  Quiet, cold, and crystal clear.  This is the Green Hill Farm I woke up to on Sunday morning–the first snowfall of the season.  And, there’s nothing like the serene beauty of the country when it’s blanketed with snow.  All of the hustle and bustle and noise just seem to stop.  I breathed in the peaceful views while realizing that the busyness of the day was only about to begin. The farm looked shimmering and magical, but it also looked shivery and cold. But, anyone who farms knows that’s no excuse.  Especially, when sheep, chickens, cats, and dogs are all waiting on you to take care of them.  So, after applying layers of clothing and looking something akin to the little brother from the film, A Christmas Story, Farmguy and I headed outdoors to embrace what we love. The sense of meaningfulness and purpose that caring for our animals and farm gives us.   Since we’re enjoying such a wintry scene this week, I thought a hot toddy recipe may be in order. Fittingly, this cocktail is called a Warm Woolly Sheep.  Farmguy and I discovered it while on vacation in Edinburgh, Scotland a number of years ago.  It’s best enjoyed by a fire on a cold day. I hope you enjoy the snowy farm pictures as well as this wonderful drink. 🙂   Warm Woolly Sheep (Hot Toddy) This cocktail is not too sweet, thanks to the blend of scotch and […]

Read More →

Winter Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

When I first saw the recipe for this colorful winter salad in the cookbook, Southern My Way–Simple Recipes, Fresh Flavors by Gena Knox, I knew I had to make it.  Mainly, because it looked so healthy, but also, because it contained many of my favorite foods and spices—avocados, citrus fruit, basil, and ginger. Plus, it’s nice to enjoy food fare that’s a little lighter, especially after all of the indulgences around the holidays.  This refreshing salad makes a nice starter to a winter meal. And, if you add shrimp or crab, it becomes a light but satisfying lunch (or dinner).   Winter Grapefruit and Avocado Salad *Use organic ingredients when possible Prep Time 10 minutes Serves 4 Ingredients: Salad 2 pink grapefruits or oranges (or one of each) 2 ripe but firm avocados 1/3 cup torn basil leaves 1 head buttercrunch or bibb lettuce, torn into large pieces Dressing (I have to say, this cookbook has the BEST dressings.) 2 tablespoons minced shallots 1 teaspoon soy sauce 1 teaspoon honey 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil Method: First  Peel and segment the grapefruits/ oranges, reserving 4 tablespoons juice. Next  To prepare dressing, whisk together reserved grapefruit/orange juice, shallots, soy, honey, sesame oil, ginger, and olive oil.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper; set aside. Last  Quarter avocados lengthwise and remove pit and peel.  Cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices and place […]

Read More →

Tuesday Tunes: Here Comes Santa Claus…

Farmgirl with Santa–Circa 1975   The calendar just rolled over to December, and I can now officially start listening to Christmas music. Growing up, it wasn’t Christmastime at my house until a certain LP or 33 1/3 rpm vinyl record hit the turntable:  “The Elvis Presley Christmas Album.”  The lovely sounds of Elvis crooning festive tunes, both rock and gospel, was an integral part of my holiday experience, and thank goodness, I was able to find it on CD a number of years ago.  All I can say, is this music completely takes me back–way back. I remember listening to these songs year after year at Christmastime:  while wrapping presents when I was a little child, dancing around the kitchen while making cookies with elementary school friends, decorating the basement for a slumber party as a teenager, having a cup of hot chocolate after marching with the band (Drill/Dance Team) in an evening parade, opening presents on Christmas morning, driving home for winter break while in college, decorating the first Christmas tree in my own home, and now, sitting by a cozy fire with a glass of wine. I absolutely love these songs and memories. And, I have to say, EVERY song on this album is either fun, beautiful, or moving. If you’re not familiar with the “Elvis Presley Christmas Album,” it’s on YouTube.  In my opinion, it’s a true treasure.  I can’t imagine the season without it. Here’s wishing you […]

Read More →

Heirloom Recipe: Tomato Soup

When we hear someone speak of a family heirloom, we may envision a pocket watch, silver teapot or even a quilt.  Recipes are also treasured pieces of family history passed down from generation to generation.  This tomato soup recipe originally belonged to my great-grandmother, Delia Crumpaker Rieley and dates back to the 1800s.  I remember watching Grandma Rieley making it during the winter months with juice from tomatoes canned the previous summer.  Last week, with temperatures dropping, I decided to make my family’s heirloom recipe for tomato soup; I made it in my great-grandmother’s kitchen with homemade juice from tomatoes grown on our 106-year-old family farm.  I loved being part of that continuity.  In taking time to carry on simple traditions, not only do we connect with the past, but we perpetuate memories that we hold dear. My great-grandmother most likely made this tomato soup with fresh milk from Green Hill Dairy Farm and the summer’s bounty of tomatoes picked from my great-grandfather’s vegetable garden. It is very simple, only requiring 3 ingredients; however, don’t let its simplicity fool you.  It’s delicious!  Just the thing on a cold evening–it really hits the spot!  Serve casually in a mug or in a bowl garnished with a little basil for color (my addition).  Oh, and don’t forget oyster crackers–the perfect accompaniment.  Enjoy! Heirloom Recipe:  Tomato Soup *Use organic ingredients when possible Serves 4 Ingredients: 1 quart tomato juice (homemade is best) 1 […]

Read More →