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Posted by on Mar 15, 2017 | 1 comment

Cabin Camping in Shenandoah

Cabin Camping in Shenandoah

This past weekend, my family took a trip to a primitive cabin outside Shenandoah National Park, one of many cabins owned and operated by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC). Despite really cold temperatures, we had a great time and enjoyed slow-cooked meals, games played by candlelight and peace and quiet away from cell phones, Internet and other modern distractions. We left Alexandria on Friday afternoon and hiked 1/2 mile up a steep trail to Morris Cabin. My kids had never been cabin camping (or camping at all for that matter) so I was a little nervous how they would handle it. Fortunately, as soon as they saw the cabin from the trail, they were instantly in awe and couldn’t wait to get inside. The cabin, built in 1927 by Wayman Morris, has four rooms: a kitchen/dining room, living room, separate bedroom and a sleeping loft. It’s primitive, meaning it has no electricity or running water, but it has everything you really need. Since it was so cold, we...

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Posted by on Feb 18, 2016 | 0 comments

Making an Immune-Boosting Fire Cider Tonic

Making an Immune-Boosting Fire Cider Tonic

To ward off colds and flu during these remaining weeks of winter, I made an immune-boosting tonic with some friends called fire cider. Together, we concocted a terrifically spicy blend known for its healing powers using a mixture of spices, vegetables, and fruits that we bought at our local market. We used fresh horseradish root, turmeric root, ginger root, onion, jalapeno and habanero peppers, oranges, garlic, rosemary, and honey. Although the recipes for the traditional folk recipe vary somewhat, they all say to steep everything in apple cider vinegar. We gathered the ingredients, and then peeled, grated and spent the next hour chopping and dicing everything… This extremely pungent horseradish root packs a mean sinus-clearing punch. And look how bright and orange fresh turmeric is when bought as a root. We put everything into a big pitcher. Eventually, the mixture is strained, so it’s okay to have big chunks floating around in it. We transferred the mixture into jars and then covered them with saran wrap before putting the...

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Posted by on Feb 8, 2016 | 0 comments

The Art of Building a Great Fire in Your Fireplace

The Art of Building a Great Fire in Your Fireplace

My father-in-law Serge takes great pride in his technique for building a fire and rightly so. He taught me a thing or two on how to get a beautiful fire going quickly and evenly, without a lot of excess smoke. I learned too that there are several techniques for making a fire. This post features just one of them – a method that Serge has perfected over the years. Before he came over the other night, I swept out the ashes from the last few fires we made and made sure the flue was open. Serge says you need to remove ashes when they get about 3 inches deep. I also gathered some newspaper and brought in some kindling from our front porch. My contribution to the effort was to make some fire starters using lint from the dryer, toilet paper rolls, and a birthday candle. You stuff the lint inside the toilet paper roll and place a candle in the middle. When you light the roll, the candle...

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Posted by on Dec 17, 2015 | 0 comments

World Peace Paper Mâché Ornaments

World Peace Paper Mâché Ornaments

I love making holiday ornaments by hand and this year was no exception. My daughter Nadja’s Montessori school had the opportunity to decorate one of the Del Ray Christmas trees, so we chose to make paper mâché ornaments in the theme of world peace. To make enough for an entire tree took days, but you could easily make one or a few in a couple of hours. To make the ornaments, we blew up a balloon to the size we wanted, tied it off, and then used Mod Podge to layer strips of newspaper all over the balloon. We made a mix of small and large ornaments. When the balloon was completely covered with newspaper and a generous coating of Mod Podge, we set it in a small pot to dry in front of a portable heater. (If you do this, be careful not to put the balloon too close to the heat or the balloon will expand and bulge through the newspaper.) After this first layer dried, we started...

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Posted by on Jan 9, 2015 | 5 comments

Upcycling Calendars into Notecards

Upcycling Calendars into Notecards

A friend recently posted a picture on Facebook showing how she turned an old calendar into cards. I loved the idea and had to try this myself. Fortunately, I had just the thing to use, old calendars made by my mom. My mom makes everyone in our family a calendar each year using her own art — she scans the artwork, uses an online calendar template and orders printed copies for everyone and then some. I’ve kept the old calendars from previous years, not sure what I would ever do with them until now. For this project, I bought a set of 50 cards and envelopes on brown recycled paper for about $8 and picked out the most colorful calendar pages to decorate the card stock. I cut each page into four rectangles, approximately 3 1/2 by 5 inches using a rotary cutter, and then glued them onto the cards. My son Jack helped as well. In less than 30 minutes we had a collection of about 14 cards,...

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