Muffin the Cat Before and After

Muffin the Cat has been with us for almost two years.  He’s turned from a mostly feral cat into a pet.   Here was a picture of him from the early days when he would allow us to pet him but never pick him up or touch his back.   It was from an old post on this blog.

Here’s our little cat today.  He loves being petted, sleeps inside at night and adores being loved on and carried.    His fur is very short because he was recently shaved to remove the matted fur.

He still hates my other cats.  Oh well.  Aren’t we all a work in progress?




Spring in Mendota 2017

Following the flood two weeks ago, it turned cool.  Then, it turned even cooler as we entered what is called “Blackberry Winter”.   It’s called Blackberry Winter because it always turns cool when the blackberries are blooming.  Here are a few in bloom behind my house.

Mike wanted to go to California to see his mother.  We talked about the best date since we’re approaching the kayaking season.  I told him that he could count on Southwest Virginia being too cold to kayak on or around the first weekend in May.   It worked out well.  We had a frost last night while he was out there.

But today, he is returning and spring has returned.   It’s a low humidity day where the sky is clear and blue and everything is green.  Well, not everything.  My flowers are blooming.  These snapdragons can handle a little cold, so they fared well in last night’s frost.

These perennials are always here welcoming the spring.   The blue is some type of phlox and the yellow is coreopsis.

If I had an English home, I’d have an English garden.  I’m lucky because I have a country home and a country garden which welcomes everything — even a few weeds.   I covered many of the flowers last night.  I’m not adding any mulch to this bed as in a few weeks, it’ll be tight with flowers and color.   Hopefully, they will drown out the weeds!  That is my plan anyway.

I weeded the raised beds yesterday.   Here’s some garlic that looks like corn!

Gotta have a few onions.

I’ll plant tomatoes this week.   One thing that was noticeably absent in this garden was the abundance of bees.  I sold my bees.   This is temporary.  I’m going to try a new type of hive next year — especially if I don’t start seeing some bees here.   One thing that is still in abundance is our furry friends.  This is my neighbor’s doggy, Belulah.   She is supposed to be a sheep dog, but she could care less about sheep.  What she really is interested in is kayaks.   She works with us all summer as an unpaid welcome committee/member of the launch team.

And here’s her sidekick, Poopsie.  Poopsie is required to stay home more so he does not work with us often.

And what does my sweet boy, River, think about all this?

Back to work!!


Mendota Flooding Part I

We have had two full days of rain following an already rainy week here in Mendota, Virginia.   The North Fork of the Holston has “just had it” and is getting ready to flood.   I called this Mendota Flooding Part I because no doubt when I wake up tomorrow morning, the river will be in the roads.

Here’s some pictures.   Standing on Civil Drive looking at the Mendota Bridge.

And here’s another look…

Civil Drive was flooded, but this actually happens frequently.  No biggie here.

Standing on the bridge looking forward to the community of Mendota.   Clinch Mountain is covered in fog.

And then there’s this…looking back toward Civil Drive.

Driving down Mendota Road where creeks are going crazy…this is at Katie and Oscar Harris’ house.

Water running off of Clinch Mountain…too much for the culvert to handle.

These swinging bridges are vulnerable if the water keeps rising, which it’s suppose to do.

River bank…

Adventure Mendota’s dock.   It may hold…it may not.  We just do the best we can.

I’ll take more tomorrow!!


Progress Report – 2017 Mendota Cemetery Quilt

Each Friday, provided someone doesn’t get sick, the machines start whirring and the iron starts heating as work continues on the 2017 Mendota Cemetery Quilt.      A few weeks ago, I posted and showed you the center of the quilt.  The colors are intense and vibrant, even though this picture doesn’t look that way.   I love these intense colors.  Can you tell who picked out the pieces?

Color and shading of the fabric are important components of quilting.  It is a combination of good fabric, math, artistry and sewing skills.  And ironing!  I included ironing because I am the “ironing person” next Friday.  I have not sewn a stitch.  I never do, but I suppose that will change at some point.  Right now, Patsy Carrier and I do the majority of the ticket selling so we get a pass.

The pieces below are softer in color than the ones that are pictured above.  They are the new “row” beyond the center section of the quilt.  The next section will even be more muted.   We haven’t got that one done yet.

I reached out to the Graphic Arts group at the Scott County Vocational School to ask if they will print our tickets.  For nonprofits, they will sometime help us out and it saves almost $50-$75.

Someone asked last week why the quilt is called the “Cemetery Quilt.”   They thought –“is it for a funeral?”    The answer is no.  It is to continued the time-honored Southern tradition of a cemetery being maintained and present for families during their time of need.   In lieu of charging for the burial, we ask that these families make donations in the future so that others can also benefit.   The reality is that many bury their family members, and we don’t hear from them again to aid monetarily or to help clean up occasionally.    Their disappearance  leaves a burden on the remaining folks who do honor their responsibility.

If you are reading this and you have family or friends buried at the Mendota Cemetery, please make a donation or buy a number of these tickets.   If you wish to participate in a clean-up day, message me and I”ll get the word to the right person.

We all have a responsibility to do what we can.


Home Chef

For the past two years, I have often seen advertisements from Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and so forth for food that is fresh, proportioned and ready to cook.    My friend, Monica, posted pictures on Facebook from Home Chef, and I messaged back and forth with her about it.   I decided to give it a try.

The meals are $9.95 per person which sounds expensive unless you are cooking for two people.    My first week was for five meals and I received $30 off for being a new customer.    Five meals is a bit much.    Live and learn.   The food arrived by Fedex on Wednesday.

The whole purpose of this experiment is (1) make me cook because I hate cooking; and (2) attempt to   eat a bit healthier.

My first dish was the chicken and dumplings which doesn’t really fall into the healthy category.   It was very rainy on Wednesday and it was my first try.    I didn’t care for it and barely touched mine.  I put the leftovers in the frig and Mike said it was so very good the NEXT day.  It was a bit runny on day one — so much so that I ended up putting it in a bowl.

Today I fixed salmon.   It’s one of the only seafoods that I like, and it is heart healthy.    It was Teriyaki Ginger-Glazed Salmon with stir-fried bok choy and carrots.   It turned out pretty well.    I didn’t “plate” if very well, however, and I didn’t attempt to take a good picture.  I hope this does not look like throw up.

I did not sear my salmon properly and it fell apart.   However, in spite of the fact that the presentation stunk, it was good.  Very good.  

In making this dish, all of the ingredients were included except salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Here’s the bok choy.

Confession — I am so unsophisticated that I didn’t know what bok choy was.  Only by process of elimination on the ingredients did I figure it out.  There were also mini containers and plastic bags of ginger, green onions, Fresno chili pepper and garlic.   Here’s what all of the greens and spices looked like together.

Looks kind of pretty, and Mike came in and said “I love watching you cook!”   Honestly, I’d rather clean house than cook.   I love living in Mendota, but I do miss Take Out Taxi, pizza delivery, Chinese food delivery, etc.    Take Out Taxi was the best, because you could have food delivered from any restaurant.   We still eat out a lot even though we live 17 miles from a restaurant (if you don’t count the Rally Mart gas station which is about 11 miles).

I love the cute little containers that Home Chef uses.  Here’s fresh peas in what looks like a 3 oz plastic container that resembles something you’d get at the pharmacy.

I have three more meals to prepare this week.    What was I thinking!!!    Tomorrow it is some type of pork chop dish.   I skipped next week’s order because...because I wanted to!!    Actually, I wanted to try more of the ones I have here before I purchased additional meals.   If I find several dishes that we like that are healthy, I’m going to continue using Home Chef but I believe I’ll drop it down to twice weekly.

Another good thing about this service is that you learn to cook with ingredients you might not otherwise use.   We eat salmon quite often, but for me to eat it and like it, Mike has to grill it.  This is the first time I’ve fixed it indoors and been able to eat it.




Mendota Cemetery Quilt Week Three

Well, I had taken my blog down and decided not to renew the hosting.  My plans were (and still are) to update the blog so it reflects me today — not me five years ago.    However, I logged on and found  emails from people wanting to know about Mendota, wanting to know this or that, and I decided to call Blue Host back and renew the hosting.   I got a good deal at $3.99 per month!!  Yay me!  It had been $15 per month.

In Mendota, Virginia we have a sweet tradition of allowing residents of our small community to receive burial at our Mendota Cemetery at no charge.  We have never turned a family who lives here away in a time of need.  However, maintaining a cemetery with several hundred graves is not easy or cheap.  We rely on donations and fundraising.  Traditionally, we raffle a quilt which is called “the Mendota Cemetery Quilt”.   The quilters will give it another, more official name as it comes together.

This year’s quilt features an old-fashioned print, and family and friends are working on it.   I have a sewing machine but I’ve never sewn the quilt pieces and I do not think I would be up to the high standards of this group.   If “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” our Mendota quilters are angels.


Quilting is very math oriented.  You have to have a sense not only of color but a clear understanding of light, dark and medium prints and how they work together.   When the quilt pieces were being sorted and laid out, the words “give me that yellowy piece over there” or “is this one a pinky or a greeny?”    Ultimately, they sorted out the dark, vibrant shades as the middle of the quilt and then a border pink and blue and then red and yellow.

Precision.   Chris insists on precision.  It makes for perfect points.   Chris is the kindest, sweetest and most gracious lady, but she’s very particular about her quilts.   If I won the lottery, I’d built Chris a quilt shop right in Mendota.

So here’s the center of our beautiful Mendota Cemetery Quilt.

Next week, the quilt moves from Dottie’s to the Mendota Branch Public Library where the borders will be assembled and pinned.  Then, back to Dottie’s for more sewing.



Where Are We and What Are We Doing?

Hi there!

I logged onto RiverCliff Cottage’s admin site and realized I had messages from readers from quite a while back.  Sorry!  I haven’t been on here lately.  I am going to redo this blog with a new theme, but I want to do it completely by myself and I need to take a couple of classes.   It’s part of the plan for 2017 but it won’t be until fall.

So what have we been doing down here in rural Appalachia?   Life is more busy, if not exciting, than one would imagine.

A friend and I are  planning a Farm Girl/Shabby Chic baby shower in April, and it’s going to be so fun.   I have the theme all in my head.   I know my friend will make sure the food is top notch (I’m not a cook).   I’m hoping that my responsibilities will be decor, invitations and hosting plus paying a portion on the food.   I was thinking about pastel colors and natural elements that reflect Mendota and  decided to try painting a Mason jar in a pastel this morning.  It turned out pretty good.  I wouldn’t use red flowers but they are pretty today.

I’m thinking that several of these in pastel colors with ribbon and baby’s breath and greenery will look pretty at the shower.

We are also planning the Mendota Cemetery Quilt.   I am going to chronicle it.  So excited.  I actually may get to work on this one a tiny bit.  I’ll definitely be selling tickets.   Patsy Carrier and I sell most of the tickets.  Here’s the fabric, which I I donated the fabric because I loved it so.

We’re working on a bingo to accompany the town hall meeting.  We need the funds to heat the Mendota Community Center.  The current focus is getting prizes for the bingo.   On the hunt for restaurant gift cards next week.  Please come and get involved if you are local.   I made this flyer in an app called Canva.

And concurrent with that, still looking at tees for Adventure Mendota.   We are working to get the price down and more colors.

Still working with my friend, Sue Cressel, at About Face and honored that we are still friends after all these years.   I’m actually doing the About Face prescriptive weight loss plan.  Day 3.    Our website is up but I continue to work on it all the time.   It’s .  Check us out and if you find a boo boo, message me!!  Here’s one of our Juvederm Volbella pictures.

Very excited to be speaking to a group of outdoor recreation students next month and helping them with their interview skills.  Adventure Mendota has opened so many doors for Mike and me to do things like this, and we really enjoy it.   If it were not for Mike, I’d do everything the night before.   As it is, I’ve already sent my information over and it’s not until February!!!

A loss in my life  has been the decision not to keep our honeybees.  Gerald says we may be able to keep one hive just for pollination, not for honey.  If we sell them all, I will miss seeing these bees terribly.   I have the fewest stings of any of us.  I think they know I love them.   If one is inside or in a perilous place, I will work to catch it and remove it.     You have to be physically strong to work with hives full of honey.  I’m not that strong,  Gerald pulled his shoulder and I absolutely cannot lift them.    My friend Helene is taking a turn at having her apiary so we may see her bees down this way.

I want to love my sisters better.   I am so lucky to have Nancy and Pat in my life. I just realized I do not have a picture of the three of us.   Ouch!!

I’m approaching  mid-January with a grateful heart.   It’s not a perfect life but it’s a good one.    I’m a little concerned about obtaining health insurance now that the Affordable Care Act is being repealed.  I don’t mind paying for it, but I want to make sure I can get it.   I probably should work at least part time so I’d have more money; however,  Mike and I are happy sharing this winter down time that we have, so I haven’t done anything about it.  Our family is not perfect.  We let each other down but we lift each other up.    We have way too many conflicts over our small business (Adventure Mendota), but I’ve gotten tougher than I’d ever dreamed but I know the good we do.    I used to say “haters are like maters and I eat them.”  That is not the case.   I just try and not think about what  I have no control over.   Why not put energies into people and things that are meaningful and give back?   Smile and the world smiles with you. Cry and you’ll cry all alone.  (Mother).  Is your glass half full or half  empty?

That is my road.  What is yours?

Thank you for those who still log onto RiverCliff Cottage after all these years.  I’m off.  There is a house to be cleaned!!



Hidden Valley Lake

About ten miles away from our house is a sign that says Hidden Valley Lake.   For me to get to Hidden Valley Lake, I drive up State Route 802, Mendota Road, turn left on Highway 19 and very soon I’ll see the sign on the right.   Mike and I decided to go exploring today.    We opted to go to Hidden Valley.

It was a perfect day.  Not one other person was anywhere to be seen on the 61 acre lake.   The picture below was taken at the boat ramp.

Here’s another view of the lake…it’s been below freezing for the past few days, and the ice is starting to form on the lake.

I was looking for eagles.  We’ve been seeing eagles frequently in Mendota this month, and I thought there might be some fishing on Hidden Valley Lake as well.    Yikes…there must be bears here based on the type of trash receptacles that are in place.

Mountain Laurel.  Can you imagine how pretty this is in the spring?

Pristine wetlands..

I do not know what this thing is…

And we went for a short walk on this trail.

We are so fortunate to have Hidden Valley Lake in Washington County.


Christmas Around the House

I asked folks on Facebook how many trees they put up.  I was wondering if they were like me…I used to want a tree in almost every room.    It appears that the younger your family is, the more trees you want.  This year, I was considering NOT putting up anything other than a small tree in the corner of my dining room.    I know…Grinch like!  Mike intervened and we have a normal size tree in our den, and I do admit that we’re both enjoying it.  I hate it when he’s right.

When I grew up there was neither money or any conceived idea of having anything other than a small cedar tree cut on the “nob”  behind the house  and a very limited amount of decorations.    I still love the smell of a cedar Christmas tree, but they dry very fast and can be a fire hazard.    However, this set the stage of my love of using fresh greenery vs. artificial.

The living room does not have the tree, but I “shopped” neighbors for boxwood and magnolias.   It’s amazing how a little sprig of either one of those can put things in the Christmas spirit.


These magnolias above came from my niece, Sherri Gardner.   The green leaves and the red bows are just so pretty.    The tree that stands in her yard has been there for generations.

One thing I like about Christmas is visiting “things” that I’ve had in years past.  Last year, I asked Pennie Jarrett to make me this sign (below).  Penny is a soldier’s wife and has two little girls.  Last year, before she hurt her back, she worked into the wee hours of the night on projects like this.     Her husband was on a deployment so she said she couldn’t sleep, and this was a way to cope.


I stuck some magnolia leaves and a red ribbon on this vase that is always on our mantle.  It’s got little white LED lights on it that I flip on at night.   Mike says he can always tell when I’ve been in the living room because he hears badly sung Christmas carols.


This little thing is on the other side of the mantle.   I stuck a red bow on it to make it festive.


Here’s the whole mantle.   I love the messy wreaths that you get when you tuck fresh boxwood into a grapevine wreath.

A few years ago I preserved the boxwood (here’s the post)  and used it for a couple of seasons.   Here’s an old picture of the preserved boxwood from that time.    I love  burlap on the table at Christmas.


I don’t preserve the boxwood now because the fresh boxwood will look good right up until spring if you want to leave it up that long.  I still hear from people asking questions about how to preserve boxwood.

The other thing I like to do for Christmas is put out a lot of throws with Christmas or winter themed throw pillows on them.   This one is also in the living room by the mantle.     I will leave both the pillow and the throw out until March because they are more winter than Christmas.   I need bright things in the dreary days of January and February.


Here’s another chair in the living room that’s says Merry Christmas!


On the coffee table, I swapped out fall leaves that were there a few weeks ago (below)


…To red berries for Christmas and winter in the picture below.


Look behind the couch.  I ran out of boxwood branches.   This couch is one of my favorite things.  It’s wearing so much that even Mike suggested we get it recovered.   I don’t want a new one, so recovering is the only option.   (This is truly a sign of old age.)  It’s the most comfortable couch I’ve ever had.  If I can’t sleep, I go to that couch and fall asleep.


Do you think this is enough to make Mike happy and not suspect he’s married to the Grinch?   Merry Christmas from me and my living room!




Refreshed Bathroom

After we closed our small river outfitter business for the season, it was time to work on our house.  We’d postponed this twice.   While we had painted the walls for most of the rooms, we had not painted the trim and the doors since 1999.  Seventeen years.   Likewise, while we’d reapplied a finish to our hardwood in the past, we’d had water and pet damage and only a complete floor refinish including sanding and restaining would return them looking good.   I took the time to go through every drawer, every closet, and every cabinet and sort and determine what to keep, what to throw away, and what to give away.  Many trips to Goodwill, consignment stores and to the waste disposal station occurred.

Mike was resistant to this whole thing until we got going and then he realized just how bad some of the areas of our house looked.   I’d used the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers so frequently on some parts of the trim that the paint had worn away.   Literally, we cleaned everything including the underside of the furniture.


While the expense of having the floors refinished (~$1900) and the painting done (~about $2700 excluding paint) prevented us from doing any additional major work, I did take the opportunity to repurpose or rearrange things so that the rooms felt fresh.    Here’s our “before” of the master bathroom.  It’s brown.  Oh my gosh.    I was working out of town when this occurred.  While I’d said okay to the color, I wasn’t in love with it but didn’t have time to give it a lot of thought.   I had planned to bring a lot of blue towels in or something to make it more the look I wanted.   Nothing really worked in this bathroom.


We painted it a soft, pretty blue and added a few touches to make it feel more unique.


I love the towel bar Mike made for me out of wormy chestnut and old doorknobs.   Two of the doorknobs were the same and one was an odd one.   I’d thought about painting the wood, but I like the contrast between the soft blue, the dressy glass doorknobs, and the wormy chestnut wood that came from a Mendota barn.


So pretty.


He’d taken an old picture frame with hooks for a few pieces of jewelry (all cheap lol)  that he made some time ago and painted it white.  I like it so much better.


Here it is again.


I really like this blue so much better.


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