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 www.tryaboutface.com .  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.


Clinch Mountain Fire – Mendota

A few weeks ago, we had the unsettling news that there was a fire on Clinch Mountain.  It was on the “Mendota” side of the mountain, and before it was out 10 acres had burned.   “Thank goodness that is over,” we all thought.   Later in the week on another part of the mountain, another fire was discovered and close to 900 acres were burned before the fire died.

On Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving, another fire was discovered on Clinch Mountain–not far from where the first one occurred.   This looks like a beautiful, foggy morning, but it is misleading.  It’s smoke.   (Picture taken by Amy Larson)


Primarily, the fire is moving along the forest floor, and in many cases, the leaves on the tops of the tree are not even affected, and it’s difficult to see where it has burned if you are looking at the trees from a distance.   However, it is burning, and some of the dead trees are on fire as well as the underbrush.  They take longer to burn.  The picture below was taken by Randy Powers.


If you are a mountain person… you understand how difficult this is.   It’s not just safety that comes to mind,  it’s the violation of the mountain we love.    This pictures below were taken by Amy Larson and  Saul Hernandez, the Tyler District County Supervisor, who has been watching this closely.


Pinnacle Road, which I still call “the Mountain Road” as it was known for generations, acts as a fire line, keeping the fire from crossing further if the wind is not blowing hard.


The fire moves along at a steady clip…burning the very, very dry leaves and brush on the mountain floor.    Acres and acres…close to 1,000 by now have burned.  Some say fires leave the mountain healthier, but this is not good.  The mountain was full of acorns which sustain deer and other wildlife.  They are burning.


At night, we can see the “big picture.”  It is terrifying.   Brandon Moore took the picture below.  I did not sleep at all the night this picture was taken.  We had Mike’s son and daughters in town and our plan to was to go to IHOP on Thanksgiving morning and eat before they drove back to Northern Virginia.  I did not sleep until it was day light and I could look out and see the mountain.  We opted out of IHop and I slept most of the morning.


Mendota is in Poor Valley…at the base of Clinch Mountain on the Washington County side.  Homes are tucked in close to the woods.   We all love living near the mountain.  I feel unsafe without Clinch Mountain at my back.    However, when this looms nearby as in Pam Powers’ picture on Thanksgiving evening.   it’s unnerving.


Goodson Kinderhook Volunteer Fire & Rescue has been working for three weeks on the fires.  Here’s four of our guys.   Saul Hernandez took this picture.


The air quality has been affected all around us.   Randy Powers took this picture from Cracker Barrel at Exit 7 in Bristol.


Here’s a picture taken this afternoon by Amy Larson, and our latest official update from Saul Hernandez.


As many of you already know the fire jumped the line that had been cut by Virginia Dept Forestry on the west side going towards Gate City. A new fire line has been cut and Goodson is on stand by ready to protect structures. They have also started a back burn to head off the fire going down hill. The fire has also jumped fire line on North side last night and burning into Russel County. This fire will easily burn over 1000 acres maybe more by time it is said and done. Just spoke with Chief Venable and as you can imagine the guys Goodson Kinderhook Volunteer Fire Department are pretty tired. I would imagine so is Brumley Gap Vol. Fire Department and Forest Service. Please continue to pray for their safety and for some rain.

Please join me and others in Mendota in doing exactly what Saul has suggested.   We love this beautiful mountain.  The photo below was taken by Angela Fleenor who is a friend of my friend, Joann Vicars.


Thank you.



Getting Ready For Thanksgiving

Mike and I have spent a month outside of our house.  We had our floors refinished and the house repainted.   It’s so nice.   I love watching home decorating shows, and I’ve admired the neutrals I see.   However, I’m just not a neutral person.    I like color, and I’m old enough at this point to follow what I like.

Our dining room is a terra cotta color.  It’s not red, but it’s clay colored.  Like Virginia clay.   We painted it a few years ago, so during the painting this year, it was only the trim that received new paint.   Everything in this room has a story.    Mike made this table that we use in our dining room.


We drink from Mason jars.    The plate is an old plate I bought a long time ago.    I have several pieces of mismatched china and I used a few of the plates when I sat the table.


Place mats are burlap.   I used two tablecloths so that the table would have some color.


When we did the painting and refinishing this past month, we put up a new light over the dining room table.  It’s very, very simple.  I wanted something I could put greenery in and this one will work well in that way.    The other one had apples on it and, believe it or not, I loved it but I was tired of it.  I wrapped it up and hid it in the attic.  I will use it again.  Look at the picture below.  We recovered the seats of the chairs using different fabric.    Nothing matches in this room.   I love the messy look!!!


The rug is one I haven’t used since I lived in Cary, NC.   I still like it and drug it out of the attic.   I made a little sign that says “Grateful” but it’s not up in the picture below…it is sitting on the floor.


We are having Thanksgiving on Wednesday evening since on Thursday, Aaron has to get his girls back to their mother for some time with her.   This was perfect because Neth, Will and Sandy can join us.   I am not going to cook at all.  I bought the turkey at the Bonefire Grill in Abingdon, and then I’ve bought prepared side dishes except for a few things.  I want to have fun and go the movies tomorrow instead of slaving in the kitchen.


I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.   We have so very, very much to be grateful for.




Lucky Me!

I am so lucky to have my two sisters, Pat and Nancy.   They both are deeper thinkers than I am.   When I went to Meredith College as an adult, I had to read many of the “great works.”    I toiled through them, but what was so surprising is that Pat had read them all.  For pleasure.  I cannot image. 

Pat also had a special relationship with our grandmother, and last week she wrote something on Facebook that I want to keep and read.  And read again.

Here’s the object that served as her “muse.”


And here’s what she wrote:

I was walking through Food City today and smelled a wonderful aroma. I tracked down the source and suddenly I was yanked off my feet and I flew through time and space and was 5 years old again and standing in my Mamaw’s side yard. It was late summer and the grass was crisp under my bare feet. The sun was hot on my shoulders. I could hear the far off voices of my parents cutting tobacco in the field. I could really hear my Mamaw saying, “Don’t you eat any more of those grapes!” I could see her in my mind. She wore a printed cotton house dress and an apron. I knew what she smelled like, too. She smelled like the blossoms from her Sweet Bubby bush because she always carried those blossoms in her apron pockets. Finding these grapes has given me a happy afternoon. I don’t think I’ll eat them for a while. I want to close my eyes and smell that aroma again and be 5 years old and see my Mamaw a few more times.

Is that not the sweetest story?



Boating on South Holston

In the early spring,  I asked my brother-in-law, Gerald, if he’d take me out in his boat.   Since I had about 60 other “little boats” (kayaks) to think about shortly thereafter, we didn’t  go until this week.   We picked what we thought would be a perfect day.  It was going to be 70 degrees and sunny.    It did turn out that way, but we left at 10:00 am  and for some reason, the fog hung over later than usual so most of our time was not in the sunshine.   Instead it was a gray, silvery morning on the lake.    Very pretty.   We’re getting ready to launch in the picture below.


I was the helper who got to hold the boat.  Gerald backed it down and then went to park the truck.   My job was to stand on that slim little ramp with a cord both keeping the boat from floating off and keeping it from hitting the ramp which had some rough metal sticking out that would scratch it.   I did not tell him but I wasn’t paying attention and almost fell off the ramp.  What if I had fell in the water and let the boat loose?   I would have had to make up a story that a bear got on the ramp and pushed me in.


I’ll be super careful next time!

Everything went well, and off we went.   We both had sweatshirts on so during the cooler morning.  The water was so pretty.  It was warm at 75 degrees.   It takes a while for this much water to cool off, and just last week, our temperatures were in the 90’s.


Here’s the Captain.  I suppose I was the first mate.  I was Gilligan.


Just like on Gilligan’s Island, here’s a deserted island.  I’m glad we didn’t capsize because there appears to be no Professor, Maryanne, Ginger or Mr. and Mrs. Faust.   There was no tv crew.   The only picture of me was my feet.


Look how pretty the water is.


We had a Garmin which showed us where fish were, allowed us to follow the same path back and displayed the depth of the lake.   The deepest place I saw on the Garmin was 214 feet.   This is very important as the water is low as we approach winter and if you’re not careful, you could end up in a shallow area and tear your boat up.

This is the famous 421 Bridge.  It is so pretty and , back in the day, I know people who have jumped from that bridge.  Me?  I jumped from the Nordyke Bridge in Mendota.  It was so shallow I had to wear tennis shoes because I knew I’d hit the bottom.   The people who jumped from this bridge didn’t have to worry about hitting the bottom.

In the picture below, this is a pump station where Bristol gets drinking water.


So…about 2/3 of the way into the trip, the sun finally showed up.


Look at the Holston Mountain in the background.   It was hiding in the fog just minutes before I took this picture.


There is lots to do in our area.   We have lakes and rivers and mountains.   Feeling lucky.

Pretty homes.


It was over too soon.  The sun was really nice as we left.   Getting a boat out of the water is interesting.  If the propellers aren’t running, you can’t steer a boat, so you actually have to drive it up the boat trailer and hope you center it.  Gerald did a good job.  We then made sure everything was hooked up and tied down and took off.


A very fun day!  I did learn, however, that when you are hauling a boat, you better not need to go through a drive through and eat.  No one accommodates boats!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...