Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Baking

Happy Holidays, everyone! The past weekend my family set up a "cookie factory" in our kitchen and produced lots of goodies which we carted around the neighborhood in my kids' wagon. Since I bake a lot, we made sure that the lodge has plenty of baking sheets, pans, etc... and I wanted to share one of our favorite recipes with you -- it tastes great, is easy to make, and works well my little "helpers." You can't get much better than that!

Chocolate Crumb Bars (a wonderful, easy recipe from Nestle)

1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels, divided
1 can (14 oz.) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional (I often use pecans instead of walnuts, depending on what I had on hand)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Beat butter in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in flour, sugar and salt until crumbly.

Press 2 cups crumb mixture onto bottom of prepared baking pan; reserve remaining mixture. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Combine 1 cup morsels and sweetened condensed milk in a small, heavy-duty saucepan. Warm over low heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Spread over hot crust.

Stir nuts and remaining morsels into reserved crumb mixture; sprinkle over chocolate filling. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Ski Slopes Are Open!

The recent cold weather has a benefit -- Bryce Resort opened its ski slopes today!

Happy skiing and snow-tubing, everyone!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Busy Saturday with Something for Everyone

We enjoyed a whirlwind tour of our favorite attractions on Saturday.

We began with a "Introduction to Fly Fishing" class for my husband at Murray's Fly Shop in Edinburg. Now that the cabin is finished, he needs a new hobby! Luckily, Harry Murray is the best person to go to for fly fishing and we are blessed to have him nearby and eager to assist newbies! Jeff had a great time and is eager to sign up for future classes.

While Jeff enjoyed his introduction to fishing, the boys and I had fun at Edinburg's playground. If it was raining, we'd planned to go to the town's very nice library, but the sun was shining, so we spent a couple of hours swinging, sliding, and climbing.

After we picked Jeff up, we went to one of our favorite spots for lunch, Woodstock Cafe & Shoppes. The food is great & they love kids....what's not to love?!

We then headed to the cabin to take a walk by the lake and work off some of the wonderful pumpkin swirl cheesecake that we'd enjoyed at lunch. The trees were "naked" as my older son said, but it was still quite beautiful down by the water.

We then picked up some apples and cider from Paugh's Orchard and headed off to my favorite knitting store, Fibersmythe, in Woodstock before we drove home.

I happen to live near several knitting stores, but I am loyal to Fibersmythe. Not only do they have a wonderful selection, but the owner Elizabeth is a true gem, eager to help with patterns and yarn, and then show you how to actually knit the pattern! She even rescued me one day when my son's special blanket developed a hole and needed to be fixed before bedtime! Perhaps realizing that I was in way over my head to fix the problem quickly, Elizabeth went out of her way to fix his blanket herself. I don't go anywhere else.

So, with our apples, cider, yarn, and plans for future fishing trips....we had a great day.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Peggy's Recipe and Paugh's Orchard

The Shenandoah Valley has numerous orchards, and we are blessed with a wonderful, family-owned orchard right near the cabin. We stop at Paugh's Orchard (off of 42) whenever we are in the area. This fall, Mr. and Mrs. Paugh have a wonderful selection of apples, cider, pumpkins, mums, and even butternut squash. They've recently expanded their operation and are even offering "pick your own" apples this year.

Earlier in the season, we bought bushels and bushels of apples to make our own applesauce. On our last trip, we bought Gala and Stayman apples -- perfect for apple pies. And, I don't make apple pie without having my Cousin Peggy's recipe close by. Cousin Peggy makes the best apple pie.

I haven't managed to make a decent homemade pie crust yet, but I rely on Peggy for the filling. Here is her simple, but wonderful, recipe:

Sometimes, I make a crumb crust. Other times, I use a double-crust, like last time.

Either way, it's good!

It's a beautful, fall day and more apples are waiting on the kitchen counter. Apple pie, anyone?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fall Activities for October 25th

There are a couple of fun events in the area this weekend:

Fall Fest at Bryce Resort is from 10 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 25, rain or shine. It's a day filled with kids’ activities, mountain activities including mountain boarding, grass skiing, and the zip line. If it isn't raining, the day will start with a family hike to Hunkerson Gap at 9am. From 10am to 3pm there will be all sorts of kid's activities in the ski lodge – crafts, pumpkin carving and decorating, and even the moon bounce out back! There will be hot cider and cookies.


Halloween on Woodstock's Court Square is from 1 -2:30 p.m. on Saturday October 25th. Activities include Trick-or-Treating at Participating Businesses, Mask Making, Pumpkin Painting, Scarecrow Building, Great Pumpkin Contest and MORE! (Please bring clothing for your scarecrows-we will provide the rest.)
In the event of rain outdoor activities will be canceled.
Admission Free

What a Beautiful View!

We love to visit the town of Luray, right near the entrance to Shenandoah National Park. It also offers great food, wonderful shops, attractions like Luray Caverns, and beautiful views like the one above.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Don't Miss Route 11 Chips!

Our cabin is a wonderful place to relax, reading in front of the fireplace or sitting in one of the deck chairs admiring the beautiful scenery. However, with two young kids, I don't get a lot of "down time" to enjoy that aspect of the cabin. Instead, I get to do lots of fun activities, like visit the Route 11 Potato Chip factory.

Route 11 chips are great, and we are lucky to have a factory with a new retail section just down the road from the cabin. Off of I-81 (exit 269), the factory offers self-guided tours (& lots of samples!).

We checked it out on a dreary Friday afternoon, and my kids had a wonderful time watching the chip-making process from the picture windows around the factory. They also tried out lots of chips, finally deciding that Sweet Potato was their favorite. We bought a bunch of mini-packets of the different varieties to make everyone in the family happy!

Shenandoah Farm Market -- We Always Stop

Whenever we go to the cabin, we stop at Shenandoah Farm Market on our way (we also stop on our way out of town, too!). Located west of Mount Jackson, on Orkney Grade (Route 263) on the way to the cabin, it has wonderful fruits and vegetables in season. We've also bought seedlings for our garden, coffee, cookies, local eggs for a great price, and lots of other goodies.

But, what we really love is in their dairy section -- they have milk in glass bottles (that you can return for a refund), butter, and ice cream that are all wonderful. We don't miss a visit. Actually, we should start bringing a cooler with us so we can take the ice cream back home when we leave the cabin -- it's that good!

The other aspect of the store that we enjoy is their weekend specials. We've been treated to some great chicken salad, fish chowder, sloppy joes, and other delicious meals that have eased cooking duties and made us all happy!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Covered Bridge Among Corn Fields

Off of Route 11, four miles north of New Market and about two miles south of Mount Jackson, lies Meem's Bottom Covered Bridge. The bridge was originally built in 1894. According to this article on Virginia's covered bridges, the bridge was burned by vandals on Halloween 1976 so what we see now is a reconstruction.

Nestled among corn fields, the covered bridge (which is still in use) is worth a visit. My kids particularly liked playing in the water below the bridge!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Directions to the Path Around Lake Laura

It's simple to get to the path so you can walk around Lake Laura. Of course, you can drive to the main parking lot near the dam (off of 263 and Arnold) and hike from there. Or, you can access the path from the cabin. Here's how:

There is an unmarked public path to the left of our neighbor's gravel parking lot (this is the neighbor whose driveway is located next to our driveway and his house is a bit closer to the lake).

Walk down that path, which veers right and runs parallel to some steps our neighbor installed.

After a few yards, you'll see what we call the "sewer road" because it is a service road for the sewer system. This road is a public path and it also quite nice to walk in the fall and winter. Almost everything down from the "sewer road" towards the lake is public property, so we can use the neighbor's steps for the rest of the way.

Then, you've arrived at the main path around the lake!
You can walk either to the right (towards the beach area) or to the left. The rest of the directions are for walking towards the left because if you have any questions, that's the way they probably will arise. For some reason, the path seems more "obvious" coming from the other direction.
So, turn left and start walking. After a few minutes, you'll walk over a concrete bridge and see a barn. This is the only spot on the trail where my family ever had a problem -- the first time we tried to hike around the lake, we walked up to the barn and the main road. Don't do that! Instead, look to the right as soon as you walk over the bridge. That is where the path is -- it runs right next to the lake and heads towards the boat access (the photo immediately below is looking back from the path, so you can see the barn, path & the water)

At the boat access, pick up the trail across the parking lot. It's beautiful on the far side of the lake so this is our favorite section of the hike.

You'll eventually come to the dam. Turn right and walk across the top of the dam. This is a good place to stop for a snack, if you have kids who need a break. After you cross the dam, veer right and walk up the hill to the public beach area. You'll see the path back towards the cabin running parallel to the beach area, passing the beach area and heading back into the woods.

Happy Hiking!

A Walk in the Woods

One of family's favorite activities is to walk around Lake Laura. Just a few steps from our cabin, we have easy access to this 2.5 mile, kid-friendly hike.

This time of year, it's a beautful hour spent out in the woods. Of course, it probably doesn't take most people an hour -- we have to take extra time for snacks!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Visit to the Pumpkin Patch

This weekend, we worked on getting the cabin stocked for guests but still made time for our annual visit to Todd's Pumpkins. On 263, in between Mount Jackson and Basye, Todd's Pumpkins is on our list of "things not to miss" in October.

As always, we had a great time picking out our pumpkins. They are now proudly on display on our front porch and will be decorated soon. Then, we'll turn them into pumpkin pie!

Fall Foliage

It's not just the chestnut oaks that are beautiful this time of year! The maple trees are gorgeous, too.

From the front porch:

From the back porch:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Finishing Touches

With the cabin mostly finished, we turned our attention to details.... like putting lattice on the front of the cabin under the deck. We've been discussing this task for over a year, so it was great to see it finished. Jeff kept saying how much of a difference it all made. He was right. Even the baby got into the action with his drill. And, it was easy -- we could have done it ages ago!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Introducing Chestnut Oak Lodge

Now that the major work is done on the cabin, we turned our attention to final details. We need to put lattice on the front under the porch and complete a bunch of little tasks, but we think it's looking pretty nice!

A friend came up with the name "Chestnut Oak Lodge" in honor of the chestnut oaks that surround the property.

We're planning on renting the cabin out when we aren't using it, so Jeff just registered a domain name and is starting to think about web pages, marketing, and all those sorts of things. Stay tuned!