Category Archives: Family and friends

Back in the Homeschool Classroom … Rainy Days

6d7a7-schoolbooksWith rain pouring down outside my window in the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains hidden behind fog and low clouds … dark and dreary but cozy and bright inside … my mind wandered back to rainy days when my kids were little. A drippy day was the perfect time to build a blanket house. Some people call it a fort. Either way, it made hours of fun for little ones who couldn’t go outside and play.

It wasn’t a new idea to me. When my sister and I were young, our mom would take the ladder-back dining room chairs and spread blankets over them to make us a blanket house. We spent hours playing inside, arranging the interior, napping, tending our baby dolls, and whatever else little girls do to entertain themselves by setting up housekeeping under a sagging blanket ceiling.

So when I had children of my own, the memory of those rainy days gave me the idea that my kids would probably like doing the same. And they did.

I would set up a card table and some dining room chairs in the middle of the living room floor. Then with the help of blankets gathered from the bedrooms, the kids and I would drape them over the chairs and table to make a roof and walls, and leave an opening for a door.

The kids would help, so excited they couldn’t stand still. Once the “house” was ready, off they would fly to their bedrooms to gather favorite stuffed animals and books. Katy would usually also be toting a favorite doll baby; Matt would have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

While they were gone, I covered the “floor” of the house with a blanket or quilt, then added a couple of extra blankets or sheets inside along with pillows snatched from the beds. By that time the kids were back with their treasures. Giggling and wiggling, in the door they crawled as they each made a nest from pillows and blankets, and after a fair amount of time arranging to get the house all set up, they settled in.

And that was where they would spend most of the rest of the day. It was something that was done only on some rainy days so the always-new experience kept them interested and satisfied. Sometimes a request was called out through the door for a board game which I delivered, and they would play Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, or Trouble, and as I headed into another area of the house, I could hear their muffled voices and giggles as they rearranged or made plans, or the pop of the Trouble popper and dice.

Afternoon naps took place in the house as each child curled up with a book and then drifted off as rain beat against the nearby windows. Lunch was served in the blanket house which was much like a picnic. Sometimes I would plop down on the floor and join them for lunch; other times I would enjoy some much-needed mom time for cleaning or cooking or even lesson plans once they were in school.

It’s so dreary today that I would love to have little squirmy ones around to make a blanket house, snuggle in together with a book, and then nap. The fun of littles … it’s too bad we’re so busy at the time it happens to truly enjoy it as much as we should.

Memories….

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Lynn Mitchell educated her children at home for 16 years and was part of leadership in North Carolina’s Iredell County Home Educators (ICHE) and Virginia’s Parent Educators of Augusta County Homes (PEACH). Her son graduated from Harrisonburg’s James Madison University (JMU) in 2007 with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Creative Writing. Her daughter graduated from Staunton’s Mary Baldwin College in 2012 with a BS in Sustainable Business and Marketing. Lynn and her husband live in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Other titles in the “Back in the homeschool classroom” series by Lynn R. Mitchell:

– Reading out loud to our children (July 2015)
– Did Terry McAuliffe understand the ‘Tebow Bill’ he vetoed? (April 2015)
– The Virginian-Pilot is wrong about homeschool sports ‘entitlement’ (February 2015)
– ’50 reasons homeschooled kids love being homeschooled’ (November 2014)
– Grown son’s first home (April 2014)
– Support group vs Co-op (February 2014)
– Where it all began … blazing new trails (January 2013)
– Grown son’s first home (July 2013)
– Staying in touch with homeschool friends (July 2013)
– New Year’s Eve (December 2012)
– More sleep = homeschoolers happier, healthier than public school students? (April 2013)
– Using Shenandoah National Park as your classroom (March 2013)
– Rainy days (May 2013)
– A chance encounter (June 2013)
– Autumn (October 2012)
– The rain rain rain came down down down (April 2012)
– Why we teach our own (April 2012)
– Casey (April 2012)
– The wedding … letting go (September 2012)
– The pain of grief (August 2012)
– When faced with a challenge … no whining (April 2012)
– The simple wisdom of Winnie the Pooh (August 2012)
– First day of school (September 2012)
– The rise of homeschooling (February 2012)
– Hot summer days (July 2011)
– Constitutional lessons and the Judicial branch of government (March 2012)
– Mary Baldwin commencement 2012 … SWAC Daughter graduates with honors (May 2012)

A Little Girl Named Katy

1 Wearing Pappaw’s hat – age 3.

Happy Birthday to my sweet girl!

In 1987, October 3rd was a Saturday, and just as it does every year, today has opened a flood gate of memories that take me back to that time in our lives.

It had been warm that fall in Iredell County, NC — typical for our western Carolina location — but a cold front was expected to pass through on Friday night, October 2, that would significantly cool down our area located at the base of the Brushy Mountains, the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Even though I was nine months pregnant, we were preparing to attend the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival on Saturday just as we did every year, located thirty minutes away in North Wilkesboro.

The expected cold front came through that Friday night, and Saturday was overcast and cool, but instead of attending the festival, we began the day with the newest member of our little family — Katy. Three-year-old Matt was at the hospital with us, napping in my room and watching Saturday morning cartoons as he waited to find out if he had a baby brother or sister.

We had two names picked out: Katelyn for a girl, and Andrew for a boy. We got our Katelyn and her dad promptly wrote “Katy” on the name card located in her nursery bassinet.

Katy & Colin at Millie's wedding 2011Katy and Colin

Katy & Matt Braves 9-10Katy and older brother Matt at Atlanta Braves game in D.C.

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Katy and Colin on their wedding day at House Mountain Inn, Lexington, Va.

Katy & sheepBonding with a Highland County sheep.

Katy and Colin 1 year anniversaryAt the beach house in Florida

Katy and Colin at VaTechVirginia Tech game

Katy at Nags HeadOBX

Katy and Emily

Toes in the James River, RVA.

Katy MBC photo 2011My sweet Mary Baldwin College (now University) girl.

Beach 2 Katy, Emily 063Cousins Emily and Katy at the beach house on the Gulf.

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From that day on, our family was complete. Katy and Matt formed a sibling friendship that continues to this day. Ever the big brother, he was helpful with her from the beginning, and she gravitated to him before she could walk.

Homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade, she graduated from Mary Baldwin with honors, and then married in a beautiful ceremony overlooking the mountains of western Virginia, bringing a young man into our family who was loved not just by her but by us.

Today my fun-loving child is a bubbly, organized, and adventuresome young woman who loves the beach and hiking and baking and flowers and autumn, and sheep and cats … and so much more.

She is definitely my traveling child, perhaps best captured by one of her favorite quotes from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Today we celebrate the day a little bundle of love entered our lives and we were blessed with a little girl named Katy.  Love you, Katy Bee!

~~~

If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart. I’ll stay there forever.” -Winnie the Pooh

Katy Lord 22Sharing a book with Palmer Kitty

Palmer 3Palmer

Katy 2Gatlinburg

Katy 3The cousins … Shenandoah Valley

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Humpback Rock

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Katy Lord 10Studying

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Katy Lord 18Scott Stadium 2009 for U2

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Katy Lord 23The Homestead, Republican Advance, 2009.

Katy Lord 24Katy with cousin Emily, and homeschool childhood friends Amanda, Vicki, Debbie, and Amanda.

Katy, Colin magazine cover

At Duffs’ maple barn during Highland County Maple Festival. The tourism magazine asked to use my pic of Katy and Colin listening to the sugaring process.

IMG_8295 (2)At Mammaw and Pappaw’s house, 2018.

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With Mammaw and Pappaw, September 2018.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

9/11 Remembered at Bearing Drift

9-11-11-flight-93Please join me at BearingDrift.com today as we remember 9/11 with memories of that day from colleagues and friends, and with live-time timeline of the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001.

I will never forget that day. I don’t want to forget that day. #NeverForget

Taking Time to Reflect

Bearing Drift 2Two years ago I took over at the helm of BearingDrift.com as editor-in-chief when Brian Schoeneman stepped aside to pursue other goals. At the same time Shaun Kenney decided to change paths and also left.

Both had been pillars of the site for years, working with others on the board of directors, such as Norm Leahy, who now writes for the Washington Post and Real Clear Investigations, and Scott Lee who was our radio guy. Heading up all those was Bearing Drift founder Jim Hoeft who had retired from his career in the Navy.

When Brian and Shaun decided to leave, it started a bit of an avalanche. Norm relinquished his board position and also left, and that was followed four months later by Jim, who at that time was serving as Bearing Drift’s publisher, and a few months later Scott left “The Score.”

That’s a lot of changes in a short amount of time.

Meanwhile, I had been a writer with Bearing Drift (while also keeping my personal blog) for a number of years, and also photo editor. When asked to step to the top spot, I was hesitant.

At the very time Brian wanted to turn over the reins, my son was getting married and my parents were moving from their home of 40-plus years to an assisted living community because of my mom’s deteriorating health.

In other words, my plate was already full. Taking over Bearing Drift — an operation with 20 writers, a podcast, “The Score,” and other moving parts under the Virginia Line Media (VLM) umbrella — was going to be a chunk of responsibility.

Respected throughout the Commonwealth and beyond, Bearing Drift had been a leader in online writing for over a decade. During the rise of social media, the best and most talented of Virginia’s political writers became part of the Bearing Drift family to express their thoughts candidly and without censorship. And, I will add, without pay.

Shaun noted two years ago, “As print media continues to evolve in an era of digital media, the line between blogger and reporter has blurred to the point where only the medium distinguishes the two.  As other columnists and writers follow in Bearing Drift’s wake, one cannot help but be proud of what Brian and the rest of the VLM board has accomplished on behalf of Virginia’s public square.” I wholeheartedly concur.

Since stepping to the plate in 2017, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster — both personally and professionally. Losing so much of the original talent was a big hit. The board reconfigured with new members … a new editorial board was pulled together … a managing editor was tapped … Bearing Drift’s IT guru remained, thank goodness. New writers were needed to fill the chasm left with the departures of Brian, Shaun, Jim, Norm, and Scott.

I just caught my breath while rereading those five names. What a loss within months of each other. I suppose I’ve never really stopped long enough to think about it … until now.

At about the time all those changes were taking place, Donald Trump came onto the national scene and our writers were not necessarily on board with someone who did not exemplify what our site, defined as Virginia’s conservative voice, had fought and believed in for its entire existence. We watched as he became the Republican nominee and then president.

For many, our voices were silenced. We lost one of our long-time contributors who left the Republican Party. Thankfully, he returned to BD a year later when I asked if he would bring his voice and opinions back to the table so we could listen to other sides of the issues.

At first, we lost our punch. How do you write when you do not agree with the Republican administration and the 88 percent of the GOP who fell in line behind him?

I have written some criticisms of Trump but to continue on that path was like beating a dead horse. How could I be critical of Democrats when Trump was doing the same or worse? The hypocrisy of trying to carry the conservative banner in the age of Trump was not lost on Bearing Drift’s writers.

So the past two years have been a challenge on a number of levels.

For all the ups and downs with my mom, who passed away last month, Bearing Drift has been my safe haven in the storm. Working with and recruiting writers, editing, and keeping the site updated has become a mark of normalcy.

Although writing has always been cathartic for me, I’ve not had time to do much personal writing since taking over at Bearing Drift. My writing these days is mostly political and technical and, even at that, much of my time is spent on the managing side of the desk.

VLM has been a leader in bringing activist-driven conservative news and commentary to Virginia. That tradition continues. I’m proud to be part of our group of volunteers who continue to hold an honest discussion in today’s political arena.

I need to write. That’s why I keep LynnRMitchell.com for the thoughts that are more personal and less political. I need to visit here more often….

Mom … August 5, 1927-July 18, 2019

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It’s taken a while to get around to posting this on my blog although I shared it with my Facebook friends the night of my mother’s passing on July 18….

In memory of my mom, Eula Osborne Randall Lucy — August 5, 1927-July 18, 2019. ❤️

Mom passed away early Thursday morning from the effects of congestive heart failure, an illness that had slowly taken its toll the past 18 months. She would have been 92 on August 5.

If you ever met her, you know she was one of a kind.

She was a career woman as my two sisters and I were growing up, smashing through the glass ceiling for women in Richmond’s moving and storage business during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. She was their first successful sales woman in RVA, the first woman in Virginia to become a “Certified Moving Consultant,” and the first female in the history of Allied Van Lines to be elected as a Nationwide Roundtable Chairman.

During those years she was a member of several business clubs, and served on the boards of the Sales & Marketing Club and the Export-Import Club. Her successes demonstrated to we girls that glass ceilings for women could be smashed and we could do whatever we chose as long as we worked hard.

Mom was very involved for years as a volunteer with the Chesterfield County Republican Committee until her health prevented her from bushwhacking around Midlothian, with Cal at the wheel driving her from home to home, pushing yard signs into the ground and advocating for her chosen candidate.

She loved Congressman Eric Cantor, attended his events around the 7th District, and served as his representative on the Silver Haired Congress to advocate senior rights and benefits.

Lt. Governor Bill Bolling was another favorite, and my parents appeared in one of his campaign ads. She is pictured with Governor Bob McDonnell whom she supported and solicited yard sign locations from friends, acquaintances, and strangers in her Salisbury neighborhood. Governor/Senator George Allen and Susan Allen, Governor Jim Gilmore, as well as Del. Manoli Loupassi, were others that she respected and worked to elect.

She was active in the days when Senator John Warner was chosen to run after GOP nominee Dick Obenshain was killed in a 1978 airplane crash. She met Warner’s wife Liz Taylor; she worked meet-and-greets and GOP women’s teas. My parents hosted events at their home.

Her great love, however, was President George W. Bush. Through my sister Gail who worked for him, she met Governor Bush in Austin and then again in the Oval Office. Pictures of President Bush with members of our family hang on the walls of my parents’ home.

So many memories, not enough space to share … perhaps when my thoughts settle I will write a piece about having a woman business pioneer as a mother. It was quite the ride!

I still find it difficult to believe she’s gone. We were expecting it and, yet, we weren’t. Not at that time. Not that soon. The hospice nurse had mentioned Labor Day so in my mind I had already decided she would be around until then.

Her memorial service was last week, a remembrance of a strong and independent woman who worked in a man’s world. All four grandchildren had readings, and my sister Gail gave the eulogy which caused laughter in the church. We were grateful to the many who came out, something I shared on Facebook:

THANK YOU. Words cannot express our family’s gratitude to those who supported us with their presence Friday at Mom’s memorial service. It was truly a celebration of a long life filled with family, a fair share of trials and tribulations, triumphs, adventures, and laughter.

Joining us in the sanctuary were family members along with our parents’ friends, church family, neighbors … and then there were childhood friends of my sisters and me (some had been part of the Bon Air Baptist youth group back in the day), neighbors, and political friends.

Friday night we three sisters sat together on the couch, reminiscing as we flipped through old photo albums and laughing over memories. Meanwhile, in the dining room, our kids were perched around the table animatedly playing board games. Peals of laughter regularly rang out during the evening until well past midnight. It was a time for family, some who are scattered good distances beyond Richmond, to enjoy that brief moment in time before returning to our busy lives.

Thank you to those who reached out in other ways with flowers, food, personal notes and cards, helping wherever needed, and checking to be sure our step-father, Cal, was okay. Pastor Bob Lee and Pastor Rod Hale anchored the service while sister Gail added laughter with her eulogy. Readings from the four grandchildren as well as a duet of “In the Garden” from our cousin Sharon and her husband Don rounded it out.

Years ago when our dad died, we girls were 22, 20, and 13. Now Mom has passed and we are … well, let’s just say we’re considerably older. The World War II parents are quickly leaving and the mantle for preserving family memories is passed on to the next generation. Life goes on….

American author Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty, well-preserved body; but rather a journey into God’s arms, skidding in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘WOW! What a ride!’ ”

That, in a nutshell, was Eula. 

Mom was the youngest and last survivor of 10 children who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and saw women step from the shadows into the spotlight of leadership – a life worth celebrating.

A son … ‘daring and loving and strong and kind’

??????????“I have a son, who is my heart. A wonderful young man, daring and loving and strong and kind.” — Maya Angelou

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Matt! I have to indulge a bit today since it’s my son’s birthday.

In this picture he was four years old as he held his six-month-old sister. He was my little buddy who arrived three weeks early on a February day … a cheerful first born of a first born of a first born who was the first grandchild and only grandson.

Thoughtful and introspective, and a source of joy since the day he arrived, this tiny six-pound baby became a little blond curly-headed boy who loved baseball and soccer, and grew into a kind, loving, industrious young man who is now almost six feet tall.

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A Valentine’s Day Message To My Children

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A Valentine for my children…

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together … there is something you must always remember.

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart … I’ll always be with you.”

— Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

Forgotten Cookies … a Christmas Favorite

A new batch of Forgotten Cookies is in the oven for their overnight sleep which reminded me of this post originally published in December 2008. In the morning we will open the oven and find another Christmas favorite. Shhh … cookies sleeping.

Special memories of the children I worked with at Richmond Children’s Hospital come to mind when baking Forgotten Cookies, a recipe that was passed along by a nurse who worked with me at that hospital years ago.

At Christmas, all the staff members brought goodies to share as we went about our work, and one year she brought these yummy meringue cookies that had an almond flavor with pecans and chocolate chips inside. They melted in your mouth.

When I asked what they were, she said they were called Forgotten Cookies because you put them in the oven at night, turn off the oven … and forget them until the next morning. They are favorites of family and friends, and are gluten free for those on special diets. Enjoy!

Forgotten Cookies

2 egg whites (room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Beat egg whites (at room temperature) until foamy. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Add flavorings; mix well. Fold in pecans and chocolate chips.

Drop by teaspoonsful onto aluminum foil-lined cookie sheets coated with non-stick spray. Place in a 350-degree oven; immediately turn off oven. Let stand 8-10 hours or overnight. (Do not open oven.) Store in airtight container.

Yield: 5 dozen

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Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

Christmas Fudge


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It’s that time of year to enjoy the season with family and decorations and cookie baking and candy making and everything else that goes with the holidays. Last week I made the first batch of fudge for a gathering of colleagues and thought I’d share it for anyone who wants to make their own. It’s one of the easiest of the candies I make.

The recipe was passed along by a dear, dear friend many years ago and, though she is no longer with us, I think of her every time I make up a batch of this Christmas fudge that leaves the house smelling like a chocolate factory. Enjoy!

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Here’s what you’ll need: 3 12-ounce packages chocolate chips; 1/2 pound butter, softened (2 sticks); 3 Tablespoons vanilla; 4 1/2 cups sugar; 1 13-oz can evaporated milk. The complete recipe is at the end of this post. Here are step-by-step photos from today.

fudge-2Put chocolate chips, butter, and vanilla in large bowl. Set aside. (Optional: This is the point where two cups of chopped pecans are added, if wanted.)

fudge-3In at large saucepan, combine sugar and evaporated milk. Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and continue cooking for 10 minutes, adjusting heat to keep it at a rolling boil.

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Remove from stove and pour over chocolate chips, stirring until chips and butter are melted and well mixed.

fudge-8Pour into lightly greased pan and quickly spread it evenly.

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fudge-11Let it set five or six hours, then cut into squares and store in air-tight container. Yield: 5 pounds.

Fudge

3 12-ounce packages chocolate chips
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks)
3 Tablespoons vanilla
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 13-ounce can evaporated milk

In a large bowl, put chocolate chips, butter, and vanilla, and set aside. In large saucepan, combine sugar and evaporated milk. Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove from stove and pour over chocolate chips. Stir until chips and butter are melted and well mixed. Pour into lightly greased pan and let it set 5-6 hours. Cut into squares.

Yield: 5 pounds

Options: Add 2 cups chopped pecans, maraschino cherries, or both, or be creative with other add-ins.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

Wreaths Across America … Remembering America’s Fallen Heroes

Staunton National Cemetery (photo by Lynn R. Mitchell)

If you drive by a military cemetery today and see headstones decorated with fresh, handmade balsam Christmas wreaths accented with bright red bows, you will have witnessed the work of Wreaths Across America.

Across the nation and around the world, thousands of volunteers are continuing the twenty-six-year tradition that began in 1992 with 4,000 excess wreaths donated by Morrill Worcester, a tradition that continues each December. Hundreds of thousands of wreaths are reverently placed on military graves as a remembrance of those who sacrificed for our freedom.

Mr. Worcester’s quiet donation all those years ago of 4,000 wreaths for Arlington Cemetery has become an annual gift of love from this Maine wreath maker who recognized that freedom is not free. Because of his generosity and desire to remember those who sacrificed, he started a tradition that was fairly obscure for 12 years until a photo hit the internet in 2005 showing the Christmas wreaths on Arlington’s snow-covered graves.

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This is the 2005 photo that went viral and showed America how a local wreath company was quietly honoring our heroes.

As the photo circulated and spread the Worcester story, an anonymous person added a caption: “Rest easy, sleep well, my brothers. Know the line has held, your job is done. Rest easy, sleep well. Others have taken up where you fell, the line has held. Peace, peace, and farewell.”

Word spread quickly and wreath requests poured in for other military cemeteries around the country which led Mr. Worcester and his family to establish the non-profit Wreaths Across America with a mission to remember, honor, and teach.

What would drive this 65-year-old owner of the largest wreath producing company in the world to give away thousands of wreaths for the past 26 years?

Mr. Worcester recalled that when he was a 12-year-old newspaper carrier, he won a Bangor Daily News subscription-selling contest that sent him to the Nation’s Capital. The lines of white stones in Arlington Cemetery made an impression on him that never left.

Years later, Christmas 1992, the successful businessman’s Worcester Wreath Company had 4,000 surplus wreaths late in the season and nothing to do with them. Grateful that his success was due in large part to the sacrifice of American troops, and remembering the rows of white tombstones, he put in a call to his congressman and secured permission from Arlington Cemetery.

With a handful of volunteers, they drove a truck load of wreaths to Arlington and spent the next six hours distributing them on graves, a tradition continued quietly for years by a man who did not seek publicity. The 2005 photo changed all that and sealed his destiny.

Today thousands of volunteers will lay wreaths at American military cemeteries around the world. National Cemetery in Staunton has been a recipient for a number of years.

On each wreath will be a tag that reads: “Through the generosity and actions of hundreds of thousands of volunteers, this wreath is donated and placed on the grave of a True American Hero. Wreaths Across America … we make it our business to NEVER FORGET.”

It’s once again a reminder that freedom is not free … and a reminder that Americans have not forgotten their fallen heroes. That is the legacy of Morrill Worcester and his Maine balsam Christmas wreaths.

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

Toffee for Christmas

toffee-8Toffee for Christmas is a favorite with everyone. This is my most-requested candy recipe and I have gladly shared it with friends, family, and anyone else who has asked. I loved the toffee sold by Warfel’s Candy at the Dayton Farmers Market in Rockingham County so years ago began searching for a recipe that would duplicate it. Sure enough, I found exactly what I wanted in the Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book (entire recipe is at the end of this post). I made a double batch yesterday so thought I would share it for those who would like to make some for their holiday festivities.

toffee-1First thing is to butter the sides of the sauce pan, then put butter in pan and melt over low heat.

toffee-2After the butter melts, add sugar, water, and corn syrup. It will have this bright yellow color. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixtures boils.

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Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and reduce heat to medium as candy continues to boil at a moderate, steady rate. As it cooks, the color will become golden-brown. Keep stirring, to prevent scorching, until thermometer registers 280 degrees F. Watch carefully and stir continuously at this point because it will burn easily.

toffee-4When the thermometer reaches 290, the candy mixture will be a deep golden-brown. Remove from burner and, working quickly because it sets up fast, spread onto a cookie sheet that has been covered in aluminum foil. You don’t need to butter the foil because the toffee will not stick to it.

toffee-6Let toffee set for a couple of minutes, and then cover with chocolate chips. Allow them to soften for 2 minutes, then spread evenly over candy.

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After spreading the chocolate, it will take a couple of hours for it to harden to the point where you can break the toffee into pieces. It’s just a random process … pick a corner and begin breaking it. If you want to add toasted pecans or almonds to the top, do it immediately after spreading the chocolate. I used to add the nuts but it is so good without them that now I just make the plain. The toffee stays fresh, if stored in an air-tight container, for several weeks and makes yummy gifts that are popular with just about everyone. Happy candy making, and Merry Christmas!

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Toffee Butter Crunch

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon light-colored corn syrup
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or almonds, toasted (optional)

1. Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Set aside.

2. Butter the sides of a 2-quart heavy saucepan. In saucepan melt butter; add sugar, water, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils.

3. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Reduce heat to medium; continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, stirring frequently, until thermometer registers 290 degrees F, soft-crack stage (about 15 minutes). Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a steady boil. Watch carefully after 280 degrees F to prevent scorching.

4. Remove saucepan from heat; remove thermometer. Pour candy into the prepared pan, spreading quickly.

5. Let toffee stand about 2 minutes or until set, then sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let stand 1-2 minutes. When chocolate has softened, spread over candy. Sprinkle with nuts (optional). Let stand until firm. When firm, use foil to lift it out of pan; break into pieces. Store tightly covered for up to 3 weeks.

Yield: 1.5 pounds

Note: Can easily be doubled. Do not triple the batch because candy will set up too fast.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

Happy Thanksgiving from LynnRMitchell.com

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“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
— Charles Dickens

LynnRMitchell.com extends Thanksgiving greetings with gratitude to our readers for continuing to make us a statewide voice in the Virginia conservative online news and opinion websites. We wish you a joyful day with family and friends as America pauses to give thanks for the blessings we all enjoy.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

‘Twas the Day Before Thanksgiving … Virginia Family Traditions


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‘Twas the day before Thanksgiving and all through the house
Lots of goodies were cooking and tested by the spouse.
The pies were all set on the counter to cool
While Ma in her apron was a holiday-cooking fool.

That’s my sad attempt at putting a poetic spin on the holiday as I swirl around the house on Thanksgiving Eve.

Like many, I’m in the kitchen today prepping for tomorrow’s big meal with family. My sister Lori and I traditionally take on the cooking and baking, something we both enjoy, and we like to incorporate old favorites along with the new dishes.

We broke tradition a few years ago when we roasted a chicken, a new idea that carried over last year and will continue this year. Lori and I are adding side dishes, bread, and desserts.

It’s comforting to stay in touch with family and Southern traditions by using familiar recipes. My Aunt Ola made the best baked mac and cheese you’ve ever wrapped your lips around. It’s a lot of cheese and many memories, a reminder of fun family dinners at her house when there were so many of us that we barely fit, and we had a children’s table in the kitchen and a grown-up table in the dining room.

I think I was in my 30s before ever graduating from the children’s table which, sadly, meant the grown-ups were growing older and leaving us. There’s many happy memories of those years at the children’s table especially after I had my own children and we were all sitting in there together.

Chocolate pies were always anticipated at holidays from my Aunt Ruth. These aren’t pudding-from-a-box pies. These are — pardon my language — “stir-your-damn-arm-off” real chocolate filling (as it was deemed by my sisters and me because it took forever to thicken and you couldn’t leave it unattended or it would stick to the bottom of the pan and burn). After it was cooked just right, the delicious concoction was poured into a homemade crust.

I take a short cut on the crust — no patience for making it and really don’t want to spend the time — and buy a ready-made one, something Aunt Ruth would never have done. One year I made phyllo pastry crust for something new and a little — emphasis on “little” — healthier. The pie is a meringue-topped decadent chocolate fantasy so after my aunt passed away over 20 years ago, I carried on the chocolate pie tradition.

That’s what holidays are — traditions carried on by families from generation to generation. My aunts were fantastic cooks from a large family and my sisters and I learned their tricks of the trade. One slice of pie or a serving of macaroni and cheese unlocks special memories of years past — those who are no longer with us, cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles — and tomorrow that will be going on all over America.

The food is delicious, the baking is fun, but the best part of Thanksgiving is being with family. Though my father passed away years ago leaving behind daughters who were 13, 20, and 22 at the time, another dad came into our lives when Cal married our mother, and so we are grateful to celebrate with the two of them who are now the youthful ages of 91 and 92.

To America’s military members who are stationed around the world and away from their families, a special thanks and prayers for them and their loved ones. We can never repay their dedication, sacrifice, and service to our country which allows us the freedom to celebrate Thanksgiving in a peaceful land.

As I head back to the kitchen to finish food prep, here’s wishing a Happy Thanksgiving. To those who are traveling for the holiday, be safe out there.

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

Why a Domestic Violence Awareness Month?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. How ironic … one of the most beautiful months of the year is used to promote awareness of one of the most aggressive and oppressive acts between two people.

Forty years ago domestic violence was rarely mentioned. Today there are places to go and people to talk with about physical, mental, and emotional abuse, but many still keep it hidden away … tamped down, but never forgotten.

One in four women and one in seven men have been the victims of severe physical violence from a partner in their lifetime and even more shockingly, one in five children are exposed to domestic violence each year with 90% of these children witnessing the violence themselves, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Those who experience abuse may suffer from a loss of self esteem, depression, inability to trust, questioning spiritual faith, hopelessness, lack of motivation. Some turn to drugs and alcohol. In severe cases those who are abused may contemplate suicide.

Some may walk away. Leave. Find a new life.

The video above is of a 62-year-old woman who endured 23 years of abuse married to a pastor.  She discovered there was life after that abusive marriage.

For help: 800-799-SAFE / thehotline.org

A Little Girl Named Katy


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Wearing Pappaw’s hat – age 3.

Happy Birthday to our sweet girl!

In 1987, October 3rd was a Saturday, and just as it does every year, today has opened a flood gate of memories that take me back thirty-one years.

It had been warm in Iredell County, NC, that fall — typical for our western Carolina location — but a cold front was expected to pass through on Friday night, October 2, that would significantly cool down our area located at the Brushy Mountains, the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Even though I was nine months pregnant, we were preparing to attend the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival on Saturday just as we did every year, located thirty minutes up the road in North Wilkesboro.

The expected cold front came through that Friday night, and Saturday was overcast and cool but instead of attending the festival, we began the day with the newest member of our little family.

Katy.

Three-year-old Matt was at the hospital with us, sleeping on my bed and watching Saturday morning cartoons as he waited to find out if he had a baby brother or sister.

We had two names picked out: Katelyn for a girl, and Andrew for a boy. We got our Katelyn and her dad promptly wrote “Katy” on the name card located in her nursery bassinet. And Katy it’s been ever since.

Katy & Matt Braves 9-10Katy and Matt at Atlanta Braves game | Washington, D.C.

Katy & sheepBonding with a Highland County sheep.

Katy and Emily

Toes in the James River, RVA.


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From that day on, our family was complete. Katy and Matt formed a sibling friendship that continues to this day. Ever the big brother, he was helpful with her from the beginning, and she gravitated to him before she could walk.

Homeschooled from kindergarten through 12th grade, she graduated from Mary Baldwin with honors, and then married in a beautiful ceremony overlooking the mountains of western Virginia, bringing a young man into our family who was loved not just by her but by us.

Today my fun-loving child is a bubbly, organized, and adventuresome young woman who loves the beach and hiking and baking and flowers and autumn, and sheep and cats … and so much more.

Happy birthday, Katy Bee!

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At Mammaw and Pappaw’s house, 2018.

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With Mammaw and Pappaw, September 2018.

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