Category Archives: Family and friends

Recipe: Easy One-Skillet Mediterranean Chicken

Mediterranean chicken 1

Maybe I was dragging my feet after being on vacation the past 10 days, reluctant to wade back into the political swamp. Or maybe I just needed a break from editing and lining up articles for the week at Bearing Drift.

Whatever it was, this afternoon I left the keyboard and headed into the kitchen to do something I consider an enjoyable pastime: cook.

Checking the recipe from The Mediterranean Dish blog and gathering the ingredients, it didn’t take long to have a main dish ready for supper.

If you like fresh, give it a try. It’s simple and easy and yummy … and it made a great photo with all the colors. Enjoy!

One-Skillet Mediterranean Chicken Recipe with Tomatoes and Green Olives

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts of equal size
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic or garlic paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano, divided
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 large lemon, juice of
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 1/2 cup small-diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced green olives
  • Handful of fresh parsley, stems removed, chopped
  • Crumbled feta cheese, optional

Instructions

  1. Pat the chicken breasts dry. On each side of the chicken breasts make three slits through.
  2. Spread the garlic on both sides; insert some garlic into the slits you made. Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt, pepper and 1/2 of the dried oregano.
  3. In a large cast iron skillet, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high. Brown the chicken on both sides. Add the white wine and let reduce by 1/2 then add the lemon juice and chicken broth. Sprinkle the remaining oregano on top. Reduce the heat to medium. Cover with a lid or tightly with foil. Cook for 10-15 mins turning the chicken over once (chicken’s internal temperature should reach 170 degrees F).
  4. Uncover and top with the chopped onions, tomatoes and olives. Cover again and cook for only 3 minutes. Finally add the parsley and feta cheese. Serve with a light pasta, rice or couscous. Enjoy

 

Happy 4th of July From the Mitchells

For years Mr. Mitchell and I have hosted Fourth of July picnics, some small and some that were larger. One year we had over 100 guests — family, friends, and neighbors — in the back yard celebrating America’s independence. Here’s a look back….


What is the 4th of July without American flags? They were in abundance.


Relaxing and taking photos before guests arrived.

Alex puts up flag over grilling area.

Flags, flags, flags.


The grilling area ready for
100+ guests … three grills, three cooks,
100 hotdogs, 100 hamburgers, 100 Italian sausages.

* “SWAC House” coined by Yankee Phil in his post about the cookout

Previous posts:
SWAC House* 4th of July blast … part 1
SWAC House* 4th of July blast … part 2
SWAC House* 4th of July blast … part 3
SWAC House* 4th of July blast … a Marine in Iraq: “Freedom Isn’t Free”
4th of July = flags, flags, flags
A Look Back at 4th of July Parades, Cookouts at SWAC House

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

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First Day of Summer and Shrimping in South Carolina

It’s the first day of summer — summer solstice on the calendar although unofficially summer began with Memorial Day. Pools are open, hot summer days are here, and vacations are in full swing.

As I watered flowers on the deck this warm morning in the Shenandoah Valley, my mind drifted back to another first day of summer when my husband and I, along with our 16-month-old son, went to visit with Virginia friends who were living at the time in Charleston, S.C.

On June 21, the first day of summer, we started out early as our friends took us in their boat to explore Charleston Harbor and visit historical Fort Sumter on a small piece of land in the Atlantic Ocean. We spent the morning walking its pathways, exploring fortified areas, and absorbing the history of it all.

Leaving Fort Sumter, we pointed the boat toward the South Carolina coastline and made our way into one of the delta inlets for some shrimping, a great pastime for our friends, and something that was about to become a new experience for us.

We found a nice place with no one around and anchored the boat, then spent the next hours slathering on suntan lotion to fend off the sun’s rays, picnicking on deck, swimming with our little boy in his life jacket, and waiting for the water to recede as the time for low tide approached.

The delta flats have canals cut into them where the water rushes out with low tide … and that is where we turned our attention. Jumping overboard with nets in hand, we stretched the nets across those canals to catch the shrimp that were being washed to sea in the ebbing tide.

Shrimp were plentiful and we quickly loaded our nets, emptied them into five-gallon buckets on deck, and repeated as we hauled in enough shrimp to fill all the buckets. Since we then had plenty of time to wait until the tide returned to once again float the boat, our time under the hot sun was spent removing shrimp heads before icing them down for the ride back to dock.

The experience made an impression on me because we commented several times throughout that day that it was the first day of summer, the longest day of the year, and it was very hot on the salt water — mid 90s with barely a breeze. Thank goodness for all that water to cool off with frequent dips overboard.

It was a memorable event that I recalled today while enjoying this first day of summer in western Virginia under cloudy skies, temps in the low 80s, and an afternoon of thunderstorms on the agenda.

Both memories are keepers.

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Easter Egg Roll at the White House 2002

Easter 2002 White House

Easter 2002 … the White House Egg Roll hosted by President George W. Bush and First lady Laura Bush.

One of my sisters worked in the President’s administration so my mother, other sister, the two six-year-old nieces, and my 14-year-old daughter were guests for an extraordinary day.

It was the first Egg Roll after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Security was tight but there was a light-hearted atmosphere as children raced around the lawn, and special attractions invited by the White House entertained including animal specialist Jack Hanna.

Easter 3 WH eggs 2002 (2)

Commemorative wooden pastel-colored Easter eggs inscribed with the event and date were given to all. Every Easter they are on display at our house. The Easter Roll has been a tradition since 1878, and every U.S. President has hosted this family-friendly tradition.

It was a special day that we have not forgotten….

Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Library

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 Comfortable Romantic Holiday

Happy Valentine's 4

It’s Valentine’s Day. As I moved about the kitchen this morning doing food prep for later today, I smiled thinking about the difference in married love, and how it is almost impossible for all those young lovers out there to meet the high expectations of what we see in the movies and on TV.

This has been a very busy week after a very busy weekend, and I neglected to plan ahead for our Valentine’s Day menu. Our plans don’t include going out for a romantic dinner prepared by some chef in a restaurant in a crowded restaurant. With flu season in full swing, a nice evening at home sounds perfect. But, again, I didn’t plan ahead.

So today I’m winging it. I have all the ingredients on hand to make steak fajitas for dinner, full of sautéed red and yellow peppers and onions, with a side of garden salad. Good, the main course was decided.

Next was dessert. Hmm. Sugar cookies … I could make iced heart-shaped sugar cookies with red sanded sugar sprinkled on top. Been there, done that, but there was no sugar cookie mix in the baking cabinet. I could make them from scratch but then thought about what was available that would be faster.

Chocolate is the language of love, right? A quick check of the fridge showed we had plenty of low-fat milk so I could make the from-scratch chocolate pudding that Mr. Mitchell loves so much. So it was decided. Chocolate pudding, it would be.

What made me smile, though, was a little later when I spied the four bananas on the counter that were almost too ripe. One more day and they were going to be ready for the trash. A quick re-think and the chocolate pudding, food of love, got ditched for banana bread.

If Mr. Mitchell and I were young and dating, if we were newly in love, I would have felt that only the chocolate pudding would have made perfection. No, forget that — we would feel the pressure to go out for dinner, and we did plenty of those when we were young and before kids. But because we are the comfortable old married couple, I knew he would be perfectly okay with banana bread especially since he’s lived with me long enough to know my frugality. Why waste four perfectly-good-for-banana-bread bananas?

Ah, married life. It’s romantic in a different way. In a comfortable way. And I like it that way.

As I type, the smell of banana bread wafts through the air and down the hallway. Later the house will fill with the smell of sautéed onions, then peppers.

I have the table set with the red tablecloth covered with a lacy white tablecloth. That counts for romance, right? Oh, and the beautiful bouquet of flowers Bill sent for my birthday five days ago for a centerpiece.

Truth of the matter is we will probably eat in the living room on the coffee table in front of the TV watching the Olympics. In both of our books, that’s a romantic evening.

I hope your Valentine’s Day is as romantic, and comfortable, as ours.

A Valentine’s Day Message to My Children

Valentine 1A 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)

Flashback 2014: Frigid weather woes … broken outdoor water pipe

Winter 5[Originally published in 2014. Facebook reminded that this happened four years ago this weekend.] 

Sunday. Mid-day. SWAC Husband headed into the basement to retrieve something he needed and found himself walking in water. Half the floor was flooded.

Yikes.

A frantic search began for the leak, first checking the usual suspect — the washing machine. Nope. That wasn’t it.

Next suspect would be the hot water heater. Nope. It was dry.

The next check was the area where the outside water pipe entered the house. Bingo. Water was trickling down the inside of the exterior wall, filling an ever-expanding pool in the part of the house where we store stuff. SWAC Husband turned off the water to the house but the trickle continued so then he turned off the pump to the well.

It slowed … and slowed … and eventually it stopped.

With that taken care of, attention was turned to the boxes of toys, books, memorabilia, Christmas decorations, wrapping paper, old stuff, and who-knows-what-else that sat on the floor. Our slow transition to all plastic not yet complete, the remaining cardboard boxes were soaking up water like a straw. Not good.

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‘Thank You For Raising a Gentleman’

Matt Mitchell 9Recently my daughter-in-law said something to me that made my heart smile.

“Thank you,” she said, “for raising a gentleman.”

In these days of sexual allegations and MeToo revelations, it was a confirmation that my husband and I had done something right. The hours that were spent teaching, guiding, and reinforcing character and common decency with our children had paid off.  It was also confirmation that those lessons were recognized.

My memory wandered back over the years to a time when our little three-year-old curly-haired blond-headed son held the door open for a couple entering a restaurant. The lady walked over to tell us what a little gentleman we had.

It happened on more than one occasion and the fact that our little boy did it on his own showed that the lessons of gentility and the Golden Rule had been absorbed by him and, later, his younger sister.

Kindness, understanding, listening, respect, humility, a good work ethic, honor … a way to live life. Those and more were instilled in our now-grown children who are married and have homes of their own.

The words of our son’s wife were a reminder of the foundation we had worked hard to build with our children, and that the hours spent with a child are not wasted.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

Mr. McGregor’s Garden, Peter Rabbit, and Mr. Mitchell’s Garden

Originally published July 2008….

I grew up on Beatrix Potter tales and especially loved Peter Rabbit. As a small child, I sat wide-eyed listening to my mother read about all the characters that Miss Potter brought to life in the miniature children’s books full of colorful illustrations. My imagination worked overtime as I heard the opening lines of the Peter Rabbit story:

ONCE upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.

I would get lost in all things Beatrix Potter. While Peter’s sisters were good and went hunting blackberries, Peter went straight to Mr. McGregor’s garden where he had been warned to stay away from, and got into all kinds of mischief. The illustration that stands out to me the most of Miss Potter’s drawings is the one of Peter slipping under the fence.

Yesterday, the story of Peter Rabbit’s trials and tribulations in Mr. McGregor’s garden came back to me.

Mr. Mitchell had put up a wire fence around the garden, as he does each year, to prevent as many critters as possible from partaking of the goodies growing there. It is impossible to keep everything out but it helps to limit some of the wildlife we have here in western Augusta County.

When he went out to look over the garden yesterday, a baby rabbit was sitting squarely in the middle of the squash plants. Well … he used to be a baby and had been able to easily slip in and out of the wire fence … but he is now about half grown. When Mr. Mitchell gave chase, the bunny took off for the fence and got stuck, squirming to make his hindquarters squeeze through before making his escape.

And that was where the tale of Peter Rabbit popped into my brain. I laughed and called my husband “Mr. McGregor” all afternoon because he had chased Peter out of the garden and, if that bunny had been wearing a blue jacket, as Peter did in the fairy tale, its buttons would have been caught on the wire fence and the jacket surely would have been left behind.

Perhaps that is why I so enjoyed the charming movie, “Miss Potter,” the story of Beatrix Potter’s life that intertwined the creatures around her as animated figments of her imagination. Miss Potter’s world was brought to life in the biographical film.

Peter, that naughty rabbit, in my garden helping himself to the squash … I smile even as I think of it….

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Merry Christmas, Stacy … Wherever You Are

Christmas ornament hand-painted by 10-year-old Stacy in 1975.

As I was growing up, a tradition in our family was for my parents to give us ornaments each year from places they had traveled. My husband and I continued the tradition with our children … so we have a number of “special” ornaments that are placed on the tree year after year.

This year was no different. As I carefully unwrapped the tissue paper from around one particular ornament, memories flooded back as I saw the hand-painted ceramic decoration for the tree. It was a jack-in-the-box painted in 1975 by a 10-year-old boy named Stacy. I held the ornament in my hand and remembered back to the days when I worked at Children’s Hospital in Richmond, Virginia.

Stacy touched my heart more than any other child I came in contact with at the hospital because of his devilish sincerity. I loved that child. He was from southwestern Virginia, one of many children from a large, down-on-their-luck Appalachian family. As best I can remember, the accident that changed his life occurred when he was playing with his siblings and they tied him to a tree, piled leaves at the base of the tree, and set the leaves on fire. Stacy was horribly burned, so much so that much of both legs and part of one arm had to be amputated. He came to Children’s Hospital for rehabilitation.

The patients at the hospital lived in dorms and received daily treatment as well as schooling. Far away from home, Stacy was with us for a long time as therapists, doctors, and nurses worked with him to heal his stumps so he could receive prosthetic devices to help him lead a normal life.

For someone who had been through such a horrible experience, he had a devilish sense of humor. He was funny, playful, and almost always in a good mood. Perhaps it was the love he received from the hospital staff as he went through physical therapy, recreational therapy (which was where he painted the Christmas ornament), and the one-on-one education he received from the in-house teachers.

I still remember the day he presented the painted ceramic decoration to me. I kneeled beside his wheelchair so to be at eye level with him as he flamboyantly presented it to me … then I took it home to my Christmas tree and, after the holidays, packed it away. Every year since that time it has been placed on my tree. I don’t know what happened to Stacy … I lost track after leaving Children’s Hospital. I have often wondered where he was, how his life turned out, and if he was able to handle the emotional scar of such a life-changing incident so young in his life.

This year I once again placed his ornament on the tree, and once again wished Stacy a Merry Christmas, wherever he is….

Originally published in 2006, this column runs annually as a tribute to a special little boy and our friendship from many years ago….

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon asked her father if there was really a Santa Claus. He suggested she write to The Sun, a prominent New York newspaper, because, as he said, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.”

And so Virginia wrote her letter:

The letter landed on the desk of editor Francis Church, a former war correspondence during the Civil War. Perhaps his observations of the hopelessness during that tragic time in American history made him want to install hope and faith in this little girl. He responded in an editorial that was published in The Sun:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! . . . You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world, which not the strongest man, or even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real?

Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else so real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives, and he lives forever — a thousand times ten thousand, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

— Francis P. Church

The response is timeless and as meaningful today as in 1897, reassuring in the innocent faith that yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

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Linus Explains the True Meaning of Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired on December 9, 1965, and became a classic that still rings true more than 50 years later. One reason it remains among the most popular Christmas shows of the season may be because friend Linus reminds Charlie Brown of the true meaning of Christmas by reciting the King James Bible New Testament verses from Luke 2:8-14 describing the birth of Christ.

The fact that the message is delivered by an animated character doesn’t diminish the impact of the meaning.

Interestingly, the story goes that network executives did not want the scripture quoted in an animated show, assuming viewers would become bored. Charlie Brown creator Charles Schulz, however, was adamant that it remain. “If we don’t tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?” he asked.

Today, even more than in 1965, we need to hear the true meaning of Christmas as told by a little animated boy in a scene that is beloved by millions.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.’

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

How much richer we are for Charles Schulz standing by his principles. Merry Christmas to Charlie Brown, Linus, the rest of the Peanuts gang, and to you!

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Trick-or-Treat … Halloween 2017

Halloween 13

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care” … oops, wrong holiday! Just kidding!

We were ready for our little neighborhood goblins by lunch time with front porch and walk swept of fallen leaves,  and pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, gourds, and mums decorating the steps and porch.

5:40pm: For years I have blogged Halloween so tonight is no different. And for all my readiness, I was caught off-guard when our first neighbor kids came by — four of them, all girls, dressed as a scarecrow — really liked that mouth! — and a giraffe, a cat, and a witch. They were heading to the church festival after making the rounds of the neighborhood and, as their mom and I stood out front and talked, the girls thanked me for their candy and wandered up the driveway. Treats for all!

Halloween 12

6:18: Darkness is settling in and, as I went outside to take photos of the lights and jack-o-lanterns, neighbors came walking down the street, pushing a stroller with their little one while the four-year-old walked alongside his parents. They called out across the yard, “Happy Halloween!” I turned to see who it was, I laughed and told them I would know who it was by the dog! They have a huge dog that is recognizable to everyone, and she was walking with them. After stopping at the neighbor’s to get her to join them, they walked across to get treats at our house.

All were dressed for the night in a theme — dad as a red dragon, mom as a princess, and the boys as knights.

As the dragon, the princess, the two knights, and Luna the dog headed back up the street, our neighbor came on in to visit for a while … and while she was here we had no trick-or-treaters. Slow year.

7:45: As we walked outside as our neighbor was leaving — it’s mild at 46 degrees — we could hear coyotes running on the ridge behind the house, howling and yipping as they chased down something. It was eerie on Halloween … sounded like werewolves in the dark night. Spooky!

Halloween 11

8:10pm: Two more little goblins, our last of the evening, dressed as a SWAT team guy and a Special Ops guy. They were little, maybe seven and nine, and very polite. Treats for all!

This is about as late as we’ve had them in the past so not sure we will get anyone else. Total: eight trick or treaters for 2017.

Pumpkins 3

Happy Halloween!

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Mr. Candy Corn Goes to Richmond

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This is Mr. Candy Corn standing at my front door ready to go to Richmond. But first a little background….

In the autumn of 2016 my sister Lori spied this little fella at Blue Ribbon Nursery in Broadway as he stood amongst the fall and Halloween wreaths and décor. He was cute and she like him but we ended up leaving him behind.

Fast forward to autumn 2017. Lori hasn’t been able to come up to the Shenandoah Valley to chase autumn like we did last year so my friend Barb and I went traipsing through the countryside in September, buying chrysanthemums, pumpkins, gourds, and other autumn décor.

When we walked into Blue Ribbon, there was Mr. Candy Corn, again standing amongst the holiday decorations. I excitedly said hello to him and told Barb about Lori’s attachment last year. As I wandered through the aisles looking at the holiday goodies, my eyes kept seeking out Mr. Candy Corn.

And that’s how he went home with me. I just had to get him for Lori, and so he rode back to Staunton with Barb and me, sitting on the back seat like a proper Candy Corn, excitedly watching the view out the window.

When my sister, her husband, and daughter Emily went to New York City for a week in early September, I loaded Mr. Candy Corn in the car to take him to his new forever home.

Here he was at my front door ready to go!

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He paused on the steps for me to take pictures …

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