Category Archives: Virginia

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

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

Virginia Brunswick Stew Recipe

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Baby, it’s cold outside! On this chilly, snowy December Sunday with below-freezing temps, it’s a good time for a steaming bowl of Brunswick stew — hot and filling and yummy.

From the cookbook, Virginia Hospitality: A Book of Recipes From 200 Years of Gracious Entertaining, is the Brunswick stew recipe I have used for years. As with any cook, I have variations (in parentheses). Stew is best when the flavors are given time to meld together so I often make mine the day before it will be served. The recipe easily doubles and triples for larger groups.

Brunswick Stew
1 whole chicken, cut up (I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1 onion, quartered
2 ribs celery, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
16 ounces white shoepeg corn
10 ounces frozen small butterbeans
1 pound canned tomatoes
2 small potatoes, cubed (I double or triple that amount)
1/3 cup ketchup
2-3 Tablespoons vinegar
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/4 teaspoon marjoram (I omit this)
2-3 Tablespoons butter

Place chicken in Dutch oven and add enough water to cover well. Add onion, celery, salt, and pepper. Boil until chicken comes off bones easily. Remove chicken to cool and add corn, butterbeans, tomatoes, potatoes, ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar; cook 2 hours or until tender. Remove chicken from bones or shred chicken breasts and add to vegetables along with Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, marjoram, and butter. Serves 6-8.

Note: Vary amount of water for thick or soupy stew. Add a cube of chicken bouillon after the first or second serving.

Stay warm and safe, and enjoy!

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

Virginia Green Beret Among Three Killed in Afghanistan

Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Wash., Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, 29, of Lexington, Va., and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pa. (Photo courtesy of Department of Defense)

A Virginia man was killed Tuesday in Afghanistan when he and two others suffered fatal injuries after their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED).

Army Captain Andrew “Drew” Patrick Ross, 29, of Lexington, had served more than seven years in the Army and was on his second overseas tour, according to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. Captain Ross, who is survived by his wife and parents, was a member of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) out of Fort Bragg, N.C.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 29, of Brush Prairie, Washington, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pa, were also killed.

Lexington is a small, close-knit community in western Virginia. The historic city is home to Virginia Military Institute where Captain Ross’ father graduated.

The Taliban, a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan that has been behind numerous attacks over the years, took credit for the attack, claiming foreign invaders were being targeted.

The Lexington News-Gazette wrote:

Drew Ross was a 2007 graduate of Rockbridge County High School and a 2011 graduate of West Point. In May 2011, he was invited to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the RCHS commencement ceremony.

“It’s very sad news, he was a great kid,” said David “Weenie” Miller, RCHS teacher and coach, on Wednesday. Ross was recently married, he said, and Miller’s son, Michael, a member of the U.S. Navy now serving in Naval Intelligence, was best man at Drew’s wedding.

Drew was the son of Stephen and Beth Ross, both now living in Richmond. Stephen Ross, a 1983 graduate of Virginia Military Institute, coached soccer at VMI. Beth Ross was a nurse in the office of Dr. Troise.

Drew Ross played soccer at RCHS coached by the late Tony Conway and went on to play soccer at West Point.

His sister, Sarah, graduated from RCHS in 2003.

Drew Ross is the second RCHS and West Point graduate to have died in Afghanistan, both victims of roadside bombs. Chase Prasnicki, a local football star who graduated from RCHS in 2006 and who played on the football team at West Point, was killed in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device while on patrol in June 2012.

Stars and Stripes wrote:

While fewer Americans are dying in the war these days, members of the relatively small and tight-knit special operations community — and especially Army Rangers and Green Berets — disproportionately number among the American deaths in recent years.

More than half of the 13 Americans who died in Afghanistan this year — 12 in combat — have been special operations troops. In 2017, Rangers and Green Berets accounted for five of 11 U.S. combat fatalities and special operations soldiers constituted half of the four noncombat deaths.

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which supports the families of special-ops troops and other troops within Special Operations Command, estimates elite troops and their support personnel make up about 5 percent of the military but half of the casualties.

Captain Ross was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, and the Combat Infantry Badge. He had previously earned a Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, NATO Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Combat Action Badge, and Military Free Fall Parachutist Badge.

Before the attack on Tuesday, Army Ranger Sgt. Leandro Jasso, a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, was killed the week before while battling al-Qaida in Nimruz Province.

Freedom is not free.

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

Icy Shenandoah Valley


It was the first wintry precipitation this year in the Shenandoah Valley as snow, freezing rain, and sleet moved in overnight and continued throughout Thursday.


Temperatures have hovered between 30 and 32 all day so nothing is melting … yet.


The forecast says temps will begin rising overnight and continue to the mid-40s on Friday so everything will melt. Not that I like ice but there really isn’t anything we can do about it so we’re enjoying the wintry scene out the windows while we can. Our Shenandoah autumn continues…

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
November 15, 2018

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

Saying Goodbye to Augusta County’s Bob Dickerman

“Did you know someone named Bob Dickerman?” my husband called up the steps this morning. His question came out of the blue and made me stop what I was doing.

“Why?” I asked. “Did he die?”

Indeed, Mr. Mitchell had seen the obituary in the Staunton News Leader. I quickly pulled it up on my laptop to be sure it was the Bob Dickerman I knew from politics in Augusta County.

Sure enough, it was him. As I read of his amazingly versatile and far-reaching life, it again struck me how we don’t really know most people until they die. That is when their life’s achievements and accomplishments come to light in a brief end-of-life wrap-up known as an obituary.

How sad.

And how enlightening.

When I was very active in Augusta County Republican Committee leadership in the George W. Bush years, Bob and I crossed paths a number of times — he with the Augusta County Democrats, I with the local GOP. He was a bit crusty, and I am certain he made more of an impression on me than I on him. Too bad I was such an activist in those days and didn’t take the time to get to know him a little better.

He had a mountainside farm in Buffalo Gap on the Old Parkersburg Turnpike, a gravel road that traverses the national forest through the Appalachian Mountains to Deerfield Valley in western Augusta. Born in Staunton, after his many years of foreign service, he came home and spent his final years here.

Bottom line: this is why I have grown to dislike extreme partisanship and the fact that we often see people only through a one-dimensional political lens. Everyone is so much more than that, and reading about Bob’s life showed all of him that I did not know. And didn’t take time to know. It’s my loss.

Charles Robert (“Bob”) Dickerman

Staunton – Charles Robert (“Bob”) Dickerman, a Staunton native who served the United States for 30 years as a Foreign Service Officer, died on November 8th, 2018 on his farm in Buffalo Gap. He was 81 years old and had suffered from a rare neurological disorder: Multiple Systems Atrophy with Parkinson’s.

Bob was born in Staunton on November 29, 1936, the son of the late Staunton physician, Dr. Charles Pingrey Dickerman and his first wife, Stella Irene Mallory. Bob received his BA from Antioch College, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University‘s Kennedy School of Government.

During this time, he was also a faculty level research fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs. In addition, he graduated from the State Department’s prestigious year-long Senior Seminar on US Foreign and Domestic Policies.

Prior to joining the United States Information Service in 1962, Bob was a journalist on three Midwestern newspapers, including THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE. As a career diplomat in the Foreign Service he specialized in cultural affairs and media relations.

During his more than 30-year career, he served in Finland, Somalia, South Vietnam, Norway, Iceland, West Germany, the Eastern Caribbean, and Denmark. He worked in several languages including Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, German, Vietnamese, and Italian.

After his retirement from federal service in 1992, Bob continued to be engaged in politics and his interest never ceased in how our country is viewed by many people overseas. He followed the news in many countries, and maintained many friendships with former colleagues and friends.

In his conversations and writings, he discussed and addressed some of our most significant problems: racism and other forms of intolerance and prejudice, our lack of universal health care, and social inequalities. He was intensely concerned about the decline in American prestige and respect and was active in the Democratic parties of Arlington, Staunton, and Augusta County.

Bob Dickerman is survived by his daughters Julia Torres and Anneke Braisted of Cary, NC, their husbands Nehemiah and Timothy, his grandchildren Liam and Kaia, and his former wife (and best friend) Gerhild Sachs Dickerman of Durham, NC. In addition, he is survived by his brother, Dr. William Dickerman, his half-sister, Anne Reid, and his half-brother, Dr. Will Dickerman. A Celebration of Life will be held with family and friends at his beloved farm. Contributions in his memory may be made to Planned Parenthood.

My condolences to Bob’s family and friends.

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
Shenandoah Valley looking west to North Mountain Range
Appalachian Mountains | Augusta County, Virginia

I’m Sick of It All

Yesterday was Election Day 2018, and today I’m sick of it all. I’m tired of hearing conspiracy theories and defenses of immoral behavior and excuses because of who is currently in the White House.

If you thought it was wrong when the Democrats did it, but now think it’s okay when the Republicans do it, then you are part of the reason the GOP is drowning in hypocrisy.

I thought we were better than this.

I grew up in the church. The teachings of moral character came directly from the Bible with guidance from our Sunday School teachers. We strived then, and now, to live a life that included integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, patience, faithfulness, respect, responsibility, humility, compassion, loyalty, perseverance, optimism, generosity, politeness, kindness, lovingness, and reliability … traits that are goals to practice every day.

President Abraham Lincoln was a role model for integrity and honesty. His examples of good character traits are legendary, qualities that stayed with him through his life. They were instrumental as he led the country through the dark days of war. It was a time when a person’s character was a highly-regarded quality.

Before Lincoln, President George Washington was known for his character and leadership, and believed highly in the importance of civility which meant basic respect for everyone. As a Virginia school boy, he wrote his Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior, a list of 110 commonsense directives to guide him in life and in the company of others. Many still adhere to his rules to this day.

The good traits of character, if we believe some, are irrelevant in today’s world. I disagree. They are perhaps more important now than at any time in the past. Light the path for others and be an example. And keep in mind the words of C. S. Lewis: “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

Tonight I’m tired of it all, and sincerely hope we do not lose our moral compass.

“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” -James 1:22

 

31 Days of October, Day 30

We made the journey to Richmond today. That’s where I grew up and where most of my family lives.

Yes, the autumn leaves made the drive beautiful on a sunny, 60-something degree day in central Virginia. But today we weren’t out specifically to leaf peep.

Family is everything. Since my mom was the youngest of 10 children, there are cousins galore who have been friends and known each other since we were little kids. We gather for family weddings, funerals, and get-togethers. Our ages span 40 years from the oldest to the youngest.

It wasn’t expected that when October began we would close out the month by laying to rest one of the cousins. Her death was sudden. She wasn’t a blood relative but she had been married to one of my older cousins for so long that she was one of us. She left behind her husband, their children, and their children’s children.

She also left behind her beloved flowers that she spent hours cultivating in the yard. Gardening seems to run like a winding vine through our family.

Most of the cousins showed up to pay their respects. From the service of remembrance to the laughter afterward as we gathered in the church hall for a late lunch, it was vintage family for us, a time to catch up and visit, and to share memories, hugs, and tears. But mostly we shared laughter.

Family. It’s everything.

It was a sad occasion but it was a good day. And on our way home, as the sun dipped low in the sky as we approached the Blue Ridge Mountains, we looked at colorful autumn leaves along I-64 from Richmond to Afton. When we crossed Afton and began descending into the Valley, we could see fall color in the twilight.

It’s autumn in the Shenandoah Valley….

James River High School Crew teams on the James River, Richmond, Virginia

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

31 Days of October, Day 29


It’s hard to believe October is almost over. Around the yard these button mums with their bright yellow faces are beginning to bloom in the flower garden. A gift from my Aunt Ruth’s garden, they are prolific and always bloom late in the season when most of the other mums are finished.


Cheerful little flowers on a cloudy day.


Sedum


The maple beside the deck has finally begun to show color. It will be a deep red by the time it finishes.


The button mums

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

31 Days of October, Day 27

The pics don’t do justice to just how beautiful it was.

Entering Paint Bank on Rt. 311 from the east.

Paint Bank is merely an intersection at Rt. 18 and Rt. 311 with a general store, service station, and several lodging facilities. Continuing west on Rt. 311, we were on our way to Crows, Virginia … but first we had to cross through a corner of West Virginia that projected into the Commonwealth.

Rt. 194 took us to Covington where we hooked up on Rt. 60 east on our way to Rt. 220 north to Highland. Tomorrow I’ll share more photos of autumn colors in western Virginia along our journey from Covington through Bath County, Highland County, and home to Augusta County.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

31 Days of October, Day 26

It was a bitterly cold and rainy day in Blacksburg — a raw day, as my mom would say — with downpours throughout the day. By sunset the temperature had dropped to 39 degrees as we made our way through the downtown area. Most of my iPhone pics didn’t turn out but here are a few that did.

Sadly, as happens each fall, rain beat the colorful leaves off the trees.

Also today was the opening of Hallmark Channel’s Christmas movie season with the first movie kicking off at 2:00 this afternoon and running through New Year’s Day. Fa la la la la!

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

Cross-posted at BearingDrift.com

31 Days of October, Day 25


Under overcast skies with cool temperatures, it was a good day to check out the Blue Ridge Parkway from Floyd south to Mabry Mill. There were autumn colors but still lots of green, and a good number of bare trees that have already lost their leaves.


Unfortunately I had my Nikon on the wrong setting, making the colors subdued and bland. I was able to save a few, enough to get the idea of how beautiful it was in Virginia’s Blue Ride Mountains.


Mabry Mill is a watermill located at milepost 176.2 of Blue Ridge Parkway. The historic structure includes a trail with exhibit demonstrations of rural life in the Virginia mountains at the turn of the 20th century.


From the website: “Mabry Mill is one of the most photographed sites on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Several hundred thousand travelers visit the Mill each year, a turn of events Ed Mabry probably could not have predicted when he built the Mill more than a century ago.

“Around 1905 Ed and his wife Lizzie Mabry set in motion actions to realize the dream of their own gristmill. With the help of a neighbor, Newton Hylton, they built the gristmill, waterwheel, and water supply flume system with hard work and hand tools.

“By 1908 the gristmill was in operation and people from as far away as eight miles were bringing their corn to be ground. Also by this time Ed Mabry was ready to move on to his next project which was to build a sawmill on the left side of the gristmill. While Ed was busy building the sawmill, Lizzie took over the milling duties at the gristmill. Many said Lizzie was the better miller of the two.

“There was a problem though. Because the streams used to supply water to the mills were small, there was not enough needed water power. Due to the lack of water power, the process of grinding the corn at the Mabrys’ mill took longer than at some of the other nearby mills. Mills with plenty of water power would at times grind too fast. The resulting friction turned to heat which would then burn and scorch the corn meal leaving it tasting bitter.

“Because of the low water power problem at the Mabrys’ mill, it was known as a slow grinder. Due to this problem the Mabrys could not grind the corn fast, but they also never burned or scorched the corn meal which resulted in some of the best tasting corn meal around. This news spread fast which brought many loyal customers to the Mabrys’ little mill.

“Soon the sawmill was finished and Ed began to build a woodworking shop on the right side of the grist mill. This shop had a double-bladed jigsaw, a wood lathe and a tongue and groover all run by the water-powered waterwheel. This completed the gristmill complex with the sawmill, gristmill and woodworking shop all attached.

“For convenience sake, the Mabrys now decided to build a new blacksmith/wheelwright shop beside the gristmill complex. This was around 1913-1914. Later, after many years of hard work building up their business at the mill site, Ed and Lizzie decided to build a new house for themselves. Sometime around 1918-1920 the Mabrys built by their own hands and skill a two-story white farmhouse. The approximate site of that house is where the Matthews’ cabin is located at Mabry Mill today.

“The National Park Service acquired the Mabry Mill property in 1938 after Ed died and Lizzie moved away. The gristmill complex and the blacksmith/wheelwright shop were deemed historically significant by the Park Service as representing the rich cultural past of the Blue Ridge Mountain region.

“In 1942 those structures were completely restored, giving the Blue Ridge Parkway yet another gem along its beautiful winding 469 miles through the heart of Appalachia. Every year Mabry Mill, the legacy which Ed and Lizzie left us, is visited by people from all over the world.” –Michael Ryan, author, “Ed and Lizzie, the Mabrys and Their Mill”

Vintage water fountain at Rocky Knob Recreation Area

Rocky Knob at Milepost 167 is a vintage area of the BRP with a picnic area, campground, visitor center, tables, a shelter, backcountry camping, and lots of hiking trails. The topography of the area features vertical rocks protruding out of the ground.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Buffalo Mountain, a landmark that can be seen for miles around, anchors the Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve is a 1,140-acre Natural Area Preserve in Floyd County.

As we celebrate cooler days and autumn colors, it’s a little startling to realize two months from today will be Christmas Day. It’s hard to believe a week from today will be November. Meanwhile, we’ll enjoy the remaining color of fall leaves before cold rains strip them from the trees.

It’s autumn in western Virginia.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell

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