03 July 2017

A Maple Festival, A Music Teacher's Convention and Some Awesome Historic Homes (including the West Wing of the White House)

As usual, there's always somewhere interesting to go and see in Virginia! One of my piano students told me about the annual Highland County Maple Festival, which is on the other side of the Shenandoah Mountains. It was about a four hour drive to get there and Kent and I did it as a day trip.
The first place we stopped was for all-you-can-eat buckwheat pancakes with real maple syrup and freshly made (never frozen) sausage.
It was in a community hall in one of the towns in Highland County.
 I'm not sure I'd ever eaten buckwheat before--I thought they didn't taste too differently from ordinary pancakes--but the real maple syrup and fresh sausage were very yummy!
 Our next stop was to a family owned maple syrup making business.
 They don't really collect the maple sap like this anymore, they just had them to show how the sap used to be collected. You can see there was still snow on the ground up in the mountains.
I think this is where the sap that was collected was stored until it was brought in to be cooked down and made into syrup. 
It takes an insanely huge amount of sap to make the syrup, like 30 gallons to make a gallon of syrup.
It was interesting to see the process, and now I can appreciate why real maple syrup costs so much!
 The town was selling all kinds of maple products, so we thought we'd try the maple doughnuts, since for some unknown reason there aren't any maple bars sold on the East coast. The doughnuts were awful--dry and tasteless, so after sharing one we threw the rest away.

On to my next adventure--I'd seen that the Music Teacher's National Conference was going to be in Baltimore, Maryland, just about an hour's drive away. I did some investigating and discovered that the vendor's hall was open to everyone, not just conference attendees. So I jumped in my car on a Monday when I didn't have any piano lessons to teach and drove to Baltimore

I didn't take many pictures, but it was pretty cool to see in person several of the people whose names are on the books I use to teach piano.
 I was fortunate to find a parking place on the street near the hotel where the conference was being held. This statue is called the National Katyn Memorial, and is the tallest statue in Baltimore.
Later in the month I organized a trip for my Bible Study group to an afternoon tea in the historic Rosemont Manor in Berryville, Virginia. It was the home of a former governor of Virginia. I didn't get a good picture of the outside, except this plaque
Here's our group in front of the fireplace in the dining room where we had the tea.
Here's the menu. I thought it was neat that they had a different tea served with each course. I requested non-caffeinated tea, so I had herb teas instead of the ones listed.
The picture below was the savory course. The course I was most disappointed in was the sweets course, because it was pretty skimpy. Just a tiny little chocolate ganache tart, a mini lemon cupcake and a small bowl of mint ice cream, only one of each per person. For the money we paid it I thought they could have been more generous and creative with the sweets. 
 At our table before the food was served.
 One neat aspect of the afternoon was that we were able to tour the house and look in the bedrooms of the bed and breakfast portion of the house.
They were named after different presidents of the US. The room below was my favorite because I liked the floral painting on the walls. It was a fun way to spend a spring day and drive through the countryside of Virginia on our way to the mansion.
 The mansion below is closer to home--it's called Chatham and it's right in Stafford County. It's owned by the National Park Service, and they were having a special event celebrating the arts.
It was used as Union Headquarters during the Battle of Fredericksburg during the Civil War.
I loved this view overlooking the Rapahannock River and the city of Fredericksburg, especially with the flowering trees.
 This gnarled old tree predates the Civil War and is behind the house.
 Inside the house there was a sampler on display that dates from the 1800's.
 It was stitched by a young girl. It's amazing that it's been preserved so long.
 The fence in the backyard has a musical theme. Not the treble clef sign and the notes.
 I had to pose by the musical wrought iron fence.
 The last historic home we visited was the White House. I've been on East wing tours of the White House before, and we've been on White House garden tours, but the general public doesn't have access to the West Wing.
This fine looking guy below is the Marine Military aid to the President, and he's allowed to take very small groups of visitors on tours through the West Wing of the White House. As he took us around he regaled us with first person accounts of his interactions with the president and experiences he's had on Air Force One. He rubs shoulders every day with people we hear about in the news. As a matter of fact, we've seen him a couple of times in videos of the President on the news.
We went with one other couple on Sunday afternoon after church. He even drove us in his vehicle so he could park in the White House parking lot!
We weren't allowed to take any pictures inside, but we were able to see the "Situation Room", the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office.
 This is a view of the White House from the press corps side. Kent thought he'd try to jump the fence to see if any Secret Service guys would take him down!
 One place we were allowed to take pictures was the press room.


 It was much smaller than it looks on TV! I thought it was interesting that each of these seats have a plaque in front of them with the name of a news organization. The front row was ABC, CBS and NBC, with CNN and FOX not too far behind.
 As we were walking to and from the car we passed by the Eisenhower building, which I've never paid too much attention to before. It's an Executive office building.
It was soooo interesting and beyond awesome to tour the West Wing of the White House, since it's not open to the public. Another case of it being who you know, not what!

18 May 2017

Elaine the Party Planner!

PARTY #1--I volunteered to host my Bible Study group on Valentine's Day. It was fun going all out with hearts, red and pink!
I made heart shaped ice with raspberries in them.
Here's how they looked once they came out of the molds.
 I used the same molds to make pink heart-shaped sugar cubes.
And why not heart-shaped butter, too?
 Since I have a heart cake pan, I made sour cream pound cake and made mini cakes for the dessert, which was strawberry shortcake.
I don't have a picture of the completed dessert. I ran out of time and didn't have time to cut the strawberries into hearts. (o:
To mark everyone's place I made these mini nine-patch wall quilts.
I just put the names on with stickers, since they weren't meant to be permanent.
 I used my white with red poppies dishes on red chargers.
 I bought red heart-shaped glasses and bead necklaces at the dollar store for accessories.
  I forgot to put "roasted red pepper and crab soup" on the menus for the first course, which was served in the heart-shaped bowls. The soup was probably the most popular food.
 I hung pretty glass hearts that I bought in Germany from the chandelier.
 I used heart-shaped pasta for the alfredo and put glittery foam hearts on the red napkin rings and the tea pot. We had a very nice time!
Becky gave me these delicate little heart lights that looked so pretty!
PARTY #2--In March I was in charge of the invitations, decorations, cakes, and activity for the Relief Society Birthday Dinner. I decided on aqua and gray/silver for the colors and made the invitations accordingly.
I wasn't in charge of the food, but printed the menus to put by each place.
 I recycled the silver paint stick stars I used at the ward Christmas dinner and had Kent shape them into window frames. This was one side of the cultural hall. I made the buntings with fabric and paper napkins.
I made the flower boxes from cardboard, covered in paper and filled them with silk ivy and tissue paper flowers. I made the large pinwheels from wrapping paper.
The other side of the cultural hall had the cake table, plus displays of the three areas of focus for the Relief Society, which are Faith, Family and Relief.
 Each table had items on them that went along with the theme.
This time I remembered to have Kent take a picture of me with my decorations!
 I made four different four-layer cakes. Below are the lemon and vanilla cakes.
 These are the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and the chocolate with peanut butter frosting cakes. They were all very yummy, if I do say so myself.
I didn't have time to put string across the ceiling of the cultural hall to hang my paper lanterns, so I used a hula hoop and hung them and the pom poms over the cake table.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a good picture of the centerpieces. I used milk bottles wrapped in gray fabric and tied with aqua twine. They were placed on a piece of aqua card stock with lace scalloped edges.
 I made pinwheels from aqua wrapping paper and used my silhouette to cut out the words, "faith", "family" and "relief". The aqua and gray napkins are also shown below (which I also cut up to use on the buntings.) We set up six tables and only needed four and a half, so that was disappointing.
After the meal we did projects that centered around each area of focus. 
For "faith" I designed this tile using a pass along card picture of the Savior and used my silhouette to cut out the vinyl words. They turned out pretty well, though the photo below is blurry.
PARTY #3-- The very next day after my labor intensive RS activity, we had our annual Green Party. Fortunately Kent had the day off so we worked together to get set up for the party. Here are this year's invitation.
The porch decked out in green and shamrocks. This year we had the party actually on St. Patrick's day, which was fun.
 This sign was a new addition this year.
 For the past few years Kent has bought these cute little narcissus flowers that look like mini-daffodils to put in the kitchen window. They look so spring-y!
I don't vary too much from the way I decorate from year to year. I've collected quite a few serving green dishes from Goodwill over the years.
Our green party outfits.
 I bought shamrocks from Giant to use as decorations and as prizes for the most unusual green food item and the person wearing the most green.
 Every year I have the green avocado chips and green m & m's, but I tried something new this year. I made spinach crepes and filled them with laughing cow cheese, green onions and raw spinach. They were tasty and came out a lovely green color without adding any food coloring. I was pleased with them and think I'll make them again!
It was a crazy couple of days, but now that it's behind me I can say it was fun in an extremely stressful kind of way! I like entertaining and being creative in my decorating, but I wish I was better at having people help me and not trying to do so much by myself.