After we bought a Vitamix blender, we started making daily smoothies. The recipe book included contains a recipe for a tropical fruit smoothie and that’s the one I like. It uses oranges, bananas, pineapples, and spinach.

An issue I struggled with was the fruit and spinach going bad if I didn’t use it in time or especially when I had leftover spinach which was every time. I like spinach, but we don’t eat many salads around here and I was always throwing away yucky spinach. I don’t like wasting food or money.

So I decided to freeze it and that solved my problem. Except that it introduced a new one: I use zip top freezer bags and they’d get so much fruit juice on the outside from me wrangling the bags open with juicy fingers to get the fruit inside. The bags won’t stand up by themselves when they’re empty.

So we were at Sur la Table the other week and I saw these on the clearance table. They had enough (I need 3 or 4 for a batch of fruit) and they were cheap so I bought them. They work great!


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The arms are adjustable and they hold the bags open.

Here’s a link to them on Amazon:

Baggy Rack

Here’s the recipe as I make it:

One batch yields about two 16-oz glasses (give or take depending on the size of the fruit), so I drink one and save the rest in a container for the next day. Since the pineapple yields about 4 generous slices, this gives me 4 batches and I use two per week. And if you are using fruit that you’ve frozen, it needs to be at least partially thawed or the blender will have a tough time.

4 navel oranges

1 fresh pineapple

4 ripe bananas

1 bag baby spinach

Agave syrup, light or dark (use your sweetener of choice)

1 cup water if the fruit has been frozen or 1 cup ice cubes if fresh

Peel the oranges and bananas. You can cut them up but I generally leave the orange whole and break the banana in half to fit inside the bag. Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple, cut into 4 generous (about 1 inch) slices and cut off the outside rind or whatever it’s called (or cut off the rind first and then into slices) and then cut each slice into quarters so that they’re easier to handle. Throw one orange, one banana, four pineapple quarters and a hearty handful of spinach into a bag to freeze for later or into the blender to drink now. If straight-to-blender, add one cup ice cubes. If you’re blending thawed fruit, add one cup cold water.  Once the fruit is in the blender, add the sweetener. I use 4 swirls of the agave syrup. Blend on high for a good 45 seconds. One nice thing about the Vitamix is the pusher can be used to push the fruit down toward the blades while it’s blending, especially helpful when the fruit is frozen.  (That whole orange can be pesky.)

I hope you’ll try this recipe whether you buy the Baggy Racks or not. A couple of my coworkers were making a smoothie that they called the green monster. I think it had kale in it rather than spinach. It looked awful to me but if you can get past the color, this one tastes great!








Gosh, I haven’t posted in a long, long time. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my genealogy software, updating family lines and fixing sources. I’m paying the price now for being lazy in my inputting in the past. And that’s way too boring to talk about on the blog.

So, what have I been up to otherwise? I decided to try to grow hydrangeas from cuttings. I’ve been researching the how-to of this online, finding that most articles and videos follow the same process but there isn’t just one I can point to that answered all my questions. So the procedure I followed is kind of a mashup of several of them.


Most of the how-tos I found advocate using a plastic bag to enclose your cuttings once planted, but they never say what kind of bag. Ziploc? grocery? produce? dry cleaners? The point is to create a greenhouse-like environment and I just couldn’t envision how any plastic bag I could come up with would be successful. Plus, I have a very curious cat. So when I found a video on the This Old House website that showed using a plastic container instead, I knew that would be my solution.

You can see in the photo above that I have two plastic containers. The smaller one is the first one I bought, thinking it would be deep enough for cuttings planted in a layer of potting soil. But once I actually cut the stems, I found that it wasn’t deep enough. Plus, I had saved a plastic multi-pot thingy from some plants I bought from the local nursery last year for this purpose and it was too big for the box. So I bought the other one which seemed too big but actually worked out quite well.

You’ll need some soil. I found many different ideas about what to use so I bought some organic potting soil. I think any basic soil would work or you could make your own with peat moss and perlite.

You’ll need rooting hormone powder, a pencil and pruning shears.

You’ll need a mister.


And don’t forget labeling sticks.


Ok, let’s go take some cuttings.

Select branches that didn’t have a flower this year. Not a problem at my house because none of my hydrangeas bloomed.

You’ll want a cutting that has a pair of leaves at the top. I don’t know how important it is, if at all, if they’re mature leaves because you’ll be cutting them in half anyway, but that’s what I looked for. Then count down two more leaf pairs and cut just above the leaf pair after that.



Do not:

Pruning-don't do

You don’t want to leave a stump on your stem. So here’s one cutting fresh off the shrub. Note that the topmost leaf pair is probably big enough that that I could have made the cutting shorter by one leaf node (in hind-sight).

Hydrangea cutting

In one of the how-to videos I found the lady just stripped off the lower leaves by hand but all the rest showed people using pruning shears or scissors. The leaf nodes are where the new roots are going to sprout from, hopefully. I didn’t cut the leaves off flush with the stem, I aimed for about a quarter inch from the stem. I don’t know how important this is.

Where to trim cutting

You’re going to want to make a horizontal cut of the topmost leaves. This just leaves more room in your container. You don’t need the whole leaf. You can see that some of my cuttings are longer than others.

Hydrangea cuttings after trimming

Next step not shown, is to fill your pots with the soil and poke a hole for the cutting with the pencil.

Now, dip your cutting in water

Dip cutting in water

and then in the rooting powder. Shake off the excess. (Every how-to I found said not to dip directly into the powder container as it could spread disease. With the exception of one video where the lady just defied current wisdom and did it anyway. Or maybe she didn’t know any better. To be on the safe side, put some in a separate container where it won’t blow away if you’re doing this outside and discard the leftover powder, don’t put it back in the original container.)

Dip cutting in rooting hormone powder

Poke the cutting into the hole you made with the pencil and tamp down the soil around it.

Cuttings in pot

Label the cuttings with the variety if you know it or at least the color of the flowers, if you know that. You could also put the date you planted if you think that’s necessary. I just marked the date on my calendar.

Cuttings in pot with labels

Here are my cuttings in the bottom of the container. Not shown here, I went to a friend’s house later in the day and took some cuttings from her plants (hey, I was on a roll) but I had to buy little plastic pots for those. They fit perfectly in this container with the others.

Cuttings in plastic container

Before you put the top on, mist the soil generously around each cutting. Here is the finished greenhouse in my sun room. It’s got great light and the cat can’t get into it. My plan was to mist the cuttings every day, but after a few days there was still condensation on the container, so I decided I’d wait and only mist once a week, unless it dried out sooner.

Finished "greenhouse"

In 6 weeks I’ll test for roots by gently tugging on the cutting. If there’s resistance, there are roots and I’ll cheer for success! I don’t expect every one of them to make it, which is why I took so many cuttings. Increases my odds.

After that, I’ll repot them in a larger container and move them outside. I have to come up with a strategy for that step because we have squirrels that would delight in digging them all up. I’m thinking I’ll either buy a cold frame or get my husband to make one for me. That should protect the baby hydrangeas and they may be big enough by next spring to plant in the ground.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I still have that smaller plastic container and I may try looting my friend’s plants again (she has different varieties than I have) for shorter cuttings that only have one leaf node which would fit in the box better and I’ll see if the cuttings have to have two leaf nodes in the dirt to be successful or if one will suffice.

Watch this space for periodic updates!


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There were a number of things I would have liked to do in Cape May, like renting a bike and riding around town and hiking the nature trails by the lighthouse. Especially since Sunday’s weather turned out quite nice in contrast to Saturday’s. But part of my “plan” for the weekend included driving up to Allaire State Park and checking out Historic Allaire Village. A friend of mine talks a lot about dressing up in period clothes and joining the other re-enactors as a quilter. We have an historic village in our area, Henricus, and I thought Allaire might be similar and a nice photo op. And it would have been, except Allaire has a “no photography” policy inside the buildings. So I complied and restricted my photos to exterior shots.
















There was even a real wedding in the historic church. Apparently it’s a popular place for weddings.


We decided when we left Cape May that we’d skip the Philadelphia portion of the trip because we wouldn’t get there in time to see the sights which closed at 5pm and I really didn’t have an after-5 plan. We didn’t want to spend another evening in a hotel without anything to do, although we would have been able to watch TV at the Courtyard 🙂

So we drove on home, with a stop for dinner once we got into Virginia. Next time, we’ll drive up on Friday so that we can get an early start on activities on Saturday. I’m thinking we can do this in the spring/early summer because I’ve been wanting to see Longwood Gardens (about an hour outside of Philly) and Winterthur in Delaware.





We had a 3-day weekend and I didn’t want to let it go without getting away from home. We spend so many weekends doing laundry and running mundane errands that I just wanted to get out. There are a number of cities within a few hours drive that I would like to explore. I considered Pittsburgh, as we have friends from that area and they talk about it a lot. But, John didn’t see the point. Whatever that means. Apparently he didn’t want to go there 🙂

So I decided on Philadelphia. The last time we were there was a month after 9/11 and everything was locked down with armed guards (as I remember it), so we didn’t even stop. I also wanted to explore New Jersey (why does everyone diss Jersey?), so the plan was to spend a day in Philly doing touristy things and then head over to Cape May, which I’d heard so much about. I also wanted to see fall color, assuming NJ was far enough north to be further along in the color than down here.

Our weekend didn’t go exactly as I’d envisioned it. First, we had a Friday evening commitment, so we couldn’t hit the road then. That would have been ideal. Then, I couldn’t get an affordable hotel room in Philly until Sunday night, so we were forced to do the trip in reverse order. I couldn’t find a Marriott hotel (or any other chain for that matter) in Cape May and friends said oh just get a B&B. We’d never stayed at one before and I didn’t know how to choose, so we drove up without a reservation for that night. While on the road, I got ahold of the Availability Hotline, which gave me three B&Bs that had reported cancellations. Only one of them actually had a room, so I grabbed it.

Saturday was a rainy, dreary day and we didn’t get into Cape May until after 1pm, closer to 2, I think. We couldn’t check in until 3, so we walked down the street to the pedestrian shopping mall, looking for a light lunch. Even though we split a chicken salad sandwich, it was huge and was more than we intended to eat.

Here’s what we didn’t know about Cape May until we got there. Probably 95% or more of the hotels are Victorian B&Bs, I think. The town has historic status, so everything is protected and it tops the quaintness charts (if there is such a thing). If you go, bring rolls and rolls of quarters because all street parking is metered and one quarter will only get you 15 minutes. No Sunday exclusions, although I think you don’t have to feed the meters over night. There are ATMs everywhere and it was explained to us that a lot of businesses are cash only. We didn’t run into that and of course, you can’t get quarters from an ATM. So beware. Another curiosity was so many restaurants that advertised BYOB. Our host explained that there are a limited number of alcohol licenses, so they let you bring in your own. It’s a walking and biking town, so bring your sturdy shoes and your own bikes, although rentals are available. We were a couple of blocks from the beach and since it’s off-season, the beaches were pretty deserted. I can imagine what the town must be like during the summer.


Andy and Toby were our hosts at Bayberry Inn. It is one of a few buildings that survived a devastating fire in 1878.


A delightful place, I highly recommend it. One block from the Washington Street mall and two blocks from the beach. Easy walking.


Saturday’s skies:

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Sunday was much nicer:


I would have taken pictures of every single fabulous B&B and inn if I could have. Here are just a few:

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As I’d hoped, the town was decorated for fall and Halloween. Made me want to come home and plant mums.

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It just happened to be Lima Bean Festival weekend.

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Cape May is a big bird-watching destination because of the Atlantic Flyway. This is by the lighthouse and the place was teeming with bird-watchers. I overheard some people say they’d walked a nature trail and saw bald eagles.

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Because of our late lunch, we weren’t hungry for dinner, although we did walk around about 8 o’clock looking at all the posted menus. We came back to our room, intending to watch an episode of Game of Thrones on the iPad, since there are no televisions at Bayberry Inn. However, it wouldn’t download and it wouldn’t stream, so we went to bed early 🙂

We left town Sunday morning to do some more touring around the state. I’ll tell you about that in Part 2.


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Now that I have video capabilities in my new 70D, it’s going to turn into new opportunities for me to explore my artistic side, such as it is. I’ve taken a few short videos, but once you get them out of the camera, you usually have to tweak them before posting to Facebook, YouTube, etc. A lot of people put raw footage online, but I want to do more. I do not see myself ever going beyond the simplest of edits because I find video editing tedious and time consuming. I’ve been using iMovie, which is beginner/consumer level software, but I find it frustrating because I can’t remember how to use it from edit session to edit session because let’s face it, I don’t do this everyday.

But I saw this tutorial on using Photoshop for this purpose and wowee, I couldn’t wait to try it. We just got back from vacation and I brought back some short video clips I’d taken at our nephew’s wedding. I wanted to combine the 3 clips into one movie. Photoshop was awesome for this purpose. I played around with creating and adding an outro to my movie and I actually figured it out on my own. Woohoo! I don’t know if I did it the “right” way, but it worked.


That said, here’s my movie:

(The back story: this is my son Brian dancing with his cousins’ children, who love him to death, as you’ll soon see. They like to play Dance Party video games at family get-togethers, so they thought this was just more of the same.)


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Birthday apron

Granddaughter Anya celebrated her 4th birthday a few weeks ago and Nannie had been asked to make her an apron. This is what I came up with:




The print fabric is directional but it goes in all directions. Some of the Minnies were vertical, some sideways. So I wasted some fabric trying to figure out the best way. There is also some text that ended up upside-down but I figured Anya wouldn’t really care. She can’t read it yet anyway LOL.



I’ve been working on the family histories since 1989. I never went into this with a plan. Honestly, I started it because we bought our first PC and I was looking for something to use it for, you know, to justify the expense. I had seen an article about the LDS church’s genealogy software that you could buy for $35 (Personal Ancestral File for DOS) and that seemed like a fun thing to play with. And I never looked back.

But I’m not getting any younger and it’s time to think seriously about my legacy. What do I want to leave behind? I’ve always said I wanted to publish my research, but in looking at what I’ve accomplished, I realize that I am one of those “name collectors,” so reviled by many in the genealogical community. They say that doesn’t make me a family historian, that I’m not writing the story of my ancestors’ lives, just documenting branches on a tree. Well, I’m not ashamed of my work. I have laid the pathway for others to write the stories. Of course, all my work (and all anyone’s work) needs to be verified. I try not to jump to conclusions, but sometimes when faced with fact discrepancies, you go with your gut and write down what you’ve found, how it conflicts and which fact you think is the correct one. Just think how much time I will have saved someone if they don’t have to build the trees from scratch, they can look at my work and verify or discount.

On my father’s side, my goals have always been to discover where the immigrant ancestors came from. I don’t care to go any farther back in time than that. I’m not looking for a link to royalty or Charlemagne. And I’ve done that with our HOFF, SCHMIEDER, SCHMITZ and WEBER lines. A cousin found the birthplace of our BACHMANN line, so I make no claim to that. GRIMM and WELTER have so far eluded me.

On my mother’s side, all lines can probably be traced to colonial-era immigration. Some of these families have been researched by other cousins and I’ve been verifying their work as much as I can. What fun it would be to be reincarnated as a young person, to be given another lifetime to research where the older me had to leave off. The next few generations will see an explosion of data and records digitized and put online and they’ll be able to find things that for now are hidden away in courthouse basements, libraries, rotting old newspapers, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly feel blessed that I’m living in a time where so much is already available to me online as I’m able to afford to pay for it, as opposed to those who’ve gone before me and had to resort to recording data on index cards and  travel to faraway places to visit those basements, libraries and cemeteries. I hope and pray that the politicians who are so intent on locking up our vital records will relent and laws will change to a more open atmosphere. If not, it will be several more generations before anyone can access them.

So now I need to set some goals, doable goals. Yes, I want to keep working away on the GRIMMs and WELTERs. On my husband’s side, I want to be able to confirm that he is a direct descendant of John and Priscilla ALDEN of the Mayflower. Because that makes my children and grandchildren direct descendants also. I “inherited” a lineage from John’s grandmother but it only has a handwritten list of names, no notes, no sources. I don’t know who wrote the list or when (just that it was prior to 1980). Gram was long gone when I started this quest and John’s mother told me about the list but she didn’t know what happened to it, she was afraid it was tucked into a book that she put in her mother’s casket. Well, great! A few years ago, after John’s mother died, my sister-in-law found that paper in her garage as she was cleaning out stuff after her husband (John’s brother) died. The list was exactly the same as what I had come up with in my independent research and my heart soared that it could be right.  I want our kids and grandkids to know for sure, one way or the other.

I want to visit where the KASPAR family came from in what was 19th century’s Austria, today’s Poland (the area surrounding Nowy Sacz). I’ve been to the HOFF and SCHMIEDER birthplaces  in Germany (Thuine, Neidersachsen and Kappel-Niederschach, Baden respectively) and I want to visit where the WEBERs came from in Rhineland (Üdersdorf). After I find those GRIMMs (likely in the neighborhood of Neuhütten, Bavaria) and WELTERs (either Luxembourg, France or Germany), I want to go to those places, too.

And I want to put all this stuff in print, some way, some how. It’ll do no one any good if it’s buried on my computer. I have a plan for putting it online but that’s down the road a bit. My database could use some cleanup first.

So I feel good that I have made this list of goals and my next step is to get organized.

Heaven help me, I just bought a portable scanner (ScanSnap S1300i) and a database program called Paperless. I’ve been thinking for years how I can get all my piles of paper that are on the floor digitized in my lifetime. I’ve bought several scanners through the years and the ScanSnap seems to be the most usable for this project. It scans 2-sided and can handle multiple pages in one feed. I don’t have to use Paperless if I don’t want to but for genealogy stuff, it seems the most practical. I was playing with the scanner this weekend and I was able to scan directly to Evernote, although each document went to the Miscellaneous notebook. If there’s a way to direct a scan to the proper notebook, somebody please let me know. It’s easy to change it in Evernote, but that is one more step.

Next steps (per the Mayflower Descendants group on Facebook): contact the Virginia chapter of the Mayflower Society and get their guidance on this documentation journey. I looked into Society membership years and years ago and they were working on documenting the Alden’s first 5 generations. I’m told this is done now, so I should only have to connect our lines to theirs.




I love surveying my garden in the early morning. I’d say mine skews more heavily to spring blooming plants, but I do have some things blooming now, now that the azaleas and rhodies have finished.

I love, love, love day lilies. But my back yard is getting too shady for all the blooms my plants have the potential for. We limbed up most all of our oaks last fall in an effort to reduce the shade on the grass, but that hasn’t been enough. As much of a tree hugger as I am, I would like to remove some of them to let more sun in, but wow, that is so expensive. Also, my next-door-neighbor’s yard has mature oaks that are blocking a lot of sunlight on that side of the property. If I could, I’d remove her trees.

Despite my efforts to preserve the variety names, I’m afraid this one is lost. Isn’t it beautiful?

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A friend gave me some of her run-of-the-mill orange “ditch lilies” as she calls them, a few years ago. They’ve done well and filled out the space I planted them in. They are blooming well right now. No pictures today as they all closed up over night and the new ones haven’t opened yet. But you know them, I’m sure. They grow wild everywhere around here.

We had a surprise freeze in late-April, right after what’s supposed to be our last frost date. I think it played havoc with my Nikko Blue hydrangeas, as all 8 of the plants along our driveway fence are smaller than normal and not one single bloom on any of them. They are in full shade and don’t bloom very profusely anyway, but this is downright sad. The foliage looks nice and healthy, though. I have one plant at the house, which gets more sun and usually does very well. It, too, is smaller than usual but does have a few small blooms. Over the years, a couple of low branches managed to attach themselves to the ground and have rooted. I cut the smaller one off a few weeks ago and potted it up. The other one is quite a bit larger and I’ll have to look around for a place to put it. Maybe it’ll fit somewhere in the front where there’s more light.

My Bluebird hydrangea is doing great! At least that’s one consolation. The flowers are truly blue.



I was surprised to find this Astilbe peeking out from some azaleas. I had planted two of these next to the azaleas when they were new and everything was small. I didn’t see them last year, and assumed they’d gotten crowded out. Nice to see one has survived! I probably should move it…


This end of a flower bed is under our cherry tree. There are several varieties of Hosta, a Korean Spice Viburnum (which never blooms because it’s in shade, but I took that into consideration when I planted it, I just wanted something to fill in) and this Autumn fern. I think it’s an Autumn fern, maybe it’s a Japanese painted fern. If I’d known it was going to get this large, I would have moved it back toward the fence. But maybe it’s doing this well because of where it is. There is a little tiny fern back behind it that is barely hanging on, I’d better move it before I lose it altogether.


And, last but not least, John had to replace his Chuck Hayes gardenia because we lost the old one (and another one) to the late freeze. He keeps hoping the old one will come back, but the green leaves it still has are sickly looking and are turning brown. It’s a goner.


I was playing around with a photographic technique of creating a black background even in the daytime. What you’ll need for this is a camera that will do full manual and a flash or speed light and a tripod (although this isn’t mandatory). If you have the equipment to take your flash off camera, you’ll have more flexibility. I have a light stand that I bought specifically for my flash, a gizmo with a cold shoe (I think that’s what it’s called) to mount the flash unit on the stand, and inexpensive remote flash triggers (Yongnuo brand).

Here’s the gist of how you do it:

Set your camera on manual. Set your shutter speed at the sync speed of your flash (check your user guide), I set mine at 250. Set your aperture for the highest number, at least 22. Set your ISO as low as it will go, 100 or lower. If using a tripod, turn off stabilization if your lens has that. Set your focus to manual and adjust that. Easiest way is to focus on your subject with auto and then turn it off.

Without the flash, take a test shot. You should get a solid black rectangle. This is your ambient light and in this experiment, you don’t want any.

Now, enable your flash. Fire away. Commence experimenting with different settings and positions for your flash. I have a Canon 580EX II and it offers ETTL (through the lens, rather automatic) and manual settings that let you dial down the strength by 1/3 stops, down to 1/32. I found that full strength was too harsh, anything lower than 1/4 was too low.  I set the light stand to camera left of my flower. I moved it all around, even took the flash off the stand and used it hand-held so I could get some overhead lighting.


This is the best of my shots and it’s not great. I tried every position I could think of to get the shadows out of the flower and I must have missed the one position that would have accomplished this. And I do admit to cheating a little by adding some highlighting to the flower in Lightroom.


I have a lot of work to do to perfect this. But it was fun playing around with it and using the gear. I recommend the Yongnuo flash triggers. I don’t know what the pricey Pocket Wizards do that the Yongnuo doesn’t, but these worked for me just fine. My only gripe is that when you attach the flash to the trigger, you have to remember to turn the trigger on first because the flash covers up the power switch. Same for turning it off.

By the way, this plant is a Streptocarpus, sounds like a disease or virus. I bought it last year when the Richmond African Violet Society held a plant sale at Lewis Ginter. I wasn’t familiar with this one and for the longest time, I was just trying to keep it alive. They were selling 2-piece plastic pots where you fill the bottom with water up to the line and then insert the part with the plant in it. I was so tickled when it bloomed, because it sure didn’t do much for the whole time since I bought it. They come in pink, blue and purple. Maybe I’ll get some more at the next plant sale.

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