Category: Faith, Family, & Country

Biscuits and Mom’s Birthday

When we were young, my big sister and I would hang around the kitchen watching howMom-biscuits (2) Mom would do what she would do. Many mornings our eyes were fixed on a ritual that seemed so simple and so certain. Virtually no words were said. We knew that too many questions in the kitchen would only lengthen the wait for breakfast. But, we watched – we watched every measurement and every move. Our thinking was, “Someday, someday in the far, far away, we would be able to make biscuits just like Mom’s. Continue reading “Biscuits and Mom’s Birthday”

SFH Journal: 2019-01-05 – Grandsons & Weather

We’ll keep it short today as we play catch up and get ready for my first work week of the new year.

Highlight: Son #1 came over for a visit. He brought Grandsons #1, #2, and #4. It was raining when they arrived. A frontal system had moved through and all the boys were interested in seeing how the new SFH WX Station plotted and graphed the wind speed, wind direction, and  temperature changes. It wasn’t a science lesson, it was a practical demonstration of how to observe what goes on around you and make sense of it. Even more importantly, it was a chance for us to spend some good time together.

Granny outdid herself putting on a good feed for the hungry lads. Of course, there were some of their favorites – corn chips and SFH’s finest G&G H-Bomb III Salsa. Grandson #4 looked a little overawed with the effects of his portion of Peter’s Pickled Jalapeno Peppers. He was not deterred – he ate them all.

There’s nothing like a day with the grand-boys!

Weather: I included the wind information for Saturday the 5th to show wind gusts recorded just as Son #1 and the grand-boys arrived at SFH.

04 JAN, Friday High Low Average
Temperature 45.1 °F 28.6 °F 36.8 °F
Dew Point 41.7 °F 27.9 °F 35.7 °F
Humidity 99% 81% 93%
Precipitation 0.11 in
05 JAN, Saturday High Low Average
Temperature 58.1 °F 35.4 °F 46.7 °F
Dew Point 47.1 °F 30.6 °F 39.4 °F
Humidity 99% 43% 79%
Precipitation 0.18 in
05 JAN, Saturday High Low Average
Wind Speed 15 mph 1 mph
Wind Gust 24 mph
Wind Direction WNW
Pressure 29.79 in 29.39 in


“All things have their season” – Even Yard Trash

“All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

There are many ways to prepare for Christmas. By living Advent fully as a time of preparation and prayer, you can find a deeper meaning in the mystery of Christmas. My beautiful wife and her close friend give expression to that sentiment in their yearly tradition of making Advent/Christmas arrangements.

Continue reading ““All things have their season” – Even Yard Trash”

A Christmas Carol – Yes, I can be objective!


There was a serious, disturbing, and slightly bloody tussle over who would write this critical review of the play “A Christmas Carol” presented by St. John’s Drama at Skyline High School in Front Royal on November 18th. It seems that Mr. Monte, our highly literate scholar of the fine arts, considered his ability to provide an objective and unbiased review of the play was far superior to yours truly. He based his claim on the trumped up, fallacious charge that I could not avoid favoritism due to the fact that my beautiful, charming, and amazingly talented Granddaughter No. 1 had a part in the play. Although I could understand why he made this baseless charge, his argument was shredded to pieces when I reminded him that he had not even seen the play. After that, he reluctantly allowed me the use of the keyboard. Meanwhile, he began to chew ferociously on the mouse out of frustration over losing an argument to Old Fuzz Face.

Introduction: Public school and parochial high school students usually have access to a stage with proper lighting and facilities. Qualified drama teachers or others with appropriate training are available to direct and coordinate production of a play or musical. For many home schooled children, however, these things are not readily available. That is why St. John’s Drama in Front Royal has worked mightily since 2008 to afford home schoolers and others in the area the opportunity to share in the theatrical experience. That is the answer for the big questions “how” and “why” did this production of “A Christmas Carol” come to be. (For more background about how this all came to be, click here.)

Plot Summary: “A Christmas Carol” is based on the 1843 novella by Charles Dickens as adapted by Jacqueline Goldfinger. All our readers should be familiar with the story line, but if you need a quick refresher click here.

Performance: Objectivity dictates that one must consider the situation as it is and not to compare it to something that it was never intended to be. This was not a professional quality production. It was the performance of amateurs. But to be just, it was a vibrant combined performance of a group of talented, enthusiastic, and dedicated amateurs. Surely, some lines were not well delivered and there were some missed cues. Yet, this member of the audience was both entertained and inspired. The intent of Dickens to increase compassion for and awareness of those around us was fulfilled.


It must be noted that in scenes such as the Fezziwig Party, the cast did an excellent job of intricately balancing four different actions simultaneously. There were dance, drama, acting to the side, and convincing period music, all performed without clashing or distracting.

Design Elements: Simplicity was the order of the day. The cast of actors carried the action using a simple set. There was never a doubt about where you were in any scene. The focus remained on the powerful narrative and message created by Dickens. Costumes, on the other hand, were elaborate and seemingly authentic. They visually assisted each performer to assume the manner of the individual characters.


Reaction: As you can see, I was pleased and entertained by what was accomplished by St. John’s Drama last Sunday >>>>///Bang – crashh!!! /// Oh, there’s a strange noise downstairs! I better go check on what’s happening///


Hi, to all of my fans. This Mr. Monte here. While Old Fuzz Face is checking out the distraction I caused downstairs, let me fill you in on the real story. His Granddaughter No. 1 played the part of the Ghost of Christmas Past. As you can see in the picture, she was stunning. And, from personal observation over almost four years, she has far more talent than you can imagine.

That young lady is a bona fide cat lover. She has two cute little females of her own and Blondie tells me that she treats them like queens. Whenever she comes over here to Serendipity Farmhouse, she calls for me and I come running. She has a certain charm about her. When I think of her, the term “cat whisperer” comes readily to mind.

Now, Old Fuzz Face has trouble being objective about sweet Granddaughter No. 1, but no one ever said I have that problem. Nope, she’s the smartest, most beautiful young lady in the world, at least as far as I’m concerned.

SFH Journal: 2018-11-04 through 07

Highlight 1: Recently, beautiful spouse and I had a painfully disappointing experience. We completely “destroyed” a wonderful piece of beef and some expensive fine, red wine by using a miserable excuse of a recipe that claimed that it would produce a delicious  “boeuf bourguignon”. We had planned to prepare this supposed delight while on our last RV trip. But, due to unforeseen circumstances did not prepare it until a week ago.  (See “Serendipity, we have a problem!”)

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Certified disaster on a plate

I won’t bother you with extraneous detail. Let me merely say that three absolutely essential ingredients were absent from the recipe: butter, bacon, and garlic. Butter starts my day, bacon lifts my spirits, and garlic makes life worth living! That wretched recipe has left me traumatized. (Julia Child would have wept.)

Motivated by pure indignation and outrage, I vowed that, 1104181410 (2)henceforward, butter, bacon, and most importantly garlic would always be available at SFH to add to recipes of this type. To that end, industrious and forward thinking wife planted nearly 20 cloves of garlic in our herb garden.

Highlight 2: I’m tired! I’m very tired. Over the last several days and two exceedingly long nights, I felt compelled to answer the call of civic duty and responsibility. I’ve gone to meetings concerning local issues, and with my dear sweet wife, I went to the polls at o-dark-thirty to vote in the national election. Last evening, we watched the news for hours as the election results rolled in. Here at SFH and at the homes of our children we hold fast to fulfilling our important civic obligation:

“Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay to taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country.” CCC 2240

1104181617a (2)Highlight 3: Oh, yes! Exceedingly thoughtful neighbors shared their bounty in oysters. Twenty-two tasty morsels from the Chesapeake Bay made their way to our grill and then to our table on  the 4th. Good neighbors are a blessing from God!

Weather: Alternating rain, sun, clouds. The yard is full of standing water again.

2018-11-04: High/Low – 57º/32º (Details – click here.)

2018-11-05: High/Low – 51º/46º (Details – click here.)

2018-11-06: High/Low – 62º/55º (Details – click here.)

2018-11-07: High/Low – 62º/41º (Details – click here.)

Plantings: Mark the date – November 4th – garlic, wonderful, delightful, versatile, essential garlic was planted.

Harvest: Reporting suspended until the first harvest of 2019.

The Great SFH Birthday Bash of 2018

Frolicking fun, intense sporting rivalries, plenty of good food, family sharing, and a host of wonderful experiences highlighted the great, stupendous, magnificent, unforgettable Serendipity Farmhouse Birthday Bash of 2018. The only downside of the day was that four grandchildren and one lovable daughter-in-law were unable to attend due to a minor sickness that had visited members of the family.

Before we get to the good stuff, let’s provide a little background and a few statistics. The purpose of the party was to bring the family together to celebrate the birthdays of respected son-in-law #2, honorable son, loving and adorable wife, and growing grandson #2. (Be it known that grandson #2 could have been born on his doting grandmother’s birthday, but, instead, chose to reveal himself to the world one day later. His ranking in the will, however, was not changed due to this nearly unforgivable error.)


Attendees: 13 (including cherished best friend)

Weather:   Temperature: 86º   Humidity: 62º   Precipitation: 0.0 inches

There was some sweat and some red faces, but no major sunburns, heat exhaustion, or other undesirable weather-related complications. And for once, the mosquitoes and gnats decided not to make a picnic of us.

Menu:  Hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, veggies, strawberries, blueberries, several types of salad, cherished friend’s fantastic baked beans, ice tea, assorted cold drinks, etc.

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Dessert:   The best gluten-free cake we have ever tasted, cupcakes, and a huge chocolate cookie cake

The best gluten-free birthday cake ever. Yes, those are real flowers.

Games: Corn hole, charades, bubble catching, bubble biting, footraces, and assorted kick ball games. (Of course you remember, all attendees studiously avoided playing volley ball or badminton despite the fact that I had done such a perfect job of erecting the net.)

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And what would a birthday bash be without presents for the birthday people. Here’s a sampling of how that went.

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So, as is only right we did what was fitting for our birthday people. We lined them up and then …..

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We took a picture of the Birthday Banditos before handing out the blindfolds … I mean giving them all hugs, kisses, and/or handshakes.




SFH Journal: 2018-08-09 and 10

Highlight: In our post El Camino Del Monte – Water Works? or Waterworks?, I confessed my sad relationship with any system that has water in it. In this world, water does not belong in pipes, in tanks, or in water towers, not even in swimming pools. For me, water rightly belongs in oceans, lakes, rivers, and ponds. Why is that?

The answer to that profound question is quite simple. Water rightly belongs in all of those places so that there might be fish. Fish to catch, fish to eat, fish that put up a good fight and provide sport to a man’s life. Fish and water in their rightful places can bring a family together with bonds built on a common love and pursuit.

And so it was today. Son-in-law No. 2 and I were able to carve out a few small hours in our busy schedules to go to a local pond – a pond where water rightly belonged. In that pond were fish awaiting our arrival, ready to play the game that has brought men together for ages of ages, since the first net was thrown and the first line was cast. The game was afoot!

Son-in-law had his first catch within a minute or two. Several minutes later, he had a second fish in hand. Meanwhile, old Fuzz Face had tangled lines, lost a lure, and almost hooked himself.

On the other side of the pond, things began to slow for Son-in-law. My new, unscientifically chosen, guaranteed to be a bad choice lure, was cast into the water. Bingo! Shazam! Yahoo! Yippeee! It was the big one of the day. It was only a small pond, one couldn’t expect anything bigger. There he was, on my hook, pulling my line left and right, putting up a fight. He knew the game and he was playing it for all it was worth.

I finally, landed the worthy creature. We stared at each other for quite a while. Then he reminded me of the rules – catch and release. I carefully removed the hook, complemented him on the great fight, and returned him to the pond where water and fish are meant to be.

There was no rivalry between Son-in-law and old Fuzz Face today. By the time we called it quits, we each had landed three fish. The game was over. Everyone and every fish had won.

When it comes to water, fish and men with a love for the sport, this ranks among the very finest of days.

Weather: The lawn is mowed. The trimming is done. Beautiful spouse is happy. All things are good with the universe

2018-08-09: High – 87º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

2018-08-10: High – 86º (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report


2018-08-09: 10 cherry tomatoes

2018-08-10: 8 cherry tomatoes, 4 okra pods, 14 jalapenos


“Thank you for your service”

Yes, I served for 21 years. I hear the words “Thank you for your service” and I acknowledge them with pride and humility at the same time. But, sometimes I hesitate. I hesitate because I remember Phil Sundby, who was my best buddy for three years. I hesitate because I remember Chief “Snuffy” Smith, who was my Division Chief.

I hesitate because I am saying a prayerful “Thank you for your service” in their honor. So, when you say these words to a veteran today or any day and they hesitate before responding, you might now have an idea what is in their hearts. – Please, don’t ever stop taking the time to thank a veteran.


SFH Journal: 2018-05-11

Daily Highlight: This is the last full day of the visit. We’ve decided to keep it quiet and private. Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah National Forest are just part of our backyard at Serendipity Farmhouse. So, we went to the Shenandoah Skyland Resort for lunch. The clock might be ticking and saying Sister-in-law’s visit is coming to a close, but the view from Skyline Drive is timeless and enchanting. We’ll worry about tomorrow when it comes. For now, let’s just be family.


Weather: Today, was a little warmer and the humidity is beginning to climb. Yet, it was five degrees cooler on Skyline Drive – absolutely perfect for a quiet drive and lunch. (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report.

Harvest: One more asparagus spear was ready for harvest today. It’s been a good first season so far. (You can learn more about harvesting asparagus here.)

SFH Journal: 2018-05-09

Daily Highlight: Today, we (beautiful wife, dear sister-in-law, and I) made the hour-plus drive to Daughter #2’s new home. The ladies had tea and/or coffee and shared in plentiful conversation. Lunch consisted of of sandwiches, chips, and more conversation. Following tradition, and in accord with my better male instincts, I concentrated on my food and let the ladies talk.

For me, the visit also included playing peekaboo and other important games with Granddaughter #4. Today, she invited me to join her on a walking/running tour of the whole first floor – six laps were enough for yours truly. And, when the house tour was complete, there was an obligatory viewing of at least three episodes of “My Little Pony”. Although I personally prefer Winnie the Pooh, My Little Pony is perfectly acceptable for the purpose of grandfather – granddaughter bonding.

Weather:  This has been a week for good weather. The high of 78º and sunshine invited outdoor activities. My body did take notice that the humidity was somewhat elevated. (Be forewarned – I will complain and whine profusely as the heat and humidity increase.) (Detailed Summary – click here.)

Plantings: Nothing to report.

Harvest: A few more asparagus spears emerged this week and grew rapidly. Today, they were ready for harvest. Friday’s menu will certainly include fresh asparagus in some form. (You can learn more about harvesting asparagus here.)