April 30, 2009

Making a Natural Sweetener Unnatural?

Stevia leaf has been the source of a natural sweetener for a long time, but until recently could not be marketed as such in the U.S. It was available as an herb and many of us happily used it to add sweetness to tea and such.

Finally big corporations found a way to use it as a sweetener without the USDA objecting. They extracted the sweet part, refined it, and added other ingredients. Some of us who tried this new version (as Truvia) found that while the taste was good, something about it gave us side-effects like gas pains. I looked up the other ingredients and found they were erythritol and unspecified "flavors."

Beverage Daily just shared The Science of Stevia, explaining that the extra flavors were added to cover a "licorice" taste in stevia that some find a bit bitter. Personally I didn't mind the taste when used in herbal teas or cocoa since they have a slight bitterness anyway. I didn't like the taste in baked goods though.

The new stevia-derived sweeteners are being marketed as natural, but I think the meaning of natural is being stretched a bit far in this case. To me something natural is something you could make in your own kitchen. And nowhere have I found the identity of the other flavors that are added.

April 29, 2009

A Work-around, then another...

A few months ago I posted a file for CSDA at the request of a board member. Later someone realized it might cause a problem so I removed it. Well, today another board member noticed that it was still in Google's cache and wanted it out of there. Fortunately he is web-savvy and suggested creating a new file with the same name, posting it and then getting it indexed by the search engines. Sounded good, except that the old name had spaces in it and our web host no longer allows us to upload files with spaces in their names! (I think they tightened up the rules after getting hacked.) I was ready to give up but the web-savvy guy suggested uploading the file without spaces in the name, then trying a change-file-name on the file manager menu to old name, spaces included. It actually worked!

See my replacement page here. I even made it pretty.

April 28, 2009

Our Dogwood is Blooming

dogwoodI love the way dogwood brightens up the woods in spring.

We've had some very hot days lately. At first, spring was cool and often rainy or windy, but it suddenly changed to very warm, more like July than April.

April 27, 2009

Third Winchester Tour Posted

I'm finally posting the Battle of Third Winchester pages on my Civil War Field Trips site. I put off doing it because I use a multi-page format for each trip and it takes a long time. This trip report actually took less time than the others because it was shorter than most so I got all the thumbnails on a single page.

Dr. Poland shortened that trip because a rain storm was approaching. We barely made it to Winchester as rain started. But we had enjoyed a pleasant morning in Harper's Ferry and en route to Winchester.

April 26, 2009

Another Pic of Lynn Holding a Dog

Here is Lynn as a child holding a little dog. She has always liked dogs. This one was at Aunt Boots's home in Bath County.

April 25, 2009

Overlooking Lake Birdhaven

This photo is from about four years ago. Lake Birdhaven is sometimes shown on maps as Beetle Run Pond, after a creek that runs into it. That's Great North Mountain in the background.
Marie and Me

A View from Ridge Hollow Road

Springtime near Columbia Furnace, VA

April 24, 2009

Details of 2009 NVCC Civil War Tour

I received details on our upcoming field trip from Prof. Poland, starting with:
  • Bring lunch for May 15th and snacks and water for the 16th and 17th. For all three days bring rain gear, clothing and footwear for extensive walking.
  • Rendezvous; May 15 - 8:45 a.m at Stonewall Jackson Museum on Hupp's Hill across from the Virginia Saving Bank on Rt. 11 on the right side of Rt 11 as you enter Strasburg.
  • May 16th - 10:30 a.m. at Fort Harrison. Take exit 22B off Rt. 295 to Rt. 5 and proceed west. Take a left of Battlefield Park Road and drive to the parking lot of Fort Harrison.
  • Reservations: We will spent Saturday night at the Holiday Inn Express, 5679 Boyton Plank Road, Petersburg, VA.
If you are a fellow student, you can find more by signing in to your NVCC email. We are covering a huge territory in one weekend - Shenandoah Valley on Friday and Richmond to Appomattox on Saturday-Sunday.

April 23, 2009

April 22, 2009

Marie and Lynn in 1975

Marie in 1975

I had no idea when I took this photo that there were details that were predictive of future vocations.

April 21, 2009

April 20, 2009

Marker Improved by Errant Snowplow

historical markerThis marker stands along the Valley Pike (U.S. 11) between Edinburg and Woodstock. This history of the marker itself is interesting, but first let's read what it says:


A series of conflicts between settlers and Native Americans, including the French and Indian War, the Cherokee War, and Pontiac’s War, occurred along the western frontier of the colonies. The last documented clash in the Shenandoah Valley took place nearby in 1766. A small band of Indians attacked the Sheetz and Taylor families as they fled for safety to the fort of Woodstock. Mathias Sheetz and Taylor were both killed, but their wives used axes to fight off the Indians and escape with the children.

Department of Historic Resources 2000

I was surprised to read about this marker in a book by James Loewen called Lies Across America: What American Historic Sites Get Wrong. In this case, the sign corrects an earlier version of the marker, which was hit by a snow plow in 1994 and had to be replaced. Here's what the old marker said:
Here, in 1766, took place the last Indian outrage in Shenandoah County. Five Indians attacked two settler families fleeing to Woodstock. Two men were killed; the women and children escaped.
Loewen writes that the most obvious change is the word "Conflict" instead of "Outrage" in the title. He cautions, Before dismissing this rewording as merely "politically correct," we might note that outrage was bad history. It told not of the event but of the mentality of those who erected the sign before World War II.

He goes on to say, The new text also tells more history. Before the snowplow, a reader might reasonably infer that this "outrage" was a random act of violence against whites.

Loewen even says that the revision makes a strong case for errant snowplows... other markers make Native Americans the savages and deserve snowplow attention.

One of the main points of his book is that markers and monuments should be interpreted as insights into the attitudes of the people who erected them, so notice the dates they were placed.


Follow a Journey Down the Shenandoah

I'm following a blog called Journey Down the Shenandoah River. Andrew Thayer is exploring the Shenandoah with a couple of friends. Since he is an excellent photographer, I look forward to the photos of our beautiful river and the nature around it.

They are starting at the headwaters of the North Fork of the Shenandoah, west of Broadway, VA. I have not seen the place where German River and Crab Run converge to become the North Fork, although we were near there at Blue Hole in late September.

For those who don't know, the famous Shenandoah River is actually two rivers for many miles. The North Fork runs through our county (Shenandoah), and the South Fork begins in Port Republic. They run on opposite sides of Massanutten Mountain and finally come together at Front Royal. From there the Shenandoah continues northward to Harpers Ferry.

April 19, 2009

April 18, 2009

Tip For Blogspot Users

I came across an interesting post at Plagiarism Today on Protecting Blogspot Feeds. Basically it tells how to add a footer to your "feeds." This is a logical place to put a brief copyright notice, or if you don't care about copyright, a little ad or even a sassy comment.

We Still Have Daffodils

These cheerful daffodils were planted before we bought the place. On the other side of the driveway are daffodils that we planted this past fall. They are white with wide yellow-tinged trumpets. We also planted a few miniature yellow ones, which look really cute.

April 17, 2009

New Fence: 4 Rails, 3 Posts

Frank built this fence on the back of the little garden next to our parking space. There's a steep drop-off behind it so the fence makes the area a bit safer.

He likes rail fences and built them at our previous homes: Montclair, Glebe Harbor, and the one on the other side of Bryce.

April 16, 2009

Civil War Event in Elkton, VA

"Confederate Heritage Weekend" is planned for April 18 and 19, 2009 in Elkton, VA. You don't have to be a Confederate to enjoy the music, tours and living history at the Miller-Kite house (Jackson's Headquarters) on East Rockingham Street.

signI'll let the historical marker introduce the history of the site:
Less than a month after his defeat at Kernstown, Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson retired to the Elk Run Valley to rest his troops and plan for the spring campaign. With his men camped all along Elk Run and into Swift Run Gap, Jackson made his headquarters here in Elkton (then Conrad’s Store). Jackson used this house, then the residence of the widow of John Argabright. According to staff member Henry Kyd Douglas, Jackson’s room was empty of furniture except for a thin mattress on the floor.

In the days that followed, the house became a beehive of activity with the arrival and departure of couriers and officers including Gens. Edward “Allegheny” Johnson and Richard S. Ewell as well as mapmaker Jedediah Hotchkiss. A major disagreement developed here between Jackson and Col. Turner Ashby over the lack of discipline in the cavalry following a botched attempt to burn bridges in neighboring Page County.
Read the rest of the text at Historical Marker Database.

In 2007 I toured the house on one of the days when it was open to the public. See more photos from that visit to Elkton here.

Like many historic buildings in the quiet Shenandoah Valley, this one has limited hours. Last year it was open Sunday afternoons in the summer. I believe it is staffed by volunteers.

According to "The Villager" newspaper, details on the Heritage Weekend can be had by calling (540)578-3046 or writing historyed@msn.com.

Another Evening Sky

One great thing about our house is that the deck faces the setting sun (more or less, depending on the season).

We don't get a great sunset every night, but probably once a week and more than that in the summertime. In the winter there is often too much cloud cover or even too little. A rainy day can produce a lovely sunset if the clouds lift just in time.

April 15, 2009

Communication Towers

radio towers
When we walk the dogs in our driveway at night, we can see lights atop these towers far up on Great North Mountain. These towers, in George Washington National Forest, are surrounded by fences and warning signs. We pass them when we walk from Crooked Run Road to the viewpoint that was created by a cut for utility lines.

We only followed the orange-blazed trail for a short distance but it continues along the crest of the ridge. There are plenty of trails on Great North Mountain. You can purchase a map or a guidebook from the National Forest Service or the PATC or National Geographic.

NEWS FLASH: PATC says that the Forest Service has denied an application for wind energy development here on Great North Mountain. This is good news for our view and for the animals that live in the forest.

Frank and Linda on Great North Mtn.

We see Great North Mountain every day from our living room. On Sunday we were on top of it.

There are some huge boulders up there. I don't know why some people are compelled to paint on them.

The drive up Crooked Run Road is challenging with hairpin turns and lack of passing space, and once you get up to the top, you have to hike past the radio towers to reach the viewpoint. It's a great view though.

We chose not to drive down the other side into West Virginia, but returned the way we came. Along the road we saw pheasants and a herd of deer .

A Glimpse of West Virginia

Crooked Run Road at the state line on top of Great North Mountain

Looking East toward Home

viewIn the image above, I added some labels plus an asterisk showing the approximate location of our house. We were standing in the utility cut at the top of Great North Mountain.

The snow just melted from the ski slopes last week and they haven't greened up yet.

April 14, 2009

View Near Mount Clifton, VA

Flowering Trees and Rail Fence

Along the Orkney Grade (Rt. 263) just west of the county dumpsters and recycling site.

April 13, 2009

Geese in Edinburg

geeseNext to Stoney Creek

Lynn and Marie in 1972

children with presents
My kids looked so cute dressed up for a birthday party, so of course I got out the camera.

Little Lynn with Spotsy

At our Townhouse in 1972

Spotsy was just a puppy here. He grew to be too large for her to pick up. He was a pointer-setter mix, looked all pointer.

Lynn's dad got him from a friend who lived near Fredericksburg. I gave him the name Spotsylvania, which is the name of a town and county in that region of Virginia. Of course we called him Spotsy.

P.S. Compare to recent photo of Lynn. She still loves animals. (And I'm still taking the same picture!)

April 12, 2009

Pretty White Dresses

Lynn and Marie with Spotsy, 1972

Marie looks concerned that the puppy might put a run in her tights. Indeed he may have been planning to jump up on her or her sister.

I scanned this thinking the girls were wearing Easter dresses, but then I realized they were dressed up for their aunt's wedding.

Smile, It's Easter.

Javins Girls, 1972
I think Lynn had a cold that day, maybe even bronchitis. She was a good sport and posed for me but she wasn't feeling well.

April 11, 2009

30 Years as a College Student

When I got a new wallet, I excavated my old wallet and checkbook. One of the items I dug out was my old student ID card from Northern Virginia Community College. I still take courses there sometimes, but I have a newer ID card now, one with my photo on it.

I started taking classes at NVCC (also called NOVA) back in 1978. Have been taking them ever since, although pretty much just one a year now (the Civil War course, which changes every year).

I downloaded a transcript to see whether I took more photography courses or history courses. The number of courses look close at first glance, but since many of the photo courses were taken under the quarter system and most of the history courses were taken later after the school changed to a semester system, I have 61 history credits and only 34 for photography, at least from NVCC. Even if I add in credits from other colleges, history courses retain the lead.

NVCC has some fantastic courses. Obviously I enjoy them or I wouldn't keeping taking them.

April 10, 2009

Another Daffodil Picture

daffydilsThis started out as a photo I took several years ago. It already had a soft impressionistic background. I added an Accented Edges filter to a duplicate layer in Photoshop, making the flowers' edges a little brighter. Do you like it?

April 9, 2009

Just Finished: 2 Historical Accounts

Recently I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of Generals in Bronze: Interviewing the Commanders of the Civil War by William B. Styple and James Edward Kelly. Then yesterday I finished reading a library book A Mennonite Journal 1862-1865: A Father's Account of the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley by Jacob R. Hildebrand .

These are both good books. Generals in Bronze is a fascinating collection of interviews conducted and written down by artist James Edward Kelly during the last quarter of the 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th century. Included are narratives by a number of Civil War generals, other eyewitnesses, plus a few famous figures of a later era including Theodore Roosevelt. Kelly was a good writer (along with being a good sculptor), and William Styple did an excellent job pulling his material into a remarkable book.

A Mennonite Journal 1862-1865 is basically a diary with extensive footnotes. Jacob R. Hildebrand was a Mennonite farmer living in the Shenandoah Valley near Fishersville. Unlike many Mennonites, his sons did not apply for an exemption but chose to enlist as Confederate soldiers.

Jacob's great-grandson John Hildebrand contributed a prologue plus introductions to each section, setting the scene and enabling readers to relate the journal to military actions. He also wrote extensive footnotes for each chapter which I found helpful.

April 8, 2009

Who is this Dog?

doggyThis is Flash, a beagle-bassett mix. From this angle, he looks like Guppy. Old Gup passed away in May of 2007.

Guppy's mom was a beagle-bassett mix and I believe his dad was a German Shepherd. I never met his dad but Guppy's fur looked like a shepherd's. See Guppy here.

Church on Chestnut Ridge

Vision of Hope UMC

pretty old church
churchThis Methodist Church sits on the crest of Chestnut Ridge alongside Port Republic Road. It's at (or very near) the location where Stonewall Jackson made his headquarters on June 5, 1862. Ewell was also there with artillery batteries and four infantry regiments.

The present church is recorded as existing since 1875, when it opened its doors as Mt. Sinai Methodist Church.

April 7, 2009

BRCC Tour at Ashby Monument

Rudy Tucker with Students on Chestnut Ridge

I went on a Civil War tour Saturday with Blue Ridge Community College. Additional tours are scheduled through April. All are convenient to Harrisonburg, VA.

In the photo we see the Turner Ashby Monument (which I have pictured before). Interestingly, the location of the wounds on Ashby's body led Jed Hotchkiss and Dr. Hunter McGuire to think that Ashby was accidentally killed by friendly fire.

Instructor Rudy Tucker also teaches beekeeping. He is over 80 and has a son with the same name who is a potter.

April 6, 2009

Looking Toward Port Republic

Intersection of Main Street and Leroy Road

Just outside this picture to the right is Madison Hall. In the distance we see the Blue Ridge Mountains.

April 5, 2009

April 4, 2009

Finding Allergy-Safe Food in Barcelona

Marie has posted her experiences about managing food allergies while traveling in Spain. Her first tip: rent an apartment so you can cook your own food.

I can relate to that. I try to book a motel room with kitchen facilities whenever possible. Unfortunately, some places that say they provide a kitchen only have a microwave and mini-fridge. I've learned to pack my waffle iron, a bowl, and a few utensils for those times. Then I can at least have a nice gluten-free dairy-free breakfast, which is hard to find in many restaurants.

Marie has 19 foods on her forbidden list. I have over 16 and my other daughter has her own list. Our lists overlap but are not identical. So when we go out to eat together, we each have our special requests. As you might imagine, this can be a challenge for a waiter. But by choosing our restaurants carefully, we've never gone completely hungry.

A White Crocus

April 3, 2009

The Conicville Schoolhouse

In Conicville, VA
If you travel Senedo Road (Route 42) west of Woodstock, you've probably noticed this imposing building in Conicville. The schoolhouse was built around 1911 but fell into disrepair. Finally someone restored it and used it for a business and residence. Now it's for sale, zoned commercial.

April 2, 2009

Register Now for NVCC Civil War Course

It's time to register for the class that inspired my Civil War Field Trips Website. Looks like we are finally covering the end of the war this year!
grant and lee
Class dates are May 15, 16, 17, 2009. See the description:
HIS 298 Seminar and Project: Civil War Field Trips

April 1, 2009

Creating A Mii-Style Cartoon

There are a number of websites where you can make a cartoon figure to use as an avatar or just to liven up space on your website. I made this one at makewee.com. It's free but in order to save your picture, you use a screen-capture application.

The screen-capture that came with my laptop is called "Grab" and it saves the image as a TIFF. I opened the TIFF in Photoshop and added some light marks to represent cheeks and wrinkles, then saved it as a JPEG.

For those who aren't familiar with what a "Mii" is, it's a character you create for playing games on Nintendo's Wii. See the article about Mii on Wikipedia - it has more than you thought you needed to know.

Postscript: I also use the little cartoons that I made with Abi-station; in fact, I used one in yesterday's post.