Back from a restful week in the Catskills! The gathering of friends from other places is always a great way to relax and recharge for the coming months. It is always "Old Home Week" when we go to the Villa Roma near Callicoon, N.Y. We park the car and take advantage of the shuttle to go to the events in which we take part. Two movies every day, if one wants to go, and trivia contests, bingo, crafts, bowling, hiking, the spa, horse racing (shipboard style), turtle races, games, activities for all ages all times of the year, and excellent food! My friend from New Jersey taught me how to make the latest craze in scarves. It was great to visit with all our friends in the area, too. I highly recommend the resort for everyone, including families, couples and business conventions. Of all the traveling we do, including Sanibel, Fla., this is our choice of where to be at any time. It is a nine-hour drive from Waterford, so you know we like it to make that drive several times a year!
While we were there, five basketball teams were housed there to practice for national tournaments. I mentioned the name of a great-nephew (D. J. Cunningham, UNC-Asheville) and some of them knew him and had played against him and had many good things to say about him and his playing ability. What a small world! His cousin, another great-nephew (Nathan Cunningham) had played with his music group from college at Carnegie Hall in February. I am so proud of this generation of family!
Is your tongue still green from St. Paddie's Day green beer? Hopefully, you passed on this part of the celebration. If not, maybe you have learned that it isn't all that great and will refrain from it in future years! The corned beef is great for the Rueben sandwiches, that is, if you had any left. We never do as it is one of our favorite meals. Usually I get a couple extra corned beef roasts to have in the freezer. That didn't happen this year - I am trying to get to the bottom of frozen food already in there (so I can put more in)! Summer is coming and the vegetables will want to be frozen. There is often a discussion about for which the space should be used, and ice cream on sale usually wins around here.
With the sun showing its face more now and the temperature slowly rising, there is the temptation to do some planting in the garden. Don't do it yet! The potatoes on St. Patrick's Day and the onion sets are about all that is safe to plant now. The spinach is jumping around, trying to get to the garden, and the radishes are saying, "Me, too!" but they just have to wait a few days. It is always so tempting to rush out and get flower plants to spruce up those ugly winter garden sites, but it can be money wasted. Husband Norm is determined to not plant a garden until June 1 as the ground is warm by then and the plants take off faster than the ones planted earlier who got cold feet. Of course, we really plan not to plant much this year (like always)!
With so many missed days of school, the young folks may not have all the summer they are used to having, so any vacation plans will have to be adjusted. This means, when you finally do get to go somewhere, you should have it planned so no days are wasted. I always pick up the new travel books at the West Virginia Welcome Station, and this year was no different. There are so many neat places to visit, and so many close to our valley, that it will be difficult picking out just a few. To get these travel ideas, go to a local Welcome Station - there is one in Williamstown - and start planning some trips. Two other ways to get information is to call 800-CALL WVA (800-225-5982) or go online to www.wvtourism.com. Too often we go to other places hundreds of miles away when great places to see are only a day's trip away.
The Wilds near Cumberland, Ohio, is world-renowned as a great open zoo, and they have more tours than just a day trip. I see no way for me to go to Africa, but I can drive less than an hour to see something even bigger (and much less expensive and everyone speaks English). This local trip is a must if you have kids. They will learn more in a day than in a week or month reading about it, and do it having fun. Another spot on my Bucket List is Prickett's Fort State Park near Fairmont, about two hours from Parkersburg - 304-363-3030 or www.prickettsfort.org for more information. I have been told that their Christmas celebration, the first two weekends in December, is wonderful, and the summer months should be even more enjoyable. For those who like adventure, the Ace Adventure Resort has lots to offer - 877-292-9937 or AceRaft.com/Guide. And there is always Bridge Day at New River Gorge. The train excursions will take one back in history for rides to remember, especially the one where one can overnight in Elkins and attend the Branson-style variety show at the American Mountain Theater. Boy Scouts from all over the country attended the 2013 National Scout Jamboree in the mountains of West Virginia, a happening of which every West Virginian should be proud.
Everything from local cooking shows to wonderful vacations can be had in our valley (or close to it). There is so much available to us that we have to plan so we can see and do as much as possible. Vacations will give your young ones memories to hold onto for all their lives.
Be thankful that spring is almost securely here and celebrate each day with joy. We all have sad and bad things happen, and we just have to keep going and put them where they belong and keep smiling. Help anyone you can and keep the others in your prayers. Use this Lenten season to strengthen your mind, body and heart. God bless!
Two (10-oz.) packages frozen chopped spinach
One-fourth cup chopped onion
One teaspoon salt
One-half teaspoon pepper
One-fourth cup olive oil
Two tablespoons butter
One and one-half tablespoons flour
One cup milk
One-fourth cup dry vermouth
Two pounds fish fillets (flounder is good), cut into serving-sized pieces
One cup grated Cheddar cheese
Cook and drain spinach. Place in a greased shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with onion, seasonings and oil. In a heavy skillet, melt the butter. Stir in flour until smooth (do not brown) and blend in milk and stir constantly until thickened. Season with additional salt. Add vermouth. If using frozen fish, thaw and squeeze out water between paper towels. Place fillets over spinach and pour white sauce over all. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 45 minutes in pre-heated 350-degree oven.
Five pounds raw shrimp in shells
One-half of five-ounce bottle of Worcestershire sauce
One-half of five-ounce bottle of soy sauce
One pound butter or margarine
Two tablespoons cracked pepper
One-fourth cup lemon juice
Four tablespoons catsup
One tablespoon dried parsley, crumbled
Two tablespoons garlic salt
One teaspoon oregano
Wash shrimp, peel and devein. Drain and dry as thoroughly as possible. Combine all remaining ingredients and heat until butter has melted. Add shrimp and bake in preheated 350-degree oven for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. Let set aside for about an hour to marinate before serving. Serve in individual bowls, pouring some sauce over each serving. Serve with French bread for dunking in the sauce.
Two medium sized eggplants
One-half teaspoon salt
One medium onion, chopped
Two cans cream of mushroom soup
One-half stick margarine or butter
Five or six saltine crackers, crushed
One-half cup grated cheese
Peel and cube eggplants into about three-quarter-inch cubes. Add chopped onion and salt. Cover with water and cook until tender. This takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain. Put one-half eggplant mixture into a buttered casserole. Cover with one can condensed mushroom soup. Sprinkle with a few pecans and dot with butter. Repeat layers. Top with cracker crumbs that have been mixed with the grated cheese. Dot with butter and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven until cheese is melted and the top is brown.
This tastes like an oyster casserole and is a great Lenten dish.
One small head cabbage
Two or three cooking apples
Two to three tablespoons margarine or butter
One-fourth cup brown sugar
Core cabbage and cut into small wedges about one inch across (or cut cabbage into chunks). Core, but do not peel, apples and cut into slices. Melt butter or margarine in a large, heavy skillet over medium to low heat. Add the cabbage and the apples. Gently turn with a spatula occasionally as the cabbage and apples cook. Add more butter if they start to stick. As soon as the cabbage starts to wilt, sprinkle sugar over all and stir gently. Use medium to low heat throughout cooking. This cooks quicker if you cover the skillet with a lid and let the steam help cook the cabbage and apples. Stir occasionally. Uncover for the last part of cooking, though. Done when the cabbage and apples are limp and translucent.
For a different flavor, add a few caraway seeds when the sugar is added. Cooked without the sugar is more Irish and with the sugar, especially with the caraway, makes it a more German dish.
Patty Christopher is a longtime columnist for The Parkersburg News & Sentinel.