Monthly Archives: November 2013

Memories of Grandpaw P. and Mock Mince Meat Pie

  As I finish up making my Thanksgiving Turkey I want to share with all of you some thing that I love…. it is the tradition of MEAT FREE, Mock Mince Meat at our Thanksgiving table. Toms Dad made the filling from his garden every few years. Home made pie and filling was one of his many specialties. The recipe came from his mother  who made it before “Grandpa Powers” birth in 1918. Making this pie over 100 years old. I miss him at this time of year more than any other. My own father passing away when I was five made my relationship with him very sentimental. He only lived a few years after Tom and I married but his importance to my family lingers around the holidays.

mock mincemeat, pumpkin pie and chocolet cake

mock mincemeat, pumpkin pie and chocolate cake

    He is the one who inspired all the canning and gardening that Tom and I do. His gardens were huge in comparison to anything that I have ever tried and he was able to keep a family of 9 or more at times, well feed and well stocked on fresh vegetables and fruit from his trees. He knew his way around the kitchen and shared my love of food and having family all around. I only wish that I had more time to pick his brain. He had so much knowledge in his head that I could still use today.

   So when I make and fill my pies today I think of him and all the years his hands worked so hard to take care of all of us.The bushels of apples and green tomatoes that he had to be picked to fill just one jar of spicy goodness. The hours of time it takes to make the filling stirring every few minutes to make sure it does not scorch and the money spent on the spices and pounds of sugar. The steam from the canner as the quart jars rise out to cool on the kitchen table. It is him that I see and hear when I open the jar of my frist batch of that Mock Mince Meat… he stands beside me as I roll out a crust and pour in the filling. He whispers to me that I should have cooked down the filling just a little bit more, but the flavor is right. He reminds me to check the oven and not burn the pie and reappears when we slice each piece.

He is here with us for Thanksgiving because we fallow a tradition that means nothing to anyone but us. The pie will be with us until I can no longer make the filling from our garden and trees. It will then pass to my sons who already  have the recipe and are learning about the huge amount of time and love all went into one very simple pie.

thanks giving table with food 2013

thanks giving table with food 2013

 The following is the actual recipe that we fallow to make our MEAT FREE MOCK MINCE MEAT pie filling.

  Mock Mincemeat

  • 15 lb green Tomatoes
  • 15 lb Apples
  • 3 lb Raisins
  • 1 cup Cider Vinegar
  • 12 cups Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Table spoon Cinnamon
  • 2 Table spoon Allspice
  • 2 Table spoon Cloves
  • 4 Table spoon Salt
  • 1/2 pound beef fat from butcher

Wash, core and chop unpeeled green tomatoes… grind or finally chop in food processor. Drain through colander lined with cheese cloth into shallow pan. Measure juice after draining and discard. Place tomatoes in large stainless steel kettle with 2 tablespoons salt adding small amount of water to keep from scorching. Bring to boil, strain hot tomatoes again and remove excess juice.Again add 2 tablespoons salt and water boil again strain and remove excess juice.Wash, peel, core and chop apples, chop up beef tallow into tiny chucks, add apples raisins, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves. Cook together until thick. (1 to 2 hours) stirring frequently, mixture will be thick and sticky. Ladle into hot sterilized quart jars leaving 1″ head space. Process 20 boilng water bath.

Categories: cakes and family deserts, cooking, family memories, gardening, Pie | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Books, Hot Tea and a New Bed

Me with my books again

Me with my books again

Ok,  I am really deep inside, a reader… not a writer. I write because I have so much that I want to share with my family and friends.Writing is my way of keeping those memories and stories alive. I set a goal of reading at least one book every month and writing at least one post every week. Then life happens and I struggle to keep up with those goals… But I think this will make reaching one goal much easier.

New White fence head board that Tom made for me.

New White fence head-board that Tom made for me.

I read almost every evening in my bed before we all pile into it at night. I spend hours and hours in my bed with a book, so when my 15-year-old sleigh bed literally crashed to the floor at 3 am in July, I was heartbroken. Tom and I did shop for several months to replace the bed. I knew what I wanted, a simple picket fences style head-board or foot board, but never found one. So, as the summer closed I was still bed-less. Tom finally did pickup a frame to put the mattresses on but it still was not the same.

headboard in progress pine picket fence style

headboard in progress pine picket fence style

So this Nov I asked Tom make me a head-board for my birthday. I explained what I was looking for and he took it from their. In a couple of weekends he had made the above headboard for me. I was so thankful to finally get my world back in order. When he hooked up that frame to the new headboard I was so emotionally relieved.I had a new nest.I could finally read and sleep well at night again.

I am also a tea drinker…. not a coffee gal. I don’t own a coffee maker and have never felt the need to pay 4.50 for a cup of anything other than hot spiced wine in the middle of a German Winter Fest. So from daylight to dark I have several types of tea that I drink through out my day. usually I start my morning off with iced tea and then move into the hot teas, unless the temperature outside is in the eighties and then it is Sun tea, Sweet tea or Sassafras tea all day. They say the health benefits are better for teas, but I drink them because of the never-ending different flavors. I started my habit young with my grandmothers Texas Iced tea and grew in a tea lover. In my teens I spent hours in a wonderful used book store/Tea house in Boulder Colorado where you could buy from the local Celestial Seasonings  tea company blends or try simple black or green teas. They also had the loveliest white china cups and sauces ever!

fresh made Sassafras Tea

fresh made Sassafras Tea

  So, now that I have my favorite reading area back I am soooo happy!  I am able to snuggle up in my quilt or comforter and have a cup of hot steamy tea again. I know it sounds a little funny how happy these things make me, but it really is the simple things in life that give us our biggest pleasures.

Categories: About me, blogging, Books, Colorado, furniture, Home, ice tea, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Think Handmade Gifts or Support an Artist This Year

   With the holidays almost here I wanted to share an idea with all of you.

Five hands thinking

Five hands thinking

    I love to surround myself with people who also understand this idea and  make things. It is with pleasure that I share my life with artist of every kind. Most are people I have known for years and have struggled to have a voice for their passions. Most work other jobs to support themselves and pay for their supplies. So while thinking about what you want your gifts to say to those you give them to, think about supporting an artist. If you are not able to make something handmade yourself then let a person who has a wonderful skill help.

These are just a few of the artist that I know and support. They are just part of a wonderful culture of local artist that need all of us to keep working. It is through the arts that we teach our children that there is more to the world then what we all see at the huge chain stores and the value of things that are hand-made. Add a hand-made items to you gift giving this year and open up the door to a conversation about who made it and how. If we are lucky we maybe able to teach our children about how reclaiming, recycling works or about how to learn a new skill or how a tradition continues from our past.

  My brother William Lowrey ( Bill) painted and carved any piece of wood he could find. I still remember having a wooden skate board that he craved and painted while he was in High School. Over the years he as grown as an artist and become a master furniture builder and sculptor in the Denver Colorado area. He has spent years reclaiming lost lumber to make into something new. A favorite piece of mine is a Reclaimed Redwood table that he made a few years back it is the perfect balance of beauty and usefulness.  He also makes sculptures from reclaimed marble and wood. Many of his works are about balance and texture with a very modern flair.

my brother Bill Lowrey

my brother Bill Lowrey

reclaimed redwood  coffee table

reclaimed redwood coffee table

reclaimed marble wall sulpture light-dark

top of reclaimed redwood end table

top of reclaimed redwood end table

Contact him at his website or through his on-line gallery,

   My life long friend and photographer Alex Smits of Seattle Washington is “The King” of Girls-n-Guns photography. Thiers are many great photographers but he has taken his subject-matter to a new level. He has single-handedly removed many of the stereo types about the idea of woman and guns. What once had a fetish following is now a creative statement with a back bone of great skill and creative force. He makes beautiful calendars, cards and enlargements of his favorite subject matter.

alex shooting on the beach

Rear view Jenny by Alex Smits

Rear view Jenny by Alex Smits

Cheryl at Fireplace

Jenny white Sweater

Jenny white Sweater

 Contact him at his website, or his face book page.

  My friend and mad knitter Jennifer at Lavishcraft in Denver, Colorado has been on her journey to bring hand knitted items from the back of your grandmas closet to the front line of fashion for years. She is a power house of  unique design with a strong understanding of line and texture making the most simple items into detailed works of art. She is also able to do what the chain stores can’t and that is customise her work for you body or your needs.

Purple scarf

Purple scarf

Jennifer with cape

Jennifer with cape

Vault Coul gray

You can contact her at her Esty shop at,

 This year my family is focusing on making many of our holiday gifts and in my case I have made hundreds of jars of jelly that I will gift to family and friends in the tradition of my Grandmother and Father in Law. Hope every one likes the Apple Cider Jelly this year! What is it that you want to say with your gifts this year. Share something Hand Made !


Categories: furniture, gifts, Holidays, Knitting, Photos | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Happy unbirthday party at Moundsville State Penitentiary, Moundsville West Virginia

prisoner art work inside family meeting area of Moundsvill state Penitentiary, Moundsville, West Virginia

prisoner art work inside family meeting area of Moundsville state Penitentiary, Moundsville, West Virginia

The un-birthday has been a family tradition of ours for at least 18 years although I did not know that was the term until recently. A fellow blogger Lori at  had written about her sons lack of birthday party due to his allergies to glueton and dairy. The traditional american birthday includes cake and ice cream both things he can’t have in the traditional form so they went on a trip instead and eat fruit, vegetables, rice and fish.

veiw of Moundsville State Penitentuary, Moundsville, West Virginia

veiw of Moundsville State Penitentuary, Moundsville, West Virginia

In my case I just hate birthday parties, I am not a hostess at heart. So my children and husband  have learned to do other things instead of renting a hall, buying cake that no one really likes anyway and eating pizza.The whole processes is just UN-FUN for me. So when Cody was little we just started to doing other things for his birthday. Tom didn’t seem to care so the tradition started to travel, explore and seek new things on the one day in the world that is truly yours. I picked the Moundsville Prison Tour as our UN-Party location this year. I love a good murder mystery and ghost story so this is the perfect place to hang out for the afternoon of my birthday.

custom made front entry door for Moundsvill state prison

custom-made front entry door for Moundsville state prison

We took the tour and learned a lot about the huge Gothic structure and about inmates that lived in the prison. The Prison opened in 1876 with 251 inmates who actually help build the buildings and reached a max capacity of almost 2000 in the late 7o’s. Riots and federal laws changed and by 1996 at the closing of the institution their were around 600 to 700 inside the 5 foot thick walls. The history of the penitentiary is a mix of executions, murders and Charles Manson stories.

Cell in high security area of Moundsville state Penitentiary, site of worst murder in thier history

Cell in high security area of Moundsville state Penitentiary, site of worst murder in their history

94 inmates lost their lives to executions inside the grounds of  the prison 85 hung and 9 died by electrocutions. The hangings were frist thought to take place inside the frist building on the property The Wagon Gate and later moved to an outdoor gallows that later became the recreation yard for some of the most violent criminals. The gallows disturbed inmates who spent hours every day looking at them and were eventually removed.

frist structure at Moundsvill state penitentiary.. used as housing and sight of hangings

first structure at Moundsville state penitentiary.. used as housing and sight of hangings

trap door in the wagon gates ceiling moundsville prison

The prison boasts 36 recorded Homicides inside the prisons walls. Most being prisoners against prisoner but some assaults were against state employees who were over taken while performing their duties.  The prison has its own cemetery with simple markers for the bodies of those whom no one came to clam.The highest death tolls taking place during the 3 riots that occurred at the prison. The one in 1986, last 5 days, resolved only after the governor of West Virginia ( Arch Moore) came in person to  the prison grounds.

door into the location of the worst prison riot location at Moundsville

door into the location of the worst prison riot location at Moundsville

It was also this prison that the most notorious prisoner of all, Charles Manson wanted to call home in the late 80’s. The prison displays the original letter that Manson wrote to the then Warden. The letter explains that Manson would like to return home to West Virginia to serve his remaining time in jail. Yea, he and most of his family were from an area near Wheeling and close to Moundsville. The website  Charlie. com

has a wonderful photo spread of the letter on their website and more information about his past. While our tour group spend time in the “Yard” our tour guide also informed us that Charles Manson lived with his aunt and uncle from about age of 5 to 15, as his mother was also incarcerated most of his youth. Really, are any of us surprised over this information. The tour guide informed us that Charles’ mom had arm robbed a gas station in the Charleston area of West Virginia and was in a prison in the southern part of the state for 10 years.  How crazy is that; puts a new spin on the words”criminal family”.

Christopher and I hanging out in a padded cell at Moundsville state Penitentiary

Christopher and I hanging out in a padded cell at Moundsville state Penitentiary

After spending time inside this chain linked high security area of the prison, I now know that most criminals were generally housed like animals early in the 20th century.  I am not sure how I feel about it really, creeped out yes, but deep inside I wonder if you act like an animal, people generally just see you as one also. Making it very hard for the justice system to “want” to improve things. The cells are very small measuring 5′ by 7′ with three inmates in each one. Looking very similar to the dog kennels that we all see at the local ASPCA or pound. The most violent inmates eat in their cells, used the toilet in their cells and slept in them. Two hours a day these violent criminals gained accesses to exercise in caged area within the high walled yard.

The small exerice area for the worst criminals inside the walled yard at Moundsville State Penitentiary

The small exercise area for the worst criminals inside the walled yard at Moundsville State Penitentiary

Christopher and Paige playing in the large "yard" at the prison

Christopher and Paige playing in the large “yard” at the prison

The Capel inside the "yard' at Moundsville state Penitentiary

The Capel inside the “yard’ at Moundsville state Penitentiary


For those who were the most unfortunate solitary confinement was actually in the basement of the main building. The “Hole” was really a hole, deep, dark and dank. I did not attempt to explore the area and was not sure if it was even allowed but some looked into the boiler room and holding areas. If it was any worse than what I already shared with my family above ground it must have been one step from hell. Loud boiler fires roaring, the creaking of hot pipes,sounds of men shoveling loads of coal into the hole and into the boiler. Darkness that was unending, no natural light passing through anything like a window. Mice, rats and roaches and who knows what else would slither into the basement for warmth in the winters. A hole in the floor for you bodily functions. Nothing at all like our world of light and freedom.

vistitor looking into basement area / solitary confinment area of administration building at moundsville Penitentiary

visitor looking into basement area / solitary confinement area of administration building at Moundsville Penitentiary

back of main gate, home of wardon and family, administration building. Moundsvill State Penitentiary, Moundsville West Virginia

back of main gate, home of warden and family, administration building. Moundsvill State Penitentiary, Moundsville West Virginia


I found the whole experience moving but not in the way I expected. I had come to see the cells of the TV shows and movies I had seen in the past. I came to see what incarceration meant, I left in confusion. I saw where guards lost their lives and others lost dreams because of the violence inside the castles walls. I walked through community shower halls where men got washed down like cattle to the slaughter. I stood on the bottom floor of four stories of cells packed with 600 men looking out on to a wall of nothingness. I viewed works of art and murals that took hours to paint and great skills to make, wasted on the walls of this institution. I knew that prison life was not some thing I ever wanted experience,but grown adults made choices everyday to return to this system of living. They would return over and over to having nothing and being nothing to the outside world. I learned how some families survived this place and how men had visits from their wives and children through walls and windows always watched by an armed guards. I wondered how their conversations went.

Shower "hall" below three stories of overlooking cells. regular inmate cell block moundvills state Penitentuary

Shower “hall” below three stories of overlooking cells. regular inmate cell block Moundsville state Penitentiary

4 stories of cells in regular cell block home to about 600 prisoners. Moundsville prison, Moundsvill, West Virginia

Gaurds gun used in the visitor are of prison

Guards gun used in the visitor are of prison

inmate art work one of several painted inside new caffiteria

Finally the most disturbing thing of all was the view from the front gates of the prison. The homes built not 300 yards from the fence that surrounds the castle. Families lived in rows of 1940 and 1950’s homes, all with in the reach of hundreds of damaged lives.  To my shock there is an elementary school within three blocks of the leaving the penitentiary property. I find that just so strange. Why, in the middle of very rural West Virginia did some city planner think  this was a good idea.  From what I gathered on our tour, inmates escaped at least 4 times and one escape was of 15 men. The escape of the 15 men took place in 1986 during the day and after that elementary school was in use. This to me was the most disturbing part of the entire trip. You drive through a typical residential area, then arrive at the parking area across from the prison. The neighborhood is in good shape,although old and is homey and seems very happy to have the tourists stopping in to get ice cream at a locals ice cream parlor.

community of Moundsville, West Virginia taken across the street from the prison.

community of Moundsville, West Virginia taken across the street from the prison.

Front view of the Big Dipper icecream parlor

Front view of the Big Dipper icecream parlor


Christopher eating at the Big Dipper ice cream parlor across from the prison, Moundsville, West Virginia

In the end the beauty of the building alone is worth the trip to see it. The community surrounding the relic is friendly with restaurants and small shops. Yet, after seeing inside the prison a person can not help feeling differently about the majestic structure. It is a prison and  it is nothing more than creepy and sad. Our country still has no better way to remove the most violent from society then the prison system. This tour really shows off where we started in the containment, control and rehabilitation of our criminals. This was one of the most educational and emotionally driven un-birthday trips ever. My family never even thought about doing the haunted tours and paranormal investigations that they also offer at the prison but here is the link to their website for more information about tours and spectacle events.

I will try to return to the prison again. I aim for a less busy day next time and maybe I will be without the 3 and 5 year olds. I didn’t get enough time to see the letter from Manson and I wanted better photos of their electric chair but over all it was worth every penny and I highly recommend the trip to anyone.

Categories: Birthday, family fun, Moundsville State Penitentiary, State Park activities, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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