So What’s Left? By Robbie Rhur


So What’s Left?

By Robbie Rhur

The screened in porch, the garden and the yard landscaping remained.  I think a few pictures of the yard when I moved in might help you see what it was like (overwhelming comes to mind).

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This is the side yard, you can really see how crappy the house and yard looked.

In the 90-plus years this house has stood, no previous owner had done  many yard improvements.   There were a few mulched flower beds with your standard daffodils and azalea’s but nothing that I would call a garden.

I decided to create a small, dog free, flower  garden; it was nice to have two doors to the garden – one off the kitchen and one off the porch.  I wanted edible herbs and flowers; someplace that birds & butterflies would want to visit.

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Back yard after the huge dead tree came down and before the fence went up.

Once the enormous half dead oak tree came out, the back yard went from full shade to full sun.  I removed all the out buildings to put up the work-shop and new fence.

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                   The fence is up and creates a garden in the side yard. 

Once the fence and workshop were up, the dogs were secured in the yard.  Most gardening came to a halt until the house was more or less complete.  I did tackle the front beds, weeding them and planting a few shrubs and small trees.  But that was about it for the next 2 ½ years.  Eventually I started to imagine what I wanted the yard to look like.  I had never been a gardener, I was good at weeding and cutting grass but I had not had the opportunity to really consider what went into making an outdoor space look planned but feel natural.  I’m still not great at it but it’s kinda like remodeling a house, you have to create good bones (hardscape) and let the process unfold.  I looked at a lot of books for ideas and inspiration and walked the alleys with the dogs and got some inspiration looking into back yards of other houses.

I decided that I wanted raised beds along the fence in the back yard since I wanted to encourage Crepe Myrtles to grow huge and replace some of the shade I lost with the loss of the oak.  I also planned several patios, one off the back door and the potting shed. 

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              You can see the raised bed and the patios – just installed.

I then decided to re-screen the porch; I wanted to create a Moroccan theme.  I had never torn out old screen before; my advice, wear a mask.

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                                                        Porch before I began

I decided to carry the purple theme onto the porch and create a lower screen to offer more privacy. It created a really nice feel while on the porch.

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            I’m very happy to spend time out here when the weather is good.

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The garden took a little more planning but it came together rather nicely, too.

The garden is maturing and lovely but I’m sad to report that the back yard has proven more difficult.  There is nothing but weeds where the old oak once was and when it rains that whole area is underwater.  I am currently trying to figure out a way to drain the yard during the winter months and encourage some grass to grow without the use of chemicals in keeping with a dog friendly yard. 

It’s a work in progress, kinda like life!

A Wrench for the Works: Springtime Plumbing Tips


Running water is one of the most basic amenities/necessities of modern life. I shudder when I think of life without it. The plumber who comes to your aid is truly a HERO (think burst pipes underground or drains that are completely clogged). Men have traditionally dominated this field of work, but women have also undertaken these missions of mercy.



Lillian Ann Baumbach Jacobs the First Woman Master Plumber in the U.S. helped pave the way for other women to “take up the wrench!” According to “Famous for becoming the first woman master plumber in the 1950’s Lillian became the pen-pal of more than 250 men in the United States and overseas, 75 letters from Korea alone included election as pin-up girl for an infantry company. Lillian was also on two television shows a New York TV program, the TV game show What?s my Line? A radio broadcast and wrote a magazine article (Helpful Plumbing Hints for Housewives.) One of her favorite experiences was her interview with Walter Cronkite.”

But onto the topic at hand, although we don’t commonly think of checking on plumbing as a “Spring Cleaning“ project, this seasonal check can spare lots of worries down the road. Per Patriot Plumbing in Colorado, there are some small problems that can turn into big headaches if they are ignored:

Water Leaks – An unnoticed water leak or drip can cause hidden mold and rot problems. Enclosed spaces like crawl spaces should be inspected for water spots or mold, which can indicate a leak.

Screeching Faucets – This could indicate that the air “bleed-off” system is not working right.

Low Water Pressure – This can be caused by a clogged,leaking, or pipe that is too narrow for a particular application.

Rattling Pipes – This can indicate air is trapped in the pipes.

Backed Up Toilet – This may indicate a damaged or clogged sewer line.

Water Heater Rust – If you see brown water coming out of your faucets, your water heater may need replacing.

Additionally, here are some general maintenance tips:

Fix Leaks – Inspect shower heads and faucets for leaks. A single dripping faucet can waste hundreds of gallons of water in a year. Check toilets for leaks by adding several drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If the tank is leaking, colored water will appear in the toilet bowl.

Test Your Sump Pump – Test the sump pump by pouring a bucket of water into the sump pump pit. The pump should turn on immediately, remove the water, then turn off.

Sewer & Drain Maintenance – Check that all drains have strainers to prevent debris clogging the drain lines. Schedule a sewer line inspection. A video sewer line inspection will help to find the small issues before they become a major problem.

Ensure Plumbing Systems Are Regularly Used – Exercising faucets and water valves under sinks and toilets will prevent them from sticking from underuse.

Maintain Your Water Heater – Drain a few gallons from the water heater tank to remove sediment, which reduces heating efficiency and can shorten the life of the water heater. Check with your water heater manufacturer’s instructions for your specific make/model.

Speaking of water heaters, as of April 15, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy’s new regulations requiring all water heater manufacturers to meet higher energy factor (EF) ratings have gone into effect. They include gas, electric and oil water heaters; newer, tankless water heaters already meet these new standards. So, how will these changes affect you? Water heaters will cost up to 35% more than in previous years. The installation requirements will be more complex and the units may be larger. But, the new requirements will result in greater efficiency, so you may save money later. Most water heaters have a lifespan of 8 – 12 years, so if yours is 10 years or older then you might consider getting a new one now.



Making desserts for someone who is diabetic is a daunting prospect, especially when they are also allergic to wheat. So, I’m always on the look out for ways to make a sweet that is sugar-free, wheat free and actually tastes good. I did try the red velvet cake, with questionable results (it looked good, but had the consistency and taste of a doorstop). I may try it again, but in the interim, I have just made a Pavlova sans sugar. I used Splenda instead. I also divided the recipe in half.

It was very good, tasting like a “Flourless Angelfood Cake!” I whipped cream without any sugar for the filling, which added a special richness to the dessert. This style of whipped cream reminds of “schlage sahne” which is German whipped cream. It is very heavily whipped, so much so that has a slightly buttery taste.

Anyway, please enjoy the recipe below, with or without Splenda!!

Bon Appetit!

Easy Pavlova

Recipe by Rosina (From
“In this elegant dessert, a crisp white meringue layer is filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit. To keep your meringue from being flat and grainy, try beating egg whites until stiff but not dry. Overbeaten egg whites lose volume and deflate when folded into other ingredients. Also, when beating in sugar, beat in about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well between each addition. Then beat until meringue is thick, white and glossy. Be absolutely sure not a particle of grease or egg yolk gets into the whites.”





Original recipe makes 1 pavlova

4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch

After combining the ingredients and whipping the mixture until it forms stiff peaks, place it in a 300 degree oven and bake for one hour.  Turn the oven off after an hour and leave it there to cool.







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After a brutally cold winter, and chilly early spring, it is so good to see the trees budding and the flowers blossoming– truly the Gods of Gardening are smiling down upon us! So, the warming days and sunny rays welcome “Historic Garden Week in Virginia!”




Every year the Garden Club of Virginia invites the world to come and tour lush gardens and beautiful homes throughout the Commonwealth. This fabulous event dates back to the late 1920’s when the Garden Club of Virginia began raising funds for its’ first restoration project, Kenmore, in Fredericksburg.


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Today, 80+ years later, Historic Garden Week in Virginia is thriving! Always scheduled for the last full week of April, it was long ago dubbed America’s “Largest Open House,” featuring splendid sights and sites across the Commonwealth.This year there are 31 tours that will delight you and give you ideas for your own homes and gardens!

The pictures featured here are of some arrangements from past tours.

Here is a link to the Historic Garden Week website! Mark your calendars for tours from April 18 – 25 and go see’um, CARPE DIEM!


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Celebrating Spring: May the Peeps Be With YOU!




Get on a roll having fun with dessert! This was something my friend Susan made for me and it was almost too cute to eat. I managed to scarf it down, though!

Ingredients: Peeps,


Chocolate covered mini pretzels,


Junior Mints

Viola! You have a masterpeep!

Marthe Cohn, A Woman of Derring – Do


Marthe Cohn, author of "Behind Enemy Lines: The True Story of a Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany"




Since it’s the last week of March and Women’s History Month, I wanted to add another to our record of spy stories.

In 2002 Marthe Cohn, a holocaust survivor and French Jewish spy during World War II , published the story of her exploits and feats of bravery in her book, “Behind Enemy Lines.” Written with assistance from Wendy Holden, Ms. Cohn recounts her spine-tingling adventures as she traveled in and out of Germany gathering information for the French First Army Fighters and others.

In 1920 Ms. Cohn was born and reared in Metz, a metropolis in northeast France. This region along the French/German border is known as “Alsace,” and is a strip of land that has gone back and forth between the two countries for many, many years. Thus, Marthe was fluent in German and her native French. Her proficiency made it very easy for her to pass as a German nurse in a heartbreaking search for her fiance. Or, so it seemed to the German soldiers but, her story was merely a ruse to gather intelligence for French First Army fighters and the Allied Troops. In fact, in the information that she imparted was crucial to the Allies’ ability to break through the Siegfried Line in 1945 and enter German territory. The Siegfried Line was a line of fortifications built along the western border of Germany, opposite the Maginot Line. It stretched from Kleve, on the the border of the Netherlands to Weil am Rhein on the Swiss border. Piercing these fortifications was a major breakthrough that led to the War’s end in June, 1945.

Occupation by the Germans galvanized the fighting spirit of the French people. Marthe, like so many of her compatriots, fought in myriad ways including a failed attempt to rescue her sister Stephanie. Unfortunately, Stephanie eventually died at Auschwitz. Ms. Cohn credits having a nearly photographic memory for names, dates, places and languages and a real ability to “read” people in being able to gather information successfully and survive.

She has been highly decorated by her native land! Marthe Cohn received the Croix de Guerre in 1945 and more recently the Medaille Militaire, the Medallaire of the Reconnaisance de la Nacion and the title Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur.

Hers is truly inspiring, a remarkable story of the triumph of bravery and intelligence!







I have received scores of positive comments on Joan Garrabrandt’s marvelous article “Living The Symbolic Life.” Many of them are inquiries about finding resources for dream work or ways to approach dreams.




In “Living The Symbolic Life,” Ms. Garrabrant takes a Jungian approach to dream analysis, which emphasizes the appearance and interpretation of symbols that show up in the dream and waking states. Carl Jung believed that dreams are meant to help us navigate the world and that the symbols we encounter in both the dream and waking states help us decipher what’s going on, where we are, where we should go, etc.


One very important construct of the Jungian approach is the appearance of different people in a dream. Unless they are archetypes, usually represent aspects of the dreamer. So, when you see someone you know in your dream, think about what they mean to you, how you would describe them or how you know them, and these answers will give clues to the meaning of their presence.

Other aspects of a dream, like what the dreamer is wearing and how the clothing fits are important to the meaning of the dream. I recently had a dream where I was trying on some older (but still nice) clothes, and, they just didn’t fit that well. I took that to mean that some of my attitudes were changing.

Anyway, this is such an enormous and interesting topic that I could go on and on, but, instead, I’m going to send you to some additional dream work sites that could be helpful. Keep dreaming — it opens up entire new worlds!