Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas

I hope everyone had a warm and loving Christmas. This Santa is one of my gifts. I had vowed to call an end to my Santa collection, but I had to relent for this one. He is a Belsnickle, although he is not mean and ugly as Belsnickle's sometimes are. He did insist Bill bring him home for me this year, so maybe he is a little manipulative (that's his worst quality). This is absolutely the last one!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Need Some Christmas Spirit

I found this beautiful silver Mercury glass tree at Target and just had to buy it. I love Mercury glass; it looks so antique to me, even though there's lots of it around. I read that it is actually double-blown glass that is filled with a silver nitrate solution and sealed up almost like the inside of a thermos bottle. I like the kind that is etched and kind of irregular on the inside/outside (?), like it is peeling from within/or without. I think this tree will be my inspiration for Christmas decorating this year. My house will be silvery, frosty and glittery. I think I will go rummage in the attic and find things I can spray paint silver and dip into glass glitter.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

No Matter Where You Look. . .

beauty is all around. Well, I guess the good times are over. We had a hard frost last night and the water in the birdbath froze. But Thanksgiving Day was the most beautiful in memory. Balmy and breezy and nice enough to be outside almost all day. We had a wonderful dinner at Chris and Shannon's with Amy, Marc and children (and dogs). We got home in time for Survivor and then watched another movie and finally went to bed way too late. Last night Chase slept over because Amy and Marc went to her high school reunion and Saige had a sleepover date. We had fun going to Anthony's for dinner and then we watched Robin Hood and made some progress with the leftover desserts Chris sent home with us. Chase slept late this morning which he said was not like him, but "the bed was so comfortable." Peace and joy.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Thank you for the air so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you, God, for everything.

Give thanks today, no matter what.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Schmap Philadelphia

Logan Circle Fountain
Originally uploaded by Meredith1
I was asked if I would permit this Map of Philadelphia site to use my Logan Circle fountain photo I took last spring when we went downtown to see the King Tut exhibit. This was for my photography class assignment to freeze water with a fast shutter speed. So that's pretty neat.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

American Gangster

When Bill told me how long this movie was (2 hrs, 37 min), I thought, "uh oh." I get itchy after 2 hours sitting in one place. I did want to see this though because Denzel is my favorite actor. Truthfully, the first 2 hours flew by; it was only during the last half hour that I became conscious of the movie itself. It had a lot to wrap up and it had to hurry up and do it or else we'd all be sitting there for 3+ hours.

All that said, this is one terrific movie, and Denzel will win the best actor Oscar for it. He is riveting as Frank Lucas, the one-time driver/bodyguard for a black drug boss in Harlem. When the boss dies, Frank slowly and carefully takes over the drug business and becomes the Drug Lord #1. He is smart and canny and if it weren't for that darn chinchilla coat, he'd probably still be at it. Russell Crowe is very good, but the performance to beat is Denzel's. Some of the scenes of drug devastation are hard to watch, but they have to be there or you'd be rooting too much for Denzel. As much as you like him, you have to see the evil and destruction he caused.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green

Also, while I'm on the topic of being off the topic, I thought I'd mention some changes we noticed while traveling this time. Both of the places we stayed used in-tub dispensers for soap, shampoo, shower gel, and maybe something else, I forget. Anyway, while I applaud their efforts to reduce waste, I still like my own bar of soap in the shower. I thought it was a pain to have to keep pressing the button to get a lather going. So, I am going to hunt up my little plastic soap box to take my own soap with me from now on. Now, this was not true in Maine, but it was in Virginia. Maybe it's a southern thing.

Moreover, in both Maine and Virginia, we were asked if we minded if they didn't change our sheets every night. I've always thought that was a big waste of time and resources anyway, so we said just leave them. They will change them after 3 days, I think it was, in both places. Same with towels; if you want clean ones, just leave them on the floor. If not, hang them up. Makes sense to me.

And finally, for all you water drinkers, stop buying those bottles. Just reuse your old ones. Tap water is just as good. See this from today's Inquirer This is apparently the PC bottle to be using and using and using. Although, I don't see what's wrong with the odd Aquafina or Dasani bottle you already have if you rinse it out and refill it. Let's just use some sense here.

A Little Rest From the Travelogue

Here is a new thing I recently found. You can subscribe to it -- VSL, a very short, free daily e-mail that describes interesting things to see, read, and hear that you might never hear of otherwise. Did I mention that it’s 100% free? Click on my red title above.

James River Plantations

The river sits behind this view, of course.

On Wednesday morning we drove 35 miles out on Va. Rt. 5, a very rural road, to see a couple of the James River Plantations. The river was the primary means of travel in Colonial times and you can see why when you take this drive. It is really the back of beyond. My overriding thought the whole time was "how did these people manage to get to these places--let alone get materials and provisions out here?" The only way possible a couple of hundred years ago was the rivers. Shirley Plantation is still the home of the original family who built the place way back when. They have taken good care of it and still farm corn, cotton, and soy beans. I loved the little dovecote until I read that they liked fresh quail or dove for dinner. Of course, I have a nice choice of restaurants which they didn't. There is that

After Shirley, we stopped in to see Berkeley Plantation, home of Benjamin Harrison, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and William Henry Harrison, the 9th President of the United States.

Not very good pictures: there was a lot of shrubbery around the house and it was hard to get a good angle on it. The second picture shows you the garden path to the river. Look at the bark on this tree; I don't know what kind of tree it is, but it was so smooth you couldn't help but run your hand along it.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Williamsburg--Not Busch Gardens

The Governor's Palace
I guess by now you see I am working backwards here. Oh well, I didn't have much time to post or a reliable WIFI connection, so this will have to do. Wednesday was our Williamsburg day. Half day, actually. We spent the morning at the river plantations, and reserved the afternoon for a walk around the restored area of Williamsburg. We just walked; we didn't buy the big ticket and go in anyplace. We've been in many of the buildings before and it was a beautiful afternoon, so we opted to just stroll and take in the sights. Here are a few photos.
Somebody else's palace

A carriage ride

Williamsburg has grown tremendously since we were last here. It was a little alarming to tell the truth. The restored area is much the same, of course, but the outlying areas are gigantitic compared to what we remember. The area's primary mission was education, but now there are so many attractions designed to take attention away from that, that it's a bit sad. This guy looks pretty tired of it all, doesn't he? He just looks like he's thinking, "Man, I wish this day was over." Most of the character people looked that way.

They even have Colonial kiosks selling colonial goods. I don't remember that from before.

Here's Chowning's Tavern where we ate on our honeymoon. It was charming then. Now it's a kind of snack bar with tables in the back and rope waiting lines like at an amusement park. Takes the edge off the charm--for me at least. I don't think we'll go back. It's just too different.

We Visit A President's Home (Surprise!)

The means of defense against foreign danger historically
have become the instrument of tyranny at home.
James Madison

On Thursday we left Yorktown for a visit to Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were surprised to find a work in progress. Montpelier is in the midst of a $29 million dollar restoration that is not scheduled to be done for a few more years, but they let you in anyway. We were so glad they did. It was kind of a cross between This Old House and The History Detectives, and we enjoyed it immensely. The home has passed through 8 or 10 owners since Dolley was forced to sell it in the 1840's to pay off debts, and each one added or changed something to the point where even old James himself probably wouldn't have recognized it. The architectural team spent a long time evaluating if it was even possible to restore it before they started. Then they began collecting evidence from old records, photographs, and the house itself to form a plan to restore it as authentically as possible. Of course, they had to raise a lot of money at the same time. Here's some of what you see during the tour which explains much more about the restoration than James and Dolley. Their day will come eventually, I'm sure.

This is a painstaking project where they even examine the nail holes in the old plaster walls to try to discover where certain pictures were hung. But they are installing modern systems such as HVAC and copper rain gutters to ensure the property lasts a long time after they are finished. All the wiring and ductwork is inserted in the many fireplace chimneys because they won't need them for real fires. They even make bricks when they need them from the same soil they were originally made from right on the property. You really get to see the bare bones of the house and learn what they have discovered in the process. It is a fascinating tour; quite different than most home tours where what you see is the finished product with very little attention given to what went into its creation. The gardens are not of the Madison era, but there's too much to do about the house to worry about them. So they are being left in a formal English style created later than the Madisons. I'm sure Dolley would approve.

I liked this view through the garden gate.

They've even got a blog about this project.

It Hasn't Changed Much

It was a little scary going back to Big Meadows after such a long time. We were really afraid it might have changed, and we liked it so much the way we remember it. So I'm happy to report that it hasn't changed much at all. It looks just the same from the outside and the beautiful dining hall may have new window treatments and fancier tableclothes and napkins, but they still had the turkey dinner on the menu and, for the most part, it was perfect.

A couple of improvements are tvs in the rooms and pillowtop mattresses, which kind of suprised me. But, boy, was it ever cold up on that mountain! We wore light jackets and sweatshirts and I had mittens, but most people were bundled up in winter coats. I was cold all night. Here is where you wanted to be.

The next morning we ate breakfast and lit out for home. It was no day to be hiking around in the mountains. Not for us, at least.

But it was very beautiful up there and fun to revisit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

This is from a shop window here in Williamsburg. We have been having a good time on our historic anniversary pilgrimage to the place where we spent our honeymoon. We've been sightseeing in Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg. The weather has been perfect and we've had lots of good eats. Tomorrow we head for Big Meadows in the Blue Ridge Mountains and then we'll be home. Happy Halloween to all.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fun And Helpful Too

Now this is a good idea. It's a game where you try to guess the best definition of a word and, by doing so, donate free rice through the United Nations World Food Program. It's a win-win. You get to improve your vocabulary and hungry people get free rice. Try it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Some Say The World Will End In Fire

Suzanne, a member of my photography class who lives near San Diego just posted this picture. She has not had to evacuate yet, although the fires were burning within a few miles of her home. She says that the winds have slowed and the humidity has gone up today, and they are optimistic that the worst is over for now. They have to stay inside because the air quality is so bad. Residents are being told the fires will be fully under control by Nov. 1. That's another week! What does this picture remind you of?

SOME say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Robert Frost

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Michael Clayton

In addition to the considerable pleasure of being able to stare at George Clooney for 2+ hours (he's in almost every scene), is the enjoyment of watching this movie itself. It is just such a smart, absorbing story with terrific characters who grab you and don't let go. It is told by flashback so you have to pay attention to the early scenes even though they don't make any sense at the time. When it was over and all the pieces had fallen into place, I could have sat there and watched the whole thing a second time right then. I can't wait 'til it comes out on DVD.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Kingdom

We saw The Kingdom yesterday and we both recommend it highly. The story is that 4 FBI agents go to Saudi Arabia to investigate a terrorist attack on an American compound of oil workers and their families. They go against orders from the State Dept. and only with the permission of the reigning Saudi prince. Their movements and actions are highly restricted, and they are constantly surrounded by their Saudi military counterparts. See the guy in the khaki uniform in the front of the picture above? He is their babysitter and minder. I can't remember his real name, but he is terrific and worth the price of admission alone. The whole cast is very good and the story is well told and extremely frightening. In fact, I had a bad dream after seeing it last night. But if you like action/adventure films, this is for you.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Cover DeLuxe

We finally got our snazzy new pool cover installed on Friday. What a huge improvement over the big bulky ones we've had in the past. It fits nice and snug and everything that falls on it just gets blown off with the wind or a blower. It is guaranteed to hold a baby elephant. I think we should get a couple of truckloads of dirt dumped on top and plant grass seed. If it holds an elephant, it should hold grass. It looks nice and clean in the picture. Of course, that was taken Friday. Now it's covered with pine needles. Where's the wind when you need it?

A Few Hours At Longwood

We spent a few hours at Longwood Gardens on Friday afternoon. We got in free with our tickets for the Chester County Day preview show. What a deal! That place is truly a national treasure. With the warm, dry weather we've been having, everything was blooming like mad. The leaves haven't really turned yet, and when they do, I want to go back, but the October display is incredible as it is. See this water lily? Click on it to see the larger size. Notice the water itself. They actually put a black dye into the water to add nutrients and keep down the algae growth. It has the added benefit of making the plants look spectacular. I put some more photos on my flickr page if you want to look

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Halloween Show

It's done! I'm decorated for my favorite holiday, Halloween. This year I decided that rather than spreading bits all over I would devote the hutch to the majority of my Halloween treasures. So I cleaned it all out and now it is ready for your viewing pleasure. The top photos give the overall effect and below are some highlights.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Autumn Jewels

Well, it's here! My favorite time of year. And just to honor it, I want to show you my most beautiful jewels. There is something about the golden light at this time of year and the angle of the sun that makes them sparkle even more beautifully than in mid-summer. I know that thief Winter will be here soon to snatch them away which is all the more reason I want to capture them here to return to again and again.

But, as lovely as they are, I fear I see the future coming all too soon.