Saturday, August 30, 2008

Treehouse Day

Tyler Arboretum is having a treehouse exhibit this summer, and we rode over the other day to see it. Nothing as elaborate as the Longwood treehouses, but imaginative and clever just the same. Like Longwood's, these treehouses do no structural damage to the trees themselves.

Signs throughout the exhibit which winds all over the arboretum tell how trees enrich our lives by providing food, shelter, beauty and inspiration to people.

One of my favorites was "Nesting," built from about 8,000 wooden dowels and thousands of plastic zip ties that look like giant nests hanging in the tree limbs. Look closely to see the large blue nest hanging behind the orange nest.

Birds do this on a smaller scale all the time. They gather twigs, pine needles and feathers and then weave them all together to make their nests. You obviously cannot go up into this, any more than you would disturb a real nest in the trees.

Another one I liked a lot was "Hanging Out." In this one, you are invited to lounge in the hammocks inside a grove of trees and just daydream.

The "Cape May Bluebird House" was cute. It was built to resemble a little Victorian Cape May house and kids were running in and out of this one. They had several real nesting boxes around this but, with the amount of traffic and general busyness at the site, I don't imagine they got many feathered takers.

I was also taken with "The Bell House" where they had cowbells attached to cords up in the branches that you could pull on to make music. When people weren't ringing the bells, the wind would do it.

At one spot on the trail, they provided something like a duck blind where you stood on a platform and looked through a slit cut into the front which directed your gaze to this. . . a magnificent tree.

The large meadow in the center of the arboretum was lovely this time of year with all the mature grasses and wildflowers.

This is just a small sample of all the treehouses on view, too many for one post.
It was a good day and a good walk and lots of fun to see.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nice Duds

This is a line-up of kindergarteners on their first day of school in the Pottstown School District. Notice anything particular about them? They look pretty cute, don't they? That might be because they are wearing their uniforms. Pottstown has decreed that all K-8 students must wear uniforms to school. This is the first year they are instituting this policy. The uniforms are pretty flexible. Khaki or blue shorts, pants, or skirts and blue or white shirts or tops. No flipflops or jellies. No restrictions on where you buy these clothes. You can go to K-Mart or Nordstroms. In fact, the district is even arranging some funds to subsidize parents on a tight budget.
The rationale behind this move is to lessen the amount of teasing and peer pressure that kids, presumably without designer labels on their clothes or the latest hot fashion item, go through. I can also see it as a benefit for parents whose kids have a tough time choosing what to wear each day. It seems to me it takes the emphasis off clothes and allows the kids to get on with the business of getting to school.
Some parents are objecting because they say it stifles creativity. I have seen some of the creative choices walking around the streets and I would counter that maybe it will promote better taste and open up other avenues for personal creativity.

Next year they are extending it to the high school students. Good luck with that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Case Of The Mysterious Painting

Where's Miss Marple when you need her? Here's what I found yesterday when I walked out to pick up the newspaper. This green trash bag leaning against the mailbox post with a tag on it with Bill's name. Not just his first and last name, mind you. Not just "Bill" and his last name, but his complete first, middle and last name. (Incidentally, I just noticed it looks like we need a new mailbox, but that's another story).

Anyway, I thought "what the . . .", but I picked it up and brought it inside. It was obviously something framed. Not too heavy, wood frame. . .a painting perhaps? My powers of deduction almost rival the great Miss Marple herself. But why leave it leaning against the mailbox? Not even on the front porch. Huh?

So I left it in the kitchen for him to find and went out on my errands. Sure enough, when I got back he asked me eagerly, "where did the painting come from?" "I dunno," I said eruditely, "it was just leaning against the mailbox."

"I just can't understand it," he said. "This is a painting of the horses I used to visit when I was a kid. These horses boarded during the summer at the old Black Horse Inn near our house and I'd go down there to see them and pet them and feed them. Where could this possibly have come from?"

The tag hanging from the bag had his name on one side and on the other it read:

Coo Coo, Tex and Butterball: the names of the horses he loved. And these are the very horses in the painting. There is a framer's label on the back, but when he tried to contact them, they were long out of business. So this painting has been somewhere for many, many years until someone decided to give it to Bill. Anonymously. He is really touched, but he wants to solve the mystery. He has one glimmer of an idea of who it might be who would know about him and the horses, but it's a long shot. If he figures it out or if Miss Marple shows up to help, I'll let you know.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Summer Afternoon

Summer afternoon - Summer afternoon... the two most
beautiful words in the English language.

British (US -born) author (1843 - 1916)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Amy, This Is For You

Now, I don't even pretend to "get" this, but I thought maybe you would.*

Hundreds of Teeth to Attend Kid Rock/Lynyrd Skynyrd Show

August 19, 2008 – Susquehanna Bank Center officials yesterday said that this Friday's Kid Rock/Lynyrd Skynyrd concert would likely draw thousands of fans–as well as hundreds of teeth. "It's not quite sold out yet, but the arena will still be full of leather vests and confederate-flag t-shirts," said special events manager John Bender. "So obviously, that'll translate into literally dozens of teeth, as well."Tooth owners throughout the region were looking forward to the union of southern-rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd and rap-rocker Kid Rock. "It's gonna be a hot one, that's for damn sure," enthused Vineland's Rick Hopp, 31, the gaps in his teeth causing a slight whistle. "Nonea them fellas take no kinda s*** from nobody!" Thad Cresson, 40, of Schuylkill Haven, agreed. "When I heard they was playin' together, I thought I'd 'bout died an' gone t' heaven," he grinned, revealing a half-full mouth. "Ho-lee (expletive deleted)!"

Bender, meanwhile, predicted that the venue would likely host more teeth on Friday than it did at Saturday's Toby Keith concert. "We definitely expect to see more [teeth] for Kid Rock than we did for Toby Keith," he said. "On Saturday, we saw probably three, four teeth for every fan." Nonetheless, Hopp, a proud owner of a whopping fourteen teeth, was more focused on the upcoming performance than his bicuspids, molars, and lone incisor. "Ooh, daddy, when Skynyrd plays 'Free Bird,' you won't be able t' keep the smile offa my face. And it's a goddamn purty smile, too."

*It's just a joke, of course. From The Philadelphia Turkey

Boat Sketch

I got an email tutorial today from PC Photo about turning your photos into paintings or drawings. I fooled with it a little and ended up with this effect that I like. I deviated a bit from the tutorial in that where they say to use the Glowing Edges filter, I used the "Find Edges" instead. Then I did the rest of what they suggested. Below is the original.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Marsh Creek Grand Prix

Here's Chase on Friday night at his race track. He races cars that speed around the oval and he usually comes in first. This is a good thing because he likes to be at the head of the pack. When he's not racing, he's running around playing with the other kids who do much giggling and jostling.

Here's Saige in a pensive mood. It didn't last long.

Here's Chase's cute friend, Ethan (I hope this is Ethan). What a great smile.

Finally, a last one of Saige and her buddies. It was starting to get dark and my camera doesn't like the dark.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Return To Montpelier

The final leg of our journey found us back near Lexington where we stayed at Fox Hill, a comfortable B&B that sits in the valley between the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains. The photo is from our little private deck looking east toward the Blue Ridge. I took an early morning walk and got some pictures I like.

They had two hummingbird feeders on the porch and I finally caught those elusive little creatures.

This kitty seems to take visitors in stride. There are also a couple of dogs and 6 or 7 horses and a donkey.

Since we had seen most of Lexington on our way south, Bill decided the event of the day should be a trip back to Montpelier to check on the restoration progress. When we visited last year, things were pretty much in a state of chaos due to all the work that was going on. We were surprised to find that the completion date for this project is September 17, 2008. It looked to us like that was going to be a stretch, due to the amount of work yet to be done.

This was the front last October.

Here's where they are now. Looks pretty good.

The rear of the house last year.
This year -- getting there.
This year, the inside tour didn't permit photographs. The guide said they had been very generous in their photography policy until someone started selling photos online. So no photos inside anymore. The plastering is in progress, but that has to cure and then they will prime and paint. Of course, that has been ongoing for quite a while. All the walls were taken down to the bare studs. They left one room as an educational example of the work that was done. You can see pieces of the lathe and then layers of paint and wall decoration left over from the different families who lived here. We saw different areas of the house this year; they let the tours through but where they are allowed to go depends on who is working where, and they cordon off areas where workmen are busy but you are still constantly ducking somebody carrying a door or a window through the room you are standing in. And all through the tour you hear the noise of tools and machines and the conversation of the workers. The amount of work that has gone into this project is mind boggling. It still looked to us like there was a tremendous amount of work yet to do, so good luck to them on their target date. We are looking forward to seeing the finished masterpiece.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Back And Forthing

Since Asheville is about 600 miles away from Malvern, we needed a place to stop over both coming and going. Looking at a map of our route, we decided Lexington, Va, appeared to be a comfortable day's drive as well as an interesting place to visit. We opted to stay there on the way down and the way back (although in different inns). On the way down, we stayed at House Mountain Inn on Lonesome Dove Trail (Bill just loved that). In fact, they had prints of the Lonesome Dove characters prominently displayed on the wall. Bill could name every one.
Lexington is a small town and home to Washington & Lee University as well as the Virginia Military Institute. There's a quaint downtown area and a couple of historic places to visit (right up our alley). We toured Stonewall Jackson's home and looked in a couple of shops before we went over to the college complex. The two schools sit right next to each other and each have a number of interesting sites. The one thing that struck me especially about VMI was that it was so khaki. Every building on the campus as well as the athletic stadium was painted khaki. I've never seen anything like that before; it was strange. Even Valley Forge Military Academy is brick. But VMI is decidedly khaki.

VMI Chapel. See, khaki.

Downtown Lexington

This town is famous for two men: Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, both Civil War heroes. In case you don't know it, Virginians take their Civil War heroes very seriously. There's a guided tour of Stonewall's home, but I liked his garden the best. Check out this scarecrow. Stick a few feathers into a potato, tie it to a string and suspend it from a small branch. Very ingenious. What could be easier?

Back at VMI we toured the George C. Marshall Museum and Library. Marshall was a true statesman. He was a graduate of VMI (natch) and went on to become an important military leader, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and father of the Marshall Plan for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Marshall Plan was designed to help rebuild Europe after World War II and stabilize its economy and was vital to Europe's recovery after the war.

At Washington & Lee, you can visit the Lee Chapel and see this sculpture of Robert E. Lee. He is actually buried in the crypt below the chapel.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Travel Tip

I read about this somewhere right before we went away and it came in handy on our trip. Suppose you are on the road and have no access to a printer, but do--of course--have your digital camera and a laptop. You simply take a photo of the screen you need with your camera and then play it back when you need to. You can zoom in on it because it's very small on the camera, but it is readable. Good to know in a pinch.