Sunday, September 30, 2007

Brunswick, Georgia and The Golden Isles

We are waking up in Brunswick, GA and the Golden Isles. We had a very busy sightseeing day yesterday in downtown Orlando, as well as at Winter Park, Harry P. Leu Gardens, Jacksonville, the Cummer Museum and Gardens, and Brunswick, Georgia. We will post later today. Need coffee right now. Catch you later...

Dont't Mess With Cinderella's Castle!

On Friday Jack and I took the Disney Keys to the Kingdom backstage tour of the Magic Kingdom Park. We had Mark as our tour guide. Mark started working for Disney in high school 17 years ago. He went to college and majored in theater and joined Disney full time 11 years ago after college. Mark gives an informative and interesting backstage tour of Disney. Here are some of the inside things we learned about Disney from Mark:

1, The mission is to have a place filled with magic for both parents and children to enjoy.

2. Disney has four guiding principals in this order: safety first, then courtesy, then show and lastly efficiency.

3, Walt Disney was born in Chicago but spent his formative childhood years growing up on a farm near Marceline, Missouri, which is just 25 miles from Jack's hometown of Hale, MO. Jack has been to Marceline, MO.

4. Walt Disney was born in 1901 and died in 1966. His older brother Roy Disney was the man behind Walt's success. Walt was the creative genius with plenty of pie in the sky ideas. Roy was the practical businessman who made sure the company stayed in the black and not the red.

5. For 50 years E. Card Walker was the justice of the peace when the two brothers were not seeing eye to eye. In fact, Walt and Roy would sometimes go for months without speaking to each other when they were having one of their brotherly "fights". Then it was E. Card Walker's job to mend the fences between the two brothers so the company could run properly. In a window on Main Street USA which is modeled after the town Walt remembered in MO there is the name E. Card Walker, Psychiatrist and Justice of the Peace. In the Magic Kingdom there are lots of little insider stories immortalized like this on the walls and windows.

6. Walt Disney created Disneyland in California as a place for his two daughters to play with him. Roy Disney Sr. had a son, Roy Disney Jr. It is Roy Disney Jr. who had his own fights with Michael Eisner the former CEO of Disney, in what direction the company should move.

7. How many people work for DisneyWorld? None. They are not employees. They are cast members and that's how they file their income taxes. They are all theater cast members, the cook, the baker, the cleaner, the animator, etc. And this magic theater has 60,000 cast members.

8. One of the highest paid cast members is the girl who plays Tinkerbelle. For each evening closing fireworks show she has to climb up a narrow 40 foot high ladder in Cinderella's castle and get strapped to a harness that will glide her along along a long, long line to fly over Fantasy Land and land in Frontier Land. Another cast member goes up with Tinkerbelle and gives her the big push that sends her flying thru the dark sky with the magic dust. One of the original Tinkerbelle's did this job until she turned 70 years old! Amazing!!

9. It may be Cinderella's Castle but Snow White is the most requested female Disney character. Mickey Mouse leads the boys in popularity, naturally. Mickey even has more rank than Walt Disney in billing of movies. Walt Disney learned that any movie made would sell better if the top billing went to Mickey Mouse.

10. The Disney TV Shows were started after Disneyland opened in 1955 to be an advertising program for the park and for the movies Walt was making. The shows were a great marketing tool because they were entertaining, educational and wholesome.

11. Each land in DisneyWorld must have a theme and theme music and each park must then transition to the next land in clever tricks to the five senses.

12. Everything in DisneyWorld is created to appeal to the park visitor's five senses from the rides that have smells, water squirts and 3D movie vision. On Main Street USA the smell of freshly baked rolls is pumped thru pipes from the bakery to the sidewalk and one in five park visitors will succumb to the smell and buy a roll after entering the park. So you are programmed thru your five senses to act the way you do in the park.

13. The water from Splash Mountain is filtered 6 times after falling in the water holding tanks before heading down the mountain a second time. Many hats are pulled from the holding tanks each day. No one wants them back because the filtration system changes the color of the hats. Several times a year scuba divers will fish out the heavy lost items like jewelry.

14. Here are the tall structures of DisneyWorld:
Tower of Terror 199 feet
Space Mountain 197 feet
Cinderella's Castle 188 feet

15. How many husbands does the bride Connie in the Haunted Mansion have? Five. Each subsequent groom is more well dressed and has more gifts for Connie. Husband one gives her one strand of pearls. Husband five gives her five strands of pearls.

16. There are creative Magic People who will walk the lands to make sure that every sign, trash can and show prop fits the image of that land. The Magic Man currently assigned to the Haunted Mansion is having a running battle with the cast members there over an unofficial hidden mickey on the table. Magic Man removes it. Cast members immediately try to replace the hidden mickey to the table. By the way there is an official hidden mickey in the dark hallway by the flickering candelabra!

17. DisneyWorld does a lot of wash each day. You would have to do one load of wash each day for over forty years to even begin to come close to what Disney washes up each day.

18. The Magic Kingdom does a lot of trash removal thru the pipes that move the trash from various locations in the park. The trash moves thru the pipes at 45 miles an hour. All paper and plastic moves nicely thru the pipes but cloth towels will gum up the works. So babies don't ditch your cloth diapers at Magic Kingdom. Better yet use pampers! You understand Baby Jack?

19. The monorail system has over 13 miles of track. It has been totally renovated since introduced.

20. Walt wanted real wild animals in Adventure Land when it opened at Disneyland in 1955.
Brother Roy nixed the idea as silly and unworkable. Walt's silly idea finally came to life when the Animal Kingdom opened at DisneyWorld in the late 90's.

22. DisneyWorld really didn't have a lot of visitors until the mid 80's. Now the most photographed object in the entire world is DisneyWorld's Cinderella's Castle! One in five photos taken in the world is of this castle. The next most photographed object is the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

23. Kodak loves Disney.

24. The whole world loves Disney.

25. The biggest moneymaker for Disney is not the park tickets or the resorts or the food. Disney's golden goose is the souvenirs. People buy them for those at the park and for those folks back home who couldn't make it to the park.

26. Jack and I fit this pattern. So we have packed in the car souvenirs for Jeanine, Jennifer, Terry and Baby Jack. Baby Jack has the most because he is THE BABY!

Mark told us that when DisneyWorld closed the parks on 9/11 that all Disney characters were sent to the resorts to console the people who were stuck inside the resorts since all park activities were canceled and all the airports were shutdown until further notice.

28. Disney has three different evacuation plans that every cast member is familiar with and can implement.

29. Mark's worst day at DisneyWorld was three years ago on Christmas Day when it poured buckets of rain and the park guests were angry and in a bad bad very bad mood. It was hard to spread the Disney magic let alone the Christmas cheer that day.

30. MGM Park is getting a new name: Hollywood. It has outgrown the old name since Disney has acquired Pixar .

31. The headquarters for Disney is in Burbank, California.

32. Roy Disney Jr. is now over 72 so he no longer has voting rights on the board of Disney.

33. Walt Disney and Roy Disney Sr. had wives that were a great influence on the men. In fact, Roy Disney Sr.'s wife was the one person who could really tell Walt that he had a pie in the sky idea and needed to get back down on the ground or that she had already listened to that story so don't tell it again.

34. Special tour guides like Mark are ambassadors for Disney and get to travel to many parks and to take Disney Cruise assignments or Disney's new world travel assignments. They are also assigned to accompany famous celebrities that come to the park. These guides make a list of what stars they would like to accompany. Mark has on his list Martha Stewart so that he can impress his mom who loves Martha!

35. Mark's funniest story is about the very famous teenage celebrity who Mark was assigned to when she came to visit the park and was asked to be the grand marshall of the parade for that day. This big star was so overwhelmed at being at Disney and meeting all the famous characters at Disney that she had a panic attack and refused to leave the bathroom The mom was sent to check on the daughter. Then the aunt was sent. Then the publicist was sent. Finally the girl emerged from the bathroom and led the parade. Mark had made up his mind that if the girl didn't come out, he was going in to find out what was going on in there. I'm not revealing the girl's name because I like her too much.

36. I want to be a Disney wig! Each wig gets washed and styled after each wearing and it takes 4 and a half hours to turn that rag mop into a glamorous head of hair for Cinderella or Snow White or Sleeping Beauty or Ariel.

37. If you see on any cast member's name tag a golden square they are one of the few cast members who have won the Disney coveted special achievement award for excellence.

38. Mark says he is the Susan Lucci of Disney: nominated 7 times but never has won the

39. Mark's boss strolled by while we were on the tour. Everyone on our tour started chanting give Mark a raise!

40. This is just some of what we learned by taking The Keys to the Kingdom Tour. I would recommend that you take the tour. You learn a lot, get lunch and two rides: The Haunted House and The Jungle Cruise.

41. Oh, and don't mess with Cinderella's Castle. In 2006 Disney decorated the castle as a giant birthday cake since Disney was celebrating a birthday. Nobody liked the cake on the castle. Especially the Disney brides. They wanted the traditional castle for a backdrop for their wedding photos. Jenn and Terry aren't you glad you got married here in 2005 instead of 2006?
42. The reason all objects are below 200 feet at DisneyWorld is because otherwise it would have to have a beacon to warn flying aircraft and that would spoil the evening fireworks shows.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Doing Disney

Photo 1. Main Street Disney decorated for Halloween.

Photo 2. Joann in MGM Studios.

Photo 3. Steamboat Willie and Fantasmic.

Photo 4. Us standing under the arch with the rings at the Disney wedding pavilion where Jenn and Terry stood November 5, 2005.

Photo 5. Saratoga Springs, the resort we stayed at in Disney World.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Universal Studios

On Tuesday, we visited Universal Studios. Nice, but not as nice as Disney. Disney does better at keeping you cool in the heat. More shade and more fans. We did do the ET ride again and Jack rode on the Earthquake. We saw the Horror Make up Show and Shrek. The Beetle Juice Graveyard Rock and Roll show and the Blues Brothers performances were both very good. The best part was that we used the free tickets we got when we visited in 1990 and it didn't cost us to get in--except for parking.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Greetings from Orlando

We made it to Disney World on Friday around noon. Checked in to our condo and we are really pleased with how beautiful it is. Disney really knows how to build a great atmosphere, both inside and out. We went to lunch at Ragland Road, the Irish pub, and had a wonderful lunch. The highlight was the bread pudding with vanilla and butterscotch sauce. Shame on us. Last night we stayed in and ate. Afterwards we took a walk around the Saratoga Springs grounds. It was a wonderful moonlight night and the grounds are lite so well, we just had to enjoy them. Unfortunately, we don't have internet access in the room and we were unable to get ont he internet with our computer at Panera Breads, so we are at the library doing this blog. That means there will be no pictures with this blog. Sorry. Tonight we go to the Polynesian for the luau. Monday night we will be doing the Hoop de do Review. On Friday we have the "Keys to the Kingdom" tour which lasts for about 5 1/2 hours. That means we won't be leaving the area until Saturday. We plan on doing Disney for 4 days and Universal for one. It's not as relaxing as we had envisioned, but we do have some pool and reading time in between. Miss you, but we are having a good time.

Before we drove to Orlando we spent Thursday driving along the beaches of the panhandle of Florida. We especially like the towns of Apallachicola and Panama City. Between the two we had a great seafood lunch at Toucous on the Mexico Beach.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Plains, GA to Tallahassee, FL

The drive through southern Georgia let us see acres and acres of pecan groves. They are huge trees and probably produce tons of pecans. We had to stop at one of the roadside stands and buy some pecans. We also saw loads of cotton fields that are approaching harvest. The temps have returned to the upper 80's, so we feel we have an extended Summer. We drove through Thomasville, GA, which is a picturesque upscale town and a magnate for the northern rich who come to this part of the country to hunt. There are over 70 plantations with 300,000 acres and most are not working plantations, but are kept for their hunting value. One called Pebble Hill was open to the public, so we stopped. The last owner of the house setup a trust to hold the property and all its furnishings for the public. Her mother built the house in 1934 as a replacement for the original house that burnt. There were 18 guests and 12 servants in the house when it caught fire and she told everyone to grab a piece of furnishings and get out of the house. As a result, a lot of the original furnishings were saved. The cook was cleaning artichokes at the time in a wooden bowl. So, she grabbed the artichokes and the wooden bowl and left the house. The owner found this so amusing she made the artichoke the symbol for the plantation. The stables are the building with the turrets. They were some of the most impressive stables we have ever seen. The livestock and the servants all lived very well. From here we drove to Tallahassee. It's a beautiful city with a small town feel. The parks with their Spanish moss covered live oaks and the antebellum homes with a New Orleans feel make this an enchanting place. Make sure you read the next post. It's new, too.

Spartanburg, SC to Plains, GA

Our second day on the road took us to Plains, GA, via Athens and Macon. Since we had visited Athens and the University of Georgia on previous trips (remember Jeanine?), we just drove through and went on to Macon, which was a pleasant surprise. Apparently, Sherman bypassed Macon on his way to Savannah and the impressive antebellum homes are pretty much intact. We stopped at the visitor's center for information and asked them where they would recommend for good southern cookin'. Surprisingly, they said "Jeanine's". (We then discovered she didn't know how to spell her name and spelled it "Jeneane's".) The food was excellent and the perfect comfort food--fried chicken, collard greens, corn on the cob, okra and corn bread. The place was packed and we'll tell you about the "culture" of the place when we get home. After that, we toured the Hay Mansion. This home had been featured in A&E's American Castles series, and it was apparent why when we went through. It was built around the time of the Civil War, but escaped damage. It was built at a cost of $100,000 while the largest home in Macon at that time cost $12,000. After the war, when others were rebuilding and trying to just make a living, the owner put 24 karat gold leaf on his crown moldings. Money wasn't a problem. The house is currently owned by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. We'll show you the book on it when we get home. From Macon, we drove to Plains with a stop at the Habitat for Humanities Global Village. That's the second picture posted. They have built replica's of homes they have built all around the world. It was a very inspirational display of their work. In Plains we discovered that the entire town has been declared a National Historic Site for Jimmy Carter. The Federal government owns a lot of the town including the High School where both Jimmy and Rosalind graduated from, his boyhood home and farm, and the compound where the Carter's currently live. It is a very clean and pretty town with just one main street. We discovered that there was one hotel in town. It had 8 rooms--one for each decade of Carter's life from 1920 to 1980. The rooms were numbered 1920, 1930, 1940, etc. and were decorated in furniture of that time period. Rosalind Carter decorated the rooms. That is were we stayed. The Inn is the building with the balcony and we stayed in 1930, which was decorated in a French style. The picture of the room really doesn't do it justice, because it was really beautiful with lots of period amenities. The bathroom was also done in the 30's style and we are really glad bathrooms have evolved since then. Unfortunately, there was no internet access, so we will do two blog posts tonight.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On the Road Again!

We had a wonderful drive on Monday and made it south of Spartanburg, SC. We left home around 5:00 am, stopped in Charlottesville for breakfast and had lunch in the Barbecue capital of the world, Lexington, NC. The barbecue was wonderful! and the place we ate in had been written up in Southern Living magazine. There were loads of people there--mostly locals--so we assumed we had picked the right place. We then stopped outside Charlotte, NC, at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens. This place has been recognized by HGTV as one of the 20 best gardens in the U.S. As you can imagine, Joann thought she had died and gone to heaven. It was beautiul and the pictures were taken there. We stopped around 5:00 pm for the evening, so we had a long day, but made good time. The weather is almost perfect, so we are keeping our fingers crossed and prayers going for continued good weather.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Some Book Club Recipes

I hosted book club Friday night. I had a few requests for the recipes of the food I served so here are my most requested recipes from Friday's gathering.

from the Pattie Gang Cookbook,
Pattie Elem. in Prince William County
When you need two dozen cookies and it is already 10:00 P.M. That's what I needed Thursday night after watching Big Brother and then President Bush.
2 or 3 egg whites 1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt 6 oz. of dark chocolate chips or kisses
3/4 c. 1 c. chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Beat egg whites and salt. Add sugar gradually/then beat till stiff.
Fold in remaining ingredients. Drop by teaspoonfuls on foil covered sheet. Place in preheated oven. Close oven door. Turn oven off immediately.
Do not open oven door until morning. Then remove and peel foil off
the bottoms of the cookies.
The Junior League of Baton Rouge, LA
This is one of my all time favorite recipes from my all time favorite Junior
League cookbook. I've been making this since 1982 trip to New Orleans.
It makes 3 loaves: one to eat now, one to freeze and one to give away to a friend or neighbor.
3 cups sugar
1 cup salad oil
4 eggs
2 15 oz. cans of pumpkin
3 and 1/3 cups flour, unsifted
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
2 and 1/2 t. salt
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
2/3 cup water
2 t. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans or golden raisins or 1/2 cup of each
Combine sugar and oil in electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla. Add spices. Then start adding the flour--one cup at a time and alternating with the water and the cans of pumpkin.
remove bowl from mixer and fold in by hand the pecans or golden raisins.
Pour batter into 3 well greased and floured 9x5x3 loaf pans. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Then check with wooden skewer for doneness. It usually takes 5 minutes more to get the bread baked all the way through and loaves to pull away from the sides a teeny bit. Remove from oven. Let cool in pans for 1 hour while you clean up your mess. Then remove loaves from pans when barely warm and place on wire rack to finish cooling completely. This original recipe calls for cream cheese icing which I never use because with 3 cups of sugar it is mighty sweet already.
Pistachio Pudding for Twelve
from Joann's Imagination and Jello
Fix two packages of Jello's Instant Pistachio Pudding following the package directions. Soon as pudding is made in mixing bowl add 1 cup of finely chopped pistachios to the pudding making sure to save a few for the top for decoration. Then add 1 cup of golden raisins and again save a few for the top for decoration. Now gently fold in 2 cups of Cool Whip but leave it streaked or marbleized instead of totally blended. Choose a pretty glass or crystal serving bowl and pour in the pudding. Then put two big globs of Cool Whip on top of the pudding right in the center. Sprinkle the reserve ground pistachios and golden raisin on top and about the globs of Cool Whip. Cover pudding with plastic wrap that doesn't touch the pudding and put in the refrigerator till time to serve. Note: you could use real whipped cream (1 and 1/2 cups cream for whipping) with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla if you want to be really decadent. I'm not totally decadent.
Note: the book for discussion Friday night was Khaled Hosseini's second novel, A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS. Khaled's first novel was THE KITE RUNNER. Both novels have historical settings in Afghanistan. Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and moved to America in 1980 where he became a medical doctor.
Final note: I have also read the following books that are about Afghanistan and the Balkan region:
Happy fall reading, everyone.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Late Summer Garden Pics

The summer days are dwindling down to a precious few. Each morning I like to walk around the gardens with my cup of coffee and notice how the morning sun glances off the plants and creates shadows. Top photo is of the perennial garden with a concrete pot holding creeping Jenny. The middle photo is of the Jackson Perkins rose that I have trained to climb up to the rod iron open ball by the brick patio. This is the fourth or fifth time this rose has bloomed this summer. Deadheading the spent blossoms is the trick to repeated blooms. You can see white rose petals that have fallen on the patio.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

September 8, 1954 - September 8, 2007

September 8, 1954 - September 8, 2007
Happy Anniversary to Paul and Iona Mae
My older brother Paul has been married for 53 years. Look at this black and white formal wedding photo. In 1954 it was not common to have photos taken at the church alter so you went to the nearest photography studio for the formal portrait. In this photo I am the junior bridesmaid standing by the groom and my sister Mary is the bridesmaid standing by the bride. Look at the bride's dress. It was designed by a Catholic priest who wanted to create gowns that were dignified. The early fifties was the era of tulle and cancans so our attendants gowns had tulle and built in cancans. The color of the gowns was a soft shade of aqua and we wore matching aqua linen pumps.
Mine hurt because I had outgrown the pumps before the wedding date by going barefoot all summer on the farm. I also remember that my dress was too tight too. I must have been in a growing spurt. I was ten and my sister Mary was sweet sixteen. My two other brothers were not able to attend this wedding. Carl was in the air force and stationed at Roswell, NM. Harold was in the army and stationed outside Tokyo, Japan. I don't remember too much else about this wedding because I was only ten but I do remember that I loved the flowers. We carried red roses in a circle design while the bride had a white orchid for her bouquet. I also remember that this was the first occasion where I got to see my parents dressed up in semi-formal black. My mother looked really pretty and my dad looked handsome. This wedding took place on a Wednesday because back in those days many of the Germans in Ohio chose Wednesday as the day for weddings. Something similar to the Pennsylvania Dutch I think. At any rate because the wedding was on a Wednesday Mary and I got out of school for the day. This was another all day wedding. The mass was at 8:00 in Egypt, Ohio (Yes, there is an Egypt, Ohio too.). Then came breakfast, followed by lunch, supper and evening wedding dance followed by a midnight lunch. In those days between lunch and supper the wedding party would travel in a car caravan thru the small towns and villages blowing horns and waving to anyone alongside the street or road. That's why it was very important to decorate the cars for this wedding caravan. Something else the bride and groom would do in the afternoon would be opening the presents at the reception hall. The morning after the wedding my father found two broken large crocks by the well. We had used them for transporting food (German cabbage) and had forgotten to take them back inside when we got home and a very early frost Thursday morning cracked the crocks! My father always liked to say that the only two that got crocked at Paul's wedding were the two crocks.

My Darling Grandson at 8 Weeks

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

August 25, 1962 - August 25, 2007

Happy 45'th Wedding Anniversary to Mary and Jerry!

I love old black and white photos and this is one of my favorites. My sister Mary is the bride and I am the maid of honor in dark rose. Don't we all look like a page from the very early 60's? My sister looks beautiful in her pure silk wedding gown and her husband Jerry looks so young and thin and handsome! Now check out the bridal party. The flower girl is my niece Diane and her mother Iona made her gown by just looking at the other attendants dresses that were purchased at Rikes in downtown Dayton, Ohio. I think the bridesmaids and myself look like a scene from Cyprus Gardens in Florida. We have our hats with veils, our long white gloves that go above the elbow and of course we have our hoop skirts to make our dresses stand out. We are either ready for Cyprus Gardens or for meeting Scarlett in Gone With The Wind. Now check out the men. Note the dark suits and narrow ties. Also note the short hair and short sideburns. That would not last. By 1969 even the conservatives were wearing long hair and long sideburns. The tall?, dark and handsome man on the far left is my brother Carl. Now take a look at the church alter and the beautiful wood angels on both sides of the alter. All of this would be eliminated after Pope John the 23'rd and Vatican II. Do note the cute little boy who was Jerry's nephew and was the ring bearer for the ceremony. Sadly he is the only one in this photo who is now deceased. He died in his early 20's of cancer. So very sad.

Now look at the second photo. Here is the bride and groom 45 years later.
Mary and Jerry are surrounded by their six grandchildren: Brady, Kristine and Justin are in the front row and Mary is holding Audrey and Jerry is holding Tate. I can remember this wedding in every detail. It was 1962 and our Catholic Church required wedding ceremonies in the morning. So I think this wedding took place around 10:00 A.M. which meant that select guests came for breakfast and then lunch and afternoon down time before the evening country buffet dinner and dance. Mary and Jerry were still square dancing and slow dancing at 10:00 P.M. that Saturday night in August. They were cutting the rug in 1962 and they are still cutting the rug today with the grandkids.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Life is like a glass mosaic. You need to step back and take in the entire event to realize that even the ugly and difficult moments are awesome and that the sum of life is so much greater than the individual events. And it takes so many experiences to create this unique picture. It is great to have lived so long so that my glass mosaic is so full and vibrant. So here's to life and old age!

This glass mosaic is at the Museum of Glass in Tocoma, Washington.
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I'm Hooked On Big Brother!

Every summer I get my kicks by watching Big Brother. Tonight I get to watch the POV challenge to see if anyone takes either Jessica or Jameka off the elimination block. Last week's HOH challenge was so difficult. I think that it was the hardest challenge that I have ever seen on Big Brother in 8 seasons. Holy Cow! I'm surprised that there wasn't any broken bones.
I'm glad that Zack got HOH this week. Zack doesn't say much but what he says isn't loud or rude like some of the other house guests. I'm liking him more. I went on a CBS Big Brother Forum and discovered that a lot of folks don't like Jessica because of her old lady? looks, her blue eye shadow, her squeaky voice and her laziness. Some folks claim that she sleeps all day to get over her hangovers. Others say that she sleeps to avoid doing any cleaning or cooking in the house. As for Eric and Jessica some people are tired of that scene too. I like Eric but think that the powers that be at Big Brother did a dumb thing by starting this America's Player. I don't like it and I think others don't either. Everyone knows that Eric is up to something but they don't know what it is. Eric might get back doored tonight and then on Thursday I think both he and Jess will be eliminated. And that would leave Zack and Jameka with Evil Dick and his daughter, Danielle. This show has always had lots of twists so I don't want to venture who will win the million dollars. Oh, I just remembered something: we get to see Janelle, the winner from last year on the show tonight. That should be interesting. Final thought: Big Brother is better than summer reruns. Of course, I could do something better with my time like reading a good book but I confess that I am hooked to this show.

The New Year Begins

The new year really begins when Labor Day comes and the kids return to class. Even when you are no longer a student or teacher or parent of school age kids the new year begins in September instead of January. A new year and a new chapter in everyone's life even if you are participating only as a spectator thinking of your kids or grandkids facing that first day. This is one evening around the supper table when everyone will have something to talk about even if it is the talk of the horrendous traffic once again in Northern Virginia! All those school buses, all those teachers, all those congressmen and women, all those lobbyists and all those August vacationing CEOs hit the highway this morning and now are hitting the return trip route. Some folks who live way out in West Virginia and south of Fredericksburg really have long commutes. And then there are those who head to the eastern shore of NO VA. All this traffic makes people wish for that Magic School Bus that flies in the sky. What a way to go.

Russian Farmers

Three generations of farmers from Russia. That is Russia, Ohio not Soviet Russia. Did you know that there is a little village in western Ohio that is named Russia? Yes, there is and the Russia natives are very proud of their village and its Catholic Church, its school system and the many businesses located in Russia. There are around 450 residents but nearly 850 people commute to work in Russia. One of the big local firms is a branch of Clopay Doors. I have a niece and nephew who work for Clopay. Most of the founding fathers of Russia were French Catholics who immigrated to Ohio after the Napoleonic Wars. In fact, if you make a trip to the Arch of Triumph in Paris you will see the name of a French general named Grilliot. Many of this general's descendants grew up in Russia, Ohio. Carol Grilliot was in my class and Annette Grilliot was in my sister's class. The neighboring French communities are French Town and Versailles. The oldest tombstones in these three villages are written in French. By the way, people from Russia, Ohio sometimes pronounce Russia the way the original French settlers pronounced it: Roo she! The immigrants thought that the land reminded them of the cold flat land that they encountered in Russia when they were fighting for Napoleon in Russia in the wintertime.

Now to these Russian Farmers. The first generation is my brother Carl who is standing by that big tire on the combine. The combine belongs to Carl's son, Greg, the second generation. The three preteen boys up in the combine are Greg's sons: Justin, Jordan and Jake. Farming is in their genes. I know that they got the farming genes from my father Leo. And that combine is a Massey Ferguson. It was Greg's farm toy to drive with his sons in toe. Now Greg has a new combine to toodle around the farms. I hope someone sends me a photo of the new combine. Folks, have you noticed how farmers get excited over farm machinery? Just like city folks getting excited over a new Lexus or Jaguar to drive.