Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Movie Review

National Treasure 2 is a movie that is worth going to see. Jack and I were anxious to see it because we came across the filming of the movie at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on our cross country trip last spring. (See these attached photos.) In addition I had learned at book club Friday that George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate is offering this winter tours of the celler passageways that are also featured in this movie. The movie is like a cross between two movies: The Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. The plot moves thru a lot of codes that have some historical background to them. And the movie has a good cast of actors: Helen Mirren, John Voight, Nicholas Cage, Ed Harris and Diane Kruger. In addition a scene at Mount Vernon features Randy Travis as Randy Travis. Other locations featured in this adventure film are Buckingham Palace, Library of Congress, the campus of the University of Maryland and the Statue of Liberty in Paris France. Yes, that's right---the one in Paris near the Eiffel Tower. By the way did you know that there are three Statues of Liberty in the world?

Baby Chow Time

Our grandson, Jack Aidan, has overnight gone from hating any cereal to loving his oatmeal cereal with applesauce. Jennifer and Jack Aidan joined us for lunch yesterday. We had a great time watching him eat. He was just like a little bird. The mouth was open and waiting for that spoonful of oatmeal with applesauce. Of course he loved grabbing the spoon to help put the cereal into his own mouth. And when he was finally finished we needed to run and get a washcloth to wipe cereal off his face, hands and highchair. What a hoot! By the way, have you noticed the hair on this baby? I think he is sporting a Mohawk! It stands straight up in the air.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

2008 Is Rushing By

2008 is rushing by me. Gee, January is almost over and I haven't even begun to make a dent in the books I want to read during these slow winter days. Maybe it is because I am according to my husband a news junkie. Yep, I admit I have been following both the Democratic and Republican debates, primary caucuses and primary elections pretty closely. And this next week brings more debates, caucuses and elections plus the beginning of February, Groundhog Day, The Super Bowl, Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Wow! Well, I guess it is a good thing that I am retired or otherwise I couldn't handle it. I would be on double overload. Seriously.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens

The Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens are in Akron, Ohio and one year on the way back to Virginia from Ohio we stopped and toured this beautiful estate.
Stan Hywet (the house name) was built by F. A. Seiberling who founded The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio . This is one of those palatial homes built during America's country estate building era that ran from the 1890's to the late 1920's. Many of these beautiful and elegant old homes were tore down because they became too expensive too maintain with servants and gardeners. I thought you might enjoy looking at a few photos of the estate. And you can click on each photo to get a larger and sharper image. I enjoy looking thru my travel albums in the winter. Especially when my own gardens are dull and dreary in the late winter. If you live in or visit Ohio you should plan a trip to this estate and if you do, you can eat a bite of lunch in the Carriage House Cafe. By the way Stan Hywet in Old English means stone quarry.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Blog Readers Please Help Me

I am looking for a cookbook that is also a memoir or biography or travel experience that I could use for my book club. The photos here are of my book club having a sit down meal in my dining room with food that we selected from my book selection, The Pat Conroy's Cookbook, Recipes of My Life, by the author, Pat Conroy. We had a great time at this book club meal. Pat Conroy has lived an interesting and full life so there was lots of discussion about his life. And then we had to savor and comment on all the Pat Conroy dishes that we had prepared for the five course meal. It was a lot of work but the two ladies sitting in front really helped by being my assigned waitresses. Dickie in the white blouse and Maura in the blue flowered blouse served the food and removed the dishes for each course . In addition Maura kept us all in stitches playing the wine captain with a faux French accent. In the middle photo you see her getting ready to do another wine run down the table. So readers of my blog, I need your help. Can you think of a cookbook that is more than just a cookbook? It is a cookbook with an interesting story---biographical or geographical or historical. I know. I'm asking a lot. Well, if you can think of such a cookbook, please leave a comment here. I can't wait to see what some of you may suggest.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thomas Jefferson

Last Sunday at our local wine club meeting we learned that Thomas Jefferson, our third president, was the world's greatest wine connoisseur of his time. And it was Benjamin Franklin whom Thomas Jefferson visited in France who introduced Jefferson to the famous French wines. Thomas Jefferson took several long tours of the European wine country. He stayed for over 4 months touring the vineyards of France and Italy. Through his travels in France Jefferson was able to identify the greatest wines of Bordeaux which are still today the greatest wines of Bordeaux. These wines would be Chateaux Haut-Brion, Margaux, Latour and Lafite. Our wine coach, John Brooks, told us Sunday that if we were drinking today's version of these Bordeaux wines and Italian wines that Thomas Jefferson drank at Monticello that the wine bill for 5 glasses of wine would be over $3000 per couple or $1500 per
person. Wow! Needless to say we did not drink those versions of Bordeaux and Italian wine. We did however get to sample five wonderful wines Sunday night with our meal. Here are their names:

2005 Chateau Carbonnieus RP 93 $43
2005 Louis Jadot Meursault WS90 $38
1995 Castello di Fonterutoli RP88 $29
Louis Latour Volnay En Chevret WS 92 $45
2004 Chateau Rauzan-Segla WS90 $65
John also gave us this Jefferson quote to think about:
"Good wine is a necessity of life."
Final thought: When Thomas Jefferson was president and in the White House entertaining his guests he went thru 20,000 bottles of wine in eight years. I bet President Bush's White House wine log will not equal that at the end of his presidency.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sit Up and Listen Please

Sit up and listen please. Baby Jack has an important announcement to make today. THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS ARE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Have You Started Doing Your Income Taxes?

Have you started doing your income taxes? Maybe our little accountant can help you. He is double checking the numbers for us. Will President Bush gives us all a little extra money this year? Baby Jack says he is keeping an eye on Congress and Bush. That's a big job Little Man.

Friday, January 18, 2008

January = A Good Time To Read

Ahhhhh......these snowy winter days. Time to snuggle by the fire and read a good book. Luckily for me I belong to a book club where the members share favorite books as well as discuss the current book of the month. Here is a list of the books we have read since getting our group slowly off the ground in 2001. And the book selections that have a star were one of the top five books in my opinion for that particular year. And since we only had five selections for 2001 I only gave a star to two selections for 2001.
Take a look. You might find a book that you want to snuggle up with by the fire this winter.
She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb*
The Shell Seekers, by Rosamund Pilcher
The Winter Solstice, by Rosamund Pilcher
White Oleander, Janet Fitch
Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden*
Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis
The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien*
A Day Late and a Dollar Short, Terry Mcmillan
A Long Total Love Chase, by Louisa M. Alcott
The Girl With The Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier
The Red Tent, by Anita Diamont*
Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
The Nanny Diarys, by E. McLaughlin and N. Kraice
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold*
The Painted House, by John Grisham
Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett*
The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen*
Skipping Christmas
Princess: A True Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson*
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen*
Gods and Generals, by Jeff Shaara*
House of Sand and Fog, by Andre Dubus III
The Dress Lodger, by Sheri Holman
The Third Witch, by Rebecca Reisert
The Morality Play, by Barry Unsworth
The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay*
Outfoxed, by Fern Michaels
Seabiscuit, by Lauren Hillenbrand*
Standing in the Rainbow, by Fanny Flag
It's Not About The Bike, by Lance Armstrong*
One For The Money, by Janet Evanovich
The Pull of the Moon, by Elizabeth Berg
The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory*
Awakening, by Kate Chepin
The Bitch in the House, by Cathi Hanauer
Years of Wonder, by Geraldine Brooks
Blackberry Wine, by Joanne Harris*
The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
Buffalo Winged, by Patricia Reilly Panera
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides*
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini*
The Monk Downstairs, by Tim Farrington
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver*
Little Indiscretions, by Carmen Posadas
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kid*
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, by Mark Haddon
The Reading Group, by Elizabeth Noble
Cane River, by Sue Tademy*
Pleasure of My Company, by Steve Martin
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis
The Wife, by Meg Wolitzer
Leap of Faith, Memoirs of an Unexpected Life, by Queen Noor of Jordan*
The Plain Truth, by Jodi Picoult*
My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
The Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters
Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by G. Maguire
Gardenias for Breakfast, by Robin Jones Gunn
My Losing Season, by Pat Conroy*
The Interpretor of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri*
The Pat Conroy Cookbook, Recipes of My Life, by Pat Conroy*
The Mermaid Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd
The Triumph of the Sun, by Wilbur Smith*
The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown*
The Widow of the South, by Robert Hicks
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
Under Orders, by Dick Francis
Timeline, by Michael Crichton*
The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice
The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, by Thad Carhart
The Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, by Jung Chang*
The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Painted Veil, by Somerset Mougham
The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls*
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini*
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway*
The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards
Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn

We Now Have Snow On The Ground

We now have snow on the ground! No, we didn't get that much snow. This is a photo of Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska that we visited last year on our cruise to Alaska. And that is some really old, old snow! Our fresh Virginia snow is in the four inch range. It was beautiful to watch the snow gently fall yesterday while we were listening to music and putting away all the Christmas decor throughout the house. This is really our first real snow event in that we needed the roads scraped and sand put down on them. And this morning we are awakening to the sun coming up and reflecting off the snow. The birds have been active at both bird feeders. We have noticed cardinals, juncos, mockingbirds, mourning doves and blue birds. Blue birds! Yes, the blue birds are back and checking out our three bluebird houses. I think they are a little early this year if they are in a family mood.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Bryan and Jeanine came out for lunch. We gave Bryan lunch and a Guinness beer and Bryan gave us a first hand account of being in Iraq with the Va National Guard. We all listened intently even Baby Jack on Grandpa's lap. Two things I remember from Bryan's talk about Iraq: it is cold and it is muddy in the Iraqi desert.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Is The Christmas Tree Still Up and Lit?

Yes, the tree and all the Christmas decorations are still up. I wanted to keep Christmas in the house this year till our daughter's beau, Bryan, made it home from Iraq for R&R. Wednesday Bryan will come with Jeanine for a belated Christmas lunch. Someone will finally be able to open that last present under the tree and to drink a Guinness with us.

Is This Yoga Class?

No, this is learn to sit up class. Jack's mommy is the patient instructor.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Shhhhhhhhh! It's A Surprise!

It's a surprise 60'th birthday party
Retired AF General John Brooks
Saturday, January 12'th, 2008
7:00 p.m. SHARP!!!
Piedmont Club

Friday, January 11, 2008

What Happened at the Baltimore Aquarium

I must tell you all what happened to us, particularly Jim, when we toured the Baltimore Aquarium. First, we discovered that several school classes from Baltimore public/private? schools were visiting the aquarium on a school trip. I spoke to one teacher and learned that one group was 125 kindergarten students who were accompanied by 25 assorted teachers and mothers. Second, it was fun to watch the adults trying to keep up with all these active and curious little bodies. And it really was a hoot to watch four or five kindergartners try to maneuver thru a rotating door or turnstile. But then it became a sad tale when we went to see the 3-D movie that was about not only fish but African safari animals as well as animals from the poles. The movie was a series of short movies. But all were in 3-D and we had to wear 3-D glasses to watch them.

Now here is the sad part. This theater had "effects" like they do in Disneyworld when you watch the It's Not Easy Being a Bug movie at the Animal Kingdom. Water squirts you, things poke you in the back, the seat shakes, the lightening flashes in the theater, and little creatures run across your feet as you watch these short movies. Well, this was a great movie for adults to watch. We loved it! The problem was that for one little kindergarten boy this movie was just downright frightening! He was sitting next to Jim and started crying softly. Then the next thing I know Jim is holding him and trying to comfort him but to no avail. I kept looking at the teachers and adult chaperons and wondering when they were going to rescue this frightened child. Soon this poor little boy is sobbing out loud and Jim is doing his darnest to comfort him but to no avail---even when the happy and pretty water bubbles emerged from the ceiling of the theater. I thought about taking him out but was afraid that someone would mistake me for a child kidnapper with the boy sobbing so I just sat tight and hoped one of the adults would turn around and notice what was happening. Well, wouldn't you know it, just one minute before this 20 minute movie was over; one of the adult chaperons notices Jim and the sobbing boy and removes the boy from the theater to the lobby. When we left the theater this frightened child had finally stopped crying but still had very wet cheeks from all the tears that he had shed. The message I want to get across is this: this movie is not suitable for little kids and the aquarium staff should do a better job of screening the movie goers by age.

Friday January 11'th Today

We have a special calendar this year. Each month has a baby photo of our grandson. This was our Christmas present from Baby Jack.

The House at the Naval Academy

The head of the Naval Academy lives in this home on the campus. It was still decorated for the Christmas season. Here is an interesting bit of info: this home is next to the White House in the number of official government social events that it hosts. It has around 38 rooms.

Navy Wins

This display case shows some of the winning footballs from the annual Army Navy Football Game. We took the guided walking tour of the Naval Academy on Monday and learned a lot. Bancroft Hall holds all 4000 midshipman and we were shown an example of what a midshipman's room looks like. Very austere. We also saw the crypt where John Paul Jones is buried. He is like "the father of the Naval Academy. Our walking tour guide was the wife of a retired naval officer. Chatting with her we learned that her son graduated from Lee High School in 2000 and continued the family naval tradition by attending the naval academy although he was ready to quit after the first day of boot camp in the summer of 2000!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

News Flash: Bryan Is Back From Iraq

Our daughter's beau left Iraq this past Sunday and traveled to D.C. via Kuwait and Germany for two weeks leave from his tour in Iraq with the VA National Guard. He landed this afternoon at Reagan National. Official leave time starts tomorrow. Welcome home, Bryan! There is a beer waiting in the fridge for you at our house.

Photos of The Inn of Little Washington

The Inn of Little Washington is rated #1 in the U.S. It is the place for a special dinner party. Very expensive but worth the expense!

Washington D.C. and Virginia

Jack and I on Tuesday took Jim and Nancy by car to D.C. to tour the National Native American Museum and the Jewish Holocaust Museum. Jim and Nancy had never visited these two museums in D.C. and were delighted to have a chance to visit them. Wednesday we stayed in Northern Virginia visiting our neighborhood attractions here in Haymarket and Gainesville. In the afternoon we did some wine tasting at our local winery, La Grange, and then in the evening we had a special dining treat. We had dinner at the famous Inn of Little Washington which is rated the #1 inn in the United States. This is the inn where Alan Greenspan and Andrea Mitchell had their wedding reception. Some other famous people who have dined at this inn are Paul Newman and Barbara Streisland.