Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Birthday To You!

Happy Birthday to the four million people in the entire world who unfortunately were born on February 29 so they only get a birthday once every four years. I think each of these February 29 birthday folks should have at least four pieces of birthday cake today to satisfy them till February 29, 2012. As for the rest of us let's go out and have a leaping good Leap Day.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Have A Bad Case of Spring Fever

Now that I have survived my bout with a cold I now have a bad case of spring fever. Last week the groundskeepers came around and raked up pine needles and edged the beds and prepared for fresh mulch later this spring. My husband and I are very lucky in that part of our one half acre property is not maintained by us but by the homeowners' association. That is because our one side yard backs to a main street at the front of the community and the community installed the landscape and now maintains it. This includes mulching both spring and fall, mowing and irrigating in the summer and leaf blowing and leaf removal in the fall. When I look outside my window I see them working while I am enjoying my cup of tea. I feel like a queen in her castle watching her servents.
However, I do wonder about these very hard working groundskeepers. All of them look Hispanic and I wonder if they are here legally or illegally. The county that we live in is making headlines in the national news over its new restrictions on illegal immigrants. Well, I have digressed from what I had originally wanted to say and that is I have spring fever! I can't wait to get outside on a nice warm spring day to edge beds and fertilize plants. I have already raked up the leaves that were in the beds. I did leave some leaves in out of the way places for the birds for nest building purposes. For example, the purple finches use the leaves of my Japanese maple for their nests. Last year we ended up with a nest of baby finches in a nest in the wreath on my back door! What great fun it was to watch the activity in that bird nursery. Of course to keep the birds from having nightmares I had to limit my home exits to the front door for about three weeks. I think Jack has spring fever too. He took our lawnmower in to be serviced last week.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The state of Missouri has several favorite sons: Mark Twain, Harry S Truman, Walt Disney, Jesse James and Brad Pit. Last year Brad Pitt starred in the movie, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Well, Jack and I went to see the movie last year because the previous year we had visited both the home of Jesse James where he was shot and killed by Robert Ford and the farm where Jesse lived with his mother, Zeralda Amanda James, for a time.
The movie was not the usual shoot 'em up cowboy western but more of a psychological study of the main players in the historic event. The movie focused as much time on the killer as the killed party. We liked the movie though it was a tad long and slow going in parts. What struck us as unusual was that many of the indoor scenes were filmed in shades of black, white and grey. For instance, the room where Jesse was shot was in black and white and not bright red. This photography scheme gave the entire movie a very dreamlike quality. The first four pictures here show views of the farm of Jesse's mother. Jesse James was buried next to his mother's grave and a tall tombstone was erected over his grave. So many Jesse James admirers came to this grave site and chipped away a piece of the tombstone that the over six foot tall tombstone was reduced to just two feet! The remaining monument had to be moved.
Did you get to see this movie? We think Casey Afleck deserved to be nominated for an oscar for his supporting role in this movie. And if you want to visit these historic places you want to point your car in the direction of St. Joseph, Missouri.

Tea and A Good Book

February Books Read

Book Rating: one to five stars

Reservation Blues, by Sherman Alexie**

Water For Elephants, by Sara Gruen*****

Stone Cold, by David Baldacci**
The Hill Road, by Patrick O'Keefe**

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Relin****

The Opposite of Fate, by Amy Tan**

The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion**

Rococo, by Adriana Trigiani***

The Diana Chronicles, by Tina Brown*
Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer*

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Random Musings 2/26/08

#1 This February is flying by. Each week brings another primary or another award show or another race like the Daytona 500.

#2 Speaking of races, I guess there is a new dog in the race to the White House. Or maybe I should say old dog. I think Ralph Nader is 74. Here's my thought for the day: if Nader lives to be 100, will he still be running for president?

#3 Is is possible to get through the winter without getting either A. a cold or B. the flu? Both Jack and I have have endured a solid week with a bad cold. And now the flu bug has hit our daughter's family. I've decided that this is what I don't like about winter. It is the season for colds and the flu.

#4 Inspite of everything looking to the contrary, spring is just around the corner. During yesterday's drive across Prince William County I noticed many trees developing a haze of color around their branches indicating I think that the buds are growing bigger and getting ready to burst forth in several weeks. And last week I noticed yellow forsythia in bloom in Arlington.

#5 Another sign of spring approaching---the robins are back and checking out the lawns for worms and grubs.

#6 I'm either getting too old or else the Academy Award Show was a bust this year. Jack watched it. I went off to bed. Boring. And am I the only person who is getting tired of the preshow red carpet fashion business? Frankly I don't care who you are wearing in the dress and jewels department. Just pick up your bridal train and move on!

#7 The TV media is playing up tonight's Democratic debate like it will be the super bowl of Democratic presidential debates. And in the meantime Cleveland, Ohio is due to get more snow and ice. What the TV media hasn't reported is that many Ohioans have already voted for their favorite candidate be it Democrat or Republican. I know some of my relatives already have done so. I tend to wait till the actual day of voting. I guess I always think that something could occur news wise that might change my vote.

#8 Next February will seem dull in comparison to this February and all the
presidential campaigning. And is Romney throwing his hat in the ring for the second time? I don't know. I just read something to that effect on the internet. I know, I know. Don't believe everything you read on the internet.

#9 The Washington Post just ran a story on the return of guess what, bed bugs. Holy crap they are back! People are picking the little fellows up in motel and hotel rooms and bringing them home in or on their luggage.
And the cure for bed bugs is a turn in your dryer. I don't think I could get my kingsize bed into my dryer though.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Knock Em Dead Jack Aidan

Put on your fighting helmet and knock 'em dead Jack Aidan. Tell those flu bugs to beat it. Just beat it. You can't waste time having the flu. You have to get well and go to over to Grandma's house to see what she bought you.

Over the river
And thru the woods
And across #66
To Grandma's House we go.

Oh, no, Jack Aidan
You beat the flu bug
And turned around
To give it to your Daddy!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bump and Thump

Just had to post this. This morning we have been having a lot of bird dogging around here. First, we heard a bump and noticed some type of hawk landing on the railing by our breakfast room. I grabbed the digital camera and shot a couple of photos. This bird checked out both of our bird feeders and landed on the rod iron fence rail as well. I don't know what kind of hawk it is. I know that it is not a red-tailed hawk. Ten minutes later we heard a thump and noticed that a crazy mockingbird had flown into the breakfast room window and just about knocked itself out before flying off leaving feathers still attached to our window. Now that is just bird crazy.
Click on each picture to see the hawk closeup.

#1 Virginia Tourist Sight

As my daughter's comment on the last post suggested, I had posted a trick question. None of the tourist attractions listed in the previous blog post is the number one tourist sight in the state of Virginia. Drum Roll Please. Believe it or not this is the correct answer. The number one tourist sight in the state of Virginia is an indoor discount shopping mall located in eastern Prince William County. The mall is called Potomac Mills. I've posted a photo of one of the long corridors. This mall is all one story with no elevators or escalaters or elevated crosswalks. Wear your walking shoes because you will literally walk miles from one end to the other. Hard to believe that people arrive on buses to shop here. We never go there on the weekends because it is so crowded with shoppers looking for bargains on Guess, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Nordstroms, 5'th Avenue, etc. But guess what? I left my diamond ring at Zales to be repaired. Every time I pass a Zales I go in and get my diamond cleaned. Well, this week Zales noticed that some of the prongs on my diamond had worn down and I was in danger of losing my diamond. So the diamond is in the repair shop. I should get it back next week. How old is my diamond? 34 years old last month. Wow, time flies. My husband Jack purchased the diamond while home from Germany to attend an Army Audit training conference at Fort Monroe outside Richmond, Virginia.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

#1 Virginia Tourist Site ????

Take a look at the following tourist sites in the state of Virginia. Which one is the number one tourist attraction in our state? I will give you the answer tomorrow. If you want, you can vote by leaving me a comment below.

Arlington Cemetery
Colonial Williamsburg
Virginia Beach Seashore
George Washington's Mount Vernon
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
James Madison's Montpelier
Old Town Alexandria
The Smithsonian's New Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport
Jamestown Settlement
The Confederate White House in Richmond
The Virgina Military Institute
The University of Virginia
Manassas Civil War Battlefield

Baby Jack Is Brave

Our grandson Jack bravely trying a pea popsicle. His blue eyes say this: just for you Mommy I'll eat it. But don't you know I really want a frozen applesauce popsicle.

Two Great Recipes For You To Try

If I knew you were coming
I would have baked a cake!
The next time that you have company you might want to try one of these cake recipes from my good friend Pat Windham.
German Chocolate Ooey-Gooey Butter Cake Squares
1 box German Chocolate Cake Mix
1 cup butter, melted and divided in two
1 large egg
1 (8 oz.) pkg cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (16 oz.) box of 10-x powdered sugar
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13x9x2 inch baking pan.
In a large bowl combine cake mix, 1/2 cup of melted butter, and 1 egg. Beat at low speed till combined. Press evenly into bottom of prepared pan, set aside. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Beat in 2 large eggs and vanilla. Gradually beat in 10 x pwdered sugr until smooth. Add remaning melted butter, beating at low speed until combined. Stir in coconut and pecans. Pour over cake mix layer spreading evenly. Bake for 45 minutes (the center should remain slightly gooey). Remove cake from oven; let cool completely before cutting into squares.
This recipe was found in the Cooking With Paula Dean Magazine.
Pistachio Inside Outside Cake
1 pkg. yellow or white cake mix
1 pkg. instant pistachio Jello pudding (small)
3 eggs
1 cup club soda
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped pistachio nuts
Blend all ingredients and beat for two minutes at medium speed. Pour into greased bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cake cool. Then cut cake in half to make two layers.
3 cups cold milk
1 box (2 envelopes) Dream Whip
2 pkgs. instant pistachio pudding (small)
1/2 cup of chopped pistachios
1/2 cup toasted coconut
Whip the frosting ingredients until thickened---about 5 minutes. Spread 1 cup of the frosting between the two layers. Put top layer on cake and spoon remaining frosting on top andthe sides of the cake. Garnish with chopped pistachios and toasted coconut.
This would be a good green cake to serve for a St. Patrick's Day party in March. I got to sample this cake last Friday at Pat's house when she hosted our book club group.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Story and Pictures by Virginia Lee Burton

Grandpa Jack read to Grandson Jack the picture book Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. We got this baby board book from our local library. Our baby enjoyed listening to this story just like his Momma used to like listening to the story. I never could understand why our daughter liked this book so much. It is the story of a man who has a steam shovel. It is not typical little girl book fare. But our daughter recently told us that she liked it so much because it was a looooooooooooooong story so her Daddy had to spend more time with her during story time before lights out. Anyway we couldn't resist sharing this book with our daughter and our grandson on Friday. Baby Jack enjoyed listening to Grandpa Jack read and he also enjoyed nibbling on the book.

Tuesday Voting Place

This is where we voted this past Tuesday. This is our local school---Mountain View Elementary. It was very cold so no one was handing out any literature outside. Notice
the photo with the pots flanking the door and the photo of the two window flower boxes. Well, this is somebody's home. Every school in our county, Prince William, has someone living in residence. The home dweller pays rent to the school district but probably at a very reasonable rate. Part of the renter's agreement is to be a live-in guard for that school. They must work days and be home at night to keep an eye on the school. I even think that they make mandatory walks thru the school halls in the evening to check to make sure that no one has broken in or vandalized the school. And of course, if a fire alarm goes off, they would be the first to know and the first to notify the authorities. I think this is a great concept and more schools should do it. Anyway, I noticed that this apartment dweller must be both a flower person and a bird person. Notice the bird feeder attached to the one window and the flower boxes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Weather Outside is Frightful

The weather ourside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
A good day to sit by the fire and read. I finished Stone Cold, by David Baldacci and now I am finishing The Hill Road, by Patrick O'Keeffe. The setting is in Ireland in a rural dairy district in the second half of the 20'th century. This book won the Story Prize for 2005. What are you reading this winter? Anything good or grrrrrrrrrrrreat as Tony the Tiger used to say. If you have any suggestions for a good read, leave a comment here. I love to learn what others are reading be it fiction or non-fiction.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bill Clinton Called, Hillary Clinton Called, John McCain Called

Yes, yes, yes. We must be voting tomorrow in the Virginia Primary because the phone is ringing off the hook. First, Bill Clinton called yesterday afternoon. Then this morning Hillary Clinton called our house. I'm now waiting to see if Barak Obama or John McCain give us a call. Do these canned phone messages work? I guess we will find out tomorrow.

John McCain called us Tuesday at 10:30 A.M. to ask for our votes. I haven't
heard from Obama or Huckabee. Maybe neither one needs or wants our votes. We shall see tonight.

Well it is Wednesday and we now know that the Potomac Primary was both a sweep for Obama and McCain. I just hope this is all wrapped up in a bow for both parties soon. Then we can seriously think about who would be best for vice-president for each party.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Virginia Wine Showcase

Thank You Jenn and Terry

Jenn and Terry gave my husband for his birthday tickets to the Virginia Wine Showcase being held at one of the pavilons at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly. In addition Jenn bought a ticket for herself to the showcase to be our designated driver. So yesterday morning we got dressed and Jenn and Baby Jack showed up in our driveway to transport us to and from the event. As we were driving in Jenn mentioned that that a gun show was taking place at the other pavilon at the Dulles Expo Center. Sure enough we saw lots of men and boys lined up to get into the gun show. The NRA was giving away free tickets to the show if you joined the NRA at their table by the entrance. Seemed like lots of folks were joining the NRA. Quite a contrast line at the wine pavilon: lots of women and lots of couples. (Only saw two women in the gun show line.) My thought on this contrast: I don't think guns and wine drinking mix well so I hope the wine drinkers stay in their pavilon and the gun toters stay in their pavilon. In the meantime finding a place to park was simply impossible with all these people so we resorted to driving off the lot and parking on a side street and hoofing it back to the show.

Now for the wine showcase. There were over forty Virginia wineries featured at the show and this is how it worked. After you verified that you were 21 or older you were issued a blue wristband and given a wine glass. So then you made your way from one wine booth to another where you sampled your choices of wine by grape and color. In addition there were lots of food, wine accessories, jewelry and craft exhibit booths. The showcase also featured seminars on wine appreciation, pairing wine with chocolate and the growth of the Virginia wine industry. In addition the wine showcase featured a classical guitarist and a blogging cafe!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Thank You Note

Jack and I want to thank Jennifer and Terry for giving us the tickets to High School Musical which is currently playing at the National Theater in Washington D.C. This was an extra Christmas present for the two of us. Yesterday it was 72 degrees in D.C. so we went in light jackets. It was so warm that downtown D.C. cafes were serving people outside last night! Amazing weather. I am afraid that a cool front has moved in today and we should be in the forties by the time Sunday is here. There were lots of little girls at this musical. Every mom was there with a daughter between the ages of 4 and 14 on a weekday night. I guess everyone did their homework early. This was a Disney production so it left you feeling upbeat. I liked the basketball dance numbers the best. At the Vienna metro we noticed Obama campaigners holding signs to vote for Obama in next Tuesday's primary. We didn't see anyone campaigning for any of the other candidates. Apparently this shows that Obama has the money and the momentum. I don't know who I will vote for next Tuesday.
I better start thinking. I do know this---I'm not telling anyone whom I'm voting for. I think voting should be a rather private event. By the way they are calling this the Potomac Primary or the Chesapeake Primary. The entire D.C. area will be voting: Maryland, Virginia and D.C.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Jack Aidan

Jack Aidan would like to announce that his team, the New England Patriots, went to the Super Bowl in Phoenix. But he is very sorry to announce that the team lost their first game of the season and consequently had an almost perfect season but didn't become the Super Bowl champions for 2008. Baby Jack we love the Patriots win or lose and we love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck! And we think you look cuter than a button in that New England Patriots sweatshirt. The red socks are a nice touch too. And if your Mommy and Daddy want an interesting take on the Super Bowl, go to the blog site below of an Army officer who watched the game in Iraq. He regrets the Patriots lost but gives his assessment of the pregame reciting of The Declaration of Independence. It is very moving

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Ohio Queen

My great niece Hillary was selected the 2007-2008 Homecoming Queen for Russia Local High School in Russia, Ohio, my home town. And Hillary is the daughter of my niece, Darlene, who is also my godchild. The paternal grandparents are Paul and Iona of Russia. Are you one of those confused souls who can't figure out why a high school homecoming is in the winter instead of the fall? Well, that is because some high schools in the midwest are too small to have a homecoming connected to the fall football season (no football team) so they connect it to the winter basketball season. Which also puts more emphasis on basketball in the midwest. The tri-state area of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky is totally mad for basketball. Our best wishes go out to to Hillary and the rest of the 2007-2008 Homecoming Court of Russia Local High School in Russia, Ohio. Click on the photos for a larger and sharper image. And move arrow buttons to left and right to see the entire court if you enlarge the group photo.

Ohio Newborn

Nicole and Jon are proudly announcing the birth of their son, Waylon Grant Keller. This is the baby that has made my brother Carl a great grandparent and myself a great great aunt. With all that dark hair and dark eyes I see a lot of French in this cute little fellow. I just love looking at baby pictures!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

I Don't Pay Attention Groundhog

I don't pay attention to that groundhog in Pennslyvania. Either way you look at it the seasons progress gradually from one to another. By the first of February the amount of daylight each day in January has caused some very faint signs of spring and rebirth. My irises are just beginning to break thru the gound. Same goes for the daylillies. And my roses are beginning to show signs of new life by sprouting minute new red growth on the branches. In the next six weeks we will see lots of gradual change in our gardens even if we get more snow or ice this winter. Each day brings us closer to spring and then we can say we have survived another winter! I must add that my thrill for today was not a groundhog but three white tailed deer running thru my back yard. I think someone scared them off the golf course and thru the open space of the backyards on the loop.