Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Julius Ceasar: "Veni, Vidi, Vici!"




Veni, Vidi, Vici

Jack Aidan: I Came, I Saw, I Conquered
(Grandma's Neat and Clean House)

Jack Aidan and his Mommy and Daddy have just returned from a two week vacation to Boston, Massachusetts and old Cape Cod for both business and pleasure. Jack Aidan got to bond with first cousins, Country Jack and Mia and Jack also got lots of loving from his paternal grandparents who don't get to see him as often as Jack and I do.

We are so lucky that he lives near us. I surely was suffering from Jack Aidan withdrawal syndrome so it was wonderful that he showed up on our doorstep this morning. So in came our little man who promptly remembered that this Grandma stores the toys in the office on the bottom shelf of the changing table. He walked into the office, found the toys and proceeded to make electronic music. Thus the Latin phrase: Veni. Vidi, Vici or the English translation: I came, I saw, I conquered! Yes, he conquered Grandma who didn't mind the little mess he left on the carpet.

Wall St. and The Tale of Chicken Licken

September 30, 2008
Wall Street Cry
The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling
Click here to read an interpretation of the Tale of Chicken Licken.
Today is Secretary Paulsen and/or Bush playing the part of Chicken Licken on Wall Street? Observations, comments, debates and cuss words allowed today. Leave a thought.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Movie: Tale of the Greedy Bird

Would you look at this. Yesterday a tiny Carolina chickadee got a little too greedy at the bird feeder. I guess it thought the seeds were so tasty that it would just slip through the hole and into the birdseed box. Well you know what happened then. Just like a children's book the plot thickened when the little darling ate and ate but then could not get out again. When it realized its plight it set up such a screeching that it scared away the robins, mourning doves, finches and sparrows. So I grabbed my camera and made a small movie. You can hear the bird screeching to high heaven. After I made my movie and the bird saw me there it calmed down and just started pigging out on the bird seeds once more. But when I went to tell Jack about this development in our yard the bird panicked once more and started flapping and screeching to high heaven again. So that is when the fairy godmother (Jack) came to the rescue. He took the feeder off the hook and then removed the top from the feeder. Immediately the bird flew out and on its way without so much as a thank you chirp. And who says retirement is boring when things like this are going on in your own backyard.

Dragon Quilt For The World's Best Baby

Now I have something very important to announce. There has been a birth in the blog world. A new little blog has appeared that all of you will want to keep your eyes on because it is growing fast and getting really cute. No, it is not that baby in the photo. That was my grandson Jack last year. But yes, it has to deal with that photo. Look again only this time look at the baby quilt that is under my little sweet pea. That quilt was made by my great friend and neighbor, Dickie. I have written about her many times on my blog because she is the neighbor everyone dreams about having for a neighbor, especially when falling off a ladder. More about that at a later date. But right now, big drum roll please! ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज्ज
(Those were Hindu drums, by the way.)
Dickie now has her own blog. She calls it Dragon-quilter. You will want to check it out and see some of her homemade quilts that are going on a trip soon. I just dearly love her French impressionistic landscape quilts. Monet, eat your heart out! Today's Dragon-quilter blog post is a collection of photos of animals that Dickie has come across on her world travels. (Former navy brats do tend to keep traveling thru life.) Anyway here's a link to my good buddy's blog: http://dragon-quilter.blogspot.com/ And as for that heading World's Best Baby---well, all grandmas can make that kind of boast.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Workshop of Political Spin Doctors

Workshop of Political Spin Doctors

We spin before debate.We spin after debate.
We do keep it spinning. Ain't it just great.
We spin it to the left. We spin it to the right.
We do keep it spinning all thru the night.

Chorus: Work it! Work it! Spin, spin, spin.

Spin with beer at bar. Spin with John at bar.
We do keep it spinning. Don't know how far.
Spin the economy. Spin the economy.
Econ 101 : Ain't got money.

Chorus: Work it! Work it! Spin, spin, spin.

Old McCain shouts, "Bailout!" Young Barak shouts, "Bailout!"
Workshop of spin doctors spins like a top!
Run the presses early. Run the presses early.
McCain wins it at eight. Parties now surly.

Last long chorus: Work it! work it!
Spin, spin,spin.
Lie, lie, tell a lie.
Spin ain't a sin.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

J & J In Prison!

Yesterday Jack and I ended up in prison and we really enjoyed ourselves. We were at the old Lorton prison that existed from 1910 to 2002 to house all the bad guys convicted of crimes in the District of Columbia and housed in the state of Virginia at this prison complex. This came about because the U.S. Government in 1910 inherited from a Virginia couple 1200 acres of farm land that extended south to the Occoquan River that separates Fairfax County from Prince William County. The thinking was that the bad guys should not be housed in D.C. where they would be near residents and government workers.
The original concept for the prison was to create a fresh air and hard farm work atmosphere away from the city that would encourage prisoner reform. Sad to say this utopian idea didn't work. However some of the first prisoners created and fired the bricks that built these buildings here and operated a large dairy that provided milk to D.C. residents. Then in 1917 close to 200 women were incarcerated here because they were women suffragists protesting the U.S. government for the right to vote. The work of these women led to the passing of the 19'th Amendment in 1920.

After the 1920's the prison concept changed and the place became basically a lockup facility for all the bad guys in D.C. The prison grew and grew and by the mid fifties the prison had more than 7000 inmates and over 2400 acres. Famous entertainers came to the prison to entertain the prisoners. Probably the most famous entertainer to come to Lorton Prison was Frank Sinatra. In the meantime the farms and forest around the prison were rapidly disappearing.

By the early 1990's the prison was truly deteriorating and the neighboring farm land and forest was quickly being transformed into home developments, shopping centers and schools. Prison escapes were an additional problem for the Fairfax County Government so Senator John Warner of Virginia introduced legislation in Congress that required the closing of the prison and the transfer of all the prisoners to other prisons across the United States. In 2002 the last inmates left, the land was given to Fairfax County and a plan was developed to turn the prison into an Arts Center.

The current idea is to turn Lorton Prison into an arts center and entertainment complex. The arts center will be a bigger and better version of the Old Torpeado Factory Arts Center in Alexandria and the entertainment complex will be an updated version of the mid century Wolf Trap Center For The Performing Arts.
So this week Lorton Prison opened its workhouse doors to the public to celebrate the grand opening of the first section of the Lorton Arts Center. We were pleasently impressed with all the artists already working at the center and the art classes that are being offered to the general public. In the above photo Jack is observing an artist working in glass mosaics to create a work of art. Below is an oil painting that an artist has just completed.
I hope you like looking at art because I took lots and lots of photos that I will be share with you in the coming days.

I'm Getting Me A Gun!!

News Flash!
Drats, drats, double drats! The deer are back in the yard again and this time they had a gourmet meal of the yellow mums that I had just stuck in the gound ten days ago. Drats, drats, double drats! I'm getting me a gun!
Bambi, lookout!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Straight Talk Express Bus Spotted

News Flash!
Around 2:05 P.M. Tuesday afternoon, September 23, I spotted John McCain's Straight Talk Express Bus sitting at the rest stop on interstate #66 that is very near Manassas, Virginia. I wonder if John and Cindy were aboard their bus and what were they doing near Manassas. Beats me. I wish that we had turned around so I could have taken a pic of the bus. On second thought, maybe John McCain just needed a rest stop like the rest of us old folks with weak bladders.

The Winery at La Grange

This is our nearest local winery. It is just three and half miles from our home in Haymarket, Virginia so Sunday afternoon after brunch we took Gene and Sandra over for a tasting while Linda and Larry visited an old friend of theirs who now lives in Dominion Valley in Haymarket. I packed a picnic bag with cheese, fruit, crackers and bread to enjoy with a bottle of wine from La Grange after our wine tasting.

Sandra, Gene and Jack walking back towards the historic La Grange home after viewing the red barn where the wine is made. There is a funny story about the former owners of this home. The wife was much bigger than her little and short husband. One day in front of houseguests the minute husband did something that really ticked off his big and buxom wife. So she grabbed him and turned him over on her knee and gave him a spanking! If I owned this winery, I would have to name a certain type of wine The La Grange Spanking Wine.

Here is a row of boxwoods that line the pathway to the barn. Weddings are sometimes held here in the vineyard so this is where the bride makes her grand entrance. Notice the little sparkling lights on the boxwoods.

Here are some barrels of wine that folks have bought for big bucks. They have a brass plate with their name and inscription.. I noticed one barrel that a man had given to his wife in honor of their 20'th wedding anniversary.
Here is a view of some newly planted grape vines in the vineyard. Notice how each vine is wrapped to keep rabbits and other animals from eating the delectable young leaves. Look carefully and you will see the blue ridge mountains in the distance in this photo.
Here on the patio on the front side of the historic manor house there are nice tables and chairs for enjoying a wine picnic. At the table are Sandra, Gene and Jack doing just that.
This is the La Grange wine person explaining the types of wine we were tasting in the tasting room. The wine vintner is Chris Pearmund who left the wine business in California to come to the blue ridge area of Virginia to open two wineries: Pearmunds and La Grange. At the world renowned Inn of Little Washington the local Virginia wines featured on the wine menu are from Pearmunds and La Grange.
Bread, wine, fruit, cheese and good old friends----what more can you ask for on a beautiful autumn day in Virginia. Here we are enjoying a glass of Viognier that had been aged in Hungarian Oak. La Grange produces a nice lightweight red wine from the Norton grape which is native to Virginia and which is aged in American Oak. Here's a quick recipe for hot mulled wine which is nice for cool fall evening:

Hot Mulled Wine

1 bottle of La Grange Norton wine

1/2 cup of simple sugar syrup which consists of equal parts sugar and water that is brought to a boil then cooled

1/2 cinnamon stick

5 cloves of clove spice

Heat gently on stove.
Stir then serve in mugs.

Wedding Houseguests

Gene and Sandra Barr drove down from New Jersey Saturday morning for the wedding. (Gene is in yellow and Sandra is in brown.) Linda and Larry Ackerly flew in from Albuquerque, New Mexico for the wedding. (Larry is in white and Linda is in blue.) Here they are having a late lunch in our breakfast room before the wedding.
So much news to cover in so little time. But both Sandra and Linda can talk fast and tell a good story while the respective hubbies listen and nod their heads. Right here Sandra is using her hands to tell a good story: "Me Mum in England would say.........."
Jack and Larry comparing gardening in Virginia with gardening in the high desert of New Mexico.
Finally, we are all fed and redressed and ready to take off to Warrenton, VA for the wedding.
We called my good neighbor Dickie to come over and snap this group photo. Thanks Dickie!

Thursday night we had the parents of the bride as our house guests. Jim and Joyce Blakeslee had driven down from the Rehobath Beach, Delaware for their daughter's wedding. Thursday night I got to keep the wedding gown in my foyer closet but even though I was very curious I didn't unzip the garment bag and take a peek at the gown.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wedding In Warrenton, Virginia Horse Country

Jack arriving and getting ready for the wedding ceremony at 4:00 P.M. Caleb getting instruction on how to use a movie camera from Jack while the mother of the bride, Joyce, watches with interest. Remember to click on the photos for more detail.
This past Saturday we attended the wedding of Krista Ann Blakeslee and Joshua Vincent Goff in Warrenton, Virginia.
The decorated tables for the wedding reception under the wide porch of the manor house. Decorated packages of Italian wedding cookies adorned the tables.
The four footed bridal attendant obviously had a bath and a manicure. He smelled nice and hoofed in spirited grand style.

The brother of the bride, Jimmy, giving instructions for the group photo to be taken in front of the pillars of Alwyngton Manor Plantation House.
The matron of honor and the best man delivering their speeches to the bride and groom in the red velvet horse carriage.
The father of the bride, Jim, escorting his daughter down the aisle in the Alwyngton Manor Rose garden while the mother of the bride sheds tears of joy.
The beautiful grey horse that almost stole the show away from the bride.
One of the lovely bridal party bouquets.

The grand staircase in Alwyngton Manor in Warrenton, Virginia.
Former owners of the Manor House on their wedding day.
The wedding cake room in the manor house.
Close up of the bridal bouquet.
The Bride's Family:

Mother of the Bride: Joyce

The Bridegroom: Josh

The Bride: Krista

The Father of the Bride: Jim

The Brother of the Bride: Jimmy

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Our Grandson Toddling!!

Couldn't wait for him to crawl. Then we were anxious to see him walk and here he is doing his escape from Mom, Grandma and Grandpa routine. Double click on this blue link.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Kentucky Roadtrip Part VI

Today's blog will be a mix of photos taken last week in Kentucky. Above is the riverside restaurant called Captain's Quarters where we had a delicious meal while watching boats and tugs go up and down the Ohio River. It was here that Jack had a special Louisville open faced sandwich called the Hot Brown. The Hot Brown was invented at the historic Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville.
The most famous 20'th century man from Kentucky is Colonel Sanders who invented the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant chain. Here is the bust that graces his grave at Cave Hill Cemetary in Louisville.
Leon paying his respects to the Colonel at his grave.
Cave Hill Cemetary was an amazing place to visit. It had so many intersting tombstones that I could have spent all day wondering thru the gravesites. This tombstone is very dramatic. Guess what this man did for a living. I will tell you tomorrow. Patty Lincoln guessed correctly. The man buried by this tombstone earned his living as a magician. Great guess Patty!
Here is just some of the silver trophies that Calumet Horse Farms has won. We saw 12 other rooms filled with Calumet Horse trophies just like this. I can remember Calumet Horse Farms being the most famous and most respected of the Kentucky horse farms. Do you know that the economic times have changed and that Calumet Horse Farms went into bankrupty and was then sold at foreclosur to a European man. The man's name sounded like he was from either Poland or Hungary. Luckily all these historic silver trophies didn't get shipped overseas to Europe but were given to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

In March of 1958 I went on my very first roadtrip with my Dad and my sister Mary Ellen. We were heading to St Petersburg, Florida to visit my Uncle Nick who retired to Florida and we were in my Dad's brand new '58 Oldsmobile when the car up and died on this old bridge spanning the Ohio River. I will never forget it. My Dad nearly had a heart attack getting that brand new Olds restarted so we could drive away and relieve the very long line of honking cars that were behind us on the bridge.

This is another great meal that we had in Louisville, Kentucky. This was a scrumptious plate of huge seared scallops with saffron rice and curry sauce and lobster tips. This was at Le Relais at Bowman Field. Bowman is a small plane airport in Louisville that used to be private but is now public.
This is the building that was used for the airport terminal. This is where the French bisto is located.
Another view of the old Bowman Field airport terminal.
Outside of Churchill Downs this is probably the most visited tourist site in Louisville. It is the Louisville Slugger Museum where those famous slugger bats are produced.
The streets in Louisville have lots of these bat markers to honor famous baseball players. This one honors Roberto Clemente.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kentucky Roadtrip IV

When we went to Kentucky and stayed with Leon and Helen they wanted to know what we wanted to see and where we wanted to eat. Since Jack and I had covered lots of Kentucky's famous tourist sights in previous Kentucky excursions (Churchill Downs Racing Park, My Old Kentucky Home, Shakertown in Pleasant Hill, Makers Mark Bourbon Distillery, etc) and we get exposed to lots of southern cooking in Virginia we decided that we wanted to do something a little more exotic on this trip. Leon came up with the answer.

For food Leon then insisted that we go visit his favorite Palestinian restaurant and Palestinian grocery. This for Leon is a treat since he was born in Cairo, Egypt and exposed to Arab food at an early age. So we went to this Palestinian restaurant not far from Leon's home and had the most delicious meal. I think Leon ordered one of everything they were making for that day so we could try it. Look at these pictures of the food.

In the first photo at the top left corner you see a spicy eggplant dish called baba ghanoush. Next to that are these deep fried vegetable balls that are called falafel. Leon told us this is one of the national dishes of Egypt handed down by the Christian Copts who are said to be the descendants of the ancient Egyptians. The stuff in the next dish is cacik which is a delicious ground cucumber with yogurt and mint salad that is very refreshing. In the next bowl is hummus which is ground chickpeas in a spicy tahini sauce.

In the second photo is a platter of grilled meat kabobs: chicken, lamb, rolled ground beef and beef chunks sitting on top of a bed of saffron rice with grilled tomatoes along the edge. That was sooooooooooo good tasting! We finished our meal by having hot tea with mint served in a glass. Leon told us that is the way to do it in the Middle East. You wouldn't think of serving tea in an English bone china cup!

Now I must digress a moment here and mention two cultural things I noticed. First, Ramadan has already begun this fall for the Muslim faithful so the Palestinians in this restaurant were preparing and smelling all these delicious foods but couldn't eat a bite of any of it. Because during Ramadan you fast from sun up to sun down. I felt so sorry for them and thought to myself that doing that would be much harder then Roman Catholic fasting during lent. Second, the people in this tiny restaurant were such a mix of cultures and religions. At our table we had two Jews, a Roman Catholic and a Methodist. I noticed another table with Palestinian men and I noticed a woman in traditional Muslim dress and veil enter the restaurant. I also noticed several typical American "redneck" bikers come in and purchase food to go and then go tearing out of the parking lot on their motorcycles. Just when I thought I couldn't possibly experience any more of a cultural religious hodgepodge in walks the next man in a black clerical dress and Leon immediately stands up and greets the priest from St Micheal's Greek Orthodox Church! What this confirmed for me is that this is an example of how delicious food can bring people from very divergent religious and cultural backgrounds together in peace. And why can't everyone in the world gather together for food and drink and friendship in the name of peace.

Now with tummys full Leon drove us to five different Jewish synagogues in Louisville in the cause for hunger. Leon works for an organization that coordinates an interfaith Walk For Hunger and he had to deliver brochures on the upcoming Walk For Hunger to the various Jewish synagogues that were participating. And since Joann, a Roman Catholic, stated that she had never been in a Jewish synagogue but would love to visit one we took a drive to accomplish two things at once.
The synagogues we visited ranged from Reform to Orthodox. In the Orthodox Leon and Jack had to cover their heads with a yammuka. I liked the stain glass windows of this one synagogue.
Note the writing on the wall in this one synagogue. English writing is read from left to right. Hebrew and Arabic writing is read from right to left. Leon showed us the prayer books and pointed out that they open backwards to Western books.
In this photo you see the light that is always lit in the sanctuary. Leon and I had fun comparing our religious practices. For instance:

Leon: Here is the water in the pitcher that you pour over your hands in a certain fashion before entering the temple.

Joann: Roman Catholic Churches have holy water that you use to make the sign of the cross.

Leon: There is always a light burning in temple.

Joann: There is always a light burning in a Roman Catholic Church.

Leon: The men sit downstairs and the women sit upstairs in the temple. If the temple is just one level there is a wooden wall that separates the men from the women.

Joann: I can remember long ago at St Remy's Church in Russia, Ohio the unspoken rule was for the women to sit on the left side of the middle aisle and the men on the right side of the middle aisle while the children all sat in the front pews under the watchful eyes of the all seeing and ever vigilant nuns.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kentucky Roadtrip Part III

All work and no play makes Jack and Joann a dull couple. So we worked on having fun at the Louisville NARFE Convention. Tuesday night at the convention was Kentucky Night. The local folks did a fine job of hosting and entertaining us. Kentucky Night began at 5:00 P.M. with a bourbon tasting by some local bourbon distilleries. In this photo you see an unidentified NARFE couple complete with NARFE convention bags sampling the Makers Mark bourbon. We got to keep the bourbon glasses as souvenirs. The locals must think NARFE folks really know how to hold their bourbon because they didn't serve any snacks with the bourbon. Not even a pretzel! Good thing most folks were not driving anywhere right after this sampling of about five bourbon whiskeys.
Joann and Jack knew they couldn't handle sampling five bourbons in a row so after just two they walked down the street to grab a bite of supper at a local Thai restaurant. After the very hot and spicy Thai food they then returned to the Galt House to sample another bourbon. In the picture above is the Stephen Foster singers from Bardstown, Kentucky who did a great job of singing Stephen Foster songs. Joann liked this very much and it reminded her of the junior high play she was in that was all about Stephen Foster and his songs. This group from Bardstown, Kentucky which is famous for the Georgian home that inspired the writing of the song, My Old Kentucky Home, ended their concert with a solemn rendition of that song. Anyone from Kentucky must stand for this singing of the song because it is the state song of Kentucky. The history professor from the University of Louisville noted that My Old Kentucky Home is also the most recognized and most popular of all the fifty state songs in the USA. This prof gave us a great history lesson on Louisville from its beginnings to the present time and he introduced all the performing acts that we watched. He noted that many years ago Louisville, Kentucky was known for having many pigs running loose in town. In fact Louisville rivaled its neighbor across the Ohio River, Cincinnati, Ohio for the title of Porkopolis Capitol of the United States. The things you learn when you listen to a history prof!
This prof claims that he is the authority on the history of pigs in Louisville! I don't know whether to believe that or not but he was very entertaining.
Here is the actor who portrayed Abraham Lincoln. He was very, very good and almost had the audience in tears over the trials and tribulations of Abe's life. He ended his performance with a reciting of the Gettysburg Address. The words came back to me because I remember having to memorize this famous speech my senior year in high school and of course I have heard it many times since.
This bluegrass band rounded out the Kentucky Night show. The man in black on the electric ukulele could really play the uke and the man in the white shirt could really sing and the other guitar player and the banjo player were no slouches either. You won't believe the name of this foursome: Hog Operation Bluegrass!

Tomorrow I will try to post two short movie clips of the singing of My Old Kentucky Home by both the Bardstown Singers and Hog Operation Bluegrass.

Just want to add that since we have returned home our dear Louisville hosts, Leon and Helen, have emailed us from a friend's house to inform us that we got out of town just in time! Louisville, Kentucky along with most all of Ohio has been hit hard from the 70 mile an hour winds of Hurricane Ike. Leon and Helen are still without electrial power. Many trees in Ohio and Kentucky came down onto houses and power lines. Our thoughts and good wishes as well as prayers go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Ike.

Must add that I just read the Louisville Courier and learned that the havoc caused by Hurricane Ike has been compounded by the fact the Louisville is hosting the Ryder Cup this weekend and all the hotels are booked so that people without power have few options in Louisville if they don't have family or friends who can take them in for awhile. The news story I read said that power may not be restored for two weeks in some parts of Louisville.