Archive for October, 2015

Specially collected

Over the weekend, while we watched the Cardinals lose twice, Katie was working on a proposal for her research project that had to be submitted by midnight Sunday.  (I think that was the deadline. . . )  This was a tough assignment, mainly because when she had met with her professor about the project, he had changed the focus of her research.  The new direction seemed (to me) more obscure and difficult to research – even for a bona fide Research Consultant – and it was a topic about which she was somewhat less passionate.  In any case, she busted it till the wee hours to re-write her first draft and get it done on time.  She did tell me a few days later that it was received favorably (Whew!), and I can vouch for the fact that her bookshelves contain DOZENS of weighty tomes about the Battle of St. Louis and the culture and thoughts of those involved in and impacted by it.

Our first order of business on Monday was to head back to the college library, not to pick up more books, but to very gently pick up and leaf through one specific book.

Back in the day, when she was maybe sixteen or so (?), Katie wrote an an as-yet-unpublished biography of Elijah P. Lovejoy, a minister, newspaper editor, and staunch abolitionist who was murdered in 1837 by a pro-slavery mob in Alton, Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis.  His printing press in the slave state of Missouri having been destroyed three times, Lovejoy had recently re-located to the free state of Illinois, where he resumed printing his abolitionist newspaper.  The locals didn’t care for what he had to say, and while they managed to permanently silence him personally, his message would not be stopped.

Katie’s been a big Lovejoy fan for many years, and she had done quite a bit of research for that book, but the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary just happened to be in possession of a copy of one highly desirable primary source she’d never seen “up close and personal:”  Memoir of the Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy; who was murdered in defence of the liberty of the press, at Alton, Illinois, Nov. 7, 1837

As mentioned in a previous post, we’d been to the library on Saturday to pick up many pounds of research project books Katie had either put on hold or located in the online catalog.  for the latter, I had called out the numbers of the books she was looking for, while she scrunched herself between the stacks to find them.


This time was different.  Katie had contacted the library’s Special Collections section and requested permission for us to view the book.  This was some kind of a big deal.  As a student, Katie had privileges, but I had to create a special collections account, give all my personal information, show my driver’s license, sign a consent form agreeing to obey all rules, and have my photo taken.  I was allowed to carry my camera into the viewing room and use it (without flash), but no purses, bags or fanny packs were allowed.  We were not allowed to take in any writing materials, but once inside the glass-enclosed room, the library would provide pencils and note cards to write on.

We jumped through all the hoops while watching a lady inside place the coveted volume on a little padded stand.  Then we were allowed to enter, walk over to the book, and actually thumb through it.  To say we were both excited would be an understatement.


Elijah Lovejoy’s brother, Owen, published the book in 1838, only a year after Elijah Lovejoy’s murder.  John Quincy Adams wrote the introduction!


It’s a compilation of Lovejoy’s collected writings, including letters to his mom.  = )


We were honored and amazed to get to see and touch the real thing.

then, having been awed and inspired intellectually indoors, it was time for some outside educational activity.  We went back to Jamestown Settlement to get an understanding of what that community was all about and to SEE THOSE SHIPS!

As a local, Katie got in free, and I did not.  I didn’t even qualify for a senior discount, and that fact made me happy enough to overlook having to pay full price.  We watched an informative movie about the whole Jamestown deal, and then wandered the grounds on our own for a little while, but at one point, we overheard an interesting lady in period garb explaining some things to a family, and when she said she’d be leading a tour starting in a few minutes, we joined her.

She knew her stuff and was a fun guide, and we were heartened to learn that several of Katie’s hypotheses about what certain items and implements had been used for were correct(!!!), but when that great guide handed our group off to another guide who was an Absolute Jerk of the Highest Degree, we left the tour and headed on our own toward our long-anticipated goal:  THE SHIPS!

Bringing home the bacon

The thing about riding over and back on a ferry is that you can’t just stay on the boat.  You have to drive your car off, so we did, and while we tooled on up the road past the long line of cars parked in the other lane, waiting to board, we talked about what (if anything) we might like to do in Surry County before we turned ourselves around and joined that homebound line.

Of course, I’d never been to Surry County, Virginia in my life, but as the chief navigatrix and commentator navigator and commentator, I did feel an obligation to figure out if there was anything at least potentially interesting to see or do on the west side of the James.  And I suddenly recalled that I had a pertinent resource in my door pocket:  the Virginia highway map we had been handed by another passenger on the ferry.  Very interesting.

(Note:  I originally typed “navigatrix and commentator” because on road trips growing up, that’s how my dad, who did virtually all of the driving, referred to my mom in the front passenger seat.  I have actually used the “navigatrix and commentator” term for many years, assuming it was legit, and it wasn’t until I saw the red squiggly line under it in the above paragraph and looked it up that I realized that “navigatrix” is another one of my dad’s made-up terms that’s not really a word!  Amazing.  Amazing that he said it repeatedly, and amazing that I still say it all the time!  Truly, I have the deepest respect for that special man who has continued to creatively enhance my vocabulary for half a century.)

Unfolding, re-folding, and scanning quickly as we and the other 69 vehicles discharged from the Pocahontas meandered leisurely into Surry County, I tried to figure out exactly where we were (evidently in suburban Scotland, Virginia, population 203) and what item(s) of interest might be lurking nearby and waiting to be discovered.  Aha!  Lo, and behold, before my very eyes on our crisp new paper Virginia map, something quite close called “Bacon’s Castle.”  Really?!?  A real live castle?!?  Only ten miles away?!?  Well, we surely couldn’t pass that up!  It sounded as good as a lighthouse quest to both of us, and despite it being now 5:00 PM on a Sunday afternoon, we were on it like stink on a dog.

I did successfully navigate our pilot to the place where it was written, and off across the field we saw a large red brick building.  It didn’t look especially castle-ish, but sure enough, the sign said Bacon’s Castle, and we turned down the long gravel driveway.

IMG_0714Our first view of Bacon’s Castle

The place appeared to be closed and there was no one around, but we parked near a picnic table under some shade trees and got out to look around.  We were pleased to see signs saying that we were free to wander the grounds after hours, which we proceeded to do, and we were even more pleased to see this sign:

Bacon's Castle sign

True confession:  I did not take the above picture; I pulled it off the internet.  And since the print on it is really too small to read, I will tell you that it says, among other things, “Welcome to Bacon’s Castle.  We invite you to enjoy a complimentary [Katie and I liked that word] audio tour of the grounds, outbuildings, and garden. You may follow the tour in any order that you like, just look for [their editor evidently missed that comma splice, but oh, well] the numbered signs with the Guide By Cell logos around the property.”  That meant that if the castle was closed [and it was] and you therefore couldn’t pay the admission fee and experience the inside tour [and we couldn’t], then you could use your cell phone to do your own walk-around-the-outside tour [which we did], and really, now, how absolutely nifty is that?!?

So we wandered the grounds and took a few pictures and stopped at each little sign to enter a number into Katie’s phone and listen to some interesting blurb.


The reason Bacon’s Castle matters, or is maintained by Preservation Virginia, or has guided interior tours on the weekends, or has a complimentary exterior audio tour, or is even noted on the state highway map at all is that it is the oldest brick residence in the entire state of Virginia!!! It was built in  – are you ready? – 1665.  WOW!  And can you believe that we just happened upon it because we took a ferry and a lady handed us a map?!?  I’m telling you that these two history buffs were pretty darn excited at such a totally incredible find.

It’s a very big, very impressive, very old house with some incredibly interesting chimneys, of which I took several pictures as we strolled around.

IMG_0715These chimneys immediately caught my eye.  Not sure what’s being done with the scaffolding.

IMG_0716I liked the old bricks and the curves.

IMG_0720I’ve never seen chimneys like this!

IMG_0717Castle with large linden tree at left

You can read more about Bacon’s Castle here if you so desire.  We wandered all over the grounds and explored the garden plots and outbuildings (kind of like our own yard, but on a much larger scale!), staying nearly till dusk, when we headed back toward the ferry.  On our way there, we stopped for another photo op at the. . .

Bacon's Castle Baptist Church sign

which houses a congregation established in 1884.  Now, these folks have clearly gotten the church growth thing down pat.  It may not be obvious in these photos, but they have made at least FIVE visible additions to their church building!

IMG_0723Bacon’s Castle Baptist Church, front view

IMG_0726Bacon’s Castle Baptist Church, rear view

Very impressive.

We bought some junk food to tide us over and returned to the Scotland ferry dock, only to find that the boat we hoped to get on was just pulling away, and a significant line had already queued for the next run in 25 minutes.  However, as we looked across the water at the departing ferry, it appeared to be a lot smaller than we remembered.  And indeed, it was!  That boat was NOT the erstwhile Pocahontas, and it was NOT carrying the full complement of 70 cars.  Uh-oh.  What could this mean?  There were about 30 cars in our line.  Would we get on?

Mobile internet to the rescue.  Standing beside our car, we looked up the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry on a cell phone and learned that the fleet includes three more barges in addition to the Pocahontas.  One of those is semi-permanently docked, being 80 years old and carrying only 28 cars, but the other two – including the Surry, which was then leaving Scotland – each ferry 50 cars, so one way or the other, we’d be on the next boat.

Our reverse crossing – on the Pocahontas once again – was almost entirely in the dark.  This time, we figured out how to get onto the outside walkway of the upper deck, and although it was quite cool and windy up there, it was fun to be perched so high.

All told, two 15-minute ferry rides (one in daylight and one in darkness) with a 350 year-old castle sandwiched in between made for an unforgettably exciting evening!


We now interrupt our regularly scheduled travelogue to bring you this late-breaking and vitally important information.

If you like to eat pears, you will wait all summer for them to appear in your grocery.

If they appear in your grocery in the fall, they will be on sale for $1.47/pound ten days before you have a trip planned.

If they are on sale for $1.47/pound ten days before you have a trip planned, you will buy four of them, assuming they will ripen in a few days and you will either get to eat them or take them with you on your trip.

If you buy four of them, they will not even begin to ripen before you leave on your trip.

If they do not ripen before you leave on your trip, they will still be on the counter when you get home.

If they are still on the counter when you get home, they will not have ripened.  Indeed, they will still be so hard that you dare not bite into them, for fear of chipping a tooth.

If they have not ripened in the two weeks since you purchased them, you will choose to leave them on the counter till they do.

If you choose to leave them on the counter till they do, you will never, ever get to eat your sweet juicy pears.

If you never, ever get to eat your sweet juicy pears, you will actually have three options remaining:

1.  throw the pears away

2.  obtain some recipe that calls for rock-hard pears

3.  save the pears to use as lethal weapons if the 2nd amendment is overturned

Moral of the story:  Buying pears that are as hard as baseballs is an effective way to waste money.

Tarrying and ferrying

I have learned to appreciate those life situations in which I am forced to wait in a scenic and/or interesting setting with absolutely nothing else to do.  In that case, I find it much easier than usual to give myself permission to relax without feeling guilty.  Waiting for the Jamestown-Scotland ferry was one of those situations.  There’s just something tranquil about being in a long line of parked cars, turning your engine off, getting out, and walking around, knowing that you can’t lose your place in line and you’ll get there when you get there.

Katie and I had a wonderful time walking up and down the snaking line of vehicles, all neatly queued, and I enjoyed noting what other people do while waiting in a ferry line.  Some read books.  (For our younger readers unfamiliar with that term, a book is a sheaf of bound, text-covered papers, generally larger than a cell phone and smaller than a tablet.)  Some eat and/or drink.  Some talk with others inside their vehicle.  Some nap.  Some, who evidently lack understanding of social propriety, play their music very loudly and/or stand outside their cars and speak very loudly to each other.  Some smoke.  But the vast majority ferry line people pass their waiting time focused on. . .  their cell phones.  In their defense, it’s quite possible that they ride the ferry on a regular or even daily basis and so don’t view it with the same sense of grandeur and excitement that Katie and I do, but I was almost as giddy as a kid in a candy shop.

While awaiting our transport ship, a number of sea gulls flew screaming around the dock area while one proud fellow posed for portraits,

IMG_0693and several ducks gave us a fun diving show.  Katie pointed out Jamestown beach, and we looked longingly at the three not-so-very large ships we planned to tour at Jamestown Settlement on Monday.

Eventually, the ferry arrived from across the way.  It’s quite a long jaunt because it doesn’t go straight across.  It was coming toward the Jamestown dock from a spot in the road called Scotland on the other side, and its route is kind of an elongated sweeping S with much of the traveled distance parallel to (as opposed to perpendicular to) the current.  We figured it was taking about 15 minutes to make the crossing.

IMG_0690Driving onto the ferry was super exciting to me.  I remember Anderson Ferry in Cincinnati when I was a kid, and even after all those years, I still have a sense of awe when riding in a CAR being driven onto a BOAT!  We parked and immediately got out to investigate.

As we got underway – and the ride was so smooth that we didn’t even feel like we were moving – the first amazing thing was a big flock of screaming sea gulls following our wake.  IMG_0705It seems they have learned that people tend to stand at the back gate of the boat and toss bread, popcorn, and who knows what else out for them to eat.  There must’ve been 60 of them, and not only did they nearly attack each other to get the food that fell into the water, they often caught edibles on the fly as they were thrown to them!  Very impressive.

IMG_0698Then there was the gargantuan size of the Pocahontas.  It was MUCH bigger than any ferry boat (Anderson, Peel’s, or White’s) that I’ve ever been on.  We were carrying six lanes of cars, three on each side of the three-story central “tower.”  We found and followed some steep narrow steps up to the enclosed second floor area, which featured  bathrooms, ferry schedule brochures (it runs 24/7 every day of the year, with departures varying from every hour overnight to every 25 minutes during rush hours) and benches along the windows.  There was another floor above us, but it seemed to be off-limits to passengers.  I assumed that’s where the captain does his thing.

IMG_0696Back down on the main deck, a lady passenger talked with us a bit and offered us Virginia highway map (old-fashioned paper variety) which we took gladly.  And then, being two beavs in a pod, so to speak, we decided to figure out just how many cars ye olde Pocahontas could carry.  Walking up and down one row, extrapolating and multiplying, we came up with the almost unbelievable estimate of SEVENTY cars!!!


As we approached the Scotland dock in Surry County, we stood out by the front gate and watched the docking procedure, which was very precise, very smooth, and very interesting to me.

All in all, I think it’s fair to say that we maximized our enjoyment of the whole Jamestown-Scotland Ferry experience, and to double our free fun, we knew that once we got off the ferry and turned ourselves around somewhere on the mainland, we’d get to do it all over again to go back home!

Little did we know what awaited us in Surry County that fine Sunday afternoon.

Over the H and toward the ferry!

We drove to the end of Neck-O-Land Road.  It ends at the Back River, which flows into the James River.  Nothing too terribly exciting there.

Next we drove over to Jamestown Island.  It’s connected to the mainland by the Colonial National Historic Parkway.  We had scoped this little drive (from Katie’s house, out past the Jamestown Beach Park, where she’s gone swimming in the James) on google maps, and I had noted that the tiny bridge in the causeway, just under the letter “H” of Historic on the digital map, was the only physical separation between the island, the actual location of Historic Jamestowne, and the mainland.  We tooled along the parkway, and I really thought there ought to be a sign with an “H” to mark that spot.

Being the frugal types and having limited time, we opted not to pay see the archaeological dig sites at Historic Jamestowne, and decided we would instead go to the nearby Jamestown settlement (a re-creation of the original village) the next day.  As a local resident, Katie would get in free, and my ticket would not be terribly expensive.  While we looked forward to touring the settlement, what we really wanted to see were the working models of the actual ships in which the settlers had traveled from England.  We’d seen them at anchor from the “H,” and getting up close and personal with them was our main Jamestown goal.  Jamestown is only about 10 miles from Katie’s home in Williamsburg, so we knew we’d be able to get to the ships quickly on Monday.

Having completed our circuit of Jamestown Island by car, it was time for our much-anticipated ferry ride. The Willliamsburg/Jamestown area is located on the 30-mile long by 7-mile wide Virginia Peninsula  (the southernmost of three such prominences) that hangs off the coast of Virginia toward “4 o’clock” and is bordered on the northeast by the York River and on the southwest by the James River, both of which flow into Chesapeake Bay near where it merges with the Atlantic Ocean.  The James River is a monstrous wide waterway.  Even though they are positioned at one of its narrowest points, the distance between Jamestown on the peninsula and Surry on the mainland is a good mile and-a-half, and I guess the Virginia highway department, charged with facilitating vehicular traffic between the two, decided it would be less expensive to run a ferry than to build a bridge.

That decision was to Katie’s and my great advantage.  = )

Not only we were going to get to travel on a ferry – always a thrilling ride – because it was a public ferry, as opposed to the private ferry we took across the Potomac last year (White’s Ferry between Leesburg, Virginia and Poolesville, Maryland), this one would be free!

Lewis and Clark have nothing on us

One of the many nifty things about spending time with Katie is that we have similar habits where food is concerned.  In short, when we are hungry, we eat something we like, and we don’t care what time of the day or night that might be.  I am typing this in the Dallas airport on the way home, but I have enjoyed several very tasty breakfast burritos recently, including one this morning, and one after church on Sunday.

Church was interesting.  We attended a church Katie had visited once before.  She said the worship had been good and long, but that the pastor had been gone, so his wife had preached, and she had been seriously unimpressed.  When we attended on Sunday, the worship was good and long, the pastor was there, and we were both seriously unimpressed.  On a good note, the people there were very friendly, which is a definite plus when one is church seeking.

I had taken a walk around the neighborhood earlier that morning, and what a super place it is!  I had meandered along all the streets in that development and had seen some very interesting things:  a bin on Katie’s landlord’s porch for milk delivery, really big magnolia trees, a bunch of newspaper delivery slots on mailboxes (does anyone really get print newspapers any more?  They do near Lake Powell!) a mysterious unmarked brick building at the end of her road, lots of older homes with “character,” and a blue noodle tree.  I then decided to check out the little trail that led from the back of her back yard up into the woods, and just over the rise, I found a grove of holly trees, numerous other very large trees that had been down for a good long while (wind? rain? bulldozer?), and a few glimmers of. . . was it water?. .. down through the trees.  Was that perhaps Lake Powell?  It looked more like a swamp, but I couldn’t tell for sure, and, as I needed to get back and get ready for church, I chose to leave that particular exploration to be shared with Katie later.

So, after church and lunch, we began our trek, first on foot over the rise and back toward the swamp.  We were jointly confused by all those large trees down and disappointed to find no easy access to that curious body of water at the bottom of the hill, but as werewe made our way to the left, parallel to it, we were stopped by a fairly deep and wide ravine.  My hip was not inspired to climb down or across it, so I stood on the near side gazing up at some really odd trees across the way, while Katie climbed down to explore.  On the other side, I could see a really big grove of straight, tall trees that were growing very, very close together, sort of like aspens in Colorado.  All their leaves were at the top and they were swaying in the breeze.  They weren’t like anything I’d ever seen before; they didn’t have any branches.  They were extremely tall, and I was trying to figure out how to take a picture that did them justice when Katie called out from the bottom of the ravine, “It’s BAMBOO!!!”


“Yeah!  It’s got joints, like the bamboo at home.”

“That stuff along the creek at home is actually rush, but these are so huge.  These would be rush on steroids!”

We both stood there for quite a while, totally amazed at the size and scope of those “trees.”  I’m sure they were well over 40 feet tall, and at the base, some of them must’ve been a foot in diameter.  I’m guessing there were maybe a hundred of them, swaying gently like couples slow dancing, some (maybe too tall to support themselves?) leaning against others, and up the hill from the bamboo grove, through the “normal” trees, we could see the edges of a house.  Maybe the folks who lived there were raising pandas for east coast zoos?

Well, since we couldn’t solve the bamboo mystery on our own, and since several more curiosities were waiting to be explored – namely the odd, unmarked building at the end of her road, the terminus of Neck-O-Land Road, portions of Jamestown Island, and a ferry(!!!) over the James River – we walked back to Katie’s house and turned right toward the mystery building.  It turns out that the bamboo grove is in the deep back yard of the house only two doors down from her.  We know because we recognized features of it that we had seen through the trees.

Next stop:  the windowless brick building at the end of the road.  There was a power line to it, and after a bit of discussion, we decided it must be either a well house or a pump station, but what was next to it was even more interesting:  the site of what we think in a former life must have been a road bed, a bridge approach (complete with railroad tie supports and remains of a metal guardrail), and the bed of a creek of some size and depth.  The ditch contained only a few trickles and puddles of water and was now almost completely overgrown.  Tree saplings were growing in it, and slabs of concrete were strewn about it in that characteristic way of washed-out low (or high) water bridges.  And once we climbed down into it and up out of it on the other side, we found a matching approach with even some intact asphalt roadway.

Now that was all very fascinating and curious, but it was nothing to compare with the shock we had as we walked forward on the old roadbed a mere 100 feet into the woods.  Suddenly, the road ended in an extreme drop-off, and there we stood on the very steep edge of a swiftly moving stream!  To our left was a decent-sized lake, probably Lake Powell, and we were clearly standing at the near end of what used to be a dam, probably the very dam that created Lake Powell.  On the far side were the remains of a concrete spillway.  Wow!!!  What a wonderful find for two exploring history buffs!  We were so curious.  We had so many questions with no answers.  We decided what we really needed was a James City County docent, someone who knew the history of the Lake Powell area and could explain to us what had happened when and why, but neither of us knew how to locate such a person.

Thrilled with our discoveries to that point, and, as it was only mid-afternoon, Katie and I walked back to her house and got in the car, ready to begin the vehicular phase of our Sunday afternoon exploration.


Delightful, so exceedingly delightful!

I’m in Williamsburg, Virginia visiting Katie, and I’ve been having SO MUCH FUN!  Here are some notes from our first day or so together.

Katie’s house is simply – and I mean that in both senses of the word – delightful.  It’s tiny and compact, and everything is well-thought-out, functional, and neatly arranged.  She has all she needs to live comfortably, and it’s decorated very nicely.  It’s so perfectly Katie, and it all makes me smile.  = )  She has some of my pictures on her walls (!!!) along with a grand National Parks map, and her display of park brochures is striking.  She re-arranged her table and desk to accommodate her twin mattress for me (she pulled it in from storage), and it’s perfect.  Her landlord has thoughtfully provided lots of bookshelves, which are nearly full.  She has a walk-in closet beneath her bed, and her very nice bathroom features an AWESOME tiled shower.   So those are my lodgings for this extended weekend.

Saturday morning, Katie needed to go to the William and Mary library to pick up some books and review some microfilm for her research project.  It’s only about a ten-minute drive to campus, and the drive is lovely; old-growth forest, flat to gently rolling terrain, and just that typical Virginia look and feel that deeply refreshes us both.

In the library, I had an absolutely grand time and learned a lot.  I got to experience rolling stacks (how fun and ingenious!), the world’s largest two-socket, three-prong extension cord (two feet square by one foot high?!? why???), and a microfilm reader (just amazing, and scanning through a St. Louis newspaper from 1830 was fascinating. . . and humorous!).

Utilizing one backpack and two tote bags, we hauled an estimated 47 pounds of books back to the car, then decided to walk north to the edge of campus to see the Wren building, which is both part of the college and one of the buildings of Colonial Williamsburg.  Being two history buffs, it’s always hard for us to resist exploring a notable site.

I must say that our walk through the heart of the William and Mary campus was just delightful.  Red brick sidewalks weave through the woods along a creek and series of ponds, and it was all so green and peaceful and lovely.  Katie wanted to show me James Blair Hall, the history building where her classes meet, but before we went in, she took us around the side of the building to the Tyler Garden, a circular area paved with brick and featuring bust statues of three famous Tyler men, including the presidential one.  The statues were nice, but they weren’t the main event.  That “garden” happens to contain one of the most interesting phenomena I have ever experienced.  If you stand in the exact center of the brick area and speak, your voice sounds amplified in your own head!  It’s really weird!!!  The folks around you hear you talking normally, but something about the acoustics of the low curved wall and/or the building in front of you creates a really bizarre sensation.  Truly wild.

Having toured Blair Hall and proceeding onward, at one point, we came upon a wedding party and detoured around behind some buildings to avoid walking through their group.  We really weren’t dressed for a wedding and had not been invited.  In the area between an unknown building and Jefferson Hall stood a tree.  It was more gnarled and sprawling, more horizontal than vertical, an HUGE!  I surmised (and later obtained proof) that it was a mulberry tree, and trust me, this was no mulberry bush to go ’round.  It begged to be climbed, and so Katie did.  With joy.

At the eastern edge of the campus, we came to the Wren building.  Katie thought it might be open even on the weekend, and it was.  Wow.  What a building.  It’s the oldest college building in the United States, built in the late 1600s to educate young men and train Anglican priests.  We explored it thoroughly and learned much of interest.  For example, we didn’t know any of these facts before touring the Wren building, historically known simply as “the College.”

Thomas Jefferson attended William and Mary from age 16 t0 18, and in his later years criticized the design of the building and re-organized and expanded the College’s curriculum..

George Washington was the first chancellor of William and Mary.

Margaret Thatcher was the first British and only woman chancellor of the the college.

Queen Anne was wealthy enough to fund the rebuilding of the college after fire.  She was a rather ugly, manly looking woman, but that is understandable when you consider that she was the sister of Queen Mary II (of William and Mary fame) who was also homely, as was her husband, William III.  I suppose this proves that good looks don’t necessarily accompany prosperity and/or power.

Beyond the fascinating Wren building stretched the several blocks of, drum roll, please. . . colonial Williamsburg!  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that one can stroll its streets and enter any of its touristy buildings for free.  Of course, if you want to enter one of the historic building where interpreters in period costume explain all kinds of wonderful things, you must have in hand an enter-all-buildings ticket which can be purchased for a fee neither of us was interested in paying, but this was not a problem, because the two main things I wanted to see in colonial Williamsburg were both outdoors.

I had in mind an iconic image of a building there.  It’s the building I’m pretty sure everyone pictures when he thinks of Willliamsburg.  In fact, it comes up on my phone’s weather app for Williamsburg.  I thought it was at one or the other end of the main drag, Duke of Gloucester Street, so having already ascertained that the the building at the west end was the College of William and Mary’s Wren building, we purposed to walk to the other end in search of “my” building.  It turns out that I was actually seeking the Governor’s Mansion, which is off down a side street, and the one at the east end is the capitol, on the way to which we accomplished my other goal, a photo of Katie and me in front of The King’s Arms Tavern. a fine dining establishment that I remember from my childhood.  I’m not sure how old I was (maybe ten or so?) when our family toured Williamsburg, but I distinctly remember waiting a very long time in a very formal (read “uncomfortable”) dining room for some very fancy and very expensive food.  But my primary memory of that fine establishment was that my dad, known in the family for his unique and humorous terminology, consistently referred to it as “The King’s Foot.”  = )  I hadn’t seen The King’s Foot in over 40 years, and I was very pleased to find that it’s still there in all its pricey glory.  In fact, should a family of four choose to dine there this evening, their dad should be prepared to make an investment of about $200.

As we made our way first east and then back west on Duke of Gloucester Street, I commented on the large number of large (some them nearly the size of small ponies!) leashed dogs being walked by their owners down the middle of the street.  It almost seemed as if there were some kind of dog convention going on.  Katie then pointed out that the abbreviation for that thoroughfare would be D.O.G. Street, which solved that mystery.  I guess everyone and their dog turns out for s stroll there on a pleasant day.

Having learned some fascinating facts about how a three-pound artillery gun (a.k.a. cannon) was shot and loaded, how to keep your enemy’s cavalry horses from jumping fences at you, how a weaver’s loom works, and that defenestration means throwing someone out of a window, we concluded our impromptu visit to Williamsburg with a delicious dinner – not at the King’s Foot, but at the Trellis Restaurant, where Katie greatly enjoyed their ciabatta cheese pizza, and I equally enjoyed their southwestern soup and half wrap sandwich.

Back home, the Cardinals lost to the Cubs = { but not till Matt Capenter hit his homer and took off his hat so we could admire Taylor Sherman’s handiwork earlier in the week, and we played Dominion.  = )

Why successful women never run out of bread

Once upon a time, a woman took a diuretic.  An hour later, she visited the bathroom.  Forty-five minutes later, she visited it again, but this time pressing the flush handle had absolutely no effect.  Hmmm. . . What to do?  The woman opened the tank and found that the flapper chain was broken.  It was attached to the flush handle and attached to the flapper, but not connected in the middle, and neither terminal link was broken.  The woman lifted the flapper manually to effect a flush, and then – being a guest in her still-asleep daughter’s home, she pondered the situation extensively.  What might be available in the house that she could use to re-connect that chain?

You guessed it:  the twist-tie from a loaf of bread!

Motto of the story:  always keep bread on hand for plumbing repairs.

The trash can is my friend

I’ve been listening to some podcasts by a woman who is a homeschooling mom of eight and who started, owns, and runs a full time business.  This lady has a lot on the ball and obviously knows some stuff I need to learn.  She is extremely practical and motivating, and after listening to Getting Rid of Clutter I, Getting Rid of Clutter II, and Getting Rid of Clutter III, I was motivated to get rid of some clutter in my life.

I took what seem like some teeny, tiny, baby steps.

One of the things P.J. says is, “If you don’t use it, get rid of it,” so I thought a lot about (but took no action on) going through the stuff in my kitchen and getting rid of what I don’t use, but yesterday I was more or less forced to address the Excessive Kitchen Utensil issue.  Let me explain.

In the past two months, we have had The. Most. Horrific. infiltration of fruit flies known to man.

I initially thought they were fungal gnats in houseplants, but no.  Fungal gnats move slowly and these guys are more like Speedy Gonzales.  In the summer, we usually have some bananas, peaches, and cantaloupe ripening in a basket on the counter, and they attract fruit flies, so we always keep a small glass of apple cider vinegar and with a few drops of Palmolive nearby.  The fruit flies are drawn to the vinegar and die drinking it.  That normally works pretty well, but these guys would have none of it.  Besides, they weren’t even hanging around the fruit basket beside the fridge very much; they seemed to be over around the sink.

So. .. my next step was to be very diligent in leaving NO food sitting out.  This is quite inconvenient, as it means no fruit can be left out to ripen, and every single dish, pan, glass, and utensil must be thoroughly washed the minute we’re done using it.  Then, in addition to attempting to cut off their food sources, we’ve kept manually swatting at and killing (an untold number of) the little guys, but somehow they still seem to reproduce like rabbits.

I then asked our friend at church who is an exterminator about it, and he said that the goal is to figure out where they are nesting, that they like drains, and that if we weren’t on a well, he’d recommend pouring some bleach down the drain.  We had become so desperate that I decided to heck with the well, and I have taken to pouring about a pint of bleach down the kitchen drain every night.

I even had Scott buy one of those bug bomb things.  I figured I’d set it off in the kitchen and blast ’em all to Kingdom Come, but then I read the procedure on the label, and it’s INTENSE.  You have to cover everything, turn off all appliances, be gone for hours, air the house for hours before re-entering it, etc., etc., etc., so I punted that idea.

But yesterday I found a can of Raid for Flying Insects under the kitchen sink, and it said it kills fruit flies.  Aha!!!  And I was going to be gone that morning for several hours.  So, with a murderous gleam in my eye, I moved all the stuff off the kitchen counter and into the living room, covered the toaster and Andrew’s coffee maker, and sprayed half a can of that stuff into every part of my kitchen, including the sink.  The air was heavy with Raid-ish mist and the floor was slippery with it when I left.

Four hours later, I returned to a dry kitchen, 15 dead fruit flies, and two dead lady bugs.  I was pleased and hopeful.

I wiped everything down and began to move the crocks of utensils and stuff back into the kitchen, and that’s when it occurred to me that I really didn’t use all of those items.  Hmmm. . .  In fact, I didn’t actually use most of them.  Maybe I could get rid of some of them!  So I pulled out the ones I use regularly and returned them to the counter and I put all the rest in a paper bag which I dated and set in the pantry.  Anything I don’t get out of the bag for a month is going to the thrift shop.  = )

And then I went to my desk to deal with some email stuff and saw that there were 50+ messages in my in-box.  Most of them were there because before I could delete them I’d need to do something, and I never seemed to make time to do those things.  Yesterday I did.  I spent more than one hour and less than two systematically taking action on ALL THOSE EMAILS, and now my in-box is down to nine items!!!

I am on a roll, albeit a very small one, and I am gathering momentum.

There was a fruit fly over the sink this morning.  = {

Breathe deeply

A couple weeks ago I had some kind of a cold/throat thing going on, and it triggered some asthma symptoms, which made me use my inhaler for a while.  I noticed, as I have noticed in recent years, that I was having to use it a LOT more than in the past.  As in, the recommended dosage is two puffs two or three times a day as needed, but I was having to do three puffs every two or three hours to get the usual benefit.  It could be that my bronchial tubes are much more constructed than they used to be, but that didn’t seem likely, so once I was feeling better, I went online to do a bit of research on the matter of asthma inhalers.  Like why a standard albuterol inhaler used to be called “Albuterol,” but went through a name change to “Ventolin” and is now called “ProAir.  And why said inhaler that used to cost about $25 now costs $72.  Well, I was totally shocked (and slightly embarrassed) by what I found.

A few years ago, pharmaceutical manufacturers made a major, across-the-board change to inhalers; the actual bronchodilating med (albuterol) didn’t change, but the propellant, the aerosol “vehicle” that delivers the med into one’s lungs, did.  For many years, the propellant had been a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), but since 2008, it’s been a hydrofluoroalkane (HFA).  In addition to costing more than three times as much, having a different taste, and gumming up the plastic sleeve that holds the canister, HFA has another unfortunate deficiency:  it doesn’t shoot the med with as much force as the CFC did, so it’s harder to get the med where it needs to go.  This is probably why I now need three puffs instead of two, and it’s extremely frustrating to me to now be paying three times as much for what ends up being effectively 33 doses per canister instead of 50.

Of course, I can see a drug company wanting to make more money and switching to a different propellant that will allow them to charge a lot more, but to use a propellant that’s also known to be significantly less effective?  Really?  It just didn’t make sense.

Until I dug a bit deeper.  It seems that the Food and Drug Admininstration mandated the propellant switch, NOT because of cost factors or health factors, but – get this! – because the CFC propellant in my asthma inhaler was depleting the ozone layer!!!  Sweet Georgia Peaches!!!  This nonsense is clearly, in the immortal words of Charles Capps, “ignorance gone to seed.”

Oh, that we rational citizens of the greatest nation in the world could figure out an effective way to reign in our entirely irrational government.


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