Friday, August 28, 2009


At RevGalsBlogPals, Singing Owl writes:

“Lately I seem to be encountering many people who have a very difficult time finding anything good to say about themselves. They are able to extend grace and forgiveness's to others but find it difficult to extend that same grace to themselves.

With that in mind, let's share some healthy affirmation today! Tell us five things you like about yourself!”

1. I am what Barbara Shur calls a “scanner”. I love to learn, participate in, and experience a wide range of things rather than just having one or two passions or areas of interest.

2. I’m someone for whom family is extremely important.

3. I’m enthusiastic and fairly indefatigable, even on projects and in situations where most people lose steam or give up.

4. I’m playful.

5. I am, behind the intellectual veneer, someone who makes decisions and acts based largely on intuition and empathy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


While our hydrangeas came out in a myriad of colors this summer, our vegetable garden has had strange results, perhaps because of the inordinate amounts of rain. The peppers that usually do amazingly have barely produced anything, many of our lettuces were soggy and tasted bitter, and our tomato plants look awful--especially the lower parts of them-- despite the fact that we had ripe, wonderful tasting black krim and big rainbow tomatoes two weeks ago.
The rain barrel we put in to help us reduce the amount of water we'd use has overflowed several times since we haven't really needed to hose the garden much.

But our pole beans have grown up and off the trellis and our zucchinis have been huge. Kathy has made lots of two different kinds of zucchini bread -- one much healthier and one much tastier-, zucchini chocolate chip cookies, and zucchini parmesian.

When we got back from the Cape this weekend, our garden was overflowing with other tomatoes (Zapotec and Big Boys are just ripening), onions, scallions, beans, and carrots, as well as several more zucchini. We also had three different kinds of potatoes-- red, blue-purple, and onaway-- even though we didn't plant them this year.

And after months of lots of leaves the broccoli and the eggplants are finally growing vegetables!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Outer Banks

Tuesday we headed out to mosey our way down toward Ocracoke. We’d originally thought we’d spend the afternoon in Williamsburg, but after the two presidential homes the day before, we decided a break from historical sites would be a good idea. Kathy wanted to see Virginia Beach, so we drove in that direction, getting there in the early afternoon. We drove into town and decided that there was absolutely nothing at all appealing about it—a combination of the worst of Atlantic City meeting the worst of Las Vegas—with everything as big and fake as the monkey in the waterslide park we passed.

We decided to double back and drive on toward Ocracoke. We went on into North Carolina, passed Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers Monument, and stopped for the night in Nags Head, North Carolina at the First Colony Inn. The place was built in 1932 and looked like a weathered, traditional beach hotel with the wide wraparound verandas, a library, and an outdoor swimming pool in the back near the path to the beach. We were staying in the Alis Chapman room, named for one of the few women who traveled to the US from England

with other colonists in 1587.

Since the pool looked clean (as compared to the pool at the English Inn which had been disgusting) and it was a bit before sundown, we decided to take a swim. We had the pool to ourselves, the sun was out, and it was great. We then went back to our room, changed and headed out to Owens’ Restaurant for what turned out to be an amazing seafood meal with way too much food for us to finish.

The next morning we headed to take the Cape Hatteras ferry to Ocracoke. We got there reasonably early but the lines were very long and it took almost two hours before we even got on board the ferry. Even then it was only because of luck that our car was allowed on board. There turned out to be one space left on the boat and the truck first in the line that was being loaded onboard was too big to fit so, since we were the smallest car in the front of a line, they took us. The ferry ride was uneventful and after about 40 minutes we got off and continued to drive to Ocracoke through a combination of beautiful sanddunes with few people and towns like Cape Hatteras, Rodante, and Frisco.

In Ocracoke we stayed at Blackbeard’s Lodge in a room that was very well kept and clean but had the tiniest bathroom possible—probably a small closet that had been converted, so small that the sink had to be put in the bedroom instead of the bathroom.

(The door in this picture that looks like it’s opening into a closet is the bathroom.) Ocracoke itself was a cute little town with lots of people walking and biking around the main street and the nearby beaches were really beautiful. The combination of the type of beaches and small town with little auto traffic reminded me a lot of both Chincoteague, VA and Provincetown, MA, though I didn’t like it quite as much (and neither of the other places required waiting at a ferry for a long while).

Once we brought our bags into the room, we headed to the nearest beach that had a board walk and public bathroom area connected to it. It was easy to get to, had good parking, and, while there were folks on it, it wasn’t really crowded, perhaps because of the strong wind or the clouds. That evening, after Kathy had a swim, we headed to the Back Porch, a nearby restaurant to eat. The food was good but the waitress was “busy”—not that she was overwhelmed with work, but she thought herself so busy that it came across negatively in everything she was doing.

Thursday we headed out to a beach that was a bit further from Ocracoke and without bathroom facilities or boardwalk—near some ponies--- and so was almost empty. We’d brought some sodas, crackers, and cold cuts so we spent a large part of the day there reading, watching ghost crabs, gulls, terns (along with a few ibises and pelicans), and riding waves in the ocean. The sun was out, the water wasn’t too cold, and it was a perfect day for relaxing. In the late afternoon we headed back to the hotel so I could check online for questions and postings my students were making and Kathy could swim in the pool. We ate in town, closer to the harbor where the fishing boats go out, then checked out the Ocracoke Lighthouse before returning to the hotel for the night.

Friday morning we got up early and left the hotel a little before 7 so we could be on the 7:30 ferry back to the mainland. We got there and there was only one other car waiting so they didn’t run the ferry and we had to wait until 8 to cross back. By then, there was a full ferry load of cars and trucks. We drove back through the Cape Hatteras Park, again passing beaches that looked much like those near Ocracoke. I think that, if I were to go to that part of the Outer Banks again, I’d probably stay in one of the towns there rather than having to do the ferry ride to Ocracoke. The beaches looked as beautiful and we would have saved a lot of waiting time.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monticello and Montpelier

On Monday (July 13th) we decided to see both Monticello and Montpelier since friends had said not to miss either of them. We started out by visiting Monticello. We arrived at the new visitors center, which is gorgeous, and quickly got on a bus to head to Jefferson's home for a tour that would start in 15 minutes. I'm not big on organized tours of locations. The guides always spend longer in some areas than I would, but skip over other things that I'd like to see in more detail. And this time,when the the woman leading the tour insisted that thouse of us with backpacks carry them in front ofus rather than on our backs (lest we "bump into" anything) and then glared at Kathy after saying everyone should leave food and drinks, including gum, outside, I knew I wasn't going to be happy with where her emphasis would be. I learned a lot I couldn't care less about, but the things that interested me (most of which she didn't mention) included two items in the entrance hall:

1. What seemed to be a reproduction of the pyramid of Giza on the mantelpiece. It wasn’t mentioned on the tour but I would have liked to hear more of why Jefferson had placed it there.

2. The seven day clock Jefferson designed, which showed (and sounded) the time both inside and outside the house. It intrigued me that, in a era where very few people had clocks/watches to keep track of time, Jefferson had constructed a time piece that not only told the hour and minute, but also had a second hand. I was also intrigued by the cannonball weights Jefferson used to show the day of the week, though I wondered why he designed them in such a way that they had to go through the floor into the basement on Saturdays.

Other things that interested me inside Jefferson’s home were the book collection and the paintings of Locke, Bacon, and Newton that hung together on one wall. Not only would these three have been among the quintessential thinkers in Jefferson’s world, but all three were (like Beissel in the Ephrata community) also interested in the esoteric sciences.

But what most interested me at Monticello were the outdoors. The formal gardens, while pretty, didn’t strike me as anything special. The vegetable garden, however, was another thing. It was beautiful—full of well-kept, nicely vegetables of all kinds stretching for the equivalent of perhaps three blocks in length. The tour, which I listened to for only a few minutes, went quickly through the various crops, but I enjoyed setting off on my own and looking at what they were growing. I’d never seen artichokes or chick peas growing before, so I was intrigued by them. The herbs were thriving, the summer squash were huge, and the white eggplants were doing very well. (Mine at home were only tiny plants at this point with no flowers on them much less eggplants themselves.) I could have happily spent several more hours there, but it was time to walk back down to the visitors center if we were also going to see Montpelier.

After a great lunch at the cafeteria (no fast food! Kathy had an amazing chicken curry salad and I had a Caesar salad), we headed north to Montpelier. The tour guide there was obnoxious. He was so full of energy and so full of himself talking that I thought we’d never make it through the tour. Montpelier itself is only partly restored at this point so we spent most of our time listening to how the various paint colors were chosen, what the walls were made out of, and other equivalently trivial pieces of information. While the site may end up being one worth visiting, seeing it as a second presidential home after Monticello doesn’t cut it right now. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

Monday evening we went to see UVA and then downtown historic Charlottesville. We ate outdoors at Hamilton’s Restaurant—good food in a nice setting—and then did some fast shopping before heading back to the hotel.