Sunday, June 28, 2009

Roll 'em out, Roll 'em in...

Here in Maryland, the capitol of destination vacations, we sent home our first summer visitors this morning. This sending off was not without its problems however. We left a leetle bit late for the airport and Karen and Allison ended up actually MISSING their flight! When Karen called me to tell me that--I was upset and mortified. This is why they say get to the airport an hour and a half before your flight leaves. Apparently, Karen and Ali got stuck in a long security line and that is all she wrote. They got a flight out later in the afternoon and ending up landing in Indianapolis at 5:40 p.m. Since we had planned Karen's return flight so that she would be able to have some time at home before returning to work tomorrow morning that was a complete flop. This is also the reason why one should always carry a book or other reading material with you when traveling. Five extra hours in an airport is a lot of time to fill. Judy and I did offer to go back and get them, but Karen wasn't willing to leave the safety of that side of the security check-in, lest lightning should strike twice.

Meanwhile, today was spent refitting the "ship" for the next set of visitors. I did loads of laundry (towels mostly) and general straightening up. Andrea, Jeri, and Connor will be arriving here on Tuesday morning. We have tentatively planned activities which we think will be fun for a four year old. I have suggested going to the Please Touch Me Museum and Hershey Park. On Friday we are driving into D.C. to stay in a hotel through Sunday so that we can celebrate the Fourth of July there. Hopefully we'll have a view of the fireworks over the National Mall/Capitol from our hotel room.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ford's Theater and D.C.

Karen had only a couple of specific requests for her latest vacation visit with us. She wanted to see President Lincoln's Cottage, Ford's Theater and Peterson House, and walk the perimeter of the White House and get pictures. Last year we visited the White House and took the tour, but they don't allow you to take anything in with you. Not a purse or a camera or a cell phone---just car keys and a wallet for id and money. As a result, we have no pictures of the White House exterior. Karen wanted to correct that lack and so did I. It does requires some planning though because the distances to the White House, in terms of walking are great. None of the Metro stations nearby are that close, either.

As for fulfilling Karen's requests--we saw President Lincoln's Cottage on Wednesday. We discovered then that Ford's Theater was closed for a seven day maintenance cycle. It was planning to re-open for the weekend, however, so we headed to D.C. early this morning. Well, early for US, anyway. We rarely leave the house for our sightseeing expeditions before 9:00 am...well, we've NEVER left earlier than 9 before. Usually it's more like 10 or 11. Today we managed to get out of the house by 8:30 am. WOW!

We determined to try our luck with parking somewhere downtown for a change. (Usually we park at Arlington and use the metro.) I had the addresses of a couple of parking garages but our Garmin GPS did not seem to recognize the addresses. Frankly, D. C. streets are so bizarro with the same streets in different quadrants that I'm amazed anybody figures out anything with regard to traffic/driving/navigating. As luck would have it, we went to F street and parked in a great parking garage right next to Ford's Theater. I mean, RIGHT next to it. And it was only $10 for the whole day. That is unbelievably cheap for in the city.

The line for the 10 o'clock ranger tour at Ford's Theatre was down the block and around the corner. We got in line, but we couldn't get tickets for entry until the 11:00 o'clock show. We chilled in line. It was cool and the breeze was pleasant and we were in the shade. The time passed quickly. They seat everyone in the auditorium for the ranger talk which does take a bit of time. The ranger, Arthur Doyle (middle name: Luke) did a very interesting talk about this pivotal moment in American history---the assassination of President Lincoln. You are allow to take all the pictures that you want to take which was really nice. To really have great background knowledge and context for the tour, I recommend the books, Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer about John Wilkes Booth; The Assassin's Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln , and Blood on the Moon: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln. They are highly readable and reliable.

After the presentation we went across to Peterson House, which is the house where Lincoln actually died the next morning. I had imagined a completely different physical set up based on my reading and photographs. I thought they took him to the second floor, but it was actually on the first floor. I also imagined that the bed upon which they laid him, was across the room--in actuality, the bed was right beside the door.

After a quick visit to the gift shop, (I had to get a magnet for the Wall of Fame) we walked around the corner to look in the alley behind the theater where Booth had a horse waiting, and from which he was seen exiting. It doesn't appear to still have an opening into it from the back of the theater.

We then walked down to the White House with a stop at the Spy Museum restaurant for a snack. The thing to always remember about D.C. The blocks are LONG and the pavement is HOT. The heat just bounces off the white pavement and the glare of the reflected light makes any journey seem to last forever. The blocks really are extra long, I think.

We arrived at the White House and headed down along E street to get photos of the back of the White House. I was moving a bit faster than the others and I arrived sooner than they did. As I finally got to a spot where I could see the back of the White House, a metro police officer started loudly telling everyone to keep walking and to stop taking pictures. The rumor was that either A) the Obama children were coming out to play and the area had to be secured; or B) Obama was coming in by helicopter and the area needed to be secured. Those were just rumors that the crowd made up. We later found out that there were some protests occurring in the front of the White House and some security concerns developed and that was why they cleared out the area. The result of all this hullabaloo was that I got one photograph of the back of the White House and it was fuzzy because my camera focused on the fence not the house.
Judy and I were pretty wiped by this time. So while Karen was still gung-ho and wanted to head for the front of the White House; we headed for the air conditioning of the White House Visitor Center. Ali went with Karen in support. I shopped while Judy read the exhibits. Eventually Karen and Ali came back with photos and stories about protesters and the area being cleared three times total for security concerns.

Now we were all tired. We stopped for drinks. We stopped to buy a purse from a vendor. Then we hit the car and collapsed. After an interesting tour of some never before seen neighborhoods in D. C. (the word "lost" was bandied about) we eventually made our way out of the city via 295 and then home.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Putt Putt Gold

On one of our trips to Best Buy this week, we discovered a Wii Putt Putt Golf game. We have enjoyed it tremendously, which has caused us to stay up way too late on several occasions. Today we decided to see if all our practice on the Wii had helped at all in real life. Speaking for myself. Not so much.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lincoln's Cottage and the Unexpected

Today's vacation sightseeing plan was to go to President Lincoln's Cottage, also known as, The Soldier's Home in northwest D.C. We had wanted to go last year but ran out of sightseeing gas. This year we made sure to do it early, and bought actual tickets online in advance, thus, double securing our intentions. We were going to follow the Cottage up with a visit to Ford's Theatre and the Peterson House. This is the Lincoln vacation after all. Unfortunately, when I went online to do some basic research about Ford's Theatre (as the advance man) I discovered that the Theatre is closed down for five days this -week for facility cleaning etc. What bad luck. It just re-opened relatively recently after its big remodel! Quel domage!
Back to Lincoln's Cottage--Lincoln spent 25% of his presidency at this summer home. It has been recently restored to its state during the Lincoln Presidency. It is an nontraditional restoration because the interior is virtually empty of furniture. Instead of highlighting the furnishings, the tour uses multimedia and informative talks by tour guides to talk about how his time at the cottage impacted his presidency by shaping his experiences. The visitor's center attached to the cottage has a small but wonderful museum attached with more multimedia historical displays. There's also a gift shop and a very clean restroom (and we know how important that is right?!). We really enjoyed our time there. After the tour we got some wonderful pictures of the exterior of the house with its truly magnificent magnolia tree and a statue of Lincoln next to a horse.
So after having a great tour at Lincoln's Cottage, we were a little under-planned for what to do next. We couldn't just leave D.C--it was only mid-day. (Our timed entry had been 11:00 o'clock at L.C.) Karen has wanted to get some good photos of the front of the White House and to see Blair House ever since our White House tour last summer. They don't let you take anything in to the W.H. and there is no place to store your stuff so we don't have any good close ups of the W.H. exterior. We optimistically headed in that direction hoping to find parking. HAH! Some hope.

Eventually we ended up crossing the Potomac behind Lincoln's Memorial and passing behind Arlington Cemetery. That's when serendipity struck. We passed the Marine Corp War Memorial of the Iwo Jim Sculpture. I didn't even realize that was there! We stopped and spent some time at this stunning memorial honoring all the marines who have served our country in armed conflicts since 1775.

Since we were right beside the George Washington Parkway, we then decided to continue the theme and see if we could figure out how to get to the newish Air Force Memorial. We could (with the help of the nice man at the security gate who pointed out the obvious to everyone but us parking lot for visitors to the Air Force Memorial which was across the street. We then spent some time at that truly stunning memorial. The view over D.C. is great---even with the heavy foliage.

Since it turned out we were up the hill from the Pentagon Memorial (to the victims of the 9-11 attacks) we made that memorial our next stop. Or we tried to, anyway. Unfortunately after circling the largest parking lot known to man, we left because all the parking was restricted. The Pentagon Memorial is very tourist unfriendly as near as we could see. Or maybe it is not set up for those of us who are "where to go and park" challenged. Judy was pretty tired from battling the heavy traffic and we were all getting pretty hot by then so we resolved to visit the Pentagon Memorial on Friday after doing some research about where to park.

In the end, I consider it a good day of sightseeing when we go to new places and I have a magnet to put on the refrigerator's "Places We Have Been" display.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I tell Judy this alll the time...

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Gettysburg Photos

Allison displays a fine understanding of the Union fishhook shaped troop deployment while we have a snack in the visitor center.

John Buford's memorial statue. Buford, (played by Sam Elliott in the movie "Gettysburg") went up into the tower of the Seminary to get a look at the lay of the land. He set the pickets that saw the Confederates coming and one of them fired the first shot in the battle. One of our favorite phrases, "This is good ground." gets repeated a lot when we are at Gettysburg. (Along with a lot of moaning about wanting to see Hancock one more time.)

David Wills House--a Lincoln stayed here moment.

Allison at the monument to the High Water Mark and at the marker for the Angle.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Dinner at Famous Dave's

Before the feast, we're all happy and alert. We're starving and waiting for the All-American Barbeque Feast to arrive.

Then the feast came--ribs, chicken, corn on the cob....yum-o. (Did Rachel Ray trademark that yet?) After the feast, we took home the leftovers for tomorrow's lunch. As you can see Karen's already beginning to nod off. Long day, big meal equals nap.

Gettysburg Revisited

Judy, Karen, Allison and I made the short trip up to Gettysburg for the third? fourth? time. Karen and Allison hadn't seen the new visitor center and none of us had seen the newly restored and opened Cyclorama. It was a match made in heaven.

The new visitor center is impressive. I say that even though we had to park in the third parking lot which is the furthest away from the center. On this trip we bought the tickets to access all the attractions at the visitor center. (Film, Cyclorama, Museum) First, we toured the museum. Compared to all the artifacts that you used to be able to see in the old visitor center; the museum seems much emptier. They make good use of new multimedia techniques to present information about the battle though. Next, we watched the movie, "A New Birth of Freedom" which was very good. Morgan Freeman narrates and his voice resonates beautifully. The Cyclorama--a 360 degree painting of a part of the battle, is marvelous. It is set up with real items in the foreground which blend imperceptibly into the painting so that you are not sure where the real ends and the painting begins. They do a light show behind the painting which highlights various parts of the painting to go along with a narrative about the battle.

Unfortunately, the majority of the scene is in one section of the painting and if you are in the wrong spot, you are doomed. You don't really see any of the special effects. After the the show they allowed us about five minutes to look at the painting with the lights up full and then they ran us out so that the next group could come in to watch the program. I was pretty peeved because I literally did not see half of the painting because of the number of people crowded up there. Given that you pay ten bucks to see the 22 minute film, see the cyclorama, and go through the museum, we left feeling a bit cheated. On the whole, I do recommend the experience but I recommend that when you go, stand in a spot opposite where the park assistants stand in order to see the best view of the show.

New Camera At Last

I've been waffling about for a couple of months, trying to decide on a new camera. I wanted something better than my Polaroid digital camera but something less than the cost of a couch. I wanted a view finder but I also wanted something point and shoot. As much as I'd like to be a better photographer, I really don't want to have to think about it too much. I wanted a better zoom but I also wanted something portable. I don't want to carry a bag with all the accouterments required. At Best Buy yesterday I finally made a decision. I had to compromise because all the cameras with view finders were either too big and bulky or the viewfinder was the size of a pinhole. The sales associate assured me that the glare coating on the view screens on cameras has really been improved. We'll see. I'm going to Gettysburg today and that should provide me with a good testing opportunity before D.C. later this week. I'm pleased with the size and feel of the camera and the zoom is out of this world. I got a Canon Powershot sx 110. I'm sure I'll be posting picture soon so you'll be able to judge for yourself if I chose wisely.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hats and Old Age

So I'm shopping today at Walmart. We've got company coming and I needed batteries and well, you get the idea. As I headed for electronics (for the batteries) I spotted a hat. It was like baseball hat but with a wider brim that goes around your head and covers your ears. Hmmm, I think. I could use a hat like that because when I wear a regular baseball hat, while sightseeing, the tips of my ears get sun burnt. My hair is very short. Guy short. I wear dangling earrings just so people know I'm a girl, short. I need a hat like that. Hmm, the only colors they have are black and brown. Hmm, those aren't great colors for a hat in the summer. Why would they pick such dark colors. Don't they know dark colors attract the sun? Even though I don't like the colors I try on the dark brown hat. It should go well with my hair, I think. ACK!! Wha' happened????????? I'm OLD. My hair isn't dark brown any more. it's GRAY. GRAY GRAY GRAY.

Picture me curled up in a corner whimpering. I used to like my gray hair. I've always thought it looked cooool. It's all short 'n' cutting edge. I use goop to spike it. People tell me that it's good-lookin' gray hair. Are they all lying to me?

I immediately headed for the hair dye aisle. I perused the selection. When did hair dye become about young non-gray headed girls make fashion statements? I have no confidence that these dyes can quell my gray. It is stubborn and plentiful. This may require professional help. But wait--if my hair looks young but my face looks old...isn't that mutton dressed as lamb? Oh, the humanity....

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One More Day, One Day More

It happens to be true---one more day of school (no kids-inservice) and one of my favorite songs from my favorite musical, Les Miserables.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Farm Town

So what's the attraction to playing Farm Town on Facebook, you may ask? Many of my co-workers think that I, and others who shall remain nameless, are a bit..wacky for playing this game. Add to that the fact that I play the game obsessively and it is a real puzzler for those who don't have free time and or an interest in computerized farming. Another weird Robin interest to roll their eyes over. Hey, can I help it I'm unique-ish (ignoring the identical twin factor)?

I'd say the attraction is that it's like playing house when you were a kid. You pretend. You create. You imagine. You pretend that you are planting acres of coffee and pumpkins (they are the best money makers). You pretend that you are an entrepreneur, wheeling and dealing, re- investing in your profits in your growing (pun intended) business. You hire people--so now you are a boss (unlike in real life where maybe you are not so boss-like, --okay that one doesn't apply to me because I'm obnoxiously bossy). Anyway--you buy a house, you plant flowers, get a lawn-mower, acquire pets. And you can arrange and re-arrange your little world as often as you please. It only requires you to repeatedly click of the mouse. What's not to love? It's mindless, time-wasting fun and I just happen to have a lot of time coming up. .

By the way--I named my farm "ROBINWORLD".

Heh heh.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

High Noon

While playing Farm Town Judy and I have gotten into the habit of listening to TV. We're working our way through Hogan's Heroes (up to the middle of season five so far) and over the weekend we re-watched Yankee Doodle Dandy for the umpteenth time. Tonight after the stormy weather passed (chuckle chuckle) we ended up on TCM and since the power had flickered two or three times the cable info button had forgotten the name and synopsis of the movie. It was an odd tale about a British army man and his German counterpart around the time of World War I through World War II. Turns out it was called The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Since the main character was Clive Candy, I don't know exactly where Officer Blimp came in to it. The lead actors were played by unknowns (to me anyway) but Deborah Kerr played three different characters. She ended up married to both men and then was General Candy's driver when he was put in charge of England's Home Guard. Anyway--I kept thinking the German officer was played by Errol Flynn--he has that look as you can see in a picture from a scene in the movie. (He's the guy in the picture when the head bandage.) One of many funny bits, both men fought a duel in the movie before becoming friends. They had facial injuries which required 12 and 8 stitches respectively, they were both put in a "nursing home" for eight weeks to recover. I couldn't figure out why they were in wheelchairs. A scar of your forehead and lip don't usually require such drastic treatment! Anyway--this post started out as a comment on High Noon--if I can only get there. I just do not get this movie. It doesn't seem suspenseful to me at all. And what's with all the clock shots. Can we say overkill? I get it already the guy's life is LITERALLY ticking away...except, oops--he doesn't die--so not so much after all. As you can tell I am a movie cretin.

The Voices of Angels

My friend Coleen and her daughter Hannah singing Pie Jesu from Requiem by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I haven't seen Hannah since she was two or so--the fact that she is grown up freaks me out a little bit. I'm still immature, see? Meanwhile, what a great voice she has--she prolly gets that from her fabulously talented mother.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Gone to Farm Town

Sorry for the non-existent blogging, I 've been in Farm Town. Farming is demanding work. You plow and plant and harvest and then do it all again. Add in working a second job for more coins and you can see where a person just wouldn't have time for blogging. My hard work has paid off though, I own the little white farm house now, not just the cabin.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Wednesday, June 03, 2009