As we say above, this is mainly for friends and family. Michael's blog on the Middle East can be found here. Most of our other links can be found below on the right, but be sure to keep up as well with our family website, here. We also have discussion groups for genealogy, links to genealogical information on us, and our (semi-private) Flickr and YouTube accounts for those who are invited. You can also get a quick-navigation guide here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Almost Heaven, West Virginia

Sarah took the photo at left herself. She's rightly quite proud of it and we may suggest she enter it in her art contest at school.

It's nearly 1 am after our trip, and I have to work tomorrow, or rather later today. So forgive me if the rest of this account is saved for Monday night. I'll leave this on the site until I have time to explain what all we did.

Meanwhile, a key: the river is the Upper Potomac west of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, seen from the slope of Cacapon Mountain, taken from this overlook. the river curves (blocked by the foreground) to the right across the picture. Foreground and land to the left of the river is West Virginia; to right of the river is Maryland. At the distant water gap you can just make out the more distant crests of some blue mountains that overtop by a little bit the green foreground mountain; the distant ones are Pennsylvania.The town visible left of the river is Great Cacapon, West Virginia.

Meanwhile Flickr and YouTube sites will have some stuff but it will make more sense once I'm able to post here.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Winchester and the Snow White Grill

We're in Winchester for an overnight. Again, since I started blogging on the Middle East at work I haven't been posting as often to the family blog. Mostly now it's when we're out of town doing something interesting, though last week — when I didn't post at all — we did do the great Lincoln bicentennial exhibit at the Library of Congress, which combined with the National Museum of American History Lincoln exhibit which I had already posted about (and there's a video on our family-and-friends YouTube page), plus our visit to the newly opened David Willis House in Gettysburg, plus a still-to-do reopened Ford's Theatre and a visit to Lincoln's summer white house at the Soldier's Home, we're immersing Sarah in a lot of Lincoln for the 200th.

But that was last weekend. This weekend we decided to get out of Dodge since the weather forecast sounded good — but there's a catch. It's sunny and warm all right: 93 degrees (our van temperature was showing 95). IN APRIL. A little too hot, so we've been snapping at each other, and we abandoned the idea of doing some of the many civil war sites in the area (Battles close to town: First and Second Winchester, First, Second and Third Winchester/Opequon. A few miles farther out: Cedar Creek, Fisher's Hill, Cool Spring, Stephenson's Depot, etc.etc. . . . Winchester claims to have changed hands 72 times in the Civil War. To get there they have to count every time a cavalry scout rode through town, but it was a busy place. Due to the heat we limited ourselves to the Old Court House Civil War Museum. It's air conditioned.

We did stumble on Old Town Winchester beginning a week-long celebration of Apple Blossom Festival, which concludes next weekend. We ate at the Snow White Grill, which I've posted about before, and which is still great, but also now has its own website, since it's celebrating its 60th anniersary. History and photos here; the all-important menu here; like Fred & Red's in Joplin, it's the sort of place they should make a National Historic Landmark. Or National Historic Greasy Spoon, a new designation for preservation I could really get behind. Photo above is not from today, but photo at left is, showing the Apple Blossom crowds.

Also, as we are in high dog-love mode right now, Sarah stopped to pet every dog we saw (even at a roadside rest stop, but certainly at the Apple Blossom Festival). A photo that doesn't show her face, left.

Near the Visitor's Center we saw a mother duck with eight very new ducklings, so there was that. We've always liked ducks, and who doesn't like ducklings? Mama Duck and little ones, in the final pic of the day.

More after dinner, if I have anything.

UPDATE: Dinner at Castiglia's down the street. Good, reasonably priced Italian. Tomorrow we hope to go to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, where Sarah enjoys playing in the spring, eating ice cream, and other such diversions. We've done all this several times before, but it's got something for everybody and it's not that far from home.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ninth Birthday and the Easter of the Chocolate Chicken

Sometimes life gets so busy you can't actually record it: living it takes up too much time and space. That's what it's been like lately. Since I've been blogging on the Middle East at the MEI Editor's Blog, I get tired of looking at the Blogger interface, and haven't been doing a good job of recording our family adventures.

Before I say anything about the weekend just ending (a fairly routine one), I'm just beginning to blog last weekend, which marked both Sarah's ninth birthday (Friday, April 10) and Easter (Sunday if you couldn't figure that out on your own). Her April 10 birthday means it always falls close to Easter, but this was the closest yet.

And the German chocolate chicken, shown in the photo, is part of the story.

First of all, Sarah was off school on Friday for Good Friday. I work from home Fridays anyway, while Tam had to work. Since her birthday fell on Good Friday and the following weekend was Easter, we figured it was not the time to have a party for friends. She wants a sleepover anyway, so we'll do that another weekend when Easter doesn't intrude.

So Friday was a Daddy-daughter day, which we used to have regularly before she started preschool, but which are less frequent these days.

First we had lunch at our local La Madeleine. The days when the lunch request was aways MacDonalds are past. Of course it's more expensive, but the food's better.

Friday also coincided with the opening of the Hannah Montana movie. So we took in a matinee. Not surprisingly, there were virtually no males there except a few other Dads with daughters. It actually could have been worse, and Sarah enjoyed it.

We then headed for our local outlet of German Gourmet, which Sarah quite rightly thought would be the best place to pick out a chocolate cake for her birthday. We chose a Black Forest Cake — $25, but you're only nine once — and as we were waiting in line to pay for it, she spotted the Easter chicken shown above. Since everyplace else has chocolate Easter rabbits, she thought the chicken (which sits on chocolate Easter eggs) was hilarious. (I think it's just a cultural difference, and the German shop had rabbits too.) And yes, I bought the chicken.

That evening we had a small party for the three of us, then she played with a friend for a while. We gave Sarah a few gifts, though several of her birthday gifts had already been given ahead of time. Also, by prior arrangement Sarah began getting a regular allowance on her birthday.

On Saturday, we ran errands mostly, but also, since the real birthday present sometime in the upcoming months is going to be a dog, we stopped at the local Petco, which has dogs for adoption on Saturdays. While we're not ready yet — we need to get more fencing in, and get the house dogproofed — we're actively educating ourselves to give Sarah the sense this is really going to happen. The rescue group had a number of dogs there, giving Sarah plenty of interaction time (and she's very good with dogs, and always asks neighborhood dog walkers if she can pet them). She particularly liked Maggie (link will only work until Maggie is adopted), though she's also fond of corgis and some other breeds. Saturday night we went to Easter Vigil for the first time with Sarah, but it proved a bit too long for her: dozens of people were being baptized. Still, she made it through.

On Sunday we joined our old friends Cynthia Lancer-Barnes and her son Jake from Bermuda, with Cynthia's mother, aunt and another old friend, for a long brunch (that ran till about 5 pm) at Meiwah restaurant in Friendship Heights, MD (just over the DC line). So an Easter with friends, wrapping up a good weekend.

Though Sarah knows now that the Easter Bunny is us, she insisted we hide plastic eggs fullo of candy anyway, but we didn't get around to it until we got home at nearly dusk, so we did it inside.

I'll try to come back later and talk about this weekend, though there's less to report.

There are videos of the birthday cake and Easter at our YouTube site.