Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow, Snow Everywhere!!

My last class was Thursday, I finished my visiting teaching, and I was ready to get started on Christmas. My throat and nose had a different idea!! The body decided to get sick so I've been coughing and blowing my nose while I watch about 20+ inches of snow cover the outside of our townhouse. I was all alone because Aimee was in Philadelphia, but it was nice and cozy inside.

Saturday morning the snow had stopped but everything was covered. I looked out my kitchen window and saw a face the snow had left on my neighbor's car so I took the picture. I thought I'd better record this record snowfall which fortunately only happens every four or five years in the DC area. There's no way I would live any further north than here. My pictures aren't that great because they were taken through the window. No, I'm not going out in that snow!!
My sister in Maryland was watching the snow while she was shut in for days with my 97-year-old mother! Judy got some good pictures, too.

My home teacher, Brother Seeley, came over yesterday and cleaned off my car and my sidewalk. YEAH, Bro Seeley!!!! Today, my neighbor Bob cleaned the pile of snow behind my car left by the snow plow. YEAH, Bob!!!!! I went to Costco and got some supplies and the turkey for Christmas dinner. Carrying in heavy objects from the car to the house was not fun with all the black ice, but I made it. Wednesday, Rick and I got to get Aimee in Philadelphia. She's healthy and doing well!!! YEAH, Aimee!!!!

It will be spring before the snow melts in front of my house - no sun during the day - but I don't have to go to work anymore. YEAH, Retirement!!!!

Hope you all are enjoying the weather where you are. I know some of my friends are enjoying summer-type weather in Thailand and Ethiopia. Well, just don't brag! Happy Holidays!!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bienvenue à Washington!!

Hier, mes amies Marie-France Weber and Nicole LeTellier et moi, nous sommes allées à Washington avec deux amis français de Nicole - Warren et Sadi. Depuis que je sois un guide touristique à Washington, j'ai donné un tour de la ville à eux. Nous nous sommes amusés et nous sommes allés partout de la ville. Nous avons vu le Capitole, la Cour Suprème et la gare (Union Station). Après nous avons mangé au bâtiment de Ronald Reagan, nous sommes allés au Mémorial à la deuxième guerre mondiale, au Mémorial de la Corée, au Mémorial pour Lincoln, et au Mémorial au Viet Nam. Il faisait très chaud hier!! En chemin de retour, nous avons passé le Mémorial pour Thomas Jefferson et nous nous sommes arrêtés au Mémorial de Pentagon. Warren et Sadi se sont amusés.

Now I'll change to English for those who don't speak French!! My friends Marie-France Weber and Nicole LeTellier took French friends of Nicole's sightseeing in DC yesterday. We had a great time. First, we drove into Washington via the 14th Street Bridge passing by the Bureau of Printing and Engraving and the Holocaust Museum. We turned onto Independence Avenue and continued past many of the Smithsonian museums up to Capitol Hill where we passed by the House and Senate Office buildings, the Library of Congress, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court. Even though our trains aren't as wonderful as the TGV in France, we dropped Warren, Sadi, and Nicole off at Union Station to see that magnificient building.

Since the boys hadn't eaten yet, we went down Constitution Avenue to the Ronald Reagan building so they could have a taste of an American food court!! Of course, we all had hamburgers from Flamer's along with great "French fries"! After that, we went to the World War II Memorial and walked around. It's nice to have a handicapped parking pass so we could park right there!! We then went to the Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and the Viet Nam War Memorial.

I love DC in the summer, especially now since I'm a tour guide, because you meet so many fun people. While I was waiting for them at the Lincoln Memorial, I started talking to a lady from California. She said she'd seen everything in Washington in two days. I thought to myself - No way, José!! I asked her if she'd been to the Capitol? No! Library of Congress? No! Ford's Theatre? No! And ... I went on and on. She now has much more to see.

Later while I was waiting at the Viet Nam Memorial for everyone to get water - it was super hot yesterday - I sat down next to a lady who didn't speak English. Her friends came over and guess where they were from? ITALY!! So, I started talking in fratalian - my mind was in French mode so I was having a hard time speaking Italian. I answered some questions for them about getting around DC. It was fun to meet this group from Milano.

While we were at the Viet Nam Women's Memorial, I heard a couple speaking French. So ... I asked in French - Etes-vous français? Oui, they replied. D'òu venez-vous? (From where do you come?) De Toulouse!! That was exciting because Marie-France's son Matthew (Matthieu) had served in Toulouse during his mission to France. Of course, we continued to "parler français" and I told this family - the children had shown up - about the Viet Nam Memorial.

Since it was sooooo hot and humid, we just drove by the Jefferson Memorial and stopped (thanks again to the handicapped parking pass) at the Pentagon Memorial. When Warren was here last year, this memorial wasn't open yet. Both fellows were interested in what had happened on 911.

We had a great time speaking French all afternoon. Even though I haven't been able to go back to Europe, Europe has come to me in DC!! Please enjoy the pictures at Flamer's, WWII, Lincoln, and the Pentagon.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Andiamo all'opera!!

Ieri molti studenti del mio corso di italiano sono andati all'opera a Wolf Trap a Vienna in Virginia. Era l'ultimo giorno del corso dunque il teatro era una grande fine! Quella mattina abbiamo avuto anche il nostro esame ultimo. Venerdì era una buona giornata. La prima foto mostra le due professoresse - Laura Vinti (a sinistra) e Donatella Melucci (a destra). Loro erano eccellenti!! L'opera era "Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria" per Monteverdi - una opera barocca. Era il mia prima opera italiana!

I should probably change to English for those of you who haven't studied Italian!! My three-week intensive Italian class, called "Little Italies" at George Mason University, was wonderful! I pretended that I was in Rome instead of Fairfax. Since it was almost every day for three weeks, I finally started thinking in Italian. Now when I'm driving anywhere, I talk to myself in Italian instead of French. I'm even dreaming in Italian!!

Our two professors - Laura Vinti and Donatella Melucci were great! We had lots of fun learning Italian, eating Italian lunches, and watching great Italian films like "Divorce Italian Style," "Ciao, Professore," "The Boy's Room" (very sad), and "The Night Before Finals" (quite funny). We had our final exam Friday morning and most of the class met in the evening at the Barns at Wolf Trap to see "Return of Ulysses," an opera by Monteverdi. I went early with my new friend from class, Maria McKay, to listen to the talk about the opera. I'm so glad we did because I think I better understood what was happening. Of course, there were supertitles because the entire play was in Italian, but I was excited to actually understand some of the Italian. During the opera, I even recognized the use of the verb "vergognarsi" (to feel ashamed) which was a verb I hadn't know on the test!!

Here's a picture of us after the three-hour opera. Another great thing about the class was being with all the "real" college students - makes you feel young again. We had a great time; and going with everyone, including the professors, to the opera that evening was a wonderful end to a great class! Viva Italia!!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ciao, Tullio!!

Venerdì, degli studenti della mia lezione di italiano, la professoressa, sue figlie, sua madre ed io siamo andati alla Galleria Nazionale d'Arte a Washington, DC. C'era una mostra delle opere di Tullio Lombardo. Lombardo è stato un scultore del Rinascimento e ha abito a Venezia. Ecco una photografia di una sculture di Lombardo.

For the rest of my friends, I guess I should change to English. I'm taking an intensive three-week Italian class this summer at George Mason University, and it's GREAT! As part of the class, some of us met at the National Gallery downtown to see an exhibit of Tullio Lombardo's sculptures. Lombardo is a Venetian Renaissance sculptor. Unfortunately, we couldn't photograph anything inside of the exhibit because it was on loan.

I arrived at the Gallery a little early so I decided to take pictures, as usual. Here's the outside of the Gallery which was accepted by President Roosevelt in 1941. Most of the original collection was donated by Andrew Mellon who was a financier and lived in the city. He didn't care for modern art so the West building, the original building, doesn't house any modern art. The building was designed by John Russell Pope who also designed the Jefferson Memorial. He was very fond of the Pantheon in Rome, as was Jefferson, so many buildings were modeled after it.

I also took some photos of some French sculptures - couldn't leave out les français!! We waited for the professor in the Rotunda so I took photos of the fountain with Mercury. Our class is very lucky to have two professors - one is Dr. Donatella Melucci from Taranta, Italy, and the other is Signora Laura Vinti from Napoli e Roma. We met the latter at the Gallery. She brought along her two daughters and her mother - all who spoke Italian. The last picture is of the group - from left Maria (student), Signora e sua madre Silvia (back), Noami e Tullia (front), Josh, and Olga (students). Fortunately, I was taking the picture so I wasn't in it. Marie, another student, had already left.

We also saw the Beffi Triptych which is on loan from L'Aquila, Italy, which is where President Obama was this past week. There was a terrible earthquake there earlier this year. The triptych escaped damage and was offered for display at the Gallery until Labor day as a gesture of gratitude to the US which was one of the first countries to offer assistance. Unfortunately, the window behind the photographer is shining on the glass. All photos were taken without flash!! Si diverta!! Ciao!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Maryland is for Crabs!!!!!!

Today was a treat. I've been at my mother's this week while my sister is volunteering at the AT&T Golf Tournament. This morning Judy met Tiger Woods and drove Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys) and his girlfriend Jessica Simpson to and from the tournament! Well, while Judy was stargazing, I went to Chesapeake Beach, MD, to visit my girlfriend from high school - Mercine Moutouris Marshall and ... WE ATE LOTS OF CRABS!!

Summer in Maryland and Virginia is so wonderful because of our great Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Sitting at a table of newspapers or brown paper and opening those delicious crabs just makes my mouth water. And ... it brings back fond memories of my childhood. I remember summers with my Henderson cousins at Fairview Beach sitting on the screened-in porch of the Iron Spoon rental cottage eating crabs that my Uncle Willie and Dad had cooked. I even remember when my great uncle Lewis cooking crabs on a fire on the beach. Later, we'd mosy down to the dance pavilion and jitterbug to 50s music (because it was the 50s) playing on the jukebox while our parents went out on the pier to play the slot machines (they were legal in MD and the Potomac (where the pier was) was MD). Those definitely were the days!

Well, Mercine and I did a number on the crabs today as well as the hush puppies we ordered. If you live in the DC area and have never eaten hard shelled crabs, you have to try it! If you want to go to Chesapeake Beach, go where we did - to Abner's Crab House. Here are the remains of what we devoured!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My Mother Turns 97!!!

Yes, yesterday, June 8, 2009, Mother turned 97 years young. Can you believe it! We're sure she's going to make it to 100. It was finally NOT RAINING in the DC area so we decided to go to King George, Virginia, to celebrate. When we go down to Igo (the original name for the area from which my fraternal grandmother lived), we always meet up with cousins Jerry and Dorothy Purks. We're related to Jerry two different ways. Jerry is a first cousin to my father because my fraternal grandfather and Jerry's mother were brother and sister. We're also cousins with Jerry through the Purks line and my fraternal grandmother. I'm so glad that my Grandmother Henderson told me so much about my genealogy on the Henderson-Stevens side of the family.

Anyway, Mother loves to eat at Wilkerson's which is a seafood restaurant in Colonial Beach, Virginia. As usual, mother and I had imperial crab! YUM! YUM! She also had a slice of pecan pie with a candle, and the whole restaurant sang Happy Birthday!! Afterwards, we went to Potomac Church where my father and grandparents are buried to put flowers on the grave. Unfortunately, Mother couldn't get out of the car because she has some trouble walking. All in all we had a great day. Here are some pictures of Mother and Judy and me with Jerry, Dorothy and the Birthday Girl!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mother's Day 2009

Aimee, Judy (my sister), and I are so glad we still have our mother/grandmother with us. Mom will be 97 on June 8. Unfortunately, her energizer bunny battery is starting to slow down, but she still has a real spirit about her.

Here's a picture of Mother all "dolled up" in the new outfit Judy gave her for Mother's Day. There's also a picture of the Edible Arrangement Aimee and I gave her. I mean - what do you give to someone who is 97? Hope all our friends who are mothers had a great day!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Un beau samedi

Aujourd’hui, les étudiants de mon cours de français et moi, nous nous sommes bien amusés chez notre amie Lois. Nous avons rencontré pour faire un dîner breton. Nous avons mangé des moules, une salade, du pain, des pommes de terre frites et un far breton. Nous parlions français tout le temps !! Notre chef était Isabelle Tran qui vient de Bretagne comme mon amie Marie-France.

Of course, not all my friends who are reading this blog speak French so I'm going to revert to English! Lois and her husband bought their house less than a year ago and are remodeling it. Her husband makes furniture and has made everything in the house that's wood - all the furniture, kitchen cabinets, bookcases, tables, chairs - everything!! It was absolutely lovely. I can't wait to go to one of their stores - Hardwood Artisans, in case you're interested.

The first picture is of Lois' abode. The next picture is of the class, along with Isabelle (in the pink sweater), cooking the wonderful Breton dinner. We had mussels, a salad with homemade vinaigrette, French fries (naturally), French bread, and a special Breton cake called "far breton." The next two pictures are of the group (couldn't get everyone in one picture) getting ready to sit down and enjoy our lovely dinner. Our professor is in the picture at the left in a blue top.

Thanks to our professor Mme. Bull for arranging this outing. Thanks to Lois for sharing her house, and a special thanks to Isabelle for sharing her expertise. Merci beaucoup pour un bon samedi!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The National Cathedral

The National Cathedral in Washington, DC, is the sixth largest cathedral in the world and one of the most famous. The land of Mt. St. Alban was purchased by the first Bishop of Washington Henry Yates Satterlee. The construction started on September 29, 1907, when the cornerstone was laid using the same shovel George Washington used when laying the cornerstone of the Capitol. President Theodore Roosevelt was in attendance. The Cathedral was completed 83 years later on September 29, 1990, with President George H.W. Bush in attendance.

In Pierre Charles L'Enfant's original plan for the city, he had indicated there should be a house of prayer. The National Cathedral has become that - a house of prayer for all people of faith and no faith. The actual name of the church is the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. It is an Episcopal church and follows the Anglican liturgy during its services. However, many important national events have taken place in this building. Ministers from other religions have preached from its pulpit, funeral services for US Presidents have been held here, and Inaugural Prayer Services are held here every four years.

The Cathedral is a beautiful piece of 14th century Gothic architecture. The masonry is stone upon stone with no steel reinforcements. The Cathedral is not a replica of any other church or cathedral. The iconography inside and outside the building follows the story of creation (west front) to Christ's second coming at the High Altar in the east end of the building. You can see from these pictures the sculpture of man being formed, the creation over the middle doors, and the sculpture of St. Peter, the fisherman, at the left door of the west front.

As you approach the Cathedral, you see many of the characteristics of Gothic architecture - the flying buttresses and the great height of the bell tower. As you enter the Cathedral, you can see other characteristics - pointed arches, ribbed vaulting, and stained glass windows. In front of you is the High Altar at the far east end. Turning around you can see the beautiful west rose window made of thousands of pieces of glass - some prisms - that reflect light because in the beginning God said, "Let there be light!"

The interior of the Cathedral not only has artwork reflecting stories from the Bible; but there are statues, stained glass, and other artwork reflecting the history of the United States. There are statues of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and others.

As all Gothic cathedrals, this one is built in the shape of a cross - cruciform. On a sunny day such as the one when I went to the Cathedral, the morning sun radiates through the windows on the south side of the nave, and you can see the beautiful reflection of the colors from the stained glass windows on the Indiana limestone on the north side - just under the other set of beautiful stained glass windows on the north side of the nave. One of the stained glass windows on your level as you're walking is called the "Space Window." A piece of moon rock is embedded in the window and the artwork reflects space.

On the right side just past the space window is the tomb of President Woodrow Wilson, the only US president buried in Washington, DC. The picture I took again shows the light shining through the stained glass and reflecting on the tomb and the floor.

As you continue walking forward into the church, you reach the crossing transept which is where the transept (short arm of the cross) and nave (long arm of the cross) meet. To the right is the Canterbury Pulpit which was carved from stone from the bell tower of the Canterbury Cathedral. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his last public sermon from this pulpit the Sunday before he was assasinated.

In many cathedrals on either side of the High Altar are chapels - to the right for St. John and to the left for St. Mary. In both these chapels in National Cathedral are reredos of Christ on the cross with Mary and John the Beloved below. I have included pictures of the altars in these two chapels. St. John's Chapel has handmade needlepoint kneeling cushions depicting famous people in US history. The color in St. Mary's Chapel is blue because that is the color associated with the mother of Christ. The chapel was constructed using donations from Larz Anderson III whose house on Massachussets Avenue is now home to the Society of the Cincinnati. The walls are covered with tapestries from his estate which he purchased during his world travels as an ambassador. He and his wife are buried in this chapel.

At the High Altar, you can see the beautiful reredos of "Christ in Majesty" surrounded by sculptures of people of faith who lived during the past 20 centuries. Also to the left of the High Altar is the cathedra or bishop's chair. A church must have a bishop and a cathedra to be a cathedral. By the way, the cross on the altar is 6 feet tall. Turning around from the altar, you can see where the choir sits on either side of the aisle. Above that are the 10,650 pipes for the magnificent organ. It is one of the largest organs in the world, but it isn't bigger than the pipe organ in the Mormon Tabernacle which has 11,000! Again you can see the colors reflected on the pipes as the morning sun shines through stained glass windows.

The National Cathedral has so much to see and the regular 30-minute tour only covers the main level of the church. Visitors can go to the crypt level and see the Bethlehem Chapel - theme is the birth of Christ shown on the reredos over the altar - at the east end. The Bethlehem Chapel was the first part of the Cathedral that was completed and is used for services and weddings. It is also the burial place of Bishop Satterlee - behind the altar and directly above the foundation stone laid in 1907.

At the west end of the crypt is the St. Joseph Chapel - theme is the burial of Jesus in the tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea. The architecture of the chapel is more Romanesque - the precursor architecture to Gothic - with its curved features and lack of light. The ashes of Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan are buried in this chapel, and there is a plaque in Braille indicating that. The reredos shows Christ being taken to the tomb and is painted with gold.

Most of these pictures were taken in February 2009 when I went to the Cathedral to take the test to become a certified guide there. I passed!! The first picture was taken last summer - duh! from the green leaves on the trees. The last two pictures were taken in January when I went to the Guild class to learn about becoming a certified guide. The hall is on the seventh floor of the Cathedral where you can see the whole city by walking around the various outside hallways. The other picture is a closeup of the bell tower which is supported by four pillars set deep into the ground.

Although my Christian religious beliefs are not exactly what is taught at this cathedral, it is definitely an important site to see in Washington, DC. People of all faiths are welcome, and people of all faiths should take a tour!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More Arboretum - A Bonsai Experience

While my friend and I were at the National Arboretum, we decided to go to the bonsai exhibit. The Arboretum has one of the best bonsai displays in the US. One of the trees dated back to 1795. Unfortunately, I didn't write down the dates with the photos, but I wanted to share some pictures of these amazing trees. In the level above the bonsai exhibits was a pool with these colorful fish. It was fun watching people try to feed them. You can see they were all together very interested in getting some food!
The exhibit is actually divided into Japaneses bonsai and Chinese bonsai. The buildings reflect an Asian decor as you can see in the first pictures above. Not only are there bonsai, but there are also other beautiful vegetation.

Here are some of the bonsai that are shaped differently and appear to have different colors. The trunks of the trees are very interesting. Inside some one may actually see a large stone around which the trunk is growing. Some are designed to make the scene like a minature forest, island, or whatever. Some have leaves that look like a maple or oak where others look like small evergreens. There are so many pictures that it's hard to decide which to put in the blog.

I hope you don't find this too busy with photos, but I wanted to show the different types of trees, the interesting trunks and types of leaves as well as the beautiful flowers that were interspersed within the display of bonsai. Personally, I couldn't tell the difference between the ones in the Japanese pavilion or in the Chinese pavillion (the one with the red flowers).

I like the photo of the red flowers because you can see water dripping off one of the petals. The other picture at the right shows more of the area within the pavilion with other types of greenery.