Practing Mammal and Sparky and their Offspring Get Some History

This blog is a sister blog to Practicing Mammal. I made it that way so that I wasn't always posting about our trip. Because some of my readers maybe don't care about our trip. I don't mind. But its an easy way for me to journal our trip for our family. Please join us if it pleases you. Blessings!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Actually Home

Well.  I need some closure.  Never did get around to the last set of pictures, so I'll post them today.  The last couple of days has been a whirlwind of laundry and socializing.  We are pretty tired.

Ti. Red.  But it's good.  Life gets back to normal pretty quick.  The kids are happy to be home.  On one of the last days of our trip, I said, Okay guys, I know you have really enjoyed the magnitude of this trip, but I think we have had enough magnitude.  Rosebud replied, NO....more magnitude!

So that is a good sign, I think.

The kids have been things like what their favourite church was, what their favourite meal was, what hotel had the best pool, what was the coolest thing they saw....when does floor hockey start?

playing at Lake Ontario

One of my favourite and unexpected things of this trip was a magical thing that happened with my boys.  Of course they do a lot of stuff together, we homeschool, they always have each other around.  But on this trip, they only had each other.  And I think it deepened the bonds of their friendship.  They really appreciated each other's company.

Some of their most fun moments in the car were goofing off together, making up stupid stories for Rosebud and vying for her attention.  Plotting ways together to convince us to let them stay up even later.  Playing soccer in hotel parking lots.

And Polly got to be "one of us."  A grown up.  Oh sure she still had some of the social status of being a kid, such as taking her turn in the car seat rotation, being stuffed in the back.  But she also got to be the oldest kid.  Being the youngest of the three young women in our house, this is a new role.  And she warmed to it quickly.  It suits her, and I think this trip helped to establish her new role in the family.

Blessings to all.  Mammal, Sparky and kids.

A closeup of two of the Thousand Islands

A dozen or so of the Thousand Island
A baby mammal

We chased the sun all the way to Alberta

sleepy kids

Friday, September 23, 2011

Practically Home Again

Well.  Here we are.  Not exactly home, but back in Ottawa where we catch our flight home tomorrow.  Love it.  Today we had four and a half hours of actually car time travel to get from Syracuse, New York to Ottawa, Ontario.  This would be only the second time during this month that we have that many miles to travel in one day.  But we were only travelling.  Not seeing anything, just stopping as necessary or stretching legs.  A full day of travel but a leisurely one.

So, last night when I was considering where might be a few good pit stops along the way, we realized that we are going to be right beside Lake Ontario for a good segment of our drive in Upstate New York.  So we better dip our toes in Lake Ontario just to say we did it.  We found a nice beach and hung there for a while, it was really hard to get back in the car once we got our toes in the sand, though.  Lovely and unexpected treat along the way.

But that was not all.  No.  That was not all.  Just where the border between the US and Canada, New York State and Ontario falls, right along the St. Lawrence, we would be passing through the Thousand Islands.  Yes!  The very Thousand Islands that were named after the famous salad dressing.

So we thought, this is cool, the border crossing is like part of the Thousand Islands.  In fact, the crossing is on one of the Islands.  Why isn't this more generally known, I ask.  At any rate, we are coming up to the border crossing, and there is this ominous looking Rapunzel-like tower.  We are wondering what it is.  Lo and behold, it is a viewing deck from which one can pay an exorbitant amount of money to ride up in an elevator to a very high, 360 degree view of the Thousand Islands. 

Will the wonders never cease?

So we shelled out our dough, took the ride and I can tell you, this is perhaps one of the best kept secrets of the Western World.  They should put a revolving restaurant up on top of this tower, and a resort at the bottom.  So at this place, where the St. Lawrence River widens out and dumps into Lake Ontario are all these beautiful islands.  997 to be precise.  For those of you on Vancouver Island, think gulf islands all covered in deciduous trees all getting decked for the fall as far as they eye can see.

And here is a little wacky thing.  Do you remember George Boldt?  Of course you don't.  But anyway.  Ol' George was the self made millionaire hotelier made both famous and rich as proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City.  And other stuff.  It appears George knew a good thing when he saw it, and he decided to build a castle for his dear wife on one of the Thousand Islands (visible still from the Rapunzel tower), in 1900.  She had the cheek to die four years into the construction of it, and Boldt left the project and never returned to it.  The castle sat uninhabited and in ruins for 77 years.  Until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority (I know not what to what extent their authority runs) purchased the estate and is in process of restoring it.  Isn't that an interesting bit of trivia?

Another little jewel amongst so many we have had on this journey.  Well, now I am sitting up, barely and the mammals place where we will visit and spend the night and visit some more tomorrow until it is time to make our tearful goodbyes.  And then home.  Literal home. 

Pictures tomorrow. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September 21st and 22nd

Lancaster County, PA is considered the heart  of Amish Country.  It is exceptionally beautiful here, rolling hills with pretty, tidy farms tucked in the shallow valleys.  Although the Amish clearly live right along side the World, the whole area of small towns exudes a peacefulness that I’ve not seen elsewhere.  I suspect living side by side with these people , and in this slow moving, pastoral setting has a peaceful influence over all.

There are clearly areas that have been hijacked by those who want to make some tourist dollars off the charm of the area and the people, such as the outlet store near our hotel called, AMISH STUFF.  So not quaint.  But mostly it is earnestly quaint, and simple.  And we did buy pickles!  And jam and other Amish made treats.  We happened to pass by a little cheesy looking restaurant which was clearly stuffed full of locals...and we thought...aha!  This is the place to eat!  And it was lovely.  Most of the waitresses were sweet Mennonite girls, and the patrons were locals and Amish men.

Amish farmers harvesting corn

cute Amish kids who were waving at us from the back of their buggy

Today's watchwords are "cute Pennsylvania towns"  which Polly and I could have easily spent the rest of our days in, the boys just wanted to go eat something.

cute steeples in cute Pennsylvania town

cute stone building in cute Pennsylvania town "Oh, look!"  says Sparky, "Another stone building, you should take another picture of it."

whizzing past a cute stone house in a cute Pennsylvania town,  I am sure you are getting the picture

Spending this day wandering aimlessly about was a sweet ending as the next two days will be pretty long travelling days back to Ottawa.  We headed as far north toward the border of Pennsylvania and New York State as our kids could tolerate (farther than they could tolerate, in fact...our mistake).  We hadn't booked a hotel, and after phoning about twelve hotels, found a somewhat underwhelming and overpriced place to sleep.  It was the last room they had even.

Apparently this run on hotels had something to do with flooding relief in Pennsylvania.  There has been a lot of quite horrific weather since we have been here, all of which we have missed, except for a couple of very peripheral stormy nights. Today we got caught in a brief but violent storm.

A storm through the windshield

the children pretending to be alarmed at the storm

  The eastern earthquake that caused such a stir actually happened while we were in the air flying to Ottawa.  Hurricane Irene ran ahead of us, and our weather has been quite lovely.  However, footprints of that hurricane were seen in several Eastern locations that we were in, mostly large trees down in cities.

Our drive through Pennsylvania today was very nice.  I am taking photos of the deciduous forest at changing latitudes, from 41 degrees to 45 which we'll reach tomorrow in Ottawa.  We made it across the border and travelled a couple of  hours along one of the "Finger Lakes" in the region below Lake Ontario.  Today we juxtaposed the life of simplicity with the life of consumerism and spent a couple of hours at a giant outlet mall in Waterloo, NY.

It was boring.

So we are overnighting in Syracuse, NY, and heading out tomorrow to stay with mammals in Ottawa again. 

Taughannock Falls, Ulysses, NY

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday, September 20th

So, first stop of ours was to get a good cup of coffee.  But that didn't happen until three in the afternoon. We headed for Emmitsburg, Maryland, to the shrine of Elizabeth Anne Seton, first American to be canonized.  The shrine was beautiful, and the school house she worked in (the first free Catholic school in America) is still there and used as a retreat house.  This place is also a site on the Civil War Trail (a series of significant Civil War sites) because Mother Seton's sisters, after her death, nursed thousands of soldiers wounded in a battle in Emmitsburg during the Civil War.

Emmitsburg lies just south of the Mason-Dixon line, which separated the northern states who were trying to abolish slavery from the southern states trying to defend slavery. In this case, Pennsylvania was the northern (yankee) state, and Maryland a southern (confederate) state.  A political hotbed to be sure. Ultimately, the Civil war battles moved just north of Emmitsburg across the line into Gettysburg where a three day battle raged. It cost 50,000 lives of soldiers, and was the costliest battle in the Civil War.

The Gettysburg battle was one of the turning points in the Civil War, and the Confederate army had to reconsider it's decision to take the fighting north of the Mason-Dixon. 

This was our next stop, just twenty minutes north of the Shrine.  The death of so many soldiers who were buried temporarily, or just left lying on the field at Gettysburg induced the Pennsylvania governor at the time to purchase land for the purpose of a proper burial ground for those who gave their lives for the noble cause of freedom for all.

monument erected where the Gettysburg address was given

At the dedication of this cemetery, when most of the bodies of soldiers had been exhumed and moved from the Gettysburg battlefield, President Lincoln was asked to say, "a few appropriate words."  Here he gave his profound speech, now known as one of the greatest speeches in American history, the Gettysburg Address.  Read it here, or listen to it...I recommend the reading by Johnny Cash. 

So, we eventually wind our way toward Lancaster, PA the county that is noted for its Amish and Mennonite communities.

The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and George Washington

Planned our Sunday to attend Mass at the National Shrine at noon on Sunday on our way out of DC.  Apparently this is the fourth largest church in the world, which I did not believe for one minute, until I saw it.  This shrine was built, with the enthusiastic support of the Vatican, in the early 1900's.  The director of the Catholic University of America was the man behind the shrine, and it shares the property with the campus.

Some photos of this stunning basilica.

the ceiling is all mosaic, as are the stations and artwork in the church

Our Mother of Good Counsel, patroness of our homeschool group

And this is for you, E.W.  friend of Scout:

beautiful Virginia town and country

But, as much fun as we had in DC, it was time to head a little more south for a little more adventure.  A week or so ago, we had decided to cut a couple of things we had tentatively planned, which I am grateful for, as it gave us more time to explore the places we were in.  The things we cut were going further into the heart of Virginia, and Philadelphia, primarily.  There is so much to do, and so much to see it is really hard to pick and choose.

But, we did dip down into Virgina just a little to Mount Vernon. We knew we were in the South, as grits, biscuits and gravy comprised a new part of our breakfast buffet.

This is the family home of George and Martha Washington, which was pronounced the first national historic site in the US.  The Mansion, and surrounding plantation land has been preserved and turned into a living museum, with costumed interpreters who take on characters to answer questions on the visit here.  This kind of museum has been a huge hit for our kids, and they were completely absorbed in George Washington and life on the plantation.

Getting smarter as we move along on the journey, we planned A Whole Day at this living museum, and very glad we did.  There are acres and acres and acres and ACRES of land to walk along the Potomac River, including gardens, wharf, yard, plantation, slave quarters, and all the various occupations that were at the estate, including blacksmith, clerk, kitchen staff, shoemaker and the like, the Washington's tombs, museum, interpretive center.  We took the behind the scenes tour of the movie "National Treasure Two," which was partly filmed here at Mount Vernon, and were privy to some areas of the estate not on the regular tour.
The Washington's special experimental garden

the back of the mansion, overlooking the Potomac River

servant's quarters

George Washington was a genius.  While he was a successful General, and first president of the United States after the Revolutionary War, he would call himself first and foremost a farmer.  He approached farming scientifically, and with the mind of a businessman.

Part of his farming included building up his soil to increase production, and making use of the natural fertilizer at hand.  Thought this might be of interest to you, Mr. D.

The votes are starting to be put forth as to What Our Favourite Part of the Trip Has Been.  We still have a few days to go, but this is clearly a sign that spare moments are spent thinking about what it will be like to home again.

After leaving a very fun day at Mount Vernon, our trip has taken a turn.  Literally.  We headed northwest, to a little town called Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.  Now, that means that today we went through Virginia, back through DC, into Virginia again, stepped over the border of West Virginia to go to Harper's Ferry, and then back into Maryland.  That's crazy, don't you think?  But all that took about an hour. So it wasn't too bad.  Our soul purpose for going to this cute little town was because Sparky thought it was really super important to see the Shenandoah River because....We Really Like That Song.

Shenandoah River from the car

So we were all happy, and he played the song.  We are staying tonight in a town called, um...Hagerstown. Um...Maryland. It had the nearest hotel to Harper's Ferry.  It is quite dark as we arrive, and we are tired.  Bedtime and tomorrow we head to Emmitsburg, Gettysburg (we hope to blast through those) and then on to Lancaster County, which is the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Amish-ville.  So excited.  I'll bring you some pickled stuff.

Except Mrs. D.  I'll bring you some Vodka, like you asked. 

More photos coming tonight. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

September 16th. It's my Birthday in DC. And the next day, too.

What a great day mom had.  We went out for breakfast, we went to the National Art Gallery again, saw some of the sights from a tour bus so we know where we want to go tomorrow.  Went to the Natural History Museum.  Please note.  In the mammal part of the museum, it says that mammals nourish their young from their mammary glands.  So, you women who are concerned about nursing in public, even the Natural History Museum is acknowledging that you are a mammal and therefore this is how you feed your young.  In public or not.

Huckleberry at the Postal Museum

see?  told ya

We hung out at the White House for a while.  Sparky was sure if we hung out long enough that something exciting would happen.  But nothing did really.  Then we walked past the Starbucks that the Obamas probably slip over to to get coffee on Sunday mornings.

 they let me through the gate just for a quick minute to snap this...just kidding,
I would have been shot

cute family at the White House

A work of "art" in DC

 We then did some other stuff.  It was fun.  I just can't remember what it was.  Went for a swim, had dinner, then Sparky took me out to an Irish pub (Irish pubs are in every single city we have been in, BTW) with a singer/guitarist/Irishy kind of guy.  Very fun. 
Here is a interesting bit of trivia.  A few years back, a large restoration project was funded for the original American flag.  13,000,000 dollars was donated by Ralph Lauren for this purpose.

I learned that today.  Sparky and the boys and Rosebud went to the aquarium today.  Polly and I went back to that darned Art Museum.  Man they have a lot of art there.  We met up again at the National Archives, and, being Canadians, we took a quick glance at the Declaration of Independence and beetled out of there.  We really just wanted to see where that part of National Treasure was filmed.  The Declaration was pretty interesting too.

National Archives Building

The Capitol Building, seen from almost anywhere you are in DC

 We spent the afternoon seeing some monuments.   DC is totally monumentville.  There is a monument for every notable person and every notable event in American history.  The most impressive we visited today was the Lincoln Memorial.  And I will tell you this.  I hope Mr. Lincoln is happy about it.  This is one impressive monument.  Like a whole park and a whole small sized Coliseum and an Ozymandius-sized statue all in one.

I could tell you quite a bit about monuments, but I'm not going to. 

 A couple of shots from the Museum of Natural History.

Easter Island Guy