Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Williamsburg in the Fall: People

Although the things at Colonial Williamsburg are very interesting, they are all kind of flat without the people of CW. We probably get more enjoyment out of striking up a conversation with any of the CW interpreters or guides than any other aspect of our visits. Here are a few people we ran into this time.

We were surprised in our first visit to the Palace this fall to find Thomas Jefferson (portrayed by Bill Barker) waiting to greet us in the ballroom. Since he had lived in this building (or the original Palace of which this is a recreation) as governor of Virginia, he shared some of his thoughts on the building and its importance to him. I think he still prefers Monticello.

Another former governor of Virginia is Patrick Henry. We caught up with him in the grounds north of the Palace gardens where he had gathered a crowd for a short address. I think Richard Schumann does an excellent job portraying Henry, and I make it a goal to listen to him speak at least once each time we visit CW. When I took the photograph above, he was answering questions from the audience and remarking how inconceivable it would be for any of those that had just thrown off the shackles of tyranny to replace it with the burden of a large federal government.

We enjoyed classical guitar music at the St. George Tucker House courtesy of this able musician. His instrument is a 12-string reproduction of a guitar once owned by Marie Antoinette (which only had 5 strings). The black and white designs visible on the body and headstock are inlaid ebony and camel bone since ivory is protected now, and camel bone is very similar. The back of the guitar was even more intricate than the front.

Our family visits the Millinery many times on a typical trip to CW, and we always find the tailors and milliners there to be exceptional conversationalists in all things sewing related. Mark Hutter was found in his usual spot constructing a very red wool suit that he planned to wear at a CW function illustrating proper 18th century table manners. Even under the stress of a tight schedule, he was as engaging and insightful as always. Notice the bundle of fabric-covered buttons in the basket in the foreground.

As the apprentice in the tailor shop, Neal Hurst does whatever needs to be done, and at the moment that means helping on Mark's very red suit. Neal was sporting a very dapper new waistcoat that is peeking out from under his frock coat. I believe he said the milliners did the embroidery for him. Click on the image so you can zoom in and appreciate the buttons on the waistcoat as well as the buttons on the frock coat. Even though his apprenticeship will be finished in less than a year, Neal said he intends to stay on at CW as trusty sidekick to Mark Hutter.

Miss Janae and Miss Doris fill the mantua maker roles of the establishment, and are always busy on some beautiful ladies garment. This gown was scheduled to appear at the same function Mr. Hutter was working toward, so these ladies were also working on a tight schedule. Miss Janae shared that CW informed them that a gown of a certain formality was required for this function, so she suggested they replicate a gown she had seen in a museum collection. This required access to study the garment, and specially made fabric to match the original. I think these ladies enjoy making dream gowns on a regular basis, especially when someone else is covering the expenses.

Last, but not least, is our good friend, Cookie Baker. While not an employee of CW, her sons are employed as fifers in the Senior Fife and Drum Corps. We enjoyed worshipping with Cookie and her family at St. Stephen Lutheran Church on Sunday, and then we rendezvoused two other times through the week. She is the quintessential "fifer mom", showing up with camera at all the marches of the Corps, and I fear she may experience some withdrawal when her youngest son, Thomas, graduates from the Corps. Until then, we look forward to sharing many more marches with her.

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Williamsburg in the Fall: Details, aka Things You Won't Find at Our House

One thing I like about the 301 acres of Colonial Williamsburg is that there are lots of details to observe all over the place. Here are a few we noticed on our latest trip that you are unlikely to find at our house anytime soon.

A porcelain doll sitting on an embroidered blanket. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that doll is about 250 years old. What really caught my eye on this tour through the Palace is that the doll had been sitting on the other side of the room just a few days before. Freaky!

Purple toile bed canopy. This canopy has been hanging over the bed in the master bedroom in the Palace since 1981, but that doesn't make the images on the fabric any less intricate or interesting.

Cherry close stool. At least I think the wood is cherry. At any rate, I've never used a toilet that had an ornate back and arms like this one -- nor legs for that matter! For your information, this piece of furniture was about 20 feet behind a rail impeding access to it, lest anyone try to get a closer look.

Portrait of Queen Charlotte, or as she's described at the bottom of the painting, "Her Most Excellent Majesty Charlotte Queen of Great Britain &c" (which I believe means "etc.") Her ears look very interesting....

Harpsichord made in 1770. We don't even have a harpsichord, let alone an antique one. Lily has played several at CW in the past, and she isn't fond of the short keys and light touch. Nonetheless, live harpsichord music in the house might sound rather pleasant.

Incredible window moulding and decoration. I don't think our house is the right style for something like this, but it sure is cool. Somebody had quite an imagination.

I'm not sure what you call all this ornateness around the door, but this entrance looks important even without the king's medallion at the top. I think it took awhile to put all those pieces together.

Beef tongue on a platter. The chef that prepared this dish referred to it as the tastiest dish on the table (which also included chicken, turkey, pumpkin, broccoli, chocolate tart, and other dishes that looked at least halfway appetizing). Call me a 21st century food snob, but that tongue lying there does little to make me hungry.

18th century barometer. I don't know anything about the technology behind this device, but I'm sure it has a fascinating story and it looks really cool.

Silk Satin wedding dress and stomacher made in 1756 (stomacher is detached at the upper right). We were fortunate to be in town when several study drawers at the DeWitt Wallace Museum were opened to the public for viewing of the clothing stored within. Each of the drawers had a glass cover that prevented greasy fingers from touching the antique garments, but that glass also made a handy camera rest for photographing small details. Lily recorded quite a few interesting things, and I'm sure it's just a matter of time before we see some of them appear in her reproductions.

Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Williamsburg in the Fall: Buildings

We were blessed to spend four full days back at Colonial Williamsburg recently, and we enjoyed the opportunity to see the city in its fall dress since we've only ever seen it in the spring. Instead of taking you through our visit chronologically, we'll present the highlights in a topical manner, starting with several buildings around town.

The Courthouse. Home to the James City County Court and the Williamsburg Hustings Court. Visitors with passes can participate in mock trials here, while everyone is welcome to place their neck, hands, and feet in the stocks and pillory to the east of the building. The interpreter on the porch said that's a cozy place to sit on sunny fall and winter days.

The Governor's Palace. Even though this home is dinky compared to many English manor homes of the colonial age, it was the most impressive in colonial Williamsburg 280 years ago just as it is today. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the reconstruction of the Palace, special tours focusing on the reconstruction are offered several times each week until the end of the year.

The Capitol. This building is also a reconstruction to honor the period from 1699 to 1780 when Williamsburg was the capital of the colony and state of Virginia. 75th anniversary tours are also being offered in this building until the end of the year, and I found that tour very interesting (although I think I would enjoy almost any tour that combines history and architecture).

The Peyton Randolph House. The portion of the house closest to the camera was built in 1715 and served as the home of the Randolph family for many years including the periods when Mr. Randolph served as Speaker of Virginia's House of Burgesses and as President of the Continental Congresses. It's likely many of Virginia's founding fathers visited this home.

King's Arms Tavern. I included this one since we were fortunate enough to eat here one evening during our stay. All the entrees we tried were delicious, and the candlelit ambiance was a perfect complement to the food.

These are actually outbuildings on the property of a modest home on Nicholson Street, but I think they are close to the definition of quaint with their dormers, shutters, chimneys, roof finial, and ogee-curved roof. Kinda makes you want to put one in your own back yard.

I know I included a photo of the new Coffeehouse in my posts last May, but I figured including it again now is appropriate since this building will open to the public on Friday, November 20. It is intended as an interpretive building illustrating the style and purpose of a colonial coffeehouse, but rumor has it they will also serve coffee, tea, and chocolate. I wouldn't get my hopes up for a latte or espresso though.

We were a bit disappointed to be in town so close to the grand opening and yet not be able to experience it. Hopefully we won't be disappointed the next time we come to town. Thanks for visiting, we'll share more Williamsburg highlights again soon.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

More NEPA highlights

Since we enjoy hiking and natural beauty, the Madeiras introduced us to a portion of a beautiful state park not far from their home. We weren't prepared for the rigorous 6 mile hiking trail, but the picturesque 100 yard hike seemed just right for early November.

Follow this sign and you can't go wrong.

Tim showed me where he and his brothers jumped off the rock into the stream when they were boys. Evidently the park rangers frown on that activity nowadays.

This view from downstream shows significant flow for this time of the year.

Tim couldn't resist demonstrating his acrobatic prowess 12 feet off the surface of the water.

Our entire group for the hike, minus the photographer, of course. Poor Rachel wasn't feeling well enough to join us.

Fortunately we got to spend some time with Rachel later in the day. Notice Rachel's soothing effect on Zoe the dog.

Another highlight of the day was the Chocolate Lava cake and ice cream for dessert. Chocolate seems to be a theme when we're with the Madeiras.

Another activity that involved Tim, his dad, his nephew D.J., and me was the construction of this fortress. Tim appreciates a shelter for the plow so he can attach and detach it with minimal snow around the coupling. In the past, he has built less permanent structures based on the fiberglass roof piece, but decided to make a stout enclosure this year. We used 4x4s nestled in concrete porch piers with 2x6 supports between. Eventually, Tim will add something to the three walls to keep the snow from blowing under the roof. In case you hadn't recognized it, the roof is from a pop-up camper (in true Red Green fashion), and similar items can be found near the dumpster of most camper dealerships. I think Tim's "plow garage" will be the envy of the neighborhood and he may have to keep it locked up so no one steals it!

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On the Road Again...

The past 10 days have found us on the road again, first in Williamsburg, Virginia, and lately in Northeast Pennsylvania. Our friends, the Madeiras, graciously invited us to stay with them so we could experience life in Madeiraville first hand. Only a few of our memories can be captured on a blog, but at least you'll see a bit of what we experienced.


The Madeiras have been supporters of WRGN for many years, so a visit to the radio station's headquarters was high on our list of priorities.


This tabletop display proves that Mr. Madeira is recognized as one of the voices of the station, and we were privileged to hear him record his Friday afternoon music show. The Updykes founded the station 25 years ago and God has obviously blessed their dedication and innovation.

Here's Tim describing the equipment in the production studio in terms that us radio-ignorant people can understand. In this picture I believe he was in the process of explaining that the station is all digital now, and doesn't use the tape reels obvious to his right.

This is the broadcasting studio including all sorts of electronic equipment, much of which is controlled and coordinated by software that Mr. Updyke has written. This image is also evidence that Tim was made for radio broadcasting: look how wide he opens his mouth when he talks -- no mumbling for him!

Mrs. Updyke has been known to review books on the air, so publishers are prone to send her advance copies to generate publicity. What does one do with all those books? WRGN organizes them in a library complete with Mr. Updyke's software that helps you search and locate items. In addition to books, they also have DVDs, and for a small $5 membership fee, families can borrow items to their heart's content. Over 14,000 items are currently available.

WRGN's Share-A-Thon starts on November 18, so the staff has started organizing the donated goodies that will be used as thank you items for contributors.

The station is also fortunate to receive the support of local artist Sue Hand. This painting from Sue reveals what the call letters stand for: We Radiate Good News.

Speaking of Sue Hand, we were also privileged to visit her studio later that same day. This is the only image I have of the building, partly because it is difficult inside the building to actually capture all that goes on inside there. One can purchase Sue's original art here, and have it matted and framed by Sue's husband Joe in the same building. In addition, one can also purchase art supplies and take art lessons, taught by Sue herself. Sue's art can be found in countless locations around Northeast PA, and even in some private collections in Central Illinois.

I hope to post more highlights from our trip soon, so stop back soon, and thanks for visiting!