Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Soccer Class 2015

Jacob and Lucy took soccer lessons for a couple of months just to try it out. Jacob had done a bit of football back at his English school so he had some skills already. The children were both a little reluctant to go but had a great time when they were there.

The coaches started classes with huddles where they'd discuss issues and get the kids fired up. During the first lesson, the kids had to pick a name for the group. After several recommendations and votes, they chose "Lightening Lions."

Soccer practice huddle

The lessons were a great mixture of different games that either taught basic skills or let the kids practice skills. One game was "Red light, green light and more." "Red light" meant stopping with your ball (i.e. putting one foot on the ball and standing still). "Green light" meant go at a regular speed. "Yellow light" meant dribbling along slowly. "Blue light" meant reverse direction. "Purple light" meant to pass the ball to someone else. Lots of skills were practiced when the instructors shouted out a new color--it's tough to remember so many different colors!

Yellow light

Red light

"On the line" and "Pacman" are games where the children have to dribble their balls along lines on the floor. Being a school gym, plenty of straight and curved lines for basketball provided plenty of options to move around. "Pacman" includes a couple of kids who are the "ghosts" trying to steal the balls from the other children.

Crowded lines at the beginning of Pacman

Less crowded pack doing Pacman

"Sharks and minnows" was another popular "steal the ball" game. At the beginning, one child is the shark standing in the middle of the gym. All the other boys and girls are at one end of the gym with their balls. When the coaches say, "Go minnows!" they have cross the gym without their ball getting stolen by the shark. Whoever's ball is stolen becomes a shark for the next round. Eventually all the kids are turned to sharks!

Crossing the floor

"Hit the coach" is a chance to get back at the coaches, though they were pretty good at dodging.

Getting ready to go after the coaches

They set up obstacle courses as well so the kids could navigate around various objects. Lucy liked this a lot.

Setting up an obstacle

The last two or three classes included games of soccer. The coaches had to remind the kids of several things: (1) which team they are on, (2) which goal they are protecting, (3) which goal they are trying to score on. The games generally were packs of kids chasing the ball around the floor. The children without the ball would shout "pass the ball!" The child with the ball would try their hardest to score a goal while ignoring all that pesky shouting. By the end of the class, some players started passing--progress was made!

Coach as goalie

Jacob reports that the kids play soccer at recess, so the lessons were definitely worth it (for him).

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories by Zack Whedon et al.

Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories by Zack Whedon et al.

This graphic novel fills in a little bit of the world of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, a web short created by Joss Whedon and friends during the writers' strike of 2008. The short is entertaining and creative, showing the life of Dr. Horrible, a villain who wants to move up in the world. His big aim is to join the Evil League of Evil but his evil schemes are thwarted by oafish hero Captain Hammer. He's also distracted by Penny, a beautiful young woman he's fond of. She winds up dating Captain Hammer, another thorn in Dr. Horrible's side.

The graphic novel tells several stories about different characters. Some were definitely more entertaining than others. The best story follows the Evil League of Evil as they rampage across the city while the Council of Champions is off on retreat. The stories where Penny goes on a date and Dr. Horrible remembers his origins are both interesting and fun stories. Captain Hammers PSA and Moist's origin fell flat for me.

The book is a mixed bag and only of interest if you have seen the Sing-Along Blog.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

TV Review: iZombie Pilot

iZombie Pilot Episode created by Diane Ruggiero and Rob Thomas

I read the first twenty or so of the iZombie comics back in 2010. They have an interesting premise: a girl named Gwen dies and comes back to life as a zombie. She stays normal as long as she has brains to eat, otherwise she begins to go feral. Happily, Gwen works as a grave digger at a "green" cemetery where they don't embalm the bodies before burial, so she has access to plenty of fresh, untainted brains. Whenever she eats brains, she has visions of that person's life. Since she is a bit of a do-gooder, she helps out the next of kin with whatever problems the dead person remembers (everything from cats in trees to murder most foul). Gwen has a crew of supernatural friends--the ghost of a girl from the 1950s who hangs out at the cemetery and a guy who is a were-terrier--who form a sort of Scooby Gang to help her. Vampires figure large in the early stories as well as a mummy. The mythology of the comic is fairly well thought out and the comic is clearly popular enough that was transformed into a television series.

The TV show has a girl named Olivia ("Liv" for short, haha) Moore who is a star medical student with a hunky boyfriend and not much else in her life. She reluctantly goes to a party on a boat where an drug-induced zombie plague breaks out. She is turned but still has control of herself as long as she eats brains. She dumps the boyfriend and the medical career for an assistant job at the Coroner's Office, where she has access to plenty of fresh, untainted brains. She gets the visions like in the comic books which help the police investigate crimes (the morgue is full of murder victims, after all). Her supervisor in the morgue finds out about her condition and is amazingly supportive (both keeping her secret and working on a cure for her condition). There's no sign of any other supernatural beings so far.

I'll admit a laughed a few times during the show and the plot was enjoyable enough, though not as quirky and fun as the comics. None of the twists in the story were surprises and I felt that she had too much voice-over commentary. Maybe with the setup done that will be toned down in future episodes. The cast is charming enough. I'll watch a few more episodes to see how it goes.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Montpelier Mansion--Interior

The interior tour of Montpelier Mansion starts in the East/South Wing. This room was originally the kitchen but has been turned into a meeting room available for rentals. The fireplace was originally in the center of the room to make cooking easier. The chandelier is a Waterford and modeled after an old pattern.

East/South Wing

New(er) fireplace

Leaving the wing, visitors travel through a hallway (called a "hyphen") to the main house. Naturally the kitchen hall leads to the dining room!

Dining room

Desserts and things

The fireplace

The cupboard

Across the hall is the Lady's Chamber, where Anne Snowden managed the household affairs. In addition to her desk there is a four poster bed on loan from the Baltimore Museum of Art. The wing back chair has a slip cover with a popular (back then) peacock design.

Lady's desk

Four poster bed

Another view of the bed

Wing back chair

Right next to the chair is a small staircase that was used by servants as the back stairs. It was turned into closet space for modern convenience.

Back stairs

The central passageway has the main entrance to the house and is lined with chairs that would be moved to rooms as needed. The area was used for entertaining (extra dining area or dance floor) or a sleeping area in hot weather since it has good cross-ventilation.

Central Passageway

On the other side of the passageway is the Parlor, a sort of family room where the family played games, read books, or played music. During fancy dinners, the ladies would retire here for tea and gossip while the men stayed in the dining room with their cigars and brandy.

The map over the fireplace is noted in an 1831 inventory of the house. It's the 1816 Shelton-Kensett map of the United States.

Parlor fireplace with map


The central passage also leads upstairs to the second floor.

Upper hallway

Detail from the molding

The Bed Chamber is where the back stairs leads and was probably used for guests.

Bed chamber

Children's toys

Top of the stairs!

Across the hall is the Snowden Family Bedroom, which includes original furniture and a photo of a Snowden wedding gown from 1885.

Bed with trundle

Sitting area

Hope chest

Photo of the wedding gown

Family coat of arms

The cool floor pattern

Also upstairs is a Hands-on-Room, where children can dress up and try out various items, including toys, from the 1800s.

A sample desk for kids

Lucy pretends to have a snack

Jacob tries a bit of everything

Lucy tries wooden shoes

Loom (not for trying)

Back downstairs, our tour led through the other hyphen into the Library/North Wing. The brass fox is an ash tray and is almost as cool as the corner chair.

Brass fox

Bicentennial-era chair

The library was originally a store room and plantation offices. It was refurbished in the early 20th century as a library. It contains displays on the history of the area and is also available for rental.



The gold gilt French mantel clock dates from the 1840s.

Mantel clock

The room is lined with a variety of portraits from the family or that the family collected. Sadly, some are slightly obscured by the displays.

A portrait

The house was impressive to us but Jacob's main comment was "it's so small." The houses from the late 1700s and early 1800s in England were much larger and fancier, probably because the people were wealthier and had more resources and artisans. Jacob was not convinced by our arguments. We'll have to take him to Mount Vernon or Monticello to see a grand home from back then!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Montpelier Mansion--Exterior

Montpelier Mansion was built in the 1780s by Major Thomas Snowden, a wealthy landowner in Prince George's County. The estate originally covered 9000 acres including tobacco fields and barns, slave quarters, and workshops for various craftsmen. Snowden partially owned the iron works on the Patuxent River. The family owned the estate until 1890. It went through various hands and various reductions until it was given to the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission in 1961.

The house is an example of the "five-part Georgian" style with a central building connected by two "hyphens" to two wings.

Montpelier Mansion

Just off of the house is the colonial revival herb garden. It's guarded by a picket fence and follows the plan of early 1800s gardens, including the oyster shell chaff pathways.

Colonial revival herb garden

Across the lawn is the "Belvedere" or summer house where the ladies would take their tea or the children would shelter from rain during the summer.

Summer house

The Carriage House was originally the stables for the estate, later the garage. Now it has an exhibit on dinosaurs in Maryland, including information about Dinosaur Park which we had previous visited.

Carriage house

Fun dinosaur exhibit

The more educational side of the exhibit

Rebuilding a t-rex

The Art Center includes several galleries and artists' studios. We didn't go in on this visit but maybe in the future.

Art Center

The next post goes inside the mansion!