Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ponch and Jon vs. Zombies

We hate zombies, but love our hair!
The California Highway Patrol and Office of Traffic Safety is kicking off National Distracted Driving Awareness Month with PSAs featuring zombies. The justification?
A study by Carnegie Mellon University found the act of talking on a cellphone can reduce more than 35 percent of the brain activity needed for driving.
"The message is one-third of your brain is not there because you're doing that on your phone while you're driving, you really become a zombie," OTS' Chris Murphy said. "There's inattention blindness that you don't even know what you're not seeing."
Yet another way to be turned into a zombie (or catch "inattention blindness" which sounds really bad but also really curable)! Beware or it can happen to you. You're next, you're next, you're next...

See the full article here. Here is the video:

Friday, March 30, 2012

Park Across from the Hotel

One cool thing about our first hotel in Maryland was the playground across the street. Harmans Park features a baseball field, tennis court, basketball court, picnic tables, and walking trails. All of that was of no interest to us because we went for the playground!

We went several times since it was so close and the weather was so nice. Auntie Rosemary came with us several times as well since she did a lot of hanging out with the niece and nephew. Here what we found:
Jacob walks the walk

The boy in the general store told me that the playground was a factory where they made medicine. They'd squash bugs, then they'd juice the bugs, then they'd make the medicine. Pretty creative if a little scary.

Slides are always popular

Lucy has fun trying to bury herself

The toughest climber at the playground

Lucy loved the swing and did not want to give it up

Jacob did get a turn

So yeah, there are no pictures of Auntie Rosemary. Sorry, you'll have to play on the equipment next time!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our American Hotel I

One of the things I didn't mention in the last post on our trip to America (I do try to leave the boring parts out) is that I took the hotel shuttle with Lucy and Jacob while my wife picked up the rental car and drove there. We didn't have car seats for the kids. The UK car seats are approved for the EU but not for America. We probably could have gotten away with them but then we'd have to lug them through the airport. We'd left our American car seats with friends and we hoped for a delivery that day.

Yes, that is a shoe on Lucy's hand--don't ask.
Imagine our surprise walking into the hotel room and discovering our American car seats. Our good friend Teresa dropped them off along with some groceries (including peanut butter and raisins!) to get us started. The hotel was supposed to be a suite room with a kitchen, but it was basically a wet bar--small fridge, microwave, sink, coffee machine. We couldn't make tortellini but we did have food to get us going, including much needed caffeinated sodas.

On the plus side, the hotel had a great indoor pool with a hot tub. We used that every night we stayed. The kids loved it. Jacob played "cliffhanger" around the edge of the big pool. He'd hold on with his hands and inch his way around the perimeter. We used to play that because he wasn't tall enough to stand up even in the shallow end. On this trip he discovered that he could stand in the three-foot-deep water just fine. He was very happy about that.

One evening, just to mix things up, I decided to play "toe-hanger," floating with my toes hanging on to the edge. It worked okay for short distances but was really taxing. The challenge was to keep myself from drifting out into the middle. It was good for a laugh--possibly the most important part of it.

Lucy mostly liked the hot tub. She sat dangling her feet in it. One night the water was extra foamy. She started moving the foam from the hot tub to the main pool. I'm not sure if she was trying to warm up the big pool or just share the wealth. She did come occasionally into the big pool. Once she was on the stairs pushing my feet so I'd drift out into the water. She was holding onto the metal tube railing but slipped and started to twist around. She looked really worried. The life guard popped out of her chair and wiped out on the wet concrete floor trying to get to her. I didn't have my footing, so I had trouble getting to Lucy too. She hung on just long enough for me to pick her up. All ended well. I think it was the most excitement the lifeguard had in a long time. Except for one night, we were the only swimmers in two weeks!

The hotel houses mostly business people on travel. The area near BWI airport is a sort of office-opolis. One morning at breakfast, a guy came in and said, "The Aerotek bus is ready to go!" Immediately 95% of the people got up and left. Lucy said, "Where's everyone going?" One of the stragglers heard her and laughed. The mass exodus happened every morning the first week we were there.

The other fun thing at breakfast was the waffle makers. All of the food was buffet-style except for the two waffle irons. Lucy loved making fresh waffles every morning. So did I. I thought about getting a waffle iron back here in the UK but that would take away that special treat when traveling. Plus, we'd have to have strawberries and whipped cream in the house all the time.

The other cool thing about our hotel was the playground just across the road, but that will be fodder for the next blog post (which, as you may guess, will have a lot more pictures).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Flying to America

We recently went back to America for some work meetings and to see friends and family that we hadn't seen in over eight months. Our flight took us through Newark, New Jersey, to Baltimore Washington International airport.

The flight from England to America was rather nice. The plane had touch-screen panels on the back of the chairs so we could access a variety of entertainment during the flight. The children enjoyed the flight update channel the most. We could see how fast the plane was going and how much farther we had to go.

The system also had movies, TV shows, games, and music. The movie selection was quite diverse, featuring over 75 choices. I was able to watch The Adventures of Tintin, My Week With Marilyn, and The Muppets. Tintin was an exciting adventure film but the pseudo-realistic animation made the cast look unpleasantly like characters from the uncanny valley. It was very distracting; too bad they didn't try to mimic Herge's style in the comics. The action sequences were great. There was a little too much gunfire in it for Jacob's taste, so I'm not sure it's little kid-friendly. My Week With Marilyn was entertaining and not as slight as I was led to believe by our favorite BBC movie critic Mark Kermode. It was not a deep movie but did have some thought and charm to it. The Muppets was fun all around, really capturing the spirit of the old show. I think the kids would love it too. Maybe it will be a birthday present for Lucy?

Jacob and Lucy watched Cars a few times. They also enjoyed visiting the potty and getting drinks and food during the flight. We had packed some ham sandwiches but never got around to eating them since the in-flight food was good (who would have guessed?). It was also plentiful since the children barely ate theirs, meaning mom and dad ate a meal and a half each time.

The airport provided plenty of challenges. At the end of the flight we filled out our customs forms. My wife was honest enough to admit we had the sandwiches. When we walked through customs, they seized our sandwiches! It was especially sad since the bread was homemade and delicious.

The second challenge at the Newark Airport was Lucy pretending to be a suitcase. I wound up carrying her quite a long ways. If only she had a handle. I even threatened to put her through an x-ray machine, but that didn't phase her.

The third challenge was going back through security to get on our domestic flight. Just as we approached the front of the line, I discovered that my wife's ticket was for a different plane from what the rest of us were booked on. We approached the TSA agent, who told us that each adult needed their own ID and ticket. We hadn't sorted that out so she told us quite sharply to step aside and get sorted out before we could get back in line. I thought she was rather rude and almost took her name and badge number to submit a complaint. We had more important problems with which to deal.

After passing security, we found an airline desk to ask about switch Mommy onto our plane. No empty seat was available on our flight, so Angie raced through the airport to make her flight. Her flight was supposed to take off in two minutes. I had little hope that she would make it. Luckily her flight had mechanical problems (if that could be described as lucky). It was delayed long enough for her to make the flight. She left an hour before we did.

Jacob and Lucy were okay with mommy going off on her own. We had an hour to kill. I took them to the bathroom which Jacob appreciated. Walking back toward the gate, they both somehow got their hands all dirty. Normally I would be annoyed by that (and I was a little annoyed), but here was an opportunity to go back to the bathroom and wash hands (and waste more time). The hand driers weren't too noisy so it would be no problem for Jacob.

After our second bathroom trip we went to a coffee shop and bought some cookies and juice for a snack and to kill still more time. It worked quite well. We only had ten minutes till boarding time. At first they boarded first class passengers and gold members of the frequent flier program. I gathered up my children. I think the lady saw us and announced the next set of rows and "families with small children." We headed down the ramp to the plane.

On the plane, I had to decide how to situate the kids. The plane had two seats on each side. We were in the same row which meant either I sit with one child and subject the other person in our row to the other child or the kids could sit together. Rather than force a stranger into babysitting one of my children, I had Jacob and Lucy together while I watched them from across the aisle. This scheme worked fairly well. This plane didn't have entertainment on board. The kids had their little backpacks with toys. Lucy flipped through the airline magazine from the seat back. She tore it up a bit, which wasn't so bad. Then she spilled her orange juice all over it. I would have felt guilty except they always announce on flights how the magazines are yours to keep.

We landed without any problems and found mommy at the baggage claim. Reunited, we headed off to the hotel to rest up for new adventures, including the conquest of jet lag. More later!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sleepless, Mindless, Blogless

I swear I'll start blogging about our America trip soon...soon as there's a free evening!

Jacob and Lucy fell asleep last night between 10:30 and 11. Tonight it was between 10 and 10:30, so things are moving in the right direction. Hopefully Wednesday will be over the hump day for us.

Stephen Mangan/Dirk Gently
Not having energy to write a blog tonight (which is a nifty little paradox), I watched the third episode of the BBC's Dirk Gently TV series. Yes, it's based on Douglas Adams's less famous novels about a holistic detective investigating whatever comes his way. I read them back in the day and barely remember any details from them. The show was pretty entertaining, though starting with the third episode meant that it took ten minutes to figure out who was who in the cast of character. It was more than amusing enough. The twists were nice and not predictable and I laughed several times. I'd have watched earlier episodes, but they've all expired on the BBC's iPlayer. Hopefully they will show up again in the future and I can watch them. And yes, the series was only three episodes long. I think that's pretty common on UK broadcasting. If you run across it at a video rental store (if you can still find one) or live streaming, definitely check it out. Silly but fun, which is what we love here.

Maul a Zombie in a Mall in the UK

Live (so to speak) zombie fighting/surviving experiences are available in the UK! Zed Events is hosting opportunities for the ultimate experience in grueling horror:
Have you ever wondered if you had what it took to survive in the Zombie apocalypse? Zed Events provide the most realistic ‘Zombie Survival Horror’ experience days in the UK. On a Zed event, you will get to live and breathe the zombie apocalypse first hand. This is not a ghost train or a boring on-rails 5 minute ride. You are on foot fighting for survival. This as real as it gets!
You can try to survive in a manor house (located between Manchester and Liverpool) or the mall (in Reading, though availability is subject to when the mall owners decide to demolish it). They do give you a gun (with the training to use it), but it shoots plastic pellets and you don't get too much ammo. Strategy and stealth are required here.

Watch their video:

We may try this out just to see how the zombie actors are protected from overzealous amateurs. By "we" I of course mean me. The kids are too young and the wife is too squeamish. I fear I'll be taken out early...does that mean I get to continue as a zombie? I'm used to that by now.

Monday, March 26, 2012

So Nice We Did It Twice

Stolen from Laugh It Out
I recently reported on Daylight Savings in America and was a little duplicitous. We were actually in America and experienced Daylight Savings as jet lag savings. Lucy had adjusted somewhat to East Coast time but Jacob kept getting up at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. He was slowly working his way to later times but made a huge boost when the clocks changed. We were soon on local time, to the relief of all.

Now we have experienced the time change again in England after flying home on a red-eye flight the day before. Saturday was a tough day that included a long afternoon nap and mostly normal bed time for all. The real problem happened on Sunday.

We woke up Sunday morning at 10:30 local time, figuring in the daylight savings change. That meant we weren't ready in time for 11:30 Mass (the latest morning Mass) and would have to go at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. at different parishes. We discussed it over brunch. We settled on a short nap ending at 3:30 and Mass at 5.

Then we went to Valley Gardens to enjoy the weather and stay awake for a while before nap time. We packed a picnic lunch that was lots of fun, but that's a story for a happier blog post. I will continue with the grueling horror.

We napped as planned and went to church. After church we spent some time at a nearby playground, finally heading home for a little dinner and bed time.

Dinner was okay though minimal since they'd had a potluck after Mass. Jacob didn't eat much so he had to make up for lost nutrition. Bath time, stories, and prayers all went fine. Then we tried to put the children to sleep...

Which was an epic, all night struggle. Lucy didn't want Daddy to put her to bed, so Mommy read one last story. I hung out with Jacob reading his last story. Jacob really wanted Mommy, so we switched. Lucy really, really wanted Mommy, so we switched again. By this point lights were out but no heads seemed to be in contact with pillows.

After a few more switches, Lucy decided she wanted to sleep in another room, specifically Mommy and Daddy's room. She cried. She wailed. She shouted. She got a time out. That mellowed her out a bit. She went willingly back into her room with my promise that she could lay on my lap for a while. She started to drift off. I waited to make sure she was asleep then transferred her to her bed. She woke up, started crying, and demanded to sleep in a different room. We went through an intense negotiation over a second time out. She finally acquiesced when I promised to stay with her until she fell asleep. The time was about 11:00 p.m.

I stayed with her till 12:15, when I thought she was asleep. I opened her door quietly, slipped out, shut the door. She suddenly started flopping around in bed. Within two minutes she was up and crying again. I went back in for another round of "you can sleep on me and hopefully I'll get to sneak out again later." Later turned out to be 2:30. Ugh.

Jacob was up a couple of times while I was on Lucy duty, so my wife was not free to rest either.

We got out of bed at 7 a.m. with the hope of resetting everyone's clocks. As I write (9:30 p.m.) Jacob is still not asleep and Mommy is still in with Lucy. Hopefully tonight's story will have a different ending.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Queen of England is Awesome!!

A couple from Manchester, UK, saw that Queen Elizabeth II would be in town the day of their wedding. On a lark they sent her an invitation. Turns out she was the surprise guest at the wedding last Friday! I guess she forgot to R.S.V.P. I'd forgive her for that.

Check out the story here, which quotes the bride: "Basically it was a wedding gift for us," Frances Canning told CNN affiliate ITN.

Let that be a lesson to the rest of us. If you invite someone and they don't reply, don't be surprised if they still show up!

h/t The SciFi Catholic, who had the much better blog title "...Because the Queen Rules"

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Naughts and Zeds: How Much Medicine

I've had an on again, off again cold since January 1. I finally bought some cold medicine of the Nyquil variety from the local grocery store. When I opened it up, I found the dosage instructions and saw this:

Now, where could I find a 5 ml spoon? Should I go back to the store? Maybe it's a teaspoon? I decided to experiment. I took a teaspoon from our silverware drawer and found a measuring cup. The measuring cup was no good because the smallest measure is 50 ml. I remembered that the children's Tylenol came with a little cup. I took that from the medicine cabinet and, sure enough, it had teaspoon and tablespoon measurements on it. The measurements were also given in metric, so I could see that one teaspoon roughly equals 5 ml. Rather than use their medicine cup, I used the teaspoon to take my medicine.

I'm feeling much better now. Yay for English medicine!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: The Walking Dead, Vol. 10: What We Become

The Walking Dead, Vol. 10: What We Become by Robert Kirkman

Now that the TV show is over, we'll be back to the comics for a bit!

ZPAA rating

Mid-teen and up.

Gore level

8 out of 10--Lots of zombie attacks with splattered/chopped off/blown out heads and such (standard fare in The Walking Dead); zombie spouse attacks significant other with gory results; discovery of a family that the dad killed with bloody and dessicated results still visible.

Other offensive content

Lots of bad language including f-bombs; hard stories about what people had to do to survive; acceptance of stone cold killing as okay due to the new circumstances; attempted child rape; attempted suicide; bad attitudes between people who should be on the same side; traumatic back stories of characters; complete disregard for other human lives; justification for wearing a mullet.

How much zombie mythology/content

A new threat (which I think was mentioned last issue) shows up--the zombie herd. Hundreds and thousands of zombies moving in a pack and following a pack mentality.

How much fun

Small bits of humor leak through. As I've said before, the ongoing story can only be called "fun" as a compelling drama, not as a laugh out loud yuk fest (more of a yuck fest to be sure).

Synopsis & Review

The new group of survivors is on the road to Washington. They have a couple of vehicles and some horses and are heading north hoping to find answers and safety in the nation's capital.

Tensions build between the various survivors (mostly between Rick and one of the new people, ex-military Abraham). At one point, they reach a gas station and decide to stay for a while as Rick, his son, and Abraham make a few days' trip back to Rick's hometown. The plan is to raid the police station for supplies (mostly guns and ammo). As they travel, they run into a group who try to take everything they have. The consequences are quite grim.

The main theme of this trade paperback is trust. Not just the superficial level of which characters trust which other characters. The truly interesting issue is how different characters deal with trusting themselves and their own instincts. Rick and Abraham practically come to blows several times. After a bonding moment, they share the stories of how they became hardened killers after the zombies rose. Abraham claims this is how they've survived this long. If you can't kill someone who's an obstacle to safety, you'll wind up a zombie.

Earlier, Michonne had told Rick she was glad to see him sticking up for what he thought was right regardless of the consequences for himself and others. Rick didn't feel so confident in his choices. He seems to have the proper instincts and is only doubtful because things don't turn out the way he hopes. And he is still crushed by the memory of how many people who died because of his decisions. Abraham is also crushed by memories of what happened to his family and what he had to do. He can barely control his anger at others, especially when they order him around (as Rick does when he has Abraham at gunpoint).

Dale starts to lose his trust in Rick since he sees all the trouble and death that Rick's choices have brought about. Can he abandon the group for what he thinks would be a safer way?

The book is full of intriguing questions but short on answers. Like the characters in the story, we need to figure out those answers for ourselves. Only future issues will let us know for sure.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Game Review: A Charlie Brown Christmas Game

Now that we are in the middle of Lent, what could be more incongruously festive than a Christmas board game?

This isn't just any Christmas board game. It is based on the beloved classic A Charlie Brown Christmas, which many good people watch religiously every December, along with other classics like It's a Wonderful Life and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which would probably make an awesome board game!). Does this game measure up to its classic inspiration or is it merely a cheap attempt to cash in on Snoopy's popularity?

The game follows a standard roll and move format, except you have a spinner with numbers from one to five instead of a six-sided die. The board has spaces with candy canes where players collect candy canes. Other spots have "Happy Holidays" written on them where players collect a card from the deck. The cards have a variety of actions, like "lose a turn," "spin again," "move three spaces," "collect a candy cane," "lose a candy cane," and "give a present to someone." The way to win the game is to collect three candy canes and give away three presents to other players and return to the starting point. If the player collects extra candy canes, he or she can trade in three candy canes to give a present to someone.

The game is fairly easy to learn. Both my two-year old and four-year old have played several times. And it is fun, having the spirit of giving and receiving. The board and components are nicely decorated with Schulz's art. The game doesn't take too long. Normally Jacob the four-year old will finish; Lucy doesn't quite make it to the end every time. I enjoy playing a game with them and the children's enjoyment makes me happy. I'd recommend this to any family.

Game board, box, and components for A Charlie Brown Christmas

Zombie Apocalypse Appropriateness: This game could pack down a little bit smaller though the instructions are printed on the box, so you'd have to tear that out to have everything. It is a fun game to play with kids but adults may find it boring. It won't make for much of a solitaire game, either. On the other hand, it is important not to lose track of time during the apocalypse. Don't forget about your calendar, otherwise you won't be able to celebrate the important holidays, like Christmas, Easter, and your birthday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

The front cover of this book reads, "Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius within You." (Okay, so it's really my old version of the book with the subtitle; the new edition doesn't have it) It makes the reader think it's a how-to book about writing, or, perhaps worse, a self-help book. Thankful, it's neither. The essays included in this volume (including one with the title "Zen in the Art of Writing") are Bradbury's reflections on his writing career, his inspirations, and his advice based on those experiences.

Several essays tell of his experience writing one or another book, e.g. Fahrenheit 451 (written under the demanding deadline of a dime-per-half-hour typewriter in the basement of the Los Angeles library) or Dandelion Wine (the resurfacing of his youthful experiences in Sandusky, Ohio). Scattered throughout the essays are bits and pieces of the origin of Something Wicked This Way Comes. The full story of Mr. Electrico (a carny he met as a child) gave me chills.

A lot of his inspiration comes from ideas long buried in his subconscious that bubble up when he just sits and writes about a simple word or idea, like "The Lake" or "The Old Woman." He doesn't draw so much on his experience as much as he lets it pop out of his imagination or his subconscious or his Muse or whatever you'd like to call the creative genius that lives inside. In the essay "How to Keep and Feed a Muse," he talks about how his best stories come flying out willy-nilly, almost uncontrollably, when he begins to type about a certain situation or person. Often a character follows their own path to the end of the story. Life experience often fuels these stories. Sometimes they are unexpected experiences, like those from the six months he lived in Ireland while writing Moby Dick for John Houston. More surprising are his memories from childhood, even very early childhood (like his circumcision!) that are inspirations for stories.

Bradbury's advice is rather simple but subtle and requires a certain spirit and commitment to accept. As I've mentioned, he often recommends writers to work from what they know but to let that come out spontaneously. He often uses a word association to begin (like "The Lake" or "The Old Woman") and then writes. An hour or two later, a story suddenly is completed. The trick is to be open to what comes to you. And to have lots and lots and lots of practice writing. He says he started writing a thousand words a day in his teen years and has pretty much kept it up. It was only after years of imitating other admired authors that he found his own voice when he became less self-consciously a word smith and just let stories pour out of him. A role for word-smithing comes later, but the initial genius comes unreflectively or in a fire-hose spurt that you either catch in a bottle like magic or stand back and admire but also lose when it's over. For Bradbury, being a writer means finding your inspiration, your joy, and letting it out on a page.

This book is an excellent inspiration for people who want to be better writers. The concrete examples from Bradbury's career make a fine foundation for seeing the importance of life experience and the value of commitment to the task and the openness to what comes.

SAMPLE TEXTS (because who can have just one quote from Bradbury?)

"What can we writers learn from lizards, lift from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping." [p. 13]

"Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich in trash as it is in treasure. Sometimes it is a little hard to tell the trash from the treasure, so we hold back, afraid to declare ourselves. But since we are out to give ourselves texture, to collect truths on many levels, and in many ways, to test ourselves against life, and the truths of others, offered us in comic strips, TV shows, books, magazines, newspapers, plays, and films, we should not fear to be seen in strange company." [pp. 41-42] He goes on to cite "Lil Abner," "Peanuts," "Prince Valiant," Charlie Chaplin, Aldous Huxley, Tom Swift, George Orwell, Tarzan, and C.S. Lewis, among many others.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Skipton Castle

Skipton Castle dates from 1090 AD but was vastly improved in 1310 by Robert the first Clifford Lord of Skipton. In 1536 the Tudor Wing was added for King Henry VIII's niece, Lady Eleanor Brandon. The castle was under siege for three years during the Civil War and was the last northern holdout for King Charles. When it finally fell, Parliament had the outer wall reduced and the flat roof dismantled so it would not bear the weight of cannons. In the 1650s Lady Anne Clifford made substantial restorations to the castle. An oak roof was put in as well as large windows in the walls. She planted a yew sapling in the Conduit Courtyard in 1659. It is now a large tree and a striking addition to the courtyard.

The castle grounds also includes the ruins of the Saint John the Evangelist church. It was built 700 years ago and still has the baptismal font inside. The outer wall of the castle includes the tea room and shop. Here is our tour of the castle.

The front gate of the castle has the Norman French challenge of the Clifford family, "Desormais" or "Henceforth." The front of the castle is defended with some cannons.

Main gate to the castle

Maybe not the best pose with a cannon

Jacob imitates Lucy's pose

Inside the front gate is the ticket room, housed in the Renaissance-style Shell Room. The walls are embedded with numerous sea shells. From there we headed to the ancient castle.

Watch Tower with Clifford family flag

Lady Anne's Steps lead through the old drawbridge and portcullis into the Conduit Court.

Lady Anne's Steps


The Conduit Courtyard is so named since it gives access to most of the rooms in the castle and is where the water pipes terminate. Also, the Lady Anne's yew tree is here.

Courtyard under repairs

Yew Tree

Inside is the Banqueting Hall where they would entertain or gather the garrison for meetings.

The only decor left was the antlers

View up the chimney

Next to the Banqueting Hall is the kitchen that served the castle's occupants from 1300 to 1680.

Not very well-lit kitchen

Jacob found another fireplace...

...and another chimney

Serving hatch from kitchen to the banqueting hall

The kitchen is also notable for having the "Long Drop" which is a medieval toilet (called "privies" or "garderobes"). Often these toilets were placed in an enclosed balcony over a moat or stream. A pile of moss would serve for the toilet paper.

Loo in the kitchen; Jacob said it wasn't a toilet because there was no sink

The long drop!

Off of the Banqueting Room is the Withdrawing Room, where the nobles might do their business.

Better windows than the kitchen

View from the Withdrawing Room

The room itself

The Lord's Day Room was where day to day business was conducted.

The Lord's Day Room

The muniment room housed the Lord's library and shows where Parliament had the castle walls reduced in size.

Jacob leads the way!

The base of the windows is where the walls were reduced to after the Civil War

Not part of the tour--where the current Lord lives

View of the entrance

Further on is the Lord's bed chamber. A niche provided space for a sentry or other attendant.

A cozy bedroom

The bedroom

The hiding spot for a sentry, secretary, or someone else?

The bed chamber also provides access to the Watch Tower's middle level.

Watch Tower room

View of the entrance

View of St. John the Evangelist chapel

Jacob's favorite--windy stairs

At this point we were chilly enough and hungry enough to go have a snack in the tea room before continuing our tour of the castle.

We didn't really waste our time taking pictures here, we ate!

Back in the castle, we went down a staircase into the castle's dungeon. In spite of the reputation of medieval dungeons, this one did not involve torture or rough treatment. Built when the moat was put in, usually the dungeon was used to house prisoners until the court in York would be in session. Typical stays were under thirteen weeks (York courts met quarterly) and one prisoner reported at the court that he was never so well fed as he was in the dungeon of Skipton Castle.

Prisoner's Graffiti

Sure, you're smiling now...

The way out

Back up the stairs, we continued to the wine and beer cellars where supplies were kept. Wine was reserved to the lord and lady and special guests; beer was more freely distributed.

Wine Room

Wine table

From there we found the new kitchen, in use from 1680 to 1900. Next to this kitchen is the curing room, where meats were prepared for long-term storage (usually by smoking or salting).

The appliances

The sink

The oven and the exit

The castle tour concluded with the base of the Watch Tower, which featured the bar used to secure the main door into the castle.

One end of the bar

Other end of the bar

Other hole for the bar

Outside again, we went to visit the  St. John the Evangelist chapel on the grounds.

Going to the chapel

The baptismal font is still there!

East end of the chapel

West end of the chapel

We stopped in the shop to see if any fascinating items were too good to resist. We did find a chart of the rulers of England starting from the 700s AD. Did you know there was a ruler named Sweyn Forkbeard? I must groom my beard so I can have a cool name too! The children were ready to go, so we quickly made some purchases and headed off to find our car. Along the way we discovered the information center and the Craven Museum, which I am sure we will visit again.