Tuesday, September 30, 2014

J's BSA Report for September 2014

J joined one of the local Boy Scout troops this year. Since he is in first grade, he starts as a Tiger Cub in the Cub Scouts (Boy Scouts come later). The first meeting was just a social where J wasn't too social but was still interested enough to sign up. He read about Neil Armstrong's early years in the scouts and wants to follow in his footsteps.

The next week we went to our first den meeting. All the new tiger cubs are in a group called a den. The den is part of a larger group called a pack. The pack J belongs to has other dens with Wolf Cubs (for second graders), Bear Cubs (for third graders), and Webelos (for fourth and fifth graders). J learned the Cub Scout Promise and the Law of the Pack as well as the Cub Scout sign, handshake, salute, and motto. He received his neckerchief and slide that night.

J on the first night

We had a list of items (a shirt, a hat, a handbook, and some patches) to pick up at a Boy Scout store. Mommy diligently worked on attaching the patches while I studied the Tiger Cub Handbook. The book was a big help practicing the Cub Scout Promise, the Law of the Pack, the Cub Scout sign, handshake, salute, and motto. With those well ingrained in J's brain, I went online to register his completion of the first badge on the BSA website.

The next week the pack had a meeting with all the dens. The whole group played some games, sang some songs, and handed out badges and other awards. Some of the older boys had a lot of awards since this was the first meeting since the summer break. J received his Bobcat badge for making the first requirements.

J in uniform with Bobcat badge

The next weekend we went for a hike. The whole family was invited and we explored the Patuxent Branch Trail with J's den. It was a fine hike near our old house. We tried to find a geocache along the way but were unsuccessful. We had fun anyway. A small stream ran along the path and we stopped to throw in sticks and stones. Running and climbing were also fun activities.

Racing down a path

Climbing a big rock

Next month we have a leaf rubbing activity and our first camp out, so look forward to an exciting report!

Monday, September 29, 2014

One Ingredient Challenge: Chicken Stock

Part of an ongoing series of cooking from scratch. That is, we cook something from basic items that don't have multiple ingredients (e.g. store-bought spaghetti sauce includes all sorts of spices and maybe other stuff too; we'd start with tomatoes and individual spices and add them together to make our own sauce). See other challenges here.

Back in England, L helped Mommy make some chicken stock from scratch. They took a dutch oven and filled it with the following ingredients:
  • Water
  • Bone-in chicken parts (we used drum sticks)
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Bay leaves
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Carrot
  • Salt
  • Pepper

L adding ingredients

The pot simmered for a few hours.

Soon to be yummy

Then they took all the stuff out and had a nice broth that we could use in other recipes. Sometimes we substitute some chicken broth for water when making rice to give it a little more flavor.  We also have a few stove-top pasta recipes that call for chicken stock. It also makes a nice base for soups or when making ramen noodles (or Kung Fu Panda noodles, as L likes to call them).

Sunday, September 28, 2014

St. Michael le Belfrey, York, England

St. Michael le Belfrey sits in the shadow of York Minster. The "le Belfrey" part of the name is assumed to refer to the Minster's bell tower. Originally, this church was a chapel for the Minster. It later became a parish for the locals. The church was rebuilt from 1525 to 1536 during Henry VIII's reign by John Foreman, who was the Minster's master mason. The only external alterations after that were the addition of a bell tower in 1848 and the rebuilding of the west front in 1857 when adjoining houses were removed. The church continues to serves as a Church of England parish.

West front of St. Michael le Belfrey

Side of church

The church is also famous because Guy Fawkes, he of Gun Powder Plot fame, was baptized here. A nearby pub is named after him.

Inside, the nave is a light and airy example of the Tudor gothic style.


The main altar's reredos (the wooden screen) includes the Lord's Prayer on the left and the Apostles' Creed on the right. In the center is a copy of Zurbaran's Adoration of the Shepherds which now hangs at The National Gallery. The picture was added in 1924 and replaced the Ten Commandments.

Main altar and reredos

Above the altar is a marvelous stained glass window.

Over the altar (click to enlarge)

Originallly, Queen Anne's coat of arms was at the top of the reredos but was moved in 1924 to the gallery above the entrance.

Queen Anne's coat of arms

The church has an assortment of memorials.

Robert and Priscilla Squires memorial surrounded by others

Thomas Fothergill memorial

More memorials

One impressive stained glass window includes four archangels--Raphael, Michael, Gabriel, and Uriel. I hadn't heard of Uriel before. He's mentioned in the deutero-canonical book of Esdras in which he appears to Ezra during the Babylonian Captivity.

Four angels window (click to enlarge)

The church also has some impressive tiles in the floor.

Fancy floor

An old bench nearby with recycled tombstones on the floor!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tantallon Castle, Scotland

On the Scottish coast of the North Sea is the ruins of a once-mighty castle built and kept by the Douglases. In 1354 William Douglas inherited his father's lands and those of his uncle too. He was made earl of Douglas in 1358 with his massive, fortified home, Tantallon Castle, already under construction. The castle was completed but the line of succession divided after William's death. Tantallon went to the younger son George, the "Red Douglas." He became the earl of Angus and the family had its share of political intrigues. The castle was besieged three times, first in 1491 and then in 1514. The castle did not survive the third siege by Oliver Cromwell in 1651 when the English cannons battered the walls. The earls didn't have the money to repair the castle and wound up selling it in 1699 along with the barony to Sir Hew Dalrymple (yes, that is the right spelling).  Only minor repairs happened in the coming centuries and the castle is maintained by Historic Scotland.

We had a long walk from the parking lot to the outer gate. The castle has an outer ditch with two small passages through. One is the Gun Tower (probably built in 1528) that was added to a short wall.

Walking toward the castle

Remains of the wall and gate

The castle itself is still impressive to see. A main ditch (like a moat) separates it from the field in front with only a small bridge crossing over into the middle tower of the castle.

Walking from the east tower (on right) to the mid tower (with the bridge)

Inside the tower

The constable (or keeper of the castle) would have lived upstairs but we were unable to visit his quarters.

Inside the tower

Can't go that way!

The castle has plenty of narrow slits (for both light coming in and arrows shooting out) that were a natural photo op.

Defender J

Defender L

We found some clear stairs and were able to go up on the roof. The view was nice though I worried about the children at such a height.

J with the view to the Bass Rock

L safely in the middle

J points to another tower he wants to visit

Behind the wall and towers is the inner close, an open field now but was probably full of small buildings for workers and animals. The field was originally surrounded by walls with a sea-gate providing access to a small harbor.

Walls from inside the close

The mid tower from inside

View and sign for the Bass Rock

The close also has the well for the castle, which is near to the east tower.

Castle well

We went inside the east tower and saw some of the smaller cannons that were left in the castle.

A long, small cannon

Cannon's view

On the western end of the castle is the Douglas Tower, which clearly housed the family, though the basement did include a prison area which L visited.

Inside the dungeon

After wandering around the castle for a while, we went back out to the outer close which has only one building remaining--the Dovecot. Built in the 1600s, it has over 1000 nesting boxes for pigeons. The pigeons were kept as an alternate source of food for those at the castle. It is still used by birds but they are no longer served for meals.

L by the dovecot

Last view of the castle

Friday, September 26, 2014

Book Review: I Ate the Sheriff by K. Bennett

I Ate the Sheriff by K. Bennett

I Ate the Sheriff is the third novel in the Mallory Caine, Zombie-at-law, series, and presumably the last. Mallory Caine is still fighting the good fight in court for the accused and in her dining choices as she tries to go cold turkey from human flesh. Now that unnatural beings like zombies, werewolves, and vampires are recognized by society and local authorities, she has the option to attend Zombies Anonymous and buy cow brains as a substitute for the human kind. But that's not enough to keep her out of trouble now that her ex-boyfriend, district attorney Aaron Argula, is putting his dad's plans in motion to take over not only their home town of Los Angeles, but also the whole world. His dad is, of course, Satan.

The book retains the same humorous tone of the previous two novels even while flirting with an apocalyptic ending. The ending happens a little too quickly, tying up all the various plot threads in a few pages. It reminded me of the last episode of Pushing Daisies where they finished out every story line for every character in less than 45 minutes. It just seemed forced. Especially since some of the plot lines seemed more like comedy filler (Pat Sajak the werewolf comes to mind) than integral to the story. On the other hand, it is a light comedy and I am probably expecting too much.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: Bone Tall Tales by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski

Bone Tall Tales by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski

This volume is another supplemental set of stories from the world of Bone. Smiley Bone takes a troop of scouts (which inexplicably includes a rat creature but it's funny so go with it) camping and they tells stories around a campfire. These are the tall tales of the title. Most of them are stories about Big Johnson Bone, the bone who founded Boneville. One story is about Fone Bone and Phoney Bone seeking treasure rather than doing their laundry. All the stories are packed with humor and fun, making this a delightful read and a good addition to the Bone collection (though some bits are a spoiler for the main story so the reader is advised to read this after reading the nine main volumes).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nostell Priory and Parkland, England--The Priory

Nostell Priory's name comes from the original 1100s priory dedicated to St. Oswald. When King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, the priory became a private residence. The Winn family purchased the property in 1654 and have been living in it ever since. The current house was built in the mid-1700s with many changes over the three hundred years when various Winns redecorated according to their tastes.

Nostell Priory

Crest over the door

One of the first rooms we discovered inside is the Museum Room which houses many pieces from the long history of the Winns' collecting items from all over the world. The star of the room is the 18th century doll house (made before the house itself!). The doll house is so intricate in detail that it's assumed to be a model for adults to observe and enjoy, not a toy for children.

J by the doll house

The room also has a cabinet of curiosities, including items from ancient Rome, distant Africa, and nearby Lakes District.

Curiosities from around the world (and the neighbors)

Right next door is the Butler's Pantry with his own fireplace and work space.

The Butler's Pantry with its own stove

Two staircases lead up to the main living area on the first floor. Both are grand, though one staircase was for guests and the other for the family. The family staircase is just as nice as the guest one, which is unusual in such homes.

South staircase (visitors staircase)

Family portraits

At the front and center of the first floor is the Top Hall, used for entertaining. The room became a music room and included an organ at one point. The organ was donated to a Wragby church. A fine piano still adorns the room.

Fireplace in the Top Room

Piano with family pictures

The Crimson Room has a wonderful black and gold lacquer Chinese cabinet from the 19th century.

Chinese cabinet

Two bathrooms (which used to be dressing rooms) are just off the Crimson Room. The fixtures are early 20th century additions to the house.

A sink!

An old-fashioned tub!

The State Dressing Room is one of the fancy guest rooms. The bed is tucked into an alcove, which probably made things warmer in the winter. Chippendale made most of the furnishings as well as the wall paper in the 1770s.

State Dressing Room

There's also a State Bedroom to accommodate other posh guests of the Winns and originally furnished in the 1700s.

The State Bedroom Bed (not in alcove)

Adjoining is the State Dining Room. In the 1700s, this was a room for entertaining, not for daily meals.

State Dining Room

Next door is the Saloon, another exquisite room used for entertaining rather than everyday activities. Large gatherings or dances (think of all the balls described in Pride and Prejudice) would be held in here.

The Saloon

Yet another example of wealth is the Tapestry Room. In addition to the Flemish tapestries dating back to the 1800s, the room has a fine collection of furnishings from Chippendale and from across the seas.

Vases and a French cabinet

My favorite room is the Library. A cozy fire and hundreds of books are all I need to feel fabulously well off. Maybe a chair, too.

The library