Sunday, November 30, 2014

Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome

Here's some Thanksgiving leftovers...a church in Rome! 

Santa Maria in Cosmedin is a famous church for what's on its porch--the Bocca della Verita. I've already posted about that here, but now let's go into the church!

Santa Maria in Cosmedin

In addition to the Bocca, the porch has a nice sign about the dress code. Churches in Rome all have a dress code and people have been put out before (in both senses of "put out"). Some places will provide wraps to improvise skirts or shoulder coverings. Since we visited in January, we were modestly and warmly dressed and had no worries.

This means YOU!

The church was built in the 500s with the bell tower and portico added in the 1100s. The church is fairly simple but has some fantastic mosaics inside. The main altar was fenced off when we were there but I was able to get a good side view. The canopy is quite nice.


Main altar

Side altar

Side altar

Floor mosaic

Mosaic picture

The church also has a crypt (always popular with the children) though little is down there other than a few altars and some empty niches.

Stairs to the crypt

An altar

Empty niches

The term "Cosmedin" is from the Greek kosmidion meaning "ornate." The church is Roman Catholic in the Greek-Melkite Rite. The Greek community of Rome has been worshiping at this church since it was first built.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

J's BSA Report for November 2014

J had another busy month with the Cub Scouts. At the den meeting early in the month, the boys made little scrap books with drawings of what they loved best. The idea was to draw family members, but mostly the boys drew pictures of Minecraft.

The boys did a service project at the local church that sponsors the troop. The scouts cleaned up the parking lot and emptied, cleaned, and repacked the troop's camping trailer. Interspersed among the work were several games that made the day extra fun.

Meeting outside about the trailer

Getting ready for a game

One game started by splitting the group in half. One team had the goal to put small traffic cones upright, the other to knock the cones over. The pandemonium was fun to watch but probably more fun to participate in.

Cone craziness

J is putting them up here

Another game was foxes and squirrel. Everyone sat in a circle. Two white balls were the foxes. They were supposed to be passed to the left or right. A third ball (this particular one was yellow) was the squirrel who had to avoid the foxes. The squirrel had this advantage--it was a flying squirrel so it could be tossed across the circle to someone else. If the squirrel wound up with a player who had a fox, the round ended and a new round started. (Probably in competitive versions of the game that player is kicked out but they were playing for fun).

Foxes and squirrel

The only problem during the game was the players getting excited and throwing the foxes as well as the squirrels!

Out in the field they played dragon attack. A group of boys stood in line with their hands on the shoulders of the boy in front. The last boy had a kerchief in his back pocket as a tail. Each dragon had to catch the tail of another dragon to win. If the dragon broke apart, they were disqualified until they reformed. It was an exciting game for all.

Readying the dragons

Dragons intertwined!

More dragon carnage

The day ended with some hot chocolate and cookies, a happy ending for all.

The pack meeting at the end of the month was about citizenship. The boys learned about money, taxes, voting, and folding the flag. J did a great job at the last activity.

First step in flag folding

Some coaching

The den also visited Fort McHenry, which loyal readers read about in yesterday's post.

More in December!

Can't wait to get to next month!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Fort McHenry, Maryland

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is the fort immortalized in a poem first titled "Defense of Fort McHenry." The poet wasn't actually in the fort when it was attacked. He had gone to negotiate a prisoner release and was detained by the British because he became aware of their plan to attack Baltimore (the Redcoats weren't going to let him warn the defenders!). He watched British warships bombard the fort the night of September 13th. In the morning he was overjoyed to see the American flag still flying over the fort. That poet was Francis Scott Key and his poem was published a few days later (of course the British released him and the POW after the battle was over). Later the poem was put to music and renamed The Star-Spangled Banner.

A replica flag over the fort's entrance

The fort was run by the US Army for over 100 years though it was never attacked after the 1814 battle. During the American Civil War the fort was a prison for Confederate soldiers and sympathizers. During World War I and for years after, it was a hospital for returning soldiers. In 1925 it became a national park and in 1939 it was designated a historic shrine, the only park in the country to have the double distinction as a park and a shrine.

The modern visitor's center is down the hill from the fort and is rather undistinguished looking. It has a gift shop, some displays, and a video describing the Battle of Baltimore. At the end of the video, the screen rises and reveals the fort itself, a nice dramatic flourish at the end of the presentation.

Visitor's center

View of the fort from the visitor's center

The fort sits on high ground right by the entrance to Baltimore harbor, so it is a natural defense point. The fort is shielded by several berms which still have cannon lined up and pointing towards the water.

Scouts admiring the cannon

How they repositioned the cannon

J ready to fire!

View with the harbor entrance on the left

More guns

Cannon with the fort in the background

The grassy knolls are not for climbing, partly because the have supply rooms underneath. Extra ammunition and gunpowder were stored in ready reach of the cannons.

Magazine entrance

By the entrance to the fort is a larger magazine called Ravelin Magazine. Each magazine has entrances with angled stairs so that enemy fire could not ignite the munitions stored inside.

Ravelin Magazine

Inside the Ravelin Magazine

Just behind the Ravelin is the entrance to the fort. The entrance has a side passage leading down into a bombproof, an area to shelter from attacks.

Fort entrance

The bombproof

Inside the fort are a series of low, two-story buildings where the soldiers were stationed. A brick barn-like building is another magazine in case the outer defenses were penetrated.

Building, flagpole, and entrance

Buildings seen from the entrance

Magazine and a third building

Inside the magazine

The buildings have many exhibits on life at the fort, including some prison cells and some bunks for the soldiers.

Bunks for the enlisted men

Since we came with J's Cub Scout den, we had a special presentation on life at the fort, including a review of what the typical soldier had in his pack. The ranger said one item was contraband--a game of checkers! The game was forbidden because soldiers on duty could be distracted and often they'd quarrel if one player was a sore loser. We also saw samples of uniforms for sailors, soldiers, and musicians. The musicians were the public address system for the fort, letting everyone know when it was time to get up, to eat, to change shifts, etc.

The fort also has some spare cannons lying around which the scouts somehow didn't notice. They spent a good deal of their free time playing tag on the parade ground or checking out the bigger cannons.

Spare cannons

J checks out a barrel

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Oxford Food

As I publish this post, the day is Thanksgiving 2014, so what better day to write about food?

We had some very eclectic food experiences in Oxford when we visited in 2012. We found an alleyway with plenty of restaurants. Pizza is always a popular choice with our children, though we didn't try the pizza truck.

Outdoors is too cold for eating!

Pizza truck

Dessert is always a popular item. In a university town, what is more whimsical than a milkshake shop called Shakespeare's?

What's with that last line?

Cafe Loco on Rose Place is famous for its chocolate; George and Danver on Pembroke Street for their ice cream.

Cafe Loco

George & Danver & Cone

Chief Inspector Morse (from the books and telly) is from Oxford and has a favorite pub, the Turf Tavern on St. Helens Passage. We followed some signs and saw his pub.

The sign says it's famous!

Turf Tavern

Cool spiral staircase by the tavern

The other famous Oxford pub is the Eagle and Child where the Inklings met. We were in the neighborhood on a Sunday morning and it wasn't open, alas!

Eagle and Child pub

We found a fish shop but didn't shop there because of the shark overhead, which was nothing compared to the shark in the roof near our B&B.

Posh Fish! with scary shark

Who gets that bedroom?

Detail of the Headington Shark

The shark was put on the roof on August 9, 1986, as a protest against nuclear armament. The local council was generally unhappy with it (first they claimed it was unsafe, then that they hadn't given permission for the display) and offered to move it to a nearby swimming pool (somehow they thought that would be less scary). The locals protested and the shark won.

Happy Thanksgiving!