Thursday, August 31, 2017

Wings of Fancy Live Butterfly and Caterpillar Exhibit, Wheaton, Maryland

The Wings of Fancy Live Butterfly and Caterpillar Exhibit runs from April to mid-September (September 17 in 2017) at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. The gardens are part of the county park system. The gardens are free but the butterfly and caterpillar exhibit requires purchased tickets. We found an online deal for half-price tickets. The plan worked out well except our toddler turned three just before we visited, so we had to buy a ticket for him too, since only two and under get free admission to the exhibit.

The first, and smaller, part of the exhibit is the caterpillar display, with some small trees and plants that were home (and meal) for the caterpillars. The most impressive ones were the Monarch caterpillars.

Toddler looking for caterpillars

Monarch climbing the leaf

More Monarchs

The main part of the exhibit is the large conservatory with plenty of plants and flowers for the butterflies to enjoy. The room is a bit warm for the comfort of the butterflies. We were amazed to see them flying all over the place.


A bit of camouflage

Blue and yellow near each other

Ready to launch

The butterflies fed both on the flowers and on plates of overripe bananas. The toddler was fascinated but a little nervous about them landing on him. My two older children were dying to be landed on.

Drinking from some small flowers

Long snout to drink from long flowers

Banana eaters

Blending with the flower nicely

The butterflies were quite comfortable with people, landing on the ground quite freely, sometimes to their own peril!

A close call...

...but the butterfly is okay

Another floor wanderer

The kids did not get their dream of having a butterfly land on them. One did land on my head. I felt it land and when it walked around, but otherwise it was unnoticeable. It must have liked my hair because it stayed the whole rest of the visit, finally getting brushed off at the exit. The volunteer actually used a paint brush to push him off!

Not a hairband or pin

My recommendation for those who want to have butterflies land on them is to use their wife's fruit-based shampoo the morning of the visit!

Farewell to the conservatory

We wandered a little bit in the formal gardens after leaving the butterflies. The children's favorite features were the water fountains. We saw several.

In the perennial garden

Falling water is a pleasant sound

Tribute to Flora Wertheim on her hundredth birthday

We loved the visit and will come back to explore other parts of the garden.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: Fairy Tail Vol. 11 by Hiro Mashima

Fairy Tail Volume 11 by Hiro Mashima

The Tower of Heaven story arc continues as the Fairy Tail team arrives at the tower to take out the crazy evil Jellal. Unfortunately, Jellal has brought in a trio of magicians from a guild specializing in assassination. Maybe Natzu could take them out if he hadn't got a gigantic cat's head mask stuck on his head! Meanwhile, the Magic Council is discussing whether to use a weapon of mass destruction to take out the tower before Jellal has a chance to revive Zeref, an extremely evil wizard whose return is sure to be a world-wide catastrophe. Erza's backstory continues as we see her coming to Fairy Tail for the first time.

The action is exciting and the new villains are entertaining and a legitimate threat. The stakes are suitably ramped up and the story is interesting. I'm looking forward to watching the anime episodes (season one, episodes 36-38?) for this volume. It's fun to read before seeing.

Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

George Wythe House, Colonial Williamsburg, VA

After visiting the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg, we walked down the street to another stately home.

George Wythe was an attorney and a teacher at the College of William and Mary, where he taught Thomas Jefferson. Naturally, Wythe lived in Williamsburg and had an elaborate house with lots of support buildings. We first went to the back of the house, where a small formal garden was surrounded by several out buildings.

Back of the George Wythe House

The outbuilding for the cooper

Several of the buildings were used for storage and servants quarters and occasionally other activities. One building is now a cooperage, where people work on wood to make barrels and other containers. We parents talked to them about apprenticing our older son in the profession. The cooper said it was a fairly secure job, because they are always in need. Typically farmers and merchants would not make their own items since the equipment and the skills required were expensive and time-consuming. Apprenticeships started in the early teens, so our son has some time still.

Cooper at work

More cooper work

A chart of varying sizes for beer, ale, and wine containers

The Coopers' Guild

 Another building housed the laundry. The lady told us a bit about her work. Wythe was something of a scientist and so the docents here showed us some interesting items, including whale vertebrae, a shark's tooth, and various sea shells.

Table with laundress and sea bones

Another fellow came and did a science experiment, putting a lit candle in a pan of water. Then he topped it with a glass. The flame eventually died from lack of oxygen, then the water level rose due to the change in air pressure inside the glass.

Colonial science

In a back room was servants' living area, including a table set for a meal. The table has some fancy but broken crockery. If a fancy mug's handle breaks off, Wythe wouldn't keep it in the main house for guests. Since the objects were still useful, they'd be handed down for the servants' use. The chair also looks like a hand-me-down.

Crockery and an improvised table

Servants' bed

The docent invited us to try out the bed. The kids readily agreed.

Resting from a long morning touristing

Outside we saw some chickens.


Finally we went to the main house for a self-guided tour.

Entering through the back door

We saw one of the bedrooms set up for a fancier rest than back in the servants' quarters. We were not allowed to try the bed.


Writing desk

The dining room's set up was convincing enough to make my son wonder if the food was real. The table does look inviting but not actually edible.

Dining room

The front room for entertaining guests is not so big as the Governor's Palace but is still respectable.

Room to entertain guests

More from Williamsburg coming soon!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Governor's Palace, Colonial Williamsburg, VA

We went to Colonial Williamsburg for a day. Our visit started with a tour of the Governor's Palace, a reconstruction of the original 18th century building occupied first by Alexander Spotswood, and subsequently by six other royal governors. 

Governor's Palace, Colonial Williamsburg

Our docent gave us an orientation to proper colonial behavior and the colonies, including how to bow and curtsy. She asked about where people were from. We claimed to be from the Maryland colony.

The colonies, some much bigger than their current state

 We then entered the palace proper, which was impressively large and decorous inside, reflecting the wealth and the power of the British empire.


Front hall

Crest of King George II, surrounded by weapons

The room on the left of the entry is the pantry, featuring many comforts needed for visitors and the family.

Pantry fireplace

Pantry desk and stores

On the right is a room used to entertain guests.

Fireplace in reception room

Seating and paperwork

We went upstairs and saw the living quarters. Above the main entrance is the main hall where the children would play. An old piano still stands in the hall.

Piano and seating for the children

The bedrooms were used by the family and guests. The canopy beds were functional (providing more warmth in the winter and fly protection in the summer) and ostentatious.


The extra space in the bedroom, not much!

The guest room has a nice, simple green bed for visitors.

Guest bed

At one point, the eldest girls of a governor had their own room where they would prepare for balls. Preparations include dressing and learning new steps to the latest dances.

Girls' bedroom with a fancy dress


Dressing table

A book describing dance steps!

 Downstairs are more entertaining rooms (the royal governor did throw many parties).

Music room?

The fireplace

The ballroom

The guide taught us some simple steps to the various dances. Some maneuvers are designed to show off a fancy dress. The final room was another refreshment and chatting area. 

Iron stove heating for the refreshment room

Fancy doorway

Fancy chandelier

The backyard has a formal garden for strolling.

Back door of the Governor's Palace

Formal gardens

Some blooming plants

The rear view of the house shows the living area of the mansion along with the addition of the ballroom and refreshment room leading to the back gardens.

Back of the house

Around the side of the house is the stables, carriage house, and other useful buildings. Included is a well for water, which my daughter found fascinating.


From the palace, we wandered down the palace green to see more of the colonial buildings.

Palace Green

More from Williamsburg in the next post!