Tuesday, October 31, 2017

AHG Fall Camping 2017

My daughter has joined our church's American Heritage Girls troop. They went on a camping trip in October. She had gone with my son and me to a Cub Scout camp out back in the spring and she was excited to get her own experience. She also insisted that Mommy come along and not Daddy, which Mommy wasn't so excited about (but she did have a great time).

They camped at Fort Frederick State Park, which was having a re-enactment weekend. A small troop of soldiers demonstrated various firing techniques and formations.

Reenacting military drills

The fort had more than just soldiers there. Another re-enactor was demonstrating embroidery from the 1800s. The woman soon had the whole troop surrounding her. She gave out small practice projects to all the girls and taught them the back stitch.

Demonstrating embroidery

Like others in the troop, my daughter did not wait to get home to try it out!

A stitch in time gets the job done

An hour later, still working hard 

After several hours of happy work, she finished her first project. She enjoyed it so much that she went back and asked for another kit to work on in the evening.


She then wanted to go fishing. Most of the troop had already gone. Another mom and daughter also wanted to go. They had experience so they were perfect companions. The other mom was especially helpful at finding bait (sorry earthworm!) and hooking it on the fishing lines, actions for which my daughter averted her eyes. She did learn casting techniques and was able to catch the only fish of the day for the whole troop!

Throwing out the line

Reeling something in

With advanced imaging techniques you may be able to see a 3 inch fish in the water.

Blurry view of the catch

Returned for a peaceful life

After dinner, my daughter got back to her second embroidery project, using the headlamp to ensure two free hands!

Getting more work done!

The next morning the Tenderhearts (1st-3rd grade) were in charge of breakfast, so she helped cook. 

Getting instruction in the camp kitchen

Slicing up muffins

The morning was rainy, so people did not stay long. It was a fun trip anyway, even for Mommy.

Monday, October 30, 2017

BSA Fall Camping 2017

My son's Cub Scout pack had their fall camping trip at the Patapsco State Park. We drove up on Friday night and returned home late Saturday night (after the campfire) so we'd be home for Mass and religious education on Sunday morning.

Our camp site

 The two biggest highlights were the hike down to the river and the tire playground. The hike happened Saturday morning and led us down the hill to the bottom of the park. We saw some weird trees.

Bumps in the middle of the tree

A turn in the trail

A tree growing in a tree

At one point we took a group photo. My son thought it would be fun to have bunny ears on someone else. So I guess he was happy to get his own bunny ears?

Bunny ears or peace sign?

Two sets of bunny ears

 At the bottom of the hill is a railroad bridge with a tunnel through which we walked. We sang and shouted inside the tunnel to check out the acoustics.

RR bridge

Checking the sound in the tunnel

How old the bridge is!

Down by the river we threw rocks to make big splashes. The older boys could throw all the way to the other side. Across the river I saw a rock that I thought was spooky.

The river

Something skull-like, or maybe raising out of the water evilly

We found a swinging bridge that was fun to cross. The bridge was used by workers at the Orange Grove Flour Mill, a water-powered mill built in 1856 that stayed in business until it burned down in a fire in 1905.

Cool bridge

Getting ready to cross

Mill ruins

The other big highlight was the playground which featured a lot of tires. The cubs played Infection, a variation of Tag with a zombie theme pasted on. The fun lasted for at least 45 minutes.

Tire playground

An awesome fort

A pseudo-locomotive

More play areas!

Hanging out

Before dinner, we had knot tying and fire starting activity stations. My son was successful at starting a fire with flint and steel. Too bad the picture with the actual fire didn't come out so well, but here it is!

Striking a spark (that's someone else's fire)

Son and his fire

My son's den (the Webelos) had to make dinner Saturday night. My son was assigned to the mac and cheese cooking area. We had fun following the box recipe and working together over an outdoor boiler.

Boiling the mac

After dinner, we went to another campsite where someone gave a talk on Native American mythology. Back at our own campsite, we had the requisite campfire with smores for the kids and dutch oven cobblers for the adults.

We had a great time and look forward to the next camping trip.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Movie Review: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun of the Dead (2004) co-written and directed by Edgar Wright

Slacker Shaun lives a boring and repetitive existence. He wakes up, has a chat with his even-more-of-a-slacker flatmate Ed, goes to the local convenience store for a soda, and heads off to work. After work, he hangs out at his favorite pub, The Winchester. Shaun's girlfriend Liz is tired of the routine and finally dumps him. Shaun also has trouble with his mum, who remarried when Shaun was twelve. Shaun has never gotten on well with his step-dad, who is constantly badgering him. Meanwhile, the zombie apocalypse starts in the background. After the dumping, Shaun and Ed go to The Winchester to get drunk and commiserate over Shaun's losses. Back at the flat, Shaun writes himself a note before passing out. The next day, the same routine starts and Shaun doesn't realize people aren't acting the same. By the time he gets back from the store, he and Ed realize things are amiss. Shaun sees his note telling himself to get Liz back and go visit his mum. He realizes this is the opportunity to turn his life around by actually doing something. Anything.

The movie's simple premise allows for a lot of creativity in storytelling. The movie has a lot of visual repetitions and call backs that are funny and show changes in the characters and situations. Shaun winds up improvising a lot of his plan along the way with comic results. The movie also has enough drama in moments where it needs it (like when loved ones need to be killed) to feel well-rounded. Since it is a zombie film with overtones of George Romero, the gore is strongly R-rated. The movie also has a very British feel to it, with pragmatism and propriety clashing in interesting and comical ways. The mash-up of romantic comedy and zombie horror works surprisingly well.

Highly recommended, as long as you can stand some serious gore.

This movie was discussed way back on episode 20 of A Good Story is Hard to Find.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Book Review: The Creeps by Fran Krause

The Creeps: A Deep Dark Fears Collection by Fran Krause

This book collects 97 comics about people's deepest, darkest fears. Author Fran Krause had dozens of people share their fears with him. They range from the comical (if I sneeze with my eyes open, they pop out) to the weird (I worry that the black floor tiles in my kitchen are really holes and I'll fall through) to the creepy (I go to sleep in someone's guest room in the dark and see a picture of someone on the wall--in the morning I realize it was a window and there's no person there now). The book contains a few too many "I'm only a brain in the vat" fears, but otherwise is fun and scary with only being occasionally gruesome.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

TV Review: Stephen King's It (1990)

Stephen King's It (1990) teleplay by Lawrence D. Cohen and Tommy Lee Wallace, directed by Tommy Lee Wallace

Seven childhood friends in the New England town of Derry reunite in 1990 to fight the same evil force that they fought in 1960. The town has a curse--every thirty years something terrible happens. In 1960, it was a wave of disappearances and deaths of young children. A mysterious entity that most often manifests itself as a clown called Pennywise (played with effective relish by Tim Curry) lures children to their deaths. Since the seven friends banded together, they avoided death and had the courage to face the malevolent force, seemingly defeating it. But a new series of deaths and disappearances has started. Mike, the one friend who stayed behind in Derry, sees the pattern and calls his friends back for another fight with fear and evil. As adults, will they have the enough courage and belief to fight the good fight and win?

The movie is a two-part adaptation of the book, giving it plenty of time (just over three hours) to develop characters and have plenty of scares. The actors are good, with Tim Curry's performance as the stand-out, even though he is unrecognizable. The seven friends aren't only menaced by the evil force; they also face up against high school bullies who don't fare well against Pennywise in the ultimate confrontation back in 1960. The big finale in 1990 is a little less convincing since the special effects look dated. Even so the story has a satisfying ending and is well worth the three hours.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Hampton National Historic Site Buildings

When we first arrived at the Hampton National Historic Site, we went to the visitor center to find out what's up.

Hampton Visitor Center

A funny pose

The park ranger told us a tour of the main house would start in about ten minutes, so we did that first (see the main house in yesterpost).

Next to the mansion is an octagonal garden that was the location of the house slaves' living quarters. The building burned down and an herb garden was planted there.

Octagonal herb garden

Nearby are a few more support buildings for the big house. The newest is from 1910--a garage built for the first car at Hampton! Next to the garage is a small shed. Then another, larger shed is to the right. The small building on the right end is the Privies, the outhouse for the mansion since they didn't have indoor plumbing. Of course, chamber pots were in use for nighttime needs. A pump house also stands nearby.

Small shed, big shed, privies, and pump house

Other building no long extant were the carpenter's shed, a smokehouse, and an 1850s gasworks that provided gas lighting in the house until electricity was installed in 1929.

We did see the orangery, a special green house that was heated in the winter so that the Ridgelys could grow citrus trees in Maryland. Now it is set up as a meeting room. The original orangery was built in 1825 and destroyed in a fire in 1929.


Side view of the orangery

In front of the house is the ice house. A brick dome is covered by grass, leaving two entrances visible.  One let servants or slaves go down to the vault (33 feet deep!) to bring ice up to the main house. This was another sign of the Ridgely's wealth--they had ice throughout the summer in the 1800s, long before refrigeration. They could even make ice cream to serve to their guests!

Ice house entrance

Layout of the ice house

Scary stairs into the ice house

Looking into the vault

Ice pit

The other side of the ice house has the window through which ice was dropped. The ice house was filled in the winter and emptied during the summer.

Where to deposit ice

Stables were built on the east side of the north lawn, the first stable in 1803 and the second in 1857. In addition to carriage and riding horses, the Ridgelys also kept thoroughbreds for racing, another source of income for the family.


Across the road (Hampton Lane, naturally) are more farm buildings. The estate had thousands of acres and farming kept many people busy. The long house granary was not open to visitors.

Long house granary

The nearby diary was open and we visited. The building was cleverly planned and built. The dairy is dug into the ground for coolness and a spring feeds cold water into the building and around the floor. The Ridgelys used the dairy products for the house. Extra production was sold.

Sunken dairy

A fireplace in case they need it

Inside the dairy

Activity table

My son tries an old-fashioned tool for carrying milk

My other son tries spinning the barrel

Nearby are the workers' quarters and the Lower House (the original residence for the family before the mansion was built in 1790 and also their residence when the mansion was opened to visitors in 1948).

Lower house with workers' quarters

We had to walk around a bend to get to the Lower House, which took us by a field of corn and the foundation of the old corn crib. The crib was used to dry husked ears of corn. The dried corn was shelled and taken to a mill for grinding into cornmeal, used both on the estate and sold for profit.

Corn field

Corn crib foundation

Plowing corn fields was tough work. A nearby barn was used for mules, who acted as the 19th century equivalent of a tractor.

Mule barn

The farm also had a dove cote, which has been transformed into restrooms.

The building formerly known as dove cote

The Lower House served as a residence for the farm's overseer and includes a bell for calling workers into and out of the fields. It was not open for touring when we visited.

Lower House

Several buildings surrounding the Lower House were quarters for the slaves and later (after 1864 when Maryland abolished slavery) servants.

One of the workers' quarters

Inside the quarters

A small, unidentified building sits in between two buildings, perhaps a common oven?

An extra buildings

Exploring but not finding answers

Another quarters

A third quarters (no, there wasn't a fourth quarters)

These buildings were open and gave insights into life as a worker on the farm. The activities were fun for our children.

Planning your day

Fireplace and storage shelves

The kitchen area

Seen from the other side

Trying out an outfit

An upscale bedroom

An upscale kitchen

We headed back up the hill to the main house for a last few views. We ended our tour by going back to the visitor's center where our older children were sworn in as junior park rangers.

Running back up the hill

A regular greenhouse

Swearing in, with badges!