Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

Some tales from our Thanksgiving this year...

We decided to go local for our Thanksgiving turkey. Maple Lawn Turkey Farm provides thousands of turkeys to thousands of customers each year. Since it was our first year, we did not know what to expect. The preschooler and I went on Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving to get our bird. When we arrived, the pick-up line was about forty people long. Most people said it was a very short line for the pre-Thanksgiving rush.

Maple Lawn Turkey Farm

We waited about fifteen minutes to get inside, where they had a table with cookies and apple cider. I was afraid to get out of line, so we did not get any refreshments. The pre-schooler didn't notice.

No one else getting refreshments either

Once inside, the line did move fairly quickly. We got our bird and then went outside to see some of the lucky clucks who hadn't been prepped yet. My son thought they were really huge chickens. All our Thanksgiving books have dark-feathered birds, so I can see how he made the mistake.


Enjoying  himself

On Wednesday, our young son helped with the stuffing preparations by cutting up some bread--his first use of an actual knife!

Carefully cutting

Slightly menacing

Using the Force

Look ma, no eyes!

As a "day of" activity, we bought a gingerbread house kit that had four mini-houses. We used frosting as glue to assemble them before guests came to decorate the cakes.

To raise a village, it takes a child

Ready for decorating

In decorating mode

Like many other celebrations, we were too busy being festive to take pictures, other than a small handful. My daughter made up our menu and posted it in the front hall for guests to see as they came in.

Our menu

A few notes on the menu. I took a while to figure out the double entry for mashed potatoes--the "take a lot" instruction is for those eating it as their main dish, "take a little" as a side dish. We had a last minute addition to the drink menu with a typo. We did not drink "bear" but "beer." Maybe we'll have a bear beverage next year.

The turkey cooked very quickly, or so we thought.

Ovenly fate of the bird

When carving, we found the interior of the bird rather underdone, even though our temperature thermometer gave a high-end reading on the breast and thigh. Everyone wound up taking a lot of mashed potatoes! Next year, we will probably go back to butterball.

We had a fire in the fireplace, which blazed majestically for quite a while.

Maybe we should have cooked the turkey in here?

A good time was had by all.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Movie Review: Faust (1926)

Faust (1926) directed by F. W. Murnau

The Devil (called Mephisto here) inflicts Famine, Pestilence, and War on the earth. God's archangel comes to upbraid him, saying the earth is a beautiful place, most especially for the people who have the free will and do good. Mephisto says that men are easily corrupted and claims he can corrupt the good man Faust. Mephisto says Faust is already greedy, trying to change base metal into gold. They make a bargain--if Mephisto can corrupt Faust, he can have the world.

Faust is an elderly scientist in the medieval mode, open to alchemy as much as chemistry. He works hard for a cure to the plague that is ravaging his home town. He also prays to God that the cure he's invented will be efficacious. Faust gives his concoction to a woman who dies almost immediately. He despairs. He starts burning his books, even a bible. One book is clearly an occult book, since it has a way to summon Mephisto to do one's bidding. It blows open on the fire. Faust sees the spell, tries it out, but immediately regrets it. Faust runs away from the lightening and fireballs that herald Mephisto's arrival. Mephisto is not one to be put off and eventually enters a pact with Faust. Mephisto will be his servant if Faust signs over his soul. Faust agrees, letting Mephisto come up with a cure for the plague. When one plague victim clings to a crucifix, Faust can't approach her, leading the locals to stone him. Mephisto whisks him away, turns him young, and sets him on a life of debauchery. Can true love with hometown girl Gretchen save Faust's soul?

Director Murnau (most famous for Nosferatu, his unauthorized adaptation of Dracula) is in top form with amazing special effects and great performances, especially from Emil Jannings as Mephisto. He's both creepy and comical, morphing to match whoever he's playing against. He's a classical demon (horns and wings) when debating the archangel, a wizen old man when dealing with old man Faust, and a young rake gallivanting around with the youthened Faust. His adeptness at corrupting Faust and others is horrifying and fascinating. The effects are a convincing blend of miniatures, camera tricks, and lighting. For a 1920s silent film, it's astounding.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hillwood Gardens Part II

Continuation of yesterpost...

The Japanese-style garden at Hillwood Estate blends local flora with Japanese plants, along with decorations reminiscent of Japan. The garden is built into the hillside. Our children enjoyed going up and down the various paths, crossing the bridges, and stepping carefully along the small grinding stones.

Japanese garden

Birds of a feather

Toddler enjoying the rocks

Older children also enjoy the rocks

Daughter crossing stepping stones

Cute turtle

The stepping stones

View from the top of the garden

Next to the house is the French parterre, a formal garden in the style from 1700s France. A large hedge with one or two passageways leads into the garden.

Hedge entrance into parterre


Diana, godess of the hunt, guards the far end of the parterre.


The sculpted shrubs fascinated our children, but not as much as the water fountain in the middle. We had to make some effort to keep the kids dry!

Sculpted shrubbery

A fun fountain

A small patio up against the house provides the water for the fountain and has very lovely decorations. The sphinx fascinated me with its blend of Egyptian roots, Victorian face, and Italian Renaissance cherub on back.


Water source

Dressing room window overlooking the parterre

View of parterre from the house

We next visited the rose garden. We chose the time of our visit poorly (late October)--not many flowers were on display. Each bed is planted with one type of summer-blooming rose, so we will have to come back. Under the column in the center of the garden, Marjorie Merriweather Post's ashes are buried.

Entrance to rose garden

Rose garden

Burial spot for the home owner

Flowers not in bloom

Leading out of the rose garden is the Friendship Walk, a pathway created by Marjorie's friends to honor her philanthropy. The path ends at the Four Seasons Overlook, a quiet spot for reflection and relaxation.

Friendship walk

The Four Seasons Overlook





The gardens are lovely and we may return someday (like next summer!).

Monday, November 27, 2017

Hillwood Gardens Part I

The gardens at Hillwood Estate make great use of the terrain and are quite impressive. Exploring them was fun for old and young alike.

We first went to the greenhouses, which were rebuilt in 1996 on the original spot. They contain a large collection of orchids and other rare and tropical plants.



The first display

A fabulous orchid

Delicate flowers

A nice combination of colors

Cute and fragrant

More delicate beauties


Just outside the greenhouses, the cutting garden provides decorative flowers for the mansion and other buildings on the estate.

Cutting garden

Estate owner Marjorie Merriweather Post was fascinated by Russian culture so she had a dacha built on the property. Even though it is in the style of a Russian country home, it does have modern amenities. It's now used for special exhibits. We only saw the outside.


Window close up

Back of the dacha

Marjorie also loved dogs and had many as pets throughout the years. She had a pet cemetery built on the estate.

Pet cemetery

Guarding the entrance

Lady Margaret


On the other side of the cemetery is the vista terrace, just below the Lunar Lawn.

Vista terrace

Lunar Lawn viewed from the edge of the terrace

The lawn was the center of outdoor entertaining. Marjorie hosted garden parties for the social and political elite of Washington, often resulting in busy summers for the staff.

The lawn also has a sun dial (perhaps a bit of humor on the Lunar Lawn?) and a flag pole taken from one of her boats.

Sun dial

Flag pole

The view of the lawn from the house lets visitors see the top of the Washington Monument in the distance, though perhaps the best views are in the winter or from the upper floors of the house.

Lunar Lawn seen from the house

Zoomed in to see the Washington Monument peeking over the treetops

The stone lion dates from 1700 and was taken from Old Somerset House in London. The house was torn down in 1909 and the lion was brought to America.

British lion

A pathway leads down into the Japanese Garden.

Stairs to the Japanese Garden

Cool statue of Pan

We visit the Japanese Garden and more in the next post!