Sunday, June 30, 2013

Winterthur Museum and Gardens

We had come to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to visit cousins living in the area.  We never imagined what mental, visual and soulful treats they had in store for us.  After they took us on a tour of their inviting retirement community, they suggested we all go to Winterthur Museum.  It was just a few miles south across the Delaware state line.

We had never heard of it but we soon learned some very important background.  First, our cousins' daughter is employed at Winterthur as one of their archivists, so her parents are quite familiar with the beauties of the place.

Second, we learned that Winterthur had been the private estate of Henry Francis DuPont who was an expert horticulturist, an avid collector of antiques, and very knowledgeable student of European architecture.  All of these interests are beautifully displayed in this museum and 979 acre grounds.  H.F. DuPont began developing this estate in 1906 and it became a public museum in 1951.

We were primarily interested in touring the 60 acres of naturalistic gardens.  We had just begun our narrated tour when a sudden thunderstorm cut it short.  So, we had to go inside and decided to tour the house instead. 

The house has 175 rooms and this sitting room, with its hand-painted wallpaper imported from China, is certainly one of the most striking.
Hallways of elegant arched design and furnished with prized antique furniture connect the various rooms of the house.  There is at least one room for every purpose.
This small room, with its elegant antique roll-top desk, served as both office and a location for afternoon tea.
This set of china, used by Martha Washington in the White House, was one of 58 complete sets of china used by the duPonts in their frequent entertaining.
Of course, every mansion must have a spiral staircase, and Winterthur is no exception.  This stairway, however, was purchased by duPont from an elaborate home in the southern USA and as it was being dissembled, it broke!  Therefore, when it was re-assembled at Winterthur it had to become an elliptical staircase instead of spiral!
So, stop #20 on our Summer Tour of 2013 was an eye-opening look at how the rich and famous -- or at least the Henry Francis duPont family -- lived in the early 1900s.  It was interesting, educational, and impressive, but not at all a lifestyle I would like to copy.  After all, who would want to wash 58 sets of fine china after a big week-end of partying?
But we were in for more beautiful surprises the next day.  Stay tuned!

Burnt Cabins, Pennsylvania

Stop #19 on our 2013 Summer Tour wasn't planned; it just happened!  It turned out to be one of those delightful on-the-road surprises!

We were traveling east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike through the center of the state and we needed a place to stay overnight.

Just five miles off the turnpike, on a parallel road, we discovered a rustic little campground called "Ye Old Mill Campground".
It nestles in a little meadow just below the toll road.  Here you can see how close our campers were to the semi in the background speeding down the turnpike. 
The old grist mill for which the campground is named still uses water power to grind flour products.  It, and several stone out-buildings, give the campground a unique and rustic charm.  A log cabin serves as the office and camp store.
The near-by village of Burnt Cabins, Pennsylvania, is a small, business-deprived wide spot in the road.  The post office (pictured above and below) is one of the better maintained pre-Revolutionary War era buildings in the village.
Nearly 45 other buildings once graced this little hamlet, but most have now disappeared or are in deteriorating condition.  The town, and its fifty acres of land are listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. 
The town may look run down but it has an intriguing name and a proud history, according to Wikipedia:
"Burnt Cabins, Pennsylvania, is located at the foot of Tuscarora Mountain.  The Pennsylvania turnpike is just 100 yards from the village.  All of this land was owned by Native American tribes until 1758, but, as early as 1750, eleven squatter cabins had been built on this Indian land by white settlers who called the hamlet 'Sidneyville'.  In 1750, [those settler] cabins were burned by order of the provincial government to maintain the peace and to demonstrate to Native Americans that their ownership would be respected."
The historic old grist mill of Burnt Cabins contributed much to its economic stability for many years.  The mill, too, is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.
We had wandered into a gold mine of pre-Revolutionary War history quite by accident! 
What a learning experience!
We'll see you on down the road!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ground moles at work

A PostScript on our recent visit with our son Joel in Athens County, Ohio.
The last two days we were with him, Bruce undertook two major projects, long overdue.
He rented a trencher and, like a human ground mole,
 dug a ditch three feet deep and 190 feet long.
Joel laid four-inch corrugated drain pipe the length of the trench and back-filled it.
Finally, after five years, there will no longer be a soggy mud hole
at the edge of his side yard.
The fluid drainage from the septic tank will now drain into the creek below.
This project went so well that the next day they did it again -- almost.
This time they dug a trench only 8 inches deep
from the house to the workshop about 150 feet across the driveway.
A violent storm last summer had brought down the only electric line to the shop.
It seemed wise to bury the replacement line,
and I'm happy to report that the shop again has electric power.
Those two days of hard work resulted in
two very needed home improvements, 
lots of aching muscles,
many muddy clothes,
and a very happy son!
Well worth the effort!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Therapy Time

Well, here we are at Stop #18 on our Summer Tour of 2013.

It's our favorite stop on our travels every summer: our son Joel's little property in the southeastern corner of Ohio!  He's gradually turning his five acres of hilly woodland from wilderness to home, sweet home!  Once or twice each summer, we stop by to help him out for a week or so.

We consider our visits to his place weeks of physical therapy for us, a muscle-stretching change from sitting in the truck all day traveling.  For example, there are always trees to trim:

LOTS of trees to trim!
The old farm truck has seen better days and is no longer road-worthy.
But it can still haul loads of  tree branches to the burn pile --  if you only turn to the right, that is!
Mary Sue is not sitting around watching soap operas (no TV coverage!) and eating bon-bons (not sugar free!) all day.  No, she, too, is hard at work.

There are many, many flower beds around the house and they are ALWAYS weedy!  So, she takes it as her personal mission to pull weeds. (She used to pull all of the weeds but doesn't anymore.  She leaves the pretty and harmless weeds to help keep the soil from eroding!)  But the patches of grass and the dandelions MUST come out of the flower beds before they take over.
Many of the stalks of grass were taller than the flowers; some nearly as tall as I am.  Their roots went so deep that some of them came up speaking Chinese!  When they saw the light of day, they immediately asked for political asylum.  I couldn't promise that, but I knew they would not be going back to China!
The dandelions were thick, and huge.  If there ever was a dandelion contest at the county fair, I'm sure they would have won a blue ribbon!  I took no pity on them, however; they got tossed into the burn pile like the grass.  I did suggest to Joel that if he could find a market for them, they might make a good cash crop for him.
Oh, and of course, there are yards and pastures to keep mowed.
You may be thinking that our annual weeks of tree-trimming, weed-pulling, and grass-mowing therapy sound as if our son is the only one who benefits from our visits.  Not so!
Every visit he does many small repair projects for us.  This year it was a major improvement to the kitchen in our coach: he installed this set of sliding shelves in our pantry cupboard so we can finally see what we have stored without standing on our heads or kneeling to search with a flashlight!
What a welcome improvement!
We have two more major improvement projects planned for the coming week-end, but then we must be on our way traveling east.  There's a limit to how much of this "physical therapy" our old bodies can tolerate.  But we'll be back later in the summer.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Eighth Grade Graduation

Stop # 16 on our 2013 Summer Tour was a special family event.  Our niece Anna, the daughter of Bruce's sister Joyce, graduated from eighth grade on June 3 of this year while we were in Peoria.  I don't know if her school planned the date so it would fit into our travel schedule but it was great to be able to celebrate this achievement with her and her mother.

She is a very bright and talented young lady.  She has earned good grades, received state recognition in art competitions, and gained awards on both the regional and state levels with her science project this year, a research study of what type of dog food was preferred by her canine subjects. 

She performed with the Peoria Ballet Company's "Nutcracker" for several years, took lessons on both violin and clarinet and enjoys helping her mother garden by expressing her own creativity.

Preparing for her up-coming passage into high school, her mother had a little party for her and several friends.  Of course there was food.
We were so pleased and proud to be able to be part of this special occasion.

 Anna's mother is giving her a very special graduation present: a month-long trip to France!  They leave tomorrow.  Bon Voyage!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Stained Glass Windows

Singing in sunlight,
Blues and reds, yellows and whites
Dance on sunbeams.
They invite the worshipers below
to rejoice and give thanks
to the
Giver of Light.

But the sun set,
Erasing their glory
by darkness.
Colors gone, they brood
Over those knelt in prayer
Like the vacant black eyes of a skull.

But out on the streets of the city
Their colors sing
Of Your blessing and beauty
Gleaming through the night,
O Daystar of Darkness.

4 June 2013 - mshr

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Peoria Bach Festival

What a treat for our ears and our souls!  Stop # 17 on our summer tour was Peoria's annual city-wide celebration of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, The Peoria Bach Festival.  We have wanted to attend for years but this is the first time it has fit into our travel schedule!

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Peoria is the location of the concerts and assists the local Bach Festival Association in sponsoring them.  The Festival lasts eight days and on many days offers a noon concert as well as an evening concert. 

The Festival features a variety of artists and musical groups who all perform some of the music of  J. S. Bach or other composers who were influenced by him.  We thoroughly enjoyed a concert on the viola da gamba, a Baroque-era instrument we were not very familiar with.  It resembles a modern cello but is shaped more like a guitar, and the sound is gentle and soothing.

Dr. Phillip Serna

An evening concert featured the group New Comma Baroque which included the viola da gamba, as well as baroque-style violin, viola and flute, recorder, and harpsichord.  It was gorgeous.

The New Comma Baroque

Another afternoon we attended the Young Artist's concert.  Organ, piano, cello, viola and voice solos were offered by youth from grade school through high school ages.

This cello ensemble was especially impressive.
The organ concert was especially magnificent.  The setting of the organ, as in many European churches, is in the choir loft behind and above the pews where the congregation sits.
The window above the loft is awesome.
The pipe organ was an exceptional instrument with vast varieties of sound and volume.
The organist, Dr. Janette Fishell, is Chair of the Organ Department at the Jacobs School of Music of the Indiana University.
Dr. Janette Fishell
In this view, she almost disappears in the brilliance of the window.  Her music, however, made everything else disappear for an hour or so.  It was an artistic and spiritual experience!
What a pleasure it was for us to be wrapped in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach for four days.  We hope that next year we can be in Peoria for the entire Bach Festival.



Sunday, June 2, 2013

Riverfront Museum, Peoria, Illinois

Family visiting in Peoria, Illinois, gave us the opportunity for several special occasions.  Stop # 15 on our summer tour was Peoria's Riverfront Museum.  It is a huge building of modernistic design, located in the city's downtown riverfront district, just a block and a half from the edge of the Illinois River. 

We had visited many years ago in its former location but this new home for the museum was just opened last October.  The structure is many times larger than the old one and includes a Dome Planetarium, a Giant Screen Theater, a Sculpture Garden, an Auditorium, a reference library, numerous classrooms; oh, and of course a gift shop and concession stand. 

It has exhibits of Peoria city's history and of the Illinois river which runs through the middle of the city and divides Peoria from east Peoria.  The museum also has exhibits of local arts from quilts to pottery, and an international traveling art exhibits.  We were fortunate that currently it was the work of Ansel Adams that was featured.  His collection of photographs entitled "Westward Expressions" was awe-inspiring.

The Tetons and the Snake River - Ansel Adams
Image from Wiki Commons

We enjoyed the art and history exhibits; our 14 year old niece also enjoyed the "hands on" Discovery Rooms and the "Peak Performance" room.  There she could test her various physical skills and see numerical ratings of her arm strength, jumping ability, throwing strength and accuracy. It was apparently designed as a "parent saver" so kids could work off the energy they had bottled up from passively looking at art and historical items! 

The Museum's planners had apparently thought of everything -- except the exorbitant fees for performances in the specialty theaters!  They were too steep for our pocketbooks so we stuck with what our entrance fees had purchased.  Nevertheless, a good time was had by all.