Saturday, June 4, 2016

"The Sound of Music"

Yup, also in Stowe, Vermont you will find the home of the Von Trapp family.  Yes, that Von Trapp family.  If you haven't see "The Sound of Music," rent/buy it, watch it and get back here asap.

The Von Trapp's truthful escape from Austria was by train to Italy, then onto London and by ship to America.  The rest of the story in "The Sound of Music" is pretty accurate.  They then toured America telling their story and singing through the rest of the 1940's.  Finally settling in Stowe, Vermont they purchased a 2,500 acre farm and began welcoming guests to their 27-room family home in the summer of 1950.

Photo courtesy of the Von Trapp family website

The original home burned down, and they replaced it with a 96-room lodge reminiscent of their homeland's Austrian architecture. Check it out at

Friday, June 3, 2016

Innsbruck Inn, Stowe, Vermont

Built in the distinctive Tyrolean architectural style, Innsbruck Inn grew out of the imagination of the Drolet family.  They got all caught up in the 1964 Olympics where Stowe, Vermont's own favorite son, Billy Kidd, won the first ever Olympic medal for the United States in alpine skiing in, ta-ta, Innsbruck, Austria.  By 1966, Kidd was actually outracing the famous Jean-Claude Killy.

Jean-Louis & Lucille Drolet started by building a big chalet house and turning it into a Bed and Breakfast - before B&B's were the cool thing to do.  By 1972 they were ready to build their hotel - our hotel - also in the Tyrolean style and duplicate Innsbruck's feel of skiing history.

Downstairs is the darkly wooded bar and eating area with stucco walls covered with photographs of great skiers, familiar guests and artifacts you would expect to find in the Alps.

The room was wonderful, the food was excellent, the owners are wonderful, and we would go back in a heartbeat - if we were ever in the New England north again!  Next time maybe we will take the sleigh ride through the fields around the Inn and across their covered bridge.  It was really all very beautiful - just like you would imagine a snowy New England winter.

Hey!  Where's your coat!  Can't get that man to wear a coat for love nor money!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Now Taking a Left Turn Into Vermont

Between what we now know as the Connecticut River and Lake Champlain is the land we know as Vermont.  The Algonquian and the Iroquois knew the land - but didn't really have settlements there.  It was a hunting ground, and they would set up encampments in the Coos and Oxbow along the river areas while laying in a supply of fish and maple sugar or growing a corn crop.  Then they would fade back into the forests and mountains.  Amazing, isn't it?  It is certainly a harsh climate in the long winter months.

The first European, Samuel de Champlain, found it daunting even though the French certainly knew how to build more weather-resistant housing and had tools that made harvesting firewood easier.  They were the first to attempt colonization, trying to establish Quebec around 1609.  It was then over 60 years later that they ventured a permanent settlement, this time at what had taken on the name of Lake Champlain.  This venture went no where either, and the region again returned to being a no-man's land, literally.

A century later, around the time of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), those tribes that aligned with the French came into this land to raid the occasional English settlements that had popped up over the last few years:  the Abenaki and Mi'kmaq of the Wabanaki Confederacy, the Algonquin, Lenape, Ojibwa, Ottawa, Shawnee and Wyando.  Evidence of their encampments have been found by archeologists.

Folks nowadays think, "Shame on Americans for stealing native American land."  Well, seems the natives didn't much want what we know as Vermont.  And if there was any stealing going on it was European vs. European.  The English took it from the French (who didn't really much want it either), then New Hampshire's royal governor Benning Wentworth granted some of these lands to family members that New York's royal governor, George Clinton, believed belonged to New York.  They fussed over the issue through the French and Indian War and the American Revolution and for several years after that (1749-179) before someone finally payed off New Yorkers with $30,000 so that Vermont could stand on its own and become the very first state admitted to the Union after the 13 colonies adopted the Constitution. 

Right now, all I know is that I am c-o-l-d.  It's beautiful - but it's c-o-l-d! I have my knee high, sheepskin-lined fur boots on and a wool blanket, but I'm still c-o-l-d!  I want my hotel room, and I want a hot shower!  

Finally, the Innsbruck Inn at Stowe, Vermont.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fort Williams, Maine

It is a very cold and blustery day.  This accidental visit to what was Fort Williams makes it seem as though it was not a place to be assigned to in the winter - but, of course, men definitely were.

It was established in 1873 as The Battery at Portland Head (as in Portland, Maine) as a sub-post of Fort Preble.  In 1898 it became a separate and independent fort designated Fort Williams in honor of Brevet Major General Seth Williams.

Williams was a native of Maine, graduated 23rd in a class of 56 from the U.S. Military Academy in 1842, and served as an aide-de-camp to General Robert Patterson in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848).  Subsequently, he became adjutant at West Point from 1850 to 1853.

He served as an Assistant Adjutant General in the Union's Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War.  For you Civil War aficionados, Williams was a groomsman at Maj. Gen. George McClellan's wedding in New York City on May 22, 1860. Seth Williams served as assistant adjutant general to McClellan in the Department of the Ohio in the summer of 1861.

Also, it was Williams who took Grant's message to respectfully suggest surrender to Robert E. Lee during the Appomattox battle, and it was Williams who delivered the terms of surrender to the rebel forces.  Those terms were accepted at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.  All pretty good reasons to honor him by naming a fort after him, huh?

Fast-forward to April, 1945 and you have an memorial here at Fort Williams of the greatest loss of U.S. Navy personnel during World War II in New England waters.

 In memory of the officers and crewmen of the
U.S. Navy's Eagle Class sub chaser
U.S.S. EAGLE 56 (PE-56)
Torpedoed and sunk by the German U-boat U-853
approximately nine miles southeast of this
location on Monday 23 April 1945 with the loss of
forty-nine officers and crewmen.
Thirteen survivors were rescued.
The greatest loss of U.S. Navy personnel
 in New England waters during World War II

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Maine Lobsters

Who could leave Maine without honoring their lobsters??
Fully seventy percent of all lobsters harvested in New England are caught in Maine waters.

This is a terrible iPhone picture of a picture - too much glare, and it looks like my fingers are wrapped around the man's legs as though he was a paper doll!  LOL!  But, if you look closely - really, really closely - you will see the lobster claws he is hanging on to.  They are enormous!

When the momma lobster gets ready to lay her eggs she lays on her back, curls up here tail and "extrudes" thousands of eggs no bigger than the head of pin.  They're suspended there, in a jelly-glue mass for nine months!  Those eggs that don't stick won't hatch, and they become seafood themselves for other critters.

Kinda like a frog doesn't look like a frog when it hatches, lobsters resemble insects because they don't have claws.  Baby frogs are called tadpoles; baby lobsters are called larva.  Over the next month the larva will transform itself by growing and shedding its shell three times.  These lil' critters don't weigh anything so they are doomed to float around as bait until they get that final, heavier shell and sink to the bottom of the ocean.  Now it becomes a game of hide-and-seek.  As it grows it does more seeking than hiding - and that's when the lobster fisherman's trap gets 'em!

Some of those Maine lobsters live to be 100 years old and are as big as a small child at 27 pounds.  They come in all different colors, the rarest being blue lobsters, but there are red, white and yellow spotted lobsters, too.  They all turn red when you toss 'em in the boiler pot!  Mmmm-mm-mmmm!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Kennebunkport, Maine

I have heard about the Bush home in Kennebunkport, Maine for what seems like decades!  Never, ever thought I'd get to see it in person.  Not tour it, it's still a home to the Bush family, but just to see it because I've heard so much about it over the years.

It's on a spit of land called Walker's Point.  (Look at that!  These crazy New Englanders even SCUBA dive here!)  Now, that spit of land is guarded by a fierce lookin' gate, and if I remember correctly, there's even a little bridge you would have to drive across before storming the gate.  

 Maybe no one else does, but the people of Kennebunkport loved George Herbert Walker Bush.  (Did you catch that the location is named Walker's Point - as in George Herbert WALKER Bush?)  

 "For our Friend and 41st President 
George H.W. Bush
An 'Anchor to Windward'
As he was for our nation and world during
four years of tumultuous and historic change,
so, too, has Kennebunkport served, in the
 words of St. Paul, "as an anchor of the soul, 
both sure and steadfast" to him.
presented by those who love him as much
as he loves this special place.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Snowy Beaches

Silly me!  It never occurred to this Texas girl that there would ever be snow on a beach!  Isn't it beautiful?  And that SKY!

Nothing holds these New Englanders back.  Look at all of them going for a stroll on the beach, ocean on one side, snow on the other.   They even picnic in the snow!

Me?  Not so much.  I'm layered to the nth degree!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

East Coast Surfers, Lighthouses and Homes

Most people - including me - associate surfing with the West Coast and Pacific Ocean, but don't discount surfing the Atlantic.  Hardy New Englanders simply don't allow the cold to hold them back!

Can you imagine how many storms this lighthouse has weathered?  And it looks better than I do!!

 I think the one at Fort Williams is the prettiest.

 But they all have their appeals.  Isolated on a rock outcropping from shore would be a stunning place to suffer a hurricane.  But it certainly looks as though this house was built for it!

The homes are nothing to sneeze at either!!  Can you imagine the heating bills???

Friday, May 27, 2016

Grandkids Christmas - 2015

Every year we try to come up with some long-distance gifts we can give all of the grandkids.  This year was a bit of a challenge though as the older grandkids are now impossible to buy for!  But I like to keep a photographic record of what we come up with so I don't duplicate something in years to come.  So, here it is.

Seems intricate coloring books are in this year, and I found one that is also full of Bible scripture  Excellent choice, if I do say so myself! 

If you have coloring books one must have things to color with.

Lil' Timer got lots of stuffed animals and a book to read.

Hairbands are always good for those long, beautiful tresses.  The hacky-sack proves that they still have some tom-boy in them!

Ever heard the term, "sock it away"?  What's that sock on the right side of the picture - and what might be inside that sock?  Hmmmm.  Of course, for this lil' boy there are no headbands, but there are some pocket combs.

It really IS a lot of work putting it all together!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

What A Meal!

By the time we finished with the USS Constitution we were famished!  We were also a long way from the car, so we had to find a place as we walked.  We ended up in this restaurant where no one was speaking English.  We felt kind of strange, but, wow! what a meal we had!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How To Recruit The Crew of a Warship - In 1812

Your crew mates will be about 5' 6", average age of 27, 7-15% black, gray eyes, brown hair cut short or tied back in a braid, 5-10% would be tattooed with initials, anchors, hearts or a cross, and quite possibly be missing fingers and be covered in burns and scars - and maybe wearing a peg-leg!

If you sign on to be a maintopman (main-top-man) you are expected to be up in the highest sheets (sails) in all kinds of weather but most especially during battle.  The enemy always angles for the rigging to cripple the handling of the ship.  YOU are supposed to dodge all the munitions and knot and splice and fix up the sails and lines.  (There are no "ropes" on a ship; they are called lines.)  The tools you will have to work with are your ears, to hear orders, and your hands to obey orders.  Oh, and a pocket knife in case something unexpected gets you tangled up.  During the War of 1812 there are four recorded instances of sailors falling from the rigging.  None survived.

 As one of over four hundred sailors aboard you ARE expected to do WHAT you are told WHEN you are told - period - and to do your job promptly and CHEERFULLY.  Otherwise, there WILL be a flogging.

 Off duty, life wasn't so bad.  Every man wants to nap in one of these!

All sailors had to holystone the deck if they wanted securing footing in a storm or battle.  The holystone was a block of sandstone.  Big ones were called "bibles" and smaller ones called "prayer books."

One of the reasons sailors have always had a friendly (?) feud going with the marines is because the marines were to stand at the gangway armed with a musket to ensure that none of the new recruits changes his mind and tries to escape!  Conversely, in battle, the marines had only muskets to defend themselves with - and these were the kind where you loaded with a lead ball, tore a cartridge of gunpowder open, poured it in (saving enough for the "pan"), and rammed it home.  Then poured the remaining gunpowder in the pan and set it off with the strike of a flint.  All the while rolling up and down and left and right with the ship trying to keep their powder dry, dodging cannon balls and bullets from the British.  Marines aren't so bad.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Back! Back, Ship! Back!

Square-rigged ships, like the USS Constitution, cannot sail wherever they choose.  They can only sail at an angle to the wind and never directly into the wind.  During a battle, the ship's Captain had to think about that and how to keep the guns pointed at the enemy at all times.  

On February 20, 1815, Captain Charles Stewart did MORE than accomplish this while attacking TWO enemy vessels at the same time!  He encountered the HMS Cyane and  Levant from the preferred windward side (that allows him to fill his sails with wind to improve maneuvering, while denying that wind to the opposing ship.)  After fifteen minutes, the bigger but faster Constitution ranged alongside the lead enemy ship.  Through skilled sail-handling, Stewart and his crew stopped Constitution's forward momentum and even moved backward! to avoid taking fire from the second enemy.

THEN he maneuvered to divide the two British warships and fight them one at a time!  

Whoa!  Think about THAT!  Make a ship the size of the Constitution stop dead in the water and then go in reverse?  All the while fighting a battle with roaring cannon and billows of smoke so thick one probably has no clue what ship was where.  Captain Stewart - and his awesome American sailors - were amazing!

It was fighting like that that caused the British Admiralty to order their commanders to engage an American frigate only when the British had a superior force.  Even then, as in this case, it made no difference.  America won the War of 1812 because of her magnificent sailors!  Anchors away!  Woo-hoo!

This is a photo180 years later - in 1992 - of the Constitution is in dry dock... and a photo of her crew - all hands on deck - in 2015.

Monday, May 23, 2016

U.S.S Constitution

First of all, what does the "U.S.S" stand for?  United States Ship, of course!  Just like H.M.S. stands for Her Majesty's Ship.

The U.S.S. Constitution  ...

was ordered to be built by George Washington - and is the oldest commissioned warship in the world.  Launched in 1797 with a crew of 400 men and boys, she got her nickname during the War of 1812 when she and her crew defeated four (count them, f-o-u-r) British frigates! 

Now, you ask, what's a frigate?  Well, in 1812 it was a square-rigged war vessel intermediate between a corvette and a ship of the line.  No, no.  Not that kind of corvette!  A corvette in sailor's terms was a ship that had a flush deck and usually one tier of guns. Corvette's were sleek and fast, which is probably why Chevy chose that name for their muscle-car.  A ship of the line, however, was slow and heavy.  It was square-rigged warship having at least two, and as many as four, gun decks and designed to be positioned for battle in a line with other such ships, hence the name.

How, might you ask, did one ship defeat four?  Well, though the Constitution was made of oak, it was America's live oak, Quercus virginiana.  Yeah, so?  Well, American trees were a lot older than anything in England - or any where else in Europe - because no one had been cutting them down wholesale for centuries to build ships and war machines and castles.  What Europeans were using were relatively young trees.  You might say America's oak was aged - and it is incredibly dense, and rot-resistant.  Anyway, the oak in the Constitution's hull was so hard that the English cannonballs just bounced off of her sides!  The nickname Old Ironsides has stuck with her all of these years. 

Though the Latin name implies the timber came from Virginia, Old Ironsides' timbers actually came from the swampy shores of Georgia.  (I'll bet our pastor from Kaua'i, who is a native of Georgia, will like this...)  The shipbuilders sailed to Georgia with 80 New England axemen to chop down the timbers needed to build the frigates that George Washington ordered.  Those hard-as-nail live oak trees along with the heat, humidity and mosquitoes either killed those New Englanders or sent them scampering back north!  Only a total of four of those Yankees managed to survive to the end of the job.  Most of the timber was harvested by slaves provided by local families.  (We've learned the hard way that cutting down live oak trees in East Texas will ruin a good chainsaw in no time at all.  Can you imagine how hard it was back in the 1700's to fell a live oak tree using an axe!)

So, what does it mean to be commissioned?  She's not a floating museum; she's still a warship with sailors assigned tours of duty aboard her, and, when she's not in dry dock, they sail her!

For the near future, however, Old Ironsides is in dry-dock.  Her copper hull is being replaced, among other things, and this sailor (assigned to the crew - at his request!) is manning a table of the copper plates that will be used.  With a special stylus, he is encouraging visitors to sign their names.  So, Granpa and I signed, and our names will be attached to the bottom of the oldest commissioned warship in the world.  That's kinda cool!

Today, she sails with a whole lot less than the 400 originally assigned.  She probably won't be doing any battle, but when she did back in the day, her captain signed on 30 boys to carry gunpowder to the gunners during battle.  Fifty of the men were marines serving as sentries.  She also had probably 10% of her crew made up of black Americans.  ( I confess, looking back there are a whole lot of jobs I'd like to have tried my hand at - but sailing is definitely, unequivocally NOT one of them.  Just thinking about it makes me seasick!  But I'm mighty proud of the sailors who have taken to the seas to defend America around the globe!)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Old State House

This is Boston's oldest public building.  Dating back to 1713 it was built as the seat of the British colonial government. 

This is where it all began!  This is where the British Royal Governor and the Massachusetts colony's Assembly debated the infamous Writs of Assistance (1761) and Stamp Acts (1765). 
Today, we would know the Writs of Assistance as general search warrants.  Back then, though, there was no due process and the British could search anywhere for anything at any time with no cause.  We might have been colonists, but we were still British citizens, and as such, due the same legal protections as if we were in England.  Those rights were guaranteed in English common law. Ol' James Otis, employed by the British Governor as Advocate-General, quit his job as prosecutor  and volunteered to defend the colonists against this action.  Before the Superior Court of the colony of Massachusetts, James Otis spoke for FIVE HOURS in defense of these English subjects:

I take this opportunity to declare that whether under a fee or not (for in such a cause as this I despise a fee) I will to my dying day oppose, with all the powers and faculties God has given me, all such instruments of slavery on the one hand and villainy on the other as this Writ of Assistance is.

The ultimate response to this abuse was the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution for the United States.  (SEE!  There WAS a reason for all of the things our Founding Fathers did!)

As for the Stamp Act, it was SOP (standard operating procedure), in order to generate revenue, for the British to require a government stamp on everything from legal papers to a deck of cards .  They needed to raise taxes to pay for the recent French and Indian War (across the "pond" it was known as the Seven Years' War) fought by the British on behalf of their colonists against the French and Indians.  Today, we would know it as a sales tax.  Fair enough.  But, British Parliament passed said Stamp Act without giving colonial representatives an opportunity to debate the issues in Parliament.  Hence the outcry still heard today of "taxation without representation."

It must have seemed an enormous victory to the Americans/no-longer-colonists when the Declaration of Independence was first read to Bostonians from the east balcony of this Old State House on July 18, 1776.  What a day that must have been.  Fifteen years of fussin' and fightin' and it was all wrapped up in our Declaration and Constitution.  All of the wrongs forced onto a people - and those two documents protected Americans from ever having to suffer the oppression again.  Well, until recently when Obama forced the Obamacare Act down the throats of all Americans - forcing us to buy - at exorbitant rates - healthcare we don't want or need...  Obviously, we don't have the guts our forefathers did.  We've just opened our pocketbooks and poured out the money.  Fools.