Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve is almost upon us, and so I thought I would give a little bit of information on the celebration, and its evolution. Some scholars believe the celebration can be traced to the Roman observance of the Winter Solstice, or "Saturnalia". The holiday was know for the letting go of discipline and rules of behavior, a free-for-all basically, under the night time sky! Think Woodstock, think Stonehenge Celtic new-agers.

By the 18th Century, revelers in cities in Philadelphia and New York often ended up in street demonstrations, bar room brawls, violence and vandalism. Groups of people would shoot off guns, scream, set off firecrackers, break down barricades, break windows. So what else is new?! We always think our times are the worst.

Of course, Auld Lang Syne was sang in more sedate gatherings, which goes back to 18th Century Britian when guests ended a party standing in a circle, singing the well-known song. By the way, the lyrics are by Robert Burns, written in 1788.

)Well, however you choose to celebrate it, the New Year, 2013, is on its way. When George Orwell wrote "1984", (written in 1949), 1984 must have seemed life-times away, a future no one could possibly comprehend. And, here we are now at 2013. There are technological advances that we thought were impossible, like even HAL in the movie "2001". We practically have Hal in our homes today, in fact with the Ipod phone and "Siri", we do have a Hal of sorts, (maybe a Halle, or Halley!
It has been a pleasure for me to research and bring tid bits of the 18th Century to you this year. I hope to be inspired again to not only bring 18th Century information, but perhaps some surprises, too. Stay tuned!
Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Lesson of Boxing Day!

Today is Boxing Day! And what is that? Well, it is celebrated in England the day after Christmas, which is St. Stephen's Day. The name "Boxing Day" is derived from the custom of giving a "Christmas Box" to someone in need, either money or something helpful. The box was originally a receptacle into which the money or item was placed. It could be wood or clay, if clay sometimes shaped into a sphere, with a slit at the top (piggy bank?!). The gift was for the poor, or a gratuity of sorts to someone that provided a service, not a gift from equals.

The tradition goes way back, but by the 18th Century, people were complaining about the amounts that were considered the appropriate. There's always a Scrooge in our midst!

Another interesting take on the Christmas box, was that on the tallships, a box was provided by a priest while the ship was in port, it became a kind of good luck charm, where sailors hoping to ensure their returning home, would occasionally put money in the box. The box was stored safely shipboard, and if the ship returned successfully, then the money was given to the priest in exchange for a mass of thanksgiving, and the priest then distributed the monies to the poor.

Of course the lyrics of "Good King Wenceslas" sum it all up. It tells the story of the King and his Page on the Feast of Stephen. The King spots a poor man gathering fire wood, and heading home. The King drags the Page along through the snow to the man's humble home, bringing an offering. Their cold and arduous journey bring a blessing not only for the man, but for themselves:

Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing!

How true! So, remember to do an unexpected kindness this day, and count yourselves blessed!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Where Christmas Can Be Found!

Ever since the Holy Star pointed to the location of the Christ Child's manger, the tradition of celebrating Christmas and bearing gifts to those we love has filled the Winter season. Throughout December, Christmas is celebrated with the joy and excess of the groaning side-board, the enormous, glittering Christmas tree, singing of carols, outdoor lighting that has reached outrageous proportions. It is fun, and exciting, and racous, and delightful none-the-less.

But Christmas can also be found in quiet places of reflection. The further back you go in history, Christmas looked very different, definitely a religious feast day, and with very little gifting save something needed, or prized, like oranges! It was a real treat to receive a beautiful piece of the golden citrus, from some far-away exotic land!

And where were these exotic lands? If it were not for exploration and sailors finding Land, Ho! we would still think we could fall off the horizon line.

Sailors were at sea for months or even years at a time, making landfall to pick up supplies, or make repairs, and then they were on their way again. Once such sailor, that sailed for over 43 years, was British-born George Hodge. He worked shipboard from 1790 to 1833. He was self-educated and began a journal to document his journeys. He stepped aboard at age 13, and worked below decks. He not only wrote about the life, but drew as well. His diary was discovered not too long ago in the United States.

One of his entries regards Christmas: On Christmas Day in 1806 he writes: "Employ'd in wartering ship and seting up the riger ... fish for dinner." 
That's the long and short of it! But he did make note of the date.

I often remember the passage from Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" that describes the people at sea in a storm:

"Again the Ghost (of Christmas Present) sped on, above the black and heaving sea -- on, on -- until, being far away, as he told Scrooge, from any shore, they lighted on a ship. They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the look-out in the bow, the officers who had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several stations; but every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes belonging to it. And every man on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for another on that day than on any day in the year; and had shared to some extent in its festivities; and had remembered those he cared for at a distance, and had known that they delighted to remember him."

This year a great deal of the Christmas Season for me has been spent at the bedside of my Dad who is in a rehab/nursing facility suffering the ravaging effects of later-stage Pakinson's disease. It is heart-breaking to see a man so full of life reduced to the shell of the person I have known and counted on all my life.

But, still, Christmas is to be found even here. I have received many presents already, though they are different than expected. I have the gift of seeing the strength of my family, pulling together to be helpful at this time. I have the gift of friends who have called me to offer help, or prayers, or to relay a funny or happy story. They sustain me. The staff at the facility are compassionate and kind which is a gift. People always hear nightmare stories of nursing homes. It is not always true. I have the gift of being able to assist my Dad, even if only to wheel him down the hall of the facility to see the Christmas tree, or help him enjoy a couple spoonfuls of his favorite smoothie. I have the ears to hear his whispered voice, when he asks for something. I have the gift of him reaching for my hand, and telling me I am his pal.

We must remember that the Christ Child was born, not in the lap of luxury, but in a crude and cold barn. But, His Light brings warmth to all the world, a Light that fills even the darkest space. And here, then, is where Christmas is found.

Merry Christmas to all! God bless you, one and all!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An 18th Century Orthodox Saint

Each morning, I start the day with a good cup of coffee, and the daily scriptural readings provided by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website Along with those epistle and gospel readings are information of the various saints that are honored on the calendar for that day. For us Orthodox Christians, our patron saint and being named for them, is very important. It gives us a special saint to pray to, to intercede for us with God, and a role model for our lives. Generally, we keep an icon of our patron saint in our homes to venerate, or honor.

Today, on the calendar is Saint Herman of Alaska, who was born near Moscow in 156. He is an 18th Century Saint, who became a monk at an early age, living in a hermitage near St. Petersburg, when he became very ill. He was healed by the holy Mother of God who appeared to him there. He later went into the wilderness to pray, and answered a call for missionaries to the Aleuts in the New World. He settled on Spruce Island, and even in the face of grave affliction, he helped spread God's Word to his new countrymen.

The icon of St. Herman at left is interesting, because it not only holds his image, but smaller ones of his life from its beginning, to his pilgrimage to Alaska (the Aleutian Islands). If you look closely you can see the Native peoples. Below is a chapel that was built
built in 1898 over the site where St. Herman was buried on Spruce Island in December 1836.

It's interesting to note that we think of the saints as living way back in the day, and not as real people. But they are! And, though we don't see many saints canonized these days, they do exist in more recent times, including St. Herman in the 18th Century, St. Nektarios who lived from 1846-1920, as well as the Imperial Russian Royal Family, who died at the hands of the Bolsheviks in 1917 (see their icon at right above).  They are considered martyrs for the Faith. I can thank a friend of mine for the information on the Romanovs! I did not know this.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Handel's Messiah: Halleluiah!

With Christmas coming, I always get out my holiday CDs to accompany me along my daily drives to work and play! One of my favorites is Handel's Messiah, which chronicals Christ's life from birth to death, and Resurrection. It is an Oratorio, or piece similar to opera with music and song advancing the story, but unlike opera which is musical theatre, an oratorio is a concert. So costumes or sets, but the orchestra and singers on stage.

Handel, who was German, found himself in the mid-1700's in England. He loved it there, and the English loved him and his work.
He composed the Messiah in 1741 with text compiled by Charles Jennen, from the King James Bible, along with Psalms from the Book of Common Prayer. It is written in three parts: the Coming of Christ, His Passion and Death, and the Resurrection. Some arias are for the soprano or alto voice, others for baritone and even bass. It is gorgeous, each one with its own special beauty. Some are very familiar to us, like the Halleluiah chorus, but there are some other gems, like "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd".

Handel first performed the Messiah in Dublin in 1742 at the Great Music Hall (at right). This arose out of an invitation from the Duke of Devonshire, who was the First Lieutenant of Ireland at the time. The Londoners were aghast, but he deferred to the Duke, who probably footed the bill for the concert as well. Money talks!

Anyway, It is well worth a listen, especially at this time of year. Apart from all the holiday hoopla selections, like "Jingle Bell Rock", "Mommy Kissing Santa Claus", "Gramma Got run over by a Reindeer", it is nice to hear something that actually contemplates the true meaning of the season; that it is Jesus' birthday, and in that, there is great hope!

Friday, December 7, 2012

What's it worth to you?!

Researching some Christmas traditions this day, I came across something unusual and fun.
George Washington was fond of exotic animals, and in 1787, he paid 18 shillings for a camel to live temporarily at Mount Vernon during the Christmas season! He felt it would be something with which to entertain his guests, and perhaps he had in mind the nativity scene and the Three Wise Men's arrival to see The King of Kings.

 As holidays in the 18th Century were rather low key, this must have caused quite a stir. Generally, people got together with family and friends to enjoy good food and drink, and sing carols, and chat. And, the camel would certainly have given them much to chat about.

By the way, during his time in office, George paid to see a lioness, a tiger, a cougar, sea leopard, an elephant and a "very smart" dog.

So, what's a shilling worth in the late 1700's? Well, I did some research on that as well. There are 20 shillings to the pound. So, George would have paid a little less than a pound to have the camel visit. Now, there were no US dollars until about 1790, but the pound was worth about $4.50. That was alot of money!

See this interesting fact below:

"A "forty shilling freeholder" in 1780 was a person with enough money that they had the right to vote. A survey done in NYC shortly after the Constitution was signed in 1787 found that about 20% of New York City residents had that much property. So having a net worth of 40 shillings then would put you in the upper 20% of net worths of people who lived in NYC" (taken from Amazon answers).

Money is all relative. One can always justify the purchase of something, if they want it badly enough. I guess George felt the camel was worth it!





Thursday, December 6, 2012

Silent Night, Holy Night!

The idea of the Nativity Creche, or the display of figures representing Christ's Manger, is nothing new. In fact, one of the most impressive Creches is the one displayed each holiday season at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City!And, it is from the 18th Century!

Each year, in the museum's entry lobby, an enormous Christmas tree and the famed Neapolitan Baroque creche is there for viewing from mid-November to January of the New Year. The tree is real, a 20 foot blue spruce, and the collection of almost life-sized figures include angels and cherubs hovering over the Nativity scene. Christmas music is played and a daily lighting takes place. This tradition has been kept since the 1950's when Loretta Hines Howard's donation of the figures made this possible. She began collecting the wood carved figures in 1925. The tree top is also a carved piece, the Christmas Star!

I, too, keep the tradition going in my home. Of course, mine is a more reasonable size!
I bring it out each year, and set up the scene, sometimes with lights, sometimes with candles, sometimes with a snowy blanket. I haven't quite decided what I will do this year, but it's out of the box, and set in place. I am waiting for inspiration! Any ideas?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Difficult Time, but a Time to be Hopeful and Grateful, too.

I have been away for awhile, and for good reason. My Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease (PD) in 1990. He has lived with, and managed pretty well for 20 years, with the care of his doctors, and most importantly, the concern and nurturing of my Mother, his wife for over 60 years.

Unfortunately, and we all knew this day would come (though we had that fact tucked way, way back in our minds), he is now very ill, truly struck down with the advanced stages of the disease. It is a heart-break and as  a family, we feel helpless, but to be there for him as we can, pray for him and for guidance from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My Dad was admitted to a hospital last Monday for a particular episode, and then transferred to a rehab facility on Tuesday, where he remains to this day. Our family is all taking turns visiting him, but it is exhausting and we can only take one day at a time.

Interestingly enough, the disease has been recorded from ancient times, not as Parkinson's, but accounting particular symptoms that today we would acknowledge as PD. Even an Egyptian papyrus describes resembling symptoms!  Though there were treatises written in the 17th Century, it was not until 1817 that English doctor James Parkinson (at left) published his definitive essay on particular six cases. His "Essay on the Shaking Palsy" described the tremor, abnormal posture and gait, diminished muscle strength and the way the disease progresses over time. The disease was named in his honor.

Today, the campaign for information, awareness and a cure for Parkinson's has a TULIP symbol as a logo. Why?  In 1980, a Dutch horticulturalist, who had Parkinson’s, developed a new cultivar of tulip and named it after Dr. James Parkinson, the English doctor who originally described the condition.

I am greatly saddened by the events of the past week, but it is December, and it is a time, according to my Christian Orthodoxy, to be hopeful and grateful. I am hopeful that God will be merciful to my Dad and our family, and I am grateful to see how we, as a family have pulled together, risen to the occasion, kept our heads, looked to be proactive. I am also grateful to friends who have reached out to be supportive, to keep us in their prayers. If I am missing in action for awhile, now you will know why.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Not be silly?

Today I am back at work after a lovely Thanksgiving holiday, with family, with friends, and on my own, starting to get ready for December. But, it is still November, as Thanksgiving came early this year. I don't see the crucial need to decorate the house yet, but I did take down the festive Fall golden decor. The house is now plain, in anticipation of Christmas.

Thanksgiving dinner with friends was delightful, with tasty food and good conversation. As the evening progressed, we watched football, then Nadia G's Bitchin Kitchen, and then spent a bit of time looking at funny on-line videos from Saturday Night Live. I must admit, some were so funny, I could hardly stand it. We laughed our heads off, and it felt good to be a bit silly.

Sometimes we think that historic figures were always serious and reserve, but not my dear friend Mozart. He loved a good laugh, some mischief and some baudy humor. It's nice to know that these people were REAL. That they liked a good time, a chance to let go, kick back. Mozart certainly enjoyed silliness. He played with words, which is common with highly-intelligent people. It becomes an outlet.

See below his November letter to his favorite cousin Maria Anna. She was a recipient of some of his flirtatious, racous humor. And, don't forget to enjoy a good laugh now and again.

Manheim, November 5, 1777
Dearest cozz buzz!
I'm asking you, why not? - I'm asking you, dearest numbskull, why not? - if you are writing anyway to Madame Tavernier in Munich, please include regards from me to the Mademoiselles Freysinger, why not? - Curious! Why not? - and to the Younger, I mean Frauline Josepha, tell her I'll send my sincere apologies, why not? - why should I not apologize? - Curious! - I don't know why not? - I want to apologize that I have not yet sent her the sonata that I promised, but I will send it as soon as possible, why not? - what - why not? - why shouldn't I send it? - why should I not transmit it? - why not? Curious! I wouldn't know why not? - well, then you'll do me this favor; - why not? Why shouldn't you do it for me? Why not, it's so strange! After all, I'll do it for you, too, if you want me to, why not? - why shouldn't I do it for you? - curious! Why not? - I wouldn't know why not?
And now I must close and that makes me morose....Now farewell, I kiss you 10000 times and I remain as always your
Old young Sauschwanz,
Wolfgang Amadé Rosenkranz             

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Proclamation!

Here's an interesting bit! In October 1780, US Congress proclaimed a day set aside for Thanksgiving, recommending to set apart a Thursday (in December at that time), for people to take time to be thankful for blessing, to comfort the sick or those in need, to spread the word of God "over all the earth".  See the Proclamation below:

A PROCLAMATION by the United States in Congress assembly:

Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, amidst the vicissitudes and calamities of war, to bestow blessings on the people of these states, which call for their devout and thankful acknowledgments, more especially in the late remarkable interposition of his watchful providence, in rescuing the person of our Commander in Chief and the army from imminent dangers, at the moment when treason was ripened for execution; in prospering the labors of the husbandmen, and causing the earth to yield its increase in plentiful harvests; and, above all, in continuing to us the enjoyment of the gospel of peace;

It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart Thursday, the seventh day of December next, to be observed as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer; that all the people may assemble on that day to celebrate the praises of our Divine Benefactor; to confess our unworthiness of the least of his favors, and to offer our fervent supplications to the God of all grace; that it may please him to pardon our heinous transgressions and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws that it may please him still to afford us the blessing of health; to comfort and relieve our brethren who are any wise afflicted or distressed; to smile upon our husbandry and trade and establish the work of our hands; to direct our public councils, and lead our forces, by land and sea, to victory; to take our illustrious ally under his special protection, and favor our joint councils and exertions for the establishment of speedy and permanent peace; to cherish all schools and seminaries of education, build up his churches in their most holy faith and to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth.

Done in Congress, the last day of October, 1780, and in the fifth year of the independence of the United States of America.
I thought this was a nice thing to think about, especially when our 21st Century Thanksgiving Day and the long weekend that follows has turned into a greedy shopping fest, with people waiting in lines from midnight to force their way into stores to get the first fruits of the holiday gift-giving season. It's terrible! And worse yet, this year stores are opening on Thanksgiving evening, so that you can rush out after turkey dinner to a better banquet - the big box store!
It saddens me when all our American family traditions are going by the wayside in favor of making the almighty dollar. I certainly want the economy to improve, and I am a capitalist, but I still like to reserve some special days for family, friends and the Good Lord, to say thank you for all we do have, and to ask Him to remember those of us in need.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Renaissance, The Enlightenment and a Search for Knowledge

I often wonder why I have certain obsessions about particular eras and people through history. As if they call to me. As if perhaps I was there! Past lives and all. When this happens, I want to devour all the information I can find.

As much as I relate to the 18th Century, The Age of Enlightenment (or Reason), I also gravitate toward The Renaissance, particularly in England. The beginning of the Renaissance in England is often marked at 1485, with the Battle of Bosworth Field, ending the famous War of the Roses, and the introduction of the Tudor Dynasty. Though this movement formed more slowly in England, probably because of England's location away from the Continent, by the time of Elizabeth I, it was in full flower.

Interestingly enough, The Renaissance, or "The Rebirth", and The Enlightenment, or "Age of Reason", are similar in many ways. Both heralded major changes in art, culture, philosophy, science and mathmatics. But the Renaissance is more closely tied with advances in literature, architecture and of Humanism (Humanism marking the genius of man, and the remarkable ability of the human mind). One of the greatest Humanists was Sir Thomas More, at right, concerned with the law, faith and principle. Another famous Renaissance man, is William Shakespeare, poet and playwright, whose genius brought us the ability to look at man and man's common themes of  triumphs and frailties through comedy, tragedy and historic figures. No matter how much time passes, man is man, and his approach to love, friendship, problems, revenge, is nevertheless, the same.

The Age of Enlightenment is more concerned with science, industrialization, astronomy, rationality. The society in the 18th Century strived to assert the natural world as one giant, united machine to be disassembled, studied, and in turn, mastered. It was a more intellectual movement; the Renaissance more concerned with beauty, balance and harmony. And when I say beauty, I don't mean "pretty". There is a huge difference. An example of that kind of study and dissection, with regard to the human form, is shown below, by Leonardo Da Vinci, "The Vitruvian Man."

I read an interesting comparison of The Renaissance and The Enlightenment: "While The Renaissance was closely related to a search for the accumulation of past knowledge, The Enlightenment clearly involved a conscious effort to break with the past." Hence, it was an era of great exploration and invention, eventually giving birth to the Industrial Age.

An interesting fact: During the Age of Enlightenment, scientific knowledge began to be systematically categorized in ENCYCLOPEDIAS! Previously, dictionaries gave the general information in terms of understanding, but now the goal was to record all human knowledge in a comprehensive reference. The most well-known of this type of book was by Dennis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert's "Encyclopedie, ou dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers". Published in 1751, it was composed of thirty-five volumes and over 71,000 entries. By the 20th Century, information was being updated so as to require yearly publications of encyclopedias. Today these books can't keep up on a monthly basis, and so,...... the internet! But, I'm a bit "old"school". I still like to crack open a book and turn the actual page.




Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Cake

Well, all the hoopla of the election is now over. I'll admit, it took me a day to "get over" the results. Naturally, having voted for Romney, I was disappointed and a bit depressed, but today is, as Scarlett would remind us, "another day!"

I happened upon an interesting find regarding election celebrations during the 18th Century. The ELECTION CAKE! It sounded interesting so I spent some time looking into this delicacy. Also known as the "muster cake", it was used for large gatherings, as you can see from the list of ingredients below!

The recipe below is taken from Amelia Simmons' American Cookery, published in 1796:

Thirty quarts [38 lbs] flour, 10 pound butter, 14 pound sugar, 12 pound raisins, 3 doz eggs, one pint wine, one quart brandy, 4 ounces cinnamon, 4 ounces fine colander seed, 3 ounces ground allspice; wet the flour with milk to the consistence of bread over night, adding one quart yeast; the next morning work the butter and sugar together for half an hour, which will render the cake much lighter and whiter; when it has rise light work in every other ingredient except the plumbs [raisins], which work in when going into the oven.

You can see the original cookbook at left, but it has also been re-published and updated (below) if you are interested in recipes from back in the day!

Needless to say, I will not be making the cake any time soon, but I will keep it in mind for another day!




Tuesday, November 6, 2012

VOTING: The American Privilege!

Today is Election Day!

It is a day of great privilege for Americans, no matter what party or philosophy of government you may follow or promote. In my time, I have been, I will admit, a political junkie, and see the decreasing voter turnout disturbing. When candidates and their volunteers have to beg voters to come to the polls, it saddens me, as our Founding Fathers and those who fought and died for this country worked so hard to guarantee our right to a say in the development and movement of this Nation. With all its problems, the United States is still the best beacon of hope, freedom and opportunity in this world.

Politically speaking, I am a Conservative, and from time to time, I ask myself why? From the time I could first participate in the election process, I found myself leaning toward the Conservative philosophy. The underlying answer is that I do not believe in a government that enables dependence. I believe in a government that helps create and foster an environment where individuals can rise to whatever they aspires, can choose for themselves, unhampered by growing government regulation and restriction.

I believe in local or state government taking a lead in issues that concern their region. Who better to help their own, than those who see the problem close at hand?
I believe in the good will and kindness of people who live and work together at the local level. I have seen again and again that when someone needs a hand, multitudes of people show up to help. Charity begins at home, and I have never been disappointed in the generosity of Americans to help not only our own, but those in need across the globe. No one needs to be forced into a charitable endeavor. We always come through.

I hate when they label some Conservatives as being a "Compassionate Conservative", as if to say that Conservatives by nature are greedy bastards, indifferent to the plight of the underprivileged. I also hate when politicians pander to "women's issues". What....aren't women people, too? Or are they only going to cast their vote if someone is going to protect their reproductive organs?

The best scenario for the downtrodden is to give them the opportunity to help themselves. As the saying goes, if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime! I love that quote!

It is not to say that we do not need Federal assistance from time to time. After the Great Depression, FDR (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) instituted many government programs to stimulate the economy, the so-called Alphabet Soup of programs to build roads, help the needy, etc etc. Nothing wrong with that, but when things were up and running again, in the prosperous 1950's, many of those programs should have been reduced or eliminated, so that business could once again run and flourish on its own. But, this did not happen, and eventually, more and more people began to depend upon those programs not only for assistance, but for a lifestyle. To me, this stifles creativity and vision.

And so, this year, I voted as early as I could, the first day of early voting. I voted for Governor Romney, and I hope tonight, as I watch the election returns, that I will not be disappointed. I think Romney is a good and decent man, and he has been successful in his business and personal life. I think he will reinvigorate the Nation. But I cast my vote mostly for the philosophy he represents.

And, no matter who takes away the prize this evening, I put my faith in our system of government, that we have the precious ability to have a say again another day. I never take this for granted.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Nomination for Blogging!

I was recently nominated for a blogging award by my friend over at  I am thrilled and want to thank her so very much for including me among some wonderful and much respected blogs! This blogging endeavor is really a labor of love, and so much goes into it, trying to bring interesting and different things to share with those of common interest, finding the right pictures to go with, having enough time to spend. It's nice to know that I have been acknowledged. I don't, at least to this point, get many comments back, but I do see through my "dashboard" that loads of people from many different places around the world do read my installments. It makes me very happy!

So, that being said, I must do the following:
A) Thank the one who nominated me! And, put the Versatile Blogger logo on this post. Done!

B) Tell 7 related things about me, so here goes:
1) Every now and then, I become obsessed with something, and then I must find out everything I can. This first time this happened to me was with the movie Amadeus. After seeing it, I had to know as much as I possibly could. Over the years I have bought countless CD's, purchased a book about Mozart each year to mark his birthday, a Mozart birthday bash for friends, though I have been remiss the past couple years. His birthday is January 27, and there's a bit of holiday burn out going on.
2) Obsession #2 - Master and Commander. There are 20 books total of the adventures of Capt. Aubrey and Dr. Maturin, 18th Century British Naval History, of course. I have read 18 of the 20. They are outstanding reads, by Patrick O'Brian.
3) Obsession #3 - King Henry VIII. It began with The Tudors, Showtime mini-series. I visited Hampton Court this year - amazing. Now reading The Lives of Henry VII's Wives by historian David Starkey - totally informative, accurate.
4) On a different note, I love a good single-malt scotch, and try to find good selections to share with friends when the pocketbook allows. The Balvenie is a favorite. Their website is wonderful.
5) I have been playing guitar for over 15 years. Began with the blues (simple but addictive), on to jazz (intermediate), but have settled into classical Spanish or baroque pieces. They are intricate and keep me on my toes. With any musical instrument, playing is always "a work in progress". You are never finished, or have it down totally.
There is ALWAYS room for improvement.
6) I love the chance to wear a costume. Being Halloween season, it's an appropriate thing to say. But it's true. The inspiration, the planning, the getting it all together is exciting. Playing the part is a joy. I guess it's part of the artistic temperment.
7) Finally, I love to travel. I would be ready in a heart-beat to jump on a plane and go. Only work, and finances, of course, have something to say about getting down the suitcase at a moment's notice! Ha ha!

C) I'm supposed to nominate some blogs as well:
I know you're supposed to nominate about 15, but these are the ones I follow regularly.

Anyway, I again thank Dressed In Time for thinking of me, and all of you who follow me.
Gratefully yours,
Enlightened Age Blogger

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I bid you Velcome!

Happy Halloween! The day of ghosts, pumpkins and ghouls! I just love the holiday, and do my best to do it up, with my annual pumpkin carve and the making of Cat and Bat cookies, courtesy of a marvelous chocolate pepper recipe by Martha Stewart.

Of course, I never miss watching Dracula with Bela Lagosi. It's so much fun. Among my favorite lines, " I bid you Velcome!" When offered some rare old wine, Dracula tells Mr. Renfield, "I never!" Another while listening to the wolves in the distance, "Children of the night! What music they make!" He's great!

We are all extremely familiar with the adventures of Count Dracula, the most famous or infamous vampire, but way before Bram Stoker put pen to paper, vampire fiction had its beginnings in the "vampire craze" of the early 1700's, culminating in the bizarre exhumations of a couple actual suspected vampires! The suspected "vampires" were Peter Plogojowitz and Arnold Paole of Serbia, during the Hapsburg Monarchy. Paole was thought to become a vampire upon his death, and when a number of deaths were reported shortly after, it was thought that it was the work of Paole. When Austrian authorities got involved, the case became notorious, and people were convinced of the existence of vampires!

One of the first art works to touch on the subject is a German poem entitled "The Vampire", written in 1748 by Heinrich August Ossenfelder. The poem has strong erotic overtones, of course, about a man who is rejected by his love, and then visits her nightly to drink her blood in a seductive revenge. Another poem, "Lenore" by Gottfried Burger (German) was writen in 1773, again tackles the subject of the undead and their penchant for drinking "the red stuff". Finally, "The Bride of Corinth (1797)" written by Goethe, tells about a young woman who returns from the grave to seek her betrothed. Ahh, you gotta love those Germans and their heavy, passionate lore of the taboo subjects.

The English, as well, enjoyed a good vampire thriller, with Robert Southey's monumental work, "Thalaba the Destroyer (1797)" and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Christabel (1797-1801)". It must be the cold, the damp, the foggy weather!

Anyway, I send wishes for a very Happy Halloween! Enjoy the day with a classic flick like Dracula or Frankenstein, or other horror films like House of Wax, Sleepy Hallow, Young Frankenstein, Pit and the Pendulum. I don't like the kind like Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, or any of the Freddy Krueger offerings. I like the camp, fun films that allow for a laugh or two!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Best Laid Plans...........

Even the best laid plans sometime "go South", as it were, when Mother Nature decides to have her way. I am nursing my traveler's emotional wounds this day, as I see my plans to visit Colonial Williamsburg go down the drain with the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy. I was so looking forward to what would have been a charming long-weekend visit to one of my favorite places, with one of my favorite people. My daughter and I were to spend a couple days in the historic town as she, seamstress extraordinare, participated in a sewing workshop, and I was going to explore some of my favorite haunts, see some of the re-enactments of the Founding Father's quest for independence, and do a little Christmas shopping for family and friends.

But, it was not to be, especially with the eventuality of delayed flights, closed roads, inclement weather. It's just no fun when you have to make your way through cold and damp and mud, and according to the latest reports, no electricity.

So, I will wait until another day, but meanwhile I have been looking up some interesting facts about Storms in the 18th Century on our eastern seaboard. These storms are nothing new along the Atlantic, but have hit and done damage whether we like it or not.

For instance, in 1703, a major storm hit Virginia, Maryland and greater New England with a loss of life of 18 souls, many ships lost, with great winds, flood damage recorded.
In 1761, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, on September 20-23, described as a "severe equinoctial storm", with $600,000 in damage, an incredible amount in those days.
In 1776, on July 10, in Virginia, a storm arose that affected a Revolutionary War battle, causing supply ships to sink in Chesapeake Bay.
In 1788, July 24, George Washington reported from Mount Vernon, "a very high northeast wind" which sank ships and blew down trees. "A more violent and severe a hurricane than for many years", he stated.

I guess it's best to avoid the area when events like this occur. Best to visit another day. But as you can see, Weather can have great effect on the economy, the military, political events. In a perfect world, it might be "fun" to tough it out like the early Colonists, reading by candlelight, and stoking the fire to keep warm or heat some porridge, the adventure of cold water for bathing...... but maybe for an hour or two! Then, you say, "Get real! Where's my electric blanket? And, turn on that tv! I don't want to miss the next episode of Downton Abbey!"