Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Butter and Bustin' a Move

Back in March The Colonel and I were volunteers at the 15th annual Florida Frontier Days Festival.

The festival celebrates the pioneers of Florida, especially those of this area. There were artisans and crafters such as: a wood carver, a scrimshaw and horn maker, a tanner, a spinner and a weaver.

Every year, bus loads of school children attend the festival. The children could participate in all kinds of fun and games as well as hands-on activities. There were sack races, horse shoe games, tug-of-war and marble games. The kids could (for a nominal fee) dip candles, make a kite, braid a rug or dig for fossils. There was music playing and food for sale too.

The Colonel and I had to dress in period clothing. The Colonel portrayed Albert W. Gilchrist, a surveyor who first came to the area in 1885. He later became the 20th governor of Florida and was also a member of the Florida House of Representatives. The Colonel, as Gilchrist, gave a short speech to a group of school kids, telling them about himself and his life. The Colonel was just one of the handful of volunteers who portrayed key people of this area's past.

I volunteered to churn butter that day along with two other ladies. We had two glass jar, butter churns filled with heavy whipping cream. The churns had a geared handle that when cranked, turned a wooden paddle inside the jar, and then that paddle's agitation caused the cream to become butter.

It took a little while for the butter to come (the kids, as well as myself, were a little impatient for it to arrive). There is an old wives's tale that says, if the butter won't come while churning, someone is in love. I told the kids about the tale and I asked some of them who helped us churn if they were in love. You should have seen their faces. "Eeewww," they said.

When we finally had some butter, we served it on crackers. The butter was very light, creamy and delicious. The kids asked why it wasn't yellow like in the stores. "Our butter does not have any coloring added and this is what fresh, real butter is supposed to look like", I said.

The kids and their adult chaperons all loved the flavor of the fresh butter. I thought we would have to add salt to the butter for flavoring, but it was perfect the way it was.

I took a little break from the churning, grabbed a bite for lunch and then was grabbed by the arm and "pressed into service" by two of the other dressed volunteers, to dance the Virginia Reel. The Virginia Reel is folk dance that was most popular in America from 1830-1890 and originated in Ireland and Scotland.

My partner for the reel was Maggie. She had dressed in her own period clothing for the school trip to the festival. She was a good dancer.

We dancers formed two lines and faced our partners. We bowed and curtsied to our partners. Then the head couple sashayed down and back between the two lines and then reeled (taking the right arm of their partner and turning once and then taking the right arm of the next person in line, turning once, and so on) down the line. Next, the head couple lead the two lines in a march then formed an arch for all the rest of us dancers to go through. The head couple then stayed at the end of the lines and the next couple at the head of the lines would repeat what the last head couple did and so on...

It was a fun dance and easy to learn. It made me wish we still had dances like this. What a wonderful way for young men and women to have good clean fun together. Remember having a crush on someone when you were younger? Wouldn't it have been a delicious thrill to be able to briefly touch their hand and link arms together in a dance like the Virginia Reel?

The dance ended before Maggie and I could become the head couple. I think the musicians were getting tired and needed a break. The picture of us dancing the Virgina Reel was in the local paper a few days following the festival. You can see me at the left hand side in my black dress.

After dancing, I returned to my butter churning for a little while more and when the festival ended in the early afternoon, The Colonel and I headed for home.

This year's festival may be the last. Funding issues. I certainly hope not. I had fun churning butter and "bustin' a move" old school.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Anyway You Look at It, It's an A+!

Yam had an assignment for her college photography class. She had to choose a photo from a famous photographer's works and recreate it as closely as she could to the original.

She chose Dorothea Lange's 1935 photograph entitled, Colonist to Alaska from Minnesota. While Yam was home for her spring break she enlisted the help of Spud to complete the assignment.

They used an old piece of plywood The Colonel didn't need any longer to recreate the background of the photo. They spray painted the wood grey-blue with black accents and then they nailed grommets into the wood to simulate the rivets of the original photograph.

Yam had Spud dress in his leather jacket, black shirt and a cap. She took him outside, put him in front of the decorated plywood and snapped several photographs until she got the one she liked best.

"Awesome! This is very close to perfection!" said Yam's professor. I agree with Yam's professor. What say you?

Colonist, by Lange

Spud as Colonist, by Yam

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mother Did Know Best

The Colonel told me something the other day that pleased me very much. But before I can tell you what he said, I have to tell you a few things that will help you appreciate why I was so pleased when I heard what I did.

I have always looked older than I am. I think this is partly due to my height. I was one of the girls who always had to stand in the back row for class pictures (I remember one girl who was taller than I was during my grade school years, her name was Barb). I eventually grew to be 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall; 3 and a half inches taller than the average American woman.

I remember one summer, during my high school years, I was swimming in the local pool when a little girl swam up to me and asked me, "Are you a mother?" I wanted to submerge her little head in the chlorinated water right then and there.

The fact that I found my first gray/white hair when I was a freshman in college didn't help my situation either. I have been coloring my hair ever since. I've been a red head, a blond and now I am back to what I remember as my natural hair color (it has been so long)...a brunette. I have been using Clairol's #12A, Navajo Bronze for a couple of years now.

On occasion, I would whine about looking older to my mom. She said she had a similar experience growing up; looking older than her age (even though she was of average height, she too went gray early, thanks for that gene Mom). She told me that one day my older looks and my chronological age would coincide and then maybe, if I was lucky, I would start looking younger than my age from that day forward.

I think that day has finally arrived...

The Colonel and I attended an appreciation get together for volunteers and instructors for the Life Long Learning Institute (LLI) at the local college. The Colonel has taught some history classes and sits on the board for LLI.

A week later The Colonel had an LLI board meeting to go to and when he got back home he said one of the other board members had paid me a compliment.

"Oh, what did they say?" I asked.

"Well, remember the young couple who were at the appreciation get together, the ones with the toddler?" he said.


"One of the board members thought you were his wife and when I told them that you were my wife they said they thought you looked young, about 8 to 10 years younger than you are."


I'll be half a century old in September of this be mistaken for someone who is 40 pleases me to no end.

I'll tell you one thing...I'm gonna be coloring my gray hair for a long time yet.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Camera in Bird's Hand is Worth Three (Almost Four) Bushes

Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) has a President's Lecture Series. The lecture series' goal is to bring compelling speakers with meaningful messages to Southwest Florida. Some of the past speakers were Maya Angelou, Mikhail Gorbachev and Gen. Colin Powell. The lecture series continues to fulfill the university's mission to serve as the region's intellectual an cultural center.

On Wednesday, April 6th the featured speaker was former First Lady, Laura W. Bush.

Since Yam is a student at FGCU, she was able to get two free tickets. She gave the tickets to The Colonel and I. The Colonel in turn gave his ticket to Spud.

Spud and I made a day of it. I picked him up early from school and we headed to FGCU and the surrounding area. When we arrived we ate a delicious lunch at P.F. Chang's. Once finished with lunch, we poked around in the Bass Pro Shop store for a while to burn some time (Mrs. Bush would not speak until 5:30 PM and the doors of the arena opened at 4 PM).

We still had about two hours to burn before the arena opened, so we arrived on FGCU's campus, parked the car in the parking garage set aside for those attending the speaking event and walked across campus to Einstein Bros. Bagels for some coffee and to read our books.

As we were walking across campus we passed through a classroom building and I said, "I wonder if we will see Yam?" As we passed a classroom with it's doors slightly ajar Spud said, "I see Yam!" We would later find out it was Yam's Human Systems class. We would see Yam in that same classroom when we retraced our steps back to the parking garage where we would catch the shuttle that would take us to the arena.

Once at the arena, we had 20 minutes to wait before the doors opened at 4 PM and while we were waiting, sitting outside by a fountain, one of Yam's friends saw us and came over to say hello. He would be working the event.

I noticed a sign on one of the arena's windows stating that no cameras would be allowed to be used during the event. Yam's friend confirmed this.

What!?! No cameras allowed!?! Don't they realize I am a blogger and I need to be able to visually document my bloggable experiences!?! This is an outrage!

I would have to abide by the rules and keep my camera in my purse (as much as I was tempted to snap a couple of covert pics of Laura Bush, I didn't, with all of the cops and security guards in the arena that was a very wise thing. I have been known to snap a few pics when I was not supposed to ).

Finally the doors of the arena open and Spud and I find our seats. We are at the top row and our seats face the stage. We still have one and a half hours until Mrs. Bush hits the stage. As we wait, we break out our books again and read to pass the time. We see others doing the same.

But, before I tell you about Mrs. Bush, let me explain the title of this blog entry...A Camera in Bird's Hand is Worth Three (Almost Four) Bushes.

With my non-digital camera (back then no digital cameras were available commercially) in my hand, I "bagged" my first Bush back in the late 1980's.

The Colonel and I were stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Washington state when Vice President George H.W. Bush flew onto the base in Air Force Two. The Colonel's parents were visiting at the time, so they were with us when we saw V.P. Bush step off of Air Force Two and wave from the red carpet.

There was quite a bit of distance between my camera and the flight line and the camera I had at the time was decent, but the zoom was not powerful enough to get a terrific shot of the V.P. I have no idea where those pictures are now. Thanks to the magic of the Internet I have the following image I can use.

The second Bush I bagged was President George W. Bush. This "bagging" also took place on an air force base; Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

In early 2002, President Bush visited the base to speak to the troops and The Colonel and I were able to get tickets for the event and we stood about 20 feet from the podium.

The crowd in the hangar warmly welcomed President Bush with cheers and clapping. His talk to the troops (and their families) was very heartfelt and inspiring. By this time the camera in my hand was a digital (plus I was much closer to this Bush) and I got some great shots like the one below.

Bush number three was bagged in August of 2009 (I'm beginning to sound like a Bush Family stalker).

Jeb Bush came to town for the five-year, post-Hurricane Charlie celebration. He was Governor of Florida at the time of the hurricane and he came to help celebrate the recovery that the town had made since August 2004. I was able to get my picture taken with Jeb. With each "Bush Sighting" I am able to get closer to them (OMG, maybe I am stalker?).

Now, back to Laura W. Bush...(unable to "bag" my 4th Bush because of the NO CAMERA policy, I am once again depending on the Internet to supply the pics. Only news media were allowed to take photos that evening).

At 5:30 PM, Spud and I put away our books as the president of FGCU, Dr. Wilson Bradshaw, walks onto the stage. He welcomes us all and gives a brief history of the President's Lecture Series and then he introduces Ambassador Rooney. The Honorable Francis Rooney was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See from 2005 through 2008. It is Ambassador Rooney who introduces Mrs. Bush.

The crowd in the arena stands with applause as Mrs. Bush walks across the stage to the podium. Spud and I look at one another and we agree it is awesome seeing a former First Lady, especially Mrs. Bush.

From the moment she first begins to speak, her warmth, honesty and humor are quickly evident in her gentle Texas drawl. She says that since leaving the White House she has been reduced to a Bobble head Doll (she pulls the doll from the recesses of the podium and sets it on the podium's top) and that is not the least of it she says...the friend who sent her the doll had bought it and it was on the clearance shelf! Laughter rippled through the arena.

Mrs. Bush told us about how the rest of the family was doing. "Gampy" (Bush 41) was still sky diving on his birthdays, Barbara is doing well and is still her feisty, funny self, George W. is busy with his Presidential Library and all that entails, Jenna stays busy with her husband and work and Barbara is busy with her non-profit organizations.

Laura joked about the tabloid magazine articles that were ever present during their time in the White House. She said she didn't realize Gampy was an alien or that she was moving out of the White House and leaving George. "Of course those tabloids bothered me, but I never let them get to me. I know who I am and I know who George is" she said.

Mrs. Bush told a little story about her life in the White House after 9-11.

A couple of days after 9-11 she and George were lying in bed that night when they heard shouts and running down the hall towards their bedroom. "Mr. President, a plane is heading towards the White House, you and Mrs. Bush need to get to safety!" Laura said she didn't even have time to put her contacts in and that George held her hand as she blindly followed him to safety in her fuzzy slippers.

As First Lady one of her priorities was literacy. She was a former librarian so reading was very high on her list (she has written a book with her daughter Jenna as well as her memoir, "Spoken From the Heart"). Another major blip on her radar are issues concerning women's health. She is a big supporter of breast cancer awareness and finding a cure for the disease. Her mother had breast cancer.

After Mrs. Bush spoke, Dr. Bradshaw sat with her on stage and had a little question and answer session. The questions were submitted by some of FGCU's honor students. The questions focused on Mrs. Bush's concerns of national and global issues of education, health care and human rights. Mrs. Bush also answered questions about her concerns of preservation of national parks and heritage sites.

Spud and I were happy we were able to experience our evening with Mrs. Bush (even though I wasn't able to "bag" my 4th Bush...does this fact make my possible "stalker-hood" now null and void?).

We were also happy to be able to have dinner with Yam and visit with her after our time with Mrs. Bush and before we had to head back home.

A very nice evening indeed.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011