Saturday, April 25, 2009

Baby Animals at Hancock Shaker Village

We've been to Hancock Shaker Village (HSV) many times...sometimes just to tour or show to friends who are visiting, and sometimes for a business meeting or special event. But, we've somehow never made it during Baby Animal time. So, today was the day to rectify this sad situation.

We couldn't believe how packed the parking lot was when we pulled in...we kept our eyes peeled for a car pulling out, and found a spot amidst many New York plates. The fantastic weather seemed to have brought everyone out in droves - 85 degrees under a beautiful blue and sunny Berkshire sky.

At the entrance, we met the very pleasant Laura Wolf, Director of Marketing, who helped us find our way to the Behind the Scenes tour in progress (my daughter brought along two of her friends).

I think this post will be different than some of my past ones, because we have 186 photos!!! So, I think I'll put lots of photos with some words, instead of the other way around. To get an expanded view of anything, just click on a photo.

Here, my daughter learns how to milk a real cow (as opposed to the fake one she "milked" when she was younger, in the Shaker Discovery Room)! The very funny and knowledgeable Bill Mangiardi skillfully oversees the whole operation...he named this cow Luna because she was born under a lunar eclipse. All the girls tried it, and even I was able to get the milk to squirt out. Imagine having the job of milking the cows before modern milk machines came about?

The girls have handfulls of a corn and molasses mixture that Bill gave them to feed to the sheep. Feeling little sheep lips nibbling against your palm is quite a sensation - pleasant, actually. And, not to worry - no teeth, no biting - just gentle nuzzling. These sheep had recently been shorn. You can see an adorable little lamb on the right - they don't eat the grain mixture yet...too little. We also got to hold a soft was like holding a baby. (For all mom readers... afterwards, all hands were cleaned and sanitized with supplies handily provided by fellow tour guide Todd Burdick.)

The charming Rachel shows us Ash, the baby ox she has been raising and training (love her jaunty cap!). The calf is named Ash after the type of wood used frequently at HSV, and it's partner is named Stone, for the stone used in the round barn. The ox begins its training at birth, and the trainer herself feeds the calf from a bottle. The bond between the two must be quite close for a successful working relationship. If I remember correctly, Ash is about 500 lbs. here, but will grow to be about 2,500 lbs!

My daughter and her friends say Rachel is a schoolmate - quite impressive animal husbandry skills for one so young.

The girls hold the softest sweetest baby chick, while Bill is holding it's mother...a Peking Duck, which was also beautiful and very soft. The mom was a gorgeous downy yellow color with a long slick orange bill...right out of a Beatrix Potter book. The chick wasn't the least bit worried, and actually seemed to nod off to sleep in the girl's hands. A little bit later, we saw LOTS of adorable chicks in the Discovery Room incubator.

Peeking into one of the many sliding doors in the chicken house for eggs. Sadly, there were none in any of them at the moment. Bill told us that if we found one, we could reach in and take it home. He told us that they are quite tasty and have a much more yellow yolk than a store-bought egg.

Lots of little (and big) piggies! The girls actually held one of the
little oinkers, and we discovered that the hair on their bodies is quite bristly to the touch. The sows were covered with a pretty tannish color hair; they weigh about 250 pounds!

Tip: if you ever take part in a pig-catching contest, here is the key to winning...grab the pig by the hind leg. If you grab around the middle like most people do, the pig will wriggle out like a sausage, but if you grab the hind leg, it can't get away, yet it won't hurt it.

The girls help each other try on the Shaker girl outfits in the Discovery Room. It's nice that there are so many sizes available, so all ages can have a go at this. Love the pretty wooden hangers with string hooks, that hang on wooden pegs...just like the Shakers would have used. Their immediate impression was wondering how Shaker girls could work, or even live, in these clothes, because they were hot and the long sleeves were confining.

The girls thought that the Shaker boy clothes looked much more fun to wear, and liked trying on various tunics, vests and hat styles. They wondered if men wore pants under the knee-length tunics, as there weren't any pants in sight. The girls think they didn't. I think they probably did!

Todd teaches one of the girls to use the foot pedal on the hand lathe (Todd - my apologies if I'm giving this cool tool the wrong name!). It is a replica of a Shaker original...the user sits on the seat, puts the item to be shaped under the clamp, presses a foot pedal, and the item is clamped in tight. Then, a pretty hand planer (even the most mundande and utilitarian Shaker tool is pretty) is pulled across the item until it is the desired shape. Todd has worked at HSV for 25 years or more, and has lots of knowledge to share about the Shakers. We all agreed that if we lived here, we would hope that the woodworking house was our assigned just smells so good, and has a cozy well-worn feel.

Naturally, every visit to HSV includes a tour of the famous round stone barn. No matter how many times you've seen it, it is always a marvel of clever design and simplistic beauty. It's round to make it easy for oxen to pull a hay cart in, someone unloads the hay into the aerated center, and the oxen then continue on around the perimeter and go out the door they came in. This avoids the difficult task of trying to get them to back up.

In the past, we've also toured the Brick Dwelling (where the Shakers cooked, dined, and slept) and other buildings in the village. Everything is beautiful and orderly...a Virgo's dream. All in all, a totally fabulous day - so Berkshire. And, the idyllic weather was just the icing on the cake. Thanks for a great tour, HSV staff!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

4,000 Questions - #11: Under the Bed

Here's the background info on the 4,000 Questions posts...

Question #11: What do you have under your bed right now?

All kinds of framed items! First, there is a VERY large doesn't "go" with my decor but I can't part with was painted by my father when he was young and attending the Cleveland Institute of Art, and he gave it to my Grandmother as a gift. She hung it over the electric organ in her celery green living room (the same organ on which I taught myself to play simplified versions of Swan Lake and Dvorczak's New World Symphony), with a tall stylized red glass vase next to it.

Then there are about 6 other framed certificates and awards. When I was first changing careers, buying a house, and otherwise learning to make it on my own, I read a tip that suggested putting items in a personal room that offered positive reinforcement. So, I framed various certificates and awards and hung them in the family room. After having them up for many years, they took effect. I finally removed them several months ago...they just feel a bit pretentious to me now. I didn't know what else to do with them, so I just piled them under the bed, along with the painting.

What's under YOUR bed?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

iPod Songs: One Love

The story behind the song...

Every time "One Love" pops up on my iPod, I am immediately transported back to Washington, DC. Here's what I'm seeing in my mind:

It's the day before Obama's historic Inauguration, and we're walking along the National Mall, near the Smithsonian Castle. It's very chilly but intermittently sunny, and as we stroll, we're marveling at the endless rows of port-a-pottys. There are thousands of bundled up people around us, who have traveled here from all over America, and even from other countries.

We've just finished a delicious snack inside the warm and bustling Castle, after triumphantly finding our way to the Mall on the crowded Metro. After eating, we feel refreshed and begin scoping out where we hope we'll stand during the big event (we didn't end up standing there - see the Inauguration posts to find out why).

At regular intervals along the Mall, we see crazy big trucks with massive TV screens, which we hear others call "Jumbotrons." Next to each screen is a tall crane, dangling sets of 16 huge speakers all connected to each other.

On the Jumbotrons and speakers we see and hear the special event that had taken place at the Lincoln Memorial the day before...speeches, songs, etc. Soon, someone appeared on the screen (I learned later that it was an entertainer named singing a Bob Marley song that went like this:
One love. One heart.
Let's get together and feel alright.

When this song began, people all around us started singing, and if they didn't know the words, they started dancing together. We hugged, and tried to learn the words. It was such a beautiful moment of group happiness...I can't remember another time in my life when I've been in a similar situation - thousands of people all happy at the exact same moment and sharing that feeling with everyone around them. I know it sounds corny, but the moment made me cry because it was so beautiful.

So, when "One Love" pops up on my iPod, back I go to Washington, with a smile of happiness on my lips. As my daughter and her friends say, "Good times."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Living Room Makeover - Completed!

Okay, here are the promised before and after shots of our recent remodel...

First, a caveat - I accidentally deleted my ENTIRE file of Before shots when I was organizing my photos recently. These lost photos showed the room with all of the furniture in place, pictures on the walls, etc. But, I do have a few that survived in a different folder, and a few scattered about from different events or posts. So, those will have to do.

Here is a quick look at 3 of the 4 sides of the room, so you can get a glimpse of the updated room.

And, here's a view of the Before and After, including the details of the changes we made in each shot.

BEFORE: ......................AFTER:

Before: striped paper, busy mirror, varnished oak trim (and daughter in her new Christmas PJs)

After: serene green walls, white ceiling and trim, and a sleek off-white mirror

To make this fabulous transformation, we:
  • Got rid of that busy wallpaper, varnish and all.
  • Then, we used our lovely new green paint on the walls (it's a Ralph Lauren color, but the paint can only features the color formula and not the name, so I don't know what it's called).
  • Painted the trim Vermont Cream, and the ceiling bright white instead of the old dingy beige.
  • Got rid of the busy silver mirror and substituted a sleek off-white one with beveled edges (gotta love Home Goods).
  • Put in all new white ceramic switch plates and outlet covers, and got rid of the 1960s dingy ones.
  • Re-arranged the ENTIRE room layout, so all furniture is now in a new spot, including the leopard chair.

    BEFORE: ..................................AFTER:

    Before: large brown sofa along the long wall, a tired abstract print, and a busy corner (and daughter opening Christmas gifts)After: the entertainment center flanked by two off-white bookshelves and modern prints

This wall is probably the most dramatically different. For this transformation, we:

  • Moved the sofa to the opposite wall, so it's now under the big picture window which is across the room from where the sofa is in the above photo.
  • Moved the very large entertainment center out of it's dark corner next to the big picture window, and centered it on this large wall, where it seems MUCH less bulky and imposing.
  • Pulled two bookcases from another room and flanked the wood cabinet with them.
  • Brought our favorite books from another room for the shelves, along with the photos that were scattered about the living room, and a basket from one of the bedrooms.
  • Found two fabulous abstract prints (Home Goods) that were a great color match, and also brought in the theme of we just need an Oscar statuette for one of the shelves!
  • Found a fantastic faux movie camera (Home Goods) for the top of the right-hand shelf.
  • Bought very inexpensive mood lighting at Home Depot - one lamp for each shelf - lots of symmetry going on here!

Isn't is an amazing difference!!!

BEFORE: ..................................AFTER:

Before: a very busy corner with way too much going onAfter: a calm serene corner with a pretty bookshelf and photos

This corner also shows the marked difference in the look and feel of the room. What was once so busy and fussy is now calm, orderly and serene. To me, this hardly looks like the same house.

We're donating the huge couch and chair to a single mom who really needs them, and are waiting for the delivery of two brown loveseats that we found on huge clearance. We're also donating the huge and heavy glass and brass coffee table and will purchase some type of wood side tables and coffee table once the remodeling coffers refill! And, she'll also get the fussy tasseled lamps, but we're keeping the vase of curly willow, which is now moved to the next corner of the room near the picture window. Once the loveseats come in, I'll post a before and after of the window side of the room (I also have to figure out what's going on those windows - right now, we're curtain-less and living in a fish bowl!).

Overall, we're just so pleased with our new room and love spending time in it. It was well worth all of the hard work.

Lotsa Cooks in the Kitchen

The loaded buffet table - everyone's favorite is always the biscuits & gravy.
Hurrah - the living room painting was finished in time for Easter, and the furniture moved back into the room. We were quite pleased with the results and had plenty of oohs and ahs from guests.

There will be a before and after post on the remodel coming soon (although I inadvertently deleted the entire before photo folder, and have only a few shots of the original room scattered through other folders). It was a fairly big and time-consuming project, but we're so glad it's done and really like the end result.

Having the living room put back in order also meant the dining room was back to normMy brother Bob and niece Jessie cooking...Bob is trying to flip the so the Easter buffet could be set up as we usually do. (The dining room had served as our temporary living room during this whole process.)

And, as mentioned in the Easter Brunch post, guests were invited to make their own omelets. We simply set out all the ingredients and let them do their thing. Eveyone seemed to like this option quite a bit, and just about everyone made one, kids included (and no mishaps of any kind!).

PS Flipping an omelet is much harder than one might imagine.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Living Room Makeover - Ceiling Painting

I don't know about you, but the ceiling is one of my least favorite steps in a remodeling project. It's just so hard to reach and always requires lots of bending backwards and uncHalf way there!omfortable reaches. So, it gives me great pleasure to be able to say - the living room celing is DONE!

Here was today's project list:

  • First, of course, came the TSP, which serves as a cleaner and deglosser. I used the long-handled mop to make the job easier!
  • Then, it was rinsed well with plain water to remove all the TSP, again using the mop.
  • Then, time to "cut in" the white paint all around the perimeter with a 3" brush...this was a good leg and arm workout going up and down the ladder and moving the ladder around the room.
  • Next, I screwed the broom handle into the paint roller, and put on the first coYes, our drop cloth is zebra striped...isn't everyone's?at of paint.
  • After a few hours for drying, it was time to "cut in" all the way around again, followed by the second coat.

The end result looks great - what a difference the white makes. For some reason, past owners left all of the ceilings in the house a dingy beige color, and we've been steadily working to eradicate it, room by room. Once the white goes on, it makes such a stark contrast to the beige. The living room ceiling is now sparkly bright and fresh.

Next step will be spackling and priming the walls (nothing like the Easter deadline to make me get this done)...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Easter Brunch

To make my deviled eggs look nice, I put the filling into a ziplock bag, cut off a lower corner, and squeeze it into the eggs...makes it nice 'n neat!
We expect to have our usual houseful on Easter (which means I really need to get the living room painting finished!). We always do a brunch; here's this year's menu:
  • Mimosas
  • Deviled Eggs, Pickles, and Olives
  • Glazed Spiral Ham
  • Covered Dish Potatoes (made in the crockpot and delishly cheese-y!)
  • Omelet Bar (ham, cheese, green onion, red pepper, mushrooms, tomato)
  • Biscuits 'n Gravy
  • Sunshine Salad (a must at a family event...a variety of fruit, with pastel mini marshmallows and sour cream)
  • Mango Cupcakes (served on the pretty tiered Wilton cupcake stand)
  • Coffee & Tea (I'm going to serve the coffee Cuban-style, with condensed milk)

This will be our first year with the omelet bar...I'll set out the beaten eggs, the fillings, and a couple of pans, and let people make their own. Last year's egg decorating went very well, so I'm thinking this new interactive omelet-making might be a hit too.

Alphabet of Daily Life - J

We usually don't choose plain vanilla.
J is for Jilly’s

The opening of Jilly’s signifies the official start of summer in our neighborhood. It’s THE ice cream spot on Elm Street. On a summer evening, we can find most of our local friends and neighbors there. It’s just a little storefront amidst a few businesses…nothing fancy or elaborate, but it’s just so homey. The people working inside are usually college kids home for the summer, and many of them we’ve watched grow up.

When my daughter was little, we lived just a couple of blocks from Jilly’s. After dinner in the summer, she and a friend would ride their bikes there, riding ahead of me while I walked behind watching over them. They were so cute stopping at each stoplight and waiting for me to catch up, their huge helmets making their little heads bobble, and feeling so important when they were a full block ahead of me “on their own!”

Then there was the important decision of what to order…they usually chose one of those flavor burst cones with the crazy tastes – like bubble gum or blue goo, and I am a devoted fan of the root beer float, which I remember fondly from A&W drive-thrus.

After getting our treats and LOTS of napkins, we would usually cross the street to sit on the steps of the dentist’s office, where we’d have a commanding view of all the people descending on Jilly’s after dinner…cars pulling up and elderly couples getting out, families like ours with bikes or skateboards, and groups of ladies out for an evening walk, everyone checking to see who they know in the crowd.

Now, we live further down off of Elm Street, so our walk is a little longer. But, making the hike is great justification for getting the sweet treat at the end. We figure our workout to get there qualifies us for additional calories. Spring is in the air, and we’ll be watching for the opening of Jilly’s any time now!


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