Saturday, November 28, 2009

Grimbleschnitz ...

If you're not familiar with the word that I used for the title of today's post that's probably because it's a word that was made up by my blog buddy Morgen awhile back; a word that I have totally embraced since its inception.  I believe that it most likely means that one's mood is something less than stellar due to one's current life circumstances or I guess it can also be the equivalent of being grumbly - which I most definitely am for some unknown reason.

As such, I am going to take a short break from the Blogosphere until I can improve my mood a little bit.  That may require copious amounts of mindless TV watching, Bejeweled 2 on the XBox, perhaps a nice walk somewhere, and maybe a couple of extra naps - none of which are going to require my being online past the time I post this and turn the computer off. 

While I'm off embracing my inner grinch, please talk amongst yourselves and play nice - or at least try to!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Friday Fragment

Even though it's the day after, today is going to officially be my Thanksgiving Day as Amanda and I head over to my Mom's house in Canterbury to gather together with family and have a nice day-after meal.  I'm really glad that my brother had suggested doing the big dinner on Friday this year or I would have missed it yet again while at work. 

As much as I am thankful for the job that I have and know that it requires someone to be there at all times due to the fact that 911 never takes a holiday, I still rather hate missing all of the family get-togethers all of the time.  A gal can only be so noble!

So, while I'm off stuffing my face with all the goodies that everyone else had yesterday (and that I was fortunate enough to also have a bit of thanks to a good friend who apparently thought she was Martha Stewart this year!), I hope that you have a great Friday either working off the calories you consumed fighting with the crowds at the stores or just relaxing on the couch and enjoying the start of the holiday season. 

Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

So it turned out that yesterday at work wasn't too bad; the usual amount of 911 calls that always seem to roll in right around 1:00 p.m., a good number of paramedic intercepts for towns where their 911 calls rolled in right around 1:00 p.m., and a few too many routine transfers out of hospitals for a holiday but when they need the beds cleared out so that new patients can be put in them, it doesn't matter what day the calendar says it is.

Later in the evening my dispatch partner and I were treated to a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner courtesy of my friend Amy who had gone all out in the kitchen this year.  She sent over turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (with or without sausage and onion - Jeff had both), green beans sauteed in garlic, carrot and turnip mashed together (quite yummy!), cranberry sauce, a roll, and gravy.  It was heaven on a paper plate and Jeff and I both enjoyed it thoroughly.  It's great to have good friends who don't forget you on special days!  Thanks again, Amy! 

By the time I got home last night I was pretty tired but decided to spend a little time on the computer before hitting the hay; I find that a little Bejeweled on Facebook will tire me right out and I can sleep quite nicely with visions of colored jewels lining up in my dreams!  I think I was more tired than I thought, though, as while looking for another webpage, I came across a site called House Removals Company and I really had to laugh as the only thing I could think of was the scene in the movie The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy's house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East ... I bet she could have really used a house removals company then I totally cracked myself up and couldn't stop laughing ... it was shortly after that I turned the computer off and went to sleep!

Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving 2009

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

From our home to yours - may this day set aside for thanks and gratitude be full of good food, good friends, and good memories to last you all year through!
And for our non-American friends - let the Christmas season now begin!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Holiday Pies and A Birthday Cake Remembered

For those of you wondering how the pie-a-thon went yesterday, I managed to not only bake four pies but also a batch of brownies for Amanda being that the pies are off limits!  I baked one pumpkin pie, two traditional apple pies with crumb crusts (I can't make a top crust for love or money I'm afraid!) and, using a recipe that Lois sent me, I made my very first cranberry-apple pie.  Here be the finished products  -

The cranberry-apple will be going to work with me later today, the smaller apple pie will be going to work with me for my 16-hour Thanksgiving Day shift, and then the other two will be going to my Mom's house on Friday when Amanda and I will be getting together with my brothers and their wives as well as my son, his wife, and my grandson for a big Day-After-Thanksgiving dinner.  Who needs to be jostling around at a store with crazed shoppers on Black Friday when you can be eating a nice dinner and enjoying some family time?!?  Not me!

As I was baking all of those pies yesterday, I couldn't help but think about the main thing my mother used to always bake at this time of the year and that was an angel food cake with mocha frosting - my Dad's very favorite cake for his birthday which would have been today.  Were Dad still with us he would have been turning 75 today.

I know I've posted these pictures in the past but - honestly - they're two of my very favorite pictures of my father taken when he was stationed overseas and I was really, really young (if I was even around at all!).  My father joined the Air Force when he was only 17 years old and made a career out of it retiring in 1972 at the not-exactly-ripe-old-age of 37 with a pretty distinguished record to boot.

Dad fought in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War and he received both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal while he was stationed at DaNang Air Force Base where he was an aircraft mechanic on F-4 Phantom fighter planes. The F-4's were a long-range supersonic jet interceptor fighter/fighter-bomber that served as the principal air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force in Vietnam and my Dad could fix them like most guys can fix lawn mowers.

Dad was really, really good at what he did and was even asked once to fly with the Thunderbirds, the Air Force's air demonstration squadron,  as one of their mechanics but he turned the offer down saying that he didn't want to live out of a suitcase or leave my mother alone with us four kids while he flew all over the countryside and the world to Air Shows and the like for three or four years.  I'm pretty sure, though, that he was honored to be asked and it was pretty good bragging rights to have your Dad asked to fly with the Thunderbirds - especially amongst other "Air Force Brats"!

Even though it was ultimately the exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam that gave my father the cancer that caused his death almost 7 years ago, I honestly don't think that he would have done anything different with his career choice.  It was a career that gave him the chance to see a bit of the world and also to provide for his family even though he sometimes had to leave that family behind while he was deployed overseas.

When Dad was stationed overseas, he obviously missed out on those birthday cakes my Mom would bake for him but whenever he returned that was always one of the first things he'd get - along with a big bowl of rice pudding and meatloaf (he thought my Mom's meatloaf was pretty much better than anything else in the whole world).

Anyhow, I hope there's angel food cake with mocha frosting where my Dad's stationed now and I also hope that he knows that even though he's gone, he hasn't been forgotten.  Happy Birthday, Dad; we miss you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kitchen Mathematics

For those in the mathematics world, pi equals 3.14159265 and is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter in Euclidean space - the same value as the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius.

Yea ... okay ... in my world pi(e) equals ...

... whose value is made up of some of the following ingredients ...

... which forms a circle whose diameter equals some mouth-watering Thanksgiving deliciousness!

I'll be spending most of today in the kitchen working on the mathematics of pie as I bake up several apple pies with crumb topping, a pumpkin pie, and experiment with an apple-cranberry pie recipe that a certain blogger emailed me about a week or so ago.  While I'm in there I may throw in a batch of brownies just for good measure!

Hope everyone has a terrific Tuesday in your whatever part of the world you're in!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Take This Tune - "We Gather Together"

Jamie has given us the old Dutch hymn We Gather Together for this week's Take This Tune prompt as it is traditionally sung here in America as a Thanksgiving Day hymn, a day that we here in the United States will be celebrating this week.

Written in 1597 by Adrianus Valerius as Wilt Heden Nu Treden to celebrate the Dutch victory over Spanish forces in the Battle of Turnhout, the hymn is set to a Dutch folk tune. At the time the hymn was written, the Dutch were engaged in a war of national liberation against King Philip II of Spain who was a Catholic. Under the rule of the Spanish King, Dutch Protestants were forbidden to gather for worship so the words "Wilt heden nu treden," or, loosely translated, "We gather together" provided them with inspiration to overthrow Spanish rule and usher in an era of prosperity and post-reformation cultural development.

The song's beginnings were definitely steeped in the ideals of freedom from religious persecution and establishing a union to overcome that which was oppressing the Dutch; much like our tradition of a Thanksgiving Day here in America has very similar beginnings when the Pilgrims, who had moved here to America to escape religious persecution, gathered together to celebrate the first bountiful harvest in their new home.

Thanksgiving Day, though, was an on-again/off-again celebration until President Abraham Lincoln, in a proclamation dated October 3rd, 1863, was the first to declare Thanksgiving as a national holiday to be celebrated every year. The last Thursday of November was chosen as the official day of celebration as George Washington had declared a National Thanksgiving Day to honor the new United States Constitution on November 26th, 1789 and it seemed fitting to keep the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.

The first observance of the national holiday came exactly one week after the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg on November 19th, 1863 where President Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address. At that time, our country was in the midst of a horrible Civil War but President Lincoln felt that it was still important that we not forget all that God had given to us as a nation in spite of the battles that raged between the North and the South. I believe that President Lincoln also felt that if we gathered together as a nation to thank God even for just that one day that He might, by his merciful grace, reunite us as one nation under God.
"The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and provoke their aggressions, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union."
Just a few things to think about when you gather together with your friends and family not just on Thanksgiving Day but throughout the entire holiday season. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gravestones and Pancakes

Amanda and I took a drive over to Providence, Rhode Island yesterday in search of two things - the grave of science-fiction author H.P. Lovecraft and holiday hotcakes at iHop!  She wanted one and I had been jonesin' for the other since being unmercifully teased by commercials for a restaurant that's not even close to home!

A quick search of the internet showed Lovecraft's final resting place to be within the grounds of the Swan Point Cemetery which is located in northeastern Providence and borders the Seekonk River.  Established in 1846 on 60 acres of land, Swan Point now covers 200 acres and is also home to the remains of 23 Rhode Island Governors, 10 Civil War Generals (including General Ambrose Burnside who made quite the name for himself at the Battle of Antietam - and not in a good way), as well as what looks to be an entire platoon of other Civil War Veterans.

With over eleven miles of roadway intertwining their way around the scenic grounds, it obviously wasn't going to be an easy task to find one grave - especially considering that the office was closed and we only had an hour before it was a) dark and b) the cemetery locked up for the night.  What to do?  What to do?  A quick phone call to Kevin, one of my dispatch partners, gave us the needed directions and off we went in search of Providence's own Howard Phillips Lovecraft - an American author of horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

H.P. Lovecraft was born in Providence on August 20th, 1890 and, though he moved around some during his lifetime, died there on March 15th, 1937 and was buried along with his parents in the Phillips family plot (his mother, Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft, could trace her ancestry in America back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630).  The family stone is that tall one there ...

In 1977, a group of individuals raised the money to buy Lovecraft a headstone of his own and placed it behind the bigger Phillips family stone.  On this small stone they inscribed Lovecraft's name, the dates of his birth and death, and the phrase, "I AM PROVIDENCE," - a line from one of his personal letters. It's on that small stone that fans of the man Stephen King called "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale" leave small tokens of their visit - coins, small stones, a blue plastic dolphin, and ... a car key??

Just as I finished taking a few more pictures of Amanda by the grave marker -

- a cemetery security officer in a white SUV drove up and advised me that there was no photography allowed in the cemetery.  At first I thought he was kidding but he told me that it was posted on the sign by the front gate (that I hadn't bothered to read as we really had no time to waste when we first got there).

Well, gee, no photography isn't listed on the website and whoever heard of not being able to take pictures in a cemetery?  Needless to say, though, rules are rules and I apologized profusely to the security officer who then asked me what kind of camera I had as he has a Nikon D80 and he thought mine looked newer than his.  Thankfully he didn't ask to take the camera and delete the pictures but as Amanda and I took our leave I couldn't help but take one more picture of the main office building!

I know - shame on me!  Such a rule breaker and rebel I am!

Following my violation of the rules, both of us were pretty darned hungry so it was time to locate the local iHop and tuck into some of those mouth-watering pancakes that I kept seeing on TV but the closest one coming up on the GPS was 40 miles away.  Huh?  I knew that there was one close by as I had the address printed out and sitting at home on the kitchen counter (of course!) so once again I gave Kevin a call, disturbed his third watching of the new Star Trek movie, and begged him for the address.  Thanks again, Kev!

Four and a half miles later and we pulled into the parking lot and entered pancake heaven!  Amanda didn't want pancakes but "real food" and I assured her that wouldn't be a problem as iHop makes a lot more than just pancakes.  She obviously hasn't been drooling over the commercials for the holiday hotcakes like I have otherwise she would have been ordering the same thing!

While Amanda ordered chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes, broccoli, and Texas toast (which if I'm being honest sounded really, really good too!) I opted for the Eggnog Pancakes along with eggs, bacon, sausage, and hash browns. It's a darned good thing the only thing I'd had to eat all day was a small cup of oatmeal around 11:00 a.m. because I was definitely going to need the room for all of that - not to mention maybe walk back to Connecticut to work off all those calories! Still, it was the holiday season ... almost ... and a bit of a treat was in order, right?

When our food arrived it all looked totally delicious and well worth the 40+ mile drive to get it.  Even though Amanda seemed perfectly happy with her meal, she couldn't help but reach over and try to steal ...

... my Eggnog pancakes which looked (and tasted) really, really good!

Next time we take a road trip to find an iHop (hopefully next month with our friends Jason & Amy) I'm going to try the Pecan Pancakes but at least for now I can watch those darned commercials and be able to say that "Yes! They taste as good as they look!" rather than wondering if they do.

All in all it was a nice little road trip on a late Saturday afternoon/evening except for one small snag on the way back home.  There was a pretty good accident on the Interstate and they had to close down the southbound lanes of Route 395 so that the Lifestar helicopter could land to transport one of the victims.  

Guess who I called for information about the accident while we were waiting? Yep!  Thanks again, Kevin! I owe you and I sure hope you got a chance to finally fnish your movie!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

In The Clouds

I was looking through some of the pictures that I took earlier this week and decided that I really like this one as the clouds look like eagle's wings to me.  What do you think?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Two Moments in History

Exactly 146 years ago today President Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  On the afternoon of Thursday, November 19th, 1863, during the American Civil War, just four and a half months after the Union armies defeated those of the Confederacy at the decisive Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln gave what would become his most memorable speech ever -
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate ... we can not consecrate ... we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Is it any wonder that Abraham Lincoln is my very favorite President? I think not!

Speaking of moments in history, today is also the anniversary of the historic birth of Tisha, the blogosphere's favorite CrAzY Working Mom!  Granted, it wasn't exactly 164 years ago or anywhere even close to that but it certainly was historic!  If you've got a moment, pop by and wish her a happy day and terrific year! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday Wanderings ...

With a beautiful November day to enjoy yesterday (on my day off no less!) I thought I'd take some time to see if I could get some photographs of a train or two but alas, I may as well have stayed home and cleaned the dining room which desperately needs it! 

I've been trying to catch a train crossing over the railroad trestle pictured above but have had absolutely no luck so far. The trestle crosses the Yantic River in between the Upper and Lower Falls not too far from my house and even though it's quite photogenic in its own right, I keep thinking how great the trestle would look with an actual train going over it. Unfortunately though the New England Central Railway, which operates on those tracks, apparently has pretty erratic schedules so there's no telling when a train might go by.  After waiting there for well over an hour yesterday the only thing I was catching was cold so I finally decided to head south and see what I could find closer to the Groton/Mystic area.

After driving around some I found a railroad crossing in the Noank section of Groton that looked like it had some potential so I took up a position near the tracks and waited for a train or two to come by.  Amtrak is the primary operator on the tracks at that crossing and several Acelas blew by while I was there.  Obviously I was not having a good camera day as the best shot I got out of all of the ones I took was this one -

and even that one isn't all that great. Granted, the train was zooming past me at a pretty good rate of speed so getting a good picture was tricky but I'm sure a better photographer would have gotten a nice picture. At least I got a wave from the engineer and a cheery blast from the horn as they sped by so I guess the day wasn't a total loss.  I'm thinking of trying my luck at the trestle again today but we'll see as there really are other things I could be doing before going into work other than hanging out by the railroad tracks!

Speaking of things to do, I have a couple of suggestions for you today!  First off, you could pop over to Everything and Nothing and wish Akelamalu a very happy birthday as she's celebrating hers today over in jolly old England.  Akelamalu is a bloody brilliant writer who always likes to add an unexpected twist to her stories and she also goes on some of the most amazing journies through England that has me wanting to go over there even more than I did before - as if that were possible!

After you stop in and wish Akelamalu a happy birthday click on over to PEA's Corner and enter her Christmas Giveway 2009 by simply leaving her a comment saying "Hey!  Count me in!" - or something along those lines!   PEA, a real sweetheart from Canada, has put together a wonderful collection of snowmen including a soap/lotion dispenser, toothpick holder, candle, and other assorted snowman goodies that are sure to put a smile on your face and holiday happiness in your home.  "The more - the merrier!" for the contest PEA says and you don't even have to tell her that I sent you if you don't want to!

When you're done with those two things you're free to have a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


In August of 2008 Amanda returned home from a summer visit to see her friend Darci in New Jersey with a couple of new found "friends" named Evra and Verde.  These friends were actually Carolina anole lizards which are sometimes referred to as the American chameleon due to its color-changing abilities. When an anole is happy it can turn several different shades of green but it's color will be brown if stressed or ill - something that I became quite aware of as Amanda's anoles became part of the family.

When she first brought them home, Verde refused to have her picture taken but Evra didn't seem to mind at all and even seemed to enjoy striking the occasional pose for me.   Verde died about two months after Amanda got her and shortly after that Amanda became much more interested in her corn snake, Solaris, so that made Evra more or less my lizard by default.  All things considered, I didn't really mind as I rather enjoyed talking to the little guy and he was easy enough to take care of - mist down the habitat, make sure the heating lamp didn't burn out, and feed him some juicy mealworms once in awhile. Very simple - very easy.

When we moved at the end of January this year to our new place, I wasn't too sure how Evra would adjust but he really took to his new surroundings and was more often a happy shade of green than stressed-out brown.  He esepcially seemed to like it when I would go outside and stun flies so that I culd then bring them in and let him get a little exercise before he'd catch them and eat them.  I'd read somewhere that it was good to do that sort of thing once in awhile and even though just stunning a fly rather than killing it wasn't easy I was able to bring him a treat from time to time. He usually rewarded me for my efforts by turning green and posing for pictures afterward!

Recently I had noticed that Evra seemed to moving a lot slower than before and I started to get a little worried that he didn't seem to be eating too many of his worms.  It had turned kind of cold so I wondered if that was the probelm; Amanda told me that lizards do slow down and almost go into hibernation in the winter months.  They're tropical so I guess that makes sense but I had Amanda hook up the undertank heating pad anyway just in case Evra was feeling the effects of the colder temperatures.  After that, he seemed to perk back up some and was more active again. 

I thought that perhaps Amanda was right - that Evra had just slowed down a bit for shedding purposes or because of the colder weather - and that now that he had an additional heating source that he'd be fine but unfortunately that wasn't the case.  When I got home from work Sunday night I walked over to his habitat to see how he was doing and I could tell right away  that he was dead.  When anoles die they apparently shed every last little bit of stress as they turn a very brilliant shade of turquoise green- it's really a very pretty color but it's not one you want to see if you've grown at all attached to the creature inside that skin like I did.

Now I know that Evra was only a lizard - and a very small lizard at that; he wasn't the type of pet that you'd play catch with or take for walks or curl up with on the couch but still, he was a pet and I had become fond of him over the past year.  I cleaned his habitat when need be, misted him down, fed him his mealworms, and talked to him daily so even though he wasn't a conventional pet - he was still a pet and to see him lying there dead like that, well ... let's just say that I don't have a heart of stone in spite of what some may think.  Crying over a lizard may seem silly to some but ... well, yeah ...

I found a small box and asked Amanda to put Evra in it so that I could take him out and bury him on Monday morning - which I did.  I buried Evra beneath the same trees near the back of Yantic Cemetery where we had buried Amanda's second snake, Tardis, earlier this year.  I figured the other residents at the cemetery wouldn't mind  if a very small lizard joined them and if anyone else had wandered by they wouldn't think it at all odd that there was a woman crying in the cemetery.

Good-bye, Evra - I'm not sure where lizards go when they pass on but I hope there are mealworms and flies to chase and a nice big flower to sit on in the warm sun. I'll miss you.

Monday, November 16, 2009

No Guessing What's Under There Anymore!

The older I get the more old-fashioned I find myself becoming, especially when it comes to television and some of the things that you can get away with on there these days!  Long, long gone are the days of Rob and Laura Petrie and Lucy and Desi Arnaz sleeping in separate beds, George Carlins's "Seven Words You Can't Say on TV" have long since gone the way of the dinosaurs, a discreet kiss on the cheek is now a full-on hot and steamy locking of the lips, and clothing ... holy smokes, it seems like we're lucky that most people are even wearing it these days! 

It's not just on TV, though, it's all over the place.  Anyone besides me remember when showing your underwear was flat-out taboo and frowned upon in society? Not anymore!  Now it's fashionable to have your bra straps showing no matter what you're wearing and boxers are worn as shorts more than they're worn beneath pants - pants that a lot of time have the crotch hanging down to the wearer's ankles!  Of course, I still find that infinitely preferable than being subjected to someone's thong strap!   Used to be that picturing people in their underwear was a tactic employed to calm down nervous speechmakers but you can't really do that anymore as a lot of times nothing is left to the imagination.

I just don't get it ... but then again, the older I get the more things I just don't get.  Soon, though, my memory will be totally shot and I won't remember what things used to be like and none of this will matter, right?!?

Take This Tune

Jamie's song choice on this week's Take This Tune, her Monday Meme where she gives us a video prompt complete with lyrics to a song and then asks us to write a post inspired by the title of the song or something in the lyrics, is James Taylor's western lullaby Sweet Baby James which was written by Taylor as he drove to meet his namesake nephew for the very first time.  The song ended up being Taylor's signature song as well as the title of his second album that was released in 1970, the album that contains my favorite James Taylor song Fire and Rain.

Fire and Rain was released in February of 1971 shortly after my family had moved back to Connecticut from New Mexico when my Dad received orders for KeflavĂ­k, Iceland.  At the time Dad was a mechanic on the F-4 Phantom II fighter-bomber and it was his first deployment overseas since returning from Danang, Vietnam in 1968.  He had the choice of going on an "isolated tour" by himself for a year or taking the entire family and being there longer; he chose the former.  So, while Dad went to Iceland my mom and three brothers and I took up residence in my mom's hometown of Canterbury where she lives to this day.

As happened quite frequently growing up an Air Force brat, I changed schools midstream and found myself attending the Baldwin School in Canterbury for the remainder of my 7th and entire 8th grade years.  It really wasn't all that bad as when my oldest brother and I began school we were introduced as "Steve, Diana, Patricia, and Dave's cousins" so we weren't exactly virtual strangers to the other students.  At that time the grades were divided into the A, B, and C group depending on where you stood academically so in January of 1971 I was enrolled in the 7th Grade A Group - totally lost when it came to French but otherwise okay with the rest of the classes.

Even though I couldn't sing very well, one of my favorite classes was music which met in the combination school cafeteria/auditorium/gym - schools back then were nothing like they are now and Baldwin was pretty old long before I started there!  Other than meeting in that area, the only other thing I remember about music class was that we learned Fire and Rain shortly after it came out.  Even though I had no idea what the meaning was behind the lyrics (suicide wasn't really talked about back then), I thought it was a great song and I still do. All these years later I can still remember the lyrics and the poignant feeling of the song which, whenever I hear it, transports me back to a cold and rainy day in March of 1971 when Mrs. Kaminski handed out the mimeographed pages to us. It was a sad day weather-wise and there's no denying that Fire and Rain is a sad song, perhaps that's why I remember it so well.  It's kind of funny - when someone mentions James Taylor I'm back in 7th grade again.  Oh to know then what I know now!
"Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again."
As for James Taylor himself, I always thought that he should have married Carole King rather than Carly Simon as they could harmonize on You've Got a Friend like nobody's business but perhaps that's another song for another day. What do you think, Jamie?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Six Sunday Things

Saturday was pretty much a wash-out here in New England so I spent the day in my pajamas lounging around the house watching bad movies, historical documentaries, and John Barrowman (rowr!) in Torchwood on BBC America. Torchwood is a spin-off of Amanda's favorite Doctor Who and Captain Jack, Barrowman's character, is quite easy on the eyes - much like David Tennant's Tenth Doctor!  How bad can it be to spend a day with handsome British gentlemen on the TV?   Not bad at all!

In addition to watching more TV in one day than I normally do in an entire week, I also attempted something new in the kitchen and cooked up a batch of chicken & dumplings as it seemed like the perfect meal for a chilly, rainy November day.  A friend from work had mentioned chicken & dumplings on her Facebook status a few weeks ago and I had been wanting to try making it ever since.  I more or less wingd it sans recipe and I'm happy to say it turned out quite well along with the mashed potatoes that are invisible in this picture.  Amanda declared it to be very good even though she wasn't too keen on the corn.  I know that most people use peas along with the carrots but she hates peas even worse than corn so I sort of compromised and went with corn though I guess I could have used green beans as she tolerates those the best.

Quite unfortunately it doesn't appear like we are going to be able to get Rufus to come into the house and make himself at home.  As I mentioned the other day, we were trying to take in one of the neighborhood strays who is a very handsome cat and quite friendly but every time he comes in the house, he simply sits at the back door and howls to go back out.  It's a shame as I really like Rufus, which coming from me as a non-cat person is quite the compliment.  Amanda would still like to have a cat, though, so we are keeping our eyes open for other possibilities pending approval from my landlady to have one.  I'm pretty sure she wouldn't mind but I do believe a deposit may be required.

Remember our trip down to Baltimore for Edgar Allan Poe's funeral back in October? Well, Amanda's favorite illustrator who was one of the speakers at the funeral put up a video on YouTube yesterday and much to her delight it contains a picture of her and Darci at the previous day's book-singing.  The video also highlights the best parts of Gris Grimly's eulogy and Amanda totally loved hearing it again.  I was rather flattered that several of my pictures from the day were used in the making of the video which you can watch by clicking here if you'd like.  I believe it gives me a few extra 'cool points' amongst Amanda and her cronies.

A blogging friend (hi Gracie!) sent me an email yesterday asking me about doing a calendar with some of my photos on Red Bubble saying that if I did, she'd dearly love one.  Hmm ... truth be told, I haven't done anything with my account on Red Bubble in a long time but perhaps I will put together a calendar just to see what it looks like.  The tricky part would be picking just the right picture for each month but it could be kind of fun, too.  Gracie, I will let you know!   Any suggestions for photo choices?

Finally, a big thank you to my mom who decided to give me my Christmas present quite early this year in the form of a Comfort Furnace infrared heater.  My mom knew that I was majorly concerned about what the cost of electric heat was going to be like this year so she did some research and bought me a unit that claims it will heat 1,000 square feet.  I don't know if that's accurate or not but we set it up in the living room last night and it did a great job there as well as into the dining room and the kitchen.  Havng a brick house it's been pretty chilly in here lately but for the past two days it's been quite comfy cozy without the added stress of the electric bill.  My mom is truly the best and in this case, I don't mind Christmas coming early at all!

Wishing everyone the best Sunday!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Recovering a Little Style

For quite some time I had been thinking about getting my hair cut as it had reached that "it's driving me crazy!" stage but I was honestly too scared to actually go to a stylist and have it done. Having had my fair share of bad cuts over the years, I am a firm believer in a person suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome whenever h/she steps into a styling salon and that was what appeared to be my problem.

For years I hadn't had to worry about a bad cut as my friend Trisha, who used to be a professional stylist, still did cuts for her friends out of her house until returning to school full-time while also juggling a full-time job.  Without Trisha I found myself wandering through the wilderness with an unkempt mane and no idea for which direction my hair should take. It had really gotten out of hand and into my face and I knew something had to be done but what?  Not that it always looked quite as bad as it did here at the Jersey Shore back at the beginning of October but still ... with hair like that, it was't just the zombies that were there for the Asbury Park Zombie Walk that were frightening! 

A couple months ago I stopped in at at the local Smart Styles in Lisbon to get my split ends taken care of and ran into exactly that of which I was afraid of - a bad stylist!  The woman who "cut" my hair did an absolutely horrible job but I didn't complain, gave her a tip anyway, and then kicked myself for my lack of a backbone for days later.  Obviously that experience hadn't helped the situation any and so I let my hair go for even longer - dull, lifeless, lank, and getting in my face way too often for my liking!

Finally the time had come to take my fears in hand so I set off yesterday morning for the newly opened Hair Cuttery - again in Lisbon - and hoped for the best.  As I sat nervously waiting for my turn in the chair I kept hoping that I was doing the right thing and that I wasn't going to walk out looking like my hair had been done by Ash Williams and his chainsaw hand from the The Evil Dead movie! Thank the heavens and all the stars above that I got a stylist who actually knew what she was doing and I emerged with a cut and style I like, a little bounce in my previously lifeless hair, and the stylist's business card which is going in a place of honor on the refrigerator door!

I will be the very first one to tell you that I have absolutely no clue what to do when it comes to "fixing" my hair and am a complete and total inept klutz when it comes to hairstyling appliances like curling irons and even blow dryers so a simple style is essential.  If I can't wash, towel dry, and throw a little mousse in my hair before calling it good, I am pretty much done for.  Rebecca, my new-found stylist, grasped that completely and gave me hair I can work with - thank you, thank you, thank you!

I'm always going to miss having Trisha as my personal and favorite stylist who offered up tea and friendship along with a great cut but I'm finally out of the wilderness and can get my hair into some semblance of order and out of my face!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Photos

Long day at work yesterday so I'm pretty beat as far as posting anything new here goes except that I did have these autumn pictures I wanted to share so this seemed like a good time!

Hope everyone has a fabulous Friday even if it is Friday the 13th!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday Things

Where did the warm weather go? It was definitely nice while it lasted but alas, it's back to November in New England and the colder weather has returned - quite possibly to stay until May at this point!  Should it wish to make a return appearance, though, I would have no complaints at all!

Amanda is finally going back to school today and feeling a bit better.  Her new doctor diagnosed her with bronchitis on Tuesday which is what I was leaning towards when she started complaining of her chest hurting when she coughed.  Thankfully it's not the flu but I guess we'll be living with the threat of that over our heads all winter.

I got my seasonal flu shot at work yesterday - a nice perk that we get courtesy of the company I work for. H1N1 shots are limited to road personnel due to the limited availability but that's okay as I know that they're the ones that are constantly exposed to any number of things and are the ones in the most need.  I'm just thankful to be able to get the regular flu shot every year.

I made meatloaf and mashed potatoes before going to work yesterday and I must say that it was quite delicious!  This time of year just screams "comfort food!" and that's exactly what I've been fixing lately.  I know that technically it was Prince Spaghetti Day but hopefully Miss Bee will forgive me!

Speaking of Miss Bee, if you get a chance today please send up a special prayer and positive thoughts for her husband Sarge Charlie who is battling non-hodgkins lymphoma and is in the middle of his chemo week when he feels the most run-down and ill.  He's putting up a magnificent fight and the tumor has really shrunk so even though he's got his bad weeks, they are worth it as the chemo does its job against the cancer. Go Sarge!

Finally, we may be having an addition to our household soon in the form of this fella here -

"Rufus", as Amanda has named him, is one of the neighborhood strays that Elizabeth, the adorable elderly woman that lives in the apartment behind us, has been feeding for the past couple of months.  When I was out raking leaves the other day, Elizabeth came out and was talking to me about how concerned she was that he had no home for the winter.  While Elizabeth and I talked, Rufus played in the leaves that I was raking and did a wonderful job of acting quite cute.  I got the distinct feeling that Elizabeth was trying to talk me into taking him as she told me that she'd had him taken to the vet where he got all of his shots and was neutered but I wasn't too sure.  I sometimes have allergy problems with cats but it doesn't appear that Rufus is the type that sheds all over the place so he might be okay.

I didn't commit to anything but once I mentioned the situation to Amanda she was all over the idea of adopting Rufus like a hobo on a ham sandwich!  She's been wanting a cat for quite some time and pulled out her best wheedling ... "he'll keep me company while you're at work", "a cat is better than a mousetrap", and the age-old, "I'll feed him and empty the litter box - honest!"  Uh-huh, where have I heard that one before?  Still, I'm not without a heart and the idea of the poor guy having to spend the cold winter outside plays to the soft side that I try not to let too many people know I have!

Currently Amanda is in the process of getting Rufus used to her and Elizabeth has turned over the daily feeding to us (she even stopped by Tuesday evening with a bag of his favorite cat food!).  Hopefully once he trusts Amanda he'll decide that our house isn't a bad place to live - in which case I guess I need to go buy that litter box Amanda has promised to keep clean!   I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day 2009

 "This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave." ~ Elmer Davis

Thank you to the brave men and women of America's Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard who have served or who are serving so that we may continue to be free.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday Tidbits

Mother Nature has been very nice to us here in Connecticut the past couple of days by giving us the gift of some really nice weather before Old Man Winter permanently shoulders himself onto the scene. Yesterday it was actually warmer outside than it was in the house so I opened a lot of windows to let the sunshine and natural warmth in.  What a treat - particularly after the really chilly days we've had already!

Truth be told, I am scared to death of what this year's heating bill is going to look like.  After we moved in last January I was really dismayed to get a $300+ electric bill after only about the first 20 days here.  Electric heat is definitely not the way to go so I'm trying real hard not to use it if at all possible.  Rumor has it ceramic heaters work really, really well so I may have to get me one or two.  After all, 110 costs a lot less than 220 to use when it comes to voltage!

While on the subject of heat, we have a lovely fireplace in the living room that Amanda would really like to use though I'm not sure how much heat it will produce.  When we moved in I asked my landlady if it was a working fireplace and she said that it should be but that it might be a good idea to have it cleaned out first as the tenants before me never used it at all.  I guess that means I should call and see what a chimney sweep charges before trying to light a fire and smoking out the place!  I must say that the idea of having a crackling fire at Christmas time is awfully darned appealing!

Speaking of Christmas, now that we have a nice big living room along with that fireplace Amanda is insisting on a full-size real tree this year - something that we haven't had in years.  I have boxes and boxes of Christmas ornaments that I've not touched the past five years or so due to space limitations at my previous humble abode and I think Amanda is right in that it's time to break them out this year and deck the halls like I used to do.  Of course, I may have to buy some new lights and a tree stand but that shouldn't be an issue.  Hmm, maybe we'll even go out to a local tree farm and cut down a fresh tree - think of the photo opps!

As for Amanda, she's been out of school since last Friday with a sore throat and a couple other mild complaints that I don't think equal the flu but I'll be taking her to the doctor today to have her checked out "just in case".  I'm more concerned that she might have strep throat (something that runs in my family a lot) or borderline bronchitis.  She's only got a bit of a cough but it's starting to sound more like barking and she said her lungs hurt afterward. 

She'll be going to see a new doctor as her pediatrician whom she'd had for a long time told me that they no longer consider her a patient as she hadn't been to see her in several years.  Amanda had her last physical at the school-based health center and had no need to go see a doctor but I guess if you're not sick every once in awhile you get dropped from this particular doctor's practice.  Luckily I had no problems getting her primary care physician changed through her health care provider and we'll be going to see the new doctor for her throat but it definitely caused a delay in getting her seen.  Fingers crossed that it's nothing that will cause her to miss a lot more school time.

Speaking of school, Amanda and I will be taking a drive up to Beverly, Massachusetts on December 5th to check out the Montserrat Art College at an Open House for prospective students.  She'll also be having a portfolio review done at the same time, something that is very important for artists like herself.  Montserrat offers portfolio-based scholarships and if Amanda is going to actually be able to attend an art college that's something she could really use as otherwise she's going to be in debt up to her eyeballs in student loans by the time she's finished.  Something she may very well be anyway as college isn't something I can actually afford without moving myself into a cardboard box by the side of the street!

Oh, and before I wrap this up I wanted to share something that my blogging friend extraordinaire on the West Coast - Jamie - sent me the other day. The email read -
"In the process of doing some other research, got hit by a resemblance. I know Amanda is into Poe and other denizens of Massachusetts, but have you ever noticed among the well known how much she looks like Louisa May Alcott .... good dress up for next Halloween.  In addition to the sweet kid stuff she did write some pretty adventureous and ghost filled other items."
After placing the picture from the link that Jamie sent me side-by-side with a picture of Amanda I'd have to say that there is most definitely a bit of a resemblance there:

Amanda has pronounced it as somewhat creepy but I think it's kinda cool! Perhaps Louisa has chosen to come back as an illustrator this go-round rather than as an author!  Perhaps there are outside forces (cue Twilight Zone music here) that want Amanda to go to college in Massachusetts!  Hmm ... !!

Ah well, while I ponder the possibilities I hope you have a great Tuesday wherever you may be!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Holy Trinity of Holidays Has Become Hallothanksmas

Way back in the time of the dinosaurs when I was a kid, holidays had a natural progression that spanned three months and didn't overlap at all.  Halloween was the first holiday and eagerly anticipated not just because of the sugary loot that we knew would be ours after ringing on a lot of doorbells but also for the excitement of what we were going to dress up as.  Carved Jack O' Lanterns, scarecrows stuffed with leaves, Kleenex ghosts, scary stories, and fun parties were all a part of one of the best holidays ever.

Thanksgiving was next in line with construction paper Pilgrim hats, turkeys drawn by tracing our hands, and a big meal where family and friends gathered around the table for the best feast of the year.  Mom's best dishes were broken out of storage, you could eat as much as you wanted without getting yelled at, and items like cranberry sauce, mini-gherkins, and olives made an appearance on the table for perhaps the first and only time of the year in a cut-glass dish that you always forgot even existed! 

Not until Santa arrived at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade did Christmas come into play.  The day after Thanksgiving was when Christmas lights began to shine all over the place, carols were sung on the radio and everywhere else, the Nativity scene appeared in front of the local church, pagaents were reheased and performed at school, and you could go to the store to visit Santa and climb onto his lap, tell him what you wanted for Christmas, and maybe even walk away with a small candy cane secure in the knowledge that he'd do his best to get you your heart's desire. Christmas Eve could never come quick enough or be over soon enough as you waited in anticipation of Christmas morning to see what might be under the tree.  It truly was magic and the most wonderful time of the year.

Now that I'm older the Holy Trinity of Holidays that I remember as a kid all seem to have blurred into one big holiday called Hallothanksmas - overlapping and wrapping around each other so much that you can hardly tell where one ends and the other begins.  I have to be honest with you - I don't like it.

I hate the fact that when you go into a store two weeks before Halloween you're confronted with shelves and shelves of Christmas items already jockeying for place next to the plastic pumpkins and costumes and I hate it even worse when even before the ghosts and ghouls have had a chance to return to whence they came, stores have now moved into full-blown Christmas attack mode and TV commercials have done the same.  Alas, Thanksgiving seems to be completely lost in the shuffle as the media starts to make their predictions for whether retailers are going to have a naughty or nice year and Hollywood pumps out holiday movies as soon as possible to also cash in on the bountiful spending of the season.

It's all very sad if you ask me and I want my separate holidays back.  I don't want my holiday cheer to be drowned in the commerciality of the season where the focus now seems to be more on what you want and what you get.  That's not what the holiday season is supposed to be about but retailers seem to run right over Thanksgiving in their hurry to cash in on their own tidings of great joy in the form of greater consumer spending.

I know it's never going to happen but I really wish that we could enjoy November and Thanksgiving before Christmas encroaches.  I don't know when the holidays all changed but I sure do miss having one in October, one in November, and one in Dcember.  I can't possibly be the only one, can I?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Leaf Me Be!

On the side of our house stands one tree - one rather large tree - that started dropping its leaves back around the beginning of September and continued to drop them until about a week and a half ago. As those following me on Facebook know, I have been battling fallen leaves now for several weeks and I vowed that Saturday was going to be the end of the battle.

With rake and bags in hand, I faced my foe in the yard ...

... about two hours, seven more bags, one cranky teenager, several passes with the lawn mower, and lots of sore muscles later I am happy to say that I think I am finished ...

... now to wait for the Norwich Department of Public Works to come by and remove the bags containing the bodies of the dead (leaves)!

I do love fall but this part I could do without!  I think I'm finally done, though ... or at least I sure hope I am!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Well, It Used To Be An Award ...

Last week Sandy of Traveling Bells passed on a blog award to me that she had received called the Over the Top Award. I thought it was lovely but the rules called for a) passing the award on to five other bloggers and b) answering the following list of questions with one word. Well, as you all know, I am rather bad at writing anything short and that includes one word answers to questions so as I thank Sandy for thinking of me with the award, I am a) not passing it on to anyone else and b) not answering the questions with one word. Go figure, eh? Sandy, I hope you don't mind too much!
1. Where is your cell phone? On my nightstand
2. Your hair? Desperately in need of something!
3. Your mother? Took her to lunch yesterday and did some shopping afterward.
4. Your father? Waiting for my mother in heaven.
5. Your favorite food? Mexican
6. Your dream last night? A large combination lizard/praying mantis had attached itself to my right hand and I couldn't get it off!
7. Your favorite drink? A good cup of coffee!
8. Your dream/goal? To be able to retire someday
9. What room are you in? The extremely messy and disorganized dining room - Amanda, come pick some of this stuff up!!
10. Your hobby? Photography it seems!
11. Your fear? This winter's heating bill!
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? A relationship with a nice guy would be wonderful but I suspect I may be right where I am now.
13. Where were you last night? At home watching old black & white scary movies with Amanda (ah, Vincent Price!)
14. Something that you aren't? Physically fit.
15. Muffins? Sure!
16. Wish list item? Zoom lens for my D60
17. Where did you grow up? My father was career Air Force so all over the place - Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.
18. Last thing you ate? Chocolate cake last night while watching old movies with Amanda.
19. What are you wearing? PJ's and a warm robe!
20. Your TV? In need of replacement!
21. Your Pets? Evra seems to be doing okay though very sluggish (Amanda says that's normal); Demise is sleeping in her hamster habitat; and we're thinking of adopting a neighborhood stray cat that Amanda wants to name Rufus.
22. Friends? I am thankful for all of them!
23. Your life? A lot of time at work but I don't mind.
24. Your mood? A'ight at the moment!
25. Missing Someone? Jamie
26. Vehicle? Gets fantastic mileage which is good with all the little side trips we've been taking!
27. Something you're not wearing? Make-up, I rarely do make-up at all.
28. Your favorite store? Michael's or Borders
29. Your favorite color? Purple
30. When was the last time you laughed? This morning at Amanda modeling her new snuggie!
31. Last time you cried? At the funeral for the owner of my company on Thursday.
32. Your best friend? Lives too far away in California.
33. One place that I go to over and over? Other than work?!?
34. Facebook? Indeed!
35. Favorite place to eat? The Olive Garden comes to mind - especially if I have great dining companions!
If anyone else wants to steal the list of questions and do a quick meme, I think that would be grand - award or not!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Taking a Moment

Pennsylvania churchMay God bless and keep watch over the victims, families, and friends of those involved in the Fort Hood, Texas shootings on Thursday, November 5th.

I'm pretty sure that this is not how the Creator expects people to treat each other.

Someday people are going to stop doing such horrible things to each other ... maybe.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Who You Gonna Call in Derby??

While out in the side yard raking leaves this past Friday afternoon I received a rather interesting text message from another Connecticut blogger whom I have had the extreme pleasure of meeting several times - Princess Patti of Ansonia in the Valley aka the Late Bloomer Boomer. The text, which was a Facebook message, read: "Do you want to go ghost hunting with me tomorrow night? I was just invited .. really!" Obviously it got my attention so after wrangling a few more leaves into bags I came into the house and emailed Patti about her very interesting message.
It seems that Patti, who is an ace reporter for The New Haven Register, had been invited by Valley Arts Council President Rich DiCarlo to go ghost-hunting in the old Sterling Opera House in Derby on Halloween night along with several other invitees. Not knowing a thing about the Sterling Opera House I did a little quick research that revealed to me that the Sterling Opera House was the first structure in Connecticut to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places (very cool) and that it was in the process of being renovated after quite a few years of standing empty on Elizabeth Street in downtown Derby, the smallest city in Connecticut.
Built in 1889, the theater opened on April 2nd of that year and remained in use until 1945. As one of the premier vaudeville houses in the area, the Sterling Opera House can boast a pretty good list of "people who performed here" including Harry Houdini, George Burns, Enrico Caruso, Lionel Barrymore, John Philip Sousa, Red Skelton, and even the former ex-heavyweight champion boxer John L. Sullivan who performed the role of Simon Legree in a production of "Uncle Tom's Cabin". In 1936 the famous aviatrix Amelia Earhart addressed the local Women's Club there and one of my favorite dancers, Donald O'Connor, once upon a time tripped the boards of the Sterling's stage.
The building was designed by H.E. Fricken, one of the creators of the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City, and he combined several different architectural styles in designing the Sterling. He used the Italianate Victorian style for the exterior and roof-top as well as the interior walls and doorways; the interior seating plan, influenced by German composer and theater director Richard Wagner, is in a triangular arrangement which gives all seats an unobstructed view of the 60-by-34 foot stage; and acoustics at the Sterling were second to none with even just a whisper being clearly heard from all areas of the auditorium.
All in all the Sterling was quite the place in its day but after its closing it pretty much fell into disrepair and is now undergoing the lengthy process of renovation. The outside is looking pretty good but as for the inside ... well, let's just say that it could use a good dusting for starters but the architecture and design are absolutely beautiful - something I found out first-hand on a somewhat dark Halloween night!
Of course I just had to take up Patti's offer to explore the building with her but first I asked if I could take my friend Amy along as Derby is a bit of a drive from Norwich and if I was going to go into an old and dark building that possibly had a ghost or two on Halloween night I wanted some company on the ride home "just in case". Plus I knew that Amy would be totally up for going along! Patti checked with Rich who said that it would be no problem - just make sure we brought along flashlights and cameras - so after making sure that Amanda was all set for her Halloween plans with friends, off we went.
Amy and I met Patti in the parking lot of the rather old Derby train station just at the time the heavens really decided to open up and drop some serious rain on top of us. But of course! Once it slowed down some, we followed Patti over to Elizabeth Street and parked outside of the Sterling Opera House which looked rather ominous in the darkness.
The plan was to meet everyone else at 10:15 so in the meantime we walked around the Derby Green a little bit as the rain had miraculously stopped and Patti filled me in on a bit of the history of the area.
Apparently there was supposed to be a psychic along for the evening along with a paranormal investigator but the psychic must not have known h/she had other plans when they agreed to come out for the evening as h/she never showed up. With that absence, there ended up being just the three of us along with Rich DiCarlo, Mike - another Derbian whom Patti was very familiar with - and the paranormal investigator whose name I never got!
As Rich unlocked and opened the doors the first thing we were met with was the smell of old ... really, really old. Ah, I thought, this should make for quite an interesting evening -and blog post, too! With flashlights in hand we made our way up the first rather steep staircase after being told by Mike and Rich to be careful where we walked as there were soft spots and holes in the floor. Did I mention the place was old?!?
Once we got upstairs we all gathered in what was the orchestra section of the theater and waited while Mike turned on what few utility lights they had rigged around the room. Following that, Amy took off with Paranormal Guy and Rich while Patti and I made our way up to the first balcony with Mike. Even though we were there to try to find a ghost or two, I have to say that I wasn't really at all scared - just more fascinated with the building than anything. Even though the place had definitely seen better days, it was easy to picture what a grand and glorious place it must have been when it was open and patrons were filling the 1,250 seats.
From the first balcony we continued upstairs to what could definitely be called 'the cheap seats' on the second balcony. As Mike explained, these were the seats that were generally used by servants and such of those more wealthy patrons who attended performances at the Opera House. The seats were more like very narrow church pews and had to be horribly uncomfortable even back when people were smaller. Mike explained that in the renovations those seats would eventually be taken out and replaced.
Mike had to leave after he showed us the way back down from upstairs so Patti and I spent some time taking pictures from the stage before hooking up with Rich who then took us downstairs for a tour of the old Town Hall Offices and Police Station. I'll be doing a separate post on that part of the evening so as not to overwhelm you with too many pictures!
When we came back upstairs we found Paranormal Guy doing some filming and picture-taking on the first floor with Amy nowhere in sight. Uhm? Amy? Turns out she was upstairs on the second floor by herself (that girl is brave!) and when she came downstairs to join us she told us that we all needed to go upstairs and take a look at one of the staircases as she had been seeing some strange lights on it but wasn't sure what to make of them.
All five of us trooped up to the staircase outside of the first balcony that led up to the left-hand side of the second balcony as Amy explained that she had been watching different plays of light on the stairs. She didn't think that what she was seeing was a result of cars going past outside but she wanted our opinions on it - if the lights were to come back - so we all took up a spot in front of the stairs and stared intensely at them.
After a fashion a small light started to descend from the top and stopped in the middle of the stairs. There were no cars going past outside at the time so we knew that couldn't be it. Amy, who has no problems in speaking to those who aren't there, asked the light to repeat itself and after a short pause, another light came down the stairs from a different angle. Okay ... again there were no cars going past. Soon a car did come down Elizabeth Street and as we watched the play of light across the windows that were quite a distance above us, nothing appeared on the stairs. Hmm ...
Amy again asked for the light to reappear and a very short time later a much brighter light came down the stairs and this time turned the corner to go down the next set of stairs. Along with that light came a rather cold blast of air and Rich, who was closest to the stair railing, showed us that the hair on his arms was standing on edge. Again no cars were going past outside.
Rich decided to try to see if maybe there was some other light being reflected in from one of the other windows and as he tried positioning himself in various spots, the biggest light yet came down the stairs and stopped in the middle of the staircase as it sparkled and moved. Again, no cars were going by and another blast of cold air gave all of us goosebumps and made Rich's breath visible. There was no way that it was cold enough in the building for anyone's breath to be visible but Rich's was and the backs of my legs were getting darned cold.
Paranormal Guy was videotaping during this whole time but when the lights started really playing around with us, he started having battery problems with his video recorder. From what I've heard, that isn't all that unusual when dealing with spirits and both Rich and Patti had been having intermittent problems with their batteries all evening, too. I did manage to get one picture of a small bit of light on the stairs during all this but otherwise I had no pictures with orbs or anything else suspicious while we were at the stairs. Be interesting to see what Paranormal Guy got with his equipment - if anything.
Finally we decided that we had asked the light to show itself more than enough times and we went back downstairs where we snapped a few more pictures and then decided that, being as how it was around 12:30, it was time to call it a night. Amy and I had a long drive ahead of us and even though we had the whole daylight savings time hour to fall back on, I still had to be at work in the morning for my double shift and I wasn't going to be getting much sleep.
It was most definitely worth the drive, though, and I'm really glad that Patti invited us along with her. Even though I didn't get any pictures of shadowy figures like Rich got back in 2007 - which you can read about in Patti's article in The New Haven Register - I still had a good time exploring a place that was obviously seeped in history - and dust! Plus we had that whole "light on the stairs" experience to mull over. Was there something there? Well, all five of us saw the light and felt the cold and we just couldn't come up with a logical explanation for any of it so perhaps there was. Perhaps there are some opera lovers still hanging out at the Sterling waiting for the doors to reopen and some new talent to take the stage. You just never know!
There are lots of orbs on some of the pictures in the video above but are they signs of ghostly activity? I'm not sure but I don't think that they could all be considered dust as I took over 300 pictures and the vast majority of them have no orbs or anything on them. Perhaps Rich can get the guys from the SyFy Channel's Ghost Hunters to come in and see what they can find which I do believe he's working on. If they do an investigation, I'll definitely watch that episode!