Friday, October 31, 2008

Hildene Mansion - Lincoln Family Home

The Robert Todd Lincoln house (The Hildene Mansion ) is located in Manchester, Vermont - about 30 minutes away from where we are staying. Robert is the only child of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln to survive to adulthood. He became chairman of the Pullman Car Comany and was a true American success story. The house is a spectacular example of Georgian Revival architecture with beautifully manicured gardens encompassing over 400 acres. We enjoyed touring the house and grounds of the mansion, which offer amazing views in every direction.
My favorite room in the house was the dining room, decorated with WHITE pumpkins on the table. Also, we especially liked the old fashioned cast iron waffle maker, which had to be a necessity with Vermont syrup in great supply!!
However, the most spectacular item in the house was an Aeolian Pipe Organ, which was a gift from Robert to his wife. The 1,000-pipe organ, installed in the entrance hall at Hildene in 1908, is believed to be the oldest residential pipe organ still in working order in the United States. When they played the organ for us, it reverberated throughout the house with such majesty, that it brought tears to my eyes. It is an impressive piece of art!
We also visited a local family store on the side of the road - The Dutton Farm Stand. They have the most wonderful gords and pumpkins. In addition, they harvest the famous Honeycrisp apples and we couldn't resist buying a bag full!!

Mainly, we enjoyed just spending time with family in the Vermont house. It's been a great week together and I am sorry for it to end!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's not Aunt Jemima....

As we ventured out through central Vermont, I was fascinated with the different covered bridges. Vermont has the highest number of covered bridges in the country - 114 of them! Each one has their own distinct personality and style and gives a unique and scenic look to the Vermont landscape.

One of the things that we really wanted to see while in Vermont was a sugaring farm - where they gather and process real maple syrup. (Did you know that Aunt Jemima makes CORN syrup?) We drove up to SugarBush Farms, which is a family owned working farm on 550 acres in central Vermont. At SugarBush, over 6000 trees are tapped each spring and harvested, then made into maple syrup. It takes over 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup! After learning about the work that it takes (and seeing the snowfall measurements), we decided that maple syrup should be worth its weight in gold!! We tasted all four grades of syrup and toured the sugar house, where they boil the sap over a wood fire, and bottle the syrup. During sugaring season, they may spend 18 t0 20 hours a day keeping the fires going and working in the cold to make the final product. (Charles, my mom and my aunt Linda pictured) At SugarBush they also smoke and package cheese, and we sampled most of the 14 varieties!! Our favorite was the award-winning sharp cheddar (aged 18 months) and the fresh blue cheese!! Yum! We also purchased sage cheese and jalapeno cheddar, but it was hard to not buy them all!!
Another highlight of our day was driving through beautiful Woodstock, Vermont. This little village town was quaint and full of charm. It seemed like a great family community as the police closed the main portion of the town for the local elementary school to parade through in their Halloween costumes. We joined the other parents on the curb and enjoyed watching small town America at its finest.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Snowy Autumn

Today we spent a lazy day inside, working a puzzle and relaxing with our family. We did venture out just a bit going to the ski village in Stratton (Slopes open around Thanksgiving). We also took a trip to the town of Manchester - about 30 minutes away. Manchester is a picturesque town with lots of little shops and buildings. The drive was beautiful and it lightly snowed all day. So far, we have about 3 inches with flurries continuing through the night. The combination of brightly colored leaves with the clean white snow is stunning! I'm so thankful that we have been able to experience TWO seasons in New England!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Let it SNOW!!!

I LOVE snow!! I feel just like a little girl when it snows and want to jump up and dance around in the flurries!! I couldn't resist to run outside and make a snowball!! So far, we have about an inch and it's still coming down!! I'm thrilled to be in Vermont!!
Today, we drove across New Hampshire. The trees were in full color and the beauty of it all continues to amaze me. We visited the state capital building in Concord and we were allowed to roam at will through out the building (no security here!). It was fun to see the Governor's office and reception area as well as where the senate and the house meet for their legislative sessions. After exploring Concord, we headed to Manchester, NH airport to pick up my parents and my Aunt Linda, who will be visiting us for a few days. We are happy that they could join us on our adventure!! We still have a spare bedroom or two, so if you have the time, come on.....

Snow began to fall right before we arrived back at the Vermont house tonight, and it's been so pretty to watch it out the window. I've never lived anywhere with snow, so even a little bit is exciting. Of course, it's a lot more fun when you have a roaring fire, family around you, plenty of food and no real schedule to keep.

I wonder if the slopes will open - SKI time!! :)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ballgame....

"Every baseball fan dreams of visiting Cooperstown. Some make the trip as children, while the dream is still fresh. Some go later in life to embrace the past. And still others talk of the pilgrimage that lies ahead."
Today, we drove to Cooperstown, NY to see the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Cooperstown is a short three hour drive each way, but well worth the visit, especially since we have a baseball player in the family. It was interesting to discover more about the origins of baseball and see some of the players featured in the great Hall of Fame. While variations of the game have been played for hundreds of years, Cooperstown has been credited with the beginning of baseball right after the civil war. Baseball embodies the American spirit and is much more than a game; it is a way of life.
One of the amazing things we discovered is the HOUSTON HEAT HAT featured in the "current" section of the Hall of Fame. The Houston Heat (Josh's team) won a national championship and is noted as being the 3rd top organization in the US for travel/competitive teams.

Cooperstown, NY is centered around baseball with stores, restaurants and museums, all with with baseball names. We had lunch at Triple Play, shopped at the Dugout and parked in front of the Home Plate. The town of Cooperstown is also beautiful and we enjoyed our time in the small quaint town.

The drive back was spectacular with the fall colors around us. We ventured into the Adirondacks and explored some of the tiny towns in New York and Vermont. It was a lazy day of driving and we were happy to see the beauty around us.
P.S. I am still fixated on the Moose crossing signs (See yesterday's post). I just wonder if anyone told the MOOSE where to cross? My brother, Randall, explained that moose were a serious danger in the area, and we want to be prepared - so I just am curious to find out HOW the moose know where to cross and if they stay true to the rules?? Do they go to Moose Crossing school??

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Welcome to Vermont - Moose Country!

We arrived at our house in Stratton, Vermont ready to take a break from driving. The house is beautiful and has everything that we might need, and lots of items that we don't (Foosball, darts, pool table, card room, 5 living areas, 4/5 bedrooms and tons of space!). Maersk houses are always spectacular! We decided to explore our immediate area and just take a day of rest. Stratton Mountain is known as a summer get-away or a winter ski resort; however this time of year, it's very quiet and peaceful.
As we drove around, we saw numerous Moose Crossing signs, which we found entertaining enough to stop and take a picture. We found out shortly that they were serious! :)

Yes, this is a MOOSE!! It weighs 762 pounds dressed and was shot by a guy that we met on the side of the road. It is hanging to allow the meat to age and it was interesting to talk with him. We thought it funny that the moose was hanging near his "VOTE for MCCAIN" sign! Moose hunters unite!
As I got back into the car after taking pictures, my first thought was to question the type of bacteria that I had on my hands from touching a dead moose. My second thought was wondering what you would actually DO with a moose if you shot one.... I am NOT kidding - there is a 2008 VERMONT MOOSE HUNTERS GUIDE on the internet produced by the Vermont Wildlife Commission. I read all 48 pages of it, which was strangely interesting. My favorite part was getting into SHAPE for moose hunting season (Moose harvesting is hard physical work!) and that you should NOT practice moose calls at night from inside your tent! :) So as we start off on our adventures tomorrow, I'll know exactly what to do if we run into any loose moose!! You never know when that information may be needed!

Oh, one more thing, I've included a recipe. It looks simple long as moose is handy.

Slow Cooker Moose Roast
"Great recipe - it was the hit of my dinner!"
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 pounds moose roast
2 cups apple juice
1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the roast on all sides in the hot oil. Remove, and transfer to a slow cooker. Sprinkle onion soup mix over the roast, then pour in the apple juice. Cover and cook on MEDIUM for 6 to 8 hours, or until meat is very tender. Check occasionally to make sure there is sufficient liquid, and add more juice if necessary. Serve roast with juices, or thicken them for a tasty gravy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Alpha House

Niagara Falls is breathtaking, even in the rain! A little cold and rain didn't stop us, so we just put on our raincoats (gloves and sweaters too) and walked the mile from our hotel to the falls.

Niagara is the second largest waterfall in the world (second to Victoria Falls in South Africa) and is the largest producer of hydroelectric power on the planet.

Horseshoe Falls (the largest of the falls) faces the Canadian side and has over 400,000 gallons of water per SECOND fall over its banks. WOW! Niagara is really incredible and I'm glad that we had the opportunity to experience this natural wonder firsthand.

Our next stop was Syracuse University - and the Alpha (beginning) house of Gamma Phi Beta - my college sorority. Gamma Phi Beta was founded at Syracuse University in 1874 and was the first group to use the term "sorority". The founders were impressive considering few women attended college at that time, since it was believed that "women had inferior minds and delicate health." We've come a long way since then! Gamma Phi's objective is to promote the highest form of womenhood through education, social life and service to their country and community.

The girls of the Alpha house received me with open arms and warm hospitality. I signed the official book, registering my visit for posterity and toured the large house, which is beautiful inside. I was able to see past composites of our members dating back to the original pledge class, and even held a pin from 1882! I am proud to be a Gamma Phi and it truly made my day!! Sisterhood does last a lifetime!

Friday, October 24, 2008

O Canada, eh?

Today, we left Ohio and drove through Pennsylvania and New York where the trees were in full color. It was beautiful and I don’t remember the last time I saw the true splendor of fall. It’s been 53 degrees today, so with the crisp weather and the smell of burning wood permeating the air, it definitely feels like autumn in the Northeast. We explored Cleveland Ohio, then on to Erie PA, where the picture above was taken. Just for those who have wondered (and for the ones that have asked), the gas prices have been $2.34 to $2.54 through Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania - all the way until we passed the “Welcome to New York” sign, where it jumped to $3.27 and up. That's quite a difference! It really won’t matter to us anyway, since I failed to mention that we expect to be millionaires any day now! Charles purchased a Tennessee lottery ticket AND a power ball ticket that he knows is very lucky, so we are just waiting to see where we go to collect our winnings!
Early this evening, we went through immigrations into Canada – another change of route. Our goal is to see Niagara, so we thought we’d explore the Canadian side of it all. Our hotel is in the main area of Niagara Falls Ontario, which resembles a carnival/sunset strip area. There is a huge Ferris wheel, Ripley’s Believe it or Not and a Louis Tussaurds Wax Museum among casinos, flashing lights, arcades, etc... This is definitely tourist country!
We had our first glimpse of Niagara Falls tonight with lights shining brightly. The mist was so heavy, I thought it was raining. However, it was absolutely spectacular and I am looking forward to seeing it all in the morning.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Just in time for dinner....

Ok, so Indiana wasn't really on the itinerary, but we were tempted by the sign that said Indiana - 10 miles - and we just couldn't resist the detour. We drove across the Ohio river and enjoyed stepping into Indiana, just because we could! :)
We made it to Cincinnati, Ohio just in time to have the most wonderful dinner with a good friend ...... Dame Isabelle Paul. We do charity work with Isabelle in the Order of St John and she is a generous philanthropist and an extraordinary woman. We visited her magnificent English Tudor estate and she graciously gave us a tour of her home, complete with a chapel and a hand-etched plastered breakfast room.
We had an enjoyable dinner at her private club and enjoyed many hours looking at pictures and notes from all over the world - Pictures of Isabelle with Gorbachev, Queen Elizabeth, Robert Schuller (She donated the 'Widow with the mites' statue in front of the Crystal Cathedral) and George W. Bush, as well as a member of the Nigerian royal family, who she describes as a Christian with a big job ahead of her. Isabelle is a big supporter of the Haggai Institute, which "obeys the great commission by training people of influence within their own countries to lead others to Christ" (See ) While the Italian frescos on the wall were impressive, the biggest gem in the home was actually Isabelle herself. We came into her home with awe and left with complete humility of her generous nature and love for those less fortunate. We are priviledged to know her and to call her our friend.
One more picture of interest - As we were driving through Kentucky, we saw many of these barns. We finally figured out that they had tobacco drying inside. Not something we see in Texas! :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We are ON the way....

As we began our journey northward, we decided to let the GPS be our guide. We ended up on 2 dirt roads between Houston and Lufkin, so we were definitely on the scenic route. We did see a very large deer with a good sized rack, which ran right in front of our car. Another few miles faster, we would have had venison for lunch (or no car). Thankfully, God was protecting us and we are grateful!

First stop – Memphis, Tennessee – home of the Blues, Elvis, pork BBQ (Corky’s and the Rendezvous) and our families. Memphis is my birthplace and still feels like home to me. We grew up here and graduated from Memphis State University, which was renamed The Univ. of Memphis. We are both Tiger fans (Go Blue!) mainly during basketball season. My parents and brother, Randall and family, live in Collierville; Charles’ mom and brother, David, live in Braden, both suburbs of Memphis. Dan (Charles’ youngest brother) and family live in the heart of Memphis in midtown where they enjoy close proximity to everything in the river city. (Did I tell you that my youngest brother, David and family are in process of moving to Spain? That trip will definitely be on our agenda in the near future!) Our plan is to stop at Briar Hall (The “Hall Farm”) for dinner and a good night’s rest. It’s always good to see family – even on a super short visit on the way to New England.

A big shout out to our nieces and nephew in Memphis as we pass by – Brandon, Alexis, Amanda, Casey and Collin – We’ll be back thru in November (and again at Christmas), so we hope to see you then.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Getting ready.....

We are getting ready to leave on Wed for our New England road trip! We realized recently that we have visited more countries than states, so we have decided to set out and finish discovering our own country - and hope to be in Washington, DC on Nov 4th, election day. We voted this morning in preparation for our journey and we are busy making trail mix and gathering book tapes to use on the way. We are looking forward to seeing the fall folliage in the northeast and having time to explore our great country.

In the meantime - Happy 19th Birthday Josh!! We are thrilled to spend your birthday together! We love you!