Monday, December 26, 2016

Random Readings: So Many Kinds of Novels...

"The Copper Beech" by Maeve Binchy; awhile back, I read her "The Lilac Bus" and didn't care for it. But a friend advised that it was her least favorite of Binchy's novels. So I tried this one; it was more enjoyable, light, cozy reading.

Anne Perry's "Death in the Devil's Acre" seemed a contrived Victorian detective plot starring an unlikely pair of young lady sleuths. Meh. Plus, if reports are true, the author took part (as a teenager) in the murder of a friend's mother.
She and the friend served time as juveniles and were freed. Still, I can only consider the profound sense of terror and betrayal suffered by the victim.

I'm late to "The DaVinci Code"-party. The book, by Dan Brown was published at the turn of the current century. I heard so much about the book and the plot that by now, I was underwhelmed. But I enjoyed "google-researching" the many paintings, ideas and sites mentioned in the iconic novel. It was not as well-crafted as I expected.

"Earthly Joys" by Philippa Gregory is the best of the latest batch of books, in my opinion. The plot centers on the famous Tudor/Jacobean gardener and collector, John Tradescent (the Elder). Complicated relationships are explored, between husband and wife, father and son, master and servant, king and country people.
Tradescent believes in the old feudal system, with loyalty to king and master. His family is more progressive, but there is consistent tension. His loyalty to is master, the Duke of Buckingham could have gotten him killed. There is an uncomfortable encounter, when the servant is seduced by the master. You feel for the Gardener: he is caught in the turbulent world leading up the the English Civil War. There is a companion novel "Virgin Earth" about The Younger John Tradescent, the son.

Monday, December 12, 2016

This was Harrodsburg, KY

In the little town of Harrodsburg, KY is a reconstruction of the oldest permanent European settlement in Kentucky (situated quite near the original location and built to according to the plans left by the founder and leader of the settlement, James Harrod.) The site is operated by the State of Kentucky as part of the State Parks. A wonderful entertainment for older kids and parents/teachers.

Many aspects of pioneer life are displayed at the venue: a working smithy, a weaving room, a model of a typical pioneer cabin, and much, much more.  Though Native Tribes did not establish permanent settlements in Kentucky (it was regarded as communal hunting grounds for the use of all the Tribes), there is a working hunting camp, as would have been common. A history museum and Abe Lincoln's parents' first cabin are also on the property and part of the admission fee.

The day of our visit, a group of local "re-enactors" was having an actual wedding of two of their troop members; it was staged in the style of an 1860's period event. Directing the parking of cars for the event was one of the guests, in full reproduction Confederate Civil War regalia as a Cavalry Officer.  He explained all of the items he wore, including the reproduction (but functioning!) firearms he carried.
Our little maid gamely posed with the stubby rifle before the Cavalry Officer provided us with a live fire demonstration!! It was loud!

He explained that battles were so loud that officers would jab the men with sword points to get their attention! How annoying! But our expression "Get the point" comes from that situation.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Special Place in Paris, Kentucky: Claiborne

 We visited Claiborne, a prestigious but low-key thoroughbred breeding farm. Many excellent race horses have lived or been conceived or born here. The entire property seems to glow with understated, practical elegance. Our niece was, alas, a tad young for the experience; a little surprised by the frank talk at the "breeding shed" (all technical and correct). But after that, it was all about the beautiful horses.

This one is Orb, the winner of the 2013 Kentucky Derby. The first stall that you can see behind Orb once housed Secretariat.

There was opportunity to photograph your meeting with the amazing animals. This was my second visit; last time we "met" Monarchos, who won the Derby second fastest to Secretariat's time. It appears Monarchos recently  passed away at another farm, sadly. We also saw Pulpit, another star, on that first trip.

Sometimes the horses clown around!

But usually they stand patiently, as they are trained.

War Front

With the company of her Uncle, our niece was able to step up to War Front for a photo. She prefers smaller animals, it's true.

War Front is currently the world's most "expensive" horse with a "stud fee" near a quarter of a million dollars!   Claiborne Farm is not a "petting zoo", it is a working business-farm. It's not for small kids! We "pushed it" a bit with our girl, but it was her first trip to Kentucky; she is accustomed to behaving well around adults. There is actually some danger since the stallions can be unpredictable. The procedure for joining a tour is to call ahead and reserve a place in a scheduled event; be on time, dress nice, be calm; give your guide a nice tip at the end of the event. They have a nice, high-end gift shop, too. A unique experience.

The Butterfly Hotel is open for business--and packed!

We started, several years ago, to assist the butterfly population by nurturing the young specimens indoors. It was slow going. But this...