Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"No one needs a vacation more..."

"...than the person who just had one." ~Anon.

So we've returned from vacation with bump, settling right back into the crazy life we swear to avoid. Maybe it's a little less hectic, but not by much. Sandbridge Beach was lovely, quiet, and everything that Virginia Beach wasn't. We still enjoyed the "boardwalk" but I'm glad we stayed elsewhere. And for how much I complained last week about the icky weather we had (only on a couple of days), I am very thankful that we went last week instead of experiencing Hurricane Earl in all its fury right now.

I won't get into detail about our vacay (who wants to read that?) but one of the places we visited was Colonial Williamsburg, a place I've been dying to go since I was a kid. I'm a history nerd. Especially when you can buy their artisan crafts. :D It was a little disappointing in that some places weren't open the day we were there (like the wigmaker) and some tours could have been beefed up a little (the jail could've gone into more detail about Blackbeard and his pirates being kept there), but overall I loved it.

The building I had to visit was the bindery. The printing press was already closed for the day, but I'd seen those before. OK, not that I needed to see the bindery either, but how could I resist? It's a tiny little building, tucked down a hillside from the printing press and post office and I noticed not many people found the trek to be worthwhile. I tried to convince as many tourists as possible to head down when they asked me what the building was (can't read the sign?).

I never caught the name of the bookbinder that was present, but he had a full group that he spoke to when we entered. I paid attention for some it (mostly nodding in affirmation to Hubby to show that I agreed with what the bookbinder said...not that Hubby would've known better) and mostly looked around at what tools and materials he had. The bookbinder explained a bit about his craft, mostly speaking in negative terms as though it's a dying trade (which I'll acknowledge, but come on. Let's sound psyched!) Some of the tourists asked question, but most just wandered out as they pleased. When the group had a cleared and I knew he would be restarting his talk when the next one came, I intervened to ask him about his training.

He spent 6 years as an apprentice at the bindery in Colonial Williamsburg, training with the "Master" (whom he didn't name). And my favorite moment was when he explained a little bit about the commissioned work he does and said he could show me photographs, "if I had the time." Well, of course I do! He showed me snapshots of books made for royalty and other famous celebrities (usually the only people than can afford the leather and gold stamping) and showed me what he was currently working on until more tour groups wandered in.

While I still think it could have been jazzed up a little, I think he did a great job making analogies to the kids present about their notebooks and textbooks and trying to get them to think about the structure and cost.

Back up in the giftshop, I bought some marbled paper and a handmade deck of old-fashioned playing cards. I was hoping for more leather items, but I suppose they only commission those. All in all, a great visit to Colonial Williamsburg!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Birdbath Makeover

I'll share a quick little project that I put together last week and it's brightened up the landscaping. I love gardens and animals thus my yard is beginning to reflect that. I now have plants galore and I've added bird feeders to the back flower bed. Once we finish putting up our fence (this weekend I think!) I will build a few birdhouses and possibly a small shelter for the stray cats that we care for. You'd think they'd have attacked the birds by now but 1) They get fed by enough people in the neighborhood that they don't care to hunt anything and 2) The birds KNOW when they cats are hiding under the feeders and don't go anywhere near them. But these structures will have to be far apart from each other, just in case.

My aunt very generously gave me a bird bath that belonged to her but has been stored in my grandma's garage for many years, getting no use out of it. I finally got a hold of it last weekend and it's time for a rehab! Here's a pic of it, peeling paint and grunge all over. But it has such a lovely triangle pattern on it, there's potential here. I hosed off much of the dirt, and set to work painting after it dried in the sun for a bit. Once our fence and exterior house painting is completed, I have a few shades of tan/cream with accents of blue-green and cherry red. Most everything will be painted the base of cream so I decided to reverse it for the bird bath. (The brown fence in the background is now an off-white color--I just finished it this week) I painted the birdbath the lighter shade of blue (called "Rain Cloud") and will then add accents in the cream color and maybe the red. I don't need overkill.

At first, I didn't paint the inside of the bowl because I didn't want to accidentally poison any birds. I wasn't sure how the paint would react with water, even though it's exterior paint and should be waterproof. I did some research online and since it's latex-based, it's nontoxic. Good, because many people complained about algae, water leaching through cracks, etc. This paint should help because it's sealed the porous cement surface and a hairline crack. And it's also a deterrent for mildew so I hope it will help with algae. Plus it's prettier! I played up some of the accents with the cream paint (Gobi Desert) but not too much. I actually painted blue back over some of the designs because it was too much going on. You can still see the pattern on it, even with just the blue. If you click on the pictures, you can see the larger image.

Finally, I decided to add shiny, colorful stones to attract the birds and make it look more colorful. I had to double-check that the adhesive I used would resist water and be non-toxic (bottle info seemed fine) and voila! Here it is, all pretty looking.

Now, I've had it set up in the yard for almost a week now and besides some bird poo, I have yet to see a bird in it. Just on the edge. They'll figure it out eventually. I also noticed that I'll have to get a different glue because after being submerged 24/7, the water-resistant glue is softening and stones are coming loose. Not a big deal really but I don't want to lose any in the yard when I dump the water. And then run over them with the lawn mower.


There are so many articles this past decade discussing the unique name trend that parents are supporting. Naming their children after fruit, countries, animals, or just making it up, everyone is quick to worry about the effect it will have on children who have to grow up with these odd names. Yes, there are some I would avoid. Actually, probably many I would avoid. But I like the creativity that parents are utilizing as well as the opportunity for a child to stand out. Yes, they might get picked on. But if 99% of your class also has a strange name, who is going to pick on whom? And really, it strengthens your character to stand up for yourself in some way. I loved that I knew nobody else with my first name, while many of my friends had to be distinguished by a last initial. Just sayin'.

Yet, I really don't think that creative, clever, or obnoxious names are really new to the baby-naming game. I'm VERY involved in genealogical research for my family and I've been lucky that most of our history is already documented in two published books (Just enough to still leave puzzles for me!). I enjoy the stories about my past relatives but what I really like is looking at their names. Who named which child after which relative? Which name got copied the most within a family branch? And I can say with certainty, weird names abound! My great-grandfather and his siblings all had first names that started with the letter O, although they only ever went by their middle names: Robert Elisha Nixon and his wife Mary Hempleman had: Ola Floyd, Ora Emerson, Orval Leslie, Olive Katherine, and Ollie Ulric. And before anyone suggests that some of these could have been related to ethnicities or their native culture (seemingly normal for them) but sounds strange to me, my family (this side in particular) is Irish. And they moved here in the late 1700s. There are almost NO Irish names in my family. Odd, I know. I guess they wanted to be different.

Also, the preponderance of fall birthdays is nearly 100%. I know they were all farmers but I guess this proves it since what other time of year besides winter would you have time to get it on? ;)

Here's a list of my favorite unique names from my family tree.

Irish side:

  • Andrew Jackson Nixon (he's the older gentleman in the Nixon family photo, some of these other names are there too but I can't remember who's who besides his wife Cassandra.)
  • Luella
  • Valvera
  • Polly
  • Cora
  • Huldah
  • Ardona
  • Alta
German side:

  • Philomena
  • Amandus (male)
  • Urban
  • Euphrosina
  • Bartholomaus
  • Franziska
  • Isidore
  • Amalia
  • Bernadette
  • Boniface (or spelled Benifacious)
The Czech/Austrian/Hungarian side had mostly boring names that repeated a lot, like Stephen, Mary, Paul, Catherine, etc. Do you have a favorite family name?