Saturday, April 30, 2011


I snagged this photo of Bud Onstad, our friend and father-in-law to son Donald, because it's a classic waiting to be painted and I didn't want to lose it. He posted this audio from Kill Bill II on Facebook. I didn't want to lose it either and so am linking it here (click on intermission) in between writing about our cruise trip with Lewis and the Feeneys last June. That whole trip thread and all other trip sagas will get reposted when completed to World When Traveling for easier revisiting.

Cruisin' Charleston

 Alrighty! This amazing trip has taken me almost a year to write about. I usually write as we go, but on our cruise with the Feeneys to the Bahamas, we had no internet without paying (and who wants to pay to surf when you're on the surf for real). Upon our return, the 4th of July and family were upon us, then the book project, then camp and so on.

So let's begin. It's Wednesday June 9th, almost Thursday June 10th, when we pick up Lewis, Lauren and Deirdre for our all night road trip to Charleston. Donny & Lewis take turns driving. We gals sleep. We make good time and arrive in Charleston around 9ish in the morning meeting John, Linda and Colleen who have checked in the night before. Our check-in is later in the day, so we freshen up as best we can and head for old Charleston.

Our first order of business for sure is food. J, L & C have done a great job of scoping the day before and suggest Toast for a fine southern breakfast. It is everything they suggest and more. We are full and ready to tour. We have planned a full day in Charleston before our cruise begins on Friday afternoon.

Between planning and executing, I have come upon a book illustrating opportunity and it just so happens that the publisher's offices are in Charleston, a few blocks away. This is a great chance to meet and talk with the folks and see if I really want to take on the project with its looming deadline. I have chatted with Hannah and she has time. We have not mentioned this to anyone because it literally just came to fruition (which I never thought would actually happen) mere days ago. And so when the group starts sorting out plans for the day, I bring up the side trip. We are going to walk to the offices but John say the address is over by the Citadel and a bit far for a quick walk. We decide to take the bus. The rest of the group is going to browse around Charleston.

We call Hannah about which bus to take. She says the bus times are sketchy and she'll send a cab which she does, but he takes forever to find us, right in central Charleston. Then our driver, very nice but new to the job, cannot locate The History Press, our destination. He tries to drop us off at one point saying the building is just one block away according to his GPS. We do not have time to search it out and politely tell him to keep driving until he finds the front door.

Good thing we stuck to our guns because the office is more than a block away, much more. He is apologetic. His sister is writing a children's book. I tell him that she and I can talk about illustrating.

Hannah meets us at the door. She gives us a tour, introducing us to everyone. They are extremely nice and it sounds like the project will be fun. Hannah offers to takes us back to meet the group and to avoid another cab ride we gladly accept. She drops us off near the Market. We all wander through the Market. It is wonderful and overwhelming all at the same time.

By now it is mid-afternoon and the heat oppressive. Donny & John opt to go back to the hotel and collapse. Linda wants to take a carriage ride and I'm for that. We end up with the best guide in all of Charleston. She is a wealth of information. She has been doing tours, walking and otherwise for ages. She personally knows many of the residents of the charming homes on the tour and tells us awesome stories. And surprisingly the ride is pleasant. We are in a covered carriage and up high enough there is a breeze.

After the ride, we head to the hotel to check in and freshen up for dinner. We dine at the famous Hyman's Seafood on Meeting Street. We have a table upstairs. The food is really good. Almost all of the tables have small brass plaques designating celebrity diners who have enjoyed a Hyman's meal or two.

After dinner we have a grand time playing some more on the bouncing rockers benches Charleston is famous for. Donny & I really want a few of these for Bayside. They will fit right in.

Friday, April 29, 2011

In Honor of the Royal Wedding

In honor of the royal wedding I've dug up my blog post (thanks to Donny reminding me about it) on our one full day in London!

We’re off again for another birthday travel present from my guy. This time it’s London for a day+ and then Paris for two weeks.

We leave home around midday to make our 10PM British Airways flight from Dulles. The traffic isn’t too bad considering that we end up driving through rush hour traffic on the far outer fringes of DC. We find economy parking with no problem but encounter our first almost mishap when we leave a suitcase behind on the bench when we board the shuttle. Fortunately it is night and we are the only passengers, so the driver has time to be more attentive to us and notices the orphan. Donny thought I had it and I he.

Next stop is to check our bags and settle in for the wait as we needed to be at the airport three hours prior to departure. Finally boarding time comes and everyone queues up at the first call. Maybe they are all sitting in the back rows. Anyway we bid our time and eventually get on the plane. First class seats are the coolest I have ever seen. They swivel around so you can rotate four together to play cards or chat or two can be rotated head to toe so that each person ends up with lots and lots of leg room. This also turns the chair into a chaise lounge, which all adds up to a better night’s sleep than most airplane rides give you. There are also fan like shades on either side to help keep out neighboring lights.

Steerage is much less impressive but okay. I manage to sleep a fair amount including through breakfast which is fine by me. I like food coming back from Europe better than food going.

We touch down at 9:40 and by 10 have some British money and are on an airport bus to the tube. The bullet train is not working so we have to take the regular tube which is not so bad. We opt to buy a Travelcard which will let us use either train or bus for one day on an unlimited basis. One train change and we are at Liverpool St, our stop. We have to walk north about eight blocks to reach the St Gregory. The weather is fine just cold.

It’s a nice hotel on the edge of the east section of old London. Our 3rd floor room is plain but nice. One wall is a window overlooking London proper but mostly we see ordinary buildings. By now it is about noon. We consider going out but the bed beckons and we crash for several hours. The sheets are so soft and the duvet warm.

Around three we struggle out of bed and decide to explore a bit. I have printed a one day in London guide I found online before we left and Donny has some British Airways suggestions. We have not thought to get a Rick Steves book. We do not want to jump on the internet because there is a fee. All we have at this point is a tube map. Even the usual around town guide found in hotels rooms is missing. We will fumble along. We decide to follow the tour route my one day guide suggests.

We hope a bus and head for the upper deck. It’s very warm and cozy. Outside is getting dark and dampish. Shortly we are at Aldsgate, a stop near the tower, our destination, so reluctantly we leave the warm bus. With no map to guide us we can only wander in the general direction we think we ought to be going but we don’t mind, everything is so interesting. We spot a church remnant that is from an early century. Very rare as large chunks of London were either burned in the great fire of 1666 or destroyed during World War I and II. Everywhere we see ultra modern buildings interspersed with the old. The new buildings are mostly glass and have very futuristic looking designs.

We decide to have a bit to eat at the Drawn and Quartered pub but it is full of folks meeting for drinks after work, no room for sitting, and so we move on down hill toward the river. We see ice skating ahead. We have made it to the tower. There is a winter rink in the courtyard. It is festively lit. We watch from the tower bridge approach for awhile and then wander down the ramps looking for a dining place. We find a better view of the skaters and small selection of snack food. I buy a piece of fruitcake for later and after we take a few pictures, we continue our food search. Everything around the tower is closed up. We are a bit surprised, it is not that late.

Back up on Tower Hill I see people on an upper level of a glass building eating. We head that way and find a Wawamama noodle factory. We pop in and get seated. The tables are set up cafeteria style but everything is elegantly and efficiently served. The food is wonderful. I have salad and Donny soup. He is happy to have a wooden spoon instead of chopsticks. We order Japanese beer that is mild but flavorful. We find it clever and amusing that the dessert selections are printed on the table mats.

We have not arrived too soon. Before we finish eating last orders are taken. I have chocolate cake with wasabi white chocolate dressing. It is superb. Donny has sorbet with fresh fruit.

Our high thread count sheets call. We catch a bus home and are soon slumbering in London town.

Dec. 16th, 2005 | 04:02 pm

The Eye's on Me
Originally uploaded by wellingtonrabbit.
The condensed version

1. Struggle out of bed
2. Eat complimentary hotel breakfast at 7th floor restaurant – great panoramic view looking west over the city
3. Buy bus ticket around the corner
4. Hop bus to London Bridge
5. Get bus map (finally) at London Bridge Station/ big and bustling
6. Leave station; Donny asks about old cathedral close by; I say it must be a lesser place as it is not noted on my walking tour guide
7. Walk down Nancy’s Steps (from Oliver Twist) to cathedral
8. Discover cathedral is Southwark, very important; Shakespeare’s brother and John Harvard (university founder) both worshipped here
9. Get nice private tour talk from Welcomer lady
10. Walk to St Mary Overie Dock where replica of Golden Hinde (Sir Francis Drake’s ship) is docked; very small, intimate place
11. Pass by rose window; remains of Bishop of Winchester’s Palace
12. Pass by The Clink, BofW’s personal prison
13. Continue walk along Thames, this whole area called Bankside; then outside London proper so not subject to city regulations
14. Have coffee at Starbucks next to Globe Theatre; not impressed with Globe
15. Finish coffee; walk round the corner; see real Globe; now impressed
16. Amazed at the three 17th century houses next door rather tucked away in the middle of all this commerce; they are for let; Provost Lodging
17. Note Cardinal’s Cap Alley; very narrow walkway typical of the 1500’s
18. Overwhelmed by Tate Gallery of Modern Art (will go inside another trip), partially housed in first London public power station; it is huge; we walk through garden
19. Cross Millennium Bridge; called wobbly bridge as it had to be closed for a year to fix constant wobbling that resulted from too many people on it at same time
20. Wonder about odd look of St Paul’s; as we get closer discover we have been looking at cloth façade covering sand blasting
21. Get city map from Tourist Information; at last a guide to the rest of London
22. Do not chose to pay fee to see St Paul’s inside; walk through garden
23. Head back toward Thames; pass St Andrew’s By-The-Wardrobe
24. Pass Blackfriars Bridge; walking is fun but the levels and lack of pedestrian crosswalks in places make it challenging; I tell Donny we need a 3-D map too
25. Find the river walk; pass many war memorials
26. Pass Somerset House
27. Pass Charing Cross Station
28. Marvel at Obelisk and history of it; make friends here with a lone tourist that we photograph on his camera phone in front of the adjacent Sphinx; he takes our picture
29. Pause across from the Eye; Donny takes my picture with it as my halo; see our friend and take his picture with Eye; decide not to cross over to find out why it is not running (even at night we never catch it running)
30. Approach Big Ben and House of Parliament
31. Turn away from river at Westminster Bridge
32. Circle Parliament Square noting protest signs
33. Walk around Westminster Abbey; do not pay to go in
34. Pass Jewel Tower which looks interesting but it is getting toward dusk and we have more to see
35. Confused about where Diana got married (I think St Paul’s as the steps are better for showing off the gown) we also cannot decide where her funeral service was held; Donny thinks he remembers a walk from Buckingham
36. Walk on to Westminster Cathedral which I have noticed on the map near Buckingham so maybe the service was here
37. Arrive at this Roman Catholic place of worship so beautiful in its red Byzantine style after walk down Victoria St
38. Photo interesting huge (wider than the church) flag spread out in cathedral outside entry courtyard (it is gone by the time we leave)
39. Happy there is no fee we go in; contributions to offset the daily operating costs (L3000) are welcome
40. Stop at adjacent McDonald’s (at the separate “McD’s Café” inside) for bathroom break
41. Need to shop for some gloves for Donny; we are in a shopping district and it flows toward Buckingham Palace; but no gloves are found here
42. Reach Buckingham Palace as a car is entering; much searching is going on; it is now dark and the whole scene is very clandestine-like
43. Have to backtrack on ourselves to simply cross the street to walk down The Mall
44. Walk down The Mall past St James Park toward Trafalgar Square; it is dark
45. Intend to see the tree in Trafalgar Square (which was lit yesterday) by night we come upon it just as we planned (it is tall but skinny)
46. Go inside St Martin’s in the Field which is diagonally across from the square
47. Hungry, we dine amongst the dead in the Crypt Café; we have stumbled upon the best in London for church meals; it is equal to a five star restaurant
48. Hustled out (but we did get to eat at a nice pace) because a sold out concert is about to start and the cafe is closing
49. Buy expensive StM’s academy and chorus Christmas cd in the bookstore as it is closing (the partially pulled down metal security doorway, literally, on Donny’s head as he walks into it leaving – nice bruise, no blood)
50. Head for Covent Garden which is supposed to be beautiful at night
51. Climb Duke of York steps
52. Consider theater tickets at Leicester Square
53. Would go to Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart but starts 6/12 (6 December)
54. Have been stopped three times (including once by a bus driver) for directions; we pass for Brits
55. Find gloves at a shop (Next) in Covent Garden
56. Weave our way through narrow cobblestone walkways into the square
57. Photo tree from good side; side without garishly lit Santa (note Covent Garden literature also photos non-Santa side)
58. Aim for bus stop
59. Board bus to Shoreditch (Globe Theatre originally in this district) and hotel
60. Arrive at St Gregory
61. Shower and pack for early departure
62. Happy Birthday #62

Slideshow #1-21
Slideshow #22-62
Donny's London

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Santa Dan

I'm in the process of updating my website and I decided to relocate this fun piece of my history here since I am getting ready to do a rewrite over there!

In the picture is me; granddaughter Lydia and her American Girl doll, Lydia; Santa Dan, one of the original Miller & Rhoads Santas; and Donna Deekens, Snow Queen in the program for many years. We are at the Children's Museum in Richmond where the Santaland program now resides. (So sad, not magical at all). We were doing Donna's book signing and knew that Santa Dan would be there. Emily drove the kids down from Springfield to see the real Santa. Donna took a pause from the signing to go say hi to Dan and invited me along. Lydia happened to be chatting with us at the time, taking a break from playing in the museum, having already seen Santa. We all dashed to Santa's side, cutting in line to the annoyance of many. The signing was in the main lobby. Santa in his own room. Folks in the lobby could watch the Santa activity on a monitor. Suddenly Emily, who was in the lobby with Donny and grandson Martin and had not seen us dash, spots Lydia on the monitor,"That's my daughter with Santa and the Snow Queen!" She got some funny looks. "No really it's okay, she's with her grandmother too."

My Richmond roots run deep. I attended Westhampton School on Patterson Avenue from grades K-2. We lived in the Little House my grandfather built behind their Big House at 6416 Three Chopt Road. I rode the city bus from school and walked by myself up Old Mill Road to home. We did the military life for the next few years with a small stop during 5th grade to slip back into Westhampton School where I joined old classmates Cary Shade, Tommy Tucker and Patsy Tyler. Our military wandering finally landed us permanently in Whitehall, Ohio but every Christmas was spent at 6416. Patsy always include me in local fun like cotillion, trips to the Clover Room and visits to her school, Thomas Jefferson. Shopping at M&R was a must with a stop to say hi to Breezy in Junior Colony where Mom used to work. I started college at Miami in Oxford, Ohio but transfered to RPI to study Fine Art during the beatnik era. I was one of the first coeds to live at 909 W Franklin, Mrs Bocock's private home. I tutored friend Webby Rhoads III's new wife, Carolyn in math and got rides to my student teaching gig (at Westhampton) with good friend, Northern Neck Judge Gordon Wilkins, who then lived in his car. After graduation I worked in advertising at M&R with Gene South and Jack Horne. A few years later I moved on to teach art at Varina HS and marry Donny Ball from Seven Pines in a fairy tale wedding at St James Episcopal Church. We lived in a tenent house on Slim & Virginia Mistr's Darbytown Road farm in Varina before buying our first home at 54 Oakland Road. It had an apple orchard next to an aging daffodil field, a hill great for sledding and two ponds perfect for ice skating. In September of 1983, just in time for school to start, we relocated to Kitty Hawk Bay on the Outer Banks. We find the beach life just the thing for us, our five children and six grandchildren.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Way of the Universe

The year was 1969. The exact date June 7th. Donny & I were getting married! The church was St James Episcopal Church in Richmond. We were new there and found ourselves connecting well with the also new assistant rector, Rev Robert Hall Jr. He was a come late to the ministry, hip priest and we adored him.

We planned a traditional wedding with family and friends participating. My sister was Maid of Honor. Donny's best friend from the Naval Academy, Dow Needham,  Best Man.

I wanted my brother to be a part of the service in a meaningful way. Too big for the role of ring bearer, he could have been a junior usher but I wanted something special just for him. We asked Bob (Rev Hall insisted that we call him Bob) if Star could be our acolyte. Raised a Methodist, Star did not know anything about the job. Not knowing my family well Bob asked if Star could handle the task. There was a bit more to it than just lighting candles. Star had to hold the vows book while Bob read from it and a few other tasks as well as light and extinguish the candles. We assured Bob that Star would follow his every instruction and do well, which he did. He was a natural.

This past week when I looked up the obituaries at Currie Funeral Home in Kilmarnock to make a copy of Star's for a family friend, I saw two lines above his, the name Reverend Robert C Hall Jr. Yes, it was our Rev Hall. He had died three days before Star and his service was today, Easter Monday. Even in this remote part of Virginia there is another funeral home a stone's throw down the road and another but miles away. And yet they landed together. Without any doubt in our minds, Donny & I both knew that Rev Hall wanted us to know that he would help Star embark on his new journey.

When they met for the first time, Star was there to assist Rev Hall. When they met for the second, and last, time Rev Hall was there to assist my brother.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In Memoriam Starke Jett V

I had a waking dream the night before my brother's funeral. In my dream I spontaneously stood at the end of the service and began singing Seek Ye First, knowing the congregation would follow. This beautiful hymn is easy to sing, can be sung in a round, and has a lovely descant. For these reasons we used to sing it quite frequently during communion in the little chapel at St Andrew's where all services were held, long before the new building was even a vision. It would be sung by the choir and the congregation as communion was being served. It was uplifting.

Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Allelu Alleluia
Ask and it shall be given unto you
Seek and ye shall find
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you
Allelu Alleluia

But in my dream I could not remember the words and so hesitated to stand as I also cannot sing. I could not nudge Donny, who has a stunning voice, to sing because I could not remember the name of the hymn or any of the words, only the melody, which in any off key attempt by me would remain a mystery. The point was proven this morning when in telling Donny about the dream and trying to hum the tune for him, he could not figure out what hymn I was talking about.

Yesterday, the morning of the funeral, I forgot about the dream in the bustle of getting out of the house and on the road. It just came back to me today and I started crying. The funeral was all it should not have been. There was no praise for my brother's many accomplishments, save a lovely tribute by our sister, who at that had to muscle her way into the service. There were no hymns. There were no scripture readings. There were no prayers of commendation. I so wish I had remembered my dream in time to act upon it. Carry a tune or not, with or without words, I would have risen to the occasion. He deserved that.