Friday, April 22, 2016

The Mark Twain House & Museum (and Harriet Beecher Stowe, too)

  Each week, Laurie and I try to take some sort of an adventure trip. Sometimes it's a short one, like our visit to the Huntington Library to see the Berndt Toast exhibit. Other times, like this week, it's a bit more involved.
  With our friends Betty and Alan, we set off yesterday morning for Hartford, Connecticut to visit the Mark Twain House and Museum.  

  The house was built for Twain and his family in 1873 and was their home for seventeen years. It is quite impressive, as is the Museum that also sits on the property. Check it out here.
  Some Fun Facts to Know & Tell (or, as Laurie calls them, things you didn't know but learned during the visit):
  * Twain lived in this house longer than he lived anywhere else during his life and did much of his notable writing there. I'd always thought of him as a fixture in Missouri.
  * The Twain home was one of the first to have a telephone
  * When Twain died in 1910, he had outlived his wife (who was ten years younger) as well as three of his four children.
  * The museum display includes a Thomas Edison-made film of Twain having tea on his patio. (Not Hal Holbrook!)
  * Before bedtime, Twain would sit with his daughters and tell them a story using a series of items on their mantelpiece. The objects, beginning  with a painting of a cat wearing a ruff, had to be used in the same order and it had to be a new story each time. Such was the challenge for a master storyteller, to keep his children amused.
  * Twain's neighbor was Harriet Beecher Stowe.

  After our tour of the Twain house, we walked across the back yard to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. (More about that here.) Who would have known that two of the most influential writers of the 19th century lived across from one another? (For the record, Stowe was there first.)

  Finally, some Twain quotes:
  * "I was born modest, but it didn't last."
  * "Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to."
  * "Architects cannot teach nature anything."
  * "The man with the new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds."
  * "Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please."
  * "We ought never to do wrong when people are looking."
  * "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."
  * "I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened."
  * "Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education."
  * "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Birthday Weekend

  The celebration of my 65th birthday began last Friday night when Sammi flew in for the weekend. Saturday was relatively quiet as we did such exciting things as finish Sammi's income taxes.
  On Sunday morning, Chuck, Rebecca, and Alex took the train out for my birthday brunch (waffles with an assortment of toppings) and birthday dinner. It has long been a family tradition that the birthday boy (or girl) get to pick his (or her) dinner and, for the most part, we have fallen into expected choices. (Chuck, for example, opts for a shellfish extravaganza.)
  My standard birthday fare has been a large slab of meat -- a prime rib or a rack of lamb chops -- plus Yiaya's Spaghetti (spaghetti with a burnt butter/cheese "sauce" like my paternal grandmother used to make), a veggie or two and a salad. This year I surprised everyone by going off-script and selecting what amounted to a tailgate party.  We grilled up five different types of sausages, added cole slaw, corn on the cob, sauerkraut, and green salad, and even had four different types of mustard.

  The birthday cake was the traditional babka ("the cake named after me!") with an assortment of other crumb-coated goodies from the bakery. And, just because I was in the mood, a jelly donut!

  Rebecca had to work on Monday, so she took the train home, but Chuck and Alex spent the night. As usual when the little man is with us, he was up before the birds and wanted Papa to come and play trains with him. Thankfully, he let me go back to sleep for a bit when Chuck took over.
  Since Monday was my actual birthday, the celebration extended to additional meals. Chuck and Sammi had both heard about how the Men Seeking Pizza voted Mary's the best pizzeria in Farmingdale (as recounted here) and were anxious to see what the hoopla was about, so I ordered a pie for lunch. Then the three of us headed off to see Batman v Superman (leaving Alex home with Grandma) and afterwards for a snack from Rita's.
  Dinner Monday was crab-stuffed fish fillets and then it was off to run volleyball, after which I drove Chuck and Alex back to Jersey City. The traffic gods must have decided to give me a birthday present because we made the round-trip in just about two hours.
  After all that, you'd think I would opt to sleep in on Tuesday, right? Didn't happen... but that's another story!