Thanks for checking into my blog!

As a "recovering" middle school teacher with a unique outlook on life, I stopped active teaching in 2010 and moved into another career path... writing! Here goes! In addition, I am a travel buff, forever baseball addict, movie fan, music fan, foodie extraordinaire, NCIS devotee, gardener, and more.

Just love writing for kids, travel writing and basic journalism. Pretty unusual, since I taught Home Economics! But there's a story here too - a non-fiction one or more...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Right in my own back yard - sort of

    On a cold, winter’s evening, we approached the manor house up the oyster-shelled drive. We were greeted at the door by the house valet and our informally dressed host, Mr. George Calvert. Inside, the warmth of Riversdale Mansion was evident through a flurry of activity of hospitality. Invited to make ourselves at home, we retired to the parlor where we were entertained by a harpist playing period music. Alas, the pianoforte in the corner was silent. We then moved to the dining area where we enjoyed our hostess’ favorite cake recipe – it happens to be Martha Washington’s recipe. Slices were served with hot, mulled cider, a perfect addition on this cold evening. Afterward, we were at liberty to move about the house, touring room to room at our leisure. My fellow guests and I visited Mr. Calvert in his sanctuary, his study. We admired the mural wallpaper depiction of the French fox hunt that covered the walls. Our party then moved to the ballroom, to admire the portraits of the six Lords Baltimore. Too quickly went two hours at Riversdale Mansion in Riverdale Park, Maryland and our holiday evening with George and Rosalie Calvert.

    The Riversdale Historical Society and Prince Georges County Parks and Recreation open up Riversdale House for house tours each Friday and Sunday to anyone wishing to experience life in the early 19th century. At the Visitor’s Center, which is open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5, a visitor can examine the history of the plantation. A Terrapin Alumnus (like myself) can look into the home and life of Maryland Agricultural College (now known as University of Maryland, College Park) founder Charles Benedict Calvert. The budding Indiana Jones among us can learn of the archeological and historical research being used in the restoration of the site. Students of African American history can examine the life and work of Adam Francis Plummer, a slave who worked at Riversdale and kept a diary of daily life of the slaves on the plantation. Admission for this glimpse into life in 19th century Maryland is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors/groups, $1 for children 5 through 18, and children under 4 are free.

    Looking for something to do with the whole family? Look into one of the special events at Riversdale by visiting their website. Events such as “Tasting the Past: Heirloom Grains” allow guests the opportunity to learn about heirloom grains that were grown on the plantation, followed by a chance to taste historic recipes made from those grains. Gardeners may want to visit to tour the garden and orchard and enjoy demonstrations by the Kitchen Guild. Each season, the Kitchen Guild also hosts demonstrations of the foodways in the Dependency Kitchen. These demonstrations use the produce available in that season to 19th century farmers and show how these items were prepared “back in the day”. Plan on showing the children how food goes from ground to table by attending one of these demos.

    Need more information on Riversdale House Mansion? Check out their website through the Prince Georges County Parks and Recreation at www.pgpark.com/things to do/history. All events and costs are listed there. Take the slide show tour of the house. And I’ll see you there!

(Revision of the original article published in the Arden-on-the-Severn Newsbuoy, March 2011)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Annapolis in the Spring

     Did you ever see a closed gate for a tall, solid fence and wonder what was behind it? Did you ever see a row of tall hedge bushes and imagine what was beyond the green fence? Were you ever so curious that you snuck in to take a quick peek? And if the fences were locked up tight, did that pique your interest even more? Was that answer “constantly”?

     On June 4, 2011, I got a chance to look beyond hedges and past locked fences into some beautiful retreats for the soul during the annual Annapolis Secret Garden Tour, sponsored by the Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis. I was a true passenger on this trip, since I went with my very good friend and tour veteran. Both of us are devout Plantaholics and not ashamed to admit it. We both unabashedly look for ideas from others on how to jazz up our own gardens. I, especially, look for what survives under specific conditions, since I have a questionable ability to grow a variety of plants in my yard.

     We started the day at the First Presbyterian Church yard, where we picked up our tickets and maps, and completely absolved ourselves from going to the gym that day. We were in for some serious walking. The tour was totally self-guided and all you needed to do was follow the sunflower markers. Being a bit rebellious, we started at the end of the tour, with the garden at the Harbor View Inn on St. Mary’s Street.

     Local businesses and realtors took the opportunity to show off some of the houses as well as the gardens. Some gardens were professionally landscaped, and it was interesting to see the latest trends in landscaping. Some gardens have many gardeners collaborating into the look of the garden. St. Mary’s Church Meditation Garden was just such a location. Hidden well in this quiet haven is the Children’s Garden, filled with plants that are aromatic and tactilely stimulating to young curious minds. The gardens of the Charles Carroll House, on the same site as St. Mary’s Church, beckoned to brides and their photographers with lush, formal vistas that include the harbor. We were also able to tour the Charles Carroll House; to see how one of our country’s founding fathers lived.

     The tour also allowed us to peek into many private home gardens and experience the personal touches added by many Historic District residents. Several homeowners wanted every view in the garden to be peaceful and relaxing. Many also capitalized on their water views and worked their docks into their landscapes. One particular home focused on the children who either lived there or visited often. This landscape had several secret passages through and within the hedges, complete with guardian fairies, frogs and twinkle lights. Vistas in these homes were rich, so that a movie buff like me can imagine another time period and see Gatsby and Daisy strolling across the lawn, or Daniel Day Lewis’ character seeking Michelle Pfieffer’s at the docks, as in “The Age of Innocence”.

     The Secret Garden Tour is an annual event scheduled for the first full weekend in June. The gardens offered for viewing change each year, although I am assured that there are a few repeated gardens. The tour planners bring a wide variety of landscape styles from both public and private gardens into view. A passionate gardener can get so many ideas, from the types of plants to use in certain garden locations, to ways to personalize the space and make you home garden environmentally friendly. There is a charge for the tour and the proceeds are used by the Hammond-Harwood House Association Inc. The House itself is open for touring and gives a glimpse into the colonial Annapolis everyday life. Check for more information, costs, and special programs offered at www.HammondHarwoodHouse.org. This is a great place to visit for some experiential (and “stealth”) learning in American history and culture for students of our area. Not far from home, inexpensive, and educational – can’t beat that for a summer field trip!

Originally published in the Arden on the Severn NewsBuoy - July, 2011 as "A View from the Passenger Seat"