21 June 2010

Highlights of the Rest of May and Most of June

Since Tyler and I had just finished reading Dan Brown's book, The Lost Symbol, we wanted to see some of the sights mentioned in the book. We toured the capitol building and looked at the painting inside the capitol dome. This statue of Pres. Reagan isn't mentioned in the book, but I wanted my picture by it anyway.
The Masonic Temple where much of the action takes place isn't very close to a metro station. Tyler and I had to walk several blocks to get to it. We were just going to look at the outside, but we saw a sign that said tours were available, so we took a tour.
Tyler is sitting in this chair because it's the "Tiler" chair. The inscription on the back says "Know thyself." Hmmm....
This is the meeting hall inside the Masonic Temple. It was very opulent. On the altar are the holy books of the major religions of the world, since the Masons embrace all religions. (No, there wasn't a Book of Mormon on the altar, surprisingly enough.)
The tour lasted almost an hour, and I'm still not sure exactly what the point of the masons is. They're a service organization, and there are 33 levels they work to achieve, but I'm not sure why.
We went to the Washington DC temple twice while Tyler was here. Once to do a session and once to attend a fireside at the DC temple visitor's center. We arrived early because traffic wasn't as heavy as we thought it'd be, so we had time to take some pictures. The reflecting pool in the picture below is really small--I'd never noticed it before, but I'd seen pictures of it.
The fireside we went to was given by Brian Crane, who writes the "Pickles" comic strip. Now that Kent and I are over 50 and grandparents, we can relate to many of the things in the Pickles comic strip, and it has been our favorite comic since we moved back to the states. We didn't know it was written by an LDS member until we saw the notice advertising this fireside.
It was very fun to hear Brian Crane's talk, telling how he gets his ideas, and sharing some humorous anecdotes. He showed us how he's put pictures of temples on the walls in the comic, and even had the Grandpa reading the "Ensign" magazine in one.
After the fireside the sun was setting and the sky was so pretty we took even more photos. No matter how many times we go to the temple it's still breathtakingly lovely!
On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend we took a day trip with Jim and Bonnie Jeo to the birthplace of George Washington,
which is very near to the birthplace of Robert E. Lee, Stratford Hall. We toured Stratford Hall and spent some time walking aroundthe grounds. It borders the Potomac River and we walked along the water.

The end of the school year means it's time for my piano recital.

It turned out very well--the students always pull through and do a terrific job on their pieces.

Here's the piano cake I make every year. I bake the cake in loaf pans, then use Keebler fudge bars as the black keys.
I saw in the newspaper that the local nature preserve was having an eagle watching tour, so we went to it. The nature preserve is on the Potomac River and is only about a 45-minute drive from our house. The preserve is on the property of a home that was built in 1659, so that's why Kent is standing in front of the sign.

We saw most of the eagles through our binoculars and weren't able to get any good pictures, so here's a picture of me with one of the eagles inside the information center. We saw two eagles catching fish from the river, and saw several young eagles soaring over the water and perched in trees. After our tour we hiked one of the trails on the nature preserve and ate a picnic lunch.
On the way home from our eagle tour, we stopped at Chatham, a mansion built in 1771 that's in Stafford County, where we live. It was used as Union headquarters and hospital during the Civil War. Both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were known to visit this home.
One reason we visit on this day is because there were Civil War re-enactors giving authentic demonstrations of cannon firing.
I went to visit Montpelier, the home of James Madison, with Bonnie Jeo when she had a day off from work. It's about an hour's drive from our house.

It's wonderful to learn the history of so many amazing people and places in Virginia. I stood in the very room where James Madison studied different republics and democracies throughout history as he prepared the document that would evolve into our Constitution.

Both James Madison and his wife, Dolley, are buried in the family burial ground on the property. Just like George Washington, James Madison had no children of his own. He was our 4th president, from 1808-1816.

These life-size statues made me feel huge! I've mostly seen these bronze statues on temple grounds or church history sites, so it was interesting to see them at an American historical site.