That was a cold one!

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Dang nation, spring soccer can be really tough sometimes, I hear it is even tough for the players as well! Being the hardcore fans that we are, Steve and I suffered through the rain, sleet  and snow to see the Union come out on top of the New England Revolution 1-0. All I've got to say is that it's a good thing they won this one because if they hadn't I think Steve and I, along with a few other fans, would have taken the field and taught them a lesson! Luckily, most of the rain and sleet occurred before the game started and at half time. See photos of the day here

Life with the Boys

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Paddy, William, Steve and I have been living it up lately. This past weekend,  Steve and I were especially excited because it was the start of the MLS season! We also have new seats where we are actually allowed to sit down (we use to be in the supporters section where you had to stand the entire game and shout obscenities at the opposing team, and sometimes we shouted obscenities at he home team. It is Philly after all). The first game of the year was with Sporting KC (Kansas City). We started off great with a goal in the 17th minute from recently reacquired Sebastian Le Toux. Then memories of the last season came flooding back with Sporting KC made three unanswered goals. Oh well, the boys in blue will do better next time. Check out photos of us all here

The Chrysler Building

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William has completed yet another paper architecture project. This one is the Chrysler Building in NYC. William wrote this short note about it.  

This Chrysler Building is the first successful paper model I have made that required a lot of glue. The White House and the US Capitol required some glue, but only four pieces total for both. The Chrysler Building required almost 208 pieces that needed glue. 

What his is not telling you is that this is his second attempt at making this building. The first tempt was back in the fall and it didn't go so well. Most of the projects from his paper building book are glueless, but this one and a few others have a number of steps that require glue. William is great with his X-acto knife, but glueing things is a tough task for him. I worked with him on some ways to improve his glueing technique. What we came up with was putting the Elmer's glue in a can and then brushing it where  needed with a small brush. This improved things greatly. He is especially excited as to the height of this project, 26 inches tall!

I put photos of this project in the same gallery as the other paper buildings. Scroll to the bottom to see the Chrysler Building. See them here

Are you wondering what the next project will be? It will look something like this.

Steve and Russell Visit the Land of Pork

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Last November my great friend from my days in art school, Gerry Bannan and his lovely wife Betsy, honored me by having a solo show of my paintings in their studio/gallery in Roanoke, Virginia. I'm still impressed that they arranged to have Bill Clinton visit Roanoke while I was there. See the details of that visit here.

The show in Roanoke was up for November and December. For most people that would be enough. But not for Gerry. He then moved the show to the Patrick Henry Community College where he teaches. So, for January through the 19th of February, folks in the town of Martinville VA got to see (put up with) my work. On the 19th Gerry invited me to come and talk to his students about my work.

The first trip down in November I went by myself. For this trip I managed to talk Steve Garr into coming with me! Now, I have had success with this in the past, because I there were at least two other times I talked Steve in to crossing the Mason Dixon Line to head deep in the the land of boundless slow cooked pork. Once with his brother Mike and once with the legendary Jim Reed.

This trip, much to my regret, was way to short. Unlike the good ole days where we could roam at will, I had to be back in West Chester to make sure the kids were off to school and such. We left at 7:00 AM on President's Day and returned the next day at around 10:30 PM! A whorl wind tour but fun nonetheless! Check out photos of our trip here

Amberlee

William and Amberlee, 30 January 2013. 

William and Amberlee, 30 January 2013. 

William lost a special friend today. For the past several months he has been walking Amberlee for our neighbor Dot. Amberlee had a disease of her endocrine system that finally caught up with her today. We don't know how old she was but it was between 12 and 15 years. Pretty good for a beagle. Here is the note that William wanted posted;  

Amberlee was a special dog. She was so cute and old. I loved her so much. But it was best to put her down as she was in pain.

Our heart goes out to Dot. 

Vitamins

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Some folks have asked how my vitamin levels are doing. I have been on my massive doses of vitamin D and B-12 for about 4 weeks now. As you can see from the photo above my hands and feet are no longer so cold that they hurt all the time. In fact, when I stepped out in the snow barefooted today it felt really refreshing because they were so terribly hot! A month ago I could barely get out of bed without socks on. It's nice to have things back to normal! So, yes, my vitamin treatments are having a positive effect! 

I'm a Jerk!

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When I went to Italy in 1984 I was exposed to many new things. Among my favorites was San Pellegrino. It is a naturally carbonated water that is just delicious. I couldn't get enough of it. The problem was it was kind of expensive. A liter cost about 1800 to 2000 Lire. At the time the exchange rate was about one dollar to 2000 Lire. So a bottle of water was about a buck. Not bad you might think. However, we could go down to the corner wine shop and get a two liter bottle of wine (you had to supply the bottle) for about 800 Lire. Now, we were art students and not especially good at math, but we figured we could get 4 liters of wine for the price of one liter of bubbly water. We would save the water for those specially occasions.

Back in the states San Pellegrino was always available but it was still no cheaper so it was never something we drank on a regular basis. Then about 10 years ago or so, Costco started selling it. We could get a case of them for something around a dollar or so. So, Mary and I have been enjoying them ever since. However, as you know, I've been unemployed for the last year and our budget is pretty tight. Even the cheaper brands of seltzer water are a little pricey for us. 

Again, not being math wizards we thought about how much we were spending on bottled fizzy water and realized that we could buy a counter top fizzy water maker for less than we were paying for the cheap stuff, not to mention the San Pellegrino. So, back in December we bough a SodaStream carbonated water maker (about $75) and went to town. In short - we love it!

What has this got to do with being a jerk? Well, if you've got all this carbonated water sitting around you might as well make your own sodas. So, I've become a jerk. A soda jerk that is! 

I've been enjoying making my own syrups for our homemade sodas, including a homemade cola! They are really easy and almost fool proof to make. The basic is two cups of fluid, 2 cups of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid (you can get the citric acid from any health food or vitamin store). Put it in a small pot and simmer it for about 20 minutes. Strain it through a cheese cloth and let it cool. 

Most of the recipes that I have found on line (there are a million of them) are heavy in the sugar and light on the flavor. For instance, an orange soda recipe would call for 1 cup water, 1 cup orange juice, the zest from two oranges, 2 cups sugar and the citric acid. To me this came out pretty weak. So I use all orange juice instead and it came put great. Once you have made the syrup, just add it to your soda in the quantities you like and drink away. 

I've made many combinations of flavored syrups, orange, lemon, mixed berry (blueberry, strawberry, and blackberry), strawberry and melon, and so on. If you stick to the 2 cup liquid, 2 cup sugar and 1/2 citric acid proportions, you just can loose.

Some have been more involved than others. The lemon and orange the major effort is squeezing the juice. With the sauces that have berries and fleshy fruit you have to work a little harder in the straining part of the process because your cheese cloth gets clogged up pretty fast. 

The cola recipe was very interesting because it has many ingredients that I would have never thought to use in a drink. Lavender, star anise, vanilla and nutmeg just aren't your every day run of the mill flavors you throw together. Yet, it came out tasting pretty much like a cola! Again as with all the other soda recipes I've tried, I doubled the flavor ingredients to make the flavor stronger. In general, I like two table spoons of syrup per 12 ounce glass of carbonated water. 

All of these drinks will be pale colored compared to the commercially available soft drinks, mainly because the drinks you make don't contain artificial colors in them. Actually, there is nothing artificial about the syrups I make, and that is what I really like about it! So, yes, I am a jerk! 

See photos of my soda making here.

Recent Shenanigans

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This is a quick post to bring folks up to date on our whereabouts. The good news is that we don't have any bad news. The kids would have something different to say about that as they haven't had any snow days off from school. As a result, our days and evenings are spent going and coming to school and doing home work. One thing that we did to make the winter easier for the kids was hook up our really nice LCD TV that we had in Sequim along with the PlayStation 3. This made them forget about snow days. 

William made yet another paper monument. This time he made the US Capitol Building. The last one, the Westminster Palace, was rated a 10 on a 1 to 10 scale of difficulty. This one was only an 8 because it didn't have as much detail on it. However, as William is happy to point out, the windows on the this model were much smaller that any other the others. We all think he did a great job. He decided to give this model to our friend and neighbor's Dot and Amberlee. William has been walking Amberlee in the afternoons for Dot. See photos of the new project here

The boys did make a trip to Mecca in January. William and Paddy saved up $80 each from birthday and Christmas money so they could by a load of Legos. So on January 15th we loaded up the car and headed to the King of Prussia mall and fought our way through the crowds to the Lego Store. They realized once they got there that all of the kits that they wanted were in the $120 range. So, they decided, all on their own, to pool there money together and buy one big kit that they both liked, and one small kit of their own choosing. Needless to say, they were pretty happy with the way the day went. 

Back in January, Russell found a Great Horned Owl's nest with a female Great Horned Owl incubating its eggs. Yes, you read that right. Many owls begin the nesting season much earlier that other birds. In our area, Great Horned Owls lay their eggs in mid to late January. The nice thing about this nest is that it is accessible. Last weekend I took Mary and the boys as well as the Fozards to go see the owl. It was cold and windy, but the owl was there as predicted by the resident professional wildlife biologist. 

After seeing the owl we piled in the car to go have dinner at out in Amish County at our Keith and Carissa's house in New Holland. Chrissy was there as well. However, we really didn't go there to see them. We wanted to see Evan and Lilly. On the way out it began to snow which made the trip interesting!

See recent photo of the family here.

Russell

Website Overhaul!

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About a year ago I got my own domain name, flyingabalone.com. I signed up for a fancy webhost, squarespace.com, I launched my new website. There were many things about the Squarespace software that were great, and a few things that I didn’t like so much. In particular, the way that they handled photographs. My issues with it wasn’t really enough to make me stop using the service or anything like that.

A few months ago Squarespace upgraded their software and greatly improved the way images were displayed. But to upgrade, you had to completely redo your website. Ugh. So I put it off. I took another look at it a few weeks ago an decided I should just jump in and make the change. So I did.

I haven’t gotten all the pages reconfigured from the last site and some things like older post on my blog will have funny and inconsistent formatting. I was going to try and get all that done before I launched the sight but then I though the heck with it. I’m not a business so it doesn’t have to be perfect. I work on it as I can and just go forward with what I’ve got.

The photo slide shows should look a lot better. Go to the menu bar above and click on “art” then click on “Russell Rogers” or “Art on North Franklin Street” and check out the galleries and see what you think. Also, try clicking the “Like” button on the bottom of my blog post. I think it has FaceBook beaten by a mile!

The photo up top of the Prima Pils case really has nothing to do with this post, but it does make the tedious task of reconstructing your website much more enjoyable.

Let me know if you have any problems or comments about the site.

Enjoy!

Russell

The Red Show

I might be short on paying work, but I am having a fair amount of success in getting my paintings shown. I will have another of my paintings in a show called The Red Show in Stoudsburg, PA. I don't know how long the show will be up, but the opening will be on Saturday, February 9th from 4-8 PM. 

I think the painting that will be on exhibit will be the one above, called The Four Humors. It could be the one below, called The Letter. I'll find out on Saturday! If you are in the area, please stop by! 

Forensics Club, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Fancy Plants

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[From Mary]

Good day all. Thought it might be time I shared in some blogging duties. 

Funny thing is once I sit behind the keyboard I got nothing to say...

Nothing...

Nada...

Didley squat...

Zip.

Well, actually, I do have a few events that may be worthy of your time. Last year, when my place of employment merged, I "inherited" the position of Forensics coach. That is really interesting mostly because I didn't have the slightest idea what it entailed, other than it actually means 'speech club, and not 'CSI Mother Teresa Regional Catholic'. I must admit I was a little less than enthusiastic. After all, this is my second year teaching all new subjects. Kids, I'm tired. 

UNTIL NOW!!!!! DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!!! The first competition for the Forensics Club was held at St. Joseph Preparatory School in West Philly (hold the terror-filled screams ya'll. The parking lot had a security gate and guard). With students and parents in tow, we made it safely to what some call "Little Lebanon" (Not because it houses lots of Lebanese but because it resembles a war zone!). And there, after months of work, two of my students made it to semi-finals in our very first competition! These beautiful and brilliant girls made it there through sheer exuberance, and I was just in awe of their energy and focus. See photos from our visit here

I wanted to share something else. I love this city. Here I stood in a Jesuit prep school where affluent, hard working young men are pushed to make a difference in this world. If the young men who ran the program are any indication, the prep is doing an excellent job. They were impressive, to say the least. Established in what once was a thriving bustling area in 1866, this Catholic church and school was one of many going up left and right despite the attacks from the Know-Nothing party throughout the 1850's. With Irish pouring into the city, St. John Neumann oversaw the explosion of Catholicism as well as safely steering it through violence and destruction aimed at the Catholics and Irish. 

Just next to the prep is Girard College. The history of Girard College and its founder, Stephen Girard, just simply makes me weepy. This industrious French immigrant came to our city in 1776 (oh yeah, the big year) and amassed a huge fortune. In fact, he became the wealthiest American of his time! He had his hands in everything, from organizing the infamous Bush Hill Hospital during the yellow-fever epidemic of 1793 to becoming the first private banker in the U.S. He even helped to fund the War of 1812. As he had no heirs, he invested his fortune in the future, starting the school for orphans who would have little opportunity without help. It is still running today from the foundation he laid. He chose that location as it was near the then innovative Eastern State Penitentiary (focusing on humane incarceration) and a hospital devoted to the mentally ill. Phillie was the "it" place back in the day!

Man, that's just why I love this city. I just feel its story. I can see those immigrants, the free blacks, Ben and Johnny Neumann and Mr. Girard. I can see them all making their way down Broad and Girard and Market. I can see Frank Rizzo and Nicki Scarfo and our countless "notorious" standing around and making trouble. The art and artists. The museums. The food. I just can't help myself..... I just love this town.

Before I sign off, I hope you enjoy these photos and little clip of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. My dear Emily and I joined our lovely friends, Miranda, Lucy, and Isaac, on Saturday evening for a wonderful concert at Longwood Gardens. You may remember them from Paul Simon's terrific album "Graceland". Just a note, the gorgeous, tall young man on the far left is the front man's youngest son. 

I hope we chat soon,

Mary

Westminster Palace

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William finished his latest paper architecture project today, Westminster Palace, complete with Big Ben and all. William loves doing stuff like this. When he gets home from school he runs down to the basement and sits at his little stretch of bench space that I have given him and will work for hours on end cutting paper. He started this one on the day after Christmas. We didn't keep track of the total hours he spent on it but it was a lot, especially for a 12 year old. 

He goes through zillions of x-acto knife blades. So much so that it is more economical if I sharpen the them with a wet stone than to buy new ones. He is pretty particular about the blades however. If I don't get the points sharpen just right he will send them back to me. I have to do the sharpening under my microscope to make sure I get the tips of the blades just right. Other than sharpening the blades, I do nothing on these projects. William prints the plans, cuts out the pecies and then figures out how it all fits together. The projects are fairly complecated but he does the entire thing on his own. 

Its nice having him down in the basement (aka the ManCave) with me. Most evenings he will be working on his paper stuff while I work on my paintings. He has decided to give this one to Lucky Aunt Teri. If anyone else want one of his works just ask nicely and he may grant your wish. See more photos of Westninster Palace here

Happy New Year!

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2013 has arrived and along with it, at last, winter. Our first snow of the season was Christmas Eve, which mostly melted way by the next morning. We go our second snow in December 29th. That one has stuck around as it is still pretty icy in some places. 

For the second year in a row we welcomed in the New Year at our neighbor's Stan and Diane's house. I think that officially makes it a tradition! Most of Franklin Street was in attendance. Diane and Stan recently visited the Virgin Islands and were inspired to give us a Caribbean style meal which was quite delicious! The kids and adults were mostly segregated with the kids in the basement and the adults upstairs. I'd like to think the louder, but I'm not sure that is true. 

As the midnight hour arrived the adults and kids (minus Emily and William who threw in the towel early) converged in the livingroom to count down the seconds with the folks in Times Square. With Champane and Kid Champane (sparkling apple cider) in hand we all welcomed 2013 in style. Thanks Diane and Stan for a wonderful neighborhood party! 

New Years day we had lunch with the Fozards to celebrate New Years Day and more imporantly Louie's birthday! It was also Sheldon's birthday who we saw for all of about 4 minutes before he rushed of to Anut Sheila's house to meet up with Ricky and Cousin Sheila to head back north. Happy Birthday Louie and Sheldon! 

Check out photos of the celebrations here.

Happy New Year! 

Russell, Mary, Emily, William and Paddy

The O'Brian's Visit, Part 2

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Sheila, Ricky and Sheldon headed back to their desolate rock in the north Atlantic today. Before they left, we did have a gathering with other aunts, uncles, and cousins in Chadd's Ford on December 29th, which was also Mary's birthday. Happy Birthday Mary! 29 again. See photo's here

On New Year's Eve, Mary, William and I took Sheldon on a tour of old City Philadelphia. We stopped by the Constitution Center, the Liberty BellIndependence Hall, The Dream GardenJeweler's Row, Jim's Steaks, South Street, New Market (which is really an old market), Penn's LandingElfrith's Alley, and the Betsy Ross House. All in one Day! Then we got home in time to go to our nighbor's house for a New Years Eve Celebration! See Photo's of our day in Philly here

We enjoyed our visit with Ricky, Sheila, and Sheldon, and hope someday soon to visit them! 

Russell, Mary, Emily, William and Paddy. 

The O'Brian's Christmas Visit

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About 23 years ago, before Mary and I were married, we visited her mother’s homeland of Fermeuse, Newfoundland, Canada. Most of Mary’s aunts and uncles left Newfoundland in the late 1940’s to come to West Chester. The oldest of Mary’s uncles, Uncle Ned, was already married and had a family when the rest of the Kenny clan emigrated, so he stayed behind. On our visit we stayed with Mary’s cousin Sheila O’Brian, Uncle Ned’s daughter, and her husband Ricky.

Mary and I had an absolutely wonderful visit to Newfoundland in 1989. The drive to and from was quite an adventure, which included a hurricane, an iceberg, black bears, cod tongues, hundred of thousands of seabirds and a hike up Gros Morne where we napped on giant boulders surrounded by Rock Ptarmigans. We got to met Uncle Ned and Aunt Anna and the rest of Mary’s family while we were there. Shortly after this visit, Mary and I got married and moved to the west coast. We haven’t seen any of Mary’s Newfoundland relative since.

This Christmas, Ricky and Sheila came down to Pennsylvania for a visit. They brought their son Sheldon, 20 years old and who we had never met, along with them. We basically picked up the conversation where it left of 23 years ago. They head back to Newfoundland on the 2nd of January See photos of the O’Brian’s visit, so far, here.

See photos of Christmas day and the Rogers/Moore house here

Kid Cookery

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For some reason, all of the kids have taken an interest in doing more of the cooking around here. Emily and William take basic cooking classes in school. When I say basic, I mean basic. Emily said that one day the made Top Ramen. Yum!

I asked Emily if they have covered taking care of their mise en place and she said that they were no where close to such concepts. Humm...what is a dad, who is a longtime student of French cooking, to do? Looks like it is time for some home schooling. 

One dish that the kids like, looks fancy, and if pretty easy is pull off is fish in papillote. This is simply cooking fish in a parchment paper envelope. the basic principle to keep in mind here is that things need to cook quickly in a hot oven (425 degrees), so the veggies need to be cut small and and the same size. The only other tricky part of the disk is cutting the heart shaped paper big enough and in the right shape, to hold your dish. Emily did a great job and got an A+ in her home school cooking class. She even let me take a few pictures of her at work. 

Paddy got the job of putting cookie dough on the cookie sheet. He did this well and didn't eat too much of the uncooked cookies. The only problem was that we couldn't account for all the cooked cookies once he was done. Humm?

William hasn't done much cooking in the past couple of weeks because he has been busy working on another major paper house project. Last year he completed a model of the Westminster Abby. This year, he wanted to make Grandma Linda and Grandpa Gene a model of the White House for their Christmas pressent. After many, many hours of painstaking X-acto knife cutting of tiny windows, he completed it and it looks great. See photos of both of these project here

Happy Holidays!

Russell, Mary, Emily, William and Paddy

William’s 12th Birthday!

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Twelve years ago today William came into the world in dramatic fashion. As many of you probably know, he was a wee bit early because a complication with Mary’s pregnancy (plecenta previa). His first couple of weeks were rough but he pulled through and is doing just great today, howerver he is still one of the smallest kids in his class. Friday we had a small birthday celebration for him with pizza and cake. Check out photos of his birthday party and a few from the past twelve years here.

Happy Birthday William!

Le Toux on Le Blog

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About a year ago The Philadelphia Union traded one of their star players, Sebastian Le Toux, to the Vancouver Whitecaps. They then held a going away party for him at Kildare’s Irish Pub in West Chester, just a few blocks from our house. Since it was walking distance, I went, had a beer, and met Seba. He spent half the season playing for Vancouver then got traded to the New York Red Bulls where he finished out the season. The last game of the year, we all got to see him play before his real home crowd at PPL Park.

When the season was over, we were all surprised the hear that he had been traded back to Philly! Again, they held his welcome home party at Kildare’s last night starting at 6:30. Which was very convenient for me, as the boys religious education classes are just a block down the street at St. Agnes. I dropped the boys off at church then, like a good Irish dad, I headed to the pub. Again, I got to shake his hand and get a photo with him. After which I headed back over to church and picked up the boys.

As you probably know from reading Le Blog, Paddy likes soccer and has gone to many games with me. I asked him when he got out of religious ed if he would like to meet a famous soccer player. “Sure! I’d love to!” He asked “When we could do that”  and I said “hummm…how about now?” He said “what? You can just do that?”

So, we walked the short walk back to he pub and went in. Any kids that came to the pub to meet Seba were ushered up to the front of the line and were given the royal treatment. Paddy, who happen to be wearing his Union hat, was over joyed. William on the other hand, could have cared less and asked if he could get something to eat.

Nonetheless, it was a big thrill for Paddy and a lesser thrill for William. Seab bent down and talked to Paddy. He asked if he liked soccer and if he could expect to see Paddy in the stands at PPL Park next season. Paddy skipped all the way home. Check out photos of the evening here along with a few other recent family photos as well. 

Then and Now

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Mary and I found a stack of old photos as we were reorganizing the basement this past weekend and in it was this old photo of the four houses on North Franklin Street. Ours is the second one from the left. My best guess judging from the age of the trees is that this photo probably taken around 1910. The bottom photo was taken from about the same spot today. Our house is hidden by the big Norway spruce that Mary’s grandmother planted when they bought the house in the late 1940’s.

Much of the original features on all of the houses are still intact with only a few small changes here and there. One thing that I did notice is that the two middle houses (ours and Jason and Bethanie’s) don’t have fireplaces, which they currently do. So those were added at some later date.

In case you might have missed the blog about these houses on our old site, they were built for the managers of the Sharples Works, which was a factory that manufactured the first mechanized cream separators. When you look out of our front door you can see the old factory, which has now been converted into luxury apartments. The factory was built in the 1890’s and our home was built in 1900. 

Dinner with the Fozards

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Over the summer and much of the year we have enjoyed many dinners with our neighbors Miranda, Damian, Isaac, and Louie Fozard. In case you haven’t met the Fozard family, they live just a few houses down from us on Franklin Street. If you have met them you would remember them as they talk funny. Yes, that is right, they talk funny. But it isn’t their fault as they are from the Isle of Man.

If you are a birdwatcher you will know the Isle of Man as there is a bird named after it, the Manx Shearwater. If you are a cyclist, you will know the Isle of Man as it is the home of Mark Cavendish, a.k.a. the Manx Missile. If you are not a birder or a cycling fan, you really have no reason to know of the Isle of Man unless your boat went adrift in the Caribbean Sea. The Isle of Man is where you are likely to end up. It is a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea between England and Ireland.

Dinner conversations sometimes need a translator as I speak with a southern speech impairment, Mary employs the Philadelphia lexicon, Miranda and Damian speak Mannish, and the kids, as far as we can tell, speak some form of Pigeon English that no one else understands at all. For example, we call the evening meal dinner. The Fozards call it tea, whether or not tea is actually served. Tea it is. 

We did plan one thing right. We managed our turns at dinner so that the Thanksgiving Dinner fell on the Americans. If it went the other way, we could have ended up with a fish pie on turkey day! As it was, we had the Fozards, the elder Fozards, Brian and Kate who were visiting for the holidays, our friend Lucy, and Kevin and Rico for our big Thanksgiving feast! See photos of our soirée here