Fall in love with Washington, D.C. all over again!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Playing Martha Washington

In Buried Deception, one of the characters play a slave at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estates. While the author has taken liberties with this representation of this portrayal, you can still learn what it's like to be someone from the past!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Classic Hollywood Reviews: Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House

I must be on a Cary Grant kick right now. A couple weeks ago, Eric and I pulled out this 1948 Cary Grant flick. I love that it co-stars Myrna Loy, one of my favorite actresses thanks to the Thin Man series. In Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Jim and Muriel Blandings decide their apartment is impossibly small and rather than be content there, they are going to build a dream house in Connecticut. The only problem is they'd never heard of Dave Ramsey and his financial principles. They find that building the house is much more trouble than they anticipated, not to mention over the top financially.

The movie is not the typical quick repartee comedy...but if you stick with it, and understand all the mistakes the couple makes, it is a fun movie. Just don't take any financial advice from this couple!

I personally like the attorney who plays narrator and breath of ignored reality to the couple. He can't help it that Mr. Blandings refuses to take his advice -- at any turn.

And here's a fun piece of trivia for you from IMDb: The house "Blandings' Way" really exists on Indian Hill Road in New Milford, Connecticut. It's a beautiful huge white art deco/colonial house that has many of the actual rooms discussed in the movie - such as a room to cut flowers. Also less than a mile away on Long Mountain Road is executive producer of the movie and MGM head Dore Schary's old country home.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Behind the Scenes at Mount Vernon Summer Institute for Teachers

Gina Conroy tried to bring a bit of history alive in her story, Buried Deception, but every summer Mount Vernon invites a handful of educators to attend their on-site summer teachers' institutes. Hear what some of them had to say.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Classic Hollywood Review: High Society & Philadelphia Story

High Society is a 1956 flick that remakes The Philadelphia Story(1940). Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart are replaced by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. Grace Kelly slides into Katherine Hepburn's role as the spoiled socialite preparing for her wedding. I LOVE the original. But one thing High Society has that the original doesn't is Bing and Frank singing and dancing. That's something extra that's pretty special, too. Add in Louis Armstrong and his trumpet and gravelly voice, ad you have some great music.

But the movie still lacks something that the original has...well, it lacks Kate, Jimmy and Cary. And while I adore Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly just isn't Kate Hepburn (IMHO). The original also won two Oscars, so I guess the Academy agrees with me.

The basic storyline is identical. Rich, spoiled heiress is preparing to marry her second husband in a matter of days. Reporters and first husband show up making a mess of her ordered life. In the process she comes to realize she wants more from her life than the cold, above-it-all persona she's crafted for herself. 

High Society is still worth watching...just watch it first and then pull out The Philadelphia Story.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chef Tara's Fudgy Brownies

Tara's Fudgy Brownies

Tara made these for movie night and Ciara is particularly fond of these, with frosting after a hard day.

3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup boiling water
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.
Stir cocoa and baking soda together in large bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup melted butter. Add boiling water and stir until mixture thickens. Then stir in sugar, eggs and remaining 1/3 cup butter, and stir until the whole mixture is smooth. Add flour, vanilla and salt. Blend well. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Frost if desired. Cut into squares.

*Note: if you decide to frost the brownies, go ahead and use the prepared frosting. Chances are you'll probably eat it right out of the container anyway.

Enjoy with classic movie of your choice! Garnish with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle of chocolate syrup for a brownie sundae.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tea, Coffee, Me

I wouldn't want anyone to think I only drink tea. Coffee was my hot drink of choice for many years and I still love the stuff. From black to luscious lattes. I like it all.
I think I was about fourteen when I first got hooked on coffee. I was living with my sister and brother-in-law. My sis went to work for a while and I watched the kiddos. I guess I was trying to stay up until they got home, so I started drinking coffee. It didn't take me long to fall in love with the brew.
Now, I drink either decaf or half-cafe for health reasons.

In Coffee, Tea and Danger, how did Vince like his coffee? The first person with the right answer gets a free, autographed copy of Cherry Blosssom Capers.

Next week, I'll be posting a recipe for my Cranberry Banana Nut Bread. Nothing goes better with coffee. See you then.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Scouting at Mount Vernon

George Washington was a great leader and innovator who left a legacy filled with character that all scouts can glean from. Did you know Mount Vernon offers boy and girl scouts "to explore the past and increase their understanding of America's first and greatest president!"

Wreath laying Ceremony at Mount Vernon*

Scouting days run from November 1, 2011 - February 17, 2012
Free admission to all scouts, Camp Fire Club members in uniform or wearing official pin. Other discounts for leaders are offered. For more information on he scouting program and what scouting patches are offered visit the Mount Vernon website.

*photo taken from Mount Vernon website.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Classic Hollywood Review: The King and I

The King and I is a classic Rogers and Hammestein musical set in Siam in the 19th century. Yul Brynner is the 19th-century Siamese monarch who hires English governess Deborah Kerr to teach his wives and children and winds up getting an education of his own. Features such songs as "Getting to Know You," "Hello Young Lovers" and "Shall We Dance." Filmed in 1956, the movie is rich with Deborah Kerr's beautiful gowns and a subtle sense of humor. It also deals with deep issues including things like keeping promises, the value of life, and many more.

I showed this to my daughter a few weeks ago and she enjoyed it, but thought it moved a bit slow. However, when they started singing and dancing she was enthralled. And there's something timeless about a romance that is doomed from the start.

Whether you see this in the film or as a play, it's a wonderful story and piece of America's theater and cinematic history.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Behind the Scenes: America's Executive Mansion

Imagine what it's like to cook for the leader of the free world. Every morning, you enter a building--no, a home--steeped in our country's history. You can make a candlelight dinner for two, or cater an elegant affair for 1,000 guests. You're one of the White House chefs.

When I first sat down to think of an idea for my contribution to Cherry Blossom Capers, I decided to aim straight for one of the top attractions in our nation's capital, but one of the most tightly guarded: the White House. Enter my heroine, a chef from Texas who's enjoying her dream job. Then came a news story that gave my story its all-too-real what-if.

I remember visiting the White House when I was in junior high, during those pre-September 11th days when security was tight, but not like now. Maybe those were the days of innocence. But the news story that helped inspire my novella showed that evil will always try to find a way to sneak inside.

The following video isn't that news story. I'm not giving the ending away! But it's a video that shows some of the goings-on behind the scenes at the White House. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Let's Talk About Tea and Have a Book Contest

Hi, there. I'm Frances Devine, author of Coffee, Tea, and Danger, the fourth book in Cherry Blossom Capers. I became a serious coffee drinker at the age of fourteen. It didn't take me long to become addicted. Tea? Yuk. I wouldn't have drunk hot tea for a date with Cary Grant . For the life of me, I can't remember when that changed. I only know that hot tea and I have been in love for many years.

When you see the word tea, what pops though your mind? A tall frosted glass or a cup with steam coming out the top? Do you like mugs or dainty little cups on saucers?
I read a comment from a Englishman once. He said, "I simply don't understand you Americans. You boil the water to make you tea hot, then put ice in it to make it cold." Then he added, "You put sugar in it t o make it sweet, then add lemon to make it sour."

He just didn't understand. lol. I personally don't drink much iced tea. But give me my cuppa and I'm a happy woman.

When I first became a tea drinker, the only thing that went into my cup was a Lipton's tea bag. But through the years, I've expanded. My cupboards today contain cans and boxes of plain and flavored teas, herbal and black. My favorites, this year at least, are Prince of Wales and Assam. When I have time, I prefer loose tea, but i don't thumb my nose at bags.

A few years ago, my friend's little girl decided she liked tea, so we began an annual tea party. With trays, tea for ones, and cookies and sandwiches. Now she's almost nine, and although we still have the party, she's deserted to hot cocoa for her drink of choice. Ah the fickleness of youth.

What about you? Leave a comment with your favorite or most hated tea memory and I'll place your name in a drawing for a free copy of Cherry Blossom Capers. Be sure to include your email address.

God Bless You,

Frances Devine

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center at Mount Vernon

In Buried Deception, the children visit the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center at Mount Vernon. Find out more about what they see and do while inside!

The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center features 23 galleries and theaters where visitors learn about Washington through interactive displays, an action adventure movie, short films produced by The History Channel, immersive experiences, and a rich and comprehensive collection of more than 700 objects which give an unprecedented look at the personal effects of the Washington family.  The building also houses a Distance Learning Center, which originates live broadcasts to schools across the U.S., and includes a Teachers Resource Center, which offers a multitude of learning resources for teachers. READ MORE

photo credit: Mount Vernon website

Friday, January 6, 2012

Classic Hollywood Review: My Favorite Wife

I'm slipping back to Hollywood for a week, just because, I miss it! And this movie is too fun. It doesn't take long to realize I'm a Cary Grant fan. I won't list all the reasons why, but this movie was a great addition to my viewing repertoire.

The basic set up is that Cary Grant's character is at court to have his wife declared legally dead seven years after she disappeared at sea. Then he promptly marries wife two. As they are at court, long lost wife one shows up at home. What follows is a comedy of errors that made me think of Parent Trap on occasion.

Cary Grant is great as the befuddled and confused lead. And Irene Dunne does a great job reeling him back in. I felt sorry for wife #2, but not too sorry.

So if you're looking for a classic that has romance, comedy, and some great lines, pop this one in.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washtngton, D.C.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is the nation’s greatest springtime celebration. The 2012 Festival, March 20 – April 27, includes 5 spectacular weeks of events featuring diverse and creative programming promoting traditional and contemporary arts and culture, natural beauty, and community spirit.

The 2012 Festival commemorates the 100th anniversary of the gift of the cherry blossom trees and the enduring friendship between the United States and Japan.  Click here for the latest updates, and here for a full list of Festival events.

History of the Cherry Blossom Trees and Festival

Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries. Read More

2012 Centennial

A Once In A Lifetime Celebration...The epic 5-week spectacular, from March 20 – April 27, 2012, will unify and electrify the city, the nation, and the world. Washington, DC and the region will be abuzz with excitement. Creativity and innovation will permeate signature Festival events elevating them to new heights, and ground-breaking Centennial exhibitions and programming will amaze and delight. Timeless traditions. Rich culture. Renowned artists. World-class performers. The community at its best!  Read More
All information was taken from the National Cherry Blossom Festival website.  The festival starts on March 20, 2012 and goes through April 27th. For a listing of activities, visit the events page. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mount Vernon: Writing a Setting that Comes Alive

"No estate in United America is more pleasantly situated than this."

- George Washington, 1790

Author Gina Conroy only visited Mount Vernon once. So how did she describe the setting of the Mount Vernon the grounds and mansion in such detail in her novella Buried Deception? This map helped to set the scene for her in her mind. It can help you too to visualize the setting and how the characters moved about the estate.

She also referred to this virtual map of the Mount Vernon mansion dozens of times when writing her novella, Buried Deception. Want to bring the story to life in a more visual way? Check out the link and explore the mansion and rooms Samantha and her children visited for yourself!