I’m in Maryland visiting family and friends this weekend. Last evening, I took my mom and some of her friends into Washington, DC to see the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks Washington. I have fond memories of visiting the Barracks with my grandfather on Friday nights during the summers of my youth.

Marine Barracks Washington, also known as “8th & I,” is the oldest active post in the Marine Corps. It was founded by President Thomas Jefferson and Lt. Col. William Ward Burrows, the third commandant of the Marine Corps, in 1801.

The Barracks is home to many nationally recognized units, including the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Marine Band, the official Marine Corps Color Guard, and the Marine Corps Body Bearers. It is also the site of the Home of the Commandants, which, along with the Barracks, is a registered national historic landmark.
We were meant to see this last night:

Unfortunately, due to heavy rains, it wasn’t meant to be and the parade was cancelled.

I also have fond memories of Chesty, the official mascot of the Marine Corps. He’s at every Evening Parade, strutting his stuff proudly. It so happens that Chesty XIII was promoted to the rank of sergeant in an official ceremony earlier yesterday:

(Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dengrier Baez/Released)

From Marine Barracks Washington: Cpl. Chesty XIII, the official mascot of the Marine Corps, and Sgt. Christopher Harris, his handler, stand in front of Col. Paul D. Montanus, Marine Barracks Washington commanding officer, during a promotion at the Barracks June 1. Renowned for his tough, muscular, and aggressive appearance, the English bulldog has been serving as a corporal since May 2010. Sgt. Chesty is always on duty at the Barracks, motivating spectators and guests at countless performances both here and abroad.  Photo credit Cpl. Dengrier Baez:

If the parade hadn’t been cancelled, I wouldn’t have had the fortune of meeting a very special Marine last night:

Once they called the cancellation, Chesty was able to get out of his uniform and go for a nice walk in the rain. Both Sergeant Chesty and Sergeant Harris couldn’t have been nicer:

I told Sergeant Harris he had the best job in the Marine Corps, and as they walked off, I told Chesty that I loved him. Do you think that was too forward of me?  ♥ ♥ ♥

The state of Virginia was named for the “virgin queen” of England, Queen Elizabeth I. 

Virginia’s nickname, The Old Dominion, originated in Colonial days. (Dominion refers to complete ownership of a particular piece of land or territory.) Because he considered the Virginians “the best of his distant children,” sometime around 1663, King Charles II of England elevated Virginia to the position of dominion along with England, Scotland, Ireland, and France. The citizens of Virginia were pleased with this elevated status because they considered themselves the most faithful of the King’s settlements in America. Since their settlement was the oldest of King Charles’ settlements in America, they adopted the name “The Old Dominion.”

I visited my dad in the Old Dominion last weekend. It’s a beautiful state with abundant history.

In Lexington, Virginia, the echoes of the past still ring loud and clear. We visited the Stonewall Jackson House, the only house that Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson ever owned. He and his wife lived in the house while he taught at the Virginia Military Institute prior to the American Civil War.

It was then on to Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, where Stonewall Jackson, 144 Confederate veterans, two Virginia Governors and Margaret Junkin Preston are buried.

I still have a fascination with historic cemeteries.

We did a fair amount of hiking while I was there too. Here we are at Abbott Lake on the Blue Ridge Parkway:

We ventured into West Virginia for a spell, where we stopped to see the Locust Creek Covered Bridge near Hillsboro. The bridge was originally built in 1888 for US$1,250 and is now for pedestrian traffic only.

Back in Virginia, we visited the historic Homestead Resort. While we sat and enjoyed a drink on the front porch, we imagined back to the days when Thomas Jefferson, the author of our Declaration of Independence, and James Madison, the father of the Constitution visited The Homestead.

More hiking. Here at Sherando Lake:

And here at Humpback Rocks in George Washington National Forest:

The mile up to the Rocks was tough, gaining about 800′. The views from the Rocks are great looking west onto the Shenandoah Valley and north to Shenandoah National Park.


Virginia is a state steeped in history. Before the arrival of the Europeans, Chief Powhatan ruled over the untamed land. Chief Powhatan fathered one of Virginia’s more famous historical figures, Pocahontas. The first permanent English settlement in America, at Jamestown in 1607, set the stage for the taming of the wilderness.

Virginia played a central role during the American Revolution, from Patrick Henry’s fiery oration “Give me liberty or give me death”, to the eventual surrender of Lord Cornwallis to Washington at Yorktown. And during the Civil War, Virginia saw more battles fought on her soil than any other state. Many of these battlegrounds are now national historic sites, and are visited by thousands of tourists annually.

Virginia also holds the distinction of being the birthplace of eight U.S. presidents. No wonder they say that Virginia’s history is America’s history!

Don and I flew to Virginia last weekend to visit my dad.

I was in heaven. We visited the Appalachian Trail.

It was green and there were flowers everywhere.

And waterfalls.

And woods.

Did I mention flowers?

We visited the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum.

And walked in more woods. (Heaven.)

We drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Beautiful.)

We visited Natural Chimneys Regional Park. Though Maryland was the first state to choose jousting as its official state sport in 1962, Natural Chimneys has been home to the oldest jousting tournament in North America since 1821.

I fell in love with old barns.

And old houses.

I love peonies.

Love. Love. Love. ♥

p.s. Mommy, thank you for looking after the farm while we were gone. ♥ ♥ ♥

Something caught my eye as Don and I were walking through Washington Dulles International Airport the other day.

A very interesting sign.

The sign marked the location of one of the airport’s service animal relief areas. While most of the Dulles locations are outside the Main Terminal, two are inside the midfield concourses for the convenience of ticketed connecting passengers.

 The typical layout of each pet relief area at Dulles includes a mockup of a fire hydrant placed on artificial “K-9 grass” in a fenced-in area. The grass was developed to be paw-friendly and easy to maintain. 

The indoor locations have unique ventilation and flushing/drainage systems. The areas also include supplies for disposal of pet waste.

What a wonderful thing.

Just outside of  Amarillo’s city limits is a roadside attraction called Cadillac Ranch.

As a tribute to Cadillac in 1974, a collective of artists called Ant Farm decided to put 10 Cadillacs in a wheat field. (In 1997, the Ranch was moved two miles west from its original site.)

It’s a monument to the American dream on Route 66, pointed west.  The cars are buried in chronological order, from a 1949 Club Coupe to a 1963 Sedan de Ville.

Visitors are encouraged to bring cans of spray paint because the purpose of the monument is to let the audience take part.

Naturally, the boyz and the rest of Morning Bray Farm were there with us in spirit. Instead of spray painting something on one of the cars, we opted for something a little different.

We left a Morning Bray Farm bumper sticker instead. ♥

Don and I drove to Amarillo, Texas this past weekend to visit with and celebrate the birthday of a dear friend.

Once we arrived, we rode in a big car.

There were big horns on the hood of the big car.

The big car took us to a big place called The Big Texan Steak Ranch.

The Big Texan is the home of the World Famous, FREE 72 oz. STEAK DINNER (if eaten in 1 hour). If Don had attempted this daring feat, it would have looked something like this:

Not to worry, though, because no such nonsense was attempted. If you know us, you know we’re much too civilized for that sort of tomfoolery. ♥

Look at what we received in the mail yesterday. Postcards from France. The boys were absolutely thrilled to know that someone across the pond was thinking of them. Thank you Vicki!

Vicki from I Need Orange recently returned from an amazing trip to France with her daughter. Be sure to check out Vicki’s blog to get the inside scoop.

Vicki found this postcard in Bayonne. It says, “You have cousins in Basque country?”  Vicki was sure she knew four guys in Albuquerque who did.

Then she got to La Rochelle, and there were donkeys everywhere. Donkeys everywhere – in pajamas! Sea salt is a major product of the area and donkeys help haul the salt. The “culottes” (typically described as stockings, leggings or knee-high boots) help to protect donkeys there from mosquito bites.

The postcard says the donkeys in culottes are one of the main folkloric elements of Ile de Ré – right by La Rochelle.

Needless to say, Bernard might be in a bit of a bind. I’m thinking Bernard would look adorable in a couple of pairs of culottes. We just happen to know someone who knits… Hi Cathy!

And then, goodness! Vicki said she saw this brochure and picked it up, but only as she was mailing it to us did she read it. They are keeping donkeys for their milk!  The brochure says that visitors can taste the milk, and that they make skin-care products, including soap, from the milk. As Vicki said, “Who knew??”

We’re surprised too! Vicki said that she ate lots of goat yogurt and sheep yogurt while she was in France… and just think, maybe she could have had donkey yogurt!!! ♥

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