Sunday, May 6, 2012

Taking a break

I'm going to take a break from blogging for a while so that I can work on the next book.  Be back soon!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Maria von Trapp

One of my all time favorite movies is The Sound of Music.  The movie ends with the audience watching the von Trapp family climbing over the mountains into Switzerland.  I always wanted to know what happened to the family after that famous ending scene and here is what I found out.

First of all, I have to mention some of the real life facts which did not appear in the movie version of their life.  The real von Trapp children are named differently.  They are Rupert, Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna, and Martina.  Maria and Georg von Trapp also had three children of their own named Rosmarie, Eleoanor, and Johannes.  The von Trapp family lost most of their money during the Depression and were forced to lay off their servants and take on boarders.  Eventually, they started singing publicly and toured Europe as the Trapp Family Singers.

The von Trapp family did indeed leave Austria because they did not approve of Germany annexing their homeland.  But they did not climb over the mountains, carrying their luggage with them.  They boarded a train and went to Italy.  They continued touring with their musical act and eventually moved to America.  They purchased a farm in Vermont and ran a singing camp.  Georg died of lung cancer in 1947.  The family decided to build a ski lodge on their Vermont property and it still exists there today.  Maria von Trapp ran the lodge for many years with the help of her son Johannes.  She died in 1987.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lion Country Safari

Sorry that I did not get a chance to blog last weekend.  I was roughin' it at a campground site in the rain.  It was not an ideal time to get out my laptop computer.  Despite the soaking wet bedding and consequent lack of sleep, I had a really great time camping.  We went to Lion Country Safari which is located in South Florida.  It is a unique zoo that allows you to drive your car through a 4 mile stretch of the zoo. The kids loved driving next to the giraffes, ostriches, camels, chimps, and of course, lions.  Right next to this zoo, there is a campground for people who are brave enough to spend the night a short distance away from the lions.  Is was a surreal experience to be lying in my tent (trying to squeeze in a second or two of sleep) and hear all the lions roaring nearby.  The highlight of the trip was on our last drive through the zoo.  An enormous ostrich walked right next to our car and pecked on the driver's side window.  It was a trip that my family will never forget.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

The Easter Bunny has arrived at the Silverglate house.  All the kids are hyper with the influx of candy.  This year, the Easter Bunny apparently decided to cut back on the amount of candy in the baskets.  It did not go unnoticed by my youngest.  He is holding a little grudge now.  But even though I have one Easter "Scrooge" in the house, I thought it might be interesting to talk about the origins of some of Easter's secular traditions.

Eggs have always been plentiful during the holiday.  Catholics were not allowed to eat eggs during the 40 days of Lent, so they naturally celebrated Easter with as many eggs as possible.  The Greek Orthodox would often dye their eggs red in order to symbolize the blood of Jesus.

The Easter Bunny has been around a long time.  Due to the rabbit's ability to get pregnant a second time even while being pregnant with a first litter, it has come to represent fertility.  The rabbit has always been present in Spring Festivals.  But the official Easter Bunny that can now be thanked for the fact that my kids' faces are smeared with chocolate, is first seen in Germany in the 1500s.  There, a magical hare named Oschter Haws, would leave good children a nest of colored eggs.  By the 1700s, the Easter Bunny had moved to America.  Pennsylvania Dutch children would make nests out of their capes and bonnets hoping that if they were well behaved enough, the Easter Bunny would fill them.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring Break

Sorry that I did not post last week.  It is Spring Break for the kids, so we decided to take a family trip up to the Smokey Mountains.  On the long car trip home, I asked the kids what their favorite part of the trip was.  It was not the many hikes through the mountains.  Not the amazing beauty of the majestic waterfalls.  And not the frolicking in the mountain river.  All of their favorite parts of our vacation were of the man-made variety.  I must admit, I was a little surprised.  

My oldest son was captivated by the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.  He loved petting the stingrays and sharks (yes...I did say sharks!)  This, I get.  He has always loved marine life and it was a wonderful aquarium.  My middle son loved Ober Gatlinburg.  On the top of a mountain in Gatlinburg, Tennessee there is a quaint tourist attraction.  He had fun ice skating.  This, I get too.  I vividly remember visiting Ober Gatlinburg when I was about his age.  The whole experience was very nostalgic for me.  My youngest son, however, takes the cake.  His favorite part of our Smokey Mountain vacation was swimming in the hotel pool.  In all fairness, it was a great pool.  But I just wish that he had enjoyed the wonders of nature a little more.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Green Chicago River

I've always found the dying of the Chicago River to be an interesting St. Patrick's Day tradition.  I looked up the story of how this cultural ritual started.  Here is what I found out.  Hopefully, it's not blarney!

The Plumber's Union, under the leadership of Stephen Bailey, was in charge of the St. Patrick's Day Festival in Chicago.  In the year 1961, a plumber came into Bailey's office wearing white coveralls which had bright green stains on them.  Bailey asked him how he got the stains and the plumber replied that he was putting green dye into the waste system in order to see if any of the pipes leaked into the Chicago River.  After the plumber left his office, Bailey realized that the union could make the St. Patrick's Day festival special that year by coloring the entire river green.  One hundred pounds of dye was dumped into the river that first year and turned the Chicago River into the Shannon River for an entire week.  Today, only forty pounds of a more environmentally friendly dye is used.  This amount keeps the river green for about five hours.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The History of March Madness

The school that I teach in is currently conducting a fundraiser called "March Madness."  All teachers are encouraged to raise money through various means.  Some teachers are selling muffins, some are selling feather earrings and the art teachers are making caricatures.  I am selling candy to my students, so you can guess how hyper they have been recently.  All the money goes to buying technology for the school.  I wish I could live in a time when the state of Florida bought technology for their schools, but money is really tight in education right now.

March Madness is the term which officially describes the NCAA basketball tournament that is held every year.  My sons are currently watching a lot of basketball, so I started to wonder about the history of the name  "March Madness."  Here is what I found out:

March Madness is based on an old phrase from the 16th Century, "Mad as a March Hare."  The rabbit mating season is in March and April.  Apparently, the male rabbits get a little wild and crazy during that time.  In regards to basketball, the first use of the term was by the Illinois High School Association to describe their annual basketball tournament.  The origins of this competition go all the way back to the early 1900s.  These high school basketball players captivated the state of Illinois once a year as they fought for the number one position.  The most famous  victory was in 1952.  Hebron, the winning team, was a school with only 98 students.  Brent Musberger, a Chicago sports announcer, is credited with first using the term March Madness for the college basketball tournament in 1982.  The name quickly became popular nationwide.  The name "March Madness" is now jointly trademarked by both the NCAA and the Illinois High School Association.