Saturday, 15 March 2014

A Russian Feast!

This evening we were invited to our next door neighbours' house for a 'Russian feast'.

The meal began with a selection of cold delicacies which included Russian salad, Ukrainian sausage, several types of pickled and brined vegetables, cured Russian herring, rye bread and an amazing layered dish of cooked beetroot cooked carrot, onions and herring, covered with sour cream..

These dishes were eaten Russian style with a toast before each shot of vodka.  We started with a Ukrainian one, moving on to Grey Goose - surprisingly, as it is French, our neighbours' favourite vodka.

The main course of pork steak on a bed of onions and covered with a cheese and mayonnaise mixture was also very good. It was accompanied by a very finely shredded and very fresh tasting pickled cabbage salad and a radish and dill salad in sour cream.

We then took a break to play a few games of pool in the basement before returning for dessert.

There was a Russian style Gateau Napoleon, Ukrainian halva made with sunflower seeds and citrus jelly slices.  With dessert we drank black tea with fresh mint.

It was a lovely evening and quite an experience!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Wegmans Supermarket

When our neighbours visited a few weeks ago they mentioned a supermarket that we had not previously visited - Wegmans - and offered to take me on their next visit.

This week I went there with them and it was very good - the displays of fruit and vegetables were quite photogenic!

Including some unusual items such as Aloe Vera leaves..

They had a wide variety of breads and cakes including some novelty cupcakes in preparation for St Patrick's Day next Monday.

In the fresh fish section were some unusual offerings alongside the lobster and shellfish..

In the international section they stocked Jaffa Cakes, Cadburys Chocolate, Horlicks, Marmite etc - at a price.

I am sure we will visit again!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Curiosity at the US Geological Survey

The American Red Cross Blood Drive was held this morning at the headquarters building of the US Geological Survey,  just a very short distance  from us here in Reston.    It was an interesting building with many maps and satellite images on display.    There is a Visitors Centre which is now only occasionally open due to budget cuts but also geological and nature trails in the grounds (too cold for that this morning at -6 with a strong wind making it feel much colder than that).  

This curious object in a display case caught my eye - initially looking like a rather ornate punch bowl!  It was, I think, made of metal with little china frog cups around it.

As the little card next to it explains,  the object is a seismoscope used in Imperial China before modern instruments were available for detecting earthquakes.  This seismoscope was able to predict the direction in which an earthquake had occurred.

The principle is that the seismic energy waves vibrate the bowl which is filled with thick liquid, a large ball and a number of small balls.  The large ball moves along with the energy waves, knocking the small balls from in front of it, the small balls then drop out of the mouths of the dragons and into the mouths of the frogs below.  The direction of the earthquake is 180 degrees from where the balls drop out.

The card indicates that once the direction was determined, Emperors would send caravans of rescue supplies to assist those affected by the earthquake.

Adjacent to the seat where I was greeting the blood donors today was an audio visual display about the San Andreas fault with eye witness accounts and images of the San Francisco earthquake.  Having watched and listened to it on continuous loop for a number of hours it will be food for thought when we visit there in a couple of weeks...

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Fallen Tree in the Garden

Arriving home after a Blood Drive this afternoon, the weather had become very windy and looking out the window, I initially thought that there was something sitting on the fence.

I soon realised that it was a tree at the edge of the garden which was rotten to the core and had fallen, fortunately missing our neighbour's house, but breaking two fences.

It is clear now why this was a popular tree with the woodpeckers as it was probably softer and full of insects.

It is still very windy tonight and the temperature is dropping fast.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Spring - for two days!

While we have been away the warmer days have brought out many more, and different, crocus flowers, growing through the carpet of dead leaves. 

This rather beautiful striped purple has appeared in the front garden alongside the snowdrops.

In the back garden, many more golden flowers have been joined by new colours too.

We also have one solitary 'white' crocus (although tinged with purple).

There are definite signs of green under the dead leaves now and at the weekend we hope to clear away more leaves to allow the plants to grow.  

It has been warm today and is due to be 21C tomorrow.  However we then have rather an abrupt temperature drop to a high of only 1C on Thursday and a return to well below freezing overnight temperatures.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Reading, Berkshire County, PA

Our hotel in Reading, the Abraham Lincoln, was rather grand if a little overdone in its Victorian/Edwardian elegance.

The city of Reading itself was clearly suffering from the demise, some ten years ago, of the steel mills and factories which had dominated the town for many years, providing employment and which had contributed to its wealth.

The city was originally established in the mid 18th Century and has many important 18th and 19th Century buildings, including a significant number of churches.   The Trinity Lutheran Church was founded in 1751 and seems to be thriving. 

Sadly many of the other buildings and the town itself seemed to be quite run down.

When David went to his meeting this morning I headed for the Vanity Fair Shopping Outlet in Wyomissing, on the outskirts of the town.

This outlet centre occupies former industrial buildings and began in 1970 as a factory shop for a manufacturer of stockings and other hosiery on this site.

Sadly it has also seen better days and many of the units were vacant.  I managed to find a few bargains, nonetheless!

David drove us home this evening into a very bright setting sun - a fine day is promised for tomorrow with a temperature of 19C !

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Shillington, PA

Last night one of David's colleagues came to dinner with his wife and we had a lovely, but rather late, evening.  This morning, therefore, we did not get moving very early, particularly as the clocks also changed overnight, moving forward an hour.

However, we had planned to drive to Philadelphia where David has a meeting on Monday and so we set off around midday heading for the city of Reading (in the county of Berkshire).  Along the way we passed signs to a number of familiar sounding places such as York and Lancaster and then, a few miles outside Reading, the town of Shillington, which we decided to explore.

In front of Shillington Town Hall, quite a bit of snow remained from last week's storm, despite the sunshine.

The snow was also much in evidence along the residential streets and on the less sunny side of the main street through the town.

In front of the Town Hall is a war memorial.

A little farther along the road we passed a building which had once been the local school, now in use as a shopping and office centre.

We also passed the church..

.. and a breakfast and several shopping opportunities...

Shillington, originally a small town established in the mid-nineteenth century, is now a borough in the suburbs of Reading with around 5,000 inhabitants.

It was fun to visit and to compare with the rather older village of Shillington, Beds.