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Root Beer Cake Recipe
Want a recipe for Root Beer Cake? Learn about the history of root beer and get a cake recipe on my post at Lois Winston’s Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. Also see how the drink relates to the pioneer village in STAR TANGLED MURDER. Comments Welcome!
New Print Edition
A desperate nobleman captured as a spy and a sultry songstress test the limits of their relationship as they flee their enemies on an outlawed planet in MOONLIGHT RHAPSODY – “An enchanting blend of futuristic romance and fantasy that lends itself to a totally immersive read.” Pre-Order the trade paperback edition due for release June 13th or read the ebook now –
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Maitland, Florida is a community north of Orlando. The city hosts its own art and history museums on five acres along a shady side street off Maitland Avenue. The Maitland Art Center was originally created in 1938 by artist and architect Jules André Smith as a winter artist retreat. The art center and history museum merged in 2010.
We parked and first went in the art museum. This consisted of several small rooms with a couple of artist’s works on display. I liked the colorful acrylics on wood.
From here, we entered the history museum next door. An antique table and chairs face the outdoor courtyard. We viewed a decorative fireplace, relics from the indigenous populations, and more art works. I wished this museum were larger.
Adjacent to this building is the Telephone Museum. This offers fascinating displays of a bygone era.
Outside is a courtyard lined by visiting artist’s studios.
Across the street, the Mayan Courtyard and Garden Chapel are even more interesting. The grounds, registered as a National Historical Landmark, are a popular site for weddings, and I could see why. Laden with history, the various nooks and crannies are fun to explore with their intricate artistry.
The Smithsonian National Postal Museum was built in 1914 and served as Washington D.C.’s post office through 1986. It houses a research library as well as exhibit space and gift shops.
The museum portion opened in 1993. You can get to it by taking the red line Metro to Union Station. This was one of the most interesting museums I’ve visited. Our niece accompanied us.
The history of the U.S. Postal Service was presented by means of staged displays, a mail train car, a stagecoach, vintage airplanes, postal trucks and much more. We could sit in the driver’s seat of a truck or check out a mail train car, stare at Owney, the preserved mascot dog, and see a variety of uniforms.
I found the postal police section very intriguing. I didn’t realize we even had a Postal Inspection branch that investigated related crimes.
A gift shop and stamp shop are present, plus historic examples of stamps through the years. No café, though, but you’re right across the street from Union Station with its food court and restaurants. We could have spent more time here browsing through the exhibits and reading all the informational signs, but it’s a lot to absorb in one day. Be sure to put this on your list of places to visit next time you’re in our capital city.
Outside, we trundled past the gleaming capitol building to view the United States Botanic Garden. We arrived at the Garden Court entrance and veered to the right with a section on Rare and Endangered plants. We walked through sections with orchids, tropical foliage, medicinal plants, desert cacti, Hawaii, and other collections. While amazed that this conservatory could be built in the middle of our capital city, I’m spoiled by the many gardens in Florida.
Located in downtown Bradenton, Florida, the South Florida History Museum offers two levels of exhibits. Short on time, we bypassed the Bishop Planetarium which is included in the admission price ($19 adults, $17 seniors). Our first stop was the Parker Manatee Aquarium, where a guide demonstrated the qualities of several manatees under their care. These huge, intelligent creatures were impressive. They prefer warm water and can be sensitive to cold temperatures, pollution, and boats that get in their path.
From here, we moved on to dioramas and displays of native habitats, shell collections, and pine uplands with a pioneer cabin.
There’s a Spanish house with a chapel that has a lovely stained glass window.
My favorite was the Medical Gallery with an ancient operating room, dental suite, torturous looking instruments, and an apothecary shop.
You could easily spend a couple of hours here or more. It was an unexpected bonus of our trip to the west coast, and I’m glad we could enjoy this attraction. Note there’s a gift shop but no café on premises.
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What did the early peoples of southeast Florida find to eat? Recently, Michelle Williams from the Florida Public Archaeology Network gave a talk about “Weeds and Seeds: Dining on the Riches of Southeast Florida.” Any errors in this report are due to my interpretation.
She mentioned how the early people build pyramidal shaped mounds as symbols of power. About 2000 years ago, papaya could be found here, although it probably came to these shores via bird poop. Zoo archaeology is examining animal bones to study our history. She is a paleoethnobotanist. This discipline studies plant remains to understand how people lived.
In southeast Florida, we have environmental interfaces where there’s an overlap of more than one type of ecological environment (if I understood this correctly).
The Everglades has tree islands. The trees there have a specific orientation in a teardrop shape based on water flow. Every island has evidence that people used to inhabit the land. Animals lived there, too, and provided food. Plants and trees provided wood and other resources including a type of flour. Among other things, people ate tubers, alligator meat, fish and birds.
Another environment here is the Ocean, including the ocean’s edge and mangrove swamps. There people ate conch, dolphin, seaweed, seagrapes, and cocoplums.
Another system includes Rivers and river banks, with turtles, fish, muscadine grapes and prickly pear cactus.
Lake Okeechobee is another region with snakes and fish. Catfish was popular there and now it’s bass. Elderberries and other plants grow there. The Kissimmee River feeds Lake Okeechobee, and this in turn feeds the Everglades. So Southeast Florida had hunting and gathering but no agriculture. Yet the abundance of plants and animal life supplied enough provisions for these early peoples.
As August is my father’s birth month, it is appropriate that I announce the publication of his book-length travel journal at this time. Harry I. Heller wrote a 70,000 word account of his adventures in hitchhiking 12,000 miles across the United States in 1929. I’ve edited his work and added a selection of photos from his album. It’s a project dear to my heart. In his waning years, my dad asked me to help him publish his book. As I explain in the foreword, it took me this much time to satisfy his wish. It is with great pride that I announce the publication of Thumbs Up. If you’re a history buff, armchair traveler, or Americana enthusiast, or if you like reading about adventure travel and exploration, this is the book for you.
After taking his exams for the New Jersey Bar, twenty-four year old Harry I. Heller set off on a hitchhiking cross-country adventure. Relying upon his wits and not his wallet, he traveled across the United States without paying a dime for transportation. In the days when a job paid one dollar and seventy five cents per day and seeing a movie cost ten cents, he hitchhiked his way from New Jersey to California. Among his many escapades, he got lost in the Yosemite Mountains, confronted hungry bears, raced downhill in a moving van with burnt-out brakes, jumped on a speeding train, and climbed Pike’s Peak on foot. This true coming-of-age tale shows the courage, fortitude, and determination of a young man following his dream and learning to rely solely on himself.
Suddenly, I found myself wide awake. Something had disturbed me. I listened intently but heard only the rustling of the wind through the trees.
I felt certain an unseen presence lurked nearby.To investigate and assure myself of the absence of visitors was the proper course to follow. Although I realized the tent held no protection from danger, it nevertheless gave me a false feeling of security. The prospect of leaving the canvas covering was an uninviting one. I therefore remained stationary and hoped my nervous condition was due to an overactive imagination.
I soon discovered this was not the case. The breaking of a dried twig, as if by the weight of a heavy object; faint sounds resembling the movements of a body through the woods with a minimum of noise as if to avoid detection; and the unmistakable grunts of some animal, abruptly brought me to a sitting position. A short interval of silence followed. My uncertainty regarding the identity of the intruder, the possibility that perhaps a wild animal was sneaking to within striking distance, were not conducive to feeling calm. I became more and more frightened.
The disturbances were repeated but this time, as if the unknown had succeeded in its efforts to gain ground quietly, the sounds emanated from uncomfortably closer quarters. By then, I was not only very thoroughly scared but also paralyzed with fright.
When I stood between the rails upon which the caboose rested so as to get a better look through its open rear door, it was without realizing the roadbed was a hazardous place on which to stand.
The car contained a young man who, judging from his attire, was a member of the crew who occupied the home on wheels during its travels. He obligingly answered my questions pertaining to his business. Then an unknown duty summoned him to the front, and he disappeared from view behind a partition. Thinking his absence would be temporary, I waited for his return. However, he had forgotten all about me.
As I stood there, no ringing bell or whistle warned me of impending danger. One moment all was quiet and peaceful. The next moment, I was face-to-face with death.
A terrific crash shattered the silence. Simultaneously, the caboose seemed to leap toward me.
Thumbs Up is an inspirational travel adventure about a hitchhiker’s journey across America that offers a glimpse into our nation’s past. It’ll make readers nostalgic for this era and more appreciative of family, friends and home.
If you’re a history buff or a fan of historical recreations, you’ll want to visit Tombstone, Arizona. This site of the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral has been remade into a tourist town with quaint shops and restaurants, museums, and a reenactment of the gun battle that resonated throughout history.
We stayed at the Landmark Lookout Lodge, an easy ten minute drive from the heart of town. The oldest house dates back to 1879. The town started when a cavalry scout discovered silver. When he proposed exploring the hills, he was told, “The only thing you’ll find out there is your tombstone.” Hence the town name.
The Good Enough Mine is open today but we didn’t have time to go. This one has a vertical shaft and is located off Toughnut Street, so-called because if you could walk outside without being shot or stabbed, you were a tough nut. The mine went down 600 feet where it hit the aquifer, so water had to be pumped out. It closed operations when silver prices dropped.
Along this street worked the attorneys who served the courthouse, now a museum. There’s still a gallows in the backyard where seven men were hanged. The white fenced house a little further down used to be a pleasure palace, if you know what I mean.
We took a trolley tour, and our friendly guide wearing a brown cowboy hat explained the sights along the way. There was Doc Goodfellow’s house. He signed an outlaw’s death certificate and lived on Toughnut Street. The sheriff’s house was here, too. A couple of thousand Chinese used to live in Tombstone. They worked as merchants and miners. Their women ran prostitution and opium rings. The guide pointed out many of the historic buildings, telling stories that went along with them.
Back on the main street, we shopped in the interesting gift shops, ate in the saloons, attended a historical diorama in a little theater, and bought tickets for the infamous gunfight reinactment. If I got the info correct, 30 shots were fired that day and 3 men were killed. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are the featured heros. Here is my first attempt at a video.
How does this relate to the story I’m writing? In Peril by Ponytail, Marla and Dalton visit a dude ranch run by his cousin, Wayne. Wayne’s father is renovating a nearby ghost town. Guess what I used as a model? My fictional town is loosely based on a combination of Tombstone and Jerome (Oct. 30 post).
Coming next: Tombstone, Part 2—The haunted Bird Cage Theater and Boothill Cemetery.
Do you ever wonder if the punishment fits the crime? Come along to the Crime Museum in Washington D.C. where you can tour through a history of crime and punishment. Beginning in medieval times, you get insights into torturous implements with the items on display. Metal was popular for finger screws and iron helmets. And look at this unhappy guy stretched out in the dungeon. The different areas of the museum are made to look like their eras, a cool factor I found appealing. Also scattered throughout the place are interactive kiosks to challenge you.
Definitions of crimes have changed through the years. In Colonial times, you could get your ears nailed to the pillory for kissing on the Sabbath. That was considered lewd and unseemly behavior. This era included a poster on the Salem Witch Trials. Next we moved into Pirates, where famous pirates are described leading up to the current ones operating off the coast of Somalia.
The outlaws of the Wild West come next amid sounds of gunshots and horses neighing in the background. Billy the Kid and the Dalton Gang were famous bad guys from this era, while Wyatt Earp was a well-known law man. You could shoot rifles for a fee at a shooting range looking like the Old West.
Crimes of the Great Depression followed with the Barker Gang, Bonnie and Clyde, and Al Capone, among others. Sirens and jazz music play in the background along with machine gun fire. You can learn how to Crack-A-Safe at the interactive kiosk. Moving along, we come next to scams, hoists, and hoaxes. Then we come to the worst crime of all: murder. Apparently collectors like to obtain Murderabilia, items associated with these criminals. Can you imagine a more gruesome collection? It’s bad enough that killers become media celebrities without having people try to acquire their belongings and giving value to their fame.
Famous serial killers are mentioned in this area before we move onto conspiracy and assassinations. On the wall are posters listing all the presidents who’d been assassinated and famous kidnappings like the Lindbergh baby. There are notes from police files on famous solved crimes, including J.W. Gacy who worked as Pogo the clown. I knew there was a reason why I find clowns creepy. Computer crimes aren’t forgotten either as several of these silent criminals are mentioned. For example, Robert Morris created the first computer worm. An interactive kiosk will challenge you to see how fast you can crack a code.
Then you pass through a darkened corridor lined by brick buildings and sound effects into the history of fingerprinting, Miranda Rights, what a booking officer does, mug shots were you can get your photo taken along with some crooks, and a jail cell where you can sit on the bed. There is a meet the warden video and a display on famous prisons and great escapes. One of the dioramas shows a luxury cell where Al Capone lived in Alcatraz. Here you can play on another kiosk to see how far you can get in your escape. Death Row is mentioned as you walk into a section that looks like a prison block with sound effects and an elevated walkway. Methods of capital punishment are described dating back from medieval torture and executions through the death penalty with displays of an electric chair, a gas chamber and a guillotine.
On a better note, we come to a section on famous lawmen. Notes describe how cops communicated before 1930, their use of firearms, equipment, and the bomb squad. See how fast you can defuse a bomb at the next interactive kiosk. Technologies such as night vision and thermal imaging are described. Here we pause for patrol training. In a simulation, you can drive a cop car on a high-speed chase. Or you can fire a Glock 17 at a simulated scene, watching for the bad guy to pop up and shoot at you. After this escapade, we descend downstairs to the CSI Experience.
You are greeted by a crime scene scenario in the bedroom where a murder took place. You can push buttons to see what each piece of numbered evidence represents.
You learn about witnesses and the role of the crime lab. At a kiosk, you can play the part of a witness. What did you see?
Contents of the crime scene kit are shown. Did you know that evidence is put into brown paper bags and not plastic bags like you see on TV? Fingerprint and footprint recovery, ballistics, toxicology, dental ID, autopsy, and entomology are some of the topics touched upon. The interactive kiosk here is, Can you match the bullet?
Other crimes are discussed such as counterfeiting, art forgery, and forgery of documents. Famous cold cases has a room of its own. There’s a section on crime related TV shows, movies and books. Books by Sue Grafton, James Elroy, and Patricia Cornwall are some of the ones mentioned. Even crimes against marine animals are covered. Then we descend to the lower level that holds the studio for America’s Most Wanted television show.
I would say you need maybe 2 to 3 hours to do this museum justice. There’s a Clyde’s nearby which is great for lunch, and then you can meander over to the International Spy Museum if you’ve never visited that attraction before. The closest Metro stop to the Crime Museum is Gallery Place.
Tomorrow, join me over at the Kill Zone where I’ll be discussing Crime and Punishment.