Friday, May 22, 2015

Mort Kunstler, artist

Mort Kunstler, artist
Since I was in Winchester for an article, I was part of the media invited to the opening of an art exhibit at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.  It actually opened the next day, but we got a special preview (I felt so honored!).  Mort Kunstler himself was there and he spoke to us for an hour, sharing stories of various paintings that are on display.  There are four large rooms filled with a great variety of Mort's artwork.  At age 84 years, he is still painting and still doing well.  I really enjoyed hearing him tell stories about his work.  He said, "It's been a wonderful life - a dream come true.  Do what you love and get paid for it."  He and the museum staff were all so gracious and I so enjoyed my visit to the whole museum.

This painting, entitled "Respect of an Army, Appomattox Court House," was done this year.  He had intended for it to be his last Civil War painting (he's done hundreds of them), but then he did one more since then.  Now, he says he thinks he's finished doing the Civil War.  Mort tries to be as accurate as possible in presenting a scene.  He even put puddles of rainwater in the foreground because it had rained the night before the surrender on April 9, 1865.  Now, that's what I call meticulous!
Mort told how it came about that he illustrated the cover of MAD magazine in 1976.  The magazine asked if he would do a cover and he said, "No way.:  When his daughter heard about it, she said it would be so cool if he did one, so he called back and said he would.  He signed with the pen name "Mutz," because at the time, he wasn't so sure he wanted to claim it.  I think he later changed his mind when he saw how popular the magazine became.

After our tour through the museum, we walked through the adjacent garden and saw these beautiful tulips, along with other very nice plantings and a historic house.  It was a beautiful, warm May day and we enjoyed seeing God's beautiful creations.  Time to go home!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

More Winchester

More Winchester
This is one of the handsome, historic houses in downtown, right on the Mall walking area.  It's no longer a private residence, but just knowing it was around during the Civil War shows it has seen a lot of action and makes it special.  It's built from blocks of limestone, as are numerous houses around town.

Since I was in Winchester to get background for an article for a magazine I occasionally write for, I had a full schedule provided by the very nice Downtown Manager, Jennifer.  In the photo above, I'm peeking from a slanted window that's part of a quirky building at the children's Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum.  It's a great place for kids to spend a couple hours having fun and learning in the process.  It has three floors packed with hands-on activities.  Even the parents will enjoy the visit.
We popped into George Washington's Office Museum and learned a lot about his early years spent in Winchester as Commander of the Militia and his part in helping build nearby Fort Loudoun.  This was his office from Sept 1755 to Dec 1756. Even though the museum is small, it's packed with interesting historical facts and artifacts as well.  There's even a few strands of George's very own hair that was cut in March 1797.  I learned a lot and enjoyed my visit.

Next, we had big burgers and crispy fries at the 50/50 Tap House Restaurant, courtesy of the oh-so friendly owner Jason.  He just opened his spacious restaurant a few months ago and its doing very well.  He's obviously worked very hard and its so nice to see his efforts being rewarded.  They have a whopping 50 different kinds of hamburgers to choose from - and the meat is ground fresh daily using short ribs, brisket, and chuck.  Makes your mouth water, doesn't it!

Our next stop was Bright Box Theater, where we joined about 60 or so in the audience to listen to the bluegrass music of a group called Springfield Exit.  They could really tickle those strings - and the lead fellow had a good voice too.  It was a casual evening in what might be called an intimate space.  They had us tapping our feet and clapping our hands during their performance.  It was good entertainment.

My last stop of the day was to take a Ghost Walk with Jean and J.P. of Ghost Tours of Old Town Winchester.  They were kind enough to give me a private tour, complete with history of the town and stories of various "spirits."  Although we started in the light (at 8:15pm), it got dark quickly and by the time we got to the Civil War cemetery, it was totally dark.  I don't get spooked easily, since as a Christian, I know God is stronger than anything and He will protect me - so no spirits bothered me, but it was interesting learning about the local "haunts."  We walked around town and Jean regaled me with many stories.  She and J.P. were very kind and I enjoyed getting to know them.

Last, but not least, is the wonderful hotel we were treated to.  The George Washington Hotel is right downtown, which makes it super-convenient.  The top photo shows the original outer façade of the hotel that has now been brought indoors and the second photo is the elegant Grecian pool at the hotel.  The hotel was opened in 1924 and was very popular for about 50 years and then had to close.  It became a Home for mentally challenged adults for 18 years and then sat empty and desolate for 11 more years.  Then, a local couple bought it for $650,000 and began renovation.  It's not likely they imagined that it would cost $30 million to bring it up to its present elegant stature.  It opened in 2008 and its doing very well.  There are numerous original elements in the building and lots of interesting memorabilia scattered about.  The rooms are comfortable and elegant.  We were so pleased with our stay there.  Its warm and friendly and I'd stay there again in a heartbeat.

"Thank you, Lord, for these wonderful opportunities and for all the nice people we met along the way."  God is so good!!

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Winchester, Virginia
The first photo looks down the pedestrian mall in the center of old town.  Winchester is a most charming town and almost everything you'd want to see or do is within walking distance.  The town was founded in 1744.  The mall area above is two blocks long and is lined with historic buildings of many styles and eras.  There are shops and restaurants, museums and musical theater - and also a fun splash pad for kids (along with free public bathrooms).  If this all sounds like a tourist ad -- well, it sorta is, because I'd highly recommend a visit of several days to this beautiful town!

Right in the center of the mall area is the Old Court House Civil War Museum -- a very stately looking building and handy to pop in for a tour.  Winchester is a mecca for Civil War buffs.  I was told that during the Civil War, the town changed hands between the north and south over 70 times!  That has got to be a record!

Here's the kid's splash pad I mentioned.  It's free and fun.  If you forget a towel, the General Store across the mall always has a supply on hand.  By the way, Larry took these three pictures above and he did a good job too.

This is a handsome, aristocratic looking building.  It looks like it would be a university or some other very important building.  It's actually the Handley High School in Winchester.  Do you think the kids who go there appreciate how beautiful and special it is??  It seems John Handley donated a goodly sum of money to the town back in the 1800s and the money was used to build a beautiful, ornate library -- and this amazing high school.  It is actually the only privately-funded high school in the entire country. 
Pretty cool, huh!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Virginia Country

Larry and I took a two-day trip to the northwestern part of Virginia -- beautiful country with rolling hills, horse farms and picturesque scenery like this barn and yellow flowers.  We went down a lane and came upon such gorgeous scenery and I was snapping pictures right and left.  Of course, they don't all come out so good, but this one I really like.  I hope you like it too!

In the distance on the other side of the road, we saw this striking house and outbuildings, with a lake in front and mountains in the background -- what a great place that would be to live!  We stopped for these pictures on our way to Winchester.  I will share pictures from our visit there in the next post.
"Thank you, Lord, for keeping us safe on the highways and byways -- and for giving us such a lovely time on our trip!"