Monday, 22 September 2014

Presidential Palaces

Here are ten famous houses in history.

Monticello resized on picnik

1.  Monticello was Thomas Jefferson's house in Virginia courtesy

2.  Franklin D. Roosevelt's Hyde Park estate on the Hudson River courtesy

3.  George Washington's Mount Vernon estate courtesy

Hermitage Mansion

4.  Andrew Jackson's The Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee courtesy

5.  Woodrow Wilson's house in Washington D.C. courtesy

6.  John F. Kennedy's birthplace, Brookline, Massachusetts courtesy

7.  Sherwood Forest, Virginia, home of John Tyler courtesy

8.  James Madison's home, Montpelier, Virginia courtesy

9.  James Buchanan's house, Wheatland, Pennsylvania courtesy

10.  Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York, home of Theodore Roosevelt courtesy

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Mason, Jackson & Wyatt

To match my post, "Lucy, Mia & Scarlett", I am writing today about the Top Baby Names for Boys for 2014.

Liam is #1.  I think of the actor Liam Neeson.  It can be short for William.

Mason is #4 on the list.  That's the name of my nephew who just turned 3.  It's also the name of a TV show "Perry Mason" from the 1950's.  Surnames seem to be common these days as first names.

Jackson is #8.  My daughter Jacqueline had a boy named Jackson in her Kindergarten class.  Andrew Jackson was the 7th president of the United States.  Michael Jackson was, of course, the King of Pop.

Jack is #10.  I think of President John F. Kennedy whose nickname was Jack.  His name fit so nicely with his wife's nickname, Jackie.

Luke is #11.  It's a strong, masculine name.  I think of Luke Duke from the TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard".  Paul Newman starred in a movie called "Cool Hand Luke" in the 1960's.

William is #15.  My brother's name is William.  Prince William is popular right now with his recent marriage and new baby.  It's a solid, masculine name.

Wyatt is #26.  I think of Wyatt Earp, the Deputy Marshal from Tombstone, Arizona.

Dylan is #32.  I immediately think of the folk singer Bob Dylan.  I don't like his raspy voice but I do like his poetic lyrics.  Also, Dylan Thomas was a famous poet.

Landon is #37.  I think of Michael Landon who played Mr. Ingalls on the TV show "Little House on the Prairie".

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Hampton Breaks Colour Barrier in Music

"As far as I'm concerned, what [Goodman] did in those days -- and they were hard days in 1937 -- made it possible for Negroes to have their chance in baseball and in other fields..." (Lionel Hampton)

     Just as Branch Rickey paved the way for Jackie Robinson to break the colour barrier in baseball, it was Benny Goodman who paved the way for Lionel Hampton to break the colour barrier in big band jazz.  In 1937, Goodman invited Hampton up on stage to play piano one night at the Palomar Ballroom, a full ten years before Jackie Robinson played for the Yankees.  

     Benny Goodman, the King of Swing, went on to form the first integrated jazz quartet which included Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa.  Lionel Hampton mastered other instruments besides the piano including the drums and the vibraphone.  In 1940, Lionel Hampton said goodbye to Benny Goodman and formed his own orchestra, recording such hits like "Flying Home" and "Stardust".

     Lionel Hampton continued to record jazz music until 1995.  He received many awards and honors including an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Howard University.  He was invited to the White House for Black Music Week in 2001.  

Lionel Hampton in New York City circa 1946 courtesy

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Chapter by Chapter

I've spent the last three weeks editing my chapter book I'm Just Daisy.  A kind editor from B.C. critiqued my manuscript for free and offered me some constructive criticism.  His two main points were:  your prose is too flat and you need to engage your characters more.  So, chapter by chapter, I've gone through my manuscript, trying to follow his advice.  I cut the final chapter which seemed unnecessary.  I added a chapter "The Tea Party" to give the book a bit of humour.  I lengthened several scenes, adding dialogue to bring them to life.  I added details to every scene to make the story less generic.  I've given the main character Daisy a stronger point of reference.  Wherever possible, I've tried to re-work important items into the book in later chapters:  Daisy's famous butter tarts, a yellow-throated bird that lives in the Muskokas, the confetti that lands in Daisy's hat on her voyage to Canada.  The editing process gave me a chance to do further research on the era.  I worked in a paragraph about the history of the Model T, Charlie's first automobile.  

I discovered once again that I don't just love the research stage and the writing process; I love the editing process.  What's the next step?  I've made a list of ten more publishers to query.  I feel confident knowing that this time I can mail them a stronger version of I'm Just Daisy

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Spite Houses

"A spite house is a building constructed or modified to irritate neighbours or other parties with land stakes.  Spite houses often serve as obstructions, blocking out light or access to neighbouring buildings or as flamboyant symbols of defiance." 

We had a spite fence on our street for years.  One neighbour had asked the other neighbour for years to share the cost of building a fence and been turned down.  Then they had a fight and as revenge, the neighbour who had turned down the fence idea, built half a fence.  It remained that way for ten years until five years ago when the house was sold; a condition of the sale was that the other half of the fence be built.

However, I had never heard of a spite house until today when I read about it on Facebook.  Here are some famous spite houses:


1.  The Skinny House in Boston, Massachusetts is "the narrowest house in Boston" according to The Boston Globe (

2.  Marblehead, Massachusetts circa 1912.  This house was the result of two brothers arguing over an inheritance (

3.  Alameda Spite House was built after the landowner had a large portion of his property taken away by the city to build a street (

4.  Montlake Spite House, Seattle, Washington.  The owner's neighbour made an insulting low offer on the piece of land so he built an ugly house on it to spite him (

5.  O'Reilly Spite House, Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The owner wanted his next door neighbour to buy a piece of his land.  The neighbour refused and the owner built this 308 square foot building (

6.  "Freeport Spite House" was built to block the route of Lena Avenue in Freeport, New York (

7.  The McCobb Spite House in Maine was built as a result of a dispute between two brothers.  Thomas Mccobb assumed his father would leave his house to him in his will.  However, while Thomas was at sea, the father gave the house to his stepbrother.  Thomas built this spite house right across the street from the original house (

8.  The Taylor Spite House in Maryland was built when Dr. John Taylor learned that the city wanted to extend Record Street to meet up with another street.  He found out about an ordinance preventing road construction if work was in progress on a substantial building in the road's path (

9.  The Hollensbury Spite House, Alexandria, Virginia, was built in 1830 by the owner of the adjacent house to prevent people from using the alleyway next door (

10.  Unknown spite house circa 1920's (

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Famous Houses on Camera

Here are ten houses made famous on the screen.  Try to match the movie or TV show with the house.

Famous Homes: See the house from Disney's UP and three other legendary "movie star" homes.


Home Alone house - Chicago











a.  Full House
b.  Brady Bunch
c.  Munsters
d.  Driving Miss Daisy
e.  Home Alone
f.  Up
g.  Father of the Bride
h.  Mrs. Doubtfire
i.  Leave it to Beaver
j.  Happy Days


1.  f
2.  e
3.  g
4.  d
5.  h
6.  c
7.  i
8.  b
9.  j
10. a

Monday, 15 September 2014

Lucy, Mia & Scarlett

     Because my last post was about Ella Fitzgerald, a jazz singer whom my daughter's friend Ella is named after, I decided to write about baby name trends.  It has been years since Ella Fitzgerald was popular; people have forgotten about the name -- until recently.  I googled Top Baby Names for 2014 and discovered that Ella is #13.

     My friend Heidi has a little girl, Mia, born the same year as Ella.  She and her husband were watching the movie "Rosemary's Baby", starring Mia Farrow, who inspired them.  Again, people had forgotten about Mia Farrow until recently.  Mia is #6 on this year's Top Baby Names list.

   In Teacher's College, I was thrilled to be able to teach my students about a classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.  Today, the name Harper is #9 on the list.

     My Mom's had a friend named Evelyn for decades.  I also taught with an Evelyn almost 20 years ago.  The name became dated.  Now it is #18 on the list.

     Audrey Hepburn starred in some great classic movies like Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck in 1955.  The only Audrey's I'd ever met were usually much older than me.  Today, Audrey is #27 on the list.

     Gone with the Wind, written about the Civil War, featured a Southern belle named Pansy. However, the editor suggested the author change the name to Scarlett.  I had never heard of another Scarlett until the actress Ms. Johansson appeared on the big screen.  Today, Scarlett is #30 on the list.

     My Mom's parents bought their first television set in 1949.  Within two years, she was watching "I Love Lucy", the former silver screen actress who started a TV series with her husband Desi Arnaz. The only other Lucy I knew of was Lucy from the comic series "Peanuts", the sister of Charlie Brown.  Today Lucy is #35 on the list.

     Jacqueline Kennedy, the First Lady of the United States from 1961 to 1963, caused a surge in popularity of the beautiful French name.  By the time I named my daughter Jacqueline after Mrs. Kennedy in 2003, the name sat at #100.  Today it sits at #239.

     So what is the top baby name for 2014?  Olivia.