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Monday, 11 November 2013 13:41 Jennifer Devore
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The site of America's first Thanksgiving is up for debate, notably where Virginia is concerned. (Aside: where there are matters of national origin or first American families, Virginia will always concern itself.) Clearly, the universally agreed-upon venue for the first Thanksgiving remains Plymouth, Massachusetts. The famously friendly, plum-and-pumpkin, good cheer feast of deer, fish and clams amongst English colonists, Mass. Gov. Wm. Bradford with neighborhood Wampanoag Indians and their chief Massasoit is the model on which all modern Thanksgiving gatherings are re-imagined. Of course, as oft happens, Virginia says they did it first, if not with far less of that good cheer. Initializing the holiday with a much more boring and somber Thanksgiving, the Old Dominion holds firm to its claim, via Berkeley Plantation in 1619. Specious, but technically arguable, Berkeley's riparian shores along the James River ripple with questionable authenticity.

December 4, 1619, one year prior to the legendary Plymouth Rock, Mayflower landing, Captain John Woodleaf and a few dozen English settlers landed some twenty miles shy of Jamestowne Island, at Berkeley Hundred: an 8,000-acre land grant of the Virginia Company of London awarded to Sir William Throckmorton, Sir George Yeardley, George Thorpe, Richard Berkeley and John Smyth in 1618. After ten weeks at sea, and upon landing on Virginia soil, naturally, Captain Woodleaf and his men, the legend goes, dropped to their knees and Woodleaf thanked God then and there in an impromptu, outdoor service for their safe arrival. (Blink, blink.) The official Charter of Berkeley Hundred states “We ordaine [sic] that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantation in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” So, yeah. It was a first Thanksgiving, of sorts.

Whatever your thoughts about all that, Berkeley Plantation (open for tours), built in 1726 and cup o' sugar-sharing distance to neighboring Westover Plantation (not open for tours, but stunning if you're lucky enough to garner a private showing, comme Moi), remains standing and is a spectacular monument to early-Georgian architecture. Of most historical importance, Berkeley is ancestral home to the Harrison Family. Here sits the home of both Declaration of Independence Signer and Virginia governor, Benjamin Harrison V, as well as two U.S. Presidents: William Henry Harrison (#9) and his grandson, Benjamin Harrison (#23). Notably, Wm. Henry also hits a Berkeley historical marker as the U.S. president with the shortest tenure: a mere thirty-two days. True to his "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too", frontiersman persona and fearing he might look like a weak leader, Harrison refused to don neither coat nor chapeau on his bitterly cold, winter inauguration day. (Trying to imagine President Harrison with an aide holding an umbrella over his head. Cannot.) One moth later, he died of pneumonia. Wear your coats, kids; but carry your own umbrellas. Queen Elizabeth II does.

Two-hundred and forty-four years after Woodleaf and his crew landed on James River shores, President Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, amidst the horror of the Civil War, proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens, to be honoured the last Thursday of November. For the next seventy-five years, U.S. presidents followed suit. Then FDR came along and, naturally, made some changes.

President Roosevelt noted there were five Thursdays in November of 1939; he also noted, helped along with some nudging by retailers, this meant Thanksgiving would fall on the 30th, leaving a mere twenty-four shopping days to Christmas. A nation still recovering from The Great Depression needed a little more shopping therapy than that and, lo and behold, his Thanksgiving Proclamation set the penultimate Thursday of the month as Thanksgiving Day. Of course, as folks are wont to do, everybody bitched about this for reasons ranging from calendar reprinting to football game rescheduling to crying political foul, his Republican opponents even calling it Franksgiving. Since then, the day has stuck like Mom's cheesy potatoes to a serving spoon and we dare any sitting president to even think about changing it back to a pre-FDR date.

Regardless of where and when you like your Thanksgiving, North or South, penultimate or ultimate, whether you prefer Sam Adams or Southern Comfort, Nathaniel Hawthorne or Tennessee Williams, Patrick Leahy or Saxby Chambliss, Patriots or Cowboys, Americans can all agree 'tis a fabulous day to feast, imbibe, dress up, share good cheer and, most American of all, watch TV!

If you happen to be in Virginia, you'll find more than a few great venues for your own Thanksgiving, should you choose dining out, instead of going the home-cooking route: Alexandria (a.k.a. Alex, by the locals), Arlington, Georgetown, Williamsburg, Richmond, Ghent, Charlottesville. No matter where you dine, there shall be no debate about this; a traditional, 17th or 18thC.  tavern meal is always a wonderful idea! If you've read my Savannah of Williamsburg novels, you will recall many a tavern scene; if you've not read them ... for what are you waiting?! Enjoy here a sample menu from King's Arms Tavern, along picturesque Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg. Best book now at any of CW's historic taverns! Can't do it this time? Book early for next year and make it a family plan! (Fellow vegetarians, take note: stick with the peanut soup, cheese sippets, pumpkin pie and copious amounts of Cabernet and authentic, Wampanoag cappuccino. You'll do fine!)

A Thanksgiving Feast at Colonial Williamsburg's King's Arms Tavern

  • First Course
Peanut Soup
garnished with chopped peanuts and sippets (cheese crisps)
King’s Arms Seasonal Greens
with marinated tomatoes, carrots, raspberry vinaigrette
  • Second Course
Roasted Turkey
with savory herb dressing and giblet gravy
Bourbon-Honey Roasted Yams
with Cranberry-Orange Relish
Pan-Cooked Red Snapper
with finest crabmeat, butter-dill sauce and roasted garlic potatoes
Slow-roasted Prime Rib of Beef
seasoned with colonial spices, red wine reduction, horseradish, roasted garlic potatoes
  • Third Course
Pumpkin Pie with nutmeg cream
Chocolate Cake with raspberry sauce
Pecan Pie with caramel drizzle
Williamsburg Cinnamon Ice Cream
R. Charlton's American Heritage Coffee

 

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Monday, 07 October 2013 00:00 Jennifer Devore
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Screams like a banshee for PSL and pilgrim shoes. Photo: JSDevore

Even the walruses have gone. Summer here in ~sigh~ perennially sunny San Diego is a fait accompli and so commences the greatest, worthiest, am besten time of year: autumn!! Automne, Herbst, Fall, Høst, Autunno ... whatever you may call it, call it verily the loveliest of seasons: time for Pumpkin Spice Latti, tall boots, wool fedoras, fingerless gloves, empty beaches, ghostly harbors, Poe, Agatha Christie, Midsomer Murders, and so much of that which demands a fireplace-warmed and foggy eve in Bar Harbor, Salem, Seattle or Monterey. 'Tis also the time for prepping one's Hallowe'en costume!

Yes, many of you know well, I have a costuming addiction. From tossing on togs for a bike ride (Last week, I pretended I was in Amsterdam, so I donned my plaid, Banana Republic newsboy cap, Heidi skirt and Juicy Couture, cotton halter top to peddle to a fave coffeehouse. Serious cyclists always strike me as so tense and uncomfortable as they whizz past; I much prefer cruisin' in my Miss Marple shoes and bobby sox.) to deciding what to wear to a fantasy football party (Yes, I went to a footballesque gathering ... sort of proto-autumnal. Plus, there were Bloody Marys.) to selecting just the right vestments for an airport pick-up (depends on the airport), I just plain ol' enjoy the art of the ensemble. Naturally, this culminates each year with the Hallowe'en selection ... this year, I'm flat busted for ideas.

Maybe it's because I've been overdoing the holiday for x-number of years; I've been everything. (Hey, that would be a cool, seasonal, Weird Al-style version of Johnny Cash's I've Been Everywhere.) Short of making a bulleted list, which I do love to make, I was all the generics, as a child: black cat, bunny rabbit, witch, pumpkin (as an infant) etc. Later on, costumes ranged from saloon girls to Civil War nurses, 17thC. cavaliers to pirates, Raggedy Ann to Medieval princesses and varied historical and/or Disney figures. As of late, I've tended toward the ladies of Tim Burton: Mrs. Lovett, Mirana the White Queen and such. Now, I'm tapped out, mostly.

I toyed with Sally from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas; although, I don't know about dying my hair that red for one night, and I find red wigs to always look like bad yarn. Wednesday Addams is a natural, but almost too much so. Friends would say, "Why no costume this year?" Plus, all my dolls are in storage (Yes, I have a sizable doll collection, mostly Barbies.) and I need a baroque doll (which I do have, yet can't get to easily) so I can pop off her head. You know, as in Wednesday's Marie Antoinette doll?

I even pondered Princess Leia in the Gold Bikini: too slutty. (Plus, I can't see that costume anymore without picturing Ross Geller's mom. "Okay, here we go. I'm Jabba's prisoner ... Come on, sweetie. You're like, freaking me out here.") Apropos, I do like the idea of Han Solo (in theory as well as cosplay); I think I can pull it together, minus the holster and Mauser blaster. Of course, if one is going to go SW, one has a moral responsibility. Also, one does not want to fuck with the Rebel Legion and their costuming standards. Really. I can't just sew some red ribbons down my trousers; they have to be Corellian bloodstripes: 1" x 1/4" with 1/8" in between stripes. My holster, blaster and belt have to be correct and I'd better find the proper droid caller to affix or I am in deep bantha poodoo.

I've also considered Jim Morrison; I have the curls, the Concho belt, the chambray shirt and the sunglasses, but no leather pants. I think some years, Napoleon; I have the breeches, boots and could fashion a jacket, but no hat. Additionally, I've always loved the French gendarme uniform; yet, I'd have to mug a cocktail waitress at Paris in Vegas for the gear. I don't know what to do.

"Hey, Jen. Why didn't you dress up this year?"

 

Any ideas?

 
Monday, 23 September 2013 00:00 Jennifer Devore
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"All the French I know, I learned from my perfume bottles."  -Miss Piggy

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All I know about being a girl I learned from Miss Piggy. Sure, mix in some stuff I learned from Mom, Scarlett O'Hara, Jane Austen, Wonder Woman, Veronica and Sally Ride. Yet, Piggy passed on to me tenacious lessons of immovable, stalking-love, perfecting the hair-flip, sprinkling one's conversations with French and always being ready for the camera. She also imbued the beauty of a well-timed karate chop. Hiiiiiya!

Though, it was not just Miss Piggy who helped me become the half-woman/half-TV character I am today; every loyal subject of Jim Henson and Muppetdom guided me through infancy, childhood and into a very cheerful and dorky adolescence, wherein my Muppet DNA ran so fiercely and powerfully through my cells that I was immune to the fear, peer pressure and derision experienced by mere, common teenagers. No fear on Sesame Street or The Muppet Show, no fear in "real life". Right?) The Henson clan held my felt hand and steered me straight on course for a ridiculously happy, borderline reality-impaired, adulthood.

~insert Kermit's The Muppet Show opening cheer, skinny green arms akimbo~

Beaker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, clearly the brains behind the worldwide DNA infusion (Can you see it? A double-helix of Muppet DNA, all made of felt and spinning, laughing, dancing and dipping glamorously to ballroom music? Yeah, I can see it.), exposed the explosive dangers of the lab to me and, accordingly, I kept away from a hard science major in college. Ditto for the Swedish Chef; I fear the kitchen, and knives, to this day: not to mention human hands. Gonzo urged me to love even poultry; I have been a vegetarian for too many years to count now. Gonzo also enlightened the world that labels are unnecessary. Gonzo was, and still is, a creature of unknown lineage and he rocked it. Lew Zealand illustrated that fish don't need water, just hugs and pets. Beauregard was sweet and chipper, though just a janitor, and with his plaid flannel shirt was Grunge way before Kurt Cobain was. Scooter knew how to focus on a task and how to manage a production with nothing more than a clipboard and a headset, all while sporting that dynamite lime-green satin jacket. Fozzie the Bear. Well, what can one say about Fozzie? Fozzie proved there is no line between comedy and irritation. If a joke doesn't work, extrapolate another from that failed one and keep on trucking until the giant hook comes for you. (Damn, that thing is hard to dodge.)

Every Muppet was born with a quality worthy of academic study. There isn't a bad apple in the barrel and Jim Henson knew that. Even Oscar the Grouch isn't bad; he's just crafted that way. Every creature is worthy, worthier sometimes, than humans of anthropomorphism. Rats love margaritas and moonlight buffets on Caribbean cruises just like everyone else. Cockroaches, shrimp, peas and cauliflower are people, too, and deserve respect. This is where the deepest and best lessons lie. Like any superhero, there is an everymanimal quality with which all mortals can identify. Like Charlie Brown, Spongebob, Bobby Hill, Winnie-the-Pooh or Anderson Cooper, there is a positive, optimistic charm that flows endlessly and makes us say, "Hey, man. No worries. It's all good." Pigs in Space and Veterinary Hospital exhibited humor and gravity, or lack thereof in the former, can go hand-in-hand. They also taught me to listen to bold, narrative voices coming from the skylights. (Was there ever a hotter pig than Link, btw?)

If Piggy, and Mom, taught me a girl can never have too much jewelry and a karate chop is okay if you've been offended, and Gonzo showed me love knows no species and chickens deserve pearls and not to be eaten, and Fozzie proved spirit, grit and determination can get you through even the toughest of crowds, Kermit was the real Sensei. What Kermit endowed in me cannot be spoken, written or shared. Like Yoda, Linus, Mulder, Serious Jerry or Daddy, Kermit imparted wisdom that just, is. Honor, truth, patience, kindness, tenacity and love.

Daddy loves to tell of the day Sesame Street first aired. I was two years old and he would become a child psychologist years later. He plopped me down in front of the television and watched with me as we learned a new letter and a new number with the help of a funny, furry, puppet-type thing that morning. He thought it was the greatest thing since pants. From that day onward, 123 Sesame St. was a daily destination and, like a good American child, I soon craved any and all merchandise associated with anything Jim Henson touched. I still have my Grover hand-Muppet and because of Super Grover, I would never be so afraid of the monster at the end of this book, that I would not continue to the end of the book. Wocka, wocka, wocka!

 
Friday, 19 July 2013 11:53 Jennifer Devore
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"Samuel", we'll call him, an affable, casually t-shirted executive at a prominent, East Coast-based comic book distributor, sat next to us last night at Jolt 'N Joe's in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, after the Con closed its doors.

San Diego Comic-Con, Convention Center 2013 Photo: JSDevore

"Let's see," he started, looking up and to the right as he counted silently in his head, "I guess I've been coming to Comic-Con since 1994. It's nuts. Each year when you think it can't get any crazier, the next year is worse. Each day gets worse. Friday will be crazier than today, Saturday crazier than that."

"When did you notice it start to grow so wild?" I asked over my Dirty Shirley, a Shirley Temple with Vodka.

Again, he looked up and t the right, his lips counting the years. He swirled his Budweiser bottle and, upon settling on an answer, set it down with a clink.

"2004, I'd say. When Hollywood started paying attention. That's when it really changed. Hollywood realized, 'Hey. There's a key demo here and they're trapped."

My Viking took a sip of his G$T and said, "Totally trapped. Nowhere to go but Mexico."

 

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Meet Miss JennyPop

Jennifer Susannah Devore

Jenny Pop is the acclaimed Author of the Savannah of Williamsburg series of books and The Darlings of Orange County. In addition, Jen is a prolific consumer of media and pop culture. Never leaving the house without her journal and fave Waterman pen, an old-fashioned, analog book (usually Hunter S. Thompson) and a fresh coat of lipstick, she is constantly on the hunt for fun, espresso, animation  and comics of any kind and always ready for an impromptu day at Disneyland.  JennyPop.net is a natural extension of  Jen's World; so, spend some time visiting. You'll have fun, she promises!

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The Darlings of Orange County

The sexy, cashmere beaches of southern California aren't always what they seem. The dirty little secret here is what it takes to survive. Everyone has a trick up their silk sleeve. Liz Lemon meets Parker Posey, Veronica Darling is smart enough to know what it takes and is willing to soil her soul to bring Hollywood to the California Riviera. The Darlings of Orange County is a salacious, hilarious, harrowing romp chock full of eco-terrorism, horse-racing scandals, weed deals and the obligatory lipstick-lesbian affair that inevitably leads to murder. It all climaxes in a white-knuckled, glitzy, celebrity-stacked Laguna Beach Film Premiere that spells success for Veronica Darling and trouble for her friends and family.

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Savannah Prudence Squirrel

Savannah Prudence Squirrel

Meet Miss Savannah of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Equal parts Amelia Earhart, Lucy Honeychurch, Scarlett O'Hara and Miss Piggy, Savannah is a scholar, adventurer and a lady. Moreover, she is a pebble in the silver-buckled shoe of injustice and with her best pals she is not a squirrel to challenge. She carries  the Magna Carta in one paw and the latest Parisian silk bag in her other. Whether fighting to end slavery, arguing for freedom of the press or scheming to end a duel, Miss Savannah does so with wit and persistence. Read more to meet her best friends and accomplices: Ichabod Wolfgang and Dante Marcus Pritchen. Prepare to also meet pirates, a Venetian fox and an Irish gull, The Commodore!

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Hannah Hart, ghost dame of the Hotel del Coronado

So, here's the low down, all you Joes and Janes ... I'm Hannah Hart, dead girl. Don't fret, it's actually a sweet dish being dead. Having perished in 1934 in a terrifically vicious accessories incident with actress Ida Lupino, I reside where I died: San Diego's gorgeous Hotel del Coronado. It ain't a bad gig at all, really! Great weather, swanky guests (not to mention a few fellow ghosties), amazing amenities, my own private turret overlooking the sea and all the java juice and giggle water I can handle; plus, these bartenders know how to make a Planter's Punch like nobody's business! See, I've been waiting for this Internet thing forever ... now, instead of slamming doors and moving lamps, I get to wag my tongue all I like at goodtobeageek.com

Abyssinia, kids!