Crown Jewels of England (Part One)

Coronation accessories

On a trip to England in 1998 we visited the Tower of London and were able to see the Crown Jewels of England.  They are held in a high security section in a building known as the Jewel House.  By definition, the Crown Jewels are the Coronation regalia used for the crowning ceremony of the English kings and queens since 1660.  More items were added to the collection over the centuries to include additional crowns acquired by various English monarchs, ceremonial robes, church and banquet plate, medals, insignia and the Royal christening font which will be used shortly for the new Royal baby, HRH Prince George of Cambridge.  (For additional information about this ceremony, please see this month’s Celebration post, A Royal Christening)

In this post, I will discuss the regalia used during the coronation ceremony which is traditional held at Westminster Abbey in London, England.  (For information about the remaining items in the collection, please check out the Crown Jewels of England (Part Two).  Britain is the only European monarchy to still use regalia for the consecration ceremony of their king or queens and these are considered the main items of the Crown Jewels collection.  The coronation ceremony of the English monarch has taken place in Westminster Abbey since William I was crowned in 1066.  At the time of his coronation centuries ago there was an older smaller church on the site in the City of Westminster (London) prior to the current large Gothic cathedral.  Most people will recognize Westminster Abbey as the place where Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge married Catherine Middleton in April 2011.

During the coronation ceremony the Sovereign will wear several different robes and garments.  The first item of clothing is normally a crimson surcoat and is worn for the duration of the ceremony under all the other robes. The Sovereign will enter Westminster Abbey wearing the surcoat under the Robe of State.  In 1953, for her coronation Queen Elizabeth II worn a specially made gown designed by Norman Hartnell instead of the surcoat.

The coronation regalia items used in the first portion of the service are strictly ceremonial and are used only during the procession that precedes the Sovereign’s entrance into the Abbey.  These items are listed below:

  • The Royal Maces – There are sixteen royal maces in the Crown Jewels collection but only two are carried into the Abbey on coronation day.  Originally royal maces were used as protection weapons for the king’s sergeant of arms and later they developed into ceremonial staffs that represent royal authority.  The maces are approximately 5 feet in length and the head of each is decorated with the royal arms, cyphers and symbols of the rose, thistle, harp and fluer-de-lys.
  • The Three Ceremonial Swords – There are a total of five swords used in the coronation ceremony.  Three swords are used during the coronation procession into the Abbey; they are the Sword of Spiritual Justice, the Sword of Temporal Justice and the Sword of Mercy.  The swords were originally made for Charles I coronation and are among the few items of the crown jewels that survived and were not melted down by Oliver Cromwell.  The first two swords symbolize the Sovereign’s relationship with the church and the state.  The third sword, known as Edward the Confessor’s Sword, has a blade that is broken and squared.  This sword represents the quality of mercy and according to legend the tip was broken off by an angel to prevent a wrongful killing.

Coronation ceremonial swords 1

  • The Sword of State – This sword is the largest in the crown jewels collection and is carried during the procession into the Abbey and later exchanged for the Jeweled Sword of Offering during a later portion of the coronation ceremony.  The sword dates back to 1678 and has a steel blade with a wooden velvet covered scabbard which is decorated with silver gilt floral symbols of the United Kingdom and features a crosspiece in the form of a lion and a unicorn.  The Sword of State is also carried during the State Opening of Parliament.
  • St. Edward’s Staff – The original staff is traditionally thought to have been used by Edward the Confessor, but it did not survive when Oliver Cromwell melted down most of the crown jewels.  In 1660 it was recreated for the coronation of Charles II and is carried in the procession but has no official function in the coronation ceremony.  The plain gold rod comes in three sections with a steel spike at the end and is 56” in length and weighs 55 ounces.

After the procession, the Sovereign is formally introduced to the congregation and recites the coronation oath.  Next, the Sovereign is dressed in an anointing gown made of plain white cloth that fastens in the back, and the Archbishop of Canterbury uses holy water to anoint the Sovereign’s hands, breast and head.  The regalia items used in this portion of the coronation ceremony are listed below:

  • The Ampulla – which dates back to 1661, is a golden eagle flask which holds the consecrated holy oil which is poured into the coronation spoon to anoint the Sovereign.
  • The Coronation Spoon – The silver gilt spoon decorated with pearls is the oldest piece and dates back to St Edward coronation in 1349 when it was first recorded as part of the regalia.

Ampulla and coronation spoon

After the anointing ceremony, the Sovereign puts on a fresh clean tunic, known as the colobium sindonis, which is a loose white sleeveless undergarment made of linen and edged with a lace border that opens at the sides.  Between 1661 and 1838, new robes were customarily made for each monarch.  Since Queen Victoria’s coronation, all her successors have worn the same robe.  The following is a list of the other robes and garments worn during the investiture portion of the coronation ceremony:

  • The Supertunica – The Supertunica was made for the coronation of George V in 1911 and has been worn by George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.  It is full length long sleeved gold silk garment which opens in the front and is lined with red silk which is fastened with an embroidered belt with a gold buckle decorated with roses, thistles and shamrocks.
  • The Stole – The Stole is worn over the Supertunica and is a long narrow band of gold silk, lined with red silk and fringed ends.  Originally made for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, the Stole is embroidered in gold and colored threads and designed with symbols of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.
  • The Imperial Mantle – The Imperial Mantle was made for the coronation of George IV in 1821 and is designed in the style of earlier ones worn by the Tudor and Stuart monarchs, it is worn over the Supertunica and the Stole.  The Imperial Mantle is made of gold cloth, lined with red silk and woven with colored threads designed with a pattern of crowns, eagles, fleur-de-lis, roses, thistles and shamrock held together at the chest with a gold clasp in the form of an eagle.

Supertunica, stole and spurs

During the final portion of the coronation ceremony, the Sovereign is presented with various regalia ornaments and these items are listed below:

  • The Jeweled Sword of Offerings – This sword is the only one actually presented to the Sovereign by the Archbishop of Canterbury during the coronation ceremony.  Originally made for the coronation of George IV in 1911, the blade is made of steel with the hilt and the scabbard decorated with thousands of precious stones of diamonds, rubies and sapphires.
  • The Spurs – The Spurs date back to 1661 and were made for the coronation of Charles II.  Currently the Spurs are presented to the Sovereign to represent knighthood and chivalry; for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II the Spurs were briefly presented to her, never worn but symbolically placed on the altar.  The golden spurs are each designed with Tudor roses with a spike in the center and narrow velvet straps are attached to the buckles with gold embroidery thread.

the Orb, armills and coronation ring

  • The Armills – The Armills are symbolic of the Sovereign’s sincerity and wisdom.  For the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, she was presented with 22 carat gold Armills that are lined in red velvet with Tudor rose clasps as a gift from the Commonwealth governments.
  • The Orbs – There are two orbs in the crown jewels regalia, the Sovereign’s Orb and Queen Mary II Orb.  During the coronation ceremony, the Sovereign’s Orb is presented by the Archbishop and placed in the Sovereign’s right hand to represent supreme power and independent authority over the country; it was made for Charles II coronation in 1661 and has been used in all subsequent coronations.  The Orb is a golden hallow sphere 6.5” in diameter and decorated with a band of precious stones and pearls across the center and a half-band across the top.  As the Sovereign leaves the Abbey after the conclusion of the coronation ceremony the Orb is carried in their left hand.

The Queen Mary II Orb was made in 1689 for the coronation of William and Mary who came to the throne of England as equal King and Queen and reign jointly.  Two sets of regalia were needed for their coronation and this second orb was made for Queen Mary II and is smaller in diameter at 5.75” and is also decorated with precious stones and pearls.

  • The Coronation Rings – There are two different coronation rings in the regalia, the Sovereign’s Ring and the Queen Consort’s Ring.  During the coronation ceremony, the Sovereign’s Ring is place by the Archbishop on the fourth finger of the Sovereign’s right hand and represents kingly dignity.  The ring was originally made for the coronation of William IV in 1831 and has been used at the subsequent coronations from Edward VII through Queen Elizabeth II.  Queen Victoria had very small fingers so an exact replica of the Sovereign’s Ring was made in a smaller size for her coronation.  The Sovereign’s Ring is an octagonal sapphire set in gold with an overlay of four rectangular cut and one square cut rubies finished with a border of diamonds and an additional diamond on each side of the band.

The Queen Consort’s Ring was made for Queen Adelaide in 1831 for the coronation of her husband William IV and has been worn subsequently by Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.  The Queen Consort’s Ring is a rectangular ruby set in gold surrounded by diamonds with smaller rubies decorating the sides of the band.

  • The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross – This sceptre, which symbolizes temporal power, is presented to the Sovereign near the end of the coronation ceremony and is held in their right hand.  The Sovereign’s Sceptre with the Cross was originally made in 1661 for Charles II.  For the coronation of George V it was redesigned to incorporate the Cullinan I which is the largest flawless cut diamond in the world at over 530 carats.  (For additional information about the spectacular Cullinan diamonds used in the Sovereign’s Sceptre and the Imperial State Crown, please check out the Crown Jewels of England (Part Two).
  • The Sceptre with the Dove – The Sceptre with the Dove symbolizes spiritual power and is presented to the Sovereign to be held in their left hand.

Two additional scepters in the Crown Jewels regalia collection were used for the coronations when a queen consort is crowned, these include the smaller Queen Consort’s Sceptre with Cross and Ivory Rod Dove.

Swords and Sceptres

Finally the dramatic end of the coronation ceremony is when the Archbishop of Canterbury approaches the Sovereign, and solemnly holds the St. Edward’s Crown high for a few brief moments and then reverently places it upon the Sovereign’s head.  This act constitutes the actual crowning of the Sovereign who symbolically takes possession of the kingdom and then receives the homage of the other royal members, peers and clergy who have gathered in Westminster Abbey to witness the coronation ceremony.

  • The St. Edward’s Crown – This crown is one of the most important pieces of the coronation regalia and was originally made in 1661.  The St. Edward’s Crown is a solid gold frame formed in a circular designed with four crosses, four fluer-de-lis with two crossing arches topped with another cross.  The crown has 444 precious stones, including diamonds, sapphires, amethysts and topazes; and weighs almost five pounds.

St Edward's Crown


For more information about some of the remaining items in the royal collection, please check out the Crown Jewels of England (Part Two) which goes into details about such items as the Imperial State Crown, the George IV State Diadem, the Crown of Mary Modena, Queen Victoria’s small diamond crown and the Crown of Queen Elizabeth.  Other items in the collection also include several tiaras, necklaces and earring sets and a variety of pins worn by the previous British Royal family.

Travel – Hawaii (the 50th State)

Hawaii 1In celebration of this date in history when Hawaii officially became the 50th State, I would like to share the history of the islands and offer some travel suggestions for each of the main islands that have become known as the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii became a state on August 21, 1959 and is the 50th state of the United Sates.  The state is unusual because unlike the “mainland” United States, the state of Hawaii is actually a group of six main volcanic islands that are located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  The islands are Hawaii (also known as the Big Island), Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai.  Several smaller islands are also included within the state of Hawaii and are not as well known as the major islands in the chain and generally are not included as tourist destinations.

Hawaii Tiki godAnthropologists have found archaeological evidence that dates the earliest human inhabitants on the islands of Hawaii were originally Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands and they arrived on the islands as early as 300-500 AD, there is an ongoing debate regarding a more specific date of the first arrival.  The Polynesians arrived on the shores of Hawaii in double hulled canoes which travel over 3,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean from their original home.  Living in this new land, they lived in harmony with nature and were able to provide seafood to eat while still being careful to conserve the fish in the reefs or streams and to never abuse the land which provided their crops.  These new Hawaiians eventually learned to govern themselves under a set of rules called the Kapu system, and the first chief, Pa’ao, introduced the building of heiaus (Hawaiian temples) and the practice of human sacrifices.

In 1778, Captain James Cook, a British explorer, sailed into Waimea Bay on Kauai becoming the first European to visit the Hawaiian Islands.  Cook returned to the islands again in 1779, this time sailing into Kealakekua Bay on the “Big Island” of Hawaii.  After eight weeks of exploration of the islands, Cook prepared to leave but the foremast of his ship broke and he returned to Kealakekua Bay for repairs. At this point, tensions suddenly grew between the Hawaiians and Cook’s crew and eventually a group of Hawaiian took one of Cook’s smaller boats.  In retaliation Cook’s crew attempted to take Kalaniopuu, the Hawaiian chief, as a hostage in hopes to reclaim their boat in exchange. To prevent their King from being abducted, the Hawaiians attacked Cook and his men as they tried to launch their boat in an attempt to flee and in the confrontation Cook was killed.

King Kamehameha IAt this point in the history of Hawaii, each island still had several chiefs and there was no single ruler that controlled all the islands.  Then, a young chief named Kamehameha set out to conquer the other chiefs.  By 1791, he defeated the chief on the Big Island and by 1795 he had conquered and gained control of the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Oahu.  In 1810 the chief that ruled Kauai finally pledged his loyalty to Kamehameha who finally came to rule as the first King of Hawaii.  Kamehameha ruled Hawaii with complete control and tried to prepare and protect the Hawaiian people for the Europeans that were starting to come to the islands in increasing numbers.  Unfortunately the King could not protect them from disease and the Hawaiian population decreased by 80% from influenza, typhoid fever and measles during this period.

In 1820 the first Christian missionaries arrived and changed the islands forever.  With the end of the Kapu system and their conversion to Christianity, the ancient Hawaiian temples were destroyed and replace with Christian churches.  The missionaries also brought reading and writing to Hawaii, which was important because prior to this time there was no written language of the Hawaiian people.  In 1840 the Hawaiian Parliament and the Supreme Court were formed and a constitution was written.  By 1843, land was available for purchase and for the first time foreigners could own land on Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaiian coat of arms 1    Iolani Palace

By this time in the history of Hawaii, there had been a succession of Kings who lived in their own houses during their reigns until finally in 1882 Iolani Palace was built on Oahu and it became the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchy.  King Kalakaua was the first monarch to live in the palace.  During the past decades, Hawaii had experienced a great agricultural boom which brought many immigrants from Japan, China and the Philippines to work in the sugarcane and pineapple fields which were under the control of American entrepreneurs; also the U.S. military became a presence in the region during this same period.  Unfortunately, this foreign influence greatly dominated the islands and the King sadly became aware that the Hawaiian native culture was starting to be lost and he set a course to preserve the Hawaiian traditions and customs.  When he died in 1891 his sister became Queen Lilliuokalani.  During her brief reign she attempted to institute a new Hawaiian constitution that would strengthen the Hawaiian monarchy and reduce the oppression of native Hawaiian people, the conflict between royalty and the native Hawaiian and the American businessman only continued to grow.  Finally, in order to protect their businesses, the American entrepreneurs seized control of the islands with the aid of the U.S. military.  In 1893 Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown, imprisoned and forced to sign a document relinquishing her power.  She underwent a public trail and was found guilty, fined and sentenced to 5 years of hard labor.  This sentence was later changed to house arrest in the Iolani Palace where she was forced to live in only one of the rooms, she served an additional year under house arrest but the remaining condition was that she was forbidden from ever leaving the island of Oahu.

King Kalakaua Queen Liliuokalani

At this period in the history of Hawaii, the Republic of Hawaii was formed and eventually in 1898 the U.S. government claimed the Hawaiian Islands as a U.S. territory.  Then sixty years later in 1958 the voters of Hawaii approved statehood and on August 21, 1959 Hawaii officially became the 50th state of the United States.

Jones Hawaii 2008

Travel recommendations for Hawaii

Hawaii’s diverse natural scenery of sandy beaches and clear ocean waters, tropical plants and beautiful flowers, active volcanoes and warm climate that is perfect for outdoor sports such as surfing and scuba diving or snorkeling, all these things make Hawaii a wonderful vacation destination.  We have been fortunate to have visited Oahu and the “Big Island” of Hawaii in October 2008, my husband had visited several of the islands before but this was the first trip for both my daughter and I to Hawaii.

Listed are the different islands and suggested sites to visit – (asterisk * designates a site that we visited and personally recommend)

Hawaii (the Big Island)

This island is the largest of the six islands with a total area of 4,028 miles.  That is the current estimated land mass because with three active volcanoes on the island it is continuing to grow in size.  The highest point on the island is the dormant volcano Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet.  The largest cities on the island are Hilo and Kona.

2008 - Hawaii Volcanoes National ParkSuggested places to visit are:

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park *
  • Mauna Kea Summit and Observatory
  • Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden*
  • Kealakekua Bay with the Captain Cook Monument.
  • Akaka Falls State Park*
  • Kaloko-Honokohau National Historial Park
  • Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park*


Maui is the second largest island with a total area of 727 miles; the highest point is Haleakala at 10,023 feet.  The largest town is Wailuku; other cities are Lahaina and Hana.  Maui is known for the beaches and lowlands with several mountain ranges divided by spectacular valleys.

Pools-of-OheoSuggested places to visit are:

  • Haleakala National Park *
  • Iao Valley State Park
  • Kaanapali Beach
  • Makena Beach State Park
  • Pools of Oheo *


Oahu is the third largest island with a total area of 597 miles but has the largest population of the six islands.  The largest city is Honolulu and it is the state capital of Hawaii and the center of the state’s government and economy.  Pearl Harbor is home to the largest U.S. Naval fleet in the Pacific.  Oahu has two main mountain ranges separated by a valley and coastal plains.  The North Shore of the island is also a preferred tourist destination and it is less congested than Honolulu.  During our stay on Oahu we visited two very popular tourist destinations.  (If you are interested, please check out these two Travel posts:  Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the Polynesian Cultural Center)

diamond-headSuggested places to visit are:

  • Pearl Harbor *
  • Iolani Palace State Monument *
  • Bishop Museum *
  • Diamond Head State Monument
  • Waimea Valley *
  • Polynesian Cultural Center *
  • Dole Plantation Center *


Kauai is the fourth largest island with a total area of 562 miles and the highest point is Kawaikini at 5,243 feet.  It is the oldest of the six main islands as it is located the farthest from the hotspot that formed the islands.  Kauai has several mountain ranges, steep cliffs and rugged coastlines and it is known as the Garden Island due it the lush landscape.  Cities on the island include Hanalei, Hanapepe.

Waimea-CanyonSuggested places to visit are:

  • Napali Coast
  • Waimea Canyon *
  • Poipu Beach Park
  • Wailua Falls * and Opaekaa Falls
  • Spouting Horn
  • Kilauea Lighthouse


The island of Molokai covers 260 square miles and the highest point is Kamakou at 4,961 feet.  There are two mountain ranges, the East Molakai and the West Molokai, on the island and these are extinct volcanoes.  Molokai is also known for their beautiful coral reefs.  The major city is Kaunakakai.

kapuaiwa_coconut_groveSuggested places to visit are:

  • Kalaupapa National Historical Park
  • Paphaku Beach
  • Halwa Valley
  • Hawaiian Fishponds of Molokai
  • Kapuaiwa Coconut Grove


The island of Lanai covers 140 square miles and the only town on the island is Lanai City.  Lanai is known as the Pineapple Island because in the past the island was completely covered by a pineapple plantation but today the island is mainly undeveloped and many of the roads are unpaved.

Puu PeheSuggested places to visit are:

  • Hulopoe Bay
  • Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach)
  • Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods)
  • Munro Trail
  • Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock)

Gene Roddenberry’s Birthday

Star Trek Experience

As the first guest writer on Barbara’s Lifestyle Blog I have some pretty big shoes to fill.  I think Barbara chose this time to have a guest writer on this specific topic because she admits she knows nothing about Star Trek and over the years I have forced her to watch all the Star Trek television shows and movies and to attend exhibitions shows over the last few decades.

For those of you who don’t know me, yes, I am a Trekkie!  (That’s me in the above photo – the second guy from the right in the gold uniform!)    I have been watching the show since I got control of the television remote many years ago, longer than I’m willing to admit to!  I can tell you the plot of any of the original series episodes within 30 seconds of seeing it and I’m proud of it!  Every year Barbara makes me my own mini Christmas tree completely decorated with Star Trek ornaments.  Star Trek tree 2011

Why am I rambling on about Star Trek?  Because today is Gene Roddenberry’s birthday and he is the father of Star Trek.  Gene Roddenberry was born in El Paso, Texas on August 19, 1921 and he died October 24, 1991.  Growing up Gene wanted to be a police officer like his father.  He attended Los Angeles College and studied Police Sciences. There he gained an interest in aeronautics and earned his pilot’s license through the Army Air Corps Civilian Pilot training program.  In 1941 he graduated and enlisted as a pilot in the newly formed Army Air Force.  During World War II he flew 89 combat missions in the South Pacific.  During this time he also started writing.

After the war Gene went to work as a pilot for Pan American World Airways.  His interest in writing continued and in 1949 he quit the airline to go to Hollywood to be a screenwriter. To support his family while building his writing career he joined the Los Angeles Police Department where he eventually rose to the rank of sergeant and and became William H. Parker’s chief speech writer.

In 1956 his writing career gained steam and he was able to quit the LAPD.  Over the next several years he wrote episodes for several series including “Have Gun – Will Travel” and “Highway Patrol”.  Ultimately he started to produce his own television series.  Star Trek was picked up by Desilu Studios and was aired on NBC starting in 1966.  The original series lasted for three years, but reruns can still be found on late night television in syndication.

Gene Roddenberry Interesting Facts

  • His full name was Eugene Wesley Roddenberry.
  • He was the first member of his family to achieve a college degree.
  • He achieved the rank of Captain and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medals.
  • Wrote under the pseudonym “Robert Wesley” in his early career.
  • He had affairs with both Nichelle Nichols and Majel Barrett who he later married.
  • He was the first writer/producer to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • In 1992, a portion of Roddenberry’s ashes flew and returned to earth on the Space Shuttle Columbia mission STS-52.

Dry DockStar Trek

Space…the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise,
its five-year mission

….to explore strange new worlds
…to seek out new life and new civilizations
…to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Gene Roddenberry (August 10, 1966)

Star Trek is by far the most successful franchise Gene Roddenberry created.  While he had little to do with some of the later series and movies his name recognition is so great he is always given creator, writer or producer credit.  The franchise to date includes: Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space 9; Star Trek: Voyager, Enterprise, Star Trek: The Animated Series, 13 movies, hundreds of books and Star Trek: Comic Books.

Over the years there have also been a couple of Star Trek events I have participated in. The first was Star Trek: The Experience  which ran at the Las Vegas Hilton from 1998 to 2008  This was an interactive Star Trek set where you walked through and were attacked by the Borg or Klingons. Quark’s (the theme restaurant) had a fun atmosphere and the food was fair.  The gift shop had some amazing props and show artifacts.  I got my Command uniform there (that’s the red one from Star Trek: The Next Generation) and a Star Trek Visa Card which unfortunately Bank of America no longer offers.

Resistance is Futile

We also went to see a Star Trek exhibit in Philadelphia in 2009 while we were taking one of our summer road trips.  They had various uniforms, props and a full bridge where we took some photos  (I wish I had dressed a little less casual…)


 Andorian and other aliens

Ferengi      Vulcan
Social themes in Star Trek

While Gene Roddenberry was far from perfect (he had several extramarital affairs, he is said to have stolen other’s ideas and reportedly had actors call him “Master”), he was a visionary and extremely socially conscious.  He constantly fought NBC on social issues such as woman’s rights and racial equality.  Originally he cast Majel Barrett as “Number One”, captian Pike’s first officer, but NBC didn’t think the public would accept a woman in a position of authority.

He also cast Nichelle Nichols in an equal role (not as a servant or entertainer of some kind).  When the network wouldn’t hire her as a full time cast member he hired her as a day player and cast her in as many roles as the rest of the crew.  Nichelle wanted to leave the show after the first season, but Dr. Martin Luther King asked her to remain on as she was a role model for African Americans.  Remaining on the show lead to the first interracial kiss on TV in the 1968 episode “Plato’s Stepchildren“.

Star Trek Trivia

  • Star Trek technology is alive and real today.  Key examples are:
    • 3 1/2 inch floppy disks
    • Tablet computers
    • Flip Phones (communicators)
    • Video conferencing
    • Flat Screen Television
  • Amazon has 56,777 Star Trek items for sale
  • The original name for Star Trek was “Wagon Train to the Stars”
  • DeForest Kelly was originally offered the role of Spock
  • James Doohan lost his middle finger on his right hand during World War II.  He hid it during almost all of the episodes.
  • Spock’s mother was unable to make the Live Long and Prosper sign with her hand. She had to pre-position her hand and lift it.
  • Majel Barrett played in the original Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and several of the Star Trek movies. She provided several of the voices in the animated series and she was the voice of the computer on most of the series and movies.
  • Contrary to popular belief, I was only aboard the Enterprise for a short time.

Captian Jones

I hope you enjoyed reading this guest post as much as I enjoyed writing it.  If you did, please leave some wonderful comments so Barbara will let me write another!

Jeff Jones

Ideas and Tips for a Great School Year

School supplies 1

August … in our home it means that summer break is almost over and a new school year is about to start!  Of course, it also means that it is time to shop for new school clothes (kids grow so fast!) and new school supplies.    When our daughter was in elementary school I was able to do most of the shopping quickly by myself but now that she is an “official” teenage for the last couple of years she has been very particular about everything from clothes, backpack, binder, etc.

Preparing for a new school year can be very time consuming and a stressful process.  Establishing some family back-to-school traditions is a wonderful way for children, preschool to high school age, to get excited about the start of a new school year but more importantly it builds wonderful memories and makes them feel loved. So, to help prepare for the upcoming new school year here are some tips and ideas:

End of summer traditions

  • Plan one last weekend trip to a favorite destination; maybe it is spending a day at the beach, lake or local pool, maybe it is going to the amusement park, miniature golf course or a water park.  The idea is to have a fun time at one of the family’s favorite summer locations.
  • Who says you have to go somewhere to have a good time, you can go camping in your own backyard!  Just set-up a tent with a few sleeping bags, be sure to have a couple of flashlights and the family can spend a wonderful night under the stars at your own home!  Plan a special family meal cooked on the outdoor grill and don’t forget the fixings for s’mores.
  • Before school starts, plan a great movie night; it can be at the local theatre in your town or in the comfort of your own home.  If the family is going out to the movie theatre, make it an event by first having a quick dinner at a favorite restaurant or after the movie go from some ice cream or frozen yogurt.  If the family is staying movie home to watch a movie; make a special dinner and a great dessert and don’t forget to make some popcorn to eat during the movie.
  • Another idea is to have a family game night.  Bring out the old favorite family games such as monopoly, scrabble, trivial pursuit, etc.  The important thing is to spend some quality time together as a family and have some fun!

Preparing for the new school year

  • Shopping for school supplies – usually the school will have a supply list available.  The key to shopping for school supplies is to shop early when the items are first available in the stores, then there is more of a selection and items are not sold out.  Since our daughter started middle school, I found that this is especially true for locker equipment and accessories which for some reason are usually in the stores in limited quantities.  In middle school decorating their locker is a big thing and items like locker shelves quickly sell out, so shop early to get the items that are needed.

CRAFT IDEA #1 – Last year, we decorated a white binder with a collage of pictures, it was a simple and easy project and my daughter loved it!  To make one of your own, just be sure to buy a binder with a plastic sleeve on the front.  Select a variety of photos and glue them to a sheet of white scrapbook paper pre-cut to fit the size of the binder.  Allow the glue is dry completely; then simply slip the paper with the photos into the front sleeve of the binder.

Decorated binders 1

CRAFT IDEA #2 – Add scrapbook stickers to plain binders for a one-of-a-kind look!

Decorated binders 2

  • Shopping for school clothes – For many families, especially those with young girls, shopping for school clothes can be a very stressful time.  I would advise first to set a budget; this should be discussed with your child prior to shopping.  Make a list of the items needed for the school year, leaving here in the Midwest our family will shop twice a year for school clothes, fall/winter clothes and spring clothes. Next, if you have a young daughter, buy some age appropriate fashion magazines and look through them together.  Discuss the school dress code and what the limitations are before shopping.  Hopefully with these suggestions a trip to the store to shop for school clothes will be a better experience.  I went to a private school and had to wear a uniform for all 12 years of school, if your child is wearing a uniform think about the importance of accessories; maybe a nice watch or some great jewelry so they can add their own personality into their daily outfit.  (Always check first to see what the school dress code allows)
  • Plan a visit to the school prior to the first day – this is a great idea if your child is transitioning from preschool to elementary school, elementary to middle school or middle to high school.    This is very helpful especially if your child is nervous and anxious about a change from one school to another.  When we moved from California to the Midwest, we took our daughter to her new school to check it out prior to the first day, she was able to see her new classroom, meet the teacher and take a tour of the school.
  • After summer mornings sleeping in, prepare your child by getting them up earlier each day for a week before the first day of school.  Check that their alarm clock is working correctly and if they don’t have one for their bedroom be sure to buy them one.

The night before the first day of school

  • Pick out the clothes the night before, this will help to hopefully avoid some of the madness and make getting dressed in the morning a little easier and faster.
  • Make sure they have everything they need in the bathroom, including toothbrush and toothpaste, etc.
  • Be sure that their backpack is ready to go and they have all their supplies so they can just grab it and leave in the morning and not forget anything.
  • Have a great quiet family dinner, it would be a great opportunity to talk about the first day and answer any questions.
  • Pack their lunch the night before, make sure that first day lunch has their favorite sandwich, a healthy snack and drink and a yummy treat for dessert.  Maybe tuck in a special note telling them how much you love them and wish them a great first day!
  • Go to bed a little earlier the night before the first day of school and get a good night’s rest.  Be sure to have your child set the alarm clock in their bedroom and also set the alarm clock in your bedroom, too.  The trick is to set your alarm for a few minutes earlier to make sure your child wakes up with plenty of time to eat a good breakfast and to get dressed.

The first day of school

  • One of the special traditions in our family is on the first day of school I always take a picture of my children with their backpacks and lunch boxes.  It is a wonderful way to look back and see how much they have grown and how fashion has changed over the years.  Be sure to allow at least an extra 10 minutes to take some quick photos.  (Another idea is to take a picture on the last day of school every year – this is something I didn’t do but now I wished I had!)

Chris first day of Kindergarten OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • Consider giving your child a small gift on the first day of school.  It can be something practical that they can use for school or maybe have a special toy for when they get home.
  • When your child gets home from school on the first day, have a festive banner welcoming them home.  Bake a special treat for your child to enjoy when they get home, maybe their favorite cake, cookies or cupcakes.  This is a great opportunity for your child to share their first day experience.

I hope everyone has a great start to the school year!!

J.K. Rowling’s Birthday

Joanne Rowling (born July 31, 1965) is a British writer who writes under the pen name of J.K. Rowling, she is the world famous author of the Harry Potter series.  She was born in Yate, Gloucestershire in England, her parents were Peter and Anne Rowling and she has a younger sister, Dianne.  As a teenager, Rowling’s life was difficult and she was unhappy.  Her mother was ill and she did not have a very good relationship with her father.  She eventually attended the University of Exeter and studied for a BA in French and Classic Literature, she graduated in 1986.

She began working at Amnesty International in London and was now living in Manchester.  When she was delayed for hours on a crowded train trip into London from Manchester she came up with the idea for a story about a young wizard, all the details of the various characters and the story concepts.  When she returned home she immediately began writing the story of the “Philosopher’s Stone”.  Shortly afterwards, her mother died after suffering from multiple sclerosis for the past ten years.  Suddenly her sadness at her mother’s passing affected her writing.

Seeking a change, Rowling had seen an advertisement for a teacher’s position in Portugal; she moved there and taught during the day but still continued to write the Harry Potter story at night.  While in Portugal she meet Jorge Arantes and they quickly married on October 16, 1992 and had a daughter named Jessica, who was born on July 27, 1993.  The marriage proved to be an unhappy one and they separated in November 1993.  Rowling and her daughter moved to be near her sister in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Rowling had returned a very broken women; she felt she was a failure in life with a bad marriage, no job prospects with a small child to raise and support on her own.  By 1994, Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression and had signed up for welfare benefits. To complicate matters, her estranged husband followed her to Scotland but she obtained a restraining order and finally filed for a divorce.  To set a goal for herself, she returned to college and began a course at Edinburgh University to get a post graduate teaching certificate.  During this time she would take her daughter on walks around Edinburgh and once Jessica fell asleep on daily walks she would stop in cafes to continue to write her Harry Potter story.

By 1995, Rowling had finished Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and submitted the manuscript to twelve publishing houses which all rejected the story.  A year later she finally had a publisher, Bloomsbury a publishing house located in London.  She was advised to keep her day job since there was very little chance to make money writing children’s books.  Within a few months after the book’s release she began receiving awards for her first Harry Potter book, one of the most the prestigious British book award was for Children’s Book of the Year.  By 1998, Scholastic Inc. secured the rights to publish Harry Potter in the United States.  With her large advance of $105,000 Rowling soon moved from a small flat into a large house in Edinburgh.

The worldwide success of the first Harry Potter books led to the publishing of “The Chamber of Secrets” in 1998, “The Prisoner of Azkaban” in 1999, and “The Goblet of Fire” in 2000.  After a three year interval she continued the successful series with “The Order of the Phoenix” in 2003, “The Half-Blood Prince” in 2005 and the final book “The Deathly Hallows” in 2007.  The last four books set publishing records and the series has been translated in 65 languages, Harry Potter was now a global brand worth an estimated $15 billion.

In 1998, Warner Bros. purchased the film rights and Rowling stipulated in her contract that she wanted the films to be shot in Britain with an all-British cast and she also retained creative control and script approval.  The film adaption of “The Philosopher’s Stone” (published in the U.S. as “The Sorcerer’s Stone”) was released in 2001, followed by “The Chamber of Secrets” in 2002, “The Prisoner of Azkaban” in 2004,”The Goblet of Fire” in 2005, “The Order of the Phoenix” in 2007 and “The Half-Blood Prince” in 2009.  The final book was divided into movies, “The Deathly Hallows Part One” released in 2010 and “Part Two” in 2011.

In the years since writing the first Harry Potter book, Rowling’s life has completely changed from relative poverty to wealth and financial security.  She found personal happiness as well, marrying Neil Michael Murray in 2001.  Their son, David, was born on March 24, 2003 and their daughter, Mackenzie, was born on January 23, 2005.

Her professional career has flourished as well and in 2010 at the Universal Resort in Orlando, Florida; the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened.  The architecture of this unique section of the Island of Adventure Theme Park is truly a visual wonder.  It has proved to be so successful with the park’s visitors that an expansion of the Wizarding World has recently been announced to open in 2014.  In the meantime, Rowling has continued her writing career with the recent publication of the book, “The Casual Vacancy” in 2012 which is a complete departure from the Harry Potter series.  It also has been recently revealed that Rowling, writing under the name of Robert Gailbraith, is the true author of the crime fiction book “The Cuckoo’s Calling” released in 2013.

J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter Trivia

  • Rowling’s publisher suggested she use initials rather than her real name in order to appeal to male readers since they would probably not read an adventure/fantasy book written by a woman author.  She chose the initials J.K., J for Joanne which is her birth name and she selected K for Kathleen which is her grandmother’s name.
  • J.K. Rowling is the first person to become a billionaire by writing books.
  • Harry’s birthday of July 31, 1980 which is the same month and date as Rowling birthday, but she was born in 1966.
  • Rowling has said that she partially based the character of Hermione on herself when she was the same age, 11 years old at the start of the Harry potter series.
  • Rowling has said that the inspiration for the name of Harry Potter’s school, known as “Hogwarts”, came from the name of a plant that she saw in the Kew Gardens in New York City.
  • The headmaster at St. Michael’s Primary School was Alfred Dunn and she has suggested that he was the inspiration for the character of Hogwarts headmaster, Albus Dumbledore.
  • At one point in her life, Rowlings struggled with the disease of depression.  She has said that the Dementors, which are the deadly phantoms that guard Azkaban Prison in the Harry potter series, represent depression and the darkness that it brings to a life.
  • Rowling has said that she considered a small part in the first film playing Lily Potter (Harry’s mother) in the Mirror of Erised scene.  Ultimately, she declined the role stating that that she was not an actress but a writer.