A Word A Week Challenge: Sign

I’m going to keep this one brief, since the city is calling, it’s (finally!) a beautiful day, and I’ve got an itchy camera finger. But. In response to this week’s A Word A Week Challenge from skinnywench, I give you…sign.

Same thing, right?

Same thing, right?

The lesson from this? For good or for ill…assemble at Faneuil Hall.

Or else.

Enjoy the other challenges!

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A Word A Week Challenge: Atmospheric

Skinnywench over at A Word in Your Ear has issued this week’s “Word a Week Challenge“, wherein she picks a word from the dictionary at random and opens her page to fellow bloggers. I often lurk and don’t often participate, but this week the challenge is “Atmospheric” and as I am feeling moody…it’s a natural fit. Getting started.

I snapped this during a beautiful night along Penns Creek. It was the 4th of July, and we’d gone to New Berlin to watch the fireworks.

Along the river in New Berlin, July 4 2013.

Along the river in New Berlin, July 4 2013.

Central PA has its charms, for sure.

Fog rolled off of Buffalo Creek and right into my yard this summer. It was fantastic.

Kind of home-town creepy.

Kind of home-town creepy.

And then there’s sunrise at Belhurst Castle. I apparently rely heavily (but not only) on trees to help set the mood.

Gloom, schmoom. Atmospheric shots can be uplifting, too.

Gloom, schmoom. Atmospheric shots can be uplifting, too.

As nice as uplifting is, the gnarly shots are often more thought-provoking. The following (treeless) picture was taken behind an abandoned mill in Cowan, PA, and I’ve come to think it is atmospheric in the same way Mad Max is atmospheric.

Get your leathers and feathers ready. We're going Road Warrior!

Get your leathers and feathers ready, folks. We’re going Road Warrior!

And finally, crazy psycho clouds over Lake Champlain, as seen from an uncomfortably exposed balcony in Burlington VT. Wherein the atmosphere literally sets the atmosphere.

And that atmosphere is: Don'tPanicDon'tPanicDon'tPanic...

And that atmosphere is: Don’tPanicDon’tPanicDon’tPanic…

Check out the rest of the participants in Skinnywench’s challenge over at A Word in Your Ear. Thanks for stopping by!

Travel Theme: Wood

“Wood” is the travel theme Ailsa has bestowed upon us this week at Where’s My Backpack?, and that’s just fine.  Of course, I don’t really know how much “travel” there is in my theme since I chose photos I took locally, but hey…you could travel to the bucolic splendor of central PA to feast your eyes, no?  :)  I’ve been in the car too much, right now I’m interested in staying put.  With that being said, here is my “wood” theme.  Mostly trees.

Like these ones.  Last spring George and I took a walk around Milton State Park.  The air was crisp and fresh and bright green buds were starting to come out on the trees.  (Which, for the record, is my favorite shade of green, but that’s another blog entirely.)  I stepped inside a cluster of beautiful old trees, looked straight up and saw…

Here's looking up yer old...growth...wooded areas...

Here’s looking up yer old…growth…wooded areas…

During a day driving around with my camera in my lap, I noticed this old, charmingly unkempt wooden fence, with one slat of wood warping away from the rest.

No matter what you do, wood has a mind of its own.

No matter what you do, some wood has a mind of its own.

My town has a groovy little rail trail that cuts through a bunch of rustic, scenic farmsteads.  (It helps that I’m surrounded by land that is generally rustic and scenic.)  This gorgeous wooden barn that looks like it’s straight out of a movie set is along said rail trail.  I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to ride again so I can feast my eyes upon it in real life.  Until then, the photo will do.

P.S. Those black walnut thingies really hurt when they fall and whack you in the arm.

Warning: Those black walnut thingies hurt when they fall and whack you in the arm.

And to you cold-weather riders who insist I won’t have to wait until it’s warm to ride the trail again:  No.  But thank you.  But no.

Every year, our local historical society organizes Rural Heritage Days (at least, I think it’s thanks to the UCHS; I’m happy to learn otherwise).  It’s interactive and completely family-oriented and you can learn how to twine rope and make things like lead shot.  You can also watch a man with a steam-powered lathe carve wooden table and chair legs.  I don’t know why, put I’m particularly enamored of the wood chips along his arm.

I know!  Weirdly cool, right?

I know! Weirdly cool, right?

Finally…Not that I’m dreaming of spring or anything as the cold weather has settled on central PA, but in downtown Lewisburg, one resident has a glorious magnolia tree.  It’s huge.  It sprawls across the entire yard.  And it’s one more reason that springtime in this town is extraordinary.  Flowering trees are among my favorite things but this?  Goes beyond the pale of any flowering tree I’ve ever seen.

This?  Is ALL.  One.  Tree system.

This? Is ALL. One. Tree system.

There’s my travel photos.  See you ’round town in the springtime!  :)  Enjoy the other bloggers at Ailsa’s place.

Travel Theme: Winter

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa’s travel theme is the seasonally appropriate “winter”.  Cool.  Pun intended.  It’s my favorite season.  Actually, they all are except for summer, of which regular readers have come to realize I am no fan.  Mostly, and especially this week, winter (for me) is nearly synonymous with Christmas, so there’s a reasonable amount of Christmas in this mix.  It’s not always about ladies in red velvety dresses with crisp white fur trim…

…except when it is.  I was recently visiting family in Myrtle Beach, who thought it would be great to go see the Carolina Opry‘s Christmas Spectacular, matinee, for my birthday (which just passed, two days after I totaled my car).  I might have been the youngest person there.  It was a delicious cheesefest.  I knew we were in for a real treat when, not ten minutes into it, Rita Gumm–the First Lady of the Carolina Opry–glided onto the stage, in a horse-drawn sleigh.

BEHOLD! Rita Gumm, the First Lady of the Carolina Opry!

BEHOLD! Winter in South Carolina.

That is some dress, my friends, red and vibrant as a Carolina sunset.  It was a Christmas miracle.

Winter for me means decorations and sparkly things, and the decorations can be elegant and beautiful or whimsical and sweet.  I love this penguin.  It was given to me by a friend and former co-worker who I adore, and we all know penguins = snow and ice and snow and ice = winter.

Yay, decorations and sparkly things to brighten up dreary winter nights!

Yay, decorations and sparkly things to brighten up dreary winter nights!

While driving down to South Carolina, we stopped in a grim little restaurant with uninspired food and faded, 1930s-era cabbage rose wallpaper in the main dining room.  I’d say what restaurant it was but I’m hoping to extort them for hush money (*cough cough* Shamrock).  Anyway.  So the food was uninteresting (I think I’m still getting over my sodium headache) and bizarrely expensive, and left me feeling as though I’d been tricked somehow.  But you know?  The surroundings, at the foot of the Catoctin Mountain Ridge?  When they were heavy with fresh snow?  Were fantastic.

Out back behind The Restaurant That Shall Remain Nameless (Shamrock).

Out back behind The Restaurant That Shall Remain Nameless (Shamrock).

Closer to home, my little ‘burg has an annual tree lighting and high-school-chorus-singing ceremony, that takes place in the town square with the frilly street lamps and the absolutely frigging enormous tree that has to be strung with fancy lights thanks to the use of a cherry picker.  Or maybe the town keeps a de-toothed bumble in the maintenance shed.  Off camera there’s a gazebo.  It’s insanely picturesque, and I live here.

Did I mention the art deco movie theater and the overall cool architecture?

Did I mention the art deco movie theater and the overall cool architecture?

And finally…

No winter in recent memory has been complete without a trip to see my former Russian professor.  She lives just outside of Boston and YES, I go north in the winter.  Judge me for it, I don’t care.  It’s the most snug and welcoming house in the world, filled with great conversation and lovely people and delicious food.  While we were there this past February it snowed big fat flakes, giving me an eye-feast from Elena’s cheerful kitchen window.


This is one of my favorite places no matter what season, but for me? It’s extra-special in the winter.

This is a relationship in which I consider myself incredibly lucky.

Have fun checking out the rest of the participants at Ailsa’s place this week!

Travel Theme: Still

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is: still.  Still what?  Still nothing, just still.  Har har.  I make funnies.

Sorry, this is what happens when blogging while sleep deprived.  Anyway.  On to the theme!

This was taken at Keuka Lake during a day of rain and fog.  The rain stopped but the fog remained, and the lake was completely silent.  Even the birds were kind of hiding out.

Nothing to do but sit back and enjoy a glass of local wine.  :)

Nothing to do on a day like this but sit back and enjoy a glass of local wine. :)

While in South Carolina to visit family, we went to lunch at Caledonia, a golfing-and-fishing club.  I neither golf nor fish, but I do like to eat lunch.  Calendonia has that Southern tradition “thing” by the heaping bucketsful, and everyone there is charming and nice.  But I had no idea there were still places that garnished a grilled cheese sandwich with olives speared on the ends of toothpicks.

Oh for a gentler time, when olives on toothpicks were the height of sophistication.

Oh for a gentler time, when olives on toothpicks were the height of sophistication.

At home, this squirrel sat very still on the steps of the post office and let me take his picture.  I think he wanted a moment in the spotlight.

The squirrel is ready for his closeup, Mr. DeMille.

The squirrel is ready for his closeup, Mr. DeMille.

Ahh, Boston.  Beloved Boston, and the beautiful Public Garden therein.  For some reason (which to this day has never been adequately justified to me), Boston has no shortage of human statue street performers.  I.  Don’t.  Get.  It.  But I always see at least one, standing around somewhere.  Like in the middle of the Public Garden.

But seriously. Why?

But seriously. Why?

And speaking of gardens, we go back to South Carolina.  Near Myrtle Beach there’s a gorgeous formal garden facility called Brookgreen Gardens.  At this time of year they do their Nights of a Thousand Candles exhibit, and the gardens are strung from end to end in glittering lights and floating candles and lanterns and luminaria.  It was amaaaaaaaaaaaazing.  And despite the riot of lights and the crowds, there were parts of it that were incredibly serene.

Put this on your must-see list.

Put this on your must-see list.

So there you have it.  Hope you enjoyed the pics.  Go check out the rest of the still-blogs at Ailsa’s place!

Travel Theme: Sky

Ailsa’s got her travel theme on at Where’s My Backpack?, and thankfully, it doesn’t have anything to do with stuffing oneself silly with turkey and mashed potatoes.

…mmmm…mashed potatoes…

Anyway. The theme this week at Ailsa’s joint is sky.  Big sky, open sky, cloudy sky, blue sky.  As you’ll see, I tend to like sky with water.  Whatever works.  And so.  With no further ado, I give you…sky.

This first picture was taken as the sun was starting to set and finally dipping below the clouds, from a hotel room looking over Seneca Lake toward the city of Geneva, NY.  I always thought the colors in this photo were vaguely ethereal, and I don’t know why but I’m totally amused by the wind turbines in the background.

Hello, pastel sunset.

Hello, pastel sunset.

The next picture was taken much closer to (my) home.  Like, in my home town.  Like, I rode my bike here to take this picture.  If you’re going to find a place full of bucolic splendor and fat, chuggy clouds, so you can catch your breath, this is the place.

Behold the mighty Susquehanna.

Behold the mighty Susquehanna River.

Gary, Indiana, presents travelers driving along Route 90 with kind of a depressing, totally industrial landscape.  The black cloud in the sky to the left of the photo just lingered…and lingered…and never dispersed.  It kind of freaked me out.

There's almost no room for sky here.

There’s almost no room for sky here.

The next photo was taken during a crazy-windy day at Grand Marais along the North Shore of Lake Superior.  I like that the clouds here look like waves, almost.  As it is on the ground, so it goes in the sky, too.

Water, water everywhere.

Water, water everywhere.

And finally, this picture was taken in Burlington, VT, while the weather on Lake Champlain was experiencing a totally split personality.  You’ll see.

Even the Lake Champlain monster stayed under cover.

Even the Lake Champlain monster stayed under cover.

What sky shots do you have?

Enjoy the travel theme!  See you ’round Ailsa’s place.

Travel Theme: Brown

Oh, brown.  You are much maligned.  You are the color of chocolate, coffee and good earth and yet?  Brown = meh.  And I get it; you don’t have as much zazz as, say, fuchsia, or orange, and looking across a field of brown doesn’t tickle the imagination like looking out onto the sparkling blue vastness of the ocean.  But brown, take heart.  I don’t know how to quit you.  Neither, apparently, does Ailsa, as “Brown” is her travel theme this week over at Where’s My Backpack?

Getting started.

Occasionally I drive around where I live, because it’s pretty, and look for things to photograph.  There’s a row of wooden stalls in serious disrepair next to a now-defunct business; I think it was a garden supply store and the stalls held different flavors of mulch, but that’s not terribly relevant, except that decaying infrastructure has an inherent photogenic appeal.  Plus, the woods are creeping in on it and I love it when nature wins again.  Check it out.

I can't quite say it's urban decay because we're so not urban, but nevertheless...always interesting. Lewisburg PA, April 2013

I can’t quite say it’s urban decay because we’re so not urban, but nevertheless…always interesting. Lewisburg PA, April 2013

I took this during some sunrise photo fun in Myrtle Beach; I love the brown of the wooden boardwalk and the golden tan of the sand.  Plus, I always thought the boardwalk looked like some kind of massive sci-fi bug-creature lumbering (no pun intended, but I’ll take it) back to the waters from whence it came.  Because that’s how things work in my brain.

Under the boardwalk.  Surfside Pier, Myrtle Beach

RAWR I’m a scary monster.  Under the boardwalk. Surfside Pier, Myrtle Beach, June 2013

This is a photo of the aptly-named Cascade River, in Lutsen, MN.  Why is the water so brown, you ask?  Because it’s busily engaging in the process of erosion and is packing a TON of silt.  It’s all good.

There it is, cascading.

There it is, cascading.

Meet Guinness.  Guinness is an exceedingly beautiful guitar owned by folk singer Ellis Paul (who I’ve written about here, here, and…).  This past June, Ellis played a kid’s show at the James V. Brown Library in Williamsport, PA, and I was fortunate enough to be part of the setup team (thanks, Shawn and Robin!).  As I was hauling chairs and such I couldn’t help but notice the guitar (’cause it’s priddy) and HOLY POCKETS!  Look at the inlay on the neck.

That is one mighty fine lookin' guitar.

That is one mighty fine lookin’ guitar.

And finally.

Every summer here in the ‘burg we get to enjoy Rural Heritage Days (see: we are so not urban), a several-days-long event that celebrates all things rural and heritage-y.  I learned how to twist rope, how to make lead shot, and, in this photo, I got a demonstration on blacksmithing, from some kid who probably got his first hammer and anvil in the cradle.  I love the combo of old and new–the safety goggles, the old-school leather apron–and the proud father (or maybe grandfather, who knows?) watching on just behind the boy.

You go, kid! Make that nail.

You go, kid! Make that nail.

So there’s my “brown” theme for the week.  Have fun looking at the rest of the other participants!  (Or play along yourself. :) )  I’ll leave you with a video of Ellis Paul playing the lovely Guinness.  Enjoy.


Travel Theme: Distance

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? asks us to look at distance, into the distance, from a distance.  For the record, the word “distance” literally means “standing apart”, from the Latin “dis” (apart) and “stare” (stand, of course).

See, kids?  Latin is fun!



This first shot was taken this spring at Milton State Park, which is probably about three miles away from my home.  If you walk down toward the southern tip of the park, which juts out into the Susquehanna River, you’ll soon find yourself…well, still in the park and on the other side of the river, but directly facing the smokestacks of the plant one Ettore “Hector” Boiardi opened in 1938 in support of his canned pasta business.

The Chef's plant, looming in the distance.

The Chef’s plant, looming in the distance.

Yes, Chef Boyardee was a real man and no, he wasn’t just some fabrication of ConAgra, which now owns the plant.  I haven’t eaten canned ravioli in years but nevertheless, I’m delighted his iconic smokestack remains.

Next we go to Little River in beautiful South Carolina.  My brother has a boat docked there, but I’m pretty sure he’s selling it (or possibly has sold it by now), so I don’t know if what once was his boat is still there.  Anyway.  I digress.  This photo was taken while looking out toward the bow of the boat (and beyond, natch!) from the hatch that opens out from the cabin.  That thin line of land is the spit that separates the Little River Inlet from the big ol’ Atlantic Ocean.

Ahoy!  Shiver me timbers! Avast, ye scurvy dogs!

Ahoy! Shiver me timbers! Avast, ye scurvy dogs!  And other piratey things to say, as well!

Next, we go to my beloved Boston and the gorgeous Park Plaza Hotel.  Often, when I stay in hotels, I will choose to take back stairways instead of the elevator.  I’ve always had a penchant for wandering the halls of any hotel I stay in (which can sound a little creepy but I swear, I don’t peek where I ought not) because I like to go where most people ignore.  And most people?  Don’t take the stairs and see this, spinning upwards into infinity.

Here's looking up yer old staircase.

Here’s looking up yer old staircase.

And now we head to Baltimore.  This picture was taken this summer at Artscape, a mega-art-music-comedy-groovy jewelry outdoor feast for the eyes, ears and wallet.  It stretches for blocks and blocks.  I could have spent a ton of money there (especially in some of the jewelry stands; I’ll take one of everything, please) but kept it under control.  I did, however, take a trillion pictures.  This was near a railroad crossing.  It was a beautiful, bright, sunny day and all of Baltimore (including the iconic Howard Street bridge) stretched out before us.

Presenting: Baltimore.

Presenting: Baltimore.

Please note that there’s a mirror in the photo–almost dead center–so you can see what’s in the distance behind.  Kind of a yin-yang of Baltimore industrial architectural photography.  Dig it.

And finally, we end today’s blog in Italy, because Italy, that’s why.  This picture was taken while visiting a church on one of the hills overlooking Florence, just across the Arno River.  The Ponte Vecchio–which literally means “old bridge”–is that crazy, awesome structure in the middle of the shot.  This bridge, and the shops that are built hanging off the sides, has survived floods, Nazis, and nearly 700 years worth of weather (it would be nearly 800 years worth of weather, but it did have to be rebuilt in 1345).


Distance: physical, temporal, historical.  Achieved.

Distance: physical, temporal, historical. Achieved.

I mean…I’m happy if I get a DVD player that lasts more than a few years, you know?  I hate that we’ve come to accept planned obsolescence.


Again, I digress.

Enjoy Ailsa’s theme!  Maybe you could find a little somethin’ somethin’ to post and play along yourself.  ;)  Please enjoy some Dixie Chicks for your listening pleasure.

Travel Theme: Wild

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa asks us to meet the challenge “wild”.  Which is incredibly convenient because I just came back from a week on the road/on Minnesota’s north shore/in the woods/on a giant lake, with, roughly, an assload of pictures.  Chock full of wild-ish outdoorsiness.

And yes, I’m pretty sure…almost positive…that’s the technical term for the amount of pictures with which I returned.

We stayed in a lodge that overlooked Lake Superior.  Conveniently, there was a staircase right across the street from said lodge that took us down the (relatively small, but sheer) cliff face to the shoreline.  And once we got there and clambered down the granite the rest of the way, we encountered this.  I have no idea how long that branch and natural tidal pool have been there, I’m just glad they are.


It was 25-30 degrees colder here than the weather we left behind. It was fantastic.

We went for the wedding of two very dear friends (congratulations, John and Molly!) but, of course, had to spend a few days checking out the local scenery.  As our lodge was right next to the Cascade River–and indeed boasted a few hiking trails up into the hills and along the river–we had to check it out.

The Cascade River. Cascading.

The Cascade River. Cascading.

We went to Grand Marais one afternoon, which is a charming little immensely walkable town with all sorts of local-artisan-fueled gift shoppes (I could have spent, roughly, a bajillion dollars in a few of those stores) and at least one (there could be more, but I was only there for one meal) fantastic little cafe.  While I was there I came across this heron, going about some very important heron business in the marshes along the edge of Lake Superior.

The heron thought process: Mmmm...fishfishfish...what the hell, lady, do I bug you while you're eating? Do I look like some kind of goddamned seagull?  Mmmm...fishfishfish...

The heron thought process: Mmmm…fishfishfish…what the hell, lady, do I bug you while you’re eating? Do I look like some kind of goddamned seagull? Mmmm…fishfishfish…

At first I thought he was a grey heron, but now I think it might be a smallish great blue because of the rusty colorations on its thighs and underneath the feathers.  Anyone?  Anyone?  Anybody?

Grand Marais has a harbor wall and lighthouse that are irresistible draws if you have any inkling (like me) to stand of the very edge of things and recognize the profound boundary between One Thing and The Other.  The Coast Guard warns you to walk out on at your own risk, because it’s designed more for navigation than for public strolling, and they’re right to do so.  It’s not a simple mosey down a manicured path.  You have to do a bit of climbing over rocks in order to get there, so when you get there, wear sensible shoes.

Taken from underneath the lighthouse.  And yes, that kid?  Is skateboarding the harbor wall.

Taken from underneath the lighthouse. And yes, that kid? Is skateboarding the harbor wall.  A significant part of me hoped I would see some shit go down when the wind blew him off.

For the record, the wind?  Came at us like a freight train.  It picked up while we were out at the lighthouse.  If you ever want to know what it’s like to stand on one small patch of cement with nothing to hold on to, while the entirety of Lake Superior stretches in front of you and the wind groans and tugs at you like an impatient and slightly mean playmate, I’m here to tell you: it’s pretty intense, and it’s a great way to recognize your own insignificance in the grander workings of the world.  I was grateful to get back off the harbor wall, because at least the trees created a little bit of a wind break.

When we left for home we cut back across the top of Wisconsin and drove Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, feeling somewhat regretful that we didn’t pack our passports and take the long-long way back through Canada (next time…next time).  If you’ve never visited the UP, then change that.  It’s beautiful, full of trees and sky and trees and…trees.  :)  In order to get home we eventually had to wend our way back to the mainland.  About halfway through the UP we cut down south and went to the Mackinac Bridge, which is the third longest suspension bridge in the world and spans Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

So yeah, I hit three great lakes in one week.  Which is pretty cool.

It was sunset as we crossed the bridge.

Check out that crazy sunset sky.

Dig that crazy sunset sky.

That’s a sample of some of the wild-ish things, on my recent trip to Minnesota.  Have fun checking out the rest of the “wild” contributors!

Word a Week Challenge: Unexpected

I’ve never participated in the Word a Week Challenge, though I often check it out.  HOWEVER.  This was too good to resist, as I’ve been waiting for the right forum in which to post these photos.  I took them about a year ago; my boyfriend was driving and I was thrilled I had the time to grab my camera.

Huh. How 'bout that?

Huh. How ’bout that?

In case you’re not sure what you’re looking at, let me assure you: it is, indeed, an 18-wheeler hauling a very securely strapped down toy truck.

That's not something you see every day.

That’s not something you see every day.

I think the toy even had a “Wide Load” sign attached to it.

Just because it’s unexpected doesn’t mean it’s unwelcome.

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