Travel Theme: Orange

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa misses the sun and longs for some fiery, bright orange to brighten up the days. Mmmmkay. I’m in.

First, check out the gorgeous orange bill and throat pouch of the double-crested cormorant. I saw this beauty when I was somewhere near Point Pleasant, NJ, the weekend after my niece’s wedding. Can I tell you exactly where I saw it? No. Thankfully, cormorants are hardy creatures whose numbers are on the rise. If you really want to see one for yourself, it shouldn’t be that hard.

I don't know why it's double-crested. It just is.

I don’t know why it’s double-crested. It just is.

During a recent trip to Baltimore, we saw an Orioles game. It was great fun indeed. But there was SO. MUCH. ORANGE.

SAAA-WING, batter batter batter, SWING!

SAAA-WING, batter batter batter, SWING!

This past February, I was walking around my yard (or “touring the estate”, as we like to say), I found this lonely leaf, stuck in the branches of a rather confused pussy willow. It was warm, it started to bud early, then it snowed…poor plant. But I don’t mind saying I was glad to get the picture, with the orange of the dried leaf highlighted by the sun, beaming as it made its way full west.

IMG_0061-001

Hey there, leaf. Thanks for catching the sun like that.

I was ridiculously taken by the bright orange keys on the old-fashioned cash register on display at the Meadowlands Museum. This fascinating little museum is three floors of thoughtfully curated, locally-minded, educational entertainment. I could’ve sat in the fluorescent-paint-illuminated coal hole all day. And they had old, leather football helmets that, when I thought of getting hit while wearing one, made me cringe. Bye bye, brain. But. They also had this cash register, which had (seemingly) random orange number keys and a big orange no-sale key. No sale, our Spanish speakers will attest, also means “Don’t leave”. This makes me kind of wistful and sad. I took about a thousand pictures of this thing.

Wait, but...what? Where you going? :(

Wait, but…what? Where you going? :(

And finally.

We went to Concord, MA for an afternoon while visiting my beloved Russian professor. We saw the illustrious North Bridge (American history buffs, you know the place of which I speak!) and the North Bridge Visitor’s Center. They were prepping for a wedding that was going to take place…very soon in proximity to our visit. Like, that day. I don’t know when it was scheduled to start, I wasn’t invited. Regardless, the wedding event doer guy (wedding planner? Florist? Groom? Not sure of his role) had that air of a man who was just…waiting. For longer than he wanted to wait. With a big old bouquet of bright orange roses.

The flowers were quite beautiful.

The flowers were quite beautiful.

So that’s my orange. What have you got? 

See you ’round Ailsa’s page!

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Travel Theme: Horizons

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa asks us to look to the horizon for her travel theme. So, OK. Off into the distance!

George and I recently went to visit his daughter in Baltimore. The first night we were there we went out, you know. Dinner, cocktails, that sort of thing. The next day we walked around the city and then went to a baseball game, which was great fun but made for a long day. That night, we decided the right thing to do was have pizza and wine on the rooftop deck, and admire the skyline as the sun set. Here is Baltimore’s iconic Domino Sugars sign, seen over the rooftops of Locust Point.

Ahh, beautiful Domino Sugar sign...

Ahh, beautiful Domino Sugar sign. Even from the back you’re sassy.

This picture was taken closer to home for me. It was so close, in fact, I was home. We had some fantastic fog roll in from Buffalo Creek (Crick, if you’re local) one night, and this was how my back yard looked. I love that you have no idea where the tree line ends and the sky begins. Oh yeah. There’s a whole line of trees in that fog.

There's a crick and some trees back there. I swear.

There’s a crick and some trees back there. I swear.

This past December, we were in Myrtle Beach for our niece’s college graduation. When we were on our way out to dinner, a crazy-strong storm blew in–we were completely waterlogged crossing the street from the parking lot to the restaurant’s lobby–and we were a little early for the dinner rush, so I could run around the restaurant at will. The restaurant was right on the beach, and I ran around from room to room (big restaurant) looking out all the windows at the soaked world outside. This is what I got.

That is some angry ocean.

That sure is some angry ocean.

Sometimes…oh, this kills me…sometimes, cliches and stereotypes have some basis in fact. And New Jersey’s snark-riddled reputation as a land of refineries and factories and traffic…well, there’s this section along the Turnpike that George and I joke about, that we know we’re home when we see it. (Jersey peeps,’fess up, you do it too.) But. Sigh.

Cars and smokestacks, far as the eye can see.

Cars and smokestacks, far as the eye can see.

However! New Jersey also gives it up for moments like these.

Sunset, Normandy Beach, NJ.

Yes.

Yes.

What’s on your horizon?

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!

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.

IMG_0071-001

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!

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