Food Musings: Memorial Day, New Friendships

Since the beginning of 2016, I’ve been working with my friend Ann, sending her a photo of food every week, so that she can write a poem about it that celebrates peace and send it off to her subscribers. I’ve decided to write a companion piece to the photos I send, musing about the way that food plays into our lives.

Standard party spread. Extraordinary party company.

Standard party spread. Extraordinary party company.

Last week, George and I were invited to a backyard party thrown by one of the regular attendees in a Zumba class I’ve started teaching. I knew that some of the other regulars from the class would be there, so I would have a cushion of people to talk to, but the only person George would know there was…me. Which can be daunting, both for the don’t-know-anyone partygoer and for the invitee. Should he stick by my side the entire time? Will the other kids play nice with him? Could I leave him to his own devices after a few minutes? Since I’m fairly confident that George is a likable kind of guy and that the people at the party weren’t going to hit him with sticks, we took a deep breath and went to a party full of new people.

It was wonderful.

These people, who I only knew in a limited capacity (sweaty, shaking their moneymakers in my Zumba class) until the party, were warm and welcoming and funny. It took George and I thirty seconds–maybe less–to feel settled. And the ritual was the same. There was the greeting, the acclimation to the surroundings, waving hello and party-wide, informal introductions, and the piling high of plates filled with familiar picnic food. We broke bread and got to know each other. We made our way through heaps of beans and macaroni and chips and dips and crudites and fruit salad, all straightforward and comforting, like the people at the party.

And I’ve seen the same layout in New Jersey, in Texas, in Boston. Maybe some of the regional specialties were different, but the overall gist is the same. And it’s good. It’s a way to connect, to build community, to take part in something that is greater than the sum of its parts. For that day, in those few gentle, funny, happy, warm hours, we were all connected in a way that made the world a slightly better place than if we had eaten the same food separately, in our own houses. And that is the point of our being social creatures, isn’t it? To be greater together than we are apart?

Read Ann’s original poem here!

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Travel Theme: Plants

Ailsa’s travel theme at Where’s My Backpack? is plants. And it’s ironic how much I like plants, because I have the blackest thumb in the world and can kill any plant, at will. It’s not a talent I am glad to have. It’s just how it is.

So. Behold! The rhododendron tangle in front of the Clapp Library at Wellesley College. It. Is. Incredible.

rhodos in bloom

Rhododendrons amok!

If you ever wondered about the resilience of plants, let me introduce you to this fern, growing in the clay roof tile of the YMCA in Milton, PA.

milton y fern

Go, hardy fern! #TeamFern

This tree…  It was such a grey day, as we drove through Maryland on our way to Myrtle Beach. Note: it’s not a black and white photo.

maryland tree dec 2013-001

The weather was most not like this when we got to South Carolina.

Closer to home, I was enticed down a particular street when I smelled the glorious scent of jasmine blooming in a side yard.

jasmine flower

I had to tear myself away in order to leave.

And finally. At Château de Chenonceau, the groundskeepers maintain a working 16th-century farm. And it is a feast for the eyes; easily, this is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.

france garden

Le swoon. Let’s go back. Now.

That’s it for now. Thanks for visiting! Enjoy the travel themes…or play along. 🙂

Travel Theme: Dazzling

This week, the theme at Where’s My Backpack? is: dazzling. So why wait? Let’s get dazzled.

The other day, my neighbor’s tree was an explosive cascade of color as the sun went long and gold against it.

reeses tree

There’s a reason the “golden hour” is photographically special.

When in Rome…go and tour the Vatican. I almost said I didn’t want to see it, but George insisted we go, and I’m so glad we did. It’s difficult to pick any one thing that was more dazzling or glorious than the next, though many of the fabulous features have already been photographed by a bajillion people. (Think Sistine Chapel, which really is tremendous.)

And then there is the map room. Corridor. Gallery. Every square inch of that room was covered in some kind of fantastic, elaborate painting or sculpture or carving. It was astonishing. Even after walking through most of the Vatican museum and galleries, I still gasped. And was overwhelmed. And had to leave; it was quickly too much.

It goes on and on and on...

It goes on and on and on…

And then we go to the Outer Banks. Sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean can dazzle a person on its own, without anything added to it.

#NoFilter

#NoFilter

The bars in Reykjavik put on a glitzy show during the Christmas season. This is but one of them. And it is highly recommended.

Glamorous, yet cozy.

Glamorous, yet cozy.

And finally, here is a bit of razzle-dazzle right here at home, on my window sill. I’m not entirely sure why the designer thought these lucite deer deserved to be given the Jabba the Hutt/Slave Leia treatment, but there they are nonetheless. Plus, they sure do catch the light beautifully, don’t they?

dazzling

You never can tell what you’ll find in a thrift store.

Are you dazzled yet? If not, let Richard Gere give you a little Razzle-Dazzle out the door (and if you haven’t seen Chicago, then change that immediately).

Lewisburg Alphabet: B is for Blossoms

Welcome to the Lewisburg Alphabet!

The weather is warming up, the days are growing longer, my favorite ice cream place has opened for the season… Friends, it seems that spring is upon us, and there is little that is more glorious than Lewisburg in the spring. And spring flowers are nice, but we get some incredible flowering trees.

Right now, even as we speak, this is happening outside my front door. Dig my ornamental pear tree.

Ornamental pear tree will soon be ornamented.

Ornamental pear tree will soon be ornamented.

And look at my squat-but-hardy hyacinths.

Every year, they struggle back up.

Every year, they struggle back up, bless their stunted little stems.

And ooh, Lordie. I’ve got a punk rock pussy willow in my back yard.

BUGGER OFF! -- It seemed to say.

BUGGER OFF! — It seemed to say.

But in a few short weeks, Lewisburg will be bursting at the seams with flowering trees and blossoms. (And pollen; local peeps, stock up on Claritin now.)

My ornamental pear will be stylin’ in my front yard.

It really looks like this outside my front door. Hashtag not a movie set.

It really looks like this outside my front door. Hashtag not a movie set.

The pussy willows will be furry and lush.

Oooh, fuzzy.

Oooh, soft and cushy.

And all over town, it will look something like this.

Just a mosey down the pretty street.

Just gonna mosey down the pretty street.

And speaking of pretty streets…

blossoms 1-001

HOLY CASCADING BLOSSOMS!

The Miller’s spectacular magnolia will be in bloom.

This thing deserves its own zip code.

This thing deserves its own zip code.

Meanwhile, down at the river…

Gigantic tree, in full bloom.

Gigantic tree, in full bloom.

And check out this bee, having its way with the flowering tree by the Lutheran church.

*Literally* doing what comes naturally.

*Literally* doing what comes naturally.

Lewisburg in the spring. Blossoms everywhere! This is what I get to toddle around in every day, and I feel so fortunate. It’s a visual feast that I am happy to take part in.

Come back soon to see what’s in store for C!

Lewisburg Alphabet: A is for Ard’s

Welcome to the Lewisburg Alphabet!

I love living in Lewisburg, this little town that…I’ve adopted? Or that’s adopted me? Eh, it’s a toss-up. I just know I’m really happy in this place, which still comes as a surprise to someone who had previously thought of herself as a city person.

It’s beautiful here. And charming. And quaint. And groovy. It’s part Norman Rockwell, part funky college town, set in a gorgeous countryside. So why shouldn’t I celebrate it? Here’s to Lewisburg (and perhaps a bit beyond the town’s borders, into the central PA area). 

A. That’s for Ard’s.

Could it get any cuter?

Could it get any more adorable?

Ard’s Farm Market is a constantly-growing–nay, evolving–farm market along Route 45 in Lewisburg. It started as a roadside farm stand how many years ago…thirty? Forty? Long before I came to town, that’s for sure. Eventually it was given a more permanent structure. Then it was expanded upon. When the next generation of the Ard family took over, though, they came in with ideas.

It looks like such a simple place.

It looks like such a simple place.

Inside this building is some of the best pulled pork ever, and it makes my stomach growl whenever I walk in and smell it. They have a bustling restaurant and all sorts of seasonal celebrations. A corn maze in autumn (and a pumpkin toss!). A summer fun run and party. I get my tree there every Christmas. And they have all manner of goods inside.

Guess what season we're in.

Guess what season we are currently in.

Gift baskets! Local food! Products from local artists! Hand-dipped chocolates! Local cheeses! Freshly-ground peanut butter (which is the BEST peanut butter I’ve ever eaten, but I digress)! I will knock you down for their yogurt-dipped pretzels! And there’s more relish than you can shake a stick at!

Mmmmm...relish....

Relish is its own food group in central PA.

I mean, it’s still a farm stand, so it still has produce.

Though maybe it's not all, entirely, local.

Though maybe it’s not all, entirely, local. (I’m looking at you, bananas.)

I go a little bonkers in there in the fall, when the pumpkins come in. There’s little I like to eat more than squash and pumpkin, so when I have a choice of different squash varieties, I buy them all. At once. Because I can’t decide what I want most, so I bring them home and let me and George sort it all out.

But their real appeal, for me, lies in their rustic charm. It’s a little chunk of Americana, complete with fresh pie. 

More than a few people I know want an Ard's pie for their birthday, instead of a cake.

More than a few people I know want an Ard’s pie for their birthday, instead of a cake.

Plus, the matriarch of the Ard family comes to one of my classes at the gym, so I feel like I get to rub elbows with local royalty.

Fun fact: An ard is an early sort of scratch plow, which was in use cultivating farm lands a thousand years ago. I have a picture of the digging end of an ard, recovered from a Viking archaeological dig in Reykjavik. The handles, made of wood, have long rotted away.

IMG_0176

Ard. For real.

So really, it makes sense that they’re farmers, what with their name meaning “plow”, and all.

Finally: Here’s a tip o’ the hat to my fellow blogger at ouchmybackhurts, who gave me the idea (and his blessings) for the Lewisburg Alphabet. Go check him out! He’s got a Dublin Alphabet, it’s super fun. 

See you when I get to B! 🙂 

Travel Theme: Routine

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa offers us a glimpse into routine for her photo challenge. As I need to re-routinize myself to blogging with the new year, this seems auspicious. 🙂

Ever forward.

Welcome to a goalie practice at the Herb Brooks Arena (home of the 1980 Miracle on Ice US Olympic hockey team upset-slash-victory, and I was so excited to walk in there I felt like a five-year-old on Christmas Eve). There were CAN/AM teams in the arena practicing, and we got to watch goalies get some top-notch coaching. Over. And over. And get shelled by their teammates. Over. And over. And then they’d stop and talk about what happened. It was fantastic.

OK, so, we're going to do this for the hundredth time. You ready?

OK, Bob, we’re going to do this for the hundredth time today. You ready?

Closer to home, check out these kids performing one of their dance routines at the Lewisburg Arts Festival. Come for the dancing, stay for the hand-crafted jewelry (not pictured, but trust me…you want some). 

We ain't never had an arts festival like this!

We ain’t never had an arts festival like this!

Boat maintenance is never done, and if you want to keep that boat up and running you have to tend to it as part of your daily grind. Just ask this fellow, sanding away at his boat in a Venetian canal.

All work and no play...is pretty much what happens when you have a boat.

All work and no play…is pretty much what happens when you have a boat.

Next, it’s Hilby the Skinny German Juggling Boy! Who is doing a juggling routine with his own hat that seems to surprise even him.

HEY! Where did that thing come from?

HEY! Where did that thing come from?

And finally. Ducks and swans in Reykjavik‘s Lake Tjörnin are so accustomed to people feeding them, it seems they’ve incorporated patiently waiting for bread into their daily routines.

Hey, kid. You gonna finish that?

Hey, kid. You gonna finish that?

Side note: No, you’re not imagining things. Icelandic whooper swans really are the size of a small child.

And I will leave you with an Icelandic folk song written in honor of the raven. Because I am a giver.

Enjoy the photo challenge!

Travel Theme: Letters

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa invites to look at letters.

So let’s look at letters.

I can’t read it, but it’s letters for someone. The tattered remains of an ancient scroll written in hieroglyphics. Seen at Boston’s beautiful Museum of Fine Arts.

Don’t ask me what it says, I don’t remember. And I can’t read it. But it looks super-cool, doesn’t it?

Chef Boyardee was, in fact, a real live person. Hector Boiardi emigrated to the US, became a chef, began marketing his sauce and–as one thing leads to another–eventually had so much demand he needed his own factory. Hector Boiardi built said factory in the fertile, tomato-crop-growing lands of Milton, PA, just a few short miles from my home. It has since been bought out by a larger food company (which shall remain nameless) but the iconic smokestack–and the surrounding tomato fields–remain.

He's real, people.

He’s real, people.

As seen in Skaneateles, NY. ’nuff said.

Ham, sweet ham. HOME! HOME!

Ham, sweet ham. HOME! HOME! I mean HOME!

If you ever wanted to read a collection of poetry by Nobel Prize-winning author Pablo Neruda–translated into Russian–here’s your chance. It’s even prettier when it’s written in Cyrillic.

A little light reading (and a kind of creepy doll) before bed, anyone?

A little light reading (and a kind of creepy doll) to send you off to dreamland, anyone?

And recently, I went on a nighttime river cruise on the Hiawatha, an event-and-rentable (party) boat on the mighty Susquehanna River. Here’s the recently-risen moon, shining on the tiara of letters that spell the boat’s name.

Nice night for a cruise.

Nice night for a cruise.

That’s it, for now, for letters. I hope you enjoyed them! Or even want to play along yourself… 🙂 Happy shutterbugging!

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