Weekly Photo Challenge: Fruit

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa has selected “fruit” as her travel theme. Allrighty then. I’m in.

Some interpretations of fruit may be a little bit loose. But what the hey, we have fun.

First up: my kitchen! I was making a lemon-caper vinaigrette to have with our dinner salad one night. As the Lord sayeth, verily, it was good.

Dee-lish!

Dee-lish!

Next up: on a chilly morning wandering the grounds of the Essex Resort in Vermont, I stumbled upon a planting of frosty ground cherries.

And then I ate one.

And then I ate one.

I like grapes. I like how they prepare them at the Ravines Wine Cellar at Keuka Lake (bonus: they do wine and chocolate pairing tastings…hell yes!). Imma leave this right here.

Super-yummy. I love a good tasting room.

Super-yummy. I love a good tasting room. Did I mention they do chocolate pairings? 🙂

Close to my home: I spotted this dwarf pomegranate blooming along the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail one fine late-summer day.

I really need to take another bike ride down the Rail Trail soon.

I really need to take another bike ride down the Rail Trail soon.

And finally. One night while visiting my mother, la momma asked me if I wanted anything fruity after dinner. Sure, I replied. What have you got?

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Health, darlings. Health.

Mmmm hmmm. Apple pie, strawberry ice cream. I’m not sure if she and I define “fruit” the same way. Nevertheless, it was very good indeed.

Enjoy the rest of the fruity offerings on Ailsa’s photo challenge! See you ’round the interwebs.

Photo Challenge: Monochrome

This week, the good people of WordPress issued a “monochrome” photo challenge. OK. I’m in.

Here’s the cream-on-cream sleeve of a wedding dress decorated entirely in sea shells. Not that that would be too heavy to move in or impossible to sit in. You can feast your eyes on this baby at the Peabody Museum in Salem, MA, when you’re in that town and need a break from the witch business.

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Here comes the sorely weighted down bride…dum dum da dummmm…

Next, we have the gentle golden glow of lights in a grape-cluster chandelier. I want one of these in my house soooo bad. See them for yourself at Dr. Frank’s winery in Keuka Lake. (And plus, there’s wine!)

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Tres glamorous!

In the right light, battleships look more blue than grey. Welcome to the USS North Carolina, docked in Wilmington, NC. And by “right light”, I mean, against a blue-blue sky.

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You got something to say?

The Buffalo Valley Rail Trail boasts all manner of flora, which crumbles into funky shapes of brown and grey when the seasons change. Behold a desiccated milkweed pod.

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Monarch butterflies love these things.

And today, right outside my front door, I noticed a funky little leaf curling in upon itself, tucked in among the rhododendron bush.

Fractaltastic! (Science joke. If you don't get it...you won't get it.)

Fractaltastic! (Science joke. If you don’t get it…you won’t get it.)

There’s my monochromatic photos. I hope you enjoyed, and maybe even decide to play along (if you haven’t already, of course). Thanks for dropping by!

See the rest of the monochrome photos on the WordPress Daily Post page.

Travel Theme: Details

Ailsa has issued this week’s photo challenge at Where’s My Backpack?, and this week, the devil is in the details. 

Like this one, close to my home. This weekend we get to feast our eyes on a ton of ice sculpture for the annual Lewisburg Ice Festival. (Bonus! It’s neither unseasonably warm nor raining, so the sculptures will make it through the festival, so long as the weather lasts.) I love this little walrus guy, and his detailed whisker holes and scary walrus tusks. 

I am he as you are he as you are me. Or something like that.

I am he as you are he as you are me. Or something like that.

Next stop: Venice! We were at a glassblower’s shop on Murano Island. The artist was showing off his mad glassblowing skills (which were prodigious), but every so often, you have to look elsewhere. I liked this schematic for an upcoming art glass project. 

There's a lot of fire in that hole.

There’s a lot of fire in that hole.

Heading home…and I mean, really, heading home from Italy, we were starting to descend and I realized we were flying right over Long Island. Which, might I say, is really long. And is made up of a lot of barrier channels and quirky little islands, like this one. I had no idea, until I saw it from above.

Greetings from New York. Now go home.

Greetings from New York. Now go home.

While we’re in New York…

…New York State, that is…

…let’s make a stop at Dr. Frank’s winery, on Keuka Lake. The wine? Delicious. The view? Gorgeous? But the little grape cluster cut crystals that comprise the body of the chandeliers in their tasting room? Swoon-worthy.

Want.

Want.

And finally, we end with a visit to my beloved Boston. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has some extraordinary exhibits, but their musical instruments room is exceptional. Here’s a close-up of a hand-worked guitar inlaid with a salacious amount of mother-of-pearl. And check out the carving in the sound hole. Crazy!

What? Like making this was hard?

What? Like making this was hard?

That’s it for now. Enjoy the photo challenges, everyone! See you around Ailsa’s page. 

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: Peaceful

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? is: peaceful!  While there are many out there who think I wouldn’t have an idea of what that meant…that I am a rageitarian and my anger sustains me…the fact is, I like a good, Zen, groovy moment as much as anybody.  I’m just spiky on the outside.  Inside, I am constantly trying to groom my cosmic bonsai.

Oh, come on, admit it.  “Cosmic Bonsai” is a great name for an art rock jam band.

Anyway, “peaceful”.  Here we go!

This first picture was taken this past December in Baltimore, while walking around looking at the zazz-dazzling Christmas lights in Hampden.  Up on the main drag the street was teeming with people and lights and street vendors and…lights…and people and noise and cars and more people.  Which was great and festive and fun but also an incredibly high-performing way to spend an evening.  Just a few blocks over?  Silence.

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Crowds, schmowds. Just breathe.

The next picture is taken from my back yard.  We have a farmlet just behind us and right past that?  A creek.  Flat land + water are conducive to good fog, and I was incredibly grateful to walk out on my back porch at exactly the right moment.  I literally ran into my house, terrifying the cat in the process, lunged for my camera and ran back outside.  Because this.

No, that's not mountains in the background. It's just trees and fog.

No, that’s not mountains in the background. It’s just trees and clouds and fog.

The next photo was taken in Waltham, Massachusetts, in February 2013.  I’m not sure why, but I’m always incredibly put at ease by the image of aqua-friendly birds just hanging out on the ice.  The ice isn’t going anywhere, and if it does they can swim.  The birds don’t look frantic.  Nobody’s boating or swimming and the ice is too thin for skating, so they have this spot all to themselves.  Good for them!  Enjoy your day, geese!

Geese, doing they thing.

Geese, doing they thing.

We spent a week at Keuka Lake a few years ago.  I’ve written about it before; it was most wet and foggy, and we stayed indoors for much of the trip.  Which was fine, because what I really needed for that vacation was total downtime.  So here is a picture of George, sitting in the bedroom, looking out onto the lake, as the sun set through the fog and the light turned deep blue.  Just looking at this photo makes me breathe a little easier.

George playing the day's closing theme music.

George playing the day’s closing theme music.

And finally!  I snapped this picture of a massive soybean field a few miles away from me, this past fall.  I thought it was pristine and vast and beautiful; it made me want to run through the field and collapse in the middle like the lady in that Andrew Wyeth painting, only without the polio-blasted paralyzed limbs (seriously, it’s kind of a magnificent piece of dark artistic commentary, just take two minutes and read about the painting).

Welcome to central Pennsylvania.

Welcome to central Pennsylvania.

That’s just about it for me.  Head on over to Ailsa’s page and see how other people have contributed to this week’s travel theme.  And let Otis Redding sing you a song on your way out.

~XOT

Travel Theme: Pale

Ailsa’s travel theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? celebrates the subtle side of life, asking that we look at things that are pale.  I will spare you all pictures of my pasty white skin that burns to a cinder without adequate sunscreen.  You’re welcome.

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, in Rome, is more well-known for its portico, which is home to the Bocca Della Verita (the “Mouth of Truth”), made famous because Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck were charming while standing right next to it in the film Roman Holiday.  Everyone who visits sticks a hand in the Mouth, feigns relief that a mythical river god didn’t bite his or her lying hand off, and leaves.  The Basilica, however, is  lovely, and because everyone thinks the good touristy stuff is on the outside they leave after seeing the Mouth.  Consequently, it’s one of the few quiet places in Rome.  Along the upper walls of the Basilica you can see frescoes that have been dated back to at least the 12th century, but some of the paintings could go as far back as the 8th.  No wonder they’ve faded, but when you really think about it…for a 1200 year old paint job, these frescoes look pretty good.

A faded fresco at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.

The faded frescoes at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.

When George and I went to Keuka Lake a while back, we had a wonderful time, but it was rainy.  Quite gray, actually, and foggy.  Every.  Day.  Though you can rest assured that the weather did not for a second deter us from our wine tour.  Anyway.  While mucking around with my camera I took a bunch of pictures just to see how they’d turn out–out the open window, through the screen, through the clear glass with the screen pushed away.  Blah blah entertain myself entertain myself.  And so, that was how I ended up with the following picture of the soft-focus leaves and the misty trees on the opposite shore in the background.

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Keuka in the rain.

Boston, my beloved city.  My penchant for wintertime northerly vacations pretty much determines that when I’m up there, I’m looking for things that involve being inside a structure with a working heating system (though to be fair, you could also say in the summer that my disdain for the heat, especially if it’s a humid heat, also drives me indoors.  Never happy, I guess).  Their Museum of Fine Arts is fantastic and fits almost any seasonal bill.  Huge!  There’s always something new to see.  And it covers everything from textiles to modern art.  In their ancients section, they have a repaired alabaster statue (part of it is missing and I assume is lost forever) of Egyptian King Menkaure, who built the last (and the smallest) of the Giza pyramids.  I love the cool almost-translucence of the stone.

Hiya, King!

Hiya, King!

When in Tours, do what any self-respecting tourist would do and get to their cathedral.  The Cathédrale Saint-Gatien de Tours is a gorgeous place to spend a day.  It’s absolutely true (though I didn’t think so at first) that you most certainly can overdose on frilly architecture when you’re in France, but the Tours cathedral is worth toughing it out.  It’s got some crazy-awesome vaulting and gorgeous stained glass (bring binoculars to feast your eyes on the best of it).  It also had this solemn little nook lit by a single candle, which had a line of luminous marble plaques attached to the wall, all asking for some kind of saintly help or protection for their families.

Ummm, a little help over here?

Ummm, a little help over here?

And finally.  The Outer Banks in North Carolina are gorgeous.  They’re a series of barrier islands so there’s something wonderfully unmanageable and massive about being right at the edge of the deep blue sea.  Being on the beach at sunrise is about as easterly-facing as you can get, so you can feast your eyes on some pretty amazing early morning sights.  Especially if it’s a little bit cloudy and you’re there just before the sun actually comes up.  It helps if the universe provides you with a guy who’s surf fishing, for added photographic interest.  I adore this picture, how there’s only a little bit of the strong pinks of sunrise poking out, and everything is pale and calm and surprisingly serene looking.  Until you remember that waves store tremendous energy; an average 4-foot, 10-second wave striking a coast puts out more than 35,000 horsepower per mile of coast.  That’s a lot of wallop.  Glad the colors here can help us relax.

Good morning.

Good morning.

Stop on over and check out the rest of the travel themes on Ailsa’s blog.  But this is it for me, we’ve reached the end of my “pale” travel theme.

Oh yeah, one more thing, because I am a giant nerd.  A trailer, for Pale Riderone of the greatest Clint Eastwood movie ever (just sayin’).

Thanks for stopping by!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

A few years ago, my friend’s little girl asked me what was my favorite color.  It’s green, I told her, and then she squealed like only a four-year-old girl can and said, “HeeEEEeeEeeeeyyy!  That’s MY favorite color too!”  I asked her if we could share and she sized me up, mouth puckered to one side, head cocked, brow furrowed in thought and then–thankfully!–she nodded happily and said, “OK!”  From that point on we were favorite-color-is-green sisters.  She is now six and I’m pretty sure her favorite colors have shifted to pink and purple because she is a six year old girl, after all.  But I love that story, and it’s never far from the topic of “green” for me.  So this photo challenge is coming to you from me and my little friend Violet, even if her favorite color is purple now.

Public Gardens, Boston.

The Public Gardens are directly across the street from Boston Common.  On a map it sort of looks like it’s one big park, but the Common is clearly a city park while the Gardens always remind me of Fairyland.  There’s a swan boat floating nearby and willows twisting in the breeze.  I love this little structure. I have no idea what kind of birds those are; I’m totally willing to learn.

The Jewett Steps, Wellesley College.

One day during a summer trip to Boston I took a side trip to my alma mater.  Sensibly, the college does a lot of renovation work over the summer, when students are not present.  The Jewett Steps were always one of my favorite spots on campus so I was initially mildly disappointed to see the scaffolding but then I realized…it looked pretty cool.  I love how the trees are flourishing in the middle of all this straight, spare, pretty severe architecture, and that you can just see more trees through the arch in the distance and peeking over the sides.  It reminds me that nature will have her way with this, eventually, despite our best efforts.  I don’t want that to be for a fantastically long time, but it’s always there.  And!  That’s how it should be.

Where I live.  Beautiful Central PA.

Well.  It’s not exactly my backyard, but it’s really really close.

Chateau Renaissance, Finger Lakes, NY

Chateau Renaissance is this fun, interesting, quirky little winery on Keuka Lake.  The owners are pleasant and talkative and happy to see people.  The tastings are free and the tasting room is cozy.  They make a killer champagne rouge that I need more of, so if anyone’s going up that-a-way, please let me know.  And I have no idea why their back room has green lighting, but there you have it.  I felt like I was looking at some kind of movie set or something.

Venice, Italy.

Like there was any way I could not take a picture of the greenest boat in the world?  For some reason it pleases me to no end that it’s been dubbed the “Veritas”.

Murrisk, Ireland.

I had to finish with the Emerald Isle, land of my people.  The peak in the background is Croagh Patrick, St. Patrick’s holy mountain.  There are all sorts of legends that surround Croagh Patrick; this is where St. Patrick defeated the druids, banished the snakes, won the right to judge the Irish on Judgement Day.  The mountain is also surrounded by green, but as this is Ireland that’s like saying it’s surrounded by oxygen.  It’s true what they say: the Irish are wonderful hosts, and it is called the Emerald Isle for a reason.

Go here for more of this week’s photo challenge.  Thanks for reading!

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