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. 🙂

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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: Intense

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa has issued a really challenging challenge. One might even call it…intensely challenging. *nyuk nyuk nyuk* The theme is “intense”. Hmmmmmmm….

Here goes!

Recently, George and I drove to Point Pleasant Beach during a visit with family, and hooooooo-weeeeee! The wind was crazy that day. My mother came with us; we were worried that the winds would pick her up and carry her away.

Down where the trade winds play...

Down where the trade winds play…

Next up: the intense physicality of an NHL game. Last year, George and I went to a New York Rangers game in Madison Square Garden. (Welcome to Rangerstown. Now get outta here.) A thousand years ago I was always going to hockey games as the ex- and I had season tickets, but when the marriage ended, so did the subscription. C’est la vie. Now, when I get a chance to go, it’s a real treat. Though you know, I’ve always thought that if I went to work and a colleague knocked me to the ground with a big stick while another colleague made off with my work implements? Screw you guys, I’m going home. I’m glad hockey players think differently.

Get the puck GET THAAAA PUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKK!!!!!!

Get the puck get the puck GET THAAAA PUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKK!!!!!!

I’ve spoken of Knoebels, our local gem of an amusement park, before. It’s always a thrill to go there and get flung about upside down and sideways.

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMG

OMGOMGOMGOMGOMG

Meanwhile in Venice, glassblowers use intense heat to make beautiful glassware. Bear in mind: this flaming red glass sculpture? Will cool and turn colorless, completely clear.

How'd you like a nice piece of molten glass?

How’s about a nice piece of molten glass?

For the last several years, the garden club in my little town has organized a summer garden tour, where select local homeowners with tour-worthy gardens graciously open their yards to the public for a day. I have world’s blackest thumb and can kill any plant you put in front of me; thankfully, I know lots of people who can make things grow at will. This was taken in my friend Steva’s amazing raised garden beds. Behold! The intense beauty of a perfect rose on a gorgeous summer day.

Welcome to Pleasantville.

Welcome to Pleasantville.

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoy the other participants in Ailsa’s photo challenge, or even decide to play along, yourself!

Here’s a little Bugs Bunny, singing about the trade winds, to enjoy on your way out.

Bluebirds In My Back Yard

Bluebirds, indeed. Plus maybe another guest birdie or two.

Yesterday, I looked out my window into my back yard while I was on the phone with my mother, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. We usually have a lot of birds in the yard; cardinals seem to love it here, as do the usual assortment of blue jays and grackles and mourning doves. But yesterday…it was like someone was throwing a bird party and they all showed up.

(WHERE THE HELL DO I LIVE AND WHO AM I SPENDING MY TIME BIRD WATCHING??? God damn it, I’m from the suburban sprawl that is New Jersey. The only wildlife I spent time watching was the raccoons getting into the garbage. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? And I digress.)

The red-tailed hawk that lives in our ‘hood was circling overhead. And my yard was filled with the chatter and flit of birds going about their very important bird business. A goldfinch or two joined the party, and I thought I saw the bright orange burst of an oriole fly by. It was like someone unleashed a box of flying crayons in my yard.

But the bluebirds. The Eastern bluebirds! Two mated pairs, in my yard. Hanging out on the telephone wires. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch a good photo of all four of them together, but you know…so what?

You look great in blue. Did I ever tell you that?

You look great in blue. Did I ever tell you that?

DIG MY PLUMAGE!

DIG MY PLUMAGE!

A juvenile song sparrow* stopped by to have a look around.

june 9 15 (15)-001

Hey, I know I’m not blue or anything, but I still deserve love.

And he kind of looks a little huffy. Well, hello, Mr. Crankypants.

*At least, I’m pretty sure that’s what this li’l fella is. If anyone knows differently, please do, tell.

june 9 15 (8)-002

WHAT.

Meanwhile, the bluebirds were busy checking out the new fence posts, built to keep in the sheep (SHEEP? OH MY GODDDDDDD WHERE THE HELL DO I LIVE?) our neighbors are getting.

june 9 15 (11)-001

Oh, yeah, it’s quite nice, innit? You’re getting sheep, you say? Right here?

june 9 15 (13)-001

And now, for a moment of interpretive dance. I call this “The Stillness”. Thank you.

Meanwhile, a northern flicker attempted to be aloof and mysterious in the branches of the neighbor’s evergreen tree.

june 9 15 (16)-001

I said no photos. Damn paparazzi.

But at the end of the day, the bluebirds were the stars of the back yard show.

june 9 15 (19)-001

Derp.

june 9 15 (17)-001

You talkin’ ta me?

june 9 15 (14)-001

ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR.

Thanks for dropping by, birds! See you again soon!

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