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!

Travel Theme: Sensory

This week, the travel theme at Where’s My Backpack? is: Sensory!

OK, look. There’s a part of me that wants to make crap jokes asking “are you ready to be stimulated?” *tee hee* but then I think, what am I, twelve? My struggle is real. Onward to maturity! Here’s to our senses, and please enjoy the ride.

Paris. There are small ponds in the park that surrounds the Eiffel Tower. If you lean over the railing and look straight down from one of the upper observation decks, you can see them for yourself. And it’s a little disconcerting. Note: if you have vertigo, perhaps you should avoid this exercise.

Watch that first step. It's a doozy.

Watch that first step. It’s a doozy.

There’s something profoundly invigorating about getting on a boat. At least there is for me. When I’m on the water and the smell of the salty air hits me, and boat’s engine roars to life and we are seaward bound, and the wind whips my hair around my face, I feel everything come alive. I think I was a sailor in a past life.

See you later, Boston.

See you later, Boston.

Welcome to the Day-Glo Garden at the Great Lakes Science Center. Fun fact: I totally want to build an inner sanctum that looks like this. With a killer stereo system and all the streamable TV I want. Because really, this is what things look like inside my brain most of the time. Hashtag when I am a millionaire.

The only thing this is missing is are tiny sparkly pixies.

The only thing this is missing are tiny sparkly pixies.

When in Rome

Go to the Jewish ghetto, find a nice place to eat with sunny, pleasant outdoor seating and, if the fried artichokes are in season, eat them. When you go inside to use the restroom, prepare yourself for the smell of garlic wafting down from the rows and rows of corded bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

 

I had no idea what I was walking into.

And nary a vampire to be found. Savvy.

Behold! Music is just moments away with this handy-dandy travelling turntable and a trusty guitar. Photo taken at an Ellis Paul concert. Who I need to go see again, soon, but I digress.

Looks like the party's about to start.

Looks like someone has the party well in hand.

And finally.

My place. Black bean burgers with cilantro pesto on a bed of shredded sweet potatoes. It was delicious. My mouth is watering at this photo: Paging Dr. Pavlov!

I like vegetables. That is all.

Therein lies my sensory challenge. I hope you have fun checking out the other participants in this week’s photo challenge. Thanks for dropping by!

Sunrise (Sort Of), Reykjavik, December 11, 2015

Our plane landed at 6:30 in the morning, Reykjavik time. We gathered our carry-on items and walked out of the plane and across the tarmac to the terminal, raising our faces to the light as the sun started to crest…

No we didn’t. We dug deeper into our scarves and hustled for the door. It was pitch dark. Just a tick shy of being within the Arctic Circle, Reykjavik doesn’t see the sun until 11AM in mid-December, and then it just rides the horizon line until 3:30 or so. Low-level not-quite-twilight, all day long. Or short. Depending on how you look at it.

Before the sun came up, haggard from the plane and looking at a day in which we needed to stay awake, the first thing we did was get a cup of coffee. Luckily, there was a coffee shop across the street from our hotel. Even more luckily, it was Reykjavik Roasters (their less-discussed second location, it seems), which is apparently one of the best places for a cuppa in town. For the record, it was a pretty stellar cup of coffee. Plus, the cafe was appropriately groovy, with artfully peeling paint and mismatched furniture and its own record collection.

9AM, no sign of the sun, Dave Brubeck on the stereo. Nice.

9AM, no sign of the sun, Dave Brubeck on the stereo. Nice.

From there, we decided to walk to Hallgrimskirkja, the much photographed church made of poured concrete that somehow manages to look like it’s ready to lift off. Bonus! We didn’t need a map, as you can see the spire from pretty much everywhere in the city.

...in 5...4...3...2...

TA-DAAAAA! …in 5…4…3…2…

At Hallgrimskirkja, you can (pay to) climb (climb, schmimb, there’s an elevator that takes you to one floor below the top story) the clock tower and feast one’s eyes on a panoramic view of the city. It only makes sense that that’s the place to go to watch the sun come up.

Going up?

Going up?

The church was incredible…so much so, it deserves its own blog, and I’ll get to it, I swear. But first, up and away, to enjoy the sunrise. Once we got up there…oh, man, was it worth it. All four sides of the tower have windows, so we were able to watch the entire city come to light. I’ll just let the photos tell the story.

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This is about as bright as it gets. Welcome to winter's high noon, Reykjavik style!

This is about as bright as it gets. Welcome to winter’s high noon, Reykjavik style!

Talk about a way to spend a birthday.

Talk about a way to spend a birthday.

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!

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.

Nosh: Salad with Grilled Asparagus, Potatoes, and Lemon-Caper Vinaigrette

I love summertime salads. Great big salads, accented with all sorts of lovely, yummy, seasonal things.

Though I confess, as I sit here eating leftover salad for breakfast, that maybe I am a tad overly fond of the greens. Eh. There are worse things I could do.

So I wanted a salad, and I had a hankering for lemon-caper something. But, I also wanted asparagus and potatoes, because I like to eat those things and I am a simple creature bent on satisfying my wants. Here’s how it all went down.

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1/4 teaspoon of herbes de Provence or tarragon
  • 1.5-2 pounds Yukon Gold (OR red OR new) potatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary (crushed)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

For the dressing

  • 2 Tablespoons capers
  • 1 Tablespoon shallot (or mild onion), minced
  • Juice and zest from one lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4-1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar (OR white wine vinegar OR champagne vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 (ish) cup olive oil

Salad, prepared however you prefer

A few rounds of thick pita bread, for serving

The hardest ingredient to work with in this recipe is the potatoes because they have to be boiled first. I chose Yukon Golds for this because…well, because I like how they taste, and because I think their waxy texture holds up better to  a double-cooking process than floury russet potatoes. Take smallish whole potatoes, or cut them so they are halved and roughly the same size (but do not slice or dice yet). You can peel them if you’d like. I didn’t bother. Boil them until they are fork-tender. They can be a little underdone when you decide to drain them, as they’re going to cook further on the grill. But they should be at the very least, nearly done. Set aside to cool.

While the potatoes are boiling, prep the asparagus. Snap off the woody ends (no knife required! Just bend a stalk and it will naturally break at the spot where tender stalk meets tougher bottom) and put in a mixing bowl. Toss with oil, salt, pepper, and the seasoning of your choice. I like herbes de Provence, with its mix of herbs and fragrant hint of lavender.

Springtime veggies make me so happy.

Springtime veggies make me so happy.

Set these aside, and make your dressing.

Get a big container–a nice big soup bowl with a lid, or a Ball jar that you can close and shake. Spoon capers into a strainer and rinse. Assemble ingredients.

Fact: I haven't purchased salad dressing for my home in years.

Fact: I haven’t purchased salad dressing for my home in years.

Remember to zest your lemon before you juice it. And the capers are going to get minced, too. Chop everything that needs to be chopped (including parsley, strangely absent from this picture), and dump it all in the mixing container. Add in honey, thyme, mustard, and lemon juice. Add the white balsamic vinegar into the mix. If you want a thicker dressing, add less vinegar. If you’d like it thinner, add a little more. Black pepper goes in now, too, and I use kind of a lot of it in here; using my pepper mill, I probably added ten turns of the grinder. Add according to your taste. But be careful with salt! Even though you’ve rinsed the capers they’ve been pickled in brine and can still be salty. Taste your dressing first before you add any extra salt, and do that at the end, after everything else has been mixed in.

Whisk in oil until it’s fully incorporated. I generally like to have an almost even proportion of oil to vinegar, so if you’ve got a half-cup of vinegar, look to add roughly that much oil. Taste, and adjust. Does it need salt? More pepper? A dash more honey or another hit of mustard? This dressing should be savory and lemony and a little bit sweet, with a refreshing, green bite from the capers. When you’re satisfied, set it aside.

Heat your grill/grill pan. I used the double-griller that stretches across two burners on my stove but of course, this can also go outside. Get it ready to go at a medium/medium-high heat.

Take cooled potatoes and slice them into half-inch (or thicker) slices. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

It was hard for me to not eat these as-is. But hold on! They get even better.

It was hard for me to not eat these as-is. But hold on! They get even better.

When the grill is hot, put the asparagus and potatoes on the burners, then let ’em go. The asparagus will cook much more quickly than the potatoes so don’t wander too far off while they’re cooking. Also, I had to cook in batches for purposes of space. That’s the beauty of salads. If the food gets a little cool…so what?

While the potatoes and asparagus are grilling, make your salad. I had feta cheese so we made sort-of a Greek salad, but really. Make whatever kind of salad you’d like. 

Turn the asparagus at least once to ensure even cooking, and if the stalks are thin they should be done in five minutes.  Put on a serving platter and drizzle with some lemon-caper vinaigrette.

Yeah. It was as good as it looks.

Yeah. It was as good as it looks.

The potatoes will take a little longer–flip them when you take the asparagus off the grill. They get all texturally fun, though, as the inside stays soft and potato-y while the outside crisps up from the grill. When they’re done, toss with chives et voila! In a serving bowl.

Does it get better than this?

Does it get better than this?

Grill the pita bread.

Really. You’ll thank me for it. You’ll only need like two minutes per side and the flavor gets beautifully deep and surprising. I mean, it’s pita, right? But oh, what an effect the grill has on it.

Yum. YUM.

Yum. YUM.

Cut the pita into quarters when it’s done.

Gather everything together and bring it out onto your fantastic, aesthetically pleasing back porch, which you have just freed from all its winter grime.

Feast.

Feast.

This? Is the way to eat a summertime salad. But if you don’t have the back porch, don’t let that stop you! This would taste great if you were seated at a little kitchen table with a single candle burning in the middle for a soft glow, or spread out on a blanket on the floor of your living room while the rain fell outside. 

Ha! Now I need to remember to make this again for an indoor picnic. 

Whatever, so long as I get to eat it again.

I hope you enjoy! 

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