Monday, June 30, 2008

Cosmos and Marigolds

After our bike ride last night, George and I went outside to visit my husband in his garden. I took my camera with me and put the macro lens on it to see what I could see. I had planted marigolds all around the front of the garden this year and we have morning glories that reseeded themselves that are beginning to climb up the garden arch my husband built several years ago.

I was lying down in the grass and I kept humming a tune and I wondered why I was thinking of inchworms, but then I realized why.
Inchworm, inchworm
Measuring the marigolds
You and your arithmetic
You'll probably go far.
Inchworm, inchworm
Measuring the marigolds
Seems to me you'd stop and see
How beautiful they are.
Apologies to those who get songs stuck in their heads as I do. I've been singing it every time I opened up a marigold picture in Photoshop. They really didn't need much done to them but a little cropping and a slight action I used called Boutwell's Magic Glasses. It's a very understated action that incorporates brightening, a slight sharpening and just a little pop. I downloaded it as a free sample from Totally Rad Actions. I used it on the last picture in this post.

Have a wonderful Monday, everyone!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

George keeps his cool

Hot day in Maryland on Saturday, but it's been much worse than this. Today was a good day to stay inside in the air conditioning and we got a so much done. We went through the whole basement today and got rid of a lot of things that were old and useless, and just generally cleaned up down there. It was nice and cool and it went pretty smoothly.
Headed outside for a walk afterwards and came back dripping wet. The humidity was through the roof! But luckily there were no deer flies. Those things are awful, the way they dive bomb and buzz around your head and when they land . . . they leave a big welt. The only thing good about them is that they're a little slower than my nemises, the fly (see a few posts down) and therefore easier to kill. A flyswatter isn't needed. Don't you love all these fly facts?
George didn't seem to mind the heat all that much. He loves a nice walk and enjoyed getting hosed off with cool water when we got home.
I took these pictures of him this evening and then we went for a bike ride afterwards. George's favorite new thing is running parallel to a bike and it's quite nice, actually. We go down the paved back road and follow it up through another horse farm that's located nearby. It's a Standardbred place that emcompasses a lot of acreage both in this area and across the main county road.
Ah, George. I love ya.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A different perspective

I'm trying out a different look for my blog just for shits and giggles, as my mother used to say. I took this picture when I went to Jim Thorpe, PA a couple of weeks ago because I found the architecture interesting. I know some of you won't like this new look, but I was tiring of the old. Let me know what you think, if you like. I can take it!

Rain O'er Me

Finally, it rained here in Maryland this evening. The sky darkened and a gentle rain began to fall. It lasted a good hour and when I went outside just now, the grass didn't crunch beneath my feet. It was soft and verdant and the daylilies by the edge of the garden were dripping.

I didn't know until now that The Who's song, from the Quadrophenia rock opera is actually saying Rain O'er Me. I always thought it was Rain On Me. Silly me.

I smell wet doggie fur. George has been out in the rain chasing cats. I was going to say wet puppy fur, but somebody has a birthday coming up. Yup. The black & white, as my husband calls him, is going to be the Big One Oh on the 11th.
I see you, little bug, on the edge of the daylily.

Only love

can bring the rain

that makes you yearn

to the sky,

Only love can bring the rain

that falls like tears

from all high.

I can't sleep and I lay and I think

The night is hot and black as ink

Woo Oh God I need a drink

Of cool cool rain.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Skywatch Friday first attempt

I don't know why I haven't done a Skywatch post until now. Annie, over at The Tombstone Chronicler, suggested several weeks ago that I do a Skywatch post link at Tom Wiggley's site. He has a huge following and it's interesting to go to his blog on a Friday and see all the links to people's sky posts.
So give him a visit, if you have a few minutes. Last Friday was a record response for him. 248 people posted their Skywatch picture!

I took this picture last week and was going to use it for last Friday's Skywatch, but something else came up. I took it standing at my sliding glass door one evening last week. You can see the door on the right and I left it there because I wanted to emphasize the view I have from my back door. Plus that's as far as I could go without my camera getting wet.
It was raining that evening, very gently, but the sun was bursting through that big cloud there. I took several pictures, but none of them showed any trace of the rain.

Have a wonderful Friday, everyone!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My new favorite

When I first saw this camera strap on this post on Donna Boucher's blog, "The Quiet Life", it caught my eye. And I wanted one, I really did. But just because I want something, it doesn't mean that I should whip out the credit card and buy it. That's not very responsible. I have to ponder it for awhile, weigh my options, ask myself if I'm doing the right thing, and then usually just forget about it.

Unless I've had several drinks and end up doing this. But let's not digress here, shall we?

Well, last week my husband went online to the site, and after over a year of searching for a new screen house, finally found what he wanted and bought it. Just like that. I mean, he showed it to me first, and we talked about it for a few minutes. And that's when I figured I'd get this jazzy little number for my camera. Not that I mind, terribly, the strap I used to have that screamed NIKON in big yellow letters. I just wanted something unique, and Emily Falconbridge's camera straps were just the ticket.
She's got several different colors and styles available and she's been rated 282 times on Etsy and 100% have been positive.
You can check them out here on Etsy.

Anyway, I love my new find. After all, I'm just a girl who loves cilantro and hates houseflies. Or maybe I'm just a girl who's standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her. Quick! Name that movie and who said it. C'mon, you should know this one . . .

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And now for something different

I love this interesting salad. I'll eat a bowl of it for lunch, or it can be served as a side dish like I'm doing tonight. The ingredients are simple enough and you've probably got all of them in your pantry already. It's got a nice little kick, too, which is exciting. I love things that taste exciting. If you're looking for something a little different to take as a sidedish to next weekend's barbecue, why not try this little number? Best of all, it's so simple that even I can make it.

I found it in one of my favorite little books, "The Skinny: How to fit in your little black dress forever" written by Melissa Clark & Robin Aronson. The only thing I changed was adding more cilantro. I adore cilantro. Don't tell anyone, but sometimes in the grocery store, I stop by the cilantro and just take a little sniff. It's such a happy scent.
Here's what you'll need to make this quick dish. We've got shredded carrots, cilantro, roasted cashews (they're camera shy), extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, coriander and a little salt & peppa. I use organic carrots; I think they taste sweeter.

The recipe calls for harissa, which is a thick, pungent Moroccan hot sauce that's sold in tubes in gourmet specialty shops. I don't have harissa, so I'm using Tabasco sauce. You can also substitute roasted peanuts for the cashews.

Moroccan Carrot Salad with Coriander and Cashews

1 pound carrots, peeled
1/2 cup roasted cashews, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. harissa, plus additional, to taste, or Tabasco sauce, to taste
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Shred the carrots using a box grater or a food processor fitted with the grating attqchment. Transver to a bowl and add the cashews and cilantro.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon jucie, harissa, and ground coriander. Pour the mixture over the carrots and toss to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve.

Hope you like it!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I hate flies. There's a reason for that.

Like everyone else in the world, I have some weird quirks about myself. One of them is my hatred for flies. Ironic, isn't it, that I live on a horse farm? Flies come with the territory here. All flies must die. It's my mantra. My phobia all stems from a traumatic event from my past. Well, to me, it was traumatic. To everyone else involved, it must have been pretty funny.
I didn't always live in the country. I was raised in Suburban America and it wasn't until I was about 20 years old that I discovered country life. My friends were renting a rather unique rental property in Chester County, PA and needed another couple to help with expenses. It was a short-term deal, and after careful consideration (you can't just live with anyone, you know) my boyfriend (future husband) and I moved into a converted barn, next to a pond, in the middle of nowhere, with my friends and their kids.
The barn was split into two dwellings and the owner/builder and his family lived in the one half while my friends, Jeff & Karen and their three children, Renee, Adrienne, and Stephen, lived in the other half.
I fell in love with the countryside, and with family life at their home. You've seen their two girls on this site, Renee and Adrienne. They were just little when we lived with them, and I loved those kids. My husband had taken a job with Jeff, and I got a position managing a weekly newspaper for a Mennonite man who owned a huge grocery store.
My favorite time of the day was when the family was together at dinnertime and afterwards. The kitchen was always full of hubub, kids doing their homework, Karen or Jeff working their magic on homemade dishes that we all shared together. Everyone took turns cleaning up in the kitchen. It was the big family that I suddenly realized I'd been missing. It was real country life, with a woodburning stove and a rustic atmosphere. Kittens had just been born in a box in the kitchen, and life was good.
The house sat on top of a big hill that had a creek at the bottom. This was a different way of life for me and I found myself falling in love with it. It was early spring and everything was beautiful. Amish country was just down the road and I was the happiest I'd been in awhile. A cornfield had just been planted across the street, there were sheep out back, horses and cattle were grazing, and of course, there were the ubiquituous flies.
To combat the fly problem, my friends had these little things I was unfamiliar with. I found out they were simply called fly strips, and they were hung about in their kitchen. The flies would get caught on the super sticky surface of the fly strip, and then eventually die from all the exertion to get going again. Either that, or starvation.
Regardless, these fly strips sort of freaked me out. But I loved everything, absolutely everything else about my new home with my favorite people.
I was strong, though and I got past my fear of these strips, becoming quite adept at taking them down and putting up a fresh one. The strips would get completely covered with flies. Ick! I forced myself to do this chore to prove I was not a wimp.
Like I said, I loved being with the family in the kitchen at dinnertime and afterwards. All activity went on there, and one evening after dinner, as we were joking around before going for our evening walk, somehow, I don't even remember how, one of the fly strips had come loose from the ceiling, and my head accidentally bumped into it. Ever so slightly. But it was enough, sadly. I'm sorry, it's difficult to type this because I'm loathe to write anything this gross.
Although it's difficult to type the next words, what I'm trying to tell you is that a flystrip full of flies that were still alive and buzzing and exhausting themselves from being stuck to stickiness that only the devil himself could have concocted, well all this was stuck to the left side of my head. And even when people came running to help me, and pulled the aforementioned abomination off my head, the flies continued to be stuck and buzzing to the remaining devil's brew of sticky crap that remained in my hair.
Oh my God, the horror. I was so traumatized by the event that I can't even remember how we got all the stick and the flies out. Jeff, if you're reading this and you remember, please don't even tell me. I don't want to think about it. I think I remember strong dishwashing liquid, the smell of paint thinner, and scissors. I also remember shuddering involuntarily every time I thought about it, for a long long time.
I know I woke up screaming sometimes.
Ok, maybe you all don't think it's that bad, but that fly strip was covered with hundreds of big juicy black flies. They were still alive, for the love of God! Oh, my God. Just typing this . . .
Because of my hatred for the fly, over the years, I've acquired an ability to kill them that would rival that of any sharpshooter. I use a simple fly swatter. And the secret to my fly killing ability includes this criteria:
#1) Always keep your flyswatter in the same accessible place.
#2) The fly must be hit only when it's on a killable surface.
I don't waste fly swats. And I always get my fly. I could care less whether or not you think I'm crazy and I think you just needed to know these things about me.
Or not.
OK, I have issues. And one of them involves houseflies.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Everyone's in Chocolate Syrup

These are a few photos I took on Saturday at my niece's college graduation party in NJ. We had perfect weather, and my husband's sister, Helen and her husband, Bob, have a fantastic home with a beautiful backyard that includes a pool. Not all of the family could attend, for some reason or other, but we had a good time, nonetheless.
I took my camera, like I always do, but this time I put the zoom lens on and sat back and let it all happen. I'm sneaky that way.

The first picture is Meredith. She knew what I was up to and spent a lot of her time trying to avoid the nice lady with the camera. But she soon warmed to me, and I got her to come from behind her mother for this shot. I think it's my favorite out of all the pictures I took.

For all of these photos, I used Pioneer Woman's Lovely and Etheral action after making the initial adjustments I usually do. For some, I added another layer using Doug Boutwell's Super Fun Happy action and lowered the opacity a lot. It's one of the free sample actions I got from Totally Rad. But Meredith here, as well as the other pictures shown here, looks great in this sepia toned B&W. And to achieve that, I used Kevin Kubota's Chocolate Syrup action. I love how rich and creamy it looks, after you run a skin cream action to get it ready for the sepia.

I know it sounds like a lot, but it only takes a couple of minutes. That's what's so great about Photoshop actions. I don't have to go through hoops to get a picture to the state I can see it in my mind. I can run an action and voila! Life is good.

The second picture is Meredith's little brother, Billy. Then we have her mom, Chris. She looks like a young Maria Shriver, doesn't she? Following Chris is my lovely niece, Kim, who is probably either going to be very mad or very glad that I put this picture in the blog. She might hate it, who knows? Kim, if you hate it, call me, ok? I promise I'll take it out. I took it while you were over by the patio chairs talking to your grandmother and telling her some story. Following Kim is Meredith's big brother, Danny. He'll probably hate this too, but he's not getting a vote. Sorry, Danny.

And finally, we've got Kim and her friends playing Cups. On the far left is my sister in law, Helen (Kim's mom) who is learning the game. In the center, at the end of the table is my youngest son, Shaun. He's the one holding his arm up. You've seen him here before.

These were all just ordinary, run of the mill pictures. And with the help of several actions, they turned into portraits with a dramatic effect. We all had a nice time at the party Saturday. Congratulations to Kim! And really, I mean it, Kim. If you want it out, it will disappear . . .

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Winner announced for WGG #19

Tammy at The Color of Home is this week's winner of the Weekend Guessing Game! She was the first person to correctly answer "a mushroom". Great job, Tammy. I like it when I get the perfect picture to use when it's not too terribly difficult, yet not too easy, at the same time. I'd like everyone to know how downright frustrating it is for me sometimes to come up with a picture that will mentally challenge you and yet is also fun. Great care goes into choosing exactly the right picture.
Well, not really.
To tell you the truth, last night around 5:15, I realized that it was, in fact, Friday evening and that I hadn't yet thought of anything for the weekend guessing game. I asked my husband if he could help me think of something I could use as a picture for the guessing game. He gave me a look that I took to mean, "who gives a s*it" but I know he really meant, "I don't know dear, have I told you I love you lately? and by the way, you look lovely in those little capri pants" and then he continued making dinner.
So I sat down at the computer and looked at my macro stock pictures and came across this single picture of a mushroom that I'd taken last month. And within 10 minutes, due to the amazing internet speed I now have, I had a post set up to automatically publish at 6 PM. Then I went to the licorice store. Someday I'll tell you why I call it that, but for now, my husband wanted some Corona. And if he's going to be making me dinner, this is the least I could do for him. Have you noticed how far I've digressed in this post? It's a pity how this happens sometimes.
Tammy has been a regular reader of my site ever since I started blogging. In fact, she and I both began our blogs within about a week of each other. Tammy lives with her family in Oklahoma and if you're looking for a fun game to play this weekend, check out her site. Her daughter has come up with something fun that my dog, George, thinks he might play. It's, well, it's different.
Thanks to all who played this week! Yes, it did look like skin, didn't it? Stay tuned to this blog next weekend on Friday evening at 6 PM when I post the next Weekend Guessing Game. Have a great evening, eeveryone!

Final Photo Assignment #15

I love reading Miriam Lovell's Photography blog and have been haphazardly participating in her weekly photo assignment series. I usually post my entries on Flickr, and once a couple of weeks ago, when my internet company had me on a chokehold, and I couldn't get onto my Flickr account, I ended up posting my entry on my blog, which was embarassing because it was a self-portrait. But I'm posting this entry here because it's sentimental to me. And you know, I just love to share.

This week is the final assignment and we were told that we could do a picture of our choice. Minna told us to "make it a good one" because it's the last. Well, this isn't what I consider to be one of my best photographic examples, as it was taken with my old point and shoot, the little Sony Cybershot I always carried around. But we were told that we could use what we want. And I remember seeing this picture for the first time and really liking it. It has sentimental value to me, and that's the main reason I'm using it. It's an old favorite.

This is my husband fishing on an early autumn morning, off the coast of North Carolina. He'd just turned 50 and, we hadn't thought he'd make it to 50. Let's leave it at that, shall we? And, to me, looking at this picture, I feel all is right with the world. When our children were young, and life held so much promise, we'd take them to North Carolina for our vacation. He liked getting up early and packing up his fishing stuff and walking through the dunes to the ocean where he'd set up a chair and just fish. I'd bring coffee down and then the kids, when they woke up, and take pictures while they played in the sand, as their father fished.

To me, this picture says that everything will be ok. That the world is as it should be. Now, when Minna looks at it, she'll tell me everything that's right or wrong with it. And that's good. Maybe it's just a boring shot of some guy fishing with his jeans rolled up. But what I see is my husband, silhouetted in the early morning light, with the sun twinkling on the waves lapping the shore. It's a familiar sight to me, and his profile hasn't changed a bit since he was that boy I fell in love with at age 19. And everything's gonna be ok.

And that's why I chose this one for my final assignment.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Weekend Guessing Game #19 announced

It's that time again, folks, when I post a picture of something I've taken with my macro lens and you try to guess what in the world it could be.
Another easy one this week ~ or is it? No hints, but I will tell you that I promise to never publish anything gross. I just don't have it in me, and I don't like looking at gross things on other people's blogs.

If you think you have the answer, or even if you just want to drop by and say hello, click on the comment button at the bottom of this post and make a guess (or say your piece). If you're signing in anonymously, please leave your name or your initials.
First one to guess the correct answer is the winner. If you already see what you think is the answer, remember that it may be or it may not. This could be a tricky one. Oh, and there's no prize other than the fame and notoriety you will soon receive from winning this highly regarded contest. Not really.

GAME ON NOW, as of Friday, June 20 at 6:00 PM (EST). Winner will be posted by 6:00 PM Saturday.

Angels are all around us

Today was a good day. And here's one of the reasons why: Today I opened my Gmail account and found an e-mail from someone who saw my blog after she googled WildBlue. Regular readers of this blog will remember this post I wrote with the name Wild Blue Internet service in the post title. This person also happens to work for Wild Blue Internet and today, she helped me get my problems straightened out and I upgraded to a bigger package with more speed and a higher usage threshold. I still don't understand it all, but she is helping me to figure it all out.
So to all my friends, I'm back. My speed is excellent and I can easily get into my account. I don't want to overdo it, because my bandwith usage icon still indicates I'm over the max, so something's up with that. But it's working!
I want to thank my co-worker, Rich, who also happens to be my biggest fan, for suggesting I post about Wild Blue Internet. I also want to thank Mike for helping to explain things to me. Another nod goes to my dog, George, because I think the person from Wild Blue was very taken with him.
But I especially want to thank my new friend, the Angel. I've already told her via e-mail, but I'd like to say it here in public. If Wild Blue Internet has decent people like this working for them, they can't be all bad.
~ Sincerely, Country Girl

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Water for Elephants

You're going to notice that the pictures with this post have absolutely nothing to do with the title. It's fine, though. It's fine because they're pretty and it's June and warm and the daylilies are blooming. Yeah, my internet situation is the pits, but the sun is shining! And it's really not that hot outside. And life is fine.
So, instead of visiting blogs or doing things on the internet, I'm reading. I love reading and I've just finished Water for Elephants and I really enjoyed it.
The book is set in the year 1931 and after the prologue, we open up in a lecture hall at Cornell University. Our lead character, Jacob Jankowski, is sitting in class, listening to a boring professor when suddenly, the dean comes in and asks to see him.
Without divulging too much information about their conversation, Jacob is left in shock. What happens next had me riveted all evening and when I looked up, it was way past my bedtime, and I couldn't wait to begin reading it the following evening.
The story slips back and forth from the present, where we find Jacob in a nursing home, old and gnarled at the age of 91, or is it 93? He can't remember and it pisses him off no end. He's afraid because he's remembering the circus like it was yesterday and then he'll wake up and realize he's old. His memories are brought on due to the fact that a circus is coming to town, and it's being set up in the parking lot right next to the nursing home. All the elderly residents are watching its progress.
The story that takes place for 3 1/2 months of his young life is riveting, to say the least. I WILL tell you that he joins a circus. I know, that sounds odd, but it's where he ended up when he came out of shock.
There's a love story that involves a woman who seems unattainable and an elephant who is thought to be as "dumb as a sack of hammers" until Jacob shows her kindness and respect.
There's death, there's cruelty, but best of all, there's the steamy circus history that the author has researched very well. She even uses original photographs at the beginning of each chapter.

I really didn't think I'd like a book that this sort of backdrop, but I'm glad to have read it. The last page found me with a smile on my face, and I actually laughed out loud with glee at the end.
I like a book that makes me feel good at the end, don't you?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Talkin' 'bout my dog

George is doing really well, with no side effects from his recent surgery. And the good thing is that he’s not humping my leg anymore.
Today, we each took him for a bike ride/run. My husband went first, before I got home and said they were out 45 minutes. When I came home, I took him out for a half hour. He jogs right next to the bike, and we live on roads that are rarely used by the public. The only people you’ll see go by are farm workers.
Even after the runs, George is still rarin’ to go. During dinner, he squeaked his squeaky toy practically the whole time, as if to say “I’m ready to play some more.” So, after dinner, some more fetch games and then I took these pictures of him. Right now, he’s sitting on the back deck, quietly looking at the deer grazing in the paddock below the house. Such is the life of George.
As an aside, I am really missing visiting all your beautiful blogs. With the time-out that WildBlue Internet has me on, my access speed is choked so far back that even getting on to my own blog to post is difficult. I’m still writing in a word document and then pasting it into blogger when I can get on. Usually I have no idea what it will look like until I get to work where the real internet is: Comcast. I’m trying to be patient. Reallly, I am. So, when I can, while I’m on my lunch break, I visit 3 or 4 blogs during the day. But I miss you all, and July 2 can’t come quick enough. Oh, yeah. July 2 is supposedly the day when my time out ends. We’ll see.
Have a nice Wednesday, everyone.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wouldn't it be luverly?

While channel surfing this evening, I happened upon “My Fair Lady” which is showing on TCM. Audrey Hepburn was just beginning to sing “Wouldn’t It Be Lovely?” and immediately I was taken back to my childhood.
Funny how a song does that, isn’t it? And lovely indeed when it’s such a good memory. You see, when I was a young girl, my mother played Eliza Doolittle in a production that that was hosted by our elementary school. My mother, Charlotte, loved to sing and I grew up hearing her voice fill the rooms of our home.
As Audrey Hepburn sang the song this evening, I realized that I knew every single word by heart. When my mother was practicing her act, she played the soundtrack record over and over again. I think I know all the words to all the songs in this movie, because of my mother. She also sang in the local chapter of Sweet Adeleine’s and she had a wonderful, lilting voice.
I don’t think I was ever more proud of her in my young life, than I was the night of that play. She brought the house down with her performance that evening. And I’ll never, ever forget the look of abject happiness on her face as she stood on the stage, a huge bouquet of red roses in her arms, enjoying a standing ovation from the crowd that seemed as if it would never end. I remember it, mom.
I almost wanted to call her to tell her that I remember. Instead, I think I’ll call my father. I know he misses her, too.
Don’t you just love good memories?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Nearing the end of our road trip

This is the third, but I've decided it's not the final chapter of my road trip adventure I took last week with my friend, Karen. I just had such a relaxing time in a new place that I ended up falling in love with and wanted to share it with you. If you don't mind, the story will continue tomorrow for the final time. So here goes.
On the second day, I wanted to travel around and find my way around, maybe take a little hike and get to know the area better. Our new friends we'd met on the balcony of the inn told us of a short hike to a waterfall and gave us driving directions. After a breakfast on the lower veranda of fruit, whole wheat bagel and fresh-squeezed orange juice, we put on our walking shoes and headed out in my trusty Honda Element for points unknown. We found the state park trail head with no problem, and the sign which warned us to be cautious and stated that many people fall, yadda, yadda, yadda. Not to take it lightly, but I've seen warnings like this before while hiking in Shenandoah National Park and I knew that if it got treacherous, I was definitely turning back. So off we went.
But the trail wasn't marked AT ALL and when we got to a crosspoint, there was nothing indicating which way to go. I could hear what sounded like it could be a waterfall off in the distance, but I could hear water in the opposite direction as well. So we hiked back to the beginning where we ran into a local girl that was just leaving who told us that the quicker way to get there was to shimmy through the fence at the end of the parking lot.
So, off we traveled to the far end of the parking lot, but there was no shimmying through THIS fence. It was wedged tight up to a huge rock. She did tell us that she hadn't been on the falls trail for years, so that could explain it. So down we went again, trying to find the trail. Eventually, we gave up and hiked back to the car where we saw another local, an older gentleman, who told us to go back the way we had come, go under the bridge, and then climb up an embankment using the trees to help pull ourselves up. Once up, he said, it's a fairly level hike to the falls. He warned us to be careful climbing up that embankment, because it's rough going. Karen and I looked at each other after he left and we both knew we weren't climbing trees up any embankment. So the falls hike ended there. Now we knew why the people from the balcony said that they only had gone so far, and then turned back!
Back in the car, we decided to head up to Penn's Peak, a short drive away. Penn's Peak is a concert venue that also houses a restaurant and a lively bar. The Black Crows were scheduled to play on the weekend. The view can be seen here in this picture above. I took it off the balcony of the restaurant. Somebody wanted a Bloody Mary but fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on who you are), the bar wasn't open yet.
After that, we drove the quiet country roads, one that was labeled "Fairyland Drive", and wound through a little wooded section. Really nice!
We then decided to check out a B&B we'd seen advertised on a brochure. It's located on the back mountain by Jim Thorpe. Heading up the road to the B&B, we spied a small family coming out of the woods and saw that there was a trail down there. We parked and walked a lovely little trail to a small waterfall and were glad that we finally got to see a waterfall, even though it was just little one! The pictures at the beginning of this post were all taken on this little trail. Up at the B&B, the host showed us around to all the rooms, which weren't booked that particular weekend. The B&B owners are both artists, the husband apparently well-known for his chain-mail jewelry. Their place is called Hill Home Forge and if you click on this link, you can view the jewelry and stained glass and there's a link to the B&B. I didn't take any pictures while there because I thought it would be rude to do so. They have three eclectic rooms in which to stay, the most costly being $175 per night. If you're staying for a couple of nights, they'll teach you stained glass and you can go home with a suncatcher or another small item that you've made yourself. I don't enjoy staying at places where the owners live as well, but if you're into that sort of scene, this place is awesome. Nic's wife, Eileen, took us into their home and our jaws dropped. It's mission-designed with stained glass and woodwork cutouts and the artwork was incredible. Sometimes, when I see things that are this beautiful, my heart soars like an eagle. I've used that phrase since I heard it in a movie I saw over 25 years ago. Quick! Can you name it?
Nic and Eileen East's jewelry collection is extensive and if I had more money to spend, I would have shelled it out for their one-of-a kind glass beaded and silver jewelry, or one of Nic's chain-mail bracelets or necklaces. I had no idea the amount of work that went into making chain mail, and all the patterns he uses. I was truly impressed. Back in town, at one of the shops, we found out that Nic's jewelry was famous in those parts and his wife's jewelry is well-regarded as well.
Later in the afternoon, after a fantastic lunch on the porch at a funky place called "Through the Looking Glass", we visited the little shops in town that were now open. Most don't open on the weekdays until Thursday at 11 am. And they close early! It was my only complaint about the town. You'll be walking along and you'll see a shop, and more often than not, it would be closed.
In this shop, I found some soap that Mental Pause Mama might enjoy. Hmmm, scary graphics. Her friend, Tombstone Annie might like this body cream. I don't know why I thought this, I just did.
We found a nice wine purveyor on Race Street, between St. Mark's Church and the Black Bread Restaurant, that offered tastings and the wine was excellent. The wine shop also featured some vintage photographs of the town in its heyday in the mid 1800's. We bought two bottles of white, one a steal at only $6 and it was getting late, so we headed back to the hotel for another relaxing evening.
To be continued tomorrow!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A ghost story at the Inn at Jim Thorpe

This is the second part of our 3-day stay in Jim Thorpe, PA.
I’ve promised you a ghost story, but what I have is such a small offering, and I hope you’re not too disappointed.
As I mentioned in the previous post, my friend, Karen, and I took a road trip to the town of Jim Thorpe, PA and arrived at the inn on Wednesday and checked into our room. The Inn at Jim Thorpe is very Victorian, and very old fashioned, and Karen summed it up best while walking down the long hallway to our room, and saying “Redrum”. Quick! Who can name that movie? Shimmy Mom, are you listening?
Anyway, it really wasn't a bad feeling. The hallway just seemed to go such a long way and with the carpet and the decor and all the doors, I knew just what she meant.
There were also framed vintage photographs that decorated the walls, and on one wall was the newspaper article I have pictured here, which was printed in October, 1996. It tells of a ghost who haunts two of the rooms (and maybe more) at the Inn. I figured it was probably hype, and didn't give it a second thought.
That evening found us on the balcony having wine with some new friends we had just met. We had room service deliver our dinner to the balcony and had another bottle of wine. Later on in the evening, yet another bottle of wine arrived and we opted to take half of that one back to the room, saying goodnight to our new friends. We didn't have a frig in our room, so I went to the basement to get some ice and then I put the half-empty bottle in the bathroom sink. And then we both fell asleep . . . (don't judge me about the wine, ok? Others were sharing!)
In the morning, we woke up and the wine was gone. The empty bottle was in the trash can, but we couldn't find the cork. I know that I did not get up and finish any more wine, nor did Karen. The only thing I could think of was that the ghost who haunts the inn had decided that we had enough, so she poured it out and put the empty bottle in the trash can. No, really. Neither of us did it and I distinctly remember leaving the wine on ice in the sink!
If you'd like to read more guests comments about the ghost at the inn, you may want to visit this site.
The newspaper article I've pictured above mentions a parapsychologist named Marja Schantz who explains that the ghost is a gentle soul who remains at the inn because she is welcome there. She and her lover had planned a rendevouz there, probably back when it was called The American House. They had each reserved a room on the same floor, but a new employee was working the front desk and gave her a room on a different floor than that of her lover. When he arrived later, he wasn't able to find her. And in those days, it was considered very improper to ask at the desk for the room number of the other. Desperate for her lover, and perhaps for her situation, she ended up committing suicide in her room.
It's a sad story, if it's true. But weird things do happen at the inn.
The Victorian home you see above is the Harry Packer mansion. Harry was Asa Packer's son and a house was built right next door to his parents on Mansion Hill. On the other side of the home is a carriage house. The Harry Packer mansion was used as the model for the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, which is another interesting tidbit I picked up. They also have a 10-room bed & breakfast that includes rooms in the carriage house, and they host Murder Mysteries there. Sounds fun to me!
Here's my friend, Karen, on that lovely balcony. We spent the second day walking some trails which I'll share with you tomorrow. The weather was perfect for our trip and if you're in the area, I suggest you visit this lovely town.
Oh, and sorry about all the b&w photos; I just thought they lent a 'ghostly air' to this post.
POSTSCRIPT: It's well over a month since I've posted this story and I've just found a fellow blogger who lives in OK, the home of Jim Thorpe. She's got her history lesson posted. Please stop by to give it a read if you're interested in Jim Thorpe, the person.
To be continued tomorrow!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Guessing Game winner announced

Jess has won this week's Guessing Game with the correct guess of a SEASHELL. I think everyone had the correct guess, but Jess was first. See, told you it was easy this week! And yes, I found it out in my yard. I have a whole collection of them. Originally, I found it at the beach at Assateague National Seashore in MD, or maybe it was down in Ocracoke, NC. Regardless, George enjoys picking them up and toting them around the yard. He likes to lick them, too. Don't know why.
So Jess, enjoy your fame! I left a message on your blog today, but couldn't find an e-mail address. So the only thing I know about you is from your blog. Sorry!
Shimmy Mom, you were close . . . but close doesn't count in this world, now does it? Ha!
I'll be back next weekend with something much more difficult. Or maybe not. It's summertime. Things should be easier, shouldn't they?
Now say this real quick: She sells sea shells by the sea shore. Three times really fast.
Tomorrow I may have a ghost story for you.

The Switzerland of America

I left home just before dinnertime on Tuesday, after I picked up the pup from the vet and made sure he was doing fine. It was so very hot here in Maryland and I knew Adrienne had a nice cool pool in NJ. And so I headed over there, and picked up her mom, my friend Karen.
The pool was fantastic and just what we needed.
The next morning, we awoke to an absolutely stunning day. The skies were a bright blue, with puffy clouds and the air was soft and cool. A storm had come through in the evening, whisking all that hot and humid air out to sea. What a wonderful day to travel!
So after breakfast, and after Adrienne left for work, we were off. About an hour and a half north of her home, off the Blue Route (476) in PA was our destination. Karen and her husband, Jeff, have been trying to get me and my husband to come here with them for years. I don't know why we've never been able to get away at the same time, but I'm so glad I finally got to see this place.
Karen directed me to a viewing place that looks down on the town. See that mansion with the bright orange roof? I know it's difficult to see. It's almost in the center of the photo above. That's the town we're headed to. To the immediate right is the Lehigh River, and our destination is the town of Jim Thorpe, PA, hailed as "The Gateway to the Poconos". When I go to a new place and I really like it, I like to learn all about the history. I found out that the town was named after the athlete, Jim Thorpe, who died in 1953.
Originally, the town was called Mauch Chunk, which is the Indian name for "Sleeping Bear" and was founded in 1818 by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, founded by Asa Packer. It quickly became a booming railroad and coal-shipping center. The city was the location of the trials of the Molly Maguires in 1876 which resulted in four men found guilty of murder. The old jail is still there, on Broadway St. It was closed most of the time we were there, however.
In 1954, the town adopted the name of Jim Thorpe, after his widow came to them asking for their help. Jim Thorpe's hometown couldn't afford a proper memorial and so she offered her husband's name to the town of Mauch Chunk, and they accepted, hoping to attract tourism and other attention to help its crumbling economy. The odd thing is that Jim Thorpe had never even set foot in this town.
This little town has been called "The Switzerland of America", due to its mountainous location, picturesque scenery and its architecture.
We stayed at one of the nicest places in the borough, the Inn at Jim Thorpe, long known for its hospitality and opulent rooms and suites. I was surprised to find out that in the early part of this century, this town was the #2 destination for honeymooners, with Niagra Falls at #1. But I was really surprised to find out that our hotel had a resident ghost! (More on that later).
The second floor has a balcony that runs the entire length of the hotel. With its ornate wrought iron railings, beautiful hanging baskets, and inviting wicker rocking chairs, we felt right at home. Mary at the Little Red House would absolutely love the Victorian charm of this town. There's an old cemetery that Tombstone Annie would adore exploring, and I saw something in the window of an eclectic gift shop that Mental Pause Momma could use. More on all that later on, too.
But this was our first day in town, and after we checked in early, we explored the main street for a couple of hours, and then settled down for a drink on the spacious veranda on the 2nd floor. I always bring my traveling wine glasses and a favorite wine stopper, so we were all set. It's funny, but when you're sitting outside, with your wine bottle in an ice bucket, sitting at the party table, everyone who came out (well, almost everyone) asked where we were from and wanted to chat with us.
I love doorways and there were some beautiful ones in town. Here's the door to the Inn. At a later time, I'll let you know how the second and third days went, ok? I'd like to address something else right now.
To all of you who wrote the lovely comments on the Mustard Story (see a couple of posts below), I can't tell you how surprised I was! This was a story that I almost didn't publish, just because it's, well, personal. If my husband read this blog, he'd be appalled! I've tried to show him several times, but he's so private. Such the opposite of me! I just want to thank everyone, especially those who have been faithful readers, who commented for the first time ever.
It's fine to just read this blog. It's what I used to do before I started blogging myself. I NEVER. EVER. COMMENTED. I mean, never. I just figured I didn't really have anything to say. And then, I started blogging myself. And suddenly, I realized how much it meant to have feedback on my pictures and my writing.
So, thank you, everyone. Didn't mean to make you cry. Or choke you up. Or have you lusting for the good taste of a gourmet mustard. But, back to the task at hand . . .
Road Trip ~ to be continued tomorrow!