Thursday, September 30, 2010

Happy Day-After-Your-Birthday to Frank!

Frank

He may not be a blogger but he's a good guy and I wanted to take the time to wish Frank a very happy birthday even though I'm a day late.  I'm sure this will suitably embarrass him but I'll make up for it with that apple pie at work later today! 

Frank & Dawn

Just in case the apple pie doesn't work I thought maybe I should post a picture of his beautiful bride and wife of less than five months - Dawn. Now go ahead and try to tell me that man is not in love!

Happy day-after-your-birthday, Frank, and best wishes for many more years of happiness with the love of your life!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On the Whole When It Comes to New England, I'm Less Than Some and More Than Others

Recently the undisputed king of all magazines in New England, Yankee, had an article entitled "How New England Are You? 75 Things Every New Englander Should Do" by Ian Aldrich.  Even though I was raised an Air Force brat and called a good number of other states home before I settled down in Connecticut for good back in 1986, I have always considered myself to be a New Englander so I decided to take a gander at the list and see where I stood amongst my northern peers.  All things considered I think I did okay ... perhaps some of my other New England friends might agree?

Know the Pain That Came With Being a Red Sox Fan Pre-2004
It hasn't always been about pink hats and multiple World Series titles, folks. Johnny Pesky holding the ball ... Bill Buckner and Game 6 ... Bucky Dent in '78 ... and Aaron Bleeping Boone. 'Nuff said, right?  (And this doesn't even cover the '75 World Series when the BoSox first broke my heart against the Cincinnati Reds while I was still a teenager!)


Talk About the Big Storms Like an Old-Timer
The Blizzard of '78:  Winds as high as 100 mph were recorded, and that snow--55 inches of the stuff in some parts. (Yep, it were a bad 'un!)


Eat Your Apple Pie with a Slice of Cheddar
Like Fenway and the Green Monster ... like the month of March and Town Meeting. These two institutions were made to be together.  (If you haven't tried it, I highly suggest you do so and just remember - the sharper the cheese the better!)


Drink Your Coffee Milk
Hey, it's Rhode Island's official state drink. You don't think a million people could be wrong, do you?  (That would be Autocrat and there's a bottle in my refrigerator as well as another in the cupboard!)


Brown-Egg It
The health benefits may be debatable, but New Englanders know that when it comes to the almighty egg, those bigger, tastier brown-shelled varieties (thank you, Rhode Island Red!) put the whites to shame.  (As we like to say in these parts, "Brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh!"  There's a dozen in the fridge as I type this!)


Weave Around a Real New England Frost Heave
Frost heaves, like the Lord, work in mysterious ways, casting down some parts of the road and exalting others. We memorize the smoothest routes, until they become automatic. We become Mississippi riverboat pilots, meandering down the road, subconsciously aware of every hidden snag and mudbank.  (And some years the heaves are worse than others - good shocks are in order!)


Actually Climb Bunker Hill Monument
Two hundred and ninety-four steps doesn't sound like that many at the bottom, but you feel it about halfway up the narrow spire. They should install inspirational signs along the way, like "How much do you love your country?" When you get back down, make sure to yell, "We made it!" at the park ranger. You've earned it, and he's used to it by now.  (Okay so it was 1971 when I did this - that still counts, right??)


Have an Awkward Conversation With Someone Who Won't Break Character
Maybe it was a Pilgrim at Plimoth Plantation, or maybe a soldier at a Civil War reenactment, or someone claiming to be Mark Twain--we've all been there. For better or worse, living history is alive in New England, filling our museums with authentically clad time travelers who want nothing more than to tell you about their plough or the recent wave of white plague (tuberculosis). That's the thing about having more history than the rest of the country--there's more of it to come back to haunt you.  (Mystic Seaport, Sturbridge Village ... yep, been there and done that but I was young at the time!  These days I know better!)


Grin and Bear It: Bits of Life Every New Englander Has Learned to Contend With
Blackfly season: We know not to wear dark-colored clothes.
May frost: We know not to plant before Memorial Day.
Mud season: We know enough to park and walk down that "quaint" dirt road in March.
Boiled dinners: We just know that we're supposed to like them. So we do.
Hollywood's Boston accents: We know that Matt Damon should play all Beantown characters.
(There are just some things you learn to accept - however, I could really do without the bad accents - a'yut!)


Tour the USS Constitution
The quick skinny on the world's oldest commissioned warship still afloat. Launch: October 21, 1797, Boston's Hartt Shipyard; one of the first six ships commissioned by the new U.S. Navy. Size: 204 feet long; 220-foot mainmast (just 1 foot shorter than Bunker Hill Monument). Crew capacity: 500 (uncomfortable) men. Name game: Earned its nickname, Old Ironsides, after a victorious battle against the British in the War of 1812. Current home: Charlestown, MA. (I've actually done this one twice!  Once back in 1971 when I also climbed Bunker Hill and once again in 2002 when I got to Bunker Hill and just stood there and looked up at it!)


Orchard House Sign


Read a Timeless New England Book (Any of These Will Do)
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
We Took to the Woods, by Louise Dickinson Rich
Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
(The only one I haven't read is the one by Louise Dickinson Rich but as for the rest - of course!)

Tour the Bones in Our Closet
We may not be proud of all of our history, but that won't stop us from putting in a gift shop and charging admission. Morbidly inclined travelers can pick from an assortment of macabre New England attractions, including the Lizzie Borden B&B in Fall River, Mass.; a tour of Boston Strangler crime scenes; and pretty much the entire city of Salem, also in the curiously ghoulish Bay State. (Funny, I was just looking at the Lizzie Borden B&B on-line the other day and wondering when I could fit in a trip!  And we all know I've done Salem several times and will be there again before the year's end.)

Customs House Eagle and Cupola

Know That Covered Bridges Weren't Covered to Keep Out the Snow
Joe Allen of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, who answered Yankee reader inquiries for more than 35 years in his "Sayings of the Oracle" column, had a short fuse when it came to questions regarding the origin of the covered bridge. One of his last answers proved to be the hottest: "Jesus for Guard Almighty, we thought all hands knew by this time," he wrote back to one reader. "Bridges were covered, damn fool, for the same reason women used to wear petticoats--to protect their underpinnings. Ever hear that wood rots when it gets wet? Your asinine suggestion that they were covered to keep the snow off the road is dead wrong. In fact, I recollect throwing snow inside the bridges after a snowstorm so our sleighs wouldn't grind on the wood." Rest in peace, Joe.  (Come on now, you don't think I went and took all of those pictures of covered bridges in Vermont last year without knowing this, did ya?)

Mount Orne Bridge, Vermont

Know Where the Chowder Turns Red
The chowder line is that geographic boundary demarcating the place where creamy-style New England chowder asserts itself as top choice over tomato-based Manhattan chowder and clear-broth Rhode Island chowder. In the 1930s, one Maine publication went so far as to claim that the addition of tomato to clam chowder was "the work of the Reds," who sought to undermine "our most hallowed tradition," and suggested that housewives and chefs adding tomatoes be forced "to dig a barrel of clams at high tide as penalty."  (Red and clear chowdah?  Heavens no!  It's creamy or none for this New Englander!)


Make a Fool of Yourself Playing Candlepin
With an all-time high score of 245 (out of a possible 300), candlepin is a game that refuses to be mastered. Some say the small balls and tiny pins make for a game of grace and precision; others claim they're punishment from God to humble smug ten-pin bowlers. Either way, the first time you strike the two center pins--and nothing else--you should learn to laugh at yourself, because everyone else at the alley already is. (Ah yes, candlepin bowling ... the height of teenage embarrassment and I remember it well!)


After my trip to New Hampshire and Maine next week I'll be able to check two more off of the list:

Play It Humble
Head to York, Maine, and pretend you're not a tourist by trying not to take a picture of Nubble Light--perhaps the most photographed lighthouse in the world. (My cousin Amy did this one this past summer when she was in Maine with her friend Vanessa - of course it's on my list, too!)


Ride the Scenic Railroad
Unless you've ridden the Conway Scenic Railroad through Crawford Notch in New Hampshire's White Mountains in autumn--chugging through the color, across a trestle so narrow that it seems to have no visible means of support, spanning a rushing stream 94 feet below--you've never seen the region like this before.  (As a matter of fact, I have tickets sitting on the dresser in my bedroom for this very thing!  That would be the Frankenstein Trestle that he's talking about and I will do my level best to get a picture or two provided the camera doesn't slide out of my sweaty hands!)


My thanks to Mr. Ian Aldrich for the original article and to everyone who's pictures I used for this post when I couldn't find any of my own.

Tesla Talks

Tesla

So you guys remember how awhile back that kid with the funny hair that used to be around all the time packed up a bunch of her stuff and disappeared? Yeah, well, since then I've been feeling kind of lost because I think she was sorta my kid ...

Amanda & Tesla 2

Now, I know that we cats are supposed to be independent and aloof and all that sort of thing but honestly, I'm in need of some company here lately - I've got needs!

Tesla

In order to fulfill some of those needs, I've taken to jumping up on the computer desk that the lady who buys the toys always seems to be sitting at as that seems like the only way I can get any attention around here!

Tesla

So ... hmmm, I wonder what this stuff is back here?

Tesla

What do you mean it would be bad if I were to unplug it??

 Tesla

Get off the desk?  I don't think so with the get off the desk!  You get off the desk!

Tesla

Alright then, I'll just move over to the other side of the desk where I can't unplug anything.

Tesla

Or better yet - how about I just take over the entire desk?

Tesla

How do you like me now?  See, you can't even get your hand on that mouse thing because I'm practically lying on top of it!  Not that it looks like any sort of mouse I've ever seen anyway!  Why just the other day ...

Tesla

... Oh, hey wait a minute, what's that over there?

Tesla

It looks like there's something out in the yard!

Tesla

I gotta get me a closer look!

Tesla

Tell ya what, I'm just going to hang out on the window sill for a little while and guard the yard, okay?


Better yet maybe I'll just take a nap in the sun on my chair for a little bit and recharge the old batteries!

But don't worry, I'll be back on that desk again before you know it!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits

After working a couple extra shifts this weekend - both of which required me to be at work by 7:00 a.m. - as well as my usual Monday double, I was pretty wiped out and slept in until almost 10:00 this morning.  Bliss!  It really doesn't take much to make me happy - just give me a morning when an alarm clock is not necessary!

I was supposed to be flying off to Tennessee today with my cousin to attend the International Bluegrass Music Association convention in Nashville but those plans had to be changed when Jamie came up to live with me.  It would have been nice to be able to visit Lois in her natural habitat but my staying home was for a good reason as Jamie seems to be happy here in Connecticut and I'm happy to have her finally living with me again.  Perhaps next year I can make the trip and the cousin and I can fit in some Civil War history, too!

Next week I'm taking five whole days off of work - yep, that's right FIVE! - and my mother and Jamie and I are heading north in search of foliage and fun.  We'll spend the first night in Jackson, New Hampshire so that we can ride the North Conway Scenic Railroad through the White Mountains on Wednesday and then that evening we'll head East to Maine where we're going to spend two nights in Bethel, Maine at the historic Chapman Inn before heading Down East to spend another two nights in Lincolnville, Maine.  I think we're going to have a wonderful time!

I've never really spent much time in Maine as Stephen King has rather scared me away from the place but I'm willing to put those fears aside for a bit and see what Maine has to offer.  I've been planning scenic drives and other things to do while we're there and I'm sure I'll come back with way too many pictures as per usual and will then want to go back to see some more of the area.  Heck, maybe I'll even spot a moose or two!

Speaking of going back, I've made reservations to return to the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Massachusetts in mid-December.  Following the blog post I did about the Hawthorne, I had many wonderful emails back and forth with Juli, the General Manager, and she's got me set up to spend one night in both of the "haunted" rooms at the hotel as well as a chance to see the Salem Mariner Society's room on the 6th floor and an exhibit, Treasures From the Forbidden Palace in China, at the Peabody Essex Museum that will be moving down to the Met in New York City in 2011.   I am really looking forward to my stay as Christmas decorations will be up, a fire will be burning in the beautiful fireplace in the Tavern, and I'll get to write about my stay at two more beautiful rooms at a beautifully historic hotel - haunted or not!

Oh, and one more thing I just have to share that Juli shared with me because it really makes me smile:  The Hawthorne has their own blog and Juli shared the post that I did on her blog which prompted the following email that she received from a friend of hers in Rotary who is a retired optometrist, loves great photos, and wrote their Rotary weekly newsletter for decades.  With those credentials I'm taking this as great praise:
Juli ~
Perfectly happy to join you in congratulating Linda for her very entertaining blog. She has a magnificent command of the English language, and I really had to look back twice at her wonderful photographs. It may not be good taste to wonder what kind of a camera she uses, but my guess is that it must be somewhere in the vicinity of a Leica. From the standpoint of composition, I wouldn't hesitate classifying her as a champion. Since her work is copyrighted, I am assuming she's an author. Are any of her books available?
John
Is that just not the coolest thing ever??  I have to say that I was beyond flattered to read that and only wish that I really was an author and had a book or two out there!  Ah, dreams ...

Oh and whilst I'm blowing my own horn ... I had a Facebook message yesterday from Amy Holmberg at Holmberg Orchards asking if she could add my post to their webpage so that others could see it.  She wrote, "Thanks for spreading the word... it's people like you that keep the local farmer in business and help keep CT green!" Aw shucks, it was my pleasure, Amy!  The Holmbergs have a beautiful orchard as well as a winery - which I forgot to mention in my post and may require a return trip to investigate!  Honestly, if just one person goes someplace new because of a post that I wrote then I am a very happy woman!

Anyhow, because I slept in this morning I need to get to a few other things on the agenda before heading back into work this afternoon which means I'd best get myself off of this computer and into the kitchen!  A very happy Tuesday to everyone!  Oh and would you look at that ... I made it through a post without a single picture!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Music That Memories Are Made Of

So there I was, minding my own business on a Sunday evening editing a few pictures and listening to the music that's downloaded on my iPhone when the following song came up on shuffle:


No sooner had the first few notes played when all of a sudden I found myself really, really missing Amanda.  Now, that's not to say that this is the first time that I've missed her since she went off to Montserrat but you know how there are just some songs that will bring a lot of memories springing right to the surface?  Yep, that's one of 'em right there for the simple reason that it's the last song that I "stole" from her after hearing it a few times in the car and deciding that I rather liked it!

As much as I love having Jamie living at home with me now, I still miss her older sister from time to time (though I beg of you not to tell her that as I'm supposed to be made of sterner stuff!) and I even miss a lot of the music that she used to play though most of it was from the likes of Ludo, Creature Feature, and a bunch of bands that a lot of people may have never heard of.  After all, she also liked movie soundtracks and I've got both Inception and Sherlock Holmes downloaded on my iPhone, too, along with a host of music from Doctor Who.  I'd like to think the kid takes after me and has good taste in music!  With her gone, I'm a little afraid I'm going to be totally out of touch with new stuff now as Jamie is much more partial to older groups like AC/DC and Nickelback.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you!  Ah well ... she'll just have to get me caught up when she's home for Thanksgiving break!

In the meantime, just in case you're wondering how she's been doing ... I'm guessing that she's loving pretty much every moment of college life as I very rarely hear from my oldest daughter unless she's running low on cash, has a question of some sort, or wants to tell me about the awesome Ludo concert that she went to in Boston or that she found the coolest bookstore in Salem that had the best selection of Gris Grimly books evah!  So good in fact that she spent $20 of her food money on a couple of them and said she wouldn't mind missing a few meals for the cause!  Nice to know that some things never change!

Oh, speaking of change, Amanda has a new roommate and they're like two peas in a pod as you can see from this picture I took when I was up that way a couple weekends ago ...

Amanda & Eli

That's Eli (actually her name is Elizabeth but there are several other Elizabeths in their house so she goes by Eli) and she's from New Hampshire.  Like Amanda she's a freshman and wants to do her concentration in illustration and they have A LOT in common.  They managed to talk their respective roommates into doing a room switch and now share a room on the third floor of the house across from Amanda's original room. They think they even look a little bit alike and I'm inclined to agree!

Amanda & Eli - Comic Book Version

After I took the two of them out to lunch in Gloucester with Jamie and I, they hammed it up a little bit in front of their house before we said our good-byes to head back to Connecticut and they went to go do laundry and homework.  So even though I do miss Amanda from time to time, especially when I hear a song that reminds me of her, I'm very pleased to know that she's doing well at college and has made friends.  It does a Mom's heart good to know that her offspring are happy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Picking Our Way Through Holmberg Orchards

Holmberg Orchard Sign

Rumor has it that one of my co-workers has a birthday coming up this week but rather than bake him a cake, I know for a fact that Frank's partial to apple pie and I've been told I bake a pretty decent one.  With that being the case, I decided after work on Saturday that a trip to the apple orchard was in order as you can't bake an apple pie without apples! 

Holmberg Orchards

I called up our family friend Amy and asked if she'd like to take a drive over with Jamie and I as I know that Amy like to take pictures almost as much as I do and it seemed like a good photo op.  In spite of aching ankles, Amy was up for it so we made the short drive over to Gales Ferry. 

Holmberg Orchards

Holmberg Orchards is a family-run enterprise that is currently in its fourth generation.  The property was originally purchased by the Holmberg family in 1896 by Adolph and Hulda who grew and sold what were reputed to be some of the finest vegetables in Southeastern Connecticut.

Holmberg Orchards

In 1931 the farm was bought by sons Harold and Henry who began planting peach, apple, and pear trees in 1935.  Today the commitment to grow "the finest fruit for the finest customers" is carried out by Harold's son Richard and his wife, Diane, along with two of their children.

Cortland Apples

Though the orchard offers six different varieties of apples, my favorite has always been a nice Cortland and Holmberg had them in abundance just begging to be plucked off of their branches. 

Jamie & An Apple

Jamie said that she thought this one was sporting a wig it had some many leaves attached! 

Red Delicious Apples

Of course, I'm not the only one eating these apples so we had to get some of Jamie's all-time favorite - Red Delicious! 

Delicious!

That's an apple fit for Snow White right there! 

Mutsu Apples

These are Mutsu which Jamie told me are very good so we picked a few of those to go into the bag, too.

Pears

Holmberg also had quite a crop of Bosch Pears but we didn't get any as Jamie said she only likes the green pears. Picky!  Picky! 

Pumpkins

What's an orchard without pumpkins? 

Decisions, Decisions!

So many pumpkins that a girl just can't decide! 

Pumpkin Patch

We ended up not getting a pumpkin just yet as Jamie said she wanted to wait until closer to Halloween.  I'm pretty sure there will be one or two left when she does decide she wants one and we go back again!

Tractor Rides at Holmberg Orchards

There were plenty of people, young and old alike, taking tractor rides around the orchards but we opted not to on this trip though it did look like fun.

Fall Gourds

One of my favorite things in autumn would be the colorful gourds ... 

Fall Mums

... and the beautiful fall mums, too! 

Apple Cider

There were jugs and jugs of fresh apple cider - another of Jamie's favorites. 

How Tall This Fall, Jamie?

By the way, Jamie, just how tall are you this fall?  

A Bowlful of Apples

We ended up with a nice assortment of apples that shined up real pretty once I got them home and rinsed them off. I think there's enough there to bake a nice birthday pie for Frank as well as have one or two to eat but if we run out, Holmberg Orchards is just a short drive down the road and maybe next time the weather might be more fall-like rather than the 85 degrees with humidity that it was on Saturday.  Ugh!