Thursday, June 30, 2011

Relishing life's little surprises...

Life is full of surprises.  Sometimes they are big, bad surprises like the tornadoes that ripped through our area earlier this month.  Sometimes they are small and pleasant.  My daughter Carrie and I encountered one of the latter on our recent trip to Ohio.

For many years now, we have been breaking up our trips to Ohio into two days.  We just can’t drive the fifteen hours or so in one fell swoop anymore.  Greg did some research for us and because of where we were going in Ohio, our break came in Altoona, Pennsylvania, which is someplace we had never been.

Altoona is a great town.  Who knew??  Our first impression wasn’t so great because we drove into town near where all the shopping, motels and chain restaurants are located, but once we were into our room and started searching for a place for dinner, we knew we landed in the right place.

I joked with Carrie saying I bet there was no Indian restaurant in Altoona.  Out came my phone and my Urban Spoon app.  To our surprise, there is a good Indian restaurant in Altoona called “Tandoor King.”  I recommend it to anyone who is rolling through there.    On our trip through town to get to the Tandoor King, I knew that we couldn’t leave the next day unless we took a photo tour.  Here are some of the results from that.

You may have noticed by now that I don’t necessarily go for the “pretty” parts of town in my photography.  I much prefer the “interesting” parts.  So my suggestion is that you stop in Altoona if you are ever in the area and go to Tandoor King for dinner and Tom & Joe’s for breakfast.  After that, check out the outlet store at BoyerCandy, home of the famous Mallo Cup.  And see if you can find Hedda Hopper’s grave in the Rose Hill Cemetery.  We couldn’t.  Before you know it, you will be heading out late for your next destination and won’t have any idea where all the time went.

I am already planning my next trip to Altoona.  That trip will include taking in a ballgame at Blair County Stadium to see the Altoona Curve, a stop in the RailroadersMemorial Museum and the Horseshoe Curve National Historic Landmark and more.  I’m looking forward to it.

At Tom & Joe's.

In Rose Hill Cemetery

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Is it worth an hour?

Greg and I are sort of toying with the idea of retiring to Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The idea has many positives to it.  Ideally, we would purchase a single floor loft or condo in the downtown area, thereby allowing us to walk to many of the places we might want to go.  That would mean no outside maintenance…a very attractive idea.  Portsmouth is only about an hour away from where we are living now so we would be fairly close to our kids and friends.  Portsmouth has a large, thriving Unitarian Universalist church.  That would give us an easy opportunity to meet local people and to get involved in the community.  It’s not too big…or too small.  It has great restaurants and is close to the ocean.  Being close to the ocean means there wouldn’t be as much snow to deal with.  Having great restaurants means we would be spending a lot of our kids’ inheritance on food.  Portsmouth isn’t too far from Boston where there is a major airport allowing us to travel to exotic locales easily.  (Sorry, kids, there goes the rest of the money.)  It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Well, check back in five years.  I know us and I am sure we will still be here in Massachusetts wondering what to do with ourselves.  But, in the meantime, we will make trips up to Portsmouth and enjoy the area because it really is a neat place.  I am posting some photos from our last trip there.

One of the negatives about moving there is that it would make our yearly trips to Ohio one hour or so longer.  Since I am about to embark on another drive to Ohio for a family (Greg’s) reunion and then on to see my mother on her birthday, I am glad we haven’t made that move to Portsmouth yet.  I’ll be back in a week.  Take care of yourselves until I see you again.

Oh, yeah...and did I mention lobster??

Portsmouth "skyline" taken from the water.

Portsmouth Harbor Light

Whaleback Light

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Adventures of the Lame Ass Soul Sisters…

Getting back home after our vacation, I hit the ground running…or limping quickly anyhow since I have a bad knee.  I left to go to Europe in the middle of a major project that I was spearheading or, if the truth were known, it may be more appropriate to say that I was “butterknifeheading” this project.

Seven friends and I had undertaken the challenge to make a clerical stole for our friend Misty-Dawn Shelly who was ordained a Unitarian Universalist minister on June 12.  We had started the project about a month before I left but with scheduling difficulties it was hard for us to get together often.  So when I returned on May 29, push came to shove and it had to get done…
by June 12.

Looking at a clerical stole, you might not think it would be all that hard to put together, but you might be wrong.  I have been sewing and quilting for about 25 years and I was mystified as to how to go about it.    That’s why it’s nice to have friends – creative friends.  We muddled through, came up with a design based on Misty’s reverence for trees and nature and proceeded to put the thing together.   Friend Laurel came up with a name for us:  LAMSS (Laugh-a-Minute Stole Stitchers) and it stuck with a couple of variations…LAst Minute Stole Stitchers and LaMe Ass Soul Sisters.  I liked the last name the best.  Thanks, Friend Diane!   We worked hard and had lots of laughs.  And best of all, the stole turned out all right.

I was honored to present the stole to Misty along with my soul sisters on June 12.  Misty seemed to really like it.  I think it looks great on her.

My very talented daughter Carrie took the last three photos.

The Concept:  Mary Ann did the drawing.  I colored it in.  I had the fun part.

Rita acted as our official model.  Here we're checking the length.

Laurel making sure the tree didn't hit in an embarrassing spot.  Nancy is behind doing something.

Our signature leaves that we added to the back.  Rita and Michelle are missing.

A slightly slap happy Mary Ann models the "finished" project.

My soul sisters & Me:  Me, Mary Ann Adams, Rita Schiano, Laurel Burdon, Donna Sullivan, Diane Oliver-Jensen "OJ" and Michelle Clifford.  Unfortunately, Nancy Hyde was unable to make it.

Rev. Sara Ascher and the new Rev. Misty-Dawn Shelly.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Life Lessons from the Sun King...

When I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, I was browsing around the library one day and lit on a book about Louis XIV (or as my daughter Carrie calls him – Louis the Ex-Eye-Vee) of France.  Since the day I picked up that book all those years ago, I have wanted to see Versailles for myself.  Well, I finally have.  Greg and I took a day and the train to Versailles to check it out before we headed back to the States.

I won’t say I was disappointed exactly, but I was a little put off by the crowds of people who obviously had read that same book that I had.  The place was packed.  I know it was pie in the sky for me to think that we would have it to ourselves, but pretty much until we got to the Hall of Mirrors, I felt like I was being pushed along prettily steadily by the crowd and I didn’t get to fully appreciate what I was seeing.  It was a bummer or possibly simply bad planning on our part.  Then we went outside and I felt much better.  The gardens at Versailles are so big and beautiful that the crowds seemed to disperse into thin air.

The bottom line is that I learned a couple of things during my experience at Versailles.  The first thing is to skip the house (well, I guess they correctly call it a palace) next time and go directly to the gardens.  And, secondly, that I am not a person who is very comfortable in crowds.  Whether that is the cause or the effect of us living out in the country, I don’t know, but it is true that given the choice, I would take the pastoral Normandy over the city of Paris and the crowds at Versailles pretty much any day.
  That’s just the way I am.
Having said that, I am very happy that I got to spend time in Paris and a little time walking in the same space once occupied by the very interesting and well-dressed Louis, the Sun King.  He built himself quite a house there.

As a little post script here, I want to thank the young man who came to my rescue when I couldn’t get my return ticket to register in the turnstile when we got back to Paris from Versailles.  Before I knew what was happening, he scanned his pass to allow me to go through the gate and then did a graceful leap over the gate and was on his way.
  Merci beaucoup.  Votre gentillesse a été très appréciée.

Greg and me in the Hall of Mirrors.

The Orangery

Pointing the way to the train back to Paris.