Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Soup Recipe

In keeping with their usual panache, Longwood Gardens has once again, exceeded my expectations. We maintain an annual membership in our family so we can visit as often as we wish and they give us special perks in their loyalty program. We visit their gardens, but also greatly enjoy their food service. They have a garden cafe as well as a full-service restaurant. Large groups can arrange catered events. Their restaurant features bread baked in tiny clay flower pots with the bread "blooming" at the top to produce very cute, tasty rolls. Our favorite dish is the mushroom soup which lures us for lunch any time we visit the gardens.

Kennett Square, Pennsylvania is the home of Longwood Gardens as well as many mushroom farms. This regions calls it the "mushroom capital of the world" because over 51% of the nation's mushroom crops are grown in this location. There is a tourist industry catering to these little caps. This year's annual mushroom festival produced a commemorative cookbook. They are pretty much like chicken in that they are like little sponges and assume the flavors and spices with which they are combined. They are very tasty and very healthy whether in soup or on a pizza. I refer to the mushrooms which are commonly used in cookery, and not to be confused with "shroomery" or the production of mind-altering drugs. TMI on mushrooms?

I mentioned the soup on my previous post and CiCi from "Liquid Mind, Sanguine Soul" inquired about the recipe. I looked on the website for Longwood Gardens, but the recipe was not listed. I went to their "contact us" section and sent them e-mail suggesting that they put it on their web page. They e-mailed a copy of the recipe to me! We had thought it would be a big trade secret and they would never reveal their secret recipe, but here it is. You gotta love an organization that is so responsive to their fans. I haven't tried making the soup yet, but now I know what I have to buy.

1 quart water
½ cup heavy cream
1 leek, washed & diced
2 shallots, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 tsp vegetable oil
2  Tbsps butter, divided
1/2 cup shitake mushrooms caps, julienned
1/2  cup cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup white mushrooms, sliced
½ cup sherry wine
1 ½ Tbsps flour
2 stalks chopped tarragon
4 stalks chopped thyme
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp truffle oil

Heat heavy cream slowly on low.

Over medium heat, sauté the leek, shallots, celery, and thyme with the vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter slowly until translucent and sweet.  Add the thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Add all the mushrooms and cook until they wilt and liquid is released.

Pour in the sherry and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.

Place the remaining butter in a large stockpot on medium heat until melted, then remove from flame.  Add flour while whisking to combine, and pour in water.  Whisk until smooth.  Return to heat and continue to stir until it comes to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the hot heavy cream, tarragon, and sautéed vegetables.  Bring back to a boil for 4 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Finish with the truffle oil.

Serves 4

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Festive Holiday Scenes

My family seems to have adopted the holiday tradition of visiting Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA at this time of the year. It is a spectacular presentation and different each year.

We like to visit around dusk and have dinner at their restaurant. They make a unique mushroom soup since they are in Kennett Square, the mushroom capital of the world. Their chocolate chip cookies are the size of a plate. Usually, the weather is very cold so hot chocolate is a must.

It is quite a challenge for the photographers, but we try our best. It isn't easy with freezing hands to take those outdoor shots. I managed to find a few photos that were useful representations of the fabulous lights.


We had an early Christmas present yesterday. Our three-year-old grandson came to visit for the day while Mom and Dad went to lunch and a movie. The young man has a passion for making networks with cables he finds in Papa's office and in mine too. His dad and grandfather work with computers a lot when they are here. He thinks this is great family fun, so he takes old coils of Cat 5 cables and a hub box, strings them all together, plugs them together and plugs the hub into the electrical socket. A little green light comes on and he cheers like he has built the empire state building. Mr. M. has had to learn the difference between a phone cable and a computer cable because the end looks the same but there is a slight difference in size. He connects the phone cables to several old princess phones that we have, then he shows us how all of it works together. What a scream. He had cords all over the family room floor yesterday and we just watched and shook our heads. It was so funny. He wants to be a networking expert. Now I have to recoil all of the cables and put them into a box in my office because he will do it all over again next time they visit. Whatever floats his boat is fine with us. What's WiFi?

He likes to clean out the kitchen cabinet of anything that looks interesting. Yesterday, he took out a container with little cups for poaching eggs. The whole thing goes together with a big dutch oven I have and he spent hours playing with it. He went upstairs to get my container of buttons and put them in the five ramekins, then he removed them and replaced them with Scrabble tiles. We are always laughing about how he finds the weird stuff around the house to be great toys. He didn't spend much time on real toys yesterday.

Mr. M. spent a lot of time bringing us books to read to him. He prefers the interactive ones that have popups and little flaps that he can open. He knows the entire story and if you skip a part of something on the page, he insists that you say that the mouse is in the closet, or whatever. He knows the whole story but loves to open the flaps. How many kids have two adults all to himself for an entire day? He is so overjoyed when he gets here. He rips off his shoes, waves goodbye to his mom and dad and races into the family room. He is eager to get to his special day. They look at each other and say, "Who are we, nobody?" We all laugh that he is so excited.

This young man is the master of the movable feast. Yesterday, he ate a banana, two little bowls of cereal, four chicken nuggets, two pieces of pineapple, and four Oreos--all over the house. He takes them in small plastic containers so he can eat while he plays. He has no patience with sitting at a table to eat--that's boring. He knows there is stuff to play with while he chews. It takes too long to eat to sit with idle hands at a table. Nana and Papa are very indulgent. He's not ready for a restaurant. We'll have to try to get him to stay at the table when he gets older.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Looking for Santa

Last Christmas, my son's family had given us some Lindt chocolates in cute little boxes that looked like presents so I kept them with my decorations. This year, I put them into a sleigh decoration I have because they seemed to fit perfectly. When the kids visited last Sunday, my granddaughter discovered them and asked where was Santa. I told her I would look in my decorations and see if I could find one to complete the fantasy of Santa with his sleigh. I agreed that the sleigh needed a Santa. 

Later, I was in the kitchen when my three-year-old grandson came in to look at the magnets on my fridge door. He took off a new one of a Santa and showed it to me. I told him that was Santa and that he could play with it. He went into the family room and I went back to baking cookies with his sister. Soon, he came into the kitchen and hugged my legs and I reached down to hug him and say a few words to him. Then he took off to other things.

Tuesday morning, I happened to look at the fridge and wondered where he had left the Santa. I looked at the bins of toys in the family room and noticed the sleigh on the window sill where the Santa magnet was sitting with the little chocolate gift boxes. I don't know if my grandson put it there, but if he did, it explains a few of his actions. I just didn't connect the dots at the time and I thought it was really clever of him. We didn't even know he was listening to the conversation about the sleigh without a Santa and the Lindt boxes. Apparently, he is absorbing everything going on around him--little pitchers. I wish I had noticed it at the time to say something to him about finding a Santa for the sleigh. 

Tomorrow, he will be visiting with Nana and Papa while his parents go out to have lunch and see a movie and his sister is in school. I will make sure we spend some time looking at the sleigh and talking about the gift boxes and the Santa figurine.  I like to encourage the grandchildren any time I can find something they do that meets with my approval.  Everything they do is a hit with me. I wonder if other people are so enamored of their grandchildren.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Shrinking the Bucket List

It would be an accurate statement to say that my passion for the beauty of bridges knows no limits. Since the late 1960's, when we used to go to New York City by way of the Staten Island Ferry, it has been a dream of mine to sail under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which was completed in 1964. We just did that twice this month on the Explorer of the Seas which sails from Cape Liberty Port in Bayonne, New Jersey, to ports in the Caribbean. This particular trip stopped in St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico and Labadee. The ports of call could have been anywhere because my interest was in the bridge.


It is a slow approach, and the sail under the bridge is only about an hour of the most interesting part, but it was beautiful to see the bridge at dusk upon departure and at dawn on the return leg of the trip. On departure, people crowded on the top deck in the very cold wind to take pictures of the Statue of Liberty with the Manhattan skyline in the background. The sun was just setting and the half moon was near the bridge, which was brilliantly lit. Jupiter was off to the side and we could see airplanes were taking off and landing at JFK in the distance. To the northeast was the Brooklyn Bridge which was also outlined in lights.


Everyone eagerly awaited the actual passing under the bridge to see the very top of the ship appearing to barely clear the bridge. At the point that the tip of the ship cleared the bridge deck, everyone erupted into cheers and applause. It is a very unusual bon voyage sail-away and the chills were not only due to the low temperatures in the New York Harbor. The people on the top decks to enjoy the cruise out of the New York Harbor were people with a common interest in bridges, ships and fun experiences.


Even though I took care of that item on my bucket list, I would enjoy doing it again in the summer months. I would also like to get a more powerful camera to fully document the experience. My compact camera gives a lot in convenience, but compromises a bit in the quality department. On the day we departed St. Thomas, I was able to catch the moon with a double rainbow.


We were able to see two different ice shows on board which were outstanding considering the smaller size of the rink. The skaters were really good to be able to perform on a rink of that size on a moving ship.


It was a wonderful cruise with so many great people to meet and enjoy. Cruising is an excuse to make new friends and enjoy conversations to compare lives and activities. Sorting through the pictures will take days and the memories will last a lifetime.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Toaster

When we were married in 1966, my husband's co-workers wanted to give us a wedding gift to which everyone contributed and they asked what we might like to have. I decided a toaster would be very useful and we didn't have one. They gifted us with this beauty and it has worked all these years to serve us warm, golden toast. My grandchildren don't believe me when I tell them our toaster is older than their father.


Unlike many of our household appliances that have come and gone,  been discarded, or given to Goodwill, it has never needed repair. In spite of my best efforts to accidentally ruin it by dropping it during one of our moves, it still chugs along, doing what it does best. The little dent in one corner gives it a slightly distressed look, and the crack in the base of the control panel hasn't affected the toast at all.


Its design reminds me a bit of the first screen savers called "flying toasters" which I naturally used on my earliest computers. By the way, it is still available. Our toaster looks very old-fashioned, and I often wonder why don't I replace it? After all, I have replaced countless coffee makers. I added a toaster oven when they became popular because it is quick to warm rolls or bagels, or  to make toasted sandwiches with cheese, etc. However, when I want a slice of toast quickly, it goes into the little slot and is quickly ready. It is faster than the toaster oven for just one slice of toast.

I keep it because it isn't just a toaster. It is a reminder of the days when the secretary (before they became administrative assistants) at work was in charge of "hearts and flowers" and everyone was a team. When someone had a special occasion, most were long-term co-workers and even though the community had some disagreements, everyone would come together to celebrate their occasions and mourn their losses. It represents a first job and the camaraderie of the office environment of yesteryear.

I'm just not ready to part with it and call me a pack rat, but as long as it works, it has a place in my kitchen. Even if it stops working, I might plant geraniums in it. Everything has its use, and I can find a use for everything. I don't like a disposable world with mountains of garbage like in the movie Wall-E. Such a cute movie and so profound. Maybe I will watch it again and see if there is a clone of our toaster in it.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Toast

As I am coming down from my sugar high of Halloween, I raise my glass to this great approaching season of wretched excess. Can't decide which among the wonderful Hallmark Holidays at the end of each year is my favorite. All of them seem to include tons of food. I've shopped for days and I'll start cooking a day early for the granddaddy of all foodie holidays--Thanksgiving.

As I watch all the specials on TV from the queens of cookery and read all the great recipes on the web, they all seem to have one thing in common--butter. And here am I, cholesterol count challenged, trying to find a way to go butterless. I love that gobbler prepared in any way that avoids butter. I have to try to include on my menu veggies and fruits--sans butter. Baked sweet potatoes or Idaho taste great with a bit of garlic,salt, onion and a smidgen of olive oil for flavor. I'll cut out that butter. Dinner rolls are great, but I will invite my guests to dip them in olive oil and hide the butter. If they're on the wheat-free diet, good on them, pass the turkey. They will like my green tossed salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I have replaced butter in my diet with olive oil and spices. Butter cookies on my menu? Nope! Dessert? Maybe next year.

But wait, the most wretched excess day of the year to toast is the infamous Black Friday. Not bragging nor complaining, since I finished my Christmas shopping last week,  I only need to go to the mall for a jolt of adrenaline to compete for those parking spaces and blockbuster specials at the opening of the doors. Forget that midnight opening the day of Thanksgiving. Wretched excess Walmart can count me out. Sleeping is tops on my list.

After all, I need my energy to get busy on my list that I already made and checked twice to sent greeting cards to everyone I never see or communicate with during the rest of the year. They will all want to know I'm still alive, including mandatory pictures and an audit of my year. I will have to dream up something that sounds important enough to compete with those annual letters that announce all the fabulous trips, and family accomplishments. They win.

I will deck the halls before December arrives but I refuse to contact the local TV station and ask everyone to drive through my neighborhood or compete with all the neighbors for the largest inflating lawn balloon. Ba Humbug! Here's a toast to all those tasteful people who put a candle in the window and a home-made cone wreath on the front door.

Cheers to all those children who have a blast opening tons of gifts and toys amid clouds of wrapping paper and bows that I try to bag and save to reuse. Stepping on AA batteries makes my day. Treasured memories are stored of the favorite Christmas holiday when excess reigned and gifts were endless. But wait, it's not over yet, we have the day after Christmas to shop again for better bargains than we could find before the 25th. Toasting those merchants who have our number and know we love wretched excess.

The biggest toast of the year goes to that New Year's Eve celebration when we indulge ourselves in whatever libation that suits us, we kiss while the ball drops, and we sing Auld Lang Syne--grateful to have made it through another year. Thank goodness the season is over and we have to head to the fitness centers to pay the price for our sins of wretched excess.

I personally tip my glass to the magnet on my refrigerator door that says, "The best times are together times."  All the rest is just wretched excess.

A toast to everyone:  May all your holidays meet your greatest expectations.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Tale of Two Bridges--Bridge Two

Bridge Two had more humble beginnings than the Royal Gorge Bridge from the previous post, and began to take shape in the spring of 1984. We dumped a bid on a building lot in a cornfield, and snapped up this wooded hillside with a tiny creek running through it. Unlike the Royal Gorge Bridge, it had no sweeping vistas, no river, no dizzying heights, but it came with work guaranteed. We had to find a way to cross the stream to build our house so the process began with buying mud boots so we could slop around in the creek and install plywood retainers to contain the creek while we built the footers and concrete abutments. 

My engineer husband designed a highway-worthy bridge and we started playing with rebars and concrete to build our tiny bridge which is only about 8 feet above the little creek--not too tall, but I wouldn't want to fall off because we lined the creek with huge rocks. Occasionally, the little creek floods and looks like a river, so the concrete abutments aren't overkill. Our son and his neighborhood buds played in the creek while we worked. 

After much agony and sore backs, We had two concrete abutments, topped by three painted, 17" steel I-beams.

Like the Royal Gorge Bridge, we attached wooden timbers which are 12" long, 12" wide, and 3" thick. We only needed 15, but like the Royal Gorge Bridge, they have to be regularly replaced. We don't replace them at the same pace, but to date, most have been replaced 3 or 4 times. Our deck looked like the Royal Gorge Deck, just smaller.

Ta-Da!!! We did it. The little creek flowed freely when this picture was taken and Typar lined the driveway awaiting the blacktop process. We installed two very strong pipes on either side with chains attached so that when we left the construction site of our house which was up the hillside, no one could bring in trucks to carry away construction materials. It was too far to hand carry away stuff. Every night, we locked the chain and had no problems.

These pictures are very old, as are we, and so is our little bridge. It is quite unique and we enjoy it when we aren't working on it. It is very satisfying to drive over it and remember all the work we have invested in it over the last 27 years.

In 2011, the work goes on.

This fall, we undertook a renovation of our deck to try to extend the life of the timbers. Like the Royal Gorge Bridge, our timbers are bolted to the steel beams but our spacing is a bit closer. The rain and snow weather the timbers and we wanted to protect them.

Our little creek isn't far below the bridge and is usually only a small stream. During heavy rains, it can be a raging river capable of moving huge rocks and trees.

The view under our bridge isn't as spectacular as the Royal Gorge Bridge, but we invested a lot of hard work to produce it.

Our project to protect the timbers included covering them with a triple layer of 6 mil mylar sheeting and laying tongue and groove yellow pine flooring to form a solid deck.

This is our finished project. It took about a week of nice autumn weather to complete. Our little bridge has wooden curbs along the side like the Royal Gorge Bridge, but we didn't add steel rails. I don't know if they apply water seal coats to their bridge, but we did. We first saw the Royal Gorge Bridge after we built our bridge but each time I visit it, I am amazed that our humble little bridge has so many similarities.

We once had fanciful dreams of building a covered bridge over it, but I think we'll pass on that notion. It's fun to rumble over our little bridge as we go about our lives. It is a constant part of our lives and a reminder of the worth of a hard day's work. It will probably outlive us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Tale of Two Bridges--Bridge One

This is the Royal Gorge Bridge, built in Colorado in 1929. It is amazing that they had the means to build the world's highest suspension bridge at that time. It is a spectacular place to visit with vistas too breathtaking for words. It's not for anyone cautious of dizzying heights because it looks so fragile and so high. It is indeed a long way down to the Arkansas River--1,053 feet.

I like to include a trip to visit this amazing bridge anytime I visit the region.

Traffic can drive across the bridge from either direction or pedestrians can walk its length. Drivers are available to drive any vehicle across if its owner is the nervous sort. The size of the timbers spanning the deck aren't significant. They are three inches thick, and twelve inches wide. I'm not sure of the exact length of each board. They are bolted to the steel I-beams underneath. There are wooden curbs along the ends of the timbers, and a steel net rail attached. There is a steel framework underneath to which the wood is attached. 

As I looked down and took this picture of my feet, I was amazed that I could see the steel I-beams under the wooden timbers as well as the Arkansas River very far below. It is easy to see why one might think twice about walking on this bridge or driving over it. We were assured that it was perfectly safe. I didn't have a chance to see how they replace those timbers, because some looked overdue. It must be an interesting process to see. According to their fact sheet, 250 are replaced annually.

That's a long way down for a quarter. There is a train that runs along the banks of the river. There are also white water rafters but it is so far away, it is hard to see them.

So we hopped inside this cage which runs along an aerial tram all the way to the bottom.

We wanted to get the view of the bridge from the riverbank and it is so high, it is hard to see.

Halfway back to the top, I took this picture because I could see so much of the sky between the wooden timbers on the deck. There is a lot of space between some of the timbers. It is a fabulous piece of engineering, and just a little bit scary. Very impressive.

The tale of the second bridge will follow in the near future.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Signs of Life

As the seasons come and go, I see all of them through my office windows. I placed my desk in front of my triple bay windows so that I can view the great outdoors. I placed my computer monitor to the side of my desk so that it doesn't obstruct my view. The CPU is off to the opposite side of the desk so I have room to place the little trinkets, mugs and photos that are important to me. I can't imagine placing a desk to face a wall or the inside of the room with the windows behind me. I prefer spending computer time during the day when the curtains are open and I can see outside.

Wool gathering is a favorite past time so when my fingers pause on the keyboard of my computer, I can watch the leaves fluttering on the trees or glimpse the hummingbird at the feeder in front of the window. Sometimes, the deer, hawks, or a pretty red fox catch my eye so I stop whatever has my attention on the computer to thoroughly enjoy the busy world of nature outside my windows.

I notice probably more than I should about the comings and goings of my neighbors, and I see the moms and grandmoms walking the toddlers through the neighborhood. I notice when the snow is plowed, the mail and newspapers delivered, and the garbage collected. I don't sit waiting for those things to happen, but I notice any motion outside my window. 


This set of windows faces north but they are triple pane which is not quite as energy-efficient as an insulated wall. Nevertheless, I love houses with lots of windows. Closed-in spaces are very boring, and depressing to me. It makes sense to me that life outside my window can be very interesting even when I am spending time at the computer.

Yes, yes--messy desk. I'm spending this week cleaning up my office and taming the piles of paper and boxes of unimportant stuff that I haven't looked at in five years. It is time to clear the room to host holiday guests and it is a good excuse to tame the clutter.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A House Without Bananas?

A house without bananas sounds to me like a day without oxygen. Every morning after my exercises, I need some additional energy and it is the perfect food with no prepration required. I keep a fruit bowl filled with bananas and fruits from mangos to kiwi fruits and everything in between. My grandchildren know where to find the banana bowl for afternoon snacks when they visit.

As a preschool youngster, my family journeyed to the wake for a great aunt. There was a lot of food available, but my dad was aware of picky preschool food preferences and had brought along a large bunch of bananas. My brother and I ate those exclusively. Bananas are among the first solids for babies for very good reason. They are tasty and filling, nutritious and easy to digest. As I grew older, we made banana sandwiches with mayo on bread slices. We baked banana bread, banana puddings, banana muffins and we made banana shakes and ice cream banana splits. They are great for smoothies with strawberries and ice cream or yogurt. 


Curiosity led me to explore the history of my favorite fruit and I was surprised to learn that bananas have been available in the U.S. for less than 150 years. Due to the fragility of the fruit and the distance of the countries that commonly grow bananas, it was not transported to the U.S. It was introduced in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition and sold for ten cents each. I'm glad they are readily available now. Today, our bananas are grown in tropical regions in the Central and South American countries.

I can't think of a more perfect food for any occasion--camping, auto travel, a day without electricity. It's like peanut butter as an all-purpose food. It is at the top of my shopping list of staples I buy at the food store. I've probably eaten a pathway through several "banana republics."  If we are what we eat, I must be at least one sixth banana and nutty as a fruitcake.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

September "Walkabout"

I take liberal literary license with that term "walkabout" because it is how I think of my life in September, post retirement. To me, it represents an escape from routine.


Retirement to me represents a special frame of mind that encourages impulses and flights of freedom, mentally and physically. It is like Christmas every day and dessert for every meal. When September comes each year, I give in to the impulse to celebrate my freedom because I retired from education. There were many days and ways to enjoy the profession and not a few frustrations. But I perservered for 32 years, getting up at 4:50 daily to make sure I was in the building before most teachers and students. The long hours and attention to the routine of the days, months, and years lead teachers to notice greatly when it no longer exists.  

So when September rolls around, I celebrate that I can go to a museum, a beach, or travel, or read all day and drink coffee until my feet bounce on my way to the bathroom attached to my office. Teachers know what I mean when I celebrate the freedom to race to the bathroom whenever I want and as often as I want during the day. It has been said on more than one occasion that teachers have the strongest bladders due to our need to limit bathroom breaks to one or two daily.


I celebrate that I can put off the laundry for another day and change my routine to accommodate a surprise trip out to lunch with friends or a quick trip to the casino. If there is rain, I declare a rain day, put up my feet and dive into the pile of library books that wait on my coffee table.

My main rule for September Walkabout is no rules. I do anything I want and nothing that I "should" do.

All photos were taken at the Delaware Art Museum.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

You Are My Sunshine

We went to our granddaughter's school for Grandparents' Day and they sang "You Are My Sunshine" to us. Twenty-two six-year-old voices are really adorable. They had practiced all day and had all of the words firmly in mind. I wanted to adopt the children who were in tears because their grandparents couldn't attend. The teacher was very sensitive and put  them in charge of the refreshments so they could feel important too.


The teacher had an art project for the students to produce and to present to the grandparents. It holds a place of honor on my refrigerator door with her other art projects. I always marvel at how much we worried about her and how far she has come in six years. She was a breech birth, emergency C-Section, near preemie. A few developmental problems seemed present for a few early years, but she seems to be doing very well now. She chats nonstop and uses some advanced words correctly which thrills me.


While we played on my computer last weekend, she asked me what I did with my time while she wasn't visiting. I told her that I love to read. I pointed to all the stacks of books in my office and said I loved reading all of them. I told her that I go to the public library as she does to check out more books every week. Later in the day, she showed me that she was reading a book on her mother's Nook. The new e-readers are a great developmental tool for children who are learning to read. I was amused to read the directions on the first grade wall directing new readers on how to learn to read.


I had not thought about the little song that the students sang to us in a very long time. It has greater importance to me today because my grandchildren are really my sunshine. However, even little rays of sunshine need a behavior chart in their classroom!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Prelude to Fall

When the hurricane season appears and school begins, fall isn't far around the corner. As a Florida native, I thought I had left hurricanes behind when I moved to Pennsylvania. Irene was one of only a few that I have experienced in 45 years in this region. Fortunately, my personal experience wasn't as dramatic as the problems that other people encountered, but I never underestimate the power of even a category 1 hurricane or a tropical storm.

I know from experience in the South that hurricanes can be devastating so I did not object when officials and weather people warned that we should get prepared. They did a good job in preparing for the worst case scenario. It is good that the storm didn't intensify and I don't mind that I prepared more than it turned out that I needed. I would rather do that than needing something and not having prepared. I didn't feel it was "over-hyped". We were just lucky it didn't get worse. It is unfortunate that some people lost their lives and some had awful flooding problems. They probably don't think it was "over-hyped". Kudos to those responsible for emergency preparedness. I'm celebrating that it wasn't worse.

We had only a little dampness in our basement, but the whole community lost electrical power. We were lucky that it only remained off for 27 hours. We had planned to head for a motel if it stayed off for a second day. When the stores sold out of batteries in advance, we were able to order online and get them shipped overnight express. They arrived in a nick of time. We prefer using flashlights and avoiding the danger of candles, but we played scrabble by candlelight one night. It is a good reminder to appreciate the basics.

I was very nervous about our trees; fortunately, we had small branches blown down but nothing major. There was no sleep for me Saturday night and I stayed downstairs in case a tree fell on the house. Maybe the strength of the entire forest held up the trees. Isolated trees seemed to have more damage.

In an all electric house, it's good to have power again--warm showers, warm food, flushing toilets. Now that we have made it through Irene, I don't want to go through another one. We had a busy week with an earthquake and a hurricane just days apart. I was three times lucky--we made it through the earthquake with no damage, the hurricane wasn't devastating, and I won $150 at the casino.

I didn't take any pictures of the hurricane since I had used my memory cards to store videos of the house in case they were needed for insurance purposes.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August in Atlantic City

We day trippers in my region find this month to be a great time to drive east to the coast and Atlantic City is the closest shore point but not as the crow flies. Southern New Jersey is expressway-challenged in the east to west directions so we Pennsylvania natives cross the nearest bridge over the Delaware River and head south-east on the Atlantic City Expressway. When traffic is good, which isn't guaranteed in the summer, it takes about an hour to drive to the coast.


Atlantic City offers beautiful, wide, well-tended beaches and is one of the few free beaches in New Jersey (Some charge for beach tags). The Atlantic Ocean has beautiful surf and nice crashing waves at times, for anyone addicted to the sounds of the shore. We like to look at beaches but find the boardwalk and the mall to be fun also. Atlantic City is very crowded during the summer with tourists on the boardwalk, in the casinos, on the beach and in the mall.


The three floor mall that stretches far into the ocean on a pier located across the boardwalk from Caesar's Hotel/Casino contains some unique shops(LeSportsac) and restaurants(Phillips Seafood). Along one side of the mall are floor to ceiling windows to overlook the ocean and the boardwalk. 

Visitors can have a sanitized beach experience in air conditioned, bug-free comfort by sitting in the Adirondack chairs and sinking their bare feet into the sand. Restaurants are located behind this area so diners can enjoy their lunch and the ocean at the same time.


Entertainment is as close as the end of this mall/pier with an outside deck to view the ocean and the rows of casinos. Also at the end of the pier is an indoor dancing fountain show stretching three floors up, complete with colored lights and lively music for about seven minutes beginning every hour. Restaurants also line the boardwalk and our favorite is Pickles, open only in the summer. They serve bowls of assorted pickles for appetizers, and ten-inch tall slices of cakes for dessert. Who cares about the main course!


The casinos are a big draw for tourists, and a small part of the Atlantic City experience for us. We like to spend a half hour to an hour on a few of our favorite slots. There are so many different casinos and interesting sights, it is just part of the variety of the day. The music from the beach bars drifts up to the boardwalk and the long walk up and down the boardwalk is a never ending parade of people just walking and enjoying the weather. That is about all of the activity we can pack into a day but not the end of the many activities available with beaches and communities stretching north and south. It is never boring at the Jersey Shore.