Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Quiet Day in New Hampshire...
As you can see I've been playing with the layout on my blog. I finally changed the background on my title for Fall too. Let me know what you think. Do you like it? Is it too busy?
I've had a very quiet Tuesday here in Lincoln, NH. Terry started coming down with a cold late on Sunday night. Yesterday he had a little bit of a sore throat, but we had planned to drive about 2 hours to Vermont with our best chance for a good weather day, so we headed out, stopped off at the drugstore to stock up on cold remedies and Kleenex, then hit the road. He did well all day and didn't seem to be feeling too bad. But by last night it had moved into a full blown head cold and he was congested with the kind of cold where you can't breathe thru your nose and you feel like you're in a fog. Needless to say, he has slept off and on all day. I feel so bad for him. He hates being sick and especially missing out on his favorite part of vacation - the sightseeing.
Fortunately we needed to do some laundry today and didn't have any pressing plans that couldn't be rearranged in the schedule. The sky is cloudy and gray with a spot or two of blue peeking thru on rare occasions, but not enough to warrant traveling farther than the balcony. Even with a day spent indoors, I still have plenty to post from our last few days.
So, let's see...where to begin... Yesterday, on the drive to Vermont, first, we toured the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory in Waterbury. A quirky and cute little place that truly reflects the off-beat style of the founders. What a cool story about this pair and the fact that they still have the factory here in "middle of nowhere", Vermont. It was a fun stop and we enjoyed our tour & sample of "Half-baked" ice cream at the end. Did you know that they have a Flavor Graveyard where obsolete flavors are laid to rest after they die? It was filled with clever rhymes and the year of birth and death of the flavor on each tombstone. Click on the Graveyard link above and check out the tombstones & Halloween additions at the bottom of the screen as well. You'll find links to the spooky Mansion Grounds, the Library, Lab and more. Their web and graphic designers must love their jobs!

After B & J's we drove on to the town of Stowe. You've probably heard of it. It's a well known ski resort area with a quaint little village for shopping and browsing. We spent a few hours checking out the local shops and picking up a few treasures along the way. This photo is a few of the items we picked up. The rest will remain a secret since they may become your gift: a bottle of a silver medal winning Reisling (my favorite, you know) from the Grand View Winery in East Calais, Vermont. We had a glass with dinner tonight and it's very tasty. We also bought some delicious Vermont Cheddar Cheese from the Cabot Creamery Cooperative (not to be confused with Tillamook Cheddar from Oregon, which is quite different), and a link of Ridgeway Venison Summer Sausage (this was Terry's choice - he likes unusual foods - we'll see how it tastes before I give it a thumbs up).
I just love all the autumn vignettes with bales of straw, colorful pumpkins, gourds, scarecrows, and fall colored flowers scattered around on porches and front yards. Somehow with the temps still in the 100's in Phoenix, it just wouldn't seem appropriate to do that yet. Oh well, maybe things will cool down by the time we get back.

I almost forgot to mention that we found some precious gourd decorations that made me think of Michelle M. These are probably a little too cutesy for her taste, but I love the folk art style and primitive look of them. I almost bought a snowman, but decided on just a simple chubby pear that I can keep in my kitchen all year long. I may try to see if Michelle can grow some in these shapes for me to buy...or maybe I'll try to do it myself at some point. I think they're really sweet!
After a little shopping we drove out to the Trapp Family Lodge. Yes, it's just who you think it is. The family made famous by the movie with Julie Andrews. The Sound of Music. Read more about the history of the lodge here. Warning: Maria didn't look anything like Julie Andrews.
We wandered around a bit there, then headed for a nearby Cider Mill to browse. That's where we found the wine and also this great idea for a Christmas tree. Notice the red plaid flannel ribbon wrapped around the tree. I love it! And it would look great in our living room with the red sofa. If I can't find that kind of ribbon, I could always get fabric and cut my own ribbon strips. I love the idea - now I just need to remember it until December.
Soon we started looking for a place for dinner. That's always a challenge in a small town & unfamiliar area. I must admit that we haven't had a lot of success on this trip. It makes me appreciate how many great restaurants we have in the Phoenix area.
Last night was one of our better choices. After stopping at several spots to look at the menu and finding the pricing out of our range for a vacation meal, we settled on The Whip Bar & Grill, in downtown Stowe. Now it's not exactly cheap, but had enough variety in price that we knew we could find something to our liking, especially since Terry didn't have much of an appetite with his cold. I was really tempted to have the roast duck and brie quesadilla appetizer (can you imagine how many people mispronounce "kay-suh-dee-uh" in New England?), but I decided to go for the salmon dinner instead. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture when the meal arrived, but I did remember to take one of the absolutely scrumptious Cheddar Ale soup. It was a real treat! I would definitely recommend the place if you're ever in the area.
This darling little pumpkin was sitting on the back of the bench in our cozy corner booth next to the fireplace. I love the way the lights and shadows play against it.
On the way home, as we do every evening around dusk, we watched for moose. There are "moose crossing" signs all over the place, but so far we've just seen this one at the barn sale.

I hope you're enjoying the news about our trip. Let me know if there's anything else you'd like to hear about.
I'll leave you with a few shots of the view from our balcony and the changing skies. Still not quite enough blue to set off the fall colors, but we'll keep praying for a sunny day.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New England... I'm way behind on blogging already!

I don't have a lot of time to tell stories today, so I'll just post some bullets & pics to highlight what we've been doing since Thursday.

Friday was a rainy day so we went to the Basketball Hall of Fame where we saw honors and memorabilia for all the greats, including Jerry Colangelo, Shaq, Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and so much more.

Then we stopped at a cute little roadside stand & bought some gorgeous and delicious apples.

    Friday night, Terry went to a Red Sox vs. Yankees game in Fenway Park - it was rain delayed twice, but finally ended in a blowout by the Yankees after midnight. Most of their normal starters didn't play because they didn't want them to get hurt on the wet field. All in all, not the game that Terry had dreamed of seeing, but he says the ballbark is really awesome and has a lot of character. He sent me a photo from his cell phone, but we haven't had time to get it to the blog.

    Saturday we hung out in Lexington and Concord. Off and on rain again, so couldn't do nearly as much as we wanted. We saw these geese at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington. I'm assuming they were on their way from Canada to their southern home.

We also stopped at The Wayside, which is a home where Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women), Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter) and others famous authors lived over the years. It must have been an inspiring place to produce so many well known writers.

We visited a few locations where the first confrontations in the Revolutionary War occurred too.

In the late afternoon, we drove thru the pouring rain to our new home base in Lincoln, New Hampshire, got settled in and relaxed a bit. The weather forecast for today didn't look promising so we stayed nearby.

We drove along the Kancamagus Highway today, with intermittent rain, some fog, and heavy cloudcover at times leaving the "scenic overlooks" not very scenic. We did get to enjoy some nice sights, and even stopped at a "barn" sale along the highway. Linda, you would have loved it! And Andrew would have loved the boxes of albums and 45's. Wish you were with us to enjoy it all! That's where the snowshoe pic came from.

The colors are turning nicely, but with all the clouds, mist, fog and rain, I wasn't able to get too many landscape shots. You can see from the top photo that the leaves are quite gorgeous though!

Well, gotta get to bed. Tomorrow we're headed for Vermont. The weather forecast is for no rain and just partly cloudy skies Monday and Tuesday, so we need to make the best of it before the rain comes in again.

We miss you all and wish you were here. We have two extra bedrooms that we're not using if you want to drop by.

Friday, September 26, 2008

New England Vacation - Day 1 - Boston Area
We've already had 2 busy days and nearly 500 photos since we landed in Manchester, NH on Wednesday night.
Thursday we had perfect walking weather, even though it was a little cloudy for photos. We bravely ventured into downtown Boston by car when the parking lot was full at the subway stop that we had mapped out before leaving the hotel. As expected, Boston is a tough city to navigate due to the fact that the center of town is so old...dating back to the 1600's. That means that the roads are quite narrow, sometimes bumpy or uneven and not very logically laid out with unexpected dead ends. roundabouts, and more.
After a few detours we finally arrived at Boston Common, the oldest park in the country and the start of our walking tours. We spent time on Beacon Hill oogling over the amazing architecture and speculating about who the residents might be in this prestigious neighborhood of Federal style row houses. Check out this listing that shows some of the more well known residents there. It was such a treat to walk down the adorable cobblestone street lined with brick sidewalks. This is how wide all the streets used to be...it's got to be tough to get a car down that!
As you can probably tell, I LOVE architecture, so this area was such a treat for me! I could post dozens of pics of the homes, autumn flowers along the sidewalks and welcoming front entry areas, but I'll submit just a few. Take note of the pic of the front door that is halfway below the sidewalk level next to the one that's above sidewalk level. Not sure how that happened but we saw quite a few like this. The guess is that at some point the sidewalk may have been built up, but who knows.
Later on the tour we visited several cemeteries (or burying grounds as they call them) also dating back to the 1600's. We noticed lots of creepy looking skull and crossbones carvings on the headstones and decided Andrew would probably like them. So Andrew, this close up is for you. Many of the stones were so faded and worn that you couldn't even read them. Paul Revere was buried at one location, and Ben Franklin's parents, plus many more.
The pic above of Terry shows his most comfortable position while on vacation...reading signs, plaques, tour books and whatever other documentation will fill us in on what we're looking at. I take the pictures and he provides the commentary. It's a great partnership that we've developed in our 30+ years together.
As you can imagine, it was so hard to decide which images to post, but here are a few that I've included.
The one with the golden dome is the Massachusetts State House and a statue of Major General Joseph Hooker on horseback.
The inside of the church is the famous "Old North Church" You know the one...where they hung the lanterns in the steeple for "One if by land and two if by sea..." It's quite an amazing place and high on a hill.
The building that's dwarfed by skyscrapers is the Old State House where the Declaration of Independence was read from the outdoor balcony in 1776, declaring our independence from Britain. Then 200 years later, Queen Elizabeth II addressed the crowd from the same balcony in honor of our bicenntennial celebration. Kind of ironic, huh. It was probably my favorite of the government buildings holding it's own among the giants that surround it.
The inside of the restaurant is Giacomo's (pronounce "Jock-o-mos" not at all what I would have guessed). This tiny little Italian restaurant on the North End (think Little Italy) crams in only about 12 tables and seating is so cozy that the couple next to us was only about 2 inches away from our table. Fortunately they were friendly and polite, and we weren't out for a romantic meal so we didn't mind too much. We did mind the pressure we felt to order quickly, eat quickly & leave quickly. The food was tasty and reasonably priced but not worth the rush that was felt as our waitress hovered over the table and snatched up the bill with our cash (only option accepted) before Terry was even finished counting it. The author of our Frommer's tour book and Rachel Ray had recommended the place (which is why it was probably so busy) but I'm sure they were treated differently when they visited. I also discovered that there's another location at the South End which takes reservations and has better service. If they weren't busy, it might be worth eating there, but it's a little too hard not to notice the line of folks standing outside peering in the window waiting for your table. To make up for it, the North End neighborhood is full of the delicious scent of garlic and traditional Italian ingredients. A great place to visit and you should be able to find a great restaurant that's not quite so hurried!
The birds below were just so cute, I couldn't leave them out. I LOVE the bathing bird caught in the act. How sweet it was!
So there was just too much from Day One to even think of including Day Two, so I'll post that tomorrow. Day Two was rainy, so not nearly as much to photograph. See you soon!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How to tell if you're mom's favorite.

Hilarious...and kinda sad.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Check out these great cards and stuff!!

I stumbled across these really cute cards and magnets in a shop in Breckenridge.

The creator is Leigh from Curly Girl Design and she has a very inspiring collection of products.

She has cards, magnets, prints, t-shirts and even a calendar. You can order her things online and she also has a listing of stores around the country with some in our area, so check it out.

I bought the magnet shown here when we were on our road trip. I could think of many great candidates to receive it, but just wasn't quite sure who it would be. Last night the light bulb came on. I'm going to give it to my sister, Sharon who is leaving in a week or so for Kuwait to go work for the Red Cross for about 6 months. I can definitely say that it's her goal to save the world in one way or another. I'm very proud of what she's doing. I'll write more about her soon.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Counting down to "V" day!

"V" minus 5 and counting. 5 days until we go on vacation to New England. Can't wait!

Today, I printed out a Frommer's article about Acadia National Park in Maine which we'll be visiting later in the trip. It mentioned something about carriage rides and whale watching tours in the Fall, so I'm hoping we get to do that.

Check out this slide show of photos of the park by David Patterson at Photo.net. Pretty cool stuff!

Got some other good news today too. I'm helping to plan a reception for some friends and it was set for Oct 18th, which is really soon after we get back from vacation, so I've been scrambling to get as much as possible done before we leave.

Good news is that the couple decided to move the date to NOV 1st, which works out SO MUCH better for most of those involved. Turned out that one of their friends was getting married on the 18th, plus some other activities that would prevent people from coming. So, now I have a few extra weeks to pull things together. I'm just about to finalize the caterer and have secured my A/V guy (our friend Don at Valhalla Sound - He's such a great hard working guy that will bend over backwards to do whatever needs to be done. He's got amazing rates on all kinds of equipment sales and rentals. You should check him out if you're planning an event.)

Now I need to reprint the invitations (good thing most of them didn't go out yet). It makes me realize that it was for the best that my home printing didn't work well (it smeared) and I had to go to a printer. If I had done them myself, they would all be mailed already. Now it's just a dozen or so that the couple needs to contact with the change.

I still need to finalize flowers, linens and a few other odds and ends, but I'm feeling pretty good about things now. The next five days will be busy, but then I can relax and enjoy vacation.

Another tidbit: We may end up with Kevin's cat, The Professor temporarily while he's away in the Middle East. There's one last option, but if that doesn't work, we didn't want him to have to give the cat away, so we'll see what happens when he gets here and meets our cat, Shredder. I don't really like the idea of having 2 cats here for those who visit us that are allergic, but it should only be for 6 months or so.

Also, I'm approaching my 300th blog post, so I'll need to do something special for that. Stay tuned...

Now I'm off to meet the caterer at the home where the reception will be. We need to determine the space layout in the backyard for people, food, etc. Space planning - really one of my favorite things. I already have a diagram drawn up.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Can Hardly Wait for Vacation!!!
A week from now we'll be jetting to the east coast.
Note: this photo borrowed from one of my favorite sites - Photo.net. The photographer is Ajitkumar Natarajan.

I checked the weather in Lincoln, New Hampshire and the high tomorrow is 56 degrees, with a low of 23!!! BRRRRR!!! No rain in the forecast so far, which is good.

I am SO looking forward to the chill in the air and the amazing scenery. Pictures, pictures, pictures. You'll be sick of them. Hoping for a few stops at some arts and crafts sales and antique stores, wandering thru the picturesque little towns and villages. And oh, my mouth is craving clam chowder and lobster already. I don't really care about much more than that...a warm crackling fire maybe.

Can't you just feel Autumn coming? It's on everyone's mind.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weekend at the "Cabin":

We just came home from a weekend at my boss's "cabin" in Forest Lakes. You can see from the photo why they call it "The Big House". It's quite a roomy place. It has 3 stories, 3 bedrooms, plus 4 additional twin beds. We were quite comfortable there, to say the least.
We went with our friends, Andy, Julie, Rochelle & Devry and we had a great time.
Friday night we discovered that Rochelle and Devry knew how to play Nertz, so of course we had to play. We had a chance to use the beautiful cards that Terry's mom brought back for us from Ireland. You'll see them here.
Andy & Julie were amazing! I don't think they've played so well in all the time we've known them. They just couldn't lose. It was crazy, but we had a blast anyway, even though they smoked all the rest of us.
Saturday we did some hiking along the Rim Trail and even saw a deer, but couldn't get a good picture of it because it ran away too fast. This was a view from the trail. It was a perfect day with temps in the low to mid 70's.
That night we went to a local restaurant called Bugles for dinner, because we heard that they had a prime rib special on Saturday nights. Overall, the food was quite under-whelming and the service was questionable as well. The funniest part of the whole night was when Julie ordered her salmon dinner and in order to cut down on calories, she asked the waitress if she could have an extra amount of vegetables instead of the baked potato. The waitress was happy to oblige. You can't believe the look on all of our faces when she brought her salmon out with a double portion of canned corn with butter!!! Not exactly the healthy vegetables that Julie had envisioned. We laughed out loud at that one. I'm not sure we'll go back there, at least for dinner.
There were quite a few pitfalls in the meal time, but I won't go into them here. Maybe breakfast or lunch might be a little safer.
Saturday night after we got home, the gang discovered the foosball table in the basement.
Again, Andy was insane and won every single game that he played, except one where he only lost by 1 point. Julie, Devry and Terry were all pretty intense as well, with bruises, sore muscles and all. Rochelle happened to be tied up on a phone call for some of the time, and I got a chance to play with my new lens and try out some of the pictures without a flash.
The last couple of photos are some of my wildlife shots. We actually saw quite a few beautiful blue birds. Not bluebirds, but birds that were blue (not sure what they were). Unfortunately, I couldn't get any good shots of them in flight and that's when their colors showed the best. Got some shots of squirrels too, but nothing special. This beetle was on the deck at the house. It was GINORMOUS!!! I thought the bees at the purple thistle were pretty cool. Enlarge to see the one in flight. I didn't even realize that I had gotten that shot until I got home and saw it on the computer. Pretty cool, huh?
Overall it was a really fun weekend. I hope we get a chance to go back there again. My boss and his wife (who's also my boss) are so generous to let us and many others use the place.