Archive for the 'Adventures and Fun Places' Category

One More Shore Dinner

Sunset on Sandy Hook Bay

Sun setting over Sandy Hook Bay

We did it! We snuck away last weekend on a SUNDAY night to have dinner down the shore. Now if you know my husband, you know that he NEVER does anything anymore on a work night. *grin* I remember when we used to go out bowling with friends on Monday evening, starting at 9pm once the leagues were done. Hard to imagine that now. We were both going to be working from home on this Monday, because we had a kidney stone follow-up appointment. When he suggested heading to Inlet Cafe in Highlands, NJ, I was thrilled.

Highlands beach

public beach at Highlands, NJ

We drove down with no trouble. I took the local way, not the Parkway, for those of you who know what I mean (and care about which road is which *grin*). Of course we took the convertible. We’d scoped out the parking the last time we were here, and I headed for the little municipal lot I’d noticed then. Although there were cars there were still spots. It only holds perhaps 10 cars maximum, maybe even only 8. What I hadn’t realized was that there was a BEACH behind the lot. There is a small gazebo, and a small beach. If you don’t mind swimming in the bay (as opposed to the ocean), there’s no reason to head over the causeway to Sandy Hook. All of a sudden the allure of renting in the Highlands became much clearer. There are a lot of cute looking restaurants and cafes in that area, as well as the Twin Lights (the historic lighthouse situated on the bluffs above the bay).

view from our table

view from our table

It’s only 2 blocks over to the Inlet Cafe. They have a corn hole game set up, 2 large lawn swings, some benches, and of course a great view of the water, in case you have to wait for a table. They have 3 dining areas – indoors, outside under a roof but with open sides (the bar was there), and then outside at tables along the water. Of course we opted for outside. We had a table right along the water and it was perfect. Like many of the restaurants there, they had a dock so you could motor up in your boat, moor, have your meal, and head out again. I always enjoy watching the boats come and go.

swans by table

motor or paddle right on up!

The drinks were great, the food extremely tasty. That is why I’m posting a food picture. I had the tuna tacos and Jim had steamers. That’s my ‘chick drink’ martini – vodka, chambord and pineapple. I do appreciate getting a good-size drink, but it shouldn’t be filled to the brim. Use bigger glasses so that I can have the proper amount of liquid without losing half of it every time I lift the glass. 😦 That’s probably my only complaint of the evening.
Fish tacos and martini

I want to call out the wait staff as well, and the hostess – both pleasant and professional. My husband had left his fork on his salad plate and so had no fork when his entree arrived. I was looking about for our waiter, wearing that familiar “diner in distress face”. 🙂 Another waiter went by quickly, arms full of dirty dishes. He might have been 2 steps past me when he stopped, backed up and asked if I needed anything. He brought a new fork in under 30 seconds. Now THAT is good wait staff.
sign post

Before we left I wandered down to the dock to get better pictures of the swans. I know they thought I had food, so they posed for me, hoping for a reward. Alas, I’d eaten MY dinner. As we were leaving, we wandered over to see the lawn swings, and the sign post and check out what else might be there. We were easily 6 feet from the hostess stand as we headed to our car, but she called out to us, thanking us for coming and wishing us a good evening. Again – she could have ignored us, as the waiter could have justifiably ignored us. But I went back to chat with her about how much we enjoyed the meal and how management should be aware of that waiter’s professionalism and concern.
swan and reflected lights

We got back to our car and the little municipal lot was now full. As I was about to unlock the doors I felt eyes upon me. Next to us were 2 LARGE dogs. They looked like happy friendly dogs – a lot of snuffling the window and drooling – no growls or barking. I’m not sure they’d have FIT in my car!

guarding their car

Car Guardians (St Bernards?)

I am not sure the restaurant is open all through the winter. I seem to remember being told that they close for a month or two. In any case, we really, really enjoyed Inlet Cafe and will be heading back there for the food, service and view!

more swans and water

Great ambiance. Water. Swans. Boats. Pilings. Shore.

Walking in the Woods

fallen tree with multiple branches

This past weekend my friend Amy and I went off to walk in the woods. Neither of us wanted anything strenuous. We wanted to be outside in the fresh air, walking, in nature. We had several ideas: the Middlesex Greenway, the Great Swamp, Patterson Falls, the Raritan canal towpath, and the Rutgers Ecological Preserve, among many other options. I’m willing to bet that surprises many of you who probably have only seen pictures of NJ from the NJ Turnpike. NOT our best side, for sure. Try taking Rt 287 up north towards the NY state line – that will surprise you as well. Back in the late 1970s NJ was 2/3 forest. We have all sorts of preserved areas, national parks, state parks and of course the Pine Barrens. There is STILL a lot of Mother Nature green in our state.

twisted vines and branches

Twisted vines and branches

We opted for the Rutgers Ecological Preserve. Amy had only ever seen a tiny sign at one corner of the preserve, and often wondered how/where you could get in there. I often pass 2 of the small parking areas that have trail beginnings. Other than that, neither of us knew anything about it. I was fairly certain it would be mostly flat walking as I knew the general area was not at all hilly, or at least not more than our town. Amy and I both walk about town so it seemed a safe choice. We thought we’d walk for perhaps an hour. I thought we might manage 3 miles that way as I knew we’d be walking, not trying to “make time” or get anywhere.

dead vines wrapped around tree trunk

I liked the texture from the vines wrapped about the trunk

My husband printed out 2 copies of the trail map for us. I figured we could park on Road 3, take the red trail to the orange trail, and then cut back on the white trail to get back to the car. Amy had her walking stick, and I had on long sleeves and long pants – I’d been warned by my neighbor about poison ivy.

bridge over the brook

Our first view of the brook – our surprise!

We parked the car and walked to the only trail opening that we saw. It was the blue and white entrance. We turned and went back because we wanted red. There was a flat field, maybe for parking? To be honest, I can’t remember if there was a barricade up or not, but we walked across gravel and grass and did indeed find a second trail head – the red trail. There was almost no one else on the trail – a bicyclist passed us at the beginning but it was just the 2 of us, chatting and walking and looking at the trees.
brook and tree roots

There were a LOT of dead trees. In as sense the dead trees were much more interesting than the live ones. There is such stark elegance in the stripped branches. They make such curious shapes. We started seeing all sorts of animals and items in the branches.

bark squirrel climbing down tree

Bark ‘squirrel’

We also discovered a brook. I wasn’t expecting a brook. That’s because I didn’t actually LOOK at the map other than to see trails. I’ll spoil the suspense now and tell you that we did not turn off where we had planned to turn back toward the car. We saw another brook when we were high up above it. My memory of the distances does not match with what I see on the map. I’m very bad at spatial recognition. But I’m fairly sure that we saw both brooks that are in the eastern side of the preserve.

bees heading home to dead log

can you see the bees heading home into the log?

Most of the path was completely clear. We had 2 spots where we did have to step over fallen trees. There were other spots where someone had come through and cut away large chunks of tree to open the trail.
cleared path

We figured out we had missed the turn to the white trail when the trail began climbing up and up and all we saw were orange markers and then saw orange and blue markers. We’d also been walking for well over an hour at that point. Hey, we were having fun and enjoying ourselves.

fallen tree roots making a wall

The base of this tree was like a huge wall – or from this angle – a mud monster

I took out my cell phone to see if by any chance the paths would be marked on the map. Not unexpectedly they were not. But using my phone, showing me in what direction I was moving, and using the trail map, we figured out that we needed to hang a sharp left onto the blue path and make our way back there.

criss crossed dead branches

luckily this was NOT on the path

We followed the blue and white paths to a trail exit and realized immediately that it was the one on Road 1, not Road 3. That was easily fixed by backing up a few feet and hanging a right on the white path. That took us back to where we had started – our first foray out of the parking lot. All in all we walked for approximately 2 hours and covered 3.7 miles, including multiple stops for me to take pictures, and a longer stop on a bench on the top of a hill overlooking the brook.

second brook

we were higher than it appears – I zoomed in

We saw only 5 other people, plus some youth hiking group that entered at the junction of the red and orange paths just ahead of our arrival there. We never saw them again. We saw the bicyclist twice – once heading in and once on the trail. We saw a woman with her young dog. I think she said it was an English Springer Spaniel, but it was absolutely terrified of us and we didn’t wish to prolong its misery. We passed a man on his way out at the Orange/Red trail end on Avenue E. We passed 2 young student looking types when we took our hard left onto the Blue path. That was it. We were undoubtedly the loudest slowest folks in the preserve. 🙂

bark possum walking up the tree

Bark possum walking up the tree

Once we were back at the car we decided we deserved some lunch. That of course necessitated thinking and deciding. As we cogitated I drove to show Amy some other neat things I knew in the area (but the horse wasn’t in the field 😦 ). She remembered a health food cafe she’d been to with a friend in our general vicinity. Given her description (near those strip malls, but not in them, but behind them, tucked away) I wasn’t sure we’d find that one but I did know where all the strip malls with tucked away back areas were in that area. We were such successful intrepid trekkers that day that not only did we find our way out of the woods unassisted, but we found her restaurant. We both had delicious wraps and iced coffee. A perfect ending to a perfect walk in the woods. Next time we’ll tackle the Great Swamp!

brook with bridge on blue path

Beach Escape

ahh ocean

Ahhhh. Ocean.

I FINALLY made it to the beach!!! Complete and utter thanks to my friend Pam. She called Sunday night and said that her schedule had cleared completely (and unexpectedly) and did I want to go to the beach on Monday? I looked at MY empty schedule and looked at the forecast: in the 70s, partly sunny. That wasn’t exactly beach weather but it sure was a beach schedule. I told her to count me in! We agreed that we’d aim to leave around 10am, which is what I’d normally consider a late start. Ask my family. They’ll tell you that when the kids were little, and we’d head down on a hot summer day, I’d be trying to get them out the door before 8:30 am. There’s a lot to plan for a “beach attack”: beat the traffic, close parking spot to the beach access, perfect spot on the sand, staking out the perimeter of OUR spot to keep others from getting sand on us. If *I* didn’t worry about these things, who would??? Exactly!

Given the weather forecast, given that it was a Monday (a slow beach day), and given that the last week in August either has children back in school or away on family vacations or shopping for school shoes and clothes, I didn’t think a planned attack would be required. I didn’t need to pack much food or drink. I’ve learned that I don’t really eat much when I’m on the beach, and I definitely don’t drink a lot because I hate the trek back to the rest rooms. It wasn’t going to be a hot sun so I didn’t need my beach umbrella. All in all for me it was ‘beach light’. I offered to drive and went to pick up Pam. Of course I was in the convertible and of course the top was down. Is there another way to go down the shore? No. We posed in the car so her husband could snap pictures of us. If there is no photo, it didn’t happen. I guess for ME, if there is no blog post, it didn’t happen. *grin*

View to NYC skyline

View north to NYC skyline. Too hazy for a clear picture.

There was no trouble getting down to Sandy Hook (Gateway National Recreation Area). There is a fee per car to get in, but I had packed my AARP card in case that would get me a discount. My husband has the National Parks card, but he wasn’t with us and it is not transferable. Pam has one too, but she didn’t bring it. When I asked the gate guard if AARP got me a discount he sadly informed us that it did not. But, he said, given that it’s the last week of the season, and given that I bend the rules sometimes, I’ll let you in for the discounted price. Yes!!! Lucky again! We thanked him, paid up, and headed up the hook. As you may have noticed about me, I have my “usual routine” of things I do and places I go. 🙂 We ALWAYS park at parking lot E. The parking lot entrances were a little different than I recalled, which tends to happen every season. There is sand and dunes on both sides of the road. Winter storms move the landscape regularly. We got down to E and – IT WAS CLOSED!!!! That was unexpected. We discussed turning around to go back to D or heading onward towards the North Beach and Fort Hancock. Northward it was!

I’ve been to the North Beach once, a few years ago, with my niece. It didn’t work for me. It was too far from the parking lot and the beach was too narrow. Look, a bad day at the beach is better than a good day most anywhere else, so if all there is is the North Beach, go. This will sound foolish but we couldn’t find the parking lot for the North Beach. I think, in hindsight, I know where it was, but given my lackluster view of that beach anyway, and the fact that we were having fun simply driving on the hook, we kept going to Fort Hancock.

more ocean

You can never have too much ocean gazing

Fort Hancock is a decommissioned army base. Stealing from the Wikipedia entry I can tell you that:

The Sandy Hook area was first fortified as part of the third system of US fortifications. Construction on the Fort at Sandy Hook began in 1857 and ceased in 1867, with the fort serviceable though largely incomplete.

The initial design of the fort was by then-Captain Robert E. Lee of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The lighthouse at Sandy Hook is the oldest working lighthouse in the United States. It was originally 500 feet from the water, but given shifting sands over time, it’s now about 1.5 miles from the tip.

Many years ago my husband (who is a structural engineer) was working on a project that involved rehabilitating the old army barracks and buildings for commercial use. I don’t think anything came of that particular project but as Pam and I cruised through Fort Hancock, we saw a renovated building listed for rent. It was a home, not a commercial building. I would LOVE to get inside there and see what they have done. It would be so cool to live there – during the day. I’d be creeped out completely at night, to be there all alone. The Marine Academy of Science and Technology is there, but it’s not a boarding school. If you click through on the Gateway National link above, you can see that they are now accepting Requests for Proposals “to lease multiple historic buildings for any compatible use of historic buildings, (such as residential, lodging, or business use related to residential or lodging use),commercial use, or nonprofit within Fort Hancock”. How fantastic would that BE, to live/work at Sandy Hook? Oh, if I only had money to invest and an idea to propose.

New beach blanket, traditional red bag

Brand new beach blanket; years old traditional red bag; hidden tag alongs

I do actually have an idea to propose. Many years ago I invented something that every beach goer needs. Pam reminded me of this after we went back to Parking Lot D, trudged to OUR spot on the shore, and set up our chairs, blanket and her umbrella. This year I’ve been hearing a lot on the news about a NJ congressman who wants to propose some legislation or law or something to protect beach goers from fly-away beach umbrellas. I believe it was last year a woman was impaled and died from a fly-away umbrella, so this is a real issue. I don’t believe, however, that passing laws will address the situation. I “invented” my own umbrella anchoring system using just what I found in my car one windy, beach-going day. I had plastic bags and rope. I combined that with the plentiful beach sand and MY beach umbrellas do NOT fly away. Pam and I amused ourselves by designing the retail version of my system. *grin* Anyone out there with an entrepreneurial spirit want to help me copyright my system???

Seagull Lord of All It Sees

Lord of All It Sees

The other “problem” at the beach are the brazen seagulls. Like the deer in my hometown, which now roam the streets in gangs during the daylight hours, terrorizing the local gardeners and car parkers alike, the seagulls down the shore have no fear. They’d walk right up to our blanket. One of them pecked at my sandal. I guess birds don’t rely on smell, but only sight to determine what to eat. Two of them were pecking at my plastic bag filled with sand. As long as they keep their distance from me (and even clapping my hands at them was insufficient for some) and don’t defecate on me or my things, I do like to watch them swoop and soar and love the sound of their cries.

View of Causeway from mainland to Sandy Hook

View south to causeway, which you can see up close in the Moby’s pictures

We never made it into the water, although we saw many children playing in the waves. We walked down and stuck our toes in, and that was sufficient. 🙂 The sun had come out and we were perfectly comfortable with the breeze off the water. We were close enough that we’d get the occasional sea spray as well. I never even took off my shirt and shorts, finally remembering to apply sunscreen after we’d been sitting for perhaps an hour. My knee felt ‘warm’ and I thought ‘oh oops’. I’m okay. I definitely got color but I’m not burned. I spent nearly all my time in my chair. I got to “test” my new beach blanket when Pam took a walk along the water. A little before 5 pm the breeze picked up and the sun had lowered over the bay sufficiently that it was getting more cold than cool. We’d had a good 6 hours down there so we agreed that we could pack up and head home.

I took Pam for quick cruise of the restaurants on the other side of the river. She said that she and her husband would be up for trying out the restaurant my husband and I scoped out when we were down at Moby’s the other weekend. Yay!! Another dinner down the shore if we can get compatible schedules! In the meantime, I brought a little ocean to share with you.

They Also Played Baseball

TD Bank ballpark

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater, NJ

This past weekend we met up with a group of friends at one of the local semi-pro baseball teams – the Somerset Patriots, part of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. I LOVE going to watch the Patriots play baseball. It’s good baseball, a great venue, and oh what a spectacle! The Patriots aim to make the entire family happy. Between every inning there is some game or contest or event to amuse the crowd.

There were 10 of us. Seven of us have done this before – we’ve come for several years now, although we missed last year. This was the first time, however, for T & J and their son Greg, age 7. They didn’t know what to expect but we assured them that all 3 of them would have a good time.

the next generation

Indoctrinating the next generation

I wandered over to my neighbor’s to discuss coordination for getting and meeting there. We agreed that we were excited about the FOOD!!! One of the BEST parts of going to the game is that we allow ourselves to eat all the unhealthy food we usually avoid. Two of us mentioned the hot dogs, I wanted the peanuts, and someone else wanted the french fries. 🙂 It says a lot about us, doesn’t it, that we get so excited about such food.

The weather was perfect – it was in the mid-70s and clear. We’ve been there and been uncomfortably hot, we’ve been there and been cold. Had we ordered up the weather, it couldn’t have been better. Sometime after dark when a light breeze began, I did switch seats with my husband so that he was on the end of our arrangement and I was sheltered between him and our friend. Our seats were along the 3rd base line, close to home, and close to the field. We were sitting 5 and 5 to make it easier to chat. Although the seats were good, I like sitting on the 1st base line because that is the home team dugout, and all the silliness is aimed that way. Even so, because of the venue, our seats were good. I loved the opposing team’s uniforms! The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs have a real old-time look.

Southern Maryland Blue Crabs

Southern Maryland Blue Crabs

We all got food and drink as soon as we got into the stadium. 🙂 Once we were seated we made an attempt at taking selfies with all of us in view. We did get a few, but mostly we failed. *grin* Two women sitting next to us offered to help us out so we passed our phones to them and got our group shots. What would we do without our cell phones???? We ate, we laughed, we cheered (SOMERSET!!! Patrioooootttsss!!), we took photographs and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. It WOULD have been better had the home team WON but, alas, it was not to be. The Crabs had 5 runs on 10 hits and we had 1 run on 5 hits. It was just not happening.

inflated horses

Inflated horse race

The between inning silliness was great. I don’t know how they pick fans from the stands to participate, I assume you volunteer in advance and get picked somehow. There was a very young girl who was trying to “grill” chicken by tossing rubber chickens onto a grill, while she was cheered on by a cow. 🙂 There was a race between 2 men wearing inflatable rings, that were both donuts and ducks (the decoration on the yellow rings was definitely donuts but they had duck heads as well. I learned that race was backed by one of the sponsors, Duck Donuts. Well of course. There were some “cans’ that had some sort of contest to cleanup mess and put it in the recycle bins. I tuned into that one midway so all I really know is that there were 3 cans: Hair Spray, Shaving Cream and Insect Repellent. I believe Insect Repellent won.

racing cans

Recycling race

The other inflatable race had fans riding inflated horses. It’s apparently not as easy as you might think, as we witnessed a wipeout near the turn for home. 🙂

Dancing dinosaur

Dancing dinosaur

There was the traditional throw-rolled-up-tee-shirts-into-the crowd, accompanied by a dancing dinosaur, for reasons I know not.
We also watched the healthy foods race. 🙂 Blueberry won, which is NO surprise to me. Blueberry is my favorite out of the represented foods.
racing foods

There was the traditional race around the bases where the mascot Sparkee races a (very) young fan. In all the years I’ve been going to the games, I have NEVER seen Sparkee win a race. *grin* By the way, Sparkee is the mascot because the team’s first manager, and current manager emeritus, is Sparky Lyle.

Sparkee

Sparkee

The team has two mascots, Sparkee and Slider. I’m not sure why they added Slider but it could have been because there was way too much love for Sparkee to handle on his own. There used to be a third mascot, General Admission (yes, dressed in old-fashioned uniform), but I haven’t seen him in ages. I DO have a picture of him with my son, however, which is why I know he existed.

Slider

Slider

The Somerset Patriots host fireworks after many of the home games. They post the fireworks schedule on their website and it is a key factor in which games we go to see. I didn’t remember the fireworks as being anything very special in prior years, but this year was great. I don’t know if it’s me, or if fireworks have gotten better, or what, but there is no question that the fireworks I’ve been observing this summer have been much higher quality than my memories of prior shows. As usual, despite saying there’s no point in taking pictures of fireworks, I did it anyway. I took a video so you can enjoy the show too!

A Day at the Museum

temple of dendur

Temple of Dendur

Oh wow, you do NOT want to be wandering around NYC in August when the temps are in the 90s and the real-feel is in the high 90s. But that’s where you could find me yesterday. My cousin was in town for a few days and I went in to the city to meet her. She was traveling with a friend who’d never been to NYC. Normally I’d say let’s cram in everything we can but I knew the heat and humidity would knock us out. We agreed to go to a museum (air-conditioned) and then we’d go stand in the line at the TKTS booth and see what else we’d do. I wasn’t planning to stay in the city for an evening show, but hanging out at Times Square in line can be its own amusement. It’s a great place for people watching. My goal was to see my cousin Robin so I didn’t really mind what we did as long as I was not pounding the pavement all day.
mounted knights in armor

We agreed to meet up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I always say I don’t like museums but I’m realizing that is not true. I do like museums. What I don’t like is having to look at paintings. When my son and I were in Venice in the Doge’s Palace, I finally cracked and told him we had to leave. I simply could not look at one more painting of a duke riding out to greet a pope. As long as we could look at architecture and artifacts I was fine, but the endless paintings broke me. I don’t spend much time staring at artifacts, either, and only read the placards if the item is unusually interesting. I’m sure there are those who would call me ‘heathen’ and they are probably correct. 🙂

Trumpet call harmonica

Trumpet Call Diatonic Harmonica in G, catalog #504471, ca 1915

I was able to catch a train around 9:00 am, which got me into the city around 10. I’d normally have walked from my house to the station, about a mile, but I had a late start. I had already decided I should drive because I had no idea how much walking I’d be doing and I figured I might need to conserve all that foot and leg energy for later. My cousin and I texted while I was on the train. They were walking to the museum. *smile* I usually walk about midtown when I’m there. First, it’s very expensive to take a taxi. I have no problem with the subway but it doesn’t always go where I want to go. In fact, walking is often the fastest way to get anywhere, assuming you are not traveling great distances. I have no problem with walking 40 blocks or so as long as I’ve got the correct footwear. I don’t think, however, that they had grasped exactly what it is like to walk over 40 blocks in NYC (I believe they started over on Lex and 49th).

nagphani horn

Nagphani, India Late 19th Century, catalog #500781

Robin and her friend were thinking of having breakfast someplace and then going to the museum. Based on their progress at the point when my train got in, I figured I’d meet them up at the museum. Penn Station is at 33rd and 7th, the museum is at 83rd and 5th. That is about 3.5 miles. I decided to break with family tradition and take a taxi. My mother NEVER took taxis. When she and her friends got up in years, she was always offended when they’d insist on taking a taxi. I don’t think my mother even took the subway much. She WALKED. I could imagine her scorn at my indulgence, but at that point it really seemed the fastest and coolest way to get uptown. Even if I took the subway I’d end up walking across the park to get from the Museum of Natural History to the Met.

whistling jar

Whistling Jar, Chimu culture, Peru, 1000-1476, catalog #501305

I got in the taxi and asked him to take me to Madison and 82, figuring that Robin would be breakfasting somewhere near the museum and I wouldn’t have to wait for the taxi to make the 2 left turns to get to the museum. That bit about the left turns might sound odd to those of you who have never traveled in the city, but trust me – when the cross town streets get crowded, trying to get around a block can take a significant amount of time. While we were still heading uptown on Madison, Robin told me that they’d gone into the museum. At that point I told the driver to take me there directly.

grogger (cog rattle)

THEY call it a Cog rattle; WE call it a grogger. 15/16th century. #503725

There was no line to get in yet so I cruised in and met up with Robin and Kevin. I’d enjoyed getting a half-price rail fare because I’m a member of AARP (thanks to my husband, who signed me up WAY earlier than I could have joined on my own *grin*). There is no AARP discount at the museum nor was there any reciprocity with my membership in the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. Full price time. Neither Kevin nor I had had any breakfast at all so we headed straight for the American Wing Cafe for coffee. Ahhhh. I needed that. 🙂
The Astor Court

We decided to wander about instead of taking an introductory tour. The American Cafe is directly behind the Temple of Dendur, which is a “must see” if you are at the museum. We started there. Next we headed to the Arms and Armour exhibit. I’d actually been to both places only 18 months earlier, when my husband and I had been in the city for the day and dinner, but they are both well worth multiple visits. I wanted to show them the Astor Chinese Garden Court. Although we had maps, parts of the museum were under renovation, so we kept getting directions to the elevator to get to the Asian Art exhibits. I kept insisting we could walk, so we ended up wandering through other exhibits as we attempted to get there.

japanese striped bowl

Neriage marbleized stoneware, Japan

I’d never been to the musical instrument exhibit before (galleries 680-684). Having just toured the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix 2 months earlier, I found the instruments more interesting and intriguing than I might have in the past. There are so many different ways that people make music. The materials and the shapes and the combinations – absolutely fascinating. If you look at the map (the link above) it APPEARS that you can walk from the musical instruments area to the Asian Art wing. Appearances can deceive. I finally gave up and we took the elevator to the Asian Art.

glass deer

PixCell (Glass bead) deer, Japan, catalog #76970

We must have gone up only a 1/2 floor. We barely moved, and then the doors on the other side of the elevator opened and we were in Asian Art. As we stepped out we saw/heard a tour in progress. The docent was describing the glass deer (well, that’s MY term for it) by Kohei Nawa. I’d seen this deer last trip as well. It is a taxidermied deer, covered with glass balls of varying sizes. I find it both attractive and a tad repugnant (because it seems disrespectful of the dead deer).

koi pond

Koi pond in Astor Court

But at last we found the Astor Court. I LOVE this spot. I know that there are no chairs there/places to sit, because if there WERE, the place would be packed with folks sitting there in serenity. My memory told me that when I was there in January, there had been flowering plants. There were none there at the moment, but when I checked my photos I saw that for once my memory was right on target (unlike my memory of walking to the Astor Court *grin*). We all loved the garden and spent a little time there simply enjoying it, and watching the koi.

FLW fabric boucle damask

FLW fabric boucle damask

We wandered through the Asian Art exhibit. We had one last “planned” stop in the museum – Schumacher’s Taliesin Line of Decorative Fabrics and Wallpapers Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright,1955 (gallery 599). We found our way there (by this time I asked for directions every time I saw a museum worker). I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was expecting MORE than what was there. It’s a very, very small room – about the size of my son’s bedroom. Even so, there were FLW patterns, so we had the FLW experience.

flw fabric damask

FLW fabric damask


We made sure to wander through the Gift Shop on our way out, but we all nobly restrained ourselves from buying anything (and we each had things in our hands at one point so you know it was difficult).
flw fabric

FLW fabric

Next on the agenda was heading back to midtown to wait in the TKTS line so Robin and Kevin could get show tickets. It was 2:30, and it was hot and humid. *smile* We all opted for a taxi back down to Times Square. Ahhhh. Air conditioned. No walking. We got there about 10 minutes before the booth opened. It’s become so efficient and modern since I last stood in the TKTS line. In MY day, sonny, they only took cash at the window. You didn’t know what was available til you got to the counter and could peer behind the agents. Now everything is computerized, there are sign boards out front, they take credit cards. 🙂 Ahhh, technology. While Kevin and Robin waited in line, I sat on the big red bleachers and watched the people. They joined me, waving their prize – tickets to Tootsie!!!
Book Our Shoes Our Selves

I decided that they NEEDED to see Rockefeller Center (I have a sentimental attachment as I used to work at 30 Rock, back in the days when it was the RCA Building). We walked over there and took photos. I had NO IDEA that in the summer they put in a SANDBOX in the middle of the promenade! You know I went straight over and sat down in a chair and wriggled my toes in the sand! From there we headed over to The Playwright, a restaurant on 49th. As it happens, I have fond memories of this restaurant as well, as my son and I had dinner here one day when we were doing a day of TKTS – matinee in the afternoon, show in the evening. 🙂 We hung out drinking and eating and chatting for about 2 hours. Then I headed for the train home and they headed to the theater. All in all, a lovely day in the city, despite the heat and humidity.

times Square

Times Square as seen from the big red bleachers

The County Fair

county fair 2019

I LOVE the county fair!! When I was growing up I never went to it – it never even registered in my life. Once I had a child, and I was looking for fun things to do with a child, that didn’t cost a fortune or involve traveling forever, the county fair came into focus. Our county fair has all the standard county fair components: the 4-H exhibits (Head-Heart-Hands-Health), the arcades, the rides, the food vendors, the local business exhibits and people, people, people. You know how I love crowds and excited people!
goats

This year the weather was perfect! The fair runs for a week, and they only had one rain-out day on Wednesday. Otherwise the temperature and humidity were perfect for fair-going. We headed over on Saturday night (after I rested from my 5-hour pruning marathon). I was craving fair food – food on a stick, those fabulous butterfly fries, and maybe even ice cream. I didn’t eat much during the day so I could FEAST at the fair.
baby bull

Every year I say the same thing – we HAVE to come on MONDAY so that I can see all the prize winning vegetables and fruits before they have had a week of wilting in the heat and humidity. We have never made it on a Monday. 🙂 I think that seeing the vegetables may actually be my favorite part of the fair. I’m not sure why, therefore, I can’t get myself over to see them when they are at their peak. I can’t even tell you why I like them best, unless it’s so that I have a comparison and goal for my own garden. I like seeing the art work as well, although this year I found I mostly disagreed with every blue ribbon winner. 🙂 Maybe I can get myself on the judging committee?
kettle corn

We follow pretty much the same itinerary every year. We start with the baby animals, move to the historic machines, see the vegetables and fruits, see the art work, and then to the arcades and rides. This year we got our dinner first (I was HUNGRY) and wandered towards the baby animals. We could see a big crowd just past the baby animal tent, and we could see 2 motorcycles with riders up on a tower. So we headed there to see what was happening. That ring has been where the horse jumping has taken place in the past. This year it was stunt riders on motor bikes. They were definitely stunt-y and very exciting. But all in all – I personally prefer watching horses in action.
man on stilts

We went into the baby animal tent and of course ooo’d and ah’d at how cute they are. From the calves and goats and emu we went to the rabbits and the chickens and the snakes and the guinea pigs. I think every year I must say that I think there are fewer exhibitors, but there are still a good number. Good thing, too, because what is a county fair without the 4-H part of it? My husband is convinced that he wants us to have chickens when we retire. I am convinced that I want no such thing. 🙂 So while I crooned at bunnies, he was looking at chickens. One cage had 2 chickens, Honey and Stella. I told him I would only consider letting him have a chicken if he named it Stella, so that he could go out in the yard and call “Stellaaaa!!!“.
maytag washer

I loved the Maytag washer. You KNOW it was the top-of-the-line in its day. Look at the wringer section where you could do the preliminary “drying”. That is a classic for sure, but I’m VERY glad to have a more modern version at home. 🙂
blue ribbon canning

Many years we spend a LOT of time at the arcades. We all (me, husband, son) love to do the water pistol challenge – the one where you shoot water into the target to try to get it to move to the top first. I wasn’t much in the mood for playing so my husband did a round or two and that was it for the arcades. The racing pigs weren’t there this year (I love the racing pigs) but they had the Axe Women Loggers of Maine. We saw a little of their log rolling – impressive!
skeeball

I’d had my bbq’d beef on a stick and my butterfly fries. We’d gotten some fresh-squeezed unsweetened lemonade. All that was left was dessert. I thought I wanted ice cream but the first line I went to stand in was too long for the paucity of flavors. One of the traditional (every year tradition) food vendors sells apple crisp with ice cream, other fresh fruit smoothies, brownie sundaes, and cheese cake dipped in dark Belgian chocolate (so they say). Since the ice cream wasn’t doing it for me, I decided to try the cheese cake. I’m glad I tried it – you should always leave yourself open to new experiences. I have to say that neither the chocolate nor the cheese cake were improved by the pairing. 🙂 The cheese cake was too cold (so it would hold up when dipped) to taste the yummy cheese cake-iness and the chocolate was too sweet. I took a few bites and tossed it. But now I know for the future that it is NOT something I need. I can go back to the ice cream lines.
pink sky at dusk

My dessert was the last fair experience I needed. We were parked in the ENORMOUS field, and almost at the furthest point from the fair entrance. We meandered back to the car, put the roof down *grin*, and headed home. Another wonderful year at the county fair!!!
ferris wheel at night

Rock n Roll Time

IMG_1560

There really is a difference between hearing music live, and hearing recorded music. I’ve mentioned in the past that I love being in high-energy crowds. Whatever is the music equivalent of a vampire, I am that. I feed off the energy. Yet getting to the crowd is often complicated enough that I pass on the opportunity.

Back in the spring on a day I was feeling a bit low, I saw an advertisement for an upcoming Heart concert. I clicked through and saw it was scheduled for a venue about 90 minutes away, it was a double-bill with Joan Jett, it was my birthday week, and I love Heart’s music AND Joan Jett’s music. I had no idea who’d want to go with me, but I bought 2 tickets. Not only 2 tickets, but I made sure they were center seats, under the roof (it was a pavilion venue – BB&T Pavilion in Camden). And then I pretty much forgot about it.
joan jett and the blackhearts

Well last week was birthday week (as well as kidney stone week) and the concert was Friday. I invited my sister to use my other ticket and join me and she agreed. Outdoor venues are tricky – you never know if the weather will cooperate or not. Even if you are under the roof, it it’s raining the air is uncomfortable. I’d never been to BB&T so I tried to get as much information online as possible. Well. I guess it’s true that mostly cranky unhappy people post reviews. “Too Expensive” “horrible view” “traffic was ridiculous” “I’ll never go back”. Oh dear, too late for ME – I already bought my tickets AND my VIP parking. I’ve reached the point that if I’m going to treat myself, I’m going to treat myself and I’m not going to park a zillion miles away and hike in.
joan jett aug 2019

The more I looked at the pictures, however, and read reviews, I realized that the complaints were nothing more than what I consider to be realities of concert going. Yep, the prices for EVERYTHING at a venue are outrageously expensive. Part of how they make their money. Yep, trying to get hundreds of cars (if not thousands of cars) out AFTER the event means you WILL be sitting there for a good 30 minutes or more before you should even try to start your car to move. That’s why you bring enough food to tailgate before AND after. 🙂 (And of course you go in your red convertible which makes everything better.)

My brother-in-law packed us a fantastic tailgate: home-grilled seasoned chicken on home made flat bread, and his delicious macaroni salad. We each brought our drink of choice (vodka & tonic for my sister, wine spritzers for me). I had brand new chairs-in-bags and a brand new pop-up table in a bag. My cooler is always stocked with paper goods, plastic wear, cutting knives and napkins. I always have my Swiss Army knife. I packed a cooler of ice cubes and a bag of limes. We were good to go!
tailgating at bb&t

Getting down to Camden was not a problem – no traffic on the NJ Turnpike for a change. Our biggest issue was finding the correct place for VIP parking. We waited in a parking line to get into the venue parking, only to be told we were in the wrong lot. We needed to go out and go right-right-right to get to the VIP parking. 🙂 We found the lot and asked WHERE the venue was in relation to the entrance to the lot. The attendant pointed over to her left, said we could park anywhere. I headed left and there were LOADS of spots. This concert was obviously NOT a sellout. We picked a spot next to a no-parking area so we’d have room to setup our tailgate. It was lovely. The online descriptions of the lot indicated it was across the road from the venue. The “road” was barely a road – it was more a driveway. It was a very short walk, probably the closest we have ever parked to a venue. (Yes, it was expensive, and yes, the people parking for $10 less were parking in the same huge lot we were but on the other side of the orange cones. So what – it was one less worry for me in my planning.)
Heart Aug 2019

We had a lovely tailgate and then headed in to the venue. It was very much like the pavilion up on the Garden State Parkway in Holmdel, NJ, where we’ve gone many times. This one was better, however, because the concession stands were INSIDE, which meant air-conditioning as well as protection from the rain if necessary. The drinks were extremely over-priced but of course I indulged in the summer cocktail special. It came in a BLINKING GLASS!!!!!! How could I resist? Obviously I couldn’t. 🙂 The only disappointment was the lack of anything that could be considered dessert – we’d forgotten to pack any cookies. 😦 They won back those ‘points’, however, at intermission when they changed the men’s bathroom into one for the women and directed the men to the facilities outside. *grin* They said the ratio of women/men was so skewed they knew they had to address the matter. 🙂
Light up glass

The music was, of course, fantastic. Despite stating that I wouldn’t take any pictures because they never come out well, I took pictures. 🙂 I took videos of some of my favorite songs. The opening act was Elle King (you know – EX’s and Oh’s). The sound crew did a poor job. My sister and I both stuffed tissues in our ears because it was so loud and almost distorted. (Ah yes, we ARE getting old, how tacky of you to mention it.) Joan Jett and Heart both had much better sound quality and no tissues were necessary, thank goodness! 🙂 There were many open seats in front of us so we had great sight, except of course for the couple 2 rows ahead of us who NEVER sat down. *grin* We shifted over so my sister could see something besides their backs. I love the light shows. 🙂 The music is great without a light show but I do like bright shiny glitter and light shows are that and more. There was also a bubble machine at one point.
Heart 2019

Leaving WAS a bit of a nuisance. We did sit there the expected 30 minutes waiting for the line of leavers to lessen. Once we joined the departures it was probably only another 15 minutes of moving forward slowly. The annoying part was the inability to get back on the road we used to get there – Rt 38. We were blocked from that direction and had to keep going south onto Rt 676. I have to say that I absolutely loath trying to drive around Philadelphia and Camden – it’s a real form of torture for me because the roads are terrible, they all merge, the signs are terrible, I don’t do enough driving there to know the secrets and you just can’t get THERE from HERE, no matter the ‘there’ or the ‘here’. We ended up driving south for easily 15 minutes or so before we could finally hook up to the road that would go north. I find that annoying. I suppose it’s possible that as far as TIME goes, it took the same amount of time as I’d have spent on Rt 38, but it’s the PRINCIPLE of the thing, you know???? I want to go where *I* want to go. 🙂

All in all it was a great birthday present – great music, great company, great food, AND a blinking cup souvenir!!!


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