Baby cats!

Baby cats!

Manuel Adjusting to Language Barrier

PHILADELPHIA, PA— After six years as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, Charlie Manuel is learning to adapt to English, the official language of the people of Philadelphia. Manuel recently stated that he feels comfortable expressing himself in the language, although he still struggles with plurals, singulars, vowels, and the double switch.

A recent press conference showcased Maunel’s newfound confidence, as he eschewed an interpreter and spoke for himself: “Ah, uh do, uh, buhleeve thuh Phillies are, uh, thuh teem to uh, beet this uh, year in uh, thuh eweknowlike, nah-shun-uhl leeg.”

When asked to comment, Shane Victorino launched a steam-of-consciousness rant that is still in progress.

So long, summer

It was amazing, full of visitors, road trips, and explorations of Southern Vermont and Western Massachusetts.

Philadelphia blogger summit

Ok, a mini-summit. Well, really just two bloggers. Anyway, Scott over at Blankbaby beat me to the punch and recapped an evening at the Rufus Wainwright, Ben Folds, and Guster show.

A highlight of the night was Ben Folds performing Philosophy. As Ben Folds sang the first line, “won’t you look up at the skyline,” I turned towards the Philadelphia skyline and noticed for the first time that the lights are back on (they were off last month as part of a protest).

Guster’s performance of “Barrel of a Gun” as a huge cargo ship passed behind the stage was also pretty cool. The water, the silhouette of the ship against the Ben Franklin Bridge–perfect!

PS I really do like you, Rufus, but I can’t understand a word you say.

Soup exchange: I am woman, hear me blend

blender
Listen up, all you wussified, Kitchen-Aid-lovin’ cooks out there. I am here to tell you about the Joy of Soup, old school style. I spent the better part of Sunday peeling and chopping six pounds of carrots. Chopping with a big-ass knife. Not putting into a food processor and pressing the button.

Yes, the big-ass knife method takes longer and is infinitely more dangerous (I still have scars from the sweet potato incident of ’02), but I like to think of unhurried food prep as extra “me” time. There’s nothing like spending a leisurely afternoon in your warm and cozy kitchen, especially on a chilly, overcast day: sipping a beer, listening to the weekend doo wap show, sniffing spices, searching frantically for the butterfly bandages.

And what’s that? Is a 747 landing on the deck? Nope, it’s my grandmother’s old Solid-State Osterizer Cyclomatic blender. This sucker weights in at about fifty pounds and is not for the faint of heart.

The end result of the peeling, chopping, and pureeing was a tasty curried carrot soup (it looks like baby food in the first picture because I hadn’t thinned it yet). And why such a massive quantity of soup? Because Sassy J came up with the brilliant idea of a soup exchange–six of us made soup, met at Sassy J’s place, and proceeded to sample and swap.

soup
Starting from the back-left corner and going clockwise: squash/mung bean, potato leek, lentil, cream of asparagus, curried carrot, and curried apple. Not to brag or anything, but we rule.

2012: The Year in Nature

“So how’s it going up there?” After three visits to Pennsylvania in the last two months, I’ve heard this question a lot. By “up there,” people mean the wild and reserved part of the country North of New York City. Since we’re in Massachusetts now, most friends think we live in Boston. A few are pretty sure we live in New Hampshire, because that’s really the same thing as Massachusetts, right?

“Yo, when are yous moving back to Philly?”

So I try to explain Western Massachusetts and how it’s not like Boston at all and how you can drive just a few minutes to get somewhere beautiful, instead of sitting on the Schuylkill or I-95 or the Jersey Turnpike.

2012 was the first full year of living near nature.

Winter

Advice we got from area outdoor enthusiasts: there’s no bad weather, only wrong clothes. Icy trails are no problem with these bad boys, and winter hiking is peaceful: few people, no humidity, and no mosquitoes.

Microspikes

Microspikes

One one trek, we got to see some beaver action at Tully Lake:

Lake Tully Beavers

Tully Lake Beavers

Even though there wasn’t much snow, Brattleboro, Vermont hosted the annual ski jump competition at Harris Hill.

Harris Hill Ski Jump

Harris Hill Ski Jump

Cross-country skiing was fairly terrifying, partly because the fake snow was icy and mostly because it’s hard to stop.

Cross Country Skiing

Cross Country Skiing

Just when you’re tired of winter, the sugaring season starts. We visited a few sugar houses, including the Red Bucket Sugar Shack, down a dirt road in Worthington. Is there anything better than eating pancakes on a weekend morning while the maple syrup is boiling in the room next door?

Red Bucket Sugar Shack

Red Bucket Sugar Shack

Spring

Spring is slow to arrive here, but the anticipation is fun. Type E’s parents came for an Easter visit, and we took them to Hawley Bog, where spring had most definitely not yet sprung.

Hawley Bog

Hawley Bog

Later that weekend, we stopped by the nearby Acadia Wildlife Sanctuary and saw dozens of blue heron nests.

Acadia Rookery

Acadia Rookery

My family chose to visit later in the spring, when things were greener. We took my mom to a sheep shearing festival in the Berkshires. Don’t worry–in the right hands, the sheep enjoy getting a haircut.

Sheep Shearing

Sheep Shearing

The next day, we went on one of Blanche Derby’s wild edibles walks and learned that not only can you make pesto from garlic mustard, but you’re doing everyone a favor by pulling it up, since it’s an invasive species.

Wild Edibles

Wild Edibles

My brother and his wife brought their bikes, and we took our first ride of the season, to the end of the Norwottuck Rail Trail and back.

Norwottuck Rail TrailNorwottuck Rail Trail

Norwottuck Rail TrailNorwottuck Rail Trail

Summer

Summer is just as hot and humid in the Pioneer Valley as it is in Philadelphia, but it’s gorgeous nonetheless.

This is ice cream country! There are Creamees, Frostees, Flayvors, and Flavorlands in every town and down every back road. At some places, you can give personal thanks to your dairy providers.

Thanks for the ice cream

Thanks for the ice cream

Another way to escape the heat is to find yourself a swimming hole. Just downstream from the Chesterfield Gorge, below, you can splash around in the Westfield River or just plop your chair on a rock and read for a few hours.

Chesterfield Gorge

Chesterfield Gorge

And of course it wouldn’t be summer without some camping. We went back to Savoy and drove to the Berkshires to see the Boston Symphony rehearse at Tanglewood. We also took in some mountainside outdoor dancing at Jacob’s Pillow.

Jacob's Pillow

Jacob’s Pillow

There was more camping at Half Moon State Park in Vermont.

Half Moon Pond

Half Moon Pond

Closer to home, we enjoyed the porch, which serves as living room, dining room, and reading nook during warm months. The sounds of kids playing ball on our dead end street and the neighbor playing his guitar waft through the same screen that frames our view of the surrounding trees.

the porch - our favorite room

Favorite Room

It wouldn’t be summer without enjoying the local food bounty, from our CSA to the honor system produce stands along every road.

CSA Haul

Atlas Farm CSA Haul

Some foods—even the undeserving—get their own festival.

Tomato Festival

Tomato Festival

This year, I fulfilled a dream by entering food in a local fair. My black raspberry jam, the cause of tears, frustration, and swearing, got a  third-place ribbon a the Cummington Fair. I’ll never forget driving into the sunset on Route 9, jam and cookies in tow, and arriving at the fairgrounds to find what seemed like the entire community setting up for the weekend festivities.

Cummington Fair

Cummington Fair

Fall

Fall in New England is cliche, but who doesn’t love a good cliche? Mom made a return visit, and we took her out to the Three Sisters Sanctuary in Goshen, a hard place to describe.

Three Sisters

Three Sisters

On Columbus Day weekend, the foliage was just starting, so we drove to the top of Mount Sugarloaf to peep at some leaves and also peep at the people down in Mike’s Maze.

Sugarloaf Peeping

Sugarloaf Peeping

We spent the next few weeks chasing the colors. First, a return to the High Ledges, above Shelburne Falls.

High Ledges

High Ledges

Then, a return to the local rail trail:

Norwottuck Rail Trail

Norwottuck Rail Trail

You can detour from the trail and ride the dirt roads around Hadley’s farmland.

Hadley Roads

Hadley Roads

Stunning views are still to be had, even after the leaves are gone.

Chapel Brook

Chapel Brook

And if you’re missing the colors, there’s the annual chrysanthemum show at Smith College.

Chrysanthemum Show

Chrysanthemum Show

Slowly, the pumpkins and cornucopias disappear, replaced by Christmas lights and barrels of salt that stand at the ready.

And so begins another full year of nature. Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve

Venus Attacks! I am pretty, you are the walrus

I love me–the hell with you. And so begins Venus Attacks!, a theatrical spoof that mocks Dr. Phil, self-help books, and female empowerment seminars. At this play the audience participates as attendees of the Venus seminar “How to be a Love Goddess.” Debbie Kasper and Sheila Kay play the other roles:

  • Venus, supreme Love Goddess.
  • Starshine, Goddess leader-in-training, perpetually stuck on cloud eight.
  • Dr. Candy Box, radio sexicologist
  • Dr. Simpatico, self-esteem surgeon: “my body is a temple–every night I pray that someone enters it.”
  • Carmella Gambino, expert on awakening your inner bitch: “remember, it takes 42 muscles to frown, but only 4 to bitch slap someone across the room.”
  • Zelda Bing, relationship therapist: “younger men are better lovers because their life stories are much shorter.”

venus attacksThat’s right: you are donuts, and the hole is where your self-esteem should be. If you’re near Philly, you owe it to yourselves check out Venus Attacks!, which is running through the end of May*. You’ll learn valuable meditations, affirmations for all occasions, and how to fork over your hard-earned cash in the quest for cloud nine. Men Monkeyboys are also welcome.

Even if you’re not in the area, you can get your fill of psycho-babble satire by checking out Bras and Penus on a Date, a parody of John Gray’s Mars and Venus books (Debbie Kasper is one of the co-authors).

* At the Society Hill Playhouse. Try for half-price tickets from PhillyFunGuide.com.

Jim and Jennie & The Pinetops: they’re back!

jim and jennie
Jim and Jennie & The Pinetops haven’t been to Philadelphia in such a long time that I’d stopped checking the performance schedule on their website. But the ever-excellent Bloodshot Records announced today that Rivers Roll on By, the new Jim and Jennie CD, is now available!

Even better, the band is playing two Philly shows at World Café Live. I can’t wait–it’s been too long since their last visit.

Village Green in Strasburg. Memories of high school Saturday…

Village Green in Strasburg. Memories of high school Saturday nights, and best mini golf ever.

Opening day at the PA Farm Show

Opening day at the PA Farm Show