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Friday, May 22, 2015

Travels With Bob

Good Morning Dear Readers,

Have you ever read the book Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck?  It's not one of his most well-known works, but it is charming.  Steinbeck loved America and decided to see it up close and personal way back in 1960.  He packed up his pick-up truck, Rocinante, that had been equipped with a camper, and took to the road with his French poodle, Charley, to learn about the people and land he loved. I couldn't help but think of this book when I was out on the bike paths of the Delaware again the other day with my husband Bob.  Now that we are both retired we do a lot of exploring together.  He's John Steinbeck, of course, easily chatting with every stranger we meet, and I'm his Charley, just happy to be along for the ride.  I have seen little towns and hamlets I never knew existed so close to my own hometown.  We go in search of antique shops (my passion) and eateries (his passion; he's a true foodie) and the end result is we discover lovely places and lovely people (most of the time).  We've discovered so many things, from an antique shop whose barn once stabled George Washington's horses, to an historic tavern that hosts phenomenal jazz sessions on open-mic Wednesdays.

Once my daughter's wedding is over, we should have more time to branch out in our explorations, but for now we are enjoying getting to know the lovely things Central Jersey has to offer.  I took a few snapshots of our recent bike excursion along the Deleware in Frenchtown which I share below.  I love this little town, so many cute shops, like my favorite, Thistle,  and of course quaint eating places like The Bridge Cafe, where you can get the best spinach cakes in the world and the more refined Frenchtown Inn that offers exquisite French cuisine.  Both boast al fresco dining with delightful views of the river.

This time we sought refreshment in a brand new coffee shop that Bob had read about in the Hunterdon Democrat.  After our 6-mile bike ride we stopped at the Eary Bird for some espresso to recharge!  Great place...hope it does well.

The bike ride was delightful, Spring was in full bloom.  The path was lined with feathery Queen Ann's Lace and a beautiful flower( I don't know the name of ) that appeared in  multitude shades of purple .

I even spied some buttercups.  I always think back to idyllic, childhood summer days when I see buttercups.  My friends and I would test each other's love for butter by placing the flower under your chin.  If your chin showed yellow... you were a butter lover!!!

I was amazed at how much the landcape had changed in just one week.  The trees were lush with leaves, the grasses tall and green and flowers, flowers everywhere.  The river views from this section of the path were different too from the Stockton- Lambertville stretch...but just as scenic.

If you get a chance, visit Frenchtown, NJ... another quaint river town along the Delaware.  Who knows where my "travels with Bob" will take me next.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sweet Potato Vine Love

Good Morning Dear Readers,

The weather here has been doing its usual spring thing: one day hot and sunny, the next cool and breezy, another rainy and gray.  But the flora world seems to be loving it just the same.  In fact, my perennials are sprouting and springing up in luxurious clumps all over my gardens.

That even goes for indoors!  What??? I know... how can an indoor plant be influenced by the outside weather, you ask.  Well, it can't really, but I wanted to share with you a funny incident that happened in my kitchen produce basket involving a quirky sweet potato. I usually store onions and potatoes in a wire basket on my kitchen counter.  For some reason, I had one lone sweet potato among a stack of russets.  One day, I was cleaning out fading produce when I spied a clump of small dark green leaves poking out of the bottom of the stack.  I pulled out the lone sweet potato and was surprised to see that one end of the spud had a prett y thick growth of quarter-sized leaves.  Hmmm....guess I wasn't cooking with this one. The sight of the blossoming sweet potato triggered a childhood memory of sweet potatoes soaking in jars on the window sill of my classroom, getting ready to plant a Mother's Day surprise.  I bet many of you have a similar memory.  So, I thought, what the heck, might as well go all the way with this potato since it wants to become a plant so badly.  I plopped it into a ceramic pot from my gardening supplies in the garage, added some water to the pot and set it in the sunroom to sprout roots.  It just loved the special treatment.  Within two weeks it grew lovely thick roots and even more leaves. This past weekend, I decided to plant it in a large container on my patio.  I'll keep you posted on the progress, but here are a few photos of the planting session; it's a very simple process.

all sprouted and ready to plant
Best to have thick growth of roots and leaves; be patient

Be sure to add drainage to pot to prevent root rot
pot the potato!

I added a trellis to help the vines as they grow

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pataki Not the Governor

Good Morning Readers,

I decided to switch things  up today and share with you a new author I have fallen in love with...Allison Pataki.  She has a famous last name, and that is because she is the daughter of former New York State governor, George Pataki! One would expect that this little gal would be involved in politics, but clearly she has a great talent for writing.

The first book I read by her was her debut novel, The Traitor's Wife.  This is the story of Peggy Shippen, the wife of Benedict Arnold.  Though the story is fiction, it is heavily based on historical facts and populated with real historical characters. I'm a big fan of the Revolutionary period of American history, so this book was already right in my wheel house.  Ms. Pataki, however, managed to bring new insights into one of the greatest betrayals in our country's history.  The saying goes that behind every great man is a great woman, well, this doubly applies to Peggy Shippen, only I'd change the saying:  "Behind every wicked man is and even more wicked woman"!!!  That poor man was lead around by his nose by this devastaingly beautiful, greedy dame.  Now, I'm not absolving Benedict of all blame because he certainly had free will and a weak moral character, but Peggy most definately was a huge influence. I won't give away any more details, but I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Traitor's Wife; it's a thoroughly enjoyable read.  Learn more about Allison Pataki and her debut novel, and even watch a video of Allison's thoughts about Peggy Shippen by clicking here.

One of the cool things about revolutionary historical fiction is that much of the action took place right here in good old New Jersey.  That's the case with The Traitor's Wife.  Though a good part of the story is in Phili, if you want to see the home of Peggy Shippen it's just a quick car ride to Burlington county. Click here to read more about the Shippen house and for directions... a fun and interesting day trip idea.  PS.  I think the book is being made into a movie soon.  Can't wait!

The second book that I read by Allison Pataki was The Accidental Empress.  This too, is historical fiction by genre, but the time period is not Revolutionary America. The story is set across the Atlantic in 1853 in the luxurious Austro-Hungarian Empire. The main character is the spunky, young duchess of Bavaria, Elizabeth, affectionately known as "Sisi". The story follows Sisi from her provencial upbringing in Bavaria, to the stunning glamour of the Austrian court of the Habsburg Empire as she marries the emperor, Franz Joseph.  Sisi is a much more admirable character than Peggy Shippen for sure, but her life is beset with strife and tragedy. The reader has to admire her fighting spirit as she attempts to keep her identity and independence among the politics of the court and times.  Sisi is a real historical personage.  I didn't know anything about her, but she is a fascinating character.  You can read about her, just click here.

Author Pataki hints at a sequel to The Accidental Empress.  Sisi's story is an intricate one and could surely continue into a series of books.  I look forward to the next installment.  If you're interested, you can check out potential movie trailer, the author's thoughts on the book and more, just click here.

So, dear reader, if you like books and want a suggestion or two, pick up one by Allison Pataki.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spring Inside and Out

Hello Dear Readers

I know Spring is well underway, and I assure you I have welcomed it into my home.  I just haven't had time to share with you what spring touches I have added to bring spring into my world.  So I did a quick photoshoot around the house, inside and out, and will simply share with you now, some of the quick things I did to celebrate the season.  After such a cold and long winter, I was delighted to decorate the house with new life!

family room mantle gets dressed in spring blooms
I have a grove of lilly of the valley blooming under a kwanzan cherry tree in the back yard.  Every spring, I look forward to their reappearance.  It also reminds me of my grandmother who was born in May, since lily of the valley is May's flower. I gave them a place of honor and put a few blooms inside some vintage jars.  I also added a few branches of the spirea bush that is putting on quite a show in the side yard! Here's a closer look at the blooms.

My kitchen needed a little spring too, so I added a new Scrabble message next to my birdie that sits on the window sill my my kitchen sink. Now I can look at birds inside and out  
Birds and nests and eggs are such symbols of spring.  I decided to use these symbols in my spring decorating. My dining room is inundated with wedding preparations, but I managed to carve out a little space on the dining table to display a vintage silver tray filled with espresso and tea cups that I made into bird nests with moss and shredded raffia (PS - the center tea cup is from my grandmother's set...I will do a whole post on that later...they are one of my favorite things)

Front entry also needed a touch of spring...eggs for the vintage egg basket.  Scored the simple white eggs at Walmart at Easter time.

Outside is welcoming the season too. Pansies at the front door...

Hope you have brought spring into your home too!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sweet Music

Just had to share about a phenomenal concert Bob and I attended Thursday May14th.  My daughter had given me tickets for Mother's Day to hear Vince Gill at the MPAC in Morristown, NJ, and it turned out to be a wonderful time.  What a class act this guy is!  If you are a country music fan, I am sure you already know this, but I was still impressed at the level of professionalism and sophistication displayed throughout the concert.  The sound system alone was the best I have ever heard, and I know it must have been his because I've been to other concerts at the MPAC and they did not sound this professional.  A unique part of the experience was that Vince played every song on a different guitar.  Some of them were obviously vintage and something collectors would drool over.  He practically petted them when they were handed to him.  You could tell how much he loved and cherished each of the instruments.  Vince's backup musicians were equally impressive.  His bass guitarist use to play for the Doobie Brothers and the steel guitar player is the most recorded steel guitar artist of the past 40 years.  A sweet touch was that his female backup singer was his daughter, Jenny Gill.  He was obviously a proud Papa when he introduced her to do a solo performance. Needless to say the apple didn't fall far from the tree...she has a phenomenal voice.

The other thing that struck me about Vince (besides his smooth- as -silk voice and outrageous guitar skill) was his sweet, humble and kind nature.  He wore a simple pair of jeans and a plaid flannel shirt.  The set was a clean backdrop of light stands.  The focus was obviously the music.  But Vince is a great storyteller and his stories reveal the kind of person that he is.  He told stories of his dad and how he was a lawyer by day and a redneck by night and how he taught Vince about life. Vince followed the story with a tender song about his dad.  Vince also shared the tragic story of his brother who was dramatically injured in a motor cycle accident early in his life and suffered with the after effects for years.  Again, Vince followed the story with a loving tribute to his now -deceased brother. Vince also shared a beautiful love song he had written for his wife, Amy Grant.  He shared that he has never recorded it, because it was just for her.  How sweet can a guy get?

I don't have any photos to share of the performance because I obeyed the rules of no cell phone use or recording during the performance, unlike many others who disregarded the rule and forced the ushers to run up and down the aisles asking patrons to shut their phones! Jeesh!  But I do have some pics to show you of a pizza spot where we ate dinner prior to the concert. Millie's Old World Meatballs and Pizza made the top 25 list of N.J. Pizza Power Rankings.  Pete Genovese, a food critic for the Star -Ledger, is most known for his "Munch Mobile".  Pete travels all over New Jersey finding the "best" spots for just about anything from doughnuts to seafood. This month he had a six-month update on his pizza rankings.  Millie's Old World Meatballs and Pizza made #16.  My husband is a life-long foodie and follows Pete's exploits avidly.  So, when he saw this Morristown eatery in Pete's list he decided to give it a try when we went to see Vince Gill.

Pete was right the pizza was super good.  The unique thing about Millie's is that they serve two kinds of pizzas:  those baked in a wood-fired oven and those baked in a coal-burning oven.  We preferred the wood-fired as the crust was thinner and crispier.  Make sure you also try the meatballs.  Bob and I shared an appetizer of meatballs with warm ricotta cheese.  Yummy.  The salads looked equally as delicious, but my husband's a devout carnivore so meatballs won.

Here are the two different ovens that are on the premises:

It was a lovely evening in Morristown.  A big thank you to my daughter Susan.  We had a great time.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Perfect Day

What could be a more perfect activity for a retired couple than a leisurely bike ride along the scenic Deleware River?  Nothing! Yesterday, Bob and I took our first bike ride of the season.  We unloaded the bikes in the parking lot in Stockton, NJ, only one block from the historic Stockton Inn and rode the canal path all the way to  Lambertville.

The weather was perfect, too, sunny and cool. The trees were all in bloom, especially the dogwoods, so pretty dressed in their delicate white blossoms edged in pink. The wildlife was bursting all around us.  We spotted mounds of turtles sunning themselves on rocks that burst forth from the slow-rolling waters of the river. Mallards and other ducky birds floated by dipping their heads beneath the clear water to capture a mid-morning snack.

And then there were the geese!  I had to laugh at the adorable family of geese who had commadeered the canal path to escort their brood of goslings to a safe patch to feed.  One adult led the five little fledglings, and the other adult stood guard at the rear, its head erect and ready to peck if you got too close to the brood of young ones.  We had to carefully pass by in order to avoid upsetting the parade. Who could ask for better entertainment?

The ride was blissful.  Quiet, serene, fragrant...simple.  I felt like Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables who adored and wrote about the simple beauty of Prince Edwards Island.  I felt blessed to live in an area that offers similar beauty.  There is something peaceful, healing and yet exhilarating about the beauty of nature. It offers the perfect antidote to the stresses of living in the 21st Century. And bikeriding among its beauty is the perfect retirement activity! I am looking forward to more days of exploring the rich beauty and rich history (more about this later) of my home state.  Retirement surely does have its advantages.  I don't understand those who say they fear they will get bored if they retire.  There is so much to do and see!  Stay tuned for what Bob and I discover next.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Hello Dear Readers,
   It has been over a year since my last post; my bad (but my life has been CRAZY!!!!). Retirement is suppose to be that lovely, lazy phase of life where the pace is slow and the days are leisurely.  Ha! that's all I can say about that myth.  Since my last post in March of 2014 much has happened: my youngest daughter got engaged, my oldest daughter bought a new home, my youngest daughter bought her first home, and I've become addicted to Pinterest and the blog world! What, you might ask, does that have to do with me not blogging?  In my world, major life events for my girls become major life events for me and my husband. It has been months and months of house searching, house packing, house moving, house painting, house unpacking, house get the picture?  And that's just the half of it.  Then there is the wedding planning...but I will save that for a future post.
   First, the engagement.  Allison, my youngest, met a lovely young man at the dog park when she took Lilly, her beagle, for an outing.  Little did I know that she really first met him on a "match" site on the Internet and arranged to meet at the park.  All worked out well, thank goodness, he turned out to be a very good person.  They instantly (talk about love at first sight) made a connection and the next thing you know they're standing in my dining room telling me they plan to get married!  I really must confess I wasn't all that surprised.  I knew the first time I saw the two of them together that they were meant for each other.  You just can't fake real adoration, and that is what I saw in both of their eyes when they looked at each other.  "Thank God" was my thought.  What more can you wish for your child, than to find her soul mate, the one that completes her, the one who will cherish her.

Here's the lovely couple mugging it up for a selfie:

Craziness will be continued on a future post!