Monday, August 29, 2011

Cross Country Season Is Here!

I must admit, I didn't know much about cross-country before our daughter began participating in the sport. When I was a teen my high school didn't even have a girls' cross country team. 

Now we spend most of our fall Saturdays (and some late afternoon weekdays) traveling around to our daughter's meets. I have found it to be quite fun to scream my fool head off in support of our daughter and her teammates. Even though it's a fairly new program at her high school (third year of varsity status after a few years of being a club sport), there are some really good runners on the team. The fastest boy and fastest girl made All-State last year!

I promote the sport to those who say their kid isn't quite cut out for team sports like football and basketball. Cross country is a team sport, of course, but along with helping one's team finish as high as it can overall, each runner also tries for PR's (personal records). 

Here's a few scenes from Saturday's meet:

 In the above photo, the girls' race is getting ready to start. Preparation the day of the meet begins well before the starting time - the teams will have arrived an hour or so in advance to walk the course. Unlike sports that play on fields that look very much alike, each cross country course is different. Some are relatively flat but others have challenging hills. The courses may be located in a park, in the meadows and/or woods next to a high school,on land owned by a sportsman's club, and so on.

Here's an example of a hill:

It may not look that steep, but trust me, it was steep enough to be challenging! And the runners had to go up it twice! It was quite hot and humid in the sun too. Some kids really attacked that hill, but others looked like they were taking it at a crawl. 

Our daughter's team hadn't been to this course before, so I asked her later what she thought when she first saw that hill. She told me it was no big deal; she'd run up worse hills than that before. Great attitude! :)

You can see the spectators lined up all the way to the top of the hill. If the course is fairly compact (the 5K distance will be made up by repeating certain sections of the course), my husband and I will try to run from mile marker to mile marker to get the runners' times and encourage our daughter and her teammates as they go by. 

Above you can see the race in action; the runners are getting ready to turn into the woods and go up the hill. 

And here's the finish line, which happened to be inside the football stadium of the host high school. The boys on our daughter's team finished 4th in their division and the girls finished 3rd. That 3rd place finish earned them a trophy, which was nice. 

And so it begins. The season goes through Nov. 5th. In these parts, we could have 85 degree weather during some meets - or 35 degrees! But hot or cold, it's a great sport and we're very proud of our daughter for doing it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thrifty Acres - kitchen window display

Hello! Interesting thrift store purchases have been in short supply lately, so for this post I'm offering up the display on the windowsill above our kitchen sink:

 From left to right:

Egg cup. small egg cup with beaded fruit piece, strawberry-shaped salt shaker, small egg cup with bead fruit piece, painted wood egg cup,baby chick-shaped salt shaker, nesting set of goose-shaped measuring cups with beaded fruit piece on topmost cup, vintage handkerchief with "Our Dutch Cousins" printed on the bottom, baby chick-shaped pepper shaker,painted wood egg cup, small egg cup with beaded fruit piece, strawberry-shaped pepper shaker, small egg cup with bead fruit piece and small honey pot/jam jar. 

Now for some info on what you saw above:

The large egg cup, smaller egg cups and honey pot/jam jar were a set I purchased for $4.00 at a garage sale run by an antiques dealer. The bottom of the large egg cup says "Japan". I'm guessing these are from the 1950's. 

I made the beaded fruit pieces by coating small plastic fruit with craft glue and then sprinkling microfine beads on top. I got the beads at American Science and Surplus. 

The strawberry salt and pepper shakers, for some reason, were priced separately for 20 cents apiece. They're quite small - only about 1 3/4" high. I was quite shocked to learn that a similar pair was listed at $19.99 on eBay. I have no idea why! They might be from the 1950's.

The painted wooden egg cups (painted to look like a man and a woman) were purchased for 25c for the pair at a church rummage sale in Douglas, WY last summer. I wouldn't have thought of eating a boiled egg out of a wooden egg cup, but these were too cute to pass up! I don't know exactly where they're from, but some Internet research points to maybe Italy or Germany. Not sure of their age.

The baby chick salt and pepper shaker set is only about 10 years old - I got it as a gift from my mother. 

I bought the nesting set of goose-shaped measuring cups at Goodwill a few years back for $2.00. They're made of hard plastic and might be from the 1960's. These are listing from around $6.00 on up on eBay ("up" as high as $24.99).

The vintage handkerchief had been my mother-in-law's and was given to me after she died. She wasn't Dutch (nor am I), but I live in a town founded by Dutch immigrants,so the Dutch theme is good. Love the colorful design too!

Well, I think that's it for my display. I really don't have room to fit any new finds on the windowsill, but I like what I have up there!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Vacation - Pennsylvania (and a little New York)

Hello! Last week's blogging absence was due to being on vacation. As this post's title suggests, we headed east. We lived in suburban Philadelphia for seven years and grew to like Pennsylvania quite well. It's a very pretty state and is very rich in history too.

Thus what follows is a general commentary on our trip and several photos as well. I'll begin with our dinner at:

Legal Seafoods is a Boston-based chain, with locations along the Eastern seaboard (Atlanta as well). This particular location is at the King of Prussia Mall, which is a shopper's paradise - one of the largest shopping malls in the country! Legal Seafoods is a little pricey, but the food is very good. Even something as mundane as fish and chips, which is what I ordered, seemed quite luxurious and rich.

To walk off those calories, we immediately headed over to the nearby historic site:

Like many Americans, before moving to the Philadelphia area we just thought of Valley Forge as the place where George Washington and his troops suffered through a harsh winter. One does get a sense of what it was like to live at Valley Forge from a scene like this:
This is a reproduction of a soldier's cabin. However, we quickly learned to look upon Valley Forge as many locals did - as a large recreational area. There are a number of multi-use paths at the park, including one long loop of over six miles. It's a very pretty and interesting walk too, what with rolling terrain and occasional historic sites along the way.

In the photo above you can see the multi-use path winding along. We saw many runners, walkers and cyclists out on the paths, and in years past we had also seen people flying kites or remote-control planes, artists setting up easels to paint in the fields, and so on. Large herds of deer can often be seen as well, since no hunting is allowed on park land. 

Of course, for those who want their history, park rangers are on hand during the day. We used to go on some of the interpretative walking tours the rangers would offer on the weekends. Always enjoy our visits there!

Took the train into Philadelphia the next day. Since we'd taken the tours of the historic sites several times while living in the area, we just took pictures of some of the exteriors, such as:

Independence Hall - while living in the area, I never got over the thrill of living so close to such a famous building. There is scaffolding now on it due to construction work, but the tours went on.

You can see Independence Hall behind this monument, and to the right is the line of people waiting to get into the building where the Liberty Bell is housed.

Although I didn't take any photos of it, in my opinion no visit to Philadelphia is complete without a visit to Reading Terminal Market! It's a huge indoor market, the kind with individual vendors. It was always one of my favorite places to go, for I used to say that I never saw an unhappy person there. I'd see folks from all walks of life: business people in expensive attire, construction workers, hospital staffers, suburbanites like us in town for the day, etc. - all enjoying the buying and/or eating of great food! For lunch, our daughter and I purchased cheesesteaks while my husband got Mexican. But really, just about any cuisine one can think of can be had at Reading Terminal Market. 

Ben Franklin is closely identified with Philadelphia, and rightly so. I always got a kick out of this plaque, which is on 10th Street, south of Market Street:

Supposedly it's the site where Franklin did his famous kite-flying experiment. It's now a church building. I didn't photograph it, but we also went over to the cemetery where Franklin is buried and tossed pennies on his grave - that is supposed to bring good luck to those who do so. 

Add a couple of college campus tours in the suburbs(Haverford and Swarthmore Colleges)along with our sightseeing and it was a very busy time in the Philadelphia region. Our next destination was the northern tier area of Pennsylvania, although we got there by way of Lancaster County. Again, no photos to show you (my camera was acting up a little), so I'll mention that I used to love going to Lancaster County, which was an hour west of where we used to live, and one of my favorite destinations there was Shady Maple. It's a huge grocery store and has expanded at least once  since our last visit. There are always unique items to buy in the bulk food aisles there and this visit was no exception - I found the wafers used to make ice cream sandwiches - same size, shape and flavor. I've never seen these at the usual grocery stores! 

I also showed our daughter the potato chip/pretzel aisle, for it is there that one sees numerous small brands - probably many of which aren't sold away from Lancaster County. One potato chip company sells its product in clear bags, so I could see that their potato chips looked quite handmade. 

Handmade food products were also very much evident at our next destination, Wiliamsport,PA. While living in PA we used Williamsport as a home base while hiking on the many trails in that area. Hiking helps to burn off calories from purchases made at the above business,Purity Chocolates near Allenwood, PA. Besides selling a wide variety of candies, the fun thing about Purity is that the manufacturing area is just beyond the retail shop, with windows all around for viewing. Above some employees are working on a batch of peanut brittle. A few minutes after I took this picture, one of the employees brought us out some sample pieces, still warm. 

In the above photo, the woman is making "sandwiches" of peanut butter methodically spread between two soda crackers. These would be dipped in chocolate after she had filled her tray. There were no secrets - I could see what brands of peanut butter, soda crackers and chocolate she was using. 

Another nearby tray had teeny-tiny marshmallows on it, ready to be covered in chocolate, and behind the woman were several solid chocolate animal shapes that had recently been unmolded. We bought a 8 oz. solid chocolate cat for the neighbor girl who watched our cat while we were gone. 

As I'd said in the beginning of this post, Pennsylvania is a very pretty state, and here's an example of what I mean:

This photo was taken at the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, which is located near the charming town of Wellsboro. Here's another view from our overlook:

That's Pine Creek below our vantage point. The Grand Canyon also has hiking trails - if we'd had the time and inclination, we could have hiked down to Pine Creek. We've not done that yet, but hope to some time. We did do a short loop hike, which was fine except for the occasional signs posted alerting hikers to rattlesnakes that had been seen along the trail. We knew these are called timber rattlesnakes - we've seen them on other trails in the region. I'm happy to report that we didn't see any during this visit!

The "a little New York" of my blog title refers to Ithaca, NY, which we visited the next day. After parking near downtown Ithaca we went to the famous Moosewood Restaurant for lunch. This is a vegetarian place and the basis of many cookbooks bearing the Moosewood name. There are "browsing copies" available in the lobby so I perused a dessert tome while waiting for my lunch. I can't say that I thought my entree was priced fairly - I thought it was priced too high for what I got. (I happen to be quite picky about that sort of thing).

We walked from Moosewood to Cornell University for a campus tour - it was pretty much 25 minutes of all uphill walking! The campus is very pretty and the tour guide was very informative. Walked back to downtown Ithaca - not much time to look around, but it's a very cool downtown. The tour guide had told us that Ithaca was recently rated the #1 college town in the US and I can believe it. I made sure to visit Sew Green, which is a thrift store of sorts - only all the donations are things like fabric, buttons, sewing patterns and craft books. It's a small store but it was fun to look around at the colorful displays of fabrics. I bought a bagful of fabric scraps, three pieces of fabrics, and one pattern (original price of $12.00 was still on it, but I paid one dollar).

We packed up and left Williamsport the next day; sad to leave the area as we always are. We like the hills:

It's often foggy in the mornings there, but the hills are still evident in the above photo. This view was taken from our hotel's front entrance. I know that these hills are nowhere near the height of the mountains out west (which I have also seen), but to me, they're still high enough to be scenic (I didn't grow up in hilly terrain). 

Before heading back home, we stopped for our last campus visit of the trip, Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA. It's a pretty campus. The tour guide encouraged everyone to come back in the fall; she said it's beautiful then and I'm sure she was right.

Lewisburg itself is a small town but is big on charm. If I'd had the time, I would have gone to the antique mall housed in an old mill - its sign said that 400+ dealers are there. Also saw several other antique stores in or near the town. 

So, there you have it - a short synopsis of our vacation! Hope you enjoyed following along!