Tuesday, December 26, 2017

See Them Being Made: Candy Canes

Hello! Now that all the cooking/baking/crafting/gifting/decorating tasks of Christmas are over, I can switch gears by blogging about a fun little trip my husband and I took shortly before the holiday. 

I've blogged several times about Purity Candy, near Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Their chocolates are delicious and there's the added bonus of seeing them being made via three windows in the back of the retail space. 

During one visit several years ago, one of the employees informed me that Purity makes candy canes by hand; production begins after Thanksgiving. 

This sounded fun to me, so I hoped that someday I'd get to see this in person. (hey, you have your "bucket list" items, I'll have mine!). That "someday" became a reality on December 16th, as our schedules worked out for a trip to Purity then. 

We drove over to Purity's operations from our hotel in Williamsport. This is what greeted us as we approached the building:

Like movie showings, the candy cane "showings" were at 10, 12 and 2. 

We were used to visiting Purity during times of relative quiet, with plenty of space to walk around the retail store and view whatever candy making was going on that day. Not so on this day: the store was packed, with young children clustered close to the one viewing window where the candy canes were going to be produced. And directly behind these kids were the adults who'd brought their kids there, leaving no room for anyone else to get a glimpse of the operation. 

I would have been disappointed if we'd come all this way and not be able to see anything happening, but fear not, Purity had set up two large monitors for watching the event unfold. An employee stood near the kids and narrated the action for the gathered crowd.

Above, as seen in the monitor, an employee has just finished coloring a portion of the batch red; the part that would remain white is in the background. A 25-pound batch of the candy mixture had been made. 

And now the green portion has been made. 

Toward the end of the "showing", the kids and the adults with them left the store, so I had a chance to go over to the viewing window and get pics of the shaping process. So I'll skip ahead to show off the better-quality photos I got then:

The red and green portions had been added to the white. So now the colors are all together, but it just looks like a fat blob at this point. 

The employee rolled that fat blob into a much skinnier length, which you can see in the lower right hand of the photo. Mounted on the wall behind him is a 35-pound candy cane!

After rolling out the mixture into that desired diameter, the employee cut off stick-like lengths and put them on another table for shaping. Note the several raised sections on the table - the "sticks" are held against these sections to keep them straight while the curved part is formed. 

The shaping continued on and on. As you can imagine, it takes awhile to use up a 25-pound batch of candy cane mixture!

It's possible that I might have missed the use of a scale for measuring, but I don't think so. So the employee merely eyeballed the amounts of the mixture to remove to create the portions that would be colored red or green. And it appeared that similar eyeballing was done when cutting the "stick" lengths that would become the actual candy canes. 

Of course, these steps were done by someone with a practiced eye, but I still enjoyed the low-tech nature of the process. I'm sure at some big candy cane plant everything is pre-measured to the nth degree - no irregularities allowed!

So why were the kids who'd been present no longer at the viewing window? They had already completed the last portion of the "showing", during which a Purity employee set up two card tables. Then the kids took turns gathering around the tables, receiving a small "stick" of their own, and shaping their very own candy cane. For packaging, Purity also supplied small plastic bags and stickers for closing the bags. 

Happily, after the kids were done with their efforts, kids at heart got their chance at making candy canes too! Several adults participated, yours truly included. The candy cane mixture was still slightly warm, making it easy to shape:

Ta-da, my very own hand-shaped candy cane! It tasted very good, by the way. I think it had a cleaner taste than the mass-produced ones do. 

(Purity also makes larger candy canes in a variety of flavors, but I'm a purist who prefers peppermint).

Candy canes weren't the only star of the Purity show that day though:

Large Santas and Christmas trees had been created, and pretzel rods moved along on a conveyor belt toward their chocolate coating. (a short while later, bagfuls of these pretzels whose coatings were less than perfect showed up in the "bargain basket" near the cash register). 

The making of the chocolate-covered pretzels was noteworthy since it was a Saturday, a day in which the production lines are usually idle.

We also noted that Purity was staying open until 5:00 this day, and would also be open for business the next day. Typically the store is only open until 3 on Saturdays and is closed on Sundays. 

The extended production and business hours highlighted how busy the Purity folks are on the days leading up to Christmas, so I really appreciated that they take the time to welcome people to their candy cane "showings". Even as crowded as the store was this day, I was glad we'd made the long drive from Michigan to see candy canes being made!





Thursday, December 21, 2017

Vintage Christmas From Reader's Digest #2

Hello! Are you ready for some more vintage Christmas ads? Hope so, because here they come!

A pretty cover from the December 1961 issue. 

Above, the man of the house relaxes in his new Pendleton outfit: slacks, hose (aka socks), slacks, and lounging robe. And if that wasn't enough, he also was gifted with a Topster jacket, a sports shirt, a muffler and a Highland Robe-in-Bag. Not sure why he needed two robes, but the lounging robe cost $11.00 more, so there must have been some difference between the two. But at any rate, quite the Pendleton haul!

Everybody always likes the latest in electronics from Christmas presents, right? So how about a clock radio, a "shirt pocket radio"(portable transistor radio), a larger transistor radio, or a portable stereo! What more would an audiophile need?

Do you always think of V-8 juice around Christmas time? Well, you should, since it offers "Bright holiday sparkle by the glassful! V-8 outflavors any single juice...its flavor sparkles so that people sparkle when they drink it!" Wow, didn't realize V-8 juice has that effect on people! Guess that's because I don't care for the stuff.

I like the paste-toned family above, all agog because the daughter  has received a Remington Quiet-Riter Eleven Portable manual typewriter. But, after all, the ad copy assures us that this gift is the "...greatest typewriter value of all times...this greatest, most useful gift of all Christmas times!" Well,then, no wonder they all look so happy about it!

Silly me - I'd thought that telegrams had been sent primarily in the case of emergencies, but the above ad shows that I was very wrong. Instead, Western Union had "3 happy Christmas Ideas": a "sprightly decorated telegram makes a very special holiday greeting", a "gift money order" (..."a perfect answer to gift problems") and the Santagram ("...the special Christmas telegram, datelined 'North Pole' and signed by Santa himself.")

So, I need to rid myself of those images of people receiving telegrams to notify them of a war-related death or other tragedy. Just send a Santagram instead!

Of course, some of the "order here, send there" aspects of gift giving haven't changed much:

To be honest, it's been awhile since I had flowers delivered to someone who lives out of town, but I'm guessing that people can still contact their local florists to have a bouquet sent somewhere else. And a holiday gift of flowers still says "Joy to the family".

I'll close with a couple more of the lovely cover art on these vintage Reader's Digest magazine:

December 1956

and December 1955. 

Nice stuff, so I won't crack any jokes about these covers!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Vintage Christmas From Reader's Digest #1

Hello! While cruising a local thrift store earlier this year, I spied a stack of vintage Reader's Digest magazines. The publication dates ranged from the mid-1950's-early 1960's, and were a quarter each. And to my delight, several of the magazines were December editions. That meant I could check out some vintage Christmas ads. 

And through this blog post, you can check out some of these ads too!

"Beautiful, useful, always welcome...PYREX GIFTS". Still would be a welcome gift today. 

I'm writing this blog post on a Saturday, which likely was a very busy Christmas shopping day for a lot of people. Did you stop for a sandwich-and-Coke break like the two women above did? You should have, since "The cold crisp taste and lively lift of Coca-Cola send you back shopping with zest." 

"Give Telephones this Christmas". The ad copy goes on to proclaim: "There's nothing more appreciated than comfort, convenience and security and you give all three when you give a telephone...an additional telephone is a gift that rings the bell the whole year through."

And where to purchase this gift? "Just call the Business Office of your Bell Telephone Company."

A rotary-dial landline phone purchased through a Bell Telephone business office sure does seem quaint now!

I already showed a Coke ad, so in the interest of fairness, here's this:

"Here's the drink that goes with all your Christmas fun! The special parties, the tree-trimming, the surprise guests, all of it...No wonder 7-Up is spending the holidays in so many happy homes. Shouldn't you order some more right now?" 

"Shouldn't you order some more right now?" - you mean they didn't have those big displays of soft drinks around the holidays like you see now, so you had to order the case shown in the ad? (glass bottles, of course) Well, after all, grocery stores in 1958 (the year of this ad) were smaller, so I suppose they might not have had room to display stacks of 7-Up cases. 

I love the font used for the words "for a star-bright Christmas" - very 1950-ish, I think. 

Watches not your thing? Then how about RCA Victor radios and "Victrolas"? Some of the features of these products include "Up to 2 hours of music with '45' EP's", "2 speeds!" (45 or 33 1/3) or, "3-speaker High Fidelity. 4 Speeds". 

Until I saw this ad, I'd forgotten that the record player my family had when I was a kid was a 4-speeder: 16, 33 1/3, 45 and 78. For kicks, we'd sometimes play our kiddie records at 16(too slow) or 78 (too fast)instead of 33 1/3, just to laugh at the sound distortions that occurred.

Another watch ad:

Love the turquoise color on this 1957 Westclox Baby Ben. Baby Bens were very popular clocks back in the day, but I'd never heard of Glendale clock on the left. "New idea - beautiful electric 'two-way' clock mounts on wall or stands in its own base! Dial in red, charcoal or turquoise." (yep, turquoise was "in" then, all right). 

The Glendale model may have been a "new idea" that year, but it may have not been a good idea at that. The only current eBay listings I saw on Glendale clocks pertained to print ads that featured them. 

And speaking of 1957, here's what the cover of this issue looks like:

I'm used to seeing Reader's Digest covers with the table of contents on them, but apparently the publication went for front cover artwork instead at one time. 

One more ad for today:

A timeless ad: a young boy, exhausted from too much Christmas excitement, sleeps on his father's lap. But wait - what gifts did that boy play receive that Christmas Day? A bat and glove, a hook-and ladder fire truck, and a cowboy outfit. Of course, not an electronic toy in sight! 

And as for the "Present...with a future": Dad is holding a savings account passbook. "You give more than money when you give a savings account in an Insured Savings and Loan Assocation. You give someone a head start on the savings habit...on getting many other worth-while things in the future." Like maybe more toy fire trucks? 

But seriously, giving someone a "head start on the savings habit" sounds like a very good gift indeed!

I hope you've enjoyed these vintage Reader's Digest ads as much as I did! I'll show off more in my next post.



Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas Comes To Grand Haven

Hello! Earlier this week I traveled to Grand Haven, a town about a half hour north of me, on "official business" (aka jury duty). I arrived early enough one morning of the three-day trial to walk around the downtown blocks. Thus, I got to take in the sights of retail's most festive time of year, Christmas. (I enjoy seeing how shops decorate their windows for the season). What follows are a few pics I took of the displays. 

I loved the above sign, which relates that "Grandpa's Holiday Farmwas built in the early 1940's by the famous Macy's department store in NYC." From there, the animated display went from Hudson's in Detroit to a store in Saginaw. The display made its way to Grand Haven via an antique store in Bay City. 

Grandpa's Holiday Farm covers several small storefront windows. I dutifully took pictures of all the scenes, but only one of them turned out okay:

Above, a small flock of chickens cavort, but alas, frolicking goats and Santa didn't photograph well. But do check the vignettes out if you're in downtown Grand Haven this month. 

Although the weather was mild for this time of year last week, these groupings of wintry-looking blow mold figures put me in the holiday mood!

A touch of France along the lakeshore. 

"Make more cookies" says the sign above the display of dozens of cookie cutters. Sounds like a great idea to me!

But if you'd rather buy some sweet stuff instead of making them, here's a display of imported treats:

Marzipan, torrone, chocolate Santa - can't go wrong here!

Ho ho ho! This Santa stands guard over his shop. 

And what is Christmas without children and their toys? This building set looked awesome! Don't know the brand, but perhaps the pieces are held together by magnets?

But lest we think that Christmas is just about getting presents, I saw this on a display window tree (I think at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum):

It appeared that this tree had been decorated with ornaments made by children, including paper stars on which wishes had been written. "This Christmas I Wish for Kindness". Indeed! This was a wonderful reminder of what is truly important, this time of year and of course during the other 11 months of the year as well. 

Due to jury duty, I had no time to do anything in downtown Grand Haven but take these photos (well, we did get lunch breaks, but I don't like to eat and run if I can avoid it, so I used that time to relax and linger over my meal). So now I'm thinking that I ought to return to Grand Haven so I can actually go in the shops.



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Adventures In Natural Homemaking: All-Natural Wood Polish

Hello! Perhaps you're like me, getting ready to host a big Thanksgiving dinner in a couple of days. And perhaps you're also like me, being motivated to do a super-good housecleaning because company's coming. 

We own a number of antique wood furniture pieces, so I was busy polishing them to a nice shine yesterday. I suppose there's people who polish their furniture on a regular basis, but I'm not one of them,so I wasn't exactly looking forward to it. 

Nevertheless, even though it's a task I don't do often, I'd rather use something that doesn't list a bunch of chemicals on a bottle. So I decided to try the following "recipe", which I found on the Internet (don't recall the source):

All-Natural Wood Polish

1/4 cup olive oil(see note below)
1/4 cup vinegar(see note below)
10 drops orange essential oil (see note below)

Add all to spray bottle and shake. Spray on cloth and wipe down furniture. 

Notes: no need for the fancier grade (ie extra virgin) of olive oil here; can use the cheaper versions. I assume that the vinegar is meant to be the plain white kind, so that's what I used. 

It seems to me that essential oils are becoming more readily available, perhaps due to an interest in natural cleaning and natural beauty routines. I got my orange essential oil in an online sale (the company has since gone under, I believe), but I've also seen essential oils sold at Meijer (a regional hypermarket chain if you're reading this from outside the Midwest). Health food stores and food coops are other options.

Since I had a lot of furniture to polish, I doubled the "recipe", then began merrily spraying and wiping away. I actually enjoyed watching the woods come back to life, so to speak, and I enjoyed the fact that I didn't need to use a bunch of laboratory-blended "ingredients" to do so. 

Of course, I had to keep shaking the spray bottle to keep the concoction blended, but that was only a minor issue. Other than that, this was a nice wood polish to use. 

Who knows, it might even get me to polish my furniture more often! 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Get Carded: A Touch Of Dutch

Hello! Earlier this week I celebrated a friend's birthday by making her a card for the occasion. I wasn't sure what theme the card should have, so I glanced around in my studio for inspiration. 

My eyes lit upon a small pile of ads, torn from a locally-produced vintage community cookbook. This particular cookbook didn't have a date, but I guessed it was from the early-to-mid 1960's. I've lived in this community since 2002, so I noted that the majority of the businesses were either no longer around, or had moved to different locations in the area. 

Unlike me, my friend is a local, and is Dutch-American on both sides of her family. So I decided to go with a bit of a Dutch theme for her card, using one of those vintage ads as a starting point.

And once the card was finished, here's how it turned out:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • art paper scrap
  • serendipity paper scrap
  • facsimile of vintage tulip image
  • ad from vintage community cookbook
  • velour thread bow (thread purchased at local retirement community holiday bazaar)
  • "Happy Birthday" stamped in dark red ink
I'd never  heard of "velour thread" before, but the colors and feel of the stuff was nice, and the price was right. Several pretty colors were in the bag I purchased at that holiday bazaar, and someone had written on the bag that velour thread is meant for needlepoint. Learn something new every day!

The velour thread bow obscures the name of the business in the ad somewhat. The business is Zwiep's Seed Store. My friend seemed to like her card, but didn't recall this business ever being around. 

No wonder - I did some research online and came across the 1972 obituary for the seed store owner. The obit mentioned that the deceased had sold the store "12 or 13 years ago". Thus, the cookbook that carried the store's ad dates from no later than 1960. So it's a few years older than what I had supposed.

Always fun to come across vintage community cookbooks - and it's always fun to make birthday cards too!


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Amish 365

Hello! I'm not sure when my interest in the Amish began, but their settlement in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is well-known. I probably heard about the Amish first in reference to that area. 

Consequently, when we ended up living about an hour east of Lancaster County, I enjoyed many trips there. Pretty countryside, fun shops, roadside stands - and I never tired of seeing Amish horse and buggies traversing the roads in the area.

I mourned moving away from that proximity to Lancaster County when we moved to west-central Indiana, but then learned we were now about an hour east of another Amish settlement, the one near Arthur, Illinois. And so I made more happy visits to get my fix of peaceful countryside, Amish grocery stores, and more encounters with horse and buggy travel. 

(I can still recall seeing one Amish buggy pass another on a quiet road in this region - just like you see a car passing a slower one in front of it. And yes, when I passed both buggies, I saw that the faster buggy was driven by a young guy, while the slower buggy driver was an older woman. So the Amish maybe aren't so different than us in that respect! At least, that was the case on that day. But that remains the only time I've ever seen one Amish buggy pass another.)

Then we moved further north, and we're now about two hours from the largest Amish settlement in these parts, Shipshewana, Indiana. I've been there a few times, but haven't made the trip that often. A four-hour round trip, plus driving around on the back roads and in the towns to check out all the shops of interest makes for a long day. 
But I can still get my Amish fix, courtesy of Kevin Williams' Amish365 website. Mr. Williams, who's based in Middletown, Ohio, has visited Amish settlements big and small throughout the US and even parts of Canada. Besides that wide range of travel, Mr. Williams also covers a wide range of Amish information: the good (writing about an Amish weddings), bad (reporting on Amish buggy accidents) or in between (interviewing the young teachers at an Amish school). 

And then there's the recipes. True, Amish food tends to be heavy at times, but after all, these are folks who do far more physical labor than most of us "English" (how the Amish refer to the non-Amish) do. I suppose they burn up a lot of what they eat. 

So instead, I mostly just drool over the many recipes Mr. Williams supplies. For example, today I saw recipes with a Thanksgiving theme: a mock pecan pie, several stuffing variations, scalloped corn, pat-a-pan pie crust, and more. I can vouch for the pie crust recipe, as it's the one I'll be using for my Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. It's very easy and very good! (I first encountered it in the Amish cookbook Cooking From Quilt Country).

Mr. Williams also covers a variety of non-Amish topics, such as his long career as a journalist, activities revolving around his two cute young daughters, and occasional trips down Memory Lane to reminisce about stores, restaurants and other key markers of his childhood that are now gone. (note: he's in his mid-40's, so if you're around his age, or older, as I am, these memories will often be very familiar to you as well). 

You can either read Amish365 via this link, or sign up for email notification of new postings. It's a fun way to keep up with the Amish way of life!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Fly/Drive East-Midwest #2

Hello! Picking up where I left off from my last post:

Day 4: Busy day today in the Williamsport, PA region. The action began with me heading over to an estate sale not far from our hotel. Alas, it wasn't a big enough sale for the whole house to be open; instead, the man running it had put stuff on tables and in boxes on the ground in front of the house. Not too well organized either. Oh well, since I was there, I might as well poke around. 

While I was doing so, a few other people drove up and began to look around too. All they seemed to care about were the unclothed Barbies for the young girls they had with them. That gave me a chance to snag a few vintage Christmas decorations, for considerably less than what even thrift stores would charge. 

A must-see for us in the Williamsport area is a trip to Purity Candy near Allenwood, MI. Since it was a weekday, I was hoping to see the workers in action; only viewing windows separate the factory operations from the retail store. But during this visit, all I glimpsed was chocolate being tempered; the workers were mostly busy cleaning tools. 

So instead I took pics of these recently-made molded chocolates:

A 7-lb Santa, priced at $45.50. That'd be a nice gift under the tree on Christmas Day!

And for the major holiday preceding Christmas:

For $111.90, a 17.2 lb chocolate turkey. That's bigger than the turkeys I buy for my small family to eat! 

And speaking of eating, I bought pretzels, both chocolate-coated and plain, from the "bargain corner" area of the store (near the cash register). My husband bought chocolates from the bargain corner as well as some from the display cases. Good stuff!

Non-chocolate, but still fun to see:

For six bucks a bag(don't know what the weight is, either four or eight ounces), clear toy candy. It's basically hard candy, molded into cute shapes. (I was given reproduction molds as a Christmas gift years ago, which I used thereafter to make clear toy candies as treats for my nieces and nephews.) 

I think this candy is traditional in parts of Pennsylvania, but don't know how common it is elsewhere. So if you'd like to know more, read this. 

After returning to Williamsport, we lunched at the Wegman's food court, then headed over to Worlds End State Park to hike on a section of the nearly 60-mile-long Loyalsock Trail within the park. What follows are some pics of our hike:

We'd already climbed up a few hundred feet in a short distance to reach this trail junction. If we'd elected to continue on the Worlds End Trail, it would have been more of the same. But instead we continued on Loyalsock Trail, which at this point turned onto an old woods road.

View along Double Run Creek.

A small worship space off of the trail, but you don't have to hike in the woods to get to it. Shortly after I took this photo, we crossed a road to continue on the trail on the other side. 

View of the trail's namesake, Loyalsock Creek. The word "Loyalsock" comes from a Native American word for "middle creek" (this creek is in the middle of three creeks in the area). 

In spite of the overcast sky, we greatly enjoyed our time on the Loyalsock Trail. As residents of Pennsylvania from 1991-1998, we hiked the trail in its entirety while living there - including many excursions while toting our baby daughter along. She was six weeks old for her first "hike". She grew up from front carrier to back carrier to walking on her own two feet during that time span. Thus, I reminisced pleasantly on our previous hikes this day. 

Later on, I asked my husband if he, too, had reflected on our earlier visits to the trail. He said, yes, he had, and informed me that the stretch we revisited today had been our very first hike on Loyalsock Trail. (he'd kept records of our hikes.) We'd chosen that stretch, which is nowhere near the beginning of the trail, because of the easy access from within Worlds End State Park. 

Upon completion of our 3 1/2 mile hike, we drove back to Williamsport and walked over to this place for dinner:

Boom City Brew Pub, in downtown Williamsport. The restaurant's name and logo references Williamsport's lumbering heyday. Vintage saws and other old woodsman tools were hung from the walls, along with a  framed photos that showed scenes from the lumbering history. I thought I'd taken some photos of the interior decor but later discovered I had neglected to do so. Maybe I'd been too busy enjoying a good turkey burger sandwich! 

The fun wasn't over for me yet, for I'd learned that a church rummage sale was beginning that evening. This one was bit further away than the location of the morning estate sale I'd attended, but still close by. I enjoy driving around old towns like Williamsport anyway.

I picked out some books, a vintage board game, and some craft supplies, and took my selections to the checkout table. There, I learned that the rummage sale was actually being run by the Needlework Guild of America, or NGA; the church was just letting NGA use their space. I'd never heard of NGA, so the woman taking my money clued me in. It's an organization over 100 years old, so the name dates from the original mission of making clothes to distribute to the needy. Today, the organization has fundraisers, like the rummage sale, to raise funds to buy new clothes. Locally, these new garments are given to area schools for students in need.

I was glad to support such a worthy effort with my rummage sale buys, but was amused that the organization has never changed its name over the years. "Needlework Guild of America" sounds like a group dedicated to embroidery and needlepoint! 

Day 5: traveled from Williamsport to Pittsburgh. Nice fall scenery along the way. Pennsylvania is a very pretty state and to this day I still miss the hills there. We lunched along the way at a rest area, eating subs from Wegmans.

It was a Saturday, so probably not the best of days to visit Pittsburgh's Strip District, but we did so anyway. This commercial district is loaded with a variety of cool shops, popular restaurants, ethnic grocery stores and sidewalk vendors. With all this to see in just a few short blocks, it was also loaded with people too. It was hard to walk along the throngs on the sidewalks, so to escape the crowds we ducked into a few stores here and there. Didn't buy anything, but still enjoyed window shopping - especially at Pennsylvania Macaroni Company. This store didn't look all that big from the outside, but inside, we saw that it was a series of connected rooms. It seemed to go on and on! One room had a deli with cheese counter, prepared salads, meats, etc. Another room featured tools for making pizzas and pastas at home. Other store displays had bulk containers of nuts and other ingredients, cans of Italian tomatoes and bottles of Italian olive oils, and other cooking ingredients. 

So basically it was nirvana for anyone of Italian descent, or who enjoys Italian food. I claim both, courtesy of my late Sicilian father. As I toured the store, I could easily picture him putting item after item in his shopping cart - with my mother right behind him, telling him he didn't need all those foods, so he'd better put them back. (in Italian imported food stores, she'd usually relent and let him keep a few things in the cart). 

Although no purchases were made at Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, we continued with the Italian food theme with dinner at Armstrong's in the Pittsburgh suburbs. Come with your appetite, or be prepared to leave with doggie bags. My husband and I did the latter: me, with the remnants of my Meatball Casserole entree, and he carted out leftover Pasta with Mushroom Sauce.

Day 6: We overslept this morning, so we got a late start leaving our hotel in the suburbs (Moon Township). Had to fight traffic and gusty winds from the Ohio border to Cincinnati. It was already close to dinnertime by the time we arrived at our hotel in Blue Ash (lunch had been at a Five Guys in Wheeling, WV). I finished up my meatball casserole, but my husband went to the nearby Sichuan Chili and got one of their tofu-based dishes. 

Day 7: Began our travels by going to Jungle Jim's, a mega-sized grocery store that we consider a must-see in the Cincinnati area. My husband and I each grabbed a shopping cart. He filled his with selections from the big craft beer section, while I wound my way around the vast ethnic grocery section to look for things that I either can't find at my local grocery stores or would purchase for more money at my stores. I usually zero in on the Asian food choices, but really, there's something for everyone at Jungle Jim's - no matter what cuisine you like to cook!

After wheeling our way around Jungle Jim's, we headed for lunch at Tacqueria Mercado. Have only gotten tacos from their menu, but I can recommend them - and the trio of salsas they bring out with your order. I can never decide which one I like the best, so I use all three!

Our final destination for the night was our daughter's apartment in West Lafayette (she's a first-year PhD student in chemistry at Purdue). To my surprise, my husband wanted to stop at Indianapolis' Fashion Mall along the way. During our last vacation, he'd gone to  a See's candy store in suburban Chicago, and had been given a coupon there to use at a See's store another time. We don't live close to See's stores, but there's one at the Fashion Mall, so of course my husband wanted to stop to use that coupon. Yeah, we'd already gotten chocolates at Purity Candy, but See's is even better quality. 

Our daughter had to work that evening, proctoring a freshman chemistry test, so we picked up takeout from Thai Essence for our dinners. Good food. 

The next day was uneventful, just a travel day back home. We had had a great time - a mixture of cities, small towns and countryside. Mostly great weather too; in fact, some of the trip was quite balmy in temperature. Rain was a minor factor - for a total of about an hour the entire time. Meanwhile, back home storm after storm had passed through. I returned to a rain gauge reading of 4.5". So we'd definitely picked a great time to go out of town!

But really, with all the sites we visited and the fun we had, any time would have been great to take this vacation. Well, maybe not winter and the possibility of snow or ice to drive on. Still, we've never been up to Williamsport in December - would like to go to Purity Candy then and see them craft handmade candy canes (they start making them after Thanksgiving, I think). Maybe sometime...



Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fly/Drive East-Midwest #1

Hello! I'm not of fan of flying, but my husband informed me we had  a voucher from Southwest Airlines to use up before it expired, so off we went on a trip last week. This time, it was a fly/drive vacation to the East Coast and back. We had great weather and a great time!

Day 1: We left from the Gerald Ford International Airport. Had to change planes at BWI (Baltimore-Washington International)to continue onto Providence, RI. My husband explained we'd save around $300 by renting a car from Providence instead of from Baltimore. He is very diligent when planning our trips!

The airport in Providence has interesting displays - lots of references to boating. I saw maritime photos and even a sailboat propped up near an exit. We were only spending the night in Providence, and it was already around 9:30pm by the time we were on our way to our hotel. It looks like an interesting area and I think it'd be nice to spend more time there. Bonus: the local accent is fun to hear (of course, I figure our Midwestern accents stick out just as much to their ears.)

Day 2: Left Providence for the drive up to New Haven, Connecticut for lunch. We wanted to return to this place:

Claire's Corner Copia in downtown New Haven, across from Yale. Although this restaurant has been around since 1975, I never heard of it until I bought one of its cookbooks several years ago from an antique store in Allegan, MI. The year after that purchase, we ate at Claire's Corner Copia, and I always wanted to go back. 

Claire's is a small place; no wait staff. You go up to the register and look over the huge blackboard  behind it:

Lots of choices, but I eventually settled on the Arthur Avenue Sicilian sandwich, loaded with broccoli raab and other veggies, on a great multigrain bun. My husband got the Tofu Scramble. We both enjoyed our lunches. 

The weather was pleasant in New Haven, so I would have liked to walk around the storied Yale campus for a bit, but my husband reminded me that we had a little over 4 hours' drive to our next hotel, up in Ithaca, NY. So bye bye, New Haven, it was nice to see you for a little while again! 

Nice drive up to Ithaca - skirted the Catskills, so there were hills and scenic vistas along the way. Got into Ithaca in time for dinner, which was at Bandwagon Brew Pub downtown. My lunchtime sandwich was big enough that I wasn't really hungry for dinner, so I settled for a salad. My husband ordered what he always gets at Bandwagon, a Cajun-style andouille sausage/shrimp entree served over a cornmeal waffle. 

Day 3: We had lunch at another venerable vegetarian restaurant, this time at Moosewood in downtown Ithaca. Claire's Corner Copia has a small handful of cookbooks, but Moosewood has probably close to a dozen. I happen to own several myself. But while perusing their "browsing copy" shelf, I spied this:

Their latest effort had just come out last month! I flipped through it while waiting for our lunches. It looks like a very nice, very "now" cookbook. I saw mention of spiralizers, "bowl" meals and other indications of current vegetarian trends. 

Also seen at Moosewood:

 Scene from the room we dined in. 

The dessert list looked great, but I was full enough from my Thai Peanut Salad, and my husband also passed after eating his stir fry.

After lunch, we split up to explore different parts of Ithaca. He went up a very steep hill to explore the Cornell campus, while I popped in and out of shops. We've been to Ithaca several times already, so I revisited favorite haunts like the craft-centric thrift store Sew Green and the big used book store, Autumn Leaves. 

But instead of buying secondhand at Autumn Leaves, I actually bought two brand-new tomes at the indie bookstore Buffalo Street Books:

I've always liked indie bookstores anyway, but had learned via a local paper at the hotel that Buffalo Street Books is struggling financially. In fact, an emergency meeting had been held just the night before my visit, in order to inform the public of their difficulties. As I paid for my purchase, I told the clerk I'd read of that emergency meeting and wished them well. He said community support at the meeting had been encouraging.

Also seen around downtown Ithaca:

Didn't stop in here, but liked their sign!

And right next to Sacred Root was this:

The Leslie Puryear Community Stage. I didn't find online info on this stage, which looks to be portable. But I did learn that the late Leslie Puryear had been a longtime community activist and a key player behind the Ithaca area's popular GrassRoots Festival. 

After whiling away the afternoon in Ithaca, it was time to drive two hours south to Williamsport, PA. Two hours of traveling can seem like a drag after a busy day of sightseeing, but the US 15 route offers great scenery along the way: one tree-covered hill after another. Never much traffic on this stretch either, so it can feel quite remote. I like that part, as long as it's not starting to get dark (then I worry about not seeing deer in time).

Edit: Oops, I'd neglected to mention that we ate dinner in Williamsport upon our arrival there! We dined at The StoneHouse, where my husband and I each had a small pizza. He enjoyed a couple of craft beers too. He liked his pizza but I thought mine was only so-so. I tend to be very picky about commercial pizzas; it doesn't take much for a perceived ingredient imbalance to throws things off for me. In the case of The StoneHouse, the pizza sauce tasted a tad too sweet. There are entrees on the menu that look pretty good, however - maybe I'll try one of those next time. Nice atmosphere inside the restaurant, even if I wasn't crazy about my pizza.

One benefit of The StoneHouse: after a busy day in Ithaca, it was nice that the restaurant was but a short walk from our hotel. We were staying at the downtown Hampton Inn, which is a great location if you want an easy trip to Wegman's (a top-rated regional grocery store chain), Kohl's, or various nearby restaurants, watering holes and locally-owned shops.

And there are now a couple of other hotels down the block from the Hampton Inn. We've been coming to Williamsport since 1992 and the downtown area seems to be thriving more now than it had during our earliest visits. Great to see!

All for now; I'll save the second half of our trip for my next post.