Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seasons Readings

Susan over at A Southern Daydreamer Reads is hosting another seasonal reading challenge. I signed on for her summer reading challenge and read 15 books between June 21 and September 21. Most of them weren't the ones in my original list, because, well, it was summer and it was hot and I just indulged in a lot of light fiction and mysteries. Three of the books I read deserve special mention, though.
I purchased All the Tea in China after I visited my aunt in the spring and we went to the Celestial Seasonings Tea factory in Boulder, Colorado. The book chronicles how an English botanist smuggled tea plants out of China and made the drink available to the rest of the world.
I always enjoyed Nancy Pickard's mysteries featuring Jenny Cain who runs a philanthropic organization in New England and I was sad when that series ended. Since then Ms. Pickard has written several novels in a new series that I didn't care for and some stand alone mysteries. The Scent of Rain and Lightning is one of the stand alones and it kept me guessing until the end.
The River of Doubt is another non-fiction book, but it read like fiction. It's a fascinating account of Teddy Roosevelt's expedition down a previously uncharted river in the Amazon. I read this one by the pool on our Florida vacation and couldn't put it down.
And now it's on to the Fall Reading Challenge. Here's what I'm planning:
1. The Strength in What Remains-Tracy Kidder
2. The Shadow of the Wind-Carlos Ruiz Zafon
3. The Latehomecomer-Kao Kalia Yang
4. Petals from the Sky-Mingmei Yip
6. look me in the eye-John Elder Robison
7. Shoot the Moon-Billie Lets
8. Murder on Waverly Place-Victoria Thompson
9. To the Hilt-Dick Francis
10. The Broken Teaglass-Emily Arsenault
Time to get a cup of tea and get started!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Exquisite

Early in August, a good friend and co-worker who knows that my husband and I are foodies and that we were about to be empty nesters alerted me to the dates for Restaurant Week in Philadelphia. I immediately snagged a reservation at Le Bec Fin, one of the finest restaurants in the city, if not the entire nation. My husband had been there for business dinners, but I had never had the opportunity to go. As it turns out, I had to spend a good part of Friday in a meeting with a lawyer due to a lawsuit brought against my school district by parents of a former student. Reminding myself that we were going to Le Bec Fin that night helped me get through the meeting. My anticipation was high and I was certainly not disappointed. We were seated in the main dining room which has wonderful high ceilings with gold trim. The ceiling height helps with the acoustics so that even though there were probably 50 people in the room and the tables are fairly close, it felt like we were alone. There were legions of people waiting on us and the chef, Georges Perrier, wandered around the room occasionally. Each course had wonderful presentations and flavors. From the butternut squash soup with pickled pumpkin seeds to the whipped cream on the key lime tart, the whole experience was simply exquisite. The added bonus was that a three course meal during Restaurant Week was $35 so that both of us ate for less than the price of one meal at regular prices. Who doesn't love a bargain? Le Bec Fin will be closing in July, 2011 so I'm really glad we had this opportunity. I hope each of you got the chance to indulge yourself a little this weekend, too!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tonight, It's All About the U


Ninety percent of the time I can totally ignore sports. I don't much care how the Eagles or Phillies are doing and the Sixers and Flyers are pretty much non-existent to me. But I am a closet college football fan and when my son went tot the University of Miami, I transferred my loyalty from the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the Hurricanes. So tonight I'm planted on my couch stitching away on Postcard from Paradise while I watch Miami pound the Pittsburgh Panthers. Go 'Canes!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Out and About


I've gotta say that this empty nest thing has a lot going for it! After nearly 25 years of arranging our lives around the kids' schedules, my husband and I are enjoying the freedom of being "home alone." We took advantage of Philadelphia's Restaurant Week and had a lovely $35 prix fixe meal at Fork in center city. On a Sunday night. Since Restaurant Week is actually two weeks long, we're going to another restaurant in the city on Friday night. A couple of weeks ago, I found half-price tickets to a play and only had to check my husband's schedule to see if it was OK to buy them. We love coming home from work and throwing together a quick meal that pleases us. I love being able to get out of the house in the morning so I can get to school early when it's quiet and no one talks to me while I try to get ready for the day. I love being able to do things like going to the quilt show last weekend and not having to worry about who needs me at home. No sports practices or music lessons to worry about, no having to think about who has to be picked up when and where, no homework to nag about and best of all, no having to plead with and threaten reluctant teenagers to get them out of bed in the morning. Please don't tell the kids how much we're enjoying this!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Outside the Box

My sister and brother-in-law from Iowa visited us over Labor Day weekend. They've been to the Philadephia area several times and we've been to all the historical sites as well as Valley Forge at least once. We were all looking for something different to do and a quick Google search gave us several possibilities. We chose to tour the Eastern State Peneteniary which is located right in the city only a few blocks from the Art Museum and the Franklin Institute. And are we glad we did! The facility hasn't operated as a prison since the 60's or 70's and is now a National Historic Trust property. It once housed Al Capone and Willie Sutton, however. We arrived in time to take the architecture tour (one of three or four special tours included with the admission) and had a very informative guide who pointed out lots of things I might not have noticed. For example, inside the prision the corners of the outer walls were curved to make it harder to climb over them to escape. After that we took the 45-minute self-guided audio tour (also included with admission).


My sister and her entire family are big baseball fans. Me, not so much. But since she and her husband had expressed a desire to see a game, we headed down to the ball park. Great seats, terrific weather and of course, a hot dog made for a wonderful evening. And the Phillies won!

Sunday morning we went to Chanticleer, a garden on an old estate in Wayne, Pennsylvania. A friend and I had tried to visit several years ago, but it was closed, and I never got back. This was another pleasant surpise and it's practically in my back yard. The garden has plantings on 35 acres that include an asian wood and pond gardens. People are encouraged to wander off the paths and plants are not labeled so as not to distract from them and to encourage visitors to interact with the gardeners.

Definitely not my usual weekend activities, but ones that made for great memories!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gone!

Here's the last carload of stuff to leave our house. Last weekend, my husband and I loaded the van for the third weekend in a row and drove up to our older son's new apartment in Brooklyn. The trip went smoothly until we crossed the Verranzano Bridge. We zigged when we should have zagged. Or more correctly, we think we should have crossed on the lower level and not the upper. But I don't think we'll ever really know for sure. We were enjoying the drive along the bay and pointing out the sights, including Coney Island, when all of a sudden we were past JFK and seeing signs for Long Island. Definitely not where we wanted to be! Through the magic of cell phones and Google maps, my son was able to guide us to his place. He' paying rock bottom rent for Brooklyn, and believe me when I tell you that his room is miniscule! Oh, well, he's young, he's not there that much, he's paying month to month and maybe, just maybe, he'll get a raise soon so he can move on and I can relax. But how sweet it is to have him only two hours* away (and to have our basement empty.)
*Unless of course, one's husband doesn't listen and stays in the right lane at the toll booth and NOT the left one as he was directed and the red van ends up on Staten Island on the way home. But then again, I've always wanted to see the Statue of Liberty.