Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fall Garden

I've been working hard to make the garden last as long as possible. A few weeks ago I tore out everything that was left from the summer garden and turned over the dirt, added some compost and made my fall garden. I have some agugula, peas, spinach and 2 rows of beets. My whole plot is surrounded by overgrown gardens and tons of weeds! Not many other gardeners have put in the effort to make a fall garden, instead most have just gone to rot.

One plot was taken over by morning glories. It was a treat to see them in full bloom this morning:
And one of the plots near the fence has some great flowers in bloom now, too. Cosmos are some of my favorites and these are particularly cheery.

The community garden experience has been pretty interesting. I was hoping for a little more community with my community gardening, but it's been very hands off. I've really enjoyed having the plot, and I'd like to continue growing my own food when possible.

Here's hoping the frost doesn't come until late this year and my fall garden has a chance to grow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Post-Wedding Pirates Game

The day after the wedding a bunch of folks stuck around and went to a Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball game at PNC Park in downtown Pittsburgh. It's a beautiful ballpark with views of the city. We got great seats with a half-price deal for only $12 each and enjoyed taking over our part of the section. Pirates games are not what I would call well-attended, so we had our pick of seats.

One of my favorite parts of any baseball game is singing Take Me Out to the Ball Game at the 7th inning stretch. Here is Ania singing "One, Two, Three Strikes you're out at the Old Ball Game!":

Zoe, Mark, Jerri and Jerri's mom Kathi and brother Ross all came to the game as well. Here's Zoe looking cute in her sun hat:

It was kind of a warm day, so we switched between sitting in the sun and sitting in the shade. One of the most unique traditions at a Pirates game is seeing the Pierogie races. Yes, people dressed up as Pierogies run around the warning track. I was rooting for the green one carrying a purse and she won! It added an element of humor to an otherwise lackluster showing for the Pirates.

It was so fun to go to yet another major league ballpark, and with such great people. Jerri and Mark and Ania and Ken had evening flights to catch, and I had a 5 hour drive home ahead of me, so we all headed out around 4pm. It was a wonderful, relaxing and fun way to end an amazing weekend. I hope we all get to hang out again sometime soon!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mark & Christi - Married!

Mark and Christi had a beautiful day for their outdoor wedding. It was held on the grounds of Christi's dad's restaurant and it all worked out perfectly. As you can see above, Christi looked beautiful! Their good friend Tobin acted as officiant and did a wonderful job adding personal touches to the ceremony.

Exchanging vows:

You may kiss the bride!

You can tell that Mark is good at staying in touch with old friends. Here is everyone at the wedding who went to Syracuse with him:

Apparently it's a tradition in Western PA to have a cookie table at a wedding. Christi's friends and family did not disappoint with this showing and a total of 3,500 cookies!

Mark and Christi shared a great first dance. Here they are behind their cute owl-shaped cake toppers.

Here's a great shot of everyone from our table and few extras. It was a great party and so nice to catch up with old friends and to so many good people in the same place.

Congrats to Mark and Christi!

Monday, September 21, 2009

All the Good People

After going to Fallingwater, I headed to the hotel where I'd be staying for the weekend. I checked in and got settled and then had the pleasure of having dinner with Murf. It was great to catch up and we were joined by Ania and Ken and some of Mark's family for drinks. It was a great way to start the wedding weekend. I hadn't seen Ania and Ken in quite a while and we shared a room at the hotel, so we had some time to catch up there, too.

On Friday morning Ania, Ken and I headed into the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh to have an amazing brunch at Pamela's. It was so rich. I had chocolate chip pancakes stuffed with bananas and whipped cream. It was so delicious. After brunch Ania and Ken headed back to the hotel to get ready for the rehearsal, etc... and I had a chance to hang out in Squirrel Hill before heading to the airport to pick up Jerri, Mark and Zoe.

Jerri and Mark hadn't really eaten much, so we headed to Mad Mex for a delicious Mexican meal. And the timing was perfect, it was about 2:30 or so, so we were between lunch and dinner crowds and had the restaurant basically to ourselves. It was nice because Zoe could walk around and we could have a lively conversation and not feel like we were bothering anyone.

Once we got back to the hotel and Jerri and Mark checked in, we got to spend some time playing in the hotel room and hanging out in the lobby waiting for Jerri's mom and brother to arrive. It was such a relaxed and fun afternoon. It felt like old times hanging out in Chicago or Syracuse. Here's a fun photo of me and Zoe.

On Friday night Jerri, Mark and I headed to the Church Brewery to catch up with folks at the rehearsal dinner. It is an awesome brewery in an old church with great food and excellent beer. Needless to say, we had a good time. Ania and I were photo majors together at Syracuse and at points seemed pretty much inseperable. It was great to get to hang out with her again this weekend:

On Saturday morning I left the hotel early to head to the airport and pick up Christa and Kyle. After I scooped them up, we headed back to Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh for a delicious bagel breakfast at the Bagel Factory (voted Pittsburgh's best bagels!). I really enjoyed having some quality time with just Christa and Kyle before everyone got together and things got a little crazy. In fact, driving up to the hotel we had to stop in the parking lot to let Christa out to give Ken and Mark big hugs since they were walking back from getting Starbucks:

A bunch of people were already in the lobby when we got there. Here is a priceless photo of Mark and Ken, the groom and best man:

Later that afternoon a bunch of us headed to Panera for lunch and Ania was determined to figure out how to use the audio recorder on her iPhone for the sole purpose of recording my laugh so that she could use it as her ring tone.

After a few failed attempts they finally succeeded and this is the reaction to playing it back:

I stopped by Christa and Kyle's room at one point and they showed me what they'd been up to. Eating M&Ms and jumping on the bed:

Saturday before the wedding was a great mix of hanging out with old friends both individually and as a group. But we were all there for a reason: to celebrate Mark and Christi's wedding! So we all had to get changed into our party clothes and get to the wedding!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fallingwater on the way

On the way to Pittsburgh for my friends Mark and Christi's wedding I stopped at Fallingwater, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpieces. It was a beautiful afternoon. The tour was very informative and I'm always impressed at the all of the details that were considered in the design and building process.

Above is the iconic view of the house. It's built over the river and contrary to popular belief the river does not run through the house, the house is cantilevered over the house. It's amazing how the sounds of the river and nature are present throughout the house thanks to so many windows.

It was a lovely way to break up the drive out to Pittsburgh.

And now let the wedding festivities begin!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Broken Board!

That's right, folks. I took my first Tae Kwon Do class tonight and at the end I got to break a board. It was so cool to use the strength of my own body, and my own elbow to break through a board! I have to admit, my elbow is a little sore, but it was totally worth it!

Crazy Face Paint

On Sunday I went up to John and Jill's to hang out with the boys and we went to a fundraiser backyard concert where the kids got their faces painted. Remember when face painting was just getting a flower or smiley face on your cheek? Not the case anymore...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Eastern State Penitentiary

Visiting the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly isn't exactly a barrel of laughs, but it is absolutely fascinating. It's a huge, old prison that is mostly in ruins, but still gives you a great sense of how prisons used to work. The audio tour was actually really well done and the signage was enough to give some good information, but not so much that you couldn't enjoy the surprisingly photogenic interior of this castle-like structure. Above is the exterior of the prison. One of the things I enjoyed photographing the most was some of the old, decaying details. The rust and peeled paint were ubiquitous. Here are just a few examples:

A radiator

A Wall

A huge radiator and wall at the front (and only) entrance

A handrail on one of the staircases

Al Capone stayed at Eastern for a while. This is a representation of how his room looked. He was treated pretty well and actually got out early for good behavior.

This is an example of a cell door. The original idea was that everyone was kept in a separate cell with the idea that time with ones own thoughts would help the healing process. Each cell had it's own small outdoor exercise yard and food was delivered through a small hole.

Here is a cell block showing small cells on both sides.

These mirrors were installed when a new cell block was built. It allowed guards to stand in the middle of the prison, with cell blocks extending from the middle like spokes on a wheel and have a sightline to all of the cells from one point.

Something that always impresses me about old, old buildings is the ability for plants to find somewhere to grow. A little bit of light, a little bit of dirt and a seed will find a way to survive.

This is the view of one of the outside yards that was used as a baseball diamond. You can see a bit of the Philadelphia skyline and old and newer watchtowers on the right. Baseball and group activities only started at the prison once they moved away from the idea of solitary confinement being the best option for prisoners.

Here's Alex, Kim and I on steps that went up to one of the watchtowers.

Another interesting aspect of a visit to Eastern is the art installations. One was called Ghost Cats and the artist installed life-sized white cat figures throughout the prison grounds. Here is one up on a watchtower:

Other artists used fallen plaster pieces to create this sculpture within a cell called Juxtaposition:

This shot gives you a good idea of just how high the prison walls are:
This is another art piece. The artist is replacing the broken and missing pieces of the greenhouse with glass plate negatives of photograms of natural aspects of the prison grounds (plants and birds). It's called my glass house:

It was quite a gloomy day, but that almost added to the mood of the prison grounds. It was pretty creepy, and I can totally see how the haunted house that they hold here has been rated one of the best in the country.

Here are Mike, Kim and Alex in front of one of the old watchtowers.

After touring Eastern we headed to lunch at Sabrina's Cafe, which was delicious. It was good to see Kim, Alex and Mike. We all had busy summers and just seemed to be missing each other. We've been talking about doing this tour for almost a year and I'm glad we finally got around to it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Labor Day in DC

This past weekend I had the pleasure of heading to DC to visit Sylvie and Miriam in their new apartment and meet their puppy, Kugel. Oh, and do some touristy things, too. I got in on Saturday morning and our first stop was the International Spy Museum where we participated in Operation Spy - which is a simulated spy mission including rummaging through an office to find official documents and finagling the settings in a listening booth to hear a bugged phone call. It was quite a good time. Here is Sylvie being a spy outside the Spy Museum:

From there we went across the street to the National Portrait Gallery and saw their current photo exhibit. We also went to a great middle eastern place for a late afternoon snack/early dinner. It was delicious food and nice to be able to catch up with Sylvie and Miriam. When we got home I went with Sylvie and Kugel to the park for some fun playtime. Here is a smiley photo of Kugel:

On Sunday morning we went to the Takoma Park Farmer's Market. It was a lovely morning and the produce was outstanding! Here is one table full of 10 different types of tomatoes:

One of the vendors overheard us wondering about Pluots and gave us each one to sample. They were delicious! It's a cross between an apricot and a plum. Yum!

And the flowers were beautiful, too. It was a lovely morning.

After going home and putting away our haul from the market, we headed into the city for some more touristy stops. On our way to the Corcoran Gallery we walked past one side of the White House:

We also walked past the Renwick Gallery of American Craft and stopped in there for a quick look and some AC. It was pretty hot on Sunday. It's a little museum, but it's part of the Smithsonian and it was quite impressive.

At the Corcoran we had fun taking photos in front of this HUGE red wall.

We saw a great photo show of William Eggleston's work. It was a very large exhibit and spanned his entire career. We also took a little time to poke around the permanent collection. It's a really beautiful museum, currently undergoing some renovations, but still worth seeing.

After the Corcoran we walked past the other side of the white house and saw the Obama's garden (watch a great video about it here). We also saw the apiary, but it's not in this photo:

After grabbing a quick bite we decided that we still had some time and walked along the National Mall. We stopped into the National Museum of American History and saw Julia Child's kitchen:

We also waited in line to see The Star Spangled Banner. It was worth the wait. I had seen it years ago when it was still hanging in the front entryway, but was neat to see it again in it's new setting. There is SO much to see it that museum. I will have to come back and really spend some time there the next time I come to town.

We walked a little further down the mall and went to the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. It's kind of a "sunken garden". Here's a photo of me going down the steps:

And here is Sylvie looking at the wishes on Yoko Ono's Wish Tree for Washington, DC. Anyone who wants to can write a wish on a tag and tie it to the tree. It was so cool to read all of the wishes. Everything from World Peace to wanting a unicorn and in languages from all over the world.

After such a great day of museum-ing and walking all over, we came home and made pizza and salad with our goodies from the farmer's market. The salad had roasted beets, arugula, mixed greens and fresh goat cheese and the pizza had fresh ricotta, tomatoes, peppers, olives and some mozzarella. It was such a delicious ending to a wonderful day. And after dinner we got to watch Mad Men!

On Monday, Labor Day, we headed back downtown to go to the Library of Congress. It's across the street from the Capitol Building, so we decided to stop in there, too. They have a relatively new visitor's center which was quite nice and thoroughly explained the history of the building and of government in the US. We didn't get tour tickets, but it might be something I do when I get back to DC. It was a much cloudier day than the other two days, and I left my camera battery charging at the apartment by accident, so here is an iPhone photo of Sylvie and I in front of the Capitol:

After going through the Capitol Building exhibits, we took a tunnel to the Library of Congress. It is such a beautiful building. We showed up just in time for a tour with a really excellent and passionate tour guide. It was great to get the insider scoop not only on details about the building, but also on the inner workings of the library.

And of course, the librarians had to get a photo at the Library of Congress:

I had a great time catching up with Sylvie and Miriam and also being in DC. It had been quite a few years since I'd been in the Nation's Capital. I hope to get back for another visit sooner rather than later!