Canoeing on the Brandywine

M’s sister came for a visit on Saturday.

Since there wasn’t much going on in Sabbaticalville at the time, we decided to go for a little canoe trip on the Brandywine Creek, also called the Brandywine River, something that confuses the hell out of me. I’m not at all sure when it’s a creek and when it’s a river. It looks pretty much the same to me either way: like a river.

Because of the rain last week, the creek/river was up above it’s usual summertime levels, but not deep enough (or fast enough) to be worried about it. As we were told when getting quick instructions on how to paddle and where to paddle, if you tip over and think you’re drowning, try standing up. The water is only 2-1/2 feet deep at most of the deepest spots.

The weather was beautiful. Sunny, clear, with a nice breeze and temps in the low 80’s. The river was a little fast as what should’ve been a 90 minute trip only took about half that time.

It was lovely being out on the creek/river. Very peaceful. We encountered the occasional rapids, but nothing serious (nothing above Class I and most probably wouldn’t have made that much of a rating). We didn’t tip over and end up in the water (too bad, really). We did end up going backwards through a few of the rapids.

No photos were taken as I didn’t want to risk my camera ending up in the water in the event we did tip over.

We came back to the apartment to clean up after our canoe trip, then went to Iron Hill Brewery for lunch and a beer. It was a good choice. Their food is consistently good as is the beer. I had the Hefeweizen, a traditional Bavarian wheat beer that’s great in the summertime as it’s light and refreshing, with a grilled chicken breast sandwich (with bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, and a roasted shallot-black pepper aioli) and fries.

After lunch we went out to Longwood Gardens. We took M’s sister through the main flower garden, the Italian water garden, and then up to the conservatory and through the water lily garden (which we hadn’t yet seen). Rather than yammer on about it, I’ll show you a little of what we saw.

(Longwood Gardens. Photo by Robin. June 2007)

(Longwood Gardens. Photo by Robin. June 2007)

(In the conservatory. Photo by Robin. June 2007)

(Water lily. Photo by Robin. June 2007)

(Water lily. Photo by Robin. June 2007)

(Water lily garden. Photo by Robin. June 2007)

In the conservatory, near the cacti and other succulents, is a century plant (Agave parryi). The century plant blooms only once in its lifetime. The blooming spike grows so fast and so large that it uses up all of the plant’s resources. Once it blooms, the plant dies and leaves behind a tall wooden seed stalk. It’s called a century plant because it was thought to bloom only once a century, but I read that they actually live about 25 years.

A few weeks ago, during one of our last visits to Longwood Gardens, the century plant looked like this:

(Century plant at Longwood Gardens. Photo by Robin. May 2007)

The century plant is the one sticking through the roof of the conservatory. A glass panel was taken out to accommodate the plant’s growth.

This is what it looked like on Saturday:

(Century plant. Photo by Robin. June 2007)

This is the plant from the outside of the building:

(Century plant. Photo by Robin. June 2007)

(Close-up view. Photo by Robin. June 2007)

We left the conservatory and took a little stroll through the topiary garden.

(Longwood Gardens. Photo by Robin. June 2007)

(Longwood Gardens. Photo by Robin. June 2007)

I think I’m going to have to name this The Summer of Fun because I keep wanting to end my entries with, “It was a fun day.”

It really was a fun day and I’m glad we got to spend some time with M’s sister on our turf, so to speak.

What’s happening

(June storm. Photo by Robin. 2007)

It might not be the best photo of lightning ever taken, but it’s the first I’ve managed to capture. Considering I don’t have time-lapse or any other nifty features that might help me out with this sort of thing and double considering that my camera has the unfortunate down side of slow response (meaning I click and the camera responds when it feels like it), I think I did rather well. Never mind that I had to take about 50 photos to get this one.

It’s still my first. There’s nothing like a first.

Unless it’s a good second. Or third. Or, well… you get the point.

It was unbearably hot here this past week, with lots of heat advisories and pop-up thunderstorms. The rain felt like a relief at first and then the sun would come back out, warming up all the rainfall water and leaving us in a steam bath.

M and I stayed busy seeking out air conditioned places. I think he does it just to help me cool off. I know he has no problem with the heat while he’s at work. He’s called me in the heat of the afternoon to say he stepped outside to warm up. This sort of conversation almost makes me wish I was working. Almost. But not quite.

On Wednesday we finally paid a visit to the King of Prussia Mall. I’m not a big fan of shopping or malls so it shames me to say that I almost enjoyed it. It’s kind of neat to walk by or through the sort of stores where I’m unlikely to ever shop because they’re much too rich for my blood or pocketbook (“purse” or “handbag” to all you folks not from southern NJ). I bought a few much-needed items for my somewhat changing body. I haven’t lost a lot of weight, but the gym workouts are redistributing things.

King of Prussia, for those who find the name odd, is named after an 18th century local tavern — “The King of Prussia Inn” — which was named for Frederick II, King of Prussia. I could blabber on about it, or you could go here and read about it. Easier for me if you check out the link. Plus, that way I’ll know you really wanted to know.

“King of Prussia” is heard regularly in our apartment here in Sabbaticalville. The bus which goes to King of Prussia has a convenient stop right outside our apartment building, just below our kitchen window. Even with the windows closed I hear the bus announcement which goes something like this: “Welcome to…brrnnb, mumble, garble, garble, static, garble…KING OF PRUSSIA.” I’m not sure how often the bus runs, but it’s frequent.

On Thursday we went into Philly to visit the Mutter Museum. The Mutter’s brochures describe it as “disturbingly informative.” Can’t argue with that. It was fascinating. Informative. And yes, a little disturbing to me. Having seen Body Worlds in Cleveland, I shouldn’t have found it at all disturbing, but I think I’m lacking some of the interest that scientists and artists have when it comes to viewing dead bodies and body parts.

Nonetheless, it was interesting and I can’t say I regret going. As a friend pointed out, there’s something very human and touching about the way the people who collected the exhibits treated them. She referred to it as a visceral empathy.

We followed up our tour of the Mutter with a visit to World Cafe Live! for happy hour. There weren’t many people there, but we were there pretty early in the evening and there were no live performances going on.

One of the reasons we wanted to go to the World Cafe Live! (other than its proximity to the Mutter and the 30th Street Station where we came in on the train) was to look into tickets for the XPN Festival coming up in July. We ended up not buying the tickets because we have to decide which day we want to go and we weren’t quite ready to commit just yet. A 4-day pass would’ve been nice, but we’re already sinking a little money into seeing The Decemberists in concert next month.

I’d do a whole review on the World Cafe Live! food, but really, we didn’t taste much of it. We had some of the $3.00 Magic Hat beers and noshed on the free appetizers (roasted red pepper hummus, bruschetta, and a Philly cheesesteak concoction). We eventually ordered a light dinner because we needed to kill some time before heading back on the train. Our tickets were good for non-peak times. M had the vegetarian chili and I had a house salad. The servings were very generous and the food was good. Nothing to rave about, but good.

The weekend has been pretty full and I’ll write all about it as soon as I rest up a bit.  (Sorry for the abrupt ending, but I am thoroughly exhausted.)