Having your CAKE…

Yesterday afternoon M and I hopped into our trusty car and took ourselves off to Greensburg, Pennsylvania, a town we’ve never visited before.  What brought us to Greensburg was The Palace Theatre and the band CAKE who performed a concert there last night.

(Warning:  Terrible photos ahead.  I had to shoot out the car window this morning when it was foggy and the windshield could have used a bit of cleaning.  There are no photos from the concert last night for reasons which will soon be revealed.)

(Driving into Greensburg.)

(Trying to capture the county courthouse dome.)

Greensburg is bigger than I was expecting (my own fault for not researching before we went).  I’d like to take some time to walk around and explore it someday as it looks like an interesting town.  We didn’t have time for it this trip.   We arrived in time to check into our hotel, have dinner, and then head over to the theater.  Or theatre, as the case may be.  There may be a another trip to Greensburg sometime in our future, one of the reasons for our quick drive through town this morning.  It was on that quick trip that I took some quick photos.

The Palace Theatre is a relatively small venue (it seats 1,369 people).  The theatre was opened in September of 1926 and is now owned, operated, and being renovated by the Westmoreland Cultural Trust.  It’s a beautiful theatre with a cute little ticket booth at the entrance.  I tried to take a photo of the ticket booth on our drive-by this morning but it came out blurry with car window reflections and not worth posting.  Our seats last night allowed me to visually enjoy exploring the original murals in the loge area that have been refurbished.  I love old theaters and I would venture to guess that a large percentage of the concerts M and I have seen over the past three decades have been in small theaters built in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

CAKE was great and it was one of the most enjoyable concerts I’ve been to in a long time.  I’m not sure they would appreciate being described as “enjoyable” so let’s go with FUN instead.  And it was fun.  One of the problems I have with the small and some large venues is the sound.  It’s often too loud.  Songs-unrecognizable loud.  CAKE must have some great sound people because it was perfect.  Loud enough and clear enough.

I did not take my camera along for the show because the ticket clearly states on the back that cameras are not allowed (making it not worth the bother of trying to get one in).  This leads me to want to editorialize so bear with me for a moment.  With the advent of phones capable of taking photos as well as video, I’m not sure there’s a point to the prohibitions against audio and/or video equipment at concerts anymore.  Granted, you don’t want an unauthorized someone walking in with a professional system to record the concert and sell copies of the recording, but my point-and-shoot camera is not up to professional standards.  It is better than you might be able to get right now with a phone but I’ve seen some nice photos from phones and I imagine the technology is catching up quickly if it hasn’t already caught up.

That said, John McCrea (lead vocalist) made an outstanding point about it all during the first half of the concert when he made a small speech (badly paraphrased here since I didn’t memorize it) about how he understands everyone is carrying around their bit of modern technology, trying to capture, hold onto, trap, and/or keep the moment, but he asked that everyone put the technology aside and just BE in the moment.  Relax, have fun, be here now.  The idea got a big round of applause and cheering, although I’m not sure how many people put away their gadgets to do just that.  To be honest, my soapbox stance in the paragraph before this one was half-hearted as I have found that there are times when I’d rather do as McCrea advised and just enjoy the moment rather than record it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the audience participation portions of the concert, being part of the sound that filled the theatre.  My throat is sore today but that’s my own fault for being prodded into singing louder.  I love to sing and don’t do it often enough so the sore throat is a small price to pay.  Thank you, CAKE, for enticing me to join in the fun.

If you’re interested in contests, you can win a tree from CAKE.  They gave away a very nice apple tree last night.  Check out the CAKE Tree Gallery here.  The guy that won last night had to promise to plant the tree and take pictures of himself with the tree to put on the Tree Gallery so we can all watch as the tree grows older and stronger and he grows older and frailer.  Those of us who have planted trees know:  Such is life.

(In the Greensburg Train Station.)

If interested, you can check out the setlist (and listen to it) here.  A little personal trivia:  I can’t hear War Pigs (CAKE does a cover of it and they performed it last night) without thinking of M the Younger who plays the drums and practiced the drum parts of War Pigs over and over and over, incessantly, for what seemed like a long period of time.  Years.  I know the entire drum part well and can identify the song from that alone.

We stayed in a hotel about 7 minutes from the downtown portion of Greensburg.  This morning we drove back in to look for the train station as we have been giving some thought to taking a train ride and Greensburg might be easier and cheaper than Pittsburgh as a starting point for the not-quite-planned trip-in-the-making.

(Looking out the window of the train station.)

We drove over, parked, took a quick look around and then made our way back to the car and back home.

And now it’s back to my regular programming.  I got a call just a little while ago from Hilgert’s farm.  The yellow wax beans are picked and ready for me to bring home and preserve.  I’ll be blanching and freezing them as I prefer freezing over canning (less loss of nutrients that way).  I suspect that will take up much of my day tomorrow.  One day’s work for a winter and spring of locally grown, delicious and nutritious vegetables is well worth it.

Hits and misses

(Goodyear Blimp over Cleveland last Sunday.  All photos © 2009 by Robin)

I know I promised a post about our trip up to Cleveland last Sunday.  This may be it if I have time to fit in everything I want to fit in.  Or I may have to do it in two posts.  Or come back tomorrow and start the first post.

Because, you see, there’s something else I want to write about first.  It’s a mystery.  A puzzle.  A puzzle within a mystery.  It’s, well, it’s all about the blog hits.  The oddest thing has happened.  Life in the Bogs has suddenly become popular for reasons I can’t fathom although I think I’m getting close to figuring it out.  I have been getting almost 300 hits a day on this blog over the past 4-5 days.  That is very unusual.   My other blog comes pretty close to that during this time of year (due to searches for red-beet egg recipes), but I rarely see that sort of traffic here.

It also looks as though someone is reading all of my blog posts.  Now, really.  That has GOT to be incredibly boring.  I can’t imagine why anyone would keep going after the first few posts.  Whoever (whomever?) you are, I admire your fortitude.  Thank you for stopping by and keeping old posts alive.

I have one other piece of blog business to attend to and then it’s on to Cleveland.

Back in March (March 23rd, to be exact), BiblioMom passed The Torch of Happiness to me.  I don’t want the torch to go out so I’m going to have to pass it on to someone else.  Thank you, BiblioMom, for thinking of me and my little old Life in the Bogs blog.

(Thank you, BiblioMom!)

Here are the rules:

The rules are that the recipient is to list six things that make him/her happy before subsequently passing forward the glee to others.

So, here goes.  Six things that make me happy:

  1. Seeing the color come back with the spring.  It’s green and yellow season here in the Bogs right now.  The daffodils and forsythia are blooming, the trees are budding, and the grass is beginning to green-up.
  2. Pedicures, especially pedicures that are not rushed.  (I had one this morning and my feet are very happy now.)
  3. Shrinking.  I’ve been losing weight and the weight loss is making me feel much more comfortable in my body.
  4. Jasmine tea.
  5. A good book, the kind I don’t want to ever end.
  6. Sunny days.  We get so many gray days here that a sunny one is always greatly appreciated.

This is not, of course, an all-inclusive list.  Since it clearly stated “things” I did not include people (other than by implication in #2).

Here is the part where I get myself in trouble by awarding/tagging others.  (Apologies in advance!)  Passing forward the glee to:

That was tough to do.  There are so many wonderfully creative bloggers out there in the vast reaches of cyberspace.  These are a few of my favorites.

That’s it for my allotted blog time for today.  I hope to be back tomorrow with that trip to Cleveland.

More fun!

(This evening’s view of the pond.)

It was a balmy day here in the Bogs.  The temperature at noon was around 22°F.  It’s funny how that feels warm compared to the below zero temps we’ve been experiencing.

It’s all a matter of perspective, eh?

The pond is frozen.  No ice skating has taken place yet.  M says the ice is rough and choppy.  If anyone out there owns a Zamboni and wants to come by and smooth out the ice for us, we’d very much appreciate it.  (Isn’t it wonderful that there seems to be a solution for things like this?  Not that we could afford to avail ourselves of that solution, but I think it’s cool that someone out there — namely Frank Zamboni in this case — had an idea and followed that idea to its fruition, inventing something that is now part of the skating world.)

Yesterday was a full day for us.  We paid a visit to the Padre who will be performing the wedding ceremony for M the Younger and his fiancee.  While we were up that way we stopped by the restaurant where we’ll be having the rehearsal dinner.  We paid the deposit and then had lunch there.  We decided to sample the lunch portions of the entrees we’re thinking of picking for the rehearsal dinner.  They were excellent.  When we finished the banquet coordinator stopped by with the check which turned out to be for drinks only.

Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

Well, okay.  Not exactly free.  The cost of the rehearsal dinner will more than make up for the cost of our lunch.  Still and all, it was a nice thing for her to do, especially since we’d already taken care of the down payment and there wasn’t much to be gained by giving us a free lunch except for our appreciation and thanks.

Yesterday evening we went out with friends and had a good time.  I know some (at least one) of you are reading so thanks!  I really enjoyed it.

Today M and I went cross-country skiing again.  Two Sundays in a row!  We’ll be pros in no time.  (Hahahaha!!)  We are getting somewhat better.  I’m proud to say I finally made it all the way to the top of a hill that has defeated me on previous attempts.  And I only fell twice today!  I’m not sure how many times M fell.  More than I did.  But we’re probably about even since last Sunday’s adventure in cross-country skiing saw me falling within the first few minutes, a foreshadowing of things to come.  The good thing about all this snow is that it doesn’t hurt a bit to fall.  The layers of clothing necessary for the cold help, too.

I will be sore tomorrow.  Not as sore as last week, but sore.  I’m thoroughly exhausted this evening and expect I’ll sleep well.  Fresh air and exercise are the best sleep aids I know of.

I wish I could write well enough to describe how beautiful and peaceful it was out on the trails at Quail Hollow today.  Snow was falling pretty heavily at times.  The only sound was the sssshhhh of our skis in the snow.

We may have to invest in our own skis so we can ski around the property or drive out to some of the other trails during the week.  Quail Hollow rents only on weekends so that limits how often we can go.

And in case you’re interested, I lose 2-3 lbs. in one hour of cross-country skiing.  It’s water weight, as they say, since I finish up soaked in sweat.

Boulangerie Beans and Potatoes

(Photo © 2009 by Robin.)

For Christmas I received a copy of Mark Bittman’s  How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food.  It was high up on my wish list and I was thrilled to find it under the tree.  (Thank you, C & B!)

Yesterday a friend, who also has a copy of the book, excitedly suggested I turn to page 620 and make the Boulangerie Beans and Potatoes.  Because I happened to have everything I needed to make it (including fresh thyme), I decided to cook up some beans and see what all the excitement was about.

The recipe is very simple and very basic:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 cups cooked white beans, drained but still moist
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium russet or other high-starch (baking) potatoes or all-purpose potatoes, peeled
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Stir a tablespoon of the thyme into the beans, taste, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread the beans in a baking dish and set aside.

Halve the potatoes lengthwise and thinly slice into half circles.  Lay the potatoes in overlapping rows to cover the beans.  Pour the stock over the top, dot with pieces of butter, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and the remaining thyme.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is browned and glazed, another 45 minutes or so.  Serve immediately or let rest for up to an hour and serve at room temperature.

I used great northern beans (because I had them in the pantry).  In the book Bittman points out that you can use canned beans, but he doesn’t recommend it.  I started with dried beans, and used the quick soak and cook method.  The beans were ready in about three hours.  You can also use red or pink beans.

Obviously you will need to do a little planning ahead for this dish.  It’s well worth the time and effort.  The beans make it a hearty dish that works well as a main course.  Just serve with a salad and you have a full meal.

This is the first recipe I’ve used from the book.  I’m looking forward to many more happy meals from this “ultimate one-stop vegetarian cookbook.”

This and that

I had a fantastic birthday weekend.  M and I went to visit with our granddaughter and her parents.  I don’t think I could have asked for a better gift.  I was feeling some angst about turning 50 (I didn’t realize how much angst until afterwards) and the Exquisite Emma was the perfect remedy, giving me a much needed attitude adjustment.

I came home filled with  joy and love.  There’s nothing like an Emma-fix to help me prioritize things in life.

In case anyone is looking for words of wisdom now that I’m half of a century old, I will tell you this:  Being 50 isn’t nearly as difficult as anticipating 50.

(Swim lessons.)

One of the things we got to do was watch Emma at her swim lessons.  She’s like a fish in the water!  I thought she was swimming quite well, and it’s good to see that she’s not afraid of the water.  It was nice, though, just to be a part, albeit small and just a watcher, of one of her activities.

(Touching bottom.)

I have better photos, but as you  may recall, I’m not posting clear images of Emma on the blog anymore (unless enough time has elapsed to have changed her a bit).

It snowed while we were away.  Not here at home, but where we were.  I think we must have brought the snow storm with us.  Or perhaps it’s true that I do have a superpower and that superpower is the power to bring on snow.  Either way, we got a few inches of the white stuff.  They aren’t as prepared to handle the snow there as they are here.  The roads were pretty bad for a while on Saturday afternoon, with cars slipping and sliding their way into accidents.

Besides spending time with Emma, we had drinks and dinner with friends on Friday evening.  It was fun and I came away with a great gift/book:  Fifty Things to Do When You Turn Fifty: Fifty Experts on the Subject of Turning Fifty.  The first essay in the book was written by Garrison Keillor and offers the best piece of advice:  Stop Complaining.  There are more bits of wisdom throughout that one essay, as well as in the others I’ve read.

A big thanks! to my friend for giving me the book.  I’ll be sure to return it when you turn 50.  (When is that, anyhow?)

Sunday morning, when I woke up, I felt much better than I had in ages.  Free, light, glad to be past the stress of anticipating such a big milestone.  I received some beautiful gifts from M, although really, just the trip itself and being with him and family was good enough.  Still, the earrings are very nice.  🙂

We had dinner at Lindey’s, a lovely restaurant in the German Village section of Columbus.  The food and service were excellent.  There was a small SNAFU with our entrees.  M had ordered the duck and it wasn’t ready when the rest of the food was prepared to be brought out so he had to wait while we started our meals.  A manager stopped by to check on us and to apologize for what happened.  I’d heard something going on in the kitchen just before our food was served (someone saying “the lesson for tonight is…!”).  M mentioned to the manager that the problem is we’ve all watched Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares, and know that the food should be cooked so it’s all ready to be served at the same time.  The manager laughed and said it certainly was a kitchen nightmare for the cook staff.

We did all enjoy our food, and it should be noted (in case that woman from Harpers Ferry stops by again) that we neither asked for nor had any of our meals comped.  I’m such a slow eater, anyhow, that M was finished his dinner before I finished mine.  Even with a 5 minute or so head start, I can’t beat him to the clean-plate finish.  (Or to the put-the-rest-in-a-box finish.)

(Luminaries in German Village.)

After dinner we took a little stroll around German Village where they had luminaries lining the buildings.  There was even a band out on the street playing Christmas music.  The photos I took are all pretty terrible (it’s difficult to take night shots without a tripod), but they’ll give you a general idea.

Your eyes are ok.  It’s the pictures that are blurry.

The snow, the lights, and the music all combined to put us in a festive, very seasonal mood.  Some of the businesses had treats out (Lindey’s had s’mores and the chocolate shop had cookies and hot chocolate).  I was too full from dinner to partake, but Emma had a s’more and a cookie.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend, and a wonderful way to spend my 50th birthday.

If you don’t see much of me around here in the coming months, blame it on Emma’s parents.  They gave me 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die for a birthday gift.  I’ll be busy reading.  I’ve decided I can’t die until I’ve read all 1001 books so I expect I’ll be alive for a very long time to come.  I already have a start on them, having read some of the classics as well as the modern novels, but there are still plenty left for me to read.

It’s cold and gray and gloomy here in the Bogs today.  The sun was supposed to put in an appearance but I think someone forgot to book it.

A quick Move 2008 update and then I am outa’ here.

  • Total mileage for the year:  983.361

I’ll be at 1,000 very soon.  Yay!

A good start

I’m off to a good start for my 50th year on the planet.  M and I went down to the exercise room and worked off some of the celebratory food and drink we’ve been indulging in this weekend.

5.1 miles of working it off for me.

Thanks! to my body for being strong and relatively healthy in spite of all the abuse I’ve heaped upon it.  I’m beginning to truly believe my body is my best friend as it surely does put up with a lot from me and still manages to come through.  I may have aches and pains, but if I exercise regularly, my body is very good about keeping those aches and pains down to a manageable level.  My body occasionally rewards me with pain-free days when I’ve been very, very good.

The most important thing I’ve learned about my body is that it likes to be in motion.

A huge THANKS! to everyone out there who has wished me a happy birthday.  I appreciate your good wishes and your friendship.  Thank you.



It’s snowing like crazy.

And the wonderful thing about it is that I got to play with my granddaughter in the snow.  Watching her have fun was better than blue skies and sunshine.  To me, she is the equivalent of blue skies and sunshine.

I think I may have spent too much time without my gloves (taking pictures, of course).  The tips of my fingers are hurting.

That sounds like a good enough reason to keep this short.

Thanks! to the Exquisite Emma for smiles, laughter, snowballs, fun, and tons of joy.

By the way, today is the last day of my 40’s.  The last day for me to be 49.  Tomorrow I’ll be 50.

I’m not sure what I think about that…

Not that it matters what I think.  After all, it is what it is.