Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Broadway Week -- Amazing Grace

Living as close to NYC as we do, we really should go into the city more often than we do. We have neighbors who commute in every day, yet when I go into NYC I need to recover before returning. I have been to New York City more often this summer than in the past decade.

Two weeks ago it was the unicycle festival.
Last month it was Summer Streets.
In July it was a surprise visit to see Seward Johnson sculptures, Manhattanhenge, go on High Bridge, see Noemi's show Manuel and the Statue of Liberty, and see Wicked for a belated birthday present (no blog posts for the shows, sorry I should fix that).

For us, that is a lot of times in and out of The Big Apple.

Add another one to the list: seeing "Amazing Grace" on Broadway. Our goal is to take our theater-loving girl once a year to see a Broadway show. Some years that doesn't happen. We honestly thought this was going to be one of those years. We saw "Hunchback of Notre Dame" at Paper Mill Playhouse in April anticipating that was as close to Broadway as we would get in 2015. We were wrong.

When I heard Amazing Grace was coming to Broadway as a musical describing the history behind the show I knew Ashley would get a lot of out seeing it. A few months earlier upon learning about the story behind the songwriter she felt so moved she wanted to preach about it at church. What 12/13 year old feels that way? I'm on the planning committee so i suggested it, and they encouraged her to preach.

Broadway tickets are expensive. So I needed another push. That came when I learned about Broadway Week. Tickets would be buy one get one free for shows between September 7 and the 20th. We got tickets to the performance on the 19th (Don had two major bike rides on the 12th and 13th, and it wouldn't be fun without him).

We needed a fourth person to make this work out, so we invited my mom to join us. We allowed plenty of time to go into NYC, which allowed time to eat dinner at The Counter and walk around a bit. We stumbled upon the Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary exhibit, but only went into the gift shop. Mom and I are both Paramus High School alumnae, and they used to spoof on our Spartans. Our school colors were blue and white, but we posed with the statue anyway.

It was a beautiful night to walk around. Not sure if the Empire State Building was Yankee Blue or Mets Blue that night (since the subway series was taking place) or blue for another reason. It was a pretty color.

The play itself was wonderful. About the same time we learned it is closing on October 25, or I would tell you to go. I was hoping Ashley's class trip would be to see it since they studied this in class and since the 8th grade tradition is to go see a Broadway show.

The show centers around the true life story of John Newton, an English slave-trader, and his transformation. The story is moving and inspiring. It starts with seven adults being removed from a shipping crate in front of our eyes and sold. As they were sold, they were branded on stage with their owner's mark. History we have all learned, but not witnessed.

I noticed the audience had both black and white adults in it, but not children (other than Ashley). I also did not notice anyone Asian or Hispanic. I found that interesting. Other than the people gabbing behind us through much of the show, people seemed to give the production their full attention.

My parents also saw "Kinky Boots" that week. Other friends posted pictures of seeing other shows -- "Matilda" and "Wicked" come to mind.

Hopefully we will hear about Broadway Week again next year and be able to see another show. While we love the concept of TKTS, the planner in me wants to know what I am going to see. A trip to NYC feels too important to go in and just wing it. Or rather, it is too much of an expense and too time consuming to head in just to turn around and come home.

A Night in the Village: Taste of Lawrenceville (2015)

For the fourth year in a row Lawrenceville Main Street had perfect weather for their annual fundraiser. Called A Night in the Village, 11 area local restaurants each outdid themselves feeding over 250 guests.

<---Love the map Raj created

The event is truly a movable feast showcasing locally grown and prepared food. All of the restaurants involved are local to Lawrenceville. At the last minute, Starbucks (which opened on Main Street a week earlier) gave everyone a coupon for a free coffee that had to be used that night. I'm not counting them in this event because of their lack of effort.

There are two seatings. I opt for the 6:30 seating so I can first attend Worship in a New Key (WiNK) at the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville (also on Main Street). September 20 was their first service since taking summer break. 

This year I went with my little sister, Melissa. We met by the Lawrenceville Main Street office and started our path. We were slated for 15 minutes at each place. The Virgo I am insisted on keeping to this schedule. Soon we met people who started at 4:30 and were only on their second or third stop. They also seemed to be on their second or third bottle of wine (it is also a BYOB event). To each their own.

We were group C. Our order was:
Amalfi's (located in the Mane Design -- yes a hair salon)
Vidalia's (the off-hand comments I heard raved about their beet salad, yes, their beet salad can't be beat)

Cherry Grove Farm (located in Bambu Yoga)
Chamber's Walk Cafe
Enzo's (located in front of Corks & Canvases)
Leonard's II (located at Melz Salon -- another hair salon)
Fedora Cafe


The Purple Cow and Gingered Peach

Music by one of Bo's groups of friends. This time I believe it was Stringzville.

As a teacher in the district Melissa knows a lot of people. She often says she knows former students based on the instrument they play, hence the greeting to their parents "is so and so still playing the cello?" If I worked as a librarian more maybe I would get to know students by their favorite author or genre.

I know a lot of other people in town. The funny thing is, though we both live in town, we seem to hang with different groups of people. I often say Lawrenceville is the largest small town out there. We have over 30,000 people in it, but we keep seeing the same few. A night like this accentuates the closeness. I saw people from both churches, Ashley's pre-school teacher, former classmates of Ashley's, and other assorted Lawrencians. 

Another great job by LMS!

Monday, September 21, 2015

NYC Unicycle Festival

Faithful readers to the Pillsbury Press know this past January Don challenged himself to learn how to ride a unicycle. He now owns two unicycles -- the big one he got for his birthday, and a smaller one that is proving easier to master. Off-hand he has ridden his unicycle in three states (New Jersey, Ohio, and now New York) and one other country (Montreal, QC, Canada). 

When he learned a unicycle festival would be in New York City over Labor Day weekend, he wanted to go. As a loving wife, I went, too. 
Cheapskates we are, we parked in Staten Island and took the ferry over to Manhattan. (The Staten Island Ferry used to charge a quarter, but has been free for some time.) We then took the ferry to Governors Island (which is free until noon). The views from both ferries are spectacular. The Staten Island Ferry is about a 20-25 minute ride. The Governors Island Ferry is a 10 minute ride. Their docks are right next door to each other. Now if their schedules would only line up it would not take well over an hour from when we parked the car to when we arrived at the festival. The only way to get to Governors Island is via this ferry.

Governors Island is a really neat oasis. Due to the lack of cars, it is a very pedestrian and bike-friendly space. We walked around most of the island in about 15 minutes, which surprised me because the island has a hospital on it, which made me envision something a lot larger. I brought lunch with me not knowing what to expect. I found a food cart with Caribbean food that was out of this world -- I had curry chicken with pumpkin and collard greens. I ate it too quickly to take a picture of it.

While on the island Don unicycled (well that was the purpose). I spectated (there were opportunities to try a unicycle, but I opted to spectate instead, and sightsee a little.

The logos each year are really neat. Don bought a 2015 t-shirt with an old subway token incorporated into it as a wheel. All of the designs are quite clever.
The festival included just about anything you could imagine being done in public on a unicycle. There was a costume contest (we only saw one person in costume, and failed to take her picture), bicycle basketball, lessons in free mounting and in idling, sumo wrestling (we left before this happened), some trick riding, and groups trying to ride together synchronized. We did not see unicycle polo or official unicycle synchronized riding on the schedule. In many ways this reminded me of the Tour de Fat festival.

Don had a lot of fun riding without having to worry about cars. He picked up some tips on idling and free mounting, but the biggest tip was what he already knew -- practice, practice, practice. There is no magic solution.

I walked around Castle Williams -- an old fortress built over 200 years ago. It was built prior to the War of 1812 to protect New York. It was funny touring something from that era because while in Canada this summer a friend described the War of 1812 from the Canadian perspective ("We came down, attacked your capital and drank some beer.") No wonder we don't cover this in US History classes. It was used as a fortress and a jail. I did not time things right to go on an official tour.

The US Army and Coast Guard were each stationed on Governors Island. Now the place pretty much shuts down with the last ferry leaving at 7 PM on weekends. We met a couple who used to be stationed on Governors Island with the Coast Guard. They were enjoying their trip down memory lane.

Governors Island may be a hassle to get to, but the views of Manhattan Island are magnificent. From the island you can see all the way from Lady Liberty to Ellis Island to Manhattan Island to the Brooklyn Bridge. As you can see in the pictures, it was gorgeous that day. So gorgeous, it did not look real. As I was taking pictures I kept thinking it looks like one of those fake backdrops. 

The plan for next time is I will stay home (unless I am unicycling by then, you never know). Don will go in for a group ride (anticipating he will be a stronger rider by then). They had two group rides (one on Thursday, the other on Friday, we went on Saturday): Battery Park to Central Park and a Brooklyn Bridge to Coney Island ride (try to imagine riding up the Brooklyn Bridge on a unicycle -- I double-dog dare you!). 

Don will probably be looking for some company next year. Now is a great time to start learning how to ride a unicycle. As is, Ashley stayed in New Jersey this year.

The official word from the NYC Unicycle Festival is as follows:

It was a successful NYC Unicycle Festival, over 800 people took part in this year's festival.
Thanks to everyone who participated, donated, helped out...
Here's a look at the numbers:
16 unicycle riders took part in Manhattan’s West Side Highway/Central Park ride.
62 unicycle riders crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on Brooklyn Unicycle Day.
56 unicycle riders completed the 13 mile ride across Brooklyn on Brooklyn Unicycle Day.
803 people took part in activities on Governors Island

Happy Birthday, Jacquie

Let the birthday blogging continue!

First the presents... a new lens for my DSLM- a 14 to 140 mm -- stronger than the 14-42, and not as strong as the 42-200, but less awkward in that it should fit most of my shooting needs without having to keep swapping lenses. Panasonic does not make a 14-200 lens for their DLSMs.
As has become tradition, Ashley drew me a picture. This time she drew me one of my favorite princess wearing a "mustache." Reminds me of our friends from Japan, Masumi and Hiroko as they posed for "mustachio" pictures together in Tokyo.

My actual birthday was on Sunday of Labor Day weekend. We celebrated by my doing the Bucks County Duathlon and walking around Allaire Village. What Don and Ashley really wanted to do to celebrate, though, was cook me meals that had less than 30 grams of carbs apiece (as per my restricted diet) and were new food options for me as I have fallen into serious food ruts.

For breakfast they made me a crepe using eggs, cream cheese, and a couple of other ingredients -- but no grains. It was very tasty. I put ham and cheese in it, though I would have preferred Nutella and bananas.

Lunch was the carbiest meal of the day. Using Sesame Ezekial bread (28 grams of carbs for two slices), they made me grilled cheese and tomato soup. We shared a can of tomato soup. Parmesan cheese was sprinkled on top to make it look fancy.

They outdid themselves with dinner! They made a crustless quiche and everyone even ate it. I saved the leftovers for lunch on another day.

Lacking from this year's celebration was cake. I've tried hard to stay away from sweets, with the exception of a half a piece of fruit or a square of dark chocolate.

Their hard work resulted in my testing the following morning and receiving a 77 -- firmly in the normal zone.

My hard work over the past 6-7 months has also paid off. I was told I no longer have diabetes. I still have to watch what I eat, but I don't feel as if every little slip up will have major health ramifications. I can't change genetics or my age, but I can change what I eat, and how active I stay. I lost about 10 pounds (not that I was trying) through cutting out most grains and sugars. I've also "lost" about 15 more seconds per mile when I run. The change in diagnosis means I've lost my fear and choose healthier foods because I know they make me feel better. 

Thank you all for the prayers and well-wishes that got me to this point. I return in six months. Hopefully my numbers will be even lower then.

Allaire Village

High on my list of historic sites I have wanted to visit for sometime now has been Allaire Village. In May we rode our bikes to it, but did not stop. In 2011 we went to it as part of the NJ State History Fair, but did not see any of the exhibits or go inside any of the buildings. It was my birthday and I invoked the birthday rule: the birthday girl gets to decide what to do and no one else can complain about it (this doesn't always happen, but I try).

Allaire Village is free to attend, but during the tourist season, there is a fee to park. We thought about parking a few miles away and riding our bikes in, but I was tired from the duathlon, and Ashley was tired from a sleepover. We paid the $5 parking fee instead. As a wine festival was also happening there, we might have been closer had we parked and ridden our bicycles to Allaire. Wine festivals are extremely popular, even in a place that was once owned by an ardent teetotaler. 
The downside to the place (in my opinion) is that they will not allow you to take pictures inside. Really? It was a day so my outdoor pictures turned out well, but it was also super crowded (see note about the wine festival) so taking pictures without people in it was  a challenge -- one Ashley was willing to help me with.
Allaire Village is an early 19th century (1822-1855) self-contained village where iron was produced. Even I am starting to feel, you've been to one of these places, you have been to them all. I kept wanting to compare it to Upper Canada Village, which depicts 1863 Canadian life. Upper Canada Village won in all categories from friendliness to photo ops to knowledge gained. They only lost on price (UCV charges a fee).

We toured the house the Allaires lived in. It was a very fancy house for the time. Our guide was excellent. She kept quizzing us on our knowledge (how can we tell a wealthy family lived here -- by the number of windows and doors, and running water; which chair would a woman sit in and why -- the one without the arms because her dress would never fit in the other chair; why was the family bible kept near a window -- in case of fire so the bible (with all of its records) could be saved, etc.).

The first building was a bunch of houses, like the row home where we used to live in Trenton, but the inside was opened up making it hard to tell where one began and one ended. The way it was cut up, even using the one house as an example, it was hard to compare its shape and size to our Plum Street home because no one is allowed to walk inside of it, only peer in from a side. It threw off the perspective.

Next time I need to take better notes, or write blog posts sooner. There was much talk about the person who bought Allaire Village and bequeathed it to the state (?) to become an historical site. Unfortunately neither the Allaire Village website nor (gasp) Wikipedia has the information I am seeking. 

Overall, if you are in the area, it is worth a detour of an hour or so, otherwise, not worth it unless there is a special event happening. With that said, the haunted tours happening next month do sound cool.

Red Lantern of the 2015 Bucks County Duathlon

This year's Bucks County Duathlon was the first time I knew within the first two minutes of the more than hour-long race I was going to finish last. It was a depressing thought, especially since it was my birthday. I pushed myself. My running pace was faster than last year. My biking pace was a lot fast than last year. The problem was everyone else was also faster, or at least the slower people did not show up this year. The people who were in it for fun and not serious bragging rights also stayed home this year, except for a couple of speedy friends who waved to me as they passed me on the road. Another big change was how they handled the waves. Last year it was young speedy men, all women, older men (above 50). This year it was Young speedy men, older speedy men, and all women. Even at my new 11:15 min/mile pace, I am still slower than many runners, but the other way there were men passing me as I ran the first two miles. This way, I was alone within the first two minutes.

Other than that, the race was exactly the same as last year. The same older man played the national anthem on his trumpet before putting it away and racing. Each interval started three minutes apart. It was the same course. It was the same 2 miles running-10 miles biking-2 miles running. It was the same transition area. Oh, they also took away the Athena self-identifying category for women weighing more than 140 pounds (only one woman signed up for it, I was planning to this year -- I'm 5'9", 139 looks too scrawny on me). I would have taken any award on my birthday.

The biking went much smoother. I was on my own bike instead of Ashley's bicycle. I loved wearing my new Sparkle Skirt and am already dreaming about which one I want to put on my wish list. It really is the perfect skirt for running and biking. I even passes a 17-year old boy on the biking portion -- note he had a four minute head start on me AND he was riding a much lighter bicycle.
The running portion was doing fine until I second-guessed the arrow and went in the wrong direction. That's what happens when you fall behind everyone else. Argh. At least this year the person at the turn around stayed in his post until the last person passed through. As I crossed the finish line I was told "they are all cheering for you!" I said "no, they are all cheering because now the roads can be opened." I was also told to use a different bike next year to go faster. Umm... I was not the slowest cyclist.

My best area was transistions -- where I was second in my age category, and 10th overall out over over 140 participants. I wore sneakers the whole time, and stored my helmet in my basket. By having a kickstand, I could put my bike on the very end and just go. No need to change shoes or do anything complicated. Coming back, I forgot to grab my baseball cap (which was in my basket) so my transition time was even faster. Take that spandex serious men!

Subtract six minutes to get a more accurate finish time. I gave it my all and felt deflated in the end. Not a good start to my birthday. Other people said people seemed to be taking it way too seriously. We saw someone lifting their bicycle to the start line so the tires would not have to go on grass or parking lot? People were treating it as the Tour de France and not a local race.
I have no desire to ever do this race again. Too bad, because I really enjoyed it the first year.

I shaved 7 minutes off of my time from last year. That has to be worth something. Technically, while I crossed the finish line last, the 17 year old boy came in last place as he had a six minute head start on me, and only crossed seconds before me (darn wrong turn!).

PS: The phrase Red Lantern is based on the book Lanterne Rouge Don was reading as I did this race. It is the unofficial term given to the person who finishes last in the Tour de France.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Full Moon Bike Ride

During August's full moon, 670 people gathered to ride from Rosedale Park to Mercer Meadow's Pole Farm and back again. This is one of those events that sounds so much better reading about it than it feels in reality. Reminded me of decided to stroll through a rain forest on the island of Kauia, Hawaii in what was deemed the rainiest spot on early, only to realize as we were there (and not lounging on a beach) that is a nice way of saying the muddiest place on earth.
The thought of taking a full moon bike ride through a field sounds lovely. The ride was slated to start at 9 PM. According to someone in the know, people started to arrive at 7:30 and were insistent on doing the ride a full hour before the sun set and the moon rose. These are open spaces, you can ride on these trails during any given day. What was special about this event was you could ride on the trails legally after the park closed.

We live near the mid-point of the ride, so we decided to ride to the start rather than try to park at Rosedale. After all, where were they going to fit cars for 670 riders?

I thought we allowed plenty of time, but just as we were within a half a mile of the start of this six mile ride, bicyclists started coming at us with a vengeance. We pulled to the side to let them pass. My pictures aren't very good because, well, we were in a field in the dark and the targets were moving. Enough of taking bad pictures, we found a gap and joined in the group.

For a "family-friendly" ride, I was struggling to keep up with this batch of cyclists. When we got closer to home, Ashley and I bailed and went straight to our house (remember these are trails I ride and run on at least weekly). We made it home by 9:07. This was my first clue the ride started early. There was no way I could have ridden six miles in only seven minutes.
What happened?
Someone in the know said the people waiting were getting restless, so they let them start early. Gee thanks, for those of us doing the reverse ride to get to the start.

Don continued on. When he got to the point where we joined the riders, he decided to do the loop a second time and then come home since our car was at home and not in Rosedale Park.

Some people thought the full moon would illuminate their path, and they had no need for a light. Many others were slower than me. Some seemed to show up around 9:30 for a 9:00 ride.

This was the second time Lawrence Hopewell Trail and Mercer County Park organized this ride. They felt it was a success. Of course my impression may have been tainted by what I saw (or rather could not see) on the ride:

That's right. I had a lovely view of the inside of my basket. If I shined my light higher so I could see outside of the basket, I was told I was blinding other cyclists (not sure how since I could only see their backs and not their eyes), but if I shined it the right level, I could not see the ground in front of me and it was useless.

If there is a next time for me to ride in the dark, I'll have to try mounting the light to the front of the basket.

HERE is an article about the ride.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hester Young - Author Talk

Hester Young spoke last night at the Princeton Public Library

I know Hester is not yet a household name, but if the next two books in her planned trilogy are as good as "The Gates of Evangeline" is, it will be.

Hester spoke about spending seven years writing her debut novel, but now that she has a contract for three books (more if things go well), she has had to really focus on writing. Book two will (hopefully) come out next fall.

Even though her book only came out the day before and only a handful of people would have had the chance to read it, the audience asked great questions. Hester lives in New Jersey, but went to Louisiana with her husband and two small children to do on-site research, and visit family who made a serendipitous move to that area after she decided that would be the setting of her debut novel.

Her novel features premonitions that lead the main character Charlotte "Charlie" Cates to make decisions, and to solve crimes. She talked about personal premonitions, and one serious one her grandmother had that haunted her.

Though suffering from a cold, Hester read long passages from the book, that had I not already read it would have left me yearning for more. Her pacing is fabulous.

Both Hester and "Charlie" come across as women you'd love to meet at a coffee shop and chat the day away. I would love to get together with any of my friends who read the book and chat about it over some tea.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Ashley's European Adventures

I am accepting that this is the closest to a blog post I am going to get out of Ashley about her trip to Europe. Blogging is my thing, not hers, not Don's. The following is  thank you she sent to people who purchased her artwork to help fund her trip to Europe:

Thank you for supporting me and my trip to Europe. I went to England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany , Austria, and Switzerland in 20 days. My favorite country was Belgium, and my favorite part was the homestay in Frankfort, Germany. Another highlight was singing "The Hills art Alive" on the hills of Austria, where they filmed "The Sound of Music." In one day we traveled through five countries (I had breakfast in Germany, lunch in Switzerland, drove through France, had a bathroom break in Lichtenstein, and had dinner in Austria). My least favorite food was the escargot, which I spit out instead of swallowing (it tasted okay, but I thought the texture was gross). My favorite souvenir was chocolate. I came back an inch taller and I took over a thousand pictures. I had an amazing time and got along well with everyone.

For a little bit more reading: Lessons Learned

Ashley's Beautiful Lengths donation

Last month Ashley reached the point she was ready to cut her long hair and donate it to a worthy cause. I was a bit apprehensive. Back when she was in first grade, she made the same proclamation, she was in tears the next day and insisting I "glue it back on!"

Ashley, first grade, before

Ashley, first grade, during

Ashley, first grade, after

We talked about it for months while the hair grew long enough to be cut. Ashley wanted to donate about 8, maybe 9 inches. Most of the places accepting donations for wigs want the hair to be closer to a foot. My sister, Melissa, told me about Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program. They only require 8 inches.

Back to Christine at Artistic Designs in Pennington.

Ashley, 8th grade, before
Ashley, 8th grade, during

Ashley, 8th grade, after
 Is it my imagination or does she suddenly look older?

Ashley admitted she does not miss her hair as much as she thought she would. She also said "in about a year it will be back to where it was before I cut it." So mature inside and out. Love this girl!