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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

CSA

Our CSA is finally open!! 

Half of you are saying "Yay! Mine, too." And half of you are saying "what are you talking about?"

A CSA is "community-supported agriculture."

Again, half of you are saying "Yay!" And half of you are scratching your heads.

It means we pay a local farmer $400 during their slow season, and in return they give us a box of what they grow every single week for about 20 weeks. I know I easily spend $20 a week on veggies. For me, this is a bargain.

Week 1:



You can see on the list we had some choice -- Swiss chard or spinach; leek or beet. The bonus of a potted herb meant I finally have a pot of lavender on my kitchen window sill. The choice of cut herbs means Don will be experimenting with cilantro. The goal is these veggies will encourage us to get our of our comfort zone and try new recipes. 

Ours is Pinelands, located at the major intersection in the Trenton Farmer's Market (next to Halo Farms). By "major intersection" I mean where the two aisles intersect. They could not have been friendlier. Probably not too late to sign up since this is week one.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

National Constitution Center in Philadelphia

I left it up to Don and Ashley to decide how we should spend Mother's Day this year. They came up with some ideas that would have been lovely only two days earlier -- before the cold front hit New Jersey bringing with it rain. Ideas included going for a family bike ride (something we don't do often enough) to wandering around Grounds for Sculpture (with everyone else and their mother, literally). With temperatures in the low 60s and rain, being outside did not seem appealing. I stepped in and offered an alternative -- the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, a place that had been on our wish list especially since learning about their Alexander Hamilton exhibit.

I took a chance and looked at the library website to see if they had museum passes available -- they did, meaning we could go for free. Unfortunately it meant a late start since the library did not open until 12:30 and we still wanted to go to 5 PM church, and it takes us an hour each way to go to Philadelphia. For free we could rush through the museum a bit.





For us the highlight of the museum was Signer's Hall in the George H.W. Bush Hall. All 42 signers of the Constitution, which took place a few hundred feet away in Independence Hall September 17, 1787, are represented by a life-size  bronze statue you can pose with. Ashley posed with Alexander Hamilton. 




Don posed with his favorite politician of the day (Ben Franklin). Mine, Thomas Jefferson, was in France at the time, therefore he does not have a statue.





Ashley also posed with James Madison, at 5'2 the shortest of the delegates. Standing only a few feet away from George Washington, it drove home the point that Washington was really tall, especially in that time.



Love this view of Independence Hall from the National Constitution Center.

The rest of the museum did not speak to us. The Hamilton exhibit they touted is basically a few artifacts, including a signed Hamilton: the musical playbill (missing Lin Manuel Miranda's autograph, alas), and a lock of Hamilton's hair snipped by his wife, Elizabeth Hamilton, the day he was killed. The neatest part was probably a representation in the floor of just how close Hamilton and Aaron Burr stood to each other (only 10 paces apart) on that fateful day. The exhibit on a whole was crammed into the lobby next to the education room. It was clearly designed to capitalize on the musical's fame. You could say it worked in our case, but we had free tickets and did not spend any money in the gift shop. We even scored free parking.

The show they encourage you see before starting basically repeated everything that was on Ashley's most recent history test (which we helped her study for). One woman did a lot of talking and moved around the room on cue while some images were shown. If you need a brush up on the history of the Constitution, it is worth the 30 minutes. We could have put that time to better use.

Upstairs is a huge round room filled with artifacts showing how important the Constitution is to us still. It covers history up to 2008 when Barack Obama was sworn in. There is a space for future growth, so maybe there will be an addition in another decade or two. It was almost too overwhelming. Some neat tidbits such as when corporations were recognized as people (late 18th century), and lots of artifacts such as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's judicial robe. The point driven home is that what our Founding Fathers did was radically new and we should be proud it has hung on this long. May our country thrive and be a leader.

We are glad we went, but at $14.50 for an adult ticket ($11 for teenagers), I can't recommend the museum. Hopefully lots of other people found it more enjoyable than we did.


Handwritten Letters

Letters have been on my mind lately. Recently I received a few handwritten letters in the mail. What a smile a surprise handwritten note brings, even if the same words were used in an email. Also lately I read a collection of letters found in my in-law's house. When I first started cleaning out their home I hoped to find letters from World War II, only to realize they met after World War II.

Instead I have letters from Honey Bunny's mom to Honey Bunny, and more letters between Honey Bunny and Pop pop from when she stayed in Ohio with her mom, and he stayed home. There are more letters from when the children went to college, but I did not read them.

The conclusion I came to, is these letters are the pre-cursor to email. Short snippets of their day mailed to each other for three to thirteen cents depending on the year. The ones I found were written in the 1950s, 1960, and 1970s. The ones in the 1970s talk about Honey Bunny's mom preparing for her move from Lancaster, OH to Meadow Lakes in East Windsor, NJ. She talks about furniture and other items I recently found homes for. Reading her letters I grew to feel she was a real person, something I was not exposed to before. She died after I met Don, but also after she was living in a vegetative state.

Here are a couple of examples of the charming ways people communicated forty years ago:

December 20, 1976
Dear Joyce,
This has been another beautiful day. I went to church by cab, had dinner at McBees, and walked home with Edith.
I'm not at all sure this will reach you before the weekend, but did want to tell you I again have an invitation to Deckard's for Christmas dinner, and I plan to go. Linda insists on coming for me the afternoon of Christmas day. However, if the weather is "mean" I'd much prefer to stay indoors -- at home. We'll see!
I'll drop this not off at the post office in the morning when I'm taking care of other errands down town. This includes the purchase of some of Mrs. Stover's choice boxed candy to take to Deckards, finally picking up Goslin's book and buying taxi-cab tokens at the Mayor's office.
For some time, I have been paying $1.25 to get anywhere I need to go, and $1.25 to get back home. Now due to a gov't grant, all people 65 or over can buy a 50 cent token for bus fare. This has been talked about for a long time. While most of us wondered if it would happen. The fare is 50 cents for most trips I'd need to take. For a trip into another "zone," the 50 cent token can be as as part of the larger fare.
Isn't that great?
I sure hope you will soon be relived of your swine flu "shot" troubles. 
My love and best wishes to all of you -- and may your holidays be very happy.

Love,Mother

In these letters her mom referred to her as "Honey," considering we called her Honey Bunny it brought a smile to my face.

Just one more.

January 6, 1977
Dear Joyce,
I was pleased to receive Bob's nice letter. Please tell him so. 
I've just now come in from my weekly trip to Big Bear, and want to get a few lines off to you before the next blast of winter rolls in. When it does, I'll be hibernating.
I've surely made good use of the puzzle books lately. It hasn't been quite so cold, but snowy and icy for getting around.
Last Sunday Edith and I ate dinner the hotel with the V sisters. I think I told you that they have taken up living quarters at "Sherman House," so after eating they invited us upstairs to see their new quarters. They have lovely furnishing (their own) and seem very pleased with the move.
You have surely been doing some interesting things lately. I'm glad for you.
With love to you all,Mother

I do love the historic note about the bus fare in the first letter, and the reference to thanking Pop-pop for his letter -- why didn't she just write to him herself? It is not as if she didn't have his address. In most notes Don's grandmother wrote about the weather, going shopping, going out to dinner, updates on her friends and family members ... all the things I put in emails to my friends. Communication hasn't changed in the past 60+ years, only the means to communicate (paper and pen with neat penmanship vs. electronic missives).

The next question is what to do with these letters. My plan was to read the notes then throw them out. A historic re-enactor friend was horrified at that thought -- she suggested donating them to the local historical society. I emailed my contact at the historical society and await her reply. What would you do with two shoe boxes full of letters not involving you?








Sunday, May 13, 2018

Wedding Dresses at Howell Farm

I know the rain and temperature plummet in New Jersey thwarted the plans my family made for me today. Who wants to go for a bike ride when it is 52 degrees, cloudy, and threatening rain when only a couple of days ago it was in the 70s, sunny, with low humidity? Change of plans. Time to look for something indoors to do. 

Yesterday I went to Howell Living History Farm for their two-day pop up exhibit of wedding gowns. Docent Kim hoped she could gather about 15 gowns to put on display. She asked everyone who works there, and the Friends of Howell Farm, and ended up with over 30 dresses dating from 1890 (found when someone donated farm equipment) to 2016. 

Of course not every year is represented. There is a sizable gap from about 1915 to the 1930's Kim attributes to World War I and the Depression. I wish I took note of the actual years.

In the earliest days of this collection, unless they were wealthy, women wore their Sunday best when getting married. They might have something made for the day, but it would show up again as their best dress. White was not a popular color for a wedding dress because it showed too much dirt. Women preferred ivory if they went with a light color, or light blue (seen in the church as synonymous with the Virgin Mary).



The dresses are arranged roughly chronologically. The names of the bride and groom are listed, and often a fun fact. There are also framed wedding pictures and other wedding ephemera to enjoy. As always, the exhibit is free, though they will happily accept a free will offering.



The oldest dress (1890). The little one was a flower girl dress.




If you are enjoying these pictures, check out my other posts about wedding dresses:

Grandmother's Wedding Dress on display in Columbus, OH
Mom's Wedding Dress on display at the Kuser Mansion in Hamilton, NJ

While cleaning up Honey Bunny's house I found her wedding dress in the attic. Sadly we had to toss it as it had disintegrated over the years. She sewed it herself. It was darling. However, even my inner archivist could see it could not be saved.

If you can make it today, the dresses will be on display from noon to 4. They are in the climate controlled building closest to the parking lot. If the weather holds out, you can stroll up to the farm to see the baby animals, farm house, and other sights seen on a turn-of-the-century working farm. Again, it is all free, though good will offerings are warmly accepted.

One note: the bridge near the farm has been removed. Best to approach the farm from Route 29 instead of the back way.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Indoor Mini Golf for a Cause

Last week Stacy invited me to the Rescue Mission's 14th Annual Adam Shanks Mission Miniature Golf Tournament. For $60 people could play 18 holes of mini golf on the third floor of the Rescue Mission in Trenton. The idea alone captured my imagination. Stacy reminded me this would be a good opportunity for me to do some networking, a skill I need to exercise more often as my search for a part-time job continues. 

The real draw was that her law firm donated two of Honey Bunny's paintings. 

They are hanging about a dozen of her inner city paintings in their office, but wanted to share her artwork with others. 

Mary Gay, the tireless leader of The Rescue Mission, admired her artwork and is working to connect me with a local museum who might be interested in displaying some of her art in an upcoming exhibit. 






Stacy took her artwork and framed it using a mat cutter and very basic frames. She has inspired us to do the same with more of her artwork, though upgrading on the quality of frames. 

The golfing was what you might expect from inside an old factory. Local non-profits and companies sponsored holes. People teamed up with their friends to play golf. It was a very unique fundraiser, that is also very appealing. I hope they raised a lot of money.










Thursday, April 26, 2018

Give my regards to Broadway ...

In 2015 Don and I participated in New York City's annual Summer Streets -- when Park Avenue is closed to cars for from 7 AM to 1 PM on the first three Sunday mornings in August. When we heard Broadway was planning to go car free on April 21 from 9 AM to 3 PM to celebrate Earth Day  we decided to head into New York to walk the section of Broadway leading up to the Great White Way. No cars were allowed from Union Square (17th Street) to Times Square (47th Street). Instead of cars, pedestrians and bicyclist ruled the street.

With the girl tied up with play practice for the day, Don and I drove to Jersey City to take the PATH into the 33rd Street Station and we started walking. By taking the PATH ($2.75 per person each way), and finding free street parking, it was a lot cheaper than driving through the Lincoln Tunnel ($16?) and parking at Port Authority ($42?). With a cheaper price tag comes more waiting around, but we made out well with catching a train in each direction.

Around the midway point we saw CitiBikes was advertising people could borrow them for free for a 24-hour period. It took us longer to figure out how to sign up for the free trial, and get started (and this was with help) than we actually rode the bikes. The caveat was you had to return them to a docking station every 30 minutes, or else incur fees. We rode about 10 minutes. I'm a wimpy bike rider in good conditions, having to weave around pedestrians and stop at every intersection all while not wearing a helmet (helmets are not provided, and I did not think to take mine with me for the day) was not my idea of fun. I think Don could have ridden much longer, or at least tried it another round.

In order to take advantage of the roads being closed until 3, we held off on lunch until 3. Made sense at the time because we didn't arrive in NYC until after noon. Then it was back to the PATH station, back to our car Don carefully wedged between two other cars (they were still in the same spot), and back on the highway to home.

If we were to do it again, I would make sure we arrived earlier. What I noticed in 2015 was the streets became more crowded, thus harder to navigate, the later it got. An earlier start would make biking easier. I'd also spend part of the day standing in a cancellation line, or in the TKTS line. If I'm spending that much time on Broadway, seems to make sense I should also see a matinee.

It was a lovely Spring day, a rarity in 2018. This allowed me to take some pictures of our adventures.














Talking to a volunteer, there is a push to close Broadway to motor vehicle traffic permanently. Times Square is already car-free. We'll see what the future brings, but you can say you heard it here first.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Pruning

I was talking to a gardener the other day. She told me how much she enjoys deadheading roses. Suddenly I realized that is what I have been doing with my life -- getting rid of what is dead to make room for something beautiful.

It started about ten days ago when I lost my keys in New York City. I took Don's spare key for my car and added the house key I use for running and realized that is all I need. The other items on my key chain (Don's car key, Don's car clicker, key to in-law's house, key to my parents' house, an unidentified key, and several tattered affinity key tags) were just extra weight I was carrying around.

Next came finding out I did not get the job I really wanted -- the one I prayed hard for, the one I could imagine myself excelling in, the one where I mentally decorated my office, the one where I figured out where to store my bike, the one I felt I was destined for. Rather than crying (which part of me wanted to do), I pruned. I took myself off their email list. I unfollowed them on Facebook. Someday I'll hear who they hired instead of me, but in the meantime I am not ready for that announcement and need some distance.

Unsubscribing from that newsletter led to me unsubscribe from any organization whose emails I never open. I'll keep the ones I sometimes open, but why hang onto the ones I literally never open? That led to unfollowing groups on Facebook to free up the newsfeed for news about friends and family. I am also slashing away at memes -- both ones I agree with and ones I disagree with.

Yesterday I pruned a doctor's office out of my life. I should have left that practice years ago. I switched to one around the corner from my house who is in the 21st century with technology. Found a doctor who took time to really talk to me, even after chiding me for choosing him out of the electronic phone book without a recommendation (the experience felt Spirit-driven). I am ready for a change, and this was an easy one.

Where is this leading? Hopefully to freeing me up for good things. Better things.

Earlier this year I pruned freelancing from my life to free myself up to job hunting. Unfortunately I am now without freelance income, and without a new job. But soon, right?

One big addition to my life has been volunteering. For years I have puttered with my volunteering, helping at school or church, but nothing concrete. Last month I entered Dress for Success and it stuck. I return about twice a week to help dress women for interviews (yes, me -- the original blue jeans and ponytail lady helping women look super professional), and prepare for job interviews. Meanwhile, I feel appreciated and am learning what I need to do. They dressed me for my recent interviews, which gave me confidence on the interviews.

I've received my training to interview Princetonians for the Princeton Historical Society. Their program launched yesterday. It could either lead to good things, or become something else pruned in a few months.

I've opened my heart, soul, and mind for a new opportunity. I hope and pray is a part-time job, but I don't know. The hope and optimism I had a week ago when facing four interviews waned when one interview did not go well, another I was denied, and the other two are taking their time letting me know where I stand (never a good feeling).

If you have any job leads, or even ideas about what I would be awesome at doing, please share them with me.

Meanwhile a couple of new friends have entered my life and have become the cheerleaders I really need right now. I'm often the one to cheer on my friends, but my enthusiasm has been waning. Thankful these friends are stepping up when I need them the most.

Send some good thoughts -- but even more important send some job leads and tell me what type of job you think is the right match for my skills.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Why Wait?

About twelve years, before I started this blog, the three of us went into New York City to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. A friend told us his fool proof plan, the time this 6 foot 3 inch man starts standing, where he stands, where he parks his car. Seemed simple. We followed the plan. We stood in the wrong place (on the only side street the police kept open for traffic). We moved. We stood behind a man holding four spots with a double stroller. The wife showed up holding a cup of coffee, complaining about the drizzling rain as the parade was starting. Had she not shown up with the kids, we would have secured the precious front row. 

Ashley was about two or three years old. Old enough to be held, and fortunately she is a good sport, but she refuses to repeat that experience. 

It was windy. It was cold. It was raining. It was miserable.

The closest we have come to doing that again was a year and a half ago when we went to see the balloons being inflated, an equally miserable experience.

Fast forward to this weekend. While standing in the "Hamilton" cancellation line (yes, again) we met Robert, owner of LineDudes. Robert, or one of the members of his 30-person staff, will wait in line for you. For only $25 for the first hour, and $20 each hour after that (minumum $45), they wait so you can sight see all day, or sleep in and get a later start to your day. There is a $5 an hour surcharge for miserable weather, up to 10 hours ($50). Totally fair!

Robert is a gregarious salesman. I've met other LineDudes, but felt I struck gold when I met Robert. About 5 years ago Robert was laid off from AT&T. He made a post on CraigsList that he would stand on line for $100 when the latest iPhone came out. Someone took him up on the offer. Before he could buy the phone for his customer, the customer bought it on line. He still paid Robert. Robert was about to leave his coveted second place in line when the customer suggested he sell his spot. I got lost in the details, but that day he made $350 for waiting around. It is not hard to wait, but why do it? Robert admits he doesn't like waiting in line when it is for himself. His story has been shared in many places, including NPR.

Robert also knew of staffers in DC who are paid to wait around and let the senators and congressmen they work for know when a bill is about to come up to vote. Robert realized this has the potential of turning into a business. When "Hamilton" tickets became THE ticket in town, and people were willing to sleep on the street next to the theater for days, Robert's business really took off. The rules have changed. You cannot line up before 3 am (don't quote me on the time). The other big change is the person who wants the ticket *must* be in line 30 minutes before the show or else they end up buying two tickets -- one for themselves and one for the LineDude, still a bargain for orchestra seats (the seats that are released are House Reserved seats in the center orchestra -- amazing seats for $229). Robert and his team are up front about the rules. They are not their rules, but the theater's rules.

I started with my Thanksgiving Day tale. Robert's team will wait for anything --
Reggie, another LineDude, was cold
and tired waiting in line
including sitting out at 3:30 am on Thanksgiving morning to secure two prime parade spots. You show up at 30 minutes before the parade, with your cup of hot chocolate, and swap out with a LineDude. If you want four spots, you pay two LineDudes. For $95 for each two places, you don't have to spend half the night on the streets of NYC.


Robert told us they have stood in line for pre-K and nursing home registrations. They will wait for the latest iPhone, and ship it to the customer. Last week he waited in line at Barnes and Nobles when President Carter was in town for a book signing. His customer couldn't swap out at the last minute, so he met the President and bought his book. While in line he met Laura, a woman blogging about completing her father's "bucket list," which her brother found thirteen years after dad passed away. Robert seems like the type of person who is always good for a story. Always makes new friends. Someone you want to be around.

As for us, one of Robert's LineDudes came over and told him he got the "Dear Evan Hanson" tickets for his client. DEH is the second hottest ticket on Broadway, another one Ashley wants to see. Ashley and I walked over there and found they did not have a cancellation line, instead we were waived into the lobby to buy a cancellation ticket for $199 -- Orchestra row O. Ashley was in heaven! We popped by the "Hamilton" line around 7:30 and hung out until 8 pm. She would have gotten in moments before the curtain went up. Instead she had time to eat dinner and see a different show.

One more story about Robert, when I gave him my card he asked if we are related to a "Robert Pillsbury." Seems "Bob" was one of his favorite bosses. It wasn't the same Bob Pillsbury as Don's dad, but it still felt like a Small World moment.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

What Hidden Talents Do Each of Us Have?

Today I had the honor of speaking at the Ewing Presbyterian Church Seniors Club. A "seniors" club might imply anyone aged 60 and above, but in this case the members are octogenarians and above. They were contemporaries of my mother-in-law, Honey Bunny. She attended the noon Seniors group up until she moved to the assisted living place, even after she stopped attending church because it met too early in the morning.

The topic of my presentation was Honey Bunny's art.

Last month when I showed Wayne and Sylvia pictures of Honey Bunny's art they were in awe. Though they had known her for over fifty years they had no idea she was an artist.

This led to the question: What hidden talents do each of us have no one else knows about? What stories do the dozen people who turned out to hear me speak would make great topics for a different month? Think about that. If you were asked to share with a group something they don't know about you, what would that be? You might think no one would care, but in this case at least one woman attended because she had no idea Honey Bunny was such an amazing artist, and she wanted to learn more about it.

Sadly one woman asked me where Honey Bunny is. She hadn't heard that she passed away last October. 

All dozen thanked me at least once for coming.



It was drizzling out so I only brought a couple of pictures and two copies of the Shutterfly album (thanks, mom, for the loaner).

Here is what I told them:

Joyce lived from 1929 to October 2017. Born in Lancaster, Ohio, Joyce married Robert Pillsbury, the love of her life, and resided in Ewing, New Jersey for nearly 70 years where they raised their four children. Longtime member of Ewing Church, she is most famous for her thousands of watercolor paintings of quirky local scenes, including barns, historic buildings, industrial sites, nature scenes, and urban buildings; Joyce also created needlework (counted cross-stitch), knitting, and loom weavings. From 1985 to 1997 she studied watercolor painting under local artist Joanne Augustine. She was a prolific non-fiction reader of art techniques. In later years she dabbled in graffiti art, visiting Terra Cycle in Trenton for Graffiti Jam. She always lived with a cat or two, and was often seen in her neighborhood riding her bicycle or adult tricycle.

Before her move while looking at her artwork she lamented about it all ending up in the trash. Years of hard work gone. While at the assisted living place there was a one day exhibit where she was happy to hear people were enjoying her artwork. 

I have taken over a thousand pieces and culled them to about 600, photographed each, and created this book with my favorite 160. Someone asked me how long that took. To the best of my estimation I would say about 50-60 hours.

I have tried to find good homes for all of her work, with people who will love them. Many went to friends and family. I have about a dozen I want to frame, but no one has space for 600. More recently I have been donating them to: the Ewing Historical Society, Hopewell Valley Historical Society, a non-profit law firm in Trenton, Washington Crossing (both New Jersey and Pennsylvania), Thursday I am taking some to Bowman's Hill, Titusville Presbyterian Church, Stonybrook Watershed, and the Lawrence Nature Center. Homes I could identify went to the current owners. I still have at least 200 pieces of art.

As for her other artwork, the loom weavings were donated to HomeFront where they plan to stitch them together to make blankets for the homeless; and her cross-stitches went to a church for their rummage sale. At least 1,000 art books were donated to the Lawrence Library -- enough they needed to create an annex space for their book sale. I've tried to keep what I can out of the landfill.

~~

The seniors seemed impressed both with Honey Bunny's talents, and with my ability to find homes for items. They invited me back on a dry day in order that church members could come over and, for a good will offering to Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, they, too, can have a Honey Bunny painting. I'd much rather they were loved than they were lining a landfill. I'm happy with the dozen or so we have chosen. Time to share the love.

A few pictures from today:







With Wayne and Sylvia