Wednesday, May 23, 2018


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.

Week 2:

So far the piles are manageable. I have a feeling as we dive deeper into growing season our bounty will grow each week. Not a fan of radishes and leeks. I do need to explore ways to use each new ingredient.

Week 3:

Week 4:

Week 5:

Week 6:

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.


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.