Category Archives: Away From Home

Road Trip!

This past weekend we headed up to Brimfield, MA for the big vintage textile show and the giant antique/flea market. We were looking for adventure and that’s what we got, from sitting in traffic at the GWB, to eating the world’s most delicious french fries, to wandering around the flea market wondering why antiques dealers are always the scariest people on Earth. We came home with a car full of treasures (fabric, notions, mint-condition Pyrex bowls, a Breyer horse for Boomer, and a metal peacock [of course]) and cameras bursting with pictures from Old Sturbridge Village and Brimfield. Here are just a few of the things we saw; you can view the whole set here.

May 9 2011

May 10 2011


Filed under Away From Home

A Very Dallas Vacation Recap: Day 4

So, back to our Dallas vacation recaps! After our visit to the State Fair, we let our cameras cool off with a couple of lower-key photography days. We headed out to McKinney to do some hard-core quilt shopping one day (Patty is the world’s most patient hostess. We spent FOREVER in the AWESOME quilt shops there), then spent the next day sampling biscuits and gravy at Bubba’s, doing some furniture shopping, visiting the Mustang fountain in Irving, then partaking of the stunning cocktails and desserts at La Duni restaurant back in Dallas. Of course, “cooling off” doesn’t mean our cameras were getting the days off entirely

October 18 2010

If you are ever in McKinney, go to Spoons cafe and get the chocolate cake. Seriously. It looks like a regular old cake, sure, but seriously — this is the best. cake. ever.

Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits and gravy, by Pookie

B/W Mustangs

Black-and-white lensbaby Mustangs, by Pookie


Curious Mustang, by Pookie


Galloping, by Schnookie

October 19 2010

Schnookie, by Pookie


Hooves, by Schnookie

Iron Hooves

Iron hooves, by Pookie

Horse Face

This is your leader’s nose, by Schnookie

La Duni Chupito

La Duni Chupito, by Schnookie

Extravagant Drink

La Duni Shaken Mariana, by Pookie

Lemon 43

La Duni Lemon 43, by Schnookie


Filed under Away From Home, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

Quilt Shopping Halfway Around The World

Not long after we decided to go to the Netherlands to visit KtG, there was a quilt featured on the cover of “Quiltmania” that took my breath away. It was a stunning kaleidoscope quilt in rich and vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. The pattern said it was called “Queen’s Day Quilt” in honor of the Dutch holiday. “No way,” I thought, “I’m going to the Netherlands! What a coincidence!” Then I noticed the fine print at the end of the pattern: “Quilt kits available from Den Haan and Wagenmakers in Amsterdam.” “No way,” I thought, “I’m going to Amsterdam! It can’t be a coincidence! It must be fate!”

And fate it was, Gentle Reader! Delicious, delicious fabric-y fate.

Our last day of vacation was spent in Amsterdam, hanging out with the one and only Mags. Because Mags is such a dear friend and all-around cool person, she agreed to be dragged off to a quilt store even though she’s a knitter (she returned the favor by pointing out that her favorite yarn store was right around the corner, which meant we got to follow up the fabric shopping with some giddy discussions of which new Rowan patterns she should knit). It was probably good we had a non-quilter in tow because we probably would have just stayed forever if given the chance. You see, Den Haan and Wagenmakers isn’t just a quilt store — it’s a quilt store specializing in Dutch chintzes.

Dutch Chintzes in Yellow

Imagine being surrounded by those gorgeous colors and those sumptuous prints! The store was tiny but filled to the brim with absolutely stunning store models and bolts and bolts and bolts of these fabulous chintzes. It was incredibly overwhelming so it was a good thing the shop also stocks kits. Lots and lots of kits.

Kits like “Queen’s Day”:

Queen's Day Quilt Kit

Isn’t it gorgeous? I loved the pattern based on the “Quiltmania” photos, but I had no idea the fabrics were so fabulous. The colors really don’t convey at all. And the fabrics themselves have a totally different feel than the quilter’s cotton I’m used to; they’re almost like a coated cotton, but really soft. The plaids in particular are unbelievably soft; most of the shop models were backed in the plaid and after buying the kits, Schnookie and I both began plotting to order some of the plaids as soon as we got home. Only, when we got home and I unpacked the kit, I discovered a big piece of plaid was already included for the backing! I’m telling you, I was fated to buy this quilt kit!

I also picked up a kit for “Hindeloopen”. That one wasn’t as much fated to be because I neglected to pick up a box that included the pattern. Oops. But it does include some really awesome border fabric:

Border Fabric

There were a lot of prints that were either border fabrics like this one, or prints like American Jane’s four-in-ones, where there were big blocks of three or four prints on the same bolt that were complimentary but in different scales. (I also love the handwriting on the selvage. If I were one of those cool kids who makes string quilts out of selvages, this would be quite the score! Since I’m not, I’ll merely admire it from afar.)

Schnookie also picked up a chintz kit of sorts:

July 24 2010

The box in the store had a picture of a really cool log cabin made out of teensy tiny cuts of the chintzes, but the box itself was just a box of fabrics. They look to be about fat eighth-ish size (the bolts are 54″ or something nutty and European like that) and the possibilities of what they could be turned into are endless! Schnookie’s come up with tons of ideas, but the one I’m pulling for is tiny sawtooth stars. (Also, the picture of the log cabin could be used for inspiration for a future project, but for some bizarre reason Rollie has decided it’s her souvenir from overseas; she curls up in a tiny ball which as little of her hanging over the edge of the paper as possible and sleeps for hours on this increasingly crumbled piece of paper. Go figure.)

The store wasn’t just chintzes, though. There was a second story that was mostly Moda fabrics we can find here in the states. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t non-chintz fun to be had. Schnookie found a kit that uses traditional American prints to make really cool foundation-pieced stars:

Stars Quilt Kit

We also picked up a packet of what feels like upholstery fabric, figuring we’d never find something like this at home:

Upholstery Fabric

And because we’d come all the way from America, the shop owner gave us each a free fat quarter!

Free Fat Quarters are the Best Fat Quarters

We figured we had to get an orange one in honor of the World Cup madness, and the brown was too lovely to pass up.

If you ever find yourself in Amsterdam, do check out Den Haan and Wagenmakers. You won’t be disappointed. (Now if only I could get my hands on that missing pattern…)

Four Den Haan Kits

{Posted by Pookie}


Filed under Away From Home, Pins and Needles, Quilting

Wherein We Travel Far Afield For A Weeklong Photo Excursion

After an extremely lazy and self-indulgent recovery period from overseas travel, we think we might just be ready to put a post together about our recent trip to the Netherlands. That’s right — gather the children around and get comfortable in your seats: it’s vacation slideshow time!

We started our trip on the hottest day of the year, and much to our delight, Philadelphia Airport was in full “we are making frequent announcements that we’re being all green and shit, so you can’t complain that the air conditioning isn’t on” mode. But despite the swelteringness, we kicked off our vacation with an impromptu photoshoot, in which we tried to do “surprised” the way Tyra coaches girls to.

July 7 2010

Oooh. Fierce.

Our basis for vacationing in the Netherlands is our sister Kate the Great. KtG has been living in Scheveningen, right on the beach, and after a few years of resisting, we finally had to admit that it’s not often that life gives you the opportunity to vacation in Europe without having to pay for a hotel. As it turns out, KtG is a fantastic hostess, and we probably should have done this years ago! With very little input from us, KtG put together a jam-packed, endlessly fun, super-photogenic itinerary for us, with plenty of sight-seeing, beer-drinking, and World Cup spirit-soaking to go around.

July 8 2010

Did we mention we were there during the World Cup final? The entire country seemed to be bedecked in orange during our visit; despite their flamboyant show of team spirit, though, Dutch soccer fans come up way short in arrogance and swagger. They could totally learn a lot from Philly and New York sports fans.

Our tour included sightseeing, museum-going, and cafe-sitting in The Hague, including visits to the charming Mauritshaus (a fantastic intimate setting for some serious masterpiece paintings) and the shockingly delightful Panorama (where they didn’t let us take pictures. Assholes).

World Cup Bunting


Postcard View

Our biggest outing of the vacation was a visit to the Cheese Market at Alkmaar (required viewing for tourists) and the Zuiderzee Museum (a living history museum that made us think it would be like our childhood field trip destination, Old Bethpage Village). It happened that day to be the hottest of our vacation, with temperatures in the 90s, and Pookie discovered the hard way that she is virulently allergic to something that grows near Alkmaar and the Zuiderzee Museum. But despite the sweltering heat, Pookie’s eyes burning with the pain of a thousand spike-filled fires, and our post-airplane dehydration, it was a ton of fun.

July 9 2010

Alkmaar is an utterly charming town, and well worth the visit to see the city. Just don’t necessarily go there just to see the Cheese Market. Now that you’ve seen this picture, you’ve seen the Cheese Market.

Lensbaby Alkmaar

Weighing House

Cheese Girl

Zuiderzee Museum Houses

The Zuiderzee Museum didn’t have quite as much “living history” as we were expecting (although maybe we’d had more than our share in the Cheese Market…), but it was indescribably charming.

Laundry Drying


An Exotic Creature

Perhaps our most special outing was to Haarlem, where KtG’s friend Emily gave us a walking tour of the hofjes (almshouse gardens) all over town, and we visited the Teylers Museum.

Awesome Shutters

The hofjes were these perfect little gems — courtyard gardens surrounded by the historic tiny almshouses that are still in use today as low-income housing for single women.

Hofje Bike

Laundry in the Hofje

Teylers Library

The Teylers Museum is essentially a museum of museuming. It’s a magnificent, ornate, rambling townhouse filled to the brim with exhibits of ye olde sciencey equipment and whatnot. Basically, a person could take pictures there for days.

Hypnosis Wheel


Telyer ABC

Not every day was full to the brim with walking in the sweltering heat, though. We had a deliciously restful World Cup Final Sunday in Delft, where we photographed the shit out of the Oude Kerk and Stadhuis and enjoyed the finest fries any cafe anywhere has ever had to offer.


Delft Stadhuis

This trip was when Pookie became a Lensbaby virtuoso, and also where we discovered that it has a tendency to make its subjects look like little toy versions of themselves.

Delft Canal

The single coolest thing we saw during our week abroad was the Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer, or the Flower Auction in Aalsmeer. Every day, apparently something like 90% of the cut flowers in the world are sold at this auction, and they have the facility set up for visitors to be able to watch the entire process. It is utterly, wholly staggering, and one of the most awesome places we’ve ever been.

Flowers Flowers Everywhere

Flower Auction Truck

Hot Auction Action

Pink Roses, Gray Steel

The true capper for a completely extraordinary week was our last day, in Amsterdam. We finally got to meet our dear friend Mags in person, and after a great canal tour (replete with Hup Holland Hup debris from the previous day’s “victory” parade) and lackluster trip to the truncated Rijksmuseum, we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening walking around the beautiful city, sitting in charming cafes, and handcraft shopping (Den Haan & Wagenmakers is a quilt shop well worth the trip to the Netherlands all on its own). Then Mags raced off in the suddenly cold rain to get on the train to her parents’ for dinner, and we found our way to the most delicious, beautiful, perfect Indonesian restaurant of all time.

July 14 2010

Sometimes it’s not the best pictures that have the best memories attached to them.

It was not easy to cull our photo collection down even to this unwieldy amount; if you want to bask in the awesomeness that is our zillions of shots of flowers, charming townhouses, orange bunting, and cheese, the complete set is here. Meanwhile, we’re counting our vacation days and sizing up our travel budget to figure out how soon we can visit KtG there again.


Filed under Away From Home

Wherein We Feel The Need… The Need For Cheese

Whew! What an exhausting week! We’ve been meaning for the last six days to write a post about our marvelous trip into New York City with Kristin, but every evening we’d get home from work and just collapse in senseless heaps on the couch. It’s been rough, and strange, because we can’t figure out why we feel so pooped. I guess it must be that our lazy summer has well and truly ended. If that really is the case, at least we got to send it off in festive fashion, with a photo excursion to Grand Central Station and a long, delicious lunch at Artisanal Bistro.

Lunch At Atisanal September 2008

Our day started at the crack of dawn, as we caught a just-after-10:00-a.m. train into the city, along with everyone else in Central NJ. Seriously, we had to STAND the entire way from Princeton Junction to Penn Station. This made no sense to us, but we managed to keep our complaining to a minimum, and arrived in NYC in one piece.

We had no real plan for what to take pictures of until we got to street level and noticed the Empire State Building.

Empire State Building with Bird

Awesome NYC landmarks! That’s what we’d take pictures of!

And so we wandered slowly to Park Avenue, soaking in the atmosphere of an insanely muggy day in the city, taking snapshots, talking cameras in the manner of three people who don’t really know what they’re talking about, and giddily anticipating cheese. When we arrived at Artisanal, we were greeted by a group of protesters who were trying to impress upon our decency as human beings that this restaurant we were about to enter serves “sweatshop fish”. Which… um… okay? We’re sure that’s a serious problem, and if we ate fish, we’d think twice about ordering at the cheese bistro, but other than that, the event most notably prompted Kristin to say, after we navigated our way through the angry gathering outside Artisanal, “I didn’t realize we were eating at an abortion clinic today.” Heh.

Despite the inhumane working conditions for the fish and/or fish workers producing Artisanal’s seafood, our meal was a total delight. We went for wine/beer and cheese flights, which turned out to be smaller than we anticipated, so we followed that course with the most exquisite grilled cheese sandwich made with taleggio (and a less exquisite one made with cheddar, apples and bacon — it would have been better without the apples), and then had extravagantly, outrageously scrumptious desserts (a chocolate/hazelnut masterpiece topped with vanilla salt, and a hugely boozy baba au rhum). Three hours after we arrived, we hit the road again, slightly tipsy and fully sated, and it seemed the fish sweatshop crisis had passed, because the protesters were gone.

We decided we should spend some time walking a few blocks up Park Avenue to visit Grand Central Station for photo ops. It was at this point that Kristin broke out the TTV devices, letting Pookie get her first taste of it.

TTV Pookie

TTVing is not something that comes naturally, but Pookie was getting the hang of it by the time we got to Grand Central.

Facade of Grand Central

We proceeded to spend ages inside the station, taking bazillions of the same pictures over and over again. But what can we say? We just loved those chandeliers.

Ball of Lightbulbs

Christmas Ball

Light Fixture and Marble

If you want to see the best of the 300+ shots we took, the collection is here, and Kristin’s pictures are here.

We followed our chandelier photo shoot with a desperate attempt to get burritos at Burritoville, but it was closed by the time we finally got over there.

September 13 2008

Sadly, it seems that might have been our last chance for Burritoville. Poor, poor Pookie.

We walked dejectedly back to Penn Station from the abandoned Burritoville, and, sweaty from the humidity, feet aching from the walking, cameras resting from a hard day’s workout, we got back on the train home. Thank god there were enough seats for us, because we struggled to stay awake on the ride home. As soon as we were settled back at Maple Hoo, pajamaed and munching on Hot Pockets on our couch, we started emailing with Kristin to find the next date we can field trip into the City. What a delightful day! (And yeah, shirtless guy at Penn Station, I said “delightful”. You can just suck it.)


Filed under Away From Home, Dining Out, Fancy Dessert, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words, Worth Selling Your Soul For

Restocking The Stash: On The Road With IPB Living, Chapter 4

Today was the big day — time to do a full-day, deep immersion trip to The Attic. We started things off with a side trip to this lovely, wee desert garden in North Scottsdale (as documented here), then made a quick stop at AJ’s, our old favorite grocery store, for some goodies to bring to Jean, Sandy and Deborah at The Attic.

Okay, that’s a total lie. We were using Jean, Sandy and Deborah as an excuse to get our hands on some of AJ’s cheesecake brownies; we used to get these every Friday to go with our traditional DiGiorno dinners, as a reward for surviving another crappy week in our crappy jobs. The brownies were every bit as good as we remembered, too. An added plus was that we got to drive past our old workplace on the way, where we pointed and chorused a lusty round of Nelson Muntz “Ha ha!”s at the poor souls stuck working there now.

Apparently when Boomer was just out of college and working in her first job, her stepfather, the immortal Cowboy Red, would tell her every time she brought home a certificate for completing training courses that it was something to put in her “Girl Graduate Book”. When we suggested we were going to take a picture of the old workstead, she cracked that it would go in our Girl Graduate Books. So… consider it done.

Along the drive down to Mesa, we got a nice look at Camelback Mountain again, in its full camel-y splendor.

The most exciting landmark on Camelback for little kids visiting their grandparents (and for the adults they grow up to be) is the Praying Monk, a rock formation that looks like, well, a praying monk. The name really does kind of say it all. (There is also a formation that looks just like Lincoln’s face, but you have to be on the other side of the mountain to see it.)

Okay, so sightseeing done, we descended upon The Attic at about 10 a.m.. We didn’t leave until 3:00 p.m.. Yeah, that’s right — five hours of stitching shopping. It was heavenly. So what goes on during all that time? Excellent question.

First, there’s the thread pulling. Most of the projects we buy aren’t kitted up, so we start with the chart, and then have to pull all the threads from Jean’s vast array of options. There’s DMC cotton, Needlepoint Inc silk, Gentle Arts and Weeks Dye Works overdyed cotton, Belle Soie overdyed silk, among many other options, and the old standby for every silk snob like us — Au Ver Au Soie.

Oftentimes the chart we’re looking at will be charted in a fiber we don’t want to use, so that’s when you break out the conversion chart.

Today Pookie was looking at a chart written for cotton, which is stitched with two plies, but she wanted to work it in silk, which is only stitched with one ply. That’s not normally a problem, but in this case, the chart called for blending two colors by working with one ply of each. This left Pookie with the task of choosing a substitute color to work in the combination’s place.

Here’s a green and a brown that were supposed to be worked together:

Here are the options she was considering:

And here, on the left, is the one she picked:

Fun, no? The more creative you get with a chart, and the more substitutions and color swaps you work in, the messier the chart itself ends up looking. Here’s a peek at Pookie’s tracking of the color changes she was planning:

Meanwhile, Schnookie was planning how to convert various and sundry charts from DMC or Needlepoint Inc into Elizabeth Bradley wools, for working on canvas.

Once the threads are all settled on for a project, the next step is to choose a linen. This is a very delicate step — the linen can make or break a project. This one, for a little Halloween piece, doesn’t do anything for us:

But this one? Is perfect:

Different materials and different palettes give all kinds of opportunities for different colors, counts, and “vintage” hand-dyed looks on the linens.

As we worked, our pile of supplies kept growing.

So, with plenty of time for chatting with the delightful ladies of The Attic, and a nice leisurely lunch, five hours spent at the shop translated into seven projects pulled by Pookie and eight by Boomer. It was especially fun to be there today, because it was open by appointment just for us — we had the whole shop to ourselves. For all that we’ve spent months looking forward to this trip, it amazingly exceeded all our expectations.

When we had finally exhausted ourselves completely, it was time to check out. Boomer was rung up first:

And then it was Pookie’s turn:

The final tally for a once-every-two-years restocking trip was, um, tens of dollars. Tens and tens. The whole pile looked pretty modest when it was bagged up…

… but spread out, it’s a pretty impressive haul. Here’s Boomer’s pile:

And here’s Pookie’s:

Not too shabby!

We headed back to the hotel after shopping and collapsed into a restful afternoon of stitching before heading back out to dinner. Our target tonight was Fashion Square Mall, where we wanted to do a little regular-person shopping and have a meal at Z Tejas. It’s hardly the world’s greatest restaurant, but it was our go-to “lazy weeknight” place to eat out when we lived here, and we love, love, love the Chambord margaritas. Dinner was predictably good, and left us feeling delightfully like we had to go back to work tomorrow morning. Heh. It’s always nice to get a reminder of how good life is by momentarily thinking that we’re still stuck in our crappy Arizona-life jobs. After we ate, we strolled the mall and Pookie found a kick-ass pair of sunglasses while Schnookie stumbled on the new purse she didn’t realize she was dreaming of. What could be better?

Storm clouds had covered this part of the valley while we were at the mall, so we drove home in the rain, then enjoyed one last night of stitching in our hotel, listening to the thunder outside. We’ll have to be up and at ’em in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow, though, to catch our early, early, early flight home. All in all, this has been a marvelous vacation — good times, good company, great stash restocking. It just doesn’t get better than that.


Filed under Away From Home, Bonanza!, On The Road, Pins and Needles, Pommerdoodling, Stitching

Restocking The Stash: On The Road With IPB Living, Chapter 3

We took a little detour on our stitching vacation this morning, because we’ve recently made a resolution to be more adventurous. Many years ago, when we were in grade school, a teacher from our school and his family participated in an exchange where he went to live and teach in Hawaii, and the teacher from Hawaii brought his family to Princeton to take his place. The family from Hawaii, the Colefleshes, were total go-getters. For their year in New Jersey, they made a point of going to see and do everything. No matter how ridiculous the art fair, or folk festival, or local museum, or living history demonstration, or parade, or public concert, they were there. They grabbed life by the horns, in as dorky a way as humanly possible. And now we’ve decided we should do that too. We want to be more like the Colefleshes. So in that spirit, we decided to spend a few minutes this morning at a little desert garden/park thing that was installed in an empty lot next to a senior center in our neighborhood about a year before we moved away. We had been intrigued by it back then, but too lazy to bother checking it out. Well, we didn’t fly 2500 miles this week to NOT go look at it, did we?

It’s a tiny little park, and it’s got essentially a manufactured “natural” landscape thing going on inside it.

Even in such a tiny space, we saw some fun desert wildlife. There was a lizard…

… bees in a cactus flower…

… and, among a lot of more boring birds, a bevy of quails.

There were dozens of the quails, but they were, for the most part, elusive prey. They all huddled under a sprawling, shrubby palo verde and made that sound of theirs that is best described as sounding like balloons rubbing together squeakily.

The park was very charmingly laid out, with a spiraling path designed to look like a rattlesnake.

At the center of the path, there was a giant rattlesnake head and tail.

And near the entrance to the park, hidden among the brush, was a sculpture of a bat drinking nectar from a saguaro.

Around the base of the sculpture was a story about a bat whose sonar failed him so he was essentially blind. He cried that he would never be able to find nectar to eat, and was reassured by the voice of a snake nearby. The snake told him he would guide him to food, so the bat started flying…

What a wonderful little park! We’re so glad we took 20 minutes out of our way to check it out. So far, in our newer, better, more Colefleshier life, things are going swimmingly!


Filed under Away From Home, On The Road, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

Restocking The Stash: On The Road With IPB Living, Chapter 2

Day Two of our stash-restocking adventure dawned bright and early, around 11:30 in the morning. Yes, that’s 2:30 in the afternoon back home, but back home can suck it. We hit the ground running, lolling around in our pajamas and stitching for about an hour, then headed out into the blinding desert heat in search of lunch.

Now, we’re staying in a nice little resort hotel right near where we used to live out here, and the thing about resorts in the Phoenix area is that they work very hard to not appear like you’re in the desert. On our way to the car, we took a side exit and found ourselves on what our hotel calls the “Lawn Court”, and what Boomer called the “Croquet Court”.

There was even, on the sidewalk beyond the croquet lawn, a side planting of what seemed to be a lawn made entirely of succulents.

Despite the palm trees and lush grass, though, there are lots of beautiful desert-appropriate plantings on the grounds here, and while we’re too lazy to venture forth to see the entirety of what the place has to offer, we were able to get some requisite cactus pictures in just along the walk out to our car.

We also snapped a picture of an ocotillo, to remember the good old days when we had one in our front yard and used to wrap every spiky branch with Christmas lights during the holidays…

… and because we don’t want to go to jail, we took a mandatory picture of a giant, many-armed saguaro.

Our big plans for today were all food-related. For lunch, we wanted to go to NYPD Pizza, which was our favorite when we used to live here. It’s not easy finding New York-style pizza in the Valley, and going without is no way to live. We miraculously managed to find the restaurant on our first try, and on the way in, we noticed the sky was filled with charming fluffy clouds again. So here’s a picture of one:

There were two things we were most interested in at NYPD. The first was Pookie’s all-time favorite pizza, the Brooklyn Family. That would be sausage, pepperoni, and fresh basil:

It was, as remembered, excellent. The crust is not quite as New York-y as we remembered, being a bit softer than the real deal, but it’s still a scrumptious pizza. And while the Phoenix surrounds are long on good boutique-y sort of pizzas, the simplest kind is still the best.

The other reason we were excited to be eating at NYPD is the beer. You see, during the few years we lived in Scottsdale, our beer of choice was Fat Tire. Since moving away, we’ve found a small, local brewery in Princeton to supply us with all our beer needs, and it’s spoiled us. When we were in Ottawa for the NHL Draft in June, we got draft beers of a brand we won’t mention here and were horrified at how dishwatery it tasted. So we were very concerned that when we got out here for vacation, we’d be crushed to find out that Triumph Brewery had ruined Fat Tire for us, too. Pookie even vowed ahead of time, “I’ll just have to drink 800 beers during the three days to find out.”

Good news, Gentle Reader. While it’s not quite up to Triumph-level snuff, Fat Tire is still a perfectly cromulent beer. Which means Pookie won’t be gagging down the remaining 799 on her docket.

On the way out of lunch, Boomer’s worst driving instincts kicked back into gear, and we circled the parking lot fruitlessly a few times in search of the exit. Which was, as it turns out, exactly where we’d left it when we came in. But don’t tell Boomer that. Anyway, the detour afforded us the chance to gaze in wonderment upon this fine firearms establishment:

Yeah, we’re not in Princeton anymore.

After a quick stop at Best Buy, where we ogled fancy cameras but bought only new headphones for Pookie’s iPod, it was time to spend the day the way we love best: sitting around and stitching. Back at the hotel, we spread out the loot from our first run at the Attic.

There aren’t many new projects in there — just charts waiting to have their supplies pulled tomorrow. They look so eager, don’t they? Well, except for the one’s Boomer’s ugly bought. Those are all appropriately ugly.

And so we spent the remainder of the afternoon in a delightful state of relaxation, stitching, gorging on candy, and listening to music on the iPod speakers that our room came equipped with.

Finally dinnertime rolled around, and we were forced to remember how to stand upright long enough to walk to the car. Our hopes of seeing another rainbow, this time with camera in tow, were dashed, but in its place we got a spectacular sunset.

Now, when we were kids and visited our grandparents out here, one of the most exciting parts of every trip was seeing Camelback mountain. For huge portions of our lives, it was the only mountain we could name. And it’s certainly easier to recognize than, say, K2, which we wouldn’t know if it kicked us in the teeth.

We were so excited by the sunset and driving along next to Camelback that we took a zillion pictures in the car, with no consideration for how they were likely to turn out.

What is there to say about a dinner at the Roaring Fork? This was our favorite restaurant when we lived here, and, beside a few supremely swanky dinners we’ve had at places well outside our regular orbits, remains right up at the top of the list. We had cocktails (an organic agave margarita and a prickly pear mojito), scrumptious appetizers (tempura-battered shrimp for Boomer, tortilla soup for Schnookie, and the famous green chile pork stew for Pookie), staggeringly good entrees (cedar plank salmon with apricot barbecue glaze for Boomer, roasted pork carnitas for Schnookie, buttermilk fried chicken for Pookie), and then barely had any room for our desserts (molten brownie and huckleberry bread pudding). The green chile pork stew is near the very top of our short list of bestest food stuffs on the planet, and it’s been two whole years since we last had it. Horrors!

It was well worth the wait.

Walking out of the Roaring Fork after dinner is never easy, considering how stuffed we always are. Tonight we left with a bag of our leftover desserts, as well as three mysterious gifts from the guy who bussed our table. He’d been very chatty, and we’d struck up pretty much an evening-long conversation with him; before we left he told us there were three boxes in our doggie bag that we had to wait until we were outside to open. When we got back to the hotel, we cracked them open:

What a sweet gesture! It was lilies from the table settings! After opening them, we had to glance around suspiciously, concerned that we were back in the “everyone breaking out in song” type of day we had yesterday. It’s way too late for musical numbers, so if there are any synchronized-swimming muppets hiding in the woodwork, we’d love for them to just wait until tomorrow.


Filed under Away From Home, Celebratory!, Dining Out, Drinky-Drinky, On The Road, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words, Pins and Needles, Pommerdoodling, Stitching, Worth Selling Your Soul For

Restocking The Stash: On The Road With IPB Living, Chapter 1

Today was the big day — time to hit the road for our “Restocking The Stash” trip out to The Attic in Arizona! After several weeks of giddy anticipation, we were in a full-on state of high-level pommerdoodling when this morning finally rolled around. All that stood between us and our carefully mapped three-day assault on the Valley of the Sun was a mere trans-continental flight. Pfft! Child’s play!

We left Philadelphia at a perfectly reasonable midmorning time, made a bit less reasonable by the fact that none of us slept a wink last night (yes, heading out to The Attic is, for us, an awful lot like Christmas is for seven-year-olds), and after five shockingly uneventful and quick-moving hours, descended on our target.

It should be noted that it seemed to us today that the whole world was as happy as we are that we’re on vacation. First off, after years of driving around the entire Philadelphia airport to get into the short-term parking garages, we took a wrong turn this morning and discovered a route that is a zillion times easier, and ended up with the best parking spot we’ve ever had at the airport. Then the flight crew spent the last hour of our plane ride getting on the speakers and congratulating each other for various life accomplishments. There was the “Let’s all give a hand for [Flight Attendant X], who got engaged last night!” announcement, followed by the “Let’s all give a hand for [Flight Attendant Y], who is celebrating a belated birthday today!” one, followed by the “A flight attendant will be going along the aisle now collecting service items. Please hand over empty bottles, cans, wrappers, credit cards, jewelry, engagement rings…” one. Then the driver for the rental car shuttle inadvertently had the entire bus in stitches as he explained how rental car returns work, but at a level appropriate for “Sesame Street”. Pookie remarked that it felt like she was living in the first part of “The Truman Show”, when the entire world is ridiculously perfect. Schnookie agreed, and suggested she expected either musical numbers or Muppet synchronized swimming routines to break out at any moment.

In our new incarnation as photography hobbyists, we were super-excited to have an opportunity to take some pictures at the rental car mall, where they have these cool suncatcher sculpture thingies in the clerestory windows. No, we’re not afraid to look like tourists. We’re also, as tourists visiting a place we used to live in, disappointed to report that the temperature today was depressingly unimpressive. The most sweltering high we were able to document was just 108. Pathetic, Phoenix. We know you can do better than that.

We’d like to say that our first stop immediately off the plane was The Attic, but we’re not going to lie — we were starving. Even though we’d packed hilariously heavy snack bags filled with pounds and pounds of candy for the plane, we needed some real sustenance before we could shop. Oh, and some cold drinks. Five years away from the desert leaves a girl unprepared for how thirsty this place makes you. We hit the shining beacon of every IPB road trip: McDonalds. And once we’d procured their finest meats and cheeses (or, more accurately, their finest potatostuffs), we gave a French Fry toast to being on vacation and on the verge of returning to the most wonderful place on earth.

And that most wonderful place on earth? Is just up the street from the McDonalds. It might look unassuming from the outside…

… But inside it’s a slice of heaven.

It’s probably corny to say it, but a trip to The Attic is like coming home for us. We had a big round of hugs with Jean, who was specially outfitted in her new Brett Favre Jets t-shirt, then caught up with everyone’s gorgeous projects. Then it was time to let the awesomeness of The Attic wash over us. We tried to document it, to give a taste of the shopping experience, but it’s hard to get everything. For starters, the shop is brimming with beautiful models of all kinds of projects. Most importantly, and the main focal point, is the famous Wall Of Samplers:

We aspire for the walls of Maple Hoo to look like that someday.

As you wander around the store, there are tons of other displays, and our favorites are the seasonal ones. There’s the Christmas “mantle”…

… and the Thanksgiving/Halloween fall corner…

… not to mention the 4th of July/Americana corner that we didn’t photograph because we were so busy picking up a kick-ass chart (more on that tomorrow).

Another favorite target for us is the display in the center of the shop of the current featured designs.

This part of the store is trouble, because you could safely just ask for one of everything in there, and, by the time we head home on Tuesday, we probably will have picked up exactly that.

There are areas of the shop we didn’t even hit today, as this was just our cursory first-wave attack. It can be almost overwhelming trying to make sure you’ve seen everything, and we all managed to pick out small projects to start with. After an hour or so of poring over charts, we moved on to the supplies.

And oh! The supplies! You want fibers? The Attic has every fiber you can imagine. Why, here’s just some of the cottons on hand:

Wait, you like overdyed cotton floss more? Great! Here’s the tip of the iceberg of those:

What’s that? You prefer silk to cotton? Great! There’s a whole wall of overdyed silks, all of them mouth-wateringly beautiful!

We didn’t even bother trying to get a picture of all the regular silk threads on hand — we’ll get to that on our second-wave trip. In the meantime, are you looking for cute accent buttons? Well, there are stacks of boxes of those, each more adorable than the last:

And what can you even say about the beautiful stitching tools on hand? Pookie’s scissor collection has already been documented here, and it’s fair to say that The Attic is the pusher who got her addicted in the first place. Beyond the vast array of gorgeous scissors, there are dozens of ornamental thimbles, etuis, little baskets and catchalls, measuring tapes, rulers, and the items that most caught our eyes today: handpainted autumn-themed floss winders:

Oh, and did we mention that The Attic is unimaginably well-stocked with linens? Because they are. There are racks and racks of linens in a rainbow of glorious colors, counts, and vintagey hand-dyed looks; here, in the middle of the linen section, a view to the left…

… and here’s the other side of the aisle:

You could probably take a week just to fully appreciate the linen selection, but we were running out of time today. After a few hours of feverishly pulling charts and putting together threads and linen for just a few small projects, we checked out with a modest bag of swag, ready to spend a day regrouping before making our big restocking run. Today was just a nibble. Monday will be the real feast.

We were by this point utterly exhausted. Almost deliriously so. In fact, we ended up going ridiculously far off course as we tried to get to our hotel because none of us could remember exactly where in Scottsdale it is. Fortunately, we had one of those amazing August skies to distract us; it’s so beautiful to see the big clouds piling up behind the McDowell mountains.

At long last, we found the hotel, checked in, and dragged our sorry carcasses to our rooms, just in time to collapse into bed for some long, hard naps. We were all a bit disoriented and cranky when we woke up, ready to go up the street to Blue Burrito, one of our favorite cheap-and-easy restaurants from back in the day when we lived here. Before going out, though, Pookie took the camera onto the patio of our room to shoot the lawn and trees in our immediate surrounds.

Then, being novice hobbyist photographers, we left the camera in our room when we went out to pick up dinner. And, of course, were greeted outside by the most glorious sunset-tinted clouds and a giant rainbow. Naturally. We should have known, on a day where we expected big song-and-dance numbers to break out at any moment, that there would be a rainbow.

At any rate, after more hijinks trying to figure out from memory where things are located, we managed to retrieve our dinner. We fell on our burritos like we were starving, and further supported our theory that some of the best vacation meals are the picnics you bring back to your hotel room, to enjoy at the end of a long and tiring day.

Now, with our bellies full and the first chapter of our travelogue written, we’re feeling the three-hour time difference. We’ve got a hard day on the docket for tomorrow, rife with sleeping in, lolling around and stitching, and then dinner at the Roaring Fork. And maybe some Muppet synchronized swimming routines!


Filed under Away From Home, Bonanza!, Celebratory!, On The Road, Pins and Needles, Pommerdoodling, Stitching, Worth Selling Your Soul For

My Lovely Commute

There are a zillion reasons why I love my job, but at the very tippy top of my list is my commute. It’s less than three miles, most of which is along grassy berms or on well-kept bike paths. I’m insanely lazy, though, and don’t often wake up early enough to stroll to the office rather than spending six minutes in my car. I’m making a concerted effort now, though, to walk more often, and I’m hoping that bringing the camera with me will encourage me to do it. Here’s a look at what I saw along the way yesterday when I pedicommuted:

It was an utterly beautiful, perfect July day yesterday, and I hit the road at 8:30, having slept through my alarm. After a few days of relentless humidity, it was relatively dry, surprisingly cool (in the low 80s? High 70s even?), and the sky was impossibly blue. My walk starts by wending through a couple of blocks of well-spaced houses, first in our little development of dumpy, older ranch houses, then into the ritzy, recently-built McMansions the next street over, and then into the weird, poorly-financed, ugly McMansions on the street past that. Because the builders of that development were shifty and ran out of money, the development comes to an abrupt stop where what used to be the neighborhood’s entry road has been bulldozed down to half its width (I happened to be walking to work the day they did that) and is now just an access road.

I love walking there because it looks, while approaching it, like it’s going to be wending into some lush, abandoned, overgrown woodland. Of course, the reality is that just on the other side of those trees is the main drag out of our little town toward my workplace. I don’t like that stretch of my walk, and it’s often the reason I use to talk myself into driving instead; the road doesn’t have a sidewalk or much in the way of shoulders, and while the speed limit is 25 heading out of town, it’s along a pretty sharp turn that’s reasonably heavily trafficked during the morning commute hours. If I could walk to work at noon I’d probably be able to stroll down the center of the road, but in the mornings, I cling frightenedly to the narrow shoulders, picking up ticks, and hoping the people driving by me are coworkers who like me, so they’ll do their best to avoid hitting me. The scenery along this stretch is lovely, I’m sure, but I don’t often look at it for how tightly I’m squeezing my eyes shut and hoping I don’t die.

Okay, it’s not really that bad. This is a really rural part of New Jersey, and the drivers in these parts are used to joggers, walkers, and especially bikers. We share the road pretty well. And what I love about this part of my walk is that it’s over an expanse of protected wetlands. Yesterday morning I saw a heron swooping down over the trees, and this was the view off the little bridge:

There used to be a huge tangle of fallen tree just beyond the rail of the bridge, and a couple of years ago Boomer, Pookie and I saw a kingfisher perched at the top of the broken branches while we were speeding by. Sadly, there wasn’t a kingfisher in sight yesterday.

The other reason I like the bridge, beside the view, is that it’s the only bit of sidewalk along here; once I get across it, the speed limit goes up to 45, and I become increasingly convinced I’m going to meet my maker. (And really, wouldn’t that suck to forgo an extra hour of sleep just to get hit by a car?)

Just past the bridge is the swampy bit where two geese used to lay their nest every year:

Every spring I would look forward to seeing the goslings when they hatched, but every year it seemed to happen on a weekend or something, and I never saw them. Then, one spring, we had torrential rains that flooded out the nest (and washed away the kingfisher’s tree), and the geese haven’t been back since.

There’s about a 100-yard bit of narrow shoulder to traverse after the bridge, getting buffeted by the whooshing of the traffic hurtling by and receiving puzzled looks from drivers who wonder if they’re supposed to be stopping to help you or if you’re actually voluntarily risking death by SUV, but then — hallelujah! — the farm fields start.

There’s a wonderful high berm, with a row of old maples evenly spaced along it, between the street and the fields, and this year the farmer has done a nice job of keeping the grass short and walkable. I’ve done this commute sticking to the road because the grass at the top of the hill was waist-high and full of ticks, and I much prefer it this way.

Besides, I get to stop on a sunny morning and enjoy the shade.

This side of the road is all cornfields, while the other side has more of what I’m guessing is wetlands, or maybe is just undeveloped farmland (considering how expensive that land is, I doubt it, though):

I think this bit of New Jersey, just this bit along the road to my office, is one of my favorite places on earth. I love how beautiful it is in every season. There are the big, gnarly maples, in various states of health…

… the corn and pumpkin crops that grow the same, year in and year out, spelling out the seasons…

… the white barn with the soybean field on the other side of the road…

… and the farm stand that sells the best corn I’ve ever eaten in my life.

As lovely as the walk toward work is, the view coming home is just as spectacular. I especially love, in the afternoon light, watching summer turn to fall along this stretch:

I’m under the impression that the land on this side of the road is owned by my employer, and leased to the farmer who grows the corn and has a modest herd of cattle.

Yesterday I got to wander past some wee baby corn, to be harvested late in August or September:

Middle-aged corn, at the base of which some pink volunteer petunias had sprung up:

And, in the field that runs along the length of the entry drive to my office campus, tasseled corn, almost ready to go (on my drive home this afternoon, the farm stand had put out the sign we all eagerly look for each summer — the first corn is harvested!):

As a little surprise treat for having made the effort to propel myself on foot to work, I was greeted in the field just inside the security gate by the cows.

They were quite charming, eyeing me calmly as I stepped closer to the fence, and then perking up and seeming to pose for me when I got out my camera. Seriously, they were very sociable cows — when they realized I was looking at them, they started primping.

So that was my walk to work yesterday. I am not an adventurous driver, and actually grew up in a neighborhood about a mile past my current workplace on this same street. I joked when Pookie and I first moved back here that I was going to have to get a job at the corporate campus here because it’s the only place I know how to get to, and as it turns out, that’s exactly what I stumbled into. The combination of the beauty of the land, the familiarity of the road, and the memories of my childhood is hard to top — yes, it’s helped by being such a short trip, but still, this has got to be one of the best commutes out there.


Filed under Away From Home, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words