Category Archives: On The Road

A Very Dallas Vacation Recap: Day 2

Our second day of Dallas vacation was all about the nutmeats of our trip there — the State Fair of Texas. When we visited two years ago Patty was all, “Oh, and while you’re here we can go to the state fair!” and we were all, “Whatevs. We’re not fair people,” and then we got there and we were all, “WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL US ABOUT THIS SOONER???” The State Fair of Texas is the awesomest place on earth, and is a photo hobbyist’s greatest dream come true. Last time around we had but one camera and had only been using it for about six weeks. This time? We came armed with two cameras (upgraded ones!), many lenses, and at least a vague notion of how to use them. (Emphasis there on “vague”. Seriously, we don’t have a clue.) And we timed our trip to get a sunset ride on the Texas Star (except Schnookie’s tendency to worry about missing shit and getting places way early meant we… didn’t see the sunset on the Texas Star), and an evening spent taking pictures of bright lights on the midway. Oh, and somewhere in there, we ate fried food. Oh, and before we went to the fair? We went to Stars practice. Yeah, we know how to live. Here’s a sampling of our pictures.

At Stars Practice

Practice through the fisheye, by Schnookie

Deep Fried Beer With Big Tex

Deep fried beer, with Big Tex bokeh. It’s a preztel-dough ravioli, essentially, filled with warm beer. It was worth being able to say we tried it, but probably not worth ever eating again.

Fried Goods

Deep fried latte and deep fried frozen margarita. Both are truly excellent foodstuffs. Seriously. Try them as soon as you can.

Aswirl

The swing ride thing lit up, by Schnookie

Bokeh Spinner

The swing ride thing, bokeh-style, by Pookie

The Swing Ride

The swing ride thing, in the gloaming, by Schnookie

October 17 2010

Ride lights and the Texas Star, by Schnookie

You re A Star

You’re a star, by Pookie

Love Bugs

Love Bugs, by Schnookie

Lensbaby Spinner

The swing ride thing, with Lensbaby bokeh, by Pookie

Pookie On The Texas Star

Pookie, by Schnookie

Texas Star Is Made Of Bokeh

The Texas Star is made of bokeh, by Pookie

Rotating

The swing ride thing lights in motion again, by Schnookie

Love On The Texas Star

Love on the Texas Star, by Pookie

FIsheye Big Tex

Fisheye Big Tex, by Pookie

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A Very Dallas Vacation Recap: Day 1

You may have heard that we recently spent a marvelous week (In Dallas) with our great friend Patty. Since returning home we’ve slowly been building up to being able to share the stories and pictures from this wonderful vacation; we don’t like to rush into things, though. We’ve been busy! We can’t be helped that travelogues don’t write themselves! But excuses aside, it’s time for you to gird yourself for our blog-style vacation slide show. It’s like being trapped at our house for a cocktail party, but in text.

Our first big adventure in Dallas was to meet up with Myra, Dave, Grace, and Caitlin for a scrumptious dinner at our favorite restaurant Matito’s, and then to watch from kick-ass seats while the Stars played the Blues. Before you scoff at that less-than-sexy matchup, it should be noted that this was a couple of weeks ago — Patty was still gloating that her team was unbeaten. ::Eyeroll:: Whatever, Patty. Good for you. (Not that we’re bitter about the stupid Devils.) The game was a pretty exciting affair, not that you could tell from our photos, and then we capped off the evening with a visit to Patty’s friend Jim’s skyrise apartment to see his boffo views of the Dallas cityscape. All in all, it was a day extremely well spent.

Matitos

Stars over Matito’s, by Pookie

October 16 2010

Smoke-spewing star, by Pookie

Speed Lines

A study in motion and long shutter speed, poorly, by Schnookie

Disco Ball

Disco ball with rink reflected, by Schnookie

Stars Opening Video

Escher jumbotron, by Pookie

Disco Bokeh

Disco ball bokeh, by Schnookie

We're Number One

Number one, number one, number one, by Pookie

Disco Stars

Dude, was Schnookie even watching the game, or was it just the disco ball?, by Schnookie

Fisheye Dallas Skyline

Dallas through the fisheye, by Pookie

Bokeh Dallas Skyline

Dallas bokeh, by Pookie

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Filed under On The Road, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

We Take The Most Exciting Vacations: Part 2

Before heading out to Columbus, we took an evening to explore the restaurant options around our hotel. In the process, we discovered that there was an exciting — dare we say, exotic? — destination right around the corner from our home base for the trip. Just seeing the name of the destination on the map was enough to make it an essential stop. It was, in fact, so essential that even after the exhausting trip to the Franklin Park Conservatory, we had no choice but to muster up the energy to walk the two blocks to the…

Central Ohio Fire Museum! WOOOOOO!!!!

Fire Museum Facade

Okay, okay, before you decide we’re too dorky to speak to us ever again, hear us out. Item number 72 on the Scavenger Hunt 101 list is a fire engine. Pookie found one right away, but Schnookie was having a tough time finding one. And there were sure to be fire engines galore at the Central Ohio Fire Museum, right? Right!

Steam Powered Fire Engine

We had intended to zip in, get some cool shots of old fire engines, and then book it back to the hotel to finish up the heated best-of-five cribbage battle we had going (okay, now you can decide we’re too dorky to be friends with). The people who run the fire museum had other ideas. They pounced on us the minute we got in the door — actually they saw us walking down the street with our cameras and rightly assumed we were headed their way which allowed them to pounce on us before we even got to the door — and sucked us into to taking a tour. This was, needless to say, not what we had in mind.

However, it turned out to be pretty interesting. Not long after the start of the tour, an active fireman and amateur historian on vacation from Chicago (yup, he was there to see the hockey game, too) joined us, and as result, we ended up getting some cool insight into how things have changed for modern firemen. We learned fun facts like why fire plugs are called fire plugs, why cities like Columbus had professional fire departments before NYC, Philly, and Chicago, and what the “hook” in “hook and ladder” is for. And when the tour ended, we had plenty of time to fulfill our original goal of taking a few pictures.

And Schnookie got her Scavenger Hunt picture. And then Pookie kicked her ass at cribbage. It was a great way to end a fabulous vacation.

Fire Alarm Box

Fire Ladders

Brylin the Fire Man

Ye Olde Hand Pumped Fire Engine

Ye Olde Fire Museum Lamp

Rainbow Firehat

It's Where We're At

To see the entire collection of pictures we took on vacation, click

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We Take The Most Exciting Vacations: Part 1

This past weekend we decided we’d had enough of New Jersey and headed on out for a long weekend in an exotic locale. Since we both hate air travel, the exotic locale had to be somewhere drivable. And since it’s still the hockey season it would help if the destination had an NHL team. And since we’ve both been bitten by the quilting bug, a place with a nice quilt store would be a plus. We plugged those three requirements into the trusty IPBTravelTron3000 and discovered that the place for us was none other than Columbus, OH! WOOO!!!

The eight hour drive out there was delightful, bucolic, and involved driving through tunnels under mountains. Exotic! The hockey game was amazingly fun and the home team fires a canon after every goal. Exotic! The quilt stores were stunning and we left with piles of fabulous fabric, including some imports from Japan. Exotic! However, with the exception of the spectacular Blue Jackets mascot, Stinger:

March 25 2010

the opportunities for photos at those places weren’t great. So here in this space, we’ll share with you the two photography excursions we went on. The first was the Franklin Park Conservatory.

Driving there, we had visions of Victorian palm houses straight out of an Amanda Quick novel. Once we got there, our hopes were dashed and then trampled upon by the hordes of school children teeming all over the place. Shudder. The entire place was overrun with students with the notable exception of the handful of other adults with DSLRs who were also clearly unhappy that kids in Ohio are ever let out of the classroom. Somehow, though, we persevered and managed to snap a few shots of the place.

Orange Orchids

Bonzai Bark

Purple Orchids

Pink Cyclemen

The Orchid Area

Woven

In addition to having several conservatories for different regions — the Himalayas, rain forest, dessert, South Pacific — the conservatory is home to a bunch of art glass installations by Dale Chihuly. Normally, this isn’t the kind of art that floats our boats, but in context, it looked really striking tucked in with the plants.

Blue Glass

Blue Glass Sculpture Garden

Chihuly Cave

Ship Of Chihuly

The best part of the trip to the Conservatory, though, was that both of us were able to check off one of the most troubling items on the Scavenger Hunt 101 list: a waterfall. Pookie predicted we’d find waterfalls in Columbus, and she was right!

Inside The Waterfall

Waterfall

If you’d like to see the rest of the photos from the Conservatory, you can see the whole set here. Stay tuned for Part 2 for the other exciting photo excursion.

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Delicacies of Dallas: Caramel Corn

On our first night here (in Dallas) we had to stop at Patty’s local grocery store to pick up some essentials (Diet Coke, Diet Coke, ice cream, Diet Coke). As we were waltzing down the aisles, something caught our eye. Readers of IPB Proper may remember that we have a bit of a habit of impulse buying strange foods when we find ourselves in grocery stores while on vacation. In Buffalo, it was mochi. In Dallas, it was Orville Reddenbacher’s Caramel corn.

Patty was shocked that we didn’t have this particular item in New Jersey. I suspect its sphere of influence includes NJ, it’s just not part of our daily sphere of concern. And for that reason, neither of us could say no to trying it out. I mean, it’s microwave popcorn that has scads of prep instructions!

It should be noted that we were both recently struck with a completely-out-of-the-blue craving for microwave popcorn. Picking over the options at our grocery store, we selected Newman’s Own Butter Boom.

While it wasn’t half-bad — the flavor was good at first but lingered with a nasty aftertaste, and the overall consistency was rubbery — it also wasn’t so good that we felt like it was worth trying again. Evidently, we were wrong. After a bit of a microwave mishap and one bag of burnt popcorn left on the back porch to cool down, we had a bowl of fluffy white (probably rubbery) popcorn. And we had a packet of caramel. Pardon me, a “caramel flavored wafer”. The scads of instructions said to the wafer in fourths…

… And then place the resulting pieces strategically atop the popcorn…

… And then microwave it again to get the caramel wafer “bubbly and frothy”.

I’m not sure this is the very picture of “bubbly and frothy”, but it was melted enough for the next step — stirring with heat proof spoons. Patty tried to throw Schnookie off her game by shouting, “Don’t use those wooden spoons! They’ll catch fire!” But even that bit of kitchen tomfoolery didn’t keep Schnookie from stirring that popcorn-caramel concoction like a pro.

The ten minutes spent waiting for it to cool were tense and anxious. Would the popcorn be a better or worse culinary experience than the mochi? Were the off-putting aromas coming from the bowl a preview of the taste? Was the time and trouble spent making the treat utterly misspent? There was only one way to find out.

Initial reaction? Not bad! Certainly better than expected. Schnookie said it best when she said, shocked, “It’s like… caramel corn!” I’m sure Orville’s relieved we won’t sue them for false advertising. But seriously, our expectations were so low, the fact that it did briefly resemble caramel corn is a huge point in its favor. The fact that it hardened too much, too fast is a point against. The caramel was stronger than the popcorn, making it very, very difficult to pull the kernels apart. After settling some more, the caramel took on less of a caramel-y flavor and more of a toffee. Which is not a bad thing. The popcorn itself still had the rubbery microwave popcorn problem, but the coating of caramel/toffee/chemicals covered it up. All in all, it was a fun thing to try and to eat most of, but not a culinary endeavor worth repeating. So endeth our momentary infatuation with microwave popcorn.

The final review is: Microwave Caramel Popcorn – .5 stars, Mochi – negative 100 stars.

Update: 30 minutes after we finished the popcorn it became clear that it was… not a good idea. Not a good idea at all.

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Filed under On The Road, Slumming It, Taste Test

Delicacies of Dallas: State Fair Edition

An ode to the world’s greatest foodstuff:

Roses are red,
violets are blue.
Chicken-fried bacon
You’re the most amazing thing ever invented good golly but you’re freaking delicious.

Chicken Fried Bacon

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Filed under Dining Out, Meats Meats Meats, On The Road, You Don't See That Every Day

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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