Tag Archive | Brighton

Oh There’s No Place Like Homes for Thanksgivingkah

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Yes. I know I really botched up the words of that song. But with the odd concurrence of Thanksgiving and the first light of Chanukah falling on the same night, and our first trip back to Rochester since departing for Detroit, my family feels like they are going through some surreal times.

Rochesterians, very well-meaning and sincere, actually said it to me:

“Welcome home!”

“Are you glad to be home?”

The word “home” was not something I expected to hear out of the mouths of my many Rochesterian friends and acquaintances I saw in the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving.

This is a homecoming of a sort. For my kids. Because after I checked off every last detail of what to pack, what to turn off and turn down in our new house. After the kids packed whatever they needed to eat and entertain themselves in the car. After the last seat belt had been clicked and the six-hour trek from Detroit to Rochester lay before us, my children said it:

“We are going home.”

Yes. Rochester is their home. Where they spent the better part of their formative years. It’s where two of three of them took their first steps and all of them lost their first teeth. It’s where their friends live who know them best. Who share some weird private jokes, shared histories,  and their own strange way of talking in a fake accent.

For me, Rochester is not home. New York City is home. Or is it? I haven’t lived in the area for almost 20 years.

I am trying to make Detroit home. But it’s tough to make it home when we leave it for holidays. It’s not a home if  there are no aromas of turkey and stuffing , and this year, the smell of potato latkes frying in a pan, and the sounds of grandparents, siblings and cousins hanging out in the family room. It’s just a house we live in.

Because home is where you go for the holidays. And if the majority of family do not live in your current city of residence, like the way smaller celestial bodies are drawn to larger ones in the universe, the pull is greater the other way. So home we must go.

Still, Rochester feels a lot like home now that we no longer live here. Yesterday, we spent the day in some old familiar places trying to catch up with as many people as possible. We got hugs everywhere. We are missed. And thought of.  I lost track of how many hugs I gave and received. It truly was a homecoming.

But there are places you really cannot return. My youngest wanted to go into his old house. That, we told him, was off limits. He was able to peek into the downstairs family room and said he didn’t like how the new owners painted it blue.

The big kids tried to loiter in  visit their old high school. To them, that was home too. They had it all planned out. They would enter the building in the morning, loaded backpacks slung on backs and blend into the stream of hundreds of other teens before the morning homeroom bell. Either in the library or cafeteria they would study and receive friends, and hugs, during their free periods.

But their old principal, who had known them since their elementary school days, apparently never forgets a face. And, knowing that these two faces had moved to Detroit, he kindly but firmly told them that new high school policy forbids non students to visit during school hours. But he gave them a valiant A for effort.

Sometimes, you really can’t go home.

Don’t Forget to Dance

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I hate ends.

I don’t like when books, or series of books, end.

Ask my kids about this.

Just last week,  after years of them prodding, teasing, begging and bribing me, and even going through lengths like borrowing books on CD from their school libraries.  I finally, finally finished the entire Harry Potter series.

I don’t even like to eat the ends of a loaf of bread.

Even when it comes to one of my favorite activities in the world – dancing – I prefer not stay for the last dance.  Call it a Cinderella syndrome, but I hate when the music ends.  I leave about 10 minutes each week before the session wraps up. As the music lingers in my head while I start up the car in the parking lot, I envision my folk dancing friends dancing on into the night, so the dance is never over.

But end it did, for me, at least in Rochester.

I have been taking Israeli Folk Dancing on Sunday nights at the Rochester Jewish Community Center for about 10 years now. When I first started I knew nothing about Israeli Folk Dancing outside of Hava Nagilah. Seriously.

But Israeli Folk Dancing is not your Bar Mitzvah Havah Nagilah. Blending music with Greek, Latin, Middle Eastern and the random Irish (yes IRISH)  influences, Israeli Folk Dancing has something for everyone. At every age.

And you don’t have to be Jewish to do it. There are Israeli Folk Dance sessions held the world over, including places like Tokyo and Beijing.

At first, Israeli Folk Dancing can be frustrating.  All these people whirling and jumping around you are having all this fun and really know what they are doing. And the beginner, well, the beginner fumbles. And watches.

Week after week I went.  I made sure I got there for the beginner hour. I watched feet. I danced on the outside of the circle not to get in the way of the experts. Then, with increased confidence that I would not crash or trip anyone (or myself) I moved in. I’m grateful for great guidance from the teacher to long timers who called out steps for me.

I have gone from stumbling through each dance, to learning the steps, to a point where I’ve actually become pretty good! Good enough to call the steps to newcomers who give it a try. Good enough to teach it to children in area Hebrew schools and camps.

Here are reasons why dance, any dance, but particularly Israeli Folk Dancing is good for you:

  • It’s a  great cardio workout. Dancing burns on an average of 375 calories per hour.
  • IFD is also great for your brain. Each dance is a sequence of choreographed steps. All this memorization improves brain function, especially for some of us who are, emmm, getting up there in age.  It takes about six lessons and going on a consistent basis to get the basic steps down. Before you know it, your feet are moving to each familiar dance without even giving it much thought, which comes to the next benefit….
  • Israeli Folk Dancing is a great social outlet. While your feet are moving, catch up in conversation with friends old and new.
  • If you are Jewish, or simply have a love for Israel, IFD connects your feet and ears to the Holy Land. During Israel’s peaceful times, dancing to the latest Israeli dance is a dance of celebration. In times of war or terror, the dance becomes one of solidarity.

And now, now that I am leaving town, the JCC of Greater Rochester offers Israeli Folk Dancing FREE to members, $6 per week for non members.

Last Sunday was my very last dance session, for now, with my dear friends from Israeli Folk Dance in Rochester.  It was a big part of my life and brought me happiness each Sunday night.

And last Sunday, I managed to make myself stay for the very last dance:

Do you dance regularly? What does it bring to your life? Leave a comment below, and don’ t ever stop dancing.

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Five more things I’ll miss, and what You Should Check Out – in Rochester, N.Y.

I got a lot of great feedback from Monday’s post about the first five things on my list of what I’ll miss about Rochester.

Some of the things people added and commented to this list are not tangible things. For some, it’s more of the community mindedness of the place that you come to know once you’ve lived here for a while. There is a great sense of collaboration between government, businesses and grass roots organizations that create a wealth of cultural offerings here.

What are they, you ask? For one, there was last September’s Fringe Fest, the first time Rochester has hosted this festival celebrating all things creative.

Another development just in the last 12 months has been the collaboration between wo Rochester treasures: WXXI, our public radio and TV station, and The Little, a great indie movie theater. Over the last year, the two non-profit organizations have put together free and open to the public discussions on many thought-provoking films that don’t come to bigger commercial theatres. Don’t take my word for it, check out The Little while you are in town. From the great films to the REAL popcorn with REAL butter, find out more here.

But for those of you are purely visiting, or are planning a visit to Rochester and the area, here are some more must-sees:

  • Water – Okay, I know there will be water where I’m going.  Michigan is famous for its lakes big and small. But I will miss the variety of kinds of bodies of water within an hour’s drive from my home in Rochester. I’ll miss taking a stroll or a bicycle ride on the historical Erie Canal. Blogger Renee a. Schuls-Jacobson loves to have lunch along the canal on a summer afternoon at great restaurants like The Coal Tower in Pittsford (don’t miss their pumpkin soup in the fall) or Aladin’s Natural Eatery for great vegetarian and vegan cuisine as well as micro brewed and local beer.                                                                                                                                                                                                             I’ll miss taking a short 15 minute drive and taking a walk along the shore of Lake Ontario, flying a kite with my kids at Durant Beach or taking our end-of-the-summer outing to Rochester’s great local amusement park Sea Breeze and cooling off with a chocolate almond cone from Abbot’s Custard, more of Renee’s favorite things.  Hell, I’ll even miss the radio ad, “Come Get Your Summer!” that plays from Memorial Day until Labor Day.
  • Artisan Works - It’s an art gallery. It’s a working artists colony. It’s a great place to have a wedding or a Bar mitzvah. But if you are an art lover, you must visit this funky gallery tucked into a huge warehouse on Blossom Road off Winton Road (right near the new Wegmans!). Eclecticism does not begin to describe this place, which boasts over a million pieces of art;  a library with furniture from Frank Lloyd Wright to a fire house themed room with some naughty art (adults only in this section please).  I can say this place is loaded with paintings and sculptures, photos and films, but it wouldn’t do it justice. Just GO.
  • The National Museum of Play- What started out as a bunch of toys collected by philanthropist Dorothy Strong has turned into one of the country’s leading children’s museums and home to the Toy Hall of Fame for playthings like The Hula Hoop and The Stick (yes, the stick, like the kind that falls off a tree, is in the Toy Hall of Fame).                                                                                      You don’t need a kid to have fun here (but if you do have a kid and they’ve pooped in their last clean diaper, they’ve got you covered with their own supply!).  Revisit your own childhood by taking a stroll down Sesame Street, “shop” for food at a kid sized Wegmans Market; twirl a hula hoop; make a craft with your kids and leave the scraps and glue sticks and other clean-up behind. Play in bins full of Leggos, play some retro video games like Pac Man and Space Invaders. Visit a Treasure Island, climb a beanstalk or explore a mysterious old house in Reading Adventure Land and then borrow a book from the museum’s library, which is connected to the Monroe County Library system.
  • The Finger Lakes - Need more reasons to visit Rochester now that I’m gone? Well, the Finger Lake Region, about an hour away from Rochester, has been voted one of the 10 best travel destinations in the world, people! While you are in Canandaigua strolling along the lake and checking out the cute stores and art galleries, dine at a great Mexican restaurant called Rio Tomatlan. Get the flan for dessert, you won’t be sorry.
  • Apples & Wine – okay, that’s two things. But a visit to this part of New York in the fall is not complete with either a trip to an apple picking farm, like The Apple Farm in Victor, NY or a Finger Lakes Winery like Fox Run. This year had a cold winter, no freak warm ups or frosts in the early spring, so the apple season this fall is supposed to yield a great crop.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – Okay, that’s five things. I can count! That’s all I’m going to add to this list, but what can YOU add to a list of must-sees in the Rochester area?

And Detroit – what have you got in store for me to see? In a few weeks, I’ll have nothing more to do than to explore, so tell me what I shouldn’t miss in the Motor City. I’m listening. I’m waiting.

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Newspaper columnist turns into Bike Thieving Mamma

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This cautionary tale has a lesson: Before embarking on a bike ride, make sure you have taken the right key for your bike chain.

It was a beautiful Thursday afternoon in late April. The kind of afternoon in early spring when every tree is a different color of flowering buds, each branch has that blessed tinge of the lightest green. On that day in April, I wish I could freeze time then and there and live and linger in that feeling of potential that early spring gives. I wished to go no further.

There was nothing pressing on our family schedule for the evening: no plays, baseball games, concerts or meetings. And, our family of five was down two people: hubby in Detroit and my daughter on her way to a youth weekend retreat.

If you have a family, you know that the absence of even one member changes the dynamic of the household, and can inspire you to make a change in an otherwise humdrum weeknight.

Tonight, it would be just me and the boys!

I said “boys, let’s do something different. Let’s bike to the library, get out some books. Then I’ll grill for dinner, and THEN, let’s go to the Canal

canal_walkersfor some yogurt for dessert!”

Photo: See ya soon !

And who could argue with that plan? Not even my boys!

So off we went to the Brighton Memorial Library.

We locked our bikes and spent about 30 minutes reading and selecting some books.

Then, the tale of a wonderful evening took a dark turn.

My eldest son presented me with the key. It wouldn’t fit.

“You told me you had the right key.”

“Yeah, that’s the key, I took it out of the keybox.”

“Did you actually check if it worked?”

Obviously,  he did not.

So, we walked home from the library leaving our locked bikes behind to locate the lost key.

Now, during the de-cluttering and staging of our home, somehow the key in question went AWOL.

Now, we had three bikes securely locked at the library and no key.

The grill remained unlit. Our bellies remained unfed.

Armed with a hedge clipper, I loaded the boys into the Traverse and headed back to the library.

Funny thing about a good bike chain. Underneath that rubber coating is a network of woven and twisted wires that don’t snap but merely bend when you try to clip them.

I called the good people at the Park Avenue Bike shop to explain my predicament and see if they had a lock cutting service.

“Are you far from home? Are you in a remote rural area?” asked Park Ave Bike Man.

“No, I’m at the Brighton Library. And I have a car.”

Folks, here is a bit of helpful information: Park Ave Bike is many things to many local bikers, but they do not have a lock clipping service for stranded, keyless bikers.

He then suggested I get some bolt cutters.

So, with the sky darkening, and are bellies growling even louder, we headed to our nearest big box hardware store.

A patient but doubtful man wearing an orange apron helped me select bolt cutters for the job.

“You may have to work at this for a while.  This is not a one-person job. You may have to attach pipes to the end of each handle for best leverage at some point to break that lock.”

PIPES?

Leverage??

So, at this point, I am a starving mamma wielding a bolt cutter on the check out line of Home Depot. All I wanted that evening was a cup of soft serve yogurt on the Erie Canal.

At this point, my boys and I were beginning to feel like we were caught in a scene from our favorite comedy. I was taking on the role of Claire Dunphy.

We get back to the library and it is now nearly dark. I start chomping away at the bike lock. Next to me are some more unattended bikes. They don’t even have a chain on them

A man exits the library and gives us a weird look. He takes out his cell phone.

The librarian comes out and also gives us a funny look.

At this point my eldest son shouts “THERE IS NOTHING TO SEE HERE, FOLKS. WE ARE NOT BIKE THIEVES. THESE ARE OUR BIKES WE ARE STEALING.”

Now, if I was going to steal a bike, I wouldn’t do it at the Brighton Library. The police station for the town is attached to the same building.

Finally, after a few chomps – without the aid of pipes – the bikes are free. The boys and I give a triumphant yelp and there are high fives all around.

We didn’t grill that night. Nor did we make it to the Erie Canal for a yogurt treat. I think I ordered in a pizza.

And the next day, I went back to Park Ave. Bike and bought a new bike lock.

With five extra keys.

The Last Post from the Brighton Community Garden

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Now that December is here, this post about wrapping things up in my little spot in the Brighton Community Garden is way overdue. But I must write this final post as a conclusion to the unforgettable experience it has been digging, weeding, watering and reaping alongside my fellow Brighton  neighbors.

My neighbors and I have shared watering and weeding responsibilities through a hot dry summer. Our tomato patches bursting with more than one family could possibly consume, we’ve traded beefsteaks for exotic varieties such as the green-striped zebra or tiny yellow jelly bean.

Sue Gardiner-Smith, the manager of the garden, made sure that we kept up with our commitments to clear the common paths of weeds and not let our own plots get too overgrown (that meant taming my wild pumpkin vines!) In return, she gave me carte blanche to take as much Swiss Chard as I could cut from her never-ending crop of the green leafy stuff.

My garden experience ended on Veteran’s Day. The kids had the day off. First, we paid a visit to the brand new Veteran’s Memorial sculpture, just next door to the garden:

The talons and feathered legs of the Eagle sculpture at the new Brighton Veteran's Memorial.

The talons and feathered legs of the Eagle sculpture at the new Brighton Veteran’s Memorial.

Then, we got to work. We pulled out the last of the vegetation, blackened and dead as a result of a hard killing frost that descended over Rochester a night or two before:

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We pulled up the fencing and the poles ( the boys had to have a stick fight with them atop the compost heap, of course):

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Harvested our last pumpkins and carrots, and finally, chopped down the remains of that sunflower that grew to be about 10 feet tall.

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Putting this garden to bed would be the first of many lasts for me in Rochester.

Like clearing out this garden, I’m literally pulling up my roots again. Rochester may not be my hometown, but it is for my kids.

When I cleared the last weeds with my kids, I  knew I would never garden here again.

In the end, the plot looked just as it did back in March. You would never knew how it was covered with tomato, bean, pumpkin and flowers just weeks before.

In the end, the plot looked just as it did back in March. You would never knew how it was covered with tomato, bean, pumpkin and flowers just weeks before.

I would not be putting down my $25 deposit to renew my lease on this 10′x10′ piece of land that gave me so much delight. Next spring,  this plot will be cared by someone else.

Next spring, I’ll be well on my way to finding our next home, and hopefully our next garden somewhere in Michigan.

In Memory of Teacher, Artist and Musician Daniel Lempert

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A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of writing a story about the father-in-law of a very good friend. At the time, Mr. Lempert, a longtime Brighton resident, was mourning the death of his beloved wife Ruth, an artist and writer in her own rite. 

Now, Daniel has also passed on and was given a burial with a full military honor. I was so honored to have written down his story in his final year on this earth. May his memory be for a blessing.

This was published last November in the Democrat & Chronicle:

It is said that a picture paints one thousand words. When Daniel Lempert completes a painting, he wants its viewers to hear music as well.

“I paint what I feel. As a musician, I feel the rhythms and chords of music,” said Lempert in his Brighton home, which is adorned with paintings he started creating in his 40’s.

Now, at 87, the retired music teacher claims to have painted hundreds of works. The paintings above his mantelpiece are filled with intersecting multicolored lines to represent the textures of a jazz improvisation. Other abstract works include pieces of sheet music or actual workings of old instruments layered on top of brightly colored shapes.

Lempert also paints local landscapes such as the lakeshores of Mendon Ponds and Lake Ontario. He does not bring his oils or canvas out to the scene, but rather paints from his mind’s eye. His works are the stuff of memory. That way, his emotions shape the outcome and look of the final painting.

His beloved wife Ruth, who passed away on Oct. 1 at 81, inspired his artistry through their 58-year marriage. “Ruth really pushed me with my art. I had teachers back in grade school that said I was no good at it. If it weren’t for my wife, I never would have painted,” he said.

When he was a music teacher in the East Rochester school district, Lempert came home from work one day quite upset that the custodial staff had left his music room a cluttered jumble of desks and chairs in efforts to empty out another classroom.

“I told this to Ruth and she said, ‘Why don’t you paint it?’” So he did. The result is one of Lempert’s earliest works: a jumble of chairs and desks in an abstract composition, and painted between the furniture is a sousaphone. It remains one of Lempert’s favorite pieces.

It was Ruth who bought her husband his first set of oil paints in 1968. The University of Rochester alumna and author of the 2008 memoir “Fish, Faith and Family,”also encouraged her husband to take art lessons at this time at the Memorial Art Gallery, where he has been taking classes since 1976.

Like his paintings, the photographs in Lempert’s home also tell stories. One is a black-and-white snapshot of Lempert as a young man with a head of thick wavy black hair playing trumpet in front of a tent.

After high school, Lempert enlisted in the U.S. Army during WWII. He finished basic training in North Carolina and was about to get shipped overseas when opportunity came knocking. The army needed a stateside trumpet player. He auditioned before a group of officers. He still remembers playing the “Carnival of Venice,” a folk song that most known as the melody for “My Hat it has Three Corners.”

The complexity of the trumpet solos won the approval of his commanders. Instead of going off to battle, Lempert stayed in North Carolina for the war’s duration playing reverie in the morning and taps each evening.

“The trumpet saved my life,” he said.

Lempert’s son David recalls how his dad had three jobs when he was growing up: He was a school music teacher, a private tutor on Saturdays, and a big band player late at night. “He would teach during the day, head to a club around 10 in the evening, come home at 3 in the morning and then get up to teach. He was tired but he loved it,” said David Lempert.

The talent for the arts runs in the Lempert family gene pool.  His late daughter Judith earned a degree in fine arts from RIT. Judith’s daughter Rebecca Zaretsky is now studying art at Wheelock College in Boston. Lempert still practices for up to two hours a day every day. The only time he stopped playing was for a brief time after Ruth passed away.

His advice to young musicians and artists: “If art and music are a part of you, you must keep practicing your craft.”

Getting to Know Daniel Lempert

Age: 87

Education:  Graduate of Fredonia Music School and Columbia University

Occupation: 37 years as music teacher in East Rochester. Retired in 1984

Hobbies:  Painting. Trumpet player in Jack Allen’s Big Band

A Woman with Roots Firmly Planted in the Good Food Movement

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Sue Gardner Smith, manager of the Brighton and South Wedge farmers markets, stands with a old abandoned barn along Westfall Road in Brighton. The barn is part of a site proposed as the Brighton Farm and Farmers Market expansion and renovation project.

Sue Gardner Smith, manager of the Brighton and South Wedge farmers markets, stands with a old abandoned barn along Westfall Road in Brighton. The barn is part of a site proposed as the Brighton Farm and Farmers Market expansion and renovation project. / SHAWN DOWD//staff photographer

Perhaps it is no coincidence that a woman with a surname derived from an old French word meaning “gardener” would become a grass-roots champion of the sustainable and organic food movement in Brighton.

With humble determination, Sue Gardner Smith turned her activism into a career in managing farmers markets — first in the South Wedge neighborhood of the city and now in Brighton.

Gardner Smith was the oldest of seven children growing up on a 70-acre farm in Wayne County that had been in her family for a century. She remembers walking through its cherry orchards with her father and tending to the family garden with her mother and siblings.

Being the oldest in a large family, Gardner Smith developed the nurturing traits of a “mother hen” by cooking meals and caring for her younger siblings. In her early culinary experimentation, some dishes were tastier than others. Even into adulthood, she still gets teased by her siblings at her first attempts in the kitchen.

“When I was nine, I came up with a dish called chipped beef on toast. It was wretched. … I have to say that my cooking and tastes have improved vastly since then,” said Gardner Smith, who now prefers making dishes like ricotta cheese and onions stuffed into Swiss chard leaves she grows at her 10-foot by 10-foot plot in the Brighton community garden, a project also under her charge.

In her experiences of living in cities abroad and in the United States, nothing unites people more than food. She has shopped for fresh produce in the open-air markets and dined in the cafes in the plazas of Brussels. In London, there was the tavern and pub culture, “neutral” places where local neighbors could gather for a meal and a drink at the end of the day.

During her 15 years living in the San Francisco Bay area, she visited restaurants like Chez Panisse and markets such as the Berkeley Bowl, where the air buzzed with a sense of what she called “food energy.”

“It’s not just about eating. It’s how people gather at markets to socialize and catch up with neighbors as they shop. It’s the sounds of local musicians playing among the produce stands. I have long felt that Brighton should have this kind of gathering place, and I’m glad to watch its success,” she said.

Since 2008, the market held each Sunday in the Brighton High School parking lot from May through October is a testament of Brighton’s desire for high-quality and locally grown food. One thing Gardner Smith admits is that from a short-term perspective, eating organic and local is a bit costlier. Also, a recent Stanford University study recently concluded that organic food is no more nutritional than conventionally grown food.

However, she believes these factors will not curb the organic, locavore trend. This is because people are starting to put values on reducing their carbon footprint and the use of harmful pesticides, and developing a direct and trusting relationship between the grower and the producer at local markets.

“The study missed the point and had too narrow a focus. When you buy local and organic, you develop a sense of trust with the farmer, and you are also helping to support the local economy,” she said.

In addition to buying locally produced food, Brighton residents also expressed a desire to get their own hands dirty in avegetable garden of their own. In 2009, the creation of a community garden in Brighton seemed like the next step.

“It seemed like an obvious sister project to the market,” said Gardner Smith, who with a committee helped build a fence and a gate system around 100 10-foot by 10-foot plots on Westfall Road by the historic Groos house. Outside of a few stubborn groundhogs that managed to breach the fence, Brighton residents have enjoyed the bounty of their harvests.

Now that the shorter days and cooler nights of autumn are here, it is time for Gardner Smith and the other Brighton gardeners to put their plots to rest for the winter. But that doesn’t mean that plans for coming years will be put into hibernation.

Her ambitions for future years include using funds from a $250,000 state grant awarded to the town to preserve a farmhouse, a barn and some of the farmland on Westfall Road. The proposed project aims to create a permanent location for the farmers market and an expansion to the community garden with educational opportunities for schoolchildren to learn more about agriculture.

“Not only is my job rewarding, it’s also a lot of fun. I’ve met so many wonderful people in Brighton who are committed to this meaningful work that really has made a difference.”

Indeed, Sue Gardner Smith’s name suits her well.

Hello, Pumpkin! (And Tomatoes, and Basil….and Corn…..)

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Like any venture in farming or gardening, my garden this year had its successes and failures.

My eggplant plants never made it past seedlings, their leaves turned into lace work by pests.

My cucumbers suffered the same fate, not before offering a few vegetables to pick.

But, there are some vegetables that made it through.

Many people think of October as time for picking pumpkins, but don’t tell that to these two fine specimens:

As I picked them out of my garden, a fellow gardener in a neighboring plot said: Wow, look at that pumpkin! Isn’t it EARLY for pumpkins?

Maybe. Maybe these orange orbs are a bit early to the party, but  don’t tell them that, you’ll hurt their feelings.

Then, there are the tomatoes:

This is the first batch of my tomatoes. Some are as big as grapefruits.

I cut this one and made a tomato/mayo sandwich with some bread I picked up at a local bakery (okay… that local bakery is Panera’s, but it’s still local).

Now, I have some mozzarella in my working refrigerator, and some basil in my garden. I’m off to get another loaf of bread so I can make another sandwich.

What are your favorite recipes this time of year? Send them my way and you can guest post on my blog.

I’m not Crazy, I’m Just Trying to Find Stories!

I’ve had lots of free time on my hands this month as my kids are all (I mean all three!) away at summer camp and my husband, well, he still has to work so we can eat and have a roof over our heads.

Me, I’ve had time to explore and actually wander around the outlying towns I cover instead of just “visit” the towns on the Internet through municipal webpages.

Sure, there is lots of information about events, festivals  and programs online, but there is no substitute for hitting the pavement and asking around.

On such a visit to Fairport, I took a break, sat by the Erie Canal and called my brother in New Jersey.

He asked what I was up to.

“Oh, I need to write a profile story about a person from a town I really know very few people, so I’m walking around this cute little village called Fairport. I’m  stopping into the library and local shops and saying hello and asking people for ideas.”

He paused. He chuckled. Then he began to speak. When my brother speaks, he has no filter. At least not  with his sister.

“You’re going around ASKING random people if they have ideas for you? You know who does that? CRAZY PEOPLE!!”

Perhaps. Perhaps the unstructured time of summer has driven me mad. But just  wandering around I gathered the following for story ideas:

  • A beauty shop that carries only sustainable products and is one of the only salons in the country that has a state of the art ventilation system that is constantly bringing in fresh air to protect the health of clients and employees. They also collect food for the local food pantry and portions of their profits go to a well project in Uganda.
  • An upcoming music festival
  • An ice cream shop owned by a Xerox manager called the Moonlight Creamery that has special wine-food-ice cream pairing events and crazy flavors like oatmeal ice cream.
  • Most of all, I found a golf fund-raiser to raise money for a Fairport football coach battling a degenerative neuro muscular disease. The minute I saw it, I said, THAT’s my story.

But, I can’t wander around all the time, people. I need your help.

I need for you to tell me about great little shops on the east side of Rochester that have great shop owners with interesting lives.

I need to know what organizations you’re giving your time to and what events that are coming up that go with your cause.

I need to know about the issues in your town you care about, how you are getting involved and how others can do the same.

Fall is coming. I’m nearing the end of my story idea rope and I can’t wander around the streets in the cold of February. Send me your best ideas NOW!

The Garden that Ate the Community Garden

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It’s been more than a few weeks since I’ve written about my garden. I’ve had to pack the kids for camp. I was away visiting family and friends in New York City.  There are several writing deadlines I must complete before the end of next week. And the family is in a bit of transition. More on that in a later post.

But, at the beginning of the summer, I said I would post about my garden, and I’ve got to get back on track.

Since early May I have been tending a 10 x 10 foot plot in my town’s community garden. I have been watering diligently

through this very dry summer.

When I was away,  I left my garden in the care of some  friends who have a plot  adjacent to mine. They have a garden that is not only well cared for but is sealed like a fortress against any critters that may want to feast on their crops.

After a week of being away, I was tempted to drive out to the garden the night we arrived home. But there were kids and suitcases to unpack and get into the house. The garden would have to wait.

No one can tell me that there isn’t a time difference between New York City and Rochester.

Maybe its just the pace of time that moves faster “downstate” because when we returned from our week away in good ‘ol NYC, I was exhausted and slept until after 8 that morning.

I tried to push some energy into my voice when the phone rang and woke me at 8:15.

It was my gardening friend.

“Have you been over to the garden? I didn’t wake you?  Did I?”

No, of course you didn’t wake me, I said, faking a wide awake tone into my voice. But, considering I just got home at nine the night before, and my garden would not be visible in the darkness.

I thought, is she mad? I’m still in downstate jet lag…why don’t Rochesterians get that there exists jetlag when returning from New York City? And you don’t even need to fly to get it!

“Well, you should get over there soon. Your garden is becoming known as the Garden that Ate the Community Garden!”

Indeed. In just one week’s time, my garden had exploded.

Now, compare my community garden at its humble beginnings back in May:

My garden when it was no more than a patch of weeds.

I cleared it and planted tiny seeds:

And now:

Sunflowers have grown taller than my tallest child.

Both the sunflowers – and the children

- have some still to grow:

Pumpkin vines are creeping everywhere. I’ve actually received gentle reminders from my garden neighbors to please retrain my vines back into my garden plot and out of the common garden paths.

And, unlike a sun deprived pumpkin vine, not only am I getting blossoms that have been host to a number of pollen-intoxicated bees, but I actually have 5-10 pumpkins taking shape. I’ll need to make a lot of pumpkin pie this fall.

Not to mention a lot of tomato sauce:

The full sun of the garden has produced such strong leaves on my tomato plants, it looks like they’ve been going to the gym.

There have been some failures, of course every garden has them. My eggplant plants were eaten first by beetles and then strangled and overgrown by the invasive pumpkin vines.

The basil seeds I sprinkled never made it in this dry summer without a good daily watering.

But so far, this experiment in community gardening is paying off. Harvested my first crop of purple beans for dinner last night:

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