Friday, July 10, 2009

Alissa does PA

Day 1
Started out by getting up at 4am to catch a 6:15 am flight to Philadelphia. Since Melanie only had Cliff bars to eat for breakfast, Alissa decided on arrival that she needed some actual food. Melanie's Dad suggested a Lower Pottsgrove favorite called the Sunflower Cafe. There she ate eggs "Shirley Style" (scrambled with toasted homemade zucchini bread and grilled veg), although she probably stole some of the bacon off Dad's plate.

On the way to Dad's house, they decided to stop at Melanie's step-sister's (Amy) new salon Belle Ami. Melanie joked about getting a manicure and pedicure at the last minute, but Amy took it seriously and fit them in for a short but sweet pampering session.

After a long nap and a few phone calls, it was time for dinner with friends (Heather and Mark) at a newly opened Japanese restaurant (it's a big deal for that part of the world anyway). Alissa ate lots of sushi and ate Melanie's portion of the green tea ice cream.

Mark and Heather had befriended the bar tender and manager on an earlier visit, and since Melanie noticed they were quite handsome, asked if she and Alissa could be introduced as well. Alissa asked Melanie if she had a thing for Asian guys and the subject was quickly changed.

Day 2
Alissa, Melanie, and Dad decided that this would be a great day to drive to Jim Thorpe, PA at the base of the Poconos. First up was a ride on an old steam train through the Lehigh Valley Gorge, and all the touristy things that went with it.

Afterward there was a trip to the Asa Packer mansion, as Dad likes old houses.

Then it was time to eat lunch, wander around and look at the beautiful architecture, and taste some local wine. Alissa and Dad were taken (dragged?) to a local organic/Buddhist cafe where Dad tasted hummus for the first time. Alissa thought the Chardonnay was the best at the winery.

Day 3
Alissa was wanting to check out two LYSs in Reading, PA, but a quick check of the websites indicated they were closed. Dad thought they could go out to Lancaster county to the big craft warehouse (because he loves driving out there) and see what turns up. Low and behold, a new (to Melanie) LYS appeared on one of the main roads out ("Go back! Go back!"). The store had lots of shiny things to look at, and Alissa needed her picture taken with the afghan with purple in it. Melanie walked away with a skein of lace alpaca and 3 skeins of fingering weight (because Alissa is an enabler). Alissa also got quite the giggles over the store attendant thinking that Melanie's dad was her husband, which Melanie explained was a hazard of having a dad with no grey hair at age 64.

The craft warehouse was a disappointment, but Dad had a much better idea. We were not far from a town called "Intercourse" so Alissa had to have her picture taken next to the sign. She was also informed that the driving route goes from "Blue Ball" to "Intercourse" to "Paradise." (Alissa insisted Melanie was making it up, but she is not. Check the map.)

Melanie decided Alissa needed to have a hand-rolled soft pretzel from one of the Mennonite run businesses before stopping at the next LYS. Warm out of the oven cinnamon sugar pretzels take precedence over yarn when one is hungry.

At the Lancaster Yarn Shop Melanie picked up a skein of Alpaca from a local farm (Was the fact that Alissa is an enabler mentioned?) and Alissa also got to knit a few rows on the charity scarf. More about that here.

Dad made sure there was also time to stop and take pictures of the beautiful farmland.

Monday night it was time to move in with Heather and Mark for the remainder of the stay. And for Alissa to meet Faschnacht.

Day 4
Alissa was hoping to do part of the Brandywine wine tour with Melanie and her mom, but since Mom wasn't feeling well they went to see "Up!" in 3-D instead. ("Squirrel!"). Since it was 20 degrees cooler in PA than TX it was a nice day to sit on the deck that Mom's husband had built.

Day 5
Most of the day was spent at Melanie's friends' Bill/Grace's log cabin in Lower Pottsgrove. Alissa needed to have her picture taken on the porch and by the purple flowers flanking the coi pond. Do you think Melanie and Alissa share an affinity for a certain color?

Day 6
Thursday was another trip with Dad to Longwood Gardens, the world's premier horticultural showplace (according to the website) and one of Melanie's favorite PA stops. Alissa was able to take in the Japanese garden, the bell tower and waterfall, the fountain gardens, the conservatory, the idea gardens, and Melanie's favorite, the lily pad display.

Thursday was also Heather's Dad's 81rst birthday, and Alissa and Melanie were invited to join them for a lovely meal at the William Penn Inn, complete with snapper soup.

Day 7
Alissa joined Melanie and sister for a 12 mile hike along the Perkiomen trail. They also encountered the cousin of the snapper from the soup the night before.

Day 8
Alissa and Melanie were supposed to attend a wedding. Ask Melanie about the drama involving the "supposed to" part. Instead, the day was spent knitting, reading, and napping on Mark and Heather's beautiful shaded porch.

Last Day
Up early, although not so early, for a breakfast with Heather and Mark, and then off to the airport. Here is where Melanie learned that sunflower butter is a deadly weapon so it can't be taken in the carry on. Fortunately, the alpaca lace, Lancaster alpaca, and 3 skeins of Nature Spun made it back to TX safely.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Where the Real Nature is....

We decided to get ready for our Trip! Alissa insisted that we needed knitting – but with five of us traveling, I knew we would have to keep it light.

I know – I couldn’t believe that was all we were taking as well – but it worked out beautifully.
And we were off!
Our first stop was in Oklahoma City. We had to stop at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building . It is a touching memorial - quite beautiful and overwhelming. Alissa insisted that we would have to come back again and spend time in the museum.

Then we stopped at the ONLY YARN STORE ON THE ENTIRE TRIP. Yup – just the one. We knew that even with two of us clamoring to go to yarn stores – that we would not be able to stop at all of them and there was no room to fit even ONE skein of yarn (I am serious about that). So we decided to pick just this one. We stopped at SWAK in Guthrie.

Yes – Betty Boop is becoming converted. She actually brought some knitting with her on this trip and knit for a while! I know Alissa was secretly thrilled. I am hoping it is more than a fad for her and she learns to enjoy it for her entire life.
Our first evening was in a small hotel and Alissa staked out the bed before Boop and I could decide. It was a little crowded with three – but we had pillows enough for everyone. The hotel rooms got progressively larger with each night (not on purpose) but it was a good thing. Because by the time you get to the end of the trip – you don’t want to be in close quarters any longer…

Again Alissa was making all kinds of decisions about where we would stop, she insisted that we stop at the world’s largest ball of twine.

Please note this is Sisal Twine and it was HUGE. Since it is outside with only a covering over it – it did smell a little – but Alissa still wanted to start knitting with it. (The Big Texan had to hold her back).

Then because the Big Texan is fascinated with Stonehenge – we had to stop at Carhenge . This is an exact replica of Stonehenge made out of CARS!!!

We finally talked Alissa & The Big Texan into getting back in OUR car so that we could get going on to our REAL destinations…

We did run into a few road blocks along the way…
Buffalo – yes Buffalo.

This one decided that our front headlamps had enough bugs on them to make a meal and it began to lick the front lights… Then it had an itch and it began SCRATCHING ITSELF on the car!!! The whole car moved!

Where did we end up going?
Mount Rushmore … we thought there should be a few more faces added to the monument… see?

Crazy Horse memorial in South Dakota …
Here is a small scale of what the final monument is proposed to look like. (or at least the horse part)...


Since Alissa was paying – and we all took the bus up to the side of the mountain for a closer look. Alissa says I look a little like Crazy Horse (or maybe she said that I just look a little Crazy, I am not sure…)

We did cook dinner in our room that night. Alissa had told me to pack a crockpot in my suitcase and we put together dinner before we went out on some of our excursions. We did have a delicious Crock pot lasagna (but she would not share the recipe – so I had to try to memorize it). She also wouldn’t let me take pictures of her making it – but I think I will be able to recreate the meal at home.

We then were headed up to Montana but we had to make a quick stop in Wyoming. Does anyone remember the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”? Well we had to go and see Devils Tower in Wyoming! Alissa was surprised that it wasn’t made out of mashed potatoes – but I reminded her that would have been hard to get enough butter for that many mashed potatoes anyway…

We did get to Montana and visited Great Falls – but the camera needed new batteries (it was Alissa’s turn to charge them and she forgot) so we only got a few pictures. But I promise it was beautiful country.

Our next foray was down to Yellowstone National Park .We stayed two days in Yellowstone and saw so many beautiful things! We saw an eagle’s nest (but we couldn’t stop and take a picture – we had to do a drive by picture)

We saw some Falls

Alissa wanted to take a picture – so we let her, but I don’t know WHY we wanted this guys arm in it…

We saw some Mammoth Springs

We had dinner out of the crockpot again that night. It was my turn to cook and I made a Beef Stroganoff. It came out delicious and I would share the recipe – but I think Alissa might want to keep it a secret too…

We did stop at the gift shop and Alissa wanted to buy this book – but she didn’t have quite enough cash on her – so she settled for a picture…

Our last day in Yellowstone – we got to see old Faithful.
Before it erupts

During eruptions

Here is a tree for scale. It is about 75 feet tall.

At the end of it’s eruption

Then we had to take a photo opportunity at the Continental Divide!!!

We went through the Grand Tetons

We took so many pictures and made so many stops that The Big Texan would not stop anymore and we had to start taking pictures out the car window. Alissa is pretty good at that.

We drove through Jackson Hole

On the way to Denver to visit some family and then we SPED home. We packed the camera that night and didn’t even pull it out because we had to drive from Denver to Lubbock in one day and then from Lubbock on home the next. We knew we wouldn’t have time to take ANY pictures and quite honestly we were ready to be home

I have to say that Alissa is a great traveling companion and a terrific peace maker. She would always step up and settle things when there were any disagreements in the car.

But she didn’t take her turn driving…