Traveling With Others

I am very, very hesitant to travel with others. So many of my travels have been alone, which I’ve loved. When something goes wrong (because things always go wrong when I travel), I don’t have to worry about anyone else. I can go out and meet new people when I need a friend, but I can always get away when I need to be alone. Traveling with someone else can be terrifying.


Solo on the west coast of Scotland.

And yet I’ve broken this rule several times. Continue reading


Field Trip to Asia

Back when I lived in Madison, I drove past several Asian grocery stores on my way home from work each day, and thanks to friends in the know, I got hooked on certain products from their mysterious and inviting shelves. I thought I’d be fine when I moved back to PA, but no. Inevitably, I began feeling the need for sweet red bean paste, citron tea, and glutinous rice flour, none of which are available in my little town.


Enter Penn State University. Thanks to the international student body, the town of State College can sustain several Asian grocery stores, and on Monday, I took a field trip to stock up on supplies.

At first I thought I wanted to go by myself, and then I started to picture my grandma in these stores and invited her to come along. At 90 years old, my grandma loves grocery shopping, and she was thrilled to join me and my mom for an all-new grocery store experience.

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I’m back!

Guys, Merry Christmas to ME! After a month of being computerless, I finally bit the bullet and bought a new laptop. I don’t want to get into which kind I got because I don’t want to be all product-placement about it, but I love it, and it’s fast, and I’m keeping it far away from water.

In the meantime, what have I been up to, you ask? Continue reading

Longish Absence

I spent last weekend in Baltimore, and I’m working on a post about that visit, but it will be a little bit. Sadly, the Wookiee’s yearlong fight with kidney disease ended this morning after a turn for the worse. He was my 16th birthday gift, and he’s the one who, after my first trip to Germany and spending a month away from home, welcomed me back by sitting on my head. A companion for half my life, he was a pet, a guard cat, a mascot, and an icon.

I’ll try to write my Baltimore post, but no guarantees when I’ll publish. Perhaps some would say he was just a cat, but all I can think of now are the times when he was so much more.

Rethinking Titles and Loving Van Gogh at the Barnes Museum, Philadelphia

Me: It was so good getting lunch with you!
Cousin: I loved catching up! I’d better make the blog!

True praise, indeed! Whenever I’m in Philadelphia, I try to see several friends even if I’m there only a short time, and one of the great benefits of taking the train is that I can always fit in an early lunch at 30th Street Station before the westbound Pennsylvanian pulls out. So even though I spent most of my weekend with Til, an old friend from college, I was able to wrap up the trip sharing a lunch and conversation with my cousin*, who’s a big fan of my blog. (Girl, why didn’t we get a picture of us together before you went back to work??) May this be just the first of many meet-ups with faithful readers on my travels.

Whenever I visit Til, our weekends tend to include some combination of old movies, needlework, and nachos. This weekend was no exception, but before succumbing to our sophomore-year habits, we had a yard sale at her new house and visited the Barnes Collection downtown.

Know how you always whisper for some reason in an art gallery? This weekend we knew the reason: Til had lost her voice. Ten years ago, I lost my voice when she visited me in Germany, so now we’re even. Well, not quite. I wasn’t relying on her as interpreter in this case, even if Philadelphians do say “water” differently than the rest of the world.

Dr. Barnes was a scientific, methodical man who devoted his mind and self-made fortune to acquiring and understanding art. The cashier at the gift shop pointed out the symmetry in the galleries: he’d arranged his art like the periodic table. Top to bottom, side to side. The result is a wall of art, all feeding off of and informing one another, quite unlike a typical gallery that leaves each piece on its own.

Additionally, he didn’t want to label the art with little plaques all over the place, so instead, there’s a booklet in each gallery that tells you the name, artist, and year for each piece. Let me tell you why I love this idea. In Gallery 1, a painting captured me and stirred my emotions. A very ill person lay, apparently dying, on a sickbed, while someone (their child? a doctor?) leaned over them holding their hand. How poignant, I thought. How moving.

Curious, I opened the booklet to see who painted it and learned that it’s called The Hypochondriac, by Honoré Daumier. What a turn! I had to look at it with all new eyes and a greater appreciation for the power of titles in visual art as much as written. I never would have had that experience if a plaque had left out all the mystery.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the museum, so I’ve found my favorites on their website to share here. (All images are theirs and theirs alone. Please visit their collection website to learn more about each one and see the rest!) By the end of the museum, I had developed an eye for Renoir and noticed I’m drawn to images of Montmarte. I want to be as good at titles as Glackens, and I want to pet Van Gogh’s canvasses with their distinct brushstrokes. I walked away from the gift shop with a birthday gift for my nephew and a postcard of a Toulouse-Lautrec for myself. I hope you enjoy the collection.

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Winterthur Museum and Gardens, Delaware

I’m working on a post about my whirlwind visit to the Finger Lakes of New York last week, but today’s post is about Winterthur and the drive across PA last Sunday.

After Mom’s meetings in Harrisburg on Friday (during which I toured the capitol and state museum), and our foray into family history at the Conrad Weiser Homestead on Saturday, we sailed farther east and visited the Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Delaware.

Mom went to Winterthur a few years ago, and she knew I would love the house and gardens, so we scheduled a noon introductory tour. I had expected to learn a little more about the house than the items inside it, but for an introductory tour, it certainly gave me a lot to look at.

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Conrad Weiser Homestead

I’m sure some people learn about their genealogy and find they’re descendants of famous people. My mom has not had that experience. The closest we come to famous ancestors is Conrad Weiser, the brother of an ancestor and an interpreter between the colonists and Native Americans of 18th-century Pennsylvania.

Beautiful day for wandering around outside.

Beautiful day for wandering around outside.

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Living With Mom

In the movie Failure to Launch (which I don’t remember really liking all that much), the main character Tripp and his friends Ace and Demo each live with their parents. It’s the point of the movie—they’ve “failed to launch” into their own independent lives—and Tripp’s parents hire someone to seduce Tripp out of the house and into adulthood.

The part I did like about the movie was near the end, one of the emotional climaxes, when Ace admits he owns the house where he grew up (bought it from his mom) and has the basement tricked out in ultra-tech super-modern style. And when Ace sums up Demo—the guy who’s always rock-climbing and traveling—like this:

Bradley Cooper

And Demo, here, has chosen the life of a wanderer. I mean, sure, he technically still lives at home, but his permanent address is in his heart.

(Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Demo is played by Bradley Cooper. Which was arguably the best part of the movie.)

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