Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Apple Picking

My sister and niece flew out from L.A. yesterday to visit me for a whole week! The little one is currently obsessed with the Fancy Nancy book Apples Galore, so this morning we drove out to Stow to pick apples at Shelburne Farm.

You can walk through the orchards and fill up 10 or 20 pound bags with Macoun, McIntosh, Cortland, Empire, and Fuji apples. You can also pick what's left of the summer peaches, or get a jump on Halloween and buy a pumpkin instead.

We admired the farm animals, which included some donkeys and a llama, and then set out into the orchard.

We took a hay ride.

And we *had* to take a break for cider donuts!

Cider donuts rule.
So, what does 20 pounds of apples look like?

Our haul.
I tried to get my niece to do her best "Desperate Merry Wives" pose, but she went running after a dropped apple like Atalanta.

Tomorrow we head out to the Deerfield Fair in New Hampshire!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Twilight on the Pond

Did you see the Harvest Moon last night? I forgot all about it until I took the Merry Dog for an evening walk around Horn Pond and glanced up to see its full white face.

One of the pond's resident swans.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Reflections of a Householder

Pond at the Minuteman National Park Visitor Center,
Lexintgon, MA
While getting caught up on my high school alumni notes this weekend, I read that that a former classmate was ordained in July as a Benedictine priest. This after years of exploring Eastern spirituality and then living at a monastery in the Mohave Desert.

It is difficult for me to reconcile this holy image with my memory of the teenager who would sit and talk with me at lunch about cars, guitars, and surfing (the three primary obsessions of any So Cal teen) and then carry my books as we walked to 5th period Civics. But I am happy for him, and incredibly impressed that he has committed himself so completely to his pursuit of truth. Congratulations, Father Cassian.

I, on the other hand, am shopping around for God, or (more precisely) a new spiritual home. As a Unitarian in Los Angeles, my options were pretty limited. My preferred church was a good 40 minute drive away. Between the commute and coffee hour (free-trade, of course), I was lucky to get back home by 2:00.

But now I find myself in Unitarian Central - there are six congregations within a 5 mile drive. For the first time, I can be picky. On a rainy Sunday a few weeks ago, I visited First Parish in Lexington, right on the Battle Green. With its tall white steeple, Hutchings pipe organ, and old cemetery out back, it is the quintessential New England Church. Yesterday, I attended services at the Follen Church Society, also in Lexington. Follen is the oldest standing religious structure in Lexington. It was also the site of Emerson's last regular preaching gig before he chucked it all for Transcendentalism. They've kept his pulpit all these years, and now the congregation's brand-new slip-of-a-thing Reverend Claire preaches from it every Sunday at 10:30. A self-described Jewnitarian, she gave a beautiful sermon yesterday about Yom Kippur, imperfection, and atonement. I like to think Emerson would have approved.

I couldn't bring myself to take photos inside the sanctuary, so I've taken a few from their website.

Follen Church Society
755 Massachusetts Ave.
Lexington, MA
The sanctuary was shaped like an
octagon so that church-goers could
see and hear the minister and each other
Detail of Emerson's pulpit. Originally, the pulpit was at pew-level
so that the minister was not above his congregants. 
In a sign of the times, the old Unitarian church building in Woburn is now the Satsang Center. I like to think that Emerson, who was influenced by the Vedas, would have approved of this as well.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Independent Study

I am currently enjoying an extended sabbatical. That is, I haven't quite convinced myself to look for a job yet (it's on my to-do list, I swear). Instead, I'm using up my new town's free services, first and foremost, the library.

Woburn Public Library,
aka Winn Memorial Library

Statue of  Benjamin Thompson.
Isn't it pretty? The architect was Henry H. Richardson, who also designed Trinity Church in the Back Bay of Boston. The statue out front is of Benjamin Thompson, a Woburn-born physicist who served as a soldier for the Loyalists during the Revolution. After the war, he moved back to London. Apparently, all has been forgiven, and he now keeps a careful eye on the courthouse across the street.

The book stacks in the morning light.

When I moved here, I pictured endless hours spent loitering on the upper levels of the stacks, like Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone episode before he breaks his glasses. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that the stairs to the upper level have been chained off. The lovely iron balconies have become too rickety (librarian's words, not mine) and only library employees are allowed up. My inner reaction? "That's not fair. That's not fair at all. There was time now. There was all the time I needed....*sob*."

But onward. I am now happily requesting and checking out books with abandon, everything from 84, Charing Cross Road to the Prose Edda. Let the semester begin!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Running and Eating (But Mostly Eating)

On Labor Day, I drove an hour and half through the (very un-summery) pouring rain to meet up with some friends for the Acushnet 4 Miler Road Race. Fortunately for us, the storm cleared for the race. Though the humidity was still oppressive, at least we didn't have to contend with soaking feet and the attendant blisters.

Acushnet is an old whaling town with a large Portuguese population. My own heritage is mixed (think vigorously shaken, not stirred), and some of my ancestors were Portuguese whalers from the Azores who made their way to Honolulu, Hawaii. On lazy Sunday mornings, my dad would often fry up a batch of the Portuguese deep-fried pastries called malasadas that he loved so much as a kid.

But then, everyone loves malasadas. You could say that malasadas are to Hawaii what beignets are to New Orleans. Leonard's is the most popular place to get them (though I like Liliha Bakery). 

Malasadas at Leonard's Bakery in Hawaii
In short, I have really, really happy memories of eating malasadas. As an adult, I would often pick up a box of malasadas when I visited my parents on the weekends, stopping by King's Hawaiian Restaurant or standing in line for the "malasada lady" at the Torrance Farmers Market. They were, though, never as good as the ones my dad tossed into a vat of lava-hot oil and then into a brown paper bag of sugar.

Before the race, I asked my friend's husband where I could get a malasada nearby. As luck would have it, there was a Portuguese festival running through the holiday weekend. We could get malasadas there! The line though, he warned me, could take as long as 2 hours.

After the race, we sauntered over the festival, tired, grungy, and stinky. Luckily, the line wasn't terrible - yet. When we got to the front of the line, we waited several minutes for our order to be filled, allowing us to observe the malasada-making process up close.

Bits of dough were patted out into discs (like a small pizza dough). Then, into the fryer they went before being coated with sugar.

The finished product looked like this:

Sweaty but happy.
Note the empty picnic table behind me. By the time we left (after eating other delicacies like clam cakes and linguica sandwiches), the line was at least an hour long and every available seat was taken. In fact, people were camped out on their own folding chairs.

If you happen to find yourself near Acushnet and there isn't a festival going on, I have it on good authority that the place to go is Lydia's. 
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