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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Proud Neighbors of Collingswood House Tour

We had our house on the Annual Proud Neighbors of Collingswood's House Tour this past Sunday.  We literally had HUNDREDS of people coming through our house from 12 Noon until 5:30 pm.  Call me crazy, because I'm certainly calling myself crazy for agreeing to do this after only living here in the house for six months.  It was a fun and exciting day, filled with a lot of laughter.  We met so many wonderful people, heard so many complementary things about the house and have hopefully made a number of new friends and acquaintances in our new home town.  The day, while long and exhausting, was so worth the energy that we expended; the positives of the experience far outweighed the work we put into the day.
I worked for a few weeks on getting the house ready for viewing.  There wasn't that much to do but we really needed to clean, declutter and hang up art work.  About a week before the tour, we had our final two rooms repainted that were left undone; the 1st floor bathroom and our bedroom.  We lived with the original (previous) owner's colours but realized once the rest of the house was patched and repainted that these two rooms needed a make over too so that they would look showroom worthy. Plus the colours didn't go well with the new palate we chose.  Other than the repainting, I spruced up the lawn and garden and bought a few plants for the front porch.  Even though I worked tirelessly during the week leading up to the big tour day, the house was ready for its "coming out " party!
Sunday morning I did the final dusting and organizing and took Nate out for an hour so we could get ice and lemonade for our guests.  When we came home, the Proud Neighbors Committee had installed the sign on our lawn and the ribbons on the porch banister.  All wrapped up complete with bows!
At 11:30 am, the first two of our many volunteers arrived to help with the tourists, as well as help me wrangle Nate for the afternoon.  We were blessed with several amazingly patient and calm volunteers, Dave and Connie, and then Linda and two students from Collingswood High.  Dave got practice in either parenting 101 or learned a lesson in that he doesn't want to have kids after spending almost 2 hours playing with and chasing Nate all around the house and yard.  In a true, six degrees of separation fashion, it turned out that Dave works with an old friend of mine; he lives a block away from us; and his wife, Susanna, is a mutual "FaceBook" friend of mine, "introduced" to me via Dave's co-worker and my old buddy, Alysse.  
Our other volunteer assistant, Connie, is friends with our colleague, Susan Pollock, a singer who has worked with and for Liz at the Opera Company and other music venues.  In addition to this connection, I had heard about Connie and her partner, Marge.  They are legendary in Collingswood, known for their parties, their wonderful house and hot tub, their love of the Phillies and for being gracious and fun loving hostesses.  
At Noon on the dot, the first visitors arrived and a steady stream of people came traipsing through our house.  At several points in the day, a trolley or bus brought crowds of people to our street, unloading so many people at one time, the line of visitors went down the street and around the corner to where the trolley was parked.  When I saw the line of people I nearly fainted! I could not believe my eyes or that there were that many people waiting to see the house!


 I managed to grab my camera just in time to capture a smaller amount of people at the front door and walkway, just to show that indeed, I wasn't' exaggerating!  This was the tail end of the first onslaught of people!  I was so parched after talking to so many people for hours on end!

Nate did remarkably well considering he didn't nap all day and that we had so many strangers in and out of his house all day long.  Liz and I had our sitter and friend, Andrea, come over to help with Nate, but he wanted to either be with one of us or to go to the park or out for ice cream.  Just having the extra person on hand was a god-send, providing back up and moral support as well as an extra story-teller!

We met many people who knew about our house and a lot of its history.  The general story is that it was in serious disrepair for years.  It went through many owners in its 90 plus years of existence.  Neighbors from our street and a few blocks away all remember how run down it was; it's original look and condition; they knew about the former kitchen lay-out and remember that it did not look the way it does now.  One woman had been a realtor who had sold the house 3 owners ago.  She said it was so bad that they had no interior photos of the house to show.  Of course, this was in the days (not so long ago) before you staged houses and put  photos onto the Internet so you could sell it faster.

This same woman remembered that the kitchen was in a different layout and direction and that where our half bathroom is used to be the area where the refrigerator was!


Another woman was friends with the family who lived in the house decades ago.  She too reiterated that the house was a mess!  Too many kids, not enough money to keep up the house.  A third woman, a neighbor from a block away remembered the house and was so pleased to see that it had been brought back to life.


One of the committee people came towards the later part of the day and we spoke for a while about the selection process and her work with Proud Neighbors.  Bunny Hare (really! that's her name, and Bunny came first; she married Michael Hare!), told me she had been trying to get this house on the tour for years and years ever since it had been renovated.  The owners who flipped and renovated it and then the woman from whom we bought the house never replied to their requests! Here we thought they sent letters to everyone in hopes of getting a few responses! Nope, they wanted to see and show this treasure box.  I was right, they really liked this house, as do we.  Every day we wake up and are so grateful to live here, to have a beautiful home and to have ample room for Nate to play.  We are grateful and appreciative for all the hard work and money other people put into this house so that we could make it our home.  
 At the end of the event, and all of Monday and Tuesday, Liz and I could not stop remarking on how crazy it was that we had hundreds of people come through in one day.  It was one of the most unusual and fun experiences we've shared together.  I'm not sure I want to do it again any time soon but it sure made me appreciate even more the wonderful home and town in which we live.  I'm proud to be part of the Proud Neighbors of Collingswood.  I'm also a crazy neighbor, but that's what makes me unique!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hooray! It's Market Day The Collingswood Farmers' Market

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Living in Collingswood feels a lot like living in all of my favorite 1950's and 60's sitcoms and movies, laugh track and idyllic lighting included! Seriously, We are thoroughly enamored with life in our little quaint, funky, and hip small town.  The Collingswood Farmers' Market opened two weeks ago bringing a big abundance of produce, flowers, foods and a burst of spring to our village.  This is the 11th year of "America's Favorite Market" and it does not disappoint.  The farmers and vendors are very local, ranging within less than 100 miles; most vendors are within the immediate area, no more than a few dozen miles away.  This minimizes the carbon footprint factor and ups the ante on buying truly local homegrown goodness.

I've been to many markets in cities and towns wherever I travel.  We've been CSA Members of several farm shares and we frequent the many farmers markets in Philadelphia, from Rittenhouse Square, Headhouse Square to The Passyunk Avenue Farmers' Market at the Fountain.  Outside of the marketplace we visited in Sante Fe, New Mexico, Collingswood's market is THE BEST I've ever encountered  Astonishingly, the market's only been open for two weeks! I can't imagine how much more great stuff I'm going to be able to buy in the weeks to come.  

In critical comments I've made in the past about the markets in Philly, I've often felt that the biggest frustrating issues about them are that the prices are so high and prohibitive to everyone except those with more disposable discretionary incomes.  The market at Head House Square is stuffed into tight quarters and the people who shop there are just plain rude.  Stopping in mid-stall to chat with friends in total disregard to everyone around them.  Families with strollers and dogs who are oblivious to the personal space they take up (and being a parent, I'm so overly aware of this issue that I go out of my way to be polite); those without kids that have no regard for those of us trying vainly to maneuver with our bags and strollers so we can stay out of everyone elses' way.  My list of pet peeves goes on but you can see where I'm heading.  Location and spacial placement are key elements in what makes a good marketplace.  Reasonable prices, no price gouging or robbing us liberal do-gooders so we can buy our truly cage-free, organic eggs for the 5 bucks the farmers are demanding commanding.  

Is it too much to ask for fair prices, variety and a little space to move freely?  Perhaps it is in the city, but here in Pleasantville, we've got all the choices you could want and the land to roam and push one's granny cart or stroller wherever you want!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Day's Photos and a Contest

Flower shop Herb Garden in old containers and crates
I saw online that USAToday was a sponsor for a photographic project called A Day - Photos in the life of a day, mirroring the ONE DAY ON EARTH Video project done a year ago.  I'm a huge fan of these endeavors but I've not always had the opportunity to participate. Either I forget, my photos weren't up to snuff, or I found out about the project after it occurred.   Last year the Philadelphia Photo Center did a One Day in Philly Project and I submitted my photo to that contest but didn't get to see the installation.  At least with this project, eventually I'll see the final body of work. Hopefully one of the six photos I submitted will be used. 

Readers of my blog know that in addition to my passion for cooking and biking, I take photos every day.  Liz calls my food photography the oBLOGatory photo.  Nary a meal goes onto our dining table that's not photographed for future blog usage.  I carry my camera or cellphone with me everywhere, never knowing what I might spot but knowing I'll know it when I see it.  When I need to take a breather from work, I'll take a stroll around Rittenhouse Square or even walk further down into Midtown Village, snapping photos of signs, buildings and people along the way.  I almost always find something funky, cool and interesting.  Some of my favorite street art finds have happened during these lunch time meanderings.  Yesterday was no exception, adding more architectural details and street art to my growing portfolio.  

I encourage everyone to take more photos, even if you think you are not good at taking a picture.  You will get better! You'll discover that you find a rhythm and theme to your endeavors.  You may even meet someone fun or interesting.  If nothing else, it may bring you joy; it will certainly give you a creative outlet.  

These are my other photos in for a day in the life of May 15, 2012.  Two of them are my favorites and the rest are just part of my "style" of what I like to document.  

I'd love to know what you think, what images you like to or want to photograph. Leave me a comment.  Random lucky commenters will win a print of a photo of your choice!

Diebold Depository - an old bank night deposit box. Soon to be a relic of a bygone era

A bit of Street Art, done in the style of Shepard Fairey's "OBEY" Star Symbol. I'm guessing this was done by my friend DASH.  I love the reflections of the building in the glass.

Social Media Messages - getting the word out anyway they can

A collaboration of Philly area street artists/graffiti artist

Toasty and a Chill M&M Man - more local street art

Lance and Walter - employees at the Union League
This is my favorite of the bunch.  It's the photo that when I took it, I knew it would be the photo I was hoping to take.  I've also used it in my 100Strangers.com project.  It's my 26th photo in the series for the 100 Strangers Project.   While walking along Broad Street at Sansom, I passed the Union League Building, a grand gem of a bldg near City Hall on Broad Street. I was thinking of the irony of the building's creation, purpose, and its relationship to America today. It was built by the Union to support their  efforts during the civil war.  Today it represents the Republican party, monied old men and the GOP power players of Philadelphia. It does not freely welcome minorities, women or anyone left of center.  As I walked by, admiring the bldg and shaking my head, I saw Lance (left) and Walter (right/bearded) standing on the upper balcony, taking in the view.  I doubled back, smiled and chatted for a second or two and asked for to take their photo.  They thought I was a tourist taking photos, but when I told them I  live here and I love to take photos, especially of Philly landmarks and interesting Philly folks, they were more than happy to oblige me.  True gentlemen and proud employees of a venerable (yet conservative) institution of Philadelphia.                    
A spot of tea at Le Pain Quotidian
This is my 2nd favorite photograph of the day.  There was something so modern and foreign about this shot. The old weathered table, the French-style cup and teapot, the reflection of the city in the store's window.  It was a composition waiting to be documented. 
Another Night Depository Box - look around, these are everywhere!

May IS BIKE MONTH! And that means more biking for me!

Speaking of relics from the past: an inoperable phone booth and a bottle of coke

Williams Way Center Decorated with Pride

PATCO Station. I love these commanding signs, the geometric patterns and the point of view
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Like what you see? Would you like one of these images for your very own? Leave me a comment and tell me what you like to or want to photograph if you could.  I'll send you a print of a photo of your choice.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Parties at the Top Gun Abode

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We threw and an amazing party at out house, aka, The Top Gun Abode, a few weeks ago.  It was Liz's 40th birthday so the guest list was full of our close friends and family, many of whom have young children.  I made a video of all the photos I took that day, so that I could easily share the images to convey the feelings of the day in a concise way.  It was a very family-friendly party, culminating in the kids all digging in our ad-hoc "sandbox" behind our garage.  Every child that was not an infant, in someones arms, looked as though they had been put to work in the coal mines; all faces were smeared with so much dirt and soot that I'm sure they were all sneezing out dust for days!

Since we moved into the new house, we've been entertaining a lot.  Sometimes are gatherings are small, just with one or two other people.  Other times we've had up to a dozen people over for dinner.  We've always loved to entertain, host dinner parties or just hang out in our patio.  The new house is so spacious that we can entertain many more people that we ever imagined without feeling crowded in any one area. The wonderful thing about the new house is that there are plenty of areas for people to congregate and still feel connect to the happenings.  Or you can retreat to a quieter area to get away from the kids and chaos.  

I liked the video so much and the selections of music that I choose to fit each segment, that I wanted to share it here on my blog.  I know many of my friends have seen this on facebook, but hey, a gal likes to share and brag! This video deserves a few more look-sees!

In fairness to the artists who's songs I used, here's the "playlist":

  1. A Ha - Take on Me
  2. ABBA - Mamma Mia
  3. African Connection - La Go
  4. The Aggrolites - Banana
  5. Annie Lennox - Keep Young & Beautiful