So, last week was my 40th birthday, as I noted at the time. Because of work schedules, we rarely celebrate birthdays on the dates on which they fall; instead we schedule some time off as near as we can, and celebrate then. It was a great week, though, it really was. Of course, it got off to the perfect start, with this happening:
And the week really did stay about that good! I worked a short work week before taking a five-day weekend (which includes today, so I’m back to work tomorrow), and I wasn’t unproductive during that work week, either. Then The Wife and I had a nice couple of days off together, during which we took a little trip, and as several people asked me on Facebook and in e-mail, there were pies.
But more on those in a bit…random thoughts and stuff first.
:: Autumnal weather has at last taken hold in Western New York…which, for me, means “time for overalls”. That’s just one of many reasons why this time of year is my favorite. Cool weather means overalls, and time off means naps!
Of course, naps are always welcome, but there’s something about naps in fall and winter that makes them so much better than naps in spring and summer. Sometimes naps in summer feel like wasted time. Of course, that’s just humans, I suppose. Cats never feel like napping is a waste of time. In fact, I wonder sometimes what the evolutionary benefit is to cats of getting all that sleep!
I also wonder where cats slept before the invention of the cardboard box.
:: Car repair places irritate me. We had to take The Wife’s van in for some work, and wouldn’t you know it, they found other stuff wrong that really needs to be fixed soon soon soon! We’ll get those things fixed, but not at that place, which is almost certainly overpriced. The only reason we went there is that we needed to get the tires rotated, which is free since that’s where we got the tires. We also had them check the oil and find out what the “Check Engine” light was all about, which is where it all started. Luckily it’s not super-pressing, so we can save up money and then get the fix done. But ye Gods, I hate the “Hey, we found some stuff on your car!” stuff.
But hey, at least we’re not this guy:
Ye Gods, indeed! This, folks, is why I maintain a state of deep suspicion of other people when I’m driving.
:: The Wife and I made our annual excursion to the Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival this weekend. We discovered this festival quite by chance in 2007, when we planned a getaway sans destination. All we knew was that we were going away, but we had no idea where. I did some Googling and found out about this Festival, and aside from 2008 (when The Wife journeyed to see her ailing mother), we’ve gone every year since. But Ithaca’s quite a long drive from Buffalo (two-point-five to three hours), so we always stay someplace in Rochester overnight and then take the remaining drive the next day. This year we stayed near the Eastview Mall, and we had dinner at PF Chang’s, where we’d never eaten before.
We loved the meal we had there. They have a nice “dinner for two” menu which made the meal more reasonable than we’d even expected, and the food we had was really quite good. No, it wasn’t as good as the best Chinese I’ve ever had — that honor goes to a dim sum place in Toronto, and the Shanghai Restaurant, also in Rochester (Henrietta, specifically) — but it was certainly better than the local takeout joints we like to frequent at Casa Jaquandor. I took some photos of our food, and I put them on Flickr, but…they’re not very good photos. Too dark, really. I was taking them with my phone, and I had the flash off as the phone flash is an LED that makes everything look slightly unnatural. Sometimes I like that effect, but not with food. Anyway, we shared an appetizer of crab-filled wontons (pretty much the same idea as any “crab rangoon” you’ll get anyplace else, although much better prepared), cups of hot-and-sour soup (again, same idea, but terrifically prepared), and then we split Kung Pao Shrimp and Orange Peel Chicken. It was a wonderful meal.
And the place was packed when we arrived, so we put our name on the list and then went to wander the mall for a bit. It’s been several years since I’ve walked a mall. I remember the Eastview Mall from when I was ten years old — the place has been there for many moons — but it has more than doubled in size since then, and now it is positively massive, with several wings added since then that are actually larger than the one wing that used to comprise the entire mall. Lots of folks think that malls are dead, but they’re not; they seem to be accreting, though, so an area with a bunch of small malls eventually becomes an area with one big mall.
Oh, and for ten bucks I got a set of Star Wars cookie cutters at Williams-Sonoma. Score!
:: The next morning we departed Rochester (OK, Victor) for Ithaca. Someday I want to have more than just a single overnight trip for this journey, because really, I just love that part of New York State. It actually starts right in my own town, with the start of Route 20A, which is my favorite drive anywhere. It’s just a gorgeous drive, through the hill country that rests about ten to twenty miles south of the flat I-90 corridor. Sure, since we were going to Rochester I could have saved at least half an hour by taking the Thruway, but why do that? The Thruway has zero personality…and to drive it, you have to pay tolls. Ugh.
After spending the night in Victor (a southeastern suburb of Rochester), we drove the next day first through Pittsford and some of Rochester’s eastern suburbs and then farther east, through towns like Phelps, Palmyra, Waterloo, and Seneca Falls. I always love driving through these towns, with their central business districts lined with brick buildings, occasional crossings of the Erie Canal, and out in the country between towns, driving past farms and properties where the houses often look like they were built before the Civil War. Undoubtedly, some of them were. There’s a real sense of driving through history, I find, in those old towns. Waterloo bills itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day. Seneca Falls played a role in the women’s suffrage movement. And Joseph Smith originally hailed from Palmyra…which means that in the space of less than fifty miles, we drove through the birthplaces of Memorial Day, womens’ rights, and the Mormon church!
And then there’s the drive south to Ithaca itself. Because of the presence of the Finger Lakes, each one running north-to-south, between Buffalo and Ithaca, there is no ‘straight line’ route available. You either drive south, and then east; or you go east, and then south. We always do the latter, so we can drive along the shores of Cayuga Lake. The Finger Lakes are just stunningly gorgeous, all year. I adore that whole region…and at last, it was into Ithaca for the Apple Harvest Festival, huzzah!
:: On our previous trips to the AppleFest, each time it’s been a gorgeous, bright, crisp, sunny Fall day. This time…not so much.
Yeah. Brrrr. Luckily I wisely dressed in layers.
Cold, rainy, and dingy.
As usual, there was a pilgrimage to Autumn Leaves Books, with their nice stock of F&SF. I could spend an hour here, easily. Autumn Leaves is not your “typical” used bookstore, with dim lights and stacks of books teetering everywhere; this store is bright, spacious, and organized. This time I wrote out a list of books that I wanted to look for — mostly space operas, of course — and I actually found one. I also bought an SF book by LE Modessit Jr — I’ve never read him before — and a fantasy trilogy by an author I’d never heard of before at all. Why not?
It wasn’t all bookstores for me, though…we looked up a knitting/crocheting store for The Wife, and she loved the place. She’s developed a real love of crocheting over the last couple of years, and she’s always on the lookout for good places to buy supplies. She liked the selection, the bright organization (some yarn stores can be dark and depressing, she says), and the pair of women who worked there were very gregarious and helpful. Of course, I know next to nothing about yarn, so while she was looking at stuff…
…I was taking photos of myself in the mirror and of cool-looking yarn.
Eventually we warmed up with some hot cider…
…and had a lunch of waffles and fried chicken. Now, I had expressed some skepticism of this food combo when I first encountered it, but I must admit…it’s a terrific match! Loved it. Next year we’re getting two of ’em. There’s this wonderful little restaurant in the middle of the Downtown Commons in Ithaca that features waffles in what must be dozens of permutations.
Finally, after touring all of the craft tents (where we bought The Daughter a bracelet and where I bought The Wife a necklace-and-earrings set), we decided that it was time to start heading home. And it was a good time for that, too, because this is what the weather turned out like an hour or so later:
On the way home we stopped for dinner at a joint in Avon, NY called Tom Wahl’s, which is a burgers-and-dogs drive in…but the burgers were really very good and their onion rings are fantastic. It’s a chain in the Rochester area, and their root beer is awesome.
:: And finally, there was my favorite part of the week: the coconut cream pies. Four of ’em, thick and gooey and creamy. Mmmmm, pie….
Then to blow out the candles…
…and, finally, splat!
Here’s the video I made of this pieing.
Yeah, I know, it’s weird. So what? It’s also fun. Life is just too short to take oneself seriously all the time. Maybe I’ll get five pies in my face when turn fifty! A pie in the face isn’t exactly a birthday tradition for me — we do it once or twice a year whenever, depending on opportunity — but maybe it will be now. Pies in the face rule.
So, to recap: the Bills beat the Patriots; I get to wear overalls again (which, I might add, are all fitting better since I’ve been losing weight!); an overnight trip with my wonderful wife through the finest parts of New York; used bookstores; yarn stores; new jewelry for the ladies in my life; dinner at PF Chang’s; Star Wars cookie-cutters; waffles and fried chicken; burgers and onion rings at Tom Wahl’s; and I get hit in the face with four coconut cream pies.
That’s a great week, folks.