Saturday, May 30, 2015

On the Road 6: An Unexpected Purchase

   Travelling back from Florida by car has its advantages.   You don’t have to worry about flight delays or taking your shoes off in Security, or having too many suitcases, or putting your liquids in those miserable Ziploc bags. No, you just throw everything in willy-nilly and set off without  a care, save negotiating roads clogged with the hordes trying to head north in the spring.
  And there’s always room to add a few souvenirs en route. This can sometimes  get a little out of hand.  I once brought hubby back a bag of Florida oranges which were marmalade by the time we reached western New York.
   This time,  sister-in-law and I left  with good intentions.  Well you know what they say about the road to hell. We’d packed the car efficiently, we had our picnic cooler – no American  car traveller  is ever without one - which is why American hotels always have those noisy ice machines, inevitably right next door to your room.  We had supplies for the journey and  resolved not to add to the load – unless it was something we really, really needed.     Trouble is, there are plenty of places at the American roadside that would like nothing better than to tempt you out of your money - and your common sense.

We were in the middle of Then, further along,  in the middle of nowhere, we did a double take.  There, by the wayside, were  almost lifesize models of  a  giraffe, a hippo and a gorilla.  With a screech of brakes and the familiar, “I gotta see this!”, sister-in-law swerved through the gate.

 It was a garden ornaments place.

But this was America and there were acres of them.  

Acres of bunnies, acres of puppies, 

acres of   elephants, Madonnas,  angels, dragons,  sea captains.   Sea captains?

   “You bet!” said the man, “People love  ‘em in their yards”.  I was speechless.  Then, to be polite, I asked, “Do you have any birdbaths?” 
  “Sure do, Ma’am!”
   It was then that I saw it.  Not too plain, not too ornate,  entwined with a vine and butterflies, the most exquisite birdbath.  

But here we were still in the South with a full car.
  “If you can it get into the car,” I said to the man, “I’ll take it.
  “No problem!”  He huffed, puffed, pushed, shoved and twisted himself and the birdbath into unimaginable contortions,  then finally wiped his hands, satisfied.  The birdbath was squeezed behind the passenger seat.  I had to spend the rest of the trip sitting bolt upright with my legs bent but hey, what’s a little suffering for an object of beauty I’d never have got on a plane?

And here it is in the spring snow of western New York.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cows in Cuba

 No one knows why exactly this small town is called Cuba but it's one of those western New York places such as Holland, Sardinia and Yorkshire that you can get to quite easily without a passport, Though you do have to circumnavigate the world class potholes on Interstate 86 en route.
  Cuba has a nice collection of old houses and a fabled Cheese Shoppe, whose mural depicts a gentle, bucolic scene..

I wasn't the only one getting pictures of the cows. There's something delightfully lifelike about them.

Get a close-up of that bonnet! .

A pity that western New York dairy industry has fallen on such hard times. And with plummeting milk prices, the farmers need something to cheer them up.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

More Blossom Time

All my neighbours are agreed that this has been a bumper spring for appleblossom. Even crabapple blossom.

There hasn't been  major late frost, so far, at any rate. So I will have to go all American in the autimn and brush up on my apple pie skills. I did once bake a proper American apple pie, nervously cosulting the recipe every few seconds.. It turned out pretty well. I have to make my own as Americans always drown theirs in cinnamon. Like air-conditioning, loading everything edible with cinnamon is one of those American habits I could do without.

 And there are all kinds of other blossoms too, this one being outside a neighbour's house.I particularly like this darker pink which is something like a sorbet I once tasted and I can't now remember where. A pity it was a misty morning.

 Driving to town there are umpteen beautiful trees but, as with the best autumn leaves, they're never in places where you can easily stop and take a photo.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Tenacious Tulip ...And a Marauder

Meet my favourite snazzy tulip which hung on for a long time despite..

 A sudden influx of the biggest, fattest rabbits I've seen here for years. All I can say is..


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bittersweet Day at the Post Office

I went into the Post Office the other day to find a table in the lobby with an array of goodies. All the customers were invited to join a party for Sharon, who's retiring. A pity - she always dealt with my peculiar British questions with grace and patience. I shall miss her, as will everyone.

And how's this for an amazing cake?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cattaraugus County Quirks

A day wandering around our neighbourhood can yield all sorts of interesting sights.  One local farmer has a sense of humour. 

 And I bet you didn't expect to see a Highland bull in western New York. I expect he enjoys the winters more than the summers. Och Aye the Moo! (Interestingly, another local farmer has French Limousin cattle.)

 Meanwhile, our neighbour up the lane is sporting a new titfer. But it seems he met with an accident some time during the winter and his antlers now appear to be growing out of his jaw. Or perhaps it was the weight of all that snow we had.  Perhaps he needs an operation, or, as the Americans say, "surgery". They can do wonders these days.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Meanwhile,Back Home

Let's take a break from the road trip because....

In western New York

Things have started happening ..

The maple tree budding (and you should see it now, a few days later)


Putting on

 A brave show

All sorts of sweet little things in the grass

And tiny cones on the trees

And there's actually appleblossom (but heaven help it as we're in for a frost tonight)

It looks as though

Spring has sprung at last

Saturday, May 9, 2015

..And Surrey

.....or Berkshire or Herts perhaps.

Well, whatever, Aiken, South Carolina, could almost be in the English home counties. The bridle path might be on Esher Common. .

As could the house, flanked by azaleas,  

with its English-style stables

(most American horses live in barns and look out on the inside).

Aiken has polo fields and a race track and steeplechasing which is very unusual in America. And horses in every nook and cranny.

Not tacky or flashy like some Florida gated community...

Well, all right, not too flashy. There were plenty of smaller houses too, along the leafy lanes. A place that makes you think rainy rides and barbours and pony club and slightly muddy green wellies. Though the sign does give it away.

As do one or two other touches.

While I was taking photos,in a quiet street, a lady pulled up. I thought she was going to tell me I was trespassing but no, she enthused over sister-in-law's Vermont numberplate - she had some relations there. Aiken, she said, is a hidden gem. And she was right. If she didn't have to go to a boring meeting, she added,  she'd have invited us for coffee. That's America for you.
  Plus we found an interesting restaurant,  Davor's. From the name, I guessed it was owned by a Croat and that proved to be true. But the best thing about it was ...

...something called Tuxedo Cake. Now I know that I'm too prone on my road trips to gravitating towards decadent desserts then regretting it but this one proved to be a sweet surprise, as was Aiken.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

On the Road 5: In Ireland

There is one important way in which America differs from Britain....

You can visit several countries without leaving its borders.

Why, even here in western New York, we have Holland, Sardinia, Cuba (might have saved yourself all that hassle, Mr President), not to mention Yorkshire. This probably explains why 75 per cent of Americans are said not to have passports.

Monday, May 4, 2015

On the Road 4:Pecan Paradise

 Who can resist a sign like this?

I didn't know much about pecans but it seems they, rather than peanuts or peaches, are Georgia's real pride. And there's pecan pie of course.  And they weren't lying about the truckloads.

And when you looked the other way there was pecan oil and pecan brittle (which is extraordinarily good, until you accidentally splash water on it when it liquidises in a sticky mess) and pecan nougat bars. And these places always sell jars of pickles and jams with amusing names like "Good and Evil Pickles". . I'm always tempted to buy another jar - hence we've got so many we could open a shop. There's only so much jam and pickle you can get through.

There followed an attempt at lunch at one of the South's grimmer picnic spots. It looks picturesque enough, the trees draped with Spanish moss but you could only see the river by standing on a steep boat ramp ...

and goodness knows what lurked in that water.

Above the river was a dingy looking campsite - deserted at this time of year except by hordes of pugnacious mosquitoes. We snatched a sandwich at a grimy picnic table and hit the road again.