Tag Archives: Longwood Gardens

Ode to the Empty Chair

Oh, you.

Just a day ago, you were a mere piece of furniture. Something functional, with a purpose. Something that most of us – when we saw you – didn’t give much thought about.

You certainly weren’t an object associated with ridicule.

In a mere 11 minutes, that all changed, thanks to Clint Eastwood’s bizarre appearance this week at the Republican National Convention.

Now, everyone in America (and around the world, really) is looking at you in a whole different light.

Except for me.

I’ve always revered you. And I always will.

You see, I confess. I have a thing for you, Empty Chair. Just ask The Husband, who can provide testimony to my … well, he’d probably call it a bit of an obsession. (I’m okay with that.) I’ve been known to stop mid-beach town walk to take a picture of your kind just lingering on a total stranger’s porch or on their lawn. Drives The Husband batshit crazy.

We’ll pay upwards of $20 per person to visit the likes of the Phipps here in Pittsburgh or Longwood Gardens outside of Philadelphia and I take 300 pictures of the flowers and greenery – I do – but give me an empty chair in our midst and I practically swoon.

My name is Melissa and love photographing empty chairs.

My mom’s back porch, Christmas Day 2009

I’m partial to Adirondacks and benches, wrought irons and wickers. I have a framed series of photos of empty chairs on a Cape May, New Jersey porch somewhere in a still-packed box.

Hell, I have a BLOG HEADER of an empty chair … one that I’m clinging to fervently even though I know it doesn’t quite go with the blog name or any name that I’m contemplating changing to. It’s staying. So be it.

As with a lot of makes-no-damn-sense-whatsoever shit in my life, I can trace this one back to when my Dad died and thus, a psychologist would probably love this as therapy fodder. (I’ve just had too many other agenda items to cover in the sessions I’ve had; we never got to the Empty Chair Obsession.) But really, anyone with a few credits of a psychology degree as I have can tell you that my thang with the empty chair, yes, indeed, mmm-hmmm, makes perfect sense as a symbol for someone missing in your life, always seeking to fill a space.

(I’m so good. Here’s my card. That’ll be $125 not covered by your insurance, please.)

It’s unfortunate, I know, but for the next couple days, people will still be talking about you in mocking terms. (Although, if you want to know the truth, they’re really kind of mocking poor Dirty Harry instead of you. You just happened to be there, dragged into the wrong place at the wrong time.)

My advice? It’s the political season. Your five minutes of fame will be over soon and people will soon once again not give a single thought or a passing glance to an empty chair (except me, that is). Then, we can go back to the way we were and my quirky obsession with empty chairs can remain just that – something artistic, not something to be associated with invisible Presidents and political satire and 82-year-old actors/mayors/gunslingers hollering “make my day.”

Besides, the Democrats have their convention coming up and then the campaign will start getting good.

So pull up a seat. Sit back and enjoy the show. Because you and me? We’re just getting started, baby.

Bench at my alma mater, June 2010

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh, PA
August 2011

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh, PA
August 2011

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Weekend Cooking: Farm to Feast (at the Phipps)



Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of a food-related post to share. Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. 


On Monday, the kids and I spent part of the day at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens  here in the ‘Burgh. (You can read my previous posts here and here.) Their Summer Flower Show “Living Harmoniously with Nature” was in full bloom, and one of my favorite exhibits was this garden party, featuring an edible garden and sustainable materials.

Your eye was immediately drawn to the gorgeous table setting (above) as well as the “guests.”  This was a rectangular courtyard-like room, with the actual garden party scene in the middle.  There was an edible garden in the midst and along the perimeter of the display, various vegetables were planted.

Part of the edible garden.

Kohlrabi.

Cauliflower 
Red cabbage.

I was trying to photograph the scene from every angle.  
It was impossible to capture the entire room.

The edible garden. 
This was the best shot I could get of the entire exhibit, just as you would walk in.
There were other exhibits featuring fruits and vegetables, including these strawberry plants. 

This was one of the kids’ favorites.  Do you know what it is? 

 

And where there’s chocolate, there is also …. 
And here’s another plant with a fun name! 

The kids were getting antsy, so we headed downstairs to the Cafe Phipps for a late lunch. All the food is made in-house, and the emphasis was very much on local, seasonal, organic, and sustainable.  All cups and flatware are compostable (which they do on-site) and water is filtered daily.  

It was Meat-Free Monday … something that the little face on the sign looks a little bummed out about.  (Rainy days – of which it was one – and meat-free Mondays always get me down ….) 

The kids and I opted for personal pizzas. Mine was the white pizza, below. 
Betty had pepperoni (despite it being Meat-Free Monday).
And Boo had a plain pizza ….

which quickly disappeared. 

A funny thing happened at lunch. A woman at the next table noticed me photographing our food (what, everybody doesn’t do that?!) and next thing I heard, she was talking with her friend about her blog and how she often puts recipes up on her blog. I wanted to tell her I was a blogger too (as if photographing the food didn’t give it away) and I was DYING to ask her the name of her blog (I’ve been reading some really good Pittsburgh-based foodie ones).  Normally, I have no qualms whatsoever about going up and striking up conversations with total strangers in such situations, but for whatever reason, I didn’t.

(So, if you’re the blogger who was having lunch at the Phipps Conservatory on Monday, August 15, leave me a comment, ‘kay?)

We had a great afternoon at the Phipps (well, Boo wasn’t too thrilled about spending all of less than two hours looking at “boring old nature”) and you can see more pictures from our visit here and here.  It reminded me of a smaller Longwood Gardens, located in Kennett Square, PA.  The Phipps is gorgeous and well worth the visit if you’re ever in the Pittsburgh area.  (You can easily spend more than two hours here. With the kids in tow, we went through the exhibits faster than I would have preferred.  Plus, it was a drizzly and overcast day so we didn’t get to see much of the outdoor gardens.)

I was not compensated for this post in any way, nor do I have any connection with the Phipps other than being a happy visitor.  Admission was free on the day we visited, thanks to a generous grant that the Phipps received from the Buncher Family Foundation.  

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Weekend Cooking: The Brandywine Book of Food

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

The Brandywine Book of Food is more of a coffee table book, more of a collection of mouthwatering descriptions of restaurants and wineries than an every day “what am I gonna make for dinner tonight?” type of cookbook. 

Which is all fine and well and very, very good. There’s nothing wrong with a little culinary dreaming every now and then.

The subtitle of The Brandywine Book of Food is Exploring the Culinary Landscape of Brandywine Valley’s Country Gardens, Bed and Breakfast Inns, Mushroom Barns, and Boutique Wineries.  Written by Roger Morris and Cathleen Ryan (and photographed by Ella Morris), it captures and celebrates the charm and rich history that is the Brandywine Valley.

For those unfamiliar with this area, it is the rolling hills of northernmost Delaware (Wilmington, Greenville, Montchanin, also known as “Chateau Country”) and southeastern Pennsylvania (Kennett Square, Chadds Ford, Unionville, West Chester and other locales in southern Chester County.) There’s even mention of a piece of Maryland (Fair Hill) in one part of this book, which the authors admit is stretching the boundaries a little bit but completely acceptable because in these parts, you can literally travel within three states in a matter of minutes.

Nestled between Philadelphia and Lancaster’s Amish Country, the Brandywine Valley is a tourist destination in its own right, one that is home to Winterthur, the spectacularly gorgeous in every season Longwood Gardens (one of my absolute favorite places), and undiscovered and unsung historical sites and museums.  The Brandywine Book of Food lives up to its subtitle of exploring these oft-tucked away gems and provides recipes from many (if not all) of them.

As mentioned earlier, the majority of recipes contained in this book are gourmet, decadent, and extravagant.  You’re just not going to find the likes of Espresso Rubbed Quail with Sweet Potato Hash and Blueberry Compote alongside Dandelion Salad at our kitchen table.  (As much as I am certain that I would be a fan of anything “espresso-rubbed.”)  There are, to be fair, more simpler and familiar recipes in this book, but I didn’t get a chance to try them before taking this one back to the library. There is a list of area restaurants, wineries, attractions, and bed and breakfasts included too, as a visitor’s guide of sorts if you’d like to sample these delicacies in person.

If you’re planning a trip to this area, The Brandywine Book of Food is a book you might want to peruse for the restaurant reviews and recommendations.  (Double check, of course, to see if they are still in business; I know of at least one mentioned in the book where I think the much-celebrated chef is no longer with the restaurant but lives on in these pages.)  This is also a great keepsake to have of a special trip to the Brandywine Valley.  And in this gift-giving season, this would make a nice gift for natives of the area, former residents, or connoisseurs of fine food and wine. 

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

One More, in the Name of Love

“Lilytopia” display at Longwood Gardens, taken by me in May 2010
This flower is called Tiny Hope.



It occured to me, last week or so, that I’ve been remiss in updating y’all on Joey.  Regular readers of this blog might remember my post about our 16 year old cousin Joey who is gay and who planned to hang himself in his school’s staircase in January of this year as a way to escape the constant bullying and abuse he had been enduring from classmates. 

Instead of a statistic, Joey became an activist. He founded a Facebook group – The Equality Project – to give other teens (and adults, but especially teens) a voice, a place to be heard and accepted.  His Facebook group grew and grew and grew, is now approaching 6,000 members strong, and has achieved nonprofit status. Joey’s caught the attention of local and national media (and also more than a few hateful people).  In recent weeks, he’s sat down with Senator Robert Casey from Pennsylvania,  Anderson Cooper from CNN, a reporter from People Magazine, and probably dozens more that I am either forgetting or unaware of. 

For the past 8.5 months, Joey’s work has taken him places that I’m sure he never thought he would go. Before this week, I think there was certainly a sense that school bullying was indeed an issue.

This week it changed into a crisis. 

It changed into a crisis for several families living the nightmare of so many other families and kids already in the throes of this crisis. 

I don’t have anything different or more inspirational to add to the dialogue than what has already been said by Ellen DeGeneres, by Dan Savage, by my friend Emily in her blog post, by so many others who like me are saddened, horrified, scared, and who just want to do something because we have to and because we can’t stay silent even when we don’t know what the hell to say.

I’ll admit it, there is a part of me that feels like this is – all this – is all too big. That as much as I want to (and need to) believe that things will change and will get better, sometimes it seems like too, too much.  I know my own issues, the things we’re dealing with in our house, the crappy dreary weather on the East Coast, are all playing into this moreso than usual.

But in the end, what choice do we really have?  We owe it to these kids and our kids and to ourselves – even if it is hard to wrap our minds around how exactly this will happen – to allow ourselves to believe that it is going to be OK.  That sometimes we need to have faith and hope and trust that things will someday get better.

It will get better.

It will get better.

It will get better.

I don’t know how it will. I just know that it has to.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Boredom

Betty:  “I’m so bored, I can’t even get up.  I’m going to die of boredom.”
The Husband: “I wonder if that’s ever happened?”
Betty:  “IT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW!!!!!”

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

The Sunday Salon: After Book Blogger Con, It’s Time to See the Lilies


Can you stand another post about the wonderfulness that was BEA and the first annual Book Blogger Convention held on Friday?  I went to New York just for the day on Friday, an incredible experience that you can read about (and see photos from) via my Book Blogger Convention Recap: Early Morning (Chapter 1).

Today we’re planning a visit to nearby Longwood Gardens to see a special exhibit called Lilytopia.  For those not in the Philadelphia area, Longwood Gardens is a spectacular place – public gardens, a conservatory (pictured here during their OrKid event in January’s dead of winter), children’s gardens, and much more. I wouldn’t have known about Lilytopia if it wasn’t for Longwood Gardens’ Facebook page, and the gorgeous photos that they’ve been posting there have sealed the deal for my decision to go to this.  (The power of social media!)  We’re lucky enough that we live close enough to Longwood to visit even just for an afternoon, which is about the length of stamina that we tend to have. 

I have about 100 more pages to go with reading South of Broad, Pat Conroy’s newest novel.  It’s over 500 pages, and yet this is the sort of book I kind of don’t want to end. I’m loving this one. With the unofficial start of summer upon us, I think South of Broad is the perfect summertime novel (as I wrote in my most recent Beach Reads column that I do for a local (to me) blog, Surviving the Sandcastles). 

That’ll have to wait a little bit, though.  For the rest of today, there’s a little girl who is waiting to see the lilies.   

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo’s Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0