Portrait: Uncle Gerry at Breakfast

When I was younger, I was really close with my uncle Gerry. Unfortunately, we became much less close when my family moved away from him and my aunt, and even less close when I went to college and moved permanently across the state. In early August, he came to breakfast with me and my aunt while I was visiting. It was the first time I’d seen him in a few years. I don’t think he believed that my old rangefinder actually worked.
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Out of Massachusetts: Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market

Visiting the Reading Terminal Market was far and away the best part of our trip to Philadelphia earlier this month, mostly because food is the one thing we will always, always, always treat ourselves to, especially when trying something new.

I have vague memories of visiting the Market when I was younger. My dad’s family is from the Philadelphia area, and is remember visiting the city right after my uncle moved from the suburbs into one of the densely-packed brownstone townhouse neighborhoods that span block after square block. My memory of this first visit is faint and consisted mostly of younger, shorter Ellie looking up at a lot of things; it’s basically a haze of sensory overload. That same sensory overload hit me again after walking into the Reading Terminal Market with Brian over a decade later. We didn’t know where to begin, and wound up eating three full meals before our two-or-so hour trip was over.

Of the three mornings we had in Philadelphia, we spent two at the market stuffing our faces. It was lovely to wake up in the morning and take a brisk 20-minute walk to the market for fresh doughnuts made by Amish bakers (the best doughnuts either of us have ever had), cheese steaks, brisket and locally-brewed beer.

Now if only we had one of these in the Pioneer Valley…

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Camping in Otis with Morgan the Dog

Last summer, Brian and I went on our first camping trip together at this campground in Tolland State Forest. We’d been dying to come back ever since, this time to a waterfront campsite, and found the perfect opportunity one Sunday in September while dog sitting for a few friends who had just gotten married and were away on their honeymoon. Since school was in session and most people work Monday through Friday, the campground was really quiet; we only saw one other occupied campground while we were there. We had the entire peninsula of the grounds to ourselves and, save for some overnight rain and high winds, it was gorgeous and lovely the entire time. Is there any better way to find your inner zen than a good night camping? Not for us (unless it was two or more nights camping…).IMG_1616.JPG

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Out of Massachusetts: the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia

As a birthday gift to myself, I took a weekend trip to Philadelphia with Brian to visit my uncle, aunt and cousin, who I haven’t seen in about a year and a half. My uncle’s house is in the perfect location for all the things we wanted to see and do — everything was within a 30-minute walk. The first full day we were there, we visited the Eastern State Penitentiary. I’d been wanting to see it for a long time, ever since taking a class on prisons and related literature when I was in college. There’s a lot of history behind those walls; it was the first big prison built in the United States, was built slowly over a period of decades (with some sections even built using prisoner labor) and you can clearly see the differences in the ways different cell blocks we’re put together. The place was cold the day we visited, almost a veritable wind tunnel, which further demonstrates the conditions in which the prisoners lived as the structure didn’t have heat while it was operational.
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