Monday, February 27, 2017

Technology & Assumptions

I am getting a new cell phone tomorrow.
It's long overdue because I don't really care for/about cell phones all that much and so mine is old and outdated and has been on its way out for awhile...but I like to have one with me when I'm out cavorting, so it really is time for a new one.

Earlier today I went into the settings on my current phone and saved/deleted some stuff in preparation for the new phone.

A short while later I heard the notification that I received a text message.

The message was from October 18th, 2016...a full four months ago*.

And so, little grasshopper, the lesson here is clear:  do not assume that someone has received your message and then make even more assumptions based on your first assumption.

You could, you know, maybe call them and say "hey, did you get my message?"
Sometimes technology and gadgets - like people - aren't infallible.

Full circle back to my second sentence above about not really caring for/about cell phones:  too much reliance on and faith in them + assumptions that they always do what you want them to do = bad.

I wonder how many misunderstandings/lost connections have occurred because of our over-reliance on small electronic handheld devices in which all of our important communications have to bounce invisibly through the air via some kind of voodoo.

I remain unconvinced that cell phones have actually made our lives better.



Sunday With The Ancestors

My beloved nephew and I have been delving into our roots together lately, excitedly sharing our discoveries via email.  (He's in New England and I'm in New Jersey so email it is.)  I can't tell you how much fun I've been having doing this with him for so many reasons.

We are New Jersey people and our roots here run deep.  I grew up listening to countless stories from my Polish grandmother about her childhood growing up on a farm in Middlesex county.  Thanks to the subscription to CensusRecords.com, I was able to finally figure out where that farm was since Grandma seemed to not ever be able to recall its exact location.  She knew the town but street names have changed a lot since 1913 and thereabouts and sometimes farmsteads were just known by the owner's last name and vague location, such as "the Smith farm over by Main Street".
The 1920 census at least gave me the crossroads of my family's farm location so that, of course, meant only one thing...

road trip.

Yesterday, JP and I left early so we had plenty of time to spend up there.  It's only about 90 minutes via Turnpike from our house in Cumberland county so that was great.  And I am so lucky to have a husband who more than willingly takes me on these adventures.

My intention was to visit the area where the farm was, then go on to the churches where my grandmother was baptized in 1913 and the one where she and my grandfather were married in 1932.
Happily, we accomplished all of it yesterday.

Here's where we started:

The relief that this area is still farmland was huge.  I was terrified that I would find strip malls or McMansions and was elated that it wasn't the case...although, sadly, the McMansions are encroaching.

Here's what I found there:
(click on images to view them larger)

What I did not anticipate was my reaction to being here, at or near the place where grandmother came from.  Right away I became emotional and teary.  And I had a subtle sense of the feeling you get when you've been away and you finally come home.  I also felt quite a bit of reverence, like I was walking on hallowed or sacred ground.
Some things you can't explain.
Those are usually the things I like best.

From there we set off to go to the church where my grandparents were married.

But first took a slight detour to Mendoker's Bakery where we bought a nice selection of deliciousness because no road trip is complete without a stop at a bakery.

That cannoli you see was literally the best cannoli I've ever eaten in my life...and I have eaten cannoli from all the famous places where people tell you to get cannoli from in north Jersey and New York. Which, by the way, reminds me to tell you

Don't ALWAYS believe the hype
Just because a place is famous, well-known, or on television does not mean that their products are as good as they would like you to believe they are.  Hype, people, hype.

(A tangent about baked goods coming from me should surprise no one.)

Mendoker's cupcakes were close to excellent, as well.  Did you know I am a cupcake connoisseur? It's true; I'm like an authority.  I used to actually have my very own cupcake business so I've got mad cupcake street cred.

Sharon, Cupcake Thug

Anyway, here is the church in Helmetta, NJ, where my grandparents were married in 1932:

I loved walking on these steps, knowing I was standing in the place my grandparents stood on what I hope was one of the happiest days of their lives.

Jennie (nee Sierzputowski) and Albert Stachura (and some other Polish people)

We got there too late to attend mass and I tried to go in anyway but all of the doors were locked which made me sad.  I am old enough to remember when churches never locked their doors because, you know, you might need to get inside and get holy if something was going on for you.  Times have changed and now they have to lock their doors. Sigh.

I guess instead they now offer outside places if you need to pray and get holy.  I love these outdoor quiet places and I so appreciate that they're available for people like me, who really do use them when necessary.

Next we went up the road a bit to the church in South River, NJ, where my grandmother was baptized in 1913.

So weird to think that here is where my great grandparents Mateusz/Matthew and Kamilia/Camilla carried in their infant and only daughter to be baptized...104 years ago.

I love churches and I especially love them when I have connection to them for one reason or another. Next time I go up there I will make sure I get there in time to attend mass.  Lent starts this week so I'll have lots of opportunity to get inside unlocked churches in the next six weeks.
I'll have to figure out how to take pictures discreetly inside.

We were pretty hungry after all this driving around and stopping to let me get out and wander and take pictures.

I had planned our trip so we ended in South River in order to wind up at Krakowiak Restaurant.  One thing that makes me wildly proud in my marriage is that I have turned my husband on to so much REAL food, ethnic food, that he'd never eaten before.  He is married to me, a half Polish person raised on Polish food, so he eats Polish food regularly but never at a Polish restaurant.  It was time to change that.
And that's how we wound up here...

image borrowed from Google maps

...at Krakowiak Restaurant in South River, NJ.

I love neighborhood restaurants.  I love supporting them and I love that they still exist.  This is why we all should be supporting Main Streets...but that's a story/diatribe for another time.

(But, seriously, the next time you want to go out to eat go to a local place instead of a chain.)  

The food here was outstanding.  We shared the Krakow platter that included Bigos, Pierogi, Kielbasa, Golabki, along with a side of three giant potato pancakes.

There isn't much I wouldn't do in exchange for potato pancakes, by the way.  I was in potato pancake heaven.  I use both the sour cream and the applesauce.  You?

Here is the inside of the restaurant taken with my cell phone camera which is horrible and is why I'm upgrading my phone today so please excuse the awful quality:

I will tell you this:  in my life I do not think I have even been in a cleaner restaurant than this one.  I always look for that and words can't express how much I appreciate ordering food in a place that is spotless.
And the people were so nice!
I can't wait to go back and  I have complete intentions of becoming a regular customer.
Hopefully, some day soon I'll bring my nephew there.

In the meantime...
Have a nice day, sweetheart


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Monday, February 6, 2017

New Camera

Although the basis of my Land O' Make Believe artwork starts with photographs - 90% of which are my own - I have never once proclaimed myself to be a photographer.

Photographers are people who know what they are doing.  They know what f/stops are and aperture stuff and all about correct ISO.  I have to be honest and say that I could not care less about any of that stuff and I hate having to think about any of it when all I really want to do is simply click.  Which is why I am a phototaker and not a photographer.

That said, I love cameras.  My cameras are portals to my otherworlds; I take them with me whenever I leave the house and in return they take me to record Magic In The Ordinary in the pictures that I take.

I have three cameras, two of which are my primary cameras: a point and shoot Nikon Coolpix P500, and a Canon Rebel T3i.  The third is a tiny little Canon PowerShot that is about 12 years old.  I still use it, mostly when we are out on the motorcycle because it fits in my back pocket.  It still takes terrific pictures, too, but they're not really suitable for use in my photo art.

I mostly hate the Canon.  It takes beautiful pictures most of the time but it has major drawbacks in my picture-taking world.  For one, it's heavy (I have arthritic hands).  For two, no matter what shot I want to take I always have the wrong lens on the camera which means lots of fumbling...and cursing.
For three, it's persnickety and I have no patience or tolerance for anything animate or inanimate that's fussy.

I love the Nikon.  It's like having a really good and reliable friend.  I point, I shoot, it delivers.  But it has its limitations and mostly they fall under the Quality category.  It takes beautiful pictures but loses points for detail and speed.

So I bought a new camera last week.  A Nikon P900 with ridiculous zoom.  We took it out this weekend to shoot some stuff and I'm not yet convinced that I like it enough to keep it.  Preliminary thoughts are that the ridiculous zoom is not great and will require a tripod and I am in no way a tripod kind of phototaker as I never stand in one place for any length of time whatsoever.  Today I'm going to take all three cameras out and shoot with them so that I can compare, then decide.

In the meantime, here are some test shots I took with the D900 this weekend all around our area here in Really South Jersey:

example of the poor quality with the ridiculous zoom - will play around more with it to see if it improves

old rusty safe on the beach...we were wondering the story behind this

most perfect tree ever

On an aside, I hope these pictures help to dispel any (stereotypical) image you might have of New Jersey.

 photo Sharon sig with heart dragonfly butterfly waltz font1_zpsgxy5knqy.png

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I Actually Won Something

Do you ever win stuff?

I never do.

Most of the time I don't bother to enter to win anything because I'm positive that it won't be me who wins the thing...

except when I do enter and I do win!

On Sunday I was shopping with my daughter in the greatest gourmet grocery store that ever existed, Rastelli's in Marlton, NJ.

We were out having a fun shopping day in the Marlton area which is where we usually do the majority of our shopping because I live in Really South Jersey or RSJ.  If you live in or are familiar with RSJ then you are aware that we have more abandoned grocery and other stores than we do functioning ones. When you drive around RSJ you will find yourself saying things like "oh look, that used to be a (insert nationally known store name)" or "I can't believe there used to be a (insert nationally known store name) here."
You would think that being that RSJ is, in fact, an actual part of the Great State Of New Jersey - that I am so proud to be a native of, by the way -  that we would have the amenities that are rife in the other parts of this state.  

You would be wrong.
Like my Italian father used to say, we got ugatz.

This man is probably from North Jersey

Although we do have this:

Jack & Coke with your Grand Slam Breakfast?  No problem!

Anyway, Rastelli's.
Rastelli's is in South Jersey which is completely different than Really South Jersey (RSJ).  South Jersey (SoJ) has everything you could ever want.  It's a 45-60 minute drive for us but worth it.  I'm not kidding about the RSJ thing; down here is like stepping back in time which is both a great thing and a not so great thing, depending on the circumstance.  Like, we have no traffic in RSJ because there's not a lot to drive here for.  We like it that way.  We don't mind driving a bit to get to where the stuff is because the trade-off is that we get to live where it's peaceful.
When I lived in North Jersey (NoJ) for the first 20 years of my life, I had no idea that SoJ or RSJ existed.  Not kidding.  Those were just places you drove through on the Turnpike on your way to Florida.  North Jersey and South Jersey/Really South Jersey are worlds apart.  Worlds!
There are raging debates that still go on between the North and South except they're happening right here in New Jersey.  For example*, the ongoing war over what to call various things such as sub sandwiches vs hoagies.  Pork roll vs. Taylor Ham.  Philadelphia Eagles vs. NY Giants.
Yes, I know neither team have anything to do with New Jersey in their name but it's a regional thing.
South Jersey is close to Philadelphia so SoJ people align with all things Philly.
North Jersey is close to New York so NoJ people align with all things New York...except the NY Giants play in New Jersey so bonus points for that.

I just reread this and realized that if you are not from this region you are thoroughly confused right now and I probably had too much coffee this morning.

I also realized that, man, I can go off on tangents, can't I? 😛

So back to Rastelli's!...

We were shopping for gourmet everything while sipping on what was probably the best cappuccino I ever had, when we saw a display for a huge gourmet basket giveaway.  On a whim, we entered. Two days later they called to tell me I won this:


I can't even unwrap it.  It's so pretty.  And big.  And chocolate-y.
I'm going to let it just sit there in the middle of the kitchen for awhile so that every time I walk in there I see it.

I like to give props to people/places that deserve it - especially local places and/or small businesses - and I'd like to use this blahg to do so when applicable so if you go to Rastelli's, here's what I can personally recommend:
Fresh pressed juices made to order while you wait (I order my favorite: Beet/Carrot/Apple)
Brussels Sprouts w/pecans from the deli area
Cheese and olives from their extensive selection
Bread - oh my goodness do they have bread!
Beautiful bakery items

I'm confident that no matter what you get there it's going to be good...and I'm not saying that because I won something from them.  On a scale of 1-10, I genuinely give them a solid 10.

   photo Sharon sig with heart dragonfly butterfly waltz font1_zpsgxy5knqy.png

*Bold items is where my allegiance lies.  If you say "hoagie" in front of me, I will smack you.
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