Monday, September 30, 2013

A Trip to the Place Where Cool Was Born

Last Saturday was the perfect day to jump in the car and speed south along the highway. My destination? Fairmount, Indiana, the place where Cool (James Dean) was Born.

However, James Dean was actually born in Marion, Indiana, although he was raised by an aunt and uncle, the Winslows, in Fairmount from the time he was nine until he graduated high school. He was also brought back to Fairmount to be buried in Park Cemetery, not far from the Winslow farm. Every year on the last full weekend of September Fairmount hosts the James Dean Festival, and that was where I was meeting my friends Erin and Phil.

 Erin and I have fond memories of coming for the "World Famous" Lookalike contest, as well as a random visit on a random day when there was no crowd of festival goers. It's an odd little town. I don't know why, exactly, but I always have to agree with the old lady whom we spoke with that day who ran the record store. We mentioned we had been in Fairmount before and complimented on it's being such a nice little town. Her response was "Yes, it is. If you like weirdos." And I do think there is this underlying strangeness, whether it's just some of the characters in town or what, I'm not sure. We were pretty sure we saw Sara Palmer at the lookalike contest.

Sorry for all of the iPhone photos.
The drive was perfect. Turning off of 69 onto Highway 26 it was all farmland and blue sky.

The James Dean Gallery at 425 N. Main Street is housed in one of the many rather grand old homes built along Fairmount's main thoroughfare. The town itself was founded in 1850 by Quakers from North Carolina who had settled in the area in the 1830's. It was formally incorporated in 1870, and natural gas deposits were discovered in 1887, bringing a real boom of prosperity to the town.

Inside the gallery is an awesome vintage shop. It was once in the basement garage, but has since moved to more spacious quarters in the house itself.

And I do mean awesome!!!

Strolling towards the street fair, there are several other rather grand old homes along North Main Street. This one always sticks with me the way it sort of retreats behind it's hedges.

It really was perfect weather!

James Dean once walked down this street. No it's what all of the, uh, cool people do.We did get some downright delicious fried veggies at that Hot Wisconsin Cheese stand.

The old Fairmount High School where James Dean graduated in 1949 now stands abandoned and a bit eerie. Over the summer a huge portion of the roof caved in, and hopes to preserve the structure, which last acted as a school in 1986, have floundered.

It was here that James Byron Dean performed in the school plays that fueled his desire to be an actor. The actual stage was removed years ago by the Fairmount Lions Club in hopes to one day restore and use it again.

The record store looks as though it hasn't been touched in decades.

So awesome!

And the best bit (at least to Erin and I) is the little display of photos from when Morrissey was in town filming the video for Suedehead. We always pretend like we are looking for Moz at the Festival. I mean, why wouldn't he secretly attend? You can see more of Fairmount, the High School, and the Winslow Farm in the video.

At last it was time for the lookalike contest. The crowd seemed pretty thin, but filled in before the contest actually began.

However, the competition sucked. The one we thought should have won wasn't even a finalist. And there really weren't even any good contestants! And the rather awful song that goes "James Dean...James Dean...James Dean..." basically over and over didn't even play until the winner was announced. None of it seemed like we remembered.
Oh well, maybe next year it will be better. I am definitely going back! And taking a shopping bag, as the antique shops (aside from the great stuff at the Gallery) are really rather awesome. Most importantly, however, was having a fun evening with friends I don't see often enough.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Lavender Harvest (I Cheated a Little)

I'm not one to gather lavender and dry it for later use. The lavender is usually at it's peak bloom time when I have way more to do in the garden than think about cutting, bundling, and drying. Besides, who has the room? 

The other day, however, I decided to trim back all of the faded flowers in the border that edges the Berry Patch and realized they had basically just dried on the stem. I pulled a few off and rolled them in my fingers, smelling the unmistakably fragrant scent. I decided, therefore, to pull all of the flowers and have dried lavender for sachets with almost no work!

Now, I do realize that if I had cut the lavender at the proper time I would have had a second bloom. Oh well.
My hands smelled rather amazing after pulling off all of the flowers. Had I dried the flowers traditionally, they would have kept a bit more of their lavender color.

All trimmed back. Next I began weeding and pulling chives at the far end of the row to make room for some other plants that need relocated.
I just couldn't bring myself to weed everything, however. I think this is a False Aster, and there is an abundance in the Berry Patch. They were thick with bees, so I let them stay for now.

Making a bit of headway. The gooseberries are reaching over to this area that was, I'll admit, pretty disgusting. The chives are so mixed with grass right here that I am just digging and composting both. They were planted here as an afterthought, and I still have plenty on the outside edge of the Vegetable Garden.
A mix of the lavender that needs relocated from the vegetable beds, as well as thyme plants that need, perhaps, a new home. I might just plant them right in the path to free up space for more veggies.

I did go ahead and spread the almost completely dry flowers out on a sheet tray to finish drying. Walking by and running your hand through the flowers is pretty darn wonderful. Once dry, it will all do into mesh bags and hung in the closets, put in drawers, and placed in the linen closet.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Rainy Sunday in Holland, Michigan

Last Sunday I drove my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and Junior up to Holland to visit with Grandpa and Grandma. After a bit we went off with my aunt to gather up cousins and head to Ottawa Beach. It was cold our last visit. This year it was cold and rainy.

Fall is definitely in the air, and while it makes me happy to break out the sweaters and start cooking and baking more, it's also rather intimidating with everything that needs to be done. The citrus trees really shouldn't be out when it's dipping to the low 40's night after night, and I'm not quite sure where they will live this year.

Rainy or not, a day away from it all was very nice.

Gloomy, gloomy, gloomy.

Looking back from the north breakwater towards Big Red, the Holland Harbor Light.
Built in 1907, it sits on the channel connecting Lake Michigan to Lake Macatawa. 
It may have been rainy...

but you can always chase seagulls! Cousin Will led the charge as Junior followed.

The horizon was completely blurred by the rain and fog.
Exploring the boulders on the breakwater.

A cormorant perched on a rock. Michigan leads the Great Lake states in control of this bird. Once listed on the endangered species list, the Double Crested Cormorant's numbers exploded several years ago and were having a negative effect on the fish species as well as their own shoreline environment.
Something new to the view this year is this giant cottage going up on the bluffs right near Ottawa Beach. It is being built by the heir to the Amway fortune, and is replacing the old cottage owned by his father. At $3.6 million I'm not sure you call that a "cottage" anymore (unless, of course, you are in Newport, Rhode Island).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Panzanella (As the Heat Wave Continues)

The heat has returned, though there is a promise of a respite beginning tomorrow. I couldn't be happier. Warm, sunny days in the summer are great, but anything above 88 degrees is absolutely awful.

Of course there are still tomatoes piling up, and with no ac at the Penthouse, cooking is at the bottom of my list. Panzanella, however, is right at the top. I mean bread, tomatoes, and an onion - what could be better? It could have been even better had I just cut the bread up and let it lay out to dry. Then I wouldn't even have had to turn on the oven!

As usual I used Sarah's recipe from Everyday Food. I love her videos and urge you to subscribe to their YouTube channel.

Easy ingredients. All I needed to buy was the onion.

This right here is delicious. I mean, how summery is this?

Since I used a sourdough boule, I used the entire loaf.

So, so good. Perfect lunch or dinner when the temperature skyrockets. Or perfect for lunch AND dinner.
Add the ricotta and eat immediately. Now for the cool down...maybe I can start baking again!