Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Yule and a Photo Gallery (with some favorites)

Merry Yule and Happy Solstice! The Winter Solstice marks the longest night.... the shortest day.  It is a time of re-birth, renewal, and reflection. It is also a time to celebrate the return of the light, because  now we move towards Summer Solstice.  Did you celebrate Yule or Solstice?  I mark the holiday annually in very small ways. It's such a busy time of year, and typically I'm busy doing so many things for so many other people that I do not have time to do many rituals to mark the day.

Things move quickly this time of year, boy do they ever.  When I started to write this post, I realized in short order that much too much has happened for me to write about.  Instead, I'm going to put up some photos for you.  I also expect to have some local photos as well, but that will be for tomorrow (I hope).

I made a Yule Log for the holiday. It wasn't as fancy or as decorated as I would have liked.  When I went outside to gather flowers for the cake, I saw that my garden was full of all sorts of butterflies. I didn't have the heart to take away any flowers, they need them as food. Plus, all sorts of secret spots are used for laying eggs and spinning cocoons.  I left well enough alone, the butterflies needed the flowers more than I did.  In the end, the cake was sparse, but beautiful in its own way. This is a very fluffy chocolate sponge cake (best yet), filled with chocolate ganache before rolling, and then iced with nut whip topping.

Vegan Yule Log, circa 2012

Before Yule, we made our annual trek up to the cold zone.  In it's defense, this year it wasn't as horribly cold as usual. Although the temps dropped to 20's most nights, the days were in the 40's (mostly), which all things considered isn't all that bad. Here's a sliver of our experiences from the trip:

To get to the cold zone, we have to leave our beautiful Florida Keys; no likey.
Here's a shot I took passing over one of the MANY bridges.
It was hovering at 80 degrees the day we left.

After arriving in Coldtown, USA, it was too late at night (or early in the morning depending how you look at it) to forage for food.  We woke up early and looked up the closest Whole Foods (breakfast hot bar anyone?) We learned the closest one was on South Street in Philadelphia. After feasting on organic hot REAL oatmeal with a side of vegan tater tots, I said I wanted to walk back a couple blocks because I had seen a building that looked a little unusual. I wanted to take some photos.

Come inside said the spider to the fly...

After he fed the meter (meter maids are EVERYWHERE, I will never complain about Key West again), we headed up the street.  Neither one of us were prepared for what we were about to experience.

Outside one of the buildings; covered in mosaic and objects.  Front.  Sides. Back. Porches. Walls.
Everything, absolutely everything, covered.

I started to take some photographs, and then we began to walk the outside.

There were steep sloping, uneven stairways covered.

It was cold because it was pretty early, but I only noticed that for a moment.  I was overwhelmed.  This place really is magic. It was hard for me to photograph at all. While I was shooting one thing, my eyes were constantly lured to another thing. I had to stop and think about every photo.

Where there were no walls, they were created.

We tried to walk through the gardens together, but we couldn't help it, we were each being drawn to our own interests.  When we "found" each other again, it was right by this spot:

This is one of my favorite words.

There were stairs all over, all different, all beautiful...

Every single object and tile has been touched by the artist.
There were hidden messages everywhere; self portraits by the artist everywhere, and celebrations of life and our bodies everywhere. This one shot alone covers all those subjects, and a secret spot to rest too.

Is there several self portraits in this spot, or is the artist including loved ones?
All keep watch over the weary who may seek respite on this chair.

I would like to meet this man. I wonder what he is like.  I wonder how he thinks.  I don't think I have to ask how he views the world, because he has already shared his soul with us.

He has an idea how to live...

Some words were broken, some words were English, some words in languages I have no idea what they were.

I touched as many tiles and objects as possible.
I closed my eyes often and just ran my hands over the walls, the steps, the floors......

We learned there was a gallery inside.....

We went inside. An explosion of color.

We paid the admission and went in.  This may seem trivial, but our trips are so short and so over scheduled, adding even one extra thing can derail the entire trip. I didn't care, and the other happy vegan gave no fight at all.  He wanted to see more as much as I did (at least I like to think he did!)

Ceilings, walls, floors, doors.  All covered.  This is either where floor meets wall, or wall meets ceiling.
It's a blur, I have no idea.
 After exploring the inside, we went back outside......

Whee! A turtle! Many animals are represented.
All animals are my favorite.

I didn't want to leave. When I say we spent 2 hours and had to be pried away, it's the truth. Two precious hours, but nothing in the scheme of things. I will go back there someday. There's so much to be seen.

A tree (?) grows in Philadelphia...

Yay! FINALLY made it to Sweet Freedom (allergy free vegan bakery).
Thanks Sweet Freedom, you DID bake me happy!

On the way out of town to our next destination, we took the scenic route.

Downtown held a ridiculous amount of people & traffic.
But it also makes for some pretty pictures.

Everywhere we go on our trips, bridges are involved. Tunnels too.

Suspension bridges are among the most beautiful, but probably the ones I fear most.

$900 for a snow blower?  Bah!
I couldn't resist taking a picture of this sad sight.
People around me looked at me really funny as I laughed out loud and took this picture.

In the mix, a trip to the Big Apple was on tap.

We ate at a Loving Hut! Been wanting to try them for ages, and so glad we finally did.
Inside the teeniest, tiniest restaurant space on Earth, the beautiful souls in the NYC Loving Hut dish out some of the best food anywhere.
It's a delight to me beyond words whenever I go someplace that anything on the menu is fair game.
Loving Hut is fabulous!

Loving Hut has a lovely philosophy, and isn't shy about saying so all over their walls!

We arrived in the daylight and as we drove I observed far more vegetarian and vegan restaurant signs than any other time I was there.  A beautiful sight, and a sign of the times.  The city was absolutely overrun with people. Palm tree girl began to feel a little anxious, and a weensy bit cold.  I pulled on tiny red gloves with the sparkly skating penguins that I bought at a Keys thrift shop, and steeled myself for being around more people on 1 block than live on my entire island.

We did some touristy stuff, like this.
The tree is beautiful.
Yes this tree is beautiful, but I have to wonder was I the only one in the crowd thinking why did someone cut such a beautiful tree down, and how much is all that electric costing and adding to our planet's problems?

We walked. We talked.  My nephew was with us, and he's quite a trooper. I think he handled things better than I did as far as the assault on the senses. And, as only a child can do, when he saw a person sitting on the street who looked very in need, he pulled his mother to his lips and whispered that could he please give his little hat to the man so he wouldn't be cold anymore.  If only it were that simple, no?

In it's own way, the city has a way of making me feel as insignificant and unimportant
 on this Earth just the same as the ocean.

We learned to think long and hard before buying any more Spiderman crap for nephew. Somehow we were duped into buying a glove that shoots web.  Blue web.  Wet web.  Nasty web.  A never ending supply of blue, wet, nasty web came shooting out that glove.  It stuck to everything, including my camera, the dog and my brother's head, just to name a few things.  We stayed with them a few days. The morning we left, the other happy vegan noticed out of the corner of his eye a piece of that blue, wet (not dried) nasty web. Even after the monster cleaning session (which I didn't even participate in, so shameful), blue web remained. I wonder if I'm allowed back at their house...... (heck at least we didn't buy the refill 12 pack).

We ate here!
A very small piece of me is grateful I do not live closer to this place.
We've been here several times, this time we made it for brunch.
My sugar efforts were completely derailed by the tiramisu.
Oh heavens, it was so worth it.
This restaurant is absolutely, positively one of my most favorite places.  Ever.
It's almost always gloomy when we go. At least it didn't snow.  We were driving on the way from here to there in the mist when we saw the fog just sitting all over the waterways.  I asked to stop so I could take some photos. I climbed up a barricade to get this next shot, I had to because......

When I took this scene...

I was thinking of this scene.

Rain, rain, go away.

More freakin' bridges.

The whirlwind finally came to an end.  I really haven't touched on 99% of what went on during our trip, but at least you get the idea, right?

And, driving home, back in our beautiful Florida Keys, this is what greeted me over yet another bridge.

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