Summer Saturdays are the Best

The joyful photograph at the top of the post – which comes from the wonderful photo/blog Real People Eat Local (check it out for their delicious pictures) – is a perfect encapsulation of our day.  Summer Saturdays really are the best!

Today started relatively early (by Saturday standards) as Andrew had to be at the Cathedral for a choral practice at 8 a.m.  Our car is in the shop this weekend waiting for a leaky fuel pump to be repaired (one never wants to smell gasoline in your home garage), so Candice, Andrew and I had to juggle our schedules around the availability of Zipcars – the wonderful car sharing service we swear by.  Because we have some 25 Zipcars within about 3 blocks of our house, we picked one up (a little Honda) and were on our way by 7:30.  Urban living is great!

Swim team meets the past six weeks have their own charm, but they have disrupted the Saturday morning ritual Candice and I established this year.  So we were pleased to get back to the gym for a morning workout, followed by our stroll shopping through the Silver Spring Farmers Market.  Our farmers market isn’t as large as some (we’re talking about you, Dupont Circle) but we love our high quality and growing group of area farmers and other local food sellers.  We bought our usual pastry treat from Praline Bakery and picked up some wonderful bread from Atwater’s Bakery.  We stopped and chatted with our new friend Julie Gray Stinar at Evensong Farms (pictured in the photo at the top), where we picked up some eggs (they have THE BEST!) and a chicken.  Julie and her dad Tom Gray (yes, bluegrass fans, the original bass player with the Seldom Scene) told us about the next Bluegrass in the Barn show at Evensong on October 10, 2010 (10/10/10 as Julie noted).  We attended the last one and had a blast.

The Evensong Farms connection is too strange to be anything but true.  Julie and her husband Brent actually found their farm through the historic house ads in Preservation magazine (the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where I work).   And their hosting of a semi-regular bluegrass series just cements our admiration for what they are doing.

The farmers market is also a great place to run into friends, and this morning we were lucky enough to see a dear friend and her daughter, who was in town for a visit.  Twenty minutes later we had caught up on the family news and had also gotten a hot tip to try out 8407 kitchen bar – a new local restaurant with a chef we’d admired at his earlier job.

I mentioned that Andrew had a rehearsal this morning.  He’s come full circle, from singing as a young treble in the National Cathedral Choir to now being “one of the men” as a tenor singing with the trebles who were in town this week for the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) program at the cathedral.  This afternoon we all headed out to St. Francis Church in Potomac to hear a concert by the choir, under the direction of English composer David Ogden.  It was a glorious hour of  music and I was reminded again that “singing really is praying twice.”

Andrew had to work his desk job at the pool this evening (and we had to return our Mini-Cooper – Zipcar #2 for the day), so Candice and I decided to act on our friend’s tip and try out 8407 kitchen bar.  It was – in a word – wonderful.  Silver Spring has an over-abundance of chain restaurants, but not enough top quality independent eateries.  This one, located one block from us across from the Metro station, quickly jumped near the top of our list and will, no doubt, become a favorite local spot.  Check it out Washington-area food fans.

And then to top off the day as I’m headed to bed, Ryan Zimmerman hits a 3-run walk-off home run for the Nationals and the Nats beat the Phillies 7-5 for their second straight win against the boys from just up I-95!

Summer Saturdays are the best!!

More to come…



How hot can it be?

Shortly after 8 a.m. this morning the sun topped the trees and began to bake our group of swim team parents who had camped out poolside  to cheer for the Gators in the annual Divisionals swim meet.  We were competing in Division E this year, which was a stretch for our ladies and gentlemen.  But the team gave it their best and ended up 4th out of the six-team division.  We had some amazing efforts by our swimmers, including a new pool record set by one of Claire’s best friends in 15-18 girls breaststroke.  And they did it with temperatures nearing 100 and the heat index going to 105 degrees and higher.  How hot can it be?  It was brutal.

Andrew made divisionals this year in two races, the 15-18 boys 200 meter medley relay (swimming backstroke) and the 100 meter breaststroke.  The relay boys were up against some tough competition, but knocked time off their personal best.

But it was in the breaststroke where Andrew had his best race of the year.  Swimming in the first heat (meaning there are six boys with better times in the second heat), he started strong and made his final turn neck and neck with the swimmer in lane 4.  With a great finish, he took first in his heat and knocked about two-and-a-half seconds off his personal best.  Woo hoo!

On to the team banquet tomorrow evening, then we’ve finished summer swim team for another year.  It is a bittersweet feeling.  I’ll enjoy getting my Saturday mornings back (I’ve missed the gym and farmers’ market) but it also signals that summer’s a little more than half over.  And as Andrew and Claire push toward the end of high school, we only have one more of these special summers left.

Gretchen Rubin reminds us that days are long, but years are short.

How true, how true.

More to come…


A Crooked Road

One of Nashville’s best songwriters begins his newest album with the following words:

I walk a crooked road to get to where I’m going,

to get to where I’m going I walk a crooked road

and only when I’m looking back I see the straight & narrow

I see the straight & narrow when I walk a crooked road.

Darrell Scott has written great tunes for the Dixie Chicks (Long Time Gone), Patty Loveless (You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive) and dozens more.  His last album, a gem entitled Modern Hymns, showcased

Songs and artists/songwriters whose music shook me as a kid (with ears nearly as big as my heart). They guided the way to my own path as a singer-songwriter . . . These songs speak to the human condition . . . in all of our aching and beautiful glory . . . These songs are the truth . . .

Scott has a wonderful gravelly voice and is a masterful musician.  I love his work.

So I eagerly snapped up the album when I came across his most recent work last week, the deeply personal A Crooked Road. This is as autobiographical as Scott can be, touching on 30 years of love gained and love lost.  Scott plays all the instruments and supplies all the voices, and it never gets boring.  There are great tunes here, with some of my favorites including The Day Before Thanksgiving, A Father’s Song, Snow Queen and Drama Llama, and the one that helps wrap up this two-CD set, This Time ‘Round. And to prove he can turn a witty phrase with the best of Nashville’s Tin Pan Alley writers, For Suzanne begins with,

She’s been written in song by the best of names, Stephen Foster, Leonard Cohen, and Sweet Baby James.  I got this feeling this won’t be the same.  My love song for Suzanne.

Nashville has a treasure trove of good songwriters.  Darrell Scott is among the best.

Enjoy the video of the title cut, and enjoy the album.

More to come…


A Takoma Park July 4th Celebration

Yes, that’s a “precision drill team” made up of environmentally friendly reel mowers you see in the picture.  (See my update at the end of the post)

Welcome to the Takoma Park July 4th Parade.

Folks who live in the Washington area have a wide range of Independence Day festivities to choose from.  You can have your fireworks on the National Mall, as far as I’m concerned.  My favorite thing is to hop on the Metro, take a short ride to the next station, and then head into downtown Takoma Park, MD, for the annual 4th of July parade.  We’ve done it for years, and it takes some major event to pull us away from this family tradition.

Takoma Park is known – to put it mildly – for its political activism and progressive outlook.  For instance, it is the only “nuclear free zone” in the DC metropolitan area.  Takoma Park also has a well-deserved reputation as  being a bit quirky.  Many of our friends from the pool and the twins’ schools live in the city, so we’re always looking to visit and support them.

Today Candice and I took up our traditional spot along a shady sidewalk on Maple Street to watch this year’s version of the parade.  The teenagers doing jump rope tricks were a hit with young and old alike.  The parade always features a couple of steel drum outfits, with their groupies jiving and dancing alongside the floats from where this wonderful Caribbean-influenced music pours forth.

This year brought some rich political activism, from “Declare Your Independence from Big Money in Politics” to a clever campaign to get the local school board to listen to the Young Activists at Piney Branch elementary school who have raised over $10,000 to buy and operate a dishwasher as part of a no styrofoam project.  Children and parents passed out the styrofoam trays, which are now used once per child every day in the schools across Montgomery County and then sent to be incinerated.  Slogans calling for the board of education to listen to the children, save money and “Speed up the Piney Branch Pilot Project” were written on the trays.  We all let the board of education members know where we stood on environmental and fiscal waste as they came by in their cars.

It wouldn’t be Takoma Park without a bit of political theater.  This year the “Ru Paul Tea Party” candidate for state senate brought out laughter and commentary alike.  I’m not sure which Tea Party sign was the most humorous, the call for drilling local Sligo Creek, paving over the Chesapeake Bay, or the sign that called the float “Sarah Palin approved” and then added “The Founding Fathers were geniuses – They wouldn’t let ME vote!”

Luckily we haven’t lost our right of free speech (which we were reminded of by handouts of the Bill of Rights by the local VFW post).  Enjoy the rest of the photos, and Happy 4th of July!

And, of course, there’s always the final clean-up.

More to come…


Update: A Washington Post photo essay today noted that The Scottish Reels (the name of the drill team at the top of the post) won first prize in the parade’s Wacky Tacky Takoma Award.