mud for sale.

this past saturday i drove about an hour outside of philadelphia to lancaster county for a mud sale at the gap fire company. last year i went to the gap (the town not the retail clothing store) mud sale with my friend amber and we had a wonderful time. among other things, the taste of those buttery homemade soft pretzels with honey mustard dipping sauce stuck with me for the past year and motivated me to go back this year. although amber couldn’t make it this year because she had to work, and i dont blame her, its a great place to work, LOOP, i still ventured there this year. alone. all alone.

mud sales are auctions to help small fire companies in lancaster county raise money for the year. the auctions are called out by the cutest amish men with their funny irish-y/scottish-y/dutch-y accents. they typically take place in the early spring before the small farmers are too busy with spring planting. in the early spring it is usually muddy, thus the name, mud sale. one can expect to see all sorts of items for sale including farm equipment, tools, home items, clothing and buggies for your horses. i have to admit that i eyed up a real beauty of a buggy for my horse but i just got one a few years ago so maybe next year i will be in the market for an upgrade. you can also buy delicious homemade treats. baked goods like whoopie pies and apple cider doughnuts as well as homemade root beer, jams and jellies, relishes and savory items like fresh cut french fries and homemade cheeses. boring old vegetables were also in abundance. i bought a delicious smoked amish swiss which i made a grilled cheese with yesterday. yum! and of course those soft pretzels.

as a philadelphia resident, i am a connoisseur of the soft pretzel. i’m pretty sure i have tried most of the local providers soft pretzels and they are all slightly different. usually always delicious, but different. some are bread-y, some are dough-y, most are extremely salty. which i love! i even love auntie anne’s pretzels which were, by the way, founded and i believe the corporate headquarters are located, in lancaster county pennsylvania. but these amish homemade soft pretzels at the gap mud sale take the cake! they are large and thin and crusty and doughy and salty and buttery and well, they are just freaking perfect! i could eat them every day. for every meal. forever and ever. amen!

while the pretzels are top notch, the real reason to go to a mud sale in lancaster county, for me, is the pure surreality of it. what makes it surreal is that i was among only a few shall i say, civilians, in this rather large crowd of amish families. it is really intriguing to see their lifestyle so close up. sure, you can watch “witness” and get a sense of it and you can also drive through lancaster county and catch a glimpse of them in their buggies or at the various touristy shops selling traditional goods or even riding down the road on their bikes, but until i went to this mud sale i really never was able to sit and, to be frank, stare at droves of them. i feel like i am describing walking amongst aliens or something but it really IS kind of alien. these are a simple people with certain religious and social traditions that are just so foreign and fascinating to me. it is almost as if they are frozen in time. in this day and age of smartphones and 13 year old youtube music sensations and sketchers shape up sneakers and young hollywood starlets and their boobs hanging out on the covers of fashion magazines, its really refreshing to see there is a culture that still remains, for the most part, pure and simple with good old fashioned work ethic and values.

and we can’t possibly forget the craft of quilting that remains such a prevalent part of the amish lifestyle. i remember going to lancaster county as a boy and going to quilting fabric shops with my mother and sister and admiring all of the beautiful fabrics and patterns. who would have known at that time, that i would later design quilting cotton fabrics. it really is fascinating how your formative years play a role in your adult life.

after the mud sale i drove around the surrounding area, including the towns of bird-in-hand and intercourse, no joke, for a few hours taking photos and admiring the beauty of the farmland and all of that rural goodness that is lancaster county.


home sweet and salty home.

this past weekend i went home to lehman pennsylvania. the intention of my trip was to celebrate my aunt phillis’ 80th birthday party. it was a nice event with good food, good conversation and lots of family i haven’t seen in ages.

while home, i ate like there was no tomorrow. ricci’s sweet sauce pizza, boulevard bakery almond ring, michael mootz fudge and my favorite of all hometown favorites, middleswarth barbeque kettle cooked potato chips. i seriously live, and probably die slowly from clogged arteries, for those chips!

other than sitting around my mothers house eating, i drove around the little town that is lehman taking pictures and reminiscing. when you have lived somewhere for decades, you become numb to or never really notice all of the little things that you rode your bike past or drove by, until you have a camera in hand. it was nice to see the post office, the now closed mazer’s nursery and cook’s variety store which is where i got my first taste of the goodness that is middleswarth potato chips. ahhh…those dang chips! there must be something in the salt and lard they are cooked in that resonates with me, 5 days later. i rode my bike or walked to cooks so many times as a child. it’s nice to see they have kept up their iconic golden mustard facade. if anyone ever decides to paint that building a different color, it will indeed be a sad day.

i also visited the corner where my family’s business “mccarroll precast inc.” houses all of their stock. again, until you look through the eye of a camera, you never realize that the things you have seen a million times, and thought mundane, could be so beautiful. my father had built many of the forms which the concrete gets poured into to create the structures. it was good to be reminded of his talent and hard work. there i bumped into my sister’s childhood friend, paula. we had a good chat about life and we laughed and she cried and then i took a drive around hayfield farm.

hayfield farm was established in 1910 and housed cattle, clydesdales, sheep and pigs and also harvested fruits, vegetables, corn and hay. my grandfather, marbel, also worked there as a blacksmith in the 1940’s. now it is dilapidated and only houses memories. it is currently owned by penn state university. i fondly recall riding my bike around there with childhood friends and taking walks with my sisters. my sister sandra used to jog around there and i believe there is a story about her eating brownies and v-8 juice before a jog and throwing up behind an oak tree. mmm…tasty!

i then drove to my elementary school which has this weird architectural structure above the walkway. i’m sure people think its ugly. i, of course, think it’s cool. my memories of elementary school include drawing a lot and twirling batons while everyone else played kickball and my sixth grade teacher, god bless that frosted hair of hers, not letting me participate in the halloween parade, which makes me dislike halloween to this day. i also remember my sister janet taking me to school in the rain the day my mother was in the hospital getting her varicose veins removed and crying because i thought she was dying.

in no particular order throughout the weekend, i saw the huntsville dam, visited my favorite thrift shops, saw that big beautiful moon…twice, did the puzzle in the sunday newspaper with my mother and ended my stay with a nature walk with my sister janet and her 6 dogs and 2 goats. yes…goats! who knew goats liked going for walks in the woods? my relaxing and reminiscing was coming to a close and it was then time for me to load up the car and head back to the big city. on my way back to philadelphia at the top of bear creek mountain, i stopped at the mini market at the turnpike entrance for, you guessed it, a bag of middleswarth barbeque kettle cooked potato chips!


one of my favorite things to do in life is roadtripping. while i dream about saving up thousands of dollars and taking a year off of life to go on a cross country road trip, and i hopefully will be able to someday, sometimes you just have to satisfy the urge with a day trip. i attribute my love of day trips to my father. some of my fondest memories of my childhood were spent sitting between my mother and father in his red ford pickup truck on a sunday driving around for the entire day. some constant themes were the hard vinyl seats and a gallon jug of water and talk radio. somewhere in there we would inevitably stumble upon some kind of pipe sticking out of a rock spouting fresh mountain water to drink, some kind of cheese product, a winding road up and around a mountain and if we were lucky, a swimming hole or a shopping mall. i also enjoyed our annual summer wild huckleberry picking, making sure to watch out for snakes and bears. as night would fall, we would head home and i would watch the tracey ullman show and think about how i didn’t want to go to school on monday because i didn’t want sunday to end. to this day, i still get nostalgic on sunday evenings. either to be a child again or that i wish my father was still alive or that the tracey ullman show was still on tv.

last week my friend amber and i spent the entire day driving around the greater philadelphia area taking photos and laughing and listening to music and stopping at cute little places to eat. we started off having breakfast at the morning glory diner. its always so good there and they have the best homemade ketchup! from there we just started driving. thats always how it works. we get in the car and drive with no destination and no time constraints. it was raining out and i was reluctant but sometimes the best remedy for that soggy day slumber is to get the heck out of your house and see things. anything other than your comforter and the four walls of your bedroom. i’m sure you all can identify with those days.

from center city, we drove west.

amber and i, especially amber, live for driving into the most run down parts of town and exploring the beauty of squalor. there is always something so exciting about deterioration. the paint over paint over paint and the subsequent peeling back of the layers. the graffiti. the accidental color combinations. the frozen in time moments. the danger of the setting. it is a photography dream.

then we drove northwest.

for every few blocks we drove, the backdrop changed architecturally and socio-economically from abandoned row houses to slate roof mansions. at some points we thought we were in a third world country. other times, bavaria. this part of the adventure led us through the “main line”. we traveled through the towns of narberth and wayne to villanova. we saw the houses grow bigger and more attractive and sadly, we watched our inspiration dwindle. perfectly manicured homes, while aspirational, just aren’t as interesting to discuss and photograph as those with collapsed roofs and spray paint on them.

we then headed eastward.

our next destination was chestnut hill. this is a super cute town with great little shops and restaurants. we grabbed lunch at top of the hill cafe where we shared a mushroom barley soup. then we went to my favorite bakery in the philadelphia area. it is called the night kitchen. it is so freaking delicious and if you are ever in chestnut hill, you must go there! when i first started going there, i suggested that they open a location in center city, as they are located about 20 to 30 minutes outside of the city. after making probably too many trips out there, i now advise them not to because if they did, i would go there every day and i would then weigh about 500 pounds. as far as what to try at the night bakery, i would suggest the flourless chocolate cupcake, the pecan bar, the lemon curd cupcake or my favorite of all favorites, the lemon bar. i sort of feel like starting a lemon bar club to find the best lemon bar in philadelphia. might i suggest tartes in old city has phenomenal lemon bars as well.

then south.

amber needed underwear so we went to target and then we drove back into the city and to a part of philadelphia that i had never been to out by the stadiums. here we found road after road leading to large warehouse buildings that, i’m guessing, house and distribute nuts, fruits and vegetables, seafood and meat to the area grocery stores. it was very strange but oddly inspiring and we took some really great photographs there. we then headed home, exhausted and feeling like my brain couldn’t possibly handle one ounce more of stimulation. the best part of the day was that we didn’t have to pack a bag or book a hotel or a flight to see something new and exciting. it was right in our backyard. if you are looking for something fun to do that doesn’t require planning, grab your camera, get in your car, or convince someone who does, and go for a day trip!

spirit of competition.

hello there. my new line of fabric HABITAT is competing in an online modern fabric competition. who even knew there was such a thing. anywho, i would appreciate your vote. there are some things i would suggest in regards to the link i have provided. do you see it? the one down there. in big blue letters. yeah the one that says VOTE FOR ME HERE. yes. that one.

but before you click the link, follow these instructions…

1. no you are not too late in voting. ignore the ones proclaimed winners at the top of the post. they are last week weeks winners.
2. vote for HABITAT in the floral poll box. thats if you want to 😉
3. under the floral box, look at the links to the other competing lines. theres lots of nice stuff huh?
4. voting closes in 2 days, so get on it!
5. receive a kiss in the mail from me sometime this week.

thank you and enjoy your weekend!!!!



the first signs of spring peeked their head out this weekend and i couldn’t be happier. it’s not like i have particularly bad winter depression, but you get to a point where you can only tolerate so many months of white, grey and brown. i am a color person and i feel so much more alive when i see yellow, fresh green, light pink, fuchsia, magenta and purple starting to unfurl out of their sleeping bags on the tree branches and poke out of the dirt amongst the crunchy remnants of autumn. i also love that smell of earthiness in the air and the sound of birds chit chatting. soon it will be time to rip that awful plastic off of the windows and walk around without a hat and gloves on and sit in the park or eat outside at a restaurant. before you know it, i will be bitching about how i cant breathe because its so dang hot out! check back in august when i’m in a foul mood. 🙂

climb every mountain.

shortly after i returned from los angeles from my stint on celebrity fit club, i was looking for new and interesting physical activities to try out. winter was approaching and the days were numbered on my favorite of activities, walking and jogging outdoors. i won a gym membership and i was going to the gym, but as i’m sure most of you can attest to, gyms kind of suck. they are intimidating and monotonous and the idea of touching equipment after i have imagined the previous 10 people who have touched it not washing their hands after they went to the bathroom, kind of grossed me out.

while i was in los angeles, i went to visit my sister marcia in denver colorado for a long weekend. she is an outdoorsy gal and goes rock climbing and mountain climbing and does all sorts of other outdoor activities that i, well…don’t. we drove to red rocks amphitheater and i ran up the steps there and even did a little climbing on some ledges. we are talking kindergarten rock climbing here. nothing serious and no fancy equipment. i thought this might be something fun to try at a later date.

last winter my friend erin and i decided to check out this indoor rock climbing facility in philadelphia called “go vertical” as soon as we walked in we knew it was cool and otherwordly and we were really excited until we talked to the people at the front desk. before we could even start climbing, we would have to sign waivers, basically stating that we understood that this could be dangerous and that we couldn’t sue if something went wrong. we would also would have to get certified in belaying, which is when your climbing partner applies friction at the other end of the rope whenever you are not moving and removing the friction from the rope whenever you need more rope in order to be able to continue climbing. basically making sure you don’t come flying off of the wall and break your leg. it’s a totally frightening responsibility, if you ask me! we would also have to pay the fee to climb and the rental fee for equipment and by the end of it, we decided it was too expensive and too much of a hassle so we left and i think might have gone for mexican food and a spicy margarita instead.

months went by and erin and i would very occasionally mention that we should try it again. last summer i bumped into my friend melanie who climbs at go vertical and asked me to join her sometime. i thought, why not, but it was summer and i was exercising outside again so i didn’t really heavily pursue it.

about a month ago, i was at my local fabric shop “spool” doing a launch party for my new fabric line “habitat” and in walks melanie and her friend genell. i don’t want to say that they cornered me because i was set up for a meet and greet in the corner of the room, but they totally cornered me. my time was up. i could no longer put it off or make excuses that i was scared, which i completely was, any longer.

so last week erin and i met melanie and genell for our first taste of indoor rock climbing. they go all the time so we got a discounted guest pass and they took control of the belaying and all we had to do was rent the equipment, which consisted of a harness, some carabiners and some pointy toe shoes, which stunk of sweaty funk and lysol and were so dang tight that by the end of the night i could fully commiserate with the women of asia who were forced to bind their feet.

it was a fun experience and definitely one i will have to try again. however, next time i will have to remember to stretch out my hands. and my forearms. and my upper arms. and my upper back. and my lower back. yes marcia, i know, “use your legs”!

press play.

check out this interview i did for my new fabric line HABITAT. it’s for one of my favorite fabric websites, TRUE UP. it’s a very comprehensive interview so grab a bowl of ice cream, sit your butt down, pause american idol and enjoy!