Monthly Archives: August 2010

Shot of the Week

This little cafe is one in a strip of identical eateries hidden behind the bus stop in the border town of Villazón, Bolivia. The two women — one carrying a baby on her back — serve up a traditional breakfast of hot flatbread (seen sitting on the counter) and tea with coca leaves to its patrons on picnic tables.

Tara for TKGO

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Save a Roadside Attraction!

The Midwest has a long upstanding tradition of zany roadside attractions. My personal favorite, the corn maze, is unfortunately often poorly tended, making what was once a clear path into a jumble of cut stalks buried under a foot of mud.

 

Corn mazes may be great in theory, but Sarah and I agree — you definitely want to be walking on gravel if it rained the night before.

 

Like a ray of hope in an era of degrading farm mazes, two yellow flags flew high over a white sign with black lettering, in all caps, declaring: “MAZE.” To the rescue came the A-Mazement Park in Marion, Wisconsin, to solve the region’s pressing corn maze mud problem. Every April until September since 2001, the park opened to thousands of highway nomads searching for cheap thrills. For $7, you could spend hours diving through the wooden walls and gravel paths to get to each of four checkpoints, where you stamp your card before trying to return to home base in record time. In mid-October through Halloween, the park became Transyl-Maze-ia, where for a slightly steeper admission price of $12, you could enter the park as late as 10 p.m. and not only dodge walls, but also park employees cloaked in demonic attire and white face paint.

 

The A-Mazement Park is in an ideal spot, just four hours from Chicago and Minneapolis and two and a half hours from Milwaukee! Courtesy of Google Maps.

 

Sadly, you notice I write in the past tense. The A-Mazement Park’s survival is at risk. Because of the owner’s heavy time commitment to a construction company, the A-Mazement Park is not open this year and is for sale. To purchase this Wisconsin landmark and progressive maze for $399,000, call VR Business Mergers at (715) 966-6647. (Or, to buy the Transyl-Maze-ia props, call Todd at (715) 754-4566.)

 

The A-Mazement Park, courtesy of the official site

 

It’s really in great condition. Plus, since the walls are made of wood and stand off the ground by two feet or so, the owner can move them every few weeks so customers enter a new maze whenever they come. (You also have the added security of being able to army-crawl your way to the open air at any point if this gets old. Then, there’s always mini-golf.)

Act quickly! You may even be able to open in time for Halloween!

The A-Mazement Park is located at 111 Industrial Drive, Marion, WI 54950.

Tara for TKGO

Massachusetts History at a Family Reunion

This past weekend my extended family (mom’s side) gathered in Sudbury, Massachusetts for a combination graduation party/family reunion. Massachusetts is my mom’s provenance and it’s a place rife with Revolution history. Childhood visits to the grandparents meant stops at Plymouth Rock and the like, and this weekend’s trip followed course. Starting with lunch at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn we spent the day catching up with each other and also, as the day continued, learning about Massachusetts history and folklore.

Longfellow’s Wayside Inn

 

The right half of Longfellow's Wayside Inn, by Karina for TKGO

 

The history: The Inn has welcomed hungry and tired travelers for almost 300 years, beginning in Colonial times. Henry Ford is to credit for preserving the Inn as a non-profit historic landmark.

Today: The Inn serves lunch and dinner 364 days per year, and the menu features classic New England dishes with a modern flair. (Don’t worry, they’re still generous with the mashed potatoes.) There’s no required check-in to dine, though guest rooms are available for a stay. It’s also — as we witnessed — a popular site for wedding functions.

Mary Had a Little Lamb Schoolhouse

 

Filing in for our history lesson on Mary and education, by Karina for TKGO

 

The history: Who knew a little Massachusetts girl and her lamb could spawn so much debate? Mary and her schoolhouse have a relatively convoluted history, and to this day no one can claim to know the full truth about it all. As the poem goes, Mary’s lamb did follow her to school one day, which caused a ruckus. There was a visiting minister-in-training of sorts, John Roulstone, present to witness the fracas, and he returned to the school the next day with a slip of paper containing the first few stanzas of the poem. Whether Roulstone wrote the entire poem or Sarah Josepha Hale, who is the acknowledged author in poem’s first publication, finished it up, we do not know. Regardless of who is the rightful author, Mary’s incident in 1830 became a cultural phenomenon.

Today: Henry Ford (there he is again!) moved what he believed to be the original schoolhouse to a field adjacent to the Wayside Inn, where it now sits. Visitors during the school’s “open” hours are free to peek around the house. If a guide is present (and I believe one generally is during open hours), I recommend sitting in to hear about the history of the house as well as about America’s past educational practices — yes, switching was involved. Our guide was dressed true to Colonial times, and there were even some hoops and sticks out for playing.

Wayside Inn Grist Mill

 

Front of the Wayside Inn Grist Mill, by Karina for TKGO

 

The history: Hydraulic engineer J.B. Campbell built the grist mill in 1929. If it looks vaguely familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it on a Pepperidge Farm product. Apparently, the company used the mill for production from 1952-1967 and the Pepperidge Farm logo is based on its picturesque look.

Today: The mill continues to churn out five tons of flour per year, some of which goes into the Wayside Inn’s offerings. It’s definitely worth a visit, whether to be in the presence of classic New England charm or to pick up a lesson on white flour versus wheat from the miller. And if you need more convincing, just check out these lovely, nostalgia-charged Yelp entries.

Start at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn; everything is within walking distance. 72 Wayside Inn Road, Sudbury, MA. 978-443-1776.

Karina for TKGO

Shot of the Week

When Tara and I lived together in New York City in spring of 2009, our West Village apartment was just a short walk from the West Side Highway. The path stretching along the water is a favorite escape and running trail for New Yorkers, and the same was true for us. This photograph is from one Sunday sunset walk; the skyline is New Jersey’s.

Karina for TKGO

Social Drinking in Argentina (yes, that’s caffeine)

The first time I felt like a porteño (Buenos Aires native) happened while on a family trip to Bariloche, after I had been living in Buenos Aires for nearly four months. The tour guide and van driver were passing mate and offered it to me. I took the cup, emptied it and handed it back, and they proceeded to fill it again and pass it along.

My mother nearly had a heart attack.

Sharing straws isn’t a tradition in the U.S., but in Argentina — you have to get over it. Mate (mah-tay) is a heavily caffeinated, appetite-suppressing tea that Argentines drink even more frequently than Americans drink coffee. The ritual is this: The host brings out the cup, the straw, the tin that holds a supply of broken mate leaves and a thermos filled with hot water. The host fills the cup roughly three-quarters of the way with mate (more for a bitter, stronger flavor) and then fills it to the brim with boiling hot water that always scorches the amateurs. Then he inserts the metal straw, which has a filter on the end to keep the leaves out of the consumer’s mouth. He or she passes the cup to the person beside him, who drinks until it is empty, and then passes it back to the host, who refills the cup and continues to pass it around the circle, refilling between people.

 

It's my turn to drink in our post-work day mate circle in my host mom's apartment in Buenos Aires

 

Naturally, the process takes a while. That’s the idea! The Argentine lifestyle is similar to the European lifestyle in that both have a vibrant cafe culture. Talking and drinking (but rarely getting drunk and never getting crunk) is part of the daily routine. In the office, breaks for mate happen every hour and last 15 minutes. At home, a mate circle forms after work to wind down from the day before dinner, and another forms after dinner to help the meal settle. You bring it on trips, to the park and even to school, where your professor might whip out a cup to send around the 30-person classroom.

But how could an entire country love the same beverage? It must taste like candy! The simple answer is no. It does not taste like candy. Nor have I met a single person who grew up in Argentina and does not like mate. If you don’t like it, you put two tablespoons of sugar in the tea before you put in the water. Voila, like sugar in coffee, it takes away the bitter flavor (and tastes slightly more like candy). Because the tea leaves aren’t changed between refills, the first few people get more bitter-tasting cups than the others. Those who hate the bitter taste can drink last.

 

My host mom, María Eugenia (Maru for short) next to her thermos and her favorite brand of mate, Taragui

 

Give it a try at home! My favorite brand is Taragui (above). You can find many offerings in large cities where South American products are sold. In Chicago, try La Única in Rogers Park. The cups are traditionally made from a special gourd, but now many less expensive brands are made of wood and metal. You can mail order cups and their straws as well for a hefty price (of course they’re usually the expensive gourd kind) or you could wait until Karina goes next month and beg her for a shipment!

Tara for TKGO

From ‘Eat Pray Love’ to Two Buttons

Author Elizabeth Gilbert and her husband own an imports store — Two Buttons — in Frenchtown, New Jersey

The ultimate movie for wanderlusters (especially female ones) like Tara and me is currently out in theaters: Eat Pray Love. Chances are you’d heard of the story before Julia Roberts even took on the role; Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of the same title was released in 2006 and hit number one on the New York Times best-seller list. In it, she ventures to Italy, India and Indonesia on a journey that is as much cross-continental as it is internal.

The film version of Gilbert’s yearlong trip is out now, but it took place a handful of years ago. What has she been up to since? Well, we know from her most recent book Committed, she married the man to credit for the “love” part of Eat Pray Love. And thanks to my mom’s friend, I learned the couple own an imports store called Two Buttons in Frenchtown, N.J., about an hour from my home.

Curious and hopeful for a run-in with my absolute favorite author — which actually happened! See below for photo proof — I visited the store with my mom this past weekend. (By the way, we saw the movie last night and all I can say is, it’s beautiful. Beautiful Julia Roberts, beautiful cinematography, beautiful places and of course, beautiful Javier Bardem.)

The Two Buttons warehouse is an exquisite collection of predominantly Southeast Asian relics from the travels of Gilbert and her husband. Each piece seems as though it has been thoughtfully selected for the store, including adorable little stuffed elephant key chains, unique Indonesian fishing furniture, handmade decorative goods, colorful woven purses and Buddhas of all shapes and colors — including a 7,000-pound one out front. I am convinced anyone with a taste for travel would walk out of Two Buttons thrilled with a purchase, especially since the goods are very fairly priced. My find for the day was an artsy black ring, which you can spot in the last photo of my Two Buttons slideshow posted below.

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Two Buttons, 62A Trenton Ave. (also called Route 29), Frenchtown, N.J. Click here for a YouTube video of Elizabeth Gilbert showing Two Buttons.

-Karina for TKGO

Shot of the Week

Murder in Antarctica? Not quite. Antarctic terrain is heavily shaped by volcanic activity. Guides and researchers dug shallow pools near the ocean to allow the water under the sand (heated by the volcanic heat below the land) to mix with the near-freezing ocean water, creating a natural hot springs. At 30 below, we stripped and bathed.

Tara for TKGO