Lunch at the lifestyle center. Being pensive.

I don’t eat out much anymore.  Not working will do that to you.  (Yes, I am still looking for work, and I’m getting interviews, which is good.)

February after Valentine’s Day must be a slow month in restaurant land.  There are restaurant deals around.  There is a fancy mall near me that had what they call “restaurant week”.  From Sunday February 20th through Thursday February 24th, the restaurants at this mall had three course fixed price meals for lunch and dinner, for a very reasonable price.

Correction, this is not a mall, this is a “lifestyle center”.  See the entry in Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifestyle_center_%28retail%29.  Lifestyle centers have specialty shops, cafes, upscale restaurants, fancy grocery stores, movie theaters and other forms of entertainment.  Lifestyle centers consist of separate buildings in a mall like space.  They are open air.  They have landscaping.  Here’s a link from the populist USA Today, since, oddly enough lifestyle centers are populist places — http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2007-01-31-anti-mall-usat_x.htm.

I went to Pacifico for lunch.  Here is the description of the restaurant, from open table:

“Extraordinary Latin-influenced cuisine by renowned chef, teacher and cookbook author Rafael Palomino is served in a whimsical atmosphere with seaside flair.”  http://www.opentable.com/pacifico-center-valley

I’m a big fan of designer Mexican restaurants (neighborhood Mexican eateries too), so I decided to try Pacifico.  Here is what I had, the exact description on the menu, because I thought it looked so yummy.

Appetizer: Chicken Tortilla Soup: chicken, avocado, crunchy tortilla, crème fraiche, queso fresco

Entrée:  Sautéed South African Red Snapper: plantain encrusted snapper, crabmeat & quinoa enchiladas with a mole verde sauce

Dessert: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake: vanilla & raspberry sauces

It was yummy!  I had a wonderful time.

Pacifico restaurant. Spot of color on a gloomy day. February 2011.

Pacifico, festive lunch. February 2011.

After lunch I wandered around the shops.  It was a weekday in February, before school let out, so there were only a few people walking around.  I noticed several things.  The place was nicely landscaped, the shops were pretty, and music was playing everywhere, not too loud, from speakers set unobtrusively on the ground.  The music was angst ridden poplar music, young rock musicians singly sadly and tunefully about relationships gone wrong.  If you think about it, although the music was melodic, is this the kind of music you’d play to encourage shopping?  Even L.L. Bean, a store that specializes in clothing and equipment for outdoor adventures, had their own version of pensive music playing in their store.  I guess we can be pensive as we hit the trail.

A view of the shops. February 2011.

L.L. Bean store. Colorful kayaks. February 2011.

The upscale grocery store (think Whole Foods, or Wegmans if you are in the northeast US) had classical music playing.  Perhaps you don’t buy food if you are listening to angst ridden songs about relationships.

The upscale grocery store. You have to go inside to see how fancy it is! February 2011.

I rarely buy things in stores, except for food.  I buy online.  When I do buy in stores, I find it interesting to buy something and take it home the same day – so immediately gratifying, a fun treat!

I have mixed feelings about the commercialism of these kinds of places.  I’m not an urban center purist, nor am I a fan of big cities.  I like convenient parking, well lit safe places, decent signage, cafes and landscaping.  I’m not moral about not spending money, about denying myself.  I’m reasonably materialist.  But, the sameness, that music, and the fact that it’s all about commerce – that sort of thing can wear you down, if you walk by yourself and take the time to really experience the place.  Maybe it can make you pensive, after all.

The landscape surrounding the shopping center, on a cloudy late winter day, February 2011. Ah, the pensive.

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In the Land of the Cute, second in a series

The first entry in this series was published on my blog on November 25, 2009.

I go for walks in the small Pennsylvania town where I’m currently living.  On my walks I discovered little figures, lawn ornaments, nestled on people’s properties, on their lawns, on their gardens, on a step.   This is public art. The figures are positioned so you can see them from the street.

Last year I looked for things that photographed well. This year I included some works that didn’t always photograph well, because I liked them.  Several of the works are not exactly lawn ornaments — you’ll see.

What I found the most interesting is that the effect of these works is, often, not what I think was intended!

Follow me on my journey.

This winged creature is either resting in the sun, or perhaps that flower is really, really heavy. What could be in that flower? July 2010.

An assertively cute rabbit, only a little worse for wear. Again, the flower motif. July 2010.

I think this is an angel, hard to see, flickering in the summer sun. It works better for this figure, if you can't see it all that well. July 2010.

I like this rabbit, but the little creature is becoming more and more wraithlike. Is the rabbit crossing over to the other side? July 2010.

Look closely at the lower left and mid right of the picture. Then ask yourself, in what possible universe could these two disparate beings exist -- together? July 2010.

This huge balloon is an advertisement for a car wash. Driving by is a surreal experience. July 2010.

A frog family, hard to see -- the green of the frogs blends into the green of the plants, rather like frogs that breathe. The frog family is a little worse for wear, but bravely sticking together. July 2010.

This beautiful work is an actual sculpture, not a lawn ornament. It is on the grounds of a church, but it is in an awkward spot, next to the electric box. Perhaps the sorrowful angel would be a bit happier if she was in a better space. Thanks to my cousin for pointing this out. November 2010.

A charming decorative ladybug, a good fit for the garden. But, it's so hard to see. You have to wonder, why did they bother? July 2010.

I’ve tried to photograph this dragon several times, but it's always hard to see. Then I realized -- it's hard to see in "real life". An interesting piece, but way too much going on. July 2010.

Another unusual juxtaposition of creatures. As before, in what universe could these beings possibly exist -- together? September 2010.

This little pig is adorable, and it fits the space. I like it a lot. October 2010.

Like the white rabbit (image 4) these birds look like denizens of the afterlife. The rope is to secure the shades of the porch, but it also looks like the owner is trying to keep the birds from flying off. November 2010.

November 2010. This is wonderful piece, perfectly situated. Is this lion guarding the place or trying to get out? Hang on, I'll cut a hole in the fence and let you out, little lion. Then you'll be free.

Swimming when it’s not summer – the high school pool

My  hometown pool in eastern Pennsylvania is closed for the season — only summer outdoor  swimming around here, though September is often warm enough for outdoor swimming.   I discovered that the local high school has a wonderful pool, available to the public from September through May.   After that we switch to the outdoor community pool.  A season pass is very affordable.

I’ve been here over a year.  I vaguely remember reading about swimming at the high school last year,  but I never acted on it.  Pity.  I could have used the calm and peaceful (yet active and healthy!) enjoyment I get from swimming, though  I don’t swim as often I should.  I love water and swimming so much that I even find an indoor pool to be beautiful.

If and when I ever get to move out (assuming I get a job, think I’m close) — I may still swim here some Saturday mornings.  I’m still planning to be somewhere in the vicinity of eastern Pennsylvania (though it might be New Jersey or Delaware) in the foreseeable future.

Here are some pictures, taken with my Motorola Droid Smartphone.

High School Pool, September 2010

High School Pool, View 2

High School Pool, View 3

High School Pool, View 4

High School Pool, View 5

2010 Retrospective – Summer Swimming

The  summer heat and humidity in eastern Pennsylvania make it wonderful for summer swimming.   Here are many pictures of my hometown pool.  The best moments when I was growing up were at this pool — and the best moments of my time here now.  My photos tend to have a “where are the people”  look to them.  You’ll have to think of the people as being just out of range of the camera shot.

Sunset, June 2010. The pool is ready for opening.

Sign above the entrance to the pool. The season pass is a great deal!

Just before opening day. That clown is a little scary.

I'm in the water. June 2010.

Swimming on a sunny day.

Rope and post separating the deeper water from the shallow water. Interesting reflections.

Sunset, June 2010. I wish there was night swimming. It's warm enough.

View of the slide and one of the diving boards, from the water. August 2010.

A buoy, other side is the lap lane. Overcast day. August 2010.

A cloudy day. Magical. I have the pool almost to myself. August 2010.

I like to put my towel at the edge of the fence, closest to the creek on the other side. In late afternoon there is shade.

Pool nachos, the best junk food snack on the planet. I don't want to know what's in that cheese!

September 2010. The pool is closed for the season.

More pictures of my community pool, part 2

This set of pictures takes you from January through June, right before the pool is set to open.  Walking by this pool and taking pictures is a thing with me.  It’s a solitary pursuit.

Pool, January 2010. Sunny day, now snow.

Pool, February 2010. Snow.

Pool landing, February 2010. My footprints.

Pool, February 2010. So very much snow.

Pool, March 2010. Dreary day.

Pool, March 2010. Dreary day with ducks!

Pool, April 2010. The trees are green.

Pool, May 2010. Drained, scrubbed, ready to fill. The cartoon characters are back.

Pool, June 2010. Dusk. The empty pool reflects the sky.

Many, many pictures of my community pool, part 1

This is my local community pool.  I know, it’s not a natural body of water, like a creek or a spring, but I like to see how it looks over the seasons.  I’ve taken many pictures in the course of my walks.   It’s a thing with me – walking by this pool.  I’ve made a path through the snow in the winter, to get up the stairs to the landing so I can look at the pool and take pictures.   What does this say about me?

Pool, August 2009. Swimming is wonderful.

Pool, August 2009. Mistly. The clown is a little creepy.

Pool, September 2009. No more swimming. The cartoon characters are gone.

Pool, November 2009. A few autumn leave remain.

Pool, November 2009. No more leaves.

Pool, December 2009. Sprinkling of snow.

Pool, December 2009. Snow and reflections.

Pool, December 2009. Pool at dusk.

Pool, January 2010. Cold. Snow and ice.