Massive and Magnificent

When you go to Sarasota, you really have to stop in and see The Ringling. I hardly know where to begin. Oh, wait, I did begin. I told you about the garden gnomes and the banyan trees and the roses in the rose garden already in Florida Curiosities. Creepy/ amusing/ freakish/ enchanting as those gnomes might be to you, fascinating as the banyans were to me and lovely as the roses are (hopefully) to everyone, these were just the beginning.

We started at the art museum. Its gorgeous courtyard includes a replica of Michelangelo’s famous David.


I realize that not everyone would be as enthralled as I was with the marble walkway up near that statue, but, I mean, look at what you’re walking on. Some unknown, very talented team of laborers a hundred years ago chose which piece should go next, how to organize the colors, which way to turn each piece so that it best complements the next piece – its own kind of puzzle.

marble up close.jpg

And this is no short or narrow path. Do you think the design is random?

Hey, Jack, hand me another piece.

Which one?

I don’t care. Any one.

No, I think more thought than that went into it…

marble walkway.jpg

We went from the walkway to the armor exhibit. This is the real McCoy, authentic armor worn by men four or five hundred years ago who were much smaller than today’s men. The knight on the horse doesn’t look that small…


…but when you look at the sampling of upper-body styles, you think maybe these guys didn’t eat as well as we do. The lady there told us a guy of about 120 pounds would fit in them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Anybody for a sword?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The courtyard, armor and the art museum were all worth every minute, but besides the charming gnomes (here’s another for your pleasure – dontcha just wanna hug her??)…

gnome cr.jpg

…the best part of the day for me was seeing the circus. Well, not exactly the circus. You start in a room with old-time posters like this… “Presenting 600 Educated Animals” – Educated?? 600??


…and this. “Hilliary Long Defies Death in His Thrilling Head Slide” (oh, my! looks to me like an upside-down slide on a descending tightrope – guessing he wears some sort of cap with a groove in it for the tightrope??) and “The Most Novel, Moral and Entertaining Exhibition Ever Given Under Canvas” (moral?) and “Mile-Long Massive, Magnificent Street Parade (who wouldn’t want to go to the circus??).


The next room has some of the leftover equipment they used, such as the truck converted to use for the human cannonball.


Yes, human beings of sound mind loaded themselves – feet first – into the barrel of this thing, which by means of air compression shot them out approximately 200 feet (60 meters) onto a waiting net (hopefully they landed on the net, assuming they did the math right and nothing went awry). Hugo Zacchini, a circus performer with two engineering degrees and later an advanced degree in fine arts, who could also speak or interpret eleven languages, was discovered by John Ringling in 1928. He and his sons joined Ringling’s circus and continued performing this famous, thrilling and death-defying act for years.

Death-defying. As if the guy sliding upside down on a descending tightrope is not risking his life. Or the lady on the trapeze a hundred feet in the air. Or the guy in the ring with the lions or the one swallowing a flaming sword.

The circus was a big deal back in the day. About 100 railroad cars transported many hundreds of people and animals from one town to the next, where crews followed mind-bogglingly tight schedules allowing them to set up, perform and tear down in one day – so that they could then travel, set up, perform and tear down somewhere else the next day.

The Ringling wants to give its visitors an idea of what the circus was like – not only what ticket-holders would see, but behind the scenes as well. It’s a fascinating look at the massive operation. Can this miniature version (1/16th scale model) that is super neat and clean (way neater and cleaner than reality would dictate) possibly give the idea of the magnitude of the operation? For example, thousands of people – 5000-8000 typically, but as many as 15,000 – came every day to see the animals and the acts. This three-ring “Big Top” reproduction is just one of many tents in the 3800-square-foot exhibit.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another part of the miniature exhibit shows the “midway,” where visitors could see the fat man, the tall man, flame throwers, the bearded lady and other very well paid “freaks,” and get shaved ice and popcorn to eat.  


This next part shows the dining tent. All the performers and crew of course had to eat – a whopping 3900 (!) meals a day were prepared and served. Anyone who has worked in the restaurant or hotel business can appreciate how efficient the staff had to be to make this happen.


Each person had a designated seat! China plates, silverware, a water pitcher and condiments too. Imagine how much food they would need. Records indicate that a typical day’s order included two barrels of sugar (not sure how big a barrel is), 30 gallons of milk, 36 bags of table salt, 50 bushels of potatoes, 110 dozen oranges, 200 pounds of tea and coffee, 226 dozen eggs, 285 pounds of butter, 350 pounds of salad, 1300 pounds of fresh vegetables, 2220 loaves of bread, 2470 pounds of fresh meat and 3600 ears of corn. My mind cannot wrap around those quantities.

To say nothing of the animals that are also hungry every day. Where did they get the food? Imagine the expense. Imagine how many animals are needed to feed the animals…


The “Menagerie” was another important and popular part of a visitor’s day at the circus. A valid case can be made that exposure to exotic and interesting animals – then as now—increases awareness and understanding, which (I would like to think) improves the animals’ well being in the big picture (even if, for some, it is not the best life).


For many people back then, the circus was the only time in their lives that they would see animals from other parts of the world – zoos being rather uncommon. Think about the trains that carried the circus from town to town – about 16,000 miles per year on average! – giving kids and adults in remote places, with few other options for entertainment, a window into a fascinating world available to them in no other way. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, movies were just beginning to be a thing, forget about television. The circus also gave performers who love to perform a new audience every night.

Like so many things, it wasn’t perfect. Like so many things, through today’s lens it would be seen as fraught with problems, inconsistencies, unfairness and worse. But for many decades, starting in the mid 1800s when railroads made a traveling extravaganza possible, the circus brought color, fun, fascination, education, thrills and entertainment (and employment) to countless thousands.

I think if you were a kid back then, in some small town far from everywhere and you found out that the circus was coming to town, you might be good and glad to go see what there was to see – the animals, the lady on the swinging trapeze, the elephant walking regally through the big top. You’d probably see it the way The Ringling chose to display it – bright and extensive and amazing. You might like the giant sea elephant best. “Wow!” might be all you could say…


Best Beach Puzzle

I love a good puzzle. I love the innies and outies of varying size, bulbousness and depth, and the super pointy corner spades you get sometimes. But I was not prepared for these pieces. Do you see what I see?


One piece near the middle looks fairly normal – more or less rectangular in shape with two innies and two outies opposite each other. And then there are lots of nonstandard elements about the other pieces – curved edges (curved edges!), odd angles, random jut-outs. For example, that one with one outie, one innie, some white coloring and two straight-ish edges (bottom left area of photo) – which edge is the straightest edge and does that mean it’s an outer edge? If there are two straight-ish edges, the puzzle makers have thrown convention off the 14th-floor beach hotel balcony. Maybe one of them is an outer edge, maybe neither.

I knew we were in for it. Our Sarasota beach puzzle was a doozy.

Under the following conditions a beach puzzle will call my name. 1. A fun design that is challenging but not too challenging (the trip was five nights, not five weeks), 2. A surface to work on (let’s assume we are willing to not eat at that table), 3.  A few willing, interested and capable people (Debra, you were amazing!), and 4. The ability to break it down when it’s time to go home (the hardest part, so I say, best to let someone else do it when you are out of the room!).

Our doozy of a puzzle was a great pick by Dina: beachy theme, not too many pieces, numerous colorful and distinct objects — and “not too much sky” as my grandmother used to say – or in this case, not too much water!


You see five starfish, two clown fish, two angel fish, two dolphins and some random other sea life – all different enough from each other to give you confidence that it can’t be that hard. (Ha!) One angelfish is more orangy than the other (I think those are angel fish), and one of the starfish is purple, one has dots, one is more brownish, one has little white mountains on it (that’s what they looked like to me) and one is, well, other.

Standard puzzling starts from the edge and works inward. I have never put one together in which we started on the inner sections and did the edging last. Until this one. You see the edge on the box cover image. Crazy!! The pieces were oddball shapes with sorta-straight or downright curvy sides – yeah, no way was the edge happening first.

Let’s do a starfish. The one with dots. And sure, a few edge pieces, but not many.


Onward. Group like colors or patterns together, one creature at a time, one fin or flower or ill-defined squiggle at a time. Little by little connect the creatures. Now (below) you see five starfish (four connected), two angelfish and some other pretty fish in between – and only slightly more edge than before!


But it’s okay. There are no rules to puzzle-making. You can put it together however makes sense to you. Kind of like life when you think about it. Like food. Like friendship.

I take that back. There are some rules. With a puzzle, the pieces have to fit together, duh, which is harder than it looks. With food, the ingredients have to work together and the flavors have to play off each other in such a way as the outcome is delicious and hopefully appealing. With friendship, well, we all know what happens when fun is not had and mutual benefits (disparate as they might be) are not forthcoming.

Night after night, when we all had had enough beachy sun for one day, enough fishing, enough shelling, enough exploring (note I did not say enough eating or drinking!), some of us headed to the puzzle table. It came together nicely. There is a sense of triumph only puzzlers know when a piece that has been hiding suddenly calls your name. Here I am, and I have been here all along! Kind of like discovering that someone you have been working with for years or the quiet neighbor down the street is way nicer than you ever knew, and you also happen to have a lot in common. Been here all along!


Puzzles come together piece by piece, step by step, bit by bit, the way you weed a garden or iron a shirt or make a cake or write a poem. You start with the decision to do it, knowing full well that it will take time and patience. You pay attention to detail if you want to end up with the puzzle whole, the garden gorgeous, the shirt pressed, the cake delicious, the poem meaningful. You try and try again, sometimes the same wrong piece in the same spot where it didn’t fit before over and over. Oh, right, that one doesn’t work there! You smile a little, inside or outwardly, when someone notices your diligence and progress. Hey, looks like a starfish to me!

You keep going until you finish or you decide it’s enough or you run out of time. We all know it’s not the end of the world if you don’t finish, but there’s something enormously satisfying about finished, completed, done – even if weeds will grow again, the shirt will get wrinkly, the cake will be eaten (oh, yum!) and the poem will be unread by many who would enjoy it so very much. Even if, difficult as it is, you break apart those puzzle pieces you spent so much time putting together.

We finished!


Debra, have fun doing it again, this time with your grandson!

Florida Curiosities

At my house in Virginia I am surrounded by trees: giant trees, trees with bark, trees with leaves that fall off, trees kids can climb. We do not have concrete trees. We do not have trees that cannot be content with one trunk. We do not have trees with lattice-work trunks.

When I first came across what look like concrete palm trees in downtown Sarasota standing next to an actual concrete pole, I thought perhaps the city’s tree-trimming crew had manicured these somehow to make them easier to maintain or because, mimicking concrete, they are more fitting for the cityscape. Or the city planners had chosen this type because they are so odd, so straight, so smooth – a Florida curiosity (among many!) that would make heads turn (though hopefully not causing: look! oops! crash!).

concrete trees in city.jpg

You know, the same way they put up statues that draw your eye. Everyone remember this one from the famous V-Day photo in Times Square?

giant statue.jpg

A different city committee approved this one, for sure, such a very iconic image of joyful reunion, of national celebration, of profound relief. “Unconditional Surrender” was sculpted by Seward Johnson and stands in the bayfront area despite protests that it is not art. A local blog nonetheless says “there’s no denying that it’s a unique stop for any Sarasota visitor. When visiting, please remember that drivers should keep their eyes on the road and never take pictures from behind the wheel.” Right.

Intriguing as the sculpture is, my own eye went back to the concrete trees. I thought maybe the city landscapers decided to shave off the regular bark instead of 1. leaving it the way it might occur naturally (whatever that is) or 2. trimming it, lattice-like, as you see here, the unkempt, controlled stubble look.

lattice trunk palms.jpg

But no, the concrete palm trees are easily found outside the city as well.

concrete palm.jpg

They line the streets with them. Here is a collection in front of the Ritz on Lido Key. Note the gawking tourist! What IS it? Are they real?

line of concrete trees.jpg

These smooth-trunked palms, so well defined, so sure of themselves, are a stark contrast to the banyan trees that seemingly had a contest for trunk superiority, and no one won. Countless verticals seem to compete: “I’m the real trunk! No, I’m the most important! Well, I’m the most interesting – look at my twists and curves!” On the extensive and impressive grounds of the Ringling estate, thirteen banyan trees (classified under the genus Ficus, or fig (!) – who knew??) stand in a grove. The story goes that they were given to John Ringling by Thomas Edison in the 1920s. Here are Debra, Brian, Fred and Dina dwarfed by them.

Debra, Brian Fred and Dina among banyan trees.jpg


Speaking of dwarfs, the little gnome hiding in the back is one of many that adorn the grove. Their story is magical. Way back in the Ringling heyday, the gardening crew arrived – early, as per gardening crew norms – and were surprised to find the little oddballs being set down into their places by larger, stiffly moving, clearly older garden gnomes. Could it be a new gnome colony being planted? Or was it time-out for misbehaving youngsters? When said gardening crew arrived (gaping, no doubt, aghast at the sight, unsure – having not yet had their morning coffee – that they weren’t maybe just seeing things), they saw the larger gnomes placing their presumably more shy little compatriots among the trees in rather hidden spots and the gregarious ones as greeters along the path.


Just kidding. John Ringling found the sculptures in Italy on one of his art-collecting expeditions, and they will evermore enchant visitors to his estate. I’m not sure I’d call them “amusing,” “delightful” and “whimsical,” as estate literature does. “Creepy” comes to mind.  I sent Samuel a photo of me in front of one of them to give him an image of the new Sanuk shoes I had bought.

in front of gnome.jpg

If you zoom in, I said, you can see them. The top is stretchy fabric, super comfy.

Not happening. “Honestly I can’t look at that photo and pay any attention to your shoes with that weird gnome,” he replied. And that was that.

Fair enough.

Birds are everywhere – on the beach, in the air, on the docks. Here’s one Mary and I saw after unsuccessfully trying to get a table at Dry Dock Grill in Longboat Key. We did not get lunch there, but he did!

crane reaching.jpg

Birds are even on the room number plates where we stayed, the Lido Beach Resort (pronounced “Leedo” by the way).

room number.jpg

And how is this for cool? Your room key is part of a snazzy wrist band that you can wear in the water or wherever – no more trying to remember where you placed the thing. Here’s Fred’s, memorialized at the pool. I thought they were great! Okay, maybe these are the norm everywhere now — I don’t get out that much!

wrist band.jpeg

There were so many cool things in Florida! Such vibrant colors too.

Orange pancake mushrooms on a dead log.

orange pancakes.jpg

Red roses (in Mable Ringling’s rose garden).

red roses.jpg

And a black lizard that Fred was quick enough to catch with his camera. See it on top, toward the back of the log?

black lizard.jpg

Tractors (needing headlights!) comb the sand in the early morning …

combing the sand.jpg

… tempting visitors like me to get, shall we say, a little too much Vitamin D? Oh, how white can she be?? the locals are saying. Sweetie, put on your sunscreen!!


I got a little smarter after that and wore a shirt the rest of the day. Seeing dear friends from Keswick – Mario, Mary and Victoria – made this very special trip even better!

with Mary and Vixtoria.jpg

But a post about a trip to the beach in Florida would not be complete without a really awesome sandcastle. Check it out! Dripped turrets all around, shells lining the road leading to the moat, distinguishing upright shells at the entrance… very impressive.

sand castle2cr.jpg

My own shell collection made it home with no breakages and I proceeded with Shell Show & Tell. Next thing I knew, Samuel had used a barnacled clamshell as a hat for Coco. This poor dog. But she didn’t care!

Coco with shell hat.jpg

It’s good to be home, but what a wonderful trip!


A Rest on the Beach

It doesn’t take much to make me happy. Feet in a hot tub.

feet in spa.jpg

Feet in the sand.

feet in sand cr.jpg

A warm breeze. A few collected shells.

shelll collection.jpg

Nice conversation. A gorgeous sunset over the ocean. (Guess where I am!)


A breathtaking view from the hotel room. And water – what is so peaceful about water (when it’s not, of course, in a violently raging storm)?

view from room

How is it that we sometimes don’t know what we need until we get it? Or, in my case, until we are gifted it. I am careful of the word “need.” I do not “need” (though I am loving it!) a few days at the luxurious Lido Beach Resort in Sarasota, Florida, in the company of my amazingly generous college roommate (thank you Dina!) and her wonderful family (hello Fred, Debra, Luana and Brian, Walt and Jené!).


What I “needed” was a rest – the I-do-not-have-an-agenda kind of rest, with all the relaxation, perspective and refreshment a good rest brings. It does me good to get outside my ordinary everyday world (much as I love that too), to eat other foods (“Fin & Crab” was outstanding tonight), to talk about other things, to see other sights.

What a godsend of a place for a rest! I am reminded that some people like to fish on the end of a jumble of rocks…

Walt fishing2.jpg

…or think giant rubber duckies are cool…

rubber duckie

…or make impressive sand animals (is it a manatee?)…

sand manatee2.jpg

…or write their feelings with excellent handwriting (sandwriting?). I love the beach too!

I love the beach.jpg

I get to see for myself some of the wildlife that could be chosen for nature programs like Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II (exceptionally well done shows). These, as Fred so kindly looked up for me, are Royal Terns.

terns in water

We wondered if the ones with all black feathers on their heads are the males and the ones with only partial black are females, or vice versa. The color of their beaks made me imagine a paint color card – the kind you see at Lowe’s – with Royal Tern Beak Orange on it. The birds stick together (for safety in numbers?) and don’t let you get too close. In the water against the setting sun they are some kind of beautiful.

terns in water at sunset.jpg

On the sand during the day they are harder to spot.

group of terns

They clearly have one or two self-designated “spokes-terns” that do all the squawking for all the others (on which point you will have to trust me). I suppose it’s also possible that they had some sort of in-house competition for loudest/most obnoxious squawk and those that won need to continually prove their superior skill.  Yes, yes, everyone on the beach hears you!

The Royal Terns undoubtedly have various other fascinating characteristics that the nature show producers would call attention to. Maybe they dive bomb their prey. Maybe they mate for life. Maybe they are fashion divas and change their feather colors with the changing seasons. I will wonder – and likely remain ignorant – because hey, so many shells, so little time!

shells on beach cr.jpg

Do you think this little lonely beauty is unbroken?

water rushing over sand.jpg

A Twist on NIMBY

I don’t always stay right on top of catch-phrases. Somehow I missed NIMBY until not long ago, though it was first used in 1980 (!). It encapsulates the concept of opposing development, even development of worthwhile projects, unless it is happening somewhere else, thus Not In My Back Yard. Examples abound. Everything from nursing homes to bike paths to power plants to sports stadiums to cell phone masts – all of which are indispensable and/or desirable in today’s world – are certainly best located in somebody else’s back yard.

The property I can see from my own happens to be surrounded by land that is under conservation easement. When I look in any direction, all I see is woods and mountains. I didn’t have anything to do with this but am the grateful beneficiary of someone else’s efforts to protect the natural area within my view. This morning as I stand on my back deck, this is what I see. It wouldn’t be everyone’s idea of a peaceful and lovely February morning, but it fits mine.

morning 2.27.jpg

What is it about us humans, though, that can be on the one hand so very content with what we have and on the other intensely desire what we don’t? I’m talking about what could be called YIMBY (YES! In My Back Yard). Here’s the thing: As much as I (on the one hand) love, love, love where I live, and as exceedingly grateful as I (on the other hand) am to have the time and resources to travel and visit my beloved Rise, Eppie, Ellie, Nelson, Piper and Zoe in their homes now and then, I wish they were, yes, in my back yard, more often. I wish they didn’t live SDFA (So Damn Far Away). I wish getting to them and my own grown children didn’t involve SLAROP (Security Lines And Rides On Planes) or ELTIC (Exceedingly Long Trips In Cars). I wish they were CETHOFAT (Close Enough To Have Over For Afternoon Tea).

I wish for a lot, I know. We do what we can and I try (really I do!) to see the upsides of being APRA (A Plane Ride Away).  Last week in Boise we made a snowman…

Ellie and snowman.jpg

… and enjoyed outstanding croissants from JanJou Patisserie (those on the left have chocolate chips in them!)…

croissants at JanJou2.jpg

…and in Seattle watched colorful fish at the aquarium…

Zoe at aquarium.jpg

…and saw a painted lady in the street.

lady in street.jpg

All of this, and many more special and wonderful moments happened last week: Nelson (16 months) danced in front of the TV as Dick van Dyke danced with the penguins in Mary Poppins and tried to add Cheerios to the meatloaf mixture. Piper (2 1/2 years) killed us all during a round of her new Memory game and sat angelically through her first stage play. Ellie (3 1/2 years) made chocolate chip cookies with me, enjoyed her first reading of One Morning In Maine (thank you, Robert McCloskey) and made us all play dead! Zoe (5 months) studied and taste-tested her first crust of bread before throwing it to Zadie, happily waiting below (how do dogs know that when there are little children in the picture, food will fall from the table?).  All of this builds the gigantic and fabulous memory bank that is unique to me. I like being In Their Back Yard, I do. I just also like Mine. Theirs and Mine are just so far apart, and the occasions so infrequent. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so conflicted about something, and day to day I’m working out how to manage it all – the feelings, the logistics, the upsides, the downsides. This seems to be the best we can do in most any situation – try to figure it out day to day, try to make each day the best it can be.

Tomorrow will be a lovely day! Rise and Eppie are here for a visit (first time in six months, super exciting for me) and we are going to enjoy the sun in my back yard, visit the silly chickens, play with Coco, read about Edward Tulane and see what’s coming up in the garden. Maybe we’ll bake cupcakes, or do puzzles, or play games, or make something pretty, or… it really doesn’t matter, does it? Spending precious days together is what matters. Life is short. We are so blessed. Never forget that.

Rise and Eppie in Harpers Ferry.jpg


The Flavor of Seattle

I’m a big fan of farmers’ markets. I love the little guy, the one who knows he has a better product than you would get in a standard retail store, can’t mass-produce it and is okay with that. I want to buy something from them all and I wish I could. I admire their chutzpa, their willingness to stand out in the cold (while the rest of us walk in the sudden rain (this being Seattle, so of course).

What better way to get an idea of a city’s people than at a farmer’s market? You get the people wandering, buying, wishing they could buy, hungry, exploring or posing for me. This is Brad and Beth and Piper and Zoe at the Ballard market during a break in the clouds (Piper uninterested in her Sea Wolf Bakery “lye roll” or photos at this moment).

brad and beth.jpg

You get random people, so many people. Where do they come from? Do they live here and come every week? Are they visiting family as I am? Do they like the crowds? Tolerate the crowds? Wish this particular farmer’s market was on Saturday instead of Sunday?

street scene.jpg

Do they tolerate the many dogs (on regulated short leashes)? Or hope to see unusual ones like this brindle pug?

brindle pug.jpg

I never saw a brindle pug before.

Was it just this very moment that LOWER CASE BREWING (note upper case letters) stood waiting for customers? I guess (I hope) it was a momentary lull. I guess LOWER CASE has to do with the case of wine rather than the letters of the company name. Did you know that letters being called upper case and lower case refers to the time when typesetters had two literal (wooden) cases with individual letters in them that they set in the press, and the lower case sat below, closer to the person setting the type, because they were used more often?

lower case brewing.jpg

The guy at King’s Mozzarella was super friendly and gave me a sample of his cheese that was marinating in olive oil with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs. It was perfect and wonderful. I hope he sold out his supply.

King's mozz.jpg

Speaking of perfect, Pete’s Perfect Toffee made me think of confidence. How confident do you have to be in your product to call it perfect? One of his was made with coconut, which I love, which sorely tempted me.

Pete's perfect toffee.jpg

Bakeries always draw me like a magnet. Everything at Tall Grass Bakery looked fabulous. Handmade artisan anything deserves praise and success.

tall grass bakery.jpg

Some of the names made me smile. You wonder how much time they spent thinking about what to call their business. The alliteration of Pete’s Perfect might stick in your head, but what about Taquiera los chilangos? I am likely to remember it as “Meat Choices.”

meat choices.jpg

But GnomeinPottery made me think of nomenclature, a term we used in Montessori a lot, but oh wait, it wasn’t GnomeinPottery, it was LaughinGnome Pottery. I might just think of it as “the gnome place” and tell myself it wasn’t nomenclature, but something else with gnome in it.

LaughinGnome pottery.jpg

I so wanted jonboy’s FRESH CARAMELS too! Isn’t this a guy you want to give business to? And why are caramels so tasty?? There are way too many temptations in this world. I was surrounded by goodness calling my name.

jonboy fresh caramels.jpg

Wine, cheese, bread, even pickles! It’s not so easy to make a good pickle, you know. I’ve made them five times in the past two years and only twice did they come out the way I hoped.

Britt's Pickles (2).jpg

Give credit to Firefly Kitchens for looking so friendly and having a colorful display, even if their name is firefly and the graphic on their logo is not.

firefly kitchens.jpg

Give credit to Deborah’s Homemade Pies too, even if the seller is sleepy in Seattle. They have to be fresh and flavorful, and what you don’t sell this week you can’t sell next week…

Deborahs homemade pies.jpg

…which the good people at Skagit River Ranch (what a great river name) can do because their grass-fed-and-in-every-other-way-amazing meats are frozen.

skagit river ranch.jpg

And the preoccupied woman at finnriver farm cidery can do…

finnriver farm cidery.jpg

And the lady hoping to sell beautiful plates at RS Ceramic Dinnerware can do. Do you think it helps her business to be next to HotBabe-HotSauce?

rs ceramic dinnerware.jpg

This is just a sampling, but my hat’s off to all of them – setting up shop week after week, trying to draw you in with their smiles, their clever names, their admirable products. Trying to appeal to a diverse group of shoppers, stay warm, watch people walk away time and again while seeing each new one that approaches as a potential contributor to this week’s success.

That kind of spirit is clear and strong in a farmer’s market, and the personal touch does not go unnoticed. I love a plain reminder that humans – ambitious, friendly, hardworking, innovative, creative, stand-in-the-cold-hoping-for-a-good-day humans – are part of our world wherever we go.