Salut PA! Living Large at Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery

After two months in Wilmington, Delaware, I still pinch myself. Within 20 minutes, I can cross three state lines: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland.

Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery bids a rustic welcome.

Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery bids a rustic welcome.

Last Sunday, we were short on daylight, so we bypassed Longwood Gardens and headed to Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery in Kennett Square and the fabled Brandywine Valley. Owners Brad and Lele Galer settled on the tagline “blending nature, science, and art.” All so true.

If I love the swirl, the nose, and the quaff (pretend connoisseur sans vocabulary), nature and science have taken care of themselves. The art and architectural elements stunned as soon as I stepped on the grounds.

Gated Gallic nuance romances the setting.

Gated Gallic nuance romances the setting.

Aesthetics lead, and visitors follow. In this pastoral setting, French château gates—in sharp iron and shadow—lay down the first of many patterns.

A colorful spin in the wind

A colorful spin in the wind

My eyes swept up the weather-beaten wood steps and across the deck and alighted upon a rainbow whirligig playing in the breeze. Mood set!

Deck views of nature tamed

Deck views of nature tamed

Lele Galer, a fine artist, designed the wine-tasting room and deck with views of the vineyards. It is a statement of hands-on love: latches and knobs, stained glass, paintings, Art Deco doors, and an antique marble-slab wine bar. Lele is also the genius behind the labels.

Sip and savor!

Taste of a golden afternoon

Taste of a golden afternoon

Echoes of art deco, with every leaf and vine shaped and  pressed by co-owner Lele Galer

Echoes of Art Deco, with every leaf, vine, and grape cluster shaped and pressed by co-owner Lele Galer

Patience and anticipation

Patience and anticipation

Feel the inspiration.

Feel the inspiration.

A hint of Arts and Crafts sensibility

A hint of Arts and Crafts sensibility

Seated art

In a warm corner: seated art

Hue changes mood: Lele's Expressionistc brushwork in oils.

Hue changes mood: Lele’s Expressionistic brushwork in oils.

Lele's labels of love

Lele’s labels of love

Mark your calendar. Click on the winery site for news about art and music events.

Mark your calendar! Click on the winery site for news about art and music events.

Lingering for a last minute look-back

Lingering for a last minute look-back

Yes, we came home with a case. Party on.

Yes, we came home with a case!

Fall Foliage! Ride the Rails

400 px-Fall_colors_from_the_Blue_Ridge_Parkway_just_south_of_AshvilleThere is something holy about Appalachia.  On “the third day,” God separated the land from the seas.  I imagine his fist crashing into the ground to create the Grand Canyon. But for our southern mountains, he pressed his thumbprint into hollows to push up the peaks.

In summer, the chain rolls green, purple, and blue, misting mysteriously in the distance. As warm weather gives way to cool days, tree canopies flame crimson, copper, gold, and yellow. Witness the glory by train.

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Two scenic routes typically make the top 10. Hop aboard the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. From its historic depot in Blue Ridge, Georgia, the train winds its way to Copper Hill, Tennessee, and back. Blue Ridge is worth a linger; it’s the “antiques capital” of the Peach State.

warm Oil 400 H2O water tower_pe_peCatch a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which starts in the heart of Bryson City, North Carolina, and cuts its way across the western reaches of the state.

When ice sheeted the continent almost 2 million years ago, animals sought refuge in the Great Smoky Mountains. It also became a haven for plant species. When you gaze upon the mountains, a miracle stretches before you—more native trees than in any region of comparable size in the country.

* * * * *

Map it! The U.S Forest Service tracks fall colors by state and forest. A quick click will take you to the closest color drive-by.


Fall colors courtesy of Fran Trudeau,

Wednesday Short: Summer Farewell

The first day of fall slipped past me a couple of days ago. When does the season truly begin? When I turn on the heat.

Autumn started at 2:06 this morning. Now I bid summer a warm adieu.

Thanks for the memories. In living color.




Credit: Catherine Hamrick, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Duke University

Treat yourself to a leisurely stroll any day of the year from 8 a.m. to dusk. There is a lot of ground to cover in this 55-acre public botanic garden, so locals can indulge in a trek every season. The same but new!


Out of My Father’s Hands

vignette mask subtle sharpen mom and dad skin tone safe and vibrant_pe_peEarly this morning, 850 miles away in Alabama, my sister told me, “We are with Dad. He is ready to go see Nome [Mom]. He loves you.”

Today we document our lives in hundreds of digital images and store them in a “cloud.”  Like the wonder of the telegraph in the 1800s, we send words, billions every second, via a void called the Internet and instruments cleverly branded Android and iPhone.

Ah, branding. As a savvy New York writer/agent told me at a recent book conference, “You must become a brand, or you won’t make it.” To which I retorted, “I am a person, not a brand.”

Ironic. Perhaps hypocritical: I “storytell” things and people as brands for a buck—in a staccato burst.

Dad never “branded” himself. He was a person in full.vignette border Dr-Hamrick18_pe

The brain is beautiful mystery. Streaming images run in and out of our heads, faster than the race wrought by digital engineers.

For some reason, I have not yet perched pictures on a “cloud.” But I will likely upload in the near future.

Images of Dad flow through my mind. A bevy of pics and the 350-word limit of a blog post cannot keep up. This is my personal expression, for I cannot speak to the recollections of my brother and sisters. One image appears repeatedly in milliseconds: his hands.

They were short, with square palms and thick fingers. Unremarkable. Except for what they did:

Pulling on worn overalls and snapping the suspenders. Milking the cow at sunrise. Hauling sheaves of wheat and husked corn to Jim Dean’s mill, where a paddlewheel steadily lapped up a sliver of creek so ancient stones could grind out flour.

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Preparing cornbread (unsweetened, thank you) and keeping watch over an iron skillet as it browned in a wood-burning stove, committing to memory his mother’s recipe handed down over generations.

vignette cropped Latin_dictionary_pe_peBegging the principal of his country high school for a Latin class so he could qualify for pre-med studies—and then eagerly seizing the book after that dear man said, “Yes.”

Clutching a college catalog and crying to sleep because there was no money to supplement a partial scholarship.

Thumbing from Appalachia down to Atlanta for a job as an office boy and waiting for his 17th birthday so he could enlist.

Pulling the wounded and dead off Utah beach.

vignette cropped dad-in-sailor-suit_pe_pe_peLooking up at the sky as 30-foot waves curled over his LST and dreading the next wave of kamikazes or typhoons.

Mixing chemical recipes in a lab and awakening to the miracle of science.

Painting dorm rooms and supervising a frat house kitchen to bolster his GI bill education.

Exchanging love letters with my next-door college-coed mother—on scraps of paper pinned to a clothesline rigged between their bedroom windows.

vignette cropped detail clothespin Wood_Clothespin_pe_pePutting his head next to Mom’s as they turned the pages of histology textbooks.

Signing into a cheap motel on their first honeymoon night—with telltale wedding rice falling from his thick, black hair as my mother laughed.

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Enduring 100-hour work weeks during his internship and residency—and loving the touch of life-giving moments.

Treating any patient of any color ever since his first days at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital in the early 1950s.

Hitting the backyard brick steps with a “Humph,” signaling his return home to fork down fast bites of supper (“inhaling” his food, as Mom phrased it).

Greeting each of us after work with a lift over his shoulder and a slide down his back as we giggled in delight.

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Flash-cleaning and frying just caught fish on camping trips, at the lake, and in the kitchen of a rambling beach house at solitary Four Mile Village in Florida.

Yanking the bow of my straw sunbonnet to rouse me from a sunrise doze just as my fishing pole almost slipped out of my hands (fisher king and failed fisher girl).

Pacing the dock, with five fishing rods lined at the edge, to reel in a catfish feast (he tossed them backwards over his shoulder into a homemade holding tank—a hole sawed into the boards, with an underwater “cage”).vignette lightened-1024px-winslow_homer_-_leaping_trout_1892_pe_pe

Frying cornmeal-battered hush puppies—golden, crisp, and light.

Furtively building my Christmas dollhouse in the basement and carefully measuring the height of the doorways to fit my Barbies (Santa Claus was a genius carpenter).

Lugging home a surprise box of my beloved Oz books “just because.”warming filer vignette The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz,_006_pe

Carting home my first art history books—Raphael, da Vinci, and Michelangelo— “just because.”

Drying sage on the pool table, lending special flavor and aroma to Thanksgiving dinner.

Plowing his suburban “back 40″ so we could savor “real” vegetables year-round.

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Stirring up skillet after skillet of golden-brown peanut brittle and packing it in gaily ribboned split-oak baskets, along with homemade jams and pepper jelly—gifts for neighbors, patients, and preachers.

Making hog’s head cheese in the laundry room while my boy friend stared in shock.

Writing a rare letter, telling me to choose my major and career, indeed life, with no need for his approval.

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Signing check after check to ease my way through college and sending me to Europe to study long before he set foot on the Continent (excluding a few feet of Normandy).

Grabbing the wheel of a rented Passat, manhandling the Paris Périphérique, and then gunning 145 kilometers on the open road while my mother crawled into the backseat and never crawled out (he hid years of speeding tickets from her).

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Grasping the railing of Monet’s Japanese bridge at Giverny and wistfully reminiscing about the only art history class permitted in his crowded undergraduate schedule (the museum guards finally threw him out at dusk).

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Stashing my first essays in the top drawer of his office desk and passing them on to anyone patient enough to read (a major morale boost at age 24).

Writing his own eloquent essays and reading them aloud for a test run.

Penning the grueling medical details of the Crucifixion for a Sunday school class.

Hanging a watercolor inscribed with 1 Corinthians 13:1–13 on the wall opposite his desk—a gift from a cancer patient and the theme of his practice.

vignette Anna Frodesiak Gladstone_bag_made_of_ox_leather_peClasping the hands of families and praying before an operation.

Freely treating country folk, with medicines and syringes mixed among the hooks and lures in his tackle box.

Bathing and shaving my mother’s uncle after his stroke.

Loving every relative and in-law, down to every cousin six times removed.

Vacuuming and dusting the night before my mother’s parties and luncheons—without being asked—and creating charming arrangements of zinnias that bordered his garden.

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Beating a broom handle into a broken garbage disposer until 2:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day (I never could figure out that fix-it trick).

Installing four revolving fans in the bedrooms at 10:00 p.m.—drilling just as everyone was going to bed (they always spun wobbly).

Hauling home a Roto-Rooter to repair a stopped-up toilet at 10:00 p.m. (rousting us out of bed to hold long hoses in a drizzle).

Playing country cool when he listened to Johnny Cash’s beautifully cruel cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”

jpeg papaw and sam_peCrooning to his grandbabies—in deep monotone—the ballads that never left his North Georgia soul and later cherishing the first great-grand.

Keeping close to my mother when Alzheimer’s stole her mind and voice but never her loving spirit.

Holding my sister’s hand when her husband died.

Living in a state of grace for 32,369 days.

vignette and darken mom and dad in garden_peDad's hands_peMy dad’s hands flipped through the Bible many times as he searched for a verse or two to insert into one of his talks about life (he did not call them sermons). However, a seven-book series about the world’s great religions sat on a shelf in his study. His hands held those, too.

Dad was a devoted Methodist and humanitarian. He never judged any righteous soul, whatever his or her faith.

At the end of his life, Christ said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” A poignant sentence, yet I always return to what came out of Christ’s hands during his earthly lifetime. Healing. Encouragement. Strength. Love. And I remember what came out of my father’s hands.


Latin textbook courtesy of Dr. Marcus Gossler

Clothespin courtesy of Alfred Borba

Garden vegetables courtesy of Liz West

Map courtesy of San Jose

Paris Périphérique courtesy of MD01605

Leather bag courtesy of Anna Frodesiak

Zinnias courtesy of Ahura21


Wednesday Short: To an Incense Cedar

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The young pyramid towered,

Boughs layered spoke on spoke,

Weave-and-fan foliage cloaked,

Octaves of birdsong showered.

Blacked-Capped Chickadee, Iona Beach Regional Park, Richmond, British Columbia http 640px-Chickadee

Now centuries furrow fibrous bark—

Peeling cinnamon raw and rust,

Knobby elbow branches thrust

Day fading, silhouette stark.


The leaning trunk and swelling base

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADistort ancient geometry,

Brown creepers scale crevice face,

And small branches sporadically

Break and sweep, late summer trace—

Palm-rubbed twigs breathe pungently.

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Tall incense cedars courtesy of Daniel Mayer

Black-capped chickadee courtesy of Alan D. Wilson,

Brown creeper courtesy of Alan Vernon

Photos of Coker Arboretum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, by Catherine Hamrick

Wednesday Short: Florida Postcard

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Fountains spritzed,

Receding then arcing

In pink-and-yellow play.



From city-center splendor

Into hazing noon,

A GTO muscled

A crotch rocket

Until it shot far

Into scorched-tar mirage.


She leaned hard,

Into the wind-rush,

Hair stringing tangled.

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Her jeans tugged,

Her butterfly peeped

Then spread,

A mosaic

Of purple-green scaling

Her butternut skin.

235 nebulize 1280px-Lightning_strike_jan_2007_peStump pines scraggled

Against a low-rumble sky,

Great with rain.

A burning white light

Split the clouds,

Heaven’s underbelly,

And God’s fingers

Sought Adam

But he was not there.


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Fountain courtesy of Christopher T. Cooper

Highway (white line fever) courtesy of


Bike Week courtesy of BlackBikeWeek,


Funky Decorating Do’s—Sign On!

Dime lemonade? Those were the days.

Dime lemonade? Those were the days.

Hang this hot sign behind your bar.

Hang this hot sign behind your bar.

Decorating scoop—here's a cool playroom prop.

Decorating scoop—here’s a cool playroom prop.

Road trip! US 1 stretches through Pennsylvania—from Maine to Key West.

Road trip! US 1 stretches through Pennsylvania—from Maine to Key West.

Pretty is as pretty does for a lady's boudoir. Loop your beads here.

Pretty is as pretty does for a lady’s boudoir. Loop your beads here.

Pronunciation? It's "puh-kahns" down Georgia way. Period.

Pronunciation? It’s “puh-kahns” down Georgia way. Period. Per my family.

Pump up your weekend! Head for The Terry Craddock Hotel and Shoemakers Grille in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Pump up your weekend! Head for the Craddock Terry Hotel and Shoemakers Grille in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Some of my pics go South. Where else would you find a tractor seat that functions as furniture?

Some of my pics go South. Where else would you find a tractor seat that functions as furniture?

Roadside prayer. Bless your heart.

Roadside prayer. Bless your heart.

"Shave and a haircut. Two bits!"

“Shave and a haircut. Two bits!”

Brad Paisley is smokin' hot. Check out "The Cigar Song" below.

Brad Paisley is smokin’ hot. Check out “The Cigar Song” below.

Photo Credits: Catherine Hamrick

The “Selfie” Movement Hits Print

Kim_Kardashian_2010Last night Bravo TV host Andy Cohen knelt in a selfie homage to Kardashian’s derrière.

The trailblazer of the “selfie movement,” Kardashian now sets her sights beyond Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to print. Her book, aptly named Selfish, practices the “art” of clicking personal self-photos—hence a highly questionable aesthetic tome with airbrush geniuses on call.

The countdown is on! Kim Kardashian's selfie "Selfish" tome hits bookstores on April 7, 2015. Sales projections? Good question: Kardashian-obsessed fans are too busy Googling and ogling for free.

The countdown is on! Kim Kardashian’s selfie “Selfish” tome hits bookstores on April 7, 2015. Sales projections? Good question: Kardashian-obsessed fans will be too busy Googling and ogling for free.

Mark your calendars! The photo-finish pub date is April 7, 2015, as announced by Universe, the pop-culture imprint of Rizzoli. Billed as a “hardcover coffee table book,” its trim size is 5 x 7 inches, hardly worthy of a diminutive side table.

What “never-before-seen” bod parts will Kardashian flash?

Has this world gone celeb ass-backwards?

A selfie? Novelty? No. Victorian women shot early selfies with mirrors and boxed cameras--usually fully clothed.

A selfie? Novelty? No. Victorian women shot early selfies with mirrors and boxed cameras–usually fully clothed.

Pre-FB/Instagram Selfies


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Kim Kardashian by The Heart Truth (

Coolest selfie: Nadar autoportrait tournant courtesy of Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror (c. 1524) by Italian late Renaissance artist Parmigianino courtesy of Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

Self-portrait by Johannes Gumpp, 1646, shows how most self-portraits were painted.

Pieter Claesz, Vanitas with Violin and Glass Ball, 1625 (The artist is visible in the reflection.)