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Happy Birthday and Happy Easter! (Part 2)

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So after the big birthday day it was time to switch gears and get things ready for the Easter Bunny and so on. When we got up on Sunday (making Clark wait until 7am-he’d been up for ever waiting for everyone) we were delighted by the lovely baskets the E.B. had left.  After oohing and ahhing over those it was time to see what had been hidden. Eggs inside the house as well as outside.  Of course he left eggs in the nesting boxes and Gordon’s hutch.

Yep. The E.B. left eggs in Gordon's hutch

and inside the coop

I will battle you for all these eggs!

For breakfast this year I made “honey bunnies”-a recipe from ye olde Fleischman’s Yeast Cookbook. However, as I was making these Friday night I decided that the bunnies were a pain in the ass to make and instead just made coiled up rolls with some golden raisins stuck in.
Easter Breakfast
Oh. Man. These were delicious. Admittedly, the one I had fresh from the oven late Friday night was the best-warm and sticky with its honey butter glaze. But reheated Sunday morning they were pretty tasty, too. Clark pointed out that they tasted a lot like Hawaiian rolls, and I think he’s right. If you like a plain sweet bun I definitely recommend checking out that recipe.
In the afternoon we went to my aunt’s house and a wonderful relaxed dinner.For my contribution I made the now beloved sour cream lemon pie, served with whipped cream and strawberries. My mom made delicious cream puffs.

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It was a lovely day and we capped it off with, what else? Finding a geocache on our way home! (we also found a nearby one in between dinner and dessert, introducing my cousin to it.) Happy Easter!

Happy Birthday and Happy Easter! (Part I)

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What a super fantastic, delightfully spring, very busy and tiring, very happy weekend encompassing both my birthday and Easter. The fun began on Saturday morning when I woke to lovely cards and gifts. Usually we do a nice big birthday breakfast with gifts, but this year I had an exciting change–my dear friend Megan moved to Michigan and August and was briefly back in New Jersey.  I got to go out to breakfast with her and a couple of other friends.  I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present than to see her again!  Oh, and you know how on your birthday you get a million happy birthday wishes on Facebook? Well, this year in the morning I made a little challenge for myself and wrote that I would reply to every one of the wishes with a personal book recommendation.  It took me until Monday, but I did it!
In the afternoon Paul and the kids and I headed down to Princeton. First we had lunch out at a favorite restaurant (this birthday was heavily anchored by meals.) The restaurant is in a shopping center where Paul had tried twice, unsuccessfully, to find a geocache. (On Friday night we had gone out after dinner, before dying eggs, and found a couple-one down a trail in some woods and it was a little spooky as it was getting dark.) Anyway, to our delight we finally found it and it was a very tricky one indeed–on a metal utility box hidden behind what looked like just the reflective numbers. After that we went to Grounds for Sculpture. It was a beautiful day for it and there were lots of people there. It turns out they are getting ready for a big 50 year retrospective so things were moved around and there were a significant number of added people sculptures (which apparently are normally at other parks and museums and things and they are bringing in for this exhibit.) Unlike the sculptures based on famous paintings, these people sculptures are eerily realistic-though I can tell from the clothes that they were from the 70s and 80s.
Relaxing with a sculpture friend

Hooping with my sculpture pal

Crack the Whip with Sculpture Friends

It was especially cool to see the gigantic statues, which we’d previously only seen by the side of the road on the way there. Up close it was clear just how tall they are–check out Tabby as compared to them.
To get a real idea of just how huge these are, find Tabby in the picture

I love it that every time we go there we see something different as well as favorites from before. It was also very lovely because things were blooming.
Peek-a-boo-peacock
Posing by the beautiful flowering tree

When we were done there we went searching for two more geocaches that were nearby. We’re really getting into this and enjoying it a lot. We found 3 over the weekend, bringing our total found to 26 (our goal for the year is 50.) So, sometimes this geocaching hobby has led us to discover scenic and beautiful spots, enjoy hiking, and being outdoors. But sometimes this is what it looks like too: milling around under a billboard trying to avoid broken glass.
Sometimes geocaching is hiking in the woods, discovering beauty. Sometimes it's milling around under a billboard avoiding broken glass.
Turns out that right next to the billboard is another of Johnson’s sculptures-this one a hitchhiker, looking for a ride to Grounds for Sculpture. Paul found it!
Geocache by a hitchiker sculpture
From there we drove up to my mom’s for my birthday dinner. Of course it was delicious and wonderful, and topped off with a fantastic coconut cake (my mom makes great coconut cake!)  And to make my birthday even more wonderful, my dear BFF Joanna, whom I’ve been friends with since we were 10, was in town for Easter and able to stop by and have cake and say happy birthday in person.
So happy to see you! (we've been friends since we were 10!)
It was a really lovely birthday and I enjoyed celebrating every minute of it with my wonderful friends and family. Thank you all!
Make a wish

Spring Break

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Spring break fun continued throughout the week-a day of rest after the museum, a cozy afternoon watching Jumanji, playing at the park, going to see Rio 2, and I honestly don’t even know what else. Oh, one day we baked and decorated little cake balls. I think they just look like Munchkins, but it was a nice cake recipe.
cake balls
Tonight after dinner we went down the road to a park and to grab another geocache (that makes 25 found for us.)  The trail ended up being a bit further than we expected and it was quite dim as we walked through some enchanted looking woods. Then we dyed eggs and pictures will have to wait until some nice natural daylight tomorrow.

I also finally got some gardening done and yes! it did feel easier with the chickens all cooped up. So how is the switch to being fenced in going? Well, each day 4-5 of them come out. Crooky Beak and Quicksilver simply fly over the fence, while a big rainbow rooster squeezes under the fence.  We’ll need to fix that because Crooky did come into the garden, but for now it’s not so bad with just those few. However, something I worried about how come to pass. We got home today to discover two of the rainbow roosters quite bloody–cockfighting :(  With so many roosters they do fight sometimes with each other, but usually nothing actually happens. I suspect without the open yard to runaway from each other in they just kept at it this time. I’m really hoping we can find homes for a couple of them because that is pretty upsetting.

Around the yard spring is popping up everywhere.
Ruffly Daffodil
I’m thrilled to see my peonies looking hale and hearty-one about 10 inches up already. The two newest plants which did not bloom last year look like this year they will.  The tiny baby lilac tree is covered in buds (it’s only about a foot and a half high.) And the plum tree is blooming now, too, though we still didn’t get a tree doctor for it so I suspect we will again just have rotten fruit.
plum bud
My favorite little grape hyacinths are up, along with their tiny daffodil counterparts.
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This afternoon we let Gordon out in the chicken coop for some fun. It’s pretty secure (I blocked off the gate with wood) and I stayed with him. Wow, did he have fun. He ran and jumped and leapt and hopped.
Gordon's Playtime
He marked everything with his little chin. He was happy to come see me, then dart away. There was dirt and stuff to dig in and he got so tired he had to flop down and stretch fully out.
Gordon's Playtime
Tabby had inadvertently let all but two chickens out and Gordon was eager to get close to a rooster. Much like with the cats it was hilarious to see him following the rooster and the rooster practically recoiling and running away.
Gordon's Playtime

I have to brag about my mom’s sewing and crafting skills here. Check out what she sent the kids for Easter. It’s totally raising the bar on a $5 bill slipped into a card.
Easter Greetings
Embroidered, sewn, and little baskets to carry a little money! Thank you Mom!

It’s a big weekend ahead-my birthday tomorrow and Easter on Sunday.  I’m quite excited!

The Amazing American Museum of Natural History

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Ringing Rocks, geocaching, biking, and yard work weren’t enough-we capped off the weekend by taking Monday to go into the city and visit the American Museum of Natural History.  I love this museum; my parents took us in to it every now and then when we were kids.  We took our kids a couple years ago and were delighted with the renovations and fascinating things they’ve done (the dinosaur floor is arranged evolutionarily.)  In fact, it was Clark who asked to return (when discussing day trips I’d been rooting for the Liberty Science Center.) So, here was our mega day in the city.
We arrived at the museum, which is delightful right from the get-go. The facade, the words, the big statue of Teddy Roosevelt.  If Ben Franklin is my favorite founding father, Teddy is my favorite president. I find many of his words inspiring and love what a big part of the museum he is.
With Teddy Roosevelt, whom I greatly admire
We enjoyed the special pterosaur exhibit, but what really got me excited as the Hall of Biodiversity. I could have easily spent at least an hour in that hall alone.
the amazing Hall of Biodiversity
I also loved the Hall of Ocean Life, which features the iconic blue whale hanging overhead. The kids were quite blown away by this.
The Blue Whale-so iconic, so amazing
The animal dioramas were wonderful, and I think one of the things I love about them is how old-fashioned they are.
I never tire of these beautiful detailed dioramas
At the end of the day we played Name 5 and the category was “things you especially liked at the museum.” Clark listed dinosaurs twice and the display of gold from Central American/Mexico (?) and Tabby surprised me by saying how much she liked the people dioramas.  We really moved pretty quickly through the peoples exhibits (basically just trying to find the Easter island head that features in Night at the Museum”) but she was apparently really taken with them. These exhibits get a lot less attention, I think, than the animal exhibits, and they really are fascinating.  I suppose it’s not until you’re an adult that you really want to go slowly in a museum and read all the placards.  As of now the kids like to just look and quickly move on. Consequently we saw: dinosaur skeletons, totem poles, gems, minerals, a giant ancient canoe, an Chinese New Year dragon head, a sacrificial Mayan table thing with a big penis (much giggling), ancient ammonites, a humongous jellyfish, a humongous giant squid, a humongous spider crab, stuffed horned deer like animals of many varieties, neanderthals, touched a meteorite, learned about pterosaurs, and more.  Coincidentally, there was an article in the newest Mental Floss about things the museum owns that are not even on display.  It was wonderful and fascinating and I was so happy that the kids loved it.  We took a break after just about an hour and a half to leave the museum and have lunch.  We got fresh air and a fantastic lunch in a charming Mexican cafe.
We had a great lunch out at Cafe Frida
Afterwards we went to Crumbs and each had a cupcake.
followed by cupcakesThen, fortified, we returned to the museum.  After more exploring, oohing, and ahhing, we hit the gift shop (of course.) Then exited and went across the street to Central Park.  All the daffodils were blooming, people were out and about enjoying themselves, and it was very lovely.  Although we were all very tired, we walked through the bramble and eventually made our way to Belvedere Castle, where we had a spectacular view.
The view across the pond to the Great Lawn, with skyline
I had never been there before and it was charming.  From there it was a trudge back to the car.  By this time Tabby was whining and nearly crying about how tired she was “I can’t go any further…I’m soooo tired… can’t we stop…I’m so ti-is that a playground? Can I go play?” and suddenly Miss Tired was off and running into the marvelously named Diana Ross Playground, making friends, and having a grand time.  We eventually left in the early evening and because it was actually convenient, we made the cherry on top of this sundae of a day, be stopping at Ikea for meatballs for dinner. (Astonishingly, and for the first time ever, we left without buying a single item.) We got home quite late and were all super exhausted.
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It was a great day all around. Not just beautiful weather and a majestic museum, but also a day where, you’ll be happy to know, we all enjoyed being together, no one was grumpy, cross, or nasty.  It was totally great. We have another outing planned for my birthday this weekend, but honestly, it felt like the whole day was a big birthday present. I know we’ll all have happy memories of it.
The impressive dinosaur skeletons
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So now we’ve had a relaxing recovery day-a breakfast out with Clark while Tabby went to her nature program and a rainy afternoon watching Jumanji (terrific family movie). The chickens are mostly doing ok with the new coop, except 4 little ones who are getting out. On a side note, I often feel like I write this in a vacuum and it was really nice to hear from many of you with encouraging words when I was showing my frustration with events of late. Thank you!

Don’t Fence Me In

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“Give me lands, lots of land, Under starry skies above, don’t fence me in…” I’m sorry chickens, but you’re getting fenced in. So after much discussion we did decide to fence in for a summer or a year and give ourselves an opportunity to have our lawn and gardens be a bit restored. Yes, you can garden and have free range chickens, but here are some things I’m looking forward to this summer:

Re-mulching the butterfly garden and having it stay there
Sweeping the driveway and having it remain free of chicken poop so that when you play basketball you don’t have to worry about poop getting on the ball
Not having that moment where the chickens accidentally get in the garden and scratch up all your seedlings

We removed the front fence and swung it out to the side, added a few more posts and some wire.
The new chicken run
So it starts with the same area with the henhouse is, but goes out further.  As of now they can easily fly up to the top of the fence, and I expect they will. We can add some chicken wire to the top to keep them from flying out, or clip their wings. It was hard to dig up the fence-especially the main post that had been put in a Big Gulp cup of cement.
to our surprise one of the posts was sunk into a Big Gulp cup of cement. It was tremendously difficult to remove!
This pen was originally a pig pen when we bought the house, so it is pretty sturdy.

I will miss having them follow me to the garage for their feed, seeing them in the Japanese maple, and seeing them glide across the late summer lawn like prairie schooners. Tomorrow morning they are in for a very rude awakening. But that said, I’m pretty excited about this development and the chance to do some different gardening this year.  I know my legions of readers (ha, ha) will be happy to know that today ended much better than yesterday, and we are all tired, sunburned, and happy tonight. We even managed to find another geocache on our way home from rewarding ourselves with Italian ice. :)

 

Ringing Rocks

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Yesterday we went to Ringing Rocks park. We’ve been before, a couple years ago, and wanted to go back and with the weather being gorgeous it was a great day to go. Ringing Rocks is across the river in PA and it’s very interesting because although it has a sign and a little parking area and a trail, that’s it.  There’s no information or signs about the bizarre natural spectacle. And when you hike over to the waterfalls, you can easily fall of the cliff and die, but there are no signs or rails. So, the rocks.  In the midst of forest is a vast expanse of very large rocks and boulders. (Presumably dumped there by a glacier.) The special thing about the rocks is that when you hit them with a hammer (or the wrench I brought) they make a metallic clanging sound. They sound like they are hollow metal! It’s so wild. And very fun and sort of dangerous to clamber all over these rocks hoping you don’t twist and ankle and listening to all the ringing as other people are also whacking the rocks.
A trip to Ringing Rocks

A trip to Ringing Rocks
We also found a couple of geocaches while we were there, which was fun.  Then we headed over to the waterfalls. Last time we were there they were completely dry. But this time there was plenty of water burbling along, making little falls, and heading towards a big cliff.
A trip to Ringing Rocks
It’s kind of strange because when you arrive you are at the edge of the big cliff looking down, then can climb around on this flat sort of river bed, heading towards the falls. The rocky surface is striated and it’s all very geologically fascinating.  We enjoyed walking around and also taking our shoes and socks off and dipping our feet in the water.
A trip to Ringing Rocks
Sadly it all ended, as most of our outings do, with sulks, pouts, threats and me being mad at the whole family. You know when you see people out to eat and they are silent? Yeah, that was us with our hamburgers afterward at a charming spot. I’m feeling a bit frustrated with always trying to create nice events for us that end up crappy at the end. Bleah.

So anyway, after that, because it was literally on the way, we pulled over at the place we had found a geocache a few weeks ago. I wanted to see if they had their sheep out, and they did. And remember the enchanted moss covered cottage in the snow? Well, here it is now.
Enchanted Cottage-now with no snow!

Woolly Sheep

When we finally got home we went for a bike ride to town, which once again ended poorly. Clark’s already complaining about how I want to work in the garden today, so no doubt today will also be sour. And guess what? It’s spring break (or “the holidays” as the Bluths say) so we’ve got many days ahead together.

Changes Afoot

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It’s been two weeks since I’ve posted anything, though on my walks with the dog I often write posts in my head. The boring reason is that I’ve actually been keeping up the momentum of cleaning, organizing, purging and that’s what I’ve done on most afternoons. I wish I had before and after pictures to show you of the basement, but since I considered it an embarrassing eyesore no before photos exist. So you will have to trust me that the basement room is now a lovely room with the books organized and accessible, and the main basement part is much better too.  Although certain people have always expressed shock at “how much stuff” we have, the simple fact behind why we have so much stuff in our basement is that we don’t really have reasonable closets in our bedrooms, we don’t have a linen closet, and we just don’t really have other places to store stuff. Add to that one person who likes to collect, one who is sentimental, two people who think it’s silly to throw something away that is still useful or good, and one person who would then be in charge of figuring out what to do everything and finds it a pain in the ass to do so, and you’ve got lots of stuff in your basement to just deal with some day. Well, that day came. And it was physically tiring, and also completely mentally tiring.  Sorting through baby clothes overwhelms me with nostalgia and memories of when my kids were sweet babies.  Then I found all my old work things and then sent me down a rabbit hole of thinking about how I used to be really good at what I did, and while I’ve not missed working, I have very much missed feeling successful. But overall, even though you might still think our house is messy, it’s a comfortable messy I like and getting the basement under control has truly made me feel so much happier about our home. And now, we can turn our attention to the outside.
It’s fully spring and we’re thinking about the garden and yard. We made the big decision to fence in our chickens. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks (this didn’t seem to be an issue for Paul, he was fine with things). On the one hand, it truly brings me pleasure to see them roaming about, seeing them so happy in the yard, in trees, and so on. Plus, it’s good for them.  On the other hand, we have so many extremely large sections of lawn that are nothing but dirt, that I think it would be really hard to plant grass, fence it, and attempt to grow it (we did a small patch last summer.) So we’ve decided to give it a year (or at least a summer) of fencing them in and really focusing on growing some grass.  I got over the anthropomorphizing woes (“I’ll feel so sad for them if they can’t have every aspect of the outdoors to enjoy.”), but am still worried that without full range their eggs won’t be as tasty.  And tasty they are. They are laying very well right now and they are so delicious. But, this afternoon we are installing the fencing.

Other random thoughts that didn’t make it in over the past two weeks:

a hen died quite suddenly
there’s definitely no frog in our pond, so we’ll be starting anew with fish and frogs
I got my peas in
Paul repaired our garden fence by putting in an arch that I hope he will paint something charming on
Clark and I saw a cat dragging a squirrel it had killed and we were fascinated
I’m finding myself still surprised and grateful with every day of good weather we have
Tabby has ridden her bike on the road a few times and done very well
last weekend the kids went to a science day at the 4-H center and that was fun
Clark sang in his class’s concert
and for the first time in years we got our taxes in before the 15th, so hooray for us

And now, the photos of spring at our house:
What are you doing out there?

spring trampolining

Rain Kissed

Springtime baking

Portraits with Pippin

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