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Wrapping up July

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Somehow it seems like I’ve been doing a once a week post here this summer. What’s been happening since Chinatown? Well, we had our third busy week. For a family that likes to take it very slow and relaxing in the summer,with usually just one week of nature camp, we found it exhausting to have three weeks in a row of various daily activities (art camp, nature camp, art camp/vbs.) Last week was vacation Bible school in the morning and Clark’s art camp in the afternoon. His art theme was Ancient Egypt and it was really cool. They learned about all kinds of Ancient Egypt things and made a tomb, mummy, village, wrote hieroglyphics on papyrus, and made headdresses and necklaces fit for a king.
Egyptian Art Camp

Egyptian Art Camp

In the garden the tomatoes are slowly but surely ripening, and the blackberries are ripening steadily a bowlful a day.
Today's pickings

The blackberries are ripening!

The blackberries are ripening!
I pick them daily and whatever we don’t eat right then I put into a big freezer bag in the freezer to be made into jam later. Blackberries seem like a gamble-you just never know for sure that what you bite into isn’t going to be sour. Fortunately I’ve had many great big ones that were sun-warmed and super sweet.

In the butterfly garden we were super excited to finally see a monarch enjoying the milkweed. Hooray!
a Monarch Sighting!
According to the naturalist at Duke Farms it will lay one tiny poppy seed sized egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf. So, the only thing they feed on is milkweed and they just lay one little egg? How on earth is this species surviving at all??
The front flower garden is looking cheerful and charming and the mystery gladiolas are blooming all over the place. Despite my best efforts to weed the self seeding morning glory from my actual vegetable beds, I see that some are already blooming on top of the peas (which I never did get around to taking out.)
zinnias & cosmos
I’ve got lots of zucchini and have made another big batch of zucchini bread for the freezer-this time a pina colada zucchini bread. I’ve got my eye on a ripening tomato that I can’t wait to weigh because it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever seen.

And finally, last night Paul and I went to a concert in Camden–Beck and Band of Horses. Oh my gosh, what a fantastic show. First of all our seats were really close (though off to the side.) And it was super loud, which I liked. Band of Horses played a great set-literally only one song I didn’t know, and basically every other song I knew and loved. In fact, they only didn’t play one song I would have liked to hear. They sounded great live-kind of rougher and sloppier than the albums, so just enough different to make it great to hear them live, though not so different that you were thought hey stop messing around. Then Beck came on and interestingly, though he is a much bigger name I knew there would be songs he played that I didn’t know. He did play all the songs I did want to hear and his show was amazing. He may be the most energetic performer I’ve ever seen. All in all, it was a totally crazy, loud, awesome concert. Then we left and immediately were caught in the most intense thunder-lightning-rainstorm I’ve ever been out it and it was terrifying as I was sure we’d get into an accident. We finally made it home at 1:30am-quite a late night for these suburban 40somethings.
Looking forward to a relaxing week of sewing up a patchwork pillow, helping Tabby finish her first embroidery project, maybe tubing down the Delaware, having our cousin for a sleepover, and reading.

A Trip to Chinatown

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Paul’s been wanting to take the kids in to Chinatown for a while and yesterday we were spontaneous and headed on in. Here’s the thing-people always think it’s so great that we live so close to the city. We didn’t have traffic headed in and made it to the end of the Holland Tunnel in exactly  one hour. Great, right? But then we spent 45 tense more minutes stuck in crawling traffic in and around Chinatown where neither a free parking space nor a pricey garage could be found for love or money. Prompting me to at one point say “New York is the Worst.” and Clark to say, “and also the Best.” Too true.  Anyway, we finally parked and got out and promptly had lunch at a non-descript restaurant.  We ordered a few dishes and they were delicious. (and cheap!) The kids loved it, too. From there we just walked around taking in all there was to see: exotic fruits and vegetables like big bunches of lychee nuts and Durian, pharmacies with jars of mysterious dried barks and who-knows-what, markets filled with fish and eels swimming around in tanks, little stores selling figurines of good luck cats, a store that had a whole room of red envelopes, and all kinds of wonderful things.  We bought many wonderful things and finished our day by picking up some fantastic cannoli from Little Italy to eat on the way home. It was a great day!
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Clark at lunch

the narrowest, reddest shop ever

How awesome is this fire station?

Bronchy Releever for all your bronchy woes

A fish market was delightfully fascinating. The kids loved it, especially when a gentleman bought one of these pointy headed fish for his dinner and told us all about it.

Trying on kimono and slippers in Pearl River
Previously this week…a wonderful afternoon with dear friends having a “perfect childhood” type of experience wherein the children explored and frolicked in a brook.
Enter summer

Friends
And also the much anticipated farmer’s market. Sadly, it just wasn’t worth it. There was a very disappointing lack of attendance at the market.  Much like with our yard sale I did everything right and it just didn’t work out.  I mean, check out how adorable and attractive my stall was!
At the farmer's market

Notecards
Oh well.  Now we are starting the final of our busy three weeks this summer, with vacation Bible school in the morning and art camp in the afternoon.  The summer is going too fast!!!

Eating the Garden

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The garden is lavishly producing zucchini now, and I’ve also gotten cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots.  The carrots were packed way too tightly together so I decided I needed to think them. To my surprise I actually got quite a few that were a nice enough size to eat. Look! Real carrots! (These are my first successful carrots, so I’m pretty excited.) Here’s a victorious handful:
Carrots!
And scrubbed up:
More carrots

Here’s a garden grub dinner: carrots, zucchini fritters, and cucumber salad.
A garden grub dinner
I’ve been tossing the zucchini in almost everything. Here I sliced it and put it on some focaccia for a delicious special summer lunch.
More Garden Grub
It’s unfortunate that really the way I love all my summer produce best is wrapped up in cakes. Here’s what I did with my blueberries, made a hasty strawberry-blueberry pie:
Sloppy Hasty Strawberry Pie
And then a blueberry buckle:
Blueberry Buckle

 

I love summer cooking!

A New Arrival

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At long last we are done with the broody hens-the ever patient black hen hatched a chick yesterday! I really didn’t have high hopes for her and when I caught a glimpse of feathers and a cracked shell underneath her yesterday morning I was sure I’d be removing a dead, half-hatched chick later in the day. So imagine my surprise when I looked in on her in the late afternoon and a black puffball of a chick popped up from underneath her!  This morning she took the chick out into the chicken yard where I was able to get a good look at it. The hen remained seated, all fluffed up, while her chick ran in circles around her.
The latest arrival (1 day old)

So now we have two hens that each have one chick (one week and 3 days apart.)
The two mothers and their chicks
Although that seems to be the norm here at our house, it really isn’t the norm for a hen to just have one chick. We also have a mystery of some of the eggs, I swear, vanishing. I removed the single remaining egg from her nest and now all the nesting boxes are refluffed and ready for regular eggs.
Congratulations Mother Hen! (also of note, this baby actually looks like the mother, so it may indeed be her actual chick.)
The latest arrival (1 day old)

An 80s Inspired Weekend

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Between Pac-Man and Q&*(!Bert on Friday night and Xanadu on Sunday afternoon, there was a lot of 80s nostalgia for us. First up-Clark’s birthday party.  Here’s the cutout Paul made:
Level Up!
To celebrate this year we took Clark and a few of his friends out for pizza and then to an arcade that is predominantly vintage arcade video games.  Did the boys know the games? For the most part, no (though there was a Super Mario Bros.) Did they have fun? Oh yes! Did Paul and I have fun? You’d better believe it. The funny thing is, I was never a video game fan and I am across the board TERRIBLE at them. But I still loved it. Millipede, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, some Star Wars thing, and many more that Paul fondly remembered and enjoyed.
Hanging out in the arcade
Everyone had a great time. Then we took them back to our house for cake, which for the first time…was not made by me! This year Clark requested a cannoli cake from the store. He loved it, though did say that mine are better :)  As usual the kids also just had fun visiting the chickens, jumping on the trampoline, and playing together. If I can pat myself on the back here, I think we host great birthday parties!

On Sunday we went to Philadelphia to see Xanadu-not the movie, the musical! Our friend has a theater company and this is their latest production. I really didn’t know what to expect and it was wonderful.
Xanadu
Totally funny and very meta-poking jokes at the original bad movie and the 80s. The jokes flew over the kids’ heads, but they liked the music, roller skates, and costumes. It was a tiny theater (part of Christ Church, actually, Philadelphia’s first something or other church) and the performers were all around us. It was great.  We also visited the Liberty Bell, had lunch at Reading Terminal Market, and enjoyed walking on cobblestones that my favorite founding father, Ben Franklin, had once trod upon. (And cobblestones? Good grief, I can’t even imagine how much people’s feet and ankles hurt back then.)
The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell

Ben Franklin

Last week Tabby was at art camp, which she loved. The theme was “By the Sea” and they made terrific sea inspired projects, which were revealed on the final day at the “art show.” The camp is in an art museum which is very scenicly located. Across from the museum:
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Tabby with a couple of her pieces:
Tabby and her by the sea art

This week is the much anticipated nature camp they do for one week each summer. Unfortunately it’s crazy damp and muggy and looks to be so for the whole first half of the week. Additionally Clark has a terrible case of poison ivy right in the middle of the sole of his foot, which is making it painful and difficult for him to run around. Having them both gone is a little preview of what it will be like in the fall when Tabby is at school all day (except I don’t know how long that will last because I will need to be looking for a job.) For now I’m using this week to spend some time preparing for Saturday, when I will have a table at our local farmer’s market. I’ll be selling my aprons (all the ones that didn’t sell at the craft fair 1 1/2 years ago!), a few other sewn items, as well as a big selection of notecards I’ve made from my photography. I hope it goes well!

Hey, How’d That Zucchini Get There?

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I swear two days ago these were not there.
Holy Zukes!
After the year I didn’t get a single zucchini I’m delighted that my plants are behaving like proper zucchini-out of control and surprising me with humongous specimens.  The tomato plants are also quite large and positively laden with many tomatoes (still quite a ways from being ripe.)
Garden babies
Four cherry tomatoes ripened very early. I’m told they were good. Personally, I don’t eat them raw! I love the idea of standing in the garden and picking a tomato and popping it into my mouth, but ew. Fortunately, Tabby doesn’t feel the same way and declared this tomato “juicy.”
Tomato tasting
I was surprised and delighted to discover a few other things well on their way to growing into nice things, such as several watermelon
Garden babies
cucumbers
Garden babies
and gourds
Garden babies
I have one red cabbage and my fingers are crossed that nothing bad happens to it. It looks like something has been nibbling on the leaves of my brussels sprouts plants. Get away, Japanese beetles!!

A Sunday Paddle

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It’s been a long time since we’ve taken the canoe out and with the beautiful weather (and guilt I felt over having a canoe and being so close to a lovely river) I invited my friend Mary Lynn to join me and Tabby canoeing. Really the greatest hindrance to any canoe outing is the car logistics. Since Paul and Clark weren’t going with us we could just be dropped off and picked up. But that still left getting it on the car. I’m sure it’s incredibly irritating to Paul to hear me say every time “I don’t know why this is so hard for us–my dad just tied it on the front, tied it on the back, no problem.” But there you have it. We finally got it on, made it two houses down the road before the whole canoe fell off the front of the car. The kindly neighbor who was outside and saw it happen helped get it secure.  Finally we were on our way.
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This river is really so lovely for floating or paddling down. Ample beautiful spots to just stop, stand up, sit or swim in the water, and so on. We saw kids jumping off the bridges of Three Bridges, people fishing, swimming, and enjoying themselves. Not too many other people actually out in a kayak or canoe though. I love how friendly people are on water-we gladly accepted a drink from some guy! We also saw red-winged blackbirds galore, common mergansers, some kind of sandpiper looking bird that I didn’t know what it was, a heron of course, and many little turtles sunning themselves on logs.
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The best part was one of the times we stopped and discovered literally hundreds of tadpoles at the water’s edge. You’d better believe we caught them and looked at them.
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Some were very new, other had some legs developed but still with the tail, and then we also saw the teeny tiny frogs they turned into (frogs or toadlets, perhaps.)
Tadpole

It was a beautiful and refreshing afternoon, only marred by the strange discovery that the local police have taped off the only legal parking area where we were getting out and aggressively ticketing cars of people enjoying the river. What gives Hillsborough and Branchburg P.D.s?? Don’t stock the river with trout if you’re not going to let the fishermen access it!

And a brief sad p.s. to this post–Quicksilver’s little chick died tonight. :( This afternoon it was seeming not quite right-just standing next to its mother, often closing eyes, not looking lively. I picked it up a few times (it didn’t run away) and checked it out, made sure it could drink water, but I don’t know what was wrong with it. A short while later it just died. I hope Mary’s little chick fares better.

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