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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.

Happy 9th Birthday Clark!

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Yesterday was Clark’s birthday and what a wonderful day it was! I can’t believe he’s 9! Look how tiny he was
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and now–
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We begin birthday celebrations early here which means he was awake at the crack of dawn. There was a lot of anticipation with this birthday because he desperately wanted, longed for, hoped for, dreamed of getting a Nintendo 3DS. He thought he would be getting it, but was not 100% certain. And yes, he got it.
The Birthday Boy
We had his now-traditional breakfast of homemade buttermilk waffles and bacon.
Birthday Breakfast: Buttermilk Waffles & Bacon
After that I made the cake and set the barbecue ribs to cooking in the crock pot while he played some Mario game on the new device. Then we took the kids out to the movies to see Earth to Echo, which he really wanted to see and really loved.  We went out to lunch afterward for tacos and although he was eager to get home for more playing, we did manage to get in two geocaches. We couldn’t resist going to one because it was named the Flying Saucer and described as being in a little park that had a piece of playground equipment like you never find nowadays. Indeed, the flying saucer was great. Metal, so it could get nice and hot in the sun, and you could run around and around making it spin faster and faster and seeing if anyone would fly off.
UFO
The funny thing is that when you were on it you felt like you were going terrifyingly, dizzyingly fast and yet when you watched it, it appeared to be going quite slowly. A relaxing afternoon followed as he played on his DS and the rest of us just puttered about.

My mother joined us for dinner and arrived bearing gifts-the two games he most especially wanted for the DS. For possibly the first of his birthdays ever it was not hot out and was so beautiful we were able to eat outside.  The ribs turned out to be the best ones I’ve ever made (crock pot, finished off in oven) and I made Trevis potatoes to go with them.  Last week Clark learned how awesome Frisbee is and got quickly good at it, so the birthday gifts included a new Frisbee, which we played after dinner.
Frisbee

Frisbee
Paul also had a little surprise for Clark in the driveway-ye olde Mentos into a bottle of diet Coke experiment.
Ye Olde Diet Coke & Mentos
After that it was time for cake, of course. And what a cake!
Make a Wish
This is the first birthday cake I’ve made him that was not a shaped cake (past cakes: baby blocks, #2, train, dinosaur, volcano, dragon, Kirby, Minecraft creeper.)  It was an Oreo cake and it was delicious. I used the same recipe for the chocolate layers that I used for Paul’s cake (from the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box!) The filling is whipped cream with chopped Oreos folded in. I frosted the outside with some plain whipped cream.  It needs a couple hours in the fridge so the oreos soften up and thicken the filling.  This was so delicious and simple–and I’m not even a fan of Oreos! Actually, it reminded me a lot of the Famous Wafers chocolate cake.
Oreo Cake
It was a very happy 9 year old boy who went to bed last night! We love you, Clark! Wishing you a wonderful year of being 9.

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