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Sterling Hill Mining Museum

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This weekend we went on an awesome outing with the Cub Scouts.  Just about an hour north of us is Sterling Hill Mining Museum.
A Visit to a Mine
What I couldn’t stop exclaiming about is that I’d never heard of this mine, which was operational until 1986 and was a very prominent zinc mine. During its peak operation in WWII it was operating 24/7!  However, eventually zinc prices dropped, property taxes rose, and the mine closed.  It was bought and reopened as a museum and wow, was it fascinating. We began the tour with a stop in an area where the kids learned about 6 different types of rocks and then went to collect examples of them.  After that our guide took us into the museum. I could have happily spent an hour in this area. It was the building that the miners used to change in before and after their shifts.
A Visit to a Mine
They retained the lockers, gang shower,
A Visit to a Mine
and baskets that the miners’ wet work clothes were put in and hoisted up to the ceiling to dry.  Then there were interesting minerals, rocks, gems, and mining related stuff everywhere.
A Visit to a Mine
Not only was it interesting, but very appealingly displayed (to me.)
A Visit to a Mine
I was taken with this glass cabinet just filled with the heavy flashlights the miners carried.
A Visit to a Mine
Or check out this periodic table of the elements with examples of the elements.
A Visit to a Mine
Or the fossils.
A Visit to a Mine
After that section it was time to actually head into the mountain. There was something the fact that the entrance to it really is just a set of doors into the mountain that was really cool.


Our guide took us through tunnels
A Visit to a Mine
, stopping to explain all kinds of things, such as how the miners got down to all the 27 different levels (a terrifying contraption called the “man cage” that basically went down a pitch black 45 degree tunnel to the next landing), safety, how they blasted out the boulders, identified where the zinc was, transported it, and the equipment they had. Of course all the kids loved seeing the terrible toilet situation in the mine.  A really big hit was the amount of phosphorescent minerals found in this mine. We all got rocks that glow under black light and had many opportunities to be in black light rooms.

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There were also large heavy pieces of machinery inside and outside of the mine that were fascinating to look at.
A Visit to a Mine
And many statues. My favorite is this one. I think it’s hilarious-a big buff shirtless miner with the delicate canary (and yes we learned about canaries in coal mines.)
A Visit to a MineIt was a long tour, but the kids remained interested throughout. So, if you live in New Jersey, definitely consider this as an outing. We learned so much, it was really cool to see, and it was a fascinating experience.


Happy Birthday, Tabby!

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Tabby turned 7 yesterday and what a great birthday it was. The celebrating began over the weekend when she had a birthday party at our house.  We had approximately a million little girls (that’s what it seemed like) and a pony & a horse.  Tabby loves horses (even though she doesn’t take riding lessons) and the time had finally come to have a pony party.  Our next door neighbors have two horses and a pony and they happily agreed to bring the pony over for the girls to ride. To everyone’s surprise Molly (the pony) was too upset at hearing her horse friends next door and being separated and she reared up when one of the girls was on her. As you can imagine we adults nearly had heart attacks (while the girls just seemed to accept it as normal.) Molly had to be taken home and Baxter, the placid gigantic horse brought over instead.
Greeting Baxter
It all worked out just fine. I took a picture of every girl on the horse (aren’t the cowboy boots awesome? They were a special birthday gift and arrived in time for her to wear them to the party.)
Tabby riding Molly
which we’ll give to them to put in the picture frames the decorated.  The pinata was great fun

Wacking the pinata
, and as usual the girls seemed to love just running around and attacking our yard with playing (the swings, the treehouse, the tree, etc.) Paul made another dynamite cutout
Another spectacular cutout by Paul
And the favors were a big hit-I baked and frosted horse cookies and tied little golden ponies onto them with pink ribbon.
For the cake I just did a sheet cake, frosted it green, put fencing around it, some ponies on top, and piped on the message. Really easy, but I think it looks adorable!
The cake

I’d say it was a super successful party!
Tabby & BaxterI’m pretty sure it’s a party she’ll always remember. Her actual birthday was a school day, but still lots of fun. I went to visit her classroom and read aloud to the kids (Ghosts in the House, Extra Yarn, and Pet of a Pet-the book that features a girl on a farm named Tabitha, who likes to be called Tabby.) I think she loved all the special attention during the day. In the evening my mom came over for the birthday dinner. The present giving was immensely satisfying. Basically everything was met with gasps, jumping up and down, enthusiastic hugs, and all around being totally thrilled.
Sheer joy at opening a much desired gift

Modeling leopard print earmuffs
We gave her roller skates which she promptly put on and tried to skate around the kitchen. She also got a doll she’s wanted for a long time and a couple other things that she was really excited to receive. And to top it all off, she lost her 8th tooth!

Happy birthday, sweet Tabby!
Happy lucky 7 birthday to Tabby!


Golden Ponies

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It’s that time of year where I have to-do lists galore because Tabby’s birthday and Halloween are coming up. My usual m.o. is to not even think of Halloween until after her birthday and I’m sticking with that this year, too. I’m in pony party planning mode.  Our next door neighbor is bringing over her beautiful pony, Molly, for rides for the girls.  Here’s a peek at some other party prep I’m doing today:

IMG_0587Who wouldn’t love a tiny golden pony? I’m enjoying my metallic gold spray paint I’m wondering where else to spray it!

I finally jumped on the bandwagon and joined Instagram. Despite poo-poohing it like crazy I’m actually somewhat enjoying it. My real camera has been giving me a bit of trouble lately so I’ve had to resort to the phone anyway. But the real reason I did it is to participate in a quilting photo a day challenge, which has been very inspiring for me.  I’ve been working a little bit at a time on the Wee Wander quilt, and I just found out I’m getting Birdhouse in My Soul back from the longarm quilter next week.  I’m really enjoying composing and assembling just one or two blocks at a time for Wee Wander. I swear, ever block is cuter than the last and you really can’t go wrong. I have the pieces on a tray and just pick out the components and make pleasing arrangements.

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Earlier this week the kids had off for Columbus Day.  I took them and a friend of Clark’s into the Sourlands to go hiking and climbing around on the boulders there. Despite accidentally making us take the long hike they all had a great time. (and also despite the expected stumbles, falls, and skinned knees.) It’s really such a great mountain to enjoy.

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Also this past week-apple picking and Paul and I went to a really good play at McCarter last night called “The Understudy.” Only three actors in it and one of them was the guy who played Figaro in the pair of plays we saw in the spring. He’s really good!  Well, my cookie dough is probably chilled enough now for me to go roll it out and make horse head cookies…


Neil Young at the Academy of Music

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Last night Paul and I went to see Neil Young. And while he is the one who blogs about concerts and albums (really, if you haven’t read him he’s a very thorough reviewer!), I have to write about this. Neil Young is one of my all time favorite musicians. My three very favorite bands/musicians are The Beatles, Pearl Jam, and Neil Young. I have seen Paul McCartney in concert, but of course the Beatles are long gone, leaving Pearl Jam and Neil Young as the two acts that were at the top of my “I’d love to see them before I die but probably never will” concert list. I just assumed that tickets would always be too impossible or expensive or impractical to get. But! Wonderful Paul leapt on this October date as soon as it was announced and surprised me this summer by coming home with tickets to it. I’ve been looking forward to it since then. And he lived up to every hope I had. Here we are right before we started. Apparently the guy who took our picture wasn’t familiar with phone photography and it’s crazy blurry, but you can see we are excited!
@ Neil Young. Academy of Music, Philadelphia. Can't wait for Neil to start
The show was at The Academy of Music in Philadelphia. I’ve never been there before and man, what a beautiful venue. Gorgeous ceiling, paintings, and statues and a spectacular chandelier.
It’s stunning. And steep.

We were in the extreme top section, which was exhausting to walk to. But overall the theater feels tight and close, so even though we were high up we weren’t that far away from the stage. The view was good, the sound was great.
We had a lovely parking and ample time experience, which was nice. I really had been antsy and excited all day. Walking to the theater and standing next to his tour bus-a beautiful chrome affair with a “Zuma” license plate was super exciting.

So, the show. First of all, I had somewhat deliberately avoided finding out exactly what this tour is. Neil can do lots of different things, and while I knew he wasn’t touring with Crazy Horse, I really didn’t know what he was going to play. This was a solo acoustic show and he played so many classic great songs, plus several I didn’t know. The funny thing about the ones I didn’t know was that they were so beautiful and sounded so Neil, that I wasn’t even really aware of not knowing them. Usually at a concert when the band plays a new-to-me number it’s always a little weird, but not here. The stage contained: 8 guitars, 1 banjo, 2 pianos, 1 organ, and several harmonicas (or, if we’re being fancy, mouth organs.) There was also a nice carpet, a totem pole (or carved Indian figure, a little hard to tell), a big tomahawk (I didn’t know that’s what it was, but an article tells me so), and nicely glowing candles on top of the pianos. Oh, the organ had a tree stump for a stool.

Neil came out (looking exactly as you’d expect) and sat down and opened right up with From Hank to Hendrix. What can I say? It was an extremely moving moment for me. His voice was crystal clear, sounded amazing and unchanged, and I really like that song but didn’t think he’d play it. Yes, I got teary!! Hearing him in person was really all I thought it would be. It was just him, walking around the stage, picking up instruments and playing, engaging in the audience in a warm way. And the audience! Some people did keep yelling out “I love you Neil!” “You’re the best” but when he sang I have never heard such a  reverent silence in a theater before.  There were a few songs where people (including myself) couldn’t help but sing along–but it was all super quietly and softly. Side note: this theater had a great opening announcement which included “out of respect for the artist and those around you, please don’t call out song titles.” Most people did not, except for this one guy who kept shouting “Here to You.” Paul and I were like “what is that song? I’ve never heard of it.” It turns out it is actually a song I really like that I just didn’t know was called that. It’s from the Prairie Wind album, which I really like, but did not expect him to play anything off of.

Song highlights:
On the Way Home–the second song he played, again I teared up at hearing a song I knew and loved being sung in person. Interestingly, I didn’t actually know the name of this song (as is the case with a lot of songs, for example in my head “Harvest” is “Promise of a Man”)
Harvest–An incredible highlight.
Pocahontas-Again, I got teary. I love this song and did not expect him to play it. When I met my baby niece for the very first time and held her I sang this song to her because it was the first thing I thought of. Neil updated a few lines-instead of “Marlon Brando, Pocahontas, and me” he sang “Barack Obama, Pocahontas, and me” and changed Hollywood to Washington, D.C.
Heart of Gold-this was gorgeous. I expected him to play it and he did not disappoint
Old Man–I had just listened to Live at Massey Hall the day before, in which he introduces this as “a new song I just wrote”. So interesting to hear that when he was a young man writing those lines about the old man, and now as he sang it he is clearly the old man himself.
Southern Man and Ohio–Although these are absolutely huge hits, I was surprised he played these
Harvest Moon–I hoped he would play this, but wasn’t sure if he would (though really, if you’re picking Hank to Hendrix off this album, why wouldn’t you also play this?) Absolutely beautiful, I love this song. Only slightly marred by the yahoos in front of us who kept calling out for it and then were beside themselves when he did play it and talked and snapped through the whole thing in a weird way.
After the Gold Rush-Practically haunting it was so gorgeous. Another lyric change-instead of “look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s” he sang “in the 21st century.”
Man Needs a Maid–this is not one of my favorite songs and I wasn’t psyched he played it, however it was interesting to hear with just him solo. He also had a keyboard added on top of his piano to get the segment that is loud and organy, which was neat to see how one person created this huge sound.

I knew he wouldn’t play Winterlong or Cowgirl in the Sand, which are super favorites and I would love to hear, but would not be songs he’d do solo/acoustic. I did think he’d play Long May You Run and Needle on the Damage Done, but don’t mind at all that he didn’t. I did hold out hope for Silver and Gold, which also would have made me cry, but he played nothing off that album. The encore was a slight letdown for me because though it’s an old song, it wasn’t one I’m really familiar with–Thrasher.

It was incredible experience. It did have a feeling of sitting in his living room and passing the evening listening to him play just a whole bunch of his favorite songs. A very grand, ornate living room with hundreds of other people, but it still had a very intimate feel. One of the things I’ve admired about him is what a good musician he is. And it was so evident watching him move from instrument to instrument, and sing, play harmonica, and play piano all at once. Also, I never really realized what a great piano player he is and it was a pleasure to see it.

XPN’s The Key has a great write up this morning with the full set list.  And be sure to check out Paul’s p.o.v. (and his photos of the set, I’m sure) when he gets it up.

So, dream come true. Fully lived up to my expectations. An amazing evening.


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Yoga Mat Bag
Last week Tabby started a yoga class that is once a week after school. I got her a nice new purple yoga mat, but thought she should have a bag to carry it in. I’m pretty pleased with this cute and practical yoga mat bag I whipped up. First of all, I used this cute fabric because I have an entire bolt of it so this is the fabric I use any time I need a big piece or need fabric for things like doll napkins. Fortunately, it’s very sweet and I love the deer on it.


Using the rolled up yoga mat as a guide I cut a piece long enough to have a bit extra at the top and bottom, and go around the roll with some leeway. I also cut out a circle for the bottom.
I always have to think very deliberately about how to make drawstrings, and sure enough I realized I needed to cut my fabric into two pieces so that I could stitch down the top and have covered openings. So the top is a nice finished drawstring with ribbons that will be easy for her to operate. I also stitched on a long strap for carrying it. I’m so pleased with how the circular bottom fits.
Yoga Mat Bag
It’s not too snug, so I think she should be able to get it in herself (that is if she can figure out how to roll up a mat-last week she couldn’t.) She really liked the first class and I’m so happy for her. She told me she learned 4 words to help her out when she’s mad or sad or frustrated or angry: “peace begins with me.” She really took it to heart and I thought those were some pretty good words to keep on hand.
Yoga Mat Bag* and here is Tabby with it this morning, off to school.



Children of the Corn

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These weekends in autumn my Facebook feed is filled with pictures of people apple picking and pumpkin picking. Fall Family Fun seems to be almost required these days and there are tons of places around us within easy distance to have such lovely experiences. Today was the perfect October day-sunny, blue skies, and a happy little chill to the air.  We were going to go apple picking, but decided instead to go to a corn maze.
October Skies
Though this corn maze is in its 18th year, it was our first time there. The maze is at Howell Living Farm, where we’ve previously visited to learn about maple sugaring. Well, let me tell you what a nice afternoon it was. Honestly, much more fun that I would have expected!


The maze itself is 4 acres and is some elaborate design that you wouldn’t know about unless you were flying overhead. The theme was NJ sports history/hometown team.  This was not just the design of the maze, but also the games you played in it.


As you worked your way through the maze there were 10 mailboxes to find. In the mailboxes were tape and a piece of a map. When you had all 10 pieces taped to your gameboard you would have a map of the maze.  There were also 10 questions about sports legends. The answers to these were on signs hidden throughout the maze. Also hidden were signs about team mascots (our local high schools, colleges and professional teams) and sports figures who hailed from NJ (Dick Button! Althea Gibson! Who knew?) So as you explored you found the answers and filled them in. The final mailbox eluded us many times and we almost gave up, but happily did not. When we finally finished (2 hrs 15 min. later) the kids were thrilled to be on the “Victory Bridge.”
It was a great end to a very nice weekend. We all appreciated the soccer games being rained out on Saturday morning and took the opportunity to be cozy-going out to breakfast, undertaking a massive cleaning of the house, and watching a movie.

Wee Wander

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It’s fall for real. Trees are changing daily, color is abounding, and it’s pretty lovely.
Autumn color
Unfortunately it’s coinciding with a photo funk I’m in, brought on mostly by my camera having some issues that I think require me actually bringing it somewhere. Which I haven’t done yet. So I just don’t take any pictures or just use my phone. Our beloved maple tree hasn’t had one picture taken of it this fall! (Which, if we’re going to philosophize-does it need a picture taken of it? Haven’t I taken pictures of it every fall? Yes, yes I have. Does it look appreciably different this fall? No, no it doesn’t. But typically (like with the peonies, tomatoes, and my other favorite seasonal subjects) I’m so moved by it I want to take a picture. ) Anyway, I took a picture, and here it is, looking majestic and maple-y, and making me very happy.
October 2, maple tree
I’ve also been spending a lot of time in creative thought this week, and finally in creative practice. At long last I’ve started working on Tabby’s Wee Wander quilt. I love the fabric so much I was really hesitant to finalize a design and cut the fabric, but once we got that all worked out it’s been a pleasure to cut it and piece it. I’m making blocks that frame a central large picture (fussy cut). I’m assembling and sewing one at a time, rather than a more efficient method, because 1. it’s fun to play with the pieces and 2. all the fabrics go together so I can choose the order the blocks will go in after I’ve created them all. And so, here are six of them:
Wee Wander w.i.p.
I swear, I want to jump into the world pictured in this fabric and live there. Tabby is not so excited about the process, but I know she’ll love the end result. She has said she’ll play “Find the Human” on it. And indeed, it is fun to find the little people scattered throughout.

Other things that have been going on–the other day I heard a chicken lay her egg; I’ve been sticking with my goal of daily walking (now amended to 3-5 x a week); I made an awesome autumnal dinner of pork chops with onions and apples; I saw a full rainbow; Tabby lost a tooth in school (something both kids have always wished would happen as you get to go to the nurse and put your tooth in a little treasure box); and I went on a geocaching adventure with a friend (sadly cut short, but we did find a few and it was very fun).


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