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Here a chick, there a chick

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Last week saw a trifecta of excitement: Mother’s Day, Paul’s Birthday, and baby chicks hatching! The weekend kicked off with the first peep heard late on Thursday, the first chick viewed on Friday morning, and by Sunday afternoon the chicks were out and about in the sunshine. How many chicks? SEVEN. The most we’ve ever had at a time before was 3 (not counting the mail order chicks), so this was pretty exciting. As usual, there was a lot of drama and a lot of mamas. There are 3 hens that are taking on the mothering duties, with all 7 chicks responding to all three. There is a lead mother, though-the small black hen who was the one who went broody first. Babies #6 and 7 seemed to come out of nowhere and due to their surprise appearance in the henhouse after the moms and chicks were on the ground, we were able to pick them up. Meanwhile, another hen patiently sat on her eggs and this weekend she hatched out one. She doesn’t seem eager to get up, but I know the chick is in there because I saw it walking around her. I think it may be just the one. Here’s a progression of the weekend of chicks:
The first chick//
Popping over to visit the other mother//
Suprise, #6! This one got left behind the door of the henhouse when everyone else got down on the ground. We scooped er up, took a picture and then added her to the group.//
All 7 out and about//
Tucked under mom's wing//

Mother’s Day and Paul’s birthday fell on the same Sunday, as they do from time to time. I really wanted to make the day more about him than me, though. We had a delicious French toast casserole for brunch with presents for both of us, followed by Sunday afternoon Pokemon club for Paul and Clark while I baked the birthday cake. Paul chose the cake components from two different recipes in the same book: a vanilla bean cream cake with a caramel nut topping. The batter for this vanilla cake was the silkiest lightest thing I’ve ever tasted. And the baked texture was incredible. A very fine soft crumb. Flecked with vanilla and nutmeg it had a delicate spice. The gooey caramel top was texturally an odd combo, but tastewise a sensation. The birthday cake and dinner were met with great approval.
Happy Birthday, Paul//
Meanwhile, on that same special day I was trying to finish up the final assignment for the course I’m taking (which counted for 40% of my grade!) I was up until all hours toiling away and consequently was exhausted by Tuesday. But I’m happy to say I got a terrific score on it and got an A for the class. Hooray for me! I’m relieved to have that first class done with. Graduate school now is definitely a different experience than doing it when I was 25. I was very happy this weekend to just enjoy doing stuff with friends and family.

April, Come She Will

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In all the years I’ve been doing this blog this is the first time I haven’t written about a birthday right when it happened. When last I checked in we’d just finished a fun week of spring break including Easter. And here we are now with all of April to catch up on. April is one of my favorite months simply because it includes my birthday. Paul always jokes that my birthday ends up lasting at least a week, and I guess that’s a little true. There was my real birthday, which, since it was a work day, we celebrated by going out to eat at a casual place that is always too crowded on weekends. We had amazing cake at home. 2016-04-19 20.18.25And trampolining2016-04-19_07-56-50//
And wonderful presents! This year most of my gifts were games, and we had a great time playing a new one called Dixit and another one called Pick a Pig, and a nostalgic-to-me, Rummikub (my best friend and I used to play it a lot at sleepovers). Also, one we haven’t even tried yet. We’ve had a big influx of new games in the household lately, which I love, though I wish we played them more often. Another night we had a special dinner at my mom’s house and my aunt joined us, which was lovely. Sisters// finally, there was the dinner out with my girlfriends, which is always marvelous. All in all, a great celebration!

April 28 was a huge day and much circled on the calendar. First, it was Take Your Child to Work Day. When Clark was in kindergarten he got to go with Paul because Paul was at a public library. Since then there really hasn’t been an opportunity for either of our kids to participate in this, but now that I’m working and at a place that is ok with people participating, Tabby got to come with me. (Since I am a school librarian at Clark’s school he already comes to work with me every day.) Take Your Child to Work DayShe had a great time, especially since it gave her a nice preview of where she’ll be going to school in a couple of years. Crazily, the same day I also had two big work things going on-my first formal observation and a presentation I gave to teachers. Both went great! But all of that was just filling time until the big reason for all the excitement… Pearl Jam.
You may recall me mentioning in the past that there were 3 bands I wanted to see before I (or they) die-Neil Young, The Decemberists, and Pearl Jam. Last April we saw the Decemberists, and have now twice seen Neil Young. When PJ announced a new tour and tickets going on sale in January, we were wildly excited and made plans to get tickets no matter what the cost. After a very tense process we managed to procure two seats for the 28th. No choice of seats-you get what you get. And we got seats described as “obstructed view, behind the stage.” That did not sound promising, but I didn’t care because we’d be there and hearing the music live and that’s what counted.
So we got to Wells Fargo Center, parked no problem, and stood on a long line just to get inside. We found our way to our seats and guess what? They were great! Behind the stage, yes, but there was nothing obstructing the view-the stage was fully open.  And we were really really close! Pearl JamAnd could see the band when they walked off the stage. I’m just going to paste here now the lengthy email I sent my friends the following morning:
Pearl Jam
….There were the big screens so if the cameras were showing the guys faces and you wanted to see that you could look there. Eddie was really mindful of his fans behind him and to the sides, though, and often turned around. And then (the guy in our row tipped us off this would happen) near the end of the show they uncovered a small drum set facing us, and they completely turned around and played a whole song just facing us–Elderly Lady Behind A Counter, amazing. Unexpectedly it was also really cool to have the same view as the band-we could clearly see at least half of the people on the floor, and really clearly see all the front row folks and thus any of Eddies’ interactions with them (sharing his bottle of wine, standing amongst them, etc.)

Second, the music. You know how before a show you make a mental list of what songs you most hope to hear? and then you think about realistically which ones they might play? they played almost every song on my mental list. And they were INCREDIBLE. They sounded fantastic and the set list was just beyond. They exploded out with Once as their opener. And then I think the third song was one I really wanted to hear (and was pretty confident they would play) called Mind Your Manners, and it was so hard rocking that I just went berserk. Then a couple songs later they played Wishlist, which was my #1 hope and I didn’t think they’d play and it was so overhwelming that I basically kept crying. For real. I felt like I was in the song. They played for about 3 hours, maybe a little more. They took a couple little breaks and, much like Neil Young, sometimes you’d think, wow that must be the end and then they’d take a song and jam for 10 minutes with it. Which they did with the last song I was holding out hope they’d play, Rearview Mirror, and it was just amazing. So, the music was phenomenal. they played a bunch of stuff from 10.

Pearl Jam

Third, the feeling. They were playing at the arena in Philly (wells fargo center, formerly the Spectrum) so that’s a big venue, but it felt like they were playing in a club. Interacting with the audience,and you could tell that 25 years in it they still love playing together. Eddie seems like not just an amazing musician, but also a pretty nice guy–acknowledging people who were holding up things, saying “Happy Birthday” and pointing at a kid with his dad holding up a sign that said “13th birthday” right in the middle of a song, doing a special thing for a make a wish type kid that they put up on the screen and he sang a song for (who didn’t have a tear in their eye when they saw that kid and his mom?); tossing out tambourines to the crowd; and the last few songs the lights were up so you could really see everyone and it felt like a giant party.

Fourth, a bit more on #3, with regard to the wedding. Wedding? Yes, after the first break Eddie came out and said he’d just found out that a couple had come to the show and gotten married during it. He looked around for their suite and it was right above us way up high, in a box. the camera viewed it on the screen. You could tell the people in there didn’t know they were going to be acknowledged. the bridge and groom came to the edge and Eddie said nice things to them and that he was going to play a romantic song just for them. Then he sat on a stool and played acoustic a Tom Waits song that was beautiful. Eddie Vedder sang their wedding song. I mean, really. The bridge and groom cried and were beside themselves. It was fantastic.

Odds n’ ends: we were talking the other day about who still smokes? Pearl Jam fans, that’s who. SO SMOKY outside the arena. I haven’t seen that many people smoking since I don’t know when.
Saw an elderly lady (white hair) wearing a sleeveless Social Distortion/Pearl Jam concert t with autographs, and her old lady bare arms were fully covered in tattoos.
When we got to our seat we made friends with a guy who admired my Neil Young concert shirt and talked to him. He is seeing PJ 4x on this tour and had already seen them twice. Then the next people who showed up were a guy who was bringing his son with him, and it was his son’s first concert. They were adorable and both wearing t-shirts that said “It doesn’t get Eddie Vedder than this”. The crowd was, overall, really great.
To sum up: it was the best concert of my life and all I could have hoped for and more.
And here’s Paul’s report on it:
What else has gone on in April? Well, nothing with regard to the garden. We’d better figure out our plan pretty fast. We are trying very hard to grow grass in all the bare patches in our yard, so at least we’re working on that. Everything is looking very lush and green and beautiful as the leaves are almost fully open on the maple, and the Japanese maple is fully opened.
It’s broody hen time and we’ve got the usual shenanigans of taking over nests. The one nest (with too many eggs in it) has been sat on steadily for 2 weeks, so we’re looking forward to hatching day next Friday.
It was a wonderful April!

Spring Break

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We’re just finishing up a whole glorious week off for all four of us. Although I like my new job, I really really enjoyed having a week off. Paul took the week off as well, and although we didn’t travel (like we did to Denver last year) we made the most of it, combining outings and at home fun, and are now both thoroughly relaxed, and also tired out.

The vacation began with Easter weekend, which unfortunately included me doing a major assignment for the class I’m taking. But it was still a lovely weekend and we had a very nice Easter, spent with my mom. I made two things for the dinner-hassselback potatoes (I feel like that’s trendy because I see that word all over the place), which were Yukon Gold potatoes sliced mostly through, roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper, and then tossed with butter and fresh chives. They were delicious. Roasted Potatoes// From my great Joy the Baker cookbook I made whole wheat biscuits with goat cheese and honey. They were a drop biscuit baked in a cast iron skillet in the oven and they came out great. Next time I would add the goat cheese later than she suggested because I would have preferred chunks of it, rather than how incorporated it was. These were a nice addition to the table. Drop Biscuits//

And of course, our morning began with a glorious egg hunt. The E.B. was more ambitious this year and hid many more eggs outside, all over the yard. Happy Easter//

The holiday weekend done and the assignment submitted, it was time to get down to fun. Although we just puttered around at home on Monday, we did end up going out to lunch to a new-to-us pizza place, that was a wonderful discovery. Paul, Tabby, and I took Willow on a great walk and found four new geocaches, something we haven’t done in a long time, so that was awesome. Tuesday we went to the Turtleback Zoo, which is charming.chillin// has really changed a lot since I was a kid, but it’s still small and very accessible and we had a nice time. Paul was delighted by the sting ray touching because they were (seemingly) downright affectionate to him and were repeatedly rubbing against him. The stingrays were exceptionally friendly. Like water cats// that we went to a family favorite destination (since we were pretty close)–Ikea. Yes, that’s right. We went to a store for our vacation. And spent as much, if not more, time there than the zoo. It might be weird, but eating Swedish meatballs in the lovely dining area with my family is definitely a “happy place” moment. (We were in the Paramus one, so no watching airplanes take off, also at 2 o’clock on a weekday it was marvelously deserted and calm.) We had a grand time getting an inspiration for our tiny bathroom and getting many other things. And best of all, the next morning we assembled/put everything away. So prompt!

Wednesday afternoon we headed down to the beach, despite it being fairly chilly and windy. I like a good walk on the out-of-season beach and thought it was great to be there.(I feel compelled to point out that the wind is making my jacket blow up, plus I had on a down vest under my jacket. )// note that I look enormous due to not only the wind, but also wearing a down vest under my jacket.) Tabby also enjoyed it, Tabby @ the Beach// Clark was so cold he just stayed in the car. His loss! We did persuade him to come out for a brief photo. obligatory family portait// love sitting in the sand and just looking out at the ocean. And even though it was cold we got ice cream from our favorite place, Nagle’s. And then followed that all up with a spontaneous visit with our cousins.

Thursday was the biggest outing-we drove into the city to go to the American Museum of )Natural History. The kids had been wanting to go and I was really eager to see the brand new Titanosaur exhibit. It was indeed enormous (122 feet long) and of course the rest of the museum is wonderful too.Good old AMNH// love the dioramas so much. We love the movie, Night at the Museum, and were tickled to see that the big Easter Island head statue is now enjoying some movie related fame. There was a whole crowd waiting to take pictures with him, and everyone exclaiming “dum Dum!” Us included. You have gum gum, Dum Dum?// asked if the museum is famous in other parts of the country and I always assumed it was, but maybe not? Does everyone know about the gigantic blue whale? The dioramas? This museum is definitely a treasure and I’m happy that I can take my kids there as my parents took me. Good old AMNH//

Friday we wrapped things up with a nice lunch out at the Cuban restaurant that Paul and I went to on our very first date, nearly 14 years ago.  And scattered throughout the whole week there was eating out, Tim Horton’s, movies at home, playing with friends, and even a little sewing for me (which, boy, did I realize I’ve been missing.)

And now the house is a bit messy and we are nowhere near in a state of mental preparation for return to work/school tomorrow! And meanwhile, spring is looking gorgeous-everything is flowering and bright. We haven’t planted peas yet and we are thinking of deconstructing our raised beds. There just wasn’t time to do everything this week!
Oh that bright pink!//

Spring Celebrations

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This weekend we had two special events-my mom’s birthday and Clark’s Arrow of Light ceremony from Cub Scouts.  The latter was a pretty big deal-he started Cub Scouts in 1st grade. He’s continued on and is now moving on to Boy Scouts.Arrow of Light//’ve had a lot of fun with other families in the pack, camping and other crazy events, and Paul enjoyed being the Cubmaster for the past 2 years. Lots of great memories were made, so this farewell was bittersweet. It was quite a ceremony and as the boys walked over the bridge they were welcomed by their new Boy Scout troop. Clark is quite excited to join his new troop and looking forward to good times and making new friends.IMG_5945

2016-03-04 19.40.58

My mom’s birthday was also this weekend and I always see it as a sign of spring and enjoy coming up with a good menu for a special birthday dinner. I made cherry chicken spirals (chicken with cherries and some other stuff, rolled up), rice pilaf, asparagus, and a delicious salad of Boston lettuce, red onion, and avocado. Of course it’s really the cake we were all looking forward to. Happily my mom likes coconut, so things for her are always a good opportunity to make coconut things.  I made the Tropical Carrot & Coconut Cake from Baking by Flavor. Happy Birthday, Mom!// I had not made this before and it’s definitely a keeper. Super delicious. The cake had shredded carrots, coconut, and crushed pineapple in it. Happy Birthday, Mom!// better it had lots of fresh nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon it. So much that those flavors really came through. There was even a tiny bit of freshly grated nutmeg in the cream cheese frosting. The frosting was delicious, though there was a lot of it. Actually I thought this cake would be fine with just a little powdered sugar on top. Happy Birthday, Mom! Happy Birthday, Mom!//

The final spring celebration was the now annual Midwinter Stitchathon with Liz and Eleanor. This lovely event is an afternoon spent stitching, watching tv, and eating special snacks and seasonal candy together. Midwinter Stitchathon// menu this year was tea brack (an Irish tea cake with lots of dried fruit and demands to be eaten with butter), apricot turkey pinwheels (forever known now as “Yoshi Wellingtons”), cherry cola cake, and, as always, carrot dip and prosecco (not mixed together. Carrot dip eaten up with pretzels, prosecco guzzled down.)
Midwinter Stitchathon//
Midwinter Stitchathon//
My stitching project is an embroidery pattern I’ve had a couple of years and have decided would be just the thing for when I have a little time to want to do something stitchy. I actually went and bought all the suggested color flosses for this. Midwinter Stitchathon// was a grand time! And, oops! This is indeed quite a catchup. I’ll also mention another special event-the Father Daughter Dance for Girl Scouts. Tabby was so excited, felt so glamorous and excited to be going with Paul to this dance. It was a lovely event for them. Father Daughter Dance 2016So many special events!


R.I.P. Nibbles

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Our dear Nibs unexpectedly died yesterday. I say unexpected, but the fact is he was no longer a robust fat pig, but had gotten rather thin and I suppose a little frail looking the past few days. He was 3 1/2. We saw Nibbles the day he was born and brought him and Blackie home a few weeks later-a 7th birthday present for Clark. (Actually, Blackie was the present for Clark and Nibbles came along too for Tabby.) I’ve always enjoyed having guinea pigs and Nibs was no exception. He was noisy and endearing and one of our favorite things to do was let him run around at night and watch him on his “twinkle toes.” Here he is with many friends:
Nibs and friends
Nibbles and Blackie have been patient models for photographs and holiday dress-ups. His beautiful reddish coat made him very photogenic. Here he is in some of the many hats he wore:
Nibbles in Hats//
He recently enjoyed a little fame as he was featured on one the slides in my “get to know me” presentation at work. Everyone enjoyed seeing Nibbles in the card catalog drawer.#46 for 113 in 2013: A Pet 636.5392//
We’ll miss you Nibs-rest in peace.

And at the risk of having this be even more depressing…R.I.P. Big Silk.  Last week he met with a tragic accident. He was my favorite of our chickens and I have to admit, I was pretty upset over the loss of him. He was a beautiful and charming rooster. Perhaps there’s a yard somewhere “in the spirit world”, as Tabby says, where he is pecking in the grass, Nibbles is eating clover, and Pippin is hanging out with them.

Pie Day 13

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Yesterday was our friends’ annual Pie Day party (in celebration of National Pie Day) and we sure couldn’t miss it. In the past I’ve spent the entire week leading up to it thinking of pies, but this year (more on this later) I didn’t get around to thinking about it until the morning of the party. I browsed through some of my recipe collections and decided to make  one from my Mary Engelbreit Sweet Treats cookbook that I’ve had for many years. Many years, but I’ve never made the Chess Pie. (or, maybe it’s a Lemon Chess Pie.) A rather simple and plain looking pie with an intriguing self forming crunchy golden crust on top.  After having made the pie I can tell you that the crust magically forms out of the loads of sugar in the pie. It was a usual pie crust and then a sweet filling of basically eggs, sugar, bit of flour, pinch of salt, lemon zest and fresh lemon juice. As it bakes this golden thin crunch crust appears on top of the filling.2016-02-13 13.57.21 Despite all the sugar this was not overly sweet. The lemon just enough to keep it from being so and it tasted very fresh and sweet. Definitely a pie I’ll make again. (and it was completely and quickly eaten up so I know others liked it too.) 2016-02-13 17.36.28
Paul’s pie this year was also a raging success. He had been feeling very inspired by the Great British Bake Off and ended up making a Steak n’ Ale Pie, using the hot water crust technique we saw on the show. Basically it was a rich thick beef stew put into a top and bottom golden crust. The scent of this was amazing and would be the most welcoming smell to ever walk in the house to. It tasted delicious as well and since I only got a couple bites for myself I’ve demanded he make this for dinner for us soon. This did not fit in a usual pie dish, but a larger casserole style dish.2016-02-13 17.25.14

There were loads of other tasty pies, especially all the pizza variations. I especially liked one with bacon on it and the chicken parm pie which had plenty of parmesan and romano cheese in both the crust and the breading for the chicken on the inside.
2016-02-13 17.33.23

So, I know I said I wouldn’t post much anymore, but there was no way I could pass up getting in my Pie Day post.  And here’s a quick check-in from me: I have finished my first week of work and it’s going really well. I’ve had many moments of feeling very happy and glad to be back doing something I love and remembering how good it made me feel. And the students mostly seem really happy to meet me.
2016-02-09 16.20.33I’ve also had many moments of thinking “good grief I’ll never remember everyone’s names and what on earth is the procedure here?”  But overall, the job is good and we’re all adjusting.  And hey, I even got paid already so that’s even better. Also, no one starved or went naked this first week, so that’s good. Though Willow is insane when I get home and also I fall asleep as soon as I lie down at night and then wake up too early.  I’m definitely feeling really overwhelmed and anxious, but that’s mostly related to the online graduate course I’m taking. Which is, frankly, a ton of work. I’m going to say more work than if the class was in person. I also realize how great it was to have done graduate school before when I was young and lived on my own and could spend hours at the coffee shop with my friends working on assignments, or while away a Saturday finishing up a paper early because I had nothing else going on. I am finding it hard to fit it into my life now, though I know millions of people do. So, we’ll have a Valentine’s Day breakfast and card exchange and then I’m going to try to buckle down and work on my research paper due in one week. I haven’t written a research paper in 20 years and have it pretty built up in my head as a task that will get the better of me, so let’s all hope that’s not the case.
Oh, and life does go on in the midst of all this new job stuff–Tabby and I went with our Brownie troop to a really cool pottery class, so that was fun to do together. 2016-02-06 15.20.57And Paul and I went to…a concert on a work night. Richard Thompson, whom we’ve seen a few times before, at the McCarter Theater. He is such a talented musician and it was wonderful. Solo, acoustic, so I was afraid I’d fall asleep and I did have to close my eyes a few times, but that was ok. We had awesome seats-absolute center in front of RT and 7th row.
In news around the yard, our elderly rooster, President, has finally died. He had a fantastic life, really. What other rooster gets to live until 6 enjoying walking around with his ladies and being fed treats? And despite the BITTER cold the coop behavior tells me spring is on the way.  Gordon has been enjoying renewing his acquaintance with tree bird and his ball. And the young chicken who has turned out to be a rooster is enjoying crowing and trying to mate (fairly unsuccessfully so far) with all the young hens. We’re also getting more eggs now. Nature says spring is coming and it can’t be stopped!


My Last Day as a Stay at Home Mom

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I alluded to some changes coming up and here it is…I’ve got a job! I am super excited about it. After talking about going back to work for 2 years I kind of can’t believe it’s actually happening. I found a job, and not only that one that is so perfect in terms of making this transition easier for us. I will be the new school librarian at the upper elementary school in town. It’s Clark’s school! I’m really looking forward to getting back into a library and working with kids. I’m really looking forward to spending more time with my professional self again. I’m really looking forward to earning money. And I’m looking forward to wearing nice clothes every day. But there’s definitely some anxieties and worries that have been floating around.No matter how convenient the commute and hours are, it will be a change. I’ve been spending the past few weeks trying to prepare myself for that and mostly feeling happy anticipation. It’s weird feeling job anticipation with other people around-the last time I started a new job I was single. I have to admit, though, that today thinking “this is my last day as a stay at home mom” kind of got to me. I drove Tabby to school, which I sometimes have done this year to give us a little bonus time together, and knowing it was the last time made her, and consequently me, rather emotional.  That said, one of the things that has made this impending transition so much easier for us, has been the kids’ reactions. They are sincerely excited about it and happy for me. (Thank goodness Clark thinks it will be great to have me as his teacher and not just embarrassing.)

I am simultaneously taking a graduate level online course, so that’s some added stress. I think I’m going to have to work very hard to manage my time wisely to get everything done that I need to. Hey-this is totally going to cut into my tv viewing!
I’ve promised the kids I’ll still make nice dinners and bake for us. Tonight I’m making, for myself really, the comforting ham and cheese casserole of my childhood. A couple nights ago I made us a delicious pear tart for dessert, just because.  What else is on the docket for this last day? Lunch out with a couple of friends, finishing touches on Girl Scout meeting prep, picking kids and their friends up from school, and finishing touches on my own homework. And then laying out my first day of work outfit, gathering the things I want to bring with me the first day, and trying to get a good night’s sleep. And maybe one more walk with Willow, who will surely feel this change the most.

I am so grateful to have been able to stay at home with the kids for 10 (!) years. It has been wonderful for them, our family, and for me, too. I feel like I was able to explore all kinds of interests. I have loved being a stay at home mom, but in the past I have also really loved being a librarian, and I am really happy to get back to it. It is definitely the right time for me.  This is not a full on good-bye, because of course I’ll occasionally still post, but for now, wish me well and all the best to you, too!



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