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2016-07-24 15.17.28This past weekend was WXPN’s annual music festival, XPNFest. Would you believe I’ve never been to a music festival before? They always seemed too hot and busy and is there camping?What’s going on? etc? But this festival seemed a-ok. The past two summers we’ve gone to the headline nighttime concerts (getting tickets to those shows because we wanted to see them and then finding out they were part of the festival, sort of) and last summer we could sort of see what the festival looked and decided this year to get tickets, even before the lineups were announced. As members of XPN the price was right, and if you got a three day pass even better, plus kids tickets were something like $15 so we decided we’d all go. If you have any interest in this festival I highly recommend you support WXPN and be a member (you should anyway-it’s the best radio station and we love it!) and enjoy the member benefits at the fest: access to the Camden Children’s Garden, access to the member area which included meet & greet with the artists, water refill, and a big tent of Turkey Hill lemonades, punches, and iced teas, all filled with as much ice and as much as you wanted, all day long. For that alone perhaps it was worth it! Because it was about a million degrees this weekend. A million! And even the beautiful breezes off the Delaware River couldn’t take away the fact that it was hot.

So, the festival is in Camden, Wiggins Park, on the waterfront. A beautiful view of Philadelphia and the waterway, and nestled in with the marina, the Camden Children’s Garden, and the Aquarium. There were lots of vendors giving out free stuff, lots of free drinks and Turkey Hill gelato, and nice places to walk. And anywhere you walked you could still hear the music even if you weren’t in front of the stage.
XPNFest But if you wanted to be close to a stage, you probably could. There were two stages-Marina and River-and with the smaller Marina stage we sometime went and stood right behind it for an interesting up close view. XPNFestThe bands we wanted to hear were good and we were very pleased with hearing the other ones, too. We broke up the days (in the future I would like more time watching the bands) with a short visit to the aquarium each day.Little Blue Penguins The ocean's mesmerizer On the first day we were shocked when we tried to leave the aquarium to find it torrentially raining. So much so that when we were finally able to leave we found out the band we wanted to see was cancelled and things were up in the air and so we left. The streets of Camden had flash flooded!
Camden Flood Clark-o-saurus
The next day we were happy to find out that the cancelled band was rescheduled. They were David Wax Museum and they were a lot of fun. And when we met them afterward, super nice. We weren’t especially interested in Mavis Staples, but ended up hearing her (who couldn’t? Her voice was powerful!) and were pretty impressed. And another exciting meet and greet was meeting Kathy O’Connell, the host of Kids’ Corner, a show we’ve been listening to for many years. She’s a great host, always so good with the kids, and we were delighted to meet her in person. Tabby has been on air 4 times and when she said her name Kathy remembered who she was!!2016-07-24 13.58.54

Now that we’ve done this festival I’d definitely go again next year, and maybe see if some friends want to come. Pretty sure Clark would not like to come again, though Tabby had a good enough time. Doesn’t she look like a cool festival chick?2016-07-23 15.29.43 One cool thing they did was that any picture on Instagram that was #xpnfest was automatically printed and you could just go take your little picture. Neat! XPNFest
See you next year XPN!
(For Paul’s overall write up, check it out here )

Summer Fun

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Since Clark’s birthday we’ve been having a pretty routine summer. It’s been hot. We ate ice cream. We went to the beach. We went to concerts. Etc. Here’s the highlights/pictures:
We had a unexpected and great beach day with our good friend Mary Lynn.
Belmar BeachShe invited us to go with her to Belmar to see a sandcastle building contest. The day was grey and overcast and apparently it rained all afternoon here at home. But at beach…the sun came out after a little while and it was gorgeous. 2016-07-13 13.22.02-2 2016-07-13 11.38.01Our first foray into the ocean this summer and the water was a glorious temperature, crystal clear, and the waves just right for frolicking.
The sandcastle creations were also really cool to see. The kids (and Mary Lynn) were vastly entertained and delighted that someone made a giant poop emoji.Poop emoji sand I especially liked this one.World on a turtle back We don’t get to the beach very often, but I”m so glad we can go when we want to. (This particular beach is probably what most people think of when they think of the Jersey shore-pretty crowded and good people watching. It was so fun! And as ML pointed out, it’s nice that some things just never change. There’s always some teenage boys playing football in the waves, some little kids digging, and everyone swimming in the same way.)Tabby, down the shoreClark ended up spending the whole weekend down the shore with friends. While he was gone we had a great night out roller skating with Tabby. She loves to skate and I love how completely unupdated the roller rink is.

Somewhere in there were concerts-one for just Paul, one for all of us, and one for the two of us Steel Stacks. As you know, we’ve been loving Bethlehem and Steel Stacks for the past year. This was my first concert there, though Paul has been to more. The concert was Ben Folds, who is a favorite, and he was playing with a group called yMusic. You can read Paul’s detailed write up here. For me here’s the big takeaway–the last time we saw Ben Folds was at PNC Arts Center, a pretty big venue. I could not believe that this was a stage set up in front of the steel stacks and we could literally walk right up to it. There were only two people between me and the barrier. Ben played his piano and the center rear of the stage so he actually wasn’t as close to me as he could have been, except at the end when they all took a bow. Ben Folds @ Steel Stacks Still, it felt like a private concert at a party with a couple hundred people. I couldn’t believe was a small venue and crowd it was and the show was great. It really was a thrill! And the Steel Stacks looked gorgeous at night, all lit up.Ben Folds @ Steel Stacks

We also went to a concert as a family-Pokemon Symphonic Evolutions. We had heard about this a year or so ago and this year when we saw it was playing at the Mann Center, we decided to buy tickets (when we were there for a different show.) The date of the show happened to be just a couple days after Pokemon Go was released, so there was an especial Pokemon fan fervor going on that was a lot of fun. There was some cosplay and basically everyone else was wearing some kind of Pokemon attire.
Pokemon Symphony This show turned out to be a lot of fun. The Pittsburgh Symphony was playing and I just don’t understand how the acoustics were so good at an outdoor venue. They sounded amazing! The music was beautiful. Our seats were in the balcony and were in cool wooden boxes. Behind the symphony was a big screen that showed the game play through the evolution of it.Pokemon SymphonyThe encore were the songs that had words, including crowd favorite sing along “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!” (Which, I would include right here, but I don’t know how to insert from Instagram, which is where I shared the edited video.So, uh, I guess follow me on Instagram if you like?)

As for keeping busy elsewhere, Tabby just finished up a week at the beloved nature camp, while I finished a week of doing the craft station at vacation Bible school.

Odds n’ ends-I chose this hot week to take up running again and am slowly working my way up to going a tiny bit further each day. I am rereading one of my all time favorite books and am in a daydream most of the time, thinking of it. Three hens are broody and so we are not getting any eggs (but will maybe have more chicks soon?) And we have a possibly very fun weekend lined up, if we don’t all expire in the heat!
Me and a buffy

Happy Birthday, Clark!

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11! I’d say he enjoyed his 11th birthday very much. Many much desired presents and many much-planned delicious meals. Planning a birthday menu is always a reason to go back and look through the menu journal, which is fun. Homemade waffles have become Clark’s go-to. They were delicious, and as usual enjoyed with some morning gifts.
Present Peeker
It was a workday so it was just Clark, Tabby, and me for the daytime. He spent the morning playing new video games, and then it was time for lunch. Clark and Paul really like sushi and have often explored restaurants together. Tabby and I do not care for it, but they assured us that the restaurant Clark wanted to go to has a great lunch special, all you want, plenty of non-sushi. So off we went and it was lots of fun and the food was great (and I did enjoy a dragon roll.)
Happy Birthday, Clark!
We were even entertained by the super loud talker (on a phone of course) behind us, using vulgar language and talking about his time in jail. Who does that?!  After lunch we met a friend at a nearby arcade and enjoyed an hour of playing all kinds of old arcade games.
2016-07-05 13.33.37

A relaxing afternoon and dip in the pool, and then Grandma and Paul were here for the birthday dinner. His menu this year was hamburgers. We busted out the (sitting unused in the basement for years) Fry Daddy and make homemade french fries to go with it. Holy cow were they amazing.  But what about the cake? The most important part? This year’s cake was chocolate layers (my go-to Hershey recipe) and vanilla buttercream, frosted to look like a Pokeball. I couldn’t find my parchment circles and had a bit of  a disaster getting the cakes out. Fortunately frosting glued it all together.
Happy Birthday, Clark!
All in all, it was a good day. Happy birthday, Clark!
Happy Birthday, Clark!

One Wonderful Year of Willow!

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Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of getting Willow.
Who's an adorable doggie?
I just spent a happy few minutes rereading all my posts from last July. Oh that housebreaking and not-working crate training all seems so long ago! I swear I had forgotten all about it.  Now she is a nice big grown up dog (well, she’s still pretty young, she only turned 1 in March) who is still excitable, energetic, adorable and loving. To celebrate we first made homemade dog biscuits for her. I found a recipe online that was simply: 2/3 c pumpkin puree, 1/4 c peanut butter, 2 eggs, and 3 c whole wheat flour. It made a tough dough that you roll out, cut out shapes, and bake at 350. Biscuits for Willow

Homemade Dog Biscuits
I used the leftover pumpkin to just make up a cake for us. It was a….mixed success.
Homemade Dog Biscuits
Not a cake texture, kind of weird, but fairly tasty with some whipped cream on it.

Willow was already very happy today because had all four of her people back. She was excited to see Clark again upon his return from Boy Scout camp. He was a tired, banged up, dirty camper who had a good time and so much to tell us about.
In the late afternoon we decided to do an outing that the kids and I did with Willow a couple weeks after we got her–go to Ringing Rocks and then Ginny’s for ice cream. Here is Willow in the car ready to go home with us from St. Hubert’s on July 2, 2015:
Meet: Willow
Here she is in the car on July 2, 2016:
2016-07-02 15.48.02
Quite a difference! We wanted to recreate a couple hike photos too. Notably that in the picture:
I had to pick Willow up and put her on the rock with Tabby. Which I can hardly believe she was that small because the rock wasn’t that big. Here she is currently (different rock)
Ringing Rocks
Here’s the whole family on that original rock
Ringing Rocks
And after we stopped for the promised ice cream (no ice cream for Willow, she just got her fancy dog cookies). We tried to recreate another photo, and this is what we had:2016-07-02 18.23.27
We love you Willow!
Kisses from Willow

Bei Bei

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Tabby and I took our own trip this week, down to Virginia to visit my oldest friend, Joanna, and her girls. We had a marvelous time, accomplishing all the things on my “I want to do” list, which included nothing educational, historic, or strenuous. We did our nails, watched tv, hung out, went out to lunch, went shopping, told old jokes and stories, and just enjoyed being together. It was wonderful and super relaxing. Here we are all the girls together:2016-06-29 17.51.49

And here we are–over 30 years as friends!2016-06-30 16.46.19-1

The day before we left I realized that I should have planned one particular thing and decided to be spontaneous and do it on Friday, since we really didn’t need to be home at a particular time. As you might have noticed, Tabby’s favorite animal is the panda. We have talked about how much she would like to see them, but, as we are not going to China, would need to go to the National Zoo to see a real panda. Duh! We were only 45 minutes from the zoo! On Friday morning, instead of driving straight back home, Tabby and I went to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Oh, she was so excited!! And oh, was it ever worth it.
Tabby & Panda
As soon as we arrived we walked straight over to the pandas. I was getting a bit worried because we didn’t see them and then we saw a crowd with cameras all pointed in the same direction and saw the baby, Bei Bei, way up in a tree. Being adorable. His chubby self draped over branches. Moving around. Oh what a sight!

2016-07-01 11.34.55

After that we just poked around. We loved seeing an orangutan using the “O-line”-man-made vines the orangutans can use to get from one area to another, right over your heads out in the open. Tabby loved the reptile house (which I hate, but manage by taking off my glasses so I can’t see anything and standing safely in the middle. Since this outing was a special thing all for her, I was being a saint and letting her do whatever she wanted.) We also really enjoyed an exhibit that was scattered throughout the zoo. The pieces were sculptures of ocean animals made entirely from trash found on the beaches.
Sea Lion
So, it’s horrifying to see all the things that have washed ashore,  yet as a sculpture it’s awesome to see how they were able to use the trash to make all the color and details just right.
Chompers the Tiger Shark

Another treat was the carousel. Now, the #1 carousel we’ve ever seen was in Brussels (before kids) and included strange  and creepy creatures. But this one is going to be a close second for my new favorite. It included beautiful renditions of animals they have at the zoo. And not your standard lions, and tigers, and bears. How about–naked mole rat? fennec fox? cuttlefish?
National Zoo Carousel
Tabby chose the panda, of course.
National Zoo Carousel

Another highlight was seeing this:Mr. Beazley.

I was so startled by this and recognized it so instantly and was overcome by surprise emotions and, well, I cried. This dinosaur used to be on the Mall in front of the museum of Natural History. I can remember climbing around it as a child (we visited D.C. fairly often, it seems) and a family photo that I love is one of my (very young) dad and the three of us, next to this dino. I had no idea they still had it, much less that it was here at the zoo.2016-07-01 14.14.05 And to make it even better, I didn’t know that this dino was the model for the dino in the movie version of The Enormous Egg. This is a book that was a favorite of mine and I didn’t even know there was a movie of it.
We returned to the pandas and this time went into the building where all four were hanging out. Oh my God, was Tabby ever excited. Bei Bei was napping in his little room, but the others were all eating bamboo and looking cute. Even tumbling over.
Tabby & Panda

The happiest girl there that day

So overall, we had a wonderful special day, just the two of us, at the zoo.
Tabby & Sarah at the National Zoo
And even though it made our drive home long (traffic is just a nightmare down there, good grief) it was so worth it. And of course our trip to the zoo ended with a special souvenir and Tabby chose a stuffed Bei Bei.

Willow welcomed me home in the most adoring and excited manner I have ever been greeted. Holy cow she missed me and was so happy I came back. And now today Clark will come home and we can’t wait to see him and hear all about his week at camp!

What’s New in the Coop?

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When last you saw our chicks they were adorable little fluffballs, peeping and following their multiple moms around. Now, at almost 8 weeks old, they are a pack of sort-of-ugly little birds that look like velociraptors (maybe it’s too much Jurassic Park, but that’s always what I think of when I seem them flocking around on their big scaly legs.) Some of these chicks are going to be prettier chickens than others. The moms are done with all the babies. Sadly, this leaves the single baby a little lonely. The group of 7 want nothing to do with her, and she does try to still stay with her mom who, if not exactly going out of her way to see the little one, isn’t actually mean to her. The 7 sleep together every night in the little nesting boxes, which is very cute. All in a heap, still. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for no roosters.Sorority House// also run around freely outside because they can fit through the fence. They are very dumb, though, and often can’t find their way back in (and it’s also a tight fit now.) I’m pleased to report that while Willow will look at them she doesn’t chase them. What a good girl:)
Who's an adorable doggie?//
We’ve noticed that part of our grape vines are suddenly decimated. What could be getting them so high up? Mystery solved:
The mystery of the disappearing grape leaves//
We’ve just had the summer solstice-it’s peak laying time. Between 7 and 8 eggs daily, which frankly is an awful lot. The fridge is full, they are always on the counter, and we’ve run out of egg cartons. Yikes! I should probably hang out a shingle again, but it seems easier to hand them out to friends and have Paul bring them to work. Time for omelettes, custards, angel food cake, quiche, and curd!

Garden by Crayola

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Our vegetable garden is a bust (by design) this year, but the flowers have been going great. We refreshed the perennial areas, added a rosebush, and cleared out a weed bed next to the driveway and planted a single raspsberry bush and new grape vine. It’s been so dry that I hope my zinnias and cosmos and morning glories manage to grow (the only things planted from seed.) Two things I’ve noticed that have really thrived and spread (all on their own!) are my coneflowers and columbine.
With the exception of the peonies (of course) I haven’t been so into photographing my garden with my good camera this season. However, I’ve been snapping pics with the phone, and even doing a little photo project. One day I looked around and thought, “Everything is so colorful! It looks like someone drew and colored my garden.” So, I bought a new box of Crayola-the 64 colors size- and have been matching the crayons to the petals. The flowers have all been so vibrant and colorful this year and it’s been fun to see which color matches (and which flowers don’t seem to have a match. I’ve been posting on Instagram (which I used to curse as a scourge, and now totally post to all the time) and here is a big collage of most of them so far:

mosaic 64 colors I haven’t done any greens yet-none seem to match my beautiful hosta leaves. But then, while checking out the tiger lilies, a bright green insect crawled around the flower and then onto me, and I matched him to “yellow green.”
Little Buggy=Yellow Green





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