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Peonies On Parade

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peony quad
It’s peony time! Not only is this a highlight of the garden calendar for me, but I also feel like it really kicks off the summer garden.  The new plant that was so highly anticipated last year remains a delight. The Raspberry Sundae blooms are huge and ruffly, the most delicate shades of ivory and pale pink.
The first plant to bloom is my huge corner one with the deep pink blooms (and terrible scent!) It’s already in full bloom while the plants that are more in the shade are still in bud. It’s been a delight to observe them over the course of a day and note that something that was closed an hour ago is now fully open. Last year we gave Paul a rosebush for his birthday and I’m thrilled that it has survived and thrived. Those buds just opened for the first time today (and they smell heavenly!)
Peonies & roses

Time to stop and smell the roses
I just love the way this whole side of the house looks-fluffy and colorful.
Parade of peonies
Now, to make the new open opposite side of the house equally lovely….   Although it doesn’t need to be the same, I am thinking that I will divide my biggest peony specimen this fall and put part of it on that other side.
Peony Pollen

peony blooms
The iris in the pond are also blooming beautifully right now. I removed the enormous lily that was taking up half of the pond border and did some serious weeding, and now the lovely blooms stand out even more.
Water Iris

Water Iris

Industrious BumblebeeI hope the blooms of late May are bringing you as much pleasure as they are me!

 

Science, Meatballs, & a Parade

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We had a pleasant and very long Memorial Day weekend. The kids had Friday off so we kicked it off with Paul taking a day off and heading to Liberty Science Center. Clark had been there already this year on his school trip, but he was eager to go again and show it off. We are so used to sneaky weekdays being the best day to go somewhere and assumed that the Friday of Memorial Day weekend would not be a big class trip day-we were wrong! Indeed the place was not at all crowded with individuals, but there were several school groups there. We still had a good time, and just stuck together.
the infinity climber
Clark walks an I-beam

We especially enjoyed the Imax movie about humpback whales.  Also going out on the observation deck and checking out the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline while the Blue Angels flew overhead!
a beautiful view of the NYC skyline, and the Blue Angels flew overhead

a beautiful view of the NYC skyline, and the Blue Angels flew overhead
We pretty much spent most of the day there and then capped it off with, of course, Ikea. We can’t not take advantage of being in the vicinity and not go there. And guess what? 6pm on a Friday night is a great time to go to Ikea. It was deserted! We had a relaxing dinner of meatballs while watching the planes takeoff and land and of course found many items that we absolutely needed.

On Memorial Day we all marched in our local parade with our respective Scout troops.

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In other news the roadwork continues. They haven’t been in front of our house in several days, as they are now working their way back down the road with the paving. I can report that the section that has been paved feels great. Not only that, but last night Clark and I rode our bikes down the hill and even with loose gravel it already feels better than it used to. I’m hoping they finish up soon because the mostly dirt road is astonishingly, well, dirty. Our grass, cars, mailbox, porch–all have a fine layer of dust and dirt on them. The speeders are especially obvious now as they kick up huge clouds of dust.

 

Getting some Culture

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I had a lovely lunch/book discussion with a friend today in which , as I pointed out that my kids basically watch tons of tv after school, she pointed out that our weekends always seem to be filled with stuff. That does make me feel better. There’s room for culture, but also room for tv (which is pop culture, so..) Anyway, this was a good weekend of stuff. On Saturday we went to the Princeton Art Museum, which is located right on the campus. We’ve been there a couple of times before but this time was definitely the best, and as Clark said “the most fun I’ve ever had an art museum. This was great!” It was Family Day, which meant not only was it free, but also there were great activities. We began our visit with the first one, which was a scavenger hunt on the lower level of the museum, which houses the ancient Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and Mayan antiquities. Each of the kids received a deck of 15 cards which had pictures on them. As you visited the galleries you looked for the pictured object and once found received a matching card. By the end of you have a beautiful set of Memory matching cards (one of Tabby’s favorite games) in a nice case. I mean, look how nice this is:

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Whenever I look at these antiquities I can’t help but to continuously exclaim things like ‘Look! this is from the FIFTH century!” My mind is just blown thinking about the age of some of these objects, and my imagination goes wild thinking about the person who created it and the place the lived in when they did.
One of these Roman heads is not like the other

When we finished the lower galleries we headed up to the main floor where there was an activity to tie in to an exhibit about cities. using colored paper, scissors, and a long white background, kids created a cityscape of their real or imagined neighborhood. One of the best things about these activities (in addition to the super nice and engaged volunteers and museum staff who really seem to care about connecting kids with art) is that you are doing them right next to masterpieces of valuable art. You’re not off in a separate room somewhere.

At Princeton Art Museum

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After that we availed ourselves of the complimentary refreshments (finger sandwiches! cheese and crackers!) and I about went nuts over the fact that it was like a grand picnic with families and groups of people all sitting on the floor of this gallery (the food and drink were confined to the one room) with great works of art right next to us. I liked to imagine that’s what it would be like to be a millionaire in the olden days. Oh this? It’s just my Childe Hassam in the parlor where we have afternoon tea. (See: above my head slightly to the right is Childe Hassam’s Rainy Day 5th Avenue.)
Oh, just having some finger sandwiches beneath a Childe Hassam painting
After that we visited the rest of the galleries (Picasso! Hieronymous Bosch! Kandinsky! Monet!) and the kids made puzzles out of cut up postcards and popsicle sticks. To finish there was cookie decorating. Art on cookies + a snack, all in one. It was truly a delightful afternoon.

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Meanwhile, at home, I’ve been busy getting into the garden and enjoying not only the openness of the front porch and the additional light in the family room from the absence of the tree, but also watching our roadwork continue. The peonies are all in bud, the poor rhododendron has just one branch blooming.
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I really don’t know what to think about the rest of it. A total goner?
I’ve been busy getting annuals in the containers, and they are looking bright and cheerful.
Container Gardening
Yesterday I attacked the pond area and dug up a humongous lily that was just too overpowering. The various delicate iris around the pond are about to bloom and the few giant ruffled ones in the front of the house have just opened up.
Ruffled Iris
It really is a beautiful time of year and we’re just getting into the “end of year” activities: field trips, concerts, Memorial Day parade, and so on.  The sounds of the outdoors are a true pleasure right now, too. We’ve got a couple different nest of baby birds near the house, and we especially enjoy watching the tireless mother bird fetch food for her very noisy offspring in the owl box (baby squirrels, baby birds, no owls.)
And here’s a dose of Gordon!
Hi there

A New Look

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This morning we had the spruce tree next to our house removed. I had a moment of “oh no!” as they started cutting it down and I sentimentally remembered that not only have we taken countless photos with that tree as a background, but also my wedding pictures. I guess the fact that back then it made a lovely blue-green background of lush needles and now it…wouldn’t, should serve as an indication that this tree was not really doing us any favors.  They took it down very quickly and efficiently and neatly.  One guy climbed the trunk whilst chainsawing branches off, another guy hooked a cable to the fallen branches, and a third guy operated the chipper, feeding the fallen branches into it (via the mechanical cable.)IMG_2759

It really is a whole new look for the house. For example, though I knew it was a farmhouse with an original 2 story square with additions on either end, that is now super obvious. Look at those boxes on the end! And also, very clear how different the windows are in the two additions.  I also hadn’t realized how much the nice oak tree was hidden by the spruce.  The family room seems much brighter without the tree in front of it. I’m excited to think about what me might do there. As long as it has color and doesn’t go above the windows I think I’ll be happy. This means we’ll also be able to better mow this area and really do something with it. For now I just moved one of the birdfeeders to the empty spot to make up for the fact that I’ve taken away what was clearly a favorite place for them to roost and sing (this treetop was next to my bedroom window, so I often was awoken by them.) So, farewell tree. You were lovely, but your time had come.

May Celebrations

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Spring brings us a quick succession of my birthday, Paul’s birthday, and Mother’s Day-a combo which leads to all of us being tired of celebrating and Paul remarking to the kids on Sunday morning “aren’t you glad you don’t have to make any more cards for a while?” This means that this past weekend we had a busy few days which were fun and featured a lot of cake, but yes we’re ready to just garden, watch movies, hang out at home, and so on. Friday was Paul’s actual birthday-happy birthday, Paul!
Happy Birthday, Paul!
and we started the day with a medium nice breakfast and some presents and then everyone went off to school and work. The rest of the actual birthday wasn’t going to be particularly focused on him since in the evening Tabby’s grade was having a special family movie night. So no birthday dinner, we all trooped off to watch Paddington on a big screen outside with the rest of the first grade families. [Note: Paddington seems to be a delightful movie, but let’s be honest-not an ideal viewing experience because half the people are talking, running around, etc.] We got home late but still cut into the birthday cake I had made that afternoon.  I went with a white cake (made from a fantastic Martha Stewart recipe) with strawberry cream cheese frosting. It was delicious.
Birthday Cake
The next morning we had a proper lavish birthday breakfast (sausages and homemade waffles) and then I went on a hike with Tabby’s Daisy troop, which was great. The girls had a really good time and we all learned something from the naturalist who took us on the hike.
Spirit in the tree
At this point we realized that the birthday plans would need to be altered as the weather was inclement. Part of the plan was to go up Bowman’s Hill Tower for the spectacular 14 mile view of Buck’s County, but since it was foggy and drizzly that wouldn’t work. We decided to go to a different place for lunch, followed by the special science fair at the NJ State Museum. Our lunch ended up being laughably bad, but Paul was thrilled to receive his final birthday present there, which was a total surprise to him-one hour of being a DJ on WDVR, a local radio station.  Paul knows more about music than anyone I know, has a huge music collection, and this is the perfect gift for him. He was pretty excited.
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The State Museum had lots of interesting activities and groups presenting science experiments and activities for the kids. This is what Tabby and I look like with thermal vision.
Thermal camera at Science Day at the NJ State Museum
Back at home that evening it was time for the proper birthday dinner-steak on the grill, spinach salad with mandarin oranges and toasted almonds, and creamed corn with leeks and bacon. I’d never made that corn recipe before, though I’ve held on to the recipe for a number of years, and oh man was it fantastic. I’m totally making it again. And of course, more cake.
The next morning was Mother’s Day and I think I shall never tire of these school made cards and gifts. I absolutely love them.
Happy Mother's Day
We had exciting plans this year-reservations for a Mother’s Day brunch at a restaurant in Bethlehem, PA. We saw it advertised when we were there last month–

2015-05-10 14.50.23 and thought it could be fun. The restaurant is a British pub type place. It was wonderful!
A windy Mother's Day portrait
The food was great, the pub charming, the live Irish music terrific, and it was really lovely.  The sun shone and the weather was great, which made the rest of the afternoon extra nice.  The main street was closed for a fine arts fair and we enjoyed strolling through all the tents, and wrapping up with a good long visit to the super bookstore.  The kids also enjoyed the free craft a Girl Scout troop was hosting, which was making gigantic hats.

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All in all, a great weekend. And then on Monday, the greatest gift of all began–the true repaving of our road!! At long last, it’s finally happening. We’ve been waiting for this literally since we moved here 11 years ago. Our road was notoriously terrible,I wrote letters to the town, it was awful, unsafe, and just not maintained.  It’s day 3 of the project and the road has been fully torn up. I am keeping my fingers crossed that they do a good job of it and fix the underlying problems.

I feel behind in gardening simply because we’ve only got stuff in two of our four raised beds. It concerns me that in turning over all the soil in the beds I never came across any worms. Is the soil that terrible? The peas are growing well, at least, and the lettuces actually look great.
Lettuce
I bought little herb plants which I put in, and a few days ago I bought lots of beautiful annuals and got those all containered up.  The butterfly garden seems to be missing some perennials. Did they just die? Where’d they go? I definitely need to add some more this year. At least the columbine is looking good:
And pretty little columbine
Out front the peonies are looking strong and glorious and getting their buds. Today I noticed the welcome ants have arrived on them!
Peony Buds
Last year’s new rose bush is looking very healthy and I do hope it will bloom successfully.  And back at the pond, after being certain that the new frogs (from tadpole last spring) hadn’t survived, they did show up a couple weeks ago.
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Hooray!  So overall, things are looking pretty and lush, the trees are leafy, baby birds can be heard cheeping in the garage (try as we might to prevent sparrows from nesting in there we were unsuccessful),  and spring is looking pretty good.

a surprise visitor Saturday morning, beneath the birdfeeder
Surprise Visitor

The Colette “Ginger” Skirt

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When I visited Denver one of the nice things I got for myself was a new pattern and fabric from a fantastic shop. I’ve admired the Colette patterns before and decided to give the Ginger a try. They had it made up in the shop and it looked like a really nice classic A-line skirt. I bought a beautiful deep turquoise linen to make it up in. (And since have purchased some fancy linen to make it out of but decided to make it from the less expensive first.) Though this pattern calls for just 4 pieces and a waistband I was pretty nervous about making it. I’ve never done a skirt with a waistband before, plus it calls for an invisible zipper. I foolishly hadn’t bought an invisible zipper, but then found several at the VNA Rummage Sale-hurrah!

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Finally I had a nice day to settle in, construct it, and learn how to put in the zipper.
So, first up I have to say that I really like the Colette pattern packaging. It’s a little booklet with a pocket for the pieces. Instructions and illustrations are clear (with urls for corresponding online tutorials they have), and there’s even a page for your own notes. I would definitely make another Colette pattern just because I really liked how it was all put together and presented.

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Things were going pretty well and then zipper time came. It turns out that I don’t have an invisible zipper foot on my new sewing machine. I found a tutorial for using a regular zipper foot. My vintage zipper is invisible but has pretty large metal teeth (why have it be metal and invisible? Metal zippers are cool.). I carefully followed the steps and then realized…my zipper was about 20″ long and I only needed about 8″. Normally you just cut off the excess, but not with metal. Argh! Again a search online, and the answer is to use needle nose pliers to yank the extra metal teeth out. I quickly gave up on that and decided I could cut between the teeth. Snip! Hooray! Immediately followed by despair as I realized I cut the excess while it was unzipped and the pull was below the cut. Leaving it dangling. Finally I was able to rethread it back on. Do you see why my sewing projects takes so long? Finally it was done! I think overall it came out pretty well. Not great, but hey it’s a first time. And I do love the little dangle pull that this kind of zipper has.
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The final step was the waistband facing. I did have a couple issues with the waistband fitting the skirt waist, but overall it’s ok.

So here’s the finished product, ta-da!

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I do love this and will definitely make it again. The fit is not perfect-the waistband is too big. (which you can see in the above picture I’ve styled it with a blouse on top so you can’t even tell the whole waistband design element.) Unclear if it’s that I just did a size too big (I did cut out a size bigger than I would normally wear) or if it’s the structure of the skirt. It’s a high waisted skirt, which makes me want to tug it down a lot since the waist is not fitted very tightly. I’m not sure how to change that for the next time. Here it is worn with a blouse tucked in (it’s the sorbetto tank I made last week!):

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I like how there are a lot of options with this skirt-the pattern came with three different waistbands, but I think you could also do it without the extra waistband.

IMG_2689And by the way, turns out this linen fabric is incredible. I’m sure it will wrinkle incredibly, but it ironed up so smooth and soft. And I love the color.

 

What’s New, Pussycat?

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We are in the thick of spring and man is it beautiful. The past week or more the colors have been so intense-that gorgeous spring green that is so vibrant, the chartreuse of the new leaves filling in more and more every day. It practically looks fake. The dandelions-too yellow!  Mr and Mrs Cardinal at the window -they have preposterously orange beaks! The red and pink tulips look like they were painted, and the blue sky with white clouds is clearly painted by some kindergardener. Of all the spring sights my favorite is the bright green grass polka dotted with yellow dandelions. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t love seeing such a cheerful sight in their yard. In our yard, in addition to the yellow polka dots, there are also carpets of violets and some other purple weed. I adore it.
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You know who else loves dandelions? Gordon. He has been oh-so-happy eating up not just the dandelion leaves, but also the yellow flower itself.  He continues to love that one particular hen, by the way.
The unwelcome suitorElsewhere in the chicken coop, the height of spring means lots of eggs. Yesterday I collected 8! And today I saw these two sharing a box. Chickens are so funny with their peculiar habits and personalities.
Sharing
Early bedtimes have gone out the window because it’s just too easy after dinner to go outside and jump on the trampoline, wander around, or what have you. We got rid of our old grill and got a nice new one. I laughed when it arrived because it was so small (“Is this for apartment dwellers with tiny balconies?”) but was delighted to find out it is fantastic and just right for us. I tried it out myself last night with some pork and bacon kebabs.
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Around the yard I am filled with thoughts of gardening, but not much action. My peas and lettuce have come up nicely, but I really need to get my fencing in and also plant some more things.
Peas
This spring we were pretty bummed to discover that our gorgeous rhododendron is apparently dead. It’s been such a beautiful part of our backyard, but at the very least all the dead things need to be trimmed away, leaving just the trunk to hopefully regrow, and at the worst just cut it completely out.

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Either way the birds will be sad. And they will also be sad because we are likely taking down the very big pine tree in our front yard. It’s been dying more and more each year and is definitely not getting better. So we might have some landscape changes this year. And speaking of birds, we are delighted to have a return to activity at our feeders-Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, goldfinches, blue jays, have all come back and we are happy to see them. And there are two frogs in our pond!
I was thrilled this past weekend to finally go to the famed VNA Rummage Sale, held twice a year not too far from here. As my friends promised, it was awesome. So amazingly organized and basically anything you could possibly want. Need to outfit a kitchen completely from scratch? Go there. Inexpensive sporting goods? Go there. Delightful vintage stuff? go there. I think I was actually too restrained and should have bought more. I was keenly interested in the sewing/fabric tent, as Mary Lynn has brought me goodies from there in the past. I got great bundles of fabric, zippers (they’ll be an integral part of the next post), patterns, hoops, and napkins.

And to end this post I have the happiest news of all (in my world). At long last our road is going to be repaved! We have been waiting for this, literally, for ELEVEN YEARS. I have raged about the condition of our road endlessly and we are super excited. My hopes won’t get too high though because at this point I don’t trust our town to not F up the whole thing and leave it just as crappy as it has been.

Actually one more thing. So, we listen to WXPN and are fans of Kids Corner, the weeknight program for kids. Three times now Tabby has called in and been on the air and she called again last night. The topic was “tell us why your mom is special.” I’m just going to come right out and say I got teary and nearly died of love and pride listening to my child on the air saying really nice things about me.(Apparently I am special because I read her books every night, am a great cook-the host sounded thrilled by my pork & bacon kebabs, which got a shout out-, and am very kind.) So, yeah. I’m still riding that high. Thanks, Tab.

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