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Spring Peeps

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2018-03-14 17.42.49Peep! Peep! We’re rebuilding our flock! After being down to 8 chickens, 3 of whom are roosters, and 2 of whom are 5 year old hens, we decided that this spring we would get chicks, preferably sexed ones. Last week we got a dozen female hens from our local farm and garden co-op. It’s still so cold in the garage that we’ve got them under their lamp, in the big metal trough, inside the house. They are adorable and I immediately made them pose for festive Easter scenes.

The next day I brought in Gordon to participate in some chick and bunny Easter photos, but he was really not into it. He was more excited and curious about being on the dining table.

I’m excited about the varieties we got, including a couple of Easter eggers, so we’ll have blue-green eggs eventually. And there’s also a California Grey, which is apparently a cross breed that will be like a Plymouth Barred Rock. And some gorgeous Golden Laced Wyandottes. Don’t die little chickies!

Speaking of Gordon, he has spring fever. Since the loss of Tree Bird last year me mostly plays with his ball when he’s feeling frisky. Yesterday I saw that he had turned his intentions toward one of the roosters. He was super persistent-poor rooster!

Despite a lackluster start to the winter and a weird 60 degree day several weeks ago, we seem to be hit by hard winter now, just as it’s leaving. We had a rainy nor’easter, followed by a snowy nor’easter one week later. Our house fared pretty well-just one giant tree limb down at the edge of the yard and assorted smaller branches.  Many in our area were not so lucky-lots of trees down. And, since it’s taken me a few days to finish this post, here we are on March 21 with yet another snow day and another nor’easter.

Presently it’s just gently snowing and I’m sure everyone is thinking “we could have just had an early dismissal today but instead we’re going to end up losing spring break days!” Apparently it is going to become treacherous within a few hours, though. I’m determined to do a lot of sewing today. We have yet to figure out our garden plans for this year, but at least I do know we have plenty of lovely crocuses coming up, which we can see intermittently when the snow is not on them!

The other big spring event was my mom’s birthday. That’s usually chronicled here with a lovely spring dinner, but in this case it was a big number–#75! So we had a big deal celebration. My brother Ben came out from Denver, and my brother Tim came down from Vermont with his family. It was so great to be all together and see them. On Mom’s actual birthday, a Sunday, we had a fancy brunch out at the Grain House, which is where Paul and I had our wedding. It was a really wonderful day. Happy birthday, Mom!2018-03-04 13.05.38




Sometimes Sewing

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As I’ve mentioned, I’m really enjoying my weekends since last semester ended. I’d love to say I’m sewing all the time, but I’m not. But I could be. And I have been getting back into a quilt I started. It’s all triangles making blocks, and I am somewhat randomly making the blocks. The centers are all the beige-y coral/orange- pairs with exterior corners being of blue-greenish pieces. Any square can go next to any other square and look pretty good. I’ll arrange it so that there aren’t two identical triangles next to each other. I’m having a lot of fun with this. I’ve got many more triangles cut out and many more blocks to make. Right now I’ve got 30, which includes the original 9 that started this project. Those 9 were sewn together eons ago and all additional blocks have been made out of new coordinating fabrics. I’m either going to make that 9 patch be the center or….pick apart the seams and distribute those 9 blocks (which do look a little different) throughout the others. If you look at this picture you can see at the very top those 9 blocks.

I really need to get a big embroidery project started (starting is the hardest part for me) so that I have something to pick up. In the meantime at this year’s Midwinter Stitchathon I enjoyed whipping up this little Valentine’s Day decor. (In the post before this I made one of these that I gave away.)

And yes, there was an annual Midwinter Stitchathon, which was delightful. There was, of course, seasonal candy and other delicious treats, loads of Olympics to watch, and later in the day a lovely snowfall. Somehow Tabby is participating in this now, though she is not much of a stitcher. Our rule is that if she is going to be with the ladies she has to be doing some kind of handicraft. She chose to continue some knitting my mom taught her and did quite well with it. It was actually quite the girls’ weekend as Paul and Clark were on a winter camping trip. We had a wonderful time with the stitchathon, movies, and enough snow that on Sunday morning we had a great time making the most of our small but potentially treacherous (because of stopping when you hit trees or thorn bushes) hill.

Card Making

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My friend Melissa has a vast collection of amazing stamps and markers for creating beautiful cards (there’s a huge niche on Instagram where you can fall into the card making world.) Every year we gather at her house to enjoy making Valentine’s Day cards and exploring her super supplies. I’m pretty pleased with some of the ones I made this year:
IMG_20180112_221234_794This is not for Valentine’s Day, just a special card. It’s my favorite. Before I realized there was a die cut for this unicorn I painstakingly cut it out by hand. When I got to the very end I accidentally cut off the horn. No worries-I made an even better one by cutting out a thin strip from gold sparkle paper.

Kicking off 2018

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I read a post this week at Feeling Stitchy asking if anyone still blogs anymore. An enjoyable comment thread ensued with most people sharing that they still did and they did it because they liked to keep a record of their sewing/crafting etc. It made me think about how much I love this blog as a record (even though when I started it ELEVEN years ago) I didn’t actually think it would be a journal.  And I feel inspired to write a post. After all, I do have a couple new embroidery items to share.
This might be the first year that I didn’t follow up my “year in review” with a New Year’s Resolutions post. I think I’m probably in a “same old same old-let’s see what I do this year” kind of rut. However, one difference is that I KNOW I will embroider and sew more because I’m no longer taking those extra graduate course that have been hanging over my head for two years. I can honestly say since the end of December it’s been such a weight off my shoulders (Paul: “Really? Because it didn’t seem like you did that much work.” yeah, but I was always thinking about it!) My point is-here I am with a glorious Saturday and Sunday with nothing scheduled and I can indeed just try to get back to enjoying my hobbies. First up in January (Oh how I love sunny cold January weekends!) was finishing up this land-head-girl piece: 20180113_175540

I had the pattern download for a pretty long time (purchased from Etsy shop Cozy Blue) and half-heartedly poked at this at occasional stitch-a-thons, but now I was ready to really enjoy and finish it.20180113_175553 My favorite parts are the birds/clouds and her face.
20180113_175558 I love how it turned out and now I need to frame it. Which reminds me of the now long since finished adorable teapot which was meant to be made into a cozy and now just sits on my sewing table.

I’m ready to plunge into a new project! But before I did that I was eager to use some of my new Benzie felt and make something. I found someone on IG who makes lovely felt pincushions and the like and I found it inspiring to look through all her pictures. Why not just embroider and make out of felt pictures of things I like? So simple, but seeing that process was like a lightbulb for me. So to begin with I decided to make a little Valentine’s Day ornament. ( I have a co-worker who bought a house. I intended to do a felt Christmas ornament, and even cut out the pieces, but somehow December passed, and so now she gets this.)  A few weeks ago I had a card-making night at my friend Melissa’s. I really liked this one I made: 20180203_104730

Melissa liked it too and so did a similar design, but giving her panda a whole bouquet of the hearts. Bouquet of hearts? Hmm…. instead of a felt panda though, I went to my go do-an adorable bird. 20180128_164758I love how this turned out
-especially the effect of a single strand of white floss to be the many strings of all those hearts aloft.IMG_20180130_194048_558
I used a blanket stitch around the edge.
I like this so much I think I’ll do another one for myself.

Perhaps my resolution for this year is to return to my special hobbies and also return to writing about them!

A Look Back at 2017

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Happy New Year! Boy, all it takes for me to consider not doing this is going back and reading the previous year’s. And then I realize how nice it is to have a recap and yes, yes! I will take time on this first day of 2018 to look back at 2017 and find the positive in it.

Just like 2015 and 2016 Paul and I continued to see a lot of concerts together.  In the summer we trekked out to the Mann Center for a few outdoor shows: Sigur Ros, Fleet Foxes, and Belle & Sebastian.  We had seen Sigur Ros at Radio City Music Hall previously and this was a different experience being outdoors, but still intense and otherworldly and spectacular. This time closer seats let us admire their instruments. Ditto Belle & Sebastian (as in, we’d also seen them at RCMH, and this time we had close seats.)  We went to see the Flaming Lips at the Fillmore and while Paul is the fan, not me, I loved it and it lived up all I’d heard. Wayne Coyne rode a unicorn into the audience and also walked around in a giant hamster ball atop the crowd.  We’ve seen Barenaked Ladies many times before, but this spring due to a weather situation we ended up seeing them in a pretty small indoor venue, which made it extra fun.  A big spring highlight for me was seeing The Decemberists. I pinned a lot of high hopes on this concert because a. it was at the Fillmore (so it would be different than the Academy of Music show) and b. I hoped to hear some stuff we hadn’t heard live yet.  The show was fantastic and they did in fact play an awesome song I didn’t think they’d do.  We also saw an up and coming band Paul likes a lot called Pinegrove in a the world’st hottest basement ever. [I’m going to break up this lengthy text with a concert photo collage!]  Lez Zeppelin was an awesome treat at the tiny Sellersville Theater.  At a local outdoor festival we saw the hip band Red Baraat.  Perhaps my favorite show of the summer was seeing rock icon Blondie, with Garbage. Both were amazing. How had I missed listening to Garbage? I was smitten with Shirley Manson. And Debbie Harry just blew me away. She was incredible. In the fall we took Tabby to see Katy Perry! She is a great entertainer and we had a terrific time. We also saw the band Alvvays (super), Regina Spektor (beautiful voice, even though I got sleepy several times), and Rodrigo y Gabriela (crazy good.)  We were excited to see Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile and they were fantastic.  We finished the year by seeing Darlingside at the South Orange Performing Arts Center–a place much closer than our usual, very small, we had second row, and it was a wonderful way to end the year. They have the most beautiful harmonies and songs and seem like all around nice people (we met them afterward.)
We also saw some shows with the family and some non concert things:
Cirque Eloize (an amazing show of cirque and music, this had a saloon theme), our favorite fellow Seth Meyers, Taj Express (A Bollywood musical),  Pippin (my favorite musical, Paul got tickets for my birthday, and this production was outstanding), Water on Mars (the most fascinating and entertaining juggling I’ve ever seen),  Golden Dragon Acrobats, and Shaolin Warriors.    I’d say we were certainly well entertained in 2017! Looking at it written out it makes it seem like we’re never at home! I will say that after we’d secured tickets for Darlingside and Courtney Barnett, and First Aid Kit (in 2018) I announced that I was done with concerts.  That completed my list of singers and bands I really wanted to see live and really next year I just need to see Guster if (when) they come around again, and obvs. I wouldn’t pass up seeing Pearl Jam. So, we’ll see. Oh, and we have tickets for the Foo Fighters.

As for house and garden….well. No vegetable garden at all this year. We removed our raised beds and returned that area to grass (or, are trying to.) I did miss having my own grown things, so I think we need to make a plan for this spring about what we will grow and how and where we will grow it.  Our well covering fell down and we actually really liked the way it opened up our view of the rose bushes and butterfly garden.  And I got to grow my beloved Heavenly Blue morning glories up the trellis and they were spectacular. 2017-10-11 15.43.37Our milkweed was part of the monarch butterfly life cycle, which made us very happy.Monarch CaterpillarsAnd of course the roses and peonies and coneflower were beautiful. In fact, the coneflowers had a banner year and were host to many insects, birds, butterflies, and moths. Monarch on the coneflowerIn the coop things did not go well this year.  A fox (?) ravaged the population on one unfortunate night the gate was left open.  We are left with 3 young roosters and 4 hens. Of those hens two of them (silver seabright and buff orpington) are FIVE years old.  One of the hens did hatch a chick this fall, so we do have an 8th bird. Unclear if it’s a hen or rooster yet. Our flock is so sad and diminished and we weren’t sure what we wanted to do in terms of getting more birds–chicks in the spring? seek out pullets? We decided to wait until til spring. Gordon continues to live with them, though he was pretty sad (I think) that his beloved hen, Tree Bird, perished.A mixed up coop He suffered an indeterminate “traumatic eye injury” (a chicken pecking? a thorn?) which required a vet visit and two weeks of oral antibiotics (which was a real treat to administer twice daily, let me tell you). He is all healed up nicely now and hopping around as usual, though he has likely lost some vision in that eye.
In other animal news, in late summer we welcomed two new guinea pigs as permanent fosters. Samson and Louie are adorable and lively and big! We love seeing Louie jump on top of his igloo, which he does all the time.Samson & LouieAnd just a couple of weeks ago we said a fond farewell to dear Blackie. She was 5 1/2 and had a good long life. Although we weren’t with her when she passed away (it was during the day), it appears to have been a peaceful slipping away. R.I.P. Blackie, I hope you’re enjoying an afterlife with Nibbles.
2017 began poorly for our cat Sweetie, when accidentally left home and was gone for a solid month. We were so sad, canvassing the neighborhood, unable to find her, sure she was gone forever.  In February a hot tip from a neighbor led us less than 1/4 mile away and we were able to retriever her. Yeah!! Her month away made her get skinny (i.e. normal weight) but she was otherwise fine and super happy to be home. I don’t think she stopped purring for two weeks. On the other hand Liesl was super annoyed and mean to her for quite a few months. They are finally back to sometimes snuggling and at least no longer hitting. And Sweetie is back to being…large.As with last year my beloved hobbies took a hit. No homemade gifts, much less sewing, etc. However, just a couple weeks ago I finished the last of the courses I’d been taking at Rutgers (graduate, online, not getting an additional degree, getting a new certificate.) I’ve been taking classes ever since I started my job and I have to say I feel like a huge burden is lifted. No longer will I spend weekends doing assignments and projects! So, I feel like there is nothing to hold me back from getting back into doing the things I like. I will just work my normal job and have my normal family life. Hooray!!!!!!!!!!!!

That said, I did manage to do one quilt start to finish, and it was a pattern I’d really wanted to do and I loved how everything came out. The Pinwheel QuiltPinwheel Quilt-Complete! I also finished in February the Christmas scrap quilt (it was really a 2016 project, just finished off at the start of 2017.) We did indeed love snuggling under it this season. Christmas Scrap Quilt-done!

I also finished embroidering this towel finally, which apparently I will mostly use for photo-ops 🙂Hot out of the ovenMy Flickr is no longer kept up to date very well, and everything is on Instagram, and I no longer have those great “food” “sewing” annual sets.  But I have still done ample cooking/baking/photographing.  I’m scattering some favorite pics throughout this post. Here’s one more:
On the jetty

Running atop the jetty
One big event this year (either terrible news or good news, depending on how you look at it) is that during the ’16-’17 winter we did not have heat as our furnace had broken.  We replaced it with a new furnace and conversion from oil to natural gas.  The project was completed in spring, just as the weather turned warm. It was not until this fall that we really got to turn the heat on and enjoy it.

Our big travel this year was a summer vacation to New Hampshire. It was a bit of a haul to get there, but oh man it was my dream vacation. We loved kayakingA cabin (that left a lot to be desired), along a lake, with paddleboards and kayaks and canoes and loons (it was where On Golden Pond takes place!) There was reading and board games and swimming and floating and I loved it.

We began the year with a visit to my brother and his family in Vermont, and we also hit two theme parks this year-Hersheypark (on a day with pouring rain, which was awesome-no lines!)  and Great Adventure.

A super special trip for me was a weekend away with three dear friends. Our last trip together had been 15 years ago–to Iceland! We booked a lovely house in the Berkshires, near Stockbridge. We had a great weekend where we never ran out of time for all the talking we like to do about books. Plenty of wine, great food, and a surprisingly powerful trip to the Normal Rockwell Museum. mosaic277e3d5cfc46572b6223a1b0b61893979a6a902d

January was also the historic Women’s March, happening all across the country.  I participated by going to a NJ one in Trenton. It was a powerfully moving day and I felt inspired that intelligence, common sense, and decency would someday prevail. Unfortunately the past few months that feeling has been waning. It’s been a tough year and I still can’t believe the things happening in our country.

Here are some assorted moments/memories:
Doing a fun photo shoot with the guinea pigs and having the horrifying event of a garter snake slithering across Tabby’s leg (we were traumatized)
Clark and Tabby riding the Wildcat roller coaster six times in a row
Getting maximum enjoyment out of our small pop up above ground pool, making whirlpools and filling the whole thing with rafts, and floating and looking out at the fields
Eating giant ice cream “snowballs” in New Hampshire
Watching Tabby become a confident baker who made us many tasty treats
Dinner out in New Hampshire when a lovely waitress spilled all our drinks on me and we ended up laughing and laughing
Watching Tabby perform in the Wizard of Oz at the 4H Fair
Watching Clark change his hair color to dramatic shades of red and blue (he also got braces this year and surpassed me in height)
Tossing rocks and dirt clods into the dried grasses of the meadow for Willow, who pounces like a fox
Listening to Paul on WDVR FM be a dj for an hour and playing a fantastic selection of music with commentary (my wish for him is that he look into having a regular show…)
My mom’s new dog, Harry
Getting Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and seeing Clark spend most of the year absorbed in that world
Many many off leash walks with Willow at the nearby meadow watching her run and leap and chase and jump and be a happy dog. At 2 1/2 years old and 85 lbs she is a solid full grown dog now.

and the #1 good surprising thing of 2017…Paul winning a Wawa sweepstakes! Wawa for life! (ok, not life, but a good long while.)
Here’s my other annual post: Top Ten Books of the Year.
A very happy new year to all! May 2018 bring adventure and also contentment.

Signing off with one of my favorite self-portraits of the year,

2017-09-08 17.05.03

The Good Enough Christmas

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2017-12-25 13.19.34Ahh….Christmas. You know I love it. The build up is almost better than the day itself-baking, shopping, gifting, cozy movie watching, decorating, parties, cheese balls, cookies, etc.  I love the whole package.  This year it seemed like I didn’t give my best effort in many of those categories.  In fact, at one point I just said “you know what? It’s good enough.” and that became the refrain. For example, we usually put a lot of effort into our Christmas cards. This year…we didn’t. But we did still send some out and the picture we did was fine.  I did not bake a million kinds of cookies, just three. But no one went hungry and it was fine and there are even still some in the freezer.  I didn’t make homemade gifts, though I did manage to make a batch of the favorite spicy hot candied walnuts to give to my co-worker and Tabby’s teacher.  At the end of Christmas Day I said to Paul ” For a Christmas that was only good enough, it was still pretty good.” And it was. A wonderful day with our family, gifts that were surprising and wonderful, and good cheer all around.  And although I took a year off from making homemade gifts, this year I received two wonderful gifts made by my family. My brother spent his year harvesting (is that the right word here? special wood and creating these beautiful Japanese inspired lamps for everyone. Totally an heirloom work of art and very special and personal. 20171227_131742My mother made us this beautiful fabric art picture of our house!2017-12-25 13.39.40 I can’t get over the details such as the blue planter that is a favorite in the summer, the exact right color of our porch furniture, and more. Such special gifts!
As for baking, my earth shattering news is that I made a different recipe sticky bun for our Christmas breakfast. And I waited until Christmas Eve to even make it!  It was a different style bun-a less rich dough, but sweeter (I might actually cut back on the sugar next time). It was delicious and actually an easier recipe to make. (Notice I don’t even have a photo of the buns. Many fewer pictures this year. Good enough!)
I think the best Christmas gift to myself is that I finished the class I was taking this semester, and with the completion of that I have finished all the extra classes I’ve been taking for the past two years. I feel like a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I’m really looking forward to just enjoying my evenings and weekends and life and getting back into sewing and quilting and all of those hobbies I love but pushed aside in favor of assignments and such.  I am relishing this week off!
I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas as well!

2017-12-25 21.01.45

2017 Christmas Cookies

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Yes, Christmas has happened, and the cookie party was a couple of weeks ago, but better late than never. I couldn’t not have a recap of the annual Christmas party because I do love to look back on them. So this year we had the same setup as usual-cheese ball, punch, music, and cookies cookies cookies. I was very undecided about what I wanted to make right up until a few days before. I decided to make a citrus spritz cookie, for which there was a recipe in a new cookbook I had bought. Spritz cookies (we just called them “cookie press cookies”) were a regular part of my mom’s Christmas baking. I loved them-a butter cookie that tasted great straight from the freezer, delightfully decorated with red and green sugars, silver dragees, and cinnamon red hots (for the wreaths!) This recipe was citrus, which meant it had orange/lemon zest in the dough and then you dipped it in a citrus glaze.  I basically never make cookie press cookies because they are a pain and never seem to work. True to form, these would go along great and then 12 in a row wouldn’t stick to the pan. So aggravating! I didn’t feel these looked very Christmassy because I used orange sugar to decorate (atop the glaze) to go with the citrus flavor. That said, they tasted delicious. Tabby made a cookie this year and it was most attractive–a pinwheel sugar cookie. It was a regular sugar cookie recipe.

Offerings from our guests included:
Hot chocolate mint cookie ( I had seen this recipe online myself and thought about doing it!)
Pretzel caramel (tasted like a chocolate chip cookie dough base with addition of pretzels and caramels, which I love.)
Vanilla Polka Dots (a Dorie Greenspan recipe which exceptional vanilla taste and crunch. The pearl sugar was pretty.)
Gingerbread Men (it was so nice to see cute traditionally decorated gingerbread men!)
Christmas Trees (adorable sugar cookie trees)
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip
Lemon Bites (very similar to the “orange brownies” I sometimes make in the winter. Brownie texture, not really a cake, but very pure lemon flavor. These were a hit.)
Cranberry Pumpkin Bites
Peanut Butter Crunchies (I felt like these deserved a special prize because it’s a vintage recipe my friend made after seeing it on over at MidCentury Menu.  This was kind of gross looking, and pretty weird (as one expects from vintage recipes) as it had chow mein noodles in it. But guess what? It was delicious!)
Reindeer Bites (a smushed up Oreo ball concoction decorated to look like a reindeer. The baker (except they are no-bake) fully admitted to making these in a bid for an appearance win, a strategy which totally worked.)

The winners were…..

Most Christmassy: Reindeer Bites

Best Appearance: Gingerbread Men

and the overall big winner was….Melissa and her Vanilla Polka Dot cookies.  Melissa is multiple times winner, but it’s been a few years since she won first prize. She used the collected winnings to purchase and donate to Chimp Haven, which is awesome.