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Circles of Life & Some Suzy Homemaker-ing

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I was so busy sharing monarch and chick news on other social media, that I forgot to write about it here. Lots of exciting circle of life stuff happened in the span of about 12 hours one day last week. First, one of the older baby chicks (how old are they now? maybe 4 weeks?) died, sadly and under suspicious circumstances. Broken neck. But then two new chicks hatched! Sorry older chicks, you are no longer the cute ones
Old News// these tiny fluffballs are adorable. Sweet peepers//
They definitely seem to be a smaller variety. They are doing very well and Little Silk seems to be a good mother, although her choice of a safe place to spend the night is questionable (on the ground in the open. Why isn’t she under the coop as every other mother has done? Safe and sheltered, duh.)

So, at the same time that was happening, the second monarch was emerging. I had gotten up and checked on the chrysalis. I could see that the chrysalis was transparent and I could see wings were underneath. I knew it would be emerging shortly. Went outside, confirmed that two baby chicks hatched, came back and the butterfly was coming out. Shouted for everyone to come watch and we saw it! Unlike, say, a chick, the butterfly very quickly comes out of the chrysalis.
A monarch emerges// monarch emerges//
It crawled around until it came to the branch we had in there for it. We watched the wings unfurling
A monarch emerges// then they were straightened out and the butterfly stayed there waiting for them to dry. A monarch emerges//
And then it flew away. Hooray!

Although my garden has been dismal/non-existant this year I am still doing my best to freeze/can summer’s bounty. In my freezer I’ve got peaches and blueberries (bought local at peak ripeness, then frozen for future pies, muffins, pancakes, etc.), jalapeno peppers (gifted from a friend’s garden), bell pepper (bought at the farm stand), and corn (you know I have a great love for my corn zipper.) And then this weekend I also canned corn salsa.
Corn Salsa for the winter// is basically now the only thing I care about making sure to can. I love this recipe so much-fresh tomatoes and corn, and a vinegary sugary base that gives it a tang. I’m passionate about New Jersey’s tomatoes and corn being extra delicious and believe me, in the winter this is going to taste so summery and fresh. I canned 9 jars, but may need to do more. And because I make this salsa thinking only of snowy weekend afternoons where we put on a movie and I make a big tray of nachos, I labeled most of the lids with movie titles for fun. Corn Salsa for the winter//

I was very brave and entered one of my quilts in the neighboring county’s 4H Fair. I was pretty nervous because I just didn’t know how it would go over and I had a feeling this fair gets a lot more entries than the previous fair I had entered. I entered my Scrappy Prism quilt as it is the one that is hand quilted and I love it and think it’s beautiful. Indeed, I did not win a ribbon. [But did get a participation certificate, which made us all laugh.]
2015-08-24_09-22-45// so deep down I was really hoping I would, but I guess it’s enough to know that it was hung and admired with all of the others. And at this fair you actually get a judging sheet. I got “fair” on almost everything, with an “excellent” for my stitching on my binding (thank you for noticing judges-my hand stitching was nearly invisible.) The comments admired my fabric choices, but said that it needed more stitching in the center. Fair enough. I can see why they’d say that and I’m ok with it because I had made a deliberate choice when I was quilting to not add more. I happened to like the simplicity and didn’t want to add more. I stand by my choice and don’t care if they didn’t like it. Last weekend we went to Bethlehem PA for Musikfest and so we could all check out the Steel Stacks where Paul has gone to some recent concerts. It was really neat and the Steel Stacks were striking. Steel Stacks//

2015-08-24_10-02-26// old industrial buildings/equipment. Can you see our little shadows in this picture? Steel Stacks//
Very recently the town made it a centerpiece of their arts scene and, somewhat like the High Line, put in a walkway around these giant stacks. It’s incredible to see and imagine what it was like in operation (“Hell”, as most of the descriptions said. It was in operation as recently as the early 1990s.
Steel Stacks// what’s a post this summer without a Willow update? She is doing great. pretty princess must have her beanbag chair//’ve had her for almost 8 weeks, she has gained 15 lbs and I don’t know how many inches. We are starting obedience classes this week, which will hopefully teach her to not pull like crazy on a leash and to stop biting us lovingly all the time. Keep off the furniture is not a rule that worked for us. What can I say? I love having my dog cuddle up next to me on the couch. 2015-08-24_10-01-26// & WillowAnd one last thing, although we haven’t been geocaching this summer, this weekend we placed two more of our own. I hope they get approved quickly and that people enjoy finding them.

After a dreadful heatwave we’ve had a few nights and early mornings of cool weather, which are sparking a little fall fever. Yesterday I started planning a Halloween quilt I’m hoping to do in time for this fall.  It’s definitely back to school time and the kids received their class assignments this weekend too. They were very excited to see which of their friends were in their classes (or, in Clark’s class, which of his most disliked classmates he was assigned with yet again.) Our school district starts pretty late so we’ve got a good few more days of summer ahead of us and will hopefully make the most out of them!


Fly Butterfly, Fly!

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It just so happens that last night we read a part in Then There Were Five (by Elizabeth Enright) that is presently very relevant. This is the third book about the Melendy family, and these were my most favorite books as a child. I read them many times and there are many parts that have stayed with me through the years, lines remembered fondly. And this is one of them:

The monarch caterpillar, for instance, contrived a waxy chrysalis of pale green, flecked with tiny arabesques of gilt. It hung from the twig on a little black silk thread, like the jade earring of a Manchu princess. “How lovely!” cried Mona. “Oh, if there were only some way of preserving them. I’d like to have a pale-green dress all buttoned down the front with those.”

How perfect is that description? Absolutely perfect.

We missed it! Apparently this morning the butterfly emerged and flew off (is left the lid off ) keeping a close eye on chrysalis no. 2 #lifecycleofabutterfly #chrysalis #monarchbutterfly//

I knew the monarchs would emerge any time between now and Sunday, but didn’t actually think they were ready today. Imagine my surprise to find the first one emerged and departed already! I’m bummed we missed and determined to not miss the second one. (I’ve put the door back on.)

A Sweet Trip to Hershey

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We enjoyed what felt like a days away vacation this week, but was actually just one very jam packed exciting day and night. I haven’t been to Hersheypark in probably 30 years and didn’t remember much beyond the chocolate world tour. With Willow we’ve been sticking close to home this summer, so it also felt pretty exciting to be gone for more than a few hours. [Willow went to a friend’s house where she enjoyed playing with their dogs-it was a vacation for her, too!.] We left on a Tuesday afternoon, checked in at our hotel, and headed out to dinner. I had read about a place that was a bar with good reviews for food. I wasn’t so sure about taking the kids in, but we didn’t get dirty looks, so it was fine. And we got to try the most interesting appetizer I’ve seen: “sausages in honey.” We ordered it specifically because someone recommended it in a review. And it was exactly that-spicy smoked sausage slices in a dish of warm liquidy honey. It was delicious! You can use your park tickets the night before (a “preview” night) so we headed in to the park for a sneak peek. It got us quite excited for the next day. We rode the bumper cars, went up the Kissing Tower, and a couple other rides.

In the morning we got to the park and were dismayed at how completely crowded it was at the entrance. Yikes! On a random Wednesday!
Chocolate WorldWe visited the Chocolate World for a bit and then headed in to the park. Tabby and I kicked off the fun with a ride on The Comet-a bumpy fast wooden roller coaster. A couple more rides and then it was back to Chocolate World to use our tickets for the “Create Your Own Chocolate Bar” experience. I’m glad this was recommended to me because it was actually a lot of fun. You design what you want in your chocolate bar and watch it move along the production line. Designing our own chocolate bars at #hersheypark #hersheyparkhappy

It all starts with a chocolate bar baseClark watches his bar receive his custom ingredients

The final enrobingThen you design the wrapper and at the end you get your bar in a nice keepsake tin with the wrapper around it. Fun to do, neat to see, and a delicious souvenir.
Create your own Hershey arWe also enjoyed the tip that it was better to eat lunch there-less crowded, not too expensive, and tasty. So we had lunch, enjoyed looking at mountains of candy for sale and this awesome sculpture (Twizzler Tut!) Behold! Twizzler King Tur! #hersheyparkhappy #hersheypark #twizzler #candysculpture ure and then headed back into the park to buckle down to some serious rides. The wooden roller coasters were wonderful. We even got Clark to go on one and even though he was really scared, as soon as it ended he said he loved it and asked to do it again. So we did. It was the Lightning Racers and two trains depart at the same time on tracks that whiz past each other. Clark and I rode on one, and Tabby and Paul on the other. And it was so much fun to zoom past each other, screaming, and see each other! Lightning RacerYou know how at carnivals and fairs and parks you always see people walking around with oversized stuffed animals they won? I’ve never won anything or had anything won for me, so I found it delightful when Paul set about trying to win for Clark a gigantic Pikachu. Tabby and I left to go ride another gigantic and thrilling wooden roller coaster and when we came back…success! Pikachu, I choose YOU And Paul was in the process of winning one for Tabby, too. She chose Squirtle. They were both so, so happy and I’m sure that is something they will always remember. Big win
It was a wonderful day and we fully enjoyed all the rides we wanted to, ice cream, and people watching. We left at 9 and were home by 11:30, feeling like we’d just had a full vacation.
on the Starship

IMG_4134Mr Ferris and his Wheel

Clark is a Twizzler

a Hershey's Kiss

Here We Go Again with Monarchs!

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Last year’s monarch experience was so exciting for us. The milkweed grew and bloomed again nicely this year, despite being covered with the hideous little aphids. I’m thinking of ordering ladybugs next year because the one or two I’ve seen on the plant are clearly not up to the challenge of devouring the thousands that are on the plant. Anyway, we did see two monarchs in the garden a while ago and this past week we began to see the caterpillars on the milkweed. Hooray!
MonarchOn Friday I saw 7 (nothing compared to last year) on the plant and decided that I would bring some in to see if we could witness the metamorphosis. On Sunday when I had the habitat (borrowed from a friend, stocked with some milkweed in test tubes filled with water-a handy way to keep the plant alive) ready I could only find 3 caterpillars on the plant, so I took two. I assume the others had already crawled off to form chrysalises (though I couldn’t find any, they are hard to spot.) Sunday evening one caterpillar crawled off the plant and attached to the test tube holder. It formed the J shape that means it is going to begin. By late evening it was still the J and one end looked faintly greenish-gray. Caterpillar to Chrysalis
As of 8am this morning it still looked like that. But three hours later, when I looked at 11am…
Caterpillar to Chrysalis
Chrysalis! I am so excited. You can still see the stripes of the caterpillar through the beautiful pale green, and oh those gold dots! If you look in the background you will see that the second caterpillar has crawled off the  plant and seems to also be looking for a place to hang.  I can’t wait to observe this process! I am so thrilled it’s working.

Down by the River

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Ahh…August. We’ve still got plenty of summer left, but we’ve been enjoying a few cool early mornings that give a hint of end-of-summer and looking-towards-autumn. It’s rather nice. This week we took Willow for her first time to the river.  Upon arrival she was pretty nervous and did not want to go in the water.
1st time in-not loving it But, after wildly running around on the banks and checking everything out, she did get her feet wet, and eventually was splashing around. Willow's 1st Trip to the river
Climbing on people when possible,
Like on land, she would just climb on top of usleaping about, and a couple of times going deep enough to dog paddle.  It’s shallow, but there is a current and she definitely didn’t like it when she could feel the water pushing on her. Willow's first time in the river!
It was a wonderful afternoon, except that I became irate and disgusted with people due to the litter left there. Specifically, when Willow ran into the bushes and came back with a poopy diaper. Seriously? Can’t all people agree that it’s not ok to leave trash outside? Who thinks that’s ok? If you think nature is nice enough that you wanted to spend time at the river, why would you leave garbage behind that you will be looking at next time you are there? Ugh. I really couldn’t stop thinking about this all week. You are an idiot and asshole if you leave garbage on the ground, Simple as that. Really-who are the people who think that is ok? OK, rant over. Despite that, it was very nice and we went with some friends and the kids enjoyed that. Tabby collected many snails and brought them home, where they are actually living in the habitat she created.
Tabby's snail habitat. She brought them all home.We also returned to Ringing Rocks for another hike. Again, she was super excited. This time we hiked down below the waterfalls (which have no water presently) and explored the dry riverbed.  I am fascinated by the rock formations and striations. Ringing Rock
As you know the garden is a bit of a pass this year, but yesterday I was delighted to pick several tomatoes and also…peaches from our tree!
A small harvest finally- plum tomatoes,  peaches,  and one cherry sized plum. A bounty of reds #garden #harvest #tomatoesThey are small but the sweetiest juiciest peaches ever. I think they are going to have a very short shelf life so am trying to figure out what to make with them today. Jam? Salsa? Peach barbecue sauce? I think freezing/canning/baking is in order.  I also received a nice bag of peaches and jalapenos from our friends who have trees that bear a lot of fruit. It was Game Night with them and we had a grand time. Game Night
It had been a while since the pizza had been homemade so I brought my A game and made several delicious ones, including one made with fresh mozzarella and the just picked tomatoes.
IMG_4065 Something Clark has been working on this summer is learning how to cook something. He’s been doing brownies and last night he made them almost all by himself ( he did everything, but I remained in the kitchen to talk him through it. Next time he’s entirely on his own) and they were delicious! Especially as he served them ala mode and capped off with another garden gift from Liz & Eleanor-homemade maraschino cherries (OMG-heavenly.) I have to share an amazing dessert that I made this week-Blueberry Sour Cream Tart. Sour Cream Blueberry Tart
I came across it in a cookbook I’ve had a couple years but haven’t often used (despite liking it), called Chicken and Egg. The tart has a crust that is like a sugar cookie, spiced with nutmeg. The filling is cheesecake consistency (but doesn’t taste at all like cheesecake) and then the blueberries are sprinkled on top.
Blueberry Sour Cream Tart. Oh my goodness, is this heavenly #blueberries #njblueberries #dessert #baking
This would also be amazing with strawberries or peaches. It was fantastic.



Catching Up on Summer

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It’s 4 weeks today since we got Willow!
You say cat bed, I say dog bedI can’t believe how quickly the time has flown. She’s definitely grown bigger already, I’m pleased to report she is housebroken, and now she sleeps in our bedroom at night (though not on the bed.) We’ve gotten a routine down (which unfortunately does include some very early rising) and I can confidently say she loves us as much as we love her. Last week we took her on her first hike, out to Ringing Rocks with us. She was bonkers with excitement–at the the scenery, another dog, people, etc. It was an exhausting afternoon for her. Willow's first hike, Ringing Rocks. She's going cuckoo #ringingrocks #puppy

Untitledatop a rock
She also had a playdate with another dog, which was wonderful to see. She loved having another dog to chase and play with.
Liesl and Sweetie are growing accustomed to her, but slowly. Liesl is more willing to come out when Willow is around and even touch noses with her. But then if Liesl walks away Willow gets excited and jumps after her, and then of course Liesl just runs away. Sweetie is not yet willing to get that close. The cats clearly miss their interactions with us and we try to find them as much as possible without the dog to squeeze in some cuddling sessions.
As for us, well the kids and I are mostly busy with the dog, or sometimes playing with friends. The day before Ringing Rocks we did go to the Sourlands for a hike, too. We’re in the midst of a humid heat wave which just makes me want to stay inside and watch movies.
Paul and I have almost completed our summer of concertgoing with the headline show of the Xponential Music Festival on Saturday, which was St. Vincent and My Morning Jacket.
On the waterfrontInterestingly I was more excited about MMJ than St. Vincent, but ended up being enthralled by St. Vincent and less so with MMJ. St. Vincent is Annie Clark, and she was so striking and an amazing guitarist, and it was just a really great show. This picture does no justice to what an incredible dynamic performer Annie Clark is.  Great set by St Vincent at #xpnfest #stvincent
MMJ was rocking and loooong, and they were great, but I got tired and it was the second Saturday in a row where we didn’t get home until 1:45am. And have I even written here about the first Saturday of that? I don’t think so, which is nuts. Well, you might recall that last fall it was a dream come true for me to see Neil Young. He is one of my absolutely very favorite musicians and it was incredible. This summer he’s touring with a band and it’s a very different show, so we got tickets. a dream come true, a second time

Both of these shows were at the Susquehanna Bank Center, which is on the Camden waterfront. Paul, sunset skylineIt was a dream come true a second time! So now I’ve gotten to see him solo acoustic (in a beautiful venue where it was very quiet) and a rocking show where he played for over 3 hours and it was incredible. A favorite band (Band of Horses) opened for him, which he really didn’t need and though I was thrilled to hear them again I felt like there was so much Neil anticipation that they didn’t get much love from the crowd. Neil simply blew me away. The band playing with him is called Promise of the Real and two of Willie Nelson’s sons are in it. The big highlights were a 20 minutes jamming version of Down by the River and an encore (who needs to encore after 3 hours?) of Cortez the Killer and Cinnamon Girl. It was a real thrill and treat. You can read Paul’s full description here.

Other stuff going on-we got a new-to-us dishwasher that some friends were getting rid of in the midst of a kitchen reno. It’s leagues better than the old one, which was Paul’s nemesis. He handily installed it himself, too! It fits perfectly and is making us very happy. Also a tree fell down yesterday to our great surprise. No storms, apparently it had just rotted at the bottom (the top was full and leafy) and there it was, on the ground. While my personal reading is not particularly thrilling at the moment, our family reading has been a dream come true for me. We listened to Return to Gone Away Lake, which is the sequel to Gone Away Lake. We had listened to that a few years ago and I think the kids might not even remember it. Anyway, they were a pair of favorites of mine, read many times, and I was so happy to have them hear it. The same amazing author, Elizabeth Enright, also wrote my all time favorite books about the Melendy Family. This is finally the summer when I’m sharing those books (i.e. I am going to read this and you will listen and love it) with the kids. We finished The Saturdays and have just started The Four Story Mistake. I can’t even express how much I love these books and how happy I am that the kids genuinely are enjoying them. The insane garden continue to be insane, but I did manage to get two beautiful ripe tomatoes out of it. I’ve been buying and zipping good corn and also cooking lots of it. Is there anything better than trying to plan a dinner when your fridge and counter have fresh NJ blueberries, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and basil in them? summer trinityI ended up doing a quiche with corn, tomato, and basil in it and it was delicious. IMG_3951
I should probably be making blueberry jam, but can’t muster up the enthusiasm to do so. Like with the garden, I suppose some years I’ll be more engaged in doing those things than others, and that’s ok. I think this will mostly be the summer of getting a dog and getting used to that again (and oh, it is so nice to have a dog again.)

Two Moms, Three Babies

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Yesterday we had two mother hens and two chicks and a bunch of unhatched eggs. But then we looked in on them we saw that one of the eggs in the left behind nest was hatching. We could hear it peeping and see (through a small hole) the folded up chicken moving a bit. What to do?! This always seems to happen and we always end up getting involved and anxious. I tried to entice the hens over to the egg, picked up the egg, put the egg near them, and they were very interested in the peeping. In fact, when the egg peeped they peeped back at it. But they couldn’t seem to make the connection that they should stick with that egg. And then another hen came running over and pecked the egg really hard, making the hole much bigger. Clearly we couldn’t leave it out there. So we put it in a little tub, under a lamp, and decided to just see what would happen. At the end of the night we went out to see and, a chick!
chick hatchingStanding there, peeping. We were pretty surprised. At this point we had a choice: raise it all alone under a light or try to get the hens to accept it. Based on past experience there was a good possibility that they wouldn’t take the chick and might even harm it (I’m looking at you, mother of Laura and Mary who pecked them almost until death-and btw, this mother hen now is Laura/Mary!) But the hassle of raising a single chick is, well, a terrible hassle. Since it was late at night and the hens had gone to bed on their nest (a process I happened to see and which involved the mothers heading inside while the chicks stood on the ground peeping. I suppose they would have somehow gotten back, but I picked them up and put them in.) we decided we had a good shot at introducing the new chick into the nest. So we took the chick, snuck over to the coop, and just tucked the chick under a mother hen. And guess what? It worked!!! All day the two mothers have been working together with the three chicks. They peep, scratch, scamper, and are adorable. IMG_3829
I love seeing that they all look so different (the newest one is all black.)
Chick TrioTwo Moms, Three Babies

Two Moms, Three BabiesTwo Moms, Three Babies

And I had been thinking these were not the best chicken mothers, but when I was out taking pictures and they walked away from one chick I reached out to pick it up. And both hens raced over and attacked me. So, yeah, they are doing ok.


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