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Start Your Engines

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That’s my way of being clever since this is a last post before school starts and also this post is about our trip to Watkins Glen, NY, which is known for having a NASCAR track and being a historic place in the world of auto racing (first road race after WWII.) Racing flags adorn the quaint Main Street and cool paintings adorn the buildings. 2016-08-24 19.24.24But that was not the attraction for us. For us it was beautiful Watkins Glen State Park, where we had briefly visited a couple years ago.
We stayed at the “historic” Seneca Lodge in an A frame cabin, which I enjoyed very much. Overall the lodge has probably seen better days, but it suited our needs just fine. Especially its location-directly across from the park entrance. So when we arrived we just walked into the park and used the Olympic sized swimming pool there, which was wonderful. 2016-08-25 18.23.49After swimming we went into the town and picked out a restaurant, which turned out to be awesome. I highly recommend Nickel’s Pit BBQ if you are ever in the area. While the others had brisket and pulled pork, I opted for the tater tots piled with the housemade pork chili and jalapeno peppadew cheese sauce. 2016-08-23 19.43.01Everyone loved their stuff so much that we a. bought a couple pint glasses b. bought a bottle of the house bbq sauce and c. went back for dinner two nights later (where I had as a side the jalapeno peppadew macaroni & cheese.)
The state park features a gorge that is absolutely breathtaking. There are waterfalls everywhere and over the course of 12,000 years the water carved out the gorge, leaving amazing shapes, curves, and beauty. Our first visit was notable because it rained the entire time we hiked the gorge. This time, though, the weather was beautiful. A Heart made by nature Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State ParkThe hike is 1 1/2 miles basically uphill (stairs) and then there is a restroom and park area, then you turn around and go back. It was a wonderful way to spend our first morning. The afternoon saw us swimming again.
On our second full day we went to Corning to go the Corning Museum of Glass.IMG_7360 I had always been curious about going here and it turned out to be an unexpected highlight of the trip. There is a fairly new wing that is for contemporary art and to my surprise this was something that all four of us really enjoyed. So many amazing and thoughtful, striking or beautiful, works of art.Contemplation All made of glass!
There was another special exhibit going on that was also were totally wowed by-a collection of marine specimens all made out of glass—from the 1800s!IMG_7357 IMG_7366 This exhibit was really terrific and special. The museum also offers many extra glassmaking classes or activities that you can sign up for. Clark signed up for the flame throwing (is that what it was called?) to make a sea slug. Tabby signed up to do the sandblasting. For Clark he got to use glass rods and a hand held flame thing. 2016-08-25 13.06.25Tabby used stickers on a glass and then sandblasted it to make the glass frosted. Both of them had a good time doing it and loved their cool finished products. Which are pretty incredible souvenirs. 2016-08-25 13.12.57

20160831_103642Speaking of souvenirs, I was sure we’d get an amazing glass Christmas tree ornament and despite the museum having the best shop there was just nothing we wanted.

The next day we went back into the park to find a geocache, then waded in Lake Seneca and headed home.IMG_7411 It was a splendid getaway, very peaceful.

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Boston: Travelogue

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Last week we took a trip to Boston for an action packed 4 day vacation, which included the previously written about Pearl Jam concert.  But what else did we do that left us so tired? We arrived on Thursday late afternoon and checked in to our hotel. We were staying kind of outside the city in the midst of not much, an option that many other PJ fans were doing as well. Free parking, free shuttle to the T stop that was 2 miles away, and much cheaper than right in the heart of the city. The one thing that was by our hotel was a Boston Bowl, so we ate dinner and went candlepin bowling and had a grand time. Speaking of the T stop, we spent an awful lot of time on this trip taking the T to get here and there, including many transfers. For our kids, who live in a public transportation free area, this is easily one of the most fun parts of a city vacation. They loved it and that we rode all the lines. And let’s face it, people watching is so much better than when you just get in your car and drive to Wegmans.
On Friday we did the quintessential tourist thing and took a duck tour.2016-08-05 13.33.28 Before it started we had two hours to spend at the Museum of Science (that was the starting point of the tour) and it was a really lovely science museum. zapWe only saw part of it and would have liked to have gone back after our tour, but lunch and other things beckoned. As for the Duck Tour, I was really looking forward to this and it did not disappoint. We were driven all over the city while the knowledgeable tourguide told us all kind of interesting facts about everything we saw.IMG_6903 It was a good way to not have to walk everywhere and get a nice overview. And we did so enjoy the part where we went into the Charles River and the kids even got to drive the boat.
Afterwards we headed over to Quincy Market and got some food and ate outside and walked around and soaked up the ambience. Then went into a branch of Newbury Comics for a long time and bought new graphic novels.
We then met up with my mom, who had driven up that day. We went swimming at the adjacent hotel in the funny little incredibly deep pool, and then all refreshed and hungry, headed back into the city for a late night dinner in the North End.  Because it was late I figured we couldn’t dither around trying to compare restaurants to find just the right one. We walked briefly and I saw a place off the main street, it looked charming, they had room for all of us, so in we went. And o what vacation serendipity!! First, when I got home and looked back at emails I saw that someone had actually recommended that restaurant! (I hadn’t even noted the name.) Second, it was one of the best meals of my life. I had the cioppino and it was spicy Italian seafood heaven. My mom had the lobster ravioli which was incredibly rich and delicious. And Paul had some “four meats” thing that was Italian meat heaven. We wrapped up the night by heading into the famous Mike’s for famous cannoli.2016-08-05 22.12.01
On Saturday Paul took us over to Cambridge to Harvard Square. I should mention here that Paul used to live in Boston for a couple years, going to school, working in a bookstore in Harvard Square, buying stuff at Newbury Comics all the time, and the like. So for him it was fun to show us some things he remembered and revisit locations and see how they changed. It rained a bit here so we went to a coffee shop, I browsed a fancy stationers, we took a quick peek at the Harvard campus, and then hopped on to the T to go to the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum. My mom and I had put this high on our list of Boston sights, though I’m not really sure why. I think just that I had always heard it was a good museum, plus it had the fascinating unsolved robbery many years ago. [We did not see the empty frames notes in that linked article.] It was a beautiful and quiet museum, and a lovely way to spend an afternoon.Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum View from above We all enjoyed imagining that we were super rich people in the late 19th century who collected art.
After that mom headed back to the hotel while we took the kids over to Fenway Park to check that out and buy some official Pearl Jam merch.Welcome to Fenway That evening the kids enjoyed more swimming and dinner with mom while Paul and I went out to a viewing of the Friday night concert. The next day, Sunday, was a big one. We had tickets to go whale watching at 10, leaving out of the aquarium wharf. It was clear and sunny and the big boat was nice. It took about an hour to drive away from the city, though we could still see it on the horizon. We reached the Stellwagen Marine Sanctuary, an area where humpback whales naturally congregate to feed in nutrient rich waters and, a whale!Look! A Whale! For the next hour we saw humpback whales in groups of 2,3, and 4, as well as alone, doing all the things you might expect. Humpback Whale
FlukeIt was truly exciting to see them so close and humongous, to see their beautiful flukes as they dove, great sprays of mist from their blowholes, and so on. I’m so glad we did this because it was amazing. 2016-08-07 11.45.54When we returned to the dock we went into the aquarium to enjoy that for a while. Due to it being insanely crowded, we enjoyed and explored this wonderful aquarium much less than we wanted to. It’s clearly a way better aquarium than the one we usually go to, but we were only able to see all the many adorable penguins (being hand fed) and the great big center tube deep ocean thing with a spiral ramp going around it for four floors. I loved this and really, we all did and it was very satisfying.
Then it was time to head back to the hotel, refresh, and say goodbye to the kids and mom while Paul and I headed out to the concert. Which you can read all about here.
The next day we had planned on just coming home, but instead we made it another full vacation day. We said goodbye to mom and got back on the T for one more city outing. This time we went to the Public Garden, where it was, to our pleasant surprise, uncrowded and peaceful. Boston's Public GardenWe admired the famous swan boats and took a pleasant ride on one. Then we saw the statues of the famous Make Way for Duckings. Make Way for DucklingsWe then walked a few blocks into Chinatown, which is always fun. When I saw a fabric shop I insisted on going in. Quite a different experience from  Pennington Quilt Works.2016-08-08 11.53.45 I bought a length of beautiful fabric which who knows what I will do with. Then, more vacation serendipity, Paul looked up what the best place to eat there was and it was right there and even though super tiny, we only had to wait a couple minutes. The menu was so fascinating I could have sat their reading it for 15 minutes.2016-08-08 12.19.07 I did not get sauteed blood and leeks, but rather Ma Po Tofu, and we got lots of delicious dumplings.
After that we headed out of the city, collected our car, and headed home….almost. It was only 40 minutes to Plymouth so we decided to go there and visit Plimoth Plantation for an hour. A wrong turn took us not to the plantation but right into town and Plymouth Rock, which turned out even better. More serendipity! A parking space right along the water right by Plymouth Rock.Plymouth Rock We admired the small rock, climbed some stairs to a beautiful view, marveled that the island right off the shore was called Clark’s Island, went down to the docks and looked at the Mayflower II and enjoyed the lovely harbor.Mayflower II
Mayflower II
We capped it off with some really awesome ice cream from a place with an extensive list of creative homemade flavors and finally buckled in for the very long drive home. Very long. We got home about 1 am (but I’d rather waste a night than a day driving!)
All in all it was a great vacation, very tiring, but we did and saw so many things.

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Pearl Jam @ Fenway Park

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Pearl Jam @ Fenway Park So here it was, the main event! The reason for the trip to Boston! You may recall that seeing Pearl Jam was a dream of mine in the concerts I most wanted to see list I kept in my head and that we got to see them in April and it was super incredible, and that Paul surprised us by getting tickets to see them in Boston. We were so excited! And boy did it live up to the hype in our heads. First of all, this was a big deal concert-it seemed like the whole city was excited about it. All weekend long-in the shuttle, the hotel, on the T, sightseeing-we’d see other people wearing PJ hats and shirts, and there was a general feeling of goodwill and “hey we’re all here to see this great band and we’re having a good time.” Saturday afternoon we all went over to Fenway Park to buy some merch and check it out, and that was lots of fun. IMG_6941

I believe we spent more on merch than on our tickets, but that’s ok. There was specialty merch for this show that was very cool and Fenway Park tied in. Paul had won tickets in the Ten Club lottery for a viewing party on Saturday night of Friday night’s show. We dithered about whether or not we really wanted to go-would it spoil Sunday’s actual show? Would it be weird? But ultimately decided to go because of the tiny chance we’d convinced ourselves of them and actually showing up to say hi. I’m glad we went because it was really fun. And though it wasn’t exactly like being at the actual concert, the sound was great, the fan experience was there, and if you think about footage they show on big screens at concerts, you could pretend that it was live. Plus, they played a couple of songs I was thrilled by, including an unusual Beatles cover. And since I love the Beatles and am never going to time travel to see a show by them, this was the next best thing. Anyway, it was fun, and like a good appetizer to rile us up even more for Sunday night. So, the main event. We got to the stadium around 6:45, knowing they weren’t going to go on until 7:30. It was fun to soak in the ambience of the stadium, which was really cool looking and felt so vintage and stylish. 2016-08-07 18.22.50
We ate a Fenway Frank, took pictures, and the like.
Pearl Jam @ Fenway ParkThe set up was that stage was in the way outfield. And the stage was huge. When we saw them in Philly we were behind the stage, so the whole thing was open. But in this case there was a backdrop and huge towers and presumably a huge sound system. I was worried the sound would all float away in the open like that, but it sounded incredible. Also, I have to assume that you could have just stood in the street the whole time and heard the show for free. There was some kind of flooring laid down and rows upon rows of chairs set up in the field. Pearl Jam @ Fenway Park
We were in the stands to the far left of the stage. Lousy seats, but hey, we were there. The actual baseball diamond infield was off limits to everyone and looked so small compared to everything else.2016-08-07 19.30.28
Score: Pearl Jam Then the show started and it was awesome. Unlike our Philly show, which had a loud rocking start, they started this show fairly mellow (as we had seen the Friday show was.) That was ok (if a little odd feeling to me), because it sort of matched the fact that it was still light out. But things moved on, got loud, and it was awesome. We had expected a lot of this show-maybe some special songs? extra long? (they can’t due to noise curfew) and it did not disappoint. Pearl Jam @ Fenway Park
We had seen some special guests on Friday and there were this time, too, though I couldn’t be too excited about the Red Sox player because I didn’t know who it was. But there were definitely fun baseball touches-the player gave Eddie a jersey to wear, Eddie played ball the crowd, etc. It was a long show, which just felt great. 2016-08-07 22.43.12And special for us? Well, after the Philly show when we debriefed about which songs we would have liked to hear but they didn’t and made a list, guess what? They played the other songs I wanted to hear, and many off of Paul’s list.  There were a few songs I was thrilled to hear again-Mind Your Manners, Wishlist, Lightning Bolt, Corduroy, Rearview Mirror. And the songs I was crazy excited to hear this time-In Hiding and Betterman. I was also psyched to hear Nothingman, Do the Evolution (which I don’t like on the album, but learned in Philly is amazing live) and Sirens (I was disappointed they didn’t play this last time.) And then, to finish–Pearl Jam ends their concerts amazingly well. The lights were up, they were rocking so hard, it just turns into a great scene. They have often ended with Rockin in the Free World, though they did not in Philly. But this time Paul turned to me and said, “I think they’re going to do it” and just like that, they did. So, a Neil Young song (which Neil did not play when we saw him) for me, and as a treat for Paul? They brought out J. Mascic, guitarist for Dinosaur Jr, who Paul really likes (and saw a few weeks ago.) Huge surprise! And oh, it was awesome!! And then they didn’t even stop there! They truly finished out with Yellow Ledbetter, which turned into Mike McCready playing a crazy Star Spangled Banner that made me feel like I was listening to Jimi Hendrix. Oh, the whole experience was phenomenal. I can’t wait to get the download of the show to hear it all over again.
For full set list and album distribution and Paul’s detailed take on the music, check out his post.

And not only that, even though thousands of fans were in the streets walking to the T and crowding the station, we managed to get right on to the first train and when we got to the stop for our hotel the shuttle was right there waiting for us. Good luck all around.

Thank you, Pearl Jam and Boston for an amazing experience and show that I will never ever forget!2016-08-07 22.28.44
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A Baker’s Dozen

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Last post the chick count was up to 6, which was just crazy. The morning of our vacation (Thursday) we found this little guy:2016-08-04 10.34.23

adorable! A half a dozen darling chicks. We left on our trip, with the animals in the capable hands of a local girl who also has chickens. Though we’d intended to clean out the nests for her we just left them alone with instructions to not gather any eggs and not worry.

To our surprise, on Monday (yesterday) she texted to say that more chicks hatched and there were now…..TWELVE BABY CHICKS! Yep, in our absence (and free of our meddling) six more chicks hatched. I couldn’t wait to get home and see them. This morning (Tuesday) I went to see them and there they all were. Some 5 days old with little wings, and some clearly only 1 or 2 days old. Amazingly they were all mingled together under sort of watchful eyes of two (three?) moms.

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When I opened the door to the henhouse I discovered, in the empty nest, what looked like a wet, dead chick. But I saw a tiny breath in it. And seeing a hen in the next nest felt it was a worth a shot to pick it up and stick it under her. A few hours later it was dry and fluffy, though not especially strong looking. And locking up the chickens tonight I found it dead on the floor. Unlucky #13. But……..unbelievably……under that hen? A brand new peeping chick! I just saw it! Looking very sprightly.  So, that brings the total to 13 baby chicks. And let’s hope that’s it. And that they’re not all roosters. Speaking of roosters, I’m thinking that the incredible rise in the fertility in the coop is due to the new rooster who took over this winter. He’s evidently a much more effective, well, you know.
The twelve chicks and two mothers have all squeezed into one of the outdoor nesting boxes to sleep tonight. I can’t imagine they will all fit in there longer than another few days at most.

At the beginning of May we had 13 adult chickens. Now we have 13 adults, 7 adolescents, and 13 babies, for a total of 33. That’s a rather dramatic increase!

12 Hours Later

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Checking in on the chicks this morning…. It’s frankly a wonder any of these chicks survive. The buffy mother with the newly hatched brown chicks came out this morning with all the other chickens to eat. She brought one of the chicks out, but the other was still in the coop. I placed it on the ground. All five chicks and three mothers were bustling about eating and pecking and cheeping and clucking. The newest babies seemed in danger of being stepped on, and a few times were kicked during the scratching. After a little while the two new babies just joined the two mothers and their 4 day old chicks. And their mother returned to the nest (which has many unhatched eggs in it that I’m eager to discard, but maybe something else will hatch since she went back to it?)
Meanwhile, when I looked in the house the black hen in the middle nest was off to the side of her nest. I looked and saw what appeared to be a wet dead chick. But I believe it was actually so freshly hatched it hadn’t even stretched out or opened its eyes yet. Because a half hour later it was underneath her and peeping. I hope to get a look later today. It really is a baby boom here!

Baby Boom

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Baby Boom

Two months ago we had our biggest baby chick hatching ever-7 little chicks. And now, even more! We were kind of bummed when the hens all went broody again so quickly after those babies.* It got very chaotic in the coop–all three nesting boxes filled with rotating broody hens (they switched nests at random), and the non-broody hens squeezing in to lay their eggs. Needless to say, we weren’t collecting any eggs. Also, we didn’t take note of an exact start date of setting, so weren’t sure when to either expect chicks or give up. This past Friday we were relieved when one of the nests finally seemed to have been abandoned. It smelled terrible and we hastily cleaned it out. That left two nests and 2?3? would-be mothers.
Saturday rained heavily all day long. And all night. And the next morning. There was flooding all over the place, damage, roads closed, etc. When the rain stopped Willow and I headed out to check it out and were appropriately amazed by the state of our river.Flooding-tree floating downstream Flooding-this is normally a parking lot.
And the fields and such that were completely underwater. Returning home I went into the coop and opened the door the house and was surprised to find 4 mothers and 3 baby hens on the floor of the house, scratching about, clucking and peeping!! They must have hatched on Saturday (and it must have been their most peaceful hatching day yet. The rain kept me inside and I never checked on them, bugged them, photographed them.) [Again, adorable video on IG, but can’t seem to upload here.] Checking in on them later Hen #4 had been pecked a bit by the others and shooed away. She retreated to one of the two nests. By that night two hens were on the ground with the three babies and Hen #3 had left. Possibly to one of those nests? Monday the two moms and three babies were cute and busy, scratching about the yard. Two black chicks (one extra tiny) and one sturdy silver and blonde one.Chick Family Chick Family
Also on Monday I found a dead chick on the ground outside the henhouse. Very mysterious. Where did it come from? I’m guessing it hatched later and tried to come out and was too frail?
Today, Tuesday, I was standing in the coop, turned to look in the house, and was startled to see a baby chick just sitting in the nest with a hen! It was my favorite kind of chick-it looked like a chipmunk. Possibly fairly recently hatched-it looked slightly damp still. It’s mother seemed to not be tending to it too much and was more concerned with tucking eggs underneath her. Much peeping and clucking. Here’s a photo.
...but then A few hours later I looked in and there were now TWO hens in the nest and peep! peep! baby was on the floor of the house. Honestly, one of those mother hens couldn’t have joined the baby on the floor? It would die if left there! I picked it up and it was so cute and fluffy. Also, it fell asleep a little in my hand. Here it is: ....and then
When Tabby looked at it she correctly pointed out…that this is not the same chipmunk chick as earlier. So, at least 2 chicks have been born out of the nest.

At this point I’m just going to leave them be and see what’s what in the morning? Healthy alive chicks?  Extra mothers? Who knows. As always, there is mama drama in the coop, but we do so love to see this exciting event. It never ceases to amaze me that in three weeks it goes from a regular egg to a peeping little fluffball.

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*and what of those babies? I think their mothers gave up tending them much too early and consequently #7 chick is still peeping away and kind of a sad loner in the coop. The other 6 are like a feral flock of velociraptors. They stay in the coop at night, but never learned to go in the house with the others. When they no longer fit in the outside boxes and yearned to perch, they all huddled atop it. And now, this nonsense is how they sleep.2016-08-02 20.32.20

In the morning they all escape and then run around the yard and woods together in a tight flock. They sometimes want to come back in (feeding time), but are kind of dumb and skittish about figuring it out.

Butterfly on coneflower

XPNFest

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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 )