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Breaks, Birthdays, Etc.

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It’s been two month since my last post, but I’m only focusing on a 2 week period here-spring break! My birthday! But I will give a quick follow up, to that last post about Sweetie. She’s been back for 2 months, put some weight on (but us not overweight like before) and all is usual. Except…Liesl went through a period of hissing and scratching at her. Also, where Sweetie was a food hog before, causing Liesl to leave whenever she went near the food dishes, Liesl stands her ground now while Sweetie sits and watches.  All that nasty behavior seemed to have tapered off and I was delighted to see them both on my bed the other day (though nowhere near each other.) But when Sweetie came closer to her and I was petting them both, Liesl hit her on the head and then left. So I guess she’s got some unresolved issues still.
Running atop the jetty
We had a terrific and relaxing spring break a couple weeks ago. Boy, I could not wait for it. We didn’t plan a big trip or anything like that, but it was as least as long as our Christmas break, and more relaxing because there was not much to do. I feel refueled and ready to make it through the rest of the school year. Paul took the week off as well. On one lovely day we went to Bethlehem and enjoyed no festivals or events-just a relaxing brunch, hanging out in the bookstore, getting an ice cream on the Lehigh campus, and a stroll along Steel Stacks.Steel Stacks

On another gorgeous day we headed to the beach.Low tideThere were lots of people there! It was a very warm 80 degrees that day-except at the beach it was pretty chilly and everyone had to wrap up. Little Mermaid
On the jettyOther days the kids played with friends, we puttered in the yards, ran leisurely errands together, and so on.  The end of the week was a much anticipated concert-The Decemberists at the Fillmore. I have been looking forward to this concert since it was announced and was really excited. I love the band and we saw them 2 years ago at the Academy of Music. A great show, but that venue, while gorgeous and acoustically terrific, is hard to let loose in. The show was packed and there were, apparently, giants standing in our way, but it was still great. I was super excited that they played two songs I did not expect to hear (one of them I never thought they’d play but really wished it would be a concert song and I couldn’t believe it when it started.) It was awesome. A less awesome thing happened driving home on 95. A car came up behind us and on the left and sideswiped us. At 65 mph and then drove off. It was pretty scary and the entire side of the car is dented, scratched, and covered with their dumbass tire marks. And the mirror was torn off. I’m very grateful we weren’t hurt and the car still runs, but I’m pissed off that some asshole did that and we are the ones paying for repairs and left with a shitty looking car. (ten  scowly face emojis here.)
The vacation ended with a lovely Easter at my aunt Margaret’s. The kids took the canoe and rowboat out on their pond and I went for a row, too. It was so nice. RowingFor dessert I made a coconut cake that was really good. A very light and silky batter baked in a 9×13 pan, then soaked in a syrup overnight, then topped with whipped cream. Then it’s sprinkled with coconut on top and I decided to make mine in big flower shapes.Coconut CakeAnother thing we seemingly spent the entire vacation doing was reorganizing the basement and cleaning up our room by switching winter and spring clothes. One tiny and immensely satisfying part of that was sorting and storing in a new way all my cookie cutters. So I used a giant copper flower cutter to provide my coconut outline (which I was able to quickly and easily retrieve!)
For our own breakfast I baked a coffeecake that was a braided apricot nut bread. It came out great!The Easter Braid
And then it was back to school, but the very next day was…my birthday! One of my most favorite days of the year! I had a great day starting with some marvelous cards and to-be-opened right then gifts. Paul got me the cutest, well, we can’t figure out what they are officially called. I had requested them. Those old-fashioned things you pin on a cardigan with a little chain in between? Cardigan clips? Sweater pins? Whatever, he got some adorable ones and I loved wearing one that very day. In the evening we had a great dinner. I had specifically requested (demanded) that this year my kids get on board with making me a homemade cake. I didn’t care if it was sloppy or came out poorly, I wanted something lovingly made just for me by them. This seemed to cause of lot of fretfulness and to my surprise they each made a cake. And each was wonderful.Happy Birthday to meMy mom joined us and it was  wonderful birthday.

Now, two other things. The first is very terrible–two nights ago we had the dreaded tragedy of a fox in the chicken coop. A bad combination of opening the gate and letting everyone out for the afternoon and then not locking them up. Usually if we forget to lock them up it’s actually not a big deal because the gate is always securely closed. But this time the gate was open. Out of our 17 birds, it took 8. Worst of all-only 2 were roosters. And the ones it took were our favorites-the two little emus, Baddie, and Tree Bird. Baddie and Tree Bird were the matched Mille Fleur pair we received as day old chicks 5 years ago (five years! They had nice long lives.) Baddie was a real jerk, for sure, but we had a soft spot for him. In his older age and diminished position in the pecking order, he rarely was feisty any more (though he had attacked me just a few days ago.) But Tree Bird. Oh, we adored her. She is the hen who was Gordon’s special friend. Here they were the week before: A mixed up coop He’s going to be very sad that she’s gone. She was super sweet and we’ll miss her. Tree BIrd's last photoshootSo now we are down to 9: 6 hens, 3 roosters. We could get chicks, but I think instead we should just see if anyone goes broody and let them.

In better news all the flowering bulbs and trees are looking great, the lilacs smell wonderful, the maple tree leaves have just come in, looking all yellow green, and it’s a pretty beautiful time of year.Double Ruffle

Welcome Home, Sweetie

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20170227_233227As you know, we have many pets, including two cats, Liesl and Sweetie. On January 26, Sweetie got outside and went missing. We didn’t see her leave, but a door that was having trouble closing and a cat not seen all day, quickly led us to the conclusion that she’d stepped outside and very likely the door closed behind her, she was startled, she darted off, and she was lost. The is the second time Sweetie has gotten lost outside. The first time was shortly after we got her when the screen of the window she was sitting in on an unseasonably warm December night fell out. It was 5 long days before we got her back using a havahart trap.  That was over 5 years ago.
This time we did not get her back in five days. We had the havahart, hung posters, knocked on doors, poked around in neighbors’ yards, wished and hoped, but to no avail. I especially thought of her during our snowstorm and the miserable rainy days.  The only thing that comforted us was knowing that we didn’t see her dead, and also a couple of neighbors said they thought they had seen her. Eventually though, we did give up hope.
Sunday night we got a call from a neighbor that he thought he may have just seen her down the road (in the opposite direction of where we’d been focusing our search efforts.) We raced down there with the havahart and some wet cat food and thought we saw her. We set the trap and came back an hour later to find all the food eaten, but the trap didn’t go off. Set it again, came back, caught a glimpse of her, moved the trap, checked a couple more times before bed, and then went to bed. In the morning as soon as I woke up I ran down there and there she was!! I kind of still can’t believe it. She was gone for A MONTH. A month! out in the wilds, surviving. In this case, I believe the wilds were a mere less than 1/4 mile away, in a very safe and sheltered outbuilding/barn. Curiously, it is the property where she was born. Back when it was a feed store and they had barn cats, she was a kitten born there. But the store closed and they need homes for the kittens and we took her. Now the property is owned by someone, but he is only there very occasionally, so likely wouldn’t have seen her.

She is very thin, but given that she was very overweight it was like a dramatic and unpleasant diet for her. I say very thin because I can feel her ribs and her neck is visibly smaller, but she is still weighing in at 8lbs. She was very very hungry and wolfed down food as soon as we gave it to her. And she is very, very happy to see us. So much purring! and needing to cuddly up next to us and be on us, and curl up on the bed. And purr.

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We took her to the vet tonight and had her looked over. She’s in pretty good shape. In fact, her fur even looked pristine and white. She did have quite a few ticks and was given some flea & tick medicine and deworming stuff.

We think that Liesl actually really enjoyed being an only cat. She upped her affection and seemed very happy. She’s probably mad that Sweetie came back. We’ve been keeping Sweetie separate until we get an all clear from the vet, but they did have one reunion sniff. 20170227_065854Then Liesl hissed at her.

We’re so so happy and relieved and thankful! I wish she could talk and tell us all about her adventures and what it was like for an indoor kitty out there in the big world all by herself.

I’m not late for Christmas, I’m early!

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At long (long) last, my Christmas scrap quilt is finished!20170220_151555 The original intention of this quilt was to use up all my Christmas fabrics so I could be done with them once and for all, as I was tiring of seeing the same Christmas fabrics in my stash year after year. Well, that sounds reasonable, but of course I did end up buying additional Christmas fabrics and not even using up all of what I already had. The thing with Christmas is you’ve got red and green, but which red? which green? In this case I have a forest green as my main shade. The reds lean to the orange-red.
There are plenty of novelty prints, and lots of fussy cutting. I chose my old standby favorite-subway tile. Uniform width, but just random lengths of the strips.
The main body of this quilt was finished before school started, with the thought that it only needed a couple more days of work. Oh, silly me. I ended up putting an extra floating piano key border on it, and then with my finished top, continued to just put it off. The backing needed to be pieced together and it took me a while to decide what to do (blah blah blah.) I’m pretty pleased with the back. The main part is an adorable Mary Englebreit fabric that was handed down to me from someone cleaning out her stash. I made the corners and sides symmetrical.

Christmas Scrap Quilt-done!This quilt was a wee bit too big for my machine to quilt, and I really didn’t want to hand quilt. I opted for tying it, figuring it went along with the cozy charming feel of it. I did tie the knots in a very uniform way-in the middle of every strip, evenly spaced.

Sometime before Christmas Paul took himself to Joann Fabrics with a giant coupon and sale and bought lots of Christmas fabric. I loved one of them very much and wanted it for my binding. Last weekend was the annual Midwinter Stitchathon and I decided to buckle down and finish this thing once and for all. I stitched and stitched through Step Up and The Cutting Edge and got 3/4 of the way done. A couple of days later I finished-hooray!

I had grand plans to applique a tree on the back and the tree would have my name and date. But you know what? I really just wanted this done. So I took it outside for photographs even before the basting safety pins were taken out.Christmas Scrap Quilt-done!Then I brought it in, took the pins out, and just embroidered my initials and the year. I had noticed, to my dismay, that a few of the knots had come out already. (WHAT?!) I grabbed some embroidery floss that is green, but not the same shade as what was used throughout, and just tied it up. And then I decided that it was a bad decision to not have tied or quilted around the border and I machine stitched along intervals of the piano keys. And now I can finally say it is truly done.
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I really love the look of this-it’s cheery, Christmassy, has lots of fun fabrics to look at, and is big enough to snuggle under while watching Elf or Arthur Christmas. I’m looking forward to pulling it out the day after Thanksgiving and enjoying it all season!img_7635

And, Liesl approved:

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Snow Day!

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Snow Day!This week we had our first, and likely last, snow day of the year. It was so strange because Wednesday was incredibly unseasonably warm (62 degrees in February?!) but we knew snow would be starting overnight and the temperature plummeting 30 degrees. We were all thrilled to have the snow day announced even before it started snowing so we could turn off our alarms and sleep in. This is probably the first snow day I didn’t feel the need to go outside and actively enjoy the snow. Instead it was all about being cozy and doing all cozy snow day things crammed into one day. And that, of course, involved many special snow day meals. It all began with blondies made the night before. For Christmas Paul got this enormous bar of milk chocolate from Trader Joe’s. Truly enormous. Pounds worth. I shaved off some of it and folded it into the batter and oh my, it was perfect.
Snow Day Menu
Snow Day breakfast begins with an option of ice cream, a fun tradition from our friends. I didn’t want any, but both Clark and Tabby had some. Atop their delicious homemade waffles.
Snow Day Menu
Afternoon saw a favorite winter special lunch/snack that I haven’t done yet this year (even though this item requires planning in the summer and canning of the salsa.)–Nachos. A great big tray of them.
Snow Day Menu
And for dinner we had homemade pizza, including one big one made with homemade meatballs which had been in the freezer tantalizing labeled “homemade meatballs in pizza sauce-put on pizza.” Basically, opening up the freezer and seeing that bag so often made me want to make that.

It was a double feature day-Groundhog Day and Iron Man, both of which were well received by the kids. They were really delighted with Groundhog Day, which pleased me very much because I love that movie and hadn’t seen it in a long time.

I also read a book, which was wonderful, and it felt great to just spend the morning on the couch in my pajamas reading it right through to the end.

All in all, it was a wonderful snow day!

In other news: our new furnace installation is almost done and PSEG has connected us to the gas line (two days of digging because apparently everything is solid shale.) We have not had heat (from a furnace) at all this winter, making do with our extremely hard working fireplace/blower. For the most part it has kept us plenty warm, but I can’t wait to be able to just turn on the heat.

In saddest news (this is called burying the lead because I didn’t want to do a whole post about it), our darling cat Sweetie is gone. I can’t say died because we don’t know what happened to her. She was just missing. We’re assuming she stepped outside (our front door doesn’t have a good latch and there’d been a lot of going in and out with firewood) and the door closed behind her and she was frightened and darted off. Two people in the neighborhood said she saw her, but we haven’t. We’ve done everything you do to get a lost indoor cat back, but to no avail. (I still can’t believe we couldn’t trap her in the havahart with enticing wet cat food–we did end up trapping the neighbor’s barn cat both in there and in our garage.) I know everyone thought Sweetie was our unfriendly cat, but she was extremely affectionate and loving with Paul and me. Her purr was so noisy and enthusiastic, she loved being brushed and petted, and although the love was not completely returned, she adored Liesl.2016-12-21-22-18-38 I hope with all my heart that I’m proven wrong and get to write some amazing story of her return weeks after vanishing, but I don’t really think that’s going to happen.

In other animal news our flock has a dangerously and annoyingly large number of roosters in it. SEVEN. Seven! It was six, but get this-some jerk snuck a rooster into our coop when we weren’t home! That was not cool to make it be our problem. He is extremely handsome and seems happy to be with us (he’s the big white one),The Chicken Apartment but the days are getting longer, spring is coming, and the young roosters are getting randy, which means fighting.
The Flock
This past week I celebrated my first anniversary at work. It’s been quite a year of changes, adjustment, good days, and bad days. It was a pretty fast year, I have to say, and I’m still so happy to be there.
Sugar cookies

Skibunnies and Vermont, but not together

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A couple weeks ago we took a long (years long!) overdue visit to my brother’s family in Vermont. They had no snow, so there was no snow frolicking to be had, but plenty of nice hanging out. We visited my brother and sister-in-law’s workplaces, which were fascinating. He is at the most stereotypical dot-commy start-up  sort of place ever and she is at a maker space. Which for us meant we all played on the virtual reality set up they had. 2017-01-14-15-09-55
In all the times I’ve been to Vermont I’d never been to Ben & Jerry’s, so on Sunday afternoon we took a jaunt to there.2017-01-15-12-38-13 It was bitterly cold out-just the sort of day for tasting ice cream! The tour is actually very short, so it’s kind of amazing that they have made a tourist destination out of a 6 minute video. It was still quite interesting and the nicest place ever and made me feel even better about the company and all the good things they do. We bought some merch and some big cones of delicious ice cream (Paul had a local to the shop flavor-maple walnut)2017-01-15-13-33-06, took some photo ops,2017-01-15-13-54-14 and then visited the icy graveyard. This is where they have headstones for all the retired flavors. 2017-01-15-14-00-57So many of them I thought, “That sounds delicious! I can’t believe they don’t make that anymore!” and then to cap it off I grabbed a geocache from there and it was a travel bug, so I’ll now be hiding that somewhere in a cache in NJ.2017-01-15-14-04-55  We were also able to visit friends that Paul knows from long long ago. All in all it was a great 3 day weekend.

Last weekend was the weekend of the march, which was on Saturday. On Sunday we all went skiing at Jack Frost with Clark’s Boy Scout troop. I regretted signing up and really didn’t want to go (both weekend mornings getting up at 6, ugh). Despite my brothers both being avid skiiers living in Vermont and Colorado, somehow I got passed over when it came to learning how to ski and I’ve only ever gone once before, not very successfully. To my very pleasant surprise we all had a great time! There was a lesson to start, which was very helpful and fun, then we had lunch. Afterwards we just started going down the slopes. We stuck to PowderPuff and Snowflake, and honestly they were plenty exciting. You could really get up some speed on them and several times I kept thinking about how I was careening down a steep hill and if I fell it would really hurt. But I never fell once! Clark chose to snowboard, which did involve a lot of falling (from everyone new to it, I noticed) but he had a great time with his friends and actually we barely saw him. 2017-01-22-13-46-20Tabby surprised us by being amazing at it. She loved it and confidently kept heading down completely on her own, zooming toward the bottom and ending beautifully at the ski lift. 2017-01-22-13-36-11It was not a very nice day out, but it managed to not rain on us. Clearly all the snow was manmade, and the ski lift ride was not very scenic since it was dirty brown leaves below. 2017-01-22-14-47-00 It was really fun and both kids have asked to do it again (drat! What an expensive day!)

The worst part was the tight boots which left narrow bands around both my legs that were raised into blisters. It’s a week later and the one area still really hurts! Surely that’s not right?

 

Oh, and somewhere in all that we celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. Happy Anniversary to us!2017-01-17-07-34-59

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The Women’s March

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January 21, 2017.
If you had ever asked me as a teenager if I would take part in protests, like those of the 1960s, I would have said no. Hadn’t we conquered civil rights? and gender and racial equality? Well, no. We haven’t. And those things and many more are under threat. Like thousands of other women (and men) I joined in on the Women’s March today. I’m so glad I was a part of what I believe is a historic event. I chose to go to the march in Trenton, which I’m pleased to report was super organized and manageable. There were several marches in our small state, and this one (at our state’s capitol) had about 6,000 people.

The day began very early, picking up my friend and meeting other friends at the parking lot where the bus (we did Share the Bus-bought tickets/reservations ahead of time) was meeting us. To our surprise there other librarians we knew there! The camaraderie was evident from the get go as we all greeted each other, compared pussy hats and signs. My friend Melissa and I regretted that we had not made homemade clever signs. There were so many good ones on display today! We did carry ones provided to us by the ACLU. When we arrived in Trenton our bus dropped us off right at the War Memorial and we streamed right in the front doors. I’m so happy we made it inside and got to sit in the auditorium. And then, out of the 6000 people, super delighted to find my friends Liz and Eleanor just a few rows away. 2017-01-21-11-41-16The vibe was very merry and exciting. And then the speakers and event began. There were many speakers, and they were all great-inspiring, rousing us, joining us all together, cheering, etc. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Cole, you are my new favorite politician. Young, old,

[OK, it’s been a week since I started this. Gah! The enthusiasm and feelings remain, though. Get on that 10 actions in 100 days, everyone. ]

So, uh, where was I? Yes the speakers were awesome. Although I didn’t get to experience being part of the really, really big crowd outside, I’m really really glad I had a seat. After that part concluded we poured out to join the people already marching toward the State House.Women's March on NJ
Women's March on NJ Because the streets are small and we took a couple of turns, and I’m 5’4″, it was hard to really see and appreciate just how many people there were. I really could only see maybe a half block worth at a time. We marched along to the State House and stopped in front. There were more speakers, but the one who made me tear up was an elderly woman who’d been fighting for civil rights since she 13. She was a friend of Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks. It broke my heart to think of her having to keep fighting.
There were a lot of really cool signs (our big regret is that we didn’t make a clever one) and a merry mood and a very efficient and easy dispersion at the conclusion.

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I basically spent the rest of the day looking at all my friends pictures and messages from the marches they went to around the country, and looking at all the pictures pouring in from around the world. It was incredible to see.  Although this week has been filled with terrible governmental deeds and behaviors, I’m heartened by the response of the people.
Women's March on NJ
So, that was my experience and it’s one I’ll never forget. I’ll think back on it when I need to be reminded that most people are good, most people believe we are all equal, most people want peace and respect.

A Petition for more Sundays in January

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Wouldn’t it be nice if there could be more Sundays in January? More glorious afternoons with that incredibly bright sunshine reflecting off the white snow? Perfect light for working on sewing, perfect light for feeling happy and relaxed and cozy. Or perhaps I would just like the hours between 12 and 3 to somehow actually be 5 hours long.White Snow Bright SnowAhhh, well. At least this past Sunday was like that.  After how much I enjoyed my year end posts and look back at 2016, I resolved to get back to writing a bit more often here. I do like to start the year thinking of some resolutions and I do have a few in mind this year. I acknowledged when I started my job last year (almost a year ago!) that I would probably need to cut way back on, if not give up, several of my hobbies. That did prove to be true. But it also proved to be unnecessary. I found that I really, really, really missed my creative outlets. So, I have resolved to spend less time on Facebook, which is not very rewarding, and more time back on Flickr, which is. To take out my regular camera on the weekends and take some photos of things I like (even if I’ve taken them every season for the past several years.) Saturday it snowed and was dreary and cold all day long. It made for the coziest of evenings, including making homemade hot pretzels and of course watching a movie. Sunday the clouds cleared, the snow stopped, the temperature plummeted and it was a proper winter day. Hello Winter!Also resolved, without specifying any projects (even though I’d dearly love to do a seasonal mini quilt series to hang in the kitchen), I am resolving to regularly work on sewing/quilting/embroidery projects.

With that in mind one of the things I did on that perfect January Sunday was buckle down, finish tying all the knots on the Christmas quilt, cut and apply the binding. Now all that’s left to do is the hand stitching on the back (which I actually like doing) and a cute applique with my signature (it’s going to be a Christmas tree.) Sweetie grants her approval of this plan.Wave hello