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Author Archives: Sarah

Welcome Samson & Louie!

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These handsome boys are Samson and Louie, and they have come to join our menagerie. An old friend from high school was in a sad predicament of no longer being able to keep them (the entire family was terribly allergic to them) and asked me if I would be interested in taking them. How could I say no? Everyone was on board and they arrived a week and a half ago. They have an enormous enclosure, which I’m still trying to work out how to clean because it’s so different from Blackie’s pen. It’s quite spacious and open and I feel bad for Blackie being in her small pen. But, she is an old lady now and very mellow. Even when we take her out she doesn’t really enjoy running around, but would rather sit on your lap.
Samson is the one who reminds us of Nibbles, in color at least. His texture is very different-like a soft brillo pad. Louie has a darling swirl atop his head. They are each a specific breed, which I have forgotten the names of.
We had forgotten how fun it is to have two pigs together and listen to them talk to each other and chatter and run around. They are pretty amiable and adorable. It’s unfortunate they are boys because Blackie cannot be with them. Interestingly, Willow is kind of crazy about them, whereas she completely ignores Blackie. I think it’s just that their enclosure is on a table just slightly above where Willow can see. So she hears them and smells them and can’t quite see them and gets a bit wound up. I’m sure she’ll settle down soon, though.

A Retro Day

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Last week I saw a listing on Freecycle for a girl’s banana seat bicycle. Tabby has always been in thrall of them from me talking about how great they were when I was a kid, so I jumped on this. I picked it up on Thursday and it’s lovely and in great shape. A pink Schwinn with the flowers on the seat still looking good, the chrome shined up nicely, and it fits her. She has been having such a great time with it. Yesterday we went to the park to ride it (alas, after all the effort of putting the bike rack on the car, filling my tires, wrestling the bikes on to it, getting to the park, wrestling the bikes off of it, I discovered that my rear tire was flat again and apparently has a hole in it.) Since I remember my own banana seat bike so fondly I hopped on to see if I cold pedal, even though it’s too small for me. I could! It was wonderful! Here’s a blurry pic Tabby took.
Our second retro event is sewing related. Last week I buckled down and sewed together the quilt top of the green and white giant pinwheel quilt. I am really pleased overall with my points (Here’s a perfect one, but they weren’t all perfect) and the overall look. For the backing I got the idea that a vintage green and white sheet would be perfect. Got on Etsy, found several to choose from, I especially liked one and it was only $15, which I certainly couldn’t buy 4 yards of fabric for, and ordered it on Friday. It arrived yesterday (so fast! 5 stars for that seller!) and it looks perfect. The greens actually match perfectly. I’m going to baste the quilt together today and then I need to figure out how to quilt up those vast white triangles.
Last week Tabby went to Girl Scout camp (day camp) and loved it. The camp has been closed a few years and just reopened this summer, so it was her first time. The week included a final overnight on the Thursday of the week, which she really enjoyed. After she returned Clark headed out early Saturday morning with his Boy Scout troop to go to Virginia for a week of camp. I’m sure he’s having a great time, though we do miss him. Paul, Tabby, and I are doing lots of movie nights of movies Clark never votes for her. First we watched Moana, then last night Tabby chose The Shaggy D.A., which was a hoot. Between the bike, the fabric, and the movie is was a full day of visiting the past!

Happy Summer!

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It’s been a bit over two months since my last post, but I’m inspired to catch up-mostly because my dear friend and loyal reader said she missed it and today is her birthday, so here you go Perri! As a present to you I will be self centered and write all about my life ūüôā I think I will work backwards with the last few days. (*edit: it’s two days since I started this, so no longer her birthday, but there you go.)
Yesterday late afternoon I was thinking about the two fresh apricots I had bought and some leftover toasted almonds on my counter. I thought, “hmm…I bet that Thin Pear Tart I sometimes make in the winter would be a quick and tasty dessert with fresh apricots, and I even have the 2oz cream cheese necessary for the dough.” I easily whipped up the dough (this really is a quick and easy thing) and then saw that the apricots had rotted. No matter-the NJ blueberries are showing up at store and I had a few tasty pints in the fridge. I scattered blueberries across the top, baked, and voila!
Now, what else? Since that last post we’ve had Paul’s birthday

Father’s Day (I don’t have any cute pics of Paul and his human children, so here’s a very sweet picture of Paul and the kitty who adores him.)

The Last Day of School. ¬†This is such a crazy event for me still and the whole last month of school felt so exciting and like we were barreling towards summer. I will really miss some of the students and it made me feel so good when many of them told me that they would miss me (our 5th graders are moving up to middle school.) I may have been even more excited than the kids for school to end. This was my first full year of teaching and hooray! I made it!! I like my job a lot, but was definitely ready for some resting and recharging, looking forward to plenty of time in the hammock and plenty of reading. [School got out June 23, today is July 4th, and I’ve read 7 books so far.]

Since summer has begun we haven’t done much of anything: reading, relaxing, kids playing with friends. I did sign up for tennis lessons through the rec dept. and am doing that with friends. We’ve only had 2 lessons so far, but I think we’re doing great! I even got together this morning just to play with someone. I know I’ll be even better when I can actually run to the ball. Presently I’m plagued by a painful knee situation. After being troubled by it for weeks I did go to the dr. and unfortunately the treatment is one of those slow and steady “do this exercise every day” things. It’s been a week and today it hurt all day long. Which is a total drag and makes me cranky.
I hosted a luau themed bunco, which was an excuse to make pina coladas and pull out a bunch of “tropical” recipes.

The main thing I’ve been itching to do since school let out is get into some sewing projects. I really do miss having the time to quilt or embroider (yes, I could do it in the evening, but I’m usually just needing to lie down in front of the tv), which is my creative outlet.I am hoping to make 2 quilts this summer. One is a giant pinwheel, which I got the pattern out of a book a long time ago. My pinwheel will be green and white, and I bought all the fabrics a couple months ago. I cut out the squares of green, but neglected to buy the background fabric, which I’ll be doing later this week.(*done! and I bought a hot pink for the binding, which will be a perfect accent.) The second is something I started a long time ago and then somewhat recently made a plan for. Like the pinwheel quilt it is all triangles (not my best shape-let’s see how many points line up!) and I bought the fabrics a few months ago. I sorted out the triangles today and made 5 blocks. I have a lot of pieces and have decided to NOT lay out the whole thing at once, but rather create a lot of blocks and then decide how they will be put together. My general guideline is that the center is a pair of peachy/coral and a pair of mushroom/taupe and the outer triangles are in the green/blue collection. But the pairs don’t necessarily have to match. I’m not even sure if it will all be put together just block after block after block, or if I’ll separate the blocks into concentric squares. I love all the fabrics I chose for it.

Finally, here’s a darling dishtowel I started, oh, years? ago. This was a set of retro style embroidery transfers, and I put this on a vintage style dishtowel. I think I got both at Walmart on the cheap. When I didn’t have a bigger project at our stitchathons I just worked idly on this. I basically forgot about it and came across it a couple of days ago noting that I only had the text left. What was I waiting for? Not only is it cute, but it would also be an adorable background for freshly baked bread that I’m taking a picture of for IG!

In the coop our numbers have continued to dwindle. A small sad flock remains. However! A hen finally went broody and last week chicks hatched. But it was a difficult week, there were deaths, and there is just one little chick. Let’s cross our fingers it grows up to be a hen, not a rooster. *update: the chick died yesterday. I found it lying on its side, dead. What gives? did a big chicken step on it? Not only that, but this morning it looked like something scratched up the dirt outside the coop gate. And the mother is missing. We are down to 4 hens and 3 roosters.

Willow just had her second anniversary of coming to us. Boy has she grown! We are so lucky to have her-she really is a marvelous dog.

In other dog news, my mom got a new dog! His name is Harry and he is adorable.
And today (2 days ago) is Blackie, our only remaining guinea pig, ‘s birthday. She is 5. I guess she’s at the far end of a guinea pig’s life span, but she still seems pretty spry. She even accommodated me for this birthday photo op.

We are not doing any vegetable gardening this year, save for lettuce and cilantro in a pot. Our peach tree is loaded with peaches and we hope at least a few will be edible. For the first time EVER the sad apple tree has apples on it- 3!

The flowers are in mad bloom and there are so many lovely colors everywhere. The coneflower has spread even more, making the front garden look almost cottage gardeny-just what I’ve always wanted. I’ve noticed that coneflower is also very popular with many different insects and butterflies and moths, so that’s good.

And, of course, peony season was tremendous and beautiful.

And as I type this we are getting ready to celebrate Clark’s birthday–#12! He is now officially taller than me by 1 1/2″. ¬†Ok, that was also a couple days ago. The day was celebrated with many special meals and some fun at the arcade.

 

I think I’ve gotten some photo organization under control and hopefully will do more posts this summer that aren’t so long and rambling, but perhaps focused on one thing at a time. With that in mind-time to start sewing! (Of course it poured rain all morning and I cozied up with a book. Now the sun is out and it’s gorgeous and I probably SHOULD be doing outdoors things.)

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