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Category Archives: Celebrations

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

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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Happy Fall Holiday!

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Let’s pretend it’s a couple months ago….
Happy Halloween! I have to say that this year I was looking forward to celebrating Halloween especially now that I work in a school. And indeed, it was super fun to see all the kids in costume and to dress up myself.

The library assistant and I planned to have coordinating costumes (as that had been tradition there, plus it’s fun.) We decided to go avant garde and be two actual books-the popular books in our library, Smile and Sister by Raina Telgemeier. We made the front and back covers be like a sandwich board. Paul ended up doing all the drawing, freehand, copying the actual book covers exactly. 2016-10-27-22-06-56
I used coarse silver glitter to be the sparkly braces. 2016-10-27-21-55-19They looked great and the kids were delighted to recognize their favorite books, and very impressed when they heard that Paul had drawn them (including the barcodes!)2016-10-31-10-24-47

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At home I didn’t wear it trick or treating because it was just too big. Tabby was a spider witch, which was adorable, 2016-10-31-07-40-27and Clark was Link again, except better this time because he wasn’t on crutches. This is the first year that Clark chose to go trick or treating with a friend in another section of town.
and now….
Happy Thanksgiving! We spent a lovely Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle’s. This year I made a classic apple pie, except it was an apple pie with cheddar crust. I am not a fan of a slice of cheddar with a slice of apple pie not because of flavor, but the texture combination. This recipe solved that problem completely. 2016-11-24-10-27-00The crust was so sharp and short, it was like a delicious cheese straw. It was a delicious contrast and completely complementary to the apples. I also made salted caramel pumpkin thumbprints. A friend made them for the cookie party last year and I thought they were great. Unfortunately, I didn’t love them this time, finding the texture of the caramely pumpkin to be off-putting. I also baked lemon rosemary potato rolls, which are a very nice yeast roll.2016-11-24-10-26-14

Since we had ample time, we also went for a damp drizzly hike in the Sourlands. Since Clark has done a fair amount of Appalachian Trail hiking with scouts this fall, he’s been eager to show us just how great he is at it, which was nice. 2016-11-24-11-48-03

Here’s a picture of me and Tabby in front of the one last tree with leaves on it, a striking yellow in a forest that was now bare.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Autumn Happenings, Pt 1

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Happy Birthday, Tabby! Say, what? But it’s December 30. Yeah, that’s right. I’m writing backwards to do a couple of posts about events and things I would normally  have written about. And as much as I’d like to say, “aww, I’ll skip it, who cares?” I’m not. Because I care. I can’t tell you how many times over the past 8 years I’ve wanted to remember something I sewed, or cooked, or planned for an event, and I’ve been able to search my own online diary and had a wonderful sentimental time remembering it. So yes, better later than never!img_7450

This fall seemed to fly by incredibly quickly. It turned out to be a bigger adjustment for me personally than the adjustment in February of going back to work. Because it seems that I really really loved autumn when I was a stay at home mom. Taking the dog for long regular daily walks, enjoying photography as the world around me changed colors daily, baking at the best time of year with autumn spices and flavors, apple picking and canning, and putting the garden to bed. I loved all that and really, really missed it this year. This fall seemed to be mostly going to work, working on my horrible class that I had to take, for the first half of fall it was soccer and field hockey practices and games for Tabby, a return to regular Scout meetings for everyone, plus a return to 4H meetings for Tabby. It was a lot going on. That said, it wasn’t horrible. My photography fizzled to just phone pictures and Instagram, but hey there were still great pictures! (and yes, some are sideways, but I can’t be bothered to find the original, edit, save, and then redo the mosaic.)collageautumn16

And while we didn’t go apple picking, we made sure to go to our annual “How Tall This Fall” farm spot.2016-10-30-16-20-28

And no, we didn’t go pumpkin picking, but so what? We still loved carving the ones we got at ShopRite.2016-10-30-18-44-26

And of course, we had a wonderful birthday celebration for Tabby. This year she decided to go with a Halloween theme and we put together a great party. Paul and Clark were off on a Boy Scout camping trip (there were a lot this fall, including an amazing sounding trip to Harpers Ferry WV) so that left it to me and Mary Lynn to be the party hostesses. img_7465We planned Twister, eating donuts off a string, freeze dance, a craft, and a movie  (because we foolishly set the party length astonishingly loooooong.) There were also tacos (because Tabby, like her mom, likes to be different and not offer the same old pizza), “mummy wraps” (pigs in blankets) and a beautiful (and easy to decorate) cake.

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Her actual birthday was two days prior and we celebrated as usual at home, with a special breakfast (albeit a bit hasty this year), and a nice dinner of the birthday girl’s choice (macaroni & cheese, just like last year) that night. The cake was one I’ve done for both Paul and Clark’s birthdays in the past-a cookies and cream cake, which is so light and heavenly.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Clark!

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11! I’d say he enjoyed his 11th birthday very much. Many much desired presents and many much-planned delicious meals. Planning a birthday menu is always a reason to go back and look through the menu journal, which is fun. Homemade waffles have become Clark’s go-to. They were delicious, and as usual enjoyed with some morning gifts.
Present Peeker
It was a workday so it was just Clark, Tabby, and me for the daytime. He spent the morning playing new video games, and then it was time for lunch. Clark and Paul really like sushi and have often explored restaurants together. Tabby and I do not care for it, but they assured us that the restaurant Clark wanted to go to has a great lunch special, all you want, plenty of non-sushi. So off we went and it was lots of fun and the food was great (and I did enjoy a dragon roll.)
Happy Birthday, Clark!
We were even entertained by the super loud talker (on a phone of course) behind us, using vulgar language and talking about his time in jail. Who does that?!  After lunch we met a friend at a nearby arcade and enjoyed an hour of playing all kinds of old arcade games.
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A relaxing afternoon and dip in the pool, and then Grandma and Paul were here for the birthday dinner. His menu this year was hamburgers. We busted out the (sitting unused in the basement for years) Fry Daddy and make homemade french fries to go with it. Holy cow were they amazing.  But what about the cake? The most important part? This year’s cake was chocolate layers (my go-to Hershey recipe) and vanilla buttercream, frosted to look like a Pokeball. I couldn’t find my parchment circles and had a bit of  a disaster getting the cakes out. Fortunately frosting glued it all together.
Happy Birthday, Clark!
All in all, it was a good day. Happy birthday, Clark!
Happy Birthday, Clark!

One Wonderful Year of Willow!

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Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of getting Willow.
Who's an adorable doggie?
I just spent a happy few minutes rereading all my posts from last July. Oh that housebreaking and not-working crate training all seems so long ago! I swear I had forgotten all about it.  Now she is a nice big grown up dog (well, she’s still pretty young, she only turned 1 in March) who is still excitable, energetic, adorable and loving. To celebrate we first made homemade dog biscuits for her. I found a recipe online that was simply: 2/3 c pumpkin puree, 1/4 c peanut butter, 2 eggs, and 3 c whole wheat flour. It made a tough dough that you roll out, cut out shapes, and bake at 350. Biscuits for Willow

Homemade Dog Biscuits
I used the leftover pumpkin to just make up a cake for us. It was a….mixed success.
Homemade Dog Biscuits
Not a cake texture, kind of weird, but fairly tasty with some whipped cream on it.

Willow was already very happy today because had all four of her people back. She was excited to see Clark again upon his return from Boy Scout camp. He was a tired, banged up, dirty camper who had a good time and so much to tell us about.
In the late afternoon we decided to do an outing that the kids and I did with Willow a couple weeks after we got her–go to Ringing Rocks and then Ginny’s for ice cream. Here is Willow in the car ready to go home with us from St. Hubert’s on July 2, 2015:
Meet: Willow
Here she is in the car on July 2, 2016:
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Quite a difference! We wanted to recreate a couple hike photos too. Notably that in the picture:
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I had to pick Willow up and put her on the rock with Tabby. Which I can hardly believe she was that small because the rock wasn’t that big. Here she is currently (different rock)
Ringing Rocks
Here’s the whole family on that original rock
Ringing Rocks
And after we stopped for the promised ice cream (no ice cream for Willow, she just got her fancy dog cookies). We tried to recreate another photo, and this is what we had:2016-07-02 18.23.27
We love you Willow!
Kisses from Willow

Here a chick, there a chick

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Last week saw a trifecta of excitement: Mother’s Day, Paul’s Birthday, and baby chicks hatching! The weekend kicked off with the first peep heard late on Thursday, the first chick viewed on Friday morning, and by Sunday afternoon the chicks were out and about in the sunshine. How many chicks? SEVEN. The most we’ve ever had at a time before was 3 (not counting the mail order chicks), so this was pretty exciting. As usual, there was a lot of drama and a lot of mamas. There are 3 hens that are taking on the mothering duties, with all 7 chicks responding to all three. There is a lead mother, though-the small black hen who was the one who went broody first. Babies #6 and 7 seemed to come out of nowhere and due to their surprise appearance in the henhouse after the moms and chicks were on the ground, we were able to pick them up. Meanwhile, another hen patiently sat on her eggs and this weekend she hatched out one. She doesn’t seem eager to get up, but I know the chick is in there because I saw it walking around her. I think it may be just the one. Here’s a progression of the weekend of chicks:
The first chick//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Popping over to visit the other mother//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Suprise, #6! This one got left behind the door of the henhouse when everyone else got down on the ground. We scooped er up, took a picture and then added her to the group.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
All 7 out and about//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Tucked under mom's wing//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Mother’s Day and Paul’s birthday fell on the same Sunday, as they do from time to time. I really wanted to make the day more about him than me, though. We had a delicious French toast casserole for brunch with presents for both of us, followed by Sunday afternoon Pokemon club for Paul and Clark while I baked the birthday cake. Paul chose the cake components from two different recipes in the same book: a vanilla bean cream cake with a caramel nut topping. The batter for this vanilla cake was the silkiest lightest thing I’ve ever tasted. And the baked texture was incredible. A very fine soft crumb. Flecked with vanilla and nutmeg it had a delicate spice. The gooey caramel top was texturally an odd combo, but tastewise a sensation. The birthday cake and dinner were met with great approval.
Happy Birthday, Paul//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Meanwhile, on that same special day I was trying to finish up the final assignment for the course I’m taking (which counted for 40% of my grade!) I was up until all hours toiling away and consequently was exhausted by Tuesday. But I’m happy to say I got a terrific score on it and got an A for the class. Hooray for me! I’m relieved to have that first class done with. Graduate school now is definitely a different experience than doing it when I was 25. I was very happy this weekend to just enjoy doing stuff with friends and family.