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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

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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!

Spring Break

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We’re just finishing up a whole glorious week off for all four of us. Although I like my new job, I really really enjoyed having a week off. Paul took the week off as well, and although we didn’t travel (like we did to Denver last year) we made the most of it, combining outings and at home fun, and are now both thoroughly relaxed, and also tired out.

The vacation began with Easter weekend, which unfortunately included me doing a major assignment for the class I’m taking. But it was still a lovely weekend and we had a very nice Easter, spent with my mom. I made two things for the dinner-hassselback potatoes (I feel like that’s trendy because I see that word all over the place), which were Yukon Gold potatoes sliced mostly through, roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper, and then tossed with butter and fresh chives. They were delicious. Roasted Potatoes//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js From my great Joy the Baker cookbook I made whole wheat biscuits with goat cheese and honey. They were a drop biscuit baked in a cast iron skillet in the oven and they came out great. Next time I would add the goat cheese later than she suggested because I would have preferred chunks of it, rather than how incorporated it was. These were a nice addition to the table. Drop Biscuits//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

And of course, our morning began with a glorious egg hunt. The E.B. was more ambitious this year and hid many more eggs outside, all over the yard. Happy Easter//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The holiday weekend done and the assignment submitted, it was time to get down to fun. Although we just puttered around at home on Monday, we did end up going out to lunch to a new-to-us pizza place, that was a wonderful discovery. Paul, Tabby, and I took Willow on a great walk and found four new geocaches, something we haven’t done in a long time, so that was awesome. Tuesday we went to the Turtleback Zoo, which is charming.chillin//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsIt has really changed a lot since I was a kid, but it’s still small and very accessible and we had a nice time. Paul was delighted by the sting ray touching because they were (seemingly) downright affectionate to him and were repeatedly rubbing against him. The stingrays were exceptionally friendly. Like water cats//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsAfter that we went to a family favorite destination (since we were pretty close)–Ikea. Yes, that’s right. We went to a store for our vacation. And spent as much, if not more, time there than the zoo. It might be weird, but eating Swedish meatballs in the lovely dining area with my family is definitely a “happy place” moment. (We were in the Paramus one, so no watching airplanes take off, also at 2 o’clock on a weekday it was marvelously deserted and calm.) We had a grand time getting an inspiration for our tiny bathroom and getting many other things. And best of all, the next morning we assembled/put everything away. So prompt!

Wednesday afternoon we headed down to the beach, despite it being fairly chilly and windy. I like a good walk on the out-of-season beach and thought it was great to be there.(I feel compelled to point out that the wind is making my jacket blow up, plus I had on a down vest under my jacket. )//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js(Please note that I look enormous due to not only the wind, but also wearing a down vest under my jacket.) Tabby also enjoyed it, Tabby @ the Beach//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsthough Clark was so cold he just stayed in the car. His loss! We did persuade him to come out for a brief photo. obligatory family portait//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsI love sitting in the sand and just looking out at the ocean. And even though it was cold we got ice cream from our favorite place, Nagle’s. And then followed that all up with a spontaneous visit with our cousins.

Thursday was the biggest outing-we drove into the city to go to the American Museum of )Natural History. The kids had been wanting to go and I was really eager to see the brand new Titanosaur exhibit. It was indeed enormous (122 feet long) and of course the rest of the museum is wonderful too.Good old AMNH//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsI love the dioramas so much. We love the movie, Night at the Museum, and were tickled to see that the big Easter Island head statue is now enjoying some movie related fame. There was a whole crowd waiting to take pictures with him, and everyone exclaiming “dum Dum!” Us included. You have gum gum, Dum Dum?//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsClark asked if the museum is famous in other parts of the country and I always assumed it was, but maybe not? Does everyone know about the gigantic blue whale? The dioramas? This museum is definitely a treasure and I’m happy that I can take my kids there as my parents took me. Good old AMNH//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Friday we wrapped things up with a nice lunch out at the Cuban restaurant that Paul and I went to on our very first date, nearly 14 years ago.  And scattered throughout the whole week there was eating out, Tim Horton’s, movies at home, playing with friends, and even a little sewing for me (which, boy, did I realize I’ve been missing.)

And now the house is a bit messy and we are nowhere near in a state of mental preparation for return to work/school tomorrow! And meanwhile, spring is looking gorgeous-everything is flowering and bright. We haven’t planted peas yet and we are thinking of deconstructing our raised beds. There just wasn’t time to do everything this week!
Oh that bright pink!//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Happy Thanksgiving (2015)

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A belated Happy Thanksgiving to all. I hope your day was filled with friends and/or family and pie. As for us, we had that, as well as some nice time outdoors. Since we didn’t need to be at my cousin’s until late afternoon, and our desserts were made very early, we headed out for a hike in the Sourlands. Although we’ve been there many times, this was our first time taking Willow there. She was crazy and basically pulled me all the way up the mountain and then all the way back down. It was exhausting. There were actually quite a few people and their dogs on the mountain, so there was a lot of meeting and greeting to contend with as well.  Although I was always worried about the rocky terrain, it turns out that Willow is quite the mountain dog and happily clambered up rocks.
Thanksgiving Hike

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After that vigorous hike we felt ready to go have a gigantic meal with our family.  My contribution was dessert. I made a pecan pie because I know Paul loves it and I have a good reliable delicious recipe. This time I even arranged my pecan halves beautifully on top.
Thanksgiving Desserts//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsMy other contribution was a Pumpkin Caramel Tart with a Hazelnut Crust. Thanksgiving Desserts//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js This was a great variation on standard pumpkin pie. And I’m crazy for hazelnuts, so I loved it that they were ground up into the crust, and then candied and arranged on top.

Thanksgiving DessertsWe then enjoyed very much having an extra long weekend. No shopping for us on Friday, but time at the dog park and also a lot of cleaning and organizing (Saturday, too.) Thank goodness for Christmas. At least we have the impetus once a year to get our house in order. Although we haven’t done indoor decorating yet, we all welcomed the arrival of Hermie, our Elf on the Shelf on Friday.  We took down the Thanksgiving decorations and took advantage of warm and mild weather on Friday to put up the outdoor things. 2015-11-27 15.20.44

Although I’m not feeling merry yet I did make a cookie that I feel like I want to just make hundreds of–my usual “perfect chocolate cookie” recipe with Andes peppermint crunch bits in it. Oh my, chocolate minty delicious. I also decided to make a scrappy Christmas quilt. I’m almost done with the Halloween one, and while I started a beautiful intricate block Christmas quilt this summer, I just need to have something Christmassy to curl up under this year. I also have had scraps of the same Christmas fabrics for literally years and it would be a good way to use them up. So, hopefully the next post will be all Christmas decorations and quilts in progress.

Oh, and because I feel I should, and it’s helpful to remember when one is feeling grouchy and overwhelmed, here are some things for which I am thankful this year:
My family
Willow
An abundance of books I want to read and access to all of them

Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to the Christmas season!

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Happy Halloween

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After what seemed like forever, October is finally done, and birthday celebrations, pumpkin picking, Halloween parades, and trick or treating with it. Mind you, I love all those things but this year they all transpired to just make me feel frazzled. Add to that a week where everything went wrong, including breaking my cell phone and going without for a week, and was capped off by Clark fracturing his ankle, and well…let’s just say I’m happy to ring in November. In fact, I’ve already put away my decor (both the stuff I actually had out and the stuff that was still sitting in a bin in my kitchen), and pulled out my pilgrims. Of course, there were plenty of joyful moments in there. We had our annual visit to a local farm where we take a How Tall this Fall photo. I’m getting more and more nostalgic each year. I look at Clark standing there at 5 feet tall and remember sitting him on the ground in front of that same sign. I look at the big hay bale setup they have with giant pumpkins and remember taking pictures of me at 9 months pregnant (with Tabby) at the same spot.
20151102_142216IMG_4760//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsSigh… Here we are this year: 2015 how Tall this fall?//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js 2015 how Tall this fall?//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsThere were costume ups and down this year: Paul and I were invited to a Halloween party and went dressed as Bob and Linda Belcher from Bob’s Burgers and no one knew who we were. So apparently Bob’s Burgers is the best show you are not watching. Tabby got lots of usage out of her costume, which was Pikachu. She went through several ideas before she got here and it all came out great. The centerpiece was a Pikachu hat that came in a loot crate. She wore that with lots of yellow, including big furry legwarmers that she saw at Party City and was dying to have. She wore it to a Girl Scout Father-Daughter Pumpkin carving party, school, and on Halloween. Paul threw together a quick and easy inspired Swedish Chef (from the Muppets, of course) for the G.S. event and trick or treating. IMG_4953 As for Clark, he has known for a long time he’d go as Link from the Legend of Zelda. I ordered one online and it seemed like it wasn’t going to arrive on time, but it got here the night before and then…it didn’t fit. I saved the day with a dash to Hot Topic at the mall for a shirt. with that and the hat and an amazing sword and shield that Paul made for him he looked great. The real downside to it all, was that he is on crutches and in a boot.  Last week he fell while running and possibly fractured his ankle. We had our first ER trip (not too bad for 10 years) and a follow up at an orthopedist. X-rays show no fracture, but other stuff indicated it was likely, so they are operate on a better safe than sorry practice when it comes to growing bones. He can”t put any weight on it for 2 weeks, then we have a follow up. Here he is bravely swinging along at the school parade. IMG_4962 And then, trick or treating! Oh, and in the morning was soccer, where Paul wore a silly hat and blue furry legs and Tabby wore just her Pikachu hat, and Willow (briefly) wore this: 2015-10-31 11.13.47 I also made her wear this for a photo op. Elegant Willow//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js In the early evening we headed out, along with Clark’s friend. Paul reprised the Swedish Chef while I did a full face paint. My blue skies, yellow sun, and garden looked amazing in the light of my bathroom. I should have thought ahead and realized that as soon as it was dark no one would see anything. We all had a good time, although it was rough going for Clark, who tired out more quickly than he thought he would. Trick or Treat//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
All in all, a happy Halloween!

 

One stitch at a time

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I am making great progress on the scrappy prism quilt.  I only have two sections left to hand-quilt and so far it looks just like I imagined it would. It’s pretty wrinkly, but you get the idea.
Quilting Progress

Quilting Progress
Here’s how it shows up on the back
Quilting Progress
I think I will do an outline of the Dresden plate, just to anchor that center section better.
I can’t wait to finish, trim, bind, and wash!(OK, writing that it really does seem a lot of steps away from being done…) I think the diamonds are going to fluff up wonderfully. And, for all that I worried my stitches weren’t good enough, I think ultimately I am proud of them and how they look.
Quilting Progress
I’m pausing on the Christmas block quilt for now to do another quick project. This one will be a subway tile style quilt, like I’ve made twice before. The main color will be red with pops of turquoise and white so it won’t be so intense and also won’t be red-white-blue patriotic. Here’s what I had in my fabric stash, and I’ll be adding more. (and cutting the blocks shorter.)
Reds

Since I last wrote we enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day. For us that just means we make the full corned beef and cabbage dinner and I also make Irish soda bread (always using my friend Denise’s recipe.)
Irish Soda Bread
Is there anything more delicious fresh from the oven, spread with butter?
Irish Soda Bread
Tabby and I marched in a big parade with our Girl Scout troop, and although it was chilly we had a good time.
@the parade

Irish Daisy
Although you are supposed to plant your snow peas on St. Patrick’s Day that definitely is not happening this week. I suppose I do regret a bit not tidying up the garden better because it definitely will need some raking, cleaning up, and turning over of soil before any peas can go in there. A few mild(relatively) days have had us excited for spring and nearly all the snow has melted. It was so very March out yesterday-brightly sunny, chilly, windy, that I felt sure if I looked I’d find a crocus, and…I did. So here it is, indistinguishable from every other “first crocus of the year” picture, but I can guarantee you this is the 2015 one!
First Spring Flower!!

Happy Valentine’s Day

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Happy Valentine's Day

a heap of Valentine's glitter

Happy Valentine's Day
Valentine’s Day, Galentine’s Day. I hope you have a lovely day with moments of friendship and love. And maybe some glitter and candy. Tabby did a great job making Valentines for her classmates this year.
Valentine's Day card making
In Clark’s class they made compliment hearts for everyone. I particularly enjoyed reading this one.
Compliment Cards
No fancy heart shaped breakfast or pink dinner for us today. I made some pink Rice Krispie treats, but we’re in Pie Day mode.  We love this annual Pie Day celebration our friend hosts and are busy making our pies to bring with us.
And note to my two friends who will say that everything looks picture book holiday perfect I can tell you that neither one of my children thought to make me a card this year and I got zip. So, yeah. I pointed out that Valentine’s Day lasts all day and I think at least one card may have been guiltily made. However, I was tickled that Clark gave Tabby a box pink tic-tacs.
Happy Valentine's Day
Happy Valentine’s Day!