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R.I.P. Blackie

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July 4, 2005-December 20, 2017

Dear Blackie passed away today.  At 5 1/5 we knew she was up there in guinea pig years and I really can’t say it was unexpected, but it was still sad to find out.  We visited Blackie & Nibbles when they were born and earmarked as Clark’s 7th birthday gift (Blackie for him, Nibbles for Tabby.) What a delight those pigs were! And what a surprise that winter to find out that Blackie was a girl-a very pregnant girl. Watching her get huge and have three babies was so neat and exciting. After that it was separate quarters for Blackie and Nibbles, except for during supervised fun photo sessions where many holiday hats were placed atop fuzzy heads.

We will miss you, Blackie!


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.

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 🙂 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.)

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.

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.

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

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:
2016-07-02 15.48.02
Quite a difference! We wanted to recreate a couple hike photos too. Notably that in the picture:
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

R.I.P. Nibbles

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Our dear Nibs unexpectedly died yesterday. I say unexpected, but the fact is he was no longer a robust fat pig, but had gotten rather thin and I suppose a little frail looking the past few days. He was 3 1/2. We saw Nibbles the day he was born and brought him and Blackie home a few weeks later-a 7th birthday present for Clark. (Actually, Blackie was the present for Clark and Nibbles came along too for Tabby.) I’ve always enjoyed having guinea pigs and Nibs was no exception. He was noisy and endearing and one of our favorite things to do was let him run around at night and watch him on his “twinkle toes.” Here he is with many friends:
Nibs and friends
Nibbles and Blackie have been patient models for photographs and holiday dress-ups. His beautiful reddish coat made him very photogenic. Here he is in some of the many hats he wore:
Nibbles in Hats//
He recently enjoyed a little fame as he was featured on one the slides in my “get to know me” presentation at work. Everyone enjoyed seeing Nibbles in the card catalog drawer.#46 for 113 in 2013: A Pet 636.5392//
We’ll miss you Nibs-rest in peace.

And at the risk of having this be even more depressing…R.I.P. Big Silk.  Last week he met with a tragic accident. He was my favorite of our chickens and I have to admit, I was pretty upset over the loss of him. He was a beautiful and charming rooster. Perhaps there’s a yard somewhere “in the spirit world”, as Tabby says, where he is pecking in the grass, Nibbles is eating clover, and Pippin is hanging out with them.