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School’s Out!!

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Yesterday was the last day of school. I said to the kids as we pulled up to school that the perfect metaphor would be a car that had a dragging bumper, scratches on the side, door hanging from a hinge, lights out, and was scraping up to the drop off. We made it! Goodbye to 7th and 4th grades.  And that marks the end of my second full year! It’s definitely a bittersweet time of year. I loved signing many of the 5th graders yearbooks and got some very sweet notes from students. The past month has been filled with things at work, but also on our weekends we’ve been busy. Tabby and I went to Camporee with our Girl Scouts and I climbed a telephone pole (super hard) and jumped off it (super fun-it’s like a gentle bungee); we celebrated Father’s Day by joining some other Boy Scouts for a “six mile paddle on the river” that turned out to be twice that and many hours more than planned and we all got horrible sunburns and were so tired we had to scrap the plans for the rest of the day and go out to dinner; on the eve of the last day of school we went to see The Incredibles 2 and it was wonderful and we all loved it just as much as the first (which is a family favorite); we hosted our favorite doggie, Harry, for a few days while my mom attended my niece’s high school graduation (the first of our kids); we went to Bethlehem in the rain and brought the kids to a David Wax Museum concert, which was great; we enjoyed watching our “chicks” turn into 11 pullets and 1 gigantic friendly rooster-he was called Carlotta, but now he’s Carl; attending a multicultural festival where we heard great music, ate great food, and learned about Sikhs and all got turbans tied; and basically let the house go to ruin so now the first days of summer vacation will be spent cleaning.

I have so much I want to do all summer long: clean out the basement, clean the house, sew sew sew, exercise, take the dog on long regular walks, and write. We’ll see…

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Carlotta Crowed and More

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Our baby chicks are now 2 1/2 months old. They don’t all have names, but we’ve called the two white ones Ramona and Beezus, and the biggest one was called Carlotta. But then it became abundantly clear that she is in fact a large handsome rooster, which she announced with the usual herald of crowing one morning.2018-06-06 17.45.04  This means we have way too many roosters once again (4) and there’s bound to be trouble.
These twelve are just lovely and are definitely their own flock. They have finally mingled a bit on the perch at night with the others, but they still mostly stick together. 2018-06-06 17.46.39.jpg Carl is of an age where just this week he began trying to mate with the hens (with very mixed success), but when he tried it with tiny Quicksilver (one of the two 6 year old hens) not only did she not allow it she also turned around and viciously chased him around the coop until he had to fly away.
This little flock loves to come out and free range (they just hop and fly over the fence) and I’m quite worried that a fox will eat one. They also still love to eat from our hands and are quite friendly to us. (I’m doing One Second a Day video thing and there are going to be so many 1 second clips of them eating from our hands.)2018-06-06 17.47.36
Tabby’s class does “Teacher for a day” the last week of school, which means the students get to plan a full lesson on a subject that interests them (slime, kickball, rc cars, dogs, and math were some of the topics students did.) Tabby chose to do chickens and bring in Carl and Ramona.IMG_5901 I was excited for her as I did the same thing in 7th grade. I remember my chicken pooped on my skirt and someone (the teacher?) asked me if chickens have hollow bones like other birds and I didn’t know the answer. Anyway, she made a great slides presentation, made a kahoot quiz, showed them how to draw a chicken, and had Ramona.IMG_5894IMG_5897IMG_5895 Just Ramona because Carl was too big to fit and two really would have been hard to handle. As it was Ramona didn’t comfortably fit in the cat carrier so we rigged up a milk crate with a lid and an a bungee cord. I’m told her presentation was terrific!! And when she was done she brought Ramona down to the library where I took her out for my class to see. And then when my class left it was photo-op time! I had to stage something for my school IG after all, didn’t I? And let her out into the bathroom to stretch her legs and wings, which she liked. She flew right up to the counter and then was entranced by her reflection. 20180622_103831And then I took her to the p.e. office to take some pics of her “using” the equipment just so I could tweet it for the p.e. dept. If it wasn’t the last day of school I would have had her visit all the specials areas because how fun would that have been?

 

Peony Parade

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2018-05-25 16.00.27It’s that time of year again! The pride and joy of my garden in bloom, the very best days of the year for my blossoms and blooms. Every year I am delighted and surprised by just how beautiful it is to see lavish blooms of purple and pink everywhere. 2018-05-25 16.31.03It’s not just the peonies (even though they are the stars of the show)-it’s also the spiderwort and iris, rhododendron, and roses. So much glorious color! 2018-05-28 17.18.382018-05-28 17.21.45Alas, while enjoying them we had 2 inches of rain overnight on Saturday. I bet you can guess what sight greeted me on Sunday morning. That’s right-droopy peonies all on the ground. Waaaaaaaaaaaah!! I hustled about using fencing and staking everything up and things look pretty good now, although many petals did end up on the ground.

I didn’t even post about our spring birthdays this year-rest assured we had them and they were lovely. The baby chicks have become lovely young hens. They are very keen on us and still love to be hand fed. They also like to sneak out of the coop, which makes me afraid that a fox will come by and eat them.2018-05-24 16.34.07

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Me Made May

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#MeMadeMay has probably been around for a while, but I only discovered it on Instagram a few weeks ago. And basically all month long I’ve been loving following that hashtag and seeing all the things people have sewn for themselves. Now, these are people who are able to wear something they made every single day in May, which is not where I’m at. But I have found it very inspiring and been pinning patterns and fabrics like crazy, culminating with a trip to Joann’s to purchase a pattern I followed on IG and liked. I also felt inspired and determined to start sewing up fabrics I bought a couple years ago. This really was the kick in the pants I needed. First up, finally sewing this beautiful hot pink voile with dandelion fluff print. I decided to go with a sleeveless top I’ve made before (that one piece wearable that I cut out into three pieces.) For this version I made sure to make it long enough, opted to not tie the back (so it’s pretty blousy and full, but I like that), and I knew that in the past I’ve found it too low cut so I tried to fix that. Lovely enough to wear to work!
Oh, and even before that I got back into the sewing groove by trying a pattern I had printed out two years ago and then never used. I was unsure about this pattern and just wanted to get sewing, so I opted to use fabric on hand that I had enough of, which in this case was a novelty print of dressforms. Perhaps a lighter cotton (like a lawn) would make this voluminous peasant top a little more flowy. And I think the neckline is way too open, but overall, worn over some fitted jeans (the top is so big it definitely needs a slimmer bottom) I think this is perfectly fine to wear on the weekend.

The pattern I picked up at Joann’s was a New Look 6434. I was attracted to the big ruffle at the bottom of the sleeve! When I saw someone wearing this top in a black and white gingham I thought that I would try it in some fabric that I bought a few years ago for apron making-a black and white gingham with red cherry print that I think is adorable.

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Note the beautiful new Gingher scissors I got for my birthday. They just whisper to the fabric and it cuts!

I was pleased to find that it was a really nice quality fabric that had a little stretch to it. The pattern calls for one button in the back and I just happened upon these vintage black buttons in my drawer-I knew it would be perfect. I had some sizing issues with this. My main hurdle when sewing clothes for myself is that I’m afraid things won’t fit.  For this pattern I was afraid my arms wouldn’t fit.  I took my measurements and according to them I would need to cut out the size 20-22. In a store I would buy a size 12, so I felt conflicted. I ended up cutting out the biggest size. I tried on the front and the darts were in a terribly wrong place. So I needed to figure out where to put new darts. With some fiddling here and there it all turned out ok. I will definitely make this again, though I think I will aim for a way to marry big sleeves and a slimmer torso cut. True confession-I was so excited to finish and model this that I haven’t finished any of the seams! I’m going to go back in and do it.

Who knows? Maybe for MeMadeMay2019 I’ll be able to participate and wear something every day that I have made! next up I’m going to tackle some dresses!

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

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

The Women’s March

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

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

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

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

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