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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

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.

Start Your Engines

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That’s my way of being clever since this is a last post before school starts and also this post is about our trip to Watkins Glen, NY, which is known for having a NASCAR track and being a historic place in the world of auto racing (first road race after WWII.) Racing flags adorn the quaint Main Street and cool paintings adorn the buildings. 2016-08-24 19.24.24But that was not the attraction for us. For us it was beautiful Watkins Glen State Park, where we had briefly visited a couple years ago.
We stayed at the “historic” Seneca Lodge in an A frame cabin, which I enjoyed very much. Overall the lodge has probably seen better days, but it suited our needs just fine. Especially its location-directly across from the park entrance. So when we arrived we just walked into the park and used the Olympic sized swimming pool there, which was wonderful. 2016-08-25 18.23.49After swimming we went into the town and picked out a restaurant, which turned out to be awesome. I highly recommend Nickel’s Pit BBQ if you are ever in the area. While the others had brisket and pulled pork, I opted for the tater tots piled with the housemade pork chili and jalapeno peppadew cheese sauce. 2016-08-23 19.43.01Everyone loved their stuff so much that we a. bought a couple pint glasses b. bought a bottle of the house bbq sauce and c. went back for dinner two nights later (where I had as a side the jalapeno peppadew macaroni & cheese.)
The state park features a gorge that is absolutely breathtaking. There are waterfalls everywhere and over the course of 12,000 years the water carved out the gorge, leaving amazing shapes, curves, and beauty. Our first visit was notable because it rained the entire time we hiked the gorge. This time, though, the weather was beautiful. A Heart made by nature Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State ParkThe hike is 1 1/2 miles basically uphill (stairs) and then there is a restroom and park area, then you turn around and go back. It was a wonderful way to spend our first morning. The afternoon saw us swimming again.
On our second full day we went to Corning to go the Corning Museum of Glass.IMG_7360 I had always been curious about going here and it turned out to be an unexpected highlight of the trip. There is a fairly new wing that is for contemporary art and to my surprise this was something that all four of us really enjoyed. So many amazing and thoughtful, striking or beautiful, works of art.Contemplation All made of glass!
There was another special exhibit going on that was also were totally wowed by-a collection of marine specimens all made out of glass—from the 1800s!IMG_7357 IMG_7366 This exhibit was really terrific and special. The museum also offers many extra glassmaking classes or activities that you can sign up for. Clark signed up for the flame throwing (is that what it was called?) to make a sea slug. Tabby signed up to do the sandblasting. For Clark he got to use glass rods and a hand held flame thing. 2016-08-25 13.06.25Tabby used stickers on a glass and then sandblasted it to make the glass frosted. Both of them had a good time doing it and loved their cool finished products. Which are pretty incredible souvenirs. 2016-08-25 13.12.57

20160831_103642Speaking of souvenirs, I was sure we’d get an amazing glass Christmas tree ornament and despite the museum having the best shop there was just nothing we wanted.

The next day we went back into the park to find a geocache, then waded in Lake Seneca and headed home.IMG_7411 It was a splendid getaway, very peaceful.

IMG_7382

Pearl Jam @ Fenway Park

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Pearl Jam @ Fenway Park So here it was, the main event! The reason for the trip to Boston! You may recall that seeing Pearl Jam was a dream of mine in the concerts I most wanted to see list I kept in my head and that we got to see them in April and it was super incredible, and that Paul surprised us by getting tickets to see them in Boston. We were so excited! And boy did it live up to the hype in our heads. First of all, this was a big deal concert-it seemed like the whole city was excited about it. All weekend long-in the shuttle, the hotel, on the T, sightseeing-we’d see other people wearing PJ hats and shirts, and there was a general feeling of goodwill and “hey we’re all here to see this great band and we’re having a good time.” Saturday afternoon we all went over to Fenway Park to buy some merch and check it out, and that was lots of fun. IMG_6941

I believe we spent more on merch than on our tickets, but that’s ok. There was specialty merch for this show that was very cool and Fenway Park tied in. Paul had won tickets in the Ten Club lottery for a viewing party on Saturday night of Friday night’s show. We dithered about whether or not we really wanted to go-would it spoil Sunday’s actual show? Would it be weird? But ultimately decided to go because of the tiny chance we’d convinced ourselves of them and actually showing up to say hi. I’m glad we went because it was really fun. And though it wasn’t exactly like being at the actual concert, the sound was great, the fan experience was there, and if you think about footage they show on big screens at concerts, you could pretend that it was live. Plus, they played a couple of songs I was thrilled by, including an unusual Beatles cover. And since I love the Beatles and am never going to time travel to see a show by them, this was the next best thing. Anyway, it was fun, and like a good appetizer to rile us up even more for Sunday night. So, the main event. We got to the stadium around 6:45, knowing they weren’t going to go on until 7:30. It was fun to soak in the ambience of the stadium, which was really cool looking and felt so vintage and stylish. 2016-08-07 18.22.50
We ate a Fenway Frank, took pictures, and the like.
Pearl Jam @ Fenway ParkThe set up was that stage was in the way outfield. And the stage was huge. When we saw them in Philly we were behind the stage, so the whole thing was open. But in this case there was a backdrop and huge towers and presumably a huge sound system. I was worried the sound would all float away in the open like that, but it sounded incredible. Also, I have to assume that you could have just stood in the street the whole time and heard the show for free. There was some kind of flooring laid down and rows upon rows of chairs set up in the field. Pearl Jam @ Fenway Park
We were in the stands to the far left of the stage. Lousy seats, but hey, we were there. The actual baseball diamond infield was off limits to everyone and looked so small compared to everything else.2016-08-07 19.30.28
Score: Pearl Jam Then the show started and it was awesome. Unlike our Philly show, which had a loud rocking start, they started this show fairly mellow (as we had seen the Friday show was.) That was ok (if a little odd feeling to me), because it sort of matched the fact that it was still light out. But things moved on, got loud, and it was awesome. We had expected a lot of this show-maybe some special songs? extra long? (they can’t due to noise curfew) and it did not disappoint. Pearl Jam @ Fenway Park
We had seen some special guests on Friday and there were this time, too, though I couldn’t be too excited about the Red Sox player because I didn’t know who it was. But there were definitely fun baseball touches-the player gave Eddie a jersey to wear, Eddie played ball the crowd, etc. It was a long show, which just felt great. 2016-08-07 22.43.12And special for us? Well, after the Philly show when we debriefed about which songs we would have liked to hear but they didn’t and made a list, guess what? They played the other songs I wanted to hear, and many off of Paul’s list.  There were a few songs I was thrilled to hear again-Mind Your Manners, Wishlist, Lightning Bolt, Corduroy, Rearview Mirror. And the songs I was crazy excited to hear this time-In Hiding and Betterman. I was also psyched to hear Nothingman, Do the Evolution (which I don’t like on the album, but learned in Philly is amazing live) and Sirens (I was disappointed they didn’t play this last time.) And then, to finish–Pearl Jam ends their concerts amazingly well. The lights were up, they were rocking so hard, it just turns into a great scene. They have often ended with Rockin in the Free World, though they did not in Philly. But this time Paul turned to me and said, “I think they’re going to do it” and just like that, they did. So, a Neil Young song (which Neil did not play when we saw him) for me, and as a treat for Paul? They brought out J. Mascic, guitarist for Dinosaur Jr, who Paul really likes (and saw a few weeks ago.) Huge surprise! And oh, it was awesome!! And then they didn’t even stop there! They truly finished out with Yellow Ledbetter, which turned into Mike McCready playing a crazy Star Spangled Banner that made me feel like I was listening to Jimi Hendrix. Oh, the whole experience was phenomenal. I can’t wait to get the download of the show to hear it all over again.
For full set list and album distribution and Paul’s detailed take on the music, check out his post.

And not only that, even though thousands of fans were in the streets walking to the T and crowding the station, we managed to get right on to the first train and when we got to the stop for our hotel the shuttle was right there waiting for us. Good luck all around.

Thank you, Pearl Jam and Boston for an amazing experience and show that I will never ever forget!2016-08-07 22.28.44
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12 Hours Later

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Checking in on the chicks this morning…. It’s frankly a wonder any of these chicks survive. The buffy mother with the newly hatched brown chicks came out this morning with all the other chickens to eat. She brought one of the chicks out, but the other was still in the coop. I placed it on the ground. All five chicks and three mothers were bustling about eating and pecking and cheeping and clucking. The newest babies seemed in danger of being stepped on, and a few times were kicked during the scratching. After a little while the two new babies just joined the two mothers and their 4 day old chicks. And their mother returned to the nest (which has many unhatched eggs in it that I’m eager to discard, but maybe something else will hatch since she went back to it?)
Meanwhile, when I looked in the house the black hen in the middle nest was off to the side of her nest. I looked and saw what appeared to be a wet dead chick. But I believe it was actually so freshly hatched it hadn’t even stretched out or opened its eyes yet. Because a half hour later it was underneath her and peeping. I hope to get a look later today. It really is a baby boom here!

Baby Boom

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Baby Boom

Two months ago we had our biggest baby chick hatching ever-7 little chicks. And now, even more! We were kind of bummed when the hens all went broody again so quickly after those babies.* It got very chaotic in the coop–all three nesting boxes filled with rotating broody hens (they switched nests at random), and the non-broody hens squeezing in to lay their eggs. Needless to say, we weren’t collecting any eggs. Also, we didn’t take note of an exact start date of setting, so weren’t sure when to either expect chicks or give up. This past Friday we were relieved when one of the nests finally seemed to have been abandoned. It smelled terrible and we hastily cleaned it out. That left two nests and 2?3? would-be mothers.
Saturday rained heavily all day long. And all night. And the next morning. There was flooding all over the place, damage, roads closed, etc. When the rain stopped Willow and I headed out to check it out and were appropriately amazed by the state of our river.Flooding-tree floating downstream Flooding-this is normally a parking lot.
And the fields and such that were completely underwater. Returning home I went into the coop and opened the door the house and was surprised to find 4 mothers and 3 baby hens on the floor of the house, scratching about, clucking and peeping!! They must have hatched on Saturday (and it must have been their most peaceful hatching day yet. The rain kept me inside and I never checked on them, bugged them, photographed them.) [Again, adorable video on IG, but can’t seem to upload here.] Checking in on them later Hen #4 had been pecked a bit by the others and shooed away. She retreated to one of the two nests. By that night two hens were on the ground with the three babies and Hen #3 had left. Possibly to one of those nests? Monday the two moms and three babies were cute and busy, scratching about the yard. Two black chicks (one extra tiny) and one sturdy silver and blonde one.Chick Family Chick Family
Also on Monday I found a dead chick on the ground outside the henhouse. Very mysterious. Where did it come from? I’m guessing it hatched later and tried to come out and was too frail?
Today, Tuesday, I was standing in the coop, turned to look in the house, and was startled to see a baby chick just sitting in the nest with a hen! It was my favorite kind of chick-it looked like a chipmunk. Possibly fairly recently hatched-it looked slightly damp still. It’s mother seemed to not be tending to it too much and was more concerned with tucking eggs underneath her. Much peeping and clucking. Here’s a photo.
...but then A few hours later I looked in and there were now TWO hens in the nest and peep! peep! baby was on the floor of the house. Honestly, one of those mother hens couldn’t have joined the baby on the floor? It would die if left there! I picked it up and it was so cute and fluffy. Also, it fell asleep a little in my hand. Here it is: ....and then
When Tabby looked at it she correctly pointed out…that this is not the same chipmunk chick as earlier. So, at least 2 chicks have been born out of the nest.

At this point I’m just going to leave them be and see what’s what in the morning? Healthy alive chicks?  Extra mothers? Who knows. As always, there is mama drama in the coop, but we do so love to see this exciting event. It never ceases to amaze me that in three weeks it goes from a regular egg to a peeping little fluffball.

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*and what of those babies? I think their mothers gave up tending them much too early and consequently #7 chick is still peeping away and kind of a sad loner in the coop. The other 6 are like a feral flock of velociraptors. They stay in the coop at night, but never learned to go in the house with the others. When they no longer fit in the outside boxes and yearned to perch, they all huddled atop it. And now, this nonsense is how they sleep.2016-08-02 20.32.20

In the morning they all escape and then run around the yard and woods together in a tight flock. They sometimes want to come back in (feeding time), but are kind of dumb and skittish about figuring it out.

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