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A Look Back at 2017

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Happy New Year! Boy, all it takes for me to consider not doing this is going back and reading the previous year’s. And then I realize how nice it is to have a recap and yes, yes! I will take time on this first day of 2018 to look back at 2017 and find the positive in it.

Just like 2015 and 2016 Paul and I continued to see a lot of concerts together.  In the summer we trekked out to the Mann Center for a few outdoor shows: Sigur Ros, Fleet Foxes, and Belle & Sebastian.  We had seen Sigur Ros at Radio City Music Hall previously and this was a different experience being outdoors, but still intense and otherworldly and spectacular. This time closer seats let us admire their instruments. Ditto Belle & Sebastian (as in, we’d also seen them at RCMH, and this time we had close seats.)  We went to see the Flaming Lips at the Fillmore and while Paul is the fan, not me, I loved it and it lived up all I’d heard. Wayne Coyne rode a unicorn into the audience and also walked around in a giant hamster ball atop the crowd.  We’ve seen Barenaked Ladies many times before, but this spring due to a weather situation we ended up seeing them in a pretty small indoor venue, which made it extra fun.  A big spring highlight for me was seeing The Decemberists. I pinned a lot of high hopes on this concert because a. it was at the Fillmore (so it would be different than the Academy of Music show) and b. I hoped to hear some stuff we hadn’t heard live yet.  The show was fantastic and they did in fact play an awesome song I didn’t think they’d do.  We also saw an up and coming band Paul likes a lot called Pinegrove in a the world’st hottest basement ever. [I’m going to break up this lengthy text with a concert photo collage!]  Lez Zeppelin was an awesome treat at the tiny Sellersville Theater.  At a local outdoor festival we saw the hip band Red Baraat.  Perhaps my favorite show of the summer was seeing rock icon Blondie, with Garbage. Both were amazing. How had I missed listening to Garbage? I was smitten with Shirley Manson. And Debbie Harry just blew me away. She was incredible. In the fall we took Tabby to see Katy Perry! She is a great entertainer and we had a terrific time. We also saw the band Alvvays (super), Regina Spektor (beautiful voice, even though I got sleepy several times), and Rodrigo y Gabriela (crazy good.)  We were excited to see Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile and they were fantastic.  We finished the year by seeing Darlingside at the South Orange Performing Arts Center–a place much closer than our usual, very small, we had second row, and it was a wonderful way to end the year. They have the most beautiful harmonies and songs and seem like all around nice people (we met them afterward.)
We also saw some shows with the family and some non concert things:
Cirque Eloize (an amazing show of cirque and music, this had a saloon theme), our favorite fellow Seth Meyers, Taj Express (A Bollywood musical),  Pippin (my favorite musical, Paul got tickets for my birthday, and this production was outstanding), Water on Mars (the most fascinating and entertaining juggling I’ve ever seen),  Golden Dragon Acrobats, and Shaolin Warriors.    I’d say we were certainly well entertained in 2017! Looking at it written out it makes it seem like we’re never at home! I will say that after we’d secured tickets for Darlingside and Courtney Barnett, and First Aid Kit (in 2018) I announced that I was done with concerts.  That completed my list of singers and bands I really wanted to see live and really next year I just need to see Guster if (when) they come around again, and obvs. I wouldn’t pass up seeing Pearl Jam. So, we’ll see. Oh, and we have tickets for the Foo Fighters.

As for house and garden….well. No vegetable garden at all this year. We removed our raised beds and returned that area to grass (or, are trying to.) I did miss having my own grown things, so I think we need to make a plan for this spring about what we will grow and how and where we will grow it.  Our well covering fell down and we actually really liked the way it opened up our view of the rose bushes and butterfly garden.  And I got to grow my beloved Heavenly Blue morning glories up the trellis and they were spectacular. 2017-10-11 15.43.37Our milkweed was part of the monarch butterfly life cycle, which made us very happy.Monarch CaterpillarsAnd of course the roses and peonies and coneflower were beautiful. In fact, the coneflowers had a banner year and were host to many insects, birds, butterflies, and moths. Monarch on the coneflowerIn the coop things did not go well this year.  A fox (?) ravaged the population on one unfortunate night the gate was left open.  We are left with 3 young roosters and 4 hens. Of those hens two of them (silver seabright and buff orpington) are FIVE years old.  One of the hens did hatch a chick this fall, so we do have an 8th bird. Unclear if it’s a hen or rooster yet. Our flock is so sad and diminished and we weren’t sure what we wanted to do in terms of getting more birds–chicks in the spring? seek out pullets? We decided to wait until til spring. Gordon continues to live with them, though he was pretty sad (I think) that his beloved hen, Tree Bird, perished.A mixed up coop He suffered an indeterminate “traumatic eye injury” (a chicken pecking? a thorn?) which required a vet visit and two weeks of oral antibiotics (which was a real treat to administer twice daily, let me tell you). He is all healed up nicely now and hopping around as usual, though he has likely lost some vision in that eye.
In other animal news, in late summer we welcomed two new guinea pigs as permanent fosters. Samson and Louie are adorable and lively and big! We love seeing Louie jump on top of his igloo, which he does all the time.Samson & LouieAnd just a couple of weeks ago we said a fond farewell to dear Blackie. She was 5 1/2 and had a good long life. Although we weren’t with her when she passed away (it was during the day), it appears to have been a peaceful slipping away. R.I.P. Blackie, I hope you’re enjoying an afterlife with Nibbles.
2017 began poorly for our cat Sweetie, when accidentally left home and was gone for a solid month. We were so sad, canvassing the neighborhood, unable to find her, sure she was gone forever.  In February a hot tip from a neighbor led us less than 1/4 mile away and we were able to retriever her. Yeah!! Her month away made her get skinny (i.e. normal weight) but she was otherwise fine and super happy to be home. I don’t think she stopped purring for two weeks. On the other hand Liesl was super annoyed and mean to her for quite a few months. They are finally back to sometimes snuggling and at least no longer hitting. And Sweetie is back to being…large.As with last year my beloved hobbies took a hit. No homemade gifts, much less sewing, etc. However, just a couple weeks ago I finished the last of the courses I’d been taking at Rutgers (graduate, online, not getting an additional degree, getting a new certificate.) I’ve been taking classes ever since I started my job and I have to say I feel like a huge burden is lifted. No longer will I spend weekends doing assignments and projects! So, I feel like there is nothing to hold me back from getting back into doing the things I like. I will just work my normal job and have my normal family life. Hooray!!!!!!!!!!!!

That said, I did manage to do one quilt start to finish, and it was a pattern I’d really wanted to do and I loved how everything came out. The Pinwheel QuiltPinwheel Quilt-Complete! I also finished in February the Christmas scrap quilt (it was really a 2016 project, just finished off at the start of 2017.) We did indeed love snuggling under it this season. Christmas Scrap Quilt-done!

I also finished embroidering this towel finally, which apparently I will mostly use for photo-ops 🙂Hot out of the ovenMy Flickr is no longer kept up to date very well, and everything is on Instagram, and I no longer have those great “food” “sewing” annual sets.  But I have still done ample cooking/baking/photographing.  I’m scattering some favorite pics throughout this post. Here’s one more:
On the jetty

Running atop the jetty
One big event this year (either terrible news or good news, depending on how you look at it) is that during the ’16-’17 winter we did not have heat as our furnace had broken.  We replaced it with a new furnace and conversion from oil to natural gas.  The project was completed in spring, just as the weather turned warm. It was not until this fall that we really got to turn the heat on and enjoy it.

Our big travel this year was a summer vacation to New Hampshire. It was a bit of a haul to get there, but oh man it was my dream vacation. We loved kayakingA cabin (that left a lot to be desired), along a lake, with paddleboards and kayaks and canoes and loons (it was where On Golden Pond takes place!) There was reading and board games and swimming and floating and I loved it.

We began the year with a visit to my brother and his family in Vermont, and we also hit two theme parks this year-Hersheypark (on a day with pouring rain, which was awesome-no lines!)  and Great Adventure.

A super special trip for me was a weekend away with three dear friends. Our last trip together had been 15 years ago–to Iceland! We booked a lovely house in the Berkshires, near Stockbridge. We had a great weekend where we never ran out of time for all the talking we like to do about books. Plenty of wine, great food, and a surprisingly powerful trip to the Normal Rockwell Museum. mosaic277e3d5cfc46572b6223a1b0b61893979a6a902d

January was also the historic Women’s March, happening all across the country.  I participated by going to a NJ one in Trenton. It was a powerfully moving day and I felt inspired that intelligence, common sense, and decency would someday prevail. Unfortunately the past few months that feeling has been waning. It’s been a tough year and I still can’t believe the things happening in our country.

Here are some assorted moments/memories:
Doing a fun photo shoot with the guinea pigs and having the horrifying event of a garter snake slithering across Tabby’s leg (we were traumatized)
Clark and Tabby riding the Wildcat roller coaster six times in a row
Getting maximum enjoyment out of our small pop up above ground pool, making whirlpools and filling the whole thing with rafts, and floating and looking out at the fields
Eating giant ice cream “snowballs” in New Hampshire
Watching Tabby become a confident baker who made us many tasty treats
Dinner out in New Hampshire when a lovely waitress spilled all our drinks on me and we ended up laughing and laughing
Watching Tabby perform in the Wizard of Oz at the 4H Fair
Watching Clark change his hair color to dramatic shades of red and blue (he also got braces this year and surpassed me in height)
Tossing rocks and dirt clods into the dried grasses of the meadow for Willow, who pounces like a fox
Listening to Paul on WDVR FM be a dj for an hour and playing a fantastic selection of music with commentary (my wish for him is that he look into having a regular show…)
My mom’s new dog, Harry
Getting Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and seeing Clark spend most of the year absorbed in that world
Many many off leash walks with Willow at the nearby meadow watching her run and leap and chase and jump and be a happy dog. At 2 1/2 years old and 85 lbs she is a solid full grown dog now.

and the #1 good surprising thing of 2017…Paul winning a Wawa sweepstakes! Wawa for life! (ok, not life, but a good long while.)
Here’s my other annual post: Top Ten Books of the Year.
A very happy new year to all! May 2018 bring adventure and also contentment.

Signing off with one of my favorite self-portraits of the year,

2017-09-08 17.05.03


A Look Back at 2016

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It’s time for my favorite post of the year! A look back at the past year. I really enjoyed reading the 2015 look back just now (that stuff was so long ago!)
2015 began with a bang for us-I got a job and returned to work. I can’t believe we’re coming up on a year anniversary of my first day! Obviously it’s been an adjustment in many ways for all of us (including the dog), but overall I’m so happy to be back in the field and very happy where I am. Not surprisingly, many of my hobbies took a hit from this, especially photography and sewing. I thought I’d make it up in the summer, but I didn’t.

In the spring Clark graduated from Cub Scouts and achieved the Arrow of Light. This was a big deal ceremony and we were very proud of him and happy for him. After so many years with the Cub Scout families and events it was a change for all of us to say goodbye to all of it.img_5945 Clark joined a new Boy Scout troop and has liked it very much. It began with going away to camp when summer began and continued in the fall with a few camping trips, some of which Paul went on. The best was a trip to Harpers Ferry W VA. A cool thing their troop does is have their own patch for the Appalachian Trail. You get a pin for each state you hike 6 miles of the trail in and spend a night in. In December both Paul and Clark received the patch with their first three pins on it. So far he has achieved Tenderfoot rank, which I wrote about here because of the embroidery aspect of it.
Meanwhile, Tabby and I continue along in Brownies. I’m happy that I was able to continue on being her leader, as I really enjoy our group of girls. Our troop attended our first “Camporee” and had a great time. It was not so much camping as all of us (including parents) attending an outdoor resort. We stayed in cabins and got to canoe and zipline and swim and it was all a lot of fun (even if Tabby & I were huge babies on the ropes course and got terrified.)2016-06-04-10-59-09
While Clark was at camp this summer Tabby and I took a trip to visit my dear childhood friend, Joanna, and her daughters. We enjoyed our road trip very much and spending time with our friends. We capped it off with an extra special surprise visit to the National Zoo. Tabby adores pandas and to see them in person was very exciting for her (and me!) It was super fun and special.




After that it was pretty much just summer as usual, until we took our family vacation to Boston. Although I barely posted anything this year, I did write a pretty big post about that trip here.  It was a super vacation including whale watching, art, history, and the big event-Pearl Jam at Fenway Park. mosaicboston
Speaking of concerts, it was a big year of concert going for me and Paul. I wrote about all the summer/ fall concerts here. All told, I went to see the Indigo Girls, Guster, Sigur Ros, Pearl Jam (twice!), Weird Al, Kishi Bashi, Band of Horses, The Monkees, Squeeze, The Legend of Zelda (symphony), Pokemon Symphonic, Ben Folds, Ben Folds with yMusic, XPN Fest (Darlingside, David Wax Museum, The Districts), Barenaked Ladies (with Howard Jones and OMD),  Flight of the Conchords, Crash Test Dummies, and Richard Thompson. It was a good variety of music and venues and a great part of the year.2016-09-24-22-37-56

We had one other trip this year, and that was a short getaway to Watkins Glen, NY. We’re not race car fans-the allure for us is the amazing gorge there. We’d been there once before, just to hike the gorge (in the rain!), but this time we stayed in a cabin for a couple nights. It was a lovely relaxing trip that included not just hiking the gorge, but also a trip to the Corning Museum of Glass, which was awesome.mosaicwatkins

Our menagerie remains large, but this year we sadly said farewell to Nibbles. He had been losing his sturdy plumpness and got rather thin and then one day it happened. We all loved Nibbles and were sad to say goodbye to him. Nibbles

We also said farewell to my mom’s dog, Sophie. At 16 1/2 years old she had a wonderful long life, but her departure left a hole. Perhaps she’s playing somewhere with her dear old friend, Pippin. In the coop there many additions as well as deaths. Our big President Rooster died, I chased a fox across our front yard who had a chicken in his mouth-she escaped but he came back for her and her dumb friends on the following two days. There were 13 chicks hatched over the summer and it was just baby baby baby peep peep peep everywhere.2016-08-09-13-17-32
Peeping out from Mother Hen
Some babies were nurtured more than others and of the un-nurtured group, who never were taught to go in the house at night, 6 of the 7 eventually got killed. Idiots. Our rooster Baddie was dethroned as the king of the coop by a up and comer young new rooster. Gordon continues to live in harmony with his chicken friends.
Willow continued to grow and mature and although she still eats food off the counters she is a marvelous dog. Although I think we both miss the big daily walks, she is actually very happy to instead have shorter walks in the meadow where I let her run off leash.2017-01-01-15-46-40

There were, of course, other fun days here and there-a Princeton football game, a Princeton hockey game, Tabby performing as Augusta Gloop with her 4H club at the fair, visiting the aquarium in the midst of XPNFest, holidays, birthdays, and fun for me-special days at school. One especially fun new thing this year was embarking on a long term tabletop game with our friends, Liz and Eleanor. We began Pandemic Legacy, which is a very intense game in which we are working to save the world from horrible pandemics. As you play the game you affect the board, actions, and characters (you can kill some) for the duration of the year long game. We are about halfway through and all I have to say is, good thing we’re not the real CDC.

Now, although I did say I haven’t been keeping up with photography, and there’s been a sad reliance on my phone this year and lack of Flickr participation, I did set one photography project for myself that I really enjoyed. Matching the Crayola colors from the 64 box to real life flowers in my garden.


I didn’t even keep up with my “Favorites of 2016” folder! Here’s a link to it.

All in all, it was a pretty good year. Now, the elephant in the room. I can’t talk about a year end reflection without acknowledging that since November 9 we’ve all been down in the dumps (well, the adults in the house) and had our beliefs about mankind and the world gravely shaken. I have tremendous worries and concern about the next 4 years, but I will strive to do one small part by teaching my children to show respect and kindness to people and stand up to bullies.  Although it may not feel like it, I know there are still good people in the world and good moments. Would you believe we met another Pearl Jam fan in Boston and kept in touch? I mean, how lovely is that?  And I get to be a librarian again and immerse myself in educating and sharing books with students. And I get to see my children growing up and being smart. And even though I didn’t enjoy my hobbies as much this year, I do have them! And I met my reading challenge this year (read that big recap of my top books of the year right here.) And I have a super husband who is my concert partner and biggest fan. So, that was 2016. Let’s see what happens in 2017!

The Year in Pictures: 2015

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The final of my wrap-up, reflective, end of year posts. (Here’s the 2015 year in review, and top 10 books of the year.) I do love looking back at my photos and choosing my favorites. Once again this year I just allowed myself to photograph what I wanted and did not participate in any photo challenges or a project 365. I found myself using my phone a lot, to my dismay. It was often convenient, occasionally easier in certain light, and I had an awful lot of fun with Instagram. I had another camera trauma this year when it was dropped on the marble floor of a hotel lobby (upon check out) and the lens was damaged. So, that’s another new lens. When I looked at my favorites folder I was a little worried that maybe I didn’t take great pictures this year. Nothing was leaping out at me as “that’s the best picture EVER!” Still, I think there are some good ones (and also you’ll note that “best” is often more than one picture because I couldn’t decide), and most importantly ones that capture our daily life. I’m sticking with mostly the same categories as the previous years, so here goes-the Year in (Best) Pictures!

Best Clark: Most of Clark’s best pictures this year were with other people. Now that he’s a lot older he really isn’t keen on having me just take his picture. So he appears in plenty of pictures with me, or Paul, or maybe with the dog, and hamming it up or jumping, but there’s no portrait taking or anything of that kind going on now. That said, I do love this picture of Clark on his birthday
Birthday Breakfast: Chocolate Waffles// this picture of Clark and Paul together. The setting and background are great, but so are their easygoing smiles.Dad & Lad//

Best Tabby: As usual, I have a million pictures of Tabby. She loves having her picture taken. This was a favorite, taken on a spring hike. I love it that she was looking elsewhere, the pink bandanna, and the whistle.
Hiking @ Hacklebarney (my new favorite picture of Tabby)
And I liked this too:Supermodel// Family Portrait: We had many nice pictures taken of us as a family this year, but just a few that were self-timer or using the phone. I feel like we’ve had this around so long (printed and hung up) that I was surprised to see it was indeed just from March of 2015.  We were celebrating my mom’s birthday and I love this cheerful group shot: Self-Timer Family Portrait//

Best Pets: I’ve taken what seems like a million pictures of Willow since we got her. She mostly turns her head sideways when I take her picture, though. This was from when she was a small puppy this summer and was wild and looked like a crazy bat.Bat-DogOf course whenever she is asleep I like to take her picture, too. Curled up, sprawled out, on the couch, a lap, etc. This picture was just on her second day with us and I can’t believe she was ever so small. Tuckered out.// mustn’t leave out our lovely kitties. This is a favorite of Sweetie. I was delighted with the angle and stretching paws and eye color. Sweetie And for pure sweetness, here’s my favorite of Liesl just peacefully, trustfully, snuggling up against Paul. Liesl loves Paul Best Action Shot: As usual, it’s the trampoline and the pool that provided the best shots this year. For Tabby in action, I liked this one not just because she was in mid-air, but the whole scene. She’s shouting and wearing protective earwear while leaping around. It’s not just a good picture, it’s funny too. Trampoline TabbyHere’s Clark headed into the pool back first. A flip that didn’t quite go around as far as it should I find myself looking at this picture and cringing. Now that's cooling off #pool #flip Best self-portrait: There were plenty of pictures of me and the kids and, let’s be real, me and the dog, that I took with the phone.  But this book jacket worthy photo is my favorite. It’s so designed and fake looking-the autumn colors, posture, etc. I had just gotten my new lens and taken myself for a photo walk at Duke Farms to celebrate. welcome back, self-timer Best Abstract: I don’t think I’ve had this category before, but where else to put this cool picture?Ouchor this one Bubbletease Best Flower: I was really thrilled with the light coming down on these pretty white and orange daffodils. The overall effect had an inspirational feeling.Sunlight reachingBut these petals. oh the colors! Peony and morning glory. I would consider this one of the overall very top pictures of the year. I liked the way it was almost a color blocked image with large sections of lavender, blue, and hot pink, but they were natural things. Dreamy petalsBest Food: The food category is mouthwatering to look at en masse. I think this was a favorite. I took many closeups of these caramelized hazelnuts (on a pumpkin caramel tart made for Thanksgiving) because I was so pleased with it.Thanksgiving DessertsAnd every time I make this Sour Cream Lemon Pie I think that swirling the sour cream into the lemon curd is a thing of beauty: Lemon Pie Best Nature: I liked the focus on this industrious bumble bee in an iris.Industrious Bumblebee Lots of snow last winter meant pictures of our beautiful big maple tree coated in snow or ice. I liked filling the frame here so that it was almost a pencil etching. Spring Snow On a hike in the Great Swamp the still water made a beautifully reflective surface for the sky. Reflected sky and lily pads Best In the Coop: Yes there were baby chicks this summer and they were all adorable, but this was my favorite chicken picture: Beautiful HenAnd Gordon is in the coop, too, so he counts here. Many cute pictures of Gordon, I liked this one because it was funny and he set it up himself: Potted Bunnyand this one because he looks like a ferocious cartoon rabbit (but is really yawning) Ferocious BunBunBest Sewing: I did a lot of quilting this year and one of my favorite pictures was taken just two days into January to show the progress on appliquing these vibrant hearts onto a baby quilt.New year, new quilt for a new babyA month or so later I began hand quilting my prism quilt. I really liked this picture which showed how the quilting was coming along and could be seen on the white, but it was still very much in progress and basted. Quilting Progress For taking a picture of a completed project I liked this one from the very last day of the year, which showed both the front and back of my new Halloween quilt. Spooktacular finished! Here’s a new category-best picture taken by Clark. That’s really just a way to include one of my favorite pictures of the year that doesn’t fit into any of the other categories, and also was not taken by me. So shout out to Clark for getting this great picture of Paul and I posing in one of the big Toronto letters. TORONTO And speaking of uncategorized, as well as Toronto, here are two more favorite pictures of the year, both taken on our trip to Toronto/Niagara Falls. Here’s the full view of those lit-up letters. TORONTOObviously there were a lot of pictures in Niagara Falls that I liked. It’s hard to go wrong with one of the most magnificent natural wonders, plus rainbows, and little ships amidst the mist. I was quite taken by the seagulls flying around and posing in front of the falls. Here one comes in for a landing next to a pal, while the falls plunge behind them. Smug Seagulls at Niagara Falls Best All Around: This year’s favorite may not be photographically the most striking, as I usually try to go with, but this year it’s the photo that means the most to me, that we all love. This was taken in the car before we left the parking lot of the animal shelter with Willow. She is so small and nervous, Clark is so excited and happy, Tabby is content,and it was such a big moment. It’s a picture to treasure.Meet: Willow And with that, a happy new year of photographing to you! Look for beauty around you, observe the details, see the wonder, and snap those moments to treasure!//

A Look Back at 2015

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Happy New Year! It’s time for another nostalgic look back at the past year. This year I wasn’t even sure I’d delve into my usual top 10 books of the year, favorite photos of the year, year in recap posts, but having just read the 2014 recap I see that it is really nice to look back on a full year and have it all written up nicely for my future self. So here we go.

In 2015 we had some wonderful family trips and outings. In the spring we few to Colorado to spend spring break with my brother and his family in Denver. Our Denver vacation was wonderful and the kids talked about it the rest of the year. Not only did they love getting to spend so much time with their cousins, but it was such a neat place to visit, too.Hike to St. Mary Glacier
Red Rocks, Colorado day 2
The giant mountains! Crazy weather (warm and then snowy.) Hiking in the mountains up to a glacier, seeing Red Rocks. It was incredible.  We were fortunate enough to have them come spend Christmas in New Jersey so we got to see them twice this year.IMG_2055

School began so late this year that our “summer vacation” was in September. We had an exciting urban vacation in Toronto, with a trip en route to Niagara Falls. Having enjoyed the falls so much two years ago we stopped for a day there on our way up. Niagara FallsThis time we walked across the bridge to the U.S. and saw the other side of the falls, which was very beautiful and exciting. the American side of the FallsWe all loved Toronto and had an exhausting few days seeing all the sights.
TORONTO 2015-09-05 15.32.33
Sewing: In the winter I made good on a resolution and learned to knit. Sort of. I managed an overly wide neck warmer for myself and enthusiastically bought a kit to make a hat. I want very badly to be good at this but it is very different than sewing and it’s unlikely I’ll ever get beyond knit/purl.
It's very wide so a sparkly purple brooch was just the thing
I began the year with the purchase of a new sewing machine, which I ended up liking very much. Here’s what I used it for:

This year I did three quilts start to finish, plus started 2 others. I began the year with a quick baby quilt for my cousin’s new baby. Heart Baby Quilt-Finished!In the spring I made a cheerful red subway tile quilt for another cousin’s daughter,The Red Quiltand then this fall I made the Halloween quilt (which, good for me, was a goal set in January.) Spooktacular finished!I also started two separate Christmas quilts.  Oh, and I finished Tabby’s quilt, so technically that counts for 2015 even though most of it was done in 2014 (and only stopped because my machine broke.)Finished! I am so excited to have finished my #weewander quilt. I know my daughter will love it forever. With@sarahjanestudios gorgeous fabric how could you go wrong? #quilting #quiltOh! and I finished the Scrappy Prism Quilt. That seems so long ago, but indeed it was the cold winter months of early 2014 when I buckled down and did all the hand quilting on it. I loved how it came out and even entered it into a 4H fair. Scrappy Prism QuiltHmm..I thought I didn’t do too much this year, but that’s actually quite a lot! 3 quilts start to finish, 2 quilts finished, and 2 more begun.

I bought lots of beautiful new fabrics for clothes, but really only made a couple of tops for me, a nightgown and dress for Tabby, A new dress for Tabbyand one (very nice) skirt. I hope that this year I use that same skirt pattern to make several more skirts. (in this picture I made both the skirt and top)Linen skirt

I also made a few pillowcases. I didn’t do any special handiwork projects in felt or embroidery, which was a little disappointing. I’m hoping to be a little more organized in following through on those this year. Here’s an album of everything I sewed this year.

Cooking: I took a gander through the “Food 2015” album in Flickr and it seems I did bake a lot of nice things this year. The standout had to be the butterscotch roll up cake. Butterscotch Cream Roll-Up CakeI was so inspired by seeing all those nice things that I have made a gingerbread for tonight. It smells heavenly. We tried our hand at a traditional Christmas fruitcake with decent results. I didn’t do as much canning or preserving this year, probably in part due to the poor garden. You’ll note there was no Garden 2015 wrap up this year.

Trips and Outings: We had a lot of outings to Bethlehem, PA this year, which I went over a couple days ago here. We had an overnight trip to Hersheypark, which I hadn’t been to since I was a kid. It was so much fun, and loved making our own chocolate bars and riding roller coasters. We also went to New Jersey State Museum (a whopping 3x-first time in the winter, then Clark and I on a class trip, then a family outing to a science day there), Princeton Art Museum, Liberty Science Center, Monster Truck Jam, hiking at Ringing Rocks, Hacklebarney State Park, and the Sourlands, a Princeton football game, the aquarium, and a girls trip to the American Girl Place in NYC for Tabby’s birthday.

This year Paul and I also went to a lot of concerts together. We were able to see two of the “3 bands I really must see in my life”-the Decemberists and Neil Young. Yes, I saw Neil Young last year, and I was thrilled to get to see him again. Last year was solo and acoustic, this year was with a band and he played Down by the River for like 15 minutes and it was incredible. All told, together we saw The Decemberists, Guster (twice!, once with Kishi Bashi, another artist we really like), Neil Young and Promise of the Real, Belle and Sebastian, the Rheostatics (at the Art Gallery of Toronto, in a rare and small performance), My Morning Jacket, St. Vincent, Weird Al (with the kids and we sat in the 3rd row and he looked at me!), and Rush (Paul is a huge fan and this 40th anniversary deal was very exciting for him and I liked it too.) It was so much fun to see all these bands we love, ranging from stadium shows to intimate venues, swanky like Radio City Music Hall and the Academy of Music, to sticky floors and standing right below the stage. We won’t be seeing so many things in 2016, but do have tickets to the Indigo Girls and are crossing our fingers for Pearl Jam (which would complete the 3 bands I need to see list.)

In Scouts, Tabby bridged to Brownies and I continue to be a leader for her troop, which I really enjoy.IMG_3336 Clark’s Cub Scouts had their usual year filled with Pinewood Derbies, Raingutter Regattas, field trips, and hikes. This fall he began checking out the Boy Scout Troop options.  In just a couple of months he will be leaving Cub Scouts and joining Boy Scouts, and Paul will no longer be Cubmaster. Big changes for them as this Cub Scout pack has been a big part of our family activities for a few years now. Paul gets pie'dAs for our family news, the biggest event happened on July 2. We got a dog! It took quite a while to find a dog and then one day it all fell into place, right place, right time, there was a puppy at the shelter that no one else had gotten to yet. 4 months old, black lab mix, just right for us. Meet: Willow
We were SO EXCITED! We named her Willow.A new family portraitToday we have had her for 6 months. In that time she has grown quite large (I can’t even believe how little she was when we got her.) Here she is on the bench the day we got her: Meet: Willow. and a couple weeks ago: Christmas Card Photo Shoots We’ve done levels 1 and 2 obedience training, and I’ve gotten into shape because of the seemingly endless walking our high energy pup needs. Although she is at times naughty (browsing counters for things to eat and very tall when standing on hind legs), she is for the most part a delight. (and I say that even as I’m annoyed at how early she got up today and insisted I get up, too.) 2015-12-29 19.38.37 Clark entered 5th grade and took up trombone, Tabby entered 2nd grade and took up field hockey. Both kids also enjoyed playing soccer all fall, with Paul coaching again. And Clark fractured his ankle and had to wear a boot on it for 6 long weeks. At the end of the season Tabby got her ears pierced. Both kids participated in a town soapbox derby, which was a lot of fun.

The Animals: Little Fluff, Nibbles and Blackie’s offspring, died this year., bringing us back to 2 guinea pigs. They definitely did not produce hearty children (they were inbred) as they have all now died after just a couple of years.  Blackie and Nibbles, meanwhile, are still with us. Gordon has had to adjust to not being allowed free reign in the coop as he had a couple of scary escapes, including a night spend outside in the wild. He enjoys running up to the fence to see Willow. Gordon & Willow/The chickens had more babies this spring, adding 3 to our flock. Of course there was drama with assisted hatching and chicks dying. Our “President Rooster” we have had for five years now, and we think he is around 6 years old. In the garden we were thrilled to once again witness monarch butterfly metamorphosis. This time we took a couple of the caterpillars and put them in a habitat. We had a great view of the whole process and were so lucky to actually see the butterfly emerge from the cocoon. A monarch emerges We finished the year by celebrating New Year’s Eve by going to see Star Wars: the Force Awakens. I loved it-it not only lived up to, but also exceeded my expectations. (everyone else liked it, too.) Boy did it tap into people my age’s fondness for the original. I found it actually kind of an emotional experience! Then we finished out the year like many other nights before it-watching tv (Great British Baking Show) in our pjs, kids long asleep.

All in all, a good year. As I realize every year, sometimes when you’re in the thick of living you don’t realize how good you have it, or you only focus on the very bad days and times. But when you step back and take a look at the big picture, well, you realize how lovely life can be.  I am grateful for the many happy times I had with my family this year, as well as for the times I had to explore and enjoy things on my own. Wishing you a 2016 filled with the same!   Sarah

Come on Willow, let's take a picture!/

The Year in Pictures: 2014

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Yes, I have a lot of year end posts (top 10 books, a look back at the year, a look ahead with goals and resolutions, and the year in pictures.) I love looking back at my photos and choosing the best of the year. In 2014 I very deliberately didn’t do Project 365 or any other photo challenges. That worked for me and I still loved photography and took plenty of pictures.  Even having my lens die and be without for a while was fun, as I enjoyed using Clark’s good point-and-shoot camera.  This year I also hopped on the Instagram bandwagon. This means more phone pictures, which are not always great, but to my surprise I’m enjoying it. Surprise? Who am I kidding? I love the likes/favorites/comments that FB, Flickr, blogging, and Instagram provide.This year I had three pictures picked up for Flickr Explore, which was exciting and led to thousands of views on those photos in a day, such as this one
Green Vinyl
Anyway, I’m going to use mostly the same categories as last year to choose my favorite pictures.  My plan last January was to make this task easier by creating a “Favorites of 2014” album on Flickr. Let’s see if that worked…

best Clark: Looking back it seems like my favorite pictures of Clark were with Paul, or me, or his sister. (I also really liked him reveling in being in Hogsmeade with his wand.)In this case I just really liked this picture of him and Liesl. Liesl adores being held by me and Paul, and really doesn’t mind it when Clark does either. Though in this case her squashed head makes it seem otherwise! I took both b/w and color and just liked this one better.

Clark & Liesl
best Tabby : Tabby continued to love the camera this year, getting in any picture she could. She definitely takes after me when it comes to a big open mouth of excitement, leading to fun moments like this.

One of my favorite moments was this funny face, which I forget why she was even doing, but I remember we laughed and laughed.
2014-10-13 11.42.08
A surprising number of my favorites you couldn’t even see her face-it was all about the body language/setting. So for favorite beautiful face (and everything else) I loved her holding Big Silk:
Tabby & Big Silk

best family portrait: our best portrait was taken by a friend and we liked it so much it went on our Christmas card and also was turned into a canvas. There were lots of other nice group photos like here, here, and here. For a picture that I took though? I like our newest Christmas Day picture:
Family Portrait
Bonus family picture: my nieces visited this summer and I took this photo of the three girls, which I loved.
best self portrait: To my surprise I thought there were a lot of nice pictures taken of me this year! If we’re going with true self portrait, most of those were taken with my phone because it’s just easier. I can’t really say I love any of them enough to give them a big shout out here (though I do love this cartoon picture), so I’m just going with my favorite picture of me, taken on my birthday.
Make a wish
best vegetable garden: just like the cycles of the seasons, so are the cycles of photos. It’s a guarantee each year I’ll take close-ups of shoots, photos of pea tendrils, big fat tomatoes against wood, produce stacked up, and of course-the rainbow of ripening cherry tomatoes. And I will still love them each year!

best flower: I was so thrilled with this picture I put it on a notecard. I found the color striking and did not do any color adjustments pre or post.
Build me up, Buttercup.
I feel like peony pictures should be in their own category I always take so many of them. I liked this one for the angle and the petals jaggedy pointing up with the green bokeh background.
Pink and Green
It’s very hard to choose because I love all my flower photos!
best action: My action shots are almost always of Clark and either jumping into a pool
or on a trampoline
spring trampolining
Of course, Tabby jumps and twirls, too, especially when demonstrating the perfect twirlability of a dress.
Demonstrating the fine twirlability of this dress

But this year my favorite is this one:

best chicken: There were baby chicks this year, so of course they were much photographed whenever their mothers permitted.
Baby Chick
I especially liked this one for the size comparison of the 1 day old chick and his mother.
The latest arrival (1 day old)

best food: I didn’t seem to take as many food pics this past year and nothing has leapt out at me as the best, most hunger-inspiring photo. However, I do like this. Strawberries on cake are always photogenic.
Springtime baking

best nature: While seeing 5 baby squirrels in our owl box was adorable, there’s no doubt that this year seeing the monarch caterpillars go through their metamorphosis into butterflies was a highlight for me. I couldn’t believe that I just happened to actually see and get a picture of the butterfly climbing out of the chrysalis. This probably isn’t the best picture in terms of focus, but that moment is a winner for me.

The Monarch Emerges!
A bit prettier:
More monarchs
Apart from the monarchs, I was blown away by the beauty of the gorge in Watkins Glen State Park, especially by the organic shapes and patterns in the rocks and strata. Weather made photographing challenging, but I did get a few good pics in before the rain, and really liked this one in black and white.
Watkins Glen State Park

best Pippin: We had a feeling this would be Pippin’s last year with us and consequently I took pictures of him whenever I could.  This picture was my very favorite and I look at it often.  I feel like he’s smiling and laughing and having fun with me. It is how I remember him.
best sewing: I worked on a lot of different sewing projects this year and of course every quilt was photographed folded with binding out, and spread out for full view. When I finished my quick and cheerful patchwork picnic quilt I knew immediately how I wanted to take its picture-the field down the street just happened to have new hay rolls, the sky was blue, and the field had daisies growing in it. I staged a bunch of shots and loved this one (So much it became this blog’s banner photo.)

Patchwork Quilt


Best All Around: Two of my favorites this year happen to feature Tabby. First, there’s this one, taken atop a mountainous park in Northern NJ. I love the shine and color of her hair against the green, and the image is evocative of childhood.
After our patchwork quilt photo shoot I was goofing around on it with Tabby, trying to get a sweet picture of our heads with some of the color of the quilt. I don’t know what prompted her to put her hand on her face, but it’s what makes this picture. I love her solemn straight on gaze.
On the quilt

Another great childhood photo is this one. Green and lush, with tiny figures exploring a brook. I felt like it looked like the cover of a children’s book and it was a moment of happy carefree friendship and fun.
Enter summer

And finally, this was taken way back last January after a storm coated the trees with ice. That’s always a pretty scene and here I took a picture of the Japanese Maple tree, but focusing on just enough of it so you could still see detail, but get that it covered everything. I was delighted and surprised it got added to Flickr Explore.
The Crystal Tree: every time this happens I think of a book from my childhood called "The Crystal Tree"

I could go on and on picking out favorite cats, favorite guinea pigs, favorite vacation, favorite [color], but that’s getting carried away even for me 🙂 I love looking back on photos the serious, the funny, the candid, the posed, the poignant, the beautiful. If nothing else taking pictures can open your eyes to the beautiful details that surround us every day in objects, nature, and people. Happy snapping to you in 2015!
Our favorite family picture to take there

A Look Back at 2014

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One of my favorite posts of the year! Yesterday I reread the ones from previous years and it was really nice to be able to look back at everything-a virtual scrapbook, if you will. I think it makes for good family history. In 2014..

We had a lot of snow and a cold winter. I happen to love a good cold snowy winter, but boy were we all glad when spring came.

We took some awesome family vacations.  In the summer we did a quick getaway to Hope Lake Lodge in New York. It was just an opportunity to stay a couple nights in a hotel with a wave pool and indoor water park, but it was really fun. Even better, on the way there we went to Watkins Glen State Park and were blown away by the natural beauty of the gorge.
Watkins Glen State Park
A big rainstorm didn’t dampen our fun, and provided me with my proudest preparedness moment of the year when I pulled out ponchos.(and consequently have bragged about all year.)
How proud and prepared was i when I whipped out ponchos for our 3 mile hike in the pouring rain? Spectacular gorge and waterfalls in Watkins Glen, NY
Our big trip this summer was a fantastic old-fashioned road trip that took us to Pittsburgh and Michigan, where we stayed with and visited our dear friends the Park family.  It was a lot of hours of togetherness and many audiobooks, but we had a great time, saw some really neat things, got great souvenirs, and it was a definite highlight of the year.


In November we took a long awaited trip to Disneyworld and Universal Studios. We loved Disney and had been there all together once before, but we were blown away by Universal Studios, specifically the world of Harry Potter. This was the year we started watching the movies together, I started rereading the series, and we all felt so transported into that magical world when we were in the park. We got a lot of special memories and experiences out of our two days there.
Hogwarts' Express
Paul and I were also super excited about the recreated Simpsons’ Springfield. It was fun, fun, FUN.
Springfield's finest
We also had lots of fun excursions to places like the American Museum of Natural History, Ringing Rocks, Grounds for Sculpture, Point Pleasant boardwalk (unbelievably, my first time), a Polish festival, Scanfest, a Cub Scout trip to a mine, Chinatown, and Syracuse to attend my friend’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. (I didn’t realize how many excursions until I started looking through pictures!!)


One big change this year was that in the fall both kids went to school full time.  This meant that for the first time nine years I had all day to myself.  I certainly wasn’t bored and enjoyed the change, but probably like a lot of stay at home moms it’s led to an urgent feeling of needing to get a job and feeling guilty for the time I have been enjoying at home. We’ll see what this year brings.  And as for school, Tabby finished her beloved kindergarten and started first grade which she loves even more.  She has turned out to be a very proficient reader and amazes us with her skills.  Clark finished 3rd grade and left the only elementary school he’s gone to, beginning 4th grade at a different school in town (it’s K-3, 4-5, 6-8.)  He has really enjoyed the change. He continued to be a great reader in 2014, too.

We all were active in scouting this past year, too.  Tabby and I finished our first Daisy year and in the fall began the second year, with me and my friend Jen continuing to be leaders. In the spring Tabby and I joined Paul and Clark on a scout family camping trip, which again made me think we really should be camping a lot and yet we never did.
A Visit to a Mine

St. Patrick's Day Parade

It was a big year for us in geocaching.  Last January we finally made our first find and figured out how it worked. The spring and early summer saw us finding many more, exploring both local and not so local places.
Secret art park
Sadly, Clark’s enthusiasm for it
More Geocaching
quickly went away and now he complains when we want to do it.  Still, the rest of still like it;  we’ve hidden two of our own caches and found 159.  I had a few fun outings with some new geocaching friends and it’s definitely a hobby I want us to keep enjoying in 2015.

The garden and chickens were good this year. We had some cycles of life with the chickens and the big change was getting rid of some pesky roosters and also fencing them in. They have not minded the change. The highlight of the garden was watching monarch butterflies successfully metamorphose on our milkweed plants.
Monarch butterfly lifecycle

The Monarch Emerges!
All our bees died but we still got their honey, as well as maple syrup from our tapped trees.
Paul and I began 2014 by celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary with a trip for the two of us to Mohonk Mountain House, which was amazing and indulgent and snowy and beautiful.
The views from Sky Top

Happy Anniversary to us

We went to several great concerts and shows this year, but the real standout for me was getting to see Neil Young at the Academy of Music. It was a dream come true and hearing his music in person was all I’d hoped it to be.  Another musical standout was the Beck/Band of Horses concert.  I think one of my happiest moments this year was dancing with Paul to super loud Beck. It was a fantastic show and we had so much fun.

I’ll stick this in the middle here so we don’t end on a depressing note.  2014 was the year we said good-bye to our beloved Pippin.  It’s hard to look back on the year and not think about it because honestly I’ve missed him all year long.  He was a wonderful special part of our family and saying goodbye to him was almost unbearable.
Portraits with Pippin
Other random highlights? We saw in real life both Alaska and Hawaii license plates (a quest to see these began when we were on our road trip), but even more amazing we parked next to one from Panama! (and were able to talk to the owner and then, bizarrely, happened to also park next to him again the next day at a different park!) Tabby got roller skates and became a great skater. Clark got new brighter blue rec specs which he wears all the time. After Clark’s class finished their unit on animals we took home a bunch of fiddler crabs, millipedes, and frogs. The crabs have proven to be fascinating!

And while I didn’t finish the scrappy prism quilt I had hoped to in 2014, I did have a good sewing year and made 3 couple of quilts I loved, including Birdhouse in my Soul for my own bed.
Birdhouse in my Soul-complete!!

Thimble Summer-finished!

Patchwork Quilt
I also almost finished Tabby’s quilt, but sadly the year ended with my death of my sewing machine. So I’ll be starting 2014 by shopping for a new one (though I have plenty of hand sewing to keep me busy until then.) You can see everything I sewed in 2014 here. And because I love sets, categories, tags, and organization, if you feel so inclined you can see all the foods I made (well, that I photographed) in 2014 here.  There were some delicious birthday cakes, including an oreo cake for Clark and a chocolate and peanut butter cake for Paul.
Birthday CakeAll in all, it was a pretty good year. Sometimes when it’s happening you don’t realize how lucky you are, but when you look back on it all together, it’s pretty easy to see that we are fortunate and blessed. (Of course, it helps that this is the rosy side of life type of journal and not a listing of any of the days where we all fought, felt like bad parents and children, were worried or anxious, etc. Because who wants to a. read about that and b. remember that? No one!)

Good-bye 2014! Thanks for the memories 🙂
Make a wish

Happy New Year!

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I have yet to do my big, fond, look back at the year and the year in photos post, but it’s already January 5 and I’d better get on the goals and resolutions post. [It seems traditional now that I write this post on the first day back at school for the kids and indeed, it’s been a wonderful solitary day of productivity.] So, first, a quick wrap up of our end of year. After Christmas we had a now-traditional Boxing Day Chinese lunch with friends, went to see a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with my mom, I had my favorite Christmas exchange with my dear friends-and now I can finally share here a picture of one of the gifts I made! I had in this in mind since last Christmas and finally started it in November. The finished size is small-it fits a 3×5 frame. And it’s been a while since I cross-stitched. Consequently this gifts was made not just with love, but also frequent exclamations of “I’m going blind!” I really could only work on it in broad daylight, next to a window. These stitches are so teeny! But I love how it came out, and more importantly so does Melissa. It was totally worth it and actually didn’t even take as long as I thought it would.
"I just like to smile, smiling's my favorite"
started work on a baby quilt for my cousin’s new baby (born on New Year’s Eve),
New year, new quilt for a new baby
enjoyed fondue with friends on New Year’s Day, tasted our Bertie Botts every flavour beans,
Bertie Botts' Every Flavour Beans
played with all the new toys, spend many hours on the MarioKart 8 racetrack, and rang in the new year with both kids staying up all the way to midnight! We enjoyed pigs in blankets, board games, and Guardians of the Galaxy. (The next day we saw How to Train Your Dragon 2, which can I just say was wonderful?)
Post Christmas Gaming
May your New Years always include pigs in blankets #happynewyear #newyearseve #pigsinblankets

Post Christmas Gaming

And now all the decorations are down and packed away and the house feels fresh and ready for a new start. We cleaned out and reorganized Clark’s room and might move on to some other rooms.Oh! and best of all-Secret TV Day! Today is not technically the first day back at school for the kids-Friday, January 2 was. Which was stupid. Come on, let’s use our head school schedulers. But they enjoyed seeing the few friends who went to school and Paul had off so it was just the two of us at home. We had known about it for weeks and already decided on our decadent plan–a day of watching tv. Specifically, binge watching a show. And the chosen show was Downton Abbey, which we had somehow never watched. Oh it was wonderful!! A terrific show, a decadent day.

OK, so the Goals & Resolutions. Let’s begin with seeing how I did with last year’s.  Last year I had a strategy of deliberately setting some pretty low goals for myself. I had ended the previous year frustrated with my ability to achieve any goals and deliberately kept them low for 2014.  I will say that that strategy led to what looked like amazing overachievement when it came to my Goodreads reading record-91 books in 2014! Here’s what I set out last January:

1. Family fitness challenge: we all need to lose weight and get in shape. I’m making this my primary mission for the year and trying to pretend we’re in a magazine and obligated to succeed. This had mixed results. Paul lost weight and I started a good long walk habit in the fall that’s been pretty successful, but as a whole family, not so much. It’s a long process.

2.Sewing: finish the rainbow quilt, finish the snowball quilt, and buy the fabric and plan out Tabby’s quilt. I still didn’t finish the rainbow quilt, I did finish the snowball, and almost completed Tabby’s.

3. Reread books.  I thought about this a lot last year and reread one book.  There are many books I love and want to read again, but I’m always too tempted by new ones. This year I’d like to make a point to reread and rediscover some of my favorite books of the past. I had some success with this. Read about it on my book year-end post.

  Goal #4 is to find a way to earn some income, but I hesitate to even formally list that because I don’t have high hopes for it. I did a couple of freelance jobs this past year that I loved, but they unfortunately did not lead to more.

So, not too bad. And this year my hopes are pretty much the same, but I’ll add in some more fun ones.

1. Fitness & Health: Again, more activity and losing weight all around. Specifically I want to keep up with my walking (2-5 miles, 3-5 days a week.)

2. Sewing: Get a new machine, finish hand quilting the rainbow quilt, make a Christmas quilt, and make a Halloween quilt with the cool new Spooktacular fabric bundle I got for Christmas.

3. Get a job. I’m not super jazzed about this goal, but it really is at the top of my list this year.  I need to get working again and if not in my chosen career, then somewhere else.

4. I’m doing it. Putting it back on the list for the third year–learn to crochet!

5. And, get a dog.  I think this year we’ll all be ready to welcome a new dog into the family.  Pippin can’t be replaced and he’ll always have such a special place in our hearts, but we would definitely like a dog again.

6. Have a successful garage sale. Last year’s was such a bust it made me mad at everyone for not coming out and buying my old stuff. I hope this year’s will be better. Come on people, don’t make me just throw away perfectly good stuff! 🙂

7. And always, strive for harmony in the family, enjoy the good times together, appreciate each day.

Wishing you all the best in 2015,

Orange Blossom Special