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Anything Else?

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So anything else from this fall? Let’s see, we went to a Princeton football game and a Princeton hockey game, and had a grand time at both.
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2016-12-13-19-32-35 Hockey is more my speed than football, and as the far less popular sport, it was super cheap and easy to get to for a quick weeknight game. The rink was great and the rows only 6 back from the ice (we sat right at the glass.) 2016-12-13-21-10-12
Clark and Paul went on a couple camping trips with his Boy Scout troop, including a fantastic trip to Harpers Ferry, which included a hike up to this beautiful view of three states. See the beautiful view here and the proud hikers here .

In doing all these scout activities Clark was able to rank up to Tenderfoot at the December court of honor. This achievement made me finally get some sewing in, in the form of embroidery.2016-11-12-19-59-49 The tradition in this troop is that when a boy achieves this rank he receives a hand embroidered neckerchief. Pretty simple embroidery-all satin stitch and the design is printed on the kerchief. (You receive a kit.) Satin stitch is not my favorite, but it’s certainly easy to do and while this was a little tedious I was happy to do it and think it turned out beautifully. (I can only imagine if you didn’t stitch that this would have been extra tedious.)

Congratulations, Clark!

Tabby and I went with our troop to see a Disney on Ice spectacular and that was a lot of fun, too. I didn’t do any other sewing, despite getting that Christmas quilt top finished right before school started. I finally took a day and made the back and yesterday I put it together and began tying it. My hope is to finish tying it today and do the binding tomorrow, thus finishing it in 2016. It may need to be a “finish by the end of vacation” goal, though. I’m sure we’ll all enjoy it very much and it will be brand new to us when we pull it out at the start of next year’s Christmas season.

There will not be a Garden Wrap Up post this year because there really wasn’t a garden. I will do my usual Top 10 Books of the Year post, and possibly the big annual look back. In the meantime, I’ll wrap up with a couple pics I especially liked, from a day at a conference.

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Happy Fall Holiday!

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Let’s pretend it’s a couple months ago….
Happy Halloween! I have to say that this year I was looking forward to celebrating Halloween especially now that I work in a school. And indeed, it was super fun to see all the kids in costume and to dress up myself.

The library assistant and I planned to have coordinating costumes (as that had been tradition there, plus it’s fun.) We decided to go avant garde and be two actual books-the popular books in our library, Smile and Sister by Raina Telgemeier. We made the front and back covers be like a sandwich board. Paul ended up doing all the drawing, freehand, copying the actual book covers exactly. 2016-10-27-22-06-56
I used coarse silver glitter to be the sparkly braces. 2016-10-27-21-55-19They looked great and the kids were delighted to recognize their favorite books, and very impressed when they heard that Paul had drawn them (including the barcodes!)2016-10-31-10-24-47

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At home I didn’t wear it trick or treating because it was just too big. Tabby was a spider witch, which was adorable, 2016-10-31-07-40-27and Clark was Link again, except better this time because he wasn’t on crutches. This is the first year that Clark chose to go trick or treating with a friend in another section of town.
and now….
Happy Thanksgiving! We spent a lovely Thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle’s. This year I made a classic apple pie, except it was an apple pie with cheddar crust. I am not a fan of a slice of cheddar with a slice of apple pie not because of flavor, but the texture combination. This recipe solved that problem completely. 2016-11-24-10-27-00The crust was so sharp and short, it was like a delicious cheese straw. It was a delicious contrast and completely complementary to the apples. I also made salted caramel pumpkin thumbprints. A friend made them for the cookie party last year and I thought they were great. Unfortunately, I didn’t love them this time, finding the texture of the caramely pumpkin to be off-putting. I also baked lemon rosemary potato rolls, which are a very nice yeast roll.2016-11-24-10-26-14

Since we had ample time, we also went for a damp drizzly hike in the Sourlands. Since Clark has done a fair amount of Appalachian Trail hiking with scouts this fall, he’s been eager to show us just how great he is at it, which was nice. 2016-11-24-11-48-03

Here’s a picture of me and Tabby in front of the one last tree with leaves on it, a striking yellow in a forest that was now bare.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Autumn Happenings, Pt. 2: The Concerts

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Last year Paul and I went to a lot of concerts–so much that I called it the “Year of Concerts”. Well, I was wrong. 2015 was not the year of concerts, because 2016 was. While Paul was the one mostly going out, I did join him in quite a few this year, and several of them just happened to be this fall, including one that we took the kids to. And, in a curious turn of timing, 3 of them were literally in a one week span.
We went see Icelandic trio Sigur Ros at Radio City Music Hall, which was mind blowing. They play the dreamiest most atmospheric music ever, so it was a big surprise that it was truly the loudest concert I’ve ever been to. And at RCMH, with its beautiful ceilings and acoustics, that enveloping sound was amazing. It was incredible.2016-10-05-22-59-48We also saw Kishi Bashi at Union Transfer, who is definitely a bigger name now than when we first saw him a couple years ago (so good for him!) and that show was fantastic. Great venue, we were right up close, and I loved checking IG after the show and seeing pictures posted taken from the balcony in which you could see me and Paul on the floor right next to Kishi Bashi when he was crowd surfing while playing his violin. It was such a fun night dancing around and being caught up in his music.
We took the kids to see Weird Al and met a bunch of friends there. That was fun-a guaranteed entertaining time (though it’s the same tour as when we took them before so it was the same show.) 2016-09-20-19-39-24-1We went to see Ben Folds at the Mayo Center in Morristown, and that was awesome. We’d seen Ben just a couple months before, outside at Steel Stacks, standing pretty close to him. This was a seated venue with a very different performance-just Ben solo with his piano. And the second half of the show was all request. It was great. He sounded incredible and he started the show with Annie Waits, which I loved, and he also played The Luckiest, which is a really emotional wonderful song we had played at our wedding.
Here’s a blast from the past-we went to see Squeeze (with opener The English Beat) at the Keswick Theater. I’d never been to this theater before and it was so funky and old (plus we basically drove through The Goldbergs to get there.) 2016-10-14-19-54-52
For a venue that seemed like everyone would be seated and tame, this crowd of 40-50somethings did not let that stop them. These fans were there to have a good time and the band was clearly there to play their big hits and have everyone have a good time. It was a lot of fun!
And speaking of older audiences, we also went to see The Monkees at the State Theater. Now, I was a pretty big Monkees fan (even though obvs. they are from a generation older than me) and with Mike not performing with them and poor Davy dying, that just left Peter and Mickey, we decided to go. I had previously seen them (3 of them) in the 80s. I’m so glad we went. I knew every word to every song and it was super nostalgic and sentimental for me that to hear them and also to see projected clips from all the shows on the big screen behind them. Their new album has two super catchy songs on it and they were great. They paid homage to Davy very nicely without letting it get maudlin and I though the overall vibe of the show was great. It was all like a very happy trip down memory lane without being treacly or pretending to be something different. I thought Mickey did not sound great on some songs, but I forgive him. 🙂
Although I had fun at and enjoyed every show we went this year, the biggest highlight was probably seeing Band of Horses at the Fillmore in late September. We had seen them twice before, but always as an opener (first for Beck, then for Neil Young), and also at big open outdoor places. I had really high hopes that this show would let me hear them they way I really wanted to. And it did.2016-09-24-21-32-25 It was everything I wanted it to be-energetic, loud, playing all the songs I like, and in a great venue. As usual we stood on the floor fairly close (but not too close as to get poor sound) in the midst of the great throng. It was marvelous and they sounded fantastic. (A good opening act, too!) One more show we took the kids to was the Legend of Zelda symphony. Over the summer we’d seen Pokemon Symphonic, which was lovely, and this was also very lovely. Fun to see some cosplay, and the Mann Center is so pretty. The music was really gorgeous and there were some recorded bits of the people who created it telling about the storytelling of Zelda and the composing, and it was really interesting. And we started the fall by attending a performance of a little know pianist, Tabby.  
She’d only had about 3 piano lessons at that point, so played just a few bars of single notes, but she confidently and correctly played them! In the months since she has been really advancing and practicing and I can’t wait to see the next recital.

If you don’t like live music then this probably seems crazy and excessive to you, and I am surprised at how often I have to explain? defend? why we like going to concerts. So I’m not going to do it here, but I will say that one of the things I like at the new(ish) Philly Fillmore is the sculpture in the foyer that says LIVE. Is it live, as in “get out and live a little”? or is it live, as in “live music is incredible”? I think it’s both! When we see, hear, and immerse ourselves in a communal live music experience we are living! So maybe you don’t need to go to concerts all the time, but if you haven’t been to one in a long time, why not make it a resolution in 2017 to go see one live show?

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Autumn Happenings, Pt 1

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Happy Birthday, Tabby! Say, what? But it’s December 30. Yeah, that’s right. I’m writing backwards to do a couple of posts about events and things I would normally  have written about. And as much as I’d like to say, “aww, I’ll skip it, who cares?” I’m not. Because I care. I can’t tell you how many times over the past 8 years I’ve wanted to remember something I sewed, or cooked, or planned for an event, and I’ve been able to search my own online diary and had a wonderful sentimental time remembering it. So yes, better later than never!img_7450

This fall seemed to fly by incredibly quickly. It turned out to be a bigger adjustment for me personally than the adjustment in February of going back to work. Because it seems that I really really loved autumn when I was a stay at home mom. Taking the dog for long regular daily walks, enjoying photography as the world around me changed colors daily, baking at the best time of year with autumn spices and flavors, apple picking and canning, and putting the garden to bed. I loved all that and really, really missed it this year. This fall seemed to be mostly going to work, working on my horrible class that I had to take, for the first half of fall it was soccer and field hockey practices and games for Tabby, a return to regular Scout meetings for everyone, plus a return to 4H meetings for Tabby. It was a lot going on. That said, it wasn’t horrible. My photography fizzled to just phone pictures and Instagram, but hey there were still great pictures! (and yes, some are sideways, but I can’t be bothered to find the original, edit, save, and then redo the mosaic.)collageautumn16

And while we didn’t go apple picking, we made sure to go to our annual “How Tall This Fall” farm spot.2016-10-30-16-20-28

And no, we didn’t go pumpkin picking, but so what? We still loved carving the ones we got at ShopRite.2016-10-30-18-44-26

And of course, we had a wonderful birthday celebration for Tabby. This year she decided to go with a Halloween theme and we put together a great party. Paul and Clark were off on a Boy Scout camping trip (there were a lot this fall, including an amazing sounding trip to Harpers Ferry WV) so that left it to me and Mary Lynn to be the party hostesses. img_7465We planned Twister, eating donuts off a string, freeze dance, a craft, and a movie  (because we foolishly set the party length astonishingly loooooong.) There were also tacos (because Tabby, like her mom, likes to be different and not offer the same old pizza), “mummy wraps” (pigs in blankets) and a beautiful (and easy to decorate) cake.

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Her actual birthday was two days prior and we celebrated as usual at home, with a special breakfast (albeit a bit hasty this year), and a nice dinner of the birthday girl’s choice (macaroni & cheese, just like last year) that night. The cake was one I’ve done for both Paul and Clark’s birthdays in the past-a cookies and cream cake, which is so light and heavenly.

 

 

Merry Christmas!

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img_7503Ahhh…the sad day after. The Big Day come and gone once again. Every year I wish the actual day could last just a little bit long, but it never does. Fortunately every minute of it was enjoyed. As well, we’ve been enjoying the few days leading up and have things planned after. It all started on Christmas Eve Eve Eve (aka Thursday) when we watched A Christmas Story with the kids for the first time. Can you even believe they hadn’t seen it??! I’m happy to report they liked it very very much, and it had been a few years since I’d watched it straight through and forgot how much I like it too. We all had off on Friday (aka Christmas Eve Eve) and that was a happy day of baking and prep and treating myself to reading a really great YA book (Scythe.) My last cookie batch was these white chocolate cherry shortbreads, which are heavenly and if we can bare to eat cookies again on Valentine’s Day I’ll make then as well.2016-12-23-09-55-58 It seems to now be traditional on Christmas Eve Eve for us all to watch Elf together. It was a wonderful evening. Christmas Eve in my mind is a long day that you want to pass quickly and so you fill it with lots of board games and movies. Alas, we almost ran out of time for all we needed/wanted to do and were even late to my mom’s. (For the first time ever I decided to not make my sticky buns until Christmas Eve, rather than make in advance and freeze. Will not do that that again!) We had a wonderful evening at my mom’s house with my aunt and uncle and cousins. Then to sleep and finally… Christmas morning!,
Oh it was wonderful! This year the season brought unforeseen stress for me-I was used to doing shopping during the day, treating myself to wrapping while watching a movie during the day, planning and making homemade gifts, and so on. With work that just didn’t happen. I stressed about whether or not I had anything for Paul, fell asleep on the couch instead of wrapping, and so on. I kept reminding myself that Christmas would come no matter what and it would be great and you know what? It was. Everyone loved the gifts they received and gave. I was practically giddy about some of the gifts I found for Paul this year and at least three of them came about from things I follow on Instagram (They Draw and Travel, got the book, Humans of New York new book, Fantasy Floorplans-check this site out-architectural blueprints of fictional tv homes) For me I had forgotten all about every direct hint I’d dropped and was genuinely surprised by the lovely pins from BoyGirlParty (also an IG purchase.) Clark was psyched by his Amiibo collectionimg_7524 and Zelda boxed set, and Tabby by the Fairy Doors she got and sloth “adopted” in her name at the WWF. Paul super surprised me by getting me a copy of an old out of print book I loved as a child and had mentioned a couple months ago.2016-12-25-10-17-52

Reading my book in the new mermaid tale blanket:img_7527

img_7516A genuine smile as he receives, for the first time, gloves with, what? why won’t they go on? What’s this inside? Money?!! (my grandparents, if giving money, would always cleverly hide it in something. This is the first time my mom did this for Clark, and his reaction was marvelous.)img_7540
Even Willow got some very big bones from Santa, despite being “75% good–and that’s a stretch”, to quote Clark. (One of our favorite Christmas movies is Arthur Christmas. In it the elves scan the sleeping children and a naughty/nice percentage comes up, which then automatically fills the stocking based on that. I asked what willow would be if she were scanned. I’ll go as high as 80%.) It was a leisurely present opening, followed by our traditional breakfast and my mom joining us and even more present opening. img_7521Then lots of playing with new gifts, cheese and cracker eating, napping, and eventually dinner. Our Christmas Day dinner was….leftovers! But delicious leftovers and we ate off the good china. Dessert was so pretty looking I couldn’t stop with the pictures. I turned the Holiday Gift Cake into a bundt cake and it was so pretty and also absolutely delicious. 2016-12-25-19-10-08

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We opened up the Irish Christmas cake and unlike last year’s cake this was not dry at all. However, it was quite boozy and we did not love it. Basically a wet rummy bite of fruit.
All in all, a splendid Christmas!!
Merry Christmas to all!

Christmas Cookies 2016

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I haven’t written a post since school started, but have written many many in my head. I’ll admit I’m pretty sad to have not kept up or written about things like Tabby’s birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, goings on in the coop (depletion), a statement about the lack of Garden Review (we didn’t do one this year), and more. Do I do a post for each of those things? One giant wrap up? Nothing? Yesterday was our annual Christmas cookie party and one of the guests remarked how she likes to read the post about it each year. Well here it is the morning after and you know what? That seems as good a place as any to start. So……


#CookieParty2016
Paul made two kinds of cookies this year, both recipes (I think) that he got from Mary Berry, as we are fans of the Great British Bake Off. I swear the one cookie was like being in a technical challenge and missing instructions. The chocolatey minty “dough” had a delicious taste but was so much like crumbly sand it couldn’t stick together. Eventually he added a couple eggs to make it a wet dough and shaped them up into balls with a depression in the middle. He topped them some melted chocolate and a crushed candy cane garnish. They were delicious. The other cookie? ehhhhh It was meant to look like a little Victoria sandwich and there were some issues with size and so on. A plain sandy biscuit (so dry it sucked all the moisture out of your mouth immediately) sandwiched with jam and buttercream frosting. He just called them a sweet mess.
I made a new-to-me recipe from this month’s Family Circle. It was a pinwheel cookie made from a basic sugar cookie dough. One half was dyed and flavored with lime zest, the other half was flavored with coconut extract. They were rolled up and the log rolled in sparkling green sugar. The only problem there was getting the sugar to stick as I’d floured my surface so well. That said, check out how it looked when I sliced into the log:
Beautiful! Perfect! I couldn’t believe it.

They baked up beautifully.  I was apprehensive about the flavor (I thought the coconut extract scent was very strong) but it was quite good. A crispier cookie than I would have liked, but quite good.

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For savory I made the now traditional cheese ball, as well as a warm broccoli cheese dip. I’m glad I made a double recipe of that because people hoovered it up. All browned and bubbly and cheesy, I highly recommend this recipe for an appetizer. Here’s the original recipe:
1 c finely chopped broccoli
2 T finely chopped onion
2 T finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 c grated parmesan
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 c sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c mayonnaise
pinch black pepper.
Mix everything up (do the creamy stuff separate and fold in.) Spread in a baking dish, sprinkle more parmesan over the top and bake at 375 until browned and bubbly. I include plain Greek yogurt in the mix-either a combo of all 3, or a substitution for the mayo or sour cream.

This year’s party featured some very festive Christmassy entries. It seemed like everyone was gunning for the “Most Christmassy” or “Best Looking” prize (The grand prize is the overall best cookie. One you want to eat a lot of.)

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There were:
Christmas Wreaths: Wreaths made of cereal and gooey marshmallow, these were extra festive and Christmassy.
Christmas Presents: Bright red and green checkerboard sugar cookies with a candy bow. Beautiful presentation!


Snowmen: Darling! two thick circles of sugar cookie, decorated to be snowmen.
Salted Peanut Butter: Apparently this cookie only has something like 3 ingredients in it (peanut butter, sugar, eggs??) It had a great flavor.
Molasses Pumpkin Pecan: I love a molasses crinkle or a soft molasses cookie and this cookie was the exact right texture. Nice and soft and with lovely lumps of pecan. I must get the recipe from ML!
Millionaire’s Shortbread: a delicious 3 layer bar cookie of shortbread, caramel, and ganache.
Cocoa Crinkles: The baker of this cookie said she was going for appearance not taste, and even said “#notgonnawin”. She was correct and we agreed the flavor was….off.
Buckeyes: The classic peanut butter-confectioner sugar-dipped in chocolate confection. This was never anything we made at my house growing up, but something I always liked to have at other people’s Christmas things, so I was really happy to see it this year!

The Christmas presents won for best looking and the Wreaths won for Most Christmassy. The overall, Grand Prize winner was……Millionaire’s Shortbread! The winner will donate the $80 to a Kidney Foundation, which she she had seen at work this year and all they did, when her sister-in-law received a kidney transplant from her brother. So, well done bakers and charitable givers!

 

Merry Christmas to all!

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.

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