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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.

 

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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.

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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: 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.
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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.
Cousins
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!
Ripening

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
Untitled
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:
Frisbee

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.
Pippin
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.
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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!
Sarah
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.
Igloo

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.

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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!!)

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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