Saturday, September 10, 2011

Practicing...

Practicing with Jing by posting this picture of a Blue Cochin snagged from another website.

Also a screenshot of the map of our latest bike ride, including the elevation:

And the kids can't wait for this to opne:

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sparks Flew!

Imagine 51,000 people, the vast majority of them women and girls. Many of them are wearing either hand-decorated t-shirts, or light summer dresses, cowboy hats and boots. Now imagine them all, screaming as one, or singing along with one huge voice, and you just might have some idea what it was like to be at the Taylor Swift concert at Lincoln Financial Field last night.
Taylor Swift is coming out soon!

I bought three tickets for concert way back in February. The plan was that dd and I would go, and dd would pick a friend to join us. Dd asked her good friend from next door, and they both have been counting down the days until the concert for weeks. A few days ago, they had the idea to make special t-shirts.
Taylor Swift Concert shirts
The shirts have a picture of Taylor Swift on the front ...
Taylor Swift shirts 2
...and a list of all the girls' favorite T.S. songs on the back. (They also decided to write "Swift" on the top of the back of the shirt, like a sports jersey. Get it? Team Swift?)

The concert turned out to be amazing, and one of the best shows I have ever seen in my my entire life. It may even be the best show, I am not sure. It was dd's first concert ever--I hope she's not spoiled for life now, LOL.

The opening acts seemed to go on forever. I guess I am out of practice when it comes to concerts: when I saw the tickets said 7 p.m., I really thought we needed to be there by 7 p.m. Taylor Swift herself did not come on stage until about 8:30 or so, which made for a long wait, broken up by 3 or 4 songs each from a series of country singers. (The last one, NeedtoBreathe, we liked quite a lot, though.)

When the main show finally began, the crowd came to its feet and the sound of screaming was a palpable, living thing. It was amazing. The show began with words being written on the jumbo screens, and a Taylor Swift voiceover, but I could not really hear what she was saying over the roar of the crowd. Then the singer herself rose up through a trap door in the floor of the stage. She began to sing "Sparks Fly," complete with fireworks shooting from the top of the stage to punctuate the chorus. The crowd was her back-up, singing along with every word.
Taylor Swift appears
That's when I realized this was no mere concert. This was going to be something else.

I still am not sure what to call last night's event. It was not just a concert. It was a show in every sense of the word. The production value was incredible. For every song, there was a dance, or a scene acted out, or a story was told. The band and the dancers were terrific. The staging was beautiful. The costume changes were many.

For "Back to December," Taylor Swift and a white piano rose from beneath the stage in a glitter snowstorm that captivated the crowd. Dd tapped my shoulder, bouncing and pointing. "The snow is glitter, Mom, it's GLITTER!" For "Haunted," Swift pretended to ring enormous brass bells that eventually were lifted above the stage to reveal dancers suspended beneath them. There was something special in every song of the night. And throughout it all, Taylor Swift seemed as impressed with the huge crowd that sang as one as it was with her. "Philly," she said, more than once, "You're AMAZING."

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Monster Knitting

Possibly the only thing that did not get done on the mountain vacation was knitting. There was not a lot of sitting around time, and what there was got completely absorbed by the 959-page, 10 pound, A Dance With Dragons, that I dragged around all week (even to Camelbeach!).

I knitted a total of 4 rows on the lace edging to my Taygete shawl. That's it.
taygete
Well, I actually knitted them twice, since the first time I totally messed up. So can I count 8 rows of knitting? Over 300 stitches a row? Maybe not. Oh well.

Fortunately, there was a lot more knitting going on at home before we left. Mathboy finished his Loch Ness Monster, from Hansi Singh's Amigurumi Knits, about a month ago.
Loch Ness 1
Loch Ness 2
Isn't it adorable? He did everything by himself with this monster. There were several difficult skills that he had to learn, including seaming, picking up stitches, kitchnering, short rows, and i-cord. I was impressed.

After he finished that, we were both excited to start some projects out of our newest indulgence: The Big Book of Knitted Monsters, by Rebecca Danger.

I decided to start with Bea the Basement Monster. I figured it would be a great stash-buster pattern, calling for 1 skein of worsted wool and another 1/2 skein in a contrast color for the panel on the bottom of the monster's body. I grabbed a well-marinated skein of dusky purple Plymouth Galway that I found on a sale rack 3(?) years ago, and some leftovers of gorgeous Dream In Color Classy in a hot pink and purple blend called Ruby River, and dove right in.

I followed directions, gamely holding two strands of the yarn together and knitting around and around. I watched as the monster got bigger and bigger and the skein got smaller and smaller--and very quickly, too, since I was knitting from both the inside and the outside of the skein at the same time. Suddenly, I found myself scrounging in the cedar chest, hoping I still had another skein of purple Galway (whew! yes!). By the time I bound off the top of the body, Bea was an 18-inch tall monster of a monster!

Only then did I think to check Ravelry for other knitters' comments on the pattern. I learned that the pattern contains a pretty major mistake: it's not supposed to be knit double-stranded on size 9s, but rather single stranded on size 7s. The designer calmy told one ravelry user, oops sorry for the confusion. "Confusion?" This is a pretty major mistake, that doubles the amount of yarn you need for the project. It's more than just a little "confusion." There is no errata listed anywhere for the pattern. If you can't access knitter comments on Ravelry, you're out of luck.

No matter. She's huge but she's awesome. She likes to hang out on Dd's bed, because she matches the decor so perfectly. And because she's so big, she's a perfect back rest.
iphone_pic

Mathboy started Lurlene the Laundry Monster, out of a really soft spring green alpaca. As of today, he has finished the body and a couple of her limbs.
lurlene
She likes to supervise his piano practicing.

X-Treme Mountain Adventure

MacDade Trail 1
Our usual summer vacations involve a lot of sitting. Most years, we rent a house in Ocean City, NJ, where we spend almost every day schlepping our chairs and umbrella and all to the beach, set up, slather the kids with sunscreen and settle down for the day. After a week of this, I typically have gotten through 2 books. There is some jumping of waves and some building of castles in the sand, but generally it's a pretty low-key way to spend a week.

This year we shook things up a bit.

In the Doane online auction fundraiser last November, we saw a listing for a week in a 2 bedroom villa at Fernwood Resort in Bushkill, in the Poconos, including two rounds of golf. No one had even made an offer yet. We had never been to Fernwood, and did not know anything about it beyond what I was able to find out on the Internet before the auction closed. The money would benefit Doane. The minimum bid was less than $100 a night, even ignoring the fact that Rich and Mathboy would get to play golf twice. How bad could it be? So we took a chance and offered the minimum bid, and we won the auction.

We did not know what the place was going to be like, but it seemed as if there were a lot of fun things to do in the area. We were determined to take full advantage. So last week, with Dd's friend ready to watch over the chickens in our absence, we packed our bags and drove off.
Cat wants to come too!
The cat tried to come with us.

We arrived in Bushkill along with some very gray skies. We couldn't check in yet, and that was the day we had planned to hike through Bushkill Falls. As soon as we finished eating our picnic lunch at the Bushkill Falls site, it started to pour. Mind you, it had barely rained in weeks--now that we were starting our outdoor vacation, the skies open up? It seemed pretty unfair. We were also getting worried, because our first glimpse of the Fernwood resort was pretty depressing. Grim, even. We tried to wait out the rain, but after an hour of browsing the gift shop and reading in the covered picnic area, we decided to just go ahead and do it anyway.
At Bushkill Falls in the rain
This is the only picture from Bushkill Falls that turned out to be any good. It's hard to take pictures in the rain! I didn't want my iPhone to get wet, and my Nikon kept trying to flash. Sheesh. Such a gorgeous, amazing place, and I have one picture.

After we got totally soaked at Bushkill falls, we drove back to Fernwood to check in, and we finally got to see our home for the next week. The villa was great! The kids had a loft with twin beds, we had a full kitchen, a jacuzzi tub and all sorts of amenities. It was the perfect place to serve as our home base for our X-Treme Mountain Adventure. (What a relief! I really was starting to think we had made a dreadful mistake.)

On Tuesday, Mathboy had decided that we should hike up to the top of the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap, and we said okay with the optimism and hubris that only people who have climbed Old Rag in the Shenandoah National Park can have. After all, if we made it up Old Rag, we can do anything right?
Mt Tammany 2
Oh. My. God. After a couple of hours of this, we realized that the days of hiking Old Rag may be behind us. We persevered, and reaped our reward.
View from half up Mt. Tammany
View from Indian Head 1
View from Indian Head 4
View from Indian Head 5
This spectacular view of the Delaware Water Gap, from Indian Head at the top of Mount Tammany.

After we hiked back down (using the not so steep side of the mountain), we stopped in at Kittatinny Point, and enjoyed our picnic lunch and a soothing wade in the Delaware River.
Delaware water gap wading

The rest of the week included more hiking, through hills and swampy forests ...
PEEC 1
...fording streams...
PEEC Stream
...rapelling down steep ridges ...
PEEC rapel line
...and following old rail lines between the river and the soybean fields.
MacDade Trail 2

While the guys played golf two mornings, dd got her first real horseback ride.
Fernwood horse ride
This is Phantom.

We also got to spend a day at Camelbeach Water Park, where Rich and I finally got to sit in those beach chairs for a day. We did ride a few water slides with the kids, but the beauty of having older kids is that you don't need to hold their hands all the time. (And I had a big book that I wanted to get through! It took me the whole vacation to finish A Dance With Dragons.)

We also got in a day of kayaking down the Delaware River, which was so relaxing.
kayaking 1
kayaking 4
We liked that so much, that we want to look into getting some boats of our own, and a rack for the top of the car.

On the last day, I went to the outlets while Rich and the kids did the Treetop Rope Courses at CBK Adventures. After 3 and 1/2 hours of climbing and sliding and ziplining, the kids came down with smiles and Rich came down with his arms shaking. It was quite a work out! Then it was time to go home.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Plenty

cans a'plenty
I felt like a farm wife today. Or should I say Home Farm Wife? Whatever. In my efforts to find new and exciting ways to use up the endless zucchini bounty, I dug out my canner and my canning book, and proceeded to "put up" 5 jars of zucchini relish. As long as I had the thing out and filled, I got 6 pints of blueberries from Johnson's Farm, down the street, and went crazy. Five jars of blueberry syrup and 5 jars of blueberry butter later, I decided to go out and see what the home farm had to offer me today.
Today's bounty
How about a pound of green beans and another zucchini? (I also got 2 heads of lettuce, but forgot to take a picture of them before washing them and putting them away.) You know, I think there may be a reason why they call New Jersey the Garden State....

We have reached the point in the summer where the garden is really starting to do its part, paying us back for all the watering and weeding we have done. The green beans have already supplied 4 or 5 dinners worth of veggies, not counting today's haul, and I have 6 zucchini in the refrigerator right now, even though I used 4 to make zucchini relish this morning. And there are several more on the vines that are nearly ready.
zucchini
Thank goodness I only planted 2 zucchini plants this spring!

The kohlrabi should be ready soon, and the broccoli are almost big enough to pick. I've already made a huge batch of basil pesto, and a "huger" batch of kale pesto. And I sent dd out to pick the 2 biggest peppers she could find this morning, so I could cut them up for the relish I was making.

(By the way, can I say how COOL it feels to send your kid out to the garden to bring back food? I am not sure why, but it's just great. Here, hon, go out to the garden and fill this basket with basil. Awesome. I am such a weirdo.)

DSCN2342
The acorn squash plants are like giant mutant bushes. We have 5, and each of them has 4 or 5 sqaushes that look like they could be ready to pick very soon. But I don't know what to do with so many acorn squashes already! It's only July! I expected to be harvesting them at the end of August, and stashing them in a crate in the basement for several weeks, or something like that. Isn't that what Ma and Laura and Mary did? (Except I do have an extra mini-fridge down there--ah, the benefits of modern life.)

We are doing our best to protect the plants from the varmints. Rich's fence goes all the way around, and the pretty wooden gates go all the way down to the ground. But there are these super-teeny-weeny bunnies that have no problem getting through the fence, and apparently they have a taste for edamame, of all things. I planted 8 edamame bushes this spring. They are down to sticks now. The amazing thing is that they are in the middle of the garden--row 3 out of 8. These bunnies bypass the tomatoes, turn their cute little noses up at the lettuce, snub the kale and the broccoli, and head for the edamame. But I worry what these tiny Asian-peapod-lovers will start to go after once the edamame are all gone.

garden 3
Right now, the garden is a study in contrasts. I planted the veggies in rows in the back half. Rich is sculpting the front half to be more of a decorative garden. The veggies have grown to monster sizes in the back. Rich's front part is still barren, but he is making definite progress.
garden 2

In the fall, I look forward to posting a picture that would show some of the late season veggie crops still going in the back of the garden, along with Rich's flowers blooming in the front. It will look great!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Things I Learned on my Bike in the past week

IMG_0466
1. It's hard to take a picture while you are pedaling.

2. Familiarize yourself with the garbage schedule of the towns you plan to ride through. It's no fun weaving between stinky cans and garbage trucks.

3. On some roads, you need to keep your mouth shut while riding, unless you like to get additional protein from eating bugs.

4. Even with my fancy new gel-techno-padded bike shorts, I still dread the moment when I get up from the bike seat and all the blood rushes back to my butt. Ouch!

5. I'm not a kid anymore. :oP

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fun times

I have become a very inconsistent blogger. Here I am, with another monthly update, and I find myself overwhelmed with all the pictures I have to post and the events to report. This is why I really should write more regularly.

We had a wonderful visit with Rich's family on Kiawah Island, SC over Easter. The Saturday before Easter, we were on the beach all day. It just felt so weird to be swimming in the ocean, before Easter. The water was warm. The sun was strong--too strong for this New Jersey family, apparently, as we ended up having to take dd to the doctor for sun poisioning after a few days. But still, a good time was had by all.
Encamped for the day
Leslie and Frank

Some tough poker games were played.
Tough poker game 1

Many books were read.
fun at kiawah

Mathboy and his cousin got pretty good at managing the ocean kayaks in the waves.
Ocean kayak
kayaking the waves

Kiawah is so gorgeous, so totally different from the shores that we are used to up here in the northeast. This is the path out to the beach.
path to the beach

This is what we saw from the balcony of our room.
View from our balcony 1

And then we had to come back to New Jersey and reality. Mathboy and I came home early, by plane, because his school was already back in session and because he had to get ready for the AP Chemistry exam. Even though we had a great trip, Easter break wasn't really long enough to recharge everyone's batteries, though. The kids are really looking forward to the end of the year.

It was very frustrating that the kids' schools have had different schedules so often this year. At least that won't be a problem next year: dd has been accepted at Mathboy's school. Hooray! It's going to be great having them together, in the same school, for the first time in 6 years. No more OLGC school for us, only Doane Academy. Hm, that means I better get dd signed up for CCD, though, doesn't it?

The past few weeks have been spent in a haze of baseball, softball, cardboard boat building, and trying to get the garden going. Mathboy played on the Doane baseball team this year, and hopefully learned some valuable lessons in patience and realizing that one has to work one's way up in high school sports.

Everyone got to bat when the Doane team played Solebury School (yes, my old school), at the Trenton Thunder stadium a few weeks ago.
Batter up!
It was really neat to see the guys out on that beautiful field.

Dd has been learning the same lesson on the school softball team, but at least she has the town rec league team as well. Rich is coaching dd's rec team, and he says it is a wonderful group of girls. So far, their record is 6-4-1, which is pretty good! Dd is still focusing on pitching, which she wants to practice everyday.

garden at 2 weeks of age
The seedlings have all been planted, and Rich is woprking on finishing the fence in front. We've planted winter squash, kohlrabi, cabbage, kale, sweet peppers, edamame, snow peas, green beans, broccoli, scallions, quinoa, beets, chard, and lots and lots of lettuce. We also have 14 tomato plants, including Burbank Slicing and Japanese Momotaro heirloom varieties.
Tomato seedling
I am very excited to see the tomatoes from these plants (the Momotaro seeds were about 25 cents each!), but I am wondering if I may have gone overboard planting 14.... I may be canning a lot of sauce.

Right now, I am just keeping my fingers crossed that everything does OK, because I already have several weeks of seed-nurturing behind me already. Half of the winter squash seedlings did not look so good this morning. I wonder if they got crushed by heavy rain last night. Gulp.

The kale is for the chickens. They love it.
kale rocks!

While Rich and I were slaving away in the garden over the past few Sundays, Mathboy and a friend from school were building this:
Cardboard boat
A cardboard boat, for a regatta that Doane is hosting next Friday. Stay tuned, and I'll let you know whether they make it aacross Liberty Lake in this conglomeration of broken down liquor store boxes, Gorilla Glue and duct tape.