From the Garden to the Counter

The spider wort has taken over the porch border garden. Once I have a decent weather weekend I will go forth and do battle.

I’ve cut back a lot this year on growing edibles. In the past I’ve gotten carried away with all sorts of herbs and we almost never used some of them. There are others, like lemon balm, that we almost never use but since it’s thriving and happy it got to stay. 🙂 I have one cherry tomato plant and one red pepper (sweet) plant. I don’t think I have any other vegetable attempts.

parsely, dill, arugula, romaine, leaf lettuce

I was making some salads for us to enjoy in the intermittent hot weather. Aside: it’s been as crazy here as in other places in the world. For example: Wednesday it was 91 degrees in the afternoon. Saturday morning it was 41. Memorial day we did finally edge up into the 70s, but only late in the afternoon before it then started cooling down again. Here we are on Friday – HUMID and in the 70s and we’re due for thunderstorms (heads up, Honour). They are promising 80s on Saturday and – oh hallelujah! – 90s on Sunday. I’ve been sooooo COLD. Back to the salads! There are 3 types of lettuce: arugula, red leaf, and romaine. They were for my tossed salad. The dill and parsley were for the chickpea salad. Yummy!

Ready to cook. Fire pit at the ready, also 2 propane heaters if needed.

The Memorial Day weekend was, as I said, VERY cold and VERY rainy on Saturday and Sunday. Monday things finally started to dry and warm up. We had TEN PEOPLE on the deck for BBQ dinner. It was GLORIOUS! We’d not been together since Feb 2, 2020. So much hugging and smiling and laughing!! It was wonderful to be back together again. I got to show off my latest acquisition for the deck – my new ice cooler. 🙂 My sister and I had gone to an Antiques & Collectibles show back in April. This Italian ice cart caught my eye, caught my sense of humor, and I thought it would be perfect on the deck. When my husband texted back to say he AGREED, the deal was done. 🙂 He keeps saying “we’ll get a lot of use out of it” and I keep laughing and saying “oh my it is so kitsch that it is art and I LOVE it”. Seriously – it gives me such joy. I smile every time I see it. And yes – it is useful. It holds A LOT of ice. Deceptively so. We had 3 bags of ice in it for the BBQ and it looked paltry. But our drinks were cold!

No need for shade. We did light the firepit at dusk and it put out a good amount of heat and a LOT of beauty.

FINALLY!!! I Had Visitors!

Oh my goodness gracious! FINALLY! Had both my shots, passed the 2 week wait, the governor said we could gather in groups outside. Obviously the word has gotten around and I had TWO visitors this week!!! The first was the swallowtail butterfly, who wouldn’t stop flitting here and flitting there. I’m not sure which version of swallowtail but definitely a BUTTERFLY! And then as I sat outside relaxing, enjoying the warm sunny day – a Tufted Titmouse dropped by!!! (I only know THAT because TT was much more cooperative about having a picture taken. I could text it to my sister the bird expert to find out who had dropped by.) Wonderful to FINALLY be entertaining guests once more!

But There’s Nothing NEW

She is managing me as I work.

I’m impressed by the bloggers who still manage to find interesting anecdotes and photos to share. I have lots of thoughts in my head, but nothing ever seems urgent enough to overcome the winter/covid/lockdown lethargy that possesses me. It was rather fun to have a major snow storm, especially as the teenager who lives next door dealt with the shoveling (yes, we loaned him our snow blower to do 5 houses on the block). Neither my husband nor I had to go out so that was also good. But now I’m over it. We had snow a week later and honestly – boring. I want to say something like “either snow a substantial accumulation or don’t bother”, but I want to be very, very careful what I wish for. Because it takes a LONG TIME for the snow to melt, and it’s not so pretty anymore.

It snowed.

There WAS a plus to the big snow storm. As I checked in on the neighbor to make sure he knew that he could use the snowblower, his little sister came to the door as well. 🙂 You remember her – she’s the one who greeted me on my return from a long, hard day at the office with “Can I have a hug?” *huge smile* I adore her and miss our baking sessions. Maybe we could bake with masks on? Anyway, she came to the door and told me she had a gift for me. She then presented me with a gorgeous eye glass case that she had made for me. Can my smile get any bigger? What an absolute joy!

The most beautiful eye glass case!

I made it back to the library this week to pick up more books on my “want to read, too cheap to purchase” list. Thank goodness for the library. What a brilliant innovation!!! 🙂 While reading eBooks I came to several conclusions. I’ve already ditched the author who never lets her characters be happy. The relentless misery and disappointment is too much for me. I’ve decided I’m also bored when the main character is YET AGAIN considered the main suspect. Enough already. We know it’s NOT you so it’s boring to read all the details implicating you and the hostility of the ones suspecting you. Yawn. I’m also tired of books that start out with the protagonist breaking the law deliberately even though they are in law enforcement. I couldn’t make it past the first chapter. I don’t know if it was the writing or the “here we go again” feeling it evoked, but it’s taking up room on my iPad at the moment until I figure out how to delete it. I don’t mind obvious plots – I’m very happy reading “chick lit” where you KNOW who ends up together (unhappy girl runs to wherever, swears off men/that man, meets man/remeets that man, sparks, misunderstanding, fight, reunion, happy ending) if the characters are likeable and believable. I treated myself to a big THICK book a few weeks ago – Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson. This is Book 4 of the Stormlight Archive series. My son got me started on it and I love it. The books are a few inches thick, *grin*, and you do have to like sci-fi. I look at the book and I don’t start it, I just sort of drool. It seems that there are at least 3 years between the publication of each book. If I read it NOW, that will be good, because I remember everything (okay – a lot) because I just read the first 3 books all fall. But if I read it NOW, I’ll have to wait 3 years to find out more. If I wait to read it until Book 5 is out, I can have the pleasure of re-reading books 1-3 and then 4. 🙂 I do that with another series – reread the entire series start to finish when the latest book is published. Those are much shorter books, however, and I’m sure that they are in the “teen novel” genre. I don’t care. I love Elantra.

And snowed.

We have still not braved going out to dine indoors at a restaurant. As stir-crazy as I feel at times, it’s still not worth the possible risk. What we did instead was have a friend come to dinner at our house. Rather than eat in the snow on the deck, we ate inside. We sat at opposite ends of the nearly 9 ft. long dining room table. I had an exhaust fan pulling air out of the house in the sun room, and a fan in the dining room pushing air out of the dining room (or such was my theory/hope). We had a fantastic dinner – my husband made what is now my all-time favorite dish, some French chicken recipe. It was wonderful to see our friend, who we’d not seen in months. We talked and talked and talked. Absolutely great.

3 cheers for teenagers with snow blowers!

This past weekend was the NFL Superbowl. It was also the first time in over 25 years that I was NOT throwing a Superbowl party. I’ve mentioned this in years past, how this might be our premiere party each year. We have to move out the living room furniture, we set up 2 TVs, TONS of food, dozens of friends. It’s always a wonderful wonderful time, no matter how uninteresting the game. I’ve been a bit bummed about no party – difficulty wrapping my head around that. On top of that I had some health problems. I mentioned my costochondritis. Not only did I have that, but apparently at the same time I contracted shingles. Well NO WONDER I’ve been exhausted all of January. Just as both of those appeared to have loosened their grip on me, my back went out the way it has not done in years. I don’t remember the last time I got “stuck” and had to call for my husband to help me move. I spent the day with my back packed in ice and popping ibuprofen. Thank goodness it cleared up very quickly. That meant I could think about a Superbowl zoom get-together. Cheers for my friend Pam who refused to let me wallow in self-pity. She kept nudging and suggesting things to do. I got my sister signed on board (as she is the one with the zoom account that can run for more than 50 minutes) and we did indeed have a virtual party. I made up Superbowl bingo cards (can’t start playing until after kickoff, and only words that are used in commercials or during the game broadcast) and sent them out to everyone. We had folks logged in from Florida, NC, Delaware, NJ, Ohio, and AZ. 🙂 We all shared views of our party food and drinks. For most of the game people stayed on mute but when something major happened we’d text and chat. 🙂 It wasn’t the same, but it was fun. It’s good to have family and friends. 🙂

BC with her absolute favorite prey – the cloth butterfly. It appears regularly by my bed, delivered overnight to the sound of hunting meows.

The rest of life is pretty much as it has been. Sandwich making twice a week. Working from home. I took a new role at work, which contains all of what I used to do and then some. That means I’m in a LOT more meetings. I also appear to be on the 2-person committee of people expected to create a virtual “water cooler conversation” in text channels. Although it can be a bit annoying when the other committee member nags me to figure out what to do, it can lend itself to some very fun activities. I spent several hours photo-shopping our VP into “Where’s Waldo” type scenarios, and onto Mount Rushmore, into a suit of medieval armor on a horse also wearing medieval armor, and more. Today was turn our VP into an emoji. This is because I got tired of the other committee member saying last week “What do YOU want to do, Ahuva?” I replied “*I* want to be on vacation in the Caribbean”. Sigh. But today’s pictures did seem to bring a lot of enjoyment to the team, including (or maybe especially??) our VP. 🙂 Success!

Sometimes that tricky butterfly manages to hide safely under the couch.

She’s Singing My Song

My sister sent me this link today about Holiday Dinner Planning. Of course it applies to ANY dinner planning these days. I’ve written before about the challenges I face trying to invite my long-time group of friends to dinner. And that is WITHOUT the person who can’t eat nightshades (which I only learned to my dismay at my Come See My New Kitchen party). My husband pointed out that they also forgot to mention the people who bring their own food without having mentioned it or cleared it with the hostess first. 🙂 I believe that I’ve also mentioned that showing up with unexpected entrees that you expect to be served at that meal is actually a bit rude. Aren’t you glad you aren’t invited to my house for dinner? SO many rules!!! But enjoy the song because, oh my goodness, it’s right on the nose! (Of course at THIS point in the pandemic, I’d be DELIGHTED to be throwing a party no matter WHAT food challenges I face.)

2 Faces of Ahuva

relaxing at The Vault
Relaxing after a long day at the spa

I am having NO difficulty getting into the vacation mind-set this week. Let me clarify that a little – MY vacation mind-set. As you know, I spent Monday at Spa Ahuva. That night I sat down and made a list of all the things I needed to get done this week, things I’d like to get done this week, things that at some point need to get done around the house, and the list of this month’s donations. I had everything written down – 4 separate pad pages. Impressed with how industrious I was going to be, I treated myself to logging in to SL to hear Calli DJ’ing. She was at The Vault, doing a set of sultry tunes. It was the perfect end to a lovely day. I relaxed, chatted with the friends who were there, listened to the tunes, and savored the moment. I went to bed and slept a good sleep – the result of spending the day at the spa and the wonderful music.

DJ Calli
Always good to hear DJ Calli spin the tunes

I woke up the next day and stayed in bed, listening to my husband puttering about (he’s VERY noisy in the morning). There was no BC to come and cuddle. She hadn’t ‘tucked me in’ last night, either. So really – it was all HER fault. I was relaxed, thinking no need to move, let my husband feed the cats, when all of a sudden I realized: IT’S TUESDAY!!!!! I need to make 100 sandwiches this morning. It was about 10 to 8 in the morning. Lately I’ve been getting there about 8:05. I jumped out of bed yelling “It’s Tuesday – I need to make sandwiches”. I threw on my clothes, brushed my teeth, made a to-go cup of iced coffee, called to my husband – take care of the cats and raced out the door. I made it there by 8:20. 🙂 The other 3 were already there. When I walked in, Helene called out “The Birthday Girl!!!!” It’s true – they were 2 days early, but I’d already said I was taking off Thursday. Jay had baked me cookies, and they had prezzies for me and my brother-in-law, who also makes the sandwiches on Tuesdays. They had face masks from the soup kitchen we are supporting. They also brought the Birthday Crown for me to wear. 🙂 I need to return it next Tuesday because Helene’s birthday is the following week and SHE needs the crown then. 🙂 As you can see – I look stunning.

birthday princess
I have taken better pictures. Please remember that is unwashed hair. Was not intending to have the “off the shoulder look” – just part of the total being off-balance

We got the sandwiches and lunch bags done and out the door by 9:30. The stupid squirrels had dug up my dill, and my radishes had died, so I had 2 empty pots that needed flowers. I decided to give up on herbs and vegetables for the rest of the season. I’d planned to go way down to my favorite nursery, but was too lazy and befuddled at that point. Missing the morning routine had me completely off balance. I went to the nearest big box store to find something that would supply bright color and survive the sun (the temps have been in the 90s now for over a week). Well, I saw some canna lilies there at a very reasonable price. They looked so neglected. They looked like they deserved to be rescued. I did what had to be done – I bought 2 canna lilies and 2 pots of yellow marigolds. They were sooooo root-bound. Let’s hope they flower.

canna lily 1
I do hope it flowers – it was so root-bound

I came home, still somewhat off-balance. I looked at my many lists. I made it to the chiropractor that afternoon, before he left on vacation. The nerve! Who said HE could take a vacation??? I made a few phone calls (on my list, unlike making the sandwiches), crossed off buying flowers. I paid the bills, made the donations, and decided the rest of the chores could just wait until tomorrow. 🙂 I have to say, this is the first vacation where I am truly not thinking about work. I see the emails come through on my phone, but I just delete the garbage, mark others as read, and then stop thinking about them. I’m not at all tempted to just send one email, just do one thing. I have a password that is going to expire this week. I’m trying to decide if I should logon and deal with it or just let it expire and deal with it when I return. This vacation is proving a point that my dear friend Honour has been making for years: There is so much to DO if you are not working. I’m NOT going to be bored. Okay, most of my lists are what some would call ‘chores’, but for me they are very satisfying. I’m finally fixing and changing things around the house that have annoyed me for years. There might be something to this whole concept of ‘retirement’.

canna lily 2
This one looks in better shape. Gorgeous leaves even if it doesn’t flower

On Vacation

rudbeckia
Beautiful golden Rudbeckia Laciniata Hortensia

I started my one week vacation at 5:36 pm Friday night. *grin* That’s when I posted my last document to the team and signed out of all my applications and shut down my computer. Ahhhhh. We headed over to my sister’s where my brother-in-law had made the PERFECT Shabbat dinner: chicken, broccoli, potatoes, challah and SALT STICKS!!!! Oh my, his bread is absolutely amazingly delicious. As was the entire dinner. I drank too much white wine but I kept toasting “To Vacation!”.

gladiola
lovely color for the gladiola

We came home, STILL running the air conditioners. Maybe that doesn’t sound odd to you folk who live in modern houses with central air. I live in a house that is nearly 100 years old. MY air conditioners are all window units. I hate the sensation of being locked into the house. I love open windows, fresh air, fans moving the air. We’ve had the a/c going for 8 days straight. That may be a record.

incipient canna lily
Looks like this canna lily will be the first to bloom. surrounded by Bolton’s Aster (False Starwort)

It was Friday, I was on vacation, I was a little tipsy, and I was not in the mood to watch TV or read. What to do? Second Life. 🙂 I logged in. An “old” friend was inworld – I’d not chatted with her in at least 8 years. I pinged her and we had a lovely, lovely chat. We caught up on life, life under the pandemic, and then had a WONDERFUL time chatting about our cats and cats in general. 🙂 I also chatted with another “old” friend – one with whom I’ve maintained contact over the years. I know that some people do not feel as if this kind of connection is ‘real’. I’m sorry for those folks, because in times like this pandemic, for those of us who believe in social distancing, the ability to be together virtually does wonders for my emotional health. I’m looking at scenes that tell my brain I am out and about and interacting with friends. It really works for me. I only wish I could reconnect with some of my friends who are no longer in SL – Dale, Zha, Chestnut, Honour, Jessica, Oura, Svea, Alem, Fricker Fraker, Winston and all the rest. We had such fun back in the day.

is this a squash
I seem to be growing a squash of some sort. It snuck in with the flowers

Now here I am, the first morning of vacation. I treated myself by staying in bed an extra 90 minutes. BC was obliging. She did jump onto the bed after the first 60 minutes, but settled in when I began rubbing behind her ear. 🙂 She often prefers love to food. When I finally went downstairs and outside to bring in the newspapers, I discovered that the temperature and humidity were at a reasonable summer level. I opened ALL the windows. Yet another pleasure on this first day of vacation!

look at this bug
Just LOOK at this bug. It was huge. I have no idea what it is

You Can Go Home Again

Ahuva and Bamboo
Bamboo and me relaxing at home

I’ve been reading a LOT, although mostly books that do not challenge and are not edifying and ARE an attempt at escapism. I’ve watched more TV in the last 2 months than I have probably watched in the last 5 years combined – I’m NOT a big TV watcher. I haven’t been able to work in the garden and see the neighbors working in their gardens or folks taking walks. I confess – I was lonely. What do you do if you are lonely and want people and music and company but you are practicing separation and isolation? You go home to SecondLife.

I know that a lot of the folks who follow this blog started following long after my SL days. You seem to enjoy my musings on my cats, my garden, life in general, work, the weather and all those other aspects of what is also known as IRL – “in real life”. This blog started as a chronicle of my adventures in SL. It was a marvelous time. I was privileged to not only enjoy SL in my private life but could work and build and develop as part of my professional career as well. But time moves on, people take new jobs, people die, get new interests, have other obligations. *rueful smile* Gaming laptops age. All of those things happened and I stopped going into SL. It took me a few years to surrender my land. I was paying around $40 a month, I think, for something I never used. I was never able to convince myself to give up my premium status, however. I was paying $72 a year for that until this past payment when it rose to $100/yr. Even so, I could not make that break. I had a zillion rationalizations for why I should keep the account.

Mallory, Bill & Drake
Mallory, Bill and Drake (Bill is the white one)

I’d been chatting via social media with a friend from those good old SL days and we agreed to try to meet inworld. She had a new avatar, a new life, new friends, new everything there. Last night I went ‘home’. *laughing* Good grief, I’d forgotten SO MUCH. First, my pool with my ducks was making SO MUCH NOISE it was making me crazy. Why did I ever think pool sounds were a good idea? I knew I had to open the item, find the script that made the noise and stop it, but could not remember how to do it. I’ve also realized that at some point when we moved from our home on the water to our treetop home, Drake dyed his feathers yellow. He used to be white. I had 2 white ducks and one yellow and now I have 2 yellow ducks and one white one. I asked Drake why and he said he needed a new look for a new home. Bill, as usual, was totally oblivious to everything.

Sean and Ahuva
Ahuva and Sean, If I want to keep my avatar somewhat aligned with my body, I’m going to need to add a lot more width. 🙂

I did a little better at moving around and getting my panda, Bamboo, to come back and join me. Thank goodness my friend came inworld and helped me remember how to stop scripts, manage sound. Wow. Did she look different. I knew she had a new avatar, but avatar structure and movement have improved immensely since I was there last. Her fingers MOVED! My fingers are very blocky looking. We sat and talked and talked (yes, talked, we both went to voice, not just text chat). She promised to meet me again and take me shopping for a new body, new head, new hair and lots of new clothes!!!! I’m so excited! 🙂

Ahuva at Smokestack
Sitting at the bar at Smokestack, listening to Noma

While we were talking other friends logged in and saw that I was logged in. I got several IMs saying hello and *hug*. I accepted a TP from a friend to a performance going on by one of the musicians I always liked – Grace McDonnough. In this case TP means Teleport, NOT toilet paper. 🙂 I had a great time talking to my friend there, and hearing Grace’s singing. From there I headed over to Prim Economy to hear Komuso Tokugawa, who is one of my top 2 favorite performers in SL. I still listen to his music (which I had downloaded). I made a new friend there as we shared conversation about horses and shoes. The inworld versions of both have apparently improved as much as the avatars. She says that when you are riding a horse inworld you actually have the natural movement of a horse (you used to simply move forward with no rise and fall). I’m extremely excited to try riding in SL again. My good friend Calli was inworld. I managed to get over to Tribeca to catch the very last song of her set. Since it was Friday, and it was Tribeca, of course the closing song was “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. It’s ALWAYS Hallelujah. Last night’s rendition was by Jeff Buckley.

Noma
Noma Falta

I went back in on Saturday, too. This time I remembered how to adjust my draw rate (how far away you can see items) and quality of detail. Slowly but surely some of the tricks are coming back. I caught up with another dear friend from the “old days”. I also got to hear Noma Falta live. I swear she gets better all the time. She was rocking it out at Smokestack. That venue was new for me. I like it. Had good seating, good dancing scripts, lots of people there. I did see one or two familiar names in the audience. It was another lovely evening. I sat there sipping my wine, listening to great music, chatting with my friend, catching up on all that has been happening. I was home. 🙂

Noma rocking the crowd at Smokestack
The crowd at Smokestack, dancing to Noma

Not Quite the Holiday I Envisioned

IMG_2875
Yes, I have bins full of paper goods for all occasions

Good thing for me that I follow the Jewish calendar and the New Year starts on Rosh Hashanah, which happened back in September. Although there were some bumps in the road then, too, I got to spend a wonderful holiday in Arizona with my son, welcoming the new year. I have a zillion photos that I’ve been meaning to share with you about that, sometime. 🙂 But even if Rosh Hashanah is “my” new year, I love to party with the rest of the world when the calendar switches from December 31 to January 1. Of course by now you should know that I just love to party. 🙂

The first decision is always HOW to party – throw a party, go to a party, quiet party, loud party. You might remember that last year was my party-to-end-all-parties – the unveiling of The New Kitchen!! That party took at least 4 blog posts to describe. *grin* This year I decided that I was a bit worn out and wanted a quieter celebration. We decided to go back to our traditional NYE party – a group of friends over for dinner. We have a group of friends that I call “the gang of 8” – us and 3 other couples. Sometimes it’s the gang of 9 when my son joins us, sometimes it’s the gang of 10 when my sister and her husband join us, but for many, many years I have used the shorthand of ‘gang of 8’ to describe us (as in over 20 years, I believe, maybe getting close to 25 years). Anyway, we opted for dinner for the gang of 10.

IMG_2873
I seem to remember much smaller hens – do they shrink in cooking?

Originally I thought that we’d make the 18 pound turkey we have in the downstairs freezer. Of the possible 10 eaters, 2 are vegetarians. That’s a lot of turkey for 8 people when you figure there will be side dishes as well. Then I was reading Jinjer’s blog and saw she was making Cornish Game Hens. Wow!! I haven’t thought about those in YEARS! There was a time when they were the ‘in’ food and EVEN MY MOTHER cooked them (my mother never cooked if at all possible). *smile* I thought that individual game hens was MUCH better than 18 pounds of turkey. My husband found frozen game hens at the local grocery store and a decision was made.

IMG_2872
NOT the usual counter displays I share with you 😦

I have to tell you that planning dinner for the gang of 8 is a challenge. There was a time when we were all much younger when we had fewer food issues. Now – well now I almost think the challenge of preparing a menu and dishes is almost as much fun as getting to spend time with my friends. *grin* But that is definitely another post. Anyway, I had a great menu planned. Then I woke up on the morning of December 21 with congestion and a fever. Okay, I can deal with this: liquids, more liquids and rest. Except I kept getting worse. I was working that week (or at least nominally working) and was hard pressed to concentrate on the monitor. Definitely a fever. Definitely a hacking cough. Definitely SICK. All week. I was sleeping in a chair for 3 days until I threw my back out. So even though I felt better Thursday, I couldn’t move from the pain. We had a major party to attend on Saturday evening. I spent Thursday and Friday horizontal on ice packs. Saturday came. Yay for decongestants, cough drops, Advil and nose spray. We made it to the party and back again. I even managed Sunday morning to do all the grocery shopping for NYE dinner. And of course I picked up a treat for the kitties (obligatory photos included). Made it to my sister’s and brother-in-law’s for a phenomenal Sunday dinner of standing rib roast and the most amazing potatoes ever and heavenly salt stick rolls.

IMG_2867
How DO you take good photos of black cats?????

Woke up Monday morning realizing that I was NOT healthy and NOT feeling like there was anyway I could throw a party the next night, no matter how relaxed. When I saw my husband taking the hens out to defrost I told him to put them back. Monday night I sent out an email and rescheduled our dinner to Saturday, January 4. I was in bed (in the chair again) on NYE by 10 pm, with decongestants, nose spray, cough drops, tissues, advil. The ball dropped at Times Square without my help. 🙂 Last night, January 1, my husband said “I’m going to take a dip (in our hot tub) because I’m feeling a little congested.” Oh no!!!!!!! It was inevitable but still horrible – now he is sick. I know several people who have gotten this chest congestion and coughing and misery. It seems to last FOREVER. With any luck my husband will shake it off faster than I did, okay, I still haven’t. In my head I figure Saturday night dinner is not happening.

IMG_2874
Sigh. A lot of this dinner party food is perishable. And this is only the downstairs refrigerator.

This is not the best way to start a new year. On the other hand, maybe if we get all the germs out of the way NOW, the rest of the year will be healthy. One can only hope!

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Better slightly blurry cat pictures than photos of waste baskets full of tissues!

Because I Can

biscuits
baking powder biscuits fresh from the oven

*grin* This post is for my Fundy Bay Friend. I am in awe of all she does and accomplishes way up north in her new home (well new to her but oh so old in many other respects, hence all her accomplishments). She does things mechanical, takes fantastic photos, deals with demanding beasts (both 2 and 4 legged), deals with border police delaying her packages, and so many other successes out there on the island. She insists, however, that she can’t bake. We were discussing baking the other day and she cut me off each time I attempted to suggest she make her own pastry for her upcoming culinary treats. This is for YOU, m’dear, because it’s fun to tease. I woke up the other morning and it was cold and gray and I thought “Biscuits!!!” Warm, fresh biscuits would make this Monday morning palatable. Warm biscuits, fresh coffee. Ahhhh. Let me know if you want the recipe. I promise it’s simple. As for the coffee – *laughing* – I’ll buy a drone and fly some to you.

biscuits and coffee
Ahhhhh

Walking in the Woods

fallen tree with multiple branches

This past weekend my friend Amy and I went off to walk in the woods. Neither of us wanted anything strenuous. We wanted to be outside in the fresh air, walking, in nature. We had several ideas: the Middlesex Greenway, the Great Swamp, Patterson Falls, the Raritan canal towpath, and the Rutgers Ecological Preserve, among many other options. I’m willing to bet that surprises many of you who probably have only seen pictures of NJ from the NJ Turnpike. NOT our best side, for sure. Try taking Rt 287 up north towards the NY state line – that will surprise you as well. Back in the late 1970s NJ was 2/3 forest. We have all sorts of preserved areas, national parks, state parks and of course the Pine Barrens. There is STILL a lot of Mother Nature green in our state.

twisted vines and branches
Twisted vines and branches

We opted for the Rutgers Ecological Preserve. Amy had only ever seen a tiny sign at one corner of the preserve, and often wondered how/where you could get in there. I often pass 2 of the small parking areas that have trail beginnings. Other than that, neither of us knew anything about it. I was fairly certain it would be mostly flat walking as I knew the general area was not at all hilly, or at least not more than our town. Amy and I both walk about town so it seemed a safe choice. We thought we’d walk for perhaps an hour. I thought we might manage 3 miles that way as I knew we’d be walking, not trying to “make time” or get anywhere.

dead vines wrapped around tree trunk
I liked the texture from the vines wrapped about the trunk

My husband printed out 2 copies of the trail map for us. I figured we could park on Road 3, take the red trail to the orange trail, and then cut back on the white trail to get back to the car. Amy had her walking stick, and I had on long sleeves and long pants – I’d been warned by my neighbor about poison ivy.

bridge over the brook
Our first view of the brook – our surprise!

We parked the car and walked to the only trail opening that we saw. It was the blue and white entrance. We turned and went back because we wanted red. There was a flat field, maybe for parking? To be honest, I can’t remember if there was a barricade up or not, but we walked across gravel and grass and did indeed find a second trail head – the red trail. There was almost no one else on the trail – a bicyclist passed us at the beginning but it was just the 2 of us, chatting and walking and looking at the trees.
brook and tree roots

There were a LOT of dead trees. In as sense the dead trees were much more interesting than the live ones. There is such stark elegance in the stripped branches. They make such curious shapes. We started seeing all sorts of animals and items in the branches.

bark squirrel climbing down tree
Bark ‘squirrel’

We also discovered a brook. I wasn’t expecting a brook. That’s because I didn’t actually LOOK at the map other than to see trails. I’ll spoil the suspense now and tell you that we did not turn off where we had planned to turn back toward the car. We saw another brook when we were high up above it. My memory of the distances does not match with what I see on the map. I’m very bad at spatial recognition. But I’m fairly sure that we saw both brooks that are in the eastern side of the preserve.

bees heading home to dead log
can you see the bees heading home into the log?

Most of the path was completely clear. We had 2 spots where we did have to step over fallen trees. There were other spots where someone had come through and cut away large chunks of tree to open the trail.
cleared path

We figured out we had missed the turn to the white trail when the trail began climbing up and up and all we saw were orange markers and then saw orange and blue markers. We’d also been walking for well over an hour at that point. Hey, we were having fun and enjoying ourselves.

fallen tree roots making a wall
The base of this tree was like a huge wall – or from this angle – a mud monster

I took out my cell phone to see if by any chance the paths would be marked on the map. Not unexpectedly they were not. But using my phone, showing me in what direction I was moving, and using the trail map, we figured out that we needed to hang a sharp left onto the blue path and make our way back there.

criss crossed dead branches
luckily this was NOT on the path

We followed the blue and white paths to a trail exit and realized immediately that it was the one on Road 1, not Road 3. That was easily fixed by backing up a few feet and hanging a right on the white path. That took us back to where we had started – our first foray out of the parking lot. All in all we walked for approximately 2 hours and covered 3.7 miles, including multiple stops for me to take pictures, and a longer stop on a bench on the top of a hill overlooking the brook.

second brook
we were higher than it appears – I zoomed in

We saw only 5 other people, plus some youth hiking group that entered at the junction of the red and orange paths just ahead of our arrival there. We never saw them again. We saw the bicyclist twice – once heading in and once on the trail. We saw a woman with her young dog. I think she said it was an English Springer Spaniel, but it was absolutely terrified of us and we didn’t wish to prolong its misery. We passed a man on his way out at the Orange/Red trail end on Avenue E. We passed 2 young student looking types when we took our hard left onto the Blue path. That was it. We were undoubtedly the loudest slowest folks in the preserve. 🙂

bark possum walking up the tree
Bark possum walking up the tree

Once we were back at the car we decided we deserved some lunch. That of course necessitated thinking and deciding. As we cogitated I drove to show Amy some other neat things I knew in the area (but the horse wasn’t in the field 😦 ). She remembered a health food cafe she’d been to with a friend in our general vicinity. Given her description (near those strip malls, but not in them, but behind them, tucked away) I wasn’t sure we’d find that one but I did know where all the strip malls with tucked away back areas were in that area. We were such successful intrepid trekkers that day that not only did we find our way out of the woods unassisted, but we found her restaurant. We both had delicious wraps and iced coffee. A perfect ending to a perfect walk in the woods. Next time we’ll tackle the Great Swamp!

brook with bridge on blue path