Thursday, January 28, 2016


Every winter Terhune Orchards, located a measly three miles from our home, hosts a Wassailing Party. Every year we don't go -- perhaps I tell myself it is too cold or it will be too crowded. I'm good at finding excuses. This year we just did it.

Yes, it was a little cold (27 degrees cold). Yes, parking was a bit tight because of the snow. To add to it, Cold Soil was closed, which meant we had to drive twice as far. 

We found out Spiced Punch would be singing in the store. This definitely swayed our decision to go. Stacy, Marianne, Tom, and Dave sing a fabulous four-part harmony of "traditional" Groundhog Day songs. Many of which I thought I knew the words to, but was wrong. Come out next year to hear the Groundhog Day songs.

I sort of knew the Molly Dancers would be there, but I thought this was the name of a particular dance company and not the name of style of participatory dance. As is the case wherever we learn new group dances, Sue was our teacher and caller. I must say this was the easiest dance she has taught us, or else I am beginning to understand this after attending Colonial Balls since December 2008, and Barn Dances at Howell Living History Farm off and on over the years. 

The event concluded with singing traditional wassailing songs, making noise to scare off the evil spirits, and hanging bread on the branches in order to ensure a good harvest. We know we want Terhune to have a good harvest.

Don continues to find good excuses to wear his kilt places.

Winter Running

A couple of Christmases ago I received a pair of Yaktrax as a present. I have taken the Yaktrax out for hikes in Mercer Meadows, but until this weekend, I had not attached them to my sneakers.

With 23 inches of snow on the ground, and a nice sunny day with minimal winds I decided it was time to try running with the Yaktrax. You might say this was an other experience with leaving my comfort zone.

I stuck to the newly plowed, yet still icy-patched road. I run past people still shoveling (thanks to Don and the wovel, plus me and the shovel our driveway and sidewalk were done). I waved and pointed to my yaktrax. It felt so good to get outside and run. Though not my fastest time, it was one of my happiest runs. I came home smiling.

The next day I went out again, this time without the yaktrax as the snow had melted somewhat. It was still nice to be able to run with the snow melting around me.

I am glad I am able to run. Knock on wood, other than falling during a race, I have stayed injury free, too. I am getting faster, but until others in my age group stop running, I will not win any awards for speed. I do it because I like it.

PS: we recently learned the wovel was invented by someone who grew up in Mercer County, a friend of a friend.

Leaving My Comfort Zone -- sledding

One of my goals for the year is to leave my comfort zone more often. It turns out this is one of Don's plans, too. I welcome suggestions. 

We recently had an epic snowstorm. To read about it on Facebook and to talk to people, we have never seen a storm like this one. Hyperbole at its best. It snowed from Friday night through Sunday morning, in the end dropping about 23 inches of soft and fluffy white stuff. When we lived on Plum Street in Trenton this would have been horrible -- where do you put 23 inches of snow when you don't have a front lawn or a driveway? In suburbia it is truly only a nuisance, albeit a pretty nuisance. Fortunately on Sunday the snow was still light enough to move. That changed throughout the warm week as the snow would melt somewhat and refreeze at night.

Here are a few snow pictures:

The drifts make it look deeper than 23 inches. We did see two plows get stuck -- one right in front of our house.

Don shoveled out our Little Free Library:

Back to the original topic: sledding.

Typically after a storm Don takes Ashley down the street to a retention basin to go sledding. He took her on Sunday after it stopped snowing. I took her on Monday. She showed me where "Dad" goes (which was not exactly where I would go). After going down once Ashley kindly offered me the sled. I believe the last time I went sledding was in in the late-1990s (right after I left a job with health insurance and was about to start a new job with new benefits on Monday, I went snow tubing in-between and had a friend's boot accidentally land on my nose, fortunately no damage was done). I hopped on the sled and went down without incident, and (alas) without photo proof.

Ashley went down a few more times. I moved to the bottom of the basin to take some pictures. She warned me she does not have a lot of control over the sled, so I would have to pay attention. Fortunately no crashes were involved.

We then switched places. She took pictures and I went down the hill. It was fun. The loss of control is a little jarring. There were moments when my life started to flash in front of my eyes and I had this sensation that I must be insane -- what if I get hurt, but nothing bad happened. 

Even after falling off of the sled, I got up smiling and decided to quit while I was ahead.

Cold weather and I are still not the best of friends. I would much rather be inside reading a book with the fireplace going and a cat nearby, but I proved to myself I can be a kid, if only for a few moments.

The Golden Rule

Once upon a time someone told me the Golden Rule did not actually appear in the Bible. I remember thinking how odd since it sounded like something Jesus would preach, but, like a lazy person, I totally believed this person (I can't remember who said it and under what context).

This morning's Upper Room daily devotional quotes Matthew 7:7-12, with an emphasis on Matthew 7:12.

Ask, Seek, Knock 
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

This sure sounds like the Golden Rule of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

This is a practice I naturally try to adhere to with my friends and family. It is a much easier way to live than being sneaky or deceitful. I don't always stretch this to interactions with strangers, though. Sure, I smile at people when I pass them on the street, I say hello, I hold doors open, I help carry strollers down flights of stairs, you know the basic stuff that means I am a human and you are a human and we all live on the same planet. 

I don't take it to the next level and go out of my way to get to know more people. This summer I learned there are about 5 other other girls Ashley's age in our neighborhood. This fall I learned of another family who homeschooled. Why knew we had so much in common with those walking distance from our house? Why I haven't I taken the opportunity to get to know more of 70 or so families in our neighborhood? After 15 years I barely know the names of the ones I can see from our front door.

A new family moved in last fall. I noticed their driveway was not shoveled following the last storm. I did bring their mail and a box into our house and called them. Fortunately it turns out they were on vacation and were trapped somewhere else unable to fly home. They had given us their cell phone number because they have a small child and might be in need of a sitter. First off, I should have called them sooner (it took me four days) and secondly, I should swap phone numbers with more neighbors in case other situations arise.

That is one small step I can take towards "do to others what I would have them do to me." Through God's help, may I find more ways to reach out and treat people with kindness.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Leaving My Comfort Zone -- Corks and Canvases

One of my 2016 Resolutions is to leave my comfort zone more often. I know, that is vague.

I took my first step in this direction with an art "class" at Corks and Canvas in Lawrenceville, walking distance from my house. It has been on my list of things I've wanted to try, but not not tried (for a variety of lame reasons). My daughter's class was hosting a fundraiser there so I knew I would know SOMEONE going (one of my lame excuses taken care of). 

Corks & Canvas (i.e., multiple bottles of BYO alcohol and one painting each) is located in the former Sonny's ice cream parlor, which became the better known Peggy Sue's on Gordon Avenue. Just being in the space brought back memories of hanging out with Sonny and hearing stories about his attempts to break into the movies (he had a couple of roles as an extra). I wonder whatever happened to him?

The class mom in charge of the fundraiser chose our picture. They have lots of options. You don't need to wait for a group outing to go, they post the pictures they are planning to paint in their website and you can go with a friend or alone and make new friends. 
I was a little late (no great surprise there since I lived the closest and walked). I was seated next to Ashley's teacher, Miss S. A couple of other teachers came to the fundraiser. First we painted the background by blending paints together (so out of my league already). Then we had a chance to refresh our beverages and relax before painting the tree , moon, clouds, and leaves. 
The evening was fun and I did something I have not done since I was in high school -- I created a real piece of artwork. It was neat to see how everyone's painting turned out. We each received the same instructions, yet in the end they are all unique.
It was also fun listening to the moms after they had some wine. Sentences such as "my daughter would be so embarrassed if she heard me" and "what happens at Corks and Canvas stays at Corks and Canvas" could be heard. Then plans were being made for a bar hopping road trip to Vegas before graduation for a grown up party. We'll see what reality brings. THAT would be WAY out of my comfort zone. I realized there is a reason I have not bonded with some people, we have different ideas of a nice night out. BTW, only a few were stinking drunk, and no teachers.

Any thoughts on how I should leave my comfort zone next? Someone suggested next time I get stinking drunk and take up pole dancing. Hmm... I've heard pole dancing is great exercise. Not sure my pancreas really wants to process all that alcohol. Any other suggestions? I'm thinking of joining a networking group and making my memoir business a reality. I'm also thinking about joining a francophone group and speak French again. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Appreciate a Dragon Day

It seems everything has a "day," so it was no great surprise when I googled bearded dragon appreciation day and learned it falls on January 16. While I like to think we appreciate Sandy Claws every day, he might disagree.

To celebrate the official day, we gave Sandy 20 large crickets (instead of his usual 10) and snuggled with him. The weekend before he was on my team when I played Scrabble with Don, Ashley, and my parents. Though we did not keep score, I think we won.

At this point I feel Sandy is more my pet than Ashley's because I take care of his medical needs, snuggle with him many nights, and feed him veggies. He likes Don a lot, too, because he gives him crickets.

Of course Ashley loves him a lot, too.

Not too bad for a 12 1/2 year old dragon (who has a life span of 8-10 years (other say 5 to 9), with the Guinness record holder still alive at 18). 

Viva Sandy!

Visting Bei-Bei, Bao Bao's little brother

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but Ashley really likes giant panda bears. In 2014 when the National Zoo had Bao Bao on public display for the first time, we stood in a two hour line on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend to catch a glimpse of (wait for it) ... her shoulder.

It seems the National Zoo learned some lessons from that experience. She went on display to FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) members a week before she went on display to the public. I read in the Washington Post the plan was to allow groups of 50 at a time to come in and see Bei Bei, two years ago it was 80. Of course everyone wants to hover around Bei Bei, and not spread out to see all four pandas. 

Another big change for us was that Bei Bei was in a "play pen" near the window, which gave us a better chance to see him, though he still huddled in the corner, so we didn't really see all 22 pounds of him after all. 

After being able to see Bei Bei without a line, and be able to stay for as long as we wanted, Don said "that was the best money we ever spent." Though as part of the Smithsonian it is free to visit the National Zoo, it does cost $22 to park. Our level of membership includes half off parking. 

The weather was similar to our visit seeing Bao Bao -- upper 50s and sunny. We did get caught in a brief rain storm as the winds picked up around closing time.
Mei Xiang (mother)

While in the Giant Panda area we also saw the father (Tian Tian), his mother (Mei Xiang), and big sister (Bao Bao). Each are kept in their own spaces because panda bears are solitary in the wild.

Tian Tian (father)
The adults were active when we were there around 1:20 PM. Two-year-old Bao Bao was still outside playing.

The cutest moment we saw was when Mei Xiang went near Bei Bei. The woman next to me (a real Giant Panda Cam stalker) said she was there the day before and at about this time Mei Xiang nudged her cub awake. Rather than nudging the baby panda awake, she spotted another container with food in it and played with that instead. 

We wandered around the zoo for a little while. When we came back, Bao Bao was inside entertaining the crowd while eating lunch (something that annoyed Ashley the first year she went to Upper Canada Village). The giant pandas don't seem to care, just as long as they get treats.

We didn't cover any new ground at the zoo during our brief visit, in fact we saw even less animals than usual. As usual, we left with the mantra "next time we will get an earlier start." Hmm... not very likely given our track record. It is a 3+ hour drive to the zoo, and another 3+ hours home again. As much as we don't like being in the car, we do like the feeling of relaxation watching the giant pandas sleep, eat, and (on occasion) play.

This is the closest we got to a panda all day:


These were our best views of Bei Bei: