Sunday, March 4, 2018

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Run 2018

Let me start by saying RunBucks does an awesome job organizing races. They tend to be not very expensive, and they cut out the junk, while having awesome food at the finish.

I also like this organization because I often bump into friends at the race.

Gabrielle and Sandra
At 4 miles, the distance is fun. It is a small stretch from my usual 5K (3.1 miles) training runs, but not such a stretch I have to do a bunch of extra training.

The race course is the same as it was in 2016 and 2017. One difference was this year Don did not run it with me. Last year the temperature was in the 20s. This year it was a seemingly 40 degrees at the start, but very windy (17 mph winds). On Friday we had a winter nor-easter, meaning lots of wind, but also some snow. Accumulation wasn't much, but the wind took down lots of trees, branches, power lines, etc. The organizers were kind enough to email us last night to say they checked the course. There were some small branches down (unlike the tree that blocked the 15K course last summer), and one puddle "that should be blow dried by the start," and indeed it was. 

My hope was the wind would be in my face for the "out" and at my back for the the "back." That was pretty true, except for the part on the canal was protected enough by the trees that I didn't notice the wind in my face, or at my back. When I did really notice the wind was during the last third of the last mile when we were pushing ourselves to the finish line. 

I set my personal goal of finishing sub-44 minutes. I passed the clock at the finish line and it said 43:50, but the official finish time was 43:55. My official chip time was 43:14, and my GPS said 43:20. The race sold out, but the day before the race they said they had a number of deferrals so people could buy a bib day of for $40 (cash). Hopefully soon they will post how many people actually ran it. Last year I was 43:40. I did not walk any part of the course this year, which is a small victory for me.

My biggest problem was I lost a glove on the course. Must have been on the way back because I would have noticed it if I ran over it on the way back. As I started to retrace my steps I asked a woman if she saw it. She said she did, and that she nearly picked it up but didn't. It was "less than a mile back." A mile back, then another mile back to my car, hmm... is it worth it for a "throw away glove?" Oh yes it is since one glove does no one any good, and since I hate to litter. 

As I found my glove, I also saw these beauties in the lake:

I was able to collect my glove and still make it home in time to take the girl to school in time for the matinee.

Unfortunately I also lost my Bondi band phone holder, but found two phone holders someone else left behind. I was encouraged to take one home. So if some reading this is looking for theirs, post a reply to this and I'll get it to you. If someone reading this found mine, I'd love to swap.

Three more comments:

1) The bathrooms, which have always been open, were not. The park ranger who drove by told us to "call maintenance" to see if they could turn it on. And how were we supposed to reach them on a Sunday morning? He then said they may have turned the water off because it was a really cold winter. Maybe? The race organizers thought the indoor plumbing would be open. At least there were port-a-potties.

2) A man trying to get on the Bucks County ticket for the next election was out collecting the 1,000 autographs he needed to get on the Democratic ballot. I thought that was a brilliant way to find lots of locals. Unfortunately he kept talking to people from New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Virginia.

3) The lack of water stops was odd. It was 40 out. I thought they had water last year when it was in the 20s, but I might be mixing up races. Seemed odd for them.

Get out there! It is definitely better than it was on Friday.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Cooking the Old-Fashioned Way

When Ashley was little, especially during the years I homeschooled her, we visited Howell Living History Farm fairly often. Somehow we fell out of the habit. It would be easy to blame it on life. Part of it was their scheduled seemed to have the same events on the same weekends, which makes complete sense because, as their calendar says, their calendar "reflects the cycles of a fully functioning, working farm in Pleasant Valley, New Jersey during the years 1890-1910."

Last weekend they held an event I hadn't attended in the past, and Ashley had an all-day play practice, so we to the farm for their Winter Kitchen and Parlor event. Basically a cooking demonstration of how food was prepared using a circa 1785 open hearth versus am 1892 Glenwood stove. The farm recently acquired a late 18th century home located on the back road leading to Howell Farm (next door to the sugery (where they make maple syrup) and the one room schoolhouse. Up until quite recently someone lived in the home. Also fairly recently, the farm renovated the late 18th century farmhouse located next to the garden and barns. It now glistens.

We were lucky. The day we went they had enough staff to have the upstairs open to visitors. We could see how the bedrooms would have been decorated and appreciate their collection of photo albums, quilts, furniture, hair clips, and more.

Back to the cooking. We started our experience in the main farmhouse with Kim cooking using a cast iron stove. She had made a stew, and a beet and watermelon salad using ingredients the wife would have canned in the day. By the time we arrived, she was starting to make an apple pie/crisp for dessert so I peeled apples (which I never do when I make my own apple crisps). Making food leads to tasting food. Mmm... a good reason to mark the calendar for next year.

Don and I then ambled to the "new" farmhouse, which is really a hundred years older than the "old" farmhouse. It is so "new" it does have its own information page on Howell's website.

I did not catch our cook's name. I was too mesmerized by the facts she was sharing with us to interrupt her flow of conversation. I later learned her name is Margaret. Margaret has been doing a lot of research into studying the wills of people who lived in the area in the 18th century and died owning less than $100. In those days they itemized everything in the household -- plates, utensils, pots, pans, furniture, tools. Margaret has looked at least 300 of these wills, and presented her findings at a conference. Before we arrived she made a hearty lentil stew, some chicken "nuggets," pork, and was finishing up a dessert. She talked about "receipts," the 18th century term for recipes, where the directions included cooking by weight, by look, by feel, by any means other than what we look for in a 21st century cookbook. She spent trial and error changing them into recipes that would still use the same basic ingredients, but in a style more understandable to modern chefs. She clearly loved what she is doing.

We walked back to the first farmhouse to see if dessert was finished. It was. It was delicious.

We left promising Kim not to wait so long before our next visit. Our hope is to donate some of the pictures Honey Bunny made of Howell Farm for their auction this October. 

I need to note some dates on our calendar ... Barn Dances on March 9, July 6, and November 2. April 21 -- wash day (remind me how easy I have it with my late 20th century washer and dryer). May 12 -- vintage wedding dress display. And more.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Mandir: a place of paramount peace

As a result of most of my freelance work drying up recently, I am balancing having extra time with not wanting to spend any money. I am also trying to live in the present, not think about what I did wrong in the past or worry about what the future will bring, but enjoy the here and now.

I woke up one lovely day and decided to visit BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir located twenty minutes away in Robbinsville, New Jersey.

As I walked up to the front door I saw the dreaded sign, No Photography. Cringe. I took my big camera back to the car. I still had my little camera and my cell phone with me, but not my favorite camera.

The sign really meant No Photography inside the Temple, which is nested inside this rose stone building. 

Got it.

My journey actually started a few months earlier when I was having dinner at Debbi and Mike's house. Debbi and her mom, Pat, visited the mandir earlier that day and raved about it. It is this quiet Hindu place of worship tucked inside an industrial park in Robbinsville that once the entire complex is completed in a couple of more years is slated to become a World Heritage Site and will be mobbed with tourists. Until then, we have the place to ourselves.

A Mandir is defined as a Hindu place of worship. This one has services several times a day. The temple is open from 9 am to 7:30 pm seven days a week. Inside the temple the sacred shrines are open at set times each day. I was there for the 11:30 am to noon time slot. I arrived as they were closing after the 9 am to 10:30 am opening. When the sacred shrines are not open, my guide said they are "sleeping." Um...she does know they are statues, right? The website has pictures of them. 

I arrived about the same time as Dora. Dora is a college student about my age. Mina, one of the volunteers, thought we were together and insisted on giving us a joint tour. Mind you, I thought I would walk in there, look around, and leave within an hour. I was there two and a half hours and the time flew. 

The temple itself was carved from marble quarried in Italian that was brought to India to be carved 90% of the way using the ancient techniques and then shipped in pieces like a jigsaw puzzle to New Jersey. 

Some cool stats (taken from their publicity material, and repeated by Mina):

  • 13,499 pieces of carved stone comprise this mandir
  • 21,500 -- number of miles each piece traveled
  • 98 pillars depicting Hindu sages and devotees
  • 91 uniquely carved elephants
  • 236 stone peacocks in the "Mayur Dwar" (entrance gate)
The temple was built to last 1,000 years, but is already showing some signs of trouble, namely human hands touching things that are not meant to be touched. One of the pillars in the middle of the temple was surrounded by Plexiglas. Dora and I commented to ourselves we were glad we came when we did -- before the other pillars are similarly covered, which will hide some of their luster.

Inside the mandir are large images depicting the history of Hinduism. The first few were transformed into mosaics with tiny pieces of marble. There was one that was just a painting. Perhaps by the next time I go visit, this, too will be covered in stones.

At 11:30 there is a tiny service. The men sit on the floor in the front of the room. The women sit behind their circle, also on the floor. It is very quiet. The doors are open and the sacred shrines are on view. The sacred shrines are statues of their most important people in their faith. Mina did a wonderful job of explaining the same things to us over and over again, but I did not write anything down, and the words were too new to me. In essence, they did not stick.

Three leaders went up to the shrine, which was behind three separate pairs of doors, and waved a small candelabra inside their section. This is when I was glad to be behind the men. One leader then took his candelabra to each worshiper and the person waved some of the smoke onto himself. Each one had a different technique. Then the candelabra was passed to Mina who did the same with the women. 

After the service Mina continued to explain some of the details in the room. Each elephant was different. I know I said that already in the above list, but it bears repeating. Each one was about the same size and shape, but has a different present in his trunk, or a different pose with his legs, or somehow looks completely different from the others.

Mustached men appearing in the carvings are "family men," not their clergy who are shaved bare of body hair. Each carving has a story.

This is only the third such temple in the world, and the only one not in India. The Swaminarayan Akshardham are in New Delhi and Gandhinagar. This is the only one that will be protected from the elements by the pink building, whose official name is a "red stone parikrama." Picture Notre Dame cathedral covered by a giant warehouse shaped building. That is the parikrama. It completely covers the mandir. It was designed this way because the weather in New Jersey is not kind to carved marble, but to me it caused a second sacred zone before the primary sacred zone. Basically once you enter the parikrama you have left the secular world of cars and other distractions behind and are a step closer to peace and tranquility. Once I entered the mandir an even deeper sense of peace enveloped me. The interior of the parikrama is painted plaster. It is vibrant and colorful, yet a hush still fills the air. The mandir is all white -- inside and out. Yes, there are colorful statues and mosaics, but the carved pillars and ceiling is all white, and most of the tiles on the floor are also white, or at least very pale in color. I felt my blood pressure drop as I walked into the temple. It was very relaxing.

Instead of leaving with a sense of how Hinduism is so vastly different from Christianity. I left with a sense of how similar it is. The marble pillars rival anything I have seen in St. Patrick's Cathedral or Chartres or Notre Dame. There are images of the leaders holding what look like rosary beads. It is patriarchal. They have rituals and symbols. They have a head leader, their "pope" is Mahant Swami Maharaj. He is the sixth spiritual successor of Bhagwam Swaminarayan. His predecessor, Pramukh Maharaj, had the vision to bring this to New Jersey and visited the site when he was in his 90s. He passed away in 2016.

If we could all sit back and see our similarities instead of our differences, maybe we could all learn to get along with each other instead of asserting we are the only ones who know what is right.


College was easy.

Graduate school was even easier.

Job hunting is not easy.

College was easy because on the first day of class professors hand you a slip of paper, or a packet, outlining their expectations for the next few months. Assignments are due on these dates. They are to be done in this format. If they are late, this is the penalty. If you have questions or just want to chat, you can find me here at these times. 

Ahh... bliss.

Graduate school was even easier because not only did you receive the same information it was in a subject you really cared about and really wanted to learn more about. 

In those stages of my life, I had hoops. I knew what was expected of me. I knew where to go for help.

In short, bliss.

To be fair, the work was not always easy, nor was it always fun, but I knew what I had to do.

Job hunting after nearly 16 years of leaving the normal routine of working a full-time, Monday to Friday job with benefits I am trying to ease back into the workforce. I know others have successfully made the leap. 

But ... how?

In the month since I started looking I have interviewed with three different companies for three completely different positions. That shows my my resume is in decent shape.

It also shows me my interview skills are possibly lacking. Or it shows I am not applying for the right types of positions.

One question I have been asked is "what kind of job do I want?" It is quite telling that I have no idea what kind of job I want. I feel I will know it when I see it. How can I fit that into an online job search? 

Things I enjoy:

Libraries and books
Using social media to spread the word
Wearing different hats, figuratively speaking
Talking to people
Diving into a solo project so deeply hours can pass
Taking pictures
Hearing people's stories
Organizing information

All of this would qualify as having fun at work. Which leads me to the question, are we allowed to have fun at work? I hope so. We are there for so many hours, life is too short to not have fun as much as possible.

I see another job I want to apply for. Wish me luck. Send me good vibes. Most of all, pray. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

2017 Medals

At the end of the year I was surprised by my overall medal haul. I even had my first placement awards -- yes, TWO. In addition to these races, I ran a few that do not give out medals. 

Most are from Disneyland Paris, and a couple are races I run each year. The newest surprise were the medals on the right from competing in my first triathlon.

I thought it would make a pretty picture.

Pet Update

My last pet update was in August when Sandy Dragon died in my hands. At the time we were left with three cats: Charlie Cat, Kitty Lucy, and Max Cat. The arrangement was not working out for us, but what can you do? When Honey Bunny (Don's mom) moved into assisted living her cat had to go someplace. She suggested returning him to EASEL, the animal shelter she had adopted him from, but Don insisted he move in with us.

When he was at EASEL, his name was Leo. When he moved in with Honey Bunny she called him Kitty. In our house, I called him Max because that is the sound he makes with his meow.

While Max was a great match for Honey Bunny, he was an awful match for us. As long as she was alive and asking about him, I was willing to put up with it. When she died in October I asked EASEL what would be involved with returning him. We decided to give it a little more time and patience. I decided we needed a 100% family agreement before returning him to EASEL.

Last week the patience wore out. Kitty Lucy was already insisting her meals be delivered to her in Ashley's bedroom, mind you Ashley does not eat in her bedroom. She was also taking a short cut through the hole between rooms (where we sometimes keep cameras and other breakables) to bypass Max to get to the food dish. Charlie was hiding in far corners of the house. He was clearly losing weight. Max meanwhile was enjoying the life of royalty. He took over Charlie's favorite spots, and glared at both cats until they left the food dish for him. Max continued to get larger.

They are using his old information.
It was a tough decision, but we returned him to EASEL. I have a feeling they will 
never let us adopt another cat, but it was worth it. With some guidance from Ashley, Charlie returned to his once favorite spot. He even came out of hiding when my parents were visiting. I've heard him purr more in the past week than I did in the past 8 months. Lucy is eating downstairs. I have to open the door much less often because Max is not insisting on going outside for three minutes at a time, warming up, then repeating. We are also going through much less cat food (somehow three cats ate at least twice as much as two cats).

Yes, I feel guilty. I hope he finds his forever home. Maybe with another senior who would enjoy being followed everywhere (including the bathroom), and who would like to be talked to all day long. Now it is easier to enjoy the other two.

Max/Leo update: Max had the luck of the Irish and was adopted into his "furever" home on St. Patrick's Day. At the same time the Wagner family also adopted Destiny, a one and a half year old cat whose family surrendered her when he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. 

I can't tell you what a relief it is to me that Max has a home. I heard while at EASEL he was a free roamer who greeted everyone as they came into the cat room. That sounds like him. Hoping he and Destiny get along.

Friday, January 19, 2018

New Year, New Challenge

Last year without intending to I ended up walking 10,000 steps every day. In an effort for full disclosure, I was sick for a couple of days in January so my challenge did not really start until January 28, therefore I have nine days left in last year's challenge.

I decided to up the ante this year. 10,000 steps a day was fairly easy for me (I did miss one day while crossing time zones), but with running a couple of half marathons and going to Disneyland Paris, I also had some days well over 30,000 steps. That got me to thinking. This year I wanted a different challenge. I did not want to have to walk 10,000 steps every. single. day.Trust me, with snow and ice, I don't always want to walk that much. Plus sometimes my legs are just plum tired.

Friends were posting they were going for the Run the Year Challenge -- 2,018 miles over the course of 365 days. Blindly calculating 10,000 steps a day into 5 miles (thinking 2,000 steps equals one mile) I thought this one would be a slam dunk. What I wasn't counting on was that my phone is smarter than I am. It uses GPS to figure out how far I have traveled that day. On the surface that sounds fair, but in reality many days I am stepping in place in order to reach goal.

Let's use the past two days as an example. Thursday I had 10,273 steps, which it calculated to 3.8 miles. Today I have 10,002 steps (thus far) at 4.7 miles. Huh? Today's steps included a 3.1 mile run (around 5,500 steps). I need an average of 5.5 miles a day to be successful with this challenge. The plan is once the snow melts, and I go on longer runs, I will make up for the distances I have not been achieving so far, but it is hard to be starting a challenge like this in the hole.

My last year-long challenge was the photo challenge. By the end of the year, I did not care if I ever saw a camera again.

Organizers are quick to point out this is a personal challenge. Some do it by running all 2,018 miles (*gasp*), while others do it by creating a team of four people and making it a group event. Walking and running are allowed, but this is a foot challenge, so cycling and swimming miles don't count. Some say it has to be miles with the intention of getting exercise (as opposed to running errands or walking around the house). It is completely on the honor system, though.

My goal is a combination of running and walking, just like my goal for finishing a race.

My prize for completing this challenge already came in the mail.

I think the logic behind mailing the bling early was to make it easier on the organizers -- one big mailing instead of lots of tiny mailings. To make runners feel a sense of accomplishment, the medal has a flip up tab to show we were successful (stating Finisher). I'm still hopeful I will be able to flip that tab by December 31, but it will be close.

84.9 miles down. An average of 4.7 miles a day. Too many to go! Come on Spring!! Come back!!

Community Conversations -- Best Ways to Deliver News to the Community

Disclaimer: I did not attend last night's Community Conversation with the intention of blogging about it, but the next day I find myself still thinking about it. Writing helps me to think about what I am processing.


Last night the Lawrence Township Community Foundation hosted their 10th Annual Community Conversations. I have no idea what the topic was in the other nine years, but when I heard they were planning to talk about the "Best Ways to Deliver News to the Community," I knew they hit upon a winning idea. As a former writer for the Lawrenceville Patch, Lawrence Gazette, and have had pictures published by the now-defunct Lawrence Ledger, people ask me for advice about getting their word out. They are often asking on behalf of their non-profit, religious organization, or special interest group because they are in charge of advertising the event and spreading the word about it beyond their usual audience. Often I shrug and sympathize in response. Yes, it is hard to get the word out in a town only being served by a monthly newspaper (the Gazette) with hyper-local Facebook groups, such as Ladies of Lawrenceville, filling in the gaps.

After a light supper of sandwiches and drinks we settled down to business. Ten panelists were each given five minutes to introduce themselves and their ideas. James Thompson an advocate for Free Press and community member on the News Voices, a project which partners with newsrooms to ensure their coverage responds to local needs and better represents the community spoke first. He was the only panelist to use his entire five minutes. He said "people mistrust the media." That thought is probably truer in 2018 than ever before.

Rich Rein, founding editor and publisher of US1 spoke next about the limited number of reporters and the many distractions out there for our attention. (Look: squirrel) His advice for us was to send agendas and minutes from meetings since they no longer have enough reporters to attend township meetings. Share what you can with them, please. I'll lump the fifth and sixth speakers (Joe Emanski and Sam Sciarrotta) with him since they are with Community News, which is owned by US1. Joe advised us to be "open and honest with the media" because "relationships are everything." Sam said she "thinks about the readers" when reporting on stories.

The third speaker was Joe Eisele with the Newspaper Media Group (which many of us think of as the Packet) made a surprise announcement. Surprise as in no one expected ANY announcements at this event. Breaking news: The Lawrence Ledger (a weekly newspaper) is returning as of March 27. The Princeton Packet had been carrying a story or two a week about Lawrence, but it wasn't enough. In their last days they only had 800 subscribers (we have over 30,000 people in town, or about 10,000 households). He offered advice for helping the paper succeed when it returns to life: Thank the advertisers for supporting local media. This encourages them to continue to advertise, which encourages Newspaper Media Group to continue printing.

Local favorite reporter Lea Kahn was up fourth. She used to be the ace reporter for the Lawrence Ledger and is now covering four towns for Newspaper Media Group -- talk about stretching reporters thin. After admitting she is more comfortable sitting where we were sitting, holding a notebook and taking notes, she talked about life as a reporter being about making connections by being in the community. She likes to make national news about the local community -- such as the recent tax bill. She figures "If I'm interested, at least a couple of other people will be, too." Advice I've tried to keep in mind when I write stories for the paper, and blog posts alike.

Ingrid Reed from the League of Women Voters was the seventh panelist. I was distracted by thinking she would make a really good subject for a memoir. She has been active in the local media for decades and must have some amazing stories to tell. I did note she said we must "hold towns accountable for a good website" and that we are living in "challenging and exciting times." I have used the phrase historic times to describe life now, so I agree with her. Our town website is in the process of receiving a major overhaul.

Lana Mueller from the Lawrence School system spoke about her challenges with reaching out to the 75% of population who does not have children in the public school system (like us). There is a referendum vote happening in a week and despite their best efforts, people are still surprised about it.

The last two speakers were from Rider University -- Kristine Brown in charge of communications, and John Mozes the voice of The Bronc (Rider's radio station). I've heard John's voice in my bedroom and car over the past three to four decades since he used to be with WPST. As you might expect, he is a great speaker. He told the audience not to forget radio when looking to advertise. There is a $17 return on investment for each dollar spent on the radio. Nearly 100% of the population listens to the radio (often in the car), and they are more likely to act on what they hear than they are if they hear the same message on television. "Use it with other media." It doesn't matter where people hear the message, as long as they hear it.

That was supposed to be a quick introduction. From here we broke into smaller groups. I joined Kristine and John at their table, which was twice the size as intended. I learned the president of Rider wants Rider to be a bigger part of the community, but they don't know how. They don't offer an email blast to the community, which I think would be a big step in the right direction.

We were tasked with identifying two action items to share with the general group about how to improve communication in the town. For the evening, ignore how much it will cost and simply focus on the concepts. Reality and implementation is further down the line.

The top idea, by far was for someone to create a comprehensive town-wide calendar and website as THE Go-To place to know what is happening in town. 

Sounds fabulous and perfect for the township to organize. But, no. If the town does it, they cannot include events by religious groups or commercial enterprises. 

That would slow down who could participate.

There were other ideas, such as creating a place to share serious, issues-based news (instead of event-driven news). It was pointed out we are a diverse community and we need links to all community resources. One group spent their time talking about the importance of press releases and how organizations can use them to share their ideas. Don't forget to include an image with the press release. People want information more frequently than the once a month offered by the Gazette. I suspect the Ledger's once a week won't be enough, either. We've gotten use to having 24/7 access to news.

The LTCF is planning to create a media list (yay!), but then the list will need to be maintained in order to be effective (the hard part).

What models can we look to for advice on how to do a better job? Suggestions included Planet Princeton and using the resource list at Sustainable Jersey. Other ideas about how other towns are spreading the word would be welcome.

The panelists

It was a great opening dialogue on an important topic. About 90 members of the community turned out to hear the 10 panelists and brainstorm. Thank you to ETS for hosting us, and for providing dinner and snacks. Those of you not from Lawrenceville can probably glean a few ideas for your community from our discussion. 

The discussion will continue as three hours were only enough time to start the ball rolling.

Friday, January 5, 2018

New Tradition: Luminaria in the Neighborhood

Last year Chris, one of our neighbors, asked if anyone would be interested in creating a luminaria path on Christmas Eve so Santa could see where to land. A couple of neighborhoods nearby have had this tradition for many years, so it was not too new of a concept, it was only new for us.

Chris limited participation to three streets: Nassau, Dustin, and Abby. We live at the corner of two of those streets. Turns out our immediate neighbors on both sides were two of the 26 families who participated. Based on a google maps image, there are 77 houses that could have participated. Not bad for the first real year (last year was a trial year).

It was cold! It rained! Fortunately we took pictures before we went to the 7 pm church service at Lawrence Road Presbyterian Church. During worship the wind blew out many of candles. The rained dampened others. Our spirits are not dampened. We have thoughts on what to do differently next year (the big one is to fold over the bags to make them more wind resistant). We could fill the bags earlier. It was cold when we did it! The weather had been warm up through December 23 before beginning a two week arctic blast (which we are still slogging through). Lastly, we need to clear the leaves first. We were  concerned about them becoming fire hazards.

Here are a couple of pictures:

2017 Hogmanay

Once again we braved winter to toss our grievances from 2017 and our wishes for 2018 into the township's bonfire. Spurred on by Don's 2016 wish for a new job doing something he loves, with a short commute and fun co-workers, I wanted to risk the 13 degree temperatures to toss my wish into the air -- a part-time job doing something I love, something that offers a lot of day to day variety, one that I could make my own.

The bonfire seemed shorter this year. I think the firefighters and Boy Scouts used 5 foot pallets instead of ones twice as high. The crowd also seemed much smaller. Even near the fire, it was still frigid by New Jersey standards.

I met up with my friend Nancy. Her son, Nate, was waiting in the car so we couldn't visit long. We didn't stay long, either, because we left the Kappa New Year's Eve party at Kathy and Scott's house to continue our tradition. I also saw my sister, Melissa, there, but as she was going to the same party we didn't have to stay outside in order to catch up since their trip to Arizona. Other friends posted pictures, but most people did not linger long.

Here are a few pictures from New Year's Eve at the Brearley House:

My parent's calendars burning

I'm partial to the firemen walking in front of the flame photos. Gives a sense of height.

Here is a link to the 2016 bonfire.

Stay warm and may all of your wishes for 2018 come true.

2018 Resolutions

I share my resolutions for the New Year with the hope at least some of you will hold me to them. As I look back on my 2017 resolutions I am both pleased some of them came true, and dismayed others did not. As with everyone reading this, I am a work in progress and I have room for improvement.

I'm going to start with repeating a few of the goals that were not successes last year.

1) Join a parent group at Ashley's school and get to know more people at the school while helping out. She only has 2 1/2 years left for me to make a dent in this goal. High school really does go by quickly!

2) Add another country to my list of countries visited. Okay, this a cheat one since we have a North Sea cruise planned for August to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Since I failed in it last year, though, I feel compelled to add it to 2018.

3) Try new low-carb recipes. I did great with the vegetarian recipes, I believe, because my goal was concrete. This one was too vague to judge. Maybe a cute name like Wacky Wednesday (going low-carb in this country is wacky, right?). Accepting suggestions for the next week.

4) Continue to try to stop wasting time. I suppose I should add an app to keep me off of Facebook during the day.

New goals:

5) Host an exchange student (application already submitted).

6) Find a part-time job (applications submitted, ongoing I suppose).

7) Walk or run 2018 miles in 2018 (signed up for Run the Year).

8) Join a CSA: Community Supported Agriculture (Chose one, application due next month).

9) Reconnect to high school friends by helping to plan the 30 plus 1 reunion (already on the committee).

I might add a goal or two, but so far this list looks good. What are your resolutions?

Top 10 Posts of 2017

Happy New Year! This year's snow has helped me fall a little behind schedule this year. I like to do the final tally and write this post closer to January 1 to make it more accurate. The 11th place (Writing and Running) only missed tenth place by two clicks, so it merits an honorable mention. If you look at last year's list, this year I had nearly twice as many clicks on posts than I did in 2016. The first three months saw a lot of action on The Pillsbury Press, which died out by the end of March. Guess I should have cashed in on my popularity. Hot posts now are around 200 clicks instead of 600.

Based solely on clicks, here is my Top 10 List of most popular Pillsbury Press posts in 2017:

10. 572 clicks -- All Four 
9. 576 clicks -- 2017 Resolutions
8. 583 clicks -- Waning Optimism
7. 587 clicks -- What's next?
6. 621 clicks -- Prayer Vigil
5. 631 clicks -- Million Women's March
5 (tie). 631 clicks -- Inauguration Night
3. 671 clicks -- Countries Visited
2. 681 clicks -- 2016 Bonfire
1. 682 clicks -- Top 10 (11) posts of 2016

I see some irony in that the top post of the year was a list of top posts from the year before. 

I notice many of the top posts are political in nature, but a few are purely personal. I wonder what I will write about in 2018 that will catch your interest. Feel free to chime in and let me know when you are reading something of interest. Maybe that will spur me to write another post on that topic. Or not. As always this started as a way to share our family news with our friends. It started as a Christmas newsletter and has grown into a means of communication throughout the year.