Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Tree Climbing Girl

 I remember climbing trees when I was little. That fun stopped for me when I was in 2nd grade and I fell out of my favorite tree. Really hard to believe it was THAT long ago since (up until that moment) I had a good time doing it.

Today (and many other days) Ashley (starting 7th grade next week) was in a tree climbing mood. I decided to take out the camera and get some shots. Each time I see her climb the tree I marvel that we've gotten this far without any broken bones -- a few x-rays, many bruises, and potential damage, but nothing broken.

Keep climbing and keep reaching for the stars.

From a 2010 -- climbing the tree in a dress. That's my girl!

Run Like a Pirate

Many people have heard of Talk Like a Pirate Day, but how many of you have heard of Run Like a Pirate Race? 

Probably not many because the official name is Talk Like a Pirate Day Run/Walk. Plus it is a virtual race, meaning send in your money, and they will mail you a bib and a medal. You, in return, list your time. It's that easy. Technically, you don't even HAVE to run or walk, but my friends don't roll that way. Instead we created a real "race" to go along with the real bib and real medal.

Sharon, Stacy, Sandra, Gabrielle, Terry, Diane, and I ran/walked/crawled a 5K in Mercer County Park. We had sag support (Don on bicycle). Photographers (Connor, Ross and Don). Post race pizza (Kevin) and snacks (Gabrielle, Stacey, and Sandra). We even had bandits (people running the same route as us not realizing we were doing a "real" race), a finish line (a dirty sock and a flag) and a medal ceremony. 

Best of all, we had fun.

PS1: As you can see in our awards ceremony photo, Team Sparkle was well represented at this race. Nearly half of the races wore sparkle skirts.

PS2: The virtual race is accepting registrations through September 19. It is a very nice medal and they shipped quickly. There is "talk" about having another virtual real race in September.

Visiting Friends au Canada

Part of the issue with Ashley attending Time Travelers camp is what should we do? The camp is located 8-10 hours away. It seems like a lot of driving to drop her off and come home to turn around five days later to pick her up and drive home.

To compound the issue of what to do, we have a very sick dragon who was diagnosed with kidney issues days before leaving. I guess there was a reason why I had not been making plans for this trip. With him being sick we debated about my staying home versus taking him with us. I knew no one would take as good care of him as I would. I could not leave the responsibility of a dying dragon with any of our friends.

Fortunately Don has a very generous co-worker named Chris who lives outside of Montreal and is not afraid of reptiles. Don and I stayed with Chris while Ashley played at UCV.

We used the week to catch up with friends who live in the Montreal area. 

On Monday we spent the day with Marlene. Marlene and I met in 1987 in Liege, Belgium. Marlene is from Ohio, but has lived in Montreal for nearly a decade. Thanks to our frequent trips to Montreal, we have been able to stay in touch in person. Marlene, Don and I celebrated Meatless Monday at Lola-Rosa, one of her favorite vegetarian/vegan restaurants. Then we walked off our delicious lunch by climbing up and over and down Mont Royal (the "mountain" in Montreal). We finished off with some ice cream. Yum! Fortunately the weather was perfect that day.

Tuesday we drove to New York State to visit Gail and Daryl at Home Again Farm. Gail and Daryl moved back "home again" to Theresa, NY after raising
their kids in Hamilton Square, NJ. We got to know them through church. It was a treat catching up with them, and meeting her father and the alpacas they are raising. We had a feast for lunch and a grand tour of all of their renovations. The drive was long, but when you are vacation that doesn't really matter. Next time we will have to bring Ashley so she can meet the "girls." She would love it.

Wednesday we played tourist with Chris and visited the Caves of Lescaux exhibit at the Montreal Science Museum. Unfortunately it POURED that day and we got soaked. The plan to walk around the Old Port area was washed out. We did get some ice cream from Canadian Maple Delights, the maple syrup ice cream place and
tourist destination. All of their ice cream is sweetened with maple syrup. We tried to walk around, but we were the only people out and it was really raining. We headed to Dollard-des-Ormeaux for my first international race. Fortunately it just stopped raining in time for the race, and even more fortunately we could wait indoors for the start of it.

Thursday we caught up with Johanna, another friend from Liege, Belgium, and a friend we have recently refreshed our friendship over cut-throat Scrabble games (feel free to challenge me to games). Johanna is originally from Toronto and is now living in Montreal with her boyfriend. Johanna had a tight work schedule, but we managed to meet up for lunch at a smoked meat restaurant across from the famous Schwartz's Deli, but much better and not a tourist destination. 

Friday we picked up Ashley and toured Upper Canada Village with Chris. I'm really glad we found this opportunity for Ashley.

Saturday we visited the local farmers market to stock up on real maple syrup. Mmm.... we drove home. Not a very exciting vacation in terms of going to new places and having new adventures, but a very restful vacation where we were able to catch up with friends and feel rejuvenated. I guess it is just the type of vacation we really needed after all.

We love visiting friends and family around the globe. Please let us know anytime you are in the New York to Philadelphia to Jersey Shore area and we'll figure out a way to meet. Just prior to our Canadian adventures we did just that when Stephen (a former co-
worker) and Daphne were visiting family near Point Pleasant. It was a treat being able to visit friends near home. The last time we saw Stephen was when we visited him in Michigan.

Call, write, email, send smoke signals -- we'd love to see you!

Caves of Lesaux

A few years ago we saw the documentary "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" while it was playing in Philadelphia. Werner Hezog was given exclusive rights to film inside the cave located in Chauvet in Southern France. Discovered in 1994, the cave drawings date back 20,000 years. Learning from what happened to the cave drawings found in Lescaux, France in 1940, the French government immediately closed access to the Chauvet caves, with the exception of archaeologists and a few scientists.

The movie, which came out in 2010, was made under their stringent rules -- only so many people allowed for certain number of minutes a day using certain types of lights and equipment, etc. It is a quite impressive movie.

So why do I bring all of this up now? While in Montreal we visited the Montreal Science Museum just to see their special exhibit on the Caves of Lesaux (running through September 14, 2014).

Some kids and their dog discovered the cave drawings in 1940. In 1948 the site was opened to the public. By 1955 they had over 1,200 visitors a day -- each of whom paid a nominal fee to enter the cave. Damage due to the visitors breathing (as opposed to malicious activity) was visibly by then, but it took until 1963 for the government to shut down access to the caves. More recently they have changed the air conditioning system which has led to a serious mold issue. Yes, it was fine for 20,000 years until a bunch of people thinking they know better messed with it.

Scientists worked hard and restored the cave drawings. Whew! Today people can visit a replica of the cave drawings located nearby, but only those working on the restoration project are allowed inside the cave.

More recently they have been working on creating 3D models of the cave drawings. These are really cool! The exhibit spends much time trying to make it kid friendly -- "how were the Cro-Magnuns like us?" questions appear throughout the exhibit. They have places where you can listen to what people who have seen the caves in person think about them -- there were about 10 of these stations, each one lasting 2-3 minutes. I felt like they could have handled this section differently. There were also a couple of movies (alternating in English and in French) explaining more about the cave drawings -- why were they made, how were they made, etc.

The most awesome part for me, though, was seeing the 3D representations of the cave drawings. You felt like you were walking in the cave, but with more space, better lighting, better air quality, and without having to travel to France. We saw only a snippet of the caves. We did see the section they deemed to be the first animation -- is that one deer jumping over the river or five? 

I wish they would have done something about the noise levels coming from upstairs in this section. The caves feel so solemn. Ancient flute music should be playing and a sense of awe should be permeating. Instead, there is a hole cut out in the ceiling for the unicycle on a high wire (similar to the one Ashley did at COSI), which wasn't even running that day. The noise from the upstairs exhibit floated into the caves of Lescaux transporting us to the modern day. 

My favorite comment in the exhibit was as follows: 

Meanwhile. in Quebec...
While Cro-Magnons were busy painting at Lescaux, Quebec was still buried under a kilometer of ice. The glaciers had to recede before the first humans could begin wandering on Quebec soil about 11,000 years ago. Not long after, the first paintings and etchings began appearing here as well.

If the exhibit makes the rounds closer to you, I hope you can see it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Upper Canada Village -- the other side

A couple of years ago we were visiting Don's co-worker Chris in Montreal and brainstorming something fun to do. It was raining. Chris suggested Upper Canada Village. I took a look at their website, and realized that would be the perfect place to go, but not in the rain. Meanwhile, I noticed their summer camp program.

I've asked Ashley to write about the summer camp program, but I realize I have not shared our experiences with visiting the site. Last year when we picked up Ashley she was ready to go home. We were planning on making the 9 hour drive that same day. This meant Don and I did not have a chance to explore the village.

This year we made a point of arriving earlier on drop off day and explored the place. As most of our friends and family know, we tend to visit a lot of historic sites. This is one of the best ones we have ever visited. Yes, that is saying a lot.

The Village is made up of a collection of buildings rescued during the St. Lawrence Seaway project. The building are from a variety of places and have been assembled to represent an English village in 1866 Canada -- the year before they became a country. UCV opened in 1961.

What I like about Upper Canada Village is that each house has a history apart from being part of UCV, and rather than hiding those histories the costumed interpreters embrace it and share it with anyone who asks. 

During quiet times the docents can be found working on projects -- baking, cooking, sewing, quilting, etc. It takes them a long time to finish any project because they don't have a lot of downtime.

They are also a very hands-on place. At some point each day people are invited to milk the cows or help out with other farm chores. 

Their summer camp program grew out of a desire to show what children would be during that time -- attending school, learning trades, fishing, etc. Even in Canada you can't hire small children to work, so instead they charge their parents and call it camp. ;) No complaints. Ashley loves it.

Each one of the interpreters adds their on knowledge to their parts. We spoke with the shoemaker who told us at that time shoes were starting to be mass produced, so he was not needed as much. He said the tinsmith was making too much money. We spoke with the tinsmith who told us his wares were needed because in those days "tin was the plastic of its day." is the key to the success of UCV -- unlike Plimouth Plantation and some other sites, UCV was willing to admit life continued after 1866 and could put things in context and make us better understand life at that time. They could talk about money by comparing it to today's money.

Their staff of costumed interpreters seemed unending. Throughout the day we would often see a horse-drawn vehicle on the path, or people walking from one site to another. Each building (and there are a lot of buildings) had at least one docent in it explaining and answering questions, but not being overly intrusive. For those interested in learning there was much to learn. For those who wanted to do a quick peek, they let you do that, too. 

Now as I'm looking through their website and clicking on each individual building I'm realizing I did not visit everything. It is a good thing she wants to return next summer.

Before long it was time to drop Ashley off into her new world. She had two costumes waiting for her along with shoes. The blue dress she wore on Loyalist Day. Yes, our Patriot girl learned about the other side, from the Canadian perspective. 

She wore a different dress on Tuesday and Wednesday and a third dress on Thursday and Friday. As you can tell from her post, she loved it.

365 Photo Challenge

If you have seen me this year, you've probably seen me with a camera in my hand and my eyes distracted looking for a good photo subject of the day. I'm sorry. I am listening to you. Really!

After two years of hemming and hawing I decided to dive in and do the 365 photo challenge. As this is the end of August, I'm nearly 2/3 complete. 

What is the challenge? 
On the surface the challenge is to take a picture each day and post it at . 

Okay, that doesn't sound too hard, what is the catch? 
The catch is you have to take a picture every day and post it. It isn't as easy as it sounds. Sometimes (like at a day at Disney) the challenge is finding ONE picture to post. Other days as I'm falling asleep I remember to snap a photo of something. Anything.

Is there a prize at the end?
No. Nothing tangible like a medal. The prize is that by taking lots of pictures in the end you learn how to work with your camera to take the best pictures without spending too much time changing settings and losing your subject.

Here are a sampling of my pictures. Visit to see all of them.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Traveling with a Dragon

Our beloved dragon, Sandy Claws, is now an international traveler.

I'll admit it is a bit of a crazy idea to travel with a bearded dragon. It is just that he has been very sick. He was diagnosed with damaged kidneys. I am giving him kidney medicine and calcium supplements once a day, plus extra crickets dusted with calcium. Additionally, I'm giving him extra baths, squirting water in his mouth, and wrapping towels in him to combat his dehydration (which is probably a side effect of the kidney issues). While in Canada he seemed to be perking up and was shedding from snout to tail. 
The traveling required a lot of phone calls in order to get all of our questions
answered, especially about border crossing. Oh, and to ask our friend if we could bring the dragon with us. The friend was gracious enough to say yes. Canadian border control said it was no problem, after all he is just a pet and does not carry rabies (the thing they worry about with cats and dogs traveling). US is handed through the Fish and Wildlife Service. Other than a form to fill out, they were not any troubles either.

Sandy sat with us in the car. His tank fit in the trunk. The funniest part of the trip was that he pooped at our first rest stop. Okay, funny to me since he did it while I was in the Wendy's and Don and Ashley were with him in the car. We took turns at rest stops so he was not left alone in the hot car, especially since we did not think the restaurants wanted him inside.

Ashley's first words after camp were "how's Sandy?" Okay, that made it all worthwhile.

When Sandy woke up on Sunday morning after the long car ride he looked out the window and seemed to smile knowing he was home again. The view in Chris's basement was not nearly as exciting as the one at home.

Sandy update since coming home: he is still very sick. In addition to the two meds given orally, I will now start to inject saline under his skin daily to help perk him up. I told Ashley he is very old and sick, and she just cried. No one likes to hear someone they love doesn't have much time left in our arms. In the meantime, we continue to love him, feed him crickets, give him meds, and do what we can to make him comfortable. It will be a sad day when he is no longer with us.


My First International Race - Montreal, Canada

 As one of my 2014 Resolutions I declared I wanted to run a race is a state I've never run in before. I achieved that goal last month in NYC. When we decided to make our Canada trip low key this year while Ashley went to summer camp and we took care of our sick dragon, I looked into races in the Montreal area. I found this one. It was a 5K race in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, about 20 minutes away from Chris's house.

I represented Team Sparkle at the race. Team Sparkle are a group of friends who often wear Sparkle Skirts at races. I was the only person wearing a cute running skirt. I guess that should have been my first clue that the other runners were more hardcore than I am.

As far as races go, this was a 5K race. It was raining all day. There was a 1K race at 6:30, followed by a 2K race at 6:45. Then the 5K started at 7:30. It was pouring during the 1K. I'm not sure what happened during the 2K, but I suspect it was still raining. 

By the start of the 5K the rain stopped and the humidity levels dropped. The roads were still wet, but it was nice and cool outside. 

The course was a loop around the civic center neighborhoods and back again. I did not hear any French along the course. The other note of interest is that the mile markers were in kilometers instead of miles. As American runners know, we might state our race is so many kilometers long, but our splits are in miles. I know, it doesn't make sense. It is just what is done.

The post race gathering was held on a hockey rink (it is Canada after all). They served corn on the cob. This is currently the oddest post-race food I have ever seen. It was also the tastiest. Slathered in butter in salt it was perfect. I hope I don't lose my rights as Jersey girl over this, but it was very good corn. Just as good as Jersey corn.

I looked around the crowd and had this fleeting thought that I might just place in my age category. I suspect the rain kept a number of people away. Well, that was dashed when I saw the results. Though I had a PR, and accomplished another one of my goals for the year, I was 59 out of 61 for my age category, 557/580 overall. Times ranged from 14:52 to 47:10. I'm happy with my time of 34:39 -- the first time I have broken 35 minutes in a 5K. 

The only downside -- no medals to add to my collection.

Home Again Farm

They say "you can't go home again." Perhaps that is true for a lot of people, but our friends Gail and Daryl have proven that expression wrong. Gail and Daryl are the 6th generation owners of Home Again Farm in Theresa, NY (be sure to pronounce the "h", or you'll sound like an out-of-towner). They raise alpacas and have a store. Don and I left with alpaca socks for him to wear this winter while cycling (alpaca fur is softer than wool and has wicking in it). I bought a beautiful green sweater made in Peru from a Fair Trade artisan. It is stunning. I wore it in Montreal, but it is too hot to wear in NJ just yet. They also sell yarn made from alpacas on their farm. This last item includes a picture of the alpaca it came from. 

I normally keep my friends' private lives off of my blog, but I will quote from their own website: "All of the hustle and bustle (of living in Central NJ) seemed to lose its appeal especially after Sept. 11, 2001. Daryl actually watched the second plane hit the tower from his Jersey City office on that fateful day. Short of saying, "We're out of here!" we started to develop a plan so that we could return to upstate NY and grow the farm that Gail grew up on."

For more of their history, follow the above link to their website, or visit them in Theresa.

This was our first visit with Gail and Daryl since they moved out of state. They both look younger, healthier and happier than when they were living La Vida New Jersey.

They proudly showed off their farm, including the handful of male alpacas and the two dozen "girls." We fed treats to the girls. We fell in love with how cute they are, but recognize we are not cut out to be alpaca farmers. 

We had a delicious lunch with our friends before heading back into Canada for the rest of our vacation while Ashley was at camp. I think we confused the border crossing agents, but they let us back into Canada without making us get out of the car.

Unfortunately we did not time our visit to Boldt Castle right (we missed the ferry by 5 minutes and the next one would only allow us an hour on the island), so we are saving that for another trip.

Enjoy these cute pictures of alpacas. If you ever take the 1,000 Islands Crossing, make a detour to Theresa (next door to Antwerp, which drops the "t") and visit them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Upper Canada Village Time Traveler's Camp

Guest blogger Ashley reports:

Upper Canada Village's Time Traveler's Camp was SO much fun. I was in a room with 4 other girls, 2 of which spoke French as a first language, one who was bilingual, and another girl who just spoke English. We became very close friends. We stayed up late most nights, having therapy sessions (these were started by the boys whose room was under ours, and on the second morning when we asked why they had been so loud last night, they told us that they had done therapy).

We also worked on room decorations for the room challenge at night and whenever we had free time during the day. Another thing I did was work on a story that would make my English teacher proud. It was about a man named Kevin Irving Lloyd who lived in the attic above my room.

In the morning our overnight/morning counselor (in our house it was Lindsay, who happened to be me and my roommates favorite, and I'm pretty sure we were her favorites) would "wake us up" (we were always already awake) and send us downstairs and outside for morning exercises. Then we would go to breakfast, come back and put on our costumes, and clean, in case the person who would check to see if our room was clean would come then. After that, when the bell range we would go outside, and head into the village and go to our stations where we would be like an apprentice. I went to the printing office, wool factory, Tenant farm (for cooking), and Ross house (for making a braided rug). After our 90 minute apprenticeship, we would go to school, then make sandwiches, and eat them outside.

Then we would play games, such as baseball and croquet. Next came campers choice, where you could either go fishing, walk around the village, crafts, or just downtime. I went fishing one day, and downtime the rest to work on decorations for the room. On the last day I went on the

boat that was pulled by a horse.

After that, we would put on regular clothes for dinner, then we went to the Chrysler hall to play evening games, such as capture the flag, and sardines. Then the people who had nighttime showers, which included me, took their showers and got ready for bed. Next it was story-time. This was hosted in my room twice, the boys room once, and a room in the other house twice. One of the counselors would read part of the book we were reading that week. It was some long book about a castle. During story-time I read, drew, and worked on my story about Kevin (I'll tell you it later). Then it was lights out. For my room this was when we read, decorated the room, talked, and pretended to sleep when Lindsay came in.

There was one night that one group had dinner chores, but they complained because they had already had them twice and the other groups had only had it once. So the counselors decided that we would do a competition where everyone would be quite all through dinner, and the first person to talk, their "family" would have to do cleanup. But they also said that if nobody talked, the counselors would do the dishes. That night was the funniest night at camp. Everyone had to find a new way to say, "pass me the butter please." My family almost had to do dishes because I apparently got two strikes for almost laughing. A boy diagonal from me had to explain it to me. I guess he saw the counselors miming it to each other. It took him a long time to explain it to me because I couldn't understand what he was trying to say. My friends and I got tired of not being able to talk to each other, so we took our corn kernels and spelled out things with them. The counselors had to do dishes. That was also the night that all the toilets in the house were broken. It was not fun.

We lost the room challenge by 0.03 points! Very disappointing.

On the last full day, we did a campfire and had s'mores, but we did not roast the marshmallows (shockingly, they don't trust us with pointy sticks and fire). That night, all the people in my house stood in the entrance way and sang "Beatles" songs. Lindsay was not happy when she walked in, 10 minutes before lights out, to find everyone wide awake and singing--not very well--at the top of our lungs.

On Monday we did Loyalists day. It was funny because I always learn about the Patriots, but then I could see a different side of the Revolutionary War.

Notes from Jacquie:

Last year's report -- lots of similarities, but this year was 5 nights instead of 2, so more time to bond with friends. With the rain, there were a lot less tourists this year. Plus, she as there midweek instead of on the weekend.

This was the first time it was so cold at summer camp that they needed to hand out coats as part of their costumes.

Ashley is already thinking about returning next summer.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Can I do it?

I've already written extensively about my running tales. This is about my latest challenge: biking.

Can I do it? The last time I seriously rode a bicycle was when Don and I did the NYC 5 Borough bike ride long before Ashley was born (late 1990s as a guess). After 40 miles, I got off that bike and swore I would never ride a bike again. For the most part, I kept that promise to myself.

A few years ago I convinced myself to try again. I bought a bike from the Trenton Boys and Girls Club's Bike Exchange in Ewing, NJ. I rode it about a mile and said "nope, not for me." The bike has been collecting dust ever since.

Not long after that I got the itch to do a triathlon before I turn 50. Have you ever seen me swim? Have you ever read a blog post about my swimming? 

You just read about my experiences with biking. 

Maybe this isn't the best goal.

Well, I still have a number of years to go, maybe things will change?

A couple of weeks ago I read this blog post about a running doing her first duathlon. Suddenly the light bulb went off in my head. I could do that! 

Couldn't I?

I reached out to my vast network of running friends and asked about local duathlons. The recommendation was the Bucks County Duathlon: 2 miles running, 10 miles biking, 2 miles running. 

I know the running will be fine, but what about the biking? Mind you, I've blocked out the part where I have to run, then bike, then run. 

Last week I hopped on Ashley's bike and rode about a mile. So far so good. 

Today I hopped on her bike and rode 6.2 miles. Much better!

Maybe later this week I'll run a bit. Hop on the bike and ride a bit. 

I can do this. Right? 

Stay tuned for the actual answer to that question on August 31.

If I survive this, then I guess I need to learn how to swim. Good thing I still have just over 5 years on that goal. It might take me that long to master swimming.