Wednesday, July 31, 2013

fair time

One look at my wrist and it's obvious: it's fair time.

The clue is the indestructible Timex plastic watch, which has been sprayed with water, woundkote, sheep pee, iced tea, you name it, and it keeps on ticking. It goes on my wrist about five days before fair, when I know, at any given moment, I will be summoned to the barn or out into a field to help with some problem or another, and I had better be fully prepared from my timepiece to my footgear.

As a matter of fact, I am ready for fair. Before today, I was a little more than ready, but today I was sidelined with providing sheep beauty parlor assistance, and so now I am slightly less than ready. Problem was the unbelievable amounts of mud these poor sheep have had to deal with.

By way of illustration, Kali started out looking like this:

Thanks to the heroic efforts of her shepherd, she now looks like this:

Which we can all agree is a massive improvement, though he still probably won't win any prizes for sheep cleaniness. (Yes, there is such a prize, and the proper sheepy term is fitting your sheep for show.) Maybe if we showed the judge the "before" picture?

We also worked on making sure we had all the proper pieces for our tents, which we only use once a year. We have waaaayyy too many stories about getting to fair and missing critical parts of the tents (one year stakes, the next year poles) so we tried to forestall this particular problem. Which in all likelihood means we will forget the tents altogether.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

eat something happy

My final post for the week of happy. Just in the nick of time, too. I can go back to being grumpy tomorrow.

Today's happy is all about the fresh fruit and veg this time of year. We are lucky to live in the heart of Jersey's farm country. It's not all McMansions and shipping warehouses just yet! Farmstands galore, with plenty of bounty to share. This week we have enjoyed the following, all grown locally (though sadly, not by us):

  • zucchini
  • sweet corn (oh, the sweet corn)
  • cherry tomatoes
  • red potatoes
  • cucumber
  • peaches
  • blueberries
  • green beans
  • nectarines
  • blackberries (I forgot, we did grow these!)

Healthy food makes such a difference on mood and attitude, but this important fact gets ignored all too often around here. My family will tell you, I was a complete bear today. As I sat down to write this post I realized I was so "busy" that I just had a couple cookies and some coffee until dinner time. Not at all the recipe for a balanced approach to life, and my attitude paid the price. Tomorrow it's back to my usual fruit-and-yogurt smoothie for breakfast, and perhaps I can postpone the bad mood until at least 1 pm.

And then I will go looking for one of these.

Friday, July 26, 2013

do something happy

Summer time means county fair time. I am very partial to the one my kids are involved in, but I am also quite fond of any fair that I don't have to do any work for.

We visited our own county fair tonight; my kids' 4-H club is affiliated with a neighboring county instead of our own. Primo did have to work for this fair, as he was volunteering with his high school's FFA chapter, selling donated produce to benefit Farmers Against Hunger. FAH facilitates the collection of excess produce from Jersey farmers and transportation to food banks and pantries all over the state. He is always happy to help them out.

The rest of us bummed around the 4-H portion of the fairgrounds, viewing exhibits and bumping into old friends. 4-H can be a small world.

This rabbit has perhaps the coolest and most fitting name ever. Despite his epic coolness, his favorite food is bananas. Awesome.

My two nieces were quite taken with the clogging, as was I. Looks like a great way to burn off some calories, have fun, and make a lot of noise, all at the same time.

Terzo loved all the fluffy bunnies (those are tiny baby bunnies he is pointing to)...

But would have nothing to do with the snakes, except for a respectful distance, and I can't say as I blamed him.

How is your county fair? Some are big, some are tiny, but all of them are a slice of Americana. Hope you make it to at least one this summer—and make sure to support the local 4-H chapter while you are there. The enthusiasm and energy of those kids deserves a helping hand.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

see something happy

A field tucked away in a corner of our township:

This is not its usual crop. In fact, it is not a common crop at all around here, so it has become a destination photo spot as people seek it out.

I have visited it three times in as many days and there is always at least one other car pulled over to admire its beauty.

Unfortunately its impossible to do the scope of it justice with a camera. It's one of those things that has to be seen to be appreciated.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

explore something happy

Secondo is attending summer school in a town about 40 minutes away, where his new high school (and Primo's current high school) is located. Not to put too fine a point on it, but taking him back and forth every day is a slog.

I was lucky last week, because other kids from our town had to go out there, and the car pool was a huge help.

I am lucky every day, because my husband has been covering the morning trip.

I was lucky today, because my friend Amy suggested that she ride out with us on her day off to check out a distant county park while he was in school. I am also lucky that I have such a enterprising friend.

So that's what we did, with Terzo in tow. (Terzo has had a very exciting week being towed places. On Monday, he accompanied Primo on a junkyard quest to find a replacement headlight. He hasn't stopped talking about it since.)

The county park, Deep Cut Gardens, is organized with the home gardener in mind. It is 50+ acres of beauty and loveliness, which serves as the headquarters of the Monmouth County Master Gardeners program, and includes an extensive gardening library in the former residence on the grounds.

If you go: the display garden (to the right off the parking lot) has a clever gnome hunt for kids. It kept Terzo well occupied while Amy and I checked out the plantings, though we were eventually recruited into helping him out with the gnome hunt.

We weren't the only ones enjoying it. The bees and butterflies were everywhere.

Every corner has another bit of beauty, including a rockery, waterfall, koi pond, natural pond, and greenhouse with kid-pleasing cacti and succulents.

We finished a bit earlier than we expected and had a little time to kill before we had to pick up Secondo, so we headed to nearby Longstreet Farm, a working historical farm, also a county park. May as well get our taxes worth.

Their pig was worth the trip. We were afraid that a picture of the pig alone wouldn't do his massiveness justice, so we included a kid for scale. I am extremely glad (and lucky) to report that the boys' pigs are nowhere near that size. If you go: the park has a very nice shaded pavilion, the perfect place for a picnic lunch, across the parking lot from the farm. Morris Arboretum is behind the pond, but unfortunately the arboretum needs some TLC and was a disappointment after the manicured beauty of Deep Cut.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

buy something happy

Retail therapy is not normally my thing. It's just not the way I'm built,* which is why as I write this I am wearing Teva sandals from 2006 and an old 4-H fair t-shirt. And yes, I wore those everywhere I went today. I am not proud (obviously) but I am shopping-impaired and not ashamed to admit it.

However, when my 9-year-old son told me that he found the perfect $3 magnet for me, while we were scouting out county sheep show prizes at the local Five Below, it was impossible to resist.

Even if we don't keep magnets on our fridge.

* HUGE DISCLAIMER: Except in the case of yarn. And double-pointed needles. And used books. And perhaps ancient spinning wheels, if I am perfectly honest.

Monday, July 22, 2013

read something happy

The washcloths (or potholders or placemats or whatever you want to call them) cheered me so mightily that I thought it would do a whole week on making happy out of molehills (or lemons or blues or whatever you want to call them).

Today's happy was from a site set up by my wonderfully tech-savvy mother, who started her own online news-gathering service. It is called Filamenti... go ahead, check it out! Or better yet, subscribe! I'll wait.

As far as I understand it, it is set up to collect articles about knitting, weaving, crocheting, etc. from around the web, and mail the results to you once a week if you are a subscriber. Its complete randomness is a delight, because you never know what is going to pop up. Today's edition included a reference to the UK's Big Knit contest (my vote is for the lady Viking hat) and a brilliant top 18 knitting meme list on Buzzfeed.

Go ahead, I'll wait. I am torn about which point is the best; it's a close contest between number 6 and number 18. Even if it is a bunch of memes, there is so much truth there. 

"I got 99 problems but a stitch ain't one."


Sunday, July 21, 2013

make something happy

One of the best ways to beat the blues is to work with an entirely different color. Or in the case of this project, colors. One skein of this citrus-y cotton yarn was in my stash from another project that didn't work out as envisioned, but it was just the ticket when it came to a feel good distraction. Who could be down when working with such upbeat colors?

While we were on vacation, we watched in dismay as rainstorm after rainstorm crashed through NJ. We knew that our farm was completely under mud, and we were feeling really bad for our poor farm sitters having to wade out to the back fields each day. We started picking up different locally-made soaps to make up for all that mud.

If there's soap, there has to be washcloths, right? Luckily I had a bit of time to get them done. I wanted to use that colorful cotton yarn, so when I spotted the free Citrus Slice washcloth pattern from Bernat, it was a perfect match. I had some natural colored cotton in my stash, which is where the value of a stash really proves itself. (And I am not just saying this to justify the size of my stash. That white cotton yarn was a freebie from Knit Picks a couple of years ago.)  There are few pleasures greater than having a pattern catch your fancy on a Sunday night, and realize that you already have the yarns and needles to cast on right then and there.

The pattern required a few modifications—I made it slightly larger, and crocheted a single row of each color around the edges, as suggested by another person on Ravelry, to make it look even more like a slice of, well, citrus. The center became larger as a result, and I had to improvise a crocheted center to close the resulting hole.

I hope the cheery result gets a smile from the users as well, despite all that darn mud.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Another guest blogger! In response to yesterday's whiny post, my dear friend M. sent me an e-mail, titled "Figured I'd write my blog entry, if I had one." It was too good not to share, and she graciously agreed that I could. Names have been redacted to protect the innocent/guilty but otherwise it is in all its unedited glory, including her postscript. Love you too, M.!

Got your voicemail!  No worries that I called you Tuesday and you called me back Thursday - LOL!  We are real friends who get it that life takes over and crap happens and the next thing you know, you haven't used the bathroom all f'ing day because one child or another needed you to chauffeur them somewhere or some house item needed attending to or your husband needed you to find the ketchup bottle in the door of the fridge where it's been for 23 darn years!  Real friends don't judge or get upset!  I love you my friend so never sweat that petty shit.  I know what summers are like with 3 kids home - I really detest them being home and dread every June. 

Anyway - I just called to say hi and to vent.  No one really appreciates what I do - sound pathetic right?  I created this mess being the one driving the move out of "Ed Scissorhandsville" - can I name my development that?  Closing on the purchase is set for 7/29 and movers coming 8/2.  Ask me how many rooms are packed in our whole house?  3. Yes, you read that right, 3 f'ing rooms packed and one is the foyer but hey - there is plenty of time.  Good thing is that if the shit isn't packed when the movers come, [my husband] and the boys will be moving the shit themselves so f'it.  I wake up at 4am staring at the ceiling with questions, worries, anxiety.  I keep waiting for the shoe to drop - the mortgage to fall apart or the sale to fall through or the house to be a money pit or worse yet.  It's really terrible. 

Tonight we are taking [my daughter] to a Taylor Swift concert in 125 degree heat at the Eagles stadium - why you ask?  Because someone couldn't say NO F'ING WAY - oh... and that wasn't me.  The boys refused to go and at $60 ticket I can't say I was upset.  They are home - happily packing their shit (NOT!!)

It could be worse right?  Instead of my office feeling like a flipping rain forest because the AC can't get the dampness out, I might have no power?  Or, instead of having crap to pack and the funds to buy boxes, I might be homeless - right?  Trying to see the upside.  Right now - your "yarn cave" sounds very appealing.

All my love,

PS - sorry for the potty mouth - 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

blue, or maybe just soggy

Maybe it is this wretched, soul-sucking heat wave.

Maybe it's the accompanying oppressive humidity that smothers the life out of every living thing.

Maybe it's having the boys, and all their clutter and noise (how did I miss it?) back in the house.

Maybe it's trying to get geared up for 4-H fair, and failing miserably.

Maybe it's because it's weaning time, and I hate weaning time, though everyone seems to have taken it rather well this year, probably because we are so so late.

Maybe it's getting one kid to summer school 45 minutes away every. blasted. day.

Maybe it's the lack of exercise, see, Heat and Humidity.

Maybe it's because Venus and Saturn are now in alignment. Love me some Sister Monica Joan.

Maybe it's because I just finished Season 2 of Call the Midwife and Season 3 seems a long way away.

Maybe it's worrisome news, in wave after wave, about dear friends and relations.

Whatever it is, I am in a definite "if you can't say something nice" state of mind, and that makes it mighty difficult to blog. Who wants to hear me complain? Oh wait. Sorry about that.

I am headed up to cast on a new knitting project and start a new costume drama in my fortress of solitude (a.k.a. yarn fort, a.k.a. girl cave) in the hopes that I can turn it around before July is completely unsalvageable.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

our eagles have landed

They are back in the nest, and boy, does it feel good. It was a very nice week of clean house and quiet environment but by about Wednesday it was just a bit too clean and too quiet. Well, maybe not too clean. But definitely too quiet.

The simple fact was that I missed the holy heck out of them. There, I admit it.

Primo had a ball in DC at the 4-H conference. I did have occasional contact with him via text, but he was the one I was least worried about, except for lack of sleep.

Let it be publicly known that I had to force him to apply for a spot on this trip. Of course, he was glad he went, and of course, it was the experience of a lifetime. His words, or rather, his tweets.

Mothers of boys, take note. You have to force them to do things you know they will enjoy. By no means can you leave it up to them. It is a thankless task, but you can have the pleasure of patting yourself on the back and saying a little silent "I knew it" to yourself. Goodness knows your son won't freely offer up the credit to which you are due.

The other two were out of contact completely at 4-H camp, where I knew they were in good hands. We heard on Thursday that Terzo was a little homesick, but there was nothing I could do except wait and worry. Terzo was being quietly watched over by a counselor, a former member of their 4-H club who has been quietly watching over him almost since he was born, and I knew she would get word to us if things were truly out of hand.

I was right to be a little bit worried, though. I found this note in his duffle bag after we picked him up. He couldn't mail it to me because he couldn't find the envelopes I know I sent with him.

Despite difficulties, he had a great week. He was known and loved by all, typical for my third-born. He was named one of the four honor campers. (Amazingly enough, Secondo was one of the other four, based upon, of all things, his organization of a broom closet; his own closet had reduced me to tears earlier this week.) He can't wait to go back next year, which is why he crossed out that postscript. He is better off for the experience, but it still breaks my heart more than a little bit to know he was so unhappy.

It finally feels like home now that we are all back together under one roof. I have no idea how I am going to handle Primo going away to college in 13 months. I know he is ready, and truthfully I am ready, for him to spread his wings a little, but I also know that it will fundamentally alter the dynamics around here. I am not ready for that. I will have to make sure and savor the next 13 months, even if it does involve a heck of a lot of smelly laundry and dirty dishes and wonderful sweet noise.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

very, very quiet

My last five posts or so—all scheduled. We were actually on vacation doing our mini-version of the Grand Circle in Arizona and Utah. Hopefully pictures later this week.

We arrived back home on Saturday morning. On Sunday morning, Primo left again, headed for Washington DC for a national 4-H conference. It was a flurry of laundry and shopping and ironing and packing, but we managed to get him out the door in time.

No pictures though. No time for that.

I got back from the drop-off point Sunday afternoon, and it was time to get the other two ready for their departure for camp early the next morning. More laundry and a little shopping and lots of packing, but luckily no ironing.

For the first time ever, this guy is at camp. He has been waiting a while.

He was ready, as demonstrated by his head-to-toe camp gear.

But he was more than a little nervous, when the reality hit him. He looked awfully small up there. Funny how the other two didn't seem quite that little. A trick of the mind where the youngest is concerned.

He is fine. I am sure he is fine. He is there with Secondo and several kids from their 4-H club, all of whom have been charged with looking out for him. And while I am enjoying the clutter-free house, it sure is quiet around here with no boys.

Friday, July 5, 2013

piggy shenanigans

Today I am excited to introduce a guest blogger: our very own Terzo! There's more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to getting kids to write over the summer. Fame and fortune (or as close as you get when you are a third/fourth grader) may do the trick, with any luck. If it works out, I may be able to go an entire summer without uttering the phrase "have you written in your journal yet?"

So take it away, Terzo.

I was walking to the barn to feed the barn cats. When I looked at the pigs pen I only saw four pigs. But there should be six pigs.

I looked everywhere but I couldn't find those two piggies. Finally I heard a oink coming from the big water container.

I looked at it and I saw this tiny little ear poking out.

I looked in and out of all the places they were in the water container. This is a container that we keep in the pen to put food in. Why were they in there? 

There was no food in there. I think they were in there because there was a little water from the rain and they wanted to take a bath!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

happy 70th, mom!

Today is my wonderful mother's 70th birthday. Due to circumstances beyond our control, my mom and I cannot celebrate together but I wanted to make sure to say an extra special HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

In case I haven't made it perfectly clear, she is a really special mom in so many ways. She is the one who blazed the 4-H trail. That's her and her horse Laddie, a Tennessee Walker. She belonged to the Hoof Beats 4-H Club.

She is also the one who blazed the fiber trail. That's me (with my brother) wearing a sweater that she hand-knit, and hand-dyed with marigolds. Yeah. Forty years later, I am still behind that skill level.

Speaking of skill level, she sewed my beautiful wedding dress.

She has always been one stylish lady. Here we are at my 8th grade graduation from the American School in London Middle School. Great hat, right? She sewed the dress I am wearing in that picture, too. If it hadn't been for my mom, I wouldn't have had a lot to wear.

I could take you through all the years... through high school, and college, and babies and moves and farming, and she would be there! She is a great mom, and I (and my whole family) have been so blessed to have her in our lives. I hope she is celebrating her 70th birthday in style, and I can't wait to celebrate with her at some point later this month.

Monday, July 1, 2013

lose it

My metabolism is starting a slow, inexorable slide towards laziness. I have been pretty lucky, it has always worked fairly well, but lately it's getting tired. I haven't really been helping matters by not exercising like I should be. Always an excuse.

But now I have this new smartphone! And smartphones have all sorts of apps, and surely one of them could help me out with my problem or at least motivate me a bit, because of course impossible for me to do on my own. After a bit of research, I downloaded the "Lose It" app. It appeared to do what I needed (count calories and exercise) and it was free.

For example, trekking to see the herons? Hiking, for 20 minutes! 107 calories burned! Almost enough for a guilt-free glass of white wine that night!

After perusing the list of exercises, however, I saw a problem.

Entries for billiards and sports coaching and curling and music playing and juggling and luge, for crying out loud. Also one for lawn mowing! But it is missing shopping and ironing and doing laundry, all of which, I would argue, burn more calories than billiards. There is one for vacuuming, and I guess house cleaning could be used as a catch all for many of those activities, but I can hazard a guess as to the gender of the programmer.

Knitting? Definitely not knitting, or anything like it.

A little research revealed that knitting burns about 110 calories an hour. I'll take it! The program allows you to add your own activity, but not any more icons, so I chose the icon for fencing as being the closest thing to two needles.

That's right, fencing is on there. Because tons of people do that. I am allowed to be sarcastic about fencing because I earned my varsity letter in high school by being on the fencing team. The laziness thing didn't start yesterday.

Oh, the wrestling? That was my best guess for catching, vaccinating and hoof-trimming 14 uncooperative lambs. Yet another unlisted activity. Just who came up with this list, anyway?