book giveaway/maple syrup photos

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(from a page in a book David is sending me)

The cats absolutely love to go outside and roll back and forth back and forth in the dirt.  Bagheera was at the window wanting to come in (we have low porch windows that they can easily jump through) and when I walked over to open up the window he jumped through with his shiny black fur just as dusty and dirty as can be, I had to laugh!

I was gone for a few hours this morning.  After I got Seth and Sarah on the bus and wrote a long long letter to a penpal, I received a text from a friend wondering if we could go walking together.  I’m finally feeling better and energetic after the awful cold I had so I happily said “yes!” and off I went to her house.  We walked over 2.5 miles together in a bright and cold New England morning, with the sky as clear and blue as the deep blue sea.

We walked past a wooded lot that had maple trees tapped for sap.  The sap was dripping from the trees into long thin plastic tubes, which led to clean white plastic containers but I like the looks of the old fashioned way the best (although I admit for large operations it’s much better to use tubing and tubs!).

My Mom and Dad boil sap in the spring and collect it using hooded metal buckets.

I’ve never been able to be home on a boiling day, but my brother David took some wonderful photos on Saturday (full of freshly fallen March snow!) and sent them to me and I wanted to share them here.

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Mom was talking about how to make Pesto while Dave took this video.  I asked Dave why there was a big pot in the middle of the pan of sap and he said that they add the cold sap to the pot to start warming up so that they can add it warm and keep main tray of sap at a constant good boil.

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Mom and Dad in their open shed, with their dog and wood and small homesteading maple syrup operation!  So satisfying.

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This is how they do the final straining of the syrup.

They make jars and jars of syrup and can use it all year long.

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Leave a comment on this post or on my FB page and I’ll draw a name tomorrow and send this book to the lucky winner!   As you know I’ve been reading through all the Newbery books and this 1957 winner was so charming and perfect to read at this time of year.   I will order the book for you on amazon and have it mailed, so you will have to give me your mailing address.  I’ll post the winner tomorrow at this time!

One of my little pleasures is warming up the children’s pancake syrup.  Rich’s Dad also boils sap for syrup and he gives us lots and lots of it every year.  Later on, after breakfast is over and done and I’m cleaning up, I like to stand and dip my finger way down into the leftover syrup and then pop my finger into my mouth for a nice clean mouthful of pure, sweet NY maple syrup goodness!  What a blessing!

‘”The sap running gives me a feeling I can’t describe,” Mr Chris said.  “Like it’s the blood of the earth moving.”‘  Miracles on Maple Hill, by Virginia Sorensen

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my parents, my friends

“Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life.”  Aurelius

Good morning, it’s 7:50am and 38 degrees here in our neck of the woods.  I didn’t get to see David and Caleb this morning as I got up after their bus came and left.  I woke up Seth with a kiss and he asked his typical, “Can you  make me an egg sandwich with cheese and ham?  Do we have bacon?  No?  okay, than with ham?” and then he took a 20 minute shower.  I had to go back upstairs to knock on the door and tell him, “Your egg sandwich has been done for ten minutes!”  Sarah Joy didn’t sleep well last night, and neither did I.  When I got up at 2 to drink some milk, I found her sleeping on the couch.  The dog was a few feet away, snoring and snoring.  It was rather cozy I must admit.  She was back in her bed this morning and didn’t want to get up.  The sooner she realizes that she can live life even when super- tired the better.

They have left for school now, leaving me home alone.  I’ve been feeling rather lonely lately and think I’ll try making a list of things to do in order to fill up my day and feel more productive.  This morning I want to blog, shower, get some groceries, clean the coat closet, go for a walk, and get some laundry folded.  Then this afternoon I’ll have to think of some more things to get done.

Sherlock the orange cat is stretched out on my art book, which I keep out on the table in front of the window here in the livingroom.  I have paints and pens and papers, my Bible, note cards, glue, and books all over the table and he seems to feel at home there.  Our black cat Bagheera is curled up next to me on a red wool blanket.  I am sitting cross-legged on the couch with a pillow on my lap, with the computer on the pillow, typing away………at times I reach out and stroke his beautiful black fur and he always purrs in reply.

I’m thinking about what I was doing last week at this time.  I was at my parent’s house and mom was frying us eggs.  She fried four; one for me, one for Dad, one for her, and one for the dog.  Dad mixed a few nuggets of dog food in with the dog’s egg and put it on the floor for him.  Mom made gingerbread pancakes for me and herself.  Dad didn’t want one.  We all had bacon.  Just as we were about to eat, Aunt Carol came.  She lives just up the road from mom and dad and recently lost her husband.  She would normally walk down for a visit but it was only ten degrees outside so she drove.  Dad made coffee and we all enjoyed having a cup together.  Mom showed Aunt Carol the scrapbook she is working on and I enjoyed watching the two sisters look through it, sitting side by side, and talking together about childhood memories.

I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for my family, each one is so special in many ways.  I’m glad that we have each other.  I’m glad I have parents who love me so much and want me to visit them.  Mom took Monday morning off so she could be home with me and not have to go to work until I had to leave.

We looked at old family photos, ate a yummy St Patrick’s day boiled corned beef dinner, watched tv, worked on Mom’s scrapbook, talked, went for a wonderful walk outside, and just enjoyed each other’s company.

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With my dear Dad!!!

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Little me, with my mom and dad over forty years ago.

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A meaningful quote in Dad’s writing, found propped against his books.

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These words are engrained in my mind, as I remember reading this plaque through the years.  The truth of them astounds me now, and comforts me.

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The sisters looking at mom’s book.

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Mom and Dad tap maple trees and boil sap in the springtime, so we walked up to check the buckets.

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And guess what?

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The sap was hanging from the spigots as icicles!  Dad had boiled a few days before but knew he’d have a few days off since it was freezing cold.  I love that they make syrup, there’s just something so satisfying about it and they have mason jars full of the finished product to enjoy all year-long.

My brother David sent me photos from this weekend that I’ll share tomorrow of the boiling.

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There is something deep inside that is always put at ease when I am home again, especially outdoors.  I find myself again and I’m me, just me, my mind relaxes as I listen to quiet and smell and see all the familiar things.

“I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world—present and in awe.”  Anne Lamott

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Just Shanda, out on a walk with her Mom and her Dad.

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Dad was telling Mom about the tree he found to cut up for firewood and mom was telling him all the ways to do it safely.

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Mom stopped to admire this rock.  I smiled.

“I tell you the truth, if they kept silent their praise of the Lord, the stones themselves would cry out the message.”  Luke 19:40

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Beautiful morning frost on the moss.   I got right on the ground to get closer.  Look at the perfect patterns!

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There is loveliness all around us, we just need the eyes to see and hearts to appreciate.

“The earth has music for those who listen.”  Shakespeare

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Back inside the warm house…..I gave mom the mushroom Joanna gave to me!  I knew Jo wouldn’t mind, as she loves my mom, too.  It just goes so well with mom’s corner collection (the one from me and Jo is on the green leaf).  Look, she even has a mushroom planter which maybe I’ll try to steal next time I visit………….

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Mom made this recently!

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Look at the back!  This was all her creation, no pattern, just some lovely fabric and an artsy soul.

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Time for this girl to go home to her own house and family.

But first a hug from mom.

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And a hug from Dad.

Time with you is always precious to me.

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My parents.

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My friends.

trip back home

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I left Thursday morning as soon as the children got on the school bus and drove leisurely to my parents’ house.  I stopped several times for coffee, gas, the mall, and an antique store where I found a handful of old photos and letters for my scrapbook.

Mom was at work but Dad and the dog greeted me and we went for a walk up the road so he could show me the wood he’s been cutting.

We passed the house my mom and her siblings grew up in which now belongs to someone else.

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I played on this yard as a child, too.

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Springtime Daffodils were peeking through old grasses from last year, in a tire that my Grandma planted flowers in years ago.

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Dad stood by his woodpile in the woods across from Andrew’s and the pond.

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I admired the beautiful scenery as we walked back down the road to home.  I’m forever thankful to have grown up in such a beautiful area.

Soon it was time to pick up my cousin Erika so we could go to school and sing.  But first, I was delighted to see her fiestaware collection.    This is a photo of just some of what she and her husband have found.

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Aunt Colleen says Jillian (Erika’s daughter) is the avocado whisperer because she’s the only one who can get the pits to grow.  This is an avocado plant in her bedroom!  She planted it from a grocery store avocado, using the pit after they ate the rest of it.

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This is a school yearbook photo of my friend Nicole, my brother, myself, Carmine, Dana (my HS bestie) and Aaron, all friends from my childhood who were in chorus with me years and years ago.

My beloved chorus Director is retiring this year so those of us who could attend went back to school to sing one last time………

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The beginning of the concert…..

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My friend Tracy took this photo of me and the rest of the alto section.  Oh it was such fun!!  I was just a little bit rusty and couldn’t sustain a note quite as long because I’m out of practice.  But still, so fun.  I loved seeing familiar faces and places; the whole weekend was full of nostalgia and memories.  I hadn’t been inside the school in over 10 years.

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My sweet cousin and me after the concert with our red folders.  🙂

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Looking pretty good for a pair of 40ish year olds!  My friend Tracy and myself (same graduating class of 1994).  We had fun walking around seeing the school and how it has changed since we attended there (seems like just a year or so ago…….)

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Me and Mrs. Westover at the reception after the concert.

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The old gym that we graduated in.  Ah, memories!!!!

friday:

I stopped by the restaurant in town that morning where Erika is the baker and she gave me some slices of her homemade pie to take home!  Thank you Erika!  The pie was delicious when we ate it that evening for dessert.  Mom and Dad had raspberry and I had chocolate peanut butter (split with brother Dave).

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I drove to meet mom for lunch.  She was able to take a special four- hour-long -one just for me.

(isn’t the floor of her office beautiful?)

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antiquing…….

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Someone glued lots of old McDonald’s toys to a mirror.  It would be fun in a child’s bedroom.

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My cute mom.

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A frame/art shop with a window full of cats.

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LUNCH at a thai place

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COFFEE time! (with our Vera purses of the same pattern but slightly different fabrics)

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After I left mom back at work, I drove the back way home and passed the house my family lived in until I was in 2nd grade.  Dave and I have many vivid memories of childhood here.  It was a Sears Roebuck house kit built by my paternal grandparents.  My dad grew up here and then he and Mom bought the house and lived in it for a while, too.  It used to be yellow but the shrubbery is the same (not green now bc it’s still early spring here).  Mom said even the driveway was the same and hasn’t been repaved since they sold it.  🙂  The second story window was my bedroom.

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And this house next door was my Paternal Great-Grandparents’ house.  The families stayed close to each other and Dad has lots of photos of gatherings on the different yards for cook outs and picnics when he was a youngster.

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And then I drove by the old church we attended and my Dad was baptized in.   I remember Sundays with lots of family and friends.  We went to this church until I was about Sarah’s age but I remember things . . . . .children soak everything in. . . . it’s a good reminder for me to be gentle with my own children.

I went to the small country cemetery where my grandparents, great aunt and uncle, and Great-Grandparents (all on my dad’s side of the family) are buried and then to the school and country store.

Then, home again to my parents’ house and a visit with my brother Dave.

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I love this photo of Dave and my dad and the family pets.  🙂

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“up on the hill”

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I went walking in the woods with mom and Dave — they stopped to look at everything, Mom said, “I want to see something new!”  They make rock “people” stacks everywhere, and look for gold in the creek (it MIGHT happen!) or arrowheads.  Maybe!

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Standing under a giant purple tree mushroom.  Something new we saw!

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Then Mom (she’s very observant) saw a black animal over in the field so Dave and I walked over to check things out.  It was two black cats, maybe from Uncle Brian’s house?  We didn’t know them and they didn’t know us.  They ran off to hide in the old barn.

saturday;

Mom and I did some garden clean-up with Dad and then got ready for more adventuring.  We asked Dad to take our photo but first he took this one:

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We invited him to come along but he graciously declined.

Mom found a vintage white coverlet and I found a vintage fiesta ivory gravy boat.

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~loveliness in a beautifully arranged shop.

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~Seating area in a deli where we ate lunch.

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Fred, more than 50 years old.

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As we left I took a plant!

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~Beautiful vintage fiestaware (I didn’t buy it).

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I LOVE my mom’s eye for things.  She really liked this old oven and opened up everything to figure it out and imagine using it.

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Oh how wonderful it was to have a day with my mom!  I’m so thankful and so blessed.

We shopped until we dropped and then we went home and she made a pork chop dinner!

It was delicious.

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She has sewing and crocheting projects going.  This is a quilt piece she’s working on, inspired by the photo next to it.

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Photo of Uncle Bob and my Dad Greg next to that same shrubbery.

sunday

Sunday was a DELIGHT.  I went to the church I attended all the way up until Rich and I moved away as a young married couple……..and I got there at the same time as my father in law!  He was alone (Leslie was home with Charles) so we sat together.  I cannot even tell you the gratitude I felt as we shared a Bible and enjoyed a church service together, and singing.  I am blessed to be married and born into the most wonderful families.  I could look just across the way at Aunt Colleen sitting with her girls taking notes, and Erika sitting behind them with her husband and sister Elisha.  My cousin Heidi was there with her two young sons, too.

After church I went home with Dad so I could visit with dear Leslie and Charles.  Leslie was just coming inside from caring for her hens.  She was wearing a pink jacket and had an egg from the coop.  She put the tea kettle on and we sat right at the table and had a nice long visit, just the four of us.  Dad gave me a box full of his maple syrup to bring home for the grandchildren’s pancakes and french toast.  Leslie gave me a bar of her homemade soap tied with a ribbon.  And guess what?  It was snowing outside.  Yep, snow at the end of April.  In fact, Grace just texted me to let us know it’s snowing in Pennsylvania right this very minute.

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My father in law built their house. They just finished the back addition and it looks beautiful.  I love the wide plank floors and all the windows.

After goodbye hugs, I drove to Colleen’s house and we went out for lunch together, just the two of us.  The food was delicious and we had a nice long visit as we ate.

Then, we headed back to her house for another hour or so and made homemade snickerdoodle cookies just like when we were little.

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~African Violets in bloom on her kitchen windowsill.

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~A picture she painted of the view outside her childhood bedroom window.

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She had a batch of Uncle Brian’s green salad in the fridge and even though we weren’t hungry we just had to have a spoon of it.  Tastes like our childhood!

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Meghan giving the dogs a treat.

After we got our cookies baked, I had to leave to go back home to Connecticut.  I drove the back roads for a while and then got on the highway.  I drove through some snow, some rain, and the most gorgeous end of the day clouds.  I listened to podcasts on the way home and arrived back to my husband and children at 8pm.

Heart-full and Joy-full.  It’s good to be home.

trip back home part 2

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For the rest of our stay, we lived next door to Aunt Colleen and her four girls.  The girls call me “Aunt Shanda” because Colleen (my mom’s baby sister) and I are practically the same age.  The girls  are creative and busy and are so good with little children.  Seth and Sarah love visiting there.  They have a wonderful back yard with lots of room to play, AND a swimming pool, so the kids went swimming every day.

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Seth with his “bugs bunny” teeth, being kissed by mama.

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We piled into the van one afternoon for a trip to the park.

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It was a hot day so we splurged on coolattas from Dunkin’ Donuts for the kids and iced coffee for the moms.

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Reesy (the kids love him but he nips so they couldn’t get too close).

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Aunt Colleen removed Seth’s stitches over his eye.  She’s a nurse.  And awesome.

Molly painted the cool rock that Seth has his hand on.

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We went back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house one evening after mom was done with work.  Seth relaxed on the hammock.

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Mom took this photo.  Dave looks strong and manly and tough and he is, but he’s also a super-sensitive and caring guy.  We text each other at least once a week.  He’s great.  He and Maria are devoted to their nieces and nephews, too.

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We saw a mother deer with two babies when we were driving back to Colleen’s that evening.

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Perry’s ice cream is the best!!!  There is a stand right down the road from Colleen’s house and I think we went there 3 times over the week.

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Blueberry sundae for Sarah Joy.

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Perched in a perfectly splendid apple tree.  This small bird.  🙂

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We sat together on the wooden swing for a while one evening.  Such a dear girl.

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I wandered throughout one of my favorite local shops one morning while the kids were at VBS and had to take a photo of one of the “corners”….Mary Poppins, Little House, hello sacred life, markers, Beatrix Potter, all such good things.  The shop owner is always warm and friendly, and while I paid for my selections we had a nice little chat, I told her that I visit every time I can and how much I love her store.  With tears in her eyes, she gave me a free chocolate for being an awesome mom and told me to “Rock On”.  We even hugged over the counter.

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We met Mom for lunch on Thursday.  Seth and Sarah gave her flowers, too, which I had picked up from a florist.

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Outside the courthouse where his Grandma works.

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As we were walking from the courthouse to Boscovs (where I had parked the car) I ran into a friend from High School!!  I hadn’t seen her since graduation!  (The skirt I’m wearing is one of the things I bought at the General Store…it’s organic cotton, so comfy! and my favorite color, too.)

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Boscovs sells fiestaware so naturally………

Also, a note about Seth’s shirt.  He collects baseball cards and recently sent one to Derek Jeter to sign.  He wrote a fan note that began, “You’re my biggest fan……” (SO SO CUTE).  While I was out shopping with Colleen one day we found a wonderful second hand store where I found the Jeter shirt for only 2 dollars.  🙂  It was fun.

The new color is that yellow in the bottom left…DAFFODIL…I took home two of the smaller bowls.

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Seth and Sarah were invited to spend the night at Uncle Nate and Aunt Melissa’s house on Friday.  Seth adores Tyke, their little doggie, and by the look on Tyke’s face the feeling is mutual.

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At the playground with cousins.

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The cousins went to VBS, too, so these kids had lots of time together last week.  What a blessing!

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Saying goodbye to VBS!

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They absolutely loved it.  On the first morning Seth said he was nervous but when we left  after the last day he was sad “because it was only five days long”.

back to the blog

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Last weekend, Rich left with Grace, David, and Caleb to go to camp in NH for a week.  Jacob and Ethan stayed home so they could work and I left for NY (back home) with Seth and Sarah.  I thought it would be a good chance for a lengthy visit with family, not to mention that the church I grew up in was also having their children’s VBS and I knew Seth and Sarah would love that experience.   We drove to my parent’s house on Saturday and spent the weekend with them, and for the rest of the week we stayed next door to my Aunt Colleen’s house, in her in-laws’ downstairs apartment of convenience and delight.

I only took my phone with me; no big Nikon this time, and no laptop; thus the silence from wordpress blogging.  I did update FB and instagram now and then.

It’s good to be home!  I have lots of pictures to share from our week away.

Sarah is snuggled up next to me playing my kindle and talking while I type.

 

One of the things Mom and Dad and all their decendents do at this time every year is pick as many wild blueberries from Mom and Dad’s blueberry patch across the road. . . . .

 

Brother Nate and Brother Dave were so fun with their antics….Nate refusing to pick because he was “made to do it too much when he was a kid” and he “doesn’t like picking”.  Dave teasing Dad and having little conversations with Sarah.  There are so many bushes that we end up wandering off on our own, but still talking, laughing, teasing, and making strange noises to each other.  Everyone who was willing to pick had a cup or a basket to put berries in.

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When we were done, my mom and sisters in law baked a cake using Mom’s cookbook that she copied out in her pretty handwriting when she was a young teenager.

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Mom added lemon zest to the recipe and it was fantastic.

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Melissa and Maria went through all the berries we picked and cleaned, bagged, and labeled them.

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We visited the garden and saw snakes.

 

In the end of day golden hour, Mom and Sarah went out for MORE picking.  Sarah ate so many blueberries that day we starting giving her warnings about digestive issues.  🙂

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After church on Sunday, I took Seth and Sarah to my favorite local & independent bookstore in the area where Sarah “adopted” an owl and I bought a crossword puzzle book (too hard) and a novel.

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We walked the busy and interesting main street and made a stop in several shops, including one in the historical society.  I took a picture of the arrowheads; this area of NY has many Native American artifacts which are always fascinating.

I would have stayed and read every word but alas, my little children were not as interested as I was.

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Back at Mom and Dad’s, Mom and the grands made another cake to use up bananas.

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And played foosball.  Mom laughed so hard, I wish I could remember why.  She and I were taking turns playing.  I was sitting and trying to do a cross word puzzle, too.

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Sunday evening, more picking!  Some of the bushes are so tall Mom has to bend them down for Sarah to reach (and hide in).

Tomorrow I will blog about the rest of our week.

(I can’t concentrate right now….too many interruptions).

HUGS!

music and slideshow

(MUSIC)

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We took so many photos that I thought it would be fun to put them in a slide show along with music to listen to if you would like, while you look at the pictures.

We had the party at my parent’s house “up on the hill” where mom and her sisters grew up.  We all have deep roots in this land, farm land, quiet country, woods, blueberries, birds, so many memories….all of it.

We had chicken BBQ (thank you Dave and Maria for all your work to make this happen!)

Kids played together as a pack; croquet, football, chalk on the driveway, running wild.

Mom was overcome with emotions a few times, just so happy to have all the people she loves the most with her.

One of my favorite memories was when sister Amanda and I were off by ourselves lost in conversation and Mom appeared wanting us back with her.  “You’ll have to leave soon and I want you with me!”

Cousin Erika made the birthday cake, I sure wish I had a piece with me right now while I write this post.

All she wanted for her birthday was her family.  And that’s what happened!  What a great day for a great lady.

Happy Birthday to our beautiful Cindy, Mom, Sister, Grandma, & Aunt.  You wear many hats and we’re thankful for who you are in our lives.

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(with a photo of her first birthday)

at the present time

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“forever is composed of nows.”  Emily Dickenson  

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Now:  recovering from a mild concussion, “pink shorts/don’t care”, having fun with a neighbor-friend (who arrived wearing his shirt), fried chicken party from mom in the kitchen, swimming in the pond, lacrosse in the yard.

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Now: another summertime for romance

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Now: with a little adoring sister who loves her, too.

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Now: freedom to soar, to fly, to play

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to laugh.

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Now, with a faithful furry friend or two.

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Now:  time for graduation parties, a dear cousin, a loving family, and yummy food.

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Now, sisters.

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Now:  contemplating a secret recipe, sleuthing, enjoying.

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Now:  for oops and for trying your best to recover what you lost.

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Now: innocent childhood, cousins, holding hands, exploring magical places.

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Now is the time for youth, skipping stones, bare feet, a mama who adores you.

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Now:   a tire swing hung from an old apple tree,  and glow stick bracelets, and soft green grass.

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Now:  a trip back home to where your Dad grew up, climbing trees, flowers in the garden.

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Now: for memories, for listening, for fathers and daughters.

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Now; driving four hours to get back in time to watch your boy play baseball.

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Now; cheerful friends, watching the boys play, music, blazing sunshine.

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Now time to go home and fall into bed with that delicious “by God’s grace I did it all” feeling, and “it was very good”.

*****

And now it’s time for me to do lots of laundry in a ponytail, shorts and bare feet, with a dear son at home, thinking of the children at school taking finals, planning a graduation party, looking forward and not backward, reading and praying, talking to Jesus, a song or two, thankful always, with love all around. . . . . . .

Philippians 3:13   “… I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on. . .”