Sunday, August 2, 2015

Gommie's Weekend: Bunnies, Burgers, and Butterflies

It's been busy since Gommie arrived on Friday.

Zoar the bunny
She actually got to the northeast on Thursday--during that crazy thunderstorm, which delayed her flight for hours--and went straight to see Fun Home on Broadway, which she loved.  She stayed in the hotel that now occupies the building where I lived in graduate housing--it's much swankier now.  And then came to see us Friday midday.

We actually picked her up on the way to the open house at Sis's animal camp, where she and her fellow campers were providing information on a variety of animals, mainly small and wild.  Sis's group was in charge of the African pygmy hedgehog, named Biscuit, which could fit in her gloved hands.  Cute, spikey, and blonder than I think of hedgehogs being, we  learned that they can eat scorpions with no problems.  Sis was particularly good with holding and caring for Biscuit, who seemed a bit concerned with the noise as the exhibition continued.  She's the "hedgehog whisperer."  

After we had visited the ferrets, chinchillas, red-footed tortoise, corn snake, guinea pig and such and after her duties were over, she took us to see her all-time favorite, the bunnies.  (They weren't one of the animals the groups presented.)  Her favorite was the gray one named Zoar (I liked the big one named Winston, I think, a Flemish big one or something; he reminded me of our cat Mr. P.)  She had visited the bunnies and the otters, too, everyday on her way into camp.  Mama would send me a morning photo of the animals, especially because I'm partial to otters.  Sis loved this camp and asked if she could volunteer at the nature center--I know she'd love it.  And I didn't even mention that they have horses and sheep!

We got Greek food on the way home.  Saganaki (burning cheese!), patates (french fries), Bud's sauteed octupus, my tiganica chicken (lemon, onions, oregano), orzo, Sis's souvlaki, Mama's gyro, and Gommie's three dips (tzatziki, skardalia, and eggplant.)  Plus rice pudding!  We ate on it for two more days.

On Saturday, we had our usual ice skating and kung fu morning, followed by lunch at a burger joint.  A kinda fancy burger joint with truffle oil fries, lobster macaroni and cheese, Wisconsin cheese curds (but not really), and even duck burgers!  My burger had a fried egg, avocado, and kalamata mayo on a wedge of lettuce.  Sis had a humongous shepherd's pie.  And Gommie got a "flight" of burgers so she could have three different tastes.  She also taught the waiter how to make a milk punch!  Dessert was this pseudo-Ding Dong with flourless chocolate cake and a white chocolate mousse that was more like a cream-cheese filling.  Sis got the pineapple upside-down cake.  All pretty good.  We recuperated by watching Brave together.  Toward dinner time, we were invited to our neighbors to sample his latest brisket, which we all indulged in.  Gommie also got to meet their chickens.

Today, we went to the aquarium, so Bud could show us where he'd been to Oceanography camp.  We couldn't go out on the research vessel, but we could visit the touch tanks, sharks, sea turtles, jelly fish, otters, and, most importantly, the seal feeding that he'd wanted to see (though, we've seen that a dozen times over the years, but I'm not sure he really remembers.)  He knows each seal by name.  My favorite part this time was the butterfly exhibit.  Colorful insects made the flower bushes shimmer; butterfly shadows danced on the floor.  Several even landed on us--some on Gommie's hair, some on my bright skirt--we were told that some butterflies are attracted to white.  The kids were kinda disappointed not to attract any, though one brushed against Bud a few times.  I took lots of pictures and some even came out.  The one of the Monarch is actually from outside the butterfly tent; he's just a local!  I liked how the Blue Morpho-like ones seemed to flutter and dance in pairs.  There was also a small purple, black, and white couple near the exit.

For lunch, we headed across the street for Southern food.  Bud continued his seafood hat trick with PEI mussels in a saffron sauce--twice the manager commented on how amazing it is to see an adventurous kid.  They almost never even look at a children's menu now.  Sis had chicken fried bacon over hashbrowns with scrambled eggs, Gommie and Mama had a Low Country Eggs Benedict on grits, and I had shirred eggs and some biscuits.  Plus a mini-skillet of peach cobbler and a very moist and delicious tiered lemon cake.  We sure do know how to eat well.  Like yesterday, we came home and rested to a Disney film, this time Tangled.

And both nights were capped with a visit to the legion of fireflies in the yard, dozens of them, in our yard and in surrounding yards.  It's fun to see them at dusk because you can actually see the beetles flying between flares.  Several times tonight, there be a group practically blinking in unison.  Last night, we saw two bats (not coming out of our house!)  There are some mosquitos, too, so we don't stay out long.  Mama learned at the bird festival last week that there are actually as many barred and barn owls in CT as red-tailed and shouldered hawks, only you rarely see them because of the darkness and trees.  Haven't seen an owl yet here.  But we did see the mama raccoon cross the road by the stream.

And the week has only just begun . . . .

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer Fun Update III

Recently, we have done the following:
  • Have a lemonade stand (cookies for cancer?):  helped the local cat shelter
  • Make friendship bread starter and share--Sis says "no."
  • Party/activity in honor of Aunt Sis:  planted two memorial hydrangeas, which aren't happy with the heat
  • Go swimming at Y with friends:  Well, we went swimming by ourselves at the Y.  We'll go with Gommie
  • *Go to nature center:  for camp!
  • *Go to aquarium:  for camp!
  • *Go to bird festvial:  Such fun!  Loved the Eastern Screech Owl
  • Host a sleepover with friends:  went to a sleepover with several friends; had one sleepover last week and stayed up watching Minecraft videos and making fudge
Still to Do, Maybe:
  • *Beach trip in city--in August
  • *Putt-putt golf--maybe an indoor monster glow-in-the-dark one
  • *Baseball game--probably not
  • Go to outdoor concert--probably not
  • Have a barbecue (after bricking fire pit)
  • Raise butterflies--Nope, too late
  • Mario kart-athon
  • Movie night
  • Old tv show marathon (ours or theirs)
  • *Go to Renaissance festival--probably in September
  • *Go to zoo
  • Stargazing at observatory
  • *Biking--I'm thinking of trying biking
  • Try a new craft/art project/Make ice cube candles/make soap/Activity kit day:  all very similar.  Maybe.
  • Learn to cook weekly dinners
  • Learn how to work washer/dryer
  • Hang pictures.
  • Make popsicles/Make homemade virgin pina coladas--maybe make virgin pina colada popsicles?
  • Make blankets for cat shelter/Community service project (volunteer with cats?)--maybe
  • Learn a new game
  • Learn a new magic/card trick
  • *Go letterboxing or geocaching locally
  • Start afternoon tea party tradition ("Tea Tuesdays")/Practice making lemon curd and clotted cream--maybe just have one big tea party
  • Pajamas day
  • No electricity day
  • Kite flying
  • Wash car
  • Buy new couches?
  • Do nothing special


  • Meet friends at ice rink:  Yep, it's now a weekly event.
  • *Attend town festival in June/volunteer at historic house:  we did this before school was even out!
  • Family book club (we're reading Menagerie and also Redwall):  I started Menagerie over 4th of July weekend.  It was pretty good.  The kids haven't started Redwall yet.
  • Eat Dole Whip:  first night of summer, we got Dole Whip and Fluffernutter sundaes!
  • Make ice cream:  Strawberry Soda is great.  Peaches and Cream is great, too.
  • Picnic:  we had a deli picnic, but I hope to do something more sophisticated soon.
  • Watch some movie musicals:  we started by watching "Lost Broadway Treasures" and other compilations of famous songs.
  • Play in sprinkler:  and used it to make a slippery water slide!
  • *Go to culture festival (Scottish, Irish, Greek, etc.):  we loved the Greek festival food, as always!  
  • Decorate chalkboard for summer:  we started our own mini-drawings of Awesome Summer Things.
  • Celebrate 4th of July:  Yes, we did!
  • Celebrate Solstice:  they stayed up "all night," which was midnight for Sis and about an hour later for Bud.  I even played Mario Kart with them at midnight.
  • Celebrate Mama's birthday:  a weekend of take-out meals and movies!
  • Birthday party for kids:   Minions movie birthday party, with decorate-your-own-Minion jars and Minion cupcakes.
  • Learn how to clean bathrooms:  Bud earned a ticket for this already--on his own initiative!
  • Learn an ASL sign a day (or more)
  • Learn some computer coding using Scratch:  they have started making a cat draw stars around the earth.
  • Make shrub for 4th of July:  Bud and I really like it
  • Photos with public art around town ("benching," Bud called it)  We're about a third of the way done.

  • Attend friends' Friday Night Dance Party:  for first one, the kids swam and tried "kiddy crack" (butter-cinnamon-sugar spread on graham crackers); they also like badminton, or "chaosminton" with several shuttlecocks.
  • Explore new music genres together ("Music Mondays"):  we started with the 80s, then Celtic (Secret of Roan Inish soundtrack), Broadway, jazz, and patriotic.  Not sure what this week will be.
  • Research places to go in England, etc:  I'm reading Susan Branch's book about falling in love with the English countryside
  • Purge and donate toys and books:  doing really well with this; lots of donations.  Kids prepping to have room makeovers.
  • Do a 1000 piece puzzle:  Bud and Mama are our puzzlers--they've done cupcakes, Broadway, London, New York, among others.

    Tuesday, July 28, 2015

    This Week

    Now, for this week:

    • Sis is at animal camp while Bud is home.
    • It's going to be hot, so we're mostly hiding inside.
    • We have Mama's company picnic this week.
    • Bud has a Minecraft playdate with a potential friend we've been trying to introduce him to for ages.
    • Gommie comes on Friday!

    Saturday, July 25, 2015

    Summer Fun: A Day for Birds of Prey

    A barred owl (coincidentally, I believe
    I spotted one on our drive out there)
    Between morning kung fu and ice skating and an afternoon birthday party, also at the ice skating rink,  we headed to a special Birds of Prey festival sponsored by local wildlife rehabilitators, A Place Called Hope.  It was on the green of an old town, complete with meetinghouse, 1821 Academy, and 18th-century houses.  But we were most interested in the festival.  There were other animal charities--Audubon, Humane Society, a raccoon rescue group (I picked up a great crocheted raccoon scarf, like those old fox wraps!)--and lots of the usual kinds of crafts (something unusual--I picked up two make-your-own-tie-dyed-kite kits for the kids), plus a taco truck where we got a delicious lunch.

    An Eastern Screech Owl, looking like tree bark
    But the real draw were the birds.  The Eastern Screech, which I'd never seen in person, is so small.  And so was the American Kestrel, not pictured here, which they included in the presentation--tiny, for a falcon (apparently those tear-drop shadings by the eye are typical of falcons.)  I forget that owls can be that small--like the Saw Whet we saw in Block Island.  We also saw a Red-Tailed Hawk, which we often see near the river and even overhead.  It all brought back great memories of falconry lessons in England, various nature centers with rescued birds, and numerous Birds of Prey shows at Ren Faires and such.  Mama even inquired about becoming a wildlife rehabilitator (well, I inquired with her standing there.)  You take a class, pass a test, and then intern with a charity.  I hope she'd consider it--she'd love the birds (but probably not talking to the people so much!)

    And our very common Red-Tailed Hawk
    After the kids got ice cream treats, I headed to explore the Academy, which was open for visitors.  It had been an old school and is now an exhibition space of the local historical society.  The current show is about summer recreation and the tourist crowd that came to the CT shore before the hurricane of 1938.  There were some oppressive wool bathing suits and lovely white cotton dresses, since it was the thing to wear white for the summer (but not before Memorial Day or after Labor Day!) as proof that you were able to afford leisure time.  Even several straw hats and a discussion of the Straw Hat Day--men took off their felt bowlers on May 15 and wore straw until September 15, after which youths would snatch and stomp on any remaining straw hats.  There was even a Straw Hat riot when some unruly youths started snatching hats a few days before September 15 one year!  Who knew?

    It was a short but sweet visit.  We'll keep our eye out for other interesting fairs and festivals in the area (including the hot air balloon one in August!)

    Friday, July 24, 2015


    As I mentioned in my summary post this morning, I've been doing some work in the garden.

    No, that's not it.

    That's one of those spaces companies plant and maintain seasonally to make their businesses more attractive . . . . though, it's usually with a single sad hosta surrounded by 6 feet of red mulch or bland white rocks.  But this company, on the corner of a busy town intersection, has done--or more specifically, hired a company to do--so much more.  Look!

    Lavender.  Echinacea.  Phlox (the tall kind.)  Day lilies.  Black-eyed susans.  And those are just the ones I can pinpoint.  It kinda reminds me of a cottage garden--bright, tall, all thrown in together (everything reminds me of England these days!  Oh, I'm having withdrawl from a 14 months ago--with perhaps 11 months til our next trip.)

    I love it!  I love that they did more than one sad hosta or some poor impatiens or petunias that will just wither.

    Sure, the plants are transplanted full grown, in full sun, and have professional year-round tending (weeding, watering, etc.)--meaning it's not something I can easily copy--but I love the look.  The photos look a little dirty or washed out in the full sun and my smartphone camera, but I loved it.

    I'll have to plant echinacea and black-eyed susans and tall phlox next year, too.

    Or just keep patronizing this business (which is a burger joint.)

    Slow Blog Week

    It's been a slow blog week, not because it's been a slow week but because it hasn't really been post-worthy.

    Let's see:

    • Bud is at oceanography camp this week and really likes it.  Yesterday, they took the research vessel out into the Sound and used the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) to look for specimens.  They saw a nettle fish or something and other creatures but no sharks.  On Tuesday, they had "bio-dredged" and picked up plankton, both winter and summer flounder (something about looking left or right), clams, mussels, etc.  On the days they aren't on the boat, they explore the museum.  He's hoping they'll see the seal show today.  Mama and I are talking about going there to see the butterflies.
    • Sis is at home this week.  She's spent a lot of it watching tv ("Saddle Club," "Switched at Birth," "Robin Hood" (BBC), and "Clone Wars") and playing Animal Crossing (mainly the two times I went to PT, where I am progressing slowly but surely.)  Last night she had a friend over for a sleepover.  They made fudge, ate pizza and chicken fingers, biked, played videogames, watched YouTube videos (Minecraft videos, Disney Princess videos, Pokemon videos), stayed up late, and then made breakfast this morning!
    • Mama is coming down off her getaway weekend hard, as she is in charge of camp driving for Bud (it's down by her office.)  And, well, being at home is nothing like sailing on a schooner in NY harbor at twilight.
    • I finished Go Set a Watchman and will post lots of thoughts on that sometime soon.  I liked it better than I expected to after all of the press and even reading the first 6 or so chapters.  
    • I crocheted some.
    • I had two social engagements this week:  I went to a Wildtree slow-cooker-meal-making party on Monday (where you bring some ingredients and pour in others to make 10 freezer container meals; really, it's mostly about the socializing) and I'll go to a birthday party tonight.  
    • I've been in the garden a bit in the last day or so, now that the heat has broken some.  83F is much better than 93F, especially when it starts off the day at 63F!  I have weeded the front garden a tiny bit, watered the shade garden by the sidewalk where we're trying to get caladiums and astilibes to join our hostas, tried to coax the hydrangeas back from heat exhaustion, and had my mower guy move the honeysuckle because it was completely taking over my lavender, which is unacceptable.  Oh, and the tree guy is going to trim the low branches, cut back the ivy, and check the cables (he came for an estimate and will be back in a month.)  It sounds like more work than it is, really.
    That's pretty much it, I think.  The weekend is equally unremarkable.  But that's okay.