Extremely Puzzling

Welcome! Here we are well into our third week of self-isolation. I feel so fortunate that my family and friends are safe and well fed and that the only challenge we have is finding ways to fill our time. We’ve been doing pretty well so far. My daughter and I lean towards “introvert” so we are more content than the men but they too have found ways to keep busy with movies and walks and little projects.

Last week, in search of a diversion, I was rummaging around in the Attic and came across this:

This belonged to my mother originally. I brought it home when my sisters and I were cleaning out and dividing up mom’s things after she passed away. She and I both had a love of trivia and puzzles so this was right up our alley and we did attempt to finish it back when it was new. However, this particular puzzle proved too much for us and we were never able to quite finished it. We could have used the poster that came with it but that didn’t seem fair. Some of the quotes were so obscure that we eventually gave up.

Luckily, Miss Dee and I now have the advantage of Google!

Yes, I admit, we cheated. That “enclosed poster with all the answers” has long since disappeared and some of these quotes are really challenging. For example:

“She believed in nothing; only her scepticism kept her from being an atheist”

Perhaps there are some of you out there who could easily attribute that saying to Jean-Paul Satre but I’m just a chick from Jersey with a degree in Fine Art. This guy is way outside my range of knowledge. I did great on the movie quotes and D-man and Mr D were a big help when it came to American Wars or Politics. Miss Dee even figured out some of the more current quotes but since the puzzle was copy written in 1994, four years before she was born “current” was a relative term.

Whatever method we used, we still had fun matching the quotes with the proper person and it has provided a great distraction, helping to fill some of the unstructured hours. We even learned some new stuff. Now we are down to fitting the actual pieces together, harder than you would think since they are all the same size and you only have slivers of images on the edges to try and match up. It may get to the point where we give up and move on but for now I’ve been adding a piece here and there. Who knows, with at least another month in front of us, we might get it finished.

What’s been keeping you busy?

A Garden of Sculpture

I was sorry to read in the papers a last week that Seward Johnson had passed away. His name may not be familiar to some, but here in New Jersey, where he was born, we remember him fondly. Mr Johnson was lucky enough to be heir to the Johnson Pharmaceutical fortune but more than that, he was an amazing artist who created hundreds of works of art. He was also founder of a lovely place, not 45 minutes from my home, called Grounds for Sculpture.

Grounds for Sculpture, opened in 1992, is a magical place in Hamilton, New Jersey, not too far from Trenton. Beyond the vine covered walls you will find 42 acres of gardens and rolling hills featuring hundreds of Seward Johnson’s works along with those of other local artist. The park is filled with meandering paths, beautiful landscaping and surprises around every corner. Some of the pieces there belong to Johnson’s Monumental Scale collection, towering statues 20 feet tall, as well as many of his Beyond the Frame vignettes where the visitor can step inside famous Impressionist paintings. These are among my favorites along with his Celebrating the Familiar series. Several inside exhibits and restaurants are also on site. Miss Dee and I visited there in late August, our last outing of the summer break. Here are just a few of the lovely things we saw.

“A Turn of the Century” from the Monumental Scale collection, inspired by Renoir. This piece is about 20 feet tall and stands in front of Rat’s, one of the gardens artistic eateries..
“God Bless America” also larger than life! Obviously inspired by American Gothic.
Miss Dee getting to know one of the ladies in the Celebrating the Familiar series. This one is called “Captured”
A piece called “Summer Thinking” There is actually writing in the journal!
Here I have stepped into one of the vignettes called “Family Secret” from the Beyond the Frame series
So many lovely and peaceful pathways
Another Beyond the Frame vignettes sits at the edge of one of the property’s lakes. This one is called “Sailing the Seine”
“Daydream” a massive sculpture that can actually be seen from the road as you drive by the gardens
A Japanese inspired garden near the snack bar
Another Impressionist inspired piece “If It Were Time”
A fantasy in light and metal called “Fan”
A Van Gogh inspired room.
We made friends with this lovely lady at one of the inside exhibits. She is part of the Icons Revisited series
Even the Cafe where we had lunch was a work of art.

We had such a wonderful time exploring Grounds for Sculpture. We’ve already made plans to go again because our feet gave out before we saw even half of the many pieces on display. I think the Fall would be a great time to go back. Every season in fact, will add something new. Seward Johnson, in his 89 years on Earth, certainly added a great deal of beauty to the world.

If We Were Having Coffee…3/7/20-Springing Ahead With Dr Seuss

Hello friends! Welcome! Come in and sit and let me pour you a cup of something nice and hot to help ward off the bitter March winds.

Let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee…I would ask you how your week has been? Mine seemed very long. I’m afraid that this month in general will feel very long. Not being a winter person, by March I’m really missing the sun and the ability to open windows. Also, I’m really sick of my warm weather clothes and am ready for short sleeves and light material. Maybe “springing” the clocks forward this weekend will help.

This week at school we celebrated the magical Dr Seuss with Read Across America. Each day was a different theme, silly sock day, crazy hat day, and the favorite, Wacky Wednesday where everyone is suppose to have wild hair-dos and wear their clothes mismatched or backwards. The students came up with some really creative outfits and hair styles for that day. One little kindergartener even had her hair in the shape of a donut complete with icing and a plate! I don’t generally take part in this though because I feel after the age of fifity, Wacky Wednesday looks more like the begining senility. I mean I spend time checking each morning to make sure my clothes actually do match, that I have on the same color socks and the same shoes. Some of you ladies get that, right? Anyway, the students enjoyed it.

With that in mind, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite “Seussism” (there are so many good ones to choose from!)

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

So thanks for stopping by. Now go be A GREAT YOU and have a wonderful day.

And also make sure to GO to visit EclecticAli our Coffee Share Host so you can experience some extra adventures.

Hops and Barley and Guava and Lime

I live in a dry town. Although that may sound like a weather condition, it actually means that there is no alcohol sold within the town limits. Considering that we began as a Methodist meeting camp that took root and grew into year round bungalows, it’s not surprising that the drinking of alcohol was frowned upon. What is surprising, considering our dry condition, is that apparently, microbreweries don’t fall under the same law that keeps our town free of bars and liquor stores. We now have two up on Main Street and a few others in neighboring towns. I am definitely a fan of these cozy little watering holes. They promote casual gatherings, and a provide friendly welcoming atmosphere for the nearby college students, young couples and even old folks like us. The D-man and I have been known to stop by occasionally to meet with friends or just to have a “lets welcome the weekend” drink.

But here’s the thing,

Microbreweries sell fancy beer.

Beers with names like *Peach Brulee, Crimson Skull or Pink Guava Lime Gose. Beers with discriptions that say things like “The 5th iteration of our revolving hop, house pale ale features Simcoe, Amarillon and all-new Cryo Lemondrop*” I’m pretty sure most of that is English but I have no idea what any of it means.

Now I certainly enjoy an ice cold beer, especially in hot weather or down the shore accompanied by fresh crabs (YUM!) but, I lean towards basic beer. It’s how I was raised. I grew up imersed, if you will, in beer. My dad worked for Schmidts Brewery in Philadelphia his whole life as did all his brothers. Cases of beer or a tapped keg were basics at family barbeques and holidays. There was no wine or hard liquer, and the only beer allowed was Schmidts. That’s what put food on the table in our family so it was the only brand they would drink.

When I was older and on my own my friends and I drank Coors Light. We liked it because it was cheap and we were in our early twenties and therefore broke. We didn’t know the difference between imported or domestic beer. We didn’t care if it was an ale or pale. We drank what we were used to. The fanciest I get these days is when the D-man and I order a Blue Moon and it comes with a little slice of orange. Classy, right?

What I’m saying here is that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination a beer connoisseur. In fact, I’m probably about as far from one as you can get. The beer I grew up with was just basic beer, beer that anyone who knows about brewed beverages of that sort would probably shudder at the thought of.

That means that on those occasions when my hubby and I visit one of these cool new microbreweries, I’m completely out of my comfort zone, totally intimidated by those hand chalked signs over the counter. I stand there trying to figure out what the difference is between a lager and a brown ale or what exactly is a black and tan? Turns out it’s a cream ale mixed with coffee. Who knew, right? Standing there, shifting from one foot to the other, I contemplate the benefit of having a Pummel (as naked as a larger can get) over a Silver Queen (made with 20% white corn) or possibly a Not For Anything IPA (an iteration of our hazy methodology features a meg-adjunct grist thanks to our indomitable mash filter*) Yikes!!

I’m certain these are all amazing beers and that all this “brew speak” makes total sense to most of the other patrons. Just not me. Luckily most microbrewes offer something called “flights” which are sample sets of several different beers of your choosing. That’s my fall back and most times I come across one that I like or that at least tastes close to what I’m used to.

The whole idea is to try new things. I get that and I do most times but, what I’d really like, and I think I’m going to suggest this to the owners next time, is a post script on that chalkboard menu that says:

<BORING BREW– For those patrons with unadventurous taste buds who mostly just came for the atmosphere.>

Wouldn’t that make sense? It would save me all that indecisive anxiety and I bet I’m not the only one. What do you think?

*All photos and beverage descriptions are courtsey of the BONESAW GRILL and NECK OF THE WOODS microbreweries here in NJ. Both have excellent brews and are really cool and welcoming establishments. Visit if you get the chance!

If We Were Having Coffee…2/22/20, Family and Freezing Weather

Good morning! Welcome to a sunny, crisp Saturday in Southern New Jersey. I’m hiding inside for now with a nice hot cup of dark roast coffee and a cinnamon bun. Care to join me?

If we were having coffee…I would appologize for missing our coffee date last weekend. I started a post but just couldn’t get it off the ground. I think the continuous rain and dreary weather last week zapped my motivation. Plus, the third graders I work with, and me as well, are still getting used to our new teacher. Our routines haven’t settled in yet and some of them are pushing boundaries, behaviour wise. I really like our long term sub and I think she will get them settled eventually if we can all make it through the adjustment period. The teacher that left is still waiting on the arrival of her baby boy since her due date isn’t for a few weeks yet and she does check in with advice from time to time.

If we were having coffee…you would hear Miss Dee moving around upstairs. This is her usual wake up time on days she doesn’t have classes. It’s nice that she has Fridays off as well because then she can stay caught up on work and still have leisure time. She has a bunch of group projects again this semester that are time consuming especially when the rest of the group likes to wait till the last minute. It drives her a little crazy. Oddly enough, she is also stressing over her ceramics class which I encouraged her to take as an elective because it thought it would be relaxing! Apparently she is having trouble throwing pots on the wheel which can be challenging. I enjoyed it when I had ceramics back in college just because I loved the feel of the clay and enjoyed watching the weird and wild shapes you could make. Her, not so much. Guess she’s too result oriented to enjoy the process. Probably why she is a marketing major and I was an art major.

If we were having coffee…we could say hi to my hubby, D-man as he comes in from his morning walk. It’s a bit cold for outdoor exercise if you ask me but he is never deterred. Our 24 year old son, Mr D is exercising also but he went to the gym where it is warm. He misses out on the whole “fresh air” benefit of the walk (gym smells are a bit more intense!) but he is planning to head down the shore with some friends later on so he’ll get his fresh air then. The beach in February doesn’t appeal to me but he said he just needs to see the ocean so he can get out of his mid-winter funk. That I totally get.

If we were having coffee…you might ask what I’ll be doing today, since the rest of my family seems occupied. Well, let’s see? A bit more coffee, a scan of the news and social media, some housework and laundrey, then maybe some artwork. A co-worker asked if I would try to paint a portrait of her son’s dog that just passed away. She wanted to give him a gift to remember his furry friend. She sent me some photos and I’m going to give it a try but I’ve always found dogs and cats quite challenging to draw. I never seem to be able to capture individual personalities and the shape of the heads always seem off. We’ll see. If it goes well I’ll show you the results the next time you stop by!

Thanks so much for joining me. Before you go, tell me what you’ve been up to. I hope your week was full of exciting events and some quiet times as well. Please swing by our host site EclecticAli and check out some of the other Coffee Share Posts. Have a great week!

If We Were Having Coffee…2/8/20: Wind Storms and Scholars

Hello!

I’m so glad you stopped by and I’m also very glad that the sun has stopped by as well. It feels like it’s been raining for years around here! I don’t even mind the chillier temperature. In fact, since it is February and we are in the northern hemisphere, “chilly” is absolutely correct and expected.

Let me get you some coffee and a nice fresh baked donut that my husband just brought back from his morning walk. I’m always pleased when his walks take him past the bakery! Pull up a chair. Let’s chat.

If we were having coffee…I would ask you if you experienced any of the crazy weather patterns floating around yesterday? Here in Southern New Jersey we were treated to some hurricane strength winds and possible tornado activity that sent all of the adults and students in our schools into a “Shelter In Place” situation. What that means is that we all needed to move someplace safe, in this particular case that meant the interior hallways where we were away from any windows, and continue our day as best we could. Some of the students were, understandable, bit alarmed but our Principal and the rest of we adults did our best to downplay the situation and keep them focused on other tasks. Luckily, we had the forethought to grab their laptops when we left the classroom so they were able to work on some of their writing projects and math websites. Finally, after about an hour, the warning was lifted and we were able to go back into our class. Fortunately, none of the more severe weather came too close to us. There were towns near the coast (about 45 minutes south) that were hit much harder. I don’t remember having quite so many excessive weather systems when I was young. Perhaps it’s just that we can track them better but I suspect that Global Warming is the real cause.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that we have a sad social occasion this weekend. My son’s girlfriend Miss K, lost her grandmother last week and her memorial service is tomorrow evening. We never had the chance to meet her grandmother, who sounds like a very sweet lady, but Miss K and Mr D have been together for several years and we are quite friendly with her parents so we will certainly stop by to show our respects. I’m always so happy to see evidence of the fine young man my son has grown into whenever situations like this occur. He took it upon himself to purchase a nice plant and a card for her family the night after it happened. Then he spent the evening at her parent’s house talking with them and helping them with any thing he could. He is a really good person to have around in tough situations, just like his dad.

Speaking of the D-man…

If we were having coffee..I would probably brag a bit and tell you that my husband has started teaching a graduate course at our nearby university. The course is in school counseling, which is what he does for a living. It is attended by students in their final semesters doing their in-school internships. He is running an evening class once a week and also supervising the student in their placements schools. I’m pretty proud of him and so happy that he is being recognized for the amazing work he has been doing in the school system for the past 20 years. I’ve always thought he would make an excellent educator. Anyone who has the patience to counsel middle school students, with their raging hormones and tendency for drama as well as aid families in crisis and student in sad and difficult situations all these years and not lose their mind, must have the capacity for anything! Now the graduate students in his class will benefit from his years of experience as well.

If we were having coffee…I would probably glance over at the clock and realize that my Saturday has begun without me! Time to “shake a leg” as my mother would have said.

I’ve certainly enjoyed catching up with you. You should definitely stop by our host blog Eclectic Ali and visit the rest of my Coffee Share friends.

Have a great weekend!

In Search of Sleep

Sleep and I are on the outs.

It’s confusing because we used to be so close. We were always in sync, completely in tune with each other but lately he’s been aloof, distant, only stopping by when he feels like it.

I think the riff started back when I was in my late forties. Menopause came around and I started spending a lot of time with those troublesome hormones. They were always showing up unexpectedly, all flashy and hot, sometimes in the middle of the night. I think Sleep got jealous, tired of them intruding on the good thing we had going.

Whatever the cause, he sure has made himself scarce lately. I’ve tried all kind of tricks to bring him back, yoga breathing, visualization, exercise, even warm milk but it’s just no use.

Sometimes the problem is my brain, comfortably cradled on my pillow yet suddenly filled with EVERY SINGLE conversation or thought that has crossed it’s path in the last twelve hours. Sometimes the problem is more physical; aches and pains, restless legs, night sweats. I’ve become so unpredictable and high maintenance that it’s no wonder Sleep has gotten tired of me.

Most often during these lonley, Sleep-less nights I just lie in bed watching the hours pass, wondering what I could have done to drive him away. I also wonder how I’ll make it through the next day, red eyed and groggy. Some nights I’ll get up, read a book, have a snack, (write a blog post,) but usually I just wait…

…wait for Sleep to return.

He can’t stay away forever, right? I really hope not.

I love Sleep.

I miss Sleep.

If We Were Having Coffee…2/1/20: Cats and Head Colds

Welcome!

If we were having coffee…you would probably say, “Who the heck are you!” Understandable since apparently I only post once every six months! The thing is, I just bought myself a cute little Chrombook and it will make posting so much easier than using my old Ipad which crashed on a regular basis. Hopefully I will be motivated to post more often now. So sit, have some hot french roast coffee and a chocolate chip muffin. I’ll fill you in on my week and you can tell be about yours.

If we were having coffee…I would tell you that my head is stuffy and the sky here in South Jersey is a soupy foggy mess. Fun Saturday, huh? It will be because, aside from going to see the new Star Wars movie with the D-Man later on today, my day is mine to do with what I choose.

I started out the morning by fighting with the cat over a bird feather. D-man found it on one of his walks and brought it home for the cats to sniff since neither ever gets to sniff and actual bird. Darby has become obsessed with it. She kept jumping on the kitchen counter (a big no-no) to get it off the windowsill over the sink. I took it down for her to sniff but she tried to eat it. I put it in the pocket of my robe but she pawed at my pocket attempting to stick her face in it! Finally, I put it inside a plastic jar and sat on the floor. She can still see it but not smell it so it seems to have lost it’s appeal.

Darby!

Cats are weird.

Speaking of weird cats, the other one, Dash, has skin issues. The vet said it’s like psoriasis only in felines. He’s developed a weird bare patch on his chin and, because he is all itchy, he has licked the back of one leg bare with his obsessive grooming. Now he is on steroids. Once a day we mix it with his food. Luckily he is not a finicky cat and will eat almost everything (whether it’s eatable or not.)

Dash!

Like I said, cats are weird.

If we were having coffee…we could talk about tomorrow’s Super Bowl and the party that we go to each year, but since the Philadelphia Eagles ended their season on such a disappointing note I’d rather not talk about our American football at all. 😦

Let’s instead talk about you. What’s been happening in your world? Do you have any weird cats in your house or other pets, perhaps? (Speaking of weird animals, did you read the recent article about the iguanas that were falling from the trees in Florida. Apparently the weather had gotten so cold that they were forced into a sort of frozen hybernation? Talk about weird! If you haven’t seen it you should Google “Frozen Igunas falling from trees” It’s very interesting)

Have you too been struggling with headcolds or allergies or other germ related illnesses? I work in an elementary school surrounded by little 8 year old Petri dishes so believe me, I understand germs! We have hand sanitizers in each classroom and the custodian spends part of each day disinfecting the door knobs and hand rails. I hope that you have escaped the worst of the germs and are enjoying this Saturday doing something fun.

Thanks so much for stopping by. With any luck, I’ll be serving coffee again next week. We’ll see how it goes. 🙂 If you can, please stop and visit the rest of the posts at our host site EcleticAllie.

If We Were Having Coffee…Sunshine and Sand

If we were having coffee this Saturday you would have had to travel a bit further southeast to find me here at the Jersey Shore (and, BTW, the “Jersey Shore” we go to is nothing like the TV show, not even a little).

Miss Dee and I are enjoying our annual girls weekend at the beach. Today’s plan involves no plans at all, going with the flow and totally relaxing. We left the boys at home. They have tickets to a Phillies game tonight so they don’t really mind.

If we were having coffee we could sit by the pool and enjoy the sunshine. The beach is about a block away so we could even walk down there and watch the waves. The condo we stay in here, thoughtfully shared by my husband’s stepmom, is in the quiet, family friendly area of Wildwood Crest. The beach is huge but at this time of the year it can get still get rather crowded. Since Miss Dee and I like to have space we go to the beach in the morning and pool in the afternoon so let me get right to catching you up on my week.

If we were having coffee I would tell you that STEAM camp this week went very well. The children enjoyed learning about Inventions and Inventors. We designed new cars and got to see a cool demonstration by a Tesla Model X car. We learned about the advantages of electric vehicles and it even “danced” for us, flashing its lights and opening and closing its wing doors in time with music!

The campers made hydrological elevators with Popsicle sticks, created their own board game, learned about lasers and really got into the Invention Scavenger Hunt we put together. It was an exhausting but fun week.

If we were having coffee I would invite you to put on your swimsuit and accompany us to the beach. We can continue our chat, have a swim, do some people watching and just relax! I’m so glad you stopped by. After you’ve brushed off the sand, visit Eclectic Ali, our Coffee Share host and catch up with the rest of the Coffee Crew.