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Four Seasons of Peanut

On Monday I recapped our final seasonal hike at Tifft Nature Preserve.  We’ve had so much fun exploring Tifft over the course of a year and watching the trails and our favorite spots change from season to season.  Of course, the trails aren’t all that’s changed over the course of a year.

Winter:

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Spring:

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Summer:

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Fall:

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And that’s just from March to October – not even a full year!  My, how they grow.

(And yes, Peanut is wearing the same coat in the first and last pictures.  It’s sized 18 months, so it was a bit big on her last winter and is a bit small now.  She’ll have a new one before long, but we’re making the pink one stretch until I get a chance to go to Carter’s for a 2T winter coat.  2T!  I can’t even believe it.)

Are you constantly surprised at the way the little ones sprout up, too?

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Another season, another hike at Tifft Nature Preserve!  I can’t believe that we’ve come full circle and hiked here in every season.  (If you missed previous Tifft hikes, check them out: winter, spring, summer.)  What I’ve decided after hiking here all year is that Tifft was beautiful in every season, but I like it best in the fall.

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We started with our customary boots-on-the-trail shot.  I’m loving my new hiking boots.  I had a pair of Merrells for awhile and never really felt comfortable in them.  After awhile I’d had enough with slipping around in my hiking boots and went to get fitted for a new pair.  What I learned, thanks to the very knowledgeable shoe saleswoman at EMS, was that Merrells have a wide heel box, which didn’t work for my narrow feet at all.  Now I’m all hooked up with a pair of Oboz Lunas and they’re perfect.

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Anyway, leaving aside the shoe chatter and getting back to the important stuff – we had a great hike.  The sky was a little gray, but the air was perfectly crisp.

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We headed right for our favorite part of Tifft – the boardwalks!

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Where we saw a few dozen Canadian geese, still hanging out before they start journeying south for the winter.

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And we had company for this hike!  Zan and Paul are quickly becoming our favorite hiking buddies.  Together we’ve visited Chestnut Ridge (in the dead of winter, no less!), Letchworth, and on Sunday (before the football game, of course) they were up for a stroll around Tifft (which they’d visited last fall).  We’re plotting an excursion to the Eternal Flame, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, so stay tuned for that.

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By the time we left the boardwalks, Peanut was starting to get a little twitchy, so we let her out of the Deuter to stretch her legs.

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She was pretty happy to have her freedom.

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Of course, our hiking pace slowed waaaaaaay down when Peanut’s pink Sauconys hit the trail.  We spent a lot more time herding her in the direction we wanted her to go, chasing her away from bushes, and dodging the sticks she loves to grab and wave around.

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Peanut really wanted to explore down this little trail, but we knew it was a dead end without much scenery, so we very heartlessly ignored her requests.

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She always forgives and forgets.

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Peanut loves Zan!  They’re buddies.

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We saw some more wildlife – this deer wasn’t alone!  I know most people hate deer, but I love them – so graceful.  Talk to me in a couple of years when I have an established garden and I might have a different opinion, though.

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And we attempted to take a family selfie – another tradition of ours – at the end of the hike, but Peanut was having none of it.  She was angry at being put back in the backpack, and her way of protesting was to pull her hood down like Emperor Palpatine.  Well played, Peanut, well played.

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And so ends four seasons of hiking at Tifft Nature Preserve!  It’s been a lot of fun to visit each season, watch the place change over the course of the year, and make the trails our own.  We didn’t even get lost this time!  (Fourth time’s the charm.)  I’m sure we’ll be back to Tifft plenty of times in the future – now that we know our way around, we can’t possibly stay away for long.  But we’ve also had so much fun hiking the same trails in every season that we’ve decided to continue the project next year at Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve in Depew.  We haven’t hiked there yet, so we’re looking forward to seeing it in every season in 2015!

What’s your favorite season for hiking?

Apples Galore!

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Last weekend, as I mentioned on Wednesday, we had our annual family apple-picking expedition.  Apple-picking is one of my favorite family activities, and something I look forward to doing all year.  Of course, every year we end up going at the end of September or in October and we’re invariably surprised that apple-picking season is almost over by the time we get to the orchard.  Who knew?  Not us, apparently, because every year this is brand new information.  (Maybe now that I’ve written it down, next year, we’ll remember to go in mid-September when there are still plenty of apples.)

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The orchard where we pick also has rows of grapevines!  I was intrigued by this… maybe next year I’ll find out whether these are wine grapes or table grapes.

Although it was late in the season, there were still plenty of apples left for us to pick from the rows of late-harvest trees.  Last year we picked a half bushel, but this year I really wanted a full bushel – half for eating and making applesauce and apple butter, and half for baking into pies, crisps, cakes and quickbreads to eat all season long and give away.  (I now have so many apples I have a feeling I’ll be giving a lot of these baked goods away, but that’s something we can discuss another time.)

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Peanut was thrilled about our excursion, and I was so glad that she was excited and enjoying herself!  Last year, she really had no idea what was going on (as you can see from her concerned little face below).

LOL!  When we picked in 2013, she pretty much dangled off Daddy, frowning like some kind of very disgruntled marsupial.  This year, she was totally into it and even picked several apples herself.

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We had talked up the apple-picking excursion for days before.  Peanut has an “Apple the Apple” Blabla doll, so we chatted about how much Apple likes to go apple-picking (she came with us in the car but didn’t make it into the orchard because we didn’t want to lose her) and we read Fancy Nancy: Apples Galore! about seventeen thousand times the week prior to the outing.  (In which Nancy goes apple-picking on a class field trip and gets paired with a troublemaking trip buddy.)  Since Peanut loves Fancy Nancy and wants to do everything Nancy does, she really latched onto the idea – even to the point of adorably shouting “APPLES GALORE!” every five minutes while we were picking.

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We worked on picking the apples carefully and putting them into the wagon gently…

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It worked the first few times, but then Peanut got too excited and every time she successfully picked an apple, she immediately flung it as far as she could.  Which was usually about four feet, so we’d just pick it up and put it in the wagon ourselves.  Haha!

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Obviously we tested the merchandise.  Upon trying the Jonagold above, Peanut gasped, “It’s COLD!”  It was a chilly day and the apples were as cool and crisp as if they’d come from the refrigerator.  I like a nice cold apple, but I don’t think it was quite what Peanut was expecting.

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The Jonagolds are great baking apples, so I have some big plans for this half bushel!  We also grabbed Jonathans for snacking.

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Pretty pleased with our morning’s work…

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And of course we took family pictures.  The family selfie is an important part of our apple-picking tradition!  We got a few cute shots and settled on this one as best representing us and our kooky little munchkin:

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Of course there were also some outtakes, because taking selfies is super hilarious and one of us couldn’t control her giggles.

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I’m so glad that we made the time to pick apples again this year.  It was a chilly morning, but beautiful and so much fun to be out in the country, enjoying the blue skies and the rows of gnarled trees in the orchard and the blazing foliage.

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Have you done your apple-picking for the year?  Did you remember to go during the peak season, or are you constantly surprised by how short pick-your-own season is, like we are?

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We went apple picking last weekend, which is becoming a family tradition for us, and I just love it.  I have a bunch of pictures from this year’s excursion, which I’ll post on Friday, but in the meantime…

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This is the family selfie we snapped in the orchard this year – another tradition of ours.  Compare that to last year’s apple picking family pic…

What a difference a year makes, huh?

Ms. Fix It

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Sigh.  Where were we?  As you all know, it’s been a little nuts around here recently, what with things breaking left and right.  So while I haven’t been focused on posting this past week – sorry about that – I’ve just been chipping away at the list of things that need fixing and, little by little, we’re digging our way out of this hole we’re in right now.

I picked up a new car on Tuesday.  It’s the first car I’ve ever bought that was “for me” – we bought hubby a new car two years ago, and I’ve been driving his old one ever since.  It was fun shopping for cars that I would like, and I’m really excited about what I got.  It’s a fun car to drive, it’s cute, and best of all, I’m not worried about breaking down every time I turn the key in the ignition.  Just having the peace of mind that Peanut is snoozing in a brand new backseat with no known problems is amazing.

Peanut got her splint off and has had two follow-up visits to the orthopedics clinic (where we’re routinely made to wait an hour or more past our appointment time, but whatever, I’m not annoyed).  She’s healing well and isn’t letting her injury slow her down at all.  I do hope that she’s acquired a healthy respect for large, heavy doors, but I expect she probably hasn’t.

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We also made a trip to Lowe’s to start addressing some of the bigger house issues.  Got some information about the appliances we’re considering (we’re planning to order online but it was good to talk to one of the employees about installation) and set the wheels in motion for a new guest room toilet and a garbage disposal for the kitchen.  (The garbage disposal wasn’t on the “broken” list because it’s nonexistent, not broken.  We’ve lived without one since we left Virginia and are both SO DONE with a disposal-free kitchen.  Getting one installed was high on the house priority list and it doesn’t even seem to be terribly expensive.  Words cannot express how much I am looking forward to no more cleaning the food trap, no more hubby running out for Drano at 9:00 p.m., no more smelly sink…)  Next weekend we have more Lowe’s errands to run – namely, we need to replace the hideous and dangerous 1980s mirrored closet doors – but the good news is, part of me really likes going to Lowe’s.  I feel like when I go to Lowe’s, stuff gets done.  And the way things are going lately, anything that gets done is a big win.

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(Peanut has her work clothes on and is ready to tackle some home improvement projects.)

What are you fixing lately?

Broken

Hi, guys.  Sorry for the missed post on Friday and the late post today.  (Maybe you didn’t notice, in which case, sorry for pointing it out.)

I recently wailed over the phone to my mom, “Everything in my life is brooooooooo-ken!” and I wasn’t even being particularly dramatic.  Seriously, “broken” has been the theme of the past month and we hit rock bottom (as far as I know, and at least I hope that was rock bottom) last Thursday.  In a nutshell, here’s what has broken in my life within the past month or so:

  • The furnace – yowsa, that was an expensive fix.
  • The dishwasher.  Well, strictly speaking it works, but it’s “temperamental.”  It has to be cajoled into cleaning and even then it doesn’t do a spectacularly good job, which is not what you want with a little one in the house.  Update: the dishwasher took offense at being called out on my blog and died for real two days ago! 
  • The hose connecting the washing machine to the wall in the laundry room, which we managed to have fixed before it became a very soggy problem.  The washing machine is still emitting a high-pitched whining noise which terrifies me to my very core but doesn’t seem to bother hubby (so I hope he’s right that it’s n.b.d.).
  • The guest room toilet, which fortunately we rarely used anyway.  The plumber wanted to charge us $700 to replace it – $400 for a new toilet and $300 for the installation – and I balked.  The Lowe’s list is growing, growing.
  • The top half of my double oven.  Fortunately the bottom half and the cooktop still work, so we’re able to get dinner on the table, but the oven is from 1988 and needed replaced anyway.  I was hoping it would hang on another year, but no such luck.  It’s a good thing I like shopping for kitchen appliances.
  • Hubby’s car.  The AC died and the engine started overheating two days before we were planning to drive to Maine for my brother’s wedding.  And it was like pulling teeth to get the dealership to fix it in time for our big road trip.  They did, but only after we called the sales associate who had recently taken us for a test drive of a new car for me.
  • Those decorative panels on windows (what are they called?) – about 75% of mine fell off, at least partly assisted by hubby and Peanut.  I was very sad about this, so hubby walked around and fixed them, at least temporarily.  The windows are keeping me up at night though, because I hate them and I not-so-secretly want to rearrange them to give the house more curb appeal.  Is that even something that can be done?  I’m determined to find out.
  • My work phone, THREE TIMES.  Currently anyone who tries to call me at work gets a “this number cannot be completed as dialed” message, which does not instill much confidence in, well, anyone.
  • Peanut’s finger, which was shut in a door at school – ouch, poor kid.  She also got a bad cut and needed stitches.  We spent most of Thursday afternoon in the emergency room and have been in and out of the hospital for follow-up appointments ever since.  It’s healing well, fortunately, and we’re optimistic that the nail (which she lost) will grow back, even if it looks gnarly for awhile, but there’s no sadder sight than your two-year-old with a gigantic splint.  And then…
  • My car, which broke down on the side of the road AS I WAS DRIVING PEANUT HOME FROM THE EMERGENCY ROOM.  That was when I really started to wonder if this whole month has been some kind of cosmic joke.  Because… really?  I mean, really?  It was actually terrifying.  I lost all ability to steer or brake and the car was completely out of control.  In my first stroke of luck in weeks, I was able to coast to a stop in a large painted shoulder area that by some miracle happened to be right in front of me, because there was no way I was getting there on my own.  And then my phone died as I tried to call AAA.  Ha, ha, HA.  (I needed a new car anyway – I was driving a fourteen-year-old Nissan Maxima, which belonged to hubby back in 2001 when we first started dating.  But the scary breakdown incident was just the push I needed to go buy a new car.  I’m picking up my new wheels – my first car “of my very own” EVER – tomorrow, and I seriously can’t wait to get behind the wheel.)

On top of all that, the following things are almost broken:

  • The fridge.  Do you want to know what is the absolute last thing you want to hear when your appliances, both cars, your furnace, your plumbing, and your baby are all broken?  It’s your husband saying “Does the fridge seem like it’s a little warm?”  (The fridge is also from 1988, but it’s chugging along.  Please hang on until next year, dear ugly old fridge, before you give up the ghost.)
  • My spirit.  For obvious reasons.

Anyway, all this is (1) an attempt at explaining why posting has been a little bit sporadic these past few days, and (2) a shameless bid for sympathy.  I promise I have some fun content coming up, including a couple of posts recapping our weekend in Maine, and an exciting announcement.  But right now I’m just in hang-on-tight-and-hope-nothing-else-breaks mode.

Reading Round-Up Header

Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby.  I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book.  Here are my reads for September, 2014

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (Lady Trent #1), by Marie Brennan – This was a fun fantasy set in an alternate Europe in an alternate Victorian age.  Lady Trent starts her life as Isabella, a girl of aristocratic background with a decidedly unfeminine interest in natural history and particularly in dragons (which are very, very real in this world).  Isabella marries Jacob Camherst, a wealthy second son of another aristocratic family, who shares her interest in dragons, and quickly persuades him to join an expedition to the Eastern European-esque nation of Vystrana for the purpose of studying the creatures, and to let her tag along.  Adventure ensues!  I really enjoyed this.  I’m finding myself reading and enjoying more fantasy than I usually do, lately, and A Natural History of Dragons was a good addition to the list.  Isabella (she’s not yet Lady Trent at any point in this book) does some remarkably boneheaded things that endanger her traveling companions on multiple occasions, but if you keep in mind that the character is, at her eldest, nineteen, and that as a memoirist of much more advanced age she realizes she was an idiot back then, there’s a good possibility for character growth as the series goes on.  I’m looking forward to the next installments.

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1), by Leigh Bardugo – I kept hearing about this trilogy (I’d say “new” trilogy, but all three books are out – I’m late to the party as usual) and finally got around to picking up the first book.  WOW, it was creative.  I don’t want to say much about the plot, for fear of giving things away, because it really was so much fun to read.  Set in an alternate version of Imperial Russia called Ravka (what is it with me and these fantasy novels set in alternate, but recognizable, European countries this month?) Shadow and Bone follows Alina Starkov, an orphan girl who discovers a tremendous untapped power within her.  Swept into the world of “the Grisha,” an elite force of powerful sorcerer types, Alina is at first seduced by their glittering world, but soon discovers that all is not as it seems.  This was fun, as I said.  Read it!

The Mommy Diet, by Alison Sweeney – This was a re-read for me, just a quick one, but I felt like it was a good time to remind myself of Ali’s great tips for staying in shape and taking care of yourself as a mom.  Ali is the host of the long-running NBC weight loss show, “The Biggest Loser,” and she’s also a mom of two.  Her advice is down-to-earth and practical – and realistic, which is key – but supported by the many wellness experts she’s met in her “Biggest Loser” hosting career.  I love that Ali provides specific advice for each trimester of pregnancy and then broken down into segments thereafter.  There have been a few times, when I was pregnant with Peanut and after she was born, that I just read the chapter that pertained to me at the time, but I wanted to remind myself of Ali’s entire program for mama wellness, so I sat down and read the book cover to cover again.  As always, I loved Ali’s realness and the attainability of her suggestions.  The Mommy Diet is a must-read for all moms, whether you’re in your first trimester with your first baby, or you’re a seasoned mom with a rambunctious preschooler like mine.

As you can see, September was a light month, thanks to the reading slump I blogged about last week – ugh.  It’s just been hard for me to find the time and motivation to sit down and focus on a book.  I’m sure I’ll get my groove back eventually, but for now I’m just going easy on the books, since forcing myself to read a long tome when I’m not feeling it is certainly not going to snap me out of the readerly doldrums anytime soon.  I did enjoy the books I read this month, when I made myself read them!  I’m hoping for a better October, but if it ends up being another month that’s light on the reading, heavy on the unpacking and parenting, that’s okay too.  To everything there is a season.

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