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Weekend in an Instagram

I always seem to take more photos and use Instagram more on the weekends – I guess weekend moments are just better for preserving.  (And no one, least of all me, wants to see picture after picture of my computer keyboard or morning Earl Grey.)  We had a fun, relaxing weekend and I snapped quite a few pictures, so I thought I’d share.

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On Saturday we went for a hike at Knox Farm again.  It was supposed to be grey but it turned out a beautiful day.  We wandered through the wooded trails and anytime we came to a fork, we let Peanut direct us which way to go.  Miraculously, despite leaving navigation up to a 23-month-old, we didn’t get lost.

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Beautiful blue skies.  Peanut must have been remembering her last hike, because she kept shouting “High peak!”  Not quite, kid, not quite.

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One of my favorite things about Knox Farm is all the birdhouses they have around.  Not only do they attract some beautiful birds (I saw a gorgeous yellow-and-black one on Saturday, making me wish again that I was a birder… but I have enough hobbies) but they’re just sweet scenery in their own rights.

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After the hike we headed into East Aurora to sample the wings at Bar-Bill.  One of hubby’s co-workers promised us that Bar-Bill had the best wings in WNY (which means the best wings in the world).  After some reflection, hubby decided that he agrees.  Personally, I still prefer Duff’s.  The wings at Bar-Bill were a little too saucy for my preference – Duff’s makes them drier, which I like better.  I also wasn’t overly impressed with the service at Bar-Bill.  We were the first people to sit down and order during the lunch hour, and multiple other tables got their meals before we did.  When you’re ravenous from a hike and you have an almost-2-year-old with you (Peanut is a good kid, but all toddlers are ticking time bombs in restaurants) you notice when a table that sat down 20 minutes after you gets their food first, and you don’t appreciate it.  I’m willing to make allowances for an obviously busy restaurant, but this one wasn’t busy at all – other than a few guys drinking at the bar, we were the only people inside when we placed our order.  I did, however, much prefer Bar-Bill’s fries to Duff’s, so that’s something.

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Speaking of eating, we’re working on teaching Peanut to use utensils.  We should have done this a long time ago and I admit it’s my fault she can’t use them yet.  It’s so much faster and tidier to feed her myself.  But she needs to learn.  She seems to have inherited her mother’s appreciation for efficiency, though, and since she’s already mastered eating with her fingers, she thinks that spoons are for the birds.

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Sunday was a relaxing day at home that we spent just hanging out…

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Hosting a small group of furry friends for brunch…

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And snuggling.  Perfect.

How was your weekend?

Chipotle Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder

Sometimes I get a dish in my head and I just have to make it.  That’s the way it was with this.  Southwestern-flavored corn chowder is nothing new, but it popped into my mind and stewed there for a few days until I just had to make it.  I love making soups and chowders because they’re a great way to clear out the fridge of last week’s vegetables, but this time I actually went out and bought ingredients especially for the soup.  The beauty of this, as with any soup, is that it’s endlessly customizable to whatever you happen to have on hand, though.  So here’s what I did.

Chipotle Corn Chowder

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 yellow onion, large diced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 package new potatoes, halved or quartered (I used a combo of yellow, white and purple baby potatoes)
1 tsp chipotle chili powder (or other chili powder), or season to taste
1 package frozen yellow corn kernels
2 cups milk (at least 2% – I actually bummed some of Peanut’s whole milk)
1 1/2 – 2 cups water
1 tsp Better than Bouillon vegetable soup base
1/2 jar chipotle salsa (Muir Glen Organics makes a good version)
3-4 large handfuls chopped fresh kale
1 can black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
3/4 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican mix cheese
Additional cheese and Greek yogurt or sour cream for serving (optional)

  • In a large stockpot or Dutch oven over a medium-high burner, heat up the coconut oil until oil has melted.  Add onion, sprinkle with salt, and sauté.
  • When onion is just beginning to soften and take on color, add new potatoes.  Season with chili powder and sauté until potatoes are slightly browned.
  • Add corn and sauté just until it has thawed.  Add milk, water, and vegetable base, turn heat down to low, cover and simmer until vegetables have cooked, at least 30 minutes.  (You can go longer.  I simmered the soup for about 2 hours before we ate it for dinner and it took on a nice complex flavor.  But if this is a weeknight dinner, not the end of a lazy Sunday, 30 minutes is fine.)
  • About 10 minutes before you plan to serve, wilt the kale into the soup.  (If you’re adding beans – I didn’t – this would be the time to stir those in and let them warm up.)  Stir in the salsa and cheese and allow to simmer a few more minutes, just for the flavors to meld.
  • Serve with an additional sprinkle of cheese and a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (I used yogurt) if desired.

Yield: serves 4 for dinner, 8 for appetizers
Source: please credit Covered In Flour

LibrarySummer

The past few weeks I’ve pretty much dedicated every evening – and every lunch hour I got to myself – to reading… and what do I have to show for it?  More library books checked out than when I started, and three more on hold.  What can you do?  (Not go crazy putting books on hold.  That’s what you can do.)  Anyway.

Current Status

  • Returned: My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Meade; The Girl With All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey; I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, by Courtney Maum; To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris; Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage, by Molly Wizenberg.
  • Due Back 7/21: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin; The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen; That Summer, by Lauren Willig; God is an Astronaut, by Alyson Foster; The Care and Management of Lies, by Jacqueline Winspear
  • Due Back 7/28: The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker
  • Due Back 8/6:Misery Loves Company, by Rene Gutteridge; Among the Janeites: A Journey Through the World of Jane Austen Fandom, by Deborah Yaffe
  • Due Back 8/7: The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris; Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, by Laura Markham
  • On Hold, Awaiting Pickup: The Book of Life, by Deborah Harkness (!!!!!!!!!!); The Visitors, by Sally Beauman; Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

Progress Thus Far

  • Finished and Returned: My Life in Middlemarch; The Girl With All the Gifts; I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You; To Rise Again at a Decent Hour; Delancey
  • Finished, Not Yet Returned: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry; The Queen of the Tearling; That Summer
  • In Progress: The Cloister Walk (almost done, but set aside for more urgent matters); The Care and Management of Lies (just started)
  • Not Yet Started: EVERYTHING ELSE

The Plan

  • First things first: top priority went to the books due back on July 21st, especially the ones that I am fairly sure can’t be renewed.  That Summer, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, and The Queen of the Tearling all had “waiting pool” stickers on them, so I tackled those first.
  • I’ve renewed God is an Astronaut so the pressure’s off there for a few days at least.  I’ve started The Care and Management of Lies, which has holds and can’t be renewed – if I power through it today, I might be able to avoid an overdue fine.
  • After I dispatch with those two, I WILL finish The Cloister Walk.  I WILL.
  • Then probably Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, because along with The Cloister Walk, it’s maxed out on renewals.  It’s not due back for awhile, but the rest can all be renewed.
  • At some point, I also have to pick up the three books I have on hold: The Visitors; The Book of Life; and Shadow and Bone.  I’ll have to slot in The Book of Life, at least, here – or earlier – because there’s no way I’m going to be able to renew it.
  • Once I’ve taken care of all of the urgent non-renewable items, I’m just planning to work my way through the rest of the books in order of their deadline: The Golem and the Jinni first (and I wish it wasn’t constantly getting pushed back, because I’m itching to get into that one); then probably Among the Janeites (another one I’m really excited about) and Misery Loves Company (about a book blogger who is taken hostage by an author after a bad review – how can I resist?).

At some point, I might actually get to read something off my own shelves again, but that probably won’t be until September.  Hence my decision to embrace it and fully get into the Library Summer spirit.  Although the very thought is exhausting.  How much would a nap set me behind?

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Marathon training is on a (hopefully) brief hiatus at the moment while I sort out a couple of issues that have arisen starting last week.  One I can’t explain, but another is a major problem.  There have been a series of incidents (including a bad scare to someone close to me) with creepers targeting female runners in my neighborhood and the neighborhood just next door, including right on some routes I run regularly.  As a result I’m not comfortable running in my neighborhood right now and I’m trying to figure out a solution, which might involve driving to another neighborhood to run (cumbersome) or else getting a very short-term gym membership.  I can’t let the not-running go on much longer if I’m going to be ready for this marathon, so I’ve got to figure it out.  Anyway, here are weeks three and four.

June 29: Rest.  Recovering from the Fifty Yard Finish Half Marathon.

June 30: Rest.  More recovery.

July 1: Rest.  I like to give myself plenty of time to get back to 100% after running a half, but tomorrow I’ll be ready to go again.

July 2: 3 mile run.  First run back after the half, feeling pretty good.

July 3: 3 mile run.  Picked up a bruised toe during the half and while it doesn’t hurt, it looks disgusting.

July 4: Rest.  Lots of time in the car driving to a wedding.  Yay for the happy couple, boo for all of the driving.

July 5: Rest.  We have a big adventure planned for tomorrow, so we just relax and enjoy a day at the lake today.

July 6: 6.2 mile hike up a mountain!  We climb our first two Adirondack high peaks, Cascade and Porter, which is a major workout but the views are worth every bead of sweat.

July 7-11: NO RUNNING.  Between the creeper and not having a good shoe option right now (I tried to return my too-small shoes, but they didn’t have my size in stock.  I’m still waiting) I have not found a way to run.  I’m trying to figure these issues out because if I’m going to run a marathon in October, I have to train!  I know they say that you can’t be afraid of the weirdos because that’s letting them win, but, well, it’s another story when you know there’s a creep out there targeting women on the routes you run, at the times you run.  I’m just not going to put myself in that situation.  But I have to find another way.

July 12: Stroller Strides!  Between the instructor being away at a conference, and then my half, and then traveling over the fourth of July weekend, I hadn’t been to class in three weeks.  It felt so good to get back and get in a good strength workout with my favorite Buffalo moms.

So that’s that.  Week 3 went pretty much as I had planned for after a half marathon, but the wheels totally came off in week 4.  I’m working on putting them back on – here’s hoping I will be back out on the roads soon.

Taste of Buffalo 2014

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The Taste of Buffalo is a giant food festival downtown and one of the most hotly-anticipated events all year, in which area restaurants, cafes and food vendors gather to promote their businesses by sharing their best dishes.  Hubby and I attended in 2007, when we happened to be visiting the area on just the right weekend, and we had a blast – so we knew we were going to make a point of attending this year.  We invited my father-in-law along (would you believe he’d never been before?!).

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We arrived early, just as things were starting to get going.  The crowd of restaurants represented included everything from local institutions like Nick Charlap’s Ice Cream, to new-on-the-scene trendy spots like Merge (a vegetarian restaurant I’m dying to try, and having tasted their kale salad at Taste only makes me more eager to get there for dinner) and even a few chains like Applebee’s and Gordon Biersch.

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Almost immediately, we spotted a familiar green vehicle – Lloyd’s Taco Truck!  If I had a nickel for every time I’d seen Lloyd’s parked near my office and walked by it because I didn’t “feel like tacos” I could treat myself to an entire plate’s worth.  Since I’d been meaning to try it for so long, we made a beeline for the truck.  (And it was a good thing we were early, because when we walked by Lloyd’s on the way out, it was completely mobbed.)

Taste 1

We ordered a chicken taco to share and a half order of krazy korn.  (Hubby doesn’t like corn on the cob – and he had just put away a slider on his own – so the corn was just for me and I didn’t want to fill up on one station, even an amazing station like Lloyd’s.)  The chicken taco was absolutely delicious, but the corn blew me away – rubbed with a chili butter, drizzled with secret sauce and sprinkled liberally with queso and cilantro, it was pretty much the best thing I’ve eaten in months.  Now I’m furious with myself for walking past Lloyd’s so many times, always headed for someplace not as good, and I have vowed that every time I see the green truck in my neighborhood, I will get a krazy korn and a taco.  Lloyd’s was the highlight of the 2014 Taste for me.

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We made our way from station to station, tasting seafood mac ‘n cheese (good, but hubby said my homemade mac ‘n cheese is better), Bavarian pretzels, steamed crabs from Joe’s Crab Shack (another highlight, and now on our list to visit as soon as humanly possible), and even…

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WINE!  Hubby and F-I-L each had a glass (hubby had sparkling, F-I-L had raspberry rose) and I went for three one-ounce samples so I could taste more.  We had just changed a soaking wet diaper in the grass, so we figured we deserved it.  We then headed back for a second pass, this time at the desserts.  We tried a few different things, but the raspberry Chardonnay ice cream (wish I could remember the vendor) was the best.  We left feeling just a bit overstuffed, but very happy with our morning.

If you’re in Buffalo, did you attend the Taste this year?  What was your favorite part?  If you’re elsewhere, does your city have a similar food festival?  We used to go to Taste of Ithaca when we were at Cornell, but we never made it to any food festivals in D.C.

Cascade 1

Get ready for a photo-heavy post!  Last weekend, hubby and I achieved a long-cherished dream of ours: climbing our first two Adirondack high peaks.  And we started on another long-cherished dream (and one that will take much longer to realize): becoming Adirondack 46ers.

Cascade 2

The Adirondack Mountains were our backyard when we were growing up in northeastern New York State.  I lived about two hours south of the mountains, but my family made it to our lake house in the foothills almost every weekend during the spring, summer and fall, and we spent many happy winter days skiing Gore and Whiteface Mountains up north.  Hubby lived in the Adirondack region itself and has fond memories of the area, too.  For years I’d harbored a secret ambition to be a “46er” – a.k.a. one of the elite club of hikers who has summited all 46 of the Adirondack high peaks – and when we decided to move back to New York State – even though we were headed for Buffalo, not Albany or Saratoga – we made a commitment to try to achieve that goal.

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For our first two mountains, we chose Cascade and Porter.  At number 36 and 38 on the elevation list, and billed as the two most “accessible,” “approachable,” and “family friendly” mountains, we decided they were the place to start our Adirondack climbing journey – especially since we were toting a little hiker with us.  Peanut was joining us on the first of our high peaks adventures.  We realized that we would not be able to take her up every mountain with us (some are simply too technically challenging to permit carrying a toddler up with any degree of psychological comfort) but we wanted her to come along at least for this excursion.

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We arrived at the Cascade trailhead around 9:30 a.m. – later than we’d hoped for – and signed into the trail register by 10:00 – much later than we’d hoped for.  Things were starting off rocky and got even rockier, if you’ll pardon the pun, when we realized that the trail was basically three miles of boulders straight up.  I was able to negotiate the trail without much trouble – short as I am – and I breezed right up.  Hubby, however, was struggling almost from the beginning.  Turns out, carrying thirty pounds (6 pounds of backpack and 24 pounds of child) is tough enough, but when your load is wiggling, kicking you, falling asleep with her head hanging out of the pack, telling you stories about baby sea lions, and basically just being the dearest and most precious thing to your heart, you really care about not falling down… even as your balance is impaired by the wiggling and kicking and napping in impossible positions.

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(^Snapped after I’d pushed her head back into the middle of the pack, and approximately 0.3 minutes before it flopped out again.)

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We took our time up the steep, rocky trail (the picture above was about as mild as it got), stopping for breaks as needed and letting the faster groups go by us.  After about 1.8 miles – which took far longer than it would have had it been an adults-only hike – we came upon the false summit of Cascade and our first views of the day.

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Cascade 8

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Even I was a little wobbly-kneed scrambling up over the bald ledge, but the views were well worth every anxious moment.  Just past the false summit we came upon the trail junction between Cascade and Porter.

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Our first Adirondack summit was only 0.3 miles away!  We steeled ourselves for a push to the summit.

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Cascade 13

Porter 1

The summit of Cascade is bald, thanks to a massive fire in 1903 which not only destroyed the vegetation, but burned away the soil as well.  Some delicate Alpine botany has taken hold up there again, and it’s beautiful but fragile – so hikers are well warned to walk only on bare rock and never ever ever step on the grass, the flowers, or even the dirt.

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We scrambled up the bare rock face and reached our first Adirondack high peak summit.

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Success!

The views were astonishing.  I knew that they would be – of course – but actually standing on top of one of the Adirondack high peaks and looking out over the park was beyond anything I could have imagined.  I truly felt on top of the world.

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(Hello there, Mount Marcy.  I’m coming for you.)

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We chatted briefly with the summit steward – a volunteer park ranger of sorts, whose job is to stand on top of the mountain, welcome hikers, take family photos (he gets the credit for the shot above), answer questions, and remind you not to walk on the grass.  He pointed out the peaks in the distance for us and then directed us to a ledge where we could sit out of the wind, have a snack and enjoy the view before heading on to our next stop.

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We took our time, drank in the views and then started down the mountain.

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We reached the trail junction in no time, descended into a col, and began the brief climb back up Porter – Cascade’s nearest neighbor and our second high peak.

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Porter is not nearly as busy as Cascade, even though it’s right next door.  There was no summit steward, no crowds – we had the place to ourselves, a major difference from the crowds swarming over Cascade – and not even a benchmark.  I confirmed that we had summited when I spotted signs for the trail leading to Marcy Airfield and the Garden.

Porter 4

Porter is a wooded summit, unlike Cascade’s bald top, but it still affords 360 degree views.  It was a bit less spectacular than Cascade, but well worth the extra 1.4 miles round trip to add it to our day.

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We even got a view back to Cascade and spent some time marveling at the fact that we were just there and now we’re here.

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Exhausted, but happy, family on top of Porter, with two Adirondack high peaks under our belt!

Cascade Mountain: Elevation 4,098 feet / 36 of 46 ADK high peaks

Porter Mountain: Elevation 4,059 feet / 38 of 46 ADK high peaks

Fun Facts About The Adirondacks, Cascade and Porter

  • The Adirondacks are the only mountains in the eastern United States that are not geologically Appalachian.  They are the southernmost section of the Canadian Shield, a geologically distinct area.
  • The Adirondack Park is the only forest and wildlife area to have Constitutional protection.  Other parklands and wildlife refuges are protected by statute, but the Adirondacks’ protection is built into the New York State Constitution.
  • Porter Mountain is named for Noah Porter, a Yale professor who was the first person to summit.
  • There are traditionally 46 high peaks – peaks over 4,000 feet in elevation – in the Adirondack region.  (Mount Marcy is the highest, at 5,343 feet, and is also the highest point in New York State.)  In fact, there is at least one mountain (McNaughton) that does have a summit over 4,000 feet but didn’t make the cut, and some of the traditional ADK high peaks are actually slightly under 4,000 feet elevation, because of mis-measuring about 100 years ago.  ADK 46ers tend to be a tradition-loving bunch, though, so they’ve kept the list as-is.
  • Cascade is named for a series of waterfalls on the mountain, and is close to the bobsledding venue from the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

(Facts came from our guidebook, from lakeplacid.com, and from the summit steward on Cascade.)

Lessons Learned

  • We did not carry enough water.  Hubby ended up drinking almost our entire supply, leaving me pretty uncomfortably thirsty, especially on the trip down.  I didn’t begrudge him the water – he had our daughter on his back, after all – but I did need some of it.  In the future, I’ll make sure that I have at least one bottle for myself.
  • We did not get nearly as early a start as we needed to, especially given our slow pace climbing with a kid.  For future peaks we will need to get earlier starts – especially when we start getting into the “big” ones (ha, they’re all big) like Marcy, Algonquin, and Gothics.
  • On that note… while it was fun having Peanut along, she is not invited on any more ADK high peak adventures until she can climb under her own steam.  Cascade and Porter were billed as family-friendly… but I really didn’t think they were.  There was too much scrambling, too much technical climbing, to make a climb with Peanut “a walk in the park.”  I saw plenty of families with kids ages 5 and older handling the mountain with no trouble, and there were a few other families struggling along with younger ones in backpacks, but… it wasn’t for us.  I did not believe Cascade was nearly as “easy” as our guidebook claimed, and if that was the “approachable” peak… my goodness.  This journey will be adults-only for quite some time.

Two high peaks down, forty-four to go!  We’re already planning our next trip up one of the peaks (we’re thinking Giant Mountain next, but it won’t be until the fall so we’re still exploring options).  Have you ever climbed one of the Adirondack high peaks?  Or a mountain closer to home?

A Day By The Lake

Lake 1

For months I’ve been looking forward to a nice (warm!) summer day at my parents’ lake house.  We live five hours away, so we couldn’t just hop over there anytime like my family did when I was growing up – so now it’s a special treat to spend a day or two there in a summer.  When we received an invitation to a wedding on the fourth of July, in central Massachusetts, I knew that it was a perfect chance to build a day at the lake into the trip.  We arrived in Albany on July 3rd and left Peanut with my parents while we drove to the wedding in the afternoon on the fourth.  We left early in the morning on the fifth and headed straight to the lake, where Peanut and my parents were having lunch when we got there.  I was so glad to be there, I immediately ran down to the waterfront and snapped a picture of one of my favorite views (above).

Lake 2

I was also glad to see my little girl.  I missed her!  She was having so much fun playing in the grass on the terrace.  It was amazing to see her discovering a place where I’ve been coming since before I can remember.

Lake 3

She was, however, sorely in need of a nap, so we put her down and then hung out in Adirondack chairs on the terrace, chatting about the wedding and watching my dad windsurf.  (That’s him above.)  After awhile, I went down to sit on the dock and drink in the views.

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Lake 4

It was just  a leeeeeeetle bit breezy.

Lake 5

When Peanut woke up, she got some quality time in playing with Nana and Grandad and some of my extended family members (they have a place right next door, and we all mill about on our adjoining waterfront).  Then we got some more visitors!

Lake 9

Nana has been feeding these ducklings all spring, in hopes that they would make her a regular stop on their daily tours – so that when Peanut arrived they would come over for a visit.  We rushed to the waterfront with stale bread for them.

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Peanut didn’t quite get the concept.  Whenever my mom handed her a piece of bread, she batted it away and it would land somewhere else on the dock.  But she loved watching the ducks snap up the pieces of bread that the rest of us were throwing.

Lake 10

The wind had been blowing hard all day and – instead of calming like it usually does – was actually picking up as the afternoon wore on to evening.  So we decided to eat dinner indoors.  My dad grilled chicken and made sandwiches on ciabatta rolls, with rosemary aoli – yum.  Peanut was too excited to eat and spent the dinner hour carrying these two lanterns around the living room in some sort of adorable toddler reenactment of Paul Revere’s ride.  We headed back to our beds for the night after dinner, because we had an early alarm and a big adventure planned for the next day – so check back here on Friday for that.

How did you spend your Fourth of July weekends?

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