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Friday, May 31, 2013

Duck Update: Moving Outdoors

Squackers and Buttons have grown up. Remember when they were brand new and so small? When they lived in our master bathroom? Well, believe me... I remember.

Two weeks ago we made the move. The ducks had outgrown their brooder (i.e. Rubbermaid storage bin). Squackers had jumped out twice. It was time. These no-longer-little guys needed more space and fresh air.

We gave them one last swim in the bathtub and, as always, they cleaned and preened and primped and splashed.

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Then it was time for the great outdoors. My husband and I built a run from two-by-fours and garden mesh right in the center of the mini orchard. It wasn't our ideal location, but it was fairly level and we didn't have time to spare.

We spent a rainy evening building the run and sporadically running for cover under the arbor when a rain cloud passed overhead. Build and run, build and run, until finally it was dark and we could no longer see what we were doing. The run was built, the door was built, but they weren't attached.

The next day (Mother's Day) in the hour between our trip to Longwood Gardens and dinner with my in-laws, we rushed to get the door on and move the ducks to their new home.

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We haven't found a house we like for the ducks yet, so we will be working on that throughout the summer in time for cold weather in the fall. Ultimately, the house will get attached to the outside of the run to give the ducks plenty of room to move. In the meantime, we put an old dog house inside the run to give the ducks a little shelter.

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Last weekend we leveled a piece of land at the back corner of our orchard under a large tree, then moved the duck run there. It's a better location aesthetically and the ducks now have some shade from the summer heat.

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We're still learning as we go and one thing we realized was that the run very quickly becomes a mud pit. To alleviate that problem and help with drainage, we laid several inches of pebbles at the bottom. It seems to have done the trick.

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I think Squackers and Buttons are happy in their new outdoor space. Aren't they cute?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What's Growing in my Garden Right Now

Over the last few years I've been working on my gardening skills, specifically trying to grow food.

I'm quite late for this year's vegetable garden, but I'm hoping to get some beds prepared and planted this weekend.

What do I have so far? More than I thought, despite a rocky start.

I began with some seeds indoors in April. I had a small tray of herbs...

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... and a large tray of vegetables (peas, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, and various kinds of squash).

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I set the covered trays in our kitchen where the most sunlight comes in. Once they sprouted and it was time to remove the lids, I moved them to our master bathroom where I could lock them away from the cat (he has a tendency to eat greenery- no indoor plants for us).

The master bathroom was quickly became a mini homestead what with the ducks living in there and all.

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Let me explain what you're seeing in that picture. There are potted herbs in the windows that I bought from a local nursery. The seedlings I grew are on the counter (look how big the cucumbers and squash grew!) and on the edge of the tub (hiding in the corner). There are ducks in the tub, their brooder is the blue storage bin in front of the tub, next to which is the duck food and wood chips for the brooder. The bathroom was a bit out of control.

Anyhow, as soon as the weather warmed up enough, I moved my seedling trays outside where they could soak up the sunshine (they weren't getting much in the bathroom). The next day they were all flattened and a few days later died completely. I suspect the outdoor cat may have laid in them. Grrrr.

All of my beautiful seedlings gone. I wanted to scream. Or cry. Or maybe both. But I didn't. Instead I left the trays outside, ignored and untouched.

Then last week I came out to find a few new sprouts.

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What?!?!

That has restored my hope a little. When I set up the vegetable bed and get some plants in there, I will move these little guys, too.

Meanwhile, I transplanted the three surviving herbs that I had started from seed (one thyme and two basil) and the herbs from the nursery (sage, oregano, chocolate mint, and two cilantro). All of these have new homes in my herb section- a row of buried pots on a retaining wall.

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Surviving and thriving from last year are lemon thyme, rosemary, and cilantro which mysteriously regrew this year after lasting only two weeks last year. Go figure.

At the far end of the row of herbs are two kiwi plants intertwined on a trellis. You'll have to trust me on the trellis part. It's no longer visible behind all those leaves.

Then on the next retaining wall is our fruit and nut section.

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The strawberries and blueberries we planted last year look great this year and already bear fruit that is almost ready to pick. The raspberries are now three years old and should bloom later this summer.

There are also two hazelnut plants we put in last year that have yet to grow nuts. I have no idea what to expect there, so I can only keep watching. How crazy cool would it be to eat nuts out of my own yard?

We also have four grape plants growing on our arbor, all of which are three years old. One of them grew a handful of grapes last year, so I'm hopeful that we'll see some more this year.

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Then there's the mini orchard which we started a year ago with a cherry tree, a plum tree, a peach tree, two apple trees, and "mystery tree" which we received in an odd conglomeration of surprise stuff from an online nursery two years ago. The tree had lost its tag, so we didn't know what it was and we never got around to planting it.

The following year (last year), mystery tree was a bare stick that we almost threw out, but it didn't seem dry (and therefore dead), so we planted it in the mini orchard to see what would happen. It sprouted a few leaves last year and didn't do much more than look silly. This year, it still looks silly, but something has formed- possibly cherries?

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In case you're wondering, the wood structure behind the mini orchard is the duck run (more on that another day).

I had been frustrated by my lack of a garden this year. By not even having beds ready when I should have already been planting two weeks ago. But after walking my yard this past week, I realize how much I already have, how much there is to be excited about.

Hopefully this weekend I can set up the vegetable beds. In the meantime, I'll enjoy watching the fruits, herbs, and nuts grow. I might even pick a strawberry or two today.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wishcasting: Sweetness

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There's a practice I used to partake in on my old blog called Wishcasting Wednesday. It is led by a gorgeous soul- creativity coach Jamie Ridler (www.jamieridlerstudios.ca). I adore Jamie. It feels like it's time to play online with her again.

The way this works is each Wednesday Jamie prompts her readers to make a wish. Readers post their answer on their own blog and share a link on Jamie's blog, then you can visit other people's blogs and spread a little karmic love into the universe by sharing in their wish ("As [name] wishes for herself, so I wish for her also.").

This week she asks: What sweetness do you wish for?

I wish for the sweetness of fruit fresh from the garden. I have a bunch growing in my garden and I'm hoping to keep critters away so it has time to ripen for me to pick- strawberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, apples, kiwis, and cherries. Grapes and raspberries haven't formed yet, but I'm watching for them, too.

I've only had strawberries and raspberries in the past and I can tell you nothing in my grocery store comes close. This year, I'd love to collect fruit from all of my plants and trees.

Now it's your turn. What sweetness do you wish for? Let me know in the comments. If you'd like to see other people's wishes, visit Jamie's post for the links.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

This Morning's Visitors

I'm not feeling very wordy today. We're coming off a three day weekend where my husband and I did a ton of yard work, my teenage stepson played in a baseball tournament, we got a visit from some out-of-town friends, and we went to a barbecue. (Is it still a barbecue if nothing is in BBQ sauce? You know, like hot dogs, hamburgers, and veggies- is that a barbecue?)

Anyhow, it was the perfect balance of productivity and fun, with a good mixture of activities and plenty of outside time.

This morning the sky is gray and I'm feeling quiet. So, instead of more words, I offer you photos of some of the visitors to my bird feeder this morning.

I just filled it three days ago and already it's running bare. There's still enough to cause a stir, though.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Inspiration

When we were kids, we knew we were supposed to get a card for mom on Mother's Day. Maybe we also got flowers or some other trinket for a gift. We weren't sure the reason for this day other than that it is marked on calendars in permanent print.

I remember only one of the gifts I gave my mom when I was a kid and the reason I remember it is because it made her cry (in the good way). I was a teenager (which I know because I bought a gift during one of those mall hangouts with my friends). It was a porcelain picture frame with light pink roses on it and I inserted a picture of her holding me as a baby from one of our family albums. She loved it.

This morning has just gotten started but my husband is already in the kitchen making me breakfast. (Wonderful man!) My toddler presented me with a card containing his handprint in soft green ink. My teenage stepson has something still tucked away from his mall hangout on Friday night. And after breakfast, we'll be headed to Longwood Gardens to stroll amidst flowers.

This may be my favorite Mother's Day yet.

I'm still not sure why we have Mother's Day, but since we do, today I'm going to focus on being present. On spending this time with my husband and boys. I will call my mom and my stepmom. I will celebrate my mother-in-law.

I also honor all of you who are mothers, stepmothers, adopted mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, godmothers, and those who desperately want to be mothers.

For all the things you do on a daily basis to keep your family running, for the support you give, for the hugs and kisses, and for the discipline you painstakingly bestow... thank you.

For your patience, time, love, and selflessness... thank you.

For the moments you showed perfect motherhood and all the times you didn't but kept trying anyway... thank you.

For all the times you've held it together and all the times you lost it... thank you.

Thank you because you show up. Every day. Rain or shine. Sickness or health. In all your imperfect glory (because mine is most certainly imperfect).

Here's a little inspiration for your day...

Why Mother's Day is for the Birds by Ann Voskamp - An honest post about motherhood in all its imperfectness.

And this video which is my little Mother's Day tradition (even though Borders is now long gone) because you never stop being a mom...

http://youtu.be/vOo_ynxzD2g

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 10, 2013

I'm Talking About Grandparents

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This is just a quick note to let you know that I have a post up at Grandmother Hen. No, I'm not a grandma yet (and better not be for a long, long time). I'm over there talking about my own grandparents and my kids' grandparents. Check it out here: Grandparents Near and Far.

Grandmother Hen is a resource for grandparents to be part of a community to talk about health, lifestyle, safety, and the kiddos. Spread the word to grandparents you know. This is a good one!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Why We Don't Go Downtown Anymore

You know how you hear a catchy song and you find yourself singing it all the time, maybe dancing a little? Well, that song for me right now is Lady Antebellum's "Downtown."

It's a bouncy little country number in which a woman is asking her man why they don't go out anymore. "I don't know why you don't take me downtown / like you got anywhere better to be." (If you know this song, I apologize now in advance for the way you'll be singing it all day.)

As a parent, going out doesn't happen often. Between having a toddler and having a teenager with an active social life but no driver's license, our weekends often revolve around family. Which is truly great, actually. I like family time.

Still... "I have some platforms sitting in the corner / they wanna stroll on a city sidewalk / I gotta dress that'll show a little uh-uh / but you ain't gettin' uh-uh if you don't come pick me up."

So dang catchy.

Anyhow, last weekend my husband took me out for a date night birthday dinner. We went to my favorite restaurant (the uber-delicious Barclay Prime in Philadelphia). Rather than making a later dinner reservation as we usually do, my husband set the reservation at 6:00 p.m. so we would have plenty of time to do something after, like maybe sit in a bar and have some drinks. I loved the idea. (I also loved that our date wouldn't be over when dinner was cleared.)

We lounged through sparkling water, cocktails, popovers, appetizer, steaks, sides, dessert, cappuccino. By the time we finished eating, I was stuffed. Not just full, stuffed. Like busting out of my dress, couldn't possibly fit one more crumb or drop of liquid in me, stuffed. There was no way I was ready for drinks.

So when my husband asked what I wanted to do next, I suggested going to the bookstore. (I love the bookstore. I have a shelf and a half of books in my to-read pile not to mention another dozen or so ebooks, yet I can never resist a bookstore.)

He laughed because it's quite silly to get dressed up and go all the way to Philadelphia for a bookstore, but he gets me. The prospect of strolling through a bookstore, hand-clasping, and not having to visit the train table or the Lego table... well, that's a treat.

After wandering all three floors and paying for a few new additions to our library, he again asked what I wanted to do.

Now, a little part of me still wanted to have a grown-up night out and go have a drink. But most of me was over the heels I was wearing, still full from dinner, just wanted a water. I looked at him and said, "Honestly, I kind of want to go get in jammies and read in bed. Is that lame?"

He laughed once again, kissed me, and said, "It's your birthday. If that's what you want, then that's what we'll do."

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has said that she wishes she were the kind of person who wanted to go to a jazz club at midnight and people will say, "But Gretchen, you live in New York City. You can totally go to a jazz club at midnight!" And she replies, "I know I can. I just don't want to."

And that, my friends, is why we don't go downtown anymore. It's a special treat once in a while (particularly for that restaurant), but we just aren't downtown kind of people.

We did, however, close down the Burger King last night. Oh, yeah. Be jealous.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Celebrating One Year of Live Wonderstruck

WOW OH WOW! Live Wonderstruck is celebrating its one year anniversary today. Blogiversary? Hmm, I think so, yes. It is a one year blogiversary.

One year since I launched this site with a little post called Bring on the Wonder.

What has been my favorite part?

It's hard to say. There are so many things I love- the space to write, the friendly commenters, all of you who take time to read my words.

One of my favorite things has definitely been the involvement of others. This is the first blog where I have posted interviews. So many wonderful people have stepped up. It's been amazing to see how differently each of them answer the same five questions.

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Thank you to all of my wonderstruck interviewees!

What has been your favorite part?

According to the analytics, my highest viewed posts for the past year are:

I can't help but notice that food took up three of the top four spots. Noted. I like food. I can talk about food.

The posts you talked about the most (by way of comments, that is) were often interviews including Rhonda Hopkins, Judythe Hopkins, and Liv Rancourt. Then again you also commented a lot on When You Don’t Have Anything to Do on a Friday Night So You Buy Ducks. Understandable.

Food, interviews, ducks. Got it. I'm on it.

I rise to the challenge of bringing on more wonder. Which brings me to another point: I'm looking for many more interviewees so if you have a suggestion, send me a note on the contact page. And if you are the one who would like to jump in, check out the interviews page for details.

In the meantime, I'll keep plugging away in usual (and maybe unusual) wonderstruck fashion.

Thank you, thank you for being part of this journey.

 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Poem and a Sketch From What Might Have Been Lost Time

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Craggy branches sprawl
shadow navy moonlit sky
a macabre peace

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I wrote this haiku last weekend while waiting for my teenage stepson to come out from a sweet sixteen party.

My husband and I had dropped him off earlier that evening, then run a few errands, had dinner, strolled a bookstore, and then it was 11:00 p.m. and things were closing. The party didn't end until midnight so we sat in the parking lot until it ended. My husband opted for a quick nap and my toddler was playing in his car seat.

I've made it a practice to carry a notebook with me nearly everywhere I go, but I rarely end up using it for more than a quick note. But there I was in a dark parking lot with time to kill and a pesky little inner voice mocking me: "a true writer would take this opportunity to write."

So I pulled out my notebook and stared at a blank page for a minute unsure of what to write. That's when I noticed the big twisty tree silhouetted in front of me. It looked like a scene from a children's haunted tale.

I put my pen to paper and scribbled until I had a small poem I was happy with. Then I sketched the tree to help solidify it in my memory. (I don't draw much nor have I ever really learned to do so, but I made do with my limited skills.)

I'm glad I had my notebook with me that night. This scratched up page makes me happy.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

All That Led Up to Live Wonderstruck

Live Wonderstruck may be approaching its first anniversary (next week!) but I've been blogging for five years now. Wow. It surprises me that it's been so long.

It all began in February 2007 when I was working as a Web Producer for a trade magazine publisher. Knowing how things work on the web was my job and blogging was a topic that was coming up with more frequency.

I learn best by example (seeing and doing), so I hopped over to blogger.com, which I knew was a popular free blogging platform, and began my first blog called Life After Web.

My first post was called The Internet: From Resource to Pastime and from there I continued to write short posts about the internet, technology, and human interaction (or the decline thereof). I pondered the relevance of Second Life and Twitter. I got my first comment. (So thrilling!)

I was hooked.

But I didn't only want to be the web geek girl. I wanted to talk about fluffy, happy, silly things. So off I went to wordpress.com to start a second blog. (Why Wordpress and not Blogger? So that I would learn them both, of course.)

On a Lighter Note... opened in April 2007 with this message: "to remind us all that life is good, human kindness still exists, and simple pleasures are moodlifting." (Hmm... sounds like something I would say here on Live Wonderstruck.)

Somewhere thereafter I decided that maintaining two blogs was too much, so I combined them both under the heading of Life After Web and eventually purchased LifeAfterWeb.com (announced in December 2010: Time for a Big Girl URL).

In other blogging adventures I realized a need for information about stepfamilies. Being a stepmom, as well as a stepdaughter and stepsister, I thought I could shed some light on the topic. Too Many Toasters launched in December 2009 with a subtitle I loved: "Stepfamily life and other anomalies resulting in confusion and excess small appliances." My first post was the toaster explanation.

It was during this time that I started blogging for WorkingMother.com, too (The Whole Shebang). They were interested in blended families so my new blog idea was just what they were looking for. (This was when I was web producer for a magazine publisher in New York City. Working Mother was one of the titles I worked with along with Popular Science, Parenting, and Saveur. Good times and I learned a lot- mostly that, in my project management role, I had strayed too far from writing.)

The problem with blogging about stepfamily life is you're not just blogging about yourself. You're blogging about your family. Things I wanted to share that I thought other people might benefit from weren't necessarily my stories to tell. I waffled over what I could and couldn't say. In May 2010 I stopped posting on Too Many Toasters. My unintentionally last post was Mom/Stepmom Relationship.

I went back to Life After Web, then I took a long break from blogging altogether. When I came back I began to wonder if it was time for a fresh start. I thought about my goals and the topics I'm interested in. I consulted my good friend and brand adviser. I thought and dreamed and drafted ideas.

In May 2012 Live Wonderstruck was born. A fresh new space without baggage.

The funny thing is I've recently found myself visiting Life After Web. Kind of a lot. There are things I wrote that I didn't even remember. Some words that sounded really good and I was proud they had come from me. (And some not so much.)

Maybe absence has made me fall back in love with it. I love the longevity it has. I couldn't just let that go. And honestly, part of me wants to go right back there. Right back to where it all started. But that was then and this is now. And I love Live Wonderstruck, too.

So, I've decided on a compromise. I've now imported all the old posts from all the old blogs right here on this site. I've organized them under the categories I already had here (and added one more: Technology & Web).

There have been 124 posts on Live Wonderstruck since it started last year. To that I add more than 400 posts from my earlier blogs. I don't expect you to go back and read each one. But they're here and maybe you'll stumble across some new favorites.

Next week Live Wonderstruck will celebrate it's first anniversary. Today it celebrates all that came before. All that led to this.

Hooray for complicated pasts.