Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Carving 2011 - in the dark!

Right as I was leaving my parent's house on Sunday afternoon, Mac called to let me know that the power was out in my apartment. That was around 3pm, and people were showing up to carve pumpkins around 5pm. So, I headed back to Princeton and sure enough, when I got to my apartment there was still no power. In fact the power stayed out through the entire party, but we still had a great time carving pumpkins, and got some wonderful results! Here's me, Mac, Kim, Nicole, Tyler and Kim after carving:

With the really long exposure that's needed for the dark conditions, I had the camera on a tripod and someone took this ghostly photo while everyone was getting ready to go:

The original plan was to have dinner at my house, but we ended up going out to get sushi instead. This was certainly a memorable way to celebrate my 12th annual pumpkin carving party!

End of October Family Birthday Fun

On Sunday, after the snow, everyone came down to Mom and Dad's house to wish Dad and Dan Happy Birthdays. It was a fun excuse to get everyone in one place, which the kids especially love. We had a little cake and ice cream and sang Happy Birthday, and John played along on his saxophone:

And did a really great job!

Here are Dad and Dan blowing out their candles. Unfortunately, Mac wasn't able to make it, otherwise he would have joined them.

This year, I got Dad a headlamp. The idea came to me after they were without power during Hurricane Irene and I told them how much Mac and I liked having headlamps in a power outage and Mom thought it was a good idea. So here's Dad and I with his headlamp:

I hope it comes in handy!

It was also the day before Halloween, so I had to bring treats for the boys. Here they all are with me and their goody bags. I promise, they're all in there somewhere...

Everyone else stuck around for dinner, but I had to leave in the afternoon to get back up to Princeton to host my Pumpkin Carving Party.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

October Snow!

Of course, the day that we have a big family birthday gathering planned, it decides to snow! This was a freakishly early October snowstorm on Saturday the 29th. Princeton got about 5 inches of the white stuff, but the biggest problem was that many of the trees had not yet lost all of their leaves, so this heavy wet snow stuck to the leaves, weighed down the branches and snapped limbs on many trees in town. In the photo above you can already see that there isn't too much snow, but limbs from the huge pear trees on Witherspoon had already snapped.

And a little tree outside my apartment building didn't fair so well either:

In order to save the trees in the courtyard of my building, Mac and I went out and shook the snow off the branches a couple times and watched them spring back up once the weight of the snow was off of them. Here's another view of Spring St. with some of the damaged trees:

Thankfully the next day was much nicer and most of the snow on the roads had melted. We were able to reschedule the family birthday fun AND I got to squeeze in my pumpkin carving, too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mac's Birthday weekend

Mac's birthday is October 25th, but this year he had to be at a conference that day, so we celebrated the weekend before. It was another beautiful fall weekend in NJ, so we took advantage and did some outdoor things along with some fun indoor things, too.

One of the highlights of the weekend was going to the Howell Living History Farm during their "pick your own popcorn" event. On our way out to the popcorn field, we came across this lovely scene of one of the farmers using a team of horses to plow a field.

Once we got to the field with the popcorn, we were pretty much given free rein to go through and pick any ears that we thought looked good. Mac and I found a good trove in the middle of the field. Mac didn't seem to have any problem getting his ears off the plant:

I, on the other hand had a little more of a struggle. Here's me posing for a photo:

Here's me after having to yank so hard on the ear that my sunglasses fell off:

Here's me laughing about the whole scene:

And here I am, finally victorious with my sunglasses in the right place and a big ear of popcorn!

We also got to see a demonstration of how to pop popcorn over an open fire (you need a popper to put it in), and learned about how popcorn is a specific type of corn that can't be eaten like a sweet corn because the hulls on each kernel are so hard. They said even the deer don't like to eat the popcorn growing in the field. But it's this extra hard hull that traps the steam inside and makes popcorn pop. On the flipside, you can't just dry out any ear of corn and try to pop it. It will basically just steam and never actually pop. We also walked around the rest of the farm and picked up a nice big pumpkin before we left.

On Saturday night we went to a student production of MacBeth on campus and Sunday morning we saved what we could of this half-moldy pumpkin:

It was a pumpkin that Mac had brought back from Maryland at the beginning of October and a teeny little spot on the back blossomed into quite a large moldy area, so we did a little surgery and cut off the entire back half of the pumpkin to end up with this guy:

It was quite a project, but I'm glad we saved what we could. Mac really wanted to dry it out in the oven to make it more of a shriveled pumpkin mask, so he took it from there. You can see the results of his efforts in the photos from the Pumpkin Carving Party.

Also on Sunday we went to a curator-led tour of an exhibit of Hogarth prints that's up at Firestone Library and after that we had a wonderful dinner at a local Indian restaurant. It turned out to be a wonderful, cultural, indoor, outdoor adventure of a weekend. I'm bummed I couldn't celebrate Mac's birthday with him on his actual birthday, but I think we did a pretty good job of making him feel special before he left for his conference.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall Camping in the Pine Barrens

Last Friday Mac and I packed up the car with firewood and camping gear and headed to Brendan T. Byrne State Forest in the Pine Barrens for an overnight camping trip with Mac's friends Jen and Rich. It was kind of a dreary day, and we hit some sprinkles on the way out of town, but by the time we got to our campsite it had stopped raining and because the ground there is so sandy, it was relatively dry at our site. We got there before Rich and Jen and set up our tent and got the campfire going before they had even arrived. It was a beautiful starry night and so enjoyable to sit around the campfire. Jen and Rich made a great gumbo for dinner, some with veggie sausage for me and then we had s'mores around the campfire. It was a lovely evening.

In the morning we made breakfast at our site, enjoyed another campfire, and then packed up our stuff and headed to one of the parking lots where we could pick up a trail and do some hiking. We took about a 6 mile hike, the first half was on an ADA accessible trail, which meant wide, clear paths. The second half was on part of a much longer and much more rustic trail that lead us a little deeper into the woods and felt a little more like hiking. It was a beautiful day to be out and about. After our hike we ended up having a picnic lunch by the lake in the photo above. It was a quick overnight trip, but lots of fun to catch up with Rich and Jen and a great excuse to get some fresh air. Looking forward to doing it again sometime soon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wildflower Walk at Bowman's Hill

On Tuesday, Oct. 11th, my friend Karen and I played hookey for the afternoon to get a guided tour of the Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve. It was a bit of an overcast day, but it was still fun to be out and about in a beautiful natural setting.

While it's not exactly prime blooming time for most wildflowers, we did get to see some pretty things along the way. And these asters were happily in bloom for us:

Karen, with her eagle eyes, also spotted this little snail on a twig, which was cool:

And who knew that these prickly pear cacti are actually native to NJ?

Here are the two other women on the walk and our docent walking ahead of us. It's really a beautiful place and I look forward to going back in the spring when more flowers are in bloom.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wheaton Arts Craft Fair

On Saturday, Oct. 1, my mom, sister-in-law Mo and her mom all went down to Wheaton Village to see their annual juried craft fair and glass pumpkin patch. Wheaton Village has been a glass-blowing capital for centuries and most recently houses a restored historical village, a glass museum, folklife center and artist studios. Every fall they have a craft fair and the highlight is their glass pumpkin patch. Hundreds of pumpkins are on display and for sale in all shapes and sizes and colors. It was really fun to see.

It was also cool to see the glass blowing demo from the father/son team:

The dad has been doing it for decades and is now apprenticing his son to take over at some point. It's an impressing skill, that's for sure.

It was a beautiful day to be out and about and enjoy the sunshine, some beautiful crafts and good company.