Monthly Archives: June 2010

Vacation Bible School: A Baobab Blast

Transported to Africa

Oh Boy.


You have to see the Baobab Blast scenery at our church’s Vacation Bible School.

A friendly cheetah greeted me when I entered the Education Building this morning.

When I walked into the Education Building this morning to set up for the “Love Message in a Bottle” craft I was greeted by a denizen of the wild, the African wild that is.

I followed large elephant tracks up the steps to the second floor Junior Room and walked in, stopping short on the threshold. The baobab tree at the far end of the room is enormous. The branches reached out to me as if to say, “Come in! Come In! You are welcome here in God’s country.

Safe. Warm. Welcoming. It’s all that! And the kids love gathering underneath the baobab’s branches to hear a story, sing some songs and get to know each other better.

The baobab tree reaches out to welcome everyone who walks through the door.

The giraffes, nibbling on low-hanging branches, are a welcome addition to the scene.

These two giraffes look real from a distance!

Feeling like someone was watching me I turned around. . .and looked UP, to find a lion staring DOWN at me, albeit in a friendly fashion.

He watches over for those who walk through the door.

Meanwhile, over in a far corner zebras roamed free, well away from the stomping feet of the elephants.

The zebras hung out in an area all their own.

And the elephants pretty much kept to themselves too.

Circling the room I was transported. And I could see the kids felt the same way. How about you?


Filed under Baobab Blast, Vacation Bible School


Stairway to Heaven

Either real people or some sort of search thingy has searched the above word and phrase and ended up on a blog post I wrote December 4, 2009 (Happy Birthday, Dear Linda) about the day my sister Linda died. Funny thing. Nowhere in that post do I ever mention ‘heaven’ or ‘stairway to heaven.’ Yet, day after day for almost three weeks, the hits on my site for that particular post continued to climb. . .to well past 500 hits.

It’s weird for me to have so many hits, particularly when the hits came many months after the original blog post appeared. I’ve tried searching the word and the phrase on Google and have not found my post in any of the results. Did another search engine pick it up? Did someone else with a ‘more popular’ blog post a link to my blog post? Has my sister Linda left me more than dimes along sidewalks and streets? Has she played a heavenly joke on me?

I can’t figure it out. Can you?

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Filed under Heaven, Stairway to Heaven

Vacation Bible School Is a “Baobab Blast”

The Kalahari Crafts Are Tested and Ready!

Kalahari Crafts materials sorted by project, bagged and ready to go!

Calling all kids and kids at heart! This coming Sunday evening my church kicks off five days of vacation Bible school (VBS). If you are in preschool through sixth grade and plan to attend you’ll be working a craft a day with my friend Tara and me.

”What’s the theme?” you ask.

Why “Baobab Blast,” of course!

My creative and artsy friend Kathy is creating the African plains, complete with large animals and a huge baobab tree under which we’ll gather each day. It’s really impressive! I’ll take a photo to show you when she’s finished.

As the craft(y) leader I got to choose the projects the kids will do. With the Kalahari Crafts book offering multiple possibilities for each day, I had fun deciding. I figure you know me well enough to know that I’ve made each craft once already; I don’t want 15 or 20 kids staring at me awaiting an explanation if something doesn’t work out very well during the actual craft time!

Two sizes of paper trees. I like the larger one.

Anyway, the “baobab trees” I made a few weeks ago are the kickoff craft on Sunday night. I tested them in two sizes and much prefer the look and ease of making the trees using the larger brown bags you can get from your local food store. The bags, once cut properly, are easier to manipulate into “branches” and stand firmer on their bottoms when stuffed with newspaper. Even though my husband Mike thought they were azalea bushes when I proudly showed him the samples, I think they look pretty cool.

Can you believe THIS is all you need to create those trees?!

Remember to put enough sand in the bottle so the message doesn't get 'stuck!'

On Monday, the kids will craft a “Love Message in a Bottle.” I precut the ‘message,’ yarn and hearts used in the project for the younger kids so they can assemble their bottle easily in the time allotted. The older kids can design/cut their own messages and yarn. One helpful hint (thanks to my daughter Tory who figured this out): Make sure the kids fill the bottles with enough sand to keep the love messages within finger’s reach; the first time I inserted the love message I needed skinny tongs to retrieve it since I hadn’t put enough sand in the bottle. And use colorful sand when you work with the kids; my sample is dull!

These supplies don't cost much at all!

Encourage the kids to use more colorful beads than Max did!

On Tuesday, my son Max and Tara will work with the kids since I’ll be at work. The Beaded Friend Anklet is the craft of the day. Max didn’t have any difficulty making the sample anklet; he said to just make sure the knot at the end is large enough to stop the beads from popping off. The kids will make an ankle bracelet out of stretchy thread and pony beads. Max was a little puzzled why he has to do the ankle bracelet project, but when I explained the whole “project a day with Bible lesson” methodology he didn’t balk. I love that boy!

More very inexpensive supplies to make the anklet.

More  tomorrow!


Filed under Kalahari Crafts

An Ode to Footwear

Can You Ever Have Too Many Pairs of Shoes?

6 pairs of shoes left this store today with us.

Today my son Max drove my daughter Tory and me into New York City for a morning of shopping, walking around, and lunch with my husband, their Dad, Mike. It was a hot and steamy day, but the shopping was fine, mostly for Max, my shoe boy. He is truly my son: He loves a great pair of fashion shoes.

Driving east on Route 3 in Northern New Jersey, Max casually commented that he needed a new pair of shoes. Nodding, I agreed his worn out high tops, oh those purple, blue and green fashion statements, needed to be replaced.

Two teens intend on shopping for shoes.

I walked behind my children as they headed south on 8th Avenue in search of the perfect pair of shoes for Max. He found them . . .4 pairs to be exact . . . at Mr. Joe’s shoe shop on the West Side.

Max likes high tops for work and play so I purchased these for him.

Trying on a new pair with his old ones standing by.

Black and yellow high tops? I don't have a pair of them!

Max likes low tops for fun in the sun so he purchased these for himself. Did I mention how thankful I am that my children are gainfully employed this summer?!

The blue is bright and Tory says Max has 'swag.'

Classic Polos for those hot summer days.

Lest you think Tory, my professional shopper, purchased nothing, take a look at one bag of bargain purchases she hauled home. In addition, I bought her a pair of sandals and another shirt. Her stuff cost a lot less than one pair of Max’s shoes, thus proving my point that she’s a professional shopper and bargain hunter to boot.

A major discount (think really cheap) store in the City.

And me? I bought one pair of $18 sandals for our upcoming vacation.

After sniffing all that shoe leather Max appeared to be on a shopping high and we purchased 4 tee shirts and 3 polo shirts. . .in colors to match his 4 new pairs of shoes. . .perfectly.

My World and Welcome to It“: By the way, we rode the NCY subway. Have you ever ridden a subway and sat next to someone who jiggled? I mean jiggled his/her leg. Like just enough to bug you? Take a look at Max’s leg in the video and tell me what you think. Would it bug you to sit next to that jiggly leg? Take a look at Max’s leg. Who knew he was a jiggler?!

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Filed under Shoe Shopping

Cutler Botanic Garden

Broom County, NY Treasure

Here's where we started.

When I saw the sign “Cutler Garden 0.5 à” on exiting Rte 81 Friday night, I didn’t think much about it. It was only after I realized we had free time Saturday afternoon that the sign floated back into my conscious mind and I asked my husband Mike if he wanted to go with me to find “Cutler Garden.” Thinking it was likely a garden center, I was surprised and charmed by my first glimpse of the garden.

You can see the exit sign from the garden.

Situated in a hollowed-out section of land hard by Exit 5 off Route 81, the botanic garden is actually a series of gardens charmingly strung together to create vistas and views as well as show visitors what grows well in  northern NY State. From looking at a brochure I found near the entrance to the garden I figure that the Cornell Cooperative Extension must have created the garden, which is well maintained by local master gardeners.

With the muted roar of Route 81 traffic as a visual and auditory backdrop the garden is surprisingly contemplative and calming. As we followed the pathway through the different display gardens traffic and noise faded to nothingness. We heard the birds – only the birds – as we walked.

My Dad used to call these dead tree trunks "snags."

The first garden, the wild bird demonstration garden, recreated a hedgerow, used by many species of birds for nesting, as well as showcased flowers and shrubs that nurture caterpillars, insects and the birds who eat them. Included in this area was a dead but still standing tree trunk clearly used by woodpeckers seeking insects and small animals seeking shelter. A cleverly woven wattle fence completed the picture.

I wonder if the master gardeners offer "how to" classes.

Rounding a bend in the path we saw a large lawn area, then the first fenced-in garden. Intrigued we opened an old-fashioned gate and walked into a traditional vegetable garden. Raised beds fashioned from a variety of materials were planted with different varieties of peppers, tomatoes and more. Clearly, the master gardeners wanted to show us that many different materials can be used to create garden beds and that many different vegetable varieties thrive in this area of NY State.

The grass display garden, a large oval bed, was stuffed with artfully arranged grasses. Mixing tall with short and heights in between, the bed showcased the many sinensis varieties that thrive in this area of NY.

The gazebo garden was a perfect backdrop for traditional wedding photos with its carefully maintained rows of pink and white roses leading up to and surrounding the gazebo.

My photo doesn't do the roses justice.

Walking on we saw the Rose Walk, an explosion of roses in full bloom situated along a winding path.

Then the evergreen garden popped into view. Although I was amused by the few topiary pruned shrubs, I much preferred the traditionally shaped blue spruce with its classic beauty.

I love herbs!

Near and dear to my heart was the herb garden. Laid out in a traditional style, we walked through the gate and browsed the different themed gardens – culinary, Shakespeare, medicinal and more, all showcasing herbs.

We walked around the botanic garden for a while, looking at the carefully labeled plants and marveling at the quality of care lavished on them. Truly, Cornell Cooperative Extension has a botanic garden that’s artfully designed, well maintained, and well worth a visit. If you have any free time and you’re in the area, stop by and take a look. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The undulating hillside was aglow with color and texture.

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Filed under Binghamton NY Botanic Garden, Cutler Botanic Garden, gardening


An Upstate NY-Only Taste Treat?

They must be 'real' if someone made up a neon sign advertising them, right?

We saw them listed on the menu board at the softball tournament’s snack shack: “chicken spiedies.”  Never having heard of them or seen them on a menu before we had to try one so my husband Mike bought a chicken spiedie at 10:30 Saturday morning for us to share.  If you think that’s a little early to be eating a chicken sandwich, please note that we had been up since 6 am and at the softball field since 7 am. In the early morning softball world, 10:30 am is lunch time.

The sandwich, served on a fresh hoagie roll, is made of chunked up and grilled white meat chicken that is marinated in a panoply of herbs and spices. I took a bite and my taste buds registered chicken, pepper, and. . .vinegar? A slightly sour taste, for sure.

Others in our greater softball family bought and ate the spiedies. Most loved the taste. Some, as intrigued as we were, asked around and found out that spiedies can be made using chicken or pork. One Dad said he was told that the Binghamton, NY area has a three-day spiedie festival every year!

Take a look at the chicken spiedie served at the softball tournament.

No local could or would tell us what is used in the marinade. I’m sticking to my theory that it contains vinegar. Do you know? Have you ever tried one in your travels?

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Filed under Food, Spiedies

A Day in the Garden

With Some Necessary Deviations

TV stand: A gray coat of primer (thanks, Ginger!) first.

TV stand: and now for some rejuvenating gloss black paint.

I looked like crap, but I had a smile on my face. I got to work in my garden most of yesterday. I started at 8:30 by pulling out the canvas drop cloth and sanding, wiping, then priming the former fish tank stand (my son Max will use it as his TV stand in his new college apartment) and putting the final spray coat on a rescued wooden tray (I’ll use this summer, if I’m ever home on a weekend).

In my mind I was supposed to start by pruning the skip laurels around the air-conditioning units on the east side of the house since I think a skunk is living under them (based on the nightly skunk stench we’ve been smelling for more than a week and the fact that my husband Mike’s magnificent grass is being ravaged in the dark of night by some creature likely looking for grubs). Anyway, that’s why I started with the spray painting.  . . .because I might meet a skunk. Does your brain operate the same way mine does?

What lurks beneath the skip laurels?

Nothing! Nothing lurks beneath the skip laurels!

After I put a second coat of spray paint on the (was red, now yellow) wooden tray I had Max rescue from someone’s garbage (at the same time he rescued an old metal three -tier rolling cart we’re going to resurrect and he’s going to use in his college apartment), I pruned the skip laurels. The good news is that I didn’t find the skunk. The bad news is that I didn’t find the skunk. The skip laurels looked a lot better after I finished pruning them.

I moved on to the roses draped over the arbor located hard by the skip laurels. I had been meaning to prune out the dead wood and cut them back for the last couple of years. Yesterday was the day I started (and today’s the day I plan to finish).

Don't get me started on Sunny/Cloudy and her issues.

I stopped pruning to run Sunny/Cloudy, my daughter Tory’s VW bug to the auto repair shop (I refuse to ruin my blog post by ranting about what that entailed.)

After that I planted five large, but unknown tubers (label your leftovers!) I brought home from my girlfriend Pat’s house last fall; got the ground-level ball fountain leveled,  filled and bubbling; filled the bird feeders; cleaned and relocated the bird bath; weeded anything within arm’s length; and then dragged all the houseplants out of my sunroom and into the yard, where I placed them decoratively around the place. This project left me with a barren sunroom, but I’ll think about that next week, after we return from Binghamton, NY, the location of Tory’s weekend college showcase softball tournament.

Happy Thursday, my friends! I’m heading back outside to my own little oasis. What are you doing?

P.S. Last night I ground fresh pepper on the large area of Mike’s grass that’s being ravaged by an unknown creature under cover of darkness, and guess what? It worked!! The creature ravaged another section of the lawn instead!!! Don’t tell Mike, ok?

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Filed under gardening, used furniture, VW Bug

Meet Orange Kitty and Sam

Two Cats Who Make My Tuesdays

Since September, when I first started working part-time for a local therapist in her home office, the family dog passed away, the orange fluffy cat disappeared, and the  elderly black cat passed away (last week while I was there).  It’s been rough.

Sam is still a youngster too at less than a year old.

On the plus side, Sam, the Maine Coon kitten, came to live at the house in March. He’s a well-behaved fellow with a charming face. He visits me occasionally as I work. Still, my boss thought it was too quiet with just one cat.

Enter the newest addition to her house: Orange Kitty, or OK for short. When I arrived for work this morning, OK greeted me in my office space. She’s a lively rescue kitten with a winning personality and pretty face. She bounces around, plays with anything that looks interesting, and jumps in and out of handy boxes, suitcases and the like. OK creates noise and fun wherever she appears.

She batted my earrings. She batted my camera strap. She batted anything that moved.

Sam doesn’t like OK. Not a bit. This formerly well-behaved fellow pounced on her and made her scream. I was shocked. He grabbed her by the neck and chomped down. I batted him away. OK just kept going back for more though. She’s scrappy.

After Sam had had enough and my boss let him out the door, OK started to bounce around my desk. She hopped on my lap. She ran across the computer keyboard, but didn’t even weigh enough to “type” a letter as she ran by. She was fascinated with the cursor on the computer screen. When she wore herself out, she plopped down on a folded bag and went to sleep.

All tuckered out.

I’m going to love having OK for company. And Sam better learn to tolerate her or he’ll have to answer to me, at least on Tuesdays.

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Filed under Animal Tales, rescue kitten

VW Bug with a Bug?

Is It Fatal or Just Really Annoying. . .and Costly?

Take a look at her. Yeah. Take a good look at Sunny, my daughter Tory’s beloved VW Bug.

Sunny the VW Bug looks very sweet, but is she?

Cute, isn’t she? Like a little chick, all yellow and innocent looking.


She’s trouble, just a whole lotta trouble. Her new name, at least in my mind, is Cloudy.

Sunny/Cloudy has been sick since the day we brought her home and no amount of checkups have resolved her illness(es). We get one thing fixed and another thing breaks down.

Did you know that a VW Bug can turn on the check engine light for more than 200 different ailments?

The “check engine” light, her way of telling us she’s feeling a little punk, has been “on” more days than it’s been “off” since we purchased her on February 20, 2010.

Then Sunny/Cloudy’s driver’s side door almost fell off.

I. Am. Not. Kidding.

Then her “check airbag” light turned on.

Betcha can't guess how many air bag sensors are in a VW Bug.

Then her rear passenger window refused to close unless my husband Mike gently and firmly forced it closed.

Would I recommend purchasing an auto from here? No. Not anymore.

We’ve returned Sunny/Cloudy to the used car dealership about four times to have her looked at/adjusted by their mechanic for the recurring “check engine” light (“no charge”), that is until our three-month warranty expired.

We’ve paid for parts and labor to give her a tune-up, replacing spark plugs, ignition wires, the ignition coil, and the mass air flow sensor ($300).

We’ve had the sheered-off bolt replaced on one of the two hinges that hold Sunny/Cloudy’s driver’s side door in place; according to the auto body shop we’ve used for years, the bolt was improperly screwed in, apparently the result of a previous repair done without benefit of VW-specific tools ($206). The auto body shop also found 2 of the 4 screws that hold the driver’s side window motor in place unscrewed and falling off (Note: Prior to purchasing Sunny, we asked that the malfunctioning driver’s side power window be fixed. Ahem.).

We’ve paid for parts and labor to have Sunny/Cloudy’s selenoid purged and her left front crash sensor replaced ($540).

And guess what?

Sunny/Cloudy’s “check engine” light turned on when Mike drove her Sunday morning, turned off when I drove her this afternoon, and turned on again when Tory drove her just a little bit ago.

Yellow car = lemon? What do you think?


Filed under Transportation, VW Bug

Home Manager

Walk with Me. . .for a Few Hours

Let the drama begin.

Woke up at 7 am to find out a commercial is being filmed at house across the street. Our road is parked solid with tech trucks, catering truck, workers’ cars.

Navigated carefully out of driveway, dodging traffic I can’t see until last minute to drive daughter Tory to school.

Received fax from auto repair shop: $540 bill to fix Tory’s beloved (I now call cursed) VW Bug Sunny again. We won’t be able to pick it up until Monday. Down one car for weekend.

Realized I can’t print important information about this weekend’s softball tournament schedule on my wireless printer. Scratched head and muttered to myself.

Reset modem and rebooted Mac four times in vain attempt to jump start printer, then realized wireless network is the problem.

Called husband Mike to trouble shoot. No avail.

Laundry keeps me company. Today it's mostly Max's.

Started 1 of 7 loads of laundry.

Realized I don’t even have our locked network as a choice anymore on the Airport thingy and can only get the unsecured Linksys.

Roused sleeping son Max to troubleshoot problem, remembering at last minute how grouchy he can be when wakened.

Washed another load of laundry.

Max called cable provider and had a fit of epic proportions at person on other end of line when Max realized from conversation that the modem is damaged beyond fixing – likely from yesterday’s power outage that occurred right before Tory needed to cook/host a birthday dinner party for 5 friends here at our home.

I took Tums.

Max made an appointment with cable provider for earliest available time slot — tomorrow – if said person shows up. Typically, it takes us calling Comcast, our cable provider, 2-3 times to set up an appointment before a live person actually shows up to say that he needs to come back tomorrow since he doesn’t have the part on his truck that we specifically told him he needed.

Our old truck should look this good.

Max received call from repair shop where our old Ford Explorer has been sitting with a flat tire since yesterday. Repairman said that the tire and rim aren’t holding air, won’t hold air and we need a new rim to make it hold air. Down two cars for weekend.

We called Mike at work to discuss. We called repair shop back. We called tire place in Clifton, NJ to see if it has rim. No luck.

Washed another load of laundry.

We called Uncle Phil to see if the two junkyards located in Central NJ are still in operation and if they have a rim. Max called first junkyard. Man said he has both styles of rims for 2001 Ford Explorer and they only cost $75 each.

Max called/arranged with friend Brendan to drive down, but first they had to go to repair shop to jack up Explorer, remove damaged rim/tire, and take it with them.

When is a printer not a printer? When your WiFi is down.

I tried again to print critical information for this weekend’s softball tournament. Remembered a cable exists somewhere in a drawer that might allow me to print. Found cable. Hooked it up. Remembered to plug into the USB port on my Mac too. Printed document. Page is streaky. I am out of black ink.

Oops. Had to pick up Tory at high school, rush to allergist’s office for monthly allergy shots (one week late; I forgot to put on calendar last week), then rushed her back to school before lunchtime was over. She called ahead and ordered Chinese food that she eats in the car and I put mine on floor of Pilot for now.

Went to Staples to buy printer ink. Took old cartridges and asked for help to make sure I got the correct ink. Person who works there wanted to know model of my printer. I muttered and proffered ink; she shook head and said I had to give her model number. I thought bad thoughts, chose what I thought was correct ink, paid and drove home, after finding and buying Jolly Ranchers for Tory to insert into pinata (due tomorrow morning) she made for sculpture class.

A refill. I just needed a refill. But didn't have any here at home.

Home. Changed ink. My good. Ran test page. Printed critical documents.

Washed another load of laundry.

Hopefully await call from high school guidance counselor. Tory’s schedule for next year is hoplessly incorrect and needs to be fixed in person. I can never explain on a single ‘schedule change paper’ what needs to be done.

Took 2 Advil.

Reached for my now-cold Chinese food.

Hot problems. Cold food.

And that, folks, was my morning.

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Filed under flat tire, Home Manager