Slice of Life #9- A Lifer!

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hAs I mentioned in a previous post, I have recently become a birder.  I love watching the birds at my birdfeeders, learning how to identify the different species, and tracking them for Ebird (a citizen science effort).  One of the byproducts of this new hobby is that I have become much more aware of the birds that are around all the time.  I find myself scanning the trees and skies for birds when I am walking the dogs and sometimes when I am driving.

It amazes me how many gorgeous birds fill the trees around us all the time without most people even noticing.  We tend to think that the sparrows and crows are the only birds around but that is far from true!  There are red, yellow, blue, and rainbow-hued birds right here in New Jersey.  It’s not just the tropics that have those colorful birds!

And as a new birder I am also picking up on the language of the specialty, including the word “lifer”.  A lifer is when a bird is first seen and positively identified by a birder.  I’m only starting out but I have identified 28 individual species just in my own backyard thanks to some bird-friendly landscaping and a lot of bird feeders.  But today I added a very exciting lifer to the list!

Thanks to daylight savings time it was still light out when I came home between work and work this afternoon.  That, coupled with the 50 degree weather, led me to take the dogs on a hike.  I live minutes from a county park so off we went to walk around the lake.  As I soaked up the much-needed vitamin D I noticed a strange bird silhouette in the trees above me.  The sun was shining behind the birds so I could not clearly make out their color but I could see the outline of their bodies and I could hear them calling.  I tried to take a photo but I only had my phone with me and it came out very fuzzy.  But that call!  And the tuft of mohawk-like hair on the head…..could it be a cedar waxwing?

A few birding groups I follow on Facebook had recently mentioned a few sightings of these awesome birds in the area but I was sure it could not be them.  Could I be that lucky?  So while watching them dart around the in the tree limbs above my head I also pulled out the Merlin app on my phone and began to run through a checklist.

  • brownish hue? √
  • usually in flocks in open woods or the edge of a forest? √
  • often perches near the top of leafless trees? √
  • eats berries? √
  • distinct high-pitched call? √

Yes!  They had to be cedar waxwings!  I enjoyed listening to them for a few more minutes while the dogs sat quietly beside me.  Well, quietly until they got bored.  Bailey decided to loudly eat snow and then crash along the boardwalk at that point so the flock lifted into the air and headed towards the island in the center of the lake. I could still hear them chirping as we continued our walk and I enjoyed looking for more of them.  I can’t wait to go back tomorrow with my camera to try and get a worthwhile picture!

Keep your eyes and your ears open, because sometimes the most beautiful things are right in front of you if you’ll only take the time to notice them.  It’s a beautiful world, so slow down and really look at it sometimes!  Especially on these warm days that usher in spring and all that comes with it!

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My very blurry iPhone photo of one of the Cedar Waxwings today

A much better photo from wikimedia.

Slice of Life #8- Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!

IMG_2322Last night Chris and I drove down to Moorestown, NJ to see his cousin perform as King Arthur in Spamalot! They are one of the first high schools to perform this show since it left Broadway and they did an awesome job.  This part was made for him; Chris and I spent the entire time laughing hysterically!  The snow meant that our first attempt at seeing the show was aborted but we were thrilled to make it down last night for the closing show.

During intermission you could take pictures with King Arthur and his can of Spam, which of course we did.  I can’t believe he did this at every show and then got back on stage a few minutes later.  But he did! At the end of intermission Chris leaned over to me and said, “Something is going to happen to my dad.  My uncle told me to keep an eye on him”.

Once the second act started I think we promptly forgot about this face. Well, at the very end of of the play Chris’ dad was pulled up on stage!  When King Arthur asked his name he responded, without hesitation, “Uncle Carl!”.  Needless to say, the entire place burst out laughing!  He won his very own “Arthur” award and even got a trophy to take home.  While this was all occurring I was watching Chris, who I had never seen laugh so hard.  It was awesome!

And then, during the wedding at the end of the show, I caught the bouquet.  So now I have a beautiful vase full of peach roses which are bringing a little bit of spring into our house.  That’s a pretty good night all around!

I do love Spamalot because it brings back some great memories.  I’ve always been a big nerd and as a result I’ve always hung out with a lot of nerds, too.  As you can probably imagine, I always had friends who were going through a Monty Python stage.  At any given time in my life someone was quoting from the various movies and sketches so when the musical would call upon some of these same lines I was a very happy camper.

Congratulations to Moorestown High School for an awesome performance!

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*Also exciting?  One of the Philadelphia news anchors was at the show.  We were very starstruck.  :)

Slice of Life #7- Baby, It’s Cold Outside! 

Exactly how cold is it when you spend three hours hiking through a local county park in 10 inches of snow with 10 middle schoolers and the thermometer says ten degrees?

How many pairs of socks should one wear to hike for three hours?

Are mittens or gloves the better choice when you will be taking pictures, making eco-art, and pointing out animal tracks?

How distracted do middle schoolers get when you add snow to the hike?

How many times can you say “Please don’t pick up the fallen icicles!” and “don’t eat snow!”?

How tired am I after a three hour hike in the snow?

But then….

How  gorgeous is a forest covered in snow?

How invigorating is it spend a few hours out in the snow?

How awesome is it when goofy middle schoolers get very serious about creating ephemeral eco-art?

How tired are middle schoolers after a three hour hike?

How grateful am I to the inventor of the Columbia omni-heat line, which kept me warm and toasty during the three hours spent outside today?

How happy will I be when spring comes?

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Slice of Life #6- Snow Day Schedule (Teacher Version)

5:45AM- Chris wakes me up to see if we are walking the dogs.  I remind him that I have a delayed opening and will be taking the dogs to doggie daycare to make sure they are tired when we go out later tonight.  In other words, no walk.

7:00AM- Alarm goes off.  I check my phone, see that school hasn’t been cancelled, and proceed to get ready for the day.  This involves playing in the backyard with the dogs, feeding them, then getting dressed.  Oh, and warming up the car!

7:40AM- Pack the dogs into the car while reading a text message from Chris.  He says the roads were awful on his way to work.

7:41AM- Receive last minute phone call that school has been cancelled.  Ok, but now I am up and dressed.  Text doggie daycare to say I’ll be late in hopes that the ice on the roads melts.

7:45AM- Eat breakfast and read.

8:30AM-9:30AM- Take the dogs to doggie daycare; stay and play with all the dogs for a bit.

9:30AM- Drive home.  Spend the next hour or so cleaning up.

10:30AM- Play with the cat. Read.

11:00AM-12:pm-  Go to bridal salon and try on bridesmaid dresses for my brother’s wedding this summer.  It’s a painful process but I’m glad I am able to get it done on this snow day.  Choose a dress.  End up choosing one I never would have picked before trying it on. Order dress.

12:30-1:30PM- Lunch.  It’s Friday and it’s Lent, so that means a tuna sub.  Read while eating lunch.

1:30-3:00PM- Various things around the house while catching up on Nashville.  Tweet about how awesome Laura Benanti is this season and freak out when she favorites the tweet.

3:00PM- Make a lot of phone calls. File complaint with USPS because I am only getting mail every other day.

3:30PM- Leave to pick up dogs.

4:00-5:00PM- End up hanging out and playing with dogs.

5:00-6:00PM- Read, finish episode of Nashville, work on grading.

6:00PM- Chris gets home.  He tells me the mailman threw our mail on the ground in front of the mailbox.  We live on a main road and the mailbox is across the street so I am furious.  Run out to get package and get angrier when I discover it’s a huge package from Algonquin Books that has been buried in the snow.  Lodge another complaint with the post office.

6:15PM- Order pizza for dinner. (Lent).  Pick up pizza.

7:00PM- Eat dinner. Catch up on TV with Chris.

8:00PM-10:00PM- Two episodes of House of Cards Season 3.  Two episode of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (which is awesome!).

10:00-11:00PM- Plan for early morning science enrichment class hike tomorrow.  Print birding activity. Write slice of life post.

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Slice of Life #4- Tension Tamer

This has been one of those weeks.

Honestly, it’s been one of those months.  Just one of those months.  Everything keeps piling up and piling on, with no end in sight.

What I would like to do is go here:

40688_514538933499_7105275_nThat is Roatan, Honduras, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

But I can’t go to Roatan.  And it’s about to start snowing here.  And I am working for the next 10 days straight.

So instead of going to the beach I am drinking tea.

I’ve never been a tea drinker.  You see, I am a soda drinker- Pepsi, to be exact. But I have not had a glass of soda since Fat Tuesday, since I decided to give it up for Lent.  At first I tried replacing my soda intake with water and it worked a bit.  But water is boring!  So one night, when I could not sleep, I brewed a cup of Tension Tamer tea.  Needless to say, I was quickly hooked.  It was light and full of flavor; more importantly, it helped me relax and fall asleep.

So now I have a new routine.  A few nights each week I steep a cup of tea while I am getting ready for bed.  I’ve added Sleepytime tea to the mix, in a variety of flavors, and I am enjoying it.  It’s a relaxing and pleasant ritual each night and I think drinking tea helps me feel more relaxed and fall asleep faster.

Today has been especially stressful. As a result, I am steeping my cup of Tension Tamer tea while I write this. Soon I will press publish and I will sink into bed, cup in hand.  Hopefully, I will wake up less stressed out.

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Final #sol14 Post

Today is March 31 (barely, by the time I post this.  Must.type.quickly!) and that means it’s the end of the Slice of Life Challenge.   I’ve been participating in the challenge since the beginning and this is at least the 3rd year in a row that I’ve blogged every day in March.

But that’s not what makes me smile.

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hNope.

What makes me smile is reading the reflections from my students, many of whom wrote 31 slices this month on their own blogs.  Half of my 80 freshmen chose to continue blogging on our private Kidblog site, but the other half blogged publicly for the first time!  (You can check out their blogs here). Later this week we will reflect on the experience but more than a handful did a bit of reflecting on their blogs tonight.  It made my teacher heart swell with pride to read that the process actually turned out to be enjoyable, worthwhile, and sometimes fun.  A few students even plan to continue blogging!

I love watching my students grow as writers and the most dramatic growth often occurs during our Slice of Life Challenge.  They begin to write better and faster, they begin to come up with interesting topics faster, and they begin to take compositional risks.  It’s awesome.

But now it’s 11:30pm and I just finished reading and commenting on about 30 blog posts.  Now, I sleep.  Unlike some of my students I will of course continue blogging.  But it will be back to our regularly scheduled posts around here.  I may not blog everyday, but Slice of Life certainly helped with my blogging block of the last few months!

Food Truck Fiesta! #sol14

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hLast night Chris and I went to a local food truck fiesta, the first of it’s kind in our area.  The event was meant to be small, with about ten trucks in attendance, and the weather consisted of rain, rain, and more rain.  We’ve been hoping to try some of the food trucks for a while but most of them work in North Jersey so we were looking forward to last night’s event.

Apparently, so was everyone else.

We severely underestimated the number of foodies in the Princeton area.  And we underestimated their devotion to food trucks.  It was pouring rain when we got to the event and I was a little nervous because I saw a comment on the Facebook event page that noted lines were 1.5+ hours long.  No way, I thought.  That’s just someone who was grouchy about the weather and exaggerated their experience.

When we pulled into the parking lot, the rain picked up.  We could barely see out the front window of the car and it looked like the festival wasn’t too crowded.  Then I started hoping that they wouldn’t shut down early, as we had driven about 25 minutes to get there.

After donning our rain gear, we made our way to the middle of the food trucks. It looked like the crowds weren’t too bad…….

Man oh man, were we ever wrong.  The lines at some of the trucks were seriously over an hour long!  And the trucks without lines were out of most of their big sellers important ingredients.  Chris was excited to try the cheese curds from the curds truck and that line was short.  The cheese curds were also amazing!  But then I tried to get cupcakes and they were closed for the day.  I tried to get donuts after that, but the line was 45 minutes long and I was soaking wet.  I finally settled for tater tots from the tots trucks only to learn they had run out of the cheese and most other toppings.  My tots were good, but they would have been much better with cheese.

I can’t imagine what this festival will be like when the weather is better.  I hope they get 5 times the number of trucks!  Otherwise, we might save time just driving around NJ to visit the individual trucks….

 

 

*A list of the trucks that participated yesterday.

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