P is for Pokémon #AtoZChallenge

Pokemon toys on the floorGotta catch ’em all! Or in my case, gotta step on ’em all. Each Pokémon creates its signature imprint into the bottom of your foot. They are all truly unique! (For the record, these were a gift from a relative. I did not bring all these tiny toys into my home.)

I do like the Pokémon games, but I’m a few generations behind (haven’t bought one since Sinnoh). We recently gave my daughter a copy of Diamond to play on our old DS, and I enjoy watching her experience the world of Pokémon for the first time. It’s fun to trade, battle, dig underground, and exchange trainer tips with her. Playing is also helping her get better at reading, although sometimes I catch her skipping through the game’s dialogue and later complaining that she’s stuck and doesn’t know what to do next. She’s determined to be a Pokémon master, so I know she’ll figure out a way 🙂

 

O is for Offseason #AtoZChallenge

Snow and seagulls on beachFinally this year I was able to visit the beach during winter. I had always wanted to go there during its offseason, just to know what it was like to walk next to the ocean in opposite weather of what I’m used to.

Treads on beach covered in

It was as beautiful, windy, and cold as I had guessed it would be.

Snow on beach with person in
A bundled figure walks while several surfers wait for the next wave

N is for Newark’s Cherry Blossoms #AtoZChallenge

Cherry Blossoms, overcast skyWhat is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Newark, New Jersey? The airport, maybe? It probably isn’t the home of the nation’s largest collection of cherry blossoms, and yet that can be found in good old Newark.

Cherry Blossoms and Bridge at branch Brook Park Newark NJ

Branch Brook Park, listed on both the New Jersey (1980) and National (1981) Registers of Historic Places, is home to more than 4,000 cherry trees, according to the park’s website.

Cherry blossoms in suns

The park began in 1865, when the city, along with the newly created Essex County Park Commission, made plans to transform a former Civil War Army training ground into public use as a park. This became the nation’s first county park.

White Cherry Blossoms near water

Donations from wealthy families expanded the park in the following years. The cherry trees were a gift from the Mrs. Felix Fuld family in 1927.

Cherry Blossom welcome center sign at branch Brook Park

I was lucky to visit during peak blooming, and I spent several lovely hours viewing the cherry blossoms.

Pink Cherry Blossoms and tree trunk

M is for Mumbo Jumbo #AtoZChallenge

Electrical wires and poles outside near waterHere are some various wires and poles and things, some kind of mumbo jumbo needed for the electricity and whatnot.

Once again, I’m amazed that there are people who know what all this stuff is for. OK, of course people built this. I know that it didn’t spring up from the earth. But set along the water near the wild marsh grasses, with abandoned warehouses as neighbors, it’s hard to remember how necessary these things are. One World Trade Center can be seen in the background to the left in the photo. Just think of how much electricity is needed to power New York City. Or even your own city.

I often feel this way when confronted with the intricacies of modern life and the tedious infrastructure that keeps our cities running. Maybe part of my disbelief is based on my experiences with other areas of life that should be straightforward but somehow turn into insolvable problems—when nothing seems to work right, when you feel let down by the people who are supposed to help, and when you can’t understand how the anything in the world functions ever.

These important wires and things aren’t like that, right? Tell me there’s someone who can make sense of it all.

L is for Lice #AtoZChallenge

Metal lice comb and small flashlightYup, we had lice for the first time recently. One Saturday morning, I was snuggling with my daughter on the couch and thought I saw a brown crumb in her hair. I leaned over to take it out, and well, made the discovery the sent my stress levels soaring to new heights and made panic my new best friend.

I soon realized that it’s not such a terrible affliction. It’s pretty manageable (gross, yes, but definitely manageable). The combing and laundry take some time, but it’s not as scary as I had first thought.

The problem, I think, was that I found it during the weekend. I couldn’t get through to the pediatrician, and I couldn’t talk to anyone at school to find out more about their lice policy. Searching for information online was helpful but frustrating because so many sources contradicted each other.

Once Monday rolled around, I was feeling like things were much easier. Talking to others who had dealt with it before made all the difference. The school nurse, teachers, and friends who had dealt with it with their kids were supportive. I suppose a lot of my stress came from the fear of being ostracized. Once I found acceptance, for my kids and myself, I felt much more calm.

J is for Jars #AtoZChallenge

Canning jars decorated with fabric and jute. Mango rum chutney, pickled green tomato slices, green relishThese jars were Christmas presents for a few friends. I found the idea to decorate them online and was happy with the way they turned out.

Decorating and wrapping gifts are not my strong suits. I’m good at cooking, baking, and in this case, canning, but that final step before gifting usually gets overlooked.

This time I was happy to decorate. It was fun. I learned that the name of that kind of scraggly looking string is jute. (I would have guessed raffia.)

Ingredients for mango rum chutney in the pot
This delicious chutney is a treat to make.

The recipe for the  Hot Mango-Rum Chutney came from Better Homes and Gardens. It’s not actually hot, but the people I gave it to would consider it spicy so I labeled it to give them warning. The recipe can be made with papaya or mango.

The recipes for the Green Tomato Relish and Dilled Green Tomatoes don’t seem to be online, but if you have an older version of the Ball Blue Book, you’ll see them there. I did blog about making them in a post about relish a while back.

 

I is for Influenza #AtoZChallenge

A box of tissues, seen from aboveA couple months ago, influenza visited my household. It was the first time for my kids, and for me it had been years since experiencing that. We all dutifully got our flu shot back in October, knowing that it’s not a guarantee of a flu-free winter.

The doctor prescribed Tamiflu, which worked wonders. The kids bounced back quickly, but I also had a sinus infection so my recovery time was longer. We’ve had bad luck and several other colds/viruses to deal with since then, they seem to just get passed from family member to family member. Even this past week the kids have been sick. I hope my daughter’s fever goes away tonight.

H is for Happy Little Tree #AtoZChallenge

Evergreen seedling growing next to moss and dry leavesWho doesn’t love Bob Ross? He paints and teaches with such love that I can’t help but relax and fall into a happy little trance when I watch The Joy of Painting.

I saw this tiny tree on a walk yesterday and wanted to wish it good luck.

I hope you grow up strong and happy, little tree.