Sunday, July 31, 2016

Our New Favorite Route Through NYC

I grew up in Massachusetts and it's always great to be back. Getting here from NJ is not always pleasant, though, because the route goes right through New York City. There are so many aggressive drivers and a lot of roads that a big rig cannot safely or legally drive on. We have tried a number of routes and I think we finally found the one to stick with.

One thing you should not do is to follow your GPS. Now, to clarify that statement, I want to go on record to say that we do follow GPS when traveling in the west, where there just aren't a lot of options for it to mess up. But not going through New York. You may not know that north of Interchange 105 the Garden State Parkway in NJ is off-limits to any vehicle with a registered gross vehicle weight above 7,000 pounds. And in New York, RVs are not allowed on any road called a parkway. To add to those restrictions, we avoid the George Washington Bridge (even in a car, usually)  because of the horrendous traffic and aggressive drivers that make the trip a nightmare.

Fortunately, however, our son in law is a commercial trucker, so we asked him what route he takes through NYC if heading towards or through Hartford, CT. This is the route that he uses when driving a tractor-trailer:

Take the NJ Turnpike north to Rte 80W
Stay right to 80 W Local
Stay right for 17 N (exit 64A)
Stay on 17 N about 15 miles until exiting onto 287 N
287 N to 87 N
87 N to 84 E (exit 17)
Cross the Hudson River on 84 (Newburgh-Beacon Bridge)
Continue on 84 into Hartford
We liked this route. Traffic kept moving pretty much the whole way and we estimated this route is only about 30 miles longer than going over the George Washington Bridge. This is the way you would go if driving to the Military Academy at West Point and we realized as we were seeing familiar sights that we had taken this route when visiting our nephew, Nick, when he was a cadet there.

I did keep our Good Sam Trucker GPS on the whole way but with the sound off. "Sam" kept trying to change the way we were heading until we approached the bridge on 84, and from there she was fine with our direction. As a point of interest, she had wanted us to go over the George Washington Bridge so we were happy to have our own route.

The rest of our journey was uneventful and we were happy to pull into our site for the next week. We will be visiting family and friends while here in MA. Good times ahead!

Friday, July 29, 2016


When I was a young child, my parents rarely discussed politics with us. Like many other areas of life they encouraged us to think for ourselves and to make up our own minds. To this day I am not absolutely positive which way they leaned, politically. But they did impress upon us two things:
1. It is our duty as citizens of this great country to exercise our right to vote, and 2.Voting is by secret ballot for a reason. Both of these hard-won privileges are not necessarily a possibility in other countries. How fortunate we are!

So you will not read here for whom I will be voting.

My children have absorbed these sentiments as well, and on Election Day they will call up their siblings to make sure everyone has voted and to offer transportation if needed. I am so proud of that!

In an era when it seems so many "share" their political views on Facebook to all of their friends, I confess that my typical response is to click "hide this post." I really don't care what anyone else thinks; I listen to the candidates themselves to form my opinions, and to those who have firsthand knowledge of them.

I do have strong feelings on the matter, however. I have spent the last two weeks following the televised coverage of both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. I listened to all the major speeches and most of the minor ones. Our political system is so fascinating!

As an aside, I am really looking forward to going back to my earlier bedtime. ;)

Even though the Conventions have ended, and even though you probably have already made up your mind, I would urge you to take an evening or two and watch the online videos of the speeches for both parties. They are a real eye opener.

Many people ask us how Bob and I manage to vote when we are in another state on Election Day. We arrange well in advance to cast out Absentee Ballot so that our voice may be heard. It doesn't provide the same satisfaction as entering the voting booth, but I'm ok with that.

So on November 8, get out and vote for your candidate. And until then, keep your mind open and listen to both sides. Neither candidate is perfect, but you must help to make the best choice for our great nation. It is an honor and a privilege to do so.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hanging With a Friend and the Franklin Institute

Even though GrandCamp is over, the fun around here continues. On Tuesday I went to Mt. Holly to see a friend and loyal blog reader, Sabra, for a visit. Sabra and I have known each other for a long time, but have somehow never been able to sit down together and just talk.
We went into The Daily Grind for a cold frappe and conversation. Sabra brought her lovely scarves, woven on an Ashford Knitters Loom, for me to see--she is an excited weaver who is making some truly lovely fabric with her loom. She is also active in a number of groups involving knitting, singing, and promotion of the NJ Farm Fair.  Such an interesting life! A couple of hours later we reluctantly said good-bye, with a promise to meet together again next year.

On Wednesday morning Bob and I gathered three of my children, one son in law, and all seven grandchildren for a trip to the Franklin Institute. It was a challenging outing, involving a half mile walk to the train station, a train ride to the end of the Patco line, then another twenty minute walk to the museum. It was very hot, and our large group was quite a sight!
But wait, you may say, isn't the Democratic National Convention going on right now? Yes, and not only was the museum much less crowded (I guess people must have been avoiding playing tourist with all the hub-bub happening,) but it was so much fun people watching as we walked past the upscale hotels en-route. While we didn't actually recognize anyone famous, we did see a couple of people being interviewed. My daughters remarked how fun it was to see the Convention-goers all dressed up in designer dresses and suits, and Emily commented on the eyeglasses people wore (she's a licensed optician so she notices that kind of thing.) The people-watching made the long, hot walk much more interesting, for sure. We were very glad we had decided to take the train, however, and not try to drive into the city. Traffic was backed up everywhere.
At the museum, we all went inside the giant Human Heart exhibit, something that I don't remember doing the last time I was here.
Rob, Adam, and Quinn each made paper. I remember doing this as a parent-helper with Emily's class when she was in 2nd or 3rd grade. Such memories it brought back!
The polarity of magnets was of great interest to all of the children.

We also saw a Planetarium show that demonstrated how satellites provided us with information that we use daily. The Franklin Institute is so large that we never get to see the whole thing, but that's OK. We can always go back!
As we started our walk back to the Patco station Adam stopped to show us how nonchalant he would be around dinosaurs. Such a goof!

It was a lovely trip, the kind that makes wonderful memories.

Monday, July 25, 2016

GrandCamp Concludes

On Friday, Ben and Alex were paired up for the day. We began our fun by going miniature golfing, and both boys enjoyed the activity despite the heat which rose to 99 degrees. Bob and I kept score between ourselves but the boys played without scoring, to keep down the competitiveness.
The course featured a graveyard with a headstone for Fred: Poor Fred, hit in the head, now he lies 6 under.
Later we beat the heat with a trip to the lake. Bliss!
On Saturday Alex went home and Quinn joined Ben for a visit to the Jersey Shore Children's Museum in Mays Landing, NJ. Although it was smaller than the one in Cherry Hill, the children spent a lot of time playing in the various sections. Above is the medical area with real x-rays to look at.
In the newscasting area the two little ones enjoyed seeing themselves on closed circuit TV while they reported the news and weather.

We headed north to Brick, NJ afterwards for a Pirate Adventure. This ended up being the highlight of the week for Bob and me, it was that well-done. The children were offered a box of pirate clothes to dress up, and face-painting was done for all interested.
As we waited for the ship to arrive I took the children's pictures. They were so excited!
And here came the pirate ship, sailing into port.
It was a perfect day to be out on the Metedeconk River. Again we had a super-hot day and the sea breeze was very pleasant. I have to say, the crew on board the ship kept the children engaged in pirate activities the entire ride, almost an hour and a half. As the parents and grandparents watched, the children and crew participated in a carefully orchestrated play that involved finding a stolen treasure. At the end, Stinky Pete was blasted with water cannons manned by the pint-sized crew and the treasure was recovered.
Later that evening, I made each child their own treasure map by taking a piece of computer paper and crumpling it into leftover coffee. I ironed the paper between sheets of paper towels until dry, then used a black marker to draw the map. It was a big hit.

On our last day of GrandCamp, Adam returned to be with Quinn and we went swimming at the lake (with a picnic lunch) before taking in a movie, "Ice Age-Collision Course." We returned home and made homemade grape jam and S'mookies with chocolate chip cookies, chocolate bars, and roasted marshmallows.
Quinn discovered that she loves to weave, and had such fun on my Saori Piccolo loom that she didn't want to stop weaving. Love it!!

A perfect end to a perfect GrandCamp. After one more night of sleepovers it was time to close camp for 2016. We will join the families on Wednesday for a trip to Franklin Institute, though.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thomas Edison National Park

On Thursday we decided to visit the only National Park in NJ. People out west are so fortunate to have all kinds of National Parks; in NJ, we have the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange.
Adam (at 9 years of age) had done a term paper on Thomas Edison, so he was interested to visit this great man's laboratory. We started out by seeing the chemistry lab where teams of researchers collaborated on new discoveries. Edison was an innovator in putting these researchers together which was a new model in science; up until the late 1870s inventors tended to work in isolation. Edison was the first to pioneer corporate research, utilizing some of the finest brains he could find. His labs in West Orange created machines that built machines for mass production. Edison, of course, invented many new items including the light bulb, the phonograph, the motion picture camera and projector, the time clock, and the alkaline battery. He invented an electric car and commuted often to NYC in it.
 We saw a presentation on the phonograph. That blue cylinder on the front corner of the table is one of the original "records" developed to record music and voice. Later, Edison started making round records which held a longer recording.
Edison was his own marketer but his ideas were not all great. Here is an "Edison in a Bottle," one of his less-than-successful products.
 Adam enjoyed seeing Edison's personal lab, where he worked out problems that arose.
The boys checked out the library which boasted a huge movie projector and screen with which to impress investors. The docent noted that this library was the first corporate research library.
Auggie was exhausted after our visit, and curled up for a nap on the way home.

Later in the day we went to a movie ("Secret Life of Pets") and returned for more S'mores and time to weave on my Piccolo loom. It was a very full day.

Planes and Birds

The fun this week continues. On Tuesday we brought three grandsons to the lake for a swim and they had a blast. Rob's time with "GrandCamp" ended and Bob and I relaxed for a couple of hours before heading off for dinner with our friends Joan and John, with whom we became close In Las Cruces.  These delightful folks have a summer home in PA, not too far from our summer spot in NJ.  How wonderful! We met at a great Italian BYOB restaurant in Newtown, PA called Piccolo Trattoria and had a really good meal. The planked salmon was marvelous. After dinner we sat outside and chatted some more, unwilling to say goodbye.

On Wednesday, Alex and Adam started their time at "GrandCamp," and we went to the Air Victory Museum in Lumberton to see the airplanes.
Auggie bravely climbed the stairs to make sure his mom was safe, and Adam, too.
In the children's exploration area, Alex got to try on a space helmet, and they both got to play with a box that created an electrical charge when cranked. We stopped in to the museum cafe for an ice cream afterwards, and watched planes take off and land at the airfield next to the museum.

Then it was time to visit the NJ Farm Fair! We saw cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, rabbits, goats, and pigeons. The boys got to pet baby chicks and the 4-H exhibitors were happy to answer questions about their charges. We even saw the Grand Champion Chicken crowned.

We really enjoyed seeing the fancy chickens, some of which looked more like poodles than birds.

After a treat of cotton candy (what fair experience is complete without THAT?) we headed back to the motorhome for some S'mores over the campfire.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Trip to Philadelphia

Bob and I reserved tickets for a tour at Independence Hall this morning for the three of us, so this morning at 8:00 am we were walking to the station to catch the train to Philadelphia.
 Once in the city we visited the Liberty Bell...
 ...then walked across the street to catch our tour.
 Here we see the room where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed.
And here was where all the details of those documents were hammered out. It was pretty neat to see where so much history took place.

Afterwards we walked to Reading Terminal Market where Bob and I enjoyed Jambalaya, and Rob had (of all things) a grilled cheese sandwich. With penuche fudge for dessert--yum!

It is so easy to ride the train into the city that we always wonder why we don't do it more often.

Time with Rob

Our oldest grandson, Rob, spent Friday night sleeping in the motorhome, then on Saturday morning we went to Atsion Lake to swim.
After our swim we headed to the Camden waterfront to see the USS NJ, an Iowa class battleship that saw action in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Lebanese Civil War, and the Persian Gulf. She is the most decorated battleship in US history.
It was a thrill to visit this veteran of so many battles and to see how the sailors who spent time here lived.
Rob relaxed in one of the recreation areas. Behind him may be seen the tiny bunks used by the sailors.
The ship is now considered a museum and our self guided tour led us up and down to all the decks.
It was a hot but lovely day to spend time on the water on the Delaware River.
On Sunday we visited a museum I had been wanting to see since we moved to NJ in 1980.
The NJ State Museum in Trenton is a fascinating place to explore, with exhibits on fossils of dinosaurs that lived (including this model of a dinosaur only found in NJ, the Dryptosaurus)...
 ...geology of the area including the oldest rock in NJ, 1.37 BILLION years old...
 ...and beaded clothing made by the Lenape Indians who still live here.
 In the fine art area we enjoyed the works of NJ and New York artists. Here, a painting by Roy Lichtenstein.
Abraham Lincoln spent time visiting NJ and the museum features a statue of him, made by a local woodcarver. The flag on the wall behind Rob and Abe was flown on the Battleship USS NJ, which we visited yesterday.
Here is a beautiful coverlet woven on a Jacquard loom by Nathaniel Young, a traveling weaver in 1884. At a time in history when weaving was primarily done by the women in a household, Young's products were complex and featured decorative patterns, animal motifs, and even the names of the weaver and client.

It was a really nice day, and well worth the trip to this museum.

Eve and Jillian

I have gotten a bit behind on my blogging since Bob and I have been so busy with grandchildren. So today I will attempt to catch up!

On Friday we started our week and a half of "camping time" by having the youngest ones, three year old Eve and Jillian, for the day. In the morning we took the little ones to the Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey Township. I have such happy memories of bringing my children to this zoo and now it is a joy to share it with another generation.

Part of the fun of this place is being able to feed popcorn to the animals, and the girls were excited to be able to do this. We had a picnic lunch when everyone was hungry, then we moved on to Atsion Lake for a swim to cool off.
 The water was warm and the air was a little cooler by the water.  Atsion Lake is fed by springs and is called "cedar water," tinted by the cedar trees that live here. Here is Eve...
...and here is Jillian. They swam and played on the playground, eventually wearing themselves out and falling asleep in the car on the way home. Day one was a success!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Bread and Grandchildren

Well, doctors appointments are finally finished and we are ready for some fun with grandchildren! Today kicks off the start of Grand Week, where we take all of our seven grandchildren (1 or 2 at a time) for overnights and day trips. It's going to be a great week and a half!

I've been learning how to knit Portuguese-style, since I took advantage of a free Craftsy class with Andrea Wong. This method requires tensioning either around your neck or using a special knitting pin or pendant.  I found a pendant at the local Hobby Lobby that is working quite well, shaped like an anchor. I can even use two different strands of yarn with it, so that's a plus.
I pinned the pendant to an inkle band but will probably change that out at some point,  Forgive the lousy photo--it's incredibly difficult to photograph myself and have it come out well. My shirt is not really that wrinkled!

Yesterday was like Christmas. I had ordered a new bread maker a week ago from Home Depot, after my thrift store one stopped working suddenly. And I am in love with this one.
It's a Zoshirishi Mini Bread Maker, a perfect size for our family of two. It not only makes bread, but also cake, cookie dough, pasta, and jam. I'm going to have a lot of fun with this. We woke up this morning to this fresh loaf of bread.
Today we have Eve and Jillian so we are off to the zoo and to go swimming. Now it REALLY feels like summer!