Wedding Week Cont’d–Brides & Bubbles

When Aline and Cherie asked about throwing their wedding at our house, they wanted to know if we had any giant games. We used to have giant Pick Up Sticks and a picnic blanket-sized game of Checkers but, nope, we don’t have Cornhole or a giant Connect Four. They rented both and also brought bubbles. The games were a hit, and the bubbles were the best!

If you want to add giant soap bubbles to your next outdoor event, here’s what you’ll need:

  • big bucket
  • bubble wands
  • giant bubble solution
  • sense of magic

*Wands and giant bubble solution can be purchased or made.

(Click on each pic to view full photo.)

Wedding Week: DIY Flowers, Cake, Chuppah

Aline’s bridal bouquet, created by Wildly Floral Co., was a combination of pink anemones, yellow calla lilies, white daisies, craspedia yellow billy balls, and eucalyptus.
Cherie’s boutonnière echoed Aline’s bouquet.
Matching sparkly sneakers.

Aline and Cherie’s flowers, cake and chuppah were as sunny as the day! What made everything even more beautiful? The love and affection flowing from friends and family to the two brides. I loved the flowers–yellow and white with soft green accents, Aline’s lace dress, Cherie’s blue suit, and the couple’s matching sparkly sneakers.

Aline and Cherie’s friends built a chuppah out of birch logs. Wishes from friends and family were printed on green paper, cut into leaves, and laminated. Shout out to Aline’s sister Gavi for sewing the leaves onto the fabric that created the roof of the chuppah.

Aline assembled bouquets to adorn the chuppah.

The gorgeous, rustic-looking, strawberry shortcake wedding cake was baked by Cherie’s sister Cristal. Shout out to Cristal for maintaining her focus and composure while the house and yard buzzed with people setting up and arriving from out of town.

Wedding Week: Table Decor

Visual interest was created by the use of both farm and regular tables.

It’s amazing how tents, tables and chairs can transform a space, especially after tables are decorated. At my niece’s wedding in our backyard, a pretty and relaxed tone was set with gauze runners, long boughs of eucalyptus, small and medium bud vases, wood-framed photos, and wooden coasters. Hon, you know I love texture and color, so I found the play of filmy blue fabric, soft green leaves, sharp wooden edges, smooth clear glass, and bright yellow flowers a pleasing combination.





Tents, tables and chairs created places to gather and eat.

Set on top of light blue gauze runners, eucalyptus boughs encircled wooden frames, bud vases and wooden coasters.

My niece created DIY decorations/favors by modge-podging photos onto wooden coasters.

Aline and Cherie’s dog, Mochi, may have been with a dog sitter, but she was there in spirit.

Poetry & Blooms–Balms for a Reflective Time

L’Shana Tovah! Happy New Year!

It may be 2021 in the secular world, but according to the Jewish calendar it’s 5782. Every year, as the High Holidays approach and summer comes to an end, I look inward, assessing the previous year’s relationships, family, health and work.

Rosh Hashanah (literally “head of the year” or New Year) is the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur, which comes ten days after Rosh Hashanah, is the Day of Atonement. Together, they are sometimes referred to as the Jewish High Holidays. They mark a period known both as the “Days of Awe” and the “Ten Days of Repentance,” during which Jewish people are supposed to reflect on the sins they have committed during the past year. Rosh Hashanah combines the joy of a New Year celebration and its theme of renewal with the seriousness associated with confronting one’s failings and seeking forgiveness both from God and from those one has wronged. Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day of the Jewish sacred calendar.

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This year there’s much to be grateful for and look forward to and also so many things to worry about. My husband’s mom’s health is the biggest worry for our family. And days before the holidays started, Hurricane Ida devastated many of my town’s businesses and homes. Sometimes, hon, I can barely take a deep breath.

But vivid colors call to me and I contemplate how a blue sky and white clouds frame bright yellow petals, and I search for words to write and read.

Breathe.

A Boat, Beneath a Sunny Sky

Lewis Carroll – 1832-1898

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July—

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear—

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

Top Ten Facts About Bald-Faced Hornets

Bald-Faced Hornet, photo source rescue.com

While walking Lucy one recent morning, I came across a huge wasps’ nest that apparently fell out of a tree and split open. The wasps were busy inside, trying to repair the damage and salvage their nest. They were not at all concerned with me, so much so that I was able sit down on the road to take a closer look.

I’d never seen Bald-Faced Hornets before. Interestingly they are actually wasps, a type of yellowjacket, with patterns of white bands and lines on their abdomens and tips. The inside of the nest was amazing! The cells were perfect hexagons. Outside, the whorls reminded me of seashells.

You know what I had to do, hon? Research! The following are the:

Top Ten Facts About Bald-Faced Hornets:

  1. “Bald-faced hornets are considered a beneficial species because they prey on flies and other yellow jackets (notoriously aggressive).” They also eat other insects and, in late summer, will collect nectar.
  2. In these large social colonies numbering 200-400, all have specific tasks. The queen lays hundreds of eggs and raises sterile daughter offspring. The females enlarge and maintain the nest, forage for food, and raise the offspring. “The male drones function is to be ready to fertilize a receptive queen.”
  3. The queen lays all of the eggs in the colony and fertilizes them using stored sperm from the spermatheca. What is a spermatheca? It’s a structure inside the queen which allows her to control the fertilization of eggs. She can lay eggs that are either unfertilized or fertilized. Unfertilized eggs develop into males or drones. Fertilized eggs develop into females, which may be either workers or virgin queens.
  4. Non-fertilized eggs have only half as many genes as the queen or female workers. The resulting male drones have no sting.
  5. Males have an additional white band on the first abdominal segment and on their tip.
  6. Queens, which measure 18-20mm as compared to workers which measure 12-15mm, are the only members of the colony to survive the winter.
  7. Adults will chew flies into a pulp and feed them to their larvae.
  8. Their large, aerial, gray nests are made from paper like material which is created when chewed wood fibers are mixed with saliva.
  9. Inside the nest, there are 3-4 tiers of combs that resemble honeycombs.
  10. “Nests are built every year. The abandoned nests are often destroyed by birds looking for food.”

Sources: insectidentification.org, naturemapping.org, rescue.com

Second Snake Sighting and Top Ten Cool Rattlesnake Facts

Eastern Garden Snake found in front of my house.

Another Snake Sighting!

I’ve seen many different animals while living in New Jersey, especially since my house abuts the South Mountain Reservation. Want to know what I’ve spotted? Check out Animal Kingdom in the Suburbs. But, I’ve never seen skunks despite smelling them, and I’ve never seen a snake…until last week.

While walking Lucy, my neighbors (shout out to Jeanne and Jim) said there was a snake on the road ahead. I kept an eye out, but it must have moved on. I returned home to see our cat Midnight batting what looked like a small branch. It wasn’t a branch? It was a small snake! I figured it was a harmless garter snake so, you guessed it hon, I picked it up! So cool! It was smooth and surprisingly warm. Another neighbor (shout out to Heather) was walking her bear–umm, I mean giant, black, fluffy dog Gracie–when she said, “What have you got there?” She thought the snake was cool, too.

You know who wasn’t that interested in this exciting finding? Lucy and Gracie! They were all like sniff, sniff, done. But Midnight stayed half hidden in his “jungle” (the garden in front of my house), watching. Why? Because he wanted to finish the job he started! That poor, little snake had an injury–a wound on its underside with a spot of blood. Midnight wasn’t just playing with it. 😦

I nestled the little snake in dense brush. I hope its’ wound heals and returns to doing whatever it is Eastern Garden Snakes do.

How strange that I go for years without seeing a wild snake, and in the span of a month, there are two in my path? Hmmm, is it a sign or coincidence?

The other snake I came upon was, you may remember, coiled and rattling in New Mexico. Hon, of course I wanted to know more about rattlesnakes! Wouldn’t you?

Top Ten Cool Rattlesnake Facts:

  1. “Rattles are segments of keratin that fit loosely inside one another at the end of the snake’s tail. These segments knock against each other to produce a buzzing sound when the snake holds its tail vertically and vibrates the rattle. Each time a rattlesnake sheds its skin it adds another segment to the rattle.”(Source: Madison, Wisconsin herpotologist Sara Viernum.)
  2. In addition to rattling, rattlesnakes warn by hissing.
  3. Snakes do not communicate with each other by hissing since they’re deaf to airborne sounds. Their hiss is a warning for animals that can hear.
  4. There are 32 different species of rattlesnakes.
  5. The snakes can are found everywhere from sea level to a high elevation of 11,000 feet (3,353 m).
  6. Several generations of rattlesnakes will use the same dens.
  7. “Mothers can store sperm for months before fertilizing the eggs, and then they carry babies for about three months.”
  8. “Rattlesnakes are ovoviviparous, which means that eggs incubate inside the mother’s body. Babies are born live, encased in a thin membrane that they puncture after being born.”
  9. “The digestive process can take several days, and rattlesnakes become sluggish and hide during this time. Adult rattlers eat about every two weeks.”
  10. Rattlesnakes most distinctive features are their triangular heads and vertical pupils.

Sources: Rattlesnake facts: Live Science and Reptiles Magazine; Photo of Western Tanager: South Dakota Birds and Birding

Rattlesnake Sighting!

Unexpected Adventure

There me and my childhood friends were, on our Girls Weekend in New Mexico, walking along a path in Bandelier National Monument, discussing the pretty bird we’d seen (Western Tanager), crossing over water (Rio Grande), and wondering why the trees looked burnt (prescribed burns), when we turned a slight bend in the path and came across a rattlesnake!

My first thought was COOL! I wanted to stop and look, but a) more hikers were coming up behind us and b) Cindy hurried us along saying rattlesnakes can strike far. According to North Dakota Game and Fish, “Rattlesnakes can, at best, strike a distance of two-thirds their total body length. For example, a three foot long snake may be able to strike a distance of two feet.” The snake did look big. COOL!

We were on the opposite side of the path, approximately 6 feet from the rattling rattlesnake. (I’d rattle, too, if a group of giants stopped to gawk at me.) I took some quick pics and we moved on. A second later, we were wondering where Laura was. We looked back and saw her dragging a huge branch that looked like half a tree towards the snake!

“Ha! I get ‘yelled’ at for not walking quickly enough, and she’s approaching a rattlesnake with an enormous branch?!” I said.

“What in the heck are you doing?” Cindy called to Laura.

Talk about provoking an unhappy rattlesnake that was innocently cooling itself off in the shade before being discovered by a group of giants AND scraping the ground with branches and leaves!!

While Laura called back that she and another hiker were attempting to block the path as a warning to other hikers, I wondered if you can die from a rattlesnake bite (I wasn’t worried, just curious.), if you have to cut a bite out (My mini-Swiss Army Knife was confiscated years ago at the Statue of Liberty), or if you can suck out the poison (is that real)?

The Mayo Clinic: First Aid says,

Most snakes aren’t dangerous to humans. Only about 15% worldwide and 20% in the United States are venomous. In North America, these include the rattlesnake, coral snake, water moccasin and copperhead. Their bites can cause severe injuries and sometimes death.

If a venomous snake bites you, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, especially if the bitten area changes color, begins to swell or is painful. Many emergency rooms stock antivenom drugs, which may help you.

If possible, take these steps while waiting for medical help:

  • Move beyond the snake’s striking distance.
  • Remain still and calm to help slow the spread of venom.
  • Remove jewelry and tight clothing before you start to swell.
  • Position yourself, if possible, so that the bite is at or below the level of your heart.
  • Clean the wound with soap and water. Cover it with a clean, dry dressing.

Caution:

  • Don’t use a tourniquet or apply ice.
  • Don’t cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom.
  • Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol, which could speed your body’s absorption of venom.
  • Don’t try to capture the snake. Try to remember its color and shape so that you can describe it, which will help in your treatment. If you have a smartphone with you and it won’t delay your getting help, take a picture of the snake from a safe distance to help with identification.

Who knew? If you are unfortunate enough to get bitten by a venomous snake, DO NOT drink a cup of caffeinated coffee or soda!

As soon as we returned to the Visitor’s Center, Cindy and Laura alerted the park staff.

Their reaction? YAWN.

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, Part 1

The recent variety of immersive Van Gogh exhibits have received mixed reviews. One of my daughters said that the one she attended in CA was in one room, poorly executed, and left her sorry to have paid the ticket price. But, I found the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit at Pier 36 in Manhattan that Hubby, another daughter and I attended very cool. The same floor-to-ceiling images play on a loop in three rooms. In the first room, vertical, mirrored columns reflect the moving images. In the middle room, huge mirrored, geometric shapes do the the same. In the enormous third room, there’s space to sit, recline or sprawl out.

I really enjoyed being surrounded by floor-to-ceiling art, vibrant colors, spectral music, and the illusion that the room was moving. After a pandemic year of living insular, isolated lives, sharing a space with people all seemingly enchanted and contemplative was, in itself, what made the experience one-of-a-kind.

Click Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit New York to find out more.

Hon, have you gone to a Van Gogh exhibit near you? What did you think?

Cliff Dwellings and Petroglyph at Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

Laura and Cindy cooling off inside a cliff dwelling.

It’s amazing that you can still climb into cliff dwellings and see petroglyphs. In a future post, I’ll share pics of the amazing cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde and Canyon De Chelly and petroglyphs in Monument Valley. Hon, can you tell that I love exploring the Southwest?

Bandelier National Monument, located near Los Alamos, New Mexico, is a 33,677-acre site that preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans, who occupied this area from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The monument’s sheer canyon walls contain numerous cave dwellings as well as petroglyphs and pictographs that date from this period. Surface dwellings include the remains of two large villages, Tyuonyi and Tsankawi.

Today, numerous ruined dwellings of one of the most extensive prehistoric Indian populations of the Southwest can be found in the picturesque canyon and mesa country of the Pajarito Plateau. This area, located west of the Rio Grande from Santa Fe, New Mexico, was thickly settled in prehistoric times. Bandelier National Monument, in the heart of the plateau, includes and protects several of the largest of these ruins, in particular, the unique cave and cliff dwellings in the canyon of the Rito de los Frijoles.

The Ancestral Pueblo people (Anasazi) lived here from approximately 1150 AD to 1550 AD. The upsurge of the population and the main construction activity in Bandelier began after 1300 AD, when large towns grew up and down the Rio Grande drainage, and the people achieved a standard of living.

They built homes from blocks of volcanic tuff, which is soft and relatively easy to break into blocks. There were also sources of hard basalt rock just a short distance down the canyon, from which they made axes and hammers which could be used as tools to form the tuff blocks. Axes were also used to fell large Ponderosa pine trees whose straight, thick trunks made excellent vigas (the beams used to support the roof).

Legends of America

Landscape at Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, New Mexico

Giant cliffs line the path in Bandelier National Monument.

I recently went on a weekend getaway to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico where the architecture, landscape, wildlife, and colors are completely different than in New Jersey. My two friends and I took a trip to Bandelier National Monument, a national park where Ancient Puebloans built homes out of rocks and in the cliffs. Stacked stones that were the bottom level of a communal dwelling remain, and you can climb ladders into the actual cliff dwellings!

Hon, have you been there? Didn’t you think it was breathtaking?

Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years.  Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.

The Ancestral Pueblo people lived here from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE. They built homes carved from the volcanic tuff and planted crops in mesa top fields. Corn, beans, and squash were central to their diet, supplemented by native plants and meat from deer, rabbit, and squirrel. Domesticated turkeys were used for both their feathers and meat while dogs assisted in hunting and provided companionship.

https://www.nps.gov/band/index.htm