Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

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Hail to Camp – – – –
Hail to her colors true
Oh, cherished Camp – – – –
Our thought is all for you

Going to an all-girl camp that was founded in 1908 on the shore of a lake up in the mountainous woods of the Northeast is like joining a sisterhood that stretches back over a hundred years with very deep roots and wide far reaching branches, and also a little bit like joining a cult.

There are ceremonies of initiation, with special handshakes and mythological stories. The girls are inducted into one of two teams, which they will stay a member of for life. There is even a totem animal, the turtle.

Every morning Z and her five cabin mates had Cabin Inspections, which they were graded on. Besides the normal keeping the bathroom and cabin clean and tidy they had to make their beds with square corners and line up their shoes using a straight edge. The girls traded off jobs each day. Apparently lining up the shoes was the hardest thing. (I am going to have to make Zoe demonstrate this for me, because I just don’t see how lining up shoes could be that difficult.)

Actually, the one thing harder than lining up shoes were the warm-up laps at the beginning of each daily swim. Zoe, who is spoiled by the crystal clear waters of our heated pool, found the lake waters to be “gross” and “cold.” To warm the girls up they had to swim laps: freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke.

They built a lot of routine into camp life. The girls got up to the sound of a bugle horn at seven a.m. every morning, except Sundays. After breakfast and inspections they all met in the Lodge for assembly where they would sing camp songs, celebrate birthdays and listen to important announcements.

Then they had three activities before lunch, two were assigned but the third was their own choice. There is climbing tower, archery, camping skills, art and crafts, cooking, tennis, volleyball, kickball, soccer, hiking, field hockey, mountain biking, and yoga to choose from. Being on a lake there were also tons of waterfront sports like swimming, water-skiing, sailing, canoeing, paddleboarding, taking rides on the sea wasp or jumping on the water trampoline. Zoe’s favorites were the sea wasp, water trampoline, archery, and sailing.

After lunch in the lodge-like dining hall there was a built in rest hour. For the first half hour the girls had to stay silent and on their bunks in their cabin, the second half they were allowed to talk. Zoe seemed to treasure this time to read and write in her journal.

The afternoon had three more assigned activities, one of which was always swimming. Zoe is such a strong swimmer now and she is brown as a little nut.

At quarter to five it is time for the counselors to get a break and go swimming and the girls all run for the showers because there isn’t enough hot water for everyone. Zoe told me that only a third of her showers had hot water. It was not something she complained too much about though. Makes me wonder if she wasn’t really taking that many showers…

After supper was something different every night, like camp wide capture the flag, trivia contests, the masquerade, crafts, canoeing out for a sunset ride. They also had their plays, talent shows, and campfires.

Before the early taps the girls were all fed a bedtime snack of milk and cookies at the Milkline. Zoe and the other youngest girls had Milkline at the Crow’s Nest overlooking the river. Every night, somewhere not too far away on the lake, fireworks flashed and banged as the girls tried to fall asleep in their lakeside cabins.

I chose this camp after much research. There were many camps where Zoe might flourish. Theatre camp, French camp, music composition camp, math camp, science camp, CSI camp, circus camp and more. But Zoe devotes a lot of time during the school year to those things and I wanted her to have a different experience this summer. My main goal was for Zoe to experience independence, to get outdoors, and to get a sense of and grow in her capabilities. I decided a traditional outdoor camp was the place. This camp doesn’t have a state of the art gym or Olympic swimming pool. It has a trees and a lake. Not only do they not have computers, they don’t allow them, or cellphones or iPads, or anything that can get you online. The cabins aren’t air-conditioned, the lake isn’t heated, and the music you hear you are making yourself. It is life unplugged.

One of the things I think this camp did extremely well was to create a sense of belonging  and camaraderie. The history is thick and palatable and it gives the girls the feeling that they are joining something special. There are so many traditions, like signing the walls and ceiling of the cabins, the pageant, songs with hand gestures, and the milkline . There was also the experience of being at a camp where all the decision makers are girls, and all the winners are girls. There was plenty of competition but Zoe said it was friendly, with a lot of fun being had dressing up in your teams colors and cheering for your side. She also said that the losing team didn’t feel bad because the whole thing was just too much fun. But it wasn’t all lighthearted. Zoe pushed herself hard to qualify for and move up to higher levels in various sports. She was testing herself, literally, proving she could tread water, work the tiller on the sailboat, tie knots and light a campfire.

As far as she could tell Zoe was the only PG girl, the only home schooled girl, the only geeky girl, and the only Jewish girl. But this W.A.S.P.y sisterhood was more than welcoming. When we came to pick her up on Saturday she took us on a tour of the camp and everywhere we went girls, her age and older, and counselors were calling out “Zoe!”, “Hi Zoe!” “Zoooooeeeee!” I asked, “How does everyone know you??” and she answered, with a wink, “I’m kind of a big deal.” LOL! She was joking. Probably. She has gotten pretty good at those pop-culture referencing one-liners.

She taught her cabin mates Pink Fluffy Unicorns and they taught her The Sprinkler and Motorcycle Cat. She bonded with a geeky counselor from Britain over Doctor Who, Firefly, and Buffy. She got a little homesick, especially when she and the other youngest girls spent the night in an old creepy house on Lake Wallenpaupack the night the derecho storm blew through Pennsylvania. The Spyglass house had no electricity, only a fireplace to offer a sense of protection from the hair-raising thunder and lightning.

Zoe was happy to see us and come home after two weeks, but she already asked if she can go back for three weeks next year. I’d love to send her and maybe that will be the best place for her to go, year after year. But I can’t say for sure at this point. Summer is an exciting time to try new things.  Or maybe it’s a time for traditions and seeing old friends.

Remember beside the campfire
Beneath the mountains blue
That you’re part of Camp – – – –
And it is part of you.

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Yeah, it’s me. We are all moved into our new house and looking forward to visits from our friends. I know the promise of spending time with me is enough of a reason to make the trip. But Philadelphia has more to offer than my charm and wit.

Philadelphia has a wealth of history and historical sites. You could easily spend your days learning about the American Revolution where it actually happened. We have the Liberty Bell, Betsey Ross’s House, Independence Hall, The Constitution Center, Elfreth’s Alley, Valley Forge, and many more sites of historical significance.

Depending on when you come you might even get to experience a live action reenactment. They are having them somewhere around here all the time. There is also areas of civil war history and underground railroad history sites and reenactments.

Yep, Philadelphia really loves and appreciates it’s history. But we also have a pretty cool modern city too.

This is the view from B’s homebase in the Comcast Building, the tallest building in the city. I’m so jealous that he gets to work in the city and be near all the great shops and restaurants.

Downtown Philly is great for sight seeing, especially if you like art and architecture. This Swann Memorial Fountain symbolizes Philadelphia’s three major waterways, The Delaware, The Schuykill and the Wissahickon.

We also have Christ Church, City Hall, Eastern State Penitentiary and and many buildings by Frank Furness. Here is more info about the architecture of Philadelphia.

I love the old architecture of the city and surrounding areas. Building’s like this are common place.

This was someone’s house. Now it is a Catholic Home for Children.

An example of Victorian Architecture in Wyncote.

There are several castle type buildings in the area. This one of Chestnut Hill College.

Here is a list of 19 Beautiful Castles in Pennsylvania, many of these are close to where I live.

If you are also into art The Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the largest art museums in the United States.  Many great artists are represented; Monet, Picasso, Dali, Rubens, Renoir, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, etc.

The museum also has sculpture, tapestries, and other decorative arts as well as the second-largest collection of arms and armor in the United States.

For more art, you could visit the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, The Barnes, and The Rodin Museum.

It’s not Broadway but Philadelphia also has some great theaters, orchestras, and operas. All the big name bands and the small “alt rock” groups come here too. It’s a great place to catch a live show.

Besides being home to the first public library, post office, savings bank, university, and hospital in the United States, Philadelphia also had the first zoo. There is also an aquarium (um… over the river in New Jersey, but close enough). For kids there is also the Please Touch Museum.

For science lovers will love The Franklin Institute where Zoe and friend are pictured here, riding inside a flight simulator. The Academy of Natural Sciences right down the boulevard has collections containing more than 17 million specimens. There are several botanical gardens and arboretums to visit, as well as sites along with rivers, like the Seaport Museum.

If you are looking for something a little more unusual Philadelphia has that too. One of my favorites is the Mutter Museum which contains a collection of medical oddities. It is really gross but quite unique.

Laurel Hills Cemetery is a huge, grand cemetery overlooking the Schuylkill River, with over 33,000 monuments. It is really an amazing place to visit.

Literature buffs would like The Edgar Allen Poe House, The Rosenbach Museum & Library (which has the largest collection of the late, great Maurice Sendak’s illustrations and manuscripts), and The Free Library, who’s Rare Book Department features a Charles Dickens collections with first editions, personal letters, and Dickens’s stuffed pet raven, Grip.

The historic Eastern State Penitentiary is also open for tours and has an amazing Halloween event.

Other places of interest in the city are The Comcast Center, with it’s 2000 sqft television screen, Chinatown, the Reading Terminal Market (a truly fantastic farmer’s market), Rittenhouse Square and Franklin Square.

Philly is also fun for foodies. Every kind of food is represented, at every price point. Max Brenner is a favorite of ours. It is a chocolate restaurant and that is a chocolate hamburger with marshmallow mayo, raspberry ketchup, and white chocolate mustard and it is even better tasting than it looks.

If you know me then you know that my favorite place in Philadelphia is the Wissahickon Creek and the parkland that surrounds it.

It is kinda of ridiculously cool. The path along it is called Forbidden Drive. It has a cave that an early American mystic lived in. There is Devil’s Pool, Hermit’s Lane Bridge, Lover’s Leap, Ma Rinker’s Rock, a 15ft sculpture of a Lenape Indian warrior, many bridges, trails and ruins of old mills.

Forbidden Drive

Devil’s Pool

I think it is so amazing that you can just be walking on a trail and come to something like this. What is more amazing is that this huge wooded place is right in the city.

In Philly you can be driving in the city or a close suburb and suddenly find yourself in a rural scene, like a Revolution era barn, or a ruined structure of Wissahickon schist. Sometimes the wildlife comes right up to your door, like these deer in the front yard of a suburban neighborhood, or the red fox that was on our doorstep last night.

Speaking of our doorstep, come inside Gnarlwood and let us entertain you. B loves cooking for company and I love it when he does. You will too.

Right outside the back door we have the Coop/Scoop where we serve food off the grill and ice cream, as well the hot tub, and the pool. Come on in, the water is fine.

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Livezey Mill site

The Wissahickon River park is one of my favorite places ever. It is huge and there are trails all over the place and we are also stumbling upon new places. Today we found the awesome mossy staircase down to some rocks and the ruins of a dam. Across the river is the Glen Fern house, built in 1747 and the ruins of the Livezey Mill.

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We walked out onto the dam and played a game of Pooh Sticks. We were enchanted by the little waterfall and found the source of it on the other side of Forbidden Drive. We also were inspired to make up a story about a girl who goes into a woods and gets transported back in time. 🙂

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Mt. Airy Mists

I’ve been a bad blogger. But, I’ve been a better writer. Since Z’s birthday I have been spending more time working on my Dream Girl book. I have thought about blog posts but I haven’t gotten around to writing them. Instead I will post some pictures of beautiful Philadelphia.

Mt. Airy Mists – Taken on the grounds of the old historic Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and Dumb.

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This year was the first that I can remember that we celebrated Thanksgiving with just the three of us. And, while we missed our family that couldn’t be here with us, we had a very special celebration.

We cooked and ate all our traditional foods – turkey, sausage stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, etc. During our early meal we talked about all the things we were Thankful for and made several toasts, including toasting to Brian’s parents and our lost cat Merry.

Then we walked down to the woods and took a hike. I was trying to find a cool stone staircase I had seen once on a bike ride, but we weren’t on the bike path. Brian thought maybe I was taking them deeper and deeper into the woods for nefarious reasons, but I pointed out that we were actually walking parallel to the Sckuylkill River the whole time. The path we took is my new favorite path, it was so rough and wild. I want to go back there asap with my drawing pad and maybe a basket to collect nuts and stones.

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After the walk we had turkey sandwiches and then went to see The Muppets. I love The Muppets. When I was a kid it was my favorite show. Then, when it went off the air, Fraggle Rock was. I love all the Jim Henson movies, like The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth and Farscape. Jim Henson is one of my all time heroes and I think The Muppet Show was classic and worked on so many levels.

I had heard good reviews about the new movie and I can say that I wasn’t disappointed. It wasn’t the best of the newer Muppet movie (I really like Muppet Treasure Island with Tim Curry) but it was great to see the gang back together. And the new songs by Bret McKenzie, from the band Flight of the Conchords,  were very Bret-ish, which means they were hilarious.  Still… something was niggling at me, something that I didn’t like about the movie that I couldn’t put my finger on. Then it came to me just before I fell asleep. Kermit had no comic timing.

I remember Jim Henson’s Kermit very well, and not just because I own The Muppet Show seasons on DVD. Kermit /Jim had excellent comic timing and a kind of subtle sarcastic humor. This new Kermit was all schmaltzy all the time. Everything Kermit said was just so earnest and heartfelt, which isn’t really what Kermit is all about.

Oh well, it was a still a good movie and I had this suspicion that maybe Disney is testing the waters to see if a new Muppet television show would be popular. I could dig that man. Can you imagine “It’s the Muppet Show, with our very special guest Lady Gaga!”


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Whew! Crazy busy!

Oh my gosh! It has been a week since I last posted. That’s not good!

Of course I have an excellent excuse. In the last week I have written about fifteen thousand words on my NaNo novel. I also walked for four hours, drove Zoe, and sometimes her friends, to her piano lesson, her chamber trio audition, writing class, Hebrew school, rocket science class, homeschool playground, and Sunday School. I taught, or “facilitated” math, science, history, and homework in French, linguistics, piano and literature. I finished listening to Frankenstein. I had a meeting with my health coach, an appointment with my oncologist, and my mindfulness class. We took the train to Temple University to see Cirque du Soliel. I had dinner with some friends. And I saw three open houses.

It has been all good though! I LOVED Cirque du Soliel, Quidam. It was SO magical. I was so inspired to follow my bliss (writing) and also to get into good enough shape that I can take circus arts class myself.

I am really enjoying Philadelphia in November. The last week could hardly be more beautiful. The trees are gorgeous reds, yellows, and oranges. The temperature is cool but not too cold. The seasons are changing. I love this time of transformation. There is just something in the air that speaks to me.

I went on two hikes in the woods this week. Here are some pictures from that, and other things that kept me busy:

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