Moving Day!

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I finally decided to move my blog to my own domain, which allows me much great control and flexibility where the blog design is concerned. This has proved to be both a fun and useful learning curve for me. I’m still tweaking a few things, but I could be doing that forever. So without further ado, here is my new site. Come visit and remember to update your feedreader or resubscribe.

Happy Birthday, UT

It’s still hard for me to realize that my uncle is no longer with us, having passed away suddenly this past June. It just doesn’t seem right. He was just too young, even in his late 60′s.

He and I had a running joke over the years. Every year when August rolled around, I was faithful to acknowledge his birthday – usually with a gift card to Amazon or one of his other favorite places. And every year, I would get a thank you from him, reminding me that while the anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood fell in August, his birthday wasn’t until September. And yet I continued to make the mistake several years running. After a while, I just did it on purpose, and he always got such a kick out of the fact that I remembered both dates.

Oh yes, UT, I remember. I remember lots of good conversations, good meals, hilarious emails and much more. And I remember TODAY is your birthday and today we celebrate your life!

Chocolate & Fiction

I don’t read much fiction. To put it in gustatorial terms, I simply make a pig of myself when I sit down with a novel. Much the same as I could do with cheap chocolate, the kind that’s leftover after Halloween, I tend to devour way too much in one sitting, whereas with non-fiction I can discipline myself to take my time and digest all the goodness. I liken fiction to cheap carbs, empty calories you grab to satisfy a craving. Non-fiction usually qualifies as protein or fiber or complex carbohydrates.

Nevertheless, every so often I cave in and enjoy a bit of chocolate – make mine smooth and dark, please. Dove or Ghiardelli will do quite nicely. As quickly as it’s gone, it is still worth every sweet second that the mellow taste and aroma offer.

While I tend to much prefer nonfiction, summer usually finds me indulging in some choice fiction picks. Every summer I usually read something by Jodi Piccoult; I read Handle with Care when I went camping with my sister and her kids. I enjoy the medical topics she explores, always in the context of a legal dilemna. When Mike and I went away a few weeks ago, I read Embrace Me, by Lisa Samson. And I just read The Help on Sunday afternoon. After being on the library waiting list for about four months for this book, a friend finally loaned me her copy. I started it around two o’clock and just finished it around seven-thirty (and there was a trip to the “store” with Mike in that span). A slightly controversial book about a very controversial book, I enjoyed this story very much, once I got past the inconsistent dialect (she fails to give the southern homeowners any dialect at all). It’s a good insight into the Civil Rights era of the 60′s, a time period we somehow never managed to make it to in my Christian high school history classes.

And now back to my regularly scheduled reading. I’m currently reading Sacred Chaos by a new-to-me author, Tricia Carey Rhodes. A good read but one that begs for slow, pensive attention. And I’m working on my list for fall, in anticipation of Katrina’s Fall into Reading challenge.

So what have you been reading this summer? Fiction or nonfiction? Anything good?

A Gift of Geraniums

I was gifted today with this beautiful picture of geraniums by a very sweet and encouraging friend. She thought it would go well with my yellow room, and indeed it will.

Not only is it beautiful, but it reminds me that we do not create in a vacuum, that our journey is linked and intertwined with others as they affirm and encourage us and as we seek to do the same.

And did you know you can overwinter geraniums? Not that I’m garden-savvy enough to ever make that happen, but it speaks to me of the resilience of life. It reminds me of this past winter, when I fanned the flame of dying embers in our woodstove, endeavoring to bring it to life again without a match. And I did. Even when on the surface, life and growth appear to be waning, we can hold on to hope; we can pray with the psalmist, “Do it again, God!” (Psalm 126, MSG) and we can trust that God is at work in all the seasons of our lives!

The Accident Clause

My husband, aka Mr. Safety (and quite proud of his role as safety captain in elementary school), have an ongoing discussion about safety and accident prevention. He subscribes wholeheartedly to “all accidents are preventable,” an idea that is fed by and supported in his corporate work environment, and with good reason.

I, on the other hand, tend to shy away on this one. In theory, it sounds good. But in my opinion, what matters most is what happens if an accident actually happens. Above all, I think there needs to be a focus on forgiveness and grace rather than faultfinding, which is how I perceive the “all accidents are preventable” idea.

Last night, I made a late evening grocery store run. As I drove down the dimly lit back road that runs behind the local park, I caught my breath as I became aware of a giant buck poised at the edge of the road. A wave of gratitude washed over me as I drove by, thankful that we did not meet in an unpleasant encounter. The thought occurred to me, what if I had hit him?  I was not driving fast, and always attempt to stay alert on that road. Would it have been preventable? Yes, I realized; it was preventable. Mr. Deer could have paused to look both ways before darting into oncoming traffic on a dark night.

I know it’s silly, but in that moment, I realized I’d been hearing the accident clause completely wrong. Through my personal filter, I’d been hearing, “I can prevent all accidents.” Suddenly I understood. Perhaps all (or at least most) accidents are preventable. But I am not responsible for preventing all accidents! How freeing.

And then I realized this probably extends into other areas of my life, where I tend to assume way more responsibility than I need to. I can’t prevent every accident. I can’t ward off every problem. And I am not responsible for the responses of others. I don’t mean this in a
“throws up hands, it’s not my problem” manner. It’s just a growing awareness of what I can control – my actions, my attitudes and my responses. And letting go of that which I have no control over. Again, how freeing.

So what do you think about the “all accidents are preventable” statement? And do you tend to assume more responsibility than is warranted at times? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Pears, Anyone?

Just because I love my husband does not mean I have to love pears.

And just because my husband loves pears does not mean that we need to buy a half peck of pears.

And just because we buy a half peck of pears does not mean that I need to use them all up immediately, before they get too ripe.

Oh wait, yes I do!

I just don’t love pears. They’re kind of slimy and a little on the deceitful side. I mean, here’s this pear in the produce section, smiling up at you, “Pick me, pick me!” And you get it home and it’s crunchy and gritty and not at all ripe, which wouldn’t matter anyways because ripe pears are slimy. So different from apples, pears are. Apples put on a happy face and they’re crisp and happy inside as well. When you buy an apple at the store, it is what it is – ripe and ready for munching or cooking.

But along with a half peck of apples for me, we had to pick up some pears as well. So this morning I started off by making apple butter in the crockpot. It turned out fabulous. I only made about a half batch, using about 8-9 apples. And I used just a little over a cup of sugar and adjusted the spices accordingly. Otherwise I followed the directions pretty closely. That extra hour uncovered at the end seems to be the key to allowing the mixture to set up a bit. I did not use anything but a whisk to stir the mixture; it is slightly chunky but will still spread well on my toasted bagel, believe me!

Back to the pears though, the pears I do not love. What does one make with pears? Fresh pears with cheese is okay or I can deal with them in a salad. Olive Garden had a wonderful pear gorgonzola ravioli a few months ago that was to die for. But these dishes would never fly with Pear-boy, to whom the best spaghetti is macaroni noodles covered with tomato sauce right out of the can!

So I decided to follow suit and just try some pear butter, using the same slow cooker principle. I found this recipe which attempts to make it NOT taste like apple butter, which makes sense to me. It called for some unusual ingredients, one being star anise. Huh? I thought it was some exotic fruit but apparently it’s an ingredient used in Chinese cooking, which explains why I couldn’t find it in the produce section. Instead I substituted some dried figs. Before you go scratching your head, here’s my logic: Two popular Christmas songs, We Wish You A Merry Christmas and The Twelve Days of Christmas, reference these fruits – figgy pudding and a partridge in a pear tree! So they must go together, right? And if Tom on the Next Food Network Star can try making a steak out of bacon, then I can put pears and figs together.

As I speak, ingredients are simmering away and hopefully we’ll wake up to some wonderful aroma and equally wonderful pear concoction.

Road Trip!

We left Sunday for a little road trip to Bedford, PA. Mike is great about trusting me to pick a place. He tells me a few things that are important to him (usually a pool and the distance), and the rest is up to me. This time was a little trickier, since we decided to take the dog.

Apparently, we belong to a group of people known as “shunpikers.” Really, it’s an official term used to describe people who attempt to stay off the beaten path. We absolutely love going somewhere and exploring via back roads, but this time we stayed off the turnpike completely. If you’re familiar with Pennsylvania at all, you’ll know it’s noted for its rolling hills and believe me, we were up and down quite a few of them, as much as a 15% grade at one point over the Allegheny Mountains. The weather was unbelievably overcast the entire trip, which didn’t put a damper on the trip but the pictures are all rather greyed out. I had a blast with my new camera – not sure if it was just the size that motivated me to take lots of pictures, but for the most part they all turned out really well. It has an incredible zoom and lots of nifty features I haven’t even begun to figure out yet but this was a good start.

The dog did great. This was an awesome revelation to us, how easy it is to pick up and take off with the dog. August is not my favorite month and one reason is because half of civilization is busy with getting kids ready for school. It can be kind of depressing. So this was the perfect time to head out of town and spend some time together. We were able to leave the dog crated in the hotel for several hours at a time, while we went to dinner or did a little sightseeing. But we also found plenty of places where he was welcome, so he was with us a good bit. As long as we remember to not feed him in the morning, he does fine in the car. He is a little neurotic, we think, but we just ignored it and he seemed to relax after the first hour or so.

Bedford is a quaint little town located between Somerset and Breezewood. The town itself was worth a few hours exploring, both on foot and by car. Lots of great architecture and neat little shops just begged us to stop and take it all in.

On Monday, we went to Old Bedford Village, which is a little colonial village. Many of the buildings are original and were relocated to the site over the years. Gyver was welcome here, which we thought was great. I’m ashamed to say that, even having taught history for several years, American history is my least favorite period. But I still enjoyed walking around the homes and shops and being transported, for a few hours, back to a time when life moved a little more slowly.

Monday evening, we took a drive up past Altoona, PA, to DelGrosso’s Amusement Park. Yes, that would be the spaghetti sauce people! It consists of a small water park on one side, along with a mini-golf and go-kart track, and a ride park on the other side. Admission was free – unless you wish to purchase a ride pass (for $15.95 peak season – way better than Kennywood!) I only rode the merry-go-round but we did spend a little chunk of change on Skee-ball, and Mike found a Medieval Madness pinball game that he also has for Playstation, so that was fun. It reminded us a lot of the way Kennywood Park used to be.

We took our good old time getting back today, leaving at around 10:30 am and not getting home until 5:00 pm. We spent a good part of the day traipsing around the area on a covered bridge tour. We only made it to five of them, out of thirteen, but we hope to get back there this fall and locate the rest of them. We ended up at a great little place in Ligonier for lunch – Ligonier Tavern, and then headed back onto Route 30 towards Pittsburgh.

A long time ago we figured out he’s a good driver and I’m a good navigator. I can’t describe how relaxing it was, just driving along the country roads with no real agenda. Now we’re home, and both back on our computers, (he had a lot of work to do and I was anxious to upload my photos), back to our regularly scheduled life. So you can see why I love road trips so much!