Wednesday, December 31, 2008


"New Year's eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights."
~Hamilton Wright Mabie

I awoke to harsh winds and and fiercely blowing snow. Apparently Old Man Winter finally arrived in my neighborhood. Sadly, the white fluff is a bit late for Christmas, but I suppose New Year's Eve will do just fine.

Isn't my purple mug pretty? It's a new favorite. A nifty mug takes tea drinking to a whole new level. Thank you, Maddie.

The dawning of 2009 shall no doubt bring on resolutions and new outlooks. Whatever you're dreaming about... I hope it comes true.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Fascination

"These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume."
Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene VI

I never thought I'd do it. To be honest, I tried my best to avoid jumping on the bandwagon. However, here I am, totally engrossed in a series of books about vampires. If only I could spend a few days in Bella's world.

Right before Christmas vacation, I was approached by a few former students who wondered weather or not I read the "Twilight" series of books. I immediately went into my speech about how I don't enjoy vampires and how i prefer real-life, believable stories. After much explaining, coaxing, and promising that the stories were not jam packed with fangs, blood, and full moons, I decided that I'd give the first book a try. I was quick to say that I'd try the book, and that if I didn't like it, I wouldn't finish it.

It's official, I'm totally and utterly infatuated with Bella and Edward and the town of Forks. I finished "Twilight" in two short days, and am currently lost in "New Moon."

What adventures will the Cullen clan take me on this afternoon? ...mmm.... I'm making some tea and settling in.

Magical Holidays

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time."
~Laura Ingalls Wilder

My, oh my, how the Christmas season sneaks upon us, and then, in the blink of an eye, it's finished. I'm always sad to see it go.

This year proved another magical adventure. I think it was the first time I've really cried over Christmas presents. With the crazy spending and the unapprecation and the the self-infatuation so many people appear to possess, I was sincerely touched by the trinkets I received this year. Allow me to take you on a mental field-trip to my 6th grade classroom....

Room 11 was buzzing with excitement. The kiddos stumbled into our room, carrying treats and presents for their favorite friends and teachers. I always think it's cute how they walk in the door, and before taking off their coats or backpacks, thrust their present in my face and command, "Open it!" They are full of anticipation and pride; it really is the cutest thing.

I always talk about my life to my students. Some might say this is excessive, but I believe it helps them see me as a person and allows us to build relationships, trust, and respect. Apparently they listen-- a very difficult task for 11 and 12 year olds... Somehow between the note passing, the thoughts drifting through their adolescent minds, and the annoying hum of computers and overhead projectors, my words make their way into their ears.

This year I received presents that meant the world to me. Not because they were expensive or fancy, but because they contained thought...something so lacking in today's world. They gave me bottles of vanilla scented lotion, coffee from Starbucks, pretty purple tea cups (my favorite color), boxes of flavored teas... And, after each present I opened, as they stood beside me with twinkling eyes, they would say, "It's your favorite color!" or "I know you love tea!" or "I thought you could make this coffee while you read books over vacation!" Now how sweet is that?

Perhaps the most touching gift of all came from a student who had nothing to give. You see, I try to make it a habit of fussing over the kids' clothes, hair, accessories, etc. I feel it helps give them a positive self-image... Anyway, I always made a big deal over a headband that one of my students wears. It's black plastic with a rainbow of butterflies all over it- very cute. I always told her how adorable it was, I even tried it on a time or two and twirled around the room. Well, guess what I got for Christmas? The headband. Not a new one that she went out and bought, hers. A true gift from the heart.

And, then I cried. I cried because my students are wonderful little adults who I hope will someday make a positive mark on this world. Sweet...simple and sweet....

Alright, we have returned from the field trip. My dear parents also made me the most amazing picture collage of my favorite place, Stone Harbor, NJ. They spent time on their vacation going around snapping all kinds of images and capturing tons of past happy memories. I cried...a gift of I will treasure forever. I love handmade presents.

I got a new lens for my camera- hooray! My brother got me a nifty apron from Williams- Sanoma and a Rachel Ray cookbook (I'm very excited to try some new recipes). Chad-o was a sweetie and surprised me with a manicure and pedicure at a local salon, and the Suter crew supplied me with a personalized cake pan and the newest installment of WBI cookbooks. I really am a lucky girl.

Christmas was filled with all the goodness of home. Chad-o and I spent time with my family on Christmas day and his on Christmas Eve. We talked, ate, watched Clark Grizwald attempt to work his magic with lights, laughed, and relaxed.

I'll leave you with some yummy, traditional Kaufman family cookies. The red,white, and green ones are my all-time favorite, and the nut-rolls are to die for. You can almost taste the ice-cream that's in the dough.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weekly Bread no.2- Chai Spice Latte

"Bread is like dressed, hats and shoes -- in other words, essential!"
Emily Post

After hearing of my new bread baking fascination, my dear sister-in-law, Kami, gave me two adorable mini-loaf pans. Unable to resist my urge spend time in baking land, I spent the evening trying a new recipe. I officially present Weekly Bread no. 2- Chai Spice Latte...complete with a whipped topping!

I also drove around and gazed at Christmas lights. Naturally, I took my camera with me. For whatever reason, I decided to hold it out the window and take a few shots as I drove along. This photo was taken along Main Street in Somerset.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things...

It's been a few days since my last blog entry, but you'll have to excuse me; I've been a very busy girl. I've been coveting some quality writing time, but the more days that pass me by, the more I wonder where to start. Then, tonight while taking a scalding hot shower, I began to hum a comforting, familiar little tune. I decided to make a list of my favorite things that have happened since last we met.

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things...

*Family Time- I spent Saturday baking Christmas cookies with my adorable nieces and sisters. The oven may have broken, and some random people called about a crane, but it was fabulous. I love my Ella, Ava, Kami, Megan, and Linda.

Sunday was spent with Jossie and Ace as we watched the Steelers game and warmed up with hearty bowls of chili. The fireplace was blazing, the black and gold emerged victorious, and the Christmas tree topped off the cozy, warm atmosphere.

*Having Goals- Recently my pal Melissa and I decided to run a half-marathon. What possessed us to willingly run 13.1 miles is beyond me, but the process is invigorating. I thrive on competition and am thrilled to have Melissa pushing me and holding me accountable. I love her-- even if she did make me run at a 4.5 incline tonight.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things...

*Evelyn- My Thursday and Friday morning coffee treat wouldn't be nearly as wonderful if it weren't for this kind, spirited woman. Always bright with a smile and a word of cheer, she is as important to my morning as the caffeine jolt.

*Vacation- My hubband so rarely takes the time to relax and be still. However, there is something about the land of lights that provides him this simple indulgence. As usual, we spent Thanksgiving in Las Vegas. It was a fantastic getaway, and I loved watching him soak up the pleasures of the city. He's like a kid at's the sweetest thing. It was great to roam, eat at yummy restaurants, dress in fancy clothes, and win big! Coming home from Vegas in the green is always a plus.

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad...

*My Homeroom Kids- I'm blessed. I have a wonderful job that I love and a room full of sweet, blossoming children. I returned from the holiday break to hugs, colored pictures of Charlie T., a hand copied recipe for Amish Friendship bread (so sweet- you should see it!), and little ones asking me how my vacation was. I saw excitement in the eyes of successful hunters, listened to numerous stories, and even had kids tell me that they missed me. It truly touched my heart.

*Gracie- Ever since I started working at my current job, I've had a peculiar relationship with a little girl named Grace. Grace first appeared in my room 2 years ago when she was a tiny, frightened kindergarten student. I have no idea why we connected, but somehow we formed a friendship. Every morning she comes be-bopping into 6th grade. She always carries a trinket- a stuffed animal, a plastic figurine, a seashell. I love this girl...she truly is precious.

The other day, she came strolling in, tears streaming down her face, and told me a story about how some older kids on the bus were calling her a baby-kindergartner. Being a big, bad, second grader, you can imagine how upsetting this was. Then, at the end of her story she just wiped her eyes, smiled, shrugged her shoulders, and said, "Oh well, Miss Kaufman. It's okay. God's always right beside you."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Holiday Preparations

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."
-Norman Vincent Peale

I spent the day with my mamma. We baked, talked, drank plenty of coffee, listened to our favorite Christmas music, and got lost in the creativity of decorating breads and chocolate pretzels. Being in the kitchen of 862 is beyond comforting. I'm surrounded by pieces of my childhood; old mixing bowls, well-seasoned wooden spoons, and the cookie sheet on which I so proudly carved my name as a tiny tot. It's funny how things that once were just simple kitchen tools have taken on a nostalgic meaning.

In line with my new bread baking fascination, we made two new recipes. The first was chocolate cherry trimmed with a chocolate drizzle, and the other was a banana nut bread that we topped with a sugary glaze and a generous sprinkle of chopped walnuts. Delightful.

Then it was pretzel time. There's nothing quite like the combination of sweet and salty. We made dozens of chocolate drenched pretzel rods and jazzed them with chopped nuts and festive sprinkles. They truly are the perfect snack time fix.

Last, but not least, I will leave you with the most beautiful little snowflake. My mom's tree is covered with them, but this little guy was too twinkly to resist.

May your day be merry and bright.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Weekly Bread no.1- Cranberry

“Oh, God above, if heaven has a taste it must be an egg with butter and salt, and after the egg is there anything in the world lovlier than fresh warm bread and a mug of sweet golden tea?”
-Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes

I've always wanted to own a quaint, little shop that sold books, coffee, and sweet treats. Dreams-We're allowed to have them, right? In an attempt to indulge myself and let my mind wonder to fantasy land, I've decided to try something new. "Weekly Bread" will be my attempt to learn, create, and offer up something delightfully wonderful.

Inspiration lurks in the most odd of places. Recently, while thumbing through a magazine, I came across a photo of a fresh bag of cranberries. "Tis the season," I thought. Pair that with my recent desire to learn how to bake homemade bread, and...wa-la! I currently aspire to try out a new bread recipe each week.

It's also mother-dogger night at 403. Chad-o and some friends jetted of to Pittsburgh for the Steelers game, and it's just down to us ladies. Yea, we were psyched for some quality together time. We are eating junk, taking long, hot showers, reading trashy novels, and drinking strong coffee. I believe we definatley got the better end of the deal.

Because Charlie T. hold the title of "Most Amazing Dog Ever to Walk the Face of the Earth" we also baked some special puppy biscuits. Of course, she lent a paw, and was beyond thrilled to lick the spoon. If I could just find her an apron and chef hat, her ensemble would be complete. Little Peep (as she's also know) thoroughly enjoyed using the star cookie cutters and now plans to make a special delivery to her cousin Millie tomorrow.

Alright. We've baked, we've blogged, we've bathed. Now it's time to book. Off we go to our favorite reading corner where we will esacpe into Ms. Winter's world and possibly discover the mystery of "The Thirteenth Tale." Oh, I almost forgot. We shall also enjoy some warm, savory cranberry bread.

Good night. May your dreams be full of the sweet stuff.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Autumn Project

"Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun."
-Mary Lou Cook

Ta-da! My stained glass project is finally finished. I will admit, I love the coziness. As a matter of fact, I like it so much I am going to curl up and read my novel. Happy reading to me.

Charlie T. wanted to show off her new fur cut and colorful Indian corn bandanna. ...precious puppy...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Simple Things and Simple Pleasures

"Sometimes life's greatest joys come from simple moments."

I've been dying for some blog time, but in the rush of daily life I'm amazed at how precious my "free time" actually is. Between work, the gym, chores, dinner, and family time, it's practically impossible to plop down and get lost in my writing world. Thankfully, it appears I have a few minutes to spare.

Simple Thing #1- Don't you just love libraries? The smell of must, mildew, and old pages seem to transport me to an era that no longer exists. I take comfort in getting lost in the shelves and listening to the careful whispers and gently shuffling feet. In a world that has gone so techno, it's refreshing to find solace in a huge building full of stories.

Yesterday I felt compelled to visit the library, as I had finished my book (Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robinson) the night before. If I go to Heaven, I hope it's like a library. And, maybe it could serve coffee and sweet treats, too. As I walked the aisles and glanced from shelf to shelf, it was next to impossible to make my selections. Like a kid in a toy store, I wanted them all. Of course there were a few authors and titles I checked on right away, but as usual, the books that turn out the best are the ones that seem to jump off the shelf. They catch the corner of my eye, capture my attention, and then before I know it, I'm adding it to my pile. When I choose my books I love to think about all the people who read them before me. I wonder what they are like. Do they read in bed? Was it a beach read? Did they drink tea and coffee while turning the pages? Maybe they read while taking a warm bubble bath? Either way, it's fun to think of the stories that a library book can tell. I always bring mine home, carefully determine which one I will read first, and then place the rest in a neat basket. They are safe there, and I'd like to think, comfortable, too. Ahh....the library...a true simple pleasure.

Simple Thing #2- My friend, and fellow teacher, greeted me yesterday morning with a beautiful mason jar full of homemade wedding soup. The simple gesture- sharing food with another- warmed not only my heart, but my tummy, too. In such a self-centered world, it's beyond moving when someone does something out of the goodness of their heart. I'm lucky Maria (and her children) are in my life.

Simple Thing #3- Greta, Greta, Greta! I wonder if there is any connection between Greta's name and how every time I type it, my computer reads "Great"? In true alliteration fashion, I pronounce her Great Greta. Although I have yet to respond to her e-mail, she appears to be a mind reader. As it turns out, I've been dying to try some new recipes. However, my dear Chad-o is allergic to chicken, turkey, eggs, and shellfish. You can imagine the dilemma this poses. Being the sweet, thinker-of-others that she is, she sent me her new favorite recipe with ideas on how to modify it for my hubband (the word husband just seems so old). I'm anxious to give it a try and see how it turns out. Thanks, Greta...for being you and for bein' so gosh-darn wonderful.

Simple Thing #4- Plants. I have this strange obsession with taking a cutting from a plant, rooting it, and starting a new plant family of my own. Recently, the parent of a student in my classroom was kind enough to have a given me a few of her houseplants. I was thrilled, because my classroom also doubles as a greenhouse :) One of the plants she brought me is called an Elephant Plant. I decided to take a few cuttings home today and attempted to root them. Perhaps in a couple of weeks, I can pot them and give them away as gifts. I would like to pass on the happiness.... (The photos on this post are of the Elephant Plant cuttings.) Mucahs Gracias, Mrs. Wilson.

Tonight I wish for you to find the simple things and the simple pleasures in your life. Be simple. Be happy.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

I love Sundays, especially the lazy, get-a-lot-of-nothing done kind. I'll admit it, I woke up to laundry and ironing, but made it better by treating myself to some quality time with HGTV. Who says I can't do two things at once?

OK, it's currently 5:30 and pitch black outside. I'm sitting under a blanket because I'm freezing, and I'm holding a cup of tea simply to help keep my hands warm. ...burr....

Currently the smell of "Home for the Holidays" is permeating the air. I have my tea, my blankie, and my munchkin (Charlie T.) curled up on my feet. Life's pretty good and I can't complain. Thank you November for providing me with this cozy atmosphere.

Aside from the festive scents wafting though the house, my amazing sister-in-law and I escaped for a few stolen hours to Starbucks. Having some girl time to chat and catch-up is beyond refreshing. The Christmas feeling continued to grow when we noticed that the over-priced coffee chain is now offering their holiday java selection. Both of us ordered a gingerbread latte, complete with a dallop of whip cream. mmmm....pure bliss.

I later stopped over at 862 to visit with my parents and deliver a late birthday gift to my dad. I may have frozen my toes off on the walk over, but it was worth it. My mom and I created a list of all the holiday goodies we plan on whipping up. I'm especially excited for the english muffin breads and flavored butters.

Last night Chad-o and I traveled to Greensburg to do some shopping and dine at The Olive Garden. I have to hand it to Westmorland Mall. All the trees were trimmed, Santa patiently listened while little ones told him of their wish lists, gift wrapping stations were strategically placed, and the elusive holiday sweater was for sale at every major department store.

I hate to wish life away, but I'm really excited for Christmas this year. Although, sometimes I think the planning, decorating, and gift buying is way more fun than the actual day. Hurry holidays, hurry!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Unusual Teachings

Most little girls grow up having fond memories of their grandmothers teaching them to bake cookies or gently showing them how knit and crochet. Grandfathers most likely helped little girls ride bikes, demonstrated how to hook a worm, or even came to the rescue when constructing a handy school project. For better or worse, my fate did not include these cozy normalises.

It's funny how life plays out. This past August my family received the sad news that Mamoo (my grandmother) was going to lose her battle with lung cancer. I vividly remember thinking, "Mamoo has to live long enough to see the results of this election." How strange is that? I find out my grandmother is going to pass away, and my first thoughts turn to the presidential election. I have every confidence that she left this world listening to the conservative, right-wing voices of the Fox News reporters.

In 2003 I said goodbye to my grandfather, my first real political educator. At the time I had no idea how accomplished and involved with local and community politics this man was. As a child I viewed him as a fanatical Republican who obsessed over "the big one" (as he so often referred to World War II), and seemed way too preoccupied with his high status in the Masons. I often brushed off his stories and made light of topics that I'd now give my right arm to have him discuss with me.

Both of these individuals played an instrumental role in shaping me into the strong, opinionated woman I am today. Mamoo and Pap were staunch Republicans, racists (though they would never admit this), hard workers, depression era children, and above all, God-fearing people. They failed to view topics and subjects from multiple vantage points, but were firm and solid in their beliefs. Although neither of them could boast of any formal education, they were smart, full of common sense, and very informed.

My grandfather never called me on the telephone. However, during the presidential election of 2000, he left a quirky message on the answering machine in my college dorm. He tried to be crafty and posed as a solicitor seeking contributions for the Bush campaign. It was hilarious and far better than all the birthday money and Christmas presents he ever gave me. At about that same time, I had been shopping in the campus bookstore and came across a cut-out postcard of Bill Clinton's face. I took great pleasure in purchasing the lovely greeting and quickly mailed it out. After Pap passed away, I discovered the postcard taped to the back of his bathroom door.

I have a sincere passion for arguing and I believe it stems from a lifetime of listening to Democrat bashing and Bill Clinton hating speeches. I credit Mamoo and Pap for providing the political banter that was, and currently remains, a cornerstone of Kaufman family dinners and gatherings. Yea, my grandparents weren't the cozy type, and didn't really fit the role of the typical family elders. My Mamoo and Pap were better. I credit them with giving me my first opportunities to play devil's advocate (anything they said I would argue with), demonstrating that it's important to be informed about politics and the happenings in one's country, and modeling how to be vocal about one's opinion.

Dear Mamoo and Pap,
You would have hated this election. I know you are up in Heaven talking trash about the current state of this world, and you're probably right. It's in shambles down here. Pap, a black man will be president. Mamoo, I know you thought his wife was "Amazonish". Maybe you were right about Mitt Romney afterall.

To think that a good old POW lost to a hotsy-totsy, young, inexperienced community organizer must have you up in arms. Has this country no appreciation for those that served this great nation?

I thought about coming to your graves and leaving Obama mementos, but I worried that you might take revenge and haunt me. Due to my extreme fear of the supernatural, I decided against it. Do they have Fox News in Heaven? You should know I hate that channel, and exclusively watch CNN. I included some photos for your viewing pleasure.

You'll be happy to know that I proudly voted Republican, although you both probably bet against it. Chad-0 and I even went as far as to attend a political fundraiser and put a campaign sign in the yard.

See, all of that arguing really paid off. I ended up seeing things your way afterall.... Let's give this guy a chance, at least he fights for education.

Your "Democratic" Grandchild,

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween Weekend and Other Goodies

Time goes too quickly. Does anyone know a way to make it slow down? I'm sitting on my comfy couch, reflecting on a great weekend. It was extra-special for Chad-o and I, as we celebrated our one year engagement anniversary. Yes, I got the most "spook-tacular" treat last Halloween. Now I get to spend the rest of my life with the coolest, most fun guy ever. As a tribute to our big event, we purchased a new dining room table. We are now feasting in style.

As usual, the weekend was packed with activities. We celebrated my Dad's birthday with a dinner at 862 and time with the family. My brother came in from Pittsburgh and it was back to the usual Kaufman conversation as we found ourselves deep in the heat of political debate and discussion. I was also extra proud of myself-- I pulled off a butter pecan birthday cake for dear Ace. For those of you who know me well, this is a monumental event.

Saturday brought warm temperatures, unlike the blizzard we were treated to earlier in the week. I got the crazy and very unusual urge to bath and scrub Ruby the Cavalier. Honestly, I am embarrassed to say how filthy it was. Just to give you an idea, I was forced to resort to handy-dandy Q-Tips to scour out the grime. Thankfully, my car can proudly hold it's head high. It now sports a spic and span interior, a fresh wash job, and a new air freshener. I will admit, climbing into a clean car emerges as very undervalued treat.

Then, it was dinner and time at Seven Springs with old and new friends. Checking out all the Halloween costumes provided endless entertainment. However, I couldn't help but derive great pleasure in the Incredible Hulk who lurked in the corner.

Sunday, I had the simple pleasure of enjoying some lazy time. I finished the book "Gone With The Wind" and was amazed at the ending. To think that Rhett would have left Scarlett... I'm now looking forward to getting lost in a biography called "Look Me In The Eye". It's about a boy who grew up with Asperger's at a time when the diagnosis did not exist. I still want to read "The Shack," but am waiting until I can get it at the library.

Tonight I began soldering and constructing my stained glass lamp. I encourage everyone to find a creative outlet. Between stained glass and photography, I've had the most wonderful time. Here are a few snapshots of my project.
These are all the different pieces and a few of the tools.

This photo looks down in to the inside of the lampshade. The tape is holding the pieces together during the soldering process.

I'm not completely finished with the soldering, but this photo shows the outside view of the lampshade. When I am finished, there will be other pieces soldered to the top, finishing it off and providing some added flair.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cozy and Snuggly

It's official- fall has turned to winter and I couldn't be happier. I find something extremely comforting in a gentle snowfall and gray sky. Of course there's the car that's frozen shut, the wet feet, and gale force winds, but I do love it so...

In an attempt to ring in this cozy time of year, I'm burning one of my favorite Yankee tarts; Harvest Home. There's something so soothing in the scent.

Yesterday afternoon I stopped at a tiny, quaint antique shop along Patriot Street. Every morning on my way to work the pretty little Christmas tree perched in the storefront window seems to smile at me, beckoning me into a world of ancient treasures. Once inside, I was greeted with the smells of Christmas; pine, cranberry, clove, and cinnamon. Just breathing in the holiday yumminess took me back to the days of living at 862. My mom and dad always made the holidays so magical. Being in the shop emerged as a true delight. I enjoyed conversation with the nicest lady who shared in my love of other people's trinkets. We spent a good deal of time discussing the stories that the different pieces of furniture might tell. It's always refreshing to meet someone who isn't in a rush; someone who is truly enjoying being lost in the midst of a shopping adventure.

The above photos were taken this afternoon around 4:30. Obviously, Dott Avenue has been transformed into a violently shaken snow globe. Welcome to the 'hood, Jack Frost!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sweet Treats

I don't think I'll ever grow up. Just like a little kid, I made a deal with myself: if I was good at the doctor, I would get a treat. If you know me well, you know I'll do about anything for a morsel of delightful decadence.

Luckily the doctor I was visiting happened to be located in the booming metropolis of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I couldn't have been more pleased, as this afforded me the rare opportunity to partake in many of my favorite hobbies: shopping, trying on shoes, enjoying a long drive, and people watching at Starbucks.

Walking in to the yuppie-ish style coffee house instantly calmed me and was the perfect reward for my stellar behavior at the doc. I must say, coffee serves as a much bigger reward than the smiley stickers and cheap-o treasure chest treats of my youth. Perhaps being an adult has its "perks" after all.

Other than the warm aromas wafting through the air, a beautiful chalk-drawn sign toyed with my eyes. Hooray!-The pumpkin spice latte has made its annual appearance. I'm already looking forward to my all-time favorite...a gingerbread latte, but until then, the pumpkin spice will surely warm me up and pacify my coffee craving.

While placing my order, my eyes wondered to the pastry case, full of enormous, calorie packed, sugar-glazed goodies. Unable to avoid the yumminess tempting me from behind perfectly sparkling glass, I gave into my sweet tooth and ordered a dreamy vanilla bean scone. Just for the record, it was so heavenly that it should probably deemed illegal.

During my shopping adventure, I purchased my first official Christmas present of the holiday season. I adore present giving, but only when I know the person on the receiving end is appreciative. I have a feeling that this one will be a hit.

Allow me to leave you with the amazing quote that graced my Starbucks cup:

"Because true conservatives are pessimists, they are happier than liberals, for three reasons. First, pessimists are rarely surprised. Second, when they are wrong they are delighted to be so. Third, pessimists do not put their faith in princes – in government. They understand that happiness is a function of fending for oneself. Happiness is an activity; it is inseparable from the pursuit of happiness."
~ George F. Will
Pulitzer Prize–winning author and columnist

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Still Life

Photography class came to a close this evening. As a culminating activity, we were assigned to bring numerous objects to class in an attempt to create a still life photo. Interestingly enough, the pieces I chose were all shinny and gave off a tricky reflection. Learning how to manipulate the reflection, play with light, and even use it to an artistic advantage emerged as a true photographic experience.

I enjoyed learning about others through the different artifacts they brought to class. Once we were given this assignment, I immediately knew what I wanted to use. The teapot speaks of my love for warm beverages and cuddle sessions; the daisy tops my favorite flower chart, and is actually the top of a perfume bottle; the necklace has proven itself rather lucky, as I wore it for my job interviews in both Fairfax and Berlin; and the small glass bottle demonstrates my love of tiny, delicate things.

I'm lonely tonight.... my Chad-o is at the Penguin game and I'm here with a sleeping puppy. It's great he's off having fun with friends, but I miss him. Hurry home, Turbo!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Simple Deilghts

While roaming in a daze through Wal-Mart today, I was roused from my lathargic state by the high pitched, excited squeel of a little girl. "Mommy! I want to go to Christmas!" she said, as she stared in awe at the glistening display of trees, ornaments, bows, lawn ornaments, and wrapping paper.

There's something so authentic about the innocence of children during the holidays. Even though I'm all grown up, I still get a giddy, yippie-skippie feeling when I see the first signs of Christmas popping up in shopping marts. As a matter of fact, my mom and I were just talking about the new Christmas cookie recipes that we want to try. It's hard to believe that Halloween hasn't even arrived, yet Mr. Clause is already knocking on the door. Trick-or-Santa?

This weekend proved to be full of simple delights: time with friends, late night conversation with Chris and Kami, good times rocking out to High Maintenance, Sunday morning lazies, and even a jog. It seems that Sunday night has quickly crept up on me again....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Star Puffs

While out walking the other day, I came across these leftover dandelions. Capturing them in the autumn breeze proved quite a challenge, but it was enjoyable to watch them come to life and take on new perspectives as I played with the camera settings.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nectar of the Gods

There's this little place called the Summit Diner that Chad-o and I frequent quite often. The other day we were indulging in some vegetable soup and sandwiches when a quirky little sign caught my attention. It read: Coffee- Do Stupid Things Faster With More Energy. Too funny! Being a slave to the highly caffeinated, warm, rich beverage, the sign hit a nerve with me.

I'm always looking for a reason to partake in this small pleasure. I don't know if it's that I enjoy holding a piping hot mug or if the smell reminds me of my mom's kitchen, but either way, coffee has a calming effect on me. Crazy, isn't it? Most people use it to perk themselves up, where I, on the other hand, find it relaxing and comforting.

Greta, thanks for the adorable picture that popped up in my mailbox today. You instantly brought a smile to my face and made me miss our coffee, cookie, and talking time more than ever. I miss you and our good times at Saratoga.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Perfect Scenery

I love living in the Laurel Highlands. This time of year affords such beautiful views and all-around amazing foliage. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to take a few photo walks, and even embarked on a "photography field trip" with my new picture taking friends. It really amazes me at how much can be done with a camera.

While on our field trip at Kooser State Park, we bumped into the nicest fisherman. As it turns out, he was a professional photographer from New York who worked for the New York Daily News and was previously embedded with the US Army in Iraq. While there, he was responsible for creating the Kodak moments that all of us back in the USA get to observe. Anyway, he was kind enough to get out his equipment and let us play around with it. His lenses were absolutely stunning....

What a wonderful weekend it turned out to be. Chad-o and I ventured to J-town where we indulged in the delicious chips and salsa at Chili's and saw the movie, "Body of Lies." I highly recommend it. Our Saturday was full of odds and ends, Charlie got a fur cut, and I went shopping for my stained glass supplies. I chose an odd, brownish, amber color of glass to make my lamp. I enjoy the natural look more than the bright colors. We then ate out (again) and capped the evening with some drinks and wine at the Tavern.

Weekend, why must you go so fast?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hobbies and Firsts

Tonight I had the wonderfully relaxing and rejuvenating experience of photography class. I'm enjoying listening to someone else do the talking. Teaching is a true delight, but it's still nice to sit on the other side of the desk every now and then.

I was pleased to find that the rest of the class found my photos interesting. Having the opportunity to have a group of people quietly and gently comment and praise me resulted in an amazingly enlightening experience. Just like the children I teach, I found pleasure in hearing that I did something well.

Also, on Tuesday I began my stained glass class. Who would have thought that glass cutting would be so cathartic? I look forward to making my first project- a lampshade! I'll try and post some photos as I work on my masterpiece.

Looking back, I wish I would have taken more time for myself to be creative. I noticed a calm presence in myself within the last week, and I truly believe it's a direct result of allowing my creative juices to flow in new directions. Plus, learning something out of my usual realm has caused me to view the world around me with a fresh set of eyes.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Munchkin is Spooked

Once upon a time, long, long ago, a wise sage said there's always more than meets the eye. Honestly, when it comes to photography, the old saying couldn't be more true. After my class the other night, I emerged with an overwhelming urge to divide and conquer the world of picture taking. However, I've been so caught up in the world of f-numbers, aperture, and shutter speed that I haven't been able to get much else done. I'm sorry dirty laundry and dusty nightstand....

I managed to take some photos of Charlie. I must mention that she hates the camera, and the innocent look in the above photo is basically a pleading with God. I can here her mantra, "Please Lord, make mama put that scary machine away."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Welcome Autumn

Simply put, I love this time of year. The leaves are just beginning to change, mums are now gracing the porches of many homes, and pumpkins are popping up everywhere. Autumn brings about the cozy feeling I always search out. A true lover of warm apple cider, the smell of cinnamon, and jeans/sweaters #1 fan; I couldn't be happier. May the leaves start falling!

With the days getting shorter and the nights colder, I'll be forced to say good-bye to my evening walks, flower tending, and general time outside. Therefore I decided to take up some new hobbies. I've always been interested in photography and recently, a brand new Nikon camera magically appeared in my bed. I was, and am, beyond thrilled and signed up to take a photography class. I have high aspirations for myself....let's hope I'm successful. I have this image of using a modern approach and not following the typical rules of portrait taking. Wish me luck.

Also, when signing up for my photography class, I came across a stained glass class. I've been having a huge urge to purchase a Tiffany lamp, but now I have the opportunity to make my own. I'm beyond excited. Who knows...maybe I'll be opening my own workshop soon and you can come shop in my gallery. Try to hide your excitement.....

For now, I'm off to finish the Oreo brownies for Ava's 3rd birthday. I'd love to be 3 again, if for no other reason than to eat these brownies without the guilt of an exercise slave.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Phelps Rocks the H2O

Tonight I am watching the Beijing Olympics and just witnessed Michael Phelps earn his spot in the record books.

Sitting here tonight, tucked into the comfy couch cushions on Dott Avenue, I am taken back to the last summer Olympics where I was perched in the living room of 210 Comet Circle. I still remember sitting there, looking at boxes waiting to be unpacked, wondering if I would make any friends, and filled with apprehension and excitement at my big chance to finally be a teacher. It's amazing how four years can be filled with so many personal victories.

Now, I am preparing to end my summer vacation and begin my fifth year of teaching sixth grade. Although I love the "back to school" time of year, I'm rather sad to see summer slip away. This one was particularly special, as Chad-o and I officially became king and queen of the hood.

So long summer 2008. It seems like it's time for a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Small Towns

Big nights in small towns always seem to amaze me. There's something audaciously fun about watching a small community come alive with the chatter and anticipation of a new event. Typically, weekends in Somerset involve lazy days filled will Wal-Mart runs, grocery store visits, a possible dinner outing, and a trip to the local watering hole to meet and greet with friends.

Last night proved an enjoyable distraction from the typical routine. Nothing like a big white tent filled with music to bring out the people. Listening to Tres Lads and The Clarks while mingling and catching up with old friends, drinking cold beverages, and enjoying the fine sport of people watching defiantly got the best of me.

I'd like to send out my thanks to my personal Nurse Chickadee for all the love I was shown. I can always count on you to let me ramble endlessly about death, construct a bed on the bathroom floor, photograph me at my finest, allow me to eat Doritos for breakfast, and then cap off the treatment with a cup of coffee and a newspaper. You rock my world, Chad-o. Thanks for bringing the Clarks to town, and thank you for making the hood a happening hangout.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Day in the Bakery

You'd think that as much 'Ace of Cakes' as I watch, I could at least handle the basics. But, it's quite a different story. Sadly enough, I want so badly to be a cake decorator. I can think of nothing I'd love more...being creative with sweet treats! However, it just doesn't seem to be in the cards for me. I tried to make a pineapple upside down cake from scratch for Chad-o's birthday; it failed. Then I tried to make Linda a Java Blue layer cake for her birthday. I thought I nailed the precious dessert, only to open the refrigerator door and find that the entire cake slid apart and was smeared and smashed all through the condiment rack. Therefore, like a true champion I decided to step back, evaluate my strengths, and begin to slowly build my confidence . Thankfully, I was able to pull off this amazing cookie recipe without any disasters. Ladies and gentlemen, put your potholders together for Cathy's Cookies!! (It's truly a miracle..thanks God!)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Big Debut

I've finally given into the techno version of journaling. In reality, I've never been one to "journal", however I do love to record special moments, inspiring quotes, and most importantly the little, everyday things that we so often consider insignificant. It really does amaze me at how we work so hard to record the big events, yet often lose track of the tiny ones. I suppose this is my way to remember the 'littles'; the day to day occurances that are all to often forgotten.

Today I went outside and planted some flowers my mom gave me from her garden. It makes me happy to see them outside my windows. I also indulged in one of my favorite things- a large cup of coffee from the Donut Connection. Who would have thought that two dollars could by so much happines?

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