Sunday, October 23, 2011

Frost on the Punkins

"A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made.  The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air."
~Eric Sloane

I spent yesterday tangled with my yarn- ultra creamy, dreamy, baby alpaca yarn.  Now I'm craving all things warm and cozy, including tons of knitting, plenty of reading, and baking artisan bread .  Give me a log cabin, some candles, a cracking fire, and a warm blanket and I promise you'll never hear from me again.  
Pinky swear.

So this morning, when I let Little One out to Potty, you can imagine my happiness when I noticed the soft, lush grass had transformed into a crystallized forest of shimmery ice and crunchy leaves.

Today marked the kick-off.  It was the day I wait for all year.

Go grab some hot apple cider and a cinnamon stick and clink your mug against mine.  
Cheers to the first frost, my friends.

Monday, October 17, 2011


 "The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things."
~ Henry Ward Beecher

…after a great day, a day when I received two cards for no reason at all, I come home and unload the dishwasher and find these little guys.  Looks like they've created their own little pumpkin patch~ on the top rack that is.  Awesome.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On Staying Optimistic

"Some pursue happiness, others create it."

My mom is full of great ideas.  Trust me.  Her fantastic ideas recently gained even more favor with me when she made the very genius suggestion that we put everything else aside and head to Fort Ligonier Days, a local arts and crafts and food festival.

Her suggestion came on a Monday morning as we chatted during my drive to school.  After unlocking my door, stashing my purse, and turning on my classroom lights, I logged on to the Weather Channel.  Whatdaya know….the day we were planning for had a 40% chance of thunderstorms. 

In my book that translates to a 60% chance of sun, so I zoomed off an e-mail spouting that it was totally worth the risk.  I filled the square in my day planner and reserved the day for her and I.

The night before the planned outing the rains came.  Now, allow me to explain that rain typically presents big problems for outdoor festivities.  One- mud.  Two- frizzy hair.  Three- soggy food.  Four- cumbersome umbrellas.  Five- slight chill.  I could go on and on…

I went to bed the night before our day hoping that the rains would go away, but secretly enjoying the thought of bundling up in my cruddy jeans, rubber shoes, and plastic poncho.  “An adventure!” I silently cheered.

The next morning, before the sun, I was up- eagerly anticipating the day my mom and I had planned.  Much to my initial dismay, the rains maintained a steady rhythm against the roof and windows, and made swooshing noises while passing though the spouts. 
I lay in bed, pulling the covers closer, wishing the rains away.  I wanted a day of fun- carefree, umbrella-free fun. 

But the sunshine and sunbeams just weren’t in the plans.  We donned our rain gear and prepared to make the best of it.  We even started the morning with a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks.  Pure Heaven.

As we made our drive, we continued to laugh about the rain and kept telling ourselves that a little precipitation was only going to add to the fun. 

For a good hour we walked through Fort Ligonier Days with our rain gear, perfecting the art of balancing items to purchase, money, and umbrellas with two hands.  It was quite the little circus act.

Deciding that we needed a good, hearty break for lunch, we headed to The Ligonier Tavern to warm up and dry out.  As we sat at the most quaint table, enjoying our spinach artichoke dip and white chicken chili, the clouds parted and the sun smiled and blue chased away the gray. 

“Well, well, well,” we snickered.  You see, we knew this was going to happen all along- obviously.  (sly grin)

We shopped and shopped and looked and talked, eventually stopping for some hazelnut java at Abagail’s Coffee Shoppe.  Then we found us a nice little park bench and enjoyed tapping our toes to the sounds of the Irish band, playing in the gazebo.

I can’t find the words to express how much I enjoyed our day.  Of course, we utilized every second, closing down the nearby mall and not arriving home until well after 10:30. 

Good thing we didn’t wait on the sun- we would have missed one heck of a super-fun, super-special day. 

Thank you, Mama J- much love.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Into the Woods

"Take only pictures, leave only footprints."
~ Anonymous


Pumphouse Trail, Laurel Hilll State Park
October 9, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Evening's Glow

"No Spring nor Summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face."
~J. D.

It’s one of those cozy nights.  The kind where simply pulling your hair up makes you chilly—I’m thankful for the warmth of long, thick hair.  

I’m feeling ultra-productive.  Laundry is churning away.  Fresh towels decorate the bathrooms.  My schoolwork is caught up.  Life is balanced—I like that—a lot.

Oh the autumn nights, clad with their golden/gray light.  There’s something about the glow of my Halloween Tree and the soft aura of candy corn and purple twinkle lights that just has me itchin’ for sheepskin slippers and flannel pajamas.  I smell my spaghetti squash baking in the oven and enjoy the faint, vegetative aroma it sends dancing through the air.  I’m so thankful for the bounty of summer’s abundant harvest. 

Like a potion bubbling in an iron cauldron, my Halloween Tree stirs up memories of my childhood.  All of the decorations hold a meaning, a memory, a happy thought. 

See the little black cat?  That was my prize for having the best costume in my kindergarten class.  No one could guess who the portly hobo was—no princess or fairy wings for this girl (grin).

Notice the crochet ghost and pumpkin?  My Mamoo made those.  They were magnets that previously decorated her homey kitchen and refrigerator. 

The ceramic pumpkin-head ghost with the missing hand?  I broke it when I was about six or seven years old.  I remember it tumbling from its high perch on the counter. 

The ever-so-festive candy corn lights?  My mama and papa got me those last year.  I found them hanging on my door with a little note from my dad.  “Trick-or-Treat,” it said.  Yes, you guess it, I still have the note.

I tell you more stories of the Halloween Tree later.  But now, I must prepare for sleep.  Time to snuggle in and listen to the pitter-patter of the mid-night rain.  

My Cheeks Hurt

I spent Saturday smiling from ear to ear.  Between the memories and watching happiness (you really can see happiness, you know?) and eating delicious food and being in my favorite place with my favorite people, I experienced bliss at its finest. 

Pumpkin Fest 2011
Confluence, PA

 The day also involved an impromptu stop at The Confluence House, a quaint bed and breakfast owned by my dad’s long-lost friend.  We enjoyed a most jolly tour and shared quite a few hearty laughs.  It’s a long, hilarious story, but I’ll spare you the intimate details (wink).  We’ll just say there was plenty of talk of moonshine.

I simply adore milky-glass windows.  Throw a pumpkin behind such glass and I'm in complete heaven.

I truly enjoyed visiting the church where my father spent his childhood years.  At times like this, I find myself humbled and thankful that some things never change.  It was exactly as he remembered it- the smell and all- and that made me happy.  Those memories are important and deserve to be relived.  I loved listening to him relive his past, telling stories and losing himself in days gone by.  It was sweet and special.

Oh delicious festival!


 And, of course we biked.  I even went walking in a corn field.  Don’t ask.  You just never know what I’ll get myself into.

Awesomely wonderful, beautiful, fun weekend.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Comforts and a Memory Lane Detour

"Food is the most primitive form of comfort."
~Shelia Graham

I wish I could tell you that years of piano lessons helped to finely hone my musical skills.  I’d be proud if I could even boast of knowing how to accurately and proficiently read an intermediate piece of music.  But alas, I come up short—way short.  I learned three important things from piano lessons.

  1. I learned how to make excuses and talk my way out of actually playing the piano.  I remember going to numerous lessons, where I would just talk to Mrs. Schrock.  We’d talk and laugh and I’d tell her about school and –gasp- we’d talk about other kids- kids who were piano students of hers (shame, shame, shame on us).  Sometimes she gave me small treats—she’d disappear into the other room and come back with a brownie, a cookie, or a small candy bar.  Essentially, I learned how to talk in a circle and avoid playing any songs.  I never practiced.  I really didn’t like the piano.  I had forts to build and a bike to ride….
  1. I became a master at Christmas music.  After two years of struggling through Piano Purgatory, playing mundane tunes and scales, I proclaimed that I’d had enough.  No more.  And from that point on, I exclusively played Christmas music.  All year.  My favorite was “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and she liked “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  Looking back, it’s obvious to see that we were simply eclectic and festive, two crazy girls, from two different generations, getting jiggy with holiday music in the middle of May.

  1. Although never much for church, I learned practically every popular, mainstream hymn.  I loved playing hymns, (sly grin) probably because they were rather simple and slow.  Like I said, I wasn’t much for practicing.  However, I became a hymn playin’ queen, often playing “All Things Bright and Beautiful” with genuine passion and vigor.  I’m still surprised I was never asked to showcase my musical talents at church.  It’s alright—the church didn’t want the other kids to be jealous.  I get it.

Today, I found myself thinking of sweet Mrs. Schrock and those piano lessons.  You see, as I was busy unlocking the door, balancing six grocery bags and a purse and a water bottle and one overly expensive pair of sunglasses, I found myself humming a familiar hymn.  I was humming the tune the church bells played.  I’m lucky to live near the church.  Those chimes and bells often help keep me in check and keep me on schedule.

Isn’t it crazy how the simplest of events, such as the tolling of church bells, can spin off a whole flood of memories?  geesh…

So anyway, I was returning from the grocery store, when this flashback hit.  Pardon me for taking a detour onto Memory Lane.  All day I looked forward to baking a special treat for myself.  Thursday is my alone night—a night that Charlie and I chill out and do things for us.  Cooking and/or eating usually top both of our lists. 

Just as we started boiling water and cooking chicken, we got a text from my dad.  “Starbucks.  Pumpkin Spice Latte.  Pick you up in 15 min.”


Off went the burners.  Lock went the doors. 

Charlie, very politely (wink) asked the kind lady at the drive through if she could have some whip cream.  Since no one can resist the requests of Fur Face, her wishes were met and she promptly stuffed her little nose into the paper cup and indulged.  Her tail is still wagging.

Then, we drove some of our old favorite roads, talking and gossiping, sipping coffee, and enjoying the peace and calm of quiet country scenery.  We’re so lucky to live here—the beauty in an October evening is beyond enchanting.

When we arrived home, we quickly got back to work on our dinner.  There’s nothing like the comfort of pasta and organic chicken, cheese and buffalo sauce.  I sure do love me some
fall-ish comfort foods.  It’s obviously time to build up my fat storage and prepare for my winter hibernation. 

You might want to make Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta, too. Go ahead, give it a try.

1 pound pasta (I used whole wheat orecchiette)
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups milk
4 ounces grated monterey jack cheese + more for topping
1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese + more for topping
1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

For garnish: I just chopped up a bunch of green onions, threw on some cheese, and drizzled with buffalo sauce.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

While pasta is cooking, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter, and once it’s melted and bubbly add the flour. Whisk together and cook for 1-2 minutes until mixture gets a bit golden in color. Add milk, stir and turn down heat to low. Continue stirring until milk thickens. Add in grated cheeses and continue to stir until mixture is smooth. Stir in buffalo wing sauce.

Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray. Add pasta and chicken, then pour cheese sauce over and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with additional grated cheese and bread crumbs. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately top with cheese and green onions. Drizzle with buffalo wing sauce.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened."
~ Buddha

I got real personal with autumn today.  

Hubbo and I tackled the lawn this evening...double-teamed it, if you will.  I had the luxury of enjoying the scent of decaying leaves and soggy acorn hats, while he trimmed the lush grass and worked on the edging.  I'll also throw in that I raked and raked and raked, gathering two bags of mucky and waterlogged pine needles.  Like I mentioned, it was personal.  Maybe even intimate. ha. 

For numerous reasons, today proved interesting.  I teeter between being annoyed, angry, disappointed, and thankful.  Like I said, it proved interesting.  Never-the-less,  I'm so thankful that after our evening chores Ninja and I enjoyed a slow dinner of grilled treats and baked potatoes and finished while eating dark chocolate, drinking coffee, and having the most wonderful conversation on the kitchen floor.  

happy sigh.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's Moving In....

"Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite,
All are on their rounds tonight;
In the wan moon's silver ray,
Thrives their helter-skelter play."
~Joel Benton

Look closely.  The sky foretells of things to come.  

I was caught up in my after-school activities-- reading the newspaper and enjoying time in my yoga pants and oversize sweatshirt--when I happened to notice the shadows within the room changing shape, morphing from one gray creature into the next.  

Then, the shadows would disappear.  And just as quickly, they would return again.  

Picking up Munchkin, I wondered over to the window and peered outside.  Sure enough, the sky was moving-- moving, I tell you--swirling together silver clouds and pockets of pink light.  Surely, one could describe the sight as beautiful.  Perhaps hauntingly beautiful.

Haunting.  hummm....  Did I ever tell you of my obsession with the supernatural?  Have I mentioned my extreme fascination with the spirit world?  (Click here to read more.)

Oh the joys of this season!  The promise of candles and cozy and spells and black cats. 

We're all set here at 403.  The Halloween Tree went up tonight.  Bring on the spooks, the whispering winds, the creaky doors, and flickering flames...

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