Headless Horseman … Favorite Halloween Story

There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations.  ~Washington Irving
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Kyle a.k.a. the lion on his 1st Halloween (actually his 2nd for we didn’t take him trick-or-treating after Ryan’s passing) with Gram Alice, who’s scarier? 10/2002

Ever since I was a little tyke, I’ve always loved Halloween.  Obviously, at that time I enjoyed the trick-or-treating, and as I got older I participated in bagging (a Latrobe Halloween tradition) Halloween of Years Past.  Soon after, Halloween took on a partying feel as an adult and then back to the beginning with trick-or-treating, now only as an accomplice to my little monster, as Kyle became a part of my life.

I didn’t properly introduced Kyle to the act of bagging only because he never really cared for such activities like I did.  There are many other ways to enjoy the holiday, and yes, Halloween is a holy day of obligation.  Besides trick-or-treaking and getting dressed and gorging on candy and hopefully making it to mass, Halloween is celebrated through movies!  Just turn on the television and Halloween is repeated over and over, same as years past.

Yes, I will admit, I do look forward to the Halloween classics, which I don’t give a second thought to any other time of the year.  Like what?  There was a time when I got caught up in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies and Poltergeist and the Halloween series.  Then, there’s the real classics likes Psycho and the Exorcist, again I love any story based off of truth.  But not all movies have to be that scary, and yes I do consider those scary.  They might be old classics by now, but they still provoke a nightmare or too when the lights are out.  I love Hokus Pokus and Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein and Monster Squad.  The Addams Family Values is a great one that brings back my love of the original television show the Addams Family. I was such a fan, that I named my cat Morticia.

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Mario & crew for Halloween. Front: Nick as Mario & Kyle as Bowser (yes I made that entire costume!) Back: Holly as Luigi & me as red shy guy. 2011

Although my personal all time favorite Halloween story is the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  You know, the story of Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman.  I’ve always been fascinated with the creepy faceless (headless to be exact) rider, terrorizing the night on a dark horse.  Sure, I too like the other scarey stories of haunted houses and poltergeists, but something about the headless horseman has always fascinated me.   Perhaps it’s the history associated with it, a small town post American Revolution in the 1790’s (I’ve always been a history buff); or it’s because the story is based off of real life with the elements of fiction sewn into the storyline.  That’s my favorite, when stories could very well be real, especially when the author, in this case Washington Irving, used real names of actual people and landmarks to describe his story, a real place in New York.  Maybe it’s because the story is a bit of folklore and a legend, remade over and over again in movies and cartoons, making its appearance every Halloween; OR perhaps it’s because the setting is in the woods, a place of perceived solitude, mystery and wonder, one of my favorite places to regain my thoughts.  My guess?  It’s the combination of all of the above that intrigues me, making the Legend of Sleepy Hollow my favorite.

Knowing all that, it’s certainly no secret that one of my best-loved Halloween movies is Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp Oooh I like Johnny Depp!  I mean the story of the headless horseman AND Johnny Depp ALL in one movie!  A win win in my opinion.  It’s my choice of style for a movie, suspense and creepy, yet no obvious gore and unnecessary language or adult situations, a clean scary story.  I’m not a big fan of blood and guts and excess violence.  Sure there might have been a time when I looked for all the stage show, but not really any more, I prefer the simpler things.  When it comes to scary movies, I believe less is more.  Like Jaws, you know from the sound of the music playing that the shark was approaching or going to strike, yet you didn’t see a lot of anything.  Now that’s suspense!  Totally scary in my opinion.

Yes, I am aware there is a show on television called Sleepy Hollow, again based off of the legend, along with their own creative interpretations.  One would think I would be all over that show, but alas I don’t watch much television, and I never was able to get into it.  Maybe I like to save the headless horseman strictly for Halloween, it makes it special and something to look forward to.

What kind of scary does Kyle like to watch?  None.  I mean that, he couldn’t even handle watching a preview for The Conjuring or The Woman in Black with Kyle’s favorite Danielle Radcliffe, Mr. Harry Potter himself.  Nope.  Kyle won’t even entertain the idea, and has to turn his head when he sees a commercial or a preview playing containing something scary, forget the blood and guts!  I’ll admit Kyle will watch Sleepy Hollow with me and movies like The Dark Knight, but that’s the extent of his “scary” movie interest.  Nothing wrong with that, I’d rather he protects his mind from unnecessary fright and evil.

My sister on the other hand was the reason I saw movies like Children of the Corn, Pet Cemetery and It as a kid.  She used to read the master of horror, Stephen King himself.  That’s probably the biggest difference between those two.   Nicole looks for ghosts and Kyle chooses to ignore any idea of such scary things.     

No matter what type of scary is your favorite, if any, I hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Pittsburgh Has the “Ugliest” Accent?

Just growing up in Pittsburgh and knowing different neighborhoods, having family there and just loving it, it’s like no other place.  ~Wiz Khalifa
Pittsburgh entered the core of my heart when I was a boy and cannot be torn out.  ~Andrew Carnegie
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Me, Kyle & mom on the Gateway Clipper in Pittsburgh, Pa. We rode the locks & dams!  Kyle has a blast, he was 5 yrs old.   8/5/06

Growing up about an hour east of Pittsburgh, roughly 45 miles or so, I do consider myself a Pittsburgher, secondary to being a Latrobean.  Random Fun Facts:  Latrobe, Pennsylvania  Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State and tucked away in the lower left corner, better known as Western Pennsylvania, lies the city of Pittsburgh.  It’s our own piece of the world and it’s a great place to visit, and for me, to call home.

Over the years, I’ve traveled and explored other areas of our beautiful planet, but I’ve always returned.  Why?  Because this is my birthplace, my home, and it’s a great place to live!  Sure we have our quirks, but nothing beats the landscape of the Laurel Mountains, the three rivers, the art and the quaint communities surrounding Pittsburgh and the suburbs.  Nothing!

Recently, Pittsburgh has been voted as having the “Ugliest Accent” from Gawker.com’s “America’s Ugliest Accent” tournament.  Do I care?  Not really.  I’m proud of our city with everything it has to offer, and its hard working and loyal people.  After all, no one can claim to have die hard sports fans like we do with our “Stillers” (Steelers), Steeler Nation, the Pirates (baseball) and the Penguins (hockey).  We are world renowned for our hospitals and doctors and recently, the Pittsburgh area has caught the attention of the movie industry and celebrities alike.  Not to mention there are plenty of famous individuals who call Pittsburgh home or have close ties with our city, including Andrew Carnegie (the Carnegie Museum), Gene Kelly, Michael Keaton, Billy Gardell, Christina Aguilera and our world famous artist, Andy Warhol.  Not a bad line up.

We have Heinz ketchup!  Say no more.

Sure, we used to be known for our “still mills” (steel mills), but times have changed.  And sure, we don’t progress as quickly as other cities, but slow and steady seem to win the race, especially with respect to the cost of living.  Our area wasn’t hit hard by the housing market crash, no major spikes and valleys here.  Pittsburgh, like its steel is cool, smooth and solid.

I read somewhere, Pittsburgh averages more rainfall and “partly clawdy” (partly cloudy) days a year than Seattle, Washington.  I don’t know who won that race, but I can attest for our fickle weather that usually hides the sun.   Personally, I don’t mind the rain and clouds, for when the sun does shine we appreciate it all the more.

As a student in school, I was taught proper grammar, like most, learning the difference between slang and proper English.  It’s true, we are an educated bunch, so don’t let the “ugly” accent fool you.  We are fully aware of our creative and very recognizable Pittsburgh language, but are very proud of it.  In fact, I’m sure since I’ve started writing this blog, I’ve slipped in a few slang terms, or at least I started to until spell check didn’t realize I was from the Pittsburgh area.

My Pittsburgh accent isn’t as throughout as some, but I do “redd up” my room and walk through “jaggers” in the woods and “chitchat” with friends and offer them a “pop”, even though I don’t drink soda or “pop”.  Sometimes it gets “slippery” when “yinz” are walking across one of our great bridges.  Yes, we have more bridges than Venice!  Sunday’s I find myself  loafin’ around while my mom “worshes” the dishes with water from the “spicket”.  Now that’s one I personally can’t stand!  I’ve never put an “r” in my wash, EVER, and I never will.  My mom is the only one in our family who does that and it drives me crazy!

Pittsburghers are a quirky bunch, but a great place to call home.  If you’re in the area, stop by and have a Primanti Brother’s “sammitch” (sandwich) and visit the “sahside” (Southside), “norside” (Northside) or “dahntahn” (Downtown) “n’at” (and that).  Don’t mock it until you’ve tried it, so go ahead and practice your Pittsburghese.

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Travels and have No Comments

Potty Training, Sticker Style

Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.  ~Thomas Wolfe

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Uncle Sonny with a 3 year old Kyle on his birthday. He loved stickers! 7/2003

The subject of potty training has been popping up around me.  Every time I hear stories from others, it brings a smile to my face, for that was the one  parenting act I did right from the beginning, no trial and error needed.  I potty trained Kyle in a single night.  Of course, Kyle should have some credit too.  When I think of potty training, to me it was as easy as peeling a sticker and giving a hash mark.

Yes, way back in the day, I potty trained our little rug rat.  Kyle was a few months from being two, I believe. Personally, I was ready to rid us all of the diapers a year prior, but I know it takes time.  Did I mention I’m not the most patient?  Yes, literally I had an idea on how to potty train this smart little man and one day I just decided to do it.  Deep down I know Kyle was definitely ready to graduate to the little potty, or least I convinced myself he was.

I didn’t mind changing Kyle’s dirty diapers as a baby, not at all.  It became so secondary to me, I managed to go through this stage of his life without wearing his waste, not once!  I was quick, yet I didn’t sacrifice cleanliness for speed.  I always made sure that child’s bottom was sparkling so he could feel good and keep the diaper rash at bay.  He did manage to suffer with small bouts of diaper rash at times, but it wasn’t because I made a real effort.  It broke my heart to bear witness to my little package in pain.  In fact, I would check him more frequently and change him regularly to avoid what could be avoided.

So back to the potty training.  How did I do it?  I’ve heard of horror stories about kids rebelling and so on and so forth.  No for me.  All I did was use Kyle’s weakness against him, or however you want to look at it.  What was Kyle’s kyrptonite?  Stickers! Yes, those colorful pieces of paper with an adhesive on the back, that comes in all shapes, sizes and themes.  Stickers!

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Kyle dancing around in his Incredibles underroos in my boots…too funny not to capture! 10/2005

Seriously?  That’s all it took were some stickers?  Well, no, not exactly, but that’s the bulk of it.  First you have to understand that Kyle always loved stickers.  Always!  I started him on his sticker interest when he was a little tyke.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, they were going to be my biggest ally.

Why stickers?  Why not.  I, myself  was a fan of stickers as a young girl, and I guess I wanted to bring a little of my childhood and interest to Kyle for him to enjoy.  As a youngster, I remember having books upon books full of  stickers.  Back then I didn’t have actual books that housed stickers, nope I used the peel away photo albums to store my precious treasures with their waxy paper backing still in tacked so I could trade or reorganize them again.  My favorites were the ones that smelled.  Scratch and sniff stickers!  I was also a fan of the textured stickers with fuzz or fur.  Exciting.

Over the years of Kyle’s early days, we would buy him sticker books.  The new trendy books whereas Kyle would have to match up the sticker with someplace specific in the book and permanently stick the sticker.  My little man would spend hours stickering up those books and then take the time to review his efforts.  He really enjoyed this activity.  Funny enough, later on this would be a favorite activity while he was using the toilet.

Kyle’s interest was mostly animals off all sorts and his staples, Star Wars and Lego theme sticker books, sometimes a combination of both.  Admittedly, I would sit for hours with Kyle and help him sticker up his books.  He enjoyed the attention and I loved hanging with my little man, and we both adored the activity.

How did Kyle become so interested in stickers?  Again that was my doing.  Let me step back in time a little further to the beginning of Kyle’s love of stickers.  In fact, I can almost pin point the exact moment.  I shouldn’t say this out loud, you know in case someone was able to go back in time and wanted to alter the course of Kyle’s history. (Back to the Future reference)

As a thirteen year old, Kyle could careless about those sticky pieces of fun, but times were different.  When Kyle was a baby of about eight months, maybe younger, I showed him a new way to wear stickers.   Granted, he had no choice in the matter, but I found it hilarious.  At my cousin Chad’s wedding, I placed a sticker to Kyle’s forehead.  Being a baby, the only responsibility he had was to eat, fill his diaper, sleep and repeat.  So the mischievously placed sticker wasn’t even a thought to him.  For some bizarre reason, I found that extremely funny.  My sister yelled at me and told me to stop picking on the baby, but she too laughed.  It really was funny watching the kid look around without the knowledge of a sticker planted directly in the middle of his forehead.  Then it got even better.

Soon he realized there was something on his forehead and he began to go crossed eyed trying to focus on it.  If my memory serves me correctly, this was a short amount of time after Chad’s wedding.  He used to look up, his eyes would cross and he tried to reach in the air to get a hold of the object stuck to his forehead.  I know mean, but pure entertainment!

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Kyle’s underroos dancing in my boots… He cracks me up! 10/2005

Eventually, the ornery action on my part, became a standard embellishment for Kyle.  He would place stickers to his cheeks, arms and legs and leave them there.  The entire sticker situation back fired when it became a fight to remove the unnecessary body art.  This usually happened when Kyle portrayed the sticker as too sticky and he was afraid to rip it off, or it was bath time and he simply didn’t want them to fall off.  He would rather omit the bath to keep the stickers stuck.  I guess I totally deserved that for tormenting Kyle.  One well worth it.

Stickers became the hot commodity in our household, so much so, I decided to use them as a reward system.  Knowing Kyle was the type that thrived on positive reinforcement, unlike me.  So I came up with a game plan for potty training.

At the time, I don’t believe Kyle gave any indication that he was ready to potty train, but I knew I was ready for that next step.  Informing mom, she agreed and helped me to set the stage for victory.  Yes, I didn’t just say, go us the potty and the child listened.  Nope, I was good but not that good.  Preparations needed to me made to ensure the potential battle was weak and over with before it began.

Before I was ready to change Kyle’s world, we all went shopping, including Kyle.  We let him pick out whatever underroos he wanted, all the while building  up the excitement about being potty trained.  In addition to the new garments, I made Kyle a bathroom chart, simply marking “Pee” and “Poop”.  The deal was, every time he used the potty, either his little boy potty or asked to use the big potty, he would get a hash mark on his chart and a sticker.  Each “pee” was worth one and every “poop” was worth two.  I hung his chart on the closet door in the bathroom at his eye level so he could see his own progress.  I hid all the stickers on the fireplace mantle, knowing he would dive into those if left unsupervised.  I did show him the gold mine I tucked away up there out of his reach, or so I thought.

I remember distinctly, it was a Friday, I picked Kyle up the day prior, knowing the gig was going down before the weekend.  I explained about the deal and he was all in!   How exciting!  I knew it wasn’t going to be perfect  and I knew it was my responsibility to work with the kid to give him a change, but it was a good sign to hear he was all in.  Maybe he was ready.

On Friday, I explained about letting me know when he needed to use the restroom.  I even alleviated potential embarrassment by telling him it’s ok if he had an accident, just let me know.  I had Kyle pick out his new underwear and he wore them immediately, all day and into the evening.  During this time, I constantly asked Kyle if he had to go to the bathroom and sometimes I had him try anyway.  Naturally, no matter what, he would give a little tinkle and request a hash mark and a sticker.  Done!  I was cracking up, it almost became fun for me too!

Kyle was so very good.  By bedtime, he went the day without a single accident.  Did I revert back to a diaper for the night hours?  Nope.  If I was going to commit, I was going to commit all the way.  It would have been an injustice to confuse the kid with alternating between underwear and diaper.  Nope,  I told him he was a big boy now and he only used the toilet, either his or the household one.  In fact, shortly after this, we gave all his extra diapers away.  Again, proving we had faith in him and we too were committed.  I did have to wipe his back side when needed, a team effort only Kyle relished in.

The next day mom and I had to drive to Pittsburgh, about an hour away.  Did I bring diapers  just in case?  Nope!  I did bring a lot of extra underroos and other supplies including the chart and a bunch of stickers.  I also did manage to sneak an extra blanket under his bottom in the car seat, just in case of a mishap, but none ever came.

Granted, we still did the reminding of using the restroom and encouraging all along the way.  Yep, ever since that night, Kyle was one hundred percent potty trained, no diapers ever made their way back to our house.  Believe it or not, Kyle never had an accident either, with the exception of being sick, but that doesn’t count.

Kyle reinforced his own potty chart, demanding a hash mark for doing his business and then the reward of a sticker.  Eventually, when he was able to use the household toilet on his own, his interest in the chart and the stickers lessened over time.  But I certainly, didn’t rush that, for that was his decision and he earned it.

On a side note, the day we were in Pittsburgh, my dad was in the hospital.  There were a few years after Ryan’s death, dad was pretty sick almost joining Ryan a couple of times.  By the time we got to see dad, Kyle, now wearing his big boy pants gave us all a surprise.  He saw his beloved pappy and pulled up his sleeve (those were the days when he would wear long sleeves) to reveal a bunch of stickers stuck to his arm.  He peeled one off and handed it to my dad.  First, I was in shock there were stickers on his arm that I didn’t know about, and then I was laughing.  It was a nice gesture, giving away his prize possessions.  Soon I began to wonder where he got all those stickers?  I rolled up the other sleeve and low and behold, more stickers!  What the heck?  Then, Kyle really blew me away.  He lifted up his shirt to reveal a stomach postered with STICKERS!  Wall to wall stickers!

Upon closer inspection, I recognized the sticky art.  They were the ones I just bought for Kyle’s potty training exercise!  They WERE on the mantle.  How did that kid get a hold of them?  When asked, Kyle just shot me an ornery grin and then gazed upon his pap who gave him a thumbs up.   Those two were always in cahoots.  Apparently, Kyle decided he wanted an advance on his bathroom chart.  It was then that I realized I needed to hide the stickers.

Kyle was always a stinker, pun intended, but no matter what, he’s always been a great kid, always full of pleasant surprises!

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Another Year Closer to Ryan

Life is just a short walk from the cradle to the grave, and it sure behooves us to be kind to one another along the way.  ~Alice Childress

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Nicole, Ryan & myself. I guess the theme was black & white. early 1980s

It has been thirteen years since I’ve last spoken to Ryan, at least in the physical sense.  It has been thirteen years since I’ve last seen him alive, except in pictures.  It has been thirteen years since Kyle lost his dad.  And it has been thirteen years since I wondered how I was to carry on without my brother, and how we as a family were going to cope with our loss.  Well, it’s been thirteen years today, and we have carried on, mostly with the help of our little guy, Ryan’s son, Kyle.

How did we do this?  I have no clue, no doubt by the grace of God and the help of friends and family.  It’s been a struggle, and there isn’t a day in those thirteen years that I didn’t think of Ryan and at times fallen to melancholy.  Yet, over the years, there too have been times when I seriously look forward to the day I can hang with Ryan again.

Personally, I love my days with my family, especially Kyle and watching him grow up.  I cherish every moment with that little bugger and being a big influence in his life. I do enjoy life, but there’s a part of me that can’t wait to see Ryan again and catch up.  I mean that, not in some crazy suicidal way, but in a way that gives me something to look forward to, a happy ending to my story.  Granted, I know I have a long way to go, at least that’s my assumption, but it’s still a new way to handle Ryan’s death, with hope of reuniting with him.

It’s not just Ryan I want to see again, in fact there’s a laundry list including my pappy, my sister’s friend Jennifer, and bunches of cousins and aunts and uncles and pets.  When I pass the pearly gates, if Saint Peter has me on the Almighty’s worthy list, I expect there to be a big old party of catching up and rejoicing.  I also trust that Ryan will remember how I am, and give me a personal tour of Heaven, since I do tend to be Directionally Challenged.  I suspect my directional deficiency won’t change even after death.

Like most, I too wonder about that light at the end of the tunnel and what Heaven has in store for me.  Maybe I will be able to go shopping for my own wings, or even better, have them custom made as per my creative instructions.  Maybe, I will be able to choose designer shoes to match my wings.  Not that I’m materialistic because even here on earth, I’m not, and I doubt Heaven has room for such nonsense nor would God would allow such things.  My idea of looking my best is to show my honor and love of being apart of the supreme spiritual, to be the best representative for God and all the angels.

Much like we have free will on earth, I’m guessing it will be the same in Heaven.  Perhaps I will be able to pick my own child to guard for all of his or her life.  I wonder if I work really hard, would I be able to manage two children?  I am a task master and that’s a challenge I welcome.

Putting all my silliness and imagination aside, I do miss Ryan.  I’m always trying to look on the brighter side, which for Ryan, he gets to be in Heaven and escape the suffering and the terrors of life.  Yet, I believe Ryan does experience the joys we part take in, similar to singing in church. You see, during mass, it is said that Heaven opens up and the angels join in with our singing.  Of course, if we were all placed on American Idol, I’m guessing the angels would win the sing off.  The point is they rejoice with us.  I’m thinking it’s the same for Ryan when we are happy and joyous.

God Speed Ryan!  I can’t wait to laugh and joke around together again.  Maybe we can play pranks on the living!        

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Closing Down the Garden

We are stardust, we are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.  ~Joni Mitchell

Dad Uncle Sonny as kids Aunt Heather Piper

Uncle Sonny & dad as kids. c. 1950s

This past weekend, among all the activities with the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt for Thrill of the Hunt and Kyle’s homework, building a fort for history class, we also managed to address the garden.

When I was younger, my parents had a huge garden.  Mom canned, A LOT, to stock up for the winter, and naturally all of us had to help out with the chore.  Did I like it?  Nope!  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I loved picking the fresh vegetables and of course eating the goodies.  I hated picking the rocks, HATED IT.  It was the most dreadful activity I had to do, besides the dishes.  I didn’t mind planting seeds or the plants.  I never minded weeding either, although I don’t remember doing much of that as a kid.  When the tomato worms made their appearance, those bulbous shaped green gross tomato killers, and they would try and devour our tomato plants, I rather enjoyed smashing them with rocks to help keep them at bay.  I guess like anything, there’s things we like and others we don’t.

Do I enjoy gardening now?  I do!  I don’t mind preparing the ground for planting, although shamefully, I make Kyle pick any rocks.  Still by far my favorite part of the garden is plucking the suckers off of the tomato plants.  You know the extra stem growing between two.  Love that job!  Then, afterwards, my fingers smell like fresh tomatoes.  LOVE IT!

We had a great run this season, God blessed us with a healthy harvest.  We had an abundance of tomatoes, which we were able to can a dozen quarts or so.  Early on in the season, I couldn’t keep up with the cucumbers and lettuce. Usually, no matter what, our squash is overwhelming, but not this year.  We did have some, mostly patty pan squash, but not like in years past.  Apparently, some sort of critter attacked the squash plants at the root, somewhat killing off the plant.  Others I talked to had the same issue.  I guess it happens.  Our giant pumpkins started to form, but died off early.  Dad’s peppers did finally take off, only producing a couple peppers the size of a half dollar.  Overall, a good harvest.

Surprising me this year, we feasted on a bunch of cantaloupe and watermelon.  Funny thing?  I didn’t plant any.  It was only later that I found out Kyle added his own touches to the garden.  That made sense since they were all planted together.  Regardless, good job buddy!

I also had Kyle and the neighbor kids plant giant sunflower seeds.  They grew!  Big!

I kept the garden going until there was a threat of frost, all the way up until this weekend I was picking tomatoes.  To not take any chances, I picked the rest of the green tomatoes on Sunday before tearing down the garden.

What are we going to do with the nearly four large bags of the green tomatoes?  I sorted some to be cut up for fried green tomatoes, the smaller ones we are going to pickle and can, and the nicer, unblemished ones are going to be placed in brown paper bags and stored in a cool dry place to ripen.  By Thanksgiving, we should have a few garden ripened tomatoes.  Not all will survive  but we should have some to join our bountiful spread.

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dad, Uncle Sonny, Jeremy & Nicole & Uncle Denny’s back. Christmas 1992

Hopefully in the next couple of weeks before deer season starts in New York, we will be proactive and prep the ground for next season.

What do we do when getting the land ready for winter?  On Sunday, we pulled up the tomato stakes, lifted the plastic (we use garden plastic to help control the weeds) and we folded up our make shift fence.  To get the garden ready for next summer, we’ll spread peat moss, sand and a big old pile of manure on the ground.  It’s better to let it set all winter.  We get my cousin Jim to plow for us if he has time before the seasons change, then disk and level the ground in the spring, but if not, he’ll do it all in the spring when he has the plow hooked up to the tracker.

Kyle was a huge help!  Seriously, a major three-hundred sixty degree change from last weekend.  Yes, he was screwing around and playing with the dogs as he worked, but he did a spectacular job!  Minimal to no complaining and he was in a good mood, no doubt the effects of the brisk sunny air and little bit of exercise.  He was a happy kid, the way I truly enjoy seeing him.  Not to mention it helped the dogs were cracking us up and running around like wild animals who were finally released from prison.

It was a good day!  Poor dad was really sick with a sinus infection, but we got the job done.  Gardening doesn’t just fill the tummy, but the soul too.  Next year I’m planning on expanding my product selection.  I have all winter to decide what additional crop we are going to enjoy next year.  Can’t wait.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Milestone,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Autumn’s Sights, Sounds & Smells

Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it ‘the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.’ The mere imitation, however accurate of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of ‘Artist.’ ~Edgar Allan Poe

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Our ridge in the Autumn … love this drive no mater the season. 2013

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved this time of  year.  ALWAYS.  Something about the cooler, yet usually sunny weather that makes me want to move around and be active.  Even on cold dreary rainy days, I must admit, I still find it refreshing and appealing.  To me, Autumn is simply a season to fill all my senses.

Sights/Touch

The fall colors always mesmerize and draw me into their paintings.  They create an almost surreal world where mystical meets reality.

The other day I was walking through Latrobe and the wind kicked in, releasing colorful dead leaves from the branches as I was under the tree.  It was amazing!  All the leaves gently fell all around me and gathered at my feet.  Like a little kid, I did a small twirl with my face turned toward the bright blue sky with my arms stretched wide, feeling the sun and the wind.  It was a small moment, but a huge one in terms for thankfulness of experiencing such beauty.

The Laurel Highlands are so very pretty on a macro and micro level.  Whether you’re looking at the ridges from a distance with all the clumps of different bright fall colors, or starring directly into a pile of raked leaves, visually it’s intoxicating, in a good way.

Yes, the leaves and bare trees scream of death, letting us know winter is around the corner, which I’m happy about for that’s my second favorite season.  But you have to admit, the process to get us to the next cycle of life is well worth it.

Besides the leaves turning, partaking in the creepy Halloween decorations are exciting.  The ghost and ghouls and witches and bats line yard after yard, ready to creep out a kid or two is entertaining.  Again, bringing me back to my youth.

Fall festivals like Fort Ligonier Days Fort Ligonier Days Parade – Marching Down Memory Lane and pumpkin patches also scream fall and the arrival of Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Like most kids, I too carved up a pumpkin or two in my day.  In fact, that was one tradition I kept going for most of my life, expecting Kyle to take the reins.  Well, when Kyle was about three years old or so, I found out that wasn’t going to happen.

True story.  My parents and I took Kyle to the pumpkin patch to pick out, none other than pumpkins.  Kyle chose the biggest one for himself and smaller, less appealing orange squashes for me and my parents.  He’s always been a stinker like that!

I got everything ready for the carving adventure to begin, which Kyle was still on board and excited to help hack away at his very own pumpkin, that is until we began.  After I cut the top off for Kyle, I instructed him to scoop out the guts before cutting the face.  That kid sniffed the inside and took a good long look down into the innards.  Turning his nose up, he instructed me to scoop out his guts.  No way, I was working on my own pumpkin.  I did get him started before he reluctantly joined in.  Bravely following my lead he stuck his bare hand inside, to quickly remove it announcing he doesn’t like the feel of the seeds on his skin.  Are you kidding me?  Nope.  That’s our Kyle.  For a couple of years after that we got him latex gloves, yes like he was doing surgery, but if the wall of the pumpkin grazed his arm he would freak out.  Eventually, Kyle would sit while I carved the pumpkins for him, all while he dictated what I was suppose to be doing and telling me how to do it.  This proves my love for that kid!

Soon that even got old and our pumpkin carving days pretty much came to an end, something Kyle could care less about.  At one point, I had Kyle paint his pumpkin, but again that didn’t keep his interest.  So now we just decorate with plain old pumpkins.

Sounds

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Kyle picking grapes to make grape juice & grape jelly. 9/2/13

In addition to enjoying the mosaic colors of God’s impressionistic landscapes and human imagination of Halloween decorations and pumpkin carvings, I like the sounds of autumn.

Fall seems to bring with it a unique sound.  Sure the crunching of leaves under my feet certainly sets the stage for winter.  Granted, it’s not very helpful when hunting, but there’s something so therapeutic about stomping on dried up leaves.  To me it’s the same effect that bubble wrap has, it’s just fun to hear the sound of popping and the anticipation before the “explosion”.  Of course no matter what season, perhaps not a hot humid summer day, hiking through the forest is the best medicine for any ailment.  Walking in the woods is like being in my own personal telephone booth and answering a direct call from God, very spiritual when your heart and mind are open to listen.

During the fall season, even the wind vibrates differently, like it’s sounding an alarm for the coming of snow and winter.  I know the geese hear it for they too blast their own siren announcing their travels to the south.

Besides the peaceful sounds of nature, there’s the Halloween screams and horror that fill the air.  The creaky floorboards, the terror of young ones being frightened, the maneuvering through corn mazes and the sounds of tractors driving around a wagon full of hay and spectators who are also enjoying the fall season.  Exhilarating!

Smells/Tastes

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A perfect fall day on my Uncle Walter’s farm. 2013

But the best part of autumn are the smells and the foods that hold those scents!  Spices!  I’m not talking about Cajun seasonings or hot sauce.  No.  I’m talking about ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Each is a unique and wonderful aroma, but put them together you get autumn in every bite.  Naturally, I’m talking about deliciousness such as pumpkin pie, mom’s absolute favorite; spice cake, hot apple cider, sunflower seeds, mostly the action of harvesting the seeds and baking them; and apple butter.

The other day mom got a jar of apple butter and slathered it on a piece of bread.  As a youngster, I helped mom can food all the time in preparation for the long winter months.  What did we can?  Just about everything from the garden, tomatoes, beans, beets, (we do can deer meat too, and sometimes we find the deer in the garden) cucumbers for pickles, and corn.  I also helped my mom and grandma make apple butter.

Yes, I was part of the entire process from picking the apples, which I never cared for due to the bees buzzing around the rotten apples on the ground, to grinding the fruit and boiling the jars for canning.  Over the years, I’ve even enjoyed opening a fresh jar of apple butter to accompany my toast.  My brother, Ryan, LOVED apple butter.  Sometimes I would catch him eating it straight from the jar.  Forget waiting for the toaster to make toast, Ryan would sit in front of the television with a loaf of bread, not slices, an entire fresh loaf of bread and a pint size jar of apple butter.  In a matter of minutes he would fill his craving and empty stomach and polish off all the bread and the apple butter.

Apple butter is good, but nothing gets my mouth watering like homemade grape juice!  We’ve always had a grape arbor and sometimes dad would make wine out of it, now recently my cousin Mikey harvests the grapes for his wine, but when I was little we picked the grapes strictly for grape jelly and grape juice.  Making grape juice is really easy, too easy.  The hard part is the time it takes waiting for the juice to ripen for consumption.  I used to suck down juice like it was water.  (Later on did I find out that juices were my number one trigger for my serve attacks with mouth ulcers, no more juice for me)  Making grape juice was really a lot of fun, so much so I even had Kyle join in on the tradition. Smallest Moments, Mean the Most Kyle’s not really a juice type of guy, but he’ll drink the sweetness especially if he invested time in preparing it.  He also really likes our homemade grape juice.

No matter what your favorite season is, you have to admit, autumn has a little bit of something for everyone.  Our family has a lot of traditions that accompany this time of year, which makes it even more meaningful.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Pushing My Buttons

You think you can break me, you have another thing coming, I invented stubborn! ~Heather Piper

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Kyle has his pappy wrapped around his finger … in this case literally. We love every piece of that little man! c. 2003

Those words have been ringing true over the years.  I’ve said them to Kyle more times than I seriously can recollect.  What I didn’t expect is the irony and the impact they would bring.

Kyle is a good kid, truly.  I’ve said it before and it still holds true today.  I mean that in every sense, he’s kind and sincere, honest and I’d love to say hardworking like his dad, but Kyle tends not to take after the Piper side with respect to work and work ethic, at least at his thirteen years.  He can work hard and has proven to do so, yet that is more a rarity.  When he wants to work toward something, he does his task the best he can.  However, getting him there is a journey all to itself with yelling, threats of being grounded and sometimes and all out war.  He is very difficult and stubborn, I guess like most kids.

I love Kyle will all my heart.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for him and everything in my life is done with him in mind, EVERYTHING. Ever since God blessed us with that little critter, he has been my world.  Does he know this?  He sure does, even when I get so angry with his attitude or actions (usually lack of action) I still make sure I tell him how much I love him and care about his well being.   Let’s go back to our soul purpose on earth, to ultimately live in the absolute love that God gave us and prepare to live with Him in that love in heaven.  Can I claim this?  Sadly no, but I try.  Does Kyle care?  Probably not.

The more I reflect on my actions from this past weekend toward a teen with an attitude, I realize, he’s just like me, kinda!  First of all I will admit, I know I am not perfect and I believe rethinking some of my poorer decisions and actions can help make me a better person and perhaps a better aunt.  Secondly, coming to the conclusion that Kyle is just like me, blew my mind.

Kyle has always resembled his dad, my brother and yet has glimpses of my dad, Kyle’s pap, but mostly my sister.  The older Kyle gets, the more I see my sister in that kid.  Everything, from the way they move, to the way they think and even their appearance is similar.   Who Does Kyle Favor More, Aunt Nikki?

On a side note, I’ve actually had some friends of mine think Kyle looks just like me.  I’ve never seen it, but I’ll take it.  Perhaps they are seeing what I just realized, how very similar we are personality wise.  I’ve always tried to figure out Who Does Kyle Favor More, Aunt Heather?

Kyle is no stranger to being yelled at, especially from me.  Normally, I don’t completely flip my lid and loose it on that kid, but there have been times when I shamefully have lost my temper, to the extreme.  It does take me a while to get to that point and Kyle seems to be the one to take me there.  It’s not usually one thing, it’s a build up and a repeat of the same behavior that makes me hit an eleven on the old tension scale.

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Kyle as the scarecrow for Halloween. This is how he looks to me with his attitude! Take at the Sacred Heart Church parking lot before the Youngstown Halloween parade c.2010

What sparked this one?  Egg rolls.  Yes!  First let me set the stage.  On Saturday, I was in New Hope, Pennsylvania administering to the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt for Thrill of the Hunt, my company.  Usually, I need assistance when doing these activities and Kyle usually helps me.  Well recently, his interest in the company has become less than mediocre.  There was a Warmachine tournament at the local comic book store Saturday morning and not wanting him to miss it, I offered to administer to the scavenger hunt solo.  It would have been nicer if I had someone help me set up and wrap up the scavenger hunt, not to mention the nearly six hour drive out and back in a day gets lonesome, but I knew it was important to him.

Let me also include, that for the last several months, not days, not weeks, MONTHS, at the very least since the beginning of summer, Kyle was suppose to get my database for Thrill of the Hunt in order and organized.  He made a deal with me and I was counting on him.  Basically, his job was to enter data so I wouldn’t loose important contacts and so I could keep all the scavenger hunts and their participants in order.  This database was not only going to help me target new businesses but it was to be used to reach out to our customers to promote up coming events.  You know so I can get our numbers up and all things associated with that.  Needless to say, it’s a very important job that I don’t have time for.  Did I also mention I was paying the kid?  Yes, even after all I give him and do for him, I wanted him to earn money, as opposed to just asking for it, a good work ethic lesson.  Plus, I know the experience he would receive by going through this process would be good for his accountability, to be apart of building the company from the ground up, great work experience for his knowledge and as a resume builder, and it would prove to be beneficial to him in his career.  All good reasons for him to administer to the Thrill of the Hunt database.  Could I get someone else?  Sure, but I wanted to give him this opportunity.

Is my database done?  Nope!  Not even close.  I even sat with him to assist at times.  He just wants someone to hold his hand and basically do the job for him!  I even tried helping, by showing him how to manage his time to tackle the mile high pile, piece by piece.  I don’t expect the kid to sit for hours upon hours on the computer entering data, but a half an hour every day is not too taxing.  Keep in mind, he’ll sit there for four even five hours straight, if not more, playing video games.  Yes, there is no reason why he can’t be responsible for completing this task.  None.

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Our cousin Fred, Uncle Sonny & Ryan. Dad’s head made it in the pic. Taken at Uncle Sonny’s kitchen mid 1980s

Now the database not done was becoming a huge argument and growing fast.  Then add in the egg roll instance and Kyle’s attitude became a lethal combination for me to blow up like the atomic bomb.

Back to the egg roll, which was never really about an egg roll.  Kyle was at the Warmachine tournament and mentioned how Gigi got him Chinese food from the place next door, like all the other Warmachine players.  Cool, Kyle’s hanging with people of his own kind and fitting in.  Then, he brought up the egg rolls and how he threw them away.  Keep in mind this all happened right after church, when I should have had God in my heart the most.  Guess not.  I was appalled that he didn’t think of us in any way shape or form to bring the egg rolls home and offer them to us.  I got over that hurt and was more devastated to find out that he never even thought of anyone in the room to offer his egg rolls.  What?  How self centered!

First of all wasting food in my mind is no good.  Personally, I hate it and I hate seeing it.  Then, to not even offer someone what he doesn’t want, not like he’s sacrificing anything, is mind blowing.  Don’t even take me back to the fact that he never even thought of us, at all!  Didn’t I help raise this kid from birth?  Did he forget everything?  Now I began wondering how was he acted during the tournament?  Was he using his manners?  Was he being a teenage spoiled brat?

Well, in the matter of a few minutes that set the stage for the entire Sunday, which included a huge fight about my database.  It got even worse when I found out he didn’t care and was making mistake after mistake with my database!  Was he trying to sabotage the company?  The very company I am working so hard to build.  Apparently, he could care less.  Probably because all he has to do is ask my parents or my sister or anyone else for something and he gets it.  Why would the kid want to work when he gets things handed to him?  The answer is he doesn’t.  I wasn’t asking him to go chop down trees or build a house, he was simply sitting there entering data for a half an hour.

Then, I found out he wasn’t entering the companies!  What?  He didn’t want to, was the point, although he started to make an argument that is was double the work and all I had to do was search what I needed and pull the reports differently.  I did hear him out and considered his suggestion, even though I know it wasn’t to make himself more efficient nor to help me make a better database.  I told him NO, I wanted it done correctly and my way.

Well, Kyle was not going to be told NO, which is not like me at all, none of us were ever like that.  He argued and argued and pouted and commented under his breath and then was moving so very slow, I wanted to send him flying out the window into the my Uncle Walter’s field!

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There’s a Lego war brewing … Kyle’s Lego army. 2012

During all this, the egg roll argument and then later the database discussions, he kept giving me a stubborn snide grin.  AND he was glaring at me eye-to-eye as if challenging me.  Are you suicidal?  It was all around nasty and I was tired of Kyle’s self centered, spoiled, greedy, no-it-all attitude.  I responded as a frustrated human being and up and smacked him in the back of the head.  Was it right?  No.  Did it solve anything?  No. Did I feel better?  Kinda, but not really.

After I walked away and started to come back to reality again, I thought of my actions as well as Kyle’s.  I needed Kyle to learn from his behavior.  I simply told him he was fired from the database, but he was going to still help around the house with manual labor.  (He needed to be taught a real lesson and it was good exercise)  I also informed him that the Warmachine pieces my mom got him for Christmas and gave him early, (yes that’ part of the kids problem, he gets everything on demand, again not working for it) was going to be taken away until Christmas.  AND the WarMachine tournament in November, which is going to be a bigger point system that he was excited about, was not going to include him.  (Plus with me taking way those pieces, he wouldn’t have enough points to compete).

Did Kyle keep up that crappy defiant grin and snicker at me with an attitude?  Nope, his eyes welt up with tears of fear and disappointment.  Bingo!  I found superman’s kryptonite.  I finally outsmarted the teenager!  His stubbornness is a lot like mine was as a kid.  I knew I was bullheaded and headstrong, yet I was always considerate with my family and I was ALWAYS a hard worker when my parents needed something done.  If there was money to be made, I was ambitious and first in line.  When my parents had the sawmill, I begged them to let me work there.  I was never afraid of hard work, just laziness.  You could always count me on me to get stuff done, unlike Kyle.  He has shown that he’s not responsible and can’t be counted on, which breaks my heart to say that.  Perhaps in time as he matures it will change, at least I will do my best to help guide him.

I know I learned a lesson, violence is not a solution.  Sometimes the knowledge and ability to use it is a good way to keep peace.  When I took karate years ago, they taught us we were trained not be aggressive and fight, but to have the ability and knowledge, so when peace is threatened and those that cannot defend themselves are in harms way, we can stand up for those that aren’t able to do so for themselves.  Violence should never to used out of frustration or anger.  Lesson learned.  I too hope Kyle learned a lesson, but I have a feeling there are many more to come.  No matter how hard it will be, I care for Kyle that much and his well being that I’m willing to fight for it.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

The Dog Catcher Part 2

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.  ~Aung San Suu Kyi

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Very sad beagle found at the dog catcher, reminded me of Ryan’s dog Jake. 10-9-14

With my previous blog Dog Catcher Part 1, I set the stage with respect to our dogs taking off, giving themselves a nature run and not returning with Avery.  Now for the truly scary part of the story.

Once mom got the message that my cousin saw some post on Facebook about a stray dog, a.k.a. Avery, we then found out they called the dog catcher.  Yikes!  This was a new one for us.  I don’t believe it was a malicious action for this family stated that they asked around and no one claimed this stray, who happened to be a  Virginian dog.  Avery probably gave off the out-of-towner vibe up on the ridge.

Since we were moving into unknown territory, questions started surfacing.  How does one get a hold of the dog catcher?  Who is the dog catcher?  Where is the facility?  Seriously, we had no clue to any of those questions.  I called the Greensburg state police and they gave me a phone number, but they didn’t know where the kennel was located.  Really?  That’s what he said, and he wasn’t brushing me off, but on the contraire being very sincere.  He informed me that Hoffman’s Kennel doesn’t answer their phone, but I should leave a message and they’ll get back to me.

We did as instructed but we also didn’t want to wait around for a call back, Avery was wrongfully placed in prison and it was our duty to bust her free.  This process was all new to us.  I never even realized there was such a thing as a dog catcher in the area.  To me he was a myth you only see in cartoons. You know the mean old nasty man who wanted to catch dogs with an oversized fishing net.

Thinking smart, mom called her veterinarian for an address.  Bingo!  In addition to the address, there was a stressful tone in the voice that gave a sense of complete urgency to retrieve Avery, immediately.

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Another curious prisoner at the dog catcher 10/9/14

Now the worrying really kicked into fear.  Even though we never spoke to this mysterious dog catcher, mom and I headed in his direction to 285 Cloverleaf Drive Delmont, Pennsylvania 15626.  We were told he lives on the property, so we might be able to pop in and get the goods before bedtime.

On the way, mom told me about a story she read on the You Know You’re From Latrobe, PA IfFacebook page.  (There are screen shots of the conversations)  According to these individuals, Hoffman’s is a dog serial killer!   There is even a Facebook page to try and shut him down Stop Hoffman Kennels.

Ok, hearing that, and only those stories and nothing to contradict, I made up my mind regarding this faceless figure.  Not fair I know, but think about the stress I was in, not to mention Nicole kept calling and hounding us, asking if we got the dog yet.

Finding the place was easy, if you knew the address.  The facility wasn’t marked like I expected a government funded location to appear, very creepy and almost shady.  I mean that, granted it was dark but regardless, I felt like a dog thief intruding on someone’s house.

Once there, I knocked on the door and he, a.k.a. the dog catcher, Gary Hoffman, graciously opened it, hearing me out.  I gave a description of Avery and informed him that he was holding her.  Mr. Hoffman gave me a puzzled look and simply told me no, he didn’t have a dog by that description.  What?  Still standing awkwardly in the doorway, with no sense of invitation, I stood my ground and wouldn’t take that as an answer.  I told him I know for a fact he picked her up today.  Still sporting a confused look, he again reassured me he didn’t have my dog.  Again, sternly I informed him yes he did, I know for a fact a person called him and he picked her up, mid-day today.  Mr. Hoffman’s response, “I was in Fayette County all day.”  Personally, I don’t give a crap where he was, he had my sister’s dog!

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Poor lonely dog at the dog catcher 10/9/14

Still not believing me, he said meet me around other door.  I was invited into a waiting room type that smelt horribly of ammonia!  We continued this repetitive conversation and I never backed down. I was stern yet polite.  Finally, after repeating myself and ensuring him he does in deed have Avery without question, he did say, “I don’t have her, but you’re more than welcome to have a look.”  Couldn’t he have just offered in the first place when I told him I know for a fact he had my dog?

Giving Mr. Hoffman the benefit of the doubt, let me explain.  He might have been confused during the conversation because I kept calling Avery a puppy.  She is technically a puppy, just a large one, nearly fifty pounds.  But one would think if I have a missing dog and I said she was here, he would automatically let me see the dogs?  He was almost dismissive of me.  Granted it was 7:00 pm, past normal hours, but that’s his job.

Once inside the actual Kennel, I caught Avery’s eyes immediately!  She looked so sad from behind the chain linked fence.  Now another obstacle stood in my way, literally.  He wouldn’t release Avery.  What?

He stated all dogs need to have their tags on them to be released.  Seriously, if she had her tags on her then he would have known where to find her owner.  Frustrating!  He wasn’t going to let her go without tags, which are all the way in Virginia!  I get the reasoning, to make sure all dogs have his or her shots.  I explained I was dog sitting for my sister and the dog got away from me and must have lost her tags in the woods.  I informed him Avery’s tags were in Virginia.  I also informed him that we could call my veterinarian’s office, they have all of Avery’s paperwork since I took her there to get her final shots while babysitting.

He still was not going to release her and gave me a run around saying I couldn’t take the dog.  Seriously?  I was ready to tackle this guy, grab the dog and run!  My mom was waiting in the car and when needed, she could peel rubber like the best of them.

Dog Catcher Aunt Heather PiperSolution!  Call Nicole!  My thought was that she surly had copies of Avery’s tags!  I know my geek sister and that sounded about right.

Right in front of Mr. Hoffman, I wasn’t shy about my intention of leaving with the dog, I called Nicole.  Once I got her on the phone, the dog catcher did ease up a bit and said, she doesn’t need tags since she’s an out of state dog.  What?  Why didn’t he just say that in the first place?  He knew she was from Virginia, a.k.a. out of state!  What is going on here?  He took down Nicole’s contact information and filled out some form.  Now can I get her and go?  Nope!  He said there’s a fee.

Ok, how much?  He kept saying it wasn’t for him it was the state.  Whatever.  How much?  Fifty bucks.  In all the confusion, guess who didn’t have my purse.  I felt like this was a nightmare that wouldn’t end.  It was taunting me.

Mom!  I exited the smelly waiting room to pull my mom into my nightmare to meet our villain face-to-face.  Mom was prepared and wrote the man a check.  This was a bit comical.  Mr. Hoffman kept repeating that the money wasn’t for him, it’s for the funds of some sort.  Mom asked “Who do I make the check out to?”  He replied, Hoffman’s.  A snicker escaped my lips.  Personally, I don’t even care if the money was for him.  He was doing a job and he should get paid, I get it, but he seemed very defensive over the money.  We did get a receipt so as far as I can tell it was all legitimate.

Now let me lay all the cards on the table, which are fact and which are fiction, I truly have no idea?  All I know is what I went through and eventually our own personal story was a happy tail (that’s a pun).  We got Avery back home safe and sound.

Dog Catcher Hoffman Facebook Aunt Heather Piper48 Hour Rule
I was told everyone has 48 hours to retrieve their dog before he euthanizes them.  48 hours?  Really?  That’s just enough time to realize your dog is gone and the neighbor’s haven’t seen the 4-legged refugee.

I also heard after the situation, that Hoffman’s works with a local no-kill shelter to get the dogs before they are killed, as long as the shelter has room.  Again, I have no proof, but this is what I was told.

Finding Owners
Many people claimed Mr.  Hoffman doesn’t try and track down the owners beforehand.  Avery did have a chip in her, which he did wand but the wand came up negative.  Perhaps he needs to change the batteries in his wand.

First of all, one would think he would have done that before placing Avery in her prison cell.  What’s wrong with being proactive?

On the contrary, a close friend of mine informed me Mr. Hoffman scans microchips and ID tags to contact the owners.  He is not required by law to seek dog ownership, only to keep them for 48 hours.  Again really?  Unfortunately, he is just doing a government funded job.  Again back to my issue with government having too much control.  Dogs die.

Location
Now, let’s get down to the location of the dog catcher and his prisoners.  No one seemed to have a clue where his facility was located, not even the police!  If you check the website, it just gives a phone number.  I’m somewhat fine with leaving a message and having him screen his calls, but let’s face it, this is a job and that’s part of the job.

While writing this blog, I did manage to find the address online, but it took a little digging.  It also helped I was more informed of the kennel’s name and location.

This one I do have a huge issue with.  The kennel is unmarked, at least from what I saw!  It just had the house number like any other house on the street.  If this is a government funded facility, meaning I can’t even take my pistol in there even with a permit, then it should be marked as such.

I had someone share a counter point-of-view on this.  They stated that not publishing the location of the kennel was done by design so people wouldn’t abandon their dogs.  Perhaps cameras and large fines would solve that problem.

In case the contact information for Hoffman Kennels was missed here it is again:
285 Cloverleaf Drive
Delmont, Pennsylvania 15626
724-468-5505

Hoffman Kennel Contact Information Aunt Heather PiperSolution
Basically, what this boils down to is Legislation.  I don’t know who is Mr. Hoffman’s boss or how we can get the rules changed, but in this digital world we live in, helping these strays and missing dogs being reunited with their owners shouldn’t be like moving mountains.  Perhaps if Mr. Hoffman was required by law to photograph all captured dogs and ID them immediately, then post this information to a central Facebook page, it would help a lot of dogs and their owners, since going viral is the quickest way to get the word out,  eliminating the old fashion methods.

Also, I get it Mr. Hoffman’s job is 24-hours, but if he signed up for that and is getting paid for such, then that is his job.  He either needs to continue or resign.  Maybe, there is a way to have an assistant, perhaps there is one in place to help with some of the workload?

I’m really not sure what I feel about this entire encounter and the policies of the dog catcher.  I must say, it seems as though legislation needs to revisit policies and procedures.  I’ve heard both sides, yet my experience was a bit odd, not helpful and understanding but shady.  Again, it was a strange situation.  Am I missing something?

I was suggested by many to contact the local news stations and report my experience.  Doing some digging around, I found out Hoffman Kennels was in the news on several occasions!  About a year ago, the TribLiv had this article and Channel 4 News ran a story on Hoffman Kennels.

http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/2517886-74/hoffman-animal-dog-control-dogs-kennel-walters-license-soxman-plum#axzz3GD7BLv5P  TribLive Hoffman's Kennel Aunt Heather Piper

Channel 4 news Hoffman Kennel Aunt Heather Piperhttp://www.wtae.com/news/local/westmoreland/Residents-upset-with-Delmont-dog-kennel/16200662

Thank you to everyone who reached out to me with advice, prayers and informed me on the opposing views.  All this was very new to me.  While I was touring the clink, I did manage to snap a few pictures of captured dogs.  I posted them to Facebook on the ride home, hoping to alert a dog owner.  Also, I should say thank you to Mr. Hoffman for answering the door in the evening and hearing me out, eventually releasing Avery to us.  From what I understand, he doesn’t make that his policy.  See, prayers really do work!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets and have No Comments

The Dog Catcher Part 1

Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.  ~Ben Okri

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Avery relaxing on the couch. She looks more like my cat … 2014

Recently, we had a run in with the dog catcher.  Yes!  Let me step back to explain.

Last Thursday, I had all three dogs, Seven (black Labrador), Scooby (blond Labrador) and Avery (a.k.a. Acorn a Doberman mix) outside to stretch their legs and run around.  Let me step back even further that very day to state, I was suppose to put the tracker on Avery, which I was going to do when I went back into the house.  However, I didn’t get the chance.

Why?  Because all three dogs, yes they formed a posse, eluded me and made for the woods.  Truly, it was like one of the dogs said, ‘Hey look over there’ while they pointed in the opposite direction they were heading, and then took off running before I realized what had happened.  I know that makes me sound like a simpleton, but you don’t know these dogs.  Normally they are clunky, loud and up my butt, until they get into ninja mode.

Anyway, my heart sank when I came to the realization that I lost ALL three dogs, on my watch!  It’s bad enough when Seven and Scooby go on their walk abouts, but this time they have my sister’s precious mutt.  Yikes!  I knew if I didn’t get that dog back soon, I was in deep water.

Naturally, right before this happened, I had to leave.  Crap!  No worries, I thought, they’ll probably go trotting around the woods and be back in a couple of hours, at least that’s their behavioral pattern.

Upon my return around diner time, I found Seven and Scooby and Storm, my cat, waiting for me on the porch.  All three animals were ready to go inside and relax.  What!  I’m missing one?  Avery!  O no!  Now that’s serious.  Not only because she’s my sister’s dog and Nicole would go spastic, but Avery is a puppy, who doesn’t know our woods like our boys do.  Plus, we highly suspect Seven relies on Scooby’s nose to get them back.  Now Avery is completely solo.  What to do?

I called my mom.  She knew they all left in the morning, because I informed her and I was happy to report two out of the three dogs returned.  When she asked which ones, we both got a little scared.  I stated, “Why didn’t she just stay with the boys?”  Mom’s response, “‘Cause she’s an idiot!”  Later on, I would find humor in that statement, I don’t think Nicole did.

That’s when I stopped up the neighbors house to tell them to keep their eyes peeled.  While talking to the neighbor gal, she made a very good point.  She stated that I was out numbered!  Yes I was!

Mounting the quad, I drove it around to areas of woods in close proximity, places I could reach on four wheels.  Nothing!  No Avery.

Aunt-Nikki-Rain-Walking-Avery-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Look at this dynamic duo, Nicole & Avery walking in rain. 2013

Again, I had to depart but was planning on returning in a couple of hours.  By the time I wrapped up work, mom and I started searching for this lost bad puppy by 4:00 pm or so.  I even strapped on my boots, packed my flashlight and pistol and took Seven and Scooby for a hike through the local woods.

On a side note, there have been a number of bear sightings in the area.  Great!  I thought watch me come face-to-face with one.  My luck, I’ll startle it taking a crap or something, hence the need for the pistol.  I know if faced with a relentless bear, you are suppose to make yourself look big and menacing.  Right?!  I only look that scary when I don’t get enough sleep or Kyle is pushing  my buttons.

You see, over the years tracking our boys we’ve grown pretty custom to their running behaviors, so I had an idea where to look.  Having a few options, I chose the one that made the most sense and the one I wasn’t personally familiar with, near the soccer fields.

There is a stretch of woods from one ridge road to another.  Closest to my parents house is my Uncle Walter’s property, then it spans to other property owners before reaching Bethel Church Road.  Set back in the woods are the Loyalhanna Soccer fields.  We’ve tracked Seven and Scooby way over there before, but I’ve never hiked that far in that direction.  I guess it was a perfect time to get familiar with those woods. 

Did I mention it’s bow hunting season?  O yes!  I was praying no one took a shot at that puppy or was planning on using me as a target.  While trudging through the leaves and branches, I saw a couple of hunters in their tree stands.  Feeling bad about disrupting them, I quickly redeemed myself when I accidentally kicked up a deer and pushed it in their direction.  That made me feel a little better.

I let Scooby take the lead, perhaps bringing me in the direction of their earlier adventures.  It seemed to work for a little until he tuckered out on me and Seven was simply excited to go for another walk.

On another side note, the dogs led me into a bunch of thorns and jagged brush.  Seven refused to go first, remaining safely behind me while I got all sliced up tramping down the natural barbed wire death traps.  Then, he pushed my butt with his head to get me to move faster, nearly face planting me, yet wouldn’t take the lead.  I kept yelling at him to stop pushing me.  It was like being in the woods with Kyle!  I know the hunters saw or at the very least heard us.

As I was hiking some pretty steep rocky hills, mom called to give me a heads up, that our next step was to inform Nicole.  Mom wanted to post Avery’s picture to Facebook but not without giving her fair warning.  Agreed and understood, yet scared!  We knew that was our best chance of recovering Avery, yet we really didn’t want to face the wrath of my sister.

Eventually, Nicole did call while I was winded from hiking a cliff of death, to yell at me and to blow off some steam.  She informed me that she was personally holding me responsible and blaming me for Avery’s disappearance.  My reply, I wouldn’t think anything other.  She also asked me if I was calling her name while hiking.  Really?  No, I wanted another challenge, and I thought I’d move through the woods like a Sasquatch and sneak up on the dog. (sarcasm)  Yes, I was yelling, my throat was raw and sore.

To sum it up, I eventually found my way to the soccer fields and no Avery.  I called mom to pick me and the boys up.  I also thought, since there were games going on and kids running around, I had a touch of hope that Avery pushed her way onto some other family, but nothing.

As mom pulled in, I saw she was on the phone.  She got a lead!  Avery was found up on Butina ridge (not a technical term but if you’re a local you know where that is).  Apparently, Avery found some kids and decided to try and make friends. (I knew it!)  While Avery is truly only a puppy, she’s still a fifty pound dog that likes to jump and plant her long tongue in people’s faces, like it or not.  The kid’s dad didn’t know what to do with her, since her tags were missing and their neighbors didn’t recognize her, so he called the dog catcher.  doom doom doom.  We’ve all heard horror stories about the dog catcher!

This was the first time we’ve ever had to deal with the dog catcher.  Our boys usually stick to the woods and shy away from people when they take off.  Of course with one exception, Dog Gone Irony they always return.

Now the second part of our adventure, the dog catcher!  To be continued… The Dog Catcher Part 2

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets and have No Comments

Think Team Building … Think Scavenger Hunts

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.  ~Andrew Carnegie

Molly-Kyle-Team-Building-in-Ligonier-PA-4-27-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Molly & Kyle working together to get across the Ropes Course in Ligonier, Pa. for the Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia Youth Group 4/27/13

I’m a huge fan of team building activities, you know for business functions or company outings.  They offer great benefits such as building moral, setting the cultural dynamic of a business or an organization, and allowing your team to think differently especially with problem solving and creative ideas, while working together.  Team building!

Corporate/Company:
These seemingly simple ideas are endless, yet should not be taken lightly for it really is important.  Administrating and participating in team building activities and company outings are imperative today, with the new generation taking over the workforce and those that are soon to be joining.  These young professionals interact differently, think differently and have a different concept of what an employer should offer and what they expect from his/her job.  Not to mention the work dynamic is drastically changing and in order to have a solid skilled work force, companies need to adjust culturally.

Examples:
Ideas like what?  There are so many activities that can be taken advantage of that can be as elaborate or simple as desired.  Ideas such as team races, paint ball or a computer or board game.

One concept a close friend told me about, which seemed very fun and rewarding at the same time, involved bicycles.  The participants had to separate into small groups and build a bicycle.  Yes!  An actual bike, with two wheels and brakes and all the fixings.  After it was inspected for accuracy, one of the participants had to ride their newly constructed means of transportation to the finish line, where a group of underprivileged kids were waiting to receive a brand new bike, unbeknownst to the participants before they started the journey.  Talk about a win win!

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Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group team building activity in Ligonier, Pa. Ropes Course … Team Building! 4/27/13

Another team building concept I heard about involved the sense of smell.  The participants had to create a perfume scent for themselves.  Then, they were blind folded and had to walk around finding the scents to match their co-workers.  I may have butchered that one a bit, but the basic concept is there.

Regardless, team building activities should be fun and interactive.  Also, no one says you can’t focus on the company mission statement, history and/or values and not have it fun.  Sure you can!  And guess what?  If it’s interactive and challenging, a simple walk across the street can be an adventure!  Team building exercises don’t have to be just about each individual, personally.  Sure, it will obviously include their personalities, or in some cases a lack there of, and their strengths and weaknesses.  But it can also involve how they work within the company and their roll they play, in addition to how they work with co-workers.  There are many layers and different dynamics to team building.  They should be explored and these activities implemented at least once a year, or with the completion of a goal.

Scavenger Hunts:
Why am I talking about this?  I’ve had an influx of people requesting team building events or was inquiring about doing something different for a team builder exercise.  You came to the right place!

As I’ve mentioned before, Thrill of the Hunt is my company.  (Add Thrill of the Hunt to the Latrobe List, Scavenger Hunts – It’s the Thrill of the Hunt!, Scavenger Hunts – Getting Our Start At Seton Hill University & Continuing …, Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt) (Select the category Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts for a complete list of blog entries written on my company).

Thrill of the Hunt builds scavenger hunts for company outings, team building activities, trade shows, fundraisers, birthday parties, bachelor/bachelorette parties and family reunions, to name a few.  Thrill of the Hunt also self hosts several scavenger hunts throughout the year, in various locations.

Sacred-Heart-St.-Cecilia-Youth-Group-in-Ligonier-PA-4-27-13-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group team building Ropes Course in Ligonier, Pa. 4/27/13

Scavenger hunts are a unique way to engage all sorts of people, in any environment, for any level of participant.  Scavenger hunts can include all sorts of information or can be simply fun and trivial.

My suggestion for companies is to incorporate some company value or history.  It’s a fun way to keep the participant’s connected to the company and reinforcing the culture.  Forcing employees out of their comfort zone, either with the location of the scavenger hunt or with the challenges is the best way to make an impact.  Even though Thrill of the Hunt can build a scavenger hunt on site indoors or out, but my preference is outside at a separate location.  This allows everyone to get their head out of the office zone and clear their minds with fresh air.  My more successful company scavenger hunts forced the participants to really move through cities and towns, outside even in the cooler weather and even rain.

Team building doesn’t just stop at companies and large corporations.  No!  Personally, I think team building can be used as a way to become familiar with everyone on the team or organization.  Example, about a year ago Kyle’s youth group participated in the Ropes Course in Ligonier, Pa. You can read about the entire event at  What’s Gonna Work?  Teamwork!

To summarize, Kyle’s youth group participated in a very unique type of team building experience.  The Ropes Course!  This activity is perfect for smaller groups.

Before taking the plunge onto the obstacle, we played several team building and energetic games.  Yes, we actually got to run around and act silly, while building trust among each other in the group.  Then, after our instructors felt we were ready, we tackled the Ropes Course!

It was a serious of suspended cables, an unsteady bridge, shaky boards and a not-so-stable log walkway, all hanging about six inches off the ground.  Our mission was to figure out how to get everyone through the course without stepping on the ground and working together as a team, using everyone’s strengths and understanding everyone’s weaknesses.  Every time someone touched the ground, the entire group had to reset and start all over again, each time learning from the previous toward reaching our goal.

It took some time but we did figure it out.  Granted, we ran out of time before executing our final plan of attack, but it was a great experience regardless.  To this day it left such an impact on me, I incorporate some of the values and techniques into my scavenger hunts.

There are all sorts of team building activities that can be done, with any group of any size at any location, just pick one and try it.  It is totally worth it for the company or organization and everyone involved.  Email me for some ideas!  Heather@PiperCorporation.com.

Below are a couple of videos from the Ropes Course in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.  This was just part of the course, showing how we had to figure out to help each other to get through it, leaning on everyone’s strengths.  Poor Kyle, he was working so hard to make sure he didn’t touch the ground and yet got across the log.  Good job buddy!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Laughing About Nothing … Our Dog vs. A Robber

Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.  ~Oliver Sacks

Scooby-Seven-Backyard-2014-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Seven & Scooby running & relaxing in the backyard. 2014

Even though Kyle is growing up and becoming more independent and “cool”, he still has a witty sense of humor and makes me laugh, hard!  This past weekend his humor shined through and through.

These silly situations usually happens when we have dashboard time in the car.  One of us makes a comment, then the other joins in with another comment, only more ridiculous and so on.  This continues until we have a seriously stupid yet very comical fictional story for our own pure entertainment.

What was so funny?  Our dogs!  Kyle asked about Scooby’s behavior with a stranger in the house, the DirectTV guys working on our cables to be exact.  I had to lock all three dogs in the bedroom (yes I am still dog sitting Avery), not a good thing!  Then, somehow we started on a scenario involving a robber entering the house.

For those of you who don’t know, Scooby is our blond Labrador.  Normally, Labs are very friendly dogs, well not Scooby, at least not with anyone else besides us.  Scooby is seriously the most gentle and loving dog, borderline clingy, that is ONLY with us.  Scooby is not even very nice with friends and family who frequent the house.  Yep, he’s a one dog family.  He’s too needy for my tastes, but very good with Kyle and pretty protective of him.  Kyle lays on Scooby and tugs on him and smothers him and runs him around.  Scooby loves every minute of it, unlike my dog Seven who is the Black Labrador.  Seven likes to be loved, but does not need saturated with affection like Scooby craves.  Scooby mean side is the basis of our sense of humor, at least for this particular story.

Kyle and I went off on ideas  of a robber entering the house and how Scooby would react, charging and latching on no doubt.  Typical stuff you’d see in a movie when a robber enters the house with an attack dog.  At least that’s how I envisioned it.  Then, our made up story went a bit non politically correct from there.  Do disrespect intended.

Pap-and-Piper-cousins-1977-Aunt-Heather-Piper

We loved pap! Me to the far left, Nicole, Jeremy & Chad. 1977

We started laughing about this fictitious robber who now has a wooden prosthetic leg.  I know, now-a-days most prosthetic legs are made from some sort of metal, however I also know first hand they used to be made of wood.  How do I know?  My beloved pappy had not one, but two prosthetic legs.  I’ve talked about my dad’s dad many times before Truly Homemade, Who Does Kyle Favor More, Pappy?  He had his first leg amputated below the knee before I could remember, and the other leg amputated above the knee when I was a little girl.  At the house, he used a wheelchair to get around, but when he was at work (yes he worked in a sawmill until he had a stroke and died) he had two prosthetic legs.  He would walk on them with two canes.  My pap was mentally and physically strong.

Our story started with Scooby getting a hold of this mysterious stranger’s leg and yanking it off.  To add to the fun and drama, our scene continued with Scooby gnawing on the leg and turning it into sawdust while the robber hops along.  Then, somehow Scooby got outside, still clutching the wooden prosthetic leg and running around the backyard, proud of his new “stick”.  Scooby would throw it in the air and catch it and then the other dogs would join in pulling and play with the leg.

What happened to the robber?  No clue.  We focused on the humor of Scooby running around with a wooden leg.

As we detailed this ridiculous story, I commented how funny it would be to come home to Scooby running with a wooden prosthetic leg in his mouth.  “Can you imagine him greeting us as we pulled in the driveway with a leg hanging out of his mouth?”  Kyle and I died!  We were laughing so hard, no sound was exiting our mouths.  If it wasn’t for his seat belt, Kyle would have been rolling around on the floor of the car.  It was one of those gut stretching laughs that caused your body to convulse and the muscles to tighten up, one of those perfect laughs that relaxes you.

I know my words don’t do the story justice and for the life of me I couldn’t remember all the silly comments we both made, but thinking back on it now, it’s still totally hilarious to me!  Guess you had to be there.

I love my little man!  He makes life so much fun and entertaining.  Even a simple car ride turned out to be a memory that I’ve been chuckling about all week.

Catch all the ridiculously funny stories!

Laughing About Nothing
Laughing About Nothing … True Story

Laughing About Nothing … Cats!
Laughing About Nothing … Truck Horn!
Laughing About Nothing … Dog in Space!

Below is a video of Kyle, Mr. Shirtless running around my parent’s backyard with our boys, Seven and Scooby.  Two good Labradors!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Did You Vote Thrill of the Hunt?

Nothing great in the world was accomplished without passion.  ~Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunt Logo in bubbleAs most may have realized, I entered my company Thrill of the Hunt in a contest, the Chase Mission Main St. Grant Contest.

What does that mean?  It means I have a shot, granted a very slim chance, at winning one of twenty prizes awarded.  It’s true, I’m a small town Latrobe start-up company in our second year, and there were roughly 35,000 participants in the 2013 contest, so the odds are not in my favor (a little Hunger Games reference).  I get it, but I also know someone, 20 small businesses to be exact, will win.  Why not try?

Before I forget and get wrapped up in the details of this contest, please vote.  If you voted, thank you so very much!  There is only one vote per person permitted and currently as of now, I only need 39 more votes to go in 10 days.

Follow this link–>    .

Now onto the details of this contest.

The big prize or the crème de la crème is winning the $150,000 grant (naturally I’ll have to pay all local, state and federal taxes).  In addition to the prerequisites to entering the contest, such as the number of employees, the minimum of two years in business and such, I had to complete essay questions.  I met the strict criteria with flying colors, the easy part, but the questionnaire took some time to work out.  There were several sets of questions to answer including outlining the details to how the money will be used if won.  A great way to force me to think wisely with respect to spending, on a micro and macro level, with or without winning.  Thinking this way will only help Thrill of the Hunt in the long run.

Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunt Founder Aunt Heather Piper

Me at the Seton Hill University Homecoming Block Party, doing a scavenger hunt for Seton Hill in Greensburg, Pa. 9/21/13

How would I use the money?  Since there are two sides to Thrill of the Hunt, the public, which are our own hosted scavenger hunt events; and the private, which include business functions, team building activities, fundraisers and parties, I addressed them both, for they work in tandem.

The money will help Thrill of the Hunt expand our public events into other cities and states.  It will also give me the resources to truly promote our events AS AN EVENT!  With every public scavenger hunt and new city we participate in, Thrill of the Hunt meets new contacts and promotes our services as a scavenger hunt adventure for private functions!  These public and private scavenger hunts give me the marketing power to promote Thrill of the Hunt with the use of Google keywords, increasing our SEO within each hosted area.  See how both sides of the house play off of each other and yet, are mutually independent?  That was not by chance but by my design.

Then, there’s the trip to Google headquarters to attend a seminar with small business experts.  Having the opportunity to tour Google alone would be amazing, not to mention speaking with these experts and making contacts, again spreading the word on Thrill of the Hunt.

As part of the benefit package, the winners will also receive a Google Chromebook laptop and a $2,000 coupon toward one market research study with Google Consumer Surveys.  All good for taking my company to the next level.

Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunt Kyle & Aunt Heather Piper at Pittsburgh Event

Me & Kyle administering a scavenger hunt for Thrill of the Hunt in Shadyside, Pittsburgh, Pa. 2013

I’ve done other contests in the past and lost, but going through this process is good for me personally and the company.

Last year I participated in the Intuit Big Game Small Business Contest.  Why do I take the time to do so when my time is so limited?  I enter these very hard to win contests for several reasons.

First and foremost for the opportunity to win.  They each have a very enticing draw, which will benefit Thrill of the Hunt tremendously if awarded.  Again, I’m not so blind to realize the odds, but like I said, someone has to win.  I feel if I don’t try, I am doing my company an injustice and a missed opportunity.

Plus, completing the application is a great process to go through.  It helps to reevaluate the direction of the company and truly get to the heart and soul of the business.  I mean that.  These contests ask the tough questions or ones not even considered. Like what?

Besides the typical short and long-term goals and competition, they ask ‘Why did you start the business?’, ‘What will winning mean to your company?’, “What made you want to be an entrepreneur?’, and ‘How does your company help the community?’.  Writing up the essay questions is a great way to evaluate yourself as a business owner and the company.  It also helps to really narrow your focus or confirm your business model.  Not to mention, the more that is written about your company, the better your copy sounds and is refined.

It also recharges your battery and builds excitement, reiterates why the company was started in the first place.  Keeping the passion up and going can be a challenge too.  Every little bit of encouragement helps.

Did I mention with these essay questions they are usually limited to about 1,000 to 1,500 characters?  Not words, but characters including the spaces.  Yikes, that’s right!  That in itself is very difficult and challenging, but it forces a person to really eliminate all the unwanted bull and the unnecessary words to capture the true essence of the company.  Like I said a great practice to go through.

Dog-Gone-Scavenger-Hunt-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Shadyside-Pittsburgh Pa 6-2013

Leko (pre Cooper) showing off his Thrill of the Hunt prizes at the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Shadyside, Pittsburgh, Pa 6/2013

Another big factor with these contests is the marketing aspect.  Yes, the national promotion of being associated with a big name, and naturally the prestige of winning under said name is a bonus, but also the indirect publicity with friends and family.  This helps to spread the word on the company to those who might not know you are in business for yourself, or may not know exactly what it is you do.  Those people who we take for granted and are often times overlooked are monumental to a company!  These contests force a person to reach out to EVERYONE, especially when it comes to the voting process, which they all seem to share.  It’s a great way to introduce a company on a very personal level without commitment.  It’s also a great excuse to continue promoting the company to those who are very aware of the business and to maintain top of mind awareness.

With these contests, they usually give marketing options and templates to use or store for future efforts.  Again, going through the activity of writing a press release or scripting and shooting a video to distribute, moves everyone out of their comfort zone and into the real world of marketing, another avenue to promote the company.

Believe it or not, all this activity and project development does take time but helps to get your thoughts together to really understand your own company.  That was always a big fear of mine, not having a clear defined message.  Working in an ad agency with an eclectic assortment of industries and companies, I’ve seen the opposite.  Believe it or not, I’m not talking about small companies but established businesses with major resources.  I’ve seen them fall short on the focus of their company or have yet to find their true niche.  Scary.

To anyone who has a start-up company, or is thinking of doing so, or is already up and running, take the time to invest in these contests.  No I’m not being paid to promote them, and yes, they are long shots, but with experience comes understanding and knowledge.  More importantly, theses exercises will get you thinking differently and out of your comfort zone.  Plus, someone has to win!

Good luck Thrill of the Hunt!  Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

Thank you to everyone who has helped me out with Thrill of the Hunt in one way or another over the years.  Your involvement has been appreciated and needed!  Most are friends and family who want to see my company succeed, but some are strangers who see potential in my business.  To everyone who voted, spread the word, sent me leads, gave advice and direction or just gave me words of encouragement, I want to send a very sincere Thank You!  I wouldn’t have made it this far without everyone’s help.

For more information on Thrill of the Hunt, visit our website at www.ThrillScavengerHunt.com or email us at Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com.

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt

You have to be burning with “an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right.” If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out. ~Steve Jobs

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Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt participant from Latrobe, PA 10/19/13

Admittedly, I am very blessed, especially with my job.  Mentioning it a time or two, I own Thrill of the Hunt a product of The Piper Corporation.  I know I’ve talked about Thrill of the Hunt on a number of occasions, but I’ll reiterate.

Thrill of the Hunt is a company that solely develops and administers to theme scavenger hunts.  Yes, this includes birthday parties, business functions, company outings, team building activities and fundraisers, just to name a few.  We also host scavenger hunt events, which are open to the public.  Anyone can purchase a ticket and join others of like interest in a particular city on a scavenger hunt adventure.

Where was I this past weekend?  Annapolis, Maryland, administering to a pet friendly scavenger hunt for Halloween.  Yes, it’s October and my popular Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunts have commenced for the entire month.  I just started these last year, and since the interest was heightened, I decided to expand to include additional cities.

The biggest question I’m asked, “What is a dog scavenger hunt?”  Yes, it may sound odd and no, your dog is not taking the lead on this one to sniff out clues.  It’s a laid back family friendly event.  When I created these scavenger hunts, I wanted something for families to do with their dogs, so both parties could get out and stretch their legs, while exploring the community.   I also wanted to help promote the local businesses, so I started including the shops as part of the actual scavenger hunt.

The next question, “What do I have to do?”  Easy.  First you have to Like Thrill of the Hunt on Facebook or TwitterThrill of the Hunt combines a traditional scavenger hunt with social interaction to create exponential fun and to add another dimension to the game.  Some of our scavenger hunts require you to have a QR reader app for scanning QR Codes to complete online challenges.  Then, all you have to do is figure out the riddles that take you to specific locations in a particular area.  Once you’ve arrived, you get to collect your dog treat or toy and then tackle the online challenge, post it and then move on to the next location.

Since these are dog and family friendly events, it’s not a fight to the finish.  You can treat it as such, but as of now, these dog scavenger hunts are an activity to spend time with your dog and possibly family while taking in the sights and fresh air.

I do conduct other dog scavenger hunts, however the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunts are by far the most popular and certainly the most entertaining.  Dog owners love dressing up their 4-legged friends in costume, as do I!  It’s quite entertaining for everyone involved, although not a requirement.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do other scavenger hunt themes, excluding dogs.  But since these are sometimes so comical, I wanted to share my weekend of fun.

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Nicole & Kyle with Avery a.k.a. Acorn. She’s an angel (riiiigght!) for the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt in Latrobe, PA 10/19/13

Kyle is usually my side kick, especially for these dog scavenger hunts, but alas his Aunt Nikki came home and he wanted to spend time with her.  At the very least, Kyle will be joining me for the Latrobe Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt in two weeks.    I’m not sure about New Hope, Pennsylvania’s or Alexandria Virginia’s.  Of course, I’m having a hard enough time getting Kyle to keep our database updated and organized.  I guess he’s finding his own interests and they don’t seem to include Thrill of the Hunt.  Maybe that will change and he’ll find a renewed interest in the company.

About the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt

Tickets are on sale now, but are limited.  Purchase your tickets HERE.  We are still accepting local businesses to be on the hunt, at no cost for Alexandria, Virginia.

We are always open to hearing suggestions on scavenger hunt themes and hometowns to bring our events.  Please Suggest An Event, either on our website or email Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com or fill out the form on the Contact Us page.  I seriously want to hear from you!

Make sure you’re following the hunt on our social sites. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, always using #ThrillofHunt

Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

 

VOTE

I am also very pleased to mention, Thrill of the Hunt is in the running for a small business grant through Chase Mission Main St. Grants.  Please help us get into the final running by voting.  As of today, we only need 72 more votes and we only have eleven days to do it.  So VOTE Thrill of the Hunt and thank you in advance!

Follow this link–> http://t.co/nE2souOg8J @ChaseSmallBiz @ThrillofHunt ‪#‎ThrillofHunt‬

 

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Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt for Halloween in Latrobe, PA 10/19/13

Read about other scavenger hunt blog posts

Scavenger Hunts – Getting Our Start at Seton Hill University & Continuing
Singles Scavenger Hunt & MELODIME Show
Doggie in Disguise? Scavenger Hunt?
WannaBe 80’s Scavenger Hunt & a Puppy In a Day
Scavenger Hunts – It’s the Thrill of the Hunt!
Scavenger Hunt – It’s the Thrill of the Hunt! … Continued

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Looking for Construction Sites

Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.  ~Ian Fleming

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Nicole’s 1st Holy Communion. Front: Casey, Ryan, Me. Back: Tim, Jeremy, Chad & Nicole. In the back, to the right is were our huge sandbox was placed. looks like it was in the works. c. 1983

When most people see a construction zone they try to avoid it, or they begin spouting off feelings of frustration or even anger.  I don’t like the headache of  roadwork or construction areas either, the waiting to take a turn to proceed or the smell of tar, or the loud disrupting noises or worse, having to drive in slow motion for miles.  Nope, those aren’t my ideas of an enjoyable ride.

However, to this day, when I’m in close proximity to a building construction site, those that require the large trucks to move dirt or flatten an area, it brings a smile to my face.  Not from the idea of progress or the anticipation of something new, but simply from the memory of one little enthused child and how he was just like his dad.

Before Kyle could speak, he loved trucks and large vehicles, just like Ryan.  I can’t say this interest has sustained over the years, but there was a time when Bob the Builder was his main man.

On a side note, I bought Kyle a pair of Bob the Builder boots and he LOVED them!  He strutted around in those things everywhere.  Even when the snow cleared, he wore them for as long as his little piggies would fit comfortably.

What made me thing of this?  I was in Latrobe the other day prepping for the Latrobe Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt and there’s a section of town under construction for the new Westmoreland County Community College (WCCC) branch.  They have the orange cones out to direct traffic away from potential debris and the caution tape up.  I didn’t see any giant real-life Tonka trucks, but I’m sure they were there at one point.  Taking a moment, I stood to watch the activity, which cracks me up and takes me back a few years.

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Kyle’s 1st sandbox, yes he actually had 2! If you look closely among all the toys, you’ll see a bee to the right, that’s Kyle! He was a bee for Halloween & he decided to take a break & play. 2003

When Kyle was just a little tyke, still riding around in his car seat in the backseat of my car, he would become mesmerized by construction vehicles.  I mean that, he LOVED watching them!  I would drive extra slow past development activity and he would point and giggle and watch with wide eyes.  It was quite funny.  Sometimes he would say, “Slow Aiya.”  All I could say was, “Ok, buddy!”  What’s really ironic, Kyle has proven to NOT be the blue collar type, yet there was a time when he was all about construction work.

Seriously!  Many times when we weren’t in any particular hurry, I would intentionally go out of my way to drive Kyle past a work zone.  Lucky for us we live in Western Pennsylvania where there is no shortage of roadwork.  I would slowly creep along letting him take in as much as he could.  Allowing him to get the full effect, I would wind down the windows, yes even in the dead of winter, so he could smell the air and really hear the sounds.  He LOVED it!

Kyle didn’t even need to be in a car.  He would act the same while standing there observing the workers in the distance.  I know I’ve talked about the Seton Hill University construction site previously Who Does Kyle Favor More, His Dad?.

Kyle was so excited about these little adventures, he couldn’t wait to tell his gigi and pappy and Aunt “Nitti” (Nikki).  Personally, I had a blast watching the enthusiasm erupting from the kid.  Usually, after the stories of all the construction vehicles were told, he would get out his own CAT or Tonka trucks and hang out in his sandbox or build in the living-room.  He would drive those realistic looking toys around and mimic the sounds of the trucks and the engines roaring to life.  He was so stinking cute!  I just wanted to gobble him up!

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Kyle’s 3rd birthday… check out the trucks on the cake & his t-shirt! He LOVED trucks! 7/2004

On a side note, Kyle’s sandbox wasn’t one of those small plastic structures purchased at Toys R Us.  O no!  He had a custom deal, similar to the one we had as kids, dad made sure of it.  Both sandboxes, even though they were about twenty years apart were very similar, both built from boards and both required a dump truck full of sand to fill up the space.  Kyle’s was smaller, for there was only one of him and three of us, measured to about a four or five foot square.  Ours, unlike Kyle’s which was placed front and center in the front yard, resided on the side of the house, but was somewhat shaded by the trees.  It measured about four or five feet by eight feet or so.  Dad even made us little seats at the corners.  Dad’s logic?  He felt it gave us enough room to move around and really play, which we did as did Kyle.  The sandbox was the best idea ever!  Nicole, Ryan and myself played hard in our sandbox for years.  I joined Kyle in his too.  He also loved his designated play space.  To be honest, and I know Kyle would agree with this, the best part was building and preparing the sandbox for the sand and then to have the big dump truck back into position and dump all that sand.  It was intense!  I loved it as a kid and it was equally as exciting watching Kyle get a kick over it.

During those years Kyle really reminded me of Ryan.  Kyle’s dad was the same way, except he never EVER outgrew his love of trucks and cars.  Perhaps it was an environmental thing, Ryan was always around dad, especially when they had the sawmill and they worked together in the garage, building and tinkering around.  Kyle was never exposed to any of that.  Poor guy, he didn’t really get to hang with his dad much before Ryan moved on, only three months.  Then Kyle was stuck with me to help out.  It’s true my dad was always around, almost never leaving Kyle’s side, but not like he was when Ryan was little, and certainly not the same before Ryan passed away.  I guess time changes us all in different ways.

Regardless, Kyle was all his dad for those few shorts years and I’m glad I was there to witness it and to help him enjoy the simpler things in life.  I hope he never looses that spirit and always remembers his roots!

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Signs of Growing Up

One day at a time—this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering. ~ Ida Scott Taylor

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Uncle Sonny & dad bathing at gram & paps. 3/1958

With each day, time passes, that’s inevitable.  Even though I am aware of this part of life, it still takes me by surprise when a lot of hours, days, months and even years add up to create a single moment.  I’m not talking about something as significant as a graduation or an anniversary.  Nope, I’m talking about the silent surprises that appear out of nowhere that have a huge impact.

What pray-tell am I talking about?  Kyle’s jeans!  Yes that very common piece of clothing worn by men, women and children all over the world, or at least that’s my assumption.  Jeans, that rugged leg covering that can be dressed up or down.

This past weekend Kyle and I were helping dad stack and split firewood, getting ready for winter.  Naturally, Kyle didn’t come prepared with pants of any kind, only shorts.  Pants, that piece of clothing usually doesn’t make its appearance until snow flies, even then Kyle will argue about wearing pants as opposed to shorts.  Anyway, since we were running the log splitter and dad was using the chainsaw and there have been sightings of copperhead snakes around, dad wanted Kyle’s legs to be protected with jeans.  Good thinking!  Well, not according to Kyle, but that’s a separate issue.

Of course the house is always stocked up with items for Kyle, since he’s always lived with us part-time.  But recently, he’s grown out of his weekend staples.  Upon getting ready, I really wasn’t paying much attention until Kyle came out wearing a pair of nice jeans.  I mean that.  They fit him around the waist and even the length wasn’t too long.  “Kyle where did you get those jeans?” I asked only because they looked familiar.  With a big smirk Kyle replied, “I don’t know.”, knowing very well he took an extra pair of my jeans I had at mom and dad’s.  Then, it hit, “Those are MY jeans!”  Kyle shrugged his shoulders as if he was too cool for the conversation, yet couldn’t quite suppress that ornery grin.

Personally, I could care less Kyle wears my cloths and he knows it.  Seriously.   Unless he started wearing my skirts and dresses, I might not be too comfortable with that, but no matter what, I love Kyle with all my heart.  Still, Kyle wearing my jeans, that fit him pretty good, took me by surprise.

When did that happen?  I mean Kyle’s been wearing my t-shirts for years, claiming they fit him.  I never cared because they’re just t-shirts and can be worn baggy, but my jeans?  Really?  Kyle and I have had the same size shoes for a year or two now.  His foot is now starting to grow again, but for some reason that never hit me hard, probably because I’ve always had small feet, so it was never a big deal.  But jeans?  That’s a whole other topic.

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Kyle running around as a bee at Uncle Sonny’s. He was a little over 2 years old. 10/2003

I remember the days when Kyle would flop around in my shoes and would be silly just for the heck of it.  Now Kyle can’t get his chubby foot in my shoes and is becoming too cool for such goofiness.

There was a time when Kyle and I would draw mustaches on post-it notes and stick them to our upper lip.  Then, we would walk around like bow legged cowboys holstering pistols.  Yes, it’s true!  It was hilarious.  Kyle would exaggerate his steps toward me with his hands in position over imaginary handguns on either side of his hips.  Keep in mind Kyle, as with myself, was sporting a yellow post-it note on our faces with a drawn mustache.  It was too funny!  I used to die!  Later on, to help Kyle with his scissor skills, we would cut the paper into fringes and the shape of a mustache, only using a pen to accent the lines.  Now-a-days, Kyle has a real, subtle mind you, mustache.  My dad calls it the caterpillar.

When Kyle is acting up or in trouble, dad will say, “Don’t make the caterpillar mad” or “Look at the caterpillar quiver!”  Even Kyle can’t keep a straight face for that one!

It wasn’t that long ago, I guess about ten years or so when Kyle was two, maybe three and he yelled for me to come into the bathroom where he was showering.  First of all, that doesn’t happen anymore.  Kyle does not run around naked like he used to, which I am thankful for.  Secondly, he doesn’t need me to be right by his side as he showers.  He used to love the company while showering.  Although, I will admit, we had a lot of great conversations during this time.  I guess because he had my undivided attention, Kyle’s favorite kind.  Nope.  Those days are long gone.  But one time in particular, when Kyle yelled for me to come and see something, I was totally taken off guard.  Thinking it was a bug or something trivial, I pulled back the shower curtain in a very blasé manner, almost annoyed, to be faced with Kyle’s armpit.  What?  Yes, he had his arm stretched to the ceiling exposing the under skin.

I had no idea what I was suppose to be looking at.  He just pushed the armpit closer to my eyes, which my eyesight has always been and still is stellar.
Me:  “What Kyle?”
Kyle:  “Loot, Aiya”
Me:  “Loot at what Narrow?”
Kyle:  “Loot, I have a hair!”

I died!  He thought he saw a hair under his arm and he swears it was attached.  I was almost in tears laughing so hard.  He had no idea what was so funny, which made the situation even more comical.  Trying to regain my composure to get the kid to finish his shower and get out, I wiped the area with my hand to show him there was no hair.

Me:  “Kyle I don’t see anything.”
Kyle:  “Ya, ha, it was there Aiya.”
Me:  Trying to let him down nicely, but never lying to the kid, “Honey, maybe it was one of my hairs that attached to your armpit?”
Kyle:  “No Aiya, it was attached.  Maybe I washed it off?”
Me:  “Maybe, but you don’t have armpit hair yet.”
Kyle:  “Ya I do!”
Me:  “No, look honey, nope, no hair and I have perfect vision.”
Kyle:  “Ahh”

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Pappy walking Kyle (bee) into Uncle Sonny’s kitchen, Uncle Sonny in the background. Whiskey (RIP) in the foreground. 10/2003

At that moment, I was taught by Kyle not to take anything for granted and never get annoyed with the young man’s requests, even as silly as they might be, they could be a story to tell later on and laugh about.

Presently, Kyle does have a few sprigs of hair growing under his armpit region.  He is becoming quite the man.  Soon he will surpass me in height and weight.  Although, like I’ve always told Kyle, I will ALWAYS be able to take him down!  Our little man is growing up and I’m very proud of him!  He’s still as much today as he was as a two year old.  I hope he always remains silly.

m4s0n501
posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Fall Cartoon Line-Up of Years Past

Genius is the recovery of childhood at will.  ~Arthur Rimbaud

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Nicole opening gifts & Ryan sitting on pap sucking his finger mid 1980s

Since it’s Friday and the weekend is on our heels, I got to thinking.  Each year around this time, it takes me back to my childhood.  Well, yes with the going back to school season, but also with the television line up.  When you hear of season premiers and the smell of fall in the air, I must admit I feel like a kid again.

Just the other day, I caught myself making a list of the shows I wanted to add to my agenda.  Granted, I don’t watch much TV and as the season progresses, my interest will decrease, but regardless I actually wrote down the shows and the times to get my bearings straight.  Greek, right?

As kids, we never really watched much television during the week either.  Up to a certain point, we only had one television set, that is until my sister got one for Christmas.  It was a small, and I mean SMALL, the entire unit measured probably about eight inches by eight inches by a foot, and the screen was even smaller, portable television set.  Not to mention, I came from a generation that went outside and played, even in the dead of winter.  No, we never really watched that much television in the evenings as kids, and when we did it was the news or Marty Stouffer.  I’ve seen every episode, on every animal, ever made, EVER.  Back then I hated it, yet now-a-days I catch myself watching animal planet and enjoying it.  Maybe I did like that show, but only because dad ruled the remote I didn’t care for it so much.  However, I do remember a brief time of watching *Thunder Cats, The Brady Bunch and *School House Rocks upon coming home after a long day of learning.  So I guess we did get our turn on the television set.

Before school we were allowed to watch morning cartoons, as long was we were ready-to-roll or in the process.  What shows consumed my mind before school?  We watched, *G.I. Joe, *Transformers, *Smurfs, New Zoo Review, *Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo, *Scooby-Doo and the *Flintstones.  Granted these weren’t watched all at once or even in the same time frame, yet over the years they were our basic staples.

But what I really remember and still cracks me up to this day, was the Saturday morning fall line up.  Yes, the new cartoons or shows or the new episodes of some favorites that would premier on Saturday mornings around this time of year, much like it does now.  I loved waiting to hear about the fall line up!  It almost made going back to school enjoyable, because you knew you’d get a break on Saturday mornings.

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Kyle & his pappy watching TV. Kyle usually got to watch what he wanted … Kyle is sitting on a large pillow I made him. c. 2004

To make things fair so Nicole, Ryan and myself wouldn’t fight, mom would get the TV Guide and let us pick out what we each wanted to watch.  Yes, we mapped out our Saturday morning shows in advance!  It was actually fun.  No wonder why I’m such a planner and I live by my schedule to this day.  While watching our shows, we would literally refer to the previously outlined schedule, written on a notepad, and stuck to it like gold, checking off each show as they were completed.  We treated the Saturday morning line up like it was work and we were doing our job!  No joke!  As the weeks passed we didn’t need our notepad for we now memorized the line up.

During the planning stages, which happened about a week out from the new line-up, we would pull newspaper ads and highlight all shows of interest.  When it was two against one, the odd ball would have to watch his or her desired show in the bedroom on the tiny television set. (refer to paragraph three).   Sometimes we all agreed on a cartoon, which made it more fun to sit together on the couch, wrapped in our blankets.  Yes, we even had our own designated blankets.  This was serious business!  The worst part was when two shows were on at the same time, both of equal interest, yet we had to made choice pick one.  Back then there wasn’t such a thing as TiVo or DVR, nope.  Eventually, we got a VCR, but recording the cartoons to watch later was never an option.  Perhaps we didn’t think of it or mom didn’t want us spending ALL day in front of the boob tube?  Either way, we had to make a choice, which was good practice for later on in life.

The line up started around 7:30 am or so till about noon, which at that point we had to get off our butts and do our chores, homework etc.  Usually, I got up earlier in preparation for the shows.  Nicole and Ryan had a little harder time getting out of bed, but once they heard the television spring to life, they bolted out as to not miss their placement.

The best part?  Dad and mom weren’t allowed to change the channel on us.  Dad was either working or doing something and mom was on hand to break up any disputes, yet they rarely interrupted us during our scheduled time.  Not to mention, mom always made us breakfast and we ate it while watching cartoons.  What did we have?  Usually eggs or oatmeal or cream of rice or french toast or pancakes.  But what did we want?  Sugar cereal!  Mom didn’t purchase too much cereal, but when she did it was a treat and was like crack cocaine!

So what were the shows of years past?  If my memory serves me well we watched (in no particular order and excluding previously mentioned).  Prepare yourself to be taken back to the past!:

  • *Ewoks
  • Snorks
  • Rainbow Bright
  • Punky Brewster
  • Berenstain Bears
  • Teen Wolf
  • Shirt Tales
  • *Speed Buggy
  • Gem
  • Captain Caveman & the Teen Angels
  • *Josie & the Pussycats
  • Mighty Mouse
  • *Superfriends
  • Ghostbusters
  • *Alvin & the Chipmunks
  • The Littles
  • *Casper
  • *Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • *Spider-man
  • Dark-wing Duck
  • *Heathcliff & the Catillac Cats
  • Duck Tales

 

I’m sure over the years there were more, but those listed I definitely remember watching.  Of course we were part of the Loony Tune generation and I’ve seen all of those.

On a side note, most of my favorite shows involved cats. I just realized that!  I have always been a cat lover.  My pappy used to call me old cat woman.  I am a geek!

While Kyle was growing up there were a few favorites of his including:

  • George Shrinks
  • *Jakers!  And the Adventures of Pigglywinks
  • Thomas & Friends
  • Bear in the Big Blue House
  • Teletubbies (only when he was really little, they were scary!  LaLa and Poe were his favorites!)
  • Sponge Bob (Yes, I’ll admit I have fallen prey to this cartoon)
  • Pokemon
  • Scooby-Doo (the older ones and new ones.  Hence, why Kyle’s dog (a blond Labrador) is named Scooby)
  • Fairly Odd Parents
  • Adventure Time (hated that stupid yellow dog!)
  • Phineas & Ferb
  • Tom & Jerry
  • Ben 10
  • How to Train Your Dragon Cartoon
  • The Penguins from Madagascar (they crack me up!)
  • Johnny Test
  • Wonder Pets (What’s gonna work? Team work!) (The phone, the phone is ringing.)
  • Bob the Builder

Did we ever outline such a schedule for Kyle?  Sadly no.  First of all, we have more than one large television set and my parents have Direct TV and I always had cable at my house.  Not to mention, there are channels upon channels dedicated to cartoons and influencing our young generation day and night.  No need to outline a plan of attack, for Kyle was able to watch cartoons anytime.  Plus, ad in all of his DVDs, no shortage of entertainment for the kid.  To be honest, all this fulfillment when desired takes the fun out of it all.  I liked having to wait and plan for such an event as Saturday morning.  It made you look forward to it more and we spent time together.  Perhaps that might become retro again.

*Means a favorite of mine

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Happy 50th Anniversary!

To learn something, to master something, anything, is as sweet as first love.  ~Geoffrey Wolff

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Mr. & Mrs. Bob Arbuckle tied the knot 8/8/64

With so much tragedy and terror going on in the world, especially with the airstrikes in Syria (targeting ISIS) and the persecution of Catholics in the Middle East and around the world, it is truly a delight to write about something worth celebrating.  I know this is a bit past due, but good news never expires.

On August 8, 2014, good friends’ of mine, Lorraine and Bob Arbuckle celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  I’ve spoke of them before True Penn State Role Model and it is an honor to speak of them again.

I should correct that by saying, they are not only friends of mine, but in deed like my second family, for they’ve ALWAYS treated me as such.  From the time I met Lorraine and Bob (and the entire family), they’ve always included Kyle and me as part of their own, and welcomed us both with open arms.  They’ve extended the same gesture to my parents and sister alike.  Keep in mind, mom, dad and Nicole have never met Lorraine and Bob, or any of the Arbuckle clan!  In fact, I don’t think they even know what each looks like!  How about that for blind love!  As a nice gesture, some people may ask about others to strike up a conversation.  Not Lorraine and Bob, they ask because they really care.

Lorraine and Bob made it 50 years as a happily married couple.  For those of you who don’t do math, they began their journey together on August 8, 1964, when pictures where still taken in black and white and marriages where promises kept.  Now, I’m sure life wasn’t always bliss, but with the help of God, which they both credit, they made it through together, hand in hand.  Due to their strong union and strong moral ethics, over the years they did a wonderful job raising their daughter and two sons, while remaining a staple in the community.

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Lorraine & Bob Arbuckle celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary! 8/10/14

In addition to being benevolent people and raising sincere and goodhearted children, this amazing couple also gave themselves to making life better for those less fortunate.  Lorraine and Bob both gave back through the Rotary Club, the church and the soup kitchen just to name a few.  Yes, over the years between being responsible Americans and having very accomplished careers, they donated their time and money for good-will.

Did I mention they are grandparents to a wonderful little man?  Their devotion runs so deep for that young fellow, take one look into his eyes and you know what his grandparents mean to him.

Lorraine and Bob’s affection extends even further to include their son-in-law, Erik.  Erik’s words have always been kind to the Arbuckle’s, but what impresses me the most are his actions, which only reinforces his words of respect and gratitude.  Like I said one big tight family!

It’s true, you can love and love and never run out.  I was a testament to this at Lorraine and Bob’s surprise 50th Anniversary Celebration.  Their daughter Lisa, who is a really good friend of mine, (heck I’m also friends with her husband, her brother’s Robby and Jeffrey, and the cousins and the aunts and the uncles etc), invited me to the party.  What an honor!  As I mingled in and out of family and long time friends, I saw and felt the same emotions radiating from everyone in the room.  What was it exactly?  I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but it was definitely a mixture of  love and respect and appreciation.  That is what Lorraine and Bob mean to everyone they encounter.  They are no doubt rock stars to their family and friends!

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The Abuckle/Zettelmayer Clan! Front: Lisa Zettelmayer, Bob & Lorraine Arbuckle Back: Erik Zettelmayer, Jeffrey & Robby Arbuckle 8/10/14

On a side note, it was Lisa who organized the gala with the aid of recruited family and friends.  She did such a spectacular job!   I don’t mean that lightly.  Being an event planner myself, no detail was overlooked.  She put a ton of work into the day and it was truly amazing!  Lisa wanted everything to be perfect for her parents as did Robby and Erik (They both had to put up with Lisa while she was in her planning mode! Just kidding, kinda.) who both helped out like champs.  Jeffrey wrote a song, taking us all on a journey over 50 years.  He sang it and played the guitar beautifully for his parents.  If those acts were not proof enough to the love those children (including Erik) have for their parents (mother and father-in-law), I can’t for the life of me come up with a more perfect example.  When two people are innately good, good radiates to everyone around.

My theory on respect is it’s a two-way street and once someone walks down that path, the other person will follow.  Lorraine and Bob have most certainly set an example for the rest of the world to witness and to follow their lead.  Not only with respect, but for the entire package of good will, accountability, a Christian way of life.  Again, they are the poster children for walking in the way of the Lord.  I mean that.  I’m not saying they are saints or perfect people, but they try and try hard with all their heart.  Granted, I haven’t known the happy couple all my life, but from the years I’ve spent with them, their intentions were always sincere and pure.

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Lorraine & Bob still in love 50 years later! Happy 50th Anniversary! 8/10/14

Finding a single person that possess so many great qualities such as intelligence, kindness and love is very rare, let alone a pair that both freely exhibit these is almost unheard of.  Lorraine and Bob both have demonstrated what a true family is and the impact it has on EVERYONE they encounter.  If anyone ever wants to argue the idea that a solid family who puts God first, is what’s best for the family and the community, the Arbuckle’s are the perfect example.

To me they are one of the sweetest and most sincere couples I know.  I cannot speak highly enough of them and they deserve every kind word.  They are such an inspiration, not only to lasting marriages but that there is good in this world.  No one can question the presence of goodness, because I am here to tell you it still exits!  I have witnessed it first hand with my own eyes and it is addicting to be around.  They are one of the best examples I know for letting God lead their lives and keeping the faith.  When you follow in the footsteps of the Lord, true love is never far behind.

Not to short-sight my own family, for they too are a rare breed, but I have been doubly blessed.  (Actually, I can honestly say I have been blessed many times over with my longtime friends and extended family)   My parents will be married forty-five years this December.  They are close on Lorraine and Bob’s heels!  I can’t wait to write about mom and dad hitting 50 years!

I hope everyone is as blessed as I am to know and to have experienced this family, for they are a God’s sent.

Happy 50th Anniversary Lorraine & Bob!   

P.S. Thank you all again for the wonderful picture and frame (sitting on my desk looking at me now), the engraved plague for my company and the beautiful business card holder engraved with my name and title “The Light Bulb”.  Your faith in me is uplifting!  You guys are awesome!

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Look at the wonderful surprise I was presented with from Lisa & her family! Love them all!! 9/2014

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Ryan!

It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.  ~J.K. Rowling

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Ryan’s 3rd birthday party. Upfront: Nicole’s big head, then cousins: Tim, Chad, Jeremy & the birthday boy, Ryan. 9/24/80

Ryan would have been celebrating his 37th birthday today!  He would have loved waking up to his son, Kyle, who is now thirteen and probably went to work, stopping for a beer on the way home, never thinking much of the day.  Like me, Ryan never cared much for birthdays.  Unlike Kyle, who takes the entire month of July to celebrate his.  Granted, Kyle’s a kid, but regardless, Ryan and I still weren’t that interested in our birthdays, except to get our driver’s license and to legally drink.  Although, I was pretty stoked to vote.

Now that my company Thrill of the Hunt is really starting to make some traction, I wonder what Ryan would be doing?

You know, I truly believe Ryan would have started a company too.  He moved on before he had the chance, but Ryan would have been a great businessman!  How do I know?  Easy, Ryan possessed all the qualities of a great entrepreneur, the passion, the ideas, the know how, leadership and most of all the ability to work hard and stick it out, no matter what.  Ryan was never a quitter and there is no one that can say he wasn’t a hard worker.  No one!

Granted, Ryan’s interests in business were very different from mine, but still the same concept regardless.  Early on, Ryan showed an interest in starting a deer butchering business.  Dad told me once, Ryan really considered doing this as a seasonal job.  It’s true, Ryan and dad, heck the rest of the family are very experienced in gutting and butchering deer, plus other game and farm animals.  Yes, we do it all ourselves, every year, even the wrapping and preparing of the deer meat for the freezer, canning it, or making Bologna and/or deer jerky, usually all of the above.  And yes, we have all the equipment to cut up the deer, make ground meat etc.  I believe I knew of Ryan’s idea, but during high school, yes Ryan was in high school and wanted to start the business, I was so involved in my own activities I probably didn’t care much.

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We always hung on pap. Left: Nicole, me, Ryan (sucking his finger but trying to hide it), cousins Jeremy & Chad. c. 1980

Why didn’t he do it?  Easy, dad talked him out of it.  Not because dad didn’t think he couldn’t handle the work or make the business a success, nope not at all!  It was quite the opposite.  Dad knew Ryan would have made it into a flourishing business and he would have enjoyed it too.  Yet, dad was being realistic and pointed out that if Ryan was butchering other people’s deer, when would he have time to hunt himself?  Very valid point dad!  You can’t let a deer hang around too long, especially if it’s not gutted and skinned.  Dad’s theory the sooner the better for both.  The butchering and packaging can wait a few days if needed, as long as it’s cold out (our deer hang in the garage).  But sooner or later this needs to be done, and it couldn’t be done with Ryan in the woods hunting, not to mention he was still in high school.

In a way, I wished Ryan would have started the business. I would have most certainly helped!  Actually, at the time I stopped hunting myself and I could have picked up the slack, when it worked with my band and Winterguard schedules.  Ok, perhaps dad was right!

Ryan’s ideas and drive didn’t stop there.  For years, in high school and out, Ryan mowed lawns when he worked for Lester.  In fact, just the other day, dad pointed out Lester’s place as we passed.  I totally forgot Ryan worked for him!  When Ryan lost his driver’s license (a whole separate story) I had to drive him to and from work.  One time, I even gave his dog Jake (he was a beagle that I always fought with) a ride when picking Ryan up.  Anyway, years after Ryan passed, mom said she ran into Lester.  You know what he said about Ryan?  He said that if Ryan would still be living, and decided to start his own lawn business, he would have put Lester out of work.  Seriously, what a compliment!  You know, Lester’s one hundred percent right!  Like I said, Ryan was made to be an entrepreneur.

Sometimes, I think having the ability to start a business is in the DNA.  Ryan was so much like my pappy in many ways.  He was a good person, a truly warm soul with a big heart with drive and a solid work ethic, much like my pappy who started his own business,  a sawmill, Walter Piper & Sons Lumber.  Pappy started the business on a fifth grade education!  Yep!  Basically, pappy knew the timber industry and practically lived in the woods his whole life, but he also would pay attention and made most of the business decisions purely off of gut instincts.  He was even big into marketing, before he knew what marketing was.  Granted, that’s a tough industry and it lasted for years, even after my pappy’s death, but it did eventually come to an end.  Like Ryan, pappy had the entrepreneur spirit in him and he also possessed all the same qualities.  I couldn’t imagine how successful pap would have been, if he had an opportunity to finish high school, let alone further his education.

Would Ryan have paired up with Nicole and myself for Thrill of the Hunt?  Probably not, for it wasn’t really his gig.  But I would have loved to work with Ryan!  There is no doubt he would have helped out if needed.

Ryan never got the opportunity like I did, to start a company.  When he passed away, he worked at a Aggressive Grinding Machine Shop, furthering his career in his trade.  Just like my grandpap Chester, Ryan was a machinist, and from what I was told a very good one.  No matter what, Ryan always did the best he could and took pride in his work.  We all missed out by Ryan’s passing and he is still missed by many, very much!

Happy Birthday Ryan!

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Scavenger Hunts – Getting Our Start at Seton Hill University & Continuing

There was no harm in taking aim, even if the target was a dream.  ~John Knowles

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Aw Else Boutique at the Seton Hill University Block Party in Greensburg, PA. Danielle & her daughters! What a great group of gals! 9/20/14

This past weekend was a busy one.  The highlight?  Administering to the Seton Hill University Scavenger Hunt – Discovering Greensburg Scavenger Hunt, in none other than Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

How did it go?  Very well!  There was a lot of participation and the feedback was VERY positive.  This was my second year at the block party and generally speaking, there was a lot of interest in the scavenger hunt, not only from my prompting, but from some who sought me out knowing they wanted to become a Thrill Seeker!  Not to mention, those who inquired about private scavenger hunts for birthday parties, Halloween events and fundraisers.  Perfect!

Plus, it’s great making new friends and contacts, and rekindling old pals and acquaintances.  As a business owner I know the importance of exposure and word-of-mouth advertising.  Administering to the scavenger hunt gave me all those.  Youngwood Corner Market was one I just met, who I may team up with in the future.  It was also a happy surprise to see Danielle, the owner of Aw Else Boutique, who I’ve known for years.  She is great gal and an inspiration!  Gotta love networking!

On a side note, Danielle is also a Seton Hill Alumna.  As we were talking and catching up on business, friends and family, she refreshed my memory when I tutored her in Adobe Photoshop.  I completely forgot all about that!  Since those good old days on the hill, she has informed me that she is a pro at the software and loves doing her own creative.  Way to go Danielle!  Again, Seton Hill has always influenced me, even being a backdrop to future friendships.

As an entrepreneur of a start-up company, those words and inquiries recharge my battery and reiterates why I started the company in the first place, to get people moving around, excited about discovery and exploring the nooks and crannies of an area, while enjoying a mind teasing game.  Believe it or not, I love being challenged with the development of new scavenger hunts and I really LOVE seeing the participants excited about joining in on the fun and having a good time.

Sadly, my sidekick, Kyle was not able to attend and help me administer to the scavenger hunt.  He also missed last year’s block party too.  I guess my little teenager is a busy man and he’s going to have to pencil me into his schedule.  I want Kyle to grow with the company as it continues to do the same.  With each event, I try to teach him skills and share insights, not only for his potential career in business, but to grow as a person.

You know it’s true what they say, always keep your contacts and never burn bridges.  Over the years I’ve kept in touch with friends and business owners, as with some professors at Seton Hill University.  I’ve never ever had a reason to speak of Seton Hill in any other fashion but pure respect.  They, after all, are my Alma Mater for both of my degrees. (one when it was the college and one the university)  I’ve always held that school in high regards and they’ve reciprocated all the way, even to show encouragement and support for my business.

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Great food at Youngwood Corner Market! Met some new friends to team up with in the future! Seton Hill University Block Party, Greensburg, PA 9/20/14

When I started Thrill of the Hunt in 2012 (that was when we officially developed our very first scavenger hunt – The Piper Corporation was established in 2011) Seton Hill gave us an opportunity to strut our stuff so to speak.  Since then, Thrill of the Hunt has been apart of the Seton Hill Block party Discovering Greensburg in the Rain and the Alumni Weekend Decoding the Past Scavenger Hunt.

Working with Seton Hill University has been a dream of mine and has been a blessing!  I truly hope we can continue our relationship and grow to benefit both parties.

I will always hold a special place in my heart for all those companies, schools and participants who have helped and continue to patron Thrill of the Hunt.  I appreciate it immensely!

Down the road, as the company grows, I hope to work with more schools and universities.  I enjoy the learning environment and interacting with those who are open to a challenging scavenger hunt adventure.

Now time for my marketing promotion of Thrill of the Hunt.  If you’re interested in a unique custom scavenger hunt or just want to discuss the possibilities, email me at Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com, Heather@AuntHeather.com or fill out the form on our Contact Us page for a free quote.  We will get back to you within 24 business hours. I promise!

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Thrill of the Hunt table at the Seton Hill University Block Party. Great participation & interest in the Scavenger Hunt! Greensburg, PA 9/20/14

Please note, Thrill of the Hunt will be hosting our annual Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunts in local cities including Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Annapolis Maryland, Alexandria, Virginia and New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Tickets are on sale now, but are limited.  We are still accepting local businesses to be on the hunt, at no cost.

Speaking of different areas, we are always open to hearing suggestions on scavenger hunt themes and hometowns to bring our events.  I just received a request to bring our dog scavenger hunt to Winchester, Virginia.  I will certainly start looking into the possibility and hopefully by next year we can make it happen.  Please Suggest An Event, either on our website or email Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com or fill out the form on the Contact Us page.  I seriously want to hear from you!

Please make sure you’re following the hunt on our social sites. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, always using #ThrillofHunt

Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Singles Scavenger Hunt & MELODIME Show

Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Venture anything.  ~Sherwood Anderson

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Thrill of the Hunt’s Singles Scavenger Hunt at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA 9/5/14

Since the days are slipping past me, I thought I’d share this idea before it has become the very past.

Look online and you’ll be flooded with activities in all areas, for all interests for families and adults alike.  Well, here is one for the singles. (21+)

Two weeks ago this Friday, on September 5, 2014, Thrill of the Hunt, a division of The Piper Corporation hosted our first ever singles scavenger hunt!  Espy Scavenger Hunt  Yes!  An option for those singles instead of the same old, which ultimately rests solely on the participants’ ability to strike up a conversation.  Nope!  Not this time.  This scavenger hunt was a non-threatening conversation starter, while having fun playing a game.

Again, to reiterate and for disclosure purposes, Thrill of the Hunt is my start-up company.  We exclusively develop and administer to scavenger hunts.  One might ask, for what?  Short answer, for any business function such as an outing, team building, a company picnic, a sales meeting, a conference or for a trade show to engage customers or potential prospects; for parties such as birthday, retirement, bachelor/bachelorette, bridal or baby shower or family reunion; or as a unique and exciting fundraiser.  Not only does Thrill of the Hunt build these private scavenger hunts but we also host our own public hunts.

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Thrill of the Hunt’s Singles Scavenger Hunt & MELODIME Show at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA 9/5/14

The singles scavenger hunt was one of those public activities whereas the participants purchased a ticket in advance.  This particular event was coupled with the MELODIME show afterwards, if desired.  In addition, Thrill of the Hunt issued the adventurous singles a list of items to prepare them for the hunt, and in turn, they addressed such items as they chose.  The scavenger hunt was designed to prompt specific questions to keep the conversations flowing and not have awkward silence and to eliminate anxiety or uncomfortableness, while going through the clues and challenges.  Each participant had the freedom to choose who they spoke to, somewhat.

The outcome?  It was a small event, being the first one of its kind at this venue, which was Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Virginia.  Being an administrator, I can only listen to the feedback and get a sense of the participants’ attitude and body language.  I was told it was a fun event, even though it would have been better with a larger group.  I couldn’t agree more, perhaps in the future.  Everyone did enjoy themselves and the conversations where certainly none stop.

On a side note, this is one of those rare occasions Kyle wasn’t able to assist me.  His thirteen years was not permitted in the facility that served alcohol.  Plus, with an event like this, he is definitely too immature to really understand, at least at this point in his life.  Plus, I can never gauge the quality of the participants.  At this event, they were all very pleasant nice people, but I’m sure I’ll have a few challenges as I continue offering the singles scavenger hunt.  I certainly hope not, and I haven’t thus far with any of my events, but it’s always a real possibility.  I don’t want Kyle exposed to potential problems, so he will remain on the sideline for now, at least with respect to the singles events.

I truly do love building scavenger hunts and administering to them!  Hence why I started this company.  Good thing!

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Thrill of the Hunt hosted the Singles Scavenger Hunt & MELODIME Show at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, VA 9/5/14

Recently, I spoke to a gal on the phone regarding a bachelorette party she is having in Louisiana.  She thought we didn’t service that area.  We do!  These are exciting times and Thrill of the Hunt is expanding our reach to cover most cities.

We are also teaming up with different colleges and universities for a variety of activities, as well as different groups of all interests.  Recently, a few MeetUp groups reached out to me about scavenger hunt events and other themes.  Great idea!  In fact, Thrill of the Hunt will be hosting our annual Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunts in local cities including Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Annapolis Maryland, Alexandria, Virginia and New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Tickets are on sale now, but are limited.  We were also commissioned by Seton Hill University as an activity for their block party homecoming.  Join us in Greensburg, Pennsylvania tomorrow.  Told you a lot going on!

Speaking of different areas, we are always open to hearing suggestions on scavenger hunt themes and hometowns to bring our events.  Please Suggest An Event, either on our website or email Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com or fill out the form on the Contact Us page.  I seriously want to hear from you!

Now time for my marketing promotion of Thrill of the Hunt, as if I haven’t already.  If you are interested in a unique custom scavenger hunt or just want to discuss the possibilities, email me at Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com or fill out the form on our Contact Us page for a free quote.  We will get back to you within 24 business hours. I promise!

Please make sure you’re following the hunt on our social sites. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, always using #ThrillofHunt

Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!  (I thought of that all on my own)

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments
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