Happy Birthday Ryan!

Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.  ~Marianne Williamson

Happy 39th Birthday Ryan!

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Me, Ryan, Nicole, Jeremy & Chad Piper Easter 1981

Today, Ryan would have turned 39 years old, and his son Kyle, is a teenager of 15 years.  I can honestly say, I miss Ryan today like I did when he passed.  Maybe a little more, just in a different way.

It’s weird, talking about a person’s birthday and in the same breath their death.  Like it or not, I guess that’s the circle of life.  Although, Ryan’s life circle was a bit shorter than anticipated and there are so many holes missing,  I can only guess or imagine how they would have unfolded.

Since Kyle was Ryan’s everything, it would have been fun to watch Ryan parent and influence Kyle in all his activities, including band.

I bet Ryan would have been a band chaperone or at the very least helped in some way.  Would I have been a band chaperone if Ryan was alive?  You bet I would!  With or without Ryan, I’m there to support my little man, and in turn I would have supported Ryan too.  In fact, Ryan probably would have leaned on me to be involved, especially since I was as in band myself.

Ryan would have encouraged Kyle in school to keep up his grades, and he certainly would have welcomed my assistance.  Ryan would have played a huge influence in Kyle’s hunting and fishing activities, not that my dad doesn’t now.  It would be nice to go hunting with Ryan again, or even sit on a river bank and cast a few lines.

Usually when it’s one of our birthday’s we get a hold of Kyle to call the celebratory person to wish them a happy birthday.  However, with Ryan, it would only be a reminder of someone not present, at least physically.  Someone Kyle only knows from stories.  Kyle is the one who lost the most when Ryan passed away.

Kyle’s a busy boy, but I hope he always remembers his family and his dad.  While Kyle never remembered meeting Ryan, Ryan loved Kyle more than anything and would have done anything for that kid.  I hope Kyle realizes that one day and knows who truly is there for him.

Happy Birthday Ryan!

Leave Ryan a birthday wish.  Kyle would love to see it one day.

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posted by auntheather in Church,Family,Milestone,News,Reminiscing and have No Comments

What’s For Dinner?

The proof of the pudding is the eating.  ~Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Cheyenne-Piper-&-Kyle-at-Bethel-Church-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle & his cousin Cheyenne Piper at Bethel Lutheran Church. 2005

Ever since Kyle was a little tyke, he’s been very structured, eventually including his eating habits.  Truly.  It could be ten o’clock at night and he’d sit back in retrospect asking, “What was for dinner?”  Usually I ask, “Are you hungry?”  With Kyle’s response of, “No, but I wanted to know what was for dinner?”  Seriously?  Oh, yes!  Like he’s taking a tally or checking of his daily list.  He’ll even reiterate what he ate and what category it was considered, either breakfast, dinner, supper, or snack.  Kyle can’t simply eat when he’s hungry and leave it at that, he has to place it in a mental check box.

On a side note, in our household, we call “lunch”, dinner.  So what do we call dinner or the last meal of the day?  Supper.  Yes, dinner is our midday meal, or commonly called lunch, and supper is our later day meal, or sometimes called dinner.

Anyway, when conversing with Kyle over his meals for the day, a big WARNING needs to accompany this discussion.  If you try and assist Kyle recollect his food consumption for that particular day, and you categorize a food item as part of the wrong meal, or worse, call out an item eaten from the previous day, he’ll call you out on it and make a big deal about his supposedly missed meal, even when he’s not hungry.

Example time.  Now I can’t exactly recall a specific conversation between us, but they basically go like this:

Aunt-Heather-Piper-baking-in-Pittsburgh-Apartment-1995

Me making cupcakes in my apartment in Pittsburgh (Beechview on Broadway Street) 1995

Stage:  (It’s 10:00 pm on a Saturday night and Kyle is laying on the couch watching television, winding down before bed.)
Kyle:  Aunt Heather what was for dinner?
Me:  (Not thinking to hard on the question)  I don’t know, are you hungry?
Kyle:  No, I just wanted to know what we had for dinner.
Me:  I don’t know, steak and eggs.
Kyle:  No that was breakfast.
Me:  Oh, we had grilled chicken and potatoes.
Kyle:  No, that was for supper.
Me: (Getting frustrated over a pointless conversation.)  I don’t know!  Are you hungry?
Kyle:  No, I just wanted to know.
Me:  If you’re not hungry does it matter?
Kyle:  No
Me:  (LIGHT BULB!)  Oh, we had sandwiches!  (Now feeling pleased with myself for finally remembering.)
Kyle:  Oh, yeah that’s right!
Me:  Now do you want me to review all your snacks including the quart of chocolate milk you drank in one gulp?  (Sarcasm and silliness, for I truly don’t care what Kyle eats or how much, as long as the majority of his consumption is healthy, and in moderation for the not-so-nutritious food items.  Please note, the remark about the chocolate milk was not an exaggeration.  He really does fill up a quart jar with milk and chocolate syrup, and gulp it down instantly.  I guess he’s a growing boy.)
Kyle:  (snickering) No.  But what was for dessert?
Me:  I saw you eating Oreos earlier.
Kyle:  Yeah, but that wasn’t dessert for supper.
Me:  You don’t have to have a dessert for every meal.  Desserts are only for special occasions, or as a rare treat, not for everyday.
Kyle:  Why not?  I like desserts!
Me:  I do too buddy, but it’s not good to have all that sugar and fat.
Kyle:  I like sugar.
Me:  I know!  Same as your dad!
Kyle:  (Snicker, before he heads off to bed, satisfied that his checklist is completed.)

Dad-U-Sonny-Jeremy-Nicole-92-Christmas-Party-Aunt-Heather-Piper

In the back row: Dad, Uncle Sonny & Jeremy. Uncle Denny’s back is on the left & Nicole on the right. Christmas Party 1992

Perhaps this strange and sporadic phenomenon is partially my fault.  When Kyle was little, I became aware that when he wasn’t with my family, he’d miss meals or the sustenance eaten was less than par, not healthy in the slightest.  So I began to teach Kyle to eat at least three meals a day, and snack healthy in between.  That’s about the time I taught him about nutrition.  I especially stressed the importance of breakfast, which was completely omitted from his diet before school.  Or worse, he’d eat his jelly sandwich and crackers on the bus headed to school because he was hungry, and then have to go without for the entire day.  It broke my heart to think of Kyle sitting in the cafeteria with his friends, watching them eat their lunches, while he was hungry.  I’m not saying a jelly sandwich (at the time he hated peanut butter, so that was his PB&J minus the P) is the most nutritious for breakfast, but it’s something.

Naturally, there’s always an excuse, but with a five, six, seven, eight, nine and even a ten year old, there doesn’t need to be an excuse, simply doing what’s right for his well-being.  This is paramount during a child’s developmental stages.  Plus, it’s good habit forming.  Granted, to counter act this, over the years, I began my mission to teach Kyle to make himself some simple and quick dishes to equip him to fend for himself.  Like what?  Oatmeal in the microwave  or eggs. (Yes, Kyle has always known how to make eggs and to properly and safely use the stove and oven since he was probably two or so.)  Grabbing a banana or apple isn’t too taxing and is an acceptable breakfast or snack, both of which Kyle loves.  Even toast would be better than nothing.

On another side note, I also gave Kyle money to buy a hot lunch, not saying the cafeteria meals were any healthier, but at least it was food for his empty stomach and a warm meal.

Well, enough heavy.  Kyle is now a healthy teenager, one who still confirms his three meals of the day.  Maybe something really did sink in when I was teaching him about healthy eating habits.  I hope so.  I only want Kyle to have every opportunity in life, and that includes eating healthy and staying that way for a long time.

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

Resemblance of Past Ryan & Present Kyle

The belly is an ungrateful wretch, it never remembers past favors, it always wants more tomorrow.  ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Baby-Kyle-2001-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Our little man … Kyle as a 3 month old baby. 2001

In keeping with one of my goals for this blog, recording stories about Ryan as they come to mind so Kyle has the opportunity to read them later in life and get to know his dad, I have a very sweet story to share.

A few weeks ago, Kyle mentioned he was hungry, and was going to make himself cinnamon toast.  You know, toasted bread, spread with butter, and sprinkled with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  Great, whatever buddy!  That’s what I thought until I saw what he did.

Kyle took that comment as a full time job.  As I rounded the corner, I saw Kyle perched in front of the television with a stack of cinnamon toast, and I mean a STACK.  I didn’t count the slices, but I bet there was nearly a loaf of bread there!  The best?  He meticulously stacked the bread onto a small plate.  It was almost comical.  The base of this structure was less than half of the height.

On a side note, I did sneak a few slices of cinnamon toast for myself.  However, Kyle didn’t go without, he added more bread to the toaster to replace the casualties.  Of course, when he gave me a look, I said, “Go make more then.”  For once Kyle listened to me.

Sometime, after I satisfied my immediate craving, and the humor of Kyle’s actions subsided, something else came to light.  Kyle’s resemblance to his dad!  No joke!  Not only did Kyle look like Ryan physically, at least at first glance, sitting on the couch wearing jeans and a tee shirt with sandy blonde hair, sitting in my parents living room, but the entire scene took me back a few years.  Ryan used to do the exact same thing, literally.

Ryan-with-godparents-Paula-and-Joe-1977-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan with his godparents, Paula & Joe. To the right is my Grandpap Chester’s checker table he made. 1977

Similar to Ryan, Kyle’s dad, Kyle also has a sweet tooth, especially for cinnamon toast!  Ryan used to make an entire loaf of bread, and I mean THE ENTIRE LOAF, (including the ends) dripping with butter and a heavy hand sprinkling of cinnamon sugar to each slice, covering the very corners.  With the stack nearly reaching the ceiling, Ryan would plop himself in front the television to chow down and watching cartoons.  Sometimes, Ryan would make himself a cup of hot chocolate to dip the bread.  The hot chocolate was a condiment for the cinnamon toast.  It was truly an amazing sight!  This activity didn’t last all day.  Oh, no!  It only took Ryan a few minutes to ingest the contents of his plate, and sometimes work on round two.  Seriously?  No exaggeration!  I don’t know how mom and dad kept us in stock of food.  This incidence didn’t just occur once a month or once every few months.  Nope!  It was more like twice a week, mostly in the winter.  The summer was reserved for indulging in fruits and vegetables. Who Does Kyle Favor More, His Dad?  No matter how many times I witnessed this phenomenon, it always captured my attention.

Naturally, I did the same thing with Ryan as I did with Kyle, steal a slice or two from the bread tower.  However, Ryan never really cared, he’d simply go make more if the contents in his stomach didn’t reach the brim.  This is one of those stories that seeing is believing.

So here we are, over two decades later, and Ryan’s eating habits have come full circle, without his influence.  Unbeknownst to Kyle, he was reenacting the same scenario his dad participated in.  Kind of weird, yet heart warming.  It’s those little moments that comfort me with the loss of Ryan.  It also brings  me joy to see the similarities between Ryan and Kyle.  It’s almost refreshing when Kyle isn’t acting like his Aunt Nikki or his Gigi or others, simply like his dad.

How did Kyle learn this behavior?  On a very rare occasion we make cinnamon toast, but it’s certainly not a staple in the household.  That’s how Kyle learned about cinnamon toast, but choosing to make a truckload at a time and ingesting it within minutes must be all genetics, I guess.  Perhaps Kyle is gaining Ryan’s metabolism and hunger.  Yikes, I can only imagine if Ryan and Kyle were alive at that same time, the world would be wiped out of food, especially bread!  Add me to the mix and it would be a world deprived of all sustenance.

Kyle you are your daddy’s son, in more ways than you can imagine!

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Kyle trout fishing with me & his pap at off of Route 30, Causeway at Loyalhanna Creek 4/24/15

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Fiber One Memories

In a way, looking back, it seemed a long, long time since she had been eighteen, but in another way her memories were so clear and vivid that it seemed like yesterday.  ~Helen Hooven Santmyer

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Planinsek Fishing Derby. Kyle hanging with is pap, probably tying another hook that he yanked off. I’m in the background talking to Ryan’s friend Jesse Planinsek & his dad, Fred. 5/10/14

I’m not sure what made me think of this story, but here it is.  I was probably rehashing recent events involving Kyle, and it came to me.

Regardless, a few years ago, I recalled Kyle’s first Fiber One experience.  Fiber One Discovery  Yes, that single moment in history, which changed Kyle’s life forever, and started his short term obsession with the quasi healthy snack bar.  True Story!  Kyle LOVED those General Mills Fiber One bars, not to be confused with the Kellogg’s Fiber Plus bars.  Branding the Next Generation  He tried both, only because I wasn’t paying attention when making my selection.  After sampling each and making very valid comparisons, Kyle proudly announced that he preferred the first rather than the later.  He spoke of those Fiber One bars fondly and often, with an almost reverence.   From that accidental chance in history, Kyle had a favorite snack.  It only increased in popularity, when he found out that the product line expanded to include Pop Tarts.  Love at first bite.  This was such a hot topic, it became a big joke among family and friends, Kyle and his fiber passion.  How could it not?

In recent times, Kyle hasn’t really requested those trusty fiber snacks.  Perhaps, they did a number on him, and the number I’m referring to is TWO (pun totally intended).  Maybe it’s because I haven’t purchased the Fiber One bars for him, or he wasn’t exposed to the brand every time we ran through the grocery store (my money is on Kyle paying too much attention to his video games and not his surroundings) and it’s now become a thing of the past.  No clue.  Unbeknownst to me, we would come full circle with his fiber talk.

About two weekends ago, we found ourselves back in WalMart grabbing a few grocery items.  Yes, back to where it all began, about six years later!  Again, normally, I don’t shop at that constantly crowded, patience required store, especially in the middle of the day, at the height of craziness, but there I was, with Kyle at my side.  While rushing past the isles, we were halted by a sight in the near distance, no more than four feet from us.  Equipped with bright lights, and a familiarity to stop the heart and cause an uncontrollable smile to surface, was a vision of the past.  Almost dreamlike, the way it flooded me with memories, stood the Fiber One sample cart!

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Casey, Kyle & me in a cave while visiting Casey in West Virginia for a snowboarding trip. I know we brought Fiber One bars to snack on! c. 2007

Immediately, the sign caught my eyes, and my mind recalled conversations upon conversations of my little man talking about fiber and the Fiber One bars, way before becoming a teenager.  I know what made me put on the breaks, but I thought Kyle was simply following my lead, for he too stopped.  Instinctively, I turned toward Kyle, ready to make a comment and see if he remembered his Fiber One infatuation, when he did the same, giving me this expression to steal my words.  His look said,  “The Fiber One display!”  He didn’t need to say a word, for we had a universal understanding between us.  After the initial shock, we did a double take toward the display, watching the worker for only seconds that seemed like an hour, while she prepared her samples for a busy Saturday.  Our eyes paused momentarily, lost in the past, before we looked back at each other and busted out laughing.  Kyle did remember his love of Fiber One!

I was cracking up!  I don’t know why Kyle’s realization of his past love meant something to me, probably because it was a memory that began with the two of us.  Then, Kyle flashed me that ornery grin, pointed, and said, “Hey Aunt Heather!”  Too funny!  All I could muster was, “Yes buddy, I see.”  He never did ask me for a sample, or if we could buy a box.  I don’t know if he wasn’t hungry, because usually that’s when all the snack foods seem to jump into the cart, even the little red plastic basket hanging from my arm, or I was moving so fast, Kyle thought we’d wreck if he’d speak up.  Looking back on it now, I should have grabbed a box for old time sake.  That would have made his day, but as usual I was in a hurry.

It may seem silly, but it was one of those precious, although a little odd, moments that can never be planned.  A funny memory that brought with it many, many humorous stories and conversations about all things fiber.  Kyle is the coolest ever!

 

 

 

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Singing to Kenny Rogers

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.  ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Aunt-Heather-Piper-singing-Pittsburgh-1994

Yes I was singing with deodorant … back in the days when I wore a watch… this was my first apartment in Pittsburgh after graduating. 1994

Silly story time!  Last week, while leaving the gym with my friend Holly, I heard Juice Newton sing Queen Of Hearts.  She was shocked to find out that I liked country music.  (I’m not sure if Queen Of Hearts constitutes country music but for this conversation, it does)  I stand corrected, when I was a kid, I liked THAT country music, from THAT time.  The Charlie Daniels Band, Crystal Gayle, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Pardon, Johnny Horton, and Willie Nelson were among some of my favorites.  Yes, when I was young some of the artists were already dead or pretty old themselves, regardless, that’s were my interest rested.  Keep in mind, I also loved Boy George and the Culture Club, the Go-Go’s and the Bangles.  I even enjoyed listening to country gospel tunes.  My music interests were certainly eclectic.  Presently, I’m not a country music fan, nor was I even in high school.

So it’s really no surprise that I’m a fan of Kenny Rogers, or I was.  I loved Kenny Rogers!  The movie The Gambler was one of my favorites.  (That reminds me, I need to introduce Kyle to that one!)  It ranked up there with Mary Poppins, Sound of Music and Singin’ in the Rain.  (Every once in a while, I also bust into one of those show tunes.  My family appreciates those moments. sarcasm)

So, it’s not so far fetched that when the Geico commercial came on, and Kenny Rogers began singing, I joined in, and then some.  Yep, I know all the words, forwards and back!  I couldn’t help myself.  While Making Deer Bologna & Deer Jerky on Saturday with Kyle and mom, I busted into song.

Admittedly, I went on for hours singing, the same song, over and over and over again.  Please note, I can’t sing, which made it even better!  At times I started at the chorus, sometimes at the beginning, and others I sang the last part and stomped my feet like the original song.  And somewhere in the darkness, the gambler he broke even, and in his final words I found an ace that I could keep…

At first Kyle ignored me, then he started protesting with his usual, “STOP!”  “STOP!”  “STOP!”  I can’t believe he thought that would really make be cease and desist.  After about an hour or so, (it truly did go on for a while) he found me a tiny bit humorous, even though he wouldn’t admit it.  Kyle, trying to be good humored about my stage act, started to tease me with a chorus of “Boo”, accompanied with silly smirks and motions of a thumbs down.  Now he found himself funny.  Kyle giggled and made sure I didn’t miss his gesture of thumbs down.  No worries, I know artists are sometimes misunderstood.  I held my ground, and continued singing the song of my soul.  Seven, my Black Labrador, even joined in by jumping around barking.  He was my back up singer, a supporter of the arts.  It was a fun family time in the kitchen!

What made the situation even better?  Every time that commercial came on the rest of the weekend, before Kenny Rogers was spotted on the television screen, I’d turn my heard toward Kyle, shoot him an ornery look, and sing.  As if on cue, Kyle would chuckle, roll his eyes and do his best to ignore me, which provoked me even more.   He continued giving me his standard thumbs down.  I love getting a rise out of that kid!  It makes life entertaining and keeps him on his toes.  We all know he LOVES it!

It was all in good fun, typical Aunt Heather style.  I bet I got that song stuck in Kyle’s head!

 

 

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience 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

Truly Homemade

Only someone who is well prepared has the opportunity to improvise.  ~Ingmar Bergman

Little-mom-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Mom as a young’in, probably about Kyle’s age during the cracker cereal incidence. c.1950s

I think it’s safe to say, most people like homemade meals.  At least I do.  If you compare homemade to the prepackaged boxed up junk you buy in the grocery store full of preservatives, homemade is gourmet all the way.  Even some of the “homemade” items at the deli counter and on display by the bakery section doesn’t have that delicious homemade quality.  It still tastes cheap and “store bought”.  But not always.  Depending where you get your meals and depending on the item, sometimes they taste like they came straight from your mom’s kitchen.

Of course, this all is dependent on what type of meals you grew up with as a child.  If your mom or the “chef” of the household was a terrible cook or believed homemade was heating up a prepacked meal, then, you don’t know what I’m talking about.  Me?  I am very fortunate, for my mom knows her way around the kitchen.  Granted, she’s not a delicate cook with petite serving sizes nor did she ever care about visual presentation.  Nope.  Mom’s an old fashioned gal who cooks with her pallet, usually no recipes necessary.

On a side note, it baffles me with those who don’t cook, even when there’s no reason for it.  Example:  Those who purchase precooked chicken and throw it on the grill.  Why?  Raw chicken doesn’t take that much longer and it’s not hard.  You get my point.  I’m all for simplicity and for some assistance, but really?

What’s really interesting about mom, is her talent to cook for the masses.  It’s true, mom has a talent for cooking large amounts of food for any occasion.  Not everyone can handle such a challenge.

When I was in elementary school at Sacred Heart, we always had our annual booth at the Fourth of July Celebration at Legion Keener in Latrobe.  Mom was always one of the parents who made large amounts of Italian roast beef for the roast beef sandwiches we sold.  That’s just one simple example.  She doesn’t stop there, mom made all the food for each of our graduation parties, each attendance of nearly two hundred hungry celebration gatherers.  I’m not talking about purchasing food or having it catered.  Nope.  Mom made all the grub from scratch and it was awesome!  No bland generic food when mom’s in charge.

In addition to cooking for large groups, mom is a genius with making due.  I mean, not having certain ingredients to complete a dish or making it up as she goes.  Mom rocks at it!  Although, fair warning, sometimes this isn’t for the faint of heart, watching her and actually knowing what she is mixing together.  The end result is great, but getting there looks a bit sketchy.

Ok, now for the truly funny part of this story.  Last night mom and I were talking about cracker cereal.  What is cracker cereal?  Simply, it’s when you crush up Saltine crackers into milk and sometimes add a little sugar.  Yes, those crackers that are white and square and comes in a sleeve.  They usually make their appearance when someone has the stomach flu, except in our house.  We get in our kicks for the slightly salty treats every now-and-again.  My pappy LOVED Saltine crackers.  He used to pack a sleeve of them in his lunchbox everyday.  (I know because when I was staying with him, I’d wake up at 5:00 am and help him pack his lunch since my gram wouldn’t)

Nicole-Chad-Jeremy-Tim-Aunt-Heather-Piper 1976

Nicole eating with our cousins. Nicole front left, behind her is Tim, across from Tim is Jeremy & in front is Jeremy’s brother Chad. c.1976

To some, cracker cereal might sound gross and to others it might be a step back in time.  Either way, mom ate it as a kid and in turn as did Nicole, Ryan and myself.  Not a lot, but it was usually consumed when the shelves were bare and no other cereal was on hand.

Did the tradition of the cracker cereal continue on with Kyle?  Nope!  First I’ll admit, we are not a big cereal eating family, never really was.  I personally am not a fan of milk, therefore cereal was never my choice of breakfast.  In fact, I’d sooner eat dinner or lunch dishes for breakfast any day, and I do.  Even salads, chili and sandwiches have been consumed by me in the early morning hours, without issue.

How did this tradition die?  Mom, a.k.a. Gigi didn’t introduce it early enough with Kyle.

As mom and I reminisced yesterday, we laughed about the day cracker cereal was presented to Kyle for the first time.  As with most milestones, I was there, including this one.

Kyle was laying on the couch watching his Saturday morning cartoons, probably George Shrinks or Thomas the Tank Engine or Jakers!  The Adventures of Piggley Winks (which it wasn’t because I LOVED that cartoon and I’d remember)  Anyway, Kyle was about six years old or so.  He asked his Gigi for breakfast, which we’ve always made him his morning meal, to make sure he got a home cooked healthy breakfast.  This particular morning Kyle requested cereal.  I thought mom was going to make him eggs or something along those lines to feed the kid, since I knew there wasn’t a box of cereal in mom and dad’s house in close to a year if not longer.

Next thing I knew, here comes mom with a bowl of what looked like cereal?  That was strange, but then again, perhaps mom purchased the disguised box of pure sugar and garbage for Kyle who might have requested it on the grocery list.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are some cereals I LOVE like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but there’s no real nutritional value.  As mom helped Kyle get situated to eat and watch television, I saw the contents of the bowl.  It was cracker cereal!  No sooner after I realized this, did Kyle question the white monotone material floating in the milk.  His face turned up and I started to die inside, trying not to laugh myself off of the couch.  He ask, “Gigi, Gigi, what is this?”  I’m still trying to hold back the laughter.  Mom responds with a very straight face, as if the kid is uncultured and unsophisticated for never having this type of breakfast.  The conversation went something like this:

Mom:  “It’s cracker cereal.”
Kyle:  Still making this face.  “What’s cracker cereal?”
Mom:  Still holding a straight face.  “It’s crackers smashed up in milk.  It’s good.”
Kyle:  Still making this face grabs the spoon to push around the contents of the bowl.
Me:  Dying inside!
Mom:  Trying to sweeten the deal.  “Try it, I even put some sugar on top.”
Kyle:  Intrigued by the idea of sugar, which I never allowed him to have too much of.  He sniffs the soggy crackers and proceeds to taste it, ever so gently.
Mom:  Knowing this was going to end badly, gave it another effort to convince the kid to eat it.  “It’s good.  I used to eat it all the time as a kid.”
Kyle:  Making an even worse face.  “Umm Gigi, I don’t really like it.”
Me:  Now the bouts of giggles are erupting out my throat.
Mom:  Now is excusing Kyle from having to eat the contents, yet tries reverse psychology.  “Here, give it to me.  I’ll eat it, it’s good.”
Kyle:  Never fell for the trick and gladly handed over the bowl to see if mom was indeed going to eat it.
Mom:  Not wanting to back down and to prove her point, shovels in large bites.
Me:  Gagging
Kyle:  Watched mom, didn’t care and proceeded to ask what else is there to eat.
Me:  Completely lost it and started laughing uncontrollably.  Even mom joined in on the humor.  Kyle didn’t get it.

It was seriously one of those funny moments that can never be recreated, but will be and have been talked about since.  Last night, mom and I were still cracking up hysterically over that story.  While the interaction between mom and Kyle was unfolding, I felt like the reader of a book, knowing the outcome of the story and past chapters leading up until this point and knowing what the main character (Kyle) didn’t, and that’s cracker cereal wasn’t really cereal.  It was great!

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This is a rare photo I’ve never personally witnessed, pap with hair, walking with both of his real legs (no prosthetics) without canes. Miss you pap! 11/1959

Mom still shamefully admits she introduced cracker cereal to Kyle too late in life.  She says, “If I would have had him eating it when he was really little like you kids, then he wouldn’t know no better and wouldn’t put his nose up to it.”  Believe it or not, I think that’s mom’s greatest regret, not giving Kyle cracker cereal young enough.  I’m dying!

As we were talking last night, I also brought up the salad dressing.  You see I’ve always loved salads, yes even when I was younger, especially with the vegetables fresh out of the garden.  One summer day, unbeknownst to me, salad dressings where going to change forever.

You see, we were all out of, you guessed it, salad dressing.  So mom suggested making our own.  Most people would assume making your own would involve olive oil and spices and such, nope!  Mom had me mix, ketchup, squeeze ripe tomatoes, mixed with a little salt and pepper and a dash of vinegar together.  Yep!  That was mom’s version of salad dressing with the items we had on hand.

As we talked about this, we both were cracking up, yet I can’t deny it was pretty tasty.  My version was mostly made with the freshly squeezed tomato juice, which I still do to this day.

Gigi’s a crafty one.  They don’t make ’em like her anymore, although when cooking I do find myself exuding some of her same characteristics, as does Kyle.  Look out next generation, Kyle and I are going Gigi style with cooking!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Hard Work in Strawberry Fields

If you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.  ~Conan O’Brien

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Kyle’s not smiling because of all the delicious fresh sweet strawberries we get to eat. Nope! He’s happy he’s done picking! Pollock’s Strawberry Farm Bush Valley 6/28/14

Saturday morning, we got up early to head out to Pollock’s family farm in Brush Valley to pick, none other than fresh strawberries!  It was about a half an hour to forty-five minute journey to our sun ripened destination.

Why?  Well, besides having seriously fresh strawberries, it was a unique activity for Kyle to partake in.  Not many kids ever get to see strawberry fields, let alone sit among the rows of sweet goodness to pick them ripe off of the vine.  It was a good experience.

At first it was fun and exciting.  We got up there early to avoid sitting in the hot sun, which none of us are fans.  Then, the merriment really began when we got our baskets and were led to a strawberry row, followed by instructions.  What kind of instructions?  We were to start at the top of the row, work our way down and pick half of the row on either side.  When finished, no matter if the entire line was harvested or not, we were to move our flag to the completion of our efforts.  Pretty easy.  Kyle looked on with anticipation, at least at first.

Kyle was sandwiched between mom and me.  Naturally, he was in the row beside me, while Mike was on my other side, surrounding me by those I knew.  Even better!

I’m guessing about five small strawberry plants down, Kyle informs me that I needed to pick his entire row because he was focusing on one.  The one him and his Gigi shared.  Ok buddy, whatever works for you.  This I was expecting to be honest.  No worries, I still picked half of my row by Mike and the entire row closest to Kyle.  Sitting on my knees, I scooted down with every pass getting into a rhythm.

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Mom & Kyle picking fresh strawberries at Pollock’s Strawberry Farm. Mom gave up early…I made Kyle help me. 6/28/14

Before long, my basket was full and I had Kyle run to get me another so I could finish my section.  By then, mom had long since ditched us.  Her knees were bothering her and I’m sure the direct sun overhead didn’t help my sun sensitive mother either.

By the time I was on my second basket, Kyle was simply going through the motions, not really working.  In fact, I watched him as he picked a berry or two, waited for me to push my basket down the row, then followed suit.  He was keeping up with me, just not the way I expected him to.  I can’t really tell you how many times I heard, “Aunt Heather, it’s really hot out here.” or “Aunt Heather, I’m sweating.  I don’t like to sweat.”  Anyone who knows me, knows I too am not a fan of direct sunlight, nor heat and humidity, which all accompanied us on our trip.  I shared my logic with Kyle and that was ‘The faster we work, the quicker we’ll be done and leave.’  Kyle still didn’t hold that goal near and dear to his heart, he was just plain done.

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The beginning of fresh strawberry snacks… Pollock’s Strawberry Farm, Bush Valley, Pa. 6/28/14

Soon I told Kyle, once he filled up his basket, he was done.  I even started to throw some of the red berries I picked into his basket to help him out.  What did Kyle do?  Well, he certainly didn’t step it up.  O NO!  He started to look into my basket and criticize the berries I picked, mentioning if they weren’t fully ripe or too small etc.  Yep, it took everything I had not to loose it on this pre-teen who should be able to match my energy and work efforts second for second.  At the very least strawberry pound for strawberry pound.

Once we were done, we weighed our strawberries, paid and left.  As we were standing at the car talking, down in the lower field was a coyote running at full speed.  Then, it got me thinking, I wondered how the farmers were able to keep rabbits, deer and such out of the strawberry fields?  I didn’t see any fence or natural obstruction.  I never did ask, but now I’m even more curious than ever.

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We took a detour after picking strawberries to stop at Riddle’s Bait Shop. Stocking up for fishing on Sunday on the Loyalhanna Lake. 6/28/14

We did manage to take a detour to the local bait shop before going home, to pick up some bait for a Sunday fishing expedition on Loyalhanna Lake.  It’s never a full weekend without the fishing poles making their appearance.

On a side note, while fishing on Sunday, dad snapped his fishing pole.  He purchased it with his own hard earned money at nine years old.  It was heartbreaking to see this fifty-five year old pole in pieces.  It held a lot of memories and experience.

After we came home and settled in to our cozy air-conditioned environment, mom brought up a good point.  She mentioned to Kyle how some people earn their living by doing the very same thing we did for forty-five minutes, all day long at least five to six times a week, for months at a time.  They don’t pick for the luxury of fresh strawberries, but for minimum wage, to simply provide for their families.  That’s hard work.  Those are the people who appreciate their efforts the most.

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Pollock’s Strawberry Farm in Brush Valley, Pa. Picking our own fresh sweet goodness! 6/28/14

I don’t believe anyone really knows what others go through unless the path is walked for them.  I knew Kyle didn’t quite get the point, but then again there was a small part of me that knew he did.  It’s not only good to have an appreciation for where your food source comes from, but also how it’s awarded.  Buying groceries in the store certainly looses the origin and the hard effort it takes to deliver food to the table.  Yes, it’s nice, but every once in a while, getting back to our roots is the way to maintain a sense of reality and appreciation for God’s land and people.  At least that’s what I hope Kyle gained from this experience.

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

Catfish Hunter

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.  ~Henry David Thoreau
Kyle LOVES to fish!  I mean that, he truly looks forward to the beginning of fishing season every year.  It starts with The Fishing Derby Story, 25th Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby and then goes throughout the summer.  In all sincerity he would choose fishing over hunting any day.
Dad-fishing-1984 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad fishing. Looks like it was a successful day! 1984

The funny thing is, Kyle doesn’t like and simply won’t bait his own hook, at least not with maggots, mealworms, red worms, butterworms, or chicken livers.  I have seen him hook his own line with some sort of prepackaged bait, salmon eggs and he’s a big fan of the spinner when fishing for trout.  Aside from that, he leans on me or dad to hook him up, so to speak.

Kyle also won’t unhook a freshly reeled fish.  He doesn’t like touching the slimy, slippery skin and its pointy scales and teeth.  Forget ever asking Kyle to help scale and gut the fish.  NOPE!  I’ve tried having him help me once, and I thought he was going to puke.  He did a halfway job and I had to finish thoroughly cleaning his fish for him.  He told dad next time he’ll try and help us.  I’m not holding my breath.

Kyle does enjoy the thrill a fish nibbling on the hook and the tugging of the line ever so slightly; the feeling of knowing there is a fish interested in his bait; and the possibility of a huge catch.  Everyone loves that!  He gets so excited with the exhilaration of fighting the mystery fish and then finding out the species, and of course, the size of the catch.  This information is only used for later story telling on Kyle’s behalf.  He could careless about the meat he’s bringing to the table.

Kyle also eats fish, which I am so glad!  This past weekend, my sister was home, so mom fried us up the freshly caught catfish from Saturday.   Total, we probably caught about twenty small to medium sized catfish, mixture of bullhead and channel cats.  None of them were the size you see on television, whereas they needed to be picked up by two or three people.  Nope, these were pretty manageable for a single person.  Enough for a good meal.

On Saturday morning, we got up early.  How early?  I was up around 5:30 am and I woke sleeping beauty around 6:30 am, dad was up well before me, 4:00 am.  We packed the boat and headed out to Loyalhanna Lake, getting on the water by 8:00 am.  We wanted to get out earlier and be at our spot by then, but it was raining pretty good and it took us longer to get situated.  Dad’s not as fast in his later years, not like when I was a kid.

Yes, it was raining and we still wanted to go fishing.  Dad is no stranger to fishing in any sort of weather, even if it’s a cold, bone chilling rain.  Dad is, or I used to say was, as die hard about fishing as he is hunting.  It did drizzle on us a little, but no monsoon was in the forecast.  Personally, I was fine with that, it wasn’t too cold, it was cloudy so the sun wasn’t directly hitting me and making me sick, and the bugs were kept at bay from the rain.  Win, win all around!  Like I said, perfect day to go fishing!

Nicoles-First-Holy-Communion-Aunt-Heather-Piper 1981

Nicole’s First Holy Communion. All cousins: Front row – Casey Olczak, Ryan, Me. Back Row – Timmy Bobinchek, Jeremy Piper, Chad Piper & Nicole. Yes, that’s the tree that held my fishing pole after I was practicing how to cast. c. 1981

I’ve been fishing since I was little.  All of us fished except surprisingly, mom.  Ryan loved to fish too, often going by himself when friends and family where working or busy.

As we were casting our lines, I noticed how controlled Kyle was at the action.  I was the only one who caught a tree, but it didn’t result in a loss of hook or bait!  So no worries.

While we were sitting there fishing up a storm, I told Kyle how I used to practice casting my line all the time when I was little.  He looked at me in amazement.  It’s true, I did!  Not in water, but in the front yard.  I really enjoyed standing there and practicing the action of throwing out the line and reeling it in.  Of course, back then, mom had a white birch tree in the middle of the yard.  Somehow, I caught the tree, a few times. (sarcasm)  Yes, instead of casting away from the tree, I would stand directly in front of it and cast my line.  One time in particular, I was not able to pull my fishing pole out of the branches, so I reeled in the line and let the pole hang there, waiting for dad to get home from work.  Dad rolled his eyes resulting in the pole hanging there for quite some time. I didn’t care, I was enjoying myself.

Naturally, the first person who caught anything was dad, a nice sized catfish.  Then, Kyle and I started to get into the rhythm.  At one point, all three of us were pulling in catfish at the same time!  That made it so exciting and really a lot of fun.  We moved to a few different locations when the biting stopped, to try our chances elsewhere, before calling it a day at 2:00 pm.

While patrolling back down the tributary, dad decided he had to relieve his bladder.  I know I probably shouldn’t be talking about his but it was so funny!  Earlier, we made Kyle do so off the side of the boat, while dad and I looked the other way.  It wasn’t that easy for dad, since he’s so big and the boat is so small.  Instead, dad decided to pull up to a rock cliff and have us hold onto saplings to keep the boat parallel with the side of the hill, while he stepped out and climbed up the bank.  At first Kyle wasn’t holding onto anything while dad was stepping out.  Dad had one leg on the rocks and one in the boat, as the boat slowly started to separate from the side of the hill.  Kyle looked at me, without trying to help, like he was accepting his next statement and said, “I think this is going to end badly.”  Yes!  I started to laugh because it was kind of humorous, but then I yelled at him to grab a hold of a branch to pull the boat closer to help his pappy out.  It was quite comical!  Doring this adventure, I was hoping no one would go past, and no one did.

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Legofest 2012… I decided to be a pirate. Kyle was cracking up, yet was rolling his eyes at my silliness. Pittsburgh, Pa 2012

After putting away the bait and poles, Dad explored the other side of the lake that we never ventured down.  Let me explain, he recently got back his boat engine that was in for repairs.  Basically, dad was a boy who got back his toy.  He opened it up, let her rip, making wakes!  We felt the spray of water in our faces.  Keep in mind we were on a little fishing boat that resembled the one used from Grumpy Old Men, nothing extravagantKyle and I were giggling and hanging on the entire time, not that dad was going mock speeds, but it was just the kid in us, well maybe me and dad, since Kyle is still a kid.

It was pretty uneventful getting the boat in and out of the lake.  Except, when I went to drive the boat up on the trailer, I accidentally hit the gas pretty hard and scared myself, driving it at full speed toward the truck.  Dad must have saw the freight in my eyes and started to laugh while sitting in the driver’s seat.

While I was out on the boat, I yelled to Kyle to assist me getting the boat on the trailer straight.
Me:  Kyle direct me in.
Kyle:  What?
Me: Kyle direct me in!
Kyle:  What?
Me:  Kyle!  Tell me if I’m straight!
Kyle:  (Stood there like a statue and pointed his index finger ever so slightly in one direction)
Me: (Thinking, Whatever!)

Once the boat was safe and secure, dad commented, “I thought you were going to drive the boat into the bed of the truck.”  We got a good laugh.  You should have seen the look on Kyle’s face when I revved up the engine too hard, he gave a reaction like I was going to drive into him.   Keep in mind, he was a good yard and a half away from the action, in no immediate danger.  Afterwords, Kyle stood alongside his pap and got a good chuckle.

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Planinsek Fishing Derby, the long awaited for PRIZES! 2012

Before we left I instructed Kyle to leave his phone and his iPod behind.  You see, Kyle finds it a need to take a picture of EVERY fish he catches.  He was devastated when I told him all electronics are getting left behind.  He actually got into a slight state of panic when he realized, I meant my phone too.  He argued, “But Aunt Heather what if we have an emergency and need to call someone?  Then we are out in a boat in the middle of the water.  What do we do?”  I told him, “Believe it or not buddy, people have been fishing on water for centuries without a phone, we’ll be alright, besides we’re not out in the middle of the ocean.”  He didn’t particularity care for my comment but reluctantly went along with my logic.

Nope, no phone and I wouldn’t let Kyle take his either.  Not because I thought he was going to be sitting there talking.  Actually, on the contrary I wanted him to call his Aunt Nikki to see where she was in route, but simply because it was raining off and on and I didn’t want any phone to be ruined.  Unbeknownst to me, halfway through our fishing, I realized dad has is phone on him anyway.  Personally, it was great not checking emails, answering the phone or responding to text messages.  Just fishing.

What great quality time with the family.  Collectively, we all had fun.  Dad and I kept calling Kyle Catfish Hunter!  It was so peaceful and relaxing.  A nice lazy day in the boat with fish as my only focus.  Can’t wait to do it again!

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Text Messaging Humor – Piper Style

Laughter is wine for the soul – laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness – the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living.  ~Seán O’Casey

Since my posts have been pretty heavy lately, I wanted to come back to my preferred reality of fun and humor.  This post is a bit unconventional, but what the hay, life is short!

Yesterday, I was going through my photos on iPhoto, which usually originate from my iPhone, some from my iPad.  Looks like over a year or two, when there was a funny text message, I would take a screen shot.  Usually when I do this, it’s to be accompanied with a blog post, but some may have been forgotten or there wasn’t the space.  So in honor of these silly text messages, here they are for all to share.  Enjoy!

Warning:  These text messaging screen shots are really NOT funny, but they sure do bring a smile to my face.

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My little man… Kyle     Screen shot 5/12/12

This isn’t funny, but simply sweet.  I must have taken a screen shot of my phone screen.  Naturally, guess who always seems to take center stage.  This picture was accrued during a Santa Workshop at Kyle’s elementary school.   He always did love me showing up and helping out, believe it or not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is one that cracked us both up.  My friend Kelly and I were texting back and forth and it appears I wanted to make a Barnes and Noble run, but I was already involved in another book serious.  I have a sneaky suspicion the “book” Kelly was referring to was Allegiant by Veronica Roth.  Usually, I order my books online, but sometimes I do swing by the store in a moment of book desperation.  This one I remember I ordered to begin upon completion of the Harry Potter books.  The show, which involved the auto correct is called Mike & Molly.  Auto correct struck again!

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Wanting to read Allegiant but busy reading the Harry Potter books. 10/1/12

I remember this day very clearly.  For it was a day of disgust, intrigue and pure victory.  After much distraught and confusion, I finally found what was running rampant in my house.  I thought it was a mouse, a super mouse to be exact, but after I caught the elusive critter, I found out it was a chipmunk!  Gross.  Yes!  But victory was mine and I could now find peace in my own house. Of Mice and Me … Part 4

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Chipmunk Incident 10/28/12

Every year, Nicole takes Kyle for a week in the summer.  It’s been referred to as the ‘Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun’.  Sometimes they do stuff locally around the D.C. Metro Area or sometimes they go away for the week or a few days.  It’s a nice time for them to spend together.

This particular trip included a bunch of cold showers.  Kyle cracks me up!  We’ve been bribing and fighting with Kyle to take showers for as long as I can remember.  He never wants to!  I still have no idea what his aversion is to being clean, but there it is.

There were times when I wouldn’t get him for a week, and when I did, he was greasy and filthy!  Then, to only be resistant when taking the plunge.  You could tell it wasn’t an act that was reinforced regularly and instilled in him (not from my family, we love to shower and do it regularly, meaning daily).  I had the same problem with Kyle and brushing his teeth.

Recently, Kyle said to me, “I always take a shower, every night.”  What?  News flash buddy, who are you trying to kid?  He made it out like he’s been do this his whole life, but in reality it was this past week.    I’m on to you and I have proof!

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Kyle’s comment on cold showers during Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun. 11/13/12

This did crack me up.  While outlining Christmas plans for the year, out of nowhere, Nicole started the Soft Kitty song.  She cracks me up.  I showed it to Kyle and he was grinning from ear to ear, being a fan of the song and the show, The Big Bang Theory.

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Nicole texting Soft Kitty to me.. for no reason just to be silly. I cracked up! 12/21/12

I read random things online.  Usually they are human interest stories, news articles, breaking news, politics and such, but there is the occasion, when I find something that catches my eye for pure entertainment.

I started writing blog posts about these interesting facts, eventually calling them ‘Random Fun Facts’.  They are simply information and statistics, which I was not aware of or did and forgot, or information I feel others might find interesting.  This particular blog topic was focused on flatulence.  Yes!  Farting!  I found it funny and entertaining, which I clearly replied to Nicole, after she evidently read the blog post.  Facts About Farting  Read it, it’s actually enlightening!

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Our conversation based off of my blog post, Facts About Farting. 12/27/12

This conversation started out discussing business, Thrill of the Hunt, our start-up company.  Apparently, I needed a check for something.  If my memory serves me correct, it was to pay for our booth at either the Banana Split Festival in Latrobe or the Steelerfest at Saint Vincent College (Random Fun Facts: Saint Vincent College, Bertha Nesser’s Alma Mater May You Both Find Eternal Peace).

I am happy to announce the business has come a long way in a little over a year, yet we still have many more journeys ahead.

What cracks me up, in the middle of our presumably serious conversation, Nicole goes south.  Please refer to the previous screen shot and entry, where she makes fun of me and my flatulence topic.  Can’t tell we’re sisters?  At least mine was in response to an infographic I read, hers was due to an experience.  Notice how I instantly threw my dog, Seven under the bus!

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Nicole & I discussing our company Thrill of the Hunt & then the conversation quickly goes south! 8/7/13

These screen shots were my proof, I needed to sent to Kyle, showing I’m not a terrible chess player.  We both love to play the game, and as I’ve mentioned before I taught Kyle to play when he was just a little man. Checkmate – Game of Chess  Naturally, at that time I used to crush him, not so much in present days.  This particular instance, I was playing the computer and I won!  Twice!  I was on fire!  Granted, I’m sure if it was on the hardest or easiest setting.  However, come to think of it, it might have been on the hardest, since Kyle is the one who manages the controls.  Regardless, I took screen shots and IMed them to Kyle.  Victory was mine!

On a side note, I always have to be white and Kyle black, as per my little man.

8-11-13 Checkmate against computer Aunt Heather Piper

On the left 8/10/13 & on the right 8/11/13 I beat the computer… finally. I had to send these to Kyle! Victory was mine!

This conversation was between me and Kyle.  To be honest, I don’t really remember why he was asking about my legs or what book he wanted.  I wish I would have kept some of Kyle’s other text messages, even though they usually only consist of “Ya” and “Ok”.  Man of few words.  The funny part of this text is Kyle’s call out of “Bad Girl”, an inside joke (that I guess is not so inside anymore) WannaBe 80’s Scavenger Hunt & a Puppy In a Day.

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Bad Girl joke in our family… Kyle cracks me up! 8/21/13

Kyle strikes again.  He will only reach out if he needs something, and of course I always comply.  This time he needed a recipe for school.  I guess he was making something in Home Ec or they were reviewing recipes (I remember doing the same thing).  Later, I told Kyle we needed to work on his spelling, I guess his phone doesn’t have auto correct or it’s clearly not turned on.

I love being able to communicate with Kyle through so many different means!  My favorite is in person, but I’ll take what I can get when he’s not with me.

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Kyle needed a recipe for school. He needs to turn on his spell check! 2/13/14

This is my favorite of all!  At this point, every time I looked at Facebook through the app on my phone, this is what I saw.  It totally cracked me up!  Look at her face taking up the entire space!

What was really funny, this went on for a few days, every time I opened the app, there was Nicole’s head staring back at me.  It seemed to never update and push me through to other posts.  It was stuck on Nicole’s head!  Taking this as an opportunity to instigate, I screen shot it and shared it with her.

12-14-13 Aunt Nikki Aunt Heather Piper

Good old Aunt Nikki! 12/14/13

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Dad Has No Clue

Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer.  ~Ellen DeGeneres

Dad-c.-1990-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dad hanging out watching television – Nicole’s fish tank in the background c. 1990

With the recent posts of those passing away, I feel like my blog has become an obituary.  I truly want to pay my respects and share stories to those who have passed, yet I need to find humor in the every day.

First, I must say, by writing this post I mean absolutely no disrespect.  It’s just something I’ve notice, as did mom, and I wanted to share.  I find dad funny and it’s how he is and that’s the way it is.  I take no offense to dad’s ignorance, just plain humor in his cluelessness.

Most people have a tendency to omit details and not pay attention to others, and yet there are others with this wonderful talent for such details.  I’m referring to specifics such as likes and dislikes with respect to food, their favorite color, their favorite music group or hobby and the list goes on and on.  Even those are pretty big items most people are aware of with close family and friends.  But what about the smaller, sometimes unknown finer points about a persons personality or habits?  Usually they are commonplace with close family, right?

Dad has no trouble keeping tabs on deer season, turkey season or fishing season.  Those are pretty standard times of the year, and I too can give a guess without looking up exact dates.  However, dad has this unique talent for naming specifics when it comes to those activities.  He can tell me what rifle I was using two years ago, what rifle shot what point deer and who made the shot.  He can tell me what grain of power is in my shells, Kyles and his and what he used the previous year and how each one shot.  He can name each location in four different counties where Ryan and him shot deer, my mom, my sister, Kyle and even me, for all the years we’ve been hunting!  Seriously no joke!  Our Hunting Adventures…New York, Our Hunting Adventures…New York Continued.  He can do the same for small game and fishing.  Actually, it’s pretty amazing.  This talent has yet to slow down, he’s still that sharp.

This recollection also can be applied to dad’s fruit and nut trees.  Dad can rattle of each of the fruit and nut trees in the back yard (about 25 different kinds) without missing a beat.  He can also tell you when each one was planted and how each one produced year-over-year.  He too can name the types of vegetables we planted in the garden every year since I was little.  Pretty impressive!

It doesn’t stop there.  He can name each location where he cleared out trees, worked in the woods or hauled lumber.  Ingrained In the Wood  Sometimes he can tell you what logs he chopped down and hauled out and where they went.  We’re talking over the course of most of his life working in the woods since he was nine or ten!

I think it’s safe to say, that dad is still as sharp as a tack, at least with respect to his interests.  Then there are those times when he is completely oblivious.  Example, when I was in the junior high, mom took me to get my ears pierced with my second holes.  I wasn’t allowed to get my ears pierced until I was in the fifth grade, but a few years later mom allowed me to get two more holes with the understanding that I stopped there.  About three or four years later, after the holes healed up and become commonplace, we were sitting in the living-room and out of nowhere dad asked defensively, “When did you get your ears pierced again?”  I actually sat in shock not truly remembering.  He had NO idea!  It’s not like I had long hair that covered my ears.  It’s not like we didn’t mention we were heading to the mall and what we were doing.  It’s not like there was a big conspiracy or secret kept from him regarding my ears.  Nope, my ear jewelry was a widely known fact that somehow passed over his head.

Dad-&-Kyle-on-Quad-c.-2004

Dad & Kyle cruising on the quad. Kyle loves his pappy! c. 2004

Now let’s get to the silliness of this blog.  When we were butchering the pig a few months ago, Bringing Home the Bacon…Literally dad stepped out and come back with lunch.  (Sometimes I work out of my parent’s kitchen)  Great!  Much appreciated.  What did he get me?  He got me a Subway sandwich.  Good!  Meatball.  Good!  With lettuce?  Not sure how to take that.  Dad knows I love lettuce and salads, so in his mind he felt lettuce on top of the meatball hoagie was the way to my heart.  Umm…. ok?  Did I eat it?  You bet!  Did I mention this strange combination to dad?  Never!  Love the attempt, just a slight miss.

Then, a few weeks ago, dad came home with strawberry frozen yogurt milkshakes for me and mom.  That was a nice surprise.  Dad’s favorite flavor?  Strawberry.  Mom’s favorite flavor?  Chocolate.  Dad got her strawberry.  My favorite flavor?  Vanilla.  Dad got me strawberry.  Mom and I laughed while sucking down our strawberry milkshakes.  After all these years, he truly has no clue.

Recently, I got a hankering for chocolate covered raisins.  Not a favorite stable, but a nice treat every once-in-a-while.  Dad noticed I was eating them because he asked me what I was shoveling in my face.  Between chomps, I informed him, chocolate covered raisins, before polishing off the bag.  Keep in mind, he heard me and I didn’t stammer my words or speak another language when I answered him.  The next day or two, dad comes home with malted milk duds, which I absolutely hate.  In this particular instance, I did mention my displeasure with those gross pieces of chocolate, only after popping one in my mouth thinking it was a chocolate covered raisin.  To my surprise, it was not!

Me: “Oooo Dad, these are malted milk duds!”
Dad: “Ya, don’t you like those?”
Me:  “No, I thought it was a chocolate covered raisin.”
Dad: “You scarfed them down the other day, I didn’t even get one.”
Me:  “Those were chocolate covered raisins!  I told you when you asked.”
Dad:  “O, well I’m sure they will be gone by tomorrow.”
Me:  “I don’t think so.”

They are still sitting in the same place with one missing.  I can’t stomach those things!  Even mom and Kyle turn their nose up to them.

Personally, I’m not a picky eater, truly I’m not.  There are very few food items that I won’t eat.  However, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to reiterate that I don’t eat peppers, no kind of peppers.  Yet dad will bring it up, “Want some stuffed peppers?” or “Let’s get peppers on the pizza.”  No thanks, I’m good!

Gotta love dad!  He truly has no clue, but then again if he did, I wouldn’t have anything to write about.  I know it’s the thought that counts, but he sure is funny!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Got Milk?

Everybody talks about wanting to change things and help and fix, but ultimately all you can do is fix yourself. And that’s a lot. Because if you can fix yourself, it has a ripple effect.  ~Rob Reiner

Pap-Gram-U-Sonny-Dad---Aunt-Heather-Piper

Pap (Walter Piper), Gram (Alice Piper), Uncle Sonny (Walter Piper Jr.) & Dad (Ronald Piper) c. 1954

This past weekend we were watching one of those shows that take you on a factory tour of a particular product.  This time it was milk.  Yep, that white silky smooth liquid enriched with vitamins including Calcium.

So why is milk so significant to me?  It’s really not.  I’m not a big fan of it, not since I was a little kid.  I definitely don’t consume milk independently nor do I use it regularly.  With the exception of using the creamy liquid as an ingredient, it would be omitted from the grocery list.  Nope, we really don’t eat dry cereal and on the very rare occasion I do, (which it’s been seriously years because of all the sugar – my favorite is Cinnamon Toast Crunch) I apply the milk very sparingly.  Same goes for Kyle, although I know he drinks milk at school and unlike me, he’ll flood his cereal.

Again, why this dissertation on milk?  Watching the show made me remember Mr. Hixon, our milkman.  Yes, believe it or not, when I was growing up, our family had a milkman who would deliver the crate of milk and retrieve the empty glass bottles to start the cycle again.  I believe we had milk delivered a couple times a week, then with less consumption as we got older, our delivery dropped to once a week.  Just talking about it now, makes me feel like that was a whole world away, since not many people of my generation experienced the same.  However, the old fashioned notion of a milkman was alive and well when I was a youngster.

Mr. Hixon lived up on Solomon Temple Road (Butina Ridge).  His cows were natural grazing cattle that used to be hand milked.  The milk consumed, once it reached our doorstep, was probably the freshest anyone has ever had, unless they lived on a dairy farm.  I truly don’t remember if it was pasteurized or not.  I’m guessing it was, but it certainly was the real deal that separated in the glass bottle while being stored in the refrigerator.  To this day, I have the habit of shaking the milk carton before using it, re-distributing the cream that floated to the top back among the rest of the contents.

Aunt-Fredricka-Piper-Uncle-Leroy-Piper--Aunt-Ida-Tarr-Great-Grants-Cleveland-Piper-Myrtle-Piper--Aunt-Heather-Piper

Aunt Fredricka Piper, Uncle Leroy Piper, Aunt Ida Tarr, Great grandparents Cleveland Piper & Myrtle Piper

It makes me sad the milkman is not a profession anymore, at least none that I am aware.  I wish Kyle would have experienced the good old fashion milkman and real milk, not the heavily processed kind, shipped all around the nation, purchased in stores.

Personally, I think we should get back to the small dairy farms who distribute fresh, unpasteurized milk.  Yes, I said unpasteurized.  Our bodies need some of the good bacteria that is removed during pasteurization along with the natural nutrients that are also lost.  Yes I know what they claim, the nutrients are reintroduced, but to me that’s again messing with the natural product and is now processed.

In fact, I don’t get it.  The government regulates our milk intake, meaning it’s illegal for dairy farms to distribute milk that is not pasteurized.  That’s ridiculous!  Yet, they permit pesticides on fruits and vegetables, they permit all this extra crap like preservatives and unnatural substances to be added to food to increase the shelf life, or worse the dyes added, which are proven harmful.  Those items are not illegal and distributed freely and widely, however good old fashioned natural products of are not permitted.

If I want to eat dirt, then I should be allowed to do so.  If I want to drink unpasteurized milk, then that is my choice.  I agree with holding these facilities to certain clean standards and maintaining good conditions for the animals, but to tell me what I can and cannot drink is not right and not the healthy way to live.  Look at energy drinks, they literally have killed people!  Yet, they are advertised and widely sold to all ages.

A while back I read an article about others who felt the same way.  Their solution?  To get around this law, they actually sold stock in the dairy cows.  Instead of selling the milk, they were given the milk as a share of the cow.  Pretty clever!  I want to get in on that deal.

I knew a couple of families who had children with terrible stomach issues and most certainly couldn’t drink milk from the store.  Whether they partook in the stock program of a cow or they had another method for obtaining raw milk, they did so on a regular basis.  And guess what?  Over time, the kids were able to drink the raw milk and their stomach issues were almost immediately eliminated.  This happened without the use of drugs or medication or doctors or expensive medical technology or anything other than getting back to the basics and finding a simple solution that’s been there all along.  Granted you can’t just start drinking the raw milk, you need to be re-introduced to it, but once the body adjusts, it’s a healthy decision.

Did you know there is a bill trying to be passed, which would force all food to be industrialized, meaning home grown food in our very own gardens would be illegal?  Yes, completely true.  It was mentioned briefly on Fox News, but because of Obamacare, it hasn’t gotten much attention.

In many ways, I believe wholeheartedly we need to get back to our roots.  It’s healthier, it’s better, and it’s the right way.  Everything seems to come full circle and organic is being noticed as a healthier alternative, especially when there can be money made from it.  I’m fine with that, as long as I know Kyle is being fed healthy.

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

Bringing Home the Bacon…Literally

Onions and bacon cooking up just makes your kitchen smell so good. In fact, one day I’m going to come up with a room deodorizer that smells like bacon and onions. It’s a fabulous smell.  ~Paula Deen

Pap-Kyle-at-Gutchess-Hardwoods-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Pappy & Kyle hanging together on the highlift at Gutchess Hardwoods c. 2005

Two weeks ago dad asked me, “Are you going to be around on Saturday?”  Meaning, “Heather I need your help so be at the house.”  No biggie, but very curious I ask, “Why what did you need?”  To be answered with dad’s newest project, “I think I’m going to buy a pig and butcher it.”

Really? O yes!  Dad left early last Saturday morning with a friend of his, Chris, to go to an auction in Maryland to purchase a live pig.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise to us when the day finally came because dad’s been talking about getting a pig for quite some time now.

Before he left, dad told me and Kyle we weren’t aloud to pet the pig or name it.  I guess someone was thinking ahead.

This may sound odd to some, however dad used to butcher pigs all the time, either at my Uncle Ray’s, Uncle Irvin’s, or at my pap’s house, the Piper brothers.  Dad raised a pig or two in his day, not to sell or breed, but simply for butchering.  I kinda sort of remember dad having pigs, but I was really little.

Why you may ask, would someone take the time to build a pig pen, raise the creature and then invest all the time in butchering it, as opposed to buying the bacon in the store, nice and clean ready to go?  Simply because it’s healthier.  When you raise an animal you can control how it’s raised and what it’s fed, meaning no hormones or other synthetic substances.  Unless you know those key facts, then buying it off of a reputable farmer and butchering it oneself, allows you to control the preparation factors.  Factors like the preservatives added to the food for shelf life, all the extra salt and dyes, that sort of thing.  If you do it yourself, you don’t have any of those foreign contaminants in your meat (unless you add them), plus it’s cheaper.  It’s a lot of work, but I will admit, if the animal is properly butchered and utilized, one well worth it.

Dad got back late Saturday night with an extra body.  Yes you guessed it, a pig!  Was it alive?  You bet it was!  The keyword here is, WAS.  Dad’s friend had this “house” (it was actually a really nice super sized dog house) on the back of his trailer.  Lucky for us the structure had windows so we could peek in to see our three hundred pound walking bacon.  Naturally, since it was late, we couldn’t drop it, meaning kill the pig, until the next day.

Sunday morning came and dad shot the pig.  I know, on a Sunday morning, but we couldn’t keep the pig in such a confined space any longer.  That would have been cruel.  He put a .22 bullet in it’s head for a quick death.  He also sliced the throat to start the process.

On a side note, evidently there is a special way to shoot a pig.  Dad said the pig’s brain sits lower, so you have to shoot straight back from between the eyes.  Unlike a cow, whereas you draw an “X” from its ears to its eyes to get your bulls eye.  Good to know.

Lard-Press-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dad’s antique (lard) press, which can be used for anything to press. I helped render the fat from our butchered pig…messy!

Many may not know this, but the nerves are still working after an animal has been killed.  Same with chickens and turkeys, which I’ve seen first hand.  Even after you cut off their heads, they can still run around.  Apparently, the pig was laying on its side in the “house” and kicking.  Kyle tracked me down in the kitchen to tell me the pig was running.  What?  For a brief moment I thought the pig got out and was literally running around.  All I could picture was this three hundred pound beast making a mad dash for the woods, and I would have to chase it down and kill it.  Not in my agenda for the day.

Eventually, I went outside to help Kyle with the butchering process, meaning the emotional strain on someone not used to witnessing such an activity.  He was fine, he just needed to get acclimated.  It’s a shock for someone who’s not around this type of living, meaning Kyle doesn’t’ know what to expect or how to handle it.  Me?  I’m good, I’ve been around dad for too long.

I helped dad move the massive beast into the garage.  No easy task!  Once inside, dad hoisted the pig up with his engine lift he uses for skinning deer.  He said it will hold up to a thousand pounds, but I was very skeptical.  It did, at least a three hundred pound pig!

Kyle’s initial job before he had to get ready for church (he was serving 10:30 mass at Sacred Heart Church) was to clean up the blood on the trailer, so we could return it in good shape.  Kyle asked, “Why didn’t pap walk the pig out before he shot it?”  Mom chimed in with one hilarious statement, “Did you ever try walking a three hundred pound pig that was scared?  You just don’t do it!”  Then the jokes started to surface about wrestling it to the ground and jumping on its back for a ride and so on and so forth.

Thinking this was not going to be a big deal, I was quickly informed differently.  Skinning a pig is nothing like skinning a deer, which dad and I have down to a science.  A pig is a bit of a challenge.  Actually, it’s all the fat and the heavy hide that make it so difficult.  Perhaps because I’ve never done it before, but as dad scolded Kyle and me by saying, “What are you guys doing?  You’re hacking it all up!”  Yes our side of the pig didn’t look nearly as nice as dad’s.  Our half was all choppy while dad’s has was fairly smooth, what it should look like.  Either way no harm to the meat, it takes practice.

Kyle was on the edge of his seat from the time the pig arrived till it was being cut up.  It was an exciting couple of days and two weekends, I mean it’s not like many of his friends ever got to say they butchered a pig before.  But it’s good experience and good knowledge for the kid.  As dad says, “You never know when you can’t afford to shop in a grocery store or government regulations stops the stores from selling meat, but if you know what you’re doing, you can always butcher your own.”  I agree, life is very unpredictable and possessing invaluable survival knowledge can mean life or death, or worse, a life without bacon!

On another side note, while we were butchering up the pig on Saturday into bacon, pork chops, roast, ribs and sausage, dad kept calling Kyle Putin, as in Vladimir Putin, as in the egotistical president of Russia (since 2012).  Not because Kyle is full of himself nor because Kyle is questionable in his moral actions.  Nope, because he was running around without his shirt on!  I was dying!  We watch Fox News and they love picking on Putin (rightfully so) especially when he struts around in front of the cameras bare chested on his horse.  Not a good look for a president but a great joke for dad toward Kyle.

These are the little piggies dad’s friend Chris purchased to raise as pets.  They were swilling and Kyle wouldn’t hold them.

This is the pig we butchered and is wrapped up in our freezer.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments

Another Chapter to Face … Growing Up, Him Not Me!

Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.  ~Molière

Kyle-&-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Idlewild-Park-Pony-Ride-c.-2002

Me & Kyle at Idlewild Park for the Gutchess Picnic.  He always loved horses! c. 2002

“You knew this day was coming.”  My mom gravely reminds me.  What day is that?  The day I am no longer the coolest person to hang out with, the day Kyle doesn’t really want to plan his activities with me, the day when I find myself replaced.  Yes that day has happened, at least it’s on the verge.  My own person Apocalypse.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing, not in the slightest.  I’m more than thrilled Kyle has friends and he’s learned to build a relationship with someone other than me, his Gigi, pappy and Aunt Nikki.  Good sign Kyle is on his way to being a normal teenager.  We hope!

The issue doesn’t reside with Kyle but with me.  I personally need to adjust to this new standard and new way of being.  Kyle has always been by my side, for everything.  It’s pretty commonplace to find us together, no matter what we were doing, the movies, roller skating, snowboarding, cooking, grocery shopping, Christmas shopping…. you get the point.  Even going to picnics and parties at my friends’ houses, Kyle was always invited and he would tag along, mostly for the food or the idea of playing with other kids.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-&-Kyle-bedtime-pic-c.-2009

Me & Kyle screwing around at bedtime, taking selfies & texting them to Aunt Nikki. c. 2009

Why this sudden reminiscing about the good old days?  Because they are slowly slipping away and becoming a thing of the past.  Kyle is not wanting to hang out with his Aunt Heather as much.  Who am I kidding, soon it will turn into, ‘Not At All!’

The other day I mentioned to Kyle, “Buddy we still need to hit the slopes, before winter is over.”  His response, “Umm we’ll see.”  What is he the adult regulating my activities?  I added, “Why don’t you see if Duncan skis or snowboards and I’ll take you both up to the slopes.”  His comment, “Ok!  I’ll ask him, that would be fun!”  Yep!  I thought that was going to be his response.

Kyle-&-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Swinging-c.-2002

Me & Kyle at the Planinsek’s Pavilion, playing on the swings. c. 2002

It wasn’t just the snowboarding, although that’s always been our thing together, but it was the movies too!  Same story, I’d ask him if he wanted to go to the movies and the same blasé response, until I mentioned he should ask his friend to go, then it turns into a big deal and it’s exciting.  Again, I will reiterate, I am ecstatic that Kyle has friends and he has fun with them, but come on, throw the aunt a bone.

I knew this was going to happen, but it doesn’t make it any less depressing.  I should have seen it from that single moment when I dropped Kyle off at school and he wouldn’t let me walk him to his classroom in first grade.  That was the beginning of the this uncontrollable, unpredictable avalanche.  Yep, even as recent as this past June in the sixth grade, not even a year ago, he wouldn’t dance with me for his Folk Festival at school.  Denied!  No Dance For You!

Yes, I remember it wasn’t that long ago when Kyle was at daycare, one of his favorite places to hang might I add, and even though he had friends, when I walked in the door he was excited to see me!  He would come home and tell me all about his friend Luke.  He would say, “Aiya, my sviend (friend) Lutty (Luke).”  I remember when he first started talking about his friend Luke.  It was Luke this and Luke that.  Ironically, I did get to meet Luke and his parents and get to know his mom over the years.  I still talk to Sue Lander, the mom on Facebook from time to time.

Unfortunately, Luke was a grade younger than Kyle, so I’m sure they see each other, but aren’t glued at the hip like they once were.  Plus Luke is a lot like his mom, into running, not Kyle’s cup of tea.  He prefers his video games.  Different interests build distances between old friendships, I guess it happens.

His newest gang?  That would be Mr. Duncan, Kyle’s Very Own Big Bang Theory.  I’m happy he has friends he enjoys, and Duncan seems to enjoy hanging out with Kyle.

Kyle-roller-Skating-in-Latrobe-Aunt-Heather-Piper-c.-2009

Kyle at the Latrobe Roller Rink, roller skating. Look how flushed he is, working hard, skating like his dad! c. 2009

Kyle and I still have our interests, reading books and discussing them, church, sled riding and cooking.  All good activities to do together.  My favorite is our exchange of books.  Yes we swop books that we read and enjoyed (age appropriate).  We discuss the characters and the storyline and we use these new worlds for our own person inside jokes and funnies.  Example, this past weekend, yesterday morning as a matter of fact, Kyle and I took the dogs for a hike up through the woods, not Kyle’s suggestion might I add.  When we were walking back, Kyle was trying to uproot smaller trees.   Why?  No clue, but who cares, he’s a boy and he was having fun.  I said, “You better watch it, you might upset Treebeard!”  We both laughed at that one, for only someone who read the Lord of the Rings books would understand, I’m not just talking about watching the movies.

Yep, me and Kyle are two of a kind.  I only hope and pray we will always remain this tight.  He is my little man and I am his Aiya.

Here are some old videos of Kyle roller skating, he really worked hard at it.  Enjoy!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Snowboarding and have No Comments

Perfect Gift – Chestnut Trees

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.  ~Roy L. Smith

Continued…. Perfect Gift – The Ugly Quilt

roasted chestnuts Aunt Heather Piper

Roasted chestnuts popping out of their shells.

Now the next perfect gift of the 2013 Christmas season goes to … dad.  Mom came up with the idea and me, Nicole and Kyle were totally on board.  It was truly brilliant!  So what was this perfect gift?  Easy, it was two chestnut trees to be delivered this spring.  What?  Yup!

Dad loves chestnuts!  When he was younger my gram and pap had chestnut trees that dad would pick and roast and eat.  My pappy loved these seasonal nuts too, as do I.  Well, maybe not as much as dad.  They used to roast them in the fireplace, (on an open fire) but in modern times, mom pokes the chestnuts with a knife, sprinkles water and covers and microwaves them for a couple of minutes.  Voila!  Chestnuts ready to eat!  Not as good as fire roasted, but not bad.

On a side note, this story must be told.  Mom came home from the grocery store a couple of weeks ago with a really funny tale.  She said, while in the check-out line, the girl ringing her out asked mom what type of nuts was in the bag.  Naturally, mom replied “Chestnuts.”  As mom continued with the story, she was toppled over with sheer laughter.  Ok?  What is so funny about chestnuts?  Apparently, the girl asked mom in a very serious tone, “Are you going to roast these over an open fire?”  Ok, I’ll admit I lost it, I didn’t see that one coming.  Me and mom were rolling with gut stretching laughter.  Mom said, she didn’t want to be mean to the girl so she tried not to giggle and explained that she used to roast the chestnuts that way and you most certainly can, but now she just nukes (microwaves) them.  The girl was so enthralled she kept asking my mom about this newfangled method of cooking chestnuts.  She wanted to share your knowledge with her grandpap who apparently loves chestnuts too.  Great!  I hope we brought back the popularity of chestnuts!  They really are a unique treat.

young-chestnut-tree-Aunt Heather PiperYes, now-a-days, mom makes the chestnuts in the microwave, even though she complains about it every step of the way.  You see, if you leave them in for too long they explode, just like any other food item and obviously makes a mess all over the interior of the microwave.  To ease mom’s pain with this process of making dad happy, I got her a plastic cover to use, but she still chances it without the cover and grunts about making the chestnuts for dad.  Now on the opposite side, can dad make his own chestnuts?  Sure.  Does he know how?  Yep.  Will he?  Nope.  It’s just like making coffee.  Mom and dad have a Keurig, so basically it’s a matter of popping in the coffee pod and pressing a button, but dad won’t touch it.  Of course the man’s never used an ATM machine or touched a computer either in his life.  Ever!  Mom might always yell and complain about waiting on dad hand and foot, but who trained him to be like that?  Certainly not me.  That behavior has been going on since I can remember.  I guess that’s another blog topic.  Maybe one for the couch, one for the professionals.

Back to the chestnuts.  Since we didn’t have the actual chestnut trees on hand to place under the Christmas tree, we had Kyle read the receipt to dad.  Dad was totally surprised and excited!  I even added, “Yes dad and me and Kyle will help you dig the holes and plant them.”  In dad’s eyes, he was given the perfect gift!  Immediately, he started to discuss his ideas for placement of the chestnut trees.  Only dad!  I have a feeling this will be a whole adventure in itself.  Mom said she ordered two of the six or seven foot chestnut trees.  Yikes!  I have a feeling this one is going to make me sweat.  Although I don’t know what variety they are.    Merry Christmas to dad!

Aesculus_hippocastanum_fruit chestnuts Aunt Heather Piper

Chestnuts off of the tree … they are messy! Hence why I wanted to plant them far away from the house.

Dad is so stoked about his gift, he already started to ask when the trees would be coming in and when he would expect to harvest the chestnuts.  Sorry to burst dad’s bubble, but alas I guess we have a three year wait.  Or I should say, I have three free years before I have to go and pick chestnuts for dad.  I guess it doesn’t matter, that was truly the perfect gift!

On another side note, as I’ve mentioned I too like chestnuts, clearly not as much as dad, but regardless.  One year dad insisted that mom put chestnuts in her stuffing for Thanksgiving.  Why would anyone mess with mom’s stuffing  perfection?  No clue, but mom did as suggested.  No doubt someone saw an episode of chestnuts on the Cooking Channel and got the great idea.  The verdict?  Not a favorite.  It was just ok.  Even dad had to admit he didn’t like the buttery nuts mixed among his stuffing.  First, it was definitely the size of the nuts that threw us off.  Mom doesn’t believe in chopping food items up, so they were pretty whole throughout.  Luckily it was easy for me to pick them out and eat them separately. Lesson learned.  Eat stuffing or eat chestnuts.  Don’t combine them.

Naturally, Kyle got a bunch of Legos courtesy of Aunt Nikki and Gigi and pappy, which is always the perfect gift in his eyes.  I got Kyle the Chronicles of Narnia books, The Book Thief and the last Diary of a Wimpy Kid book.  Those were also perfect choices, just not for the immediate play time.  Although he already started to dive into the books.  I also got him for his Jazz Band concerts a new Calvin Klein tie.  Since I don’t want to spoil the good cheer in this blog post, I’ll save that story for later.  That one was a fight to the finish.  Spoiler alert, I won.  I think.

Yep, we are truly blessed!  Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas as we did!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Family Traditions Through Sauerkraut

When publications like the Baltimore Sun run headlines like ‘Seafood, tea, sauerkraut in food spotlight,’ you know that sauerkraut has arrived in the national consciousness and has spiked in popularity. We’ve seen our sales climb pretty rapidly in the fourth quarter of 2005 as people have learned about the health benefits of sauerkraut and continued eating it because of its versatility and flavor.  ~Chris Smith

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Kyle’s 8th Birthday Party at the Tin Lizzy with Chef Dato. They made pizza’s & pretzels. Great party! 7/2009

Yes, we do make our own sauerkraut, about once every couple of years.  We make a big batch, and then when it’s ready, we freeze it and it lasts a long time.  No joke!  Great for the crock-pot with kielbasa and hot dogs! Anytime of the year.

It’s funny, as we were getting things prepped and ready on Sunday for the deed, Kyle was super stoked!  He was so excited to participate with the family on such a tradition.  I even said to him, “Kyle you’ve only done this once before.”  He corrected me, and informed me he’s participated a few times with making sauerkraut.  My bad!  I didn’t realize this meant so much to him, and it really did!

Actually, I’m pretty happy about that, learning to make anything is a good lesson, not to mention keeping up family traditions is the best.  My sister didn’t join us this time, but maybe next.

So why would one make sauerkraut?  It tastes so much better than store bought out of a can!  Way better!  Tell me if this makes sense, but growing up with a half Polish mom, you’d think I would have a taste for the aged cabbage sustenance, but alas I never really cared for it.  In fact, when mom would cook sauerkraut, I would gag at the smell, literally dry heave.  Luckily, over the years I’ve grown accustomed to the potency, and developed a mild craving for sauerkraut, only mom’s.  I still don’t care for the canned or store bought.  Probably because mom and dad’s sauerkraut simply contains cabbage, salt and water.  Whereas, if you read the ingredients on the packages, it contains a lot more than that, which I feel taints the taste.  Yep, homemade or nothing.

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The kids made pizza’s & pretzels for Kyle’s 8th Birthday Party. Tin Lizzy with Chef Dato. Kyle’s on the right. 7/2009

How does one start to make sauerkraut?  It’s really easy actually.  Dad always gets about eight large heads of cabbage or so, from the farmers market.  Then, we peel off the outside leaves, chop the heads in half to remove the heart, then the real fun begins.   We have a professional grade meat slicer we use to slice up the cabbage.  Before our lives were made easier, we would use mom’s food processor set to slice, and then before that we would use a hand mandolin or micro-plane, whichever you prefer to call it.  Now that uses the arm muscles!  No wonder the Polish women are buff!

After each head of cabbage is sliced, then it is placed in a large ceramic crock, ours holds about fifteen gallons.  Add about one of dad’s handfuls of course Kosher salt, and begin pounding the sliced cabbage down.  This action helps to generate the natural juices from within.  Where does one buy a sauerkraut pounder?  No clue.  Dad made ours.  It’s simply a wooden cylinder head attached to a long wooden handle.

This process is repeated after every head of cabbage is shredded, and added to the ceramic crock.  While the pounding continues, tons of juices come to the surface till your arms are ready to fall off.  Dad and I took turns pounding.  Mom was in charge of adding the cabbage to the ceramic crock, while Kyle was on the meat slicer.  Yes I know, not a safe job for a munchkin, but he did help with the other jobs and begged us to let him on the meat slice.  It does have the safety features and Kyle was instructed on the consequences of what could go wrong.  When Kyle is scared, he is always overly cautious.  Knowing that, we still meticulously watched him and made sure he was safe.  Dad’s only comment was, “Kyle this thing could take off your finger easily and that hurts, trust me!”  As dad showed him his finger.  Kyle about turned white from hearing and envisioning the reality.

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Kyle rolling out his dough for his personal pizza at his 8th Birthday Party with Chef Dato. Tin Lizzy 7/2009

It’s true, a couple of years ago dad was slicing deer meat on the band saw and took off the tip of his finger.  It’s still missing, gone!  Did he go to the doctors?  Nope!  He wrapped it up, and washed it out until it healed.  It’s still sore for him, but he manages, and uses it now as a learning lesson.  That’s taking a negative and turning it into a positive!

Once the sauerkraut was pounded and done, we placed a glass plate facing down on top of the soon to be aged saurerkraut, with a gallon jug of water to weight it all down, allowing the cabbage to soak in all the salty juices.  Then, we placed several layers of garbage bags down in to seal it off from contaminants.  Yes, the bags are clean and no, I don’t know what they used in the olden days.  Probably some sort of burlap, which we don’t have a supply of laying around the house.  Then, as a final step, we dumped more water into the garbage bags, which resided on the gallon jug, glass plate and the sauerkraut, to really keep the weight pressed down on the future goodness.  That’s it!  Let it alone for about eight weeks and enjoy!

Since we make so much at a go, we divide it into freezer bags, label them and send the sauerkraut to our own arctic in the garage, awaiting our next meal, or for New Year’s Eve morning.  Yes, that’s another tradition I know most people share, hot dogs, kielbasa and sauerkraut for New Years.  I love it!

While we were making the sauerkraut, I do recall the last time.  Kyle was giving everyone positive reinforcement.  You know, “You’re doing good Aunt Heather, keep it up.”  or “Wow, pap pap, good job!” as he gave my dad a thumbs up.  He was in that cheering stage, which was way too cute!

Love that kid!  I hope he never changes and I hope he is always available to make sauerkraut with us for years to come!

P.S. it’s such a whirl wind when making sauerkraut, I never thought to stop and take pictures.  It actually happens so fast and we get into such a rhythm.  Maybe next time, I’ll be sure to snap a few pics for my records.

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

An Ice-Cream Cone Story

A lesson taught with humor is a lesson retained.  ~Ruth K. Westheimer

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A close-up of my little man! He was about 3 years old. What a cutie!! c. 2004

Kyle, what else can I say?  He is too much, and sometimes the perfect reminder of stories past.  Yesterday, while taking him to his piano lessons, we stopped at PetCo first to pick up The World’s Best Cat Litter.  On a side note, it truly is the world’s best cat litter!  My sister introduced me to it a few years ago, and I must say, well worth the money.

Anyway, for some reason Kyle brought up ice-cream and he reminded me of the ice-cream cone story.  In fact, Kyle relives that story a lot!  Every time we get ice-cream, pass an ice-cream joint or like yesterday, out of no where mention the ice-cream cone incidence.

What is this great memorable story you may ask?  I know I’ve mentioned it a time or two, but I guess it’s worth highlighting again today.  After all it is Friday!

Kyle is now twelve, so I’m going back quite a few years when he was probably around four or five, maybe even three.  Yesterday Kyle told me he was four when it happened, so I’ll go with that.  The kid claims he has a horrible memory.  O no!  I beg to differ.  Kyle remembers EVERYTHING!  He really does, especially situations in which he got himself in serious trouble and those that really made him laugh.  He remembers ALL!

Back to the story at hand.  It all started one hot summer day.  Kyle and I decided to stop at the local Dairy Queen to pick up ice-cream for the family.  It was a scorcher, so we were trying to move quickly to get the frozen treats back before they became a mass of melted sweet milk substance.  At that time, Kyle only ever ordered his usual, ice-cream cone with rainbow sprinkles.  I’m not sure if this was the point in life when he ventured out and would eat the twist, or if it was strictly vanilla, but regardless it was an ice-cream cone.

I need to deviate slightly again to really set the story.  I’m not really meticulous about much, but there are certain things that get to me.  Once happens to be the inside of my car.  I like it clean and tidy, not that it always remains that way.  It may never always be sparkling perfect, but there is never extra  junk, trash or messes in my car.  Now the outside usually looks like I went off-roading, but not the inside.  Having Kyle as much as I have over the years, he knows this about me.  He sometimes tries to push my buttons, even to this day, by stuffing tissues, garbage or what have you, in the side of the door, or behind the seat.  I hate that, even though it is sometimes funny.  Just, last week I found his dirty socks stuffed in the door pocket.  That kid!  Now back to the ice-cream.

Naturally, the place was hopping.  After we stood what seemed like forever in the heat, we got the goods and scooted out.  As I always did and still do to this day, I said, “Don’t get any ice-cream on the seats.”  While Kyle licked his mountain of melting frozen goodness, he nodded and proceed to load himself in the backseat, with a little assistance from me, still being in his booster seat at that time.  He graduated to the window seat, as opposed to the center backseat position.  So maybe Kyle was right he was around four years old.

We loaded up the car and we were off.  Another thing about me, is I like to drive with the windows down.  Yes, no matter how hot or cold it is, I love the fresh air circulating.  So maintaining former habits, I dropped all four windows before pulling out and heading up the highway.  Looking back on it now, I guess air conditioning would have eliminated the entire story, but then again we wouldn’t have the story to laugh about for years to come.

As I was rushing up the highway, I heard Kyle say, “Umm O no… Aiya?”  Without turning around, remaining focused on my mission of getting our ice-cream back while it was still considered ice-cream, I halfheartedly replied, “What buddy?”  With a very nervous and unsure retort Kyle said, “Umm… Aiya, look!”  Kind of rolling my eyes as if what could possibly be the matter and what could’ve happened in the few minutes I had my eyes off of Kyle, I turned my head just give him a satisfactory glance, and then I saw what he was warning me of.

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Kyle getting ready to really enjoy his ice-cream cone.. & get it ALL over him! 9/2012

Kyle had ice-cream all over his face, which I knew I would happen, but the rest was a surprise to me.  There sat Kyle, looking like a deer in headlights, holding onto his ice-cream cone while rivers of melted goodness along with colored sprinkles ran down towards his hands, as he was trying to vacuum them up.  To his right, ice-cream was splattered ALL over the seat belt, the seat, the window, EVERYWHERE.  It was even along the outside of the car just like I was shot with a paintball gun in rainbow sprinkles!  Apparently, accelerating with the windows down, while holding a very runny ice-cream cone, in the summer heat, causes the ice-cream to take flight and land perfectly all over the car.

I could tell by the look on Kyle’s face, he thought he was in trouble, even though there was nothing he could have done about it.  One look and I busted out laughing.  First of all ,he was just too cute sitting there in that mess and secondly it was my fault for not using the air-conditioner.  After realizing that I found complete and uncontrollable humor in the sticky situation, Kyle began to bust out in laughter too.  It really was funny!  Initially, all I could say was, “What on earth?”

Since we were only a few miles to our final destination and I didn’t have the cleaning supplies to tackle this mess, I told Kyle to hold tight and I’ll deal with it later.  We both laughed and giggled the entire way back.

Once we arrived at the house, Kyle couldn’t wait to tell his Gigi and pappy about our little sweet adventure.   That is, after he striped off his ice-cream covered cloths.  Kyle’s thing, he doesn’t like to be sticky or have his cloths wet.  He finished the remainder of his ice-cream cone in the comforts of the living-room in his underoos, while I eventually made my way back out into the heat to scrub down the car.  I never did get all the ice-cream out, but at that point, I didn’t care much.   I had a half a mind to send Scooby in there to clean up the mess.

Yep, that was a day neither one of us could ever forget and it seems to be a very fond memory of Kyle’s!  I’m glad I was there to experience it with him.  That mess was totally worth it!

Below is a video of Kyle eating an ice-cream cone from last year.  He was cracking me up!  He even brought up the ice-cream cone story.

 

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

Smallest Moments, Mean the Most

The true genius shudders at incompleteness – and usually prefers silence to saying something which is not everything it should be.  ~Edgar Allen Poe

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Kyle taking a break from picking grapes… making grape jelly. 9/2/13

A part of loving a child, is really appreciating them for their humor, reasoning, intellect, innocence and for those unplanned, unexplained small moments that really bond adult and child.  At least that’s my opinion.  I mean there are many many more parts to loving a child like discipline, teaching respect, education and so on and so forth.  But if you don’t truly appreciate them for who they are, then there’s a part missing, because like I said, it’s a PART of loving a child.

I love all aspects, well maybe not the disciplining them, but it goes with the territory.  Recently, the small moments part really revealed itself to me through Kyle.  My last blog touched on it, Music Reinforces Our Tight Bond, but there’s been more!  I’m sure these small moments happen at a higher rate than I can see them.  Let’s face it with running around checking off my task list and getting caught up in the pace of the day, I’m sure I’ve missed more than I’m aware.  In my eyes, that’s fine as long as I catch and glimpse every now and again.

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Storm had a blast playing with us while we picked grapes! 9/2/13

Last Sunday Kyle was at my house, winding down for the day.  Lately, I’ve been struggling with Kyle regarding his reading.  He loves to read, but this summer he hasn’t found much interest to get lost in the books.  Now that school has started up, I thought he would get back to his routine and pick up where he left off.  Nope.  At least not just yet.

While sitting in the living-room Kyle got up and walked over to one of my bookshelves to examine the spines of the books.  Yes, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s nothing like the feel and the smell of an actual book, where you can turn the pages, makes notes in the margins, smudge up the pages with food and drink to later rediscover yours or someone’s past.  There’s nothing wrong with digital books, I think they are great for traveling and such, but I still have an affinity for the real deal.  The words on my pages and cover design will never change, unlike its digital sister.

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Storm getting ready to climb the grape harbor…Kyle was picking grapes to the left. 9/2/13

Anyway, Kyle started to read the titles and question me about them.  He saw the Mortal Instrument series and stopped and noted The City of Bones.  We just saw that movie and now his interest was peeked, asking me which books are good.  I love going through my past reads, introducing my old friends to my nephew.  Then, he stopped at The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.  For some reason over the years those books keep catching his eye.  They are the old plain covers with a small symbol on each in muted solid colors.  Nothing flashy, yet intriguing to him.  Personally, I loved those books, immensely and I told Kyle so.  Of course, I had to sadly inform him they are more adult oriented and very violent, but really good reads.  He just nodded and continued perusing, until he came on an old book with a red cover entitle Works of Edgar Allen Poe.

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Kyle reaching to pick the grapes.. thinking grape jelly! 9/2/13

I’ve never seen another book with this cover, in fact I know it used to be a part of a larger collection of classic writers, but I have no idea what happened to the rest of the compilation.  Somehow Mr. Poe has been following me over the years, hanging out on my bookshelf.  It contains short stories, poems and essays.  I’ve read through the entire book several times, but I can’t say in the past decade.  During high school and college I would pull out stories and poems for a class project, but I haven’t sat and enjoyed his works in quite some time.

With a huge smile, I introduced Kyle to Edgar Allen Poe.  I said, “Here buddy let me read you a few poems.  Gigi used to read some of them to me when I was little and I loved them!”  I opened up the aged pages and the first poem I saw was The Raven.  Every time I think of that poem, the move The Crow starring Brandon Lee, the son of the famous Bruce Lee, comes to mind.  Recapping the movie to Kyle, I dove right into the poem, since he didn’t seem to have a clue what I was talking about, nor did he care.  When reading poetry, it’s so much fun to keep the rhythm and enunciate the words with gusto, to truly paint the picture.  I must say I am pretty good at it, at least enough to capture some of Kyle’s attention.

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Seven & Storm hanging out under the grape harbor. 9/2/13

After The Raven I moved onto mom’s favorite, Bells.  Kyle listened, but I could tell he wasn’t too into it.  He even said, “All I heard out of that was Bells.  Bells, bells, bells, the ringing of the bells.”  I laughed and said, “See!  You enjoyed it and even started to memorize it!”  I must say I was quite entertained and was loving the time, maybe not as much as Kyle, but I do believe he will remember it, just like I remember the first time I was introduced to Edgar Allen Poe.

I think I really lost him sometime around A Dream Within A Dream.  Asking Kyle if I could read him a short story, he quickly said “No!”.  I was really getting into this walk down memory lane and reading to Kyle once again.  So that was a major disappointment.  I’m not sure if it was the way I was projecting the poems, the idea of poetry or if the kind-of-creepy content threw Kyle over the edge.  Yes, Bells is rather upbeat and cheery, yet it has the creepy dead thing about the content.  Kyle hates suspense, thrillers or anything remotely scarey and disturbing.  I’m sure he picked up on it, especially from The Raven.  Note to self, maybe I should pick another classic to introduce to Kyle.  Regardless, I enjoyed our small moments of togetherness and having the opportunity to read to Kyle again.

Putting the book aside to turn on the stove, Kyle and I had a great time on Labor Day making grape jelly.  It was the day after we got back from our New York trip, What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand and What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand … Continued.  Before we left, dad mentioned the grapes were ready to pick.  So on Monday, Kyle had it in his head that he wanted to pick grapes.  Not really on my list of desirableness, but I thought what the heck, I was just sitting around anyway.

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Storm kept pouncing on our hands while we picked the grapes. 9/2/13

We actually had a great time.  It was nice and peaceful, except the two of us chit chatting occasionally.  Seven and Scooby came out to join us and run around, as did Storm.  She had a blast, running up and down the grape harbor, creeping among the leaves to pounce on our hands as we reached for grape bunches above our heads.  It turned out to be a nice time full of accomplishments.  We ended up with five or six brown grocery bags full of grapes.

Now what to do with them?  Initially, Kyle wanted to make grape juice, except we still had grape juice from years ago we never drank.  So we agreed upon grape jelly.  We only made a few batches and gave the rest of the grapes to my cousin Karen for her crew to use up.

It was a fun day in the kitchen, even though my mom would probably disagree.  I love knowing that Kyle is exposed to traditions, especially canning.  He was even getting creative by substituting the sugar for honey.   He was very proud of himself, as was I.  It turned out to be another unplanned time to bond, and for that I am very thankful and blessed.

You can’t plan these small moments, just realize when they are present and soak them up like the sun, for they’ll disappear before you know it, like grape jelly.

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Family Cooking Raises Healthy Lego Building Kids

I think careful cooking is love, don’t you?  The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give.  ~Julia Child

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Kyle hanging with the Star Wars Boba Fett or Janko Fett at LegoKidsFest 2012 in Pittsburgh

My family is like many who enjoy cooking and cooking together.  We really don’t eat out a lot, hence the congregation in the kitchen when hunger pains arrive.  Seriously, we don’t even really eat fast food.  In fact, the only fast food joints I support when I am in a pinch, or if the graving takes is Chick-fil-a, their service and friendly demeanor is always awesome and contagious, not to mention I love their chicken; or SubWay, when I need serious food and I want to control what is put on my sandwich; or Panera, when I’m looking for better tasting quality food, quickly; or Jioio’s when I want my thin, slightly sweet crust pizza; or any other pizza joint for that matter.  Every now-and-again I will make my appearance at a 5 Guys Burger & Fries or a Sonic or a Dairy Queen, but again that’s rare.  Nope, eating out is a rarity not a daily choice.  I was raised that way, and so I continue to keep the tradition.

I’ve said it before and the same still holds true, I enjoy cooking, especially with Kyle!  No matter if we are talking about breakfast, lunch, dinner or a simple snack, cooking together always makes it more fun!  Kyle really likes being in the kitchen, but he prefers to develop his food with the assistance of others.  Not that I can blame him, cooking together is way more fun and sometimes exciting when we start experimenting with ingredients.

In the past, cooking was a way for me to reinforce Kyle’s reading and his math by making him read the recipes to me and forcing him to figure out the measurements himself.  (Inner Conflict, Egg Sandwich Spectacular, Healthy Smoothie Sunday) Not to mention it was a great way to introduce him to different dishes, expanding his pallet and to teach him about the health benefits of specific foods, or lack there of in some cases.  Yes, I don’t always make the healthiest of dishes, but at least I am aware of what goes into the items I consume.

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Kyle & his pappy getting ready to mentor deer hunt. We eat a lot of deer meat throughout the year. 2012

Same goes for Kyle.  I have always stressed the importance of eating healthy, however I have also demonstrated the moments of weakness and giving in to temptation.  When I splurge and steer clear of nutritious foods and swap them with junk food, I am also aware of how much I consume and how often.  Not to mention I have always lived by example to burn off the food through various exercise.  I’m not saying I am the poster child for physical fitness, but I do try and make a conscientious effort to demonstrate good healthy behaviors to Kyle.  I’m not saying he completely listens to me, but I know the information is being stored up in his cranium cavity…somewhere.  It’s my job to guide him in the right direction, even if I’m pushing him up a very steep hill.

This week has been wonderful, spending every day with Kyle.  For his birthday, I bought him two Bricks 4 Kidz Lego Camps at Saint Vincent College.  He’s been going all week with a morning session and an afternoon session, allowing us to hang out together for lunch.

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A rare treat at IHOP. Kyle wanted caramel hot chocolate. He was reading the Hunger Games while enjoying his dessert drink! c. 2011

All week we’ve been doing breakfast, lunch and dinner together!  And you what?  He has been eating healthier.  I’ve seen his improvement over these few short days.  When we cook together and eat together, Kyle is making better choices with his nutrition.  Plus, having the right foods on hand is a big part of it.

Everyday, he gets to help pick out what he wants for lunch and every day we make the meal together!  Like I said he loves being in the kitchen, helping to prepare the food, cut, stir and flip.  When we’re done, he is truly proud of what he’s made and knows I approve of his eating choices.  This situation just makes everyone happy!

Speaking of happy, Kyle has been seriously energetic and upbeat!  Keep in mind he’s been building Lego’s every morning and night, and this week, one of his rewards for his great report card came in the mail, in the form of another Lego.  So those certainly can sway a child’s attitude, but it also has to do with what is digesting in his gut.  When y0u eat right, you feel right!

Example, Kyle used to like vegetables when he was little.  Then all of a sudden he refuses to eat them, even though I know he doesn’t hate certain veggies.  One day this week, Kyle and I made a huge salad, per both of our suggestions.  He helped me chop up the salad stuff including the carrots and mushrooms.  More importantly, he was excited to make the salad large enough so his Gigi and pappy would have some for dinner.  He not only ate one salad for lunch, but he ate two and then one for dinner!  Granted it was coated in French dressing (low fat), but it wasn’t covered in cheese and no croutons made their appearance.  Just good old fashioned vegetables.  He LOVED the salad and was proud of what he made and his choice for consumption.

I am still amazed over what a difference a few days make, when choosing to eat correctly!  Granted, he does eat pretty good on the weekends, but a lot of the time, that’s our cheat days, which unfortunately is just a continuation of Kyle’s normal week.

Sometimes Kyle tells me what he’s had during the week, and although it sounds fine, the food items he eats are all processed crap.  Full of fat, sodium, not to mention the extra junk they throw into food bought off the shelves that alter our natural body’s chemistry.

The more I learn, the more I’ll continue to teach Kyle and try to live by example.  After all, it’s my job to fight for his health as much as it is for his spiritual well-being and his brain development.

Wander what he wants to eat for lunch today?  I can’t wait to pick him up!

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,LEGO's,Milestone,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments

Who Does Kyle Favor More, Gigi?

Becoming a grandmother is wonderful.  One moment you’re just a mother.  The next you are all-wise and prehistoric.  ~Pam Brown

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Mom & Kyle 8/12/01

Gigi and her Kyle.  When there needs to be a negative comparison it’s usually between these two, for those seemingly unfavorables, appear to stand out.  Yet there is more than meets the eye.

Kyle has always pointed out that he shares Gigi, his Aunt Nikki and his dad’s blue eyes.  I was told, “Ya not you Aunt Heather, you and pappy have brown eyes.”  Yes that’s certainly true, but I didn’t realize his blue eyes made him royalty.   Regardless, Kyle does have really pretty blue eyes and I’m glad that is a shared trait between him, his dad, his Gigi and his Aunt Nikki.

Does Kyle and Gigi both share their aversion for physical activity?  You bet they do!  Even so much as to mope around with their heads down when they have to do a little bit of work, or walk an extra two feet.  It’s complete torture for them.  They both drive me crazy when it comes to that.  Do they both like to complain?  Again, a big YES!  It’s actually kind of funny.  When neither one wants to do something or they disagree, they sort of grunt and make noises.  Dad calls it “Letting the air out of the tires.”  Just to share in this trait, so does Aunt Nikki.

Is that all the similarities between mom and Kyle?  Nope, not even close.  Even though he tends to favor my sister more, and there is no secret that Nicole and mom are a lot alike too, sometimes too much, Kyle did pick up more from his Gigi.

Kyle-&-his-Gigi-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle & his Gigi hanging out c.2003

Besides the physical traits of having the blue eyes and lighter hair color, Kyle also shares some personality traits as well as behavioral ones with mom.

On a side note, I do want to call out that Kyle shares mom’s, dad’s and his dad’s talent for having a sense of direction.  The department Nicole and I miserably fail in.  What a great quality!

Let’s start with innovation.  Yes, mom is such an innovator, if that’s the right word for her.  This goes on all aspects of life.  When it comes to cooking she doesn’t need a recipe, or specific ingredients.  Mom can make a great meal out of cupboard items and miscellaneous food found in the refrigerator, on the fly.  No preparation, no research, just mixing and matching and voila!  A unique meal, that is favorable to the taste buds (as long as she doesn’t burn it).  Kyle is following mom’s knack with food experimentation.  He is certainly taking her lead when he is mixing items together, even something as simple as a smoothie.  Kyle is already breaking away from the standard and the ordinary and is creating his own.  That, I must say takes, guts, talent and skills, maybe a little adventure, which I completely support and encourage.  There has been many a time when I wouldn’t have a said ingredient and mom would say, “Ahh just use this instead.  Not as good but it should be alright.”  The word “should” throws me every time, but I always trust the Gig (our shortened term for Gigi or mom).

Mom is also innovative with everyday household items and situations.  If something is broke or missing, mom can adjust accordingly on the spot to make it work.  Yes sometimes it involves the use of duct-tape.  Her substitutions, however crazy they may appear, usually work.  Kyle can also think out of the box and adjust to to solve a much larger problem.  What really cracks me up, both, mom and Kyle usually think this way to eliminate additional work.  They truly love to take the easy route.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, except if you will not carry on with an activity because of the perception of it being too difficult due to the laziness mind set.  Once when Kyle was a much smaller tyke, maybe four or fives years old, he said, “I want to build Gigi a robot to help her do housework, so she doesn’t have to.”  Yep, somewhere the Olczak engineering gene resides in both of them.

Usually accompanying innovation are details.  Yes, the smallest part of a plan or story.   When mom is telling a story she will give every minor detail before she gets to the point at hand, always having to prod her along.  Now I know where I get it!  At least my details reside in the form of writing and event planning, another trait of mom’s.  Kyle follows all details, no matter how small, especially when it comes to putting his Lego’s together.  Yes again, that must be an Olczak thing, the tiniest of all details is never overlooked.

Mom is also a passive aggressive person, which is not my favorite by far.  Instead of getting to the point or spitting it out, she will go around and around till you figure out what she wants.  Not me!  I would rather just say it or have someone do me that favor.  I do tend to appreciate candor more than politeness.  Can you guess who else does this?  Yes!  The one and only Kyle Piper.  He will go around and around on a topic or subject without just asking the question or getting to the point.  There have been so many times I’ve said, “Kyle what do you want?!  Just spit it out, I can’t read your mind!”  I’ve always encouraged Kyle to ask, but also not to expect him to get his own way.

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Gigi & a little bumblebee Kyle 11-18-03

There is one topic that will get Kyle and his Gigi to spit out their feelings, that’s blood and gore.  Yep, both have a really weak stomach for such things including needles, surgery and even a pronounced scratch.  Can’t say that I understand.  The only thing that really gets to me is feces, which can I be blamed?  I’m talking about real life and not TV drama.  Mom could never stand it when we got hurt, including dad.  Every time one of us broke our leg roller skating (Nicole), nail stuck up the foot (me), sliced our head open from the debarker at the sawmill (Ryan), mom would never look in our direction.  She would either call my cousin Paula who is an RN, or my cousin Karen, who doesn’t mind, or another one of the our family friends in the medical field to inspect the damage, seeing if it was hospital worthy.

Side story.  When I was around five or so, my grandparent’s dog, Lady, bit me along the side of the head, just missing my eye.  Not to mention scratched up my chest pretty good.  Naturally I had to get stitches, without Novocain!  As the doctor had my head turned sideways to apply the stitches that I could see go into my head, I also saw mom in the near distance.  She was sitting in the corner of the emergency room, with her legs crossed, bouncing her one leg up and down, and looking away from me.  Wouldn’t even come near me to hold my hand!  She kept her distance even after all the crying for her.  Yep, mom can’t deal with emergency situations!

Kyle on the other hand, is the exact same!  Last summer I got a bad case of Taking On Poison Sumac.  I had to go to the MedCare to have it looked at.  Yes, it was that bad!  The entire time Kyle, who was trying to be supportive said to me, “Boy Aunt Heather I hope you don’t have to get a shot!  I hate shots.”  Guess what?  Yes, they needed to give me a steroid shot.  Kyle took one look at that needle and about turned green.  It’s not just for other people he has no stomach for blood, for himself too.  If he flosses his teeth too hard and they draw a little bit of blood, forget it!  He’s in complete panic mode.

Maybe it’s the idea of pain that scares them.  Mom and Kyle are both babies when it comes to pain.  Pain upon themselves as well as others.  I’m not saying I like any physical discomfort, but I know I can take quite a bit.  I would rather have pain inflicted on myself than to watch another suffer.  Mom and Kyle, can’t deal with either.  If Kyle gets a scratch he is wailing and thrashing around with perceived pain and agony.  Even from a small one inch long thorn scratch.  Maybe they both have extra sensitive skin.

Piper-Family-at-Kyles-1st-Holy-Communion-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dad, me, mom, Nicole & Kyle at Kyle’s First Holy Communion at Sacred Heart Church

Of course, dealing with real life situations are usually accompanied by chaos and panic, I get it.  Neither mom nor Kyle can handle such stressful situations.  They don’t respond to pressure.  But to see it on the big screen?  Even when it’s fake?  Nope, neither one has a stomach for it.

Usually gory and graphic is accompanied with suspense and thriller.  Words that most certainly are not accompanied with mom or Kyle.  Scary movies?  Forget it!  I’ve seen Kyle nearly rip the arm off of the couch when he’s watching a show, and it doesn’t have to be a thriller, any show that causes tension.  Kyle will almost get so engrossed into what he’s watching, it’s like he’s living it.  Mom on the other hand, will bury her face in a pillow like an Ostrich and cover he ears so she is as far removed from the sights and sounds around her.

I don’t get it really.  Mom and Kyle both have a flare for the dramatic.  Remember when I was talking about pain?  Yep that’s usually when their theatrical performances take center stage.  Even if something doesn’t go accordingly, and let’s face it, in life when does it ever, that is their time to drip in drama.  I’m sure many can say the same for me, however I am able to keep a level head in a crisis situation, at least the ones I have experience thus far.  Although, I won’t deny my love of the theatrical arts.

We may seem like we’re being mean because we are blunt and able to call out each others faults, however, I’m glad!  No person is perfect and to truly see another, even a family member, for who they really are is a rare quality.  No ego stroking in the Piper family.  We don’t put on disguises, or act like something we’re not, we accept each other for who they are, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Read more comparisons

Who Does Kyle Favor More, His Dad?
Who Does Kyle Favor More, Pappy?
Who Does Kyle Favor More, Aunt Nikki?

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