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

Shake, shake, shake … Shake Your Booty!

The music in his laughter had a way of rounding off the missing notes in her soul.  ~Gloria Naylor

Kyle-busting-a-move-at-Casey's-Wedding-c.-2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle (about 3 years old) busting a move at Casey’s wedding at Green Gables in Jennerstown, PA 2004

The other day I was listening to the radio and what song came on?  Yes!  (Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty by KC and the Sunshine Band.  Okay, catchy song, but why would that tune in particular bring a smile to my face?  Simple.  Because it has the same effect on my sister and parents, yes even my dad.  Ready for the story?  Before I begin, one might guess this story has everything to do with a certain little boy.  If that was your thought, then you’d be correct!

When Kyle was a baby, still in diapers and not yet speaking, his Aunt Nikki would shake his little chubby belly and sing, “Shake, shake, shake … shake, shake, shake … shake your booty, shake your booty!”  Coming from my dry humored sister, it was pretty funny.  Periodically, when she’d fly home from Arizona, she would continue this tradition.  It caught on, and I’d find myself singing the same song to Kyle while shaking his little body.  Eventually, my dad joined the bandwagon and it became a thing in the Piper household with the theme song originating from the seventy’s.

Looking back, a little over a decade ago, we needed more reasons to laugh than ever before.  Having Kyle around all the time brought light to our darkness and allowed us to enjoy life.  Incorporating those funny instances momentarily brought us out of our depressed state, from the loss of Ryan.  Yes, we humored ourselves at Kyle’s expense.  Don’t judge!  I’m sure there’s worse things in life.

This sporadic and silly behavior continued for years until Kyle was a toddler.  He became so accustomed to the song that upon hearing it, he would automatically shake his booty, literally.  No joke!  It was hilarious!  Instantly, when we began to sing the first set of “shake” he’d give us a smile to light the world, kick his legs around and pound his heels on the floor.  Sometimes if he was feeling spry, he’d get up on his feet, stabilize himself with a wide stance, and rapidly shake his backside back and forth.

The older Kyle got, the funnier the reaction came from him.  Sometimes we’d be sitting in the living room and my dad would give Kyle this peculiar look, indicating what was to follow, before spouting out “Shake, shake, shake.”  Kyle would return his pappy’s look with a HUGE smile and a twinkle in his eyes, and begin his mini performance.  It was too cute!  We loved watching and encouraging Kyle to dance around and be merry.  It was a positive experience for both parties, Kyle thrived on our attention and being center stage, even if it was only for a few minutes, and we loved seeing him happy.  Yes, of course we’d applaud and cheer him on.  Kyle always did love music, especially one with a solid beat or catchy lyrics.  Funny part?  The only lyrics we knew were “Shake, shake, shake… shake, shake, shake… shake your booty, shake your booty.”

Those days ended when Kyle was two or three years old, maybe all the way up till the age of four.  Then the appeal was lost in Kyle’s eyes, certainly not ours.  Nothing would bring me great joy as to have Kyle stand there again shaking his bottom and singing “Shake, shake, shake…”  Although, Kyle’s now thirteen and I’m sure he’s forgotten all about that song and dance.  I’m also fairly certain, he’d be devastated if I suggested such an action.

I guess this is the joy of life, when it’s least expected, something happens, like a song coming on the radio that takes me back a few years of fun memories with my little man.  It warms my heart over and over again and makes me truly appreciate this little boy God gave us, and the wonderful family and life I was blessed with.  My only regret?  I wish I would’ve captured that memory on video!  That would’ve been the best ever!  At the time, I never thought of it, and when Kyle got older he wouldn’t let me record him.  Dang!

P.S. On Friday, 5/22/15 I went to the movies with a group of my friends to see Pitch Perfect 2.  (Love those movies!)  What song did they begin singing?  Yes!  I about fell out of my seat giggling at the perfect timing of this blog post.

 

“(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” Lyrics

Aah, everybody, get on the floor
Let’s dance
Don’t fight the feeling
Give yourself a chanceShake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your booty, shake your booty
Oh, shake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your booty, shake your bootyAah, You can, you can do it
Very well
You’re the best in the world
I can tell

Oh, Shake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your booty, shake your booty
Oh, shake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your booty, shake your booty
Woah, woah, yeah

Shake shake, shake shake
Aah, Shake shake, shake shake

Aah, Shake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your booty, shake your booty
Oh, shake shake shake, shake shake shake
Shake your booty, shake your booty

Aah, Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty
Aah, don’t fight the feeling
Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty
Aah, give yourself a chance

Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty
You can do it, do it
Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty
Come home with mama now

Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty
Woo woo hoo
Shake shake, shake shake, shake your booty
Aah, run down to sister

Shake shake (come on), shake shake (come on) on your booty
Aah! do your duty. Aah haa
Shake shake (come on), shake shake (come on)

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,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!

Trout-fishing-with-dad-&-Kyle-Aunt-Heather-Piper-4-24-15

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

Moving Day, the Turkeys Have a New Home!

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that receives it.  ~Edith Wharton

Start-of-Turkey-Coop-with-dogs-4-11-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Let the construction of the turkey coop begin! Dad was consulting with Avery, Scooby & Seven.  They were excited!   4/11/15

Since we decided to raise chickens and turkeys this year, we needed a place to house the birds.  My dad had a smoke shed, which we converted into a chicken coop, easy.  However, the turkeys needed a place to call their own, equals building of a turkey coop, and fast to accommodate the rapidly growing birds.  Needless to say, the big project of this spring was the construction of the turkey coop.

Did we go to the store to purchase wood?  Not the Piper’s!  Dad utilized the few trees that previously fell in the woods near his house, and sharpened the chainsaw blades to take down a few more trees.  We called on my cousin Mikey to drag the logs out, and Mikey and his dad cut the boards for us.

Now building time!  Dad and I didn’t start construction right away.  We waited for Kyle to assist, knowing he’d enjoy the activity and wanted to participate in the building process.  Except, every time we planned on working on the building, Kyle made other plans or the weather didn’t cooperate.  Feeling pressured from the turkeys, dad and I began the project without our number one handyman.

Before-Turkey-Coop-4-11-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

The planning stage of the turkey coop. Dad was ready! 4/11/15

Personally, it broke my heart to work on the turkey coop without Kyle.  I knew he would’ve loved building it, and it would’ve been a great experience for him to spend quality time with his pap, not to mention the learning value.  But I guess Kyle’s priorities are not with us at this time.  So it was just dad and myself, the dynamic duo.

For the most part the erection of the structure went smoothly, no major incidences and no injuries, always a plus.  Dad had it in his head before starting the project that it could be completed in a single day.  Really?  That’s what he said, but dad didn’t take into consideration his age and endurance, or lack there of.  When we worked on the building, it was only for a few hours at a clip, not from morning till night like I would have preferred.  No biggie, it simply took us a few days to finish as opposed to a single day.

Turkey-Coop-Floor-Underway-&-Avery-4-11-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

The turkey coop floor. 8′ x 10′ building. 4/11/15

Kyle did help with the roof.  It took some coaxing to get him off his phone and off the couch, and let’s not discuss the argument about wearing a shirt and shoes.  Once he surrounded himself in the construction materials, with a hammer in hand, and instructions given, Kyle became genuinely enthused.  Truly!  He even got up on the ladder to nail in a few boards.  Reluctantly, I might I add, he climbed onto the roof and helped me nail a few boards in place so we had a small platform to work from.  He was a little weak at the knees being up high, only about eight feet from the ground, but he braved his environment.  Granted, it was a new experience for Kyle, for he’s never done anything like this before.  Regardless, Kyle overcame his uneasiness and helped me hammer the boards until it started raining.

Before the rain hit, I stopped production to measure the void in the roof, to know exactly how much was needed to complete the area.  I measured about forty-seven inches (nearly four feet).  I handed Kyle a pencil, hinting to write that number down and to start subtracting till we had a pile of boards to fill the gap.  I measured the boards on the ground to ensure the length was appropriate, about twelve feet long, before spouting out widths for Kyle to subtract.  At first, Kyle gave me an inquisitive look and then starred at the pencil in confusion.  If it was me, I would have used the pencil and a board to do my calculations.  I guess that method is too old fashioned for my teenager.  Once Kyle realized what I was trying to accomplish, he enthusiastically pulled out his iPhone and used the calculator function.  Brilliant!  Even though it’s good practice to maintain those basic math skills, but I wasn’t arguing.  I wanted to put this project to rest.

Dad-Avery-during-Turkey-Coop-Building-4-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dad taking a break after we finished the floor and the corners of the turkey coop. 4/11/15

It’s a guarantee that any story involving Kyle and myself contains a comical aspect or two, especially if you add my dad to the mix.  We’re like the perfect Piper storm.  I can’t do this story justice without addressing Kyle’s working attire.  He did manage to cover his bare chest with a tee shirt.  However, the rest of his outfit wasn’t exactly conducive to construction work, especially on a roof with rough wood.  Instead of wearing his boots, he chose my mom’s winter booties.  No joke!  Why?  If I had to take a guess, it was because they were slip on boots with no laces.  Of course, why should that matter when he was wearing shiny basketball shorts.  I bet his bare knees felt good dragging across the wood boards.  Either way, Kyle helped with enthusiasm and no whining.  That’s a big plus!

Now the true funny, and slightly frustrating part of the adventure.  Once I got a few boards stabilized, I showed Kyle were to nail, to follow the seams to the opposite end.  Not paying attention while I was adding boards and nailing them into place, Kyle was hammering like a made man.  His hammering technique went something like this, a hit to the nail head, then followed by a few misses, to be proceeded by a hit.  This rhythm continued for the duration of his labors.  Although, I did appreciate his efforts, but what I mostly enjoyed was spending constructive time with my nephew.

At one point, Kyle freaked out, “Aunt Heather!  I saw a spark!”  Laughing, I responded, “What do you think happens when metal hits metal?  You must’ve been swinging hard to create sparks!”  Kyle smiled and seemed pleased with himself and continued pounding even harder, that is until dad halted production.

Finished-Turkey-Coop-4-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

That’s a wrap! turkey coop construction is completed! Turkeys have a new home. 4/2015

“Look at all the nails sticking out!”  What?  Dad was inside the turkey coop looking up at our handy work.  Before I understood what he was talking about, dad began counting, “One, two, three, FOUR!  FIVE! SIX! SEVEN!  Heather!  There’s SEVEN, EIGHT nails sticking out.  Who’s missing the two by fours?”  It took me a few minutes to realize what he was talking about.  Evidently, the nails weren’t making contact with the rafters, resulting in unsecured boards on the roof and nails sticking out of the ceiling like a torture chamber.  The light bulb suddenly came on as I looked in Kyle’s direction.  My brain was able to put two and two together.  Kyle was working hard, no doubt, however, he wasn’t accomplishing anything.  He started off good, but grew sloppy.  Instead of following the seam and making a straight line with his nails to adhere to the two by fours under the boards, he was simply hammering, sporadically.  What started out as a straight line took a hard right curve to practically end up between two, two by fours.

Almost frustrated, yet finding humor in my little man, I showed him how he strayed.  Dad yelled up to Kyle, “Buddy, if it’s not hard to drive the nail all the way in, then you’re probably not hitting the two by four and you need to move your nail over slightly.”  Kyle’s response, which almost made me fall off the roof laughing, “I thought it was all hard hammering.”  He said those words with complete sincerity.  My little gamer was experience manual labor and physically feeling it.

Did dad really care about the missed nails?  Not in the slightest, he very much enjoyed doing something with Kyle that didn’t involve electronics and his participation as a family member.

Turkeys-New-Home-4-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Turkeys have a new home! 4/2015

Once I got Kyle straightened out, pun intended, I heard him comment, “Boy Aunt Heather this is hard work.  I don’t think I’d make a good construction worker.”  Yes, it is hard work but one I’m very thankful that Kyle has the opportunity to experience.  He’s right though, I don’t think construction work is his calling!  At least Kyle’s a realist, like his Aunt Heather.

Not a lot of people know how to begin to build such a structure, let alone could tackle the job.  I hope Kyle learned something from working with us.  That valuable knowledge will be forever engrained in him, like the roots he was born into.

One more funny.  While I was hammering in the floor, I hit and nail and bent it.  Naturally, I continued hamming it into the floor to get it as flush as possible.  That was the only nail I bent during the entire project.  Did you know, dad kept commenting on that one single nail?  Our of nowhere, he’d say, “These turkeys are going to have to be careful not to trip on that nail.” and “I hope our turkeys don’t get snagged on your nail” and “You already put a place for them to roost.”  It was never ending!  But pretty funny.

I’m happy to announce the turkey coop is finished and is still standing.  During construction, I kept teasing dad about his fine craftsmanship (sarcasm) and he kept reminding me that I was the one who measured everything.  To be honest, when we started out, the foundation was perfectly squared and leveled, thanks to yours truly.  But something did go awry during the building process.  It all worked out in the end.   Our eight foot, by ten foot, by eight foot height structure welcomed its new residences about two weeks ago.  To counter act the cold nights, we placed a few heat lamps and straw inside.  The turkeys seemed pretty happy.

Okay, another funny.  While I was pounding nails to build up the walls, dad was showing me how to draw the boards in tight.  He said, “Here, use my hammer, it’s better.”  You know what?  It was better!  It had a good weight and really drove those nails into the wood.  So every time dad asked for HIS hammer, I would hold onto it and point the hammer toward the sky and yell, “The Hammer!”, like I was Thor.  It cracked me up.  Dad…not so much.

While working with dad, he began to reminiscence occasionally, mostly about Ryan.  Personally, I love hearing the stories that I wasn’t aware of or I’ve forgotten.  It feels good to talk about Ryan.  We all miss him terribly.  Dad commented that he built the smoke shed in about a day or two all by himself.  He said, “Ryan wouldn’t help me build it.  He was mad at me for some reason, I don’t remember for what.”  That was so sad, but it’s called life.  It also shows how tight we really are, that dad didn’t remember the argument, only fondly remembers Ryan.  And Ryan would have been the first person in line to help dad out, for those two were buds.

Take my advice to reconnect with the family and do a major project together.  It is really worth the time and energy!

 

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

Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt

The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.  ~Rachel Carson

Coloring-Easter-Eggs-3-26-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Coloring Easter eggs with Aunt Nikki, Kyle, Pappy & me. Kyle mostly dictated what Nicole & I were to do… 3/26/05

Happy spring!  The first day of spring (vernal – Latin for spring, equinox – Latin for equal night) is one of only two days when the sun passes directly over the equator and crosses that celestial equator going from south to north.  The spring and fall equinoxes are the only two times of the year when the sun rises due east and sets due west.  Pretty interesting!

Did you also know Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after spring?  I’m no astronomer, but that’s what I’ve read.  Along those fun facts, the egg is a symbol of fertility in spring, and this time of year is also called Lent or Lenten.

With Easter around the corner, everyone is posting their fun Easter ideas and traditions, mostly on Pinterest.  I’ve read about a variety of Easter basket items, and fun activities, and so on and so forth.  These innovative suggestions got me thinking of different ways to enhance our own typical Easter traditions.

Naturally, my mind turns everything into a scavenger hunt!  Yes, incorporating the standard Easter egg hunt with a scavenger hunt!  Why not?  Actually, I wish the idea crossed my mind when Kyle was younger.  Adding another layer to the typical Easter egg hunt would’ve been the perfect challenge for my little man.  He would’ve loved the extra effort on my part, and I most certainly would’ve loved to create something unique for his Easter experience !  What fun!

When I was little, our family tradition was for the “Easter Bunny” a.k.a. mom, to hide our dyed eggs around the house.  The more I think about it, that was risky in the event we missed an egg and it remained hidden, especially with the summer heat fast approaching.  That could’ve been lethal!  I’m pretty sure mom counted the eggs to ensure none were overlooked.  Although, that would’ve made for an interesting story about a rotten Easter egg, but no such luck.

Ryan-Nicole-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Easter-Morning-1981

Me, Nicole & Ryan Easter morning before church. 5/1981

With Kyle, we added another level of excitement by stuffing colorful plastic eggs with quarters and candy, and sometimes Matchbox cars in the larger eggs.  He loved each of those equally.  When the weather wasn’t too shabby, we’d hide the eggs in my parent’s orchard in the backyard.  Early Easter morning, I’m talking about 4:00 am or so, Kyle would attempt to wake everyone for his Easter morning adventure.  No one would budge, except leave it to good old Aunt Heather to give in to my little bundle of enthusiasm.  I’ll admit, it wasn’t too difficult to get up early, since I was like a kid myself, excited for Kyle to find the eggs mom and I hid the night before.

Together, Kyle and I would pull on our rubber boots, still in our pajamas (Actually, I stand corrected, I was in my pjs, while I had to make Kyle dress in some sort of pant, usually sweatpants and a t-shirt.  I was lucky if I got him to wear a coat.) and venture into the early morning hours to run around the yard looking for plastic eggs with flashlights in hand.  That was always fun, watching Kyle dart from one tree to another, looking high and low.  When the weather didn’t cooperate, we’d hide the eggs in the house, not exactly ideal but it worked.

So, back to my idea.  How does an Easter egg scavenger hunt work?  Simple.  Create a map or a serious of riddles and clues to uncover the hidden Easter eggs.  It can even be as detailed or as simple as desired, as per the age range of the participants.  One idea is to give a single clue to one egg, which contains another clue to the next, and so on and so forth.  If I was developing the Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt, I’d add scholastic questions to really challenge the child and reinforce his or her school subjects.  I’d also add religious questions to reinforce the true meaning behind Easter.  And if I’m designing the scavenger hunt in the typical Thrill of the Hunt fashion, I’d add online challenges for the child to take pictures and video along the scavenger hunt adventure.  The entire family could join in on the fun for a family fun good time!  This scavenger hunt doesn’t necessarily have to be targeted to young children (I’m thinking 4+), but could be developed for pre-teens and teenagers alike.  That’s one way to include everyone on an Easter Egg Hunt Scavenger Hunt!  This can be accomplished inside or out, or both.

Thrill of the Hunt offers many different types of themed scavenger hunts.  Check them out at (www.ThrillScavengerHunt.com).

Think Team Building … Think Scavenger Hunts
Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt
WannaBe 80’s Scavenger Hunt & a Puppy in a Day
Scavenger Hunt – Getting Our Start At Seton Hill University & Continuing

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

Please note, Thrill of the Hunt will be hosting our first ever Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, Virginia on Saturday, May 30, 2015.  We’re also hosting our annual Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunts in local cities including Latrobe, Pennsylvania; Annapolis, Maryland; Alexandria, Virginia; and New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Tickets are on sale now, but are limited.  We’re still accepting local businesses to be added to the actual scavenger hunt to increase foot traffic to these locations.

Thrill of the Hunt is in the planning stages for our Singles Scavenger Hunt in Virginia.  Keep your eyes peeled.

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

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

Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

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

Happy Birthday Aunt Nikki!

The thing about getting older is that you don’t need everything to be possible any more, you just need things to be certain.  ~Monica Ali

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Nicole’s birthday. Our cousin Chad looks like he beat Nicole to the candles.  My pappy is in the background. c. 1975

Nicole is officially in her forties, forty-one to be exact.  What could have possibly happened in a year’s time worth mentioning?  A lot, besides family fun and normal wear and tear.

Let’s discuss Nicole’s midlife crisis called Avery, a.k.a. Acorn, a.k.a. Dobby.  (Dobby is the free elf that worked at Hogwarts from Harry Potter.  Dad made the connection that Avery looks like Dobby.  Kyle and I are in complete agreement with Dad’s assessment, either that or Yoda.)  I won’t even get into Nicole aliments, for there are too many in my opinion.  She’s not a youngster anymore.

When I think of Nicole getting older, the Golden Girls instantly comes to mind.  (Kyle used to watch that show with us until Dad commented that he didn’t like it.  Ever since then, Kyle “claims” he hates the Golden Girls and won’t watch it.  However, I’ve caught him giggling at the old ladies a time or two.)  Especially the episode when Dorothy had a mysterious illness and the doctor thought it was in Dorothy’s head.  Her mother, Sofia came to her rescue by commenting …

My daughter may be no spring chicken, and her jaw might crack when she chews! And she may have noticeable trouble digesting raw vegetables! …

That’s Nicole!  There’s no denying how very different we are in many, many, many ways, but we’re both big fans of the Golden Girls, even to this day.  I thought the quote was very fitting and appropriate.

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Aunt Carol & Uncle Denny, Nicole’s godparents. Nicole’s First Holy Communion at Sacred Heart. c.1981

I know there will be a time when we’ll live together in mom and dad’s house, sitting on our rocking chairs, on the front porch, bickering as two old ladies.  Well, I’ll be in my mid-youth because I’ll always be able to do laps around Nicole, while she’ll be ancient.  Kyle will reluctantly visit his two old crazy aunts who love him more than anything.  Just don’t expect me to change Nicole’s clothes or wipe her butt.  It will NEVER happen!  I nominate Kyle!

The best part about Nicole’s birthday is the fact that I’ll always be younger than her.  And if you count my lack of maturity and my hyperactive nature, I’m decades younger still.

Nicole has accomplished so much thus far, and still has so many more adventures ahead of her.  Perhaps a bucket list is in order, after all she’s at that ripe old age.

Happy Birthday Nicole!

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Just for the fun of it… check out the comparison between Avery & Dobby… remarkable!  This is hilarious!

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

Fighting For What’s Right

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.  ~Oscar Wilde

Kyle-in-Halo-Aunt-Heather-Piper 2011

This says it all!  Kyle sporting a halo at our cousin Lee’s wedding. 2011

This is not a finger pointer, but a way to realize what needs fixed for Kyle’s well-being.

I’m not a perfect person, not even close, nor did I ever claim to be.  There are many, many people who can attest to that.  Sure, usually my methods for handling certain situations are a bit abrasive and direct, especially when it comes to Kyle.  However, at least I’m not passive aggressive, and I’m always honest, usually brutally. (If the true can’t be handled then perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror and make some adjustments.)  However, it’s no secret to where I stand with Kyle, for I’m not shy about my thoughts and showing that he’s a priority.

Believe it or not, I’m actually a pretty easy going person, except when it comes to Kyle’s well-being.  I’m well aware that these young teenage years shape and develop traits to strengthen his adult character, or they can be a detriment and hinder him in the long run.  Kyle’s early learning structure is pretty stellar, but molding a kid doesn’t stop when he wants all the freedom in the world at thirteen.  I’m talking about the big three, mental, physical and spiritual wellness.

This past Sunday, which started out as me picking up Kyle for church, turned into a big, almost silly, blowout.  (It’s silly now that it’s over, but not at the time.)  Granted, Kyle wasn’t totally to blame, I played my part, as well as others.  I won’t rehash the long drawn out scenario, but I would like to point out the good that came from this potentially lethal situation, actually a few positive key points and the solutions we agreed upon.  Kyle is a good kid, and I plan on keeping it that way!

First, Kyle claims all I do is yell at him.  Probably true, but if anyone had to deal with Kyle’s attitude, and to top it off by listening to his whining and back-talking all the time, I believe even Mother Teresa would raise her voice, too.  Secondly, Kyle believes that he can never do anything right by me.  Not true, in fact I make it a point to complement him and encourage him when does good, but I won’t sugar coat his actions or behavior when the opposite is true.

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Kyle getting ready for a hike, this time minimal arguments as long as he had his iPod & his trusty walking stick. 2012

Personally, some of these issues are real, but his emphasis on the severity and number of instances aren’t.  Kyle’s pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.  Seriously!  He’s gotten really good at playing the martyr.  He’s so dramatic!

Example, if I tell Kyle he’s kicked off of his video games for a half an hour because he played for four hours straight, he’ll respond with the usual whine and arguing.  Then, his time-out is such a traumatic experience.  He’ll poor it on thick to anyone who’ll listen to how he’s not allowed to play his videos games for the entire day!  When in reality it’s only a half an hour.  Did I mention he claims he’s not allowed to do anything during that time, even though I suggest a game of chess or a walk.  Yes, according to Kyle, he’s in prison serving hard time.  Think I’m kidding?  Not even close.  This is what Kyle does to get his own way, and work everyone to the dark side.  Who wants to deal with this?  It’s not right, and I won’t tolerate it.  Sadly, no one sees his stunts or if they do, they continue to cater to his whims to avoid an argument.  Not me!

Let’s discuss Kyle’s grades.  They’re not terrible, but I know he can do better, and I won’t stand back and accept skimping by.  I hold him accountable.  Why?  Because I believe in him, and I know he’s smarter than what his grades reflect.  However, he’ll argue and claim other.  I have faith in my little man and praising his grades is basically saying, “You’re not that smart, and I accept your half-way attempt.”  Nope!  Did you know he told my sister he knew he was slacking a little, and he needed to buckle down?  Yes!  Those were his words after he made excuses for his grades.  I appreciate his honesty, but I knew it!  There are so many more instances, I won’t even elaborate on.

When discussing my situation with a good friend of mine, who has a nephew a few years younger than Kyle, it was discovered that she had the exact same problem, almost word for word.  While describing Kyle’s behavior, she said it was an exact replica to her own behavioral situations with her nephew, exactly, down to every drama moment.  What are the common denominators to this behavior?  Both kids eat junk, play hours upon hours of videos games, get no exercise, and basically have little to no structure.

Trying to get this under control and do right by Kyle, I don’t assume I have all the answers, but I will find an expert who does.  I  consulted another friend of mine, who’s a school psychologist!  Perfect!  She handles children’s behavioral problems on a daily basis.  I explained the entire scenario.  Her solution?  Reward with good behavior.  I agree!  If Kyle does good, then a reward is called for.  But what?  My initial friend, mentioned earlier with her nephew, and I tried to brainstorm ideas.  You know what conclusion we came to?  There’s nothing!  No, seriously.  These kids have way too much, and that takes away the opportunity to treat them, or surprise them.  Ultimately, they are rewarded all the time for bad behavior.

This is a poor example, but one that came to mind.  When I was a kid, we were never allowed fast food, only when we went to the doctors as a treat.  Not that fast food or even food should be a reward, but I can’t even use that because his off days, Kyle’s usually filled with junk. (We always cook three meals a day and most of it is raised or butchered by our own hands.  Although my parents do sneak in garbage every once in a while.)  If I gave Kyle another video game, I’m fueling the fire for spending more time on those mind sucking animations that create laziness, and that started this miserableness with the kid.  (I try to teach moderation.)  Money?  Forget it!  I tried to have Kyle work for my company, Thrill of the Hunt entering data, and I paid him.  He wanted nothing to do with it.  Why?  Because if he wants money to go to the movies or to buy something, he simply asks for it and it appears.  He’s not stupid, he’s working the system.

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For Kyle’s 9th birthday, I bought him flying lessons. It was a fun day! 7/24/10

Yes, at this point, anyone with any common sense is realizing the real problem at hand.  It may result with Kyle, but it doesn’t stem from him.  This is what’s causing friction between us.  I don’t, and I will never buckle to the kid, even if it’s not totally his fault.  Sure, I do make compromises, but I won’t tolerate all this, and he knows it.  Hence, his reason for ignoring my phone calls, pushing my buttons and then claiming I’m always yelling, and trying to avoid hanging out with me because I expect him to do chores.

Let’s get this straight.  He does chores maybe once a month, more in the spring and summer months, but I don’t ask him to break his back, or to consume his entire day.  Well, actually it usually does take the whole day, about five hours of arguing, whining and moving at a snail’s pace, and then a half an hour of actual work.  Do I give in?  NOPE!  Why?  Because I want to do what’s right for Kyle.

Kyle’s biggest complaint about me?  You’ll love this one!  I make him take walks (less than a mile, to three miles total) with me and the dogs in the woods.  It’s good for him to get off his iPhone (yes he has an iPhone 6 loaded with video games) and stretch his legs, while recharging his battery in God’s country, and giving the dogs some exercise.  Kyle’s response nearly EVERY time, results in crying for at least an hour, taking another hour to get dressed, and complaining the entire walk, at least until he breaks a sweat and then he’s good (sometimes).  Yes, once he starts clearing his head, he’s happy and enjoys himself.  Granted, it’s getting harder and harder to get to that point, but I won’t give up.  Why?  Because I want to do what’s right for Kyle.

How about other activities?  I’ve tried these and then some, but are denied as the ideas passed my lips.  Shooting at the gun range?  No.  Roller skating?  No.  Shopping?  No.  Playing a board games or chess?  No.  Going to the comic book story. (used to be his hang out)  No.  Walking around a park?  Hell no!  Movies?  Maybe.

So back to my original story, what good could come from our blow out on Sunday and all this tension?  A lot!  I was able to justify my true intentions, so Kyle really understood my point-of-view.  I explained that I’m willing to fight for him.  I’m willing to fight to my last breath for his well-being and his long-term happiness.  I will fight all the video games in the world, and preservative filled foods, and anyone trying to sabotage his natural goodness for their own self satisfaction and easy parenting.  I’m not doing this for myself, but for him.  I won’t give in to him or give up on him, not because I enjoy the fights or I have nothing else to do or it’s the easy way.  NO!  On the contrary, I’m taking the difficult path.  Sometimes doing what’s right isn’t easy, but I will fight for Kyle every step.  I also explained to Kyle that no matter what happens in life, I have his back and I will fight for him every time.  I will fight the devil if I have to, to make sure he’s following in the way of the Lord.  My actions won’t be halfway, or passive aggressive, I will fight for him head on.  Why?  Because Kyle’s worth it, every difficult argumentative whiny moment of his existence is worth trying to do what’s right by him.  That’s how much I love that little guy.

His response?  A few tears were shed, but nothing said.

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Kyle & Aunt Nikki hiking up the hill with their trusty walking sticks. Look who’s pulling up the rear? 2012

My job as his Aunt Heather and godmother, isn’t an easy one, but one I’ve been completely dedicated to since he was born.  Ryan trusted me these responsibilities and he knew, when it came down to it, I would always fight for what’s right by this little boy.  I know if Ryan was alive, he’d have my back and agree with me, for he wouldn’t have tolerated a bratty kid either.  And he would believe in Kyle like I do, and know he’s a better kid than his actions are portraying.  Kyle’s not bad, just spoiled, and a kid who’s becoming a teenager, a difficult stage in itself without compounding it with other issues.

The solution to all this?  I agreed to never raise my voice to Kyle again (even though that’s how I was raised), as long as he promises to keep his attitude in check and listen to me when I tell him to do something, no more whining and complaining.  Begrudgingly he murmured, “Yeah.”  I did blatantly explain, to avoid confusion, that I love him wholeheartedly and I’m not trying to be a roadblock or an opposing force, but one that’s trying to guide him to being a good person and to keep him on the path of righteousness for his own sake.  We’re a team, we’ve always been a team, and we’ll always be a team.  I will never give up on him!  No matter what.  That’s family, and that’s love.

On a side note, my cat Storm, a.k.a. Lady Fluffington, and my dog, Seven hate it when I’m yelling, they really get upset and I don’t enjoy it either.  I’m kind of relieved over our new compromise.  It will force me to stop and think, in turn making me a better person.  I told you, we learn from each other!

I believe this was a good stepping stone, one long over due.  I have faith in Kyle, and don’t expect perfection from him, but only good intentions and everything for his own well-being.

It was also brought to my attention that this blog is hurting Kyle and his adolescents.  I disagree, for I never divulge everything, and I still keep Kyle’s privacy, more so than most.  This blog is the same as other “mommy” blogs and those who post on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Vine etc. I don’t regularly go in that direction, instead I choose a well thought out blog post.  If I thought this blog was truly hindering Kyle, then I would delete it immediately.

Unbeknownst to some, I get a lot of private messages giving me guidance and sharing personal stories to assist me with Kyle, or others take my advice for his or her own personal dilemmas.  This blog has been a learning experience for me and my readers.  Plus, it’s a way for my family and Ryan’s friends to stay in touch.  Let me get back to the real reason I write.  It’s for Kyle, to have an account of his life stories, something to read when he’s older.  I want him to always know his dad and his family.  A minor point, but I do use this blog for my company, Thrill of the Hunt.  Perhaps, I might cut down on the Kyle stories, and focus on his dad and other activities.  Time will tell.  God speed!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Video Games & Games 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

Making Deer Bologna & Deer Jerky

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.  ~Julia Child

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Close-up of the deer bologna, made with cheddar cheese. 1/24/15

On Saturday, we finally had the chance to make deer bologna and deer jerky.  Is it hard?  Nope, not even close.  The hardest part is monitoring the cooking, or in the case of the jerky, the dehydration machine.  As long as you keep a close eye on the meat, perfection!  A healthy snack!

Way back in December, during hunting season, which seems like a lifetime ago now, we ground up the deer meet into hamburger.  Yes, we have a grinder to grind our own meat.  Believe it or not, we use it during the winter months, not only for deer, but also if we’re butchering a cow (ground chuck) or pig (sausage).  By next year, I’m going to raise my own turkeys, and make ground turkey meat. (I love turkey burgers!) We weighed the meat, sealed it in plastic wrap, wrapped it in freezer paper, labeled it, and froze until ready to use.  We use the ground deer meat for burgers, taco meat, and meatloaf, among other recipes.  This year, we set some aside specifically for the bologna and jerky.

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Deer Bologna ready to be snacked on … made with cheddar cheese! 1/24/15

Before beginning, the weighed meat needs to be removed from the freezer, at least a day or two in advance to slowly defrost.  I wouldn’t suggest using a microwave to assist with this process, because even though the microwave “defrosts” the meat, it still cooks the edges slightly, and that’s no good.  Do yourself a favor, and take the time to let the meat thaw naturally.

In the past, we’ve made deer Salomi, but from what my parents said, they didn’t care for it as much as the bologna.  So bologna it is!

We purchase our bologna mix at Gander Mountain, and sometimes Cabela’s.  There’s a certain brand my parents like, although I can’t remember the name (It’s in an orangeish bag).  You can purchase bologna kits, that contain the pertinent spices, as well as the casings.  We prefer the fat casings, as opposed to the thinner ones.  The thinner ones tend to dry out fast, especially when cooked alongside the fat ones.  So cook them separately, if you choose to use a combination of fat and thin casings.

Starting with the bologna, since it takes a while to cook, we dropped the thawed weighed ground deer meat in our hand crank mixer.  Using dad’s homemade red wine instead of water, we diluted the spices in the liquid.  Simply follow the directions on the package for exact measurements.  Now, it’s really as easy as adding the diluted spice mixture to the meat, mixing, and then stuffing.  Make sure you soak the casings in warm water prior to stuffing.

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Close-up or our deer bologna, made with cheddar cheese. Perfect snacking goodness! 1/24/15

To assist us a step further, we added the meat mixture to our hand crank stuffer, typically used to stuff sausage.  It works wonderfully with the bologna casings, as long as you use the smallest tube and keep the air out by holding the end into the meat.  Simply, crank the mixture into the casing, leave a little room at the open end to twist, and seal.  Lay the long cylinders together ready for baking.  I wouldn’t recommend adding the bologna rods in the oven one at a time.  Save yourself some frustration, and confusion and add them all together, on the same rack.   Again, use the cooking directions on the package.

On a side note, during the mixing stage, we added chunks of cheddar cheese to the meat.  My family is partial to the meat and cheese mixture, but you can add, jalapeno peppers, spicy cheese, or garlic pieces.  Experiment to find out what your family likes best.  Keep in mind, when another ingredient is added to the meat mixture, it will increase the amount of bologna, in turn increasing the number of casings used.  So, have an extra casing or two handy, you’ll need it!

I do want to call out, during this process, Kyle would not touch the raw meat with his hands.  That cracks us all up!  He simply just can’t do it.  Knowing this, I couldn’t help but smear a little meat on his cheek or hand.  Kyle snickered and played along for a while, until he had enough.  He’s not the adventurous or traditional type of cook.  He’s more the, stand-on-the-sidelines and dictate direction.  I love that kid!

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This picture is just hilarious…as I opened my sister’s hallway closet, I saw these Ramen Noodles. Apparently, she purchased them as part of her doomsday prep!  Gross!  The best part?  She bought them on Craig’s List! I was dying! 2014

Okay, funny story, yes besides me grossing Kyle out.  It’s always an adventure in the Piper household, especially when Kyle and I are involved.  While Kyle was cranking the meat mixture into the casing, he was struggling a bit.  Toward the bottom of the metal container, it does get tough to crank.  Smarty pants me, told Kyle to step aside, thinking he was being dramatic.  When I began cranking, Kyle sarcastically commented, “It’s not that easy is it Aunt Heather?”  In a way, he sounded just like his dad, Ryan, when he was trying to prove a point.  While I was flexing my muscles, literally, I too wanted to prove a point.  My point?  That there was still plenty of cranking room.  While doing so, we heard a huge BOOM noise.  Everyone looked at me, like I had a clue what that noise was.  I back peddled the crank to find that I was pressing the mixture so hard, it created a vacuum and blew the cheese cubes flat to the bottom of the metal container.  Keep in mind, there was still meet mixture in the tube leading to the casing.  During the back peddling process, the space beneath my sealed top, where there was a void of air, it pulled the meat mixture back into the container.  It was amazing, it happened so fast we just stood dumfounded.  The force was so great, the meat gathered in a large single mass in the center of the container.  Science, too cool!  It’s little moments like that, that make this so much fun!  We were giggling, and having a good time.

While the bologna cooked, we started the deer jerky.  Same process really, take the thawed weighed ground deer meat, and the spices diluted in dad’s wine, and mix well.  Instead of using the stuffer, we added the meat mixture to a press, which resembles a cookie press, or an odd looking firearm. (fitting)  Anyway, we used the thin narrow tip to squeeze the meat directly onto our plastic dehydration racks.  Since the racks are circular in shape, we lined up the meat strips from outer ring to the center, giving it a wheel appearance, leaving space between strips for air circulation.  Then, on the next row, I staggered the meat strips, compared to the rack below.  This continued until all the meat was used.  One batch filled our machine, almost perfectly (I believe we have extra trays).  We placed a timer on the machine, and let modern technology do the rest.

With each, the deer bologna and deer jerky, it’s prudent to constantly check the progress, and not let the oven or the timer on the dehydrator dictate when the meat is done.  Nope, you be the judge.  Check the temperature of the bologna, and check the texture of the jerky.  Also, keep in mind with the dehydrator, some trays will finish sooner than others.  Don’t over do it.

Once you’re done, sit back, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  It’s totally worth it!  Gathering as a family, and passing along cooking traditions such as this one with Kyle, makes it a truly memorable experience.  Kyle loves his deer meat, and he enjoys cooking, but he loves being a part of the family the most.  Even at his thirteen years, I could tell he likes to be included in our traditions, as much as we adore including him.  Happy snacking!

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

Happy Birthday Dad! – 64 Years

A party without cake is just a meeting.  ~Julia Child

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad-Uncle-Sonny-1951-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dad as a baby with Uncle Sonny. 1951

Dad is still kicking it into another year, slowly but surely.  Sure his bones creek, his muscles sore, and his hearing is sporadic, yet I’m glad the old man is hanging in there and is a big part of Kyle’s life.   He may not be as fast, or as intense as he once was, but he still continues his passion for all things he loves.  Like what?

Dad LOVES hunting.  I can’t even stress that enough.  I mean everything about hunting.  He enjoys loading shells, and more importantly having Kyle and me load with him.  He enjoys shooting in the guns at the range, again having the family tag along.  He enjoys scouting out hunting areas in the spring and fall, and watching hunting shows ALL year long, day and night!  He can still make his way through the woods if there’s a chance of loosing a deer, and he can still climb into a tree stand (ladder stand), not gracefully, but he manages without incidence.  Yet, the most unbelievable, Dad can still shoot with amazing accuracy, up to about three hundred yards, outside.  Pretty impressive!  Yes, I would say that Dad is an experienced hunter, hunting since he was nine or so.

Then, there’s his love of fishing, which happens to be more of Kyle’s passion.  Dad lives for taking his rickety old fishing boat out on Loyalhanna Lake in the summer, especially when Kyle and I, and sometimes mom join the voyage.  He continues to make traps for catching snapping turtles.  A little known fact for some, but Dad can’t swim, and is very uncomfortable in a shaky boat (ask Kyle).  Dad does however, like being on the water, and reeling in the big ones.

Anyone who really knows Dad, knows his love of wood.  Yes, remember Ingrained In Wood? He loves walking among the trees, chopping down trees, and splitting firewood.  Being Dad’s right hand gal with all outdoor activities, I can attest to that hard work, yet, one Dad enjoys.  He just moves a little slower, and somehow faster than Kyle.  Seriously!  Unintentionally, dad is always checking out timber, making note of trees that should come down and ones that are worth money, or areas that were cut down in the past.  I’ve even caught Dad, several times I  might add, ogling other people’s firewood stock pile.  Yep, Dad was born a woodsman, and one he will forever be.

Lastly, I can’t leave out Dad’s favorite love of all time, Kyle and the dogs.  Believe it or not, I bet they run equal nowadays.  Sounds silly, and in truth, Kyle always ranks supreme, but Seven and Scooby, and now Avery have won over Dad’s heart many times over.  Dad would be lost without our dogs, (maybe not Storm, my cat).  Even though Dad lost one of his loves, Ryan, at least in physical form, Ryan remains in Dad’s heart, as he does all of ours.

Later today, Kyle and I plan on making Dad a pound cake, one of his favorites.  Perhaps we’ll cook down some strawberries for a little sweet sauce and call it a birthday cake.

Happy 64th Birthday Pap!

 

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

TAKEN by Movies

Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood.  ~Walt Disney
Kyle-all-smiles-7-28-10 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle all smiles in celebration of his birthday! Mr. 9 yr old. 7/28/10

This past weekend, Nicole, Kyle and myself went to the movies.  The movie of choice?  TAKEN 3.  Was it good?  Being a Liam Neeson fan, in my eyes, he could never do no wrong.  But seriously, it was a good movie!

Spoiler alert!  At the end of the movie, while Liam Neeson was fighting the bad guy in a shootout, the vilian was running around in his underwear.  Yep, his “tighty whities” (briefs).  Kyle was sitting beside me cracking up, knowing I would never be caught running around anywhere, in my undergarments.  Please note, Kyle is not shy about sitting around the house in his underwear, not in the slightest.  In fact, that’s his preference.  During this fight scene, yes a fight scene with a man in his underwear, I kept saying, “I can’t believe he’s in his underwear, in the middle of a shootout!”  Kyle was cracking up!  I commented, “I would never be caught dead (pun intended) running around in my underwear.”  Kyle’s response?  “But if you’re already dead, who cares?”  Too funny!  “Yeah, I’d still want someone to cover me up!”  Kyle thought that was such a funny response, he was giggling the entire way up until the end.  

We had dinner at the movie theater, which serves sandwiches and such.  Kyle’s stable?  He always eats the Miss Piggy (pulled pork sandwich), plus other items such as a soft pretzel, ice-cream, popcorn etc.  It’s not always a junk food fest, but sometimes that does turn into the case.

On a side note, Kyle continues with this behavior that he won’t eat anything until the movie starts.  I’ve mentioned it time and time again, but it still amazes me.  Especially, on Saturday, when he was truly hungry.  Nope, he would not touch a thing until the movie started.  Can you say Rain Man?

While waiting (not so patiently) for our movie to begin, I was reminded of the first time I took Kyle to the cinema.  Yes, I introduced him to the world of big screen pictures.  How old was he?  He was definitely walking, I’m guessing around three or four years old.  I know, he was a bit young to be attending the movies, but I knew he’d love it, and have a great time.  It’s true, I was worried his attention span would pucker-out mid movie, but then I was prepared to leave if needed.  What movie did we see?  Honestly, I can’t remember.  Originally, I thought it was a Winnie the Pooh movie, but Nicole corrected me saying she took him to that one.  I’m guessing it was The Incredibles, after all, a year later, I made us The Incredibles costumes for Halloween.  It could have been The Polar Express, Shrek, or Finding Nemo.  All great movies, all Kyle’s favorites at the time, and all seen in the theater. 

Kyle & Scooby, camping.  Yes, that's Kyle in his underwear & his Aunt Nikki's flip flops.  What a look! 8/21/10

Kyle & Scooby, camping. Yes, that’s Kyle in his underwear & his Aunt Nikki’s flip flops. What a look! 8/21/10

Whatever movie we saw, I took Kyle to Carmike Cinema 15 in Greensburg.  It’s not a huge theater compared to those in the D.C. Metro area, or even the Lowe’s Theater in Pittsburgh, but nice enough.  Upon entering the doors, Kyle was mesmerized.  We went mid-day on a Saturday, only because it was an ugly day out.  There wasn’t a line, so I ducked under the velvet rope, to get to the ticket window quicker.  What did Mr. Play-it-by-the-rules do?  He walked the entire length of the roped off area.  I waited for him to finish his trek before getting our tickets.  I remember, Kyle stated his age to the young person working behind the window.  Why?  Rules!  He wanted to clarify he was a child.  Again, what a cutie!

Once we walked around the ticket window area, Kyle’s olfactory nerves picked up on the smell of popcorn.  His eyes were wide from the lights and the colorful interior, and his mouth watered from the smell of butter and popcorn and candy.  Did I get him a bag of popcorn?  You bet I did!  I wanted him to have the full movie experience.  And you know, he never waited for the movie to start to dig into the buttery bag.  That has been a recent event as of the last couple of years.

Kyle held my hand while we watched the monitor in the lobby, waiting for our theater to open.  Back then, Kyle was always attached to me by the fingers.  I’m not sure when that era ended, but it wasn’t for many years later.  Thank goodness!

While standing in the lobby, Kyle intently examined his surroundings and took it all in.  I could tell he was a bit overwhelmed, but not in a bad way, just in a “something very new” way.  As we proceeded back the large carpeted hallway, looking for our door, still hand-in-hand, Kyle looked up and simply said, “Umm this is nice, Aiya (Aunt Heather).”  I was cracking up!  Believe it or not, I bet I had a better time watching his facial expressions and listening to his comments, than he did with the movie.  I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience, still remembering it to this day (except the movie we watched).  On our journey back the hallway, Kyle examined the life size posters and standup advertisements for future and present movies.  He pointed and smiled, especially with recognizable characters.

Upon entering the theater, Kyle’s eyes practically shot out of his head with excitement!  Sporting a huge grin, he pointed and proclaimed, “Loot (look) Aiya (Aunt Heather), loot at that big TV!”  That hooked him!  He was all smiles, and so excited for this new experience.  Little did I know, this single outing would become one of our shared interests, even presently.

Kyle-in-underwear-with-flip-flops-8-21-10 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s favorite look… simply underwear & his Aunt Nikki’s flip flops! Kyle loves cloths (sarcasm) Camping 8/21/10

During most of the movie, Kyle sat in my lap, especially after the lights dimmed to a dark room.  I didn’t mind, it was nice to cuddle with him, and I never missed a reaction.  ALL THE WAY THROUGH the movie, he added his own commentary, talking at full volume, a trait that still holds true today.  I tried to get him to use his “inside voice”, but that was futile during actions scenes.  Kyle also kept asking questions about the movie, while watching it, another trait that holds true today.  Sometimes, he stood up, sometimes he retreated to his own seat or my lap.  It seemed like the musical chairs helped him stay focused.

Can you tell I paid more attention to Kyle, than I did to the showing?  Hence, the reason I truly can’t remember what we saw that day, the one that changed Kyle’s life forever.  (It’s really bothering me!)

Kyle had such a great day!  I equally did as well.  On the way home, we called my sister, who lived in Arizona at the time.  Kyle talked her ear off about his adventure.  I know Nicole couldn’t really make out what he was saying, but she shared in his enthusiasm.

It was after that, that Kyle started to take notice of new movies coming out.  He would request to see certain feature films.  It also didn’t take him long to realize that he was prohibited from watching rated “R” movies.  How do I know?  He would tell me he wasn’t allowed to watch those movies.  My Kyle, always playing it by the rules and never wanting to get in trouble.  Later on, I did take him to see “PG-13” movies before he was  thirteen, but he also knew he was allowed since I was accompanying him.  Kyle is all about the details.  Perhaps, one day, I’ll tell our movie experience with Avatar in the theater.

Together, we’ve seen so many movies thus far, I couldn’t even begin to count.  Some were in the theater, and some at the drive-in.  My sister also adopted this form of entertainment, especially on “Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun.”  It’s a fun way to spend time together, as long as the picture of choice is age appropriate.

As a kid, I too loved the movies.  However, back then, it was more a luxury item, than a rainy day staple.  The Latrobe movie theater, the very one we take Kyle to, is the same one I went as a kid.  Back then there were other movie theaters at Gee Bees, Greengate Mall, and at Westmoreland mall, but we rarely went up the highway.  Times have changed, but the love of movies has always remained!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Good Intentions

The minute you become conscious that you are doing good, that’s the minute you have to stop because from then on it’s wrong.  ~Paula Fox

Kyle-hugging-Avery-12-24-14-Aunt-Heather

Kyle loving his Aunt Nikki’s dog, Avery. 12/24/14

As usual, we made it through another Christmas and New Years without any major issues.  It was a bit warm for my tastes, I would’ve preferred a white Christmas, but it was a blessed time all the same.  (I am loving the snow now!)

Kyle had another successful Christmas.  This year’s theme?  Warmachine.  (Warmachine Tournament, Painting Warmachine)  He received new figures and played a mean game with his Aunt Nikki.  Most of Christmas consisted of him gluing, and admiring the new additions to his army.  I can’t tell you, how many times he asked me to get him Loctite Super Glue, to keep his assembly line moving.  Kyle recieved a few unconventional gifts from me, one being a red laptop messenger bag, the latest Wimpy Kid book (I know he’s too old, but he has the whole collection so I thought, Why not?) and Percy Jackson The Blood of Olympus (I found out upon Kyle unwrapping the book, that he already read it in the school library.  Kudos to the school for supplying kids with current reading material.)  We also managed to go to the movies to watch, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.  Great times!

Sometimes, I believe Kyle is aware of how fortunate he is, yet I’m not always so sure.  I do remind him, and bring it to his attention about those less fortunate in the world.  Does it sink in?  It has been my experience, that children do indeed get it and hear what is said or preached to them, but never let on.  So, I guess the next question is, does he care?  I believe Kyle’s participation with his youth group, and the community service they partake in, is a step in the right direction.  Of course, these actions mean nothing unless it’s done from the heart.  Who am I to say it’s not?

I worry about Kyle and his character and the man he will become.  Sometimes, I worry so much, I don’t realize I can set by example, which in my opinion is the best way to teach.  I’ve always tried to demonstrate being a good person, at least to the best of my ability, even though I fall short.  I’m not a perfect person, so when I mess up, I take responsibility, and try and make things right.  I don’t hide my mistakes, I explain to Kyle why I was wrong, and how to fix it.  I’m always encouraging him to continue to be a good person and make decisions with good intentions, no matter what happens in life.

What brought this up?  On Tuesday, this past week, I was at my sister’s in the D.C. Metro Area.  We had to get up early, to go to the hospital for her to have outpatient knee surgery.  Nothing major, just a simple routine to address her torn meniscus.

On a side note, it was a simple procedure.  However, to my sister, she had MAJOR surgery and she acted as such.  I bet her blood pressure was through the roof!  After surgery, the doctor said he placed a band-aid on the entrance wound.  Later this week, Nicole would defend her actions by saying, “Heather!  I had major surgery!” and I would correct her by saying, “You have a band-aid on your knee!”  Typical us.

Kyle-and-Avery-12-24-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle posing with Avery, his Aunt Nikki’s dog. 12/24/14

We woke early morning, allowing enough time to make it through the fresh snow and traffic.  I would like to clarify, the Pittsburgh area is pretty good about clearing the roads, especially when they have warning of a snow front coming through.  However, in Virginia, they must have a shortage of salt trucks.  No joke.  We were on major Interstates, and the roads were completely covered.  During our travels to and fro, we spotted one truck.  One!  I was flabbergasted!

Anyway, as we moved along, getting ready to make a left hand turn, there was a car in front of us not moving at the green light.  Then, we saw the vehicle’s four-way lights begin to flash.  Nicole, simply went around the car, and we were on our way.

Just then, it dawned me, when did we, referring to every human being, abandon our concern for others in roadside distress?  I was not faulting my sister, or anyone else, because we’ve all done it.  We assume the other motorist has a cell phone and has someone to call for help, or roadside assistance.  When in reality, that might not be the case.  Perhaps we’ve become callous to these instances because of our assumptions with our own electronic devices?  Or we simply don’t care?

I believe people are innately good, and I believe they are genuinely concerned for his or her fellow neighbor.  It has always been my experience, ever since I started driving, that people have helped me, or offered to do so, for one reason or another.  Always! Playing Chicken with a Drunk Driver.  So why don’t I now?

Believe it or not, when I’m driving I do.  However, if I have Kyle with me, I tend not to, for fear of trouble seeking me out with my little man present.  Regardless, I try to have good intentions, behind everything I do, even though it might seem like I don’t care.  I believe the same goes for a majority of the population.

Perhaps we can all make a change for the better, in the new year!  Even among all the hostage and terrorists situations taking place in Paris now.  God Speed!

Happy New Year!  2015!

 

 

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

Christmas Equals Childlike

I think you should be a child for as long as you can. I have been successful for 74 years being able to do that.  ~Bob Newhart

Aunt-Nikki-&-Santa-1970s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Nicole & santa, late 1970s.

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine, who’s kids are now grown adults.  Let’s keep it into perspective, they’re only in their twenties.  We were laughing at how, especially boys, are sometimes grown and yet, they are still kids.  He called them man boys.  That about sums it up.  It’s those moments when they act like little adults and impress the heck out of you, but then turn around and make the stupidest or most immature decisions.

Example time.  The other week when we put up the Christmas tree at my parent’s house, Kyle was a huge help!  The Christmas Tree  He basically took the reins and screwed in the base of the tree by himself, and did it right and swiftly, without being asked.  It saved dad from laying on the hardwood floor and contorting his old out-of-shape body from doing it.  Dad and I were a bit astounded.  Literally, dad just stood there and asked if he needed help.  Nope.  None was needed.  Kyle even gave me direction on how to move the tree around to assist him and have it set correctly and sturdy.  Excellent job!

While we were adding the lights, I was jumping from couch to stool to recliner and back again.  On one of my trips, I caught the edge of the recliner, which caused it to tilt, into the tree, with me on it, out of balance.  During this seemingly slow motion event, Kyle instinctively reached for me, but threw himself on the recliner to counter the weight.  Eventually, I came crashing down on the edge of the recliner and into Kyle.  First, we both looked at each other in shock, and then I said, “Did you try saving the tree over me?”  Kyle snickered and said, “Well, it looked like the entire chair was going into the tree and I didn’t want it to fall over.”  Well played buddy!

Now for the mind of a kid.  After decorating, Kyle was going on a tangent about getting toys to build and play with.  Granted, he is thirteen and his interests now include Warmachine as well as his videos games.  However, he was getting excited like he was two years old again!  A few weeks before that, he comprised a list of what he really wanted and called my sister to review the items, just like he always has since before he was able to read and write. (Either mom or myself would write up the list as per his dictations)

Ryan-at-Gram-&-Paps-1984-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan at gram & pap’s. As far as I can remember, they always had a fake tree, which I never liked. 1984

This one is mind blowing!  Within the last few months, Nicole hurt her knee.  When Kyle found out that my sister was out of commission and was having a difficult time getting around, he exclaimed “What?  Well, can Aunt Nikki send my presents home for Christmas?”  That was his big concern.  Not for her, but for his gifts.  He also called her to remind her to order his presents so they will arrive in time for Christmas.  He is too much!

Recently, Kyle found out that his Aunt Nikki has to work a half day on Christmas Eve Day.  We always celebrate Christmas the day before, a tradition that has always been since I can remember.  That way Christmas Day is not so rushed and can be more relaxed.  Well, once Kyle got word of his Aunt Nikki’s schedule, he freaked!  “Can we still open presents throughout the day before she gets here?” he asked.

You see, ever since Kyle was a little tyke we set up Christmas Eve Day in that fashion so Kyle would enjoy each of his gifts, and more importantly so he wouldn’t explode while staring at the pile of wrapped packages under the tree.

It goes like this, once Kyle gets up, which is usually around 5:00 am or 6:00 am, he gets to pick one present to open.  He always staked out the presents before hand and had a plan of attack walking into the day.  That kid always knew the shapes of the boxes and the sounds made upon rattling.  He would play, or put together, or whatever needed applied to the first gift, then by the time he was done with the first toy, it was time for him to pick the second, not necessarily every hour on the hour, but whenever it was all agreed upon.  This continued all day, even after church into the evening.  It was a great way to spread out the fun of Christmas and allowed Kyle to enjoy and play with each gift, not that all of them were toys.  Nope, not with his Aunt Heather on the case bearing the unconventional gifts.

Anyway, Kyle was still holding this pre-arranged plan to heart for this Christmas Eve Day.  He was also walking around talking about the items he was going to put together.  I know he’s getting some Warmachine figurines that are little models to be glued and painted, but no one was getting him Legos or such.  What is going on in that mind of his?  He really wants to build something!

Another quick story.  About a week ago, I was picking Kyle up off of the bus.  I knew I was cutting it close, either the bus dropped him off or was on its way.  I called Kyle to inform him that I was waiting for him in the driveway.  He updated me that he was in the house.  Great!  In my mind, perfect timing.  Well, I was told differently.

Chad-&-Pap-1973-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Pap playing with Chad at gram & pap’s house. I have no idea who is sitting by pap with the barrel of the rifle pointed up. I bet that’s Chad’s rifle from pap! 1973

Kyle was not happy with my early arrival, questioning me why I was so early.  I simply responded that I was and I told him to get his stuff together so we can leave.  His response?  “Well, can you wait I wanted to play this video game for a little bit.”  Seriously?  Are you kidding me?  My response?  “So you want me to sit in the driveway (in the cold) and wait for you to play a video game, that you play during the week?”  Kyle’s response?  Crickets.  Then he said, “Well, ya, I really wanted to play this game and you weren’t suppose to be here till later.”  Kyle’s tone was whiny and mine was getting angry.  “Kyle!  Are you suicidal?  I can’t believe you actually expected me to sit in the car and wait for you to play a VIDEO game!  Let alone ask me!  Who do you think you are talking to?”  More crickets.  Then he proceeds to inform me,  he still needs to get his stuff together, like that put me in my place, until I responded.  “You’re not even ready?  And yet you planned on playing a video game first?  NO!  You have five minutes!”

Needless to say, Kyle made it in time, not very happy with me, but almost realizing the mistake he made, almost.  Yes, I did give him a good talking to.

I was telling another good friend of mine about this man boy phenomenon, while on the way to the gym.  Her one nephew is going through the same stage, although he is a few years younger than Kyle.  Her nephew is claiming to be nearly a teenager, (he’s only ten or eleven) and that he can watch “R” rated movies and he’s practically an adult.  Yet, his actions scream child.

Sometimes I wonder if my brother was the same way, for I truly don’t remember or never paid attention.  Ryan was always mature with his work ethic and drive.  He could always work on cars, like adults, but sometimes would construct the strangest contraptions, the imagination of a kid.  Who Does Kyle Favor More, His Dad?

I guess I should just face facts, Kyle is in deed a Piper, through and through.  Maturity is secondary to us and sometimes never achieved.  I love Kyle’s enthusiasm for Christmas, even though it’s about his gifts.  Regardless, Kyle always did say “Christmas lights make the whole world beautiful.”  Lighting Up the Holiday I also know Kyle does know the true meaning of Christmas, even though he doesn’t let on.

Kids do make Christmas!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,LEGO's,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Hunting: Our Pennsylvania Adventures

One day might be different from another, but there ain’t much difference when they’re put together.  ~William H. Armstrong

Hunting-in-New-York-double-rainbow-11-2014-Aunt-Heather-Piper

While hunting in New York with dad, I couldn’t help but capture the view from my seat. Perhaps Ryan was joining us? 11/2014

It’s official, hunting  season for deer with a rifle in Pennsylvania is over, at least for the year.  No, hunting is not done, archery and muzzle loader for deer come back after Christmas.  After then starts small game season and spring gobbler, but the big hunting event of the year, the one that only lasts for two weeks, has come to an end.  Was it a good year?  You bet it was, in more ways than one!  God blessed us with a good harvest and great family time in nature.

Besides hunting in New York Hunting: Our New York Adventure, dad, Kyle and myself had fun and were able to harvest several deer for canning and some meat for the freezer, to be consumed for dinner in the near future.  Even though Kyle and I didn’t get a single deer in Pennsylvania, dad filled his doe tags and added to our stockpile of meat.

The best part of hunting?  Yep, hanging with dad and Kyle and getting out in nature!  I must admit, I missed Kyle being with us in New York, but he made up for it on the first day of buck, which was Monday, December 1st, plus this past Saturday and the one prior.  It’s always an adventure with the Piper family, double when Kyle is involved!

There are so many funnies, I seriously can’t remember them all, but here are a few for the records.

Something that started in New York, but I forgot to mention it, was dad and his smarties.  My dad LOVES those small pellets of sugar that come in clear plastic packaging.  If those aren’t available then he settles for sweet tarts.  This year, he kept stocking up on the rolls of Wonka Sweet Tarts.

Wonka-Sweet-tart-roll-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Dad loves his Wonka Sweet Tarts! He claims they bring in the big deer during hunting season… too funny!

While in New York, I was sitting in our tree stand with dad watching out for deer.  All of a sudden I heard the subtle tearing of paper?  I turned my heard toward dad to see him carefully tearing his candy roll as to not drop a single sweet tart.  After he popped in a colorful disc, he leaned into to me with a serious face and said, “These will help bring in the big deer.”  I started cracking up!  During the day when things got slow, dad would pull out his sweet tarts and reiterate, “The deer like these, they’ll come now.”  Very unlike dad in the woods, joking around, but it was funny!  I mean we weren’t dancing around, but those comments cracked me up, not to mention, my dad, a big lumberjack type of guy, tearing at his Wonka candy with precision was hilarious!

Now back to Pennsylvania.  By now, dad was fully addicted to his Wonka Sweet Tarts.  That Wednesday, after the first day of buck, dad and I sat together in the woods.  We never did see anything, but it wasn’t due to a lack of sweet tarts.  Dad did the same thing, unrolled his paper to release a colorful disc when there was no signs of deer.  I even joined him, popping a few colorful candies to pass the time.  At one point, dad almost knocked me off my chair, he nodded at me to look in his direction.  Just then, dad unzipped his vest and pulled the fabric back to expose his top shirt pocket.  There were two more rolls of those darn sweet tarts sticking out of his pocket!  He showed me his candy with a straight face, like a gangster was showing his pistol.  I actually laughed-out-loud!  Dad and that candy was totally silly!  After that, the Wonka candy became part of our checklist before entering the woods: rifle, check; shells, check; deer tags, check; candy, check.  Kyle got a kick out of me telling him about his pap and the new “deer lure”.

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Down the hill from our hunting location in Indiana, Pennsylvania. 12/2014

I can make anything into an adventure, even by myself.  On Saturday, December 6th, the first day of doe, I made my way down to my spot, marked with orange ribbons, placed by dad a week prior to hunting season.  The same spot I sat for the first day of buck.  It was a soggy Saturday, raining ALL night into the next morning and continuing ALL day.  I chose my tree and pulled out my portable seat.  It was the kind that folds up, like a directors chair, only smaller.  I placed it in position and pushed it firmly into the saturated muddy ground.  The chair was strategically placed in front of a fallen log, so if I needed to shoot off of it, I could.  Great!  I was facing a couple deer paths and ready to go, or so I thought.  As I sat my bottom down on my portable stool with a metal frame and a fabric seat, I began sinking and sinking and sinking.  Initially, I thought the gravitational pull would cease, and the ground wouldn’t swallow me up whole, and that I would be secured momentarily.  Wrong!  I continued to sink until I was laying flat on my back with my rifle laying over my chest.  What?  It seriously all happened in slow motion and I was completely dumbfounded.

After a moment or two passed, and the shock of me spread out on the floor of the woods became clear in my mind, I jumped up to examine the scene.  The fabric on the chair ripped, sending the metal sides to flatten out, since there was no fabric to hold them together, allowing me to meet the ground.  Standing in the rain looking down at my flattened seat, I just laughed and laughed, almost thankful no one was around.  Although, I wouldn’t have minded someone joining me in the humor of the situation.

So what did I do?  I folded the seat back up, almost meeting the metal framework together, and forcefully ramming the legs of the stool into the muddy ground till it was secured.  Simply, I sat on the metal frame projected from the ground.  Not comfortable, yet not entirely uncomfortable.  I didn’t care, after all it was already less than favorable hunting conditions with constant rain, which never let up.

Naturally, that’s the one day I got to see something, and I missed at the doe.  As I was trying to see the deer in my fogged up scope with rain falling down my face, a big rain drop hit my scope with a pitch perfect “tinking” sound that seemed to echo for miles around.  Before the echos could travel far, the doe was getting ready to run and “hightail” it out of there, not that I blame her.  All the deer in the area were already spooked, so I quickly took a shot… and missed!  She didn’t stick around for me to reload and took off down the hill into the brush.  It happened very quickly, with low visibility on my part.  Dang!  It happens.

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Near the lake, down the hill from our hunting spot. I couldn’t resist checking it out while pushing deer for dad. 12/2014

Another funny… the same day, I was wearing a camouflaged rain coat with a thin bright orange vest and an orange baseball cap.  I know, what a sight!  Dad had on similar clothing to try and keep as dry as possible.  Kyle on the other hand, was dressed in a bright orange poncho, as to not be mistaken in the foggy rainy woods for something other than a pre-teen.  After all, no one would get close enough to hear him whine, or munch on food and determine the mystery figure was indeed Kyle.  Dad kept calling him the Ninja Turtle.  That’s comical!  The whole ride back and the week until this past weekend, Kyle was referred to as the Ninja Turtle.  Sometimes dad comes up with good ones!

By 1:00 pm, we were all ready to call it a day.  Even with our ponchos on, we were soaked to the bone and cold.  The temperature was just warm enough to bring rain, yet cold enough to chill the body.  We left without a deer, but I had some excitement.

This past Saturday, the last day of hunting season, I did see a few deer, but was not able to get a shot.  One deer only showed the top of its ears and tail, too much brush to find the body, let along shoot through that mess.  It does make it exciting, to see anything, even if a shot isn’t taken.

During the day I called dad to check in on him and Kyle, they were at a nearby location in a ladder stand.  As I was talking, in low tones, dad responded, “I can’t really hear you, someone is chomping on trail mix in my ear.”  Obviously referring to Kyle.  I could tell, they both had enough.  It was pretty cold and I bet the wind off of the lake, hit them hard in their stand.

Eventually, Kyle convinced dad he was too cold to hunt anymore.  This time it was about 1:30 pm.  Only Kyle can work his pap over to leave the woods early on the last day of hunting, without dad getting his buck.

On the ride back, dad and Kyle told me what they saw in the woods.  Deer right?  Nope.  They saw a small hawk swoop down from the sky and grab a hold of a bluejay passing by.  Both birds dropped to the ground and were wrestling.  Kyle said the bluejay was screaming and squawking, but the hawk had a good grip on its victim.  Dad said, “I thought that bluejay was a gonner.”  It must have been an exciting sight, for Kyle and dad were consumed with the intensity of the situation while telling the story.  Then, Kyle gleefully piped up saying, “Ya, and then all of a sudden the bluejay flew away and the hawk sat above us, watching us”.  Dad added, “I don’t know how it got away, but the hawk wasn’t much bigger than the bluejay.”  Kyle was nodding in agreement and repeated, “That hawk sat above us and watched us.”  I started laughing and added, “Boy he had a big appetite, maybe he was eying YOU up Kyle.”  Kyle just grinned as he reiterated the story with added details and gusto.

While pulling into mom and dad’s driveway what did we see?  Not a buck, but a few does in my Uncle Walter’s field. I called out my finding to dad, who was driving.  Before the words were fully out of my mouth, the truck stopped immediately, dad jumped out, loaded his rifle and scanned for deer.  Kyle and I were still sitting in the truck.  Kyle looked at me with wide eyes saying, “Wow!  I’ve never seen pappy move that fast!  I didn’t know he could load his gun that fast!”  I just smiled for I’ve seen that swiftness many times before.  Kyle was amazed.

At the position dad was standing he couldn’t see the deer.  I took that as my cue to comment to Kyle, “What does pappy need us to draw him a map?”  Eventually dad saw his target, lined up his sights, took aim and shot the doe, about a hundred yards away!  Great shot in the front shoulder, but that didn’t bring it down right away, unbeknownst to us at the time.

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Another view down the hill from our hunting location in Indiana, Pennsylvania. While pushing deer for dad, I traveled closer to the water for a better look… not that I thought I’d find deer walking on water… 12/2014

Seeing more does, Kyle and I grabbed our rifles creeped around the small patch of woods in the field hoping to get a shot at our very own doe.  What we found, surprised us both.

Dad’s deer popped up in the field, nearly twenty feet away from us, and ran across the field.  She scared us both!  Kyle was quick to pull up his rifle to shoot and drop the injured doe, however I stopped him.  Why?  He was standing at least a few feet behind me to the side.  I completely trust my little man, and he is a good shot, but I don’t want him to get in that habit, it’s not safe.  In all the excitement, I did explain my reasoning for stopping him.  He understood, but was focused on the area the doe eventually dropped in.  Kyle moved down the hill like lightening, by now dad was on his quad fast approaching us.  Kyle moved in the direction of the injured deer and shot.  Unfortunately, he shot her in the body, through the guts, when I told him to shoot her in the head to put her out of her misery, quickly.  Kyle told me, “I saw her head in my scope.”  Well, that’s not where you shot, but that’s ok buddy, good practice with free hand.

While all three of us came up on the deer, dad and I noticed she was still kind of alive.  Yikes!  I told Kyle, who had his rifle out and ready to fire, to shoot her in the head.  He looked at me and told me to do the deed.  I could tell he felt bad for the doe and couldn’t do it.  Me, on the other hand, I will absolutely shoot any animal in the head to avoid suffering.  I borrowed Kyle’s .243 and brought the brave animal to peace.  It was an exciting end to a pretty boring day.  Dad and Kyle saw nothing for the duration of the last day, until we came home.

Personally, I’m very happy to know Kyle is fully aware where the meat we consume comes from, and he is capable of survival.  I am also very happy to see he has such a tender heart and didn’t like to see the deer suffer.  He knows he can always count on me and his pap to help him out.  He trusted us to do the right thing and fix the situation.

Overall, it was a great harvest!  Now it’s time to put away the rifles until target shooting in the summer.

On a side note, while butchering the doe dad shot, Kyle responded, “It’s a good thing I got cold and came back early, huh pap?”  He felt bad for wanting to leave early and was trying to justify his actions.  Little does Kyle know, my dad would NEVER have that kid sit there with cold feet, even on the last day of hunting.  Kyle is worth more to us than any doe or buck!

Another note, while butchering the deer, Kyle busted into Christmas songs playing on the radio.  He is such a great guy!  I love hanging out with him!

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

Headless Horseman … Favorite Halloween Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pittsburgh Has the “Ugliest” Accent?

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

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

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

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

We have Heinz ketchup!  Say no more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Down the Garden

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

Dad Uncle Sonny as kids Aunt Heather Piper

Uncle Sonny & dad as kids. c. 1950s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn’s Sights, Sounds & Smells

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

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

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

Sights/Touch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds

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

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

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

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

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

Smells/Tastes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt

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

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

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

Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

 

VOTE

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

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

 

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

Read about other scavenger hunt blog posts

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

 

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

Signs of Growing Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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