What’s For Dinner?

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


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:


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.)


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

Who Am I?

Before I begin, I’d like to preface this blog with a few details, not to steer you in one direction or another, or prematurely give away the subject matter.  Typically, the focus of this blog is referred to in the feminine form, and it’s been portrayed as a villain in comics and movies.  Now let’s begin.

I can be found in North America and Asia but I’m not fond of the desert or arid areas, or ones of high altitude.  I’m all in favor of higher carbon dioxide levels and over the years my population has increased, doubling since the 1960’s.

I really have no boundaries.  Sometimes I can be found in the suburbs in your backyards or rural and remote areas.  I’m subtle in my appearance, no flashy colors to signify my potential wrath.  In fact, I blend in quite nicely in my surroundings and I can change colors, again to blend into my background, disguising me even more.

I don’t discriminate, my reach can effect the old and young, male or female.  All are equal in my eyes.

Normally, when playing such a game, the guesser, gets to ask if it’s a person, place, or thing.
Hint:  It’s a thing.  I hope that doesn’t spoil the fun too much.  Moving on.

I’m somewhat shade tolerant but prefer the sunlight.  I’m recognized more when I choose the company of trees, as opposed to my other forms.  I’m smooth and shiny on the surface with a woody stem, void of any thorns or indicators of what I can do.

Hint:  Yes, I am a plant!

Unbeknownst to some, I don’t have a defensive mechanism.  What is assumed as me fighting back, is really a means to help me retain water.  I don’t intentionally try to be mean, it’s simply nature.

Besides some insects, birds, deer and bear, who eat my seeds and berries, I’m very unwelcome.  Although there is a rare, and very lucky fifteen to thirty percent of the human population who doesn’t have an issue with me, nor I them.  However, that can change over time, as one ages or changes environments.

Any ideas?

I leave my invisible presence, urushiol, on everything I come in contact with and it can remain for several years, reintroducing my legacy, even in the winter.

Now one of the biggest clues …

I’m recognized by my leaves of three.  I have a couple names, one being oxicodendron radicans, but I’m commonly know by another.  And despite my widely used name, I’m not a hedera.

I think those clues are substantial enough for an educated guess.  And those who have come in contact with this subject matter might have a few more choice words for this plant.

Who am I?

Yes, poison ivy!  With my recent run-ins with this silent irritant, I’m trying to make light of it.  Although, with every exposure, my allergic reaction is getting worse.  This time, I have blisters on top of blisters, on top of blisters, between my fingers, down to the webbing.  My hands are so swollen and irritated, it’s hard to bend my fingers.  I have Mickey Mouse hands!  Naturally, that’s not the only place the reaction has appeared, although I can handle it on my arms, neck, legs and stomach, even in my belly button!  A small amount made its appearance on my left eye and eyebrow, nose, ears, and upper lip.  I can even handle the skin irritation behind my knees, but my hands actually hurt from the pressure and every time I bump my hand against a corner, pain.

Where did I get it?  No clue, at least not this time.  My first run-in with my nemeses of the season was basically intentional.  I knew fully well of my actions.  You see, I wanted to plant an asparagus garden at my parent’s house.  The best plot of land was among a group of locus trees, covered in … poison ivy.  Dad killed most of the poison ivy on the trees, but to be sure, I wanted to get this plant at its heart, or more accurately it roots.

Protecting myself in clothing from head to toe, I ripped up the poison ivy from the roots.  Yes, I made sure to prewash in cold water and shower in cold water, with harsh soap, and I scrubbed my skin till it was raw.  I washed my cloths several times.  I even began taking a liquid poison ivy to build my immune system.  You name it, I took precaution.  Did I get it?  Of course, but not terribly bad.  Manageable.

This time, I have no clue of my encounter with the poison ivy.  To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t been around the nasty plant.  I haven’t even been in my asparagus garden!  It seems like all I simply need to be, is within feet from the silent creeper to find its affects a few days later.

Hopefully, this cycle will not continue all summer long.  But I guess there’s worse things in life, and I’ve yet to go into anaphylaxis.  Although I just got word that we are in deed getting honey bees.  My cousin Pete is getting a hive ready.  Did I mention I’m allergic to yellow jackets?  I guess I’ll find out if it’s the same with honey bees.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts 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 (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


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 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!


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

Fishing Derby Pride

There is no secret to success except hard work and getting something indefinable which we call ‘the breaks’.  ~Countee Cullen

Thanks to everyone for making this event happen, especially Cindy and Dave Planinsek!  I know it’s a lot of work, but one worth it.  Like everyone else, my family looks forward to the Fishing Derby every year!


26th Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby! 5/9/15

This past weekend was the twenty-sixth Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby.  As always it was great time, and we were blessed with perfect weather!  No rain, no snow, simply a lot of sun, blue skies, white fluffy clouds, good conversation and the fish were biting, giving the kids and adults another memorable experience.

Similar to last year, Kyle didn’t want to camp out from Friday night to Saturday.  I offered with all sincerity, but he had no desire to rough it.  Instead, we stopped up at the pavilion Friday night to hang out, eat, socialize, eat and eat.  That’s one constant that I participated in on Friday and continued throughout the day on Saturday, eating!  Friday night, Kyle basically disappeared, for he was running around playing with all the kids.  I love seeing him have good old-fashioned fun of playing tag, exploring and climbing on the swing set and slides.  I too enjoyed myself, catching up with those I run into maybe once a year, and touching base with others I see more frequently.


Kyle made the leader board with his 19.25″ trout at the Fishing Derby. Not the winner of the day, but started it off right! First time making the leader board! Way to go buddy! 5/9/15

The next morning, as tradition dictates, breakfast was served at 7:00 am, or there about.  Unlike years past, Kyle didn’t want to get up early, my little man must have been running hard and needed his beauty rest.  Once he cracked his eyelids enough to let the light in, we packed the car with his fishing gear, and he was ready to join the festivities.

After the announcements were made, rules outlined, prayer said and the bugle called, all fishing lines were cast.  Who started off the leader board?  You guessed it, Kyle!  I was thrilled for him!  In all the years we’ve been coming, he’s never once made the leader board, let alone be the first kid to catch a fish.  He was so excited, he was jumping around more than the trout in the net.  I know he was even happier his Gigi and Pappy (and possibly me) was there to witness his victory, and yet disappointed his Aunt Nikki was on the road, not there yet.  His trout measured nineteen and a quarter inches.  That’s a big fish!

Did he take home the trophy for the largest trout?  Nope.  He was twice kicked out of the top spot with Jacob Singer taking home the gold with a twenty-three and a quarter inch trout.  Congrats buddy!  Was Kyle upset?  No, he really wasn’t.  In years past I could’ve seen him devastated over the loss, but he’s maturing and was truly happy for Jacob.  Now that’s sportsmanship and that made me proud.  However, that wasn’t the proudest moment of the day.  It was what happened before the fishing derby that touched me.

As tradition dictates, about a week or so before the fishing derby, everyone, mostly the Planinsek family, gets together to clean up the pavilion, split firewood, lay gravel or mulch or whatever is needed and stock the pond with fish.  Believe it or not, it might seem like a laborious day, but it’s a fun one with everyone working together.  I wasn’t able to help this year, but Kyle did, all day!  So back to my initial thought.  What made me so proud of Kyle?  His work ethic!


Me & Kyle at the Fishing Derby after his big catch of the day. 5/9/15

Between Friday night and all day Saturday during the derby, at least a dozen people independently came up to me with complete sincerity, and informed me of how hard Kyle worked that Saturday, in preparation for the Fishing Derby.  It wasn’t simply a blanketed statement either.  I was told when one task was completed, Kyle would ask what else needed done.  According to eye witness accounts, he worked really hard and afterwords played hard with the kids.  Now that made me very proud!  I guess Kyle is a true Piper, even though he hides it when asked to do work around the house!  I’ll take it though, Kyle being well-behaved and hard working with others, yep those are qualities worth mentioning.  That’s my not-so-little man of thirteen years.  And you know what?  He never said anything, but I know he too was proud of his efforts he put into the Fishing Derby and the bond that was forged from such hard work.  I wish more kids would have such opportunities to feel a sense of accomplishment and teamwork with such a great family.

A special thanks to my cousin Casey Olczak and Boo Planinsek.  They offered to clean Kyle’s trout for him.  I was going to, but they were on a roll, so who am I to stop them?  They also gave us a few extra unclaimed fish for Sunday breakfast.

See you next year!


Casey & Owen at the Fishing Derby. 5/9/15

On a side note, Kyle made it very clear this year that he doesn’t like his picture being taken.  Can you tell, I cared?  (sarcasm)  However, Kyle barely got his fish out of the pond before he was reaching for his phone to get a picture of his trout!  I guess, we are a lot alike, whether he’ll admit it or not.


Planinsek Fishing Derby breakfast. Fueling up for the fishing adventure! 5/9/15


Kyle made the Fishing Derby Leader Board with his 19.25″ trout! 5/9/15


Kyle at the Planinsek Fishing Derby. Mom, Dad and Roger Parks watch our young participants. 5/9/15

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

Alert! A Turkey Escaped!

I have failed at many things, but I have never been afraid.  ~Nadine Gordimer


Kyle & Aunt Nikki on the Ducky Tour of Washington D.C. 6/2010

Lately, our turkeys have become the topic of conversation.  Rightfully so.  It’s not every day someone decides to purchase peeps, build a substantial turkey coop, and raise their very own Thanksgiving meal.  Well, the Piper household took on the challenge.

How are the turkeys?  They’re doing great!  They love their new home, at least that’s what I thought, but perhaps one bird wasn’t so happy.  On Sunday, Kyle checked in on our feathery friends.  I watched him from a distance feed and water the mid-sized creatures.  It happened so quickly, it took my mind a minute to comprehend.  Somehow a turkey got past Kyle and made a break for it.  Considering there’s a single door leading in and exciting the turkey coop, how did a bird get past Kyle who happened to be in the doorway?  Watching the scene with my own two eyes, I still have no clue.  Only Kyle!

So it went something like this.  A bird darted out the front door, even though it was more like a stroll, but I’ll give Kyle the benefit of the doubt since I wasn’t in the coop at the time of the incidence, and I didn’t see if the bird actually sprinted or walked.  Kyle turned around to hear us announce a bird got loose.  The feathery animal trotted around the turkey coop, not running, not flying, not hiding, but simply strutted.

I’ll give Kyle credit, the first thing he did was close the door and lock it, so our now free range turkey wouldn’t get any visitors or spark a riot.  But what Kyle did next just amazed me.  He took a couple of steps toward the wondering bird, stopped, turned around and moved in the opposite direction.  Why?  He wanted to put his gloves on.  Why?  I have no clue, it’s not like the turkey was made of barbed wire or anything.  It’s not even a fully grown turkey!


Scooby & Seven running around my Uncle Walter’s field. 2013

Okay, now that Kyle’s hands were protected from the killer animal covered in white soft fluffy features, my thinking was that he could scoop up the bird and return him to his home, right?  Nope!  Kyle swiftly walked up behind the strutting bird, bent down in a motion to pick it up, then threw up his hands and stopped dead in his tracks.  Was there a force field protecting the bird?  Did God just speak to Kyle?  I was sitting about a hundred yards from the live action, on the swing on my parent’s deck wondering what just happened.  I couldn’t believe it!  Kyle could have very simply captured the turkey and put this to rest, but he didn’t!  He wouldn’t touch it, even with gloves on!  I was stunned!  Well, after that close encounter, the bird took off running realizing the danger in the form of a thirteen year old boy.  Now the chase was on.

After coming to terms with reality and realizing the type of turkey wrangler, or lack there of, I was dealing with, I got off my butt to do the job myself.  I get it, accidents happen, but geez all it took was Kyle to wrap his glove covered hands around the small creature, picked it up, and walked it four or five feet to the doorstep and push it back in.  No major weight lifting required, no rabbit animal, and no special tools or skills needed.  Now we had a scared bird on the loose that was trying to fly and hide.

The turkey coop sits at the edge of the woods, perfect camouflage.  By the time I ran up the hill, that’s exactly where the turkey was headed.  Perhaps he wanted to be like his ancestors and run wild and free among the trees, or he did indeed have an escape plan.  Well, to add another challenge to the scenario, our beloved and not so obedient dogs tagged along by my side.   Seven and Avery listened pretty well, but not Scooby!  He nipped at the flying features and drove the bird deeper into the woods, ending up in a serious pile of jagged brush.  What now?

Keep in mind, Kyle was wearing jeans, a tee shirt and flip flops.  I on the other hand was wearing shorts, a tee shirt, flip flops and my body (mostly my upper legs, forearms and little bits of my back and stomach) was covered in poison ivy.  Not exactly attire appropriate for trucking through the woods in a hostile environment.  Regardless, I knew I was willing to risk bodily injury to bring the bird home.  Well, that was my thinking for that brief moment.


Kyle & Avery watching TV … cuddling. 4/2015

I tramped down my obstacles and moved my way closer to the escapee.  Although, the turkey also kept moving forward, just out of arms reach.  Finally, I trapped the bird deeper in the huge pile of brush, which was seriously entangled with pointy projectiles.  Thinking I outsmarted the turkey, I recovered a long branch to nudge it along.  The plan?  To poke the bird and keep it moving in one direction, toward Kyle and my mom who were waiting on the opposite side out in the open.  Keep in mind, my mom was armed with a long handled fishing net, also wearing flip flops.  Seriously?  Oh, YES!  What a sight!

Did it work?  NO!  The bird laid down and remained so, even with me poking at its side.  Stubborn bird!  I did what I could until my poison ivy was ripped open so much that my legs and arms felt like they were on fire.  I even asked Kyle to put on a pair of boots and come and get the bird.  He refused!  After realizing dad was sitting on the swing, not helping in any way, I gave up.  I was the only one really doing anything and I was the one cut up and bleeding.

What next?  I told Kyle to get the bird as I walked away from the action.  What did my dad have to say?  He yelled at me!  Really?  Oh YES!  He accused me of not doing anything and letting the bird get away.  Seriously?  YES!  I was beyond mad.  I was the only one doing anything.  Before the argument heated up to match the ripped open poison ivy and scratches all over my legs,  I left the scene.  What did Kyle do?  He also retreated and sat and played video games on his phone.  Not cool.  That’s a problem.  He was the cause of this situation.  Granted, it was truly an accident, but it alarmed me to see that he so very easily dismissed it, and now it became someone else’s problem.  I’m going to have to work with him on that.

Well, the bird worked its way deeper into the brush until we couldn’t see it anymore.  We waited around for it to make its appearance, but alas it remained transfixed.

Thinking the bird wouldn’t survive the night, and it would become a turkey dinner for the local coyotes or another wild creature, I accepted its fate.  Now, fast forward to this past Tuesday, two days later.  We got a call in the middle of the day from the neighbor.  They had our turkey!  Are you kidding me?  Nope!  Apparently, the bird wondered across the street, survived the local dogs and our dogs, and all wildlife to make it into their hands.  That’s impressive!

I’m happy to say the turkey was returned safe and sound, and will be until Thanksgiving.  What an adventure!

Does Kyle know?  I texted him.  His response?  Nothing.  He probably forgot all about it, or dismissed it as it wasn’t his problem, even though I know he felt bad about the escapee.  I guess there are worse things in life.  But I did make a note to give Kyle a lesson on picking up a turkey, naturally in a controlled environment, to get a feel for it and to not be afraid.

P.S. It’s ironic I used to call Kyle my turkey and sometimes turkey jerky.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets 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.


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.


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 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.


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 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

Paint Nite Fun!

Art, art of any kind, shows that folks are trying.  ~Walter Kirn


Me & Lisa at Paint Nite in Pittsburgh (Allison Park) at Rocky’s. Great time! Lisa’s painting has so much depth! I love it! 4/10/15

My friend Lisa Zettelmayer, yes the same Lisa from Happy 50th Anniversary, had a great idea to get together for a Paint Nite!  For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of experiencing or even hearing of such an event, they’re seriously so much fun!  I can’t believe that was two weeks ago already!  I’ve been so busy.  With what you may ask?  You’ll find out in the next few blog posts.  In the meantime, I’d like to talk about Paint Nite.

Our event was held at Rocky’s on Route 8 in Allison Park in Pittsburgh.  What exactly is Paint Nite?  Simple, it’s an event whereas you purchase a ticket to paint a specific painting.  Yes, before signing up for the gig, the coordinating artist, along with the painting of choice is listed for review before committing.  These activities are held in multiple locations periodically throughout the year.  Do you have to be an artist?  Absolutely not!  That’s what makes it so much fun.  You get to hang out with friends, kick back a few brews, and listen to Ben, who happened to be our artist extraordinaire two Fridays ago.  His job?  In addition to setting up the brushes, our paints, supplying our aprons, and the canvases, yes they were very nice canvases stretched over wooden frames measuring about nineteen inches wide by sixteen inches height, he also instructed us with the steps to painting our very own masterpiece.  Ben was in essence playing Bob Ross.  He gave step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish the finished piece.  Naturally, when reviewing all the paintings in the room, about forty individuals, everyone maintained the same general theme but with their own artistic touch.  Is this fine art?  No, not in my opinion, just a neat way to introduce the arts and some culture into the lives of everyday people, while getting out and socializing and trying something new.  Personally, I loved it!


Paint Nite at Rocky’s in Pittsburgh (Allison Park) with Lisa Zettelmayer… she’s smiling in the background. I just started my painting. 4/10/15

Not only has it been a while since I’ve seen Lisa, and it’s nice to catch up, but it was also a pleasure to meet her friends.  However, what I really enjoyed was holding a paintbrush again and being around art.  You know, my art history professor Maureen Vissat, who was an excellent teacher and a wonderful person, once told our class, “Unless you’re involved in the arts, there will be a time when you miss it.”  Paraphrasing her of course, I realize just how true that statement is!  I do miss being around art, and participating in it.  Granted, I do graphic design on the side, but it’s not the same.  I actually long for the interaction between artists and the inspiration floating in the air.  There’s nothing like it.

While we were painting, I had a feeling of déjà vu.  I knew exactly what it was.  It was being among artists, lined up in front of easels, focusing on a single piece, from way back to my days at Seton Hill University, when I had drawing class with Phil Rostek.  Only our subjects consisted of  nudes, or some sort of masterpiece projected on the wall, or a fun center display.  I used a lot, and I mean a lot of charcoal and conte crayon in that class.  Seriously, I looked like I was mining the coal mines every time I left class.  I sported charcoal on my face, cloths, ears, hair, under my nails, neck, you get the idea.


Paint Nite with Lisa (in the background) at Rocky’s in Pittsburgh (Allison Park). My painting is about halfway done. 4/10/15

What I miss the most is getting my hands dirty in clay and sculpting pottery on the wheel.  Pottery was always a passion of mine, and I do miss that the most.  (After spending a few hours in the clay studio, I wore more of the clay than what was used in all my pieces combined!)

I don’t consider myself an artist, even though I love art, art history, I have a Fine Art Degree, which gave me the opportunity to have a gallery show My Senior Art Exhibit at Seton Hill University – ARTsylum, and admittedly, I do have an artist eye.  Perhaps, if I participated in developing art for the sake of art, then I might be able to classify myself in that manner, maybe.

Prior to the event we met at the Tuscan Inn, a few minutes away, for dinner and wine.  It was truly an enjoyable dinner with a great group of gals, delicious food, and fun conversation.  Maybe too much fun, for we were laughing and bringing the place to life.


Another progression of my painting from Paint Nite in Pittsburgh, Pa (Allison Park) at Rocky’s. 4/10/15

This trendy paint party, has become a big thing.  I’ve heard of them before, I’ve just never participated.  And you know what?  I’m ready to do it again.  Once I posted my painting to Facebook, a few of my cousins commented that they wanted to join me the next time I go.  That sounds like a plan!  I was told the Latrobe Art Center has them occasionally and the participants are permitted to bring his/her own alcohol, if desired.  I’m in!  Hopefully, I can get a ticket from Groupon, like I did this one.

Now, my next step is to create my Thrill of the Hunt scavenger hunt Events as such a hot topic!  One day, my scavenger  hunts will be the thing to do all over the nation, at least I hope so.  I love adventure!



After a hard night of painting, socializing & having a few brews… this is the result. Paint Nite in Pittsburgh, Pa (Allison Park) 4/10/15

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels 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 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.


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

Don’t Judge, Everyone Has Scars – Part 2

The past beats inside me like a second heart.  ~John Banville


Ryan & his beloved pap sitting on Pap’s porch on the ridge. Pap only had one prosthetic leg at this point. (left) c. 1979

Previously, I talked about not judging a situation and forgiving those that do.  Everyone Has Scars, Don’t Judge Part 1  Again, easier said than done.  I know.  What’s really upsetting though, or even worse in my opinion, are those that believe they don’t judge or judge others for judging.  Yikes!  Come on.  No one’s perfect.  NO ONE!  I do try to avoid such actions in general, but it’s something I need to work on too, for I’m not perfect.  It’s an ugly human behavior that needs to be addressed to be avoided and corrected.

I don’t mean to bring a heavy topic on such a beautiful Thursday, although slightly chilly, but perhaps this will get everyone thinking differently this weekend and change behaviors for the better.  In fact, I was so inspired by a friend of mine who commented on my previous post that I wanted to share it.

“Instead of judging, wouldn’t it be nice if people offered up a smile?  Or to help in little ways?”

YES!  Excellent ideas!  Since we’re in the lenten season, a time of penance and reflectance, I think this might be a step in the right direction to being a better person.  I know me personally, I will try to offer up more smiles and lend assistance when needed!  I LOVE THESE IDEAS!

Now time for an example.  Not too long ago, we ran into my third grade teacher at Saint Vincent Church, for Sunday mass.  Kyle had the privilege of meeting one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had!  (Kyle’s met her on a number of occasions but alas he was just a little tyke.)  One that I still respect and appreciate to this day.  (I’ll keep her name anonymous in case she’s not comfortable being on my blog.  I never asked permission.)  Unfortunately, when I reminisce on that part of my life, third grade, I can’t help but remember what happened to Ryan that very year.

The day started before school, early morning.  Ryan was in first grade, Nicole in fifth and I in third, at Sacred Heart School.  I believe it was spring, with the school year coming to an end, hence the reasoning for our hyperactive morning.  We were running around simply being silly.  I believe the situation initiated with Ryan or Nicole locking me out the front door, or threatening to do so.  Why?  Why not.  We were kids enjoying a bit of energy release before heading to school on a pleasant morning.

Ultimately, I had it in my head to retaliate and lock Ryan outside.  I clearly remember mom was on the phone trying to quiet us while she conversed, probably to another PTA mom.  Eventually, I succeeded in locking Ryan on the opposite side of the door as myself.  I was on the inside.  So what does a first grader do who was tricked and forced to the front porch by his older sister?  He knocks on the door with his fists, demanding reentry, of course.  Nicole, yelled at me, naturally taking Ryan’s side.  Please keep in mind, I realize I was not the initial instigator in this situation, but I certainly was guilty of continuing it.  

To add to the taunting, I stood directly in front of the door, which at the time had glass panels running from the top to the base.  Also note, this was an older door, with equally as old glass panes, each measuring about two feet wide by about eight inches height.  While taunting Ryan by waving through the small windows, he continued to pound on the bearer that separated us.  Just before I was actually going to unlock the door and run, it happened.  Something I didn’t anticipate or even considered.  Ryan pounded not on the solid wood door frame, but on a single flimsy glass panel with both hands.  In a single moment, I was faced with glass flying in my direction, and Ryan’s hands protruding through the door. 


Ryan & Nicole Christmas … look at Ryan’s bony legs! I have no idea what’s in Nicole’s hand, but mom’s on the couch behind Ryan. I must have taken the picture because Ryan & I got her something funny. c. 1990’s

Instinctively, Ryan withdrew his hands, at the same time I looked around making sense of the mess.  My only concern?  The idea of me getting in trouble for the broken window.  Glass was shattered all over the kitchen floor, and the once whole glass panel, was now a voided rectangle with jagged shards of sharp glass protruding from the edges inward.  No one, not even Ryan, had a clue to the extent of the situation.  Not even my sister, who didn’t waste any time yelling in my ear, in stead of evaluating the scene and offering assistance.

Was I injured by the flying glass?  Nope.  Perhaps a scratch on the leg, but nothing to keep me down. Ryan on the other hand was not doing well, except the adrenaline was keeping him from feeling pain.  Either when his hands went through the glass, or upon retracting them, probably both, his wrists scrapped the edges of the sharp shards, slicing them up.  Ouch!  Within minutes I saw blood dripping from the glass.  Eventually my eyes made their way to Ryan and his wrists, were the blood was flowing freely.

My mom, who was still on the phone, had no idea what just happened.  Leave it to my sister to get mom’s attention and in the same process tattle on me.  She reminds me of Kyle!  There was a lot of yelling going on, all from my sister and mom, Ryan and I remained quite.  After reality settled in, Ryan may have shed a few tears, but certainly no whaling.  I’m not sure who mom was talking to but I know they were met with a dead line, when mom realized what happened and simply hung up.

Time went from slow motion as the glass flew, to high speed ending in a lot of blood, in a matter of seconds, matching my heartbeat.  Mom ran straight for Ryan, who stood in shock.  She’s never been a fan of blood, not the ideal candidate to deal with this terrible accident.  To assist with the bleeding and probably to cover up the wounds, mom ran to the bathroom, grabbed a towel and wrapped both wrists in the terrycloth.  Ryan pressed both wrists together against the towel to control the bleeding.  Mom yelled again, yes mom yells when things are fine, but she has more of a knack for yelling, especially in stressful situations.  What did she say?  I have no idea.  Something along the lines that Nicole and I were to go to my cousin Karen’s house down the road.  Our normal routine was to walk to Karen’s and pick up my other cousins, and walk to school as a group.  We did so minus Ryan.

The rest of the day, was a blur.  I really felt bad for my brother, even telling my third grade teacher, yes the one I saw recently in church, about the entire morning.  She was so since and caring, in fact all the teachers heard about the accident by mid-day.  I know I shed a few tears for Ryan, especially as the day unfolded and we heard no word from mom.  Later that day, we either had an assembly in the cafeteria (which also housed our stage) or we were practicing for our spring musical, either way, everyone was gathered in the cafeteria when mom finally arrived with Ryan.  Finally!

He was sporting two wrists wrapped with stark white surgical tape.  I never thought about it at the time, but he did resemble someone who tried to slit his wrists.  The result?  Ryan had to go into immediate surgery to repair the nerve damage to his wrists.  They weren’t sure if he would regain complete feeling in that area again.  However, they seemed certain he would have functionality.  Seriously?  Yes!  All because a couple of kids were screwing around and it was a nice morning?  Unfortunately, yes.


Chad & Ryan hanging at Grams apartments. c. 1990’s

Eventually, Ryan healed up, sort of.  He was able to use his hands without incidence and hunting or fishing was never an issue.  Great!  However, his wrists told a different story.  For the remainder of his short life, his wrists were permanently decorated with laceration scars, and one wrist had no feeling at all.  How do I know?  Ryan would demonstrate the lack of nerve sensation under the scars by grabbing the skin and twisting it and turning it, without pain!  His nerves on the skin were damaged and never healed.

Over the years, as we got older, I heard some folks ask Ryan about the scars, wondering if he tried to commit suicide and slit his wrists.  Seriously?  YES!  Okay, I’ll admit, I can see that deduction, but totally wrong assumption.  Ryan was always goodhearted about the accusation.  He never got bad, in fact he would give a little chuckle before explaining.  It used to bother me a little, but since Ryan never really gave two figs about what others thought, I didn’t either.  As a well trained circus act, he would demonstrate the lack of nerves in those areas, and give a brief for them.  That always made me wonder, how many others thought Ryan tried slicing his wrists, but never said a word and just assumed.

I know very well no one can control the thoughts of anothers.  And I don’t know which is better, the curious (nosy) person who asks up front, or the one or never brings up his or her thoughts?  Regardless, there’s always at least two explanations for a situation, but the correct one it’s not always the most obvious.  Ryan and I both carried scars from that single morning, only Ryan’s were visible.

Read other entries:

Everyone Has Scars, Don’t Judge Part 1

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing 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


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.


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!


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

Don’t Judge, Everyone Has Scars – Part 1

Wounds turn into scars and scars make you tough.  ~Aisha Tyler


Kyle’s 5th Birthday, party at SeaBase in Greensburg. He had a blast! 7/2005

Everyone knows the old saying, “Don’t judge a book …”  Even though it’s true, sometimes it’s hard not to make our own assumptions.  I know me personally, I’ve been on the receiving end of judgement, and even though I’d like to think I’m not a judgmental person, I’m sure I’m equally as guilty.  I don’t hold grudges but sometimes stories need to be told to learn from them.

Like what?  When Kyle was a baby, even until present day, I’ve had strangers give me stares and accusatory looks, assuming I’m a single parent.  Yes!  All true, no exaggeration.  I noticed, but never gave it much thought, nor did I hold it against anyone.  Why waste energy worrying over something that didn’t matter?  Also, why dwell on the negative?  Not worth it at all.  In fact, I tried to look at my situation from the opposing point-of-view.

Let me give a single example and set the stage.  At the time, I was a young single gal, who looked even younger still, sporting a five month old baby in a papoose, walking around the mall like an unemployed mall rat.  The reality was, I was about twenty-five years old, working two jobs, in college finishing up my marketing degree, and taking care of my nephew because his dad, my brother, recently passed away about two months prior.  Reality verses assumption, big difference!

Once, this very inaccurate judgement happened while at SeaBase, in Greensburg.  SeaBase is a local indoor child’s play area, where the youngsters run around, play on climbing walls, jump among padded floors and walls, and take a swing at goofy golf, that sort thing.  We actually held Kyle’s fifth birthday there.  During this particular period in my life, I was working a lot, and consequently I was always completely exhausted.  Plus, I was back in college working on my fine art’s degree in graphic design.  Did I mention, I was also taking care of my wonderful nephew too?  On one particular day, I wanted to do something fun with Kyle, as my dad would say, “To get the stink blowed off him.” and let him get out and have fun.  Kyle was about two years old and needed to socialize, and do something different to break up his repetitive day.  Seabase.


Casey, Kyle’s godfather & me, Kyle’s godmother at his Baptism at Sacred Heart Church, the day prior we buried Ryan. 10/28/01

I remember the situation perfectly.  It was a rainy cold mid-day, during the week, hence why I chose an indoor activity.  There were no words to express just how drained I truly was, and the rhythm of the rainfall didn’t help my cause.  Why did I go?  I knew Kyle needed to get out, he really did.  He needed to stretch his legs and run around and burn off some energy, something of a luxury for him.  If I didn’t step up, then he would have missed out.  More importantly, I was long overdue to spend some quality time with my little man and give him my utmost attention.  You know, instead of hanging with him while multitasking.

While we were playing in a pit full of colorful plastic balls, I started to doze off.  Yikes!  I couldn’t help myself.  Not to mention, my appearance was a bit rough, looking like I just rolled out of bed.  Once I was able to pinch myself hard enough to keep my eyelids from drooping, something caught my eye and I saw things clearly.  Please note, this wasn’t that long after Ryan’s passing, which still felt like it just happened, much like it does presently.  So yes, I’m sure depression played a big roll for my lack of energy, and unconcern for my attire and overall physical appearance.  I didn’t care, my only concern was Kyle’s happiness.

What happened?  Well, first let ME pass judgement.  I was in close proximity to a few stay at home moms, who no doubt didn’t have to work and were able to get a good nights rest to really participate and enjoy their children.  Yeah, those women actually gave me glares.  Granted, they never did say a word to me, but it was evident in their caddy whispers and stares in my direction what they were saying.  Again, I’m sure I looked a lot younger than I was, and I know I appeared as unemployed, and I’m absolutely positive I seemed like a neglectful parent, trying to catch a few zzz’s in the plastic balls with a small child at my side graving for my attention.  Regardless, the situation wasn’t as it appeared.

Even though my scars were not visible, they were clearly there.  Did those unaware individuals bother me?  Not really, the only thing that aggravated me was my lack of energy for Kyle.  As long as Kyle never felt the passive aggressive judging demeanor of others, I never gave it a second thought until now.

Being on the receiving end of judgement, I can see how this type of unspoken treatment could effect someone, especially being in a delicate state like I was.  But again, I never let it get to me.  Also at the time, we were dealing with Kyle’s medical issues, alarmingly his ears (ear infections) and bouts of pneumonia, croup, sinus infections etc.  That’s the main reason I had to get Kyle out that very day.  Regardless of my own fatigue, Kyle wasn’t sick and I wanted him to take advantage of his health and share in his happiness.

I could go on, but I won’t, there’s no point.  Plus, I’m sure there were many more instances that I didn’t even catch.  I’d like to think someone saw me, and instead of making assumptions for my situation, they said a prayer for me instead, or more importantly for Kyle.

What made me think of this?  I passed SeaBase the other day and it just came to me.  I had a lot of great memories there, mostly when I was energized and could hang with Kyle.  However, it only takes one time, and that one in particular, I felt horrible for not giving Kyle my fullest energy potential and my undivided attention (actually any attention).

I know Kyle never remembered and if he did, he probably could care less, but I do.  I love my buddy!

So let that be a lesson, everyone is fighting their own battles, don’t judge.

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

Simply Silence

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~Mother Teresa


A view that no photo can capture… a perfect snowy night. 2/2015

Since it’s Friday, and my days have been filled with a lot of heavy, I wanted to step back and reflect.   Today, I awoke in the early morning hours to find another dusting of snow blanketing the world outside.  Gazing out the window, trying to wipe the sleep from my eyes, I was instantly warmed with nostalgic memories and a serene feeling.  All from watching the snow sit still among the darkness?  Absolutely!

It’s funny, just the other day, dad commented that he loved the late evenings, in the middle of winter, when everything is covered in snow and is at rest.  I’m paraphrasing for he probably said something along the lines of, “I always liked this.”  But I knew exactly what he meant.  He’s right, that time of day is the best!  Ever since I was a youngster, I’ve always held an affinity for those qualities to grace me with their presence.  That’s one of my favorites during hunting season, the dark hours, snow hiding all details of nature, and the silence that seems to accompany that exact moment.  I love it!

Last week, while I was trimming the blueberry bushes and the grape vines at mom and dad’s house, I let the dogs run around in the snow (mom and dad live in the country).  With the frigid days, our four-legged pals were suffering horribly from cabin fever, and I knew they needed to stretch their legs.  It was in the twenties, with little to no windchill, the sun was brightly shining overhead, and the yard had a healthy dose of snow.  All perfect conditions for playtime.

Well, naturally, I got involved in my work and unbeknownst to me, all three dogs made their escape, and decided to go on a walk about.  I never know if I should be insulted when they make plans without me, or happy because they’re getting exercise, but regardless, they made a break for it.  When the boys and Avery pull this stunt without adult supervision, there’s a 50/50 chance it will end well.  Although, on a good note, my cat, Storm, a.k.a. Lady Fluffington, had a blast running around the snow and climbing up on the grape arbor without the dogs chasing her around.  Luckily, we had the tracker on Avery, but it soon died and lost connection with our delinquents.


Love the silence of the night, covered in snow! 2/2015

Anyway, after some time, I layered up and headed out to follow their tracks before it got dark.  Just as I approached the middle of the woods, a few miles out, I received a call from dad saying the hounds were back.  What?  It was now getting really dark and I knew dad had the fireplace blazing for them, yet, here I was stuck hiking through snow, in the middle of nowhere, while everyone warmed up and relaxed!  Did I mention, there were a ton of coyote tracks all around me, and in the distance I saw a fresh deer hide ripped to shreds?  Kinda scary, only because I didn’t have my pistol and my phone was ready to die, but then again I really didn’t care.

To be honest, I didn’t mind being in the woods, or even being in the woods with darkness hot on my heels.  Actually, it was a relaxing point in time, a moment of not worrying, for the dogs were safe, Kyle was accounted for, and I didn’t need to be anywhere, or do anything at that particular juncture.  My mind wasn’t racing and I wasn’t in a hurry.  In fact, I was were I needed to be at that point in time.  It was hovering in a state of simple silence and peace.  When was the last time you felt that?  God took a potentially bad situation, and blessed me with the complete opposite.

Did I care it was now dark among the trees?  No, actually I didn’t.  When I was little, Ryan, our cousins, some of our friends and myself (Nicole would sometimes make her appearance), would run through the woods all night long, mostly during the summer months and sometimes on the weekends in autumn, especially during Halloween.  We’d either play war and corn each other, explore and go on adventures, or simply scare each other.  It was our childhood, and the woods were our playground.

While walking back, the only sounds I heard was the soft crunching of snow under my feet, and the slight wind blowing past me, rustling loose branches and causing the treetops to clap.  The moonlight reflected just enough light from the snow to guide my way.  Everyone once in a while, I’d stop to take it all in, all the benevolence of nature.  I’d like to think Ryan was walking with me, for he too loved the woods and winter time.

Always try to look on the good side of any situation, for God always reveals a gem of delight found in silence among the noise and chaos.  Happy Friday!


posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,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.


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.


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.


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

Fiber One Memories

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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





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

Communication! Keep Me Posted!

In the absence of information, everyone assumes the worst.  ~Robert McClelland


Peddling trip around Pittsburgh bars with the Acusis team. Bob McClelland, me & Penny Patch-Sobehart Pittsburgh, PA 7/18/14

A good friend of mine, Robert (Bob) McClelland who happens to be an outstanding leader, once said to me, “In the absence of information, everyone assumes the worst.”  You know he’s right!  He was referring to work and client projects, but it holds true with family, especially kids.

Typically, I’m an easy going person, except when it comes to Kyle.  Well, that’s not completely true, as long as he’s keeping me in the loop, and opening the lines of communication, then life is good.  I’m reasonable and understanding, to an extent, depending on the situation.  Typical for someone who truly cares for her little man.

This weekend, Kyle really frustrated me, to the point of total anger and caused me to hit a fifty on the old tension scale (reference to the movie The Burbs).  On the contrary to Kyle’s current belief, I’m not a fan of yelling or getting bent out of shape.  But when I’m intentionally blown off, and taken advantage of, without an ounce of respect and consideration, then my inner demon will surface.  It’s not pretty.  “Come on buddy, this could have been avoided!”

Saturday’s the perfect example.  I get it, Kyle’s thirteen and he’s pushing boundaries and wants to hang with is friends.  I’m totally fine with that, but be a little considerate of my plans and my time.  Friday night, Kyle was hanging with his friend, they went to the movies.  Great!  I’m happy for you, even though we still need to discuss his report card.  Regardless, sounds like fun.  Keep in mind, pulling this information from Kyle was a task in itself.  Okay, I’m still working with the kid.  Assuming Kyle wanted to hang with his friend Saturday morning, I didn’t bother him.  That is until mid-morning, and I still haven’t heard a peep from Kyle.  I texted him, trying not to be too pushy, but I wanted to know the plans of the day.  Kyle got back to me, and said he wasn’t sure of the plans.  Okay, I get it, two teenage boys, hanging around, probably playing videos games.  No worries.   I’ll wait.  I still haven’t talked to him, only via text.

Keep in mind, I didn’t make any plans or work on anything too consuming, expecting Kyle to do his usual, and call last minute expecting me to pick him up.  That’s Kyle’s standard process, which I don’t usually mind.  Now the day is fast approaching mid afternoon and still no word.  I want to know what’s going on!  After several calls and texted messages, no word, not a single peep.  At this point, I’m starting to get worried, what is going on?  Are two teenage boys home alone, left to their own devices?


Kyle’s band concert. I love him dressed up! That looks screams 13-year old! 12/2014

One hour turned into two, and then three, no word.  Finally, Kyle responded to me, via text message, informing me he’s no longer with his friend.  What?  I asked why he didn’t call.  He simply stated, “‘Cause I don’t know what’s going on yet?”  What does that mean?  He’s not a business man with a tight schedule.  He’s a kid, that’s suppose to be under my supervision.  He’s the one changing our routine.  I agree, giving him a little freedom, sure, but not all the freedom in the world to do whatever he desires.  Plus, he’s been keeping me hanging ALL day.  It’s basically a blizzard outside, and I didn’t know if he’s on the road or who he’s with.  I wasn’t happy!

I called Kyle, he wouldn’t answer, I texted him, no answer.  This was a few hours later, from the previous communication.  He texted me and said he was at dinner.  What?  With whom?  Who drove in that white out?  Where was he at?  I called him immediately knowing he had his phone in hand, no answer!  I texted him stating to call me asap and that I was getting mad.  No answer.

Now I’m boiling!  There’s no reason for any of that, none, very disrespectful and inconsiderate at the very least.  Kyle did eventually call me, making sure to set the stage, having all the company sit around listening to me yell at him, like he’s some martyr.  Of course, no on one the other end knows the games he played with me ALL day, and the stress and worrying I’ve been experiencing.

All Kyle had to do, was let me know he was going to dinner, and who he was with, and where he was dining, so I wouldn’t wait any longer and worry.  He needed to inform me of the plans.  Even if he didn’t know them, he should have called me to see what my plans were, or tell the other party that he needed to give me a heads up.  Something!  Anything!  Not ignoring me like I was a nuisance.  I was so mad!  When I asked Kyle again, trying to be flexible, what his plans were for the evening, he said, “I don’t know, maybe Jeff might come over.”  No that’s not a plan, that’s Kyle saying, “Leave me alone, I’m doing what I want.”  Nope!  I don’t think so.

Naturally, by this point, which was early evening, I’ve lost it.  My patience ran out the door and was now lost in the snow.  I was also sensing something was up because he was being so sneaky and secretive.  Yes, I yelled at Kyle, but he did bring it on himself.  He could have excused himself from the table to speak with me.  Instead, he welcomed a big old audience.  Let’s face it, I wasn’t shy about informing Kyle about his rudeness and inconsideration, and how I was worried.  Nope, I let it all out.  Hours, upon hours of all day waiting and concern, exited my mouth via cell phone.  Of course, Kyle clammed up and had no explanation for his actions.  He said maybe two words, again like he’s an innocent victim here.  I’m onto him!


The Planinsek Fishing Derby. Shooting the breeze & having a good time. Dad, Kyle & me. 5/10/14

What happened next?  After I yelled and told Kyle to be ready at 6:45 am, the next morning for Sunday mass, he begrudgingly agreed and sulked on the phone.  Before closing the line of communication for the night, I did tell him that I loved him.  He murmured it back to me without conviction.

Shortly after that, I get a phone call from my sister, yelling at me!  What?  First of all, she’s three hundred miles away, and she had the audacity to step in the middle, and give ME an earful, over a situation that she wasn’t even a part of, nor is she ever around?  Then, to take the word of a teenage boy, who was completely in the wrong, over my actions, without gathering all the facts?  Are you an A$# or what?  Apparently, Kyle called Nicole after we hung up.  I guess he finally learned how to make a call on his phone.  Basically, he tattled on me to my sister, and probably laid it on thick, like I was being unreasonable.  I can’t believe she fell for it!  Whatever!  I hung up.

We took Kyle to church on Sunday and things calmed down.  I warned him, the next time that happens, I will be in my car, tracking him down and then he would have an even bigger problem.  He snickered at me like I was joking, but we all know, I mean it.  He’s a good kid, and I plan on keeping it that way.  He did ruin by entire day, but Kyle’s safe and healthy, so I can’t be too mad, in the grand scheme of things.

Looking back on it now, I know Kyle was treating me like a parental figure, and that should bring a little comfort to me, but it’s still unacceptable.  If I wasn’t any sort of adult figure, I would’ve let him run wild without any explanation to his whereabouts.  Nope, I know he needs to seek independence, for I too did at that age, even though my dad held tight on the reins, but he also needs to be guided through his freedom and pulled back at times for his own safety and well-being.  I would do anything for that kid, and he knows it.  He also takes advantage of me, and tries to play us against each other.  That’s down right wrong, and it will stop now!


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

Laughing About Nothing … Hitchhiker

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


Kyle riding a motorcycle at Idlewild Park, Ligonier for the Gutchess picnic. 8/2004

Kyle always surprises me, especially with what he knows.  This time it’s what he didn’t that took me completely off guard.

Okay, I’ll set the stage.  Sunday night, I picked Kyle up from his youth group meeting and we proceeded to drive through Latrobe.  It was later, probably about 8:00 pm or so and definitely dark.  Why is this pertinent?  It is!  As we drove along, I barely noticed an older gentleman, who practically jumped into the street sticking his thumb in the air.  His white or silver hair  juxtaposed against his entirely black attire scared me.  I know smart right, head-to-toe in solid black, lurking in the shadows of the night, while practically playing chicken with moving vehicles.  I swerved into the left lane to miss him, before I stopped at our red light about ten yards away.  Yeah, I checked to make sure our doors were locked.  Check!

During this ordeal, Kyle was jarred a little from my fancy footwork behind the wheel, as well as me saying something like, “Whoa, buddy!” and “What the heck ?”  It really happened so fast.  While waiting for the light to turn green, I kind of reiterated the scene.  That’s when I found myself baffled and yet humored.

I made a comment about the hitchhiker and Kyle asked, “What’s a hitchhiker?”  What?  Yep, I’m totally serious!  He truly didn’t know what a hitchhiker was.  Then the conversation went something like this.

Me:  “He wants a ride somewhere, that’s why he’s hitchhiking or trying to, I almost hit him.”
Kyle:  “How do you know he was trying to hitchhike?”
Me:  Slightly sarcastic, “Because his thumb was in the air.”
Kyle:  “Does that mean he needs a ride?”
Me:  “Well, yeah.  You know, you’ve seen people walk along highways with their thumb sticking in the air, basically screaming, “Pick me up”, they’re hitchhiking.”
Kyle:  “I’ve never seen that before!”
Me:  “Really?  Well, that’s what he was doing.  Although, they’re usually not that aggressive.  He practically jumped up on the hood of my car.”

Let the silliness begin!  There’s always one moment with us that sends us over the edge to the land-of-no-return humor.  That was it.  Kyle looked at me with wide eyes, and a huge ornery grin.  So the ridiculous story unfolds!


Kyle driving his bumper car around at Idlewild Park, Ligonier for the Gutchess Picnic 8/2004

Yes, we started laughing.  I’ll take the blame for initiating this one when I said, “What would you do if he jumped on the hood of the car and held on?”  Kyle and I busted out laughing.  Then, I started to make noises like a car while I faked me driving erratically from side to side, to shake the imaginary hitchhiker from the hood of my car.  Instantly, Kyle joined in adding to the sound effects and mimicking my motions.  He said, “Can you image Aunt Heather?  That would be so funny!”

Now, I’m taking it a step farther by adding, “Want me to pull over and have him ride in your lap?  What would you do?”  I was trying to get a rise out of Kyle, however he turned the tables on me with his wit.

It took Kyle merely a moment to concoct his own scenario,  “No Aunt Heather, we’d put him in the backseat.”  Laughing trying to properly express his thoughts to me, he adds, “With all three dogs!  And I’m in the front seat.”  Yeah, that made uncontrollable roars of laughter erupt straight from my gut.  Kyle really painted the picture when he described the scene.  “Can you imagine?  Our boys would be walking all over him and he wouldn’t have any room to sit.”  Kyle’s now really humoring himself, as well as me.  He even added my cat, Storm, a.k.a. Lady Fluffington, to the story.

Playing off of Kyle’s new direction, I declare, “Scooby would be in his face growling and the guy would be too afraid to move.”  I motioned with my hand toward my face, where Scooby’s face would be in relation to our fake hitchhiker.   “Avery would just sit there and drool all over him, and Seven would pay no attention and tramp him down as he pranced back and forth on the seat.”  That’s our dogs, exactly!  Kyle found this story hilarious.  He buckled over laughing.  Actually, we both did.

Now, the crème de la crème, I blurted out, “No!  We pull over, with you sitting in the front seat, and all three dogs in the back.  I open the hatch and tell him that’s his seat.”  We died!  “He might say, “No thanks, I’ll wait for the next ride.”  I love that moment of pure hilarity, whereas you can’t event catch your breath.  In fact, not a sound could be heard.  You know it’s gut stretching!

South Carolina Fort Jackson Summer 1969 Bootcamp Terry, Dad, Charlie Ferry-Pap-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Fort Jackson Bootcamp, South Carolina – Terry, Dad, Charlie Ferry, Pap. Summer 1969

Yes, all this excitement was going on while I was driving, but at least I got Kyle off of his video games to engage with me, even if it was imaginary.  We re-played that entire situation for the duration of the ride, changing things here and there and laughing at each new discovery.

I did explain that hitchhiking was more commonplace in his Gigi’s day.  I explained it to him, as I was told, especially with war veterans who came home and didn’t have a vehicle, so they hitchhiked.  I continued to explain that back in that day, most families only had one car, and sometimes not even that, and sometimes they needed a ride.  I also told him, since the olden days, it’s became less acceptable and now dangerous.  “So don’t ever pick up a hitchhiker or hitchhike yourself!”  Even though he didn’t appear to be listening, I know he was.

I’ve said it before, Kyle is the coolest!  I love being around him and under his thirteen-year old attitude, and general sluggishness brought on by poor eating and mind sucking video games, he has a strong personality and is really very funny.  His sense of humor still reminds me of his Aunt Nikki, very Saturday Night Live “esk”.  Nothing wrong with that!

Catch all the ridiculously funny stories!

Laughing About Nothing
Laughing About Nothing … True Story

Laughing About Nothing … Cats!
Laughing About Nothing … Truck Horn!
Laughing About Nothing … Dog in Space!
Laughing About Nothing … Our Dog vs. A Robber

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Observation & Imagination,Pets,Travels,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


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


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.


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.


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!


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, 1950


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
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