Archive for the 'Random Fun Facts' Category

Stink Bugs Do Have A Natural Enemy!

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.  ~John Muir

Stink bug close up Aunt Heather PiperI’m no expert on stink bugs, but I’m certainly no stranger to them either.  The weather in western Pennsylvania has been fluctuating lately, from snowy cold days, which is normal for January, to sunny abnormally warm days reaching the 60s.  Sometimes this temperature range happens within 24-hours.

Besides unfavorable road conditions, the up and down weather is tricking the stink bugs into an early spring.  The warmth draws them out to make their appearance in droves.

Annoyed with these stinkers, literally, I was curious about them, since I don’t remember the critters from my childhood.  Evidently, the stink bug were accidentally introduced into Pennsylvania, Allentown to be exact, in the mid-1990s.  They’re native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Presently, the stink bug can be found in most states and are now posing a real problem with the fruit and vegetable farms.  The stink bugs feed on these plants as well as weeds and tree leaves.  Okay, now we’ve gone from annoying to a true issue.  Stink bugs don’t scare me as per say, but the thought of their ultimate damage doesn’t settle well with me.

Now some fun facts.  Stink bugs can lay 20 to 30 eggs, leading to developed adults within 35 to 45 days, in optimal conditions.  In the lifespan of a female stink bug, she can lay four hundred eggs.  That explains a lot.

From what I’ve read, these pests are impervious to insecticides.  Although, I’m not a fan of toxic remedies, especially when pesticides are harming the bee population.  I’m also not a fan of distributing the ecological structure of an area to deal with a single pest.  Sure, there’s more natural solutions such as soapy water, however, I don’t think that’s a reasonable solution for large farms.  What to do with the stink bugs?  I guess that’s the ultimate question.

Stinks bugs in mason jar Aunt Heather PiperI read an article on the consideration of introducing a parasitoid wasp, which is a primary predator to the stink bug, to solve the problem.  NO!  That’s not a solution.  That’s a recipe for an even bigger problem.  Instead, I have an idea.

Chickens!  Really?  Yes.  Since you can’t squash, frighten or even disturb a stink bug without it secreting its foul-smelling order, which seriously turns my stomach, I started collecting them.  Well, not in the collectible coin fashion, but rather for a food supply for my feathery friends.

Idiotic solution?  No more than using toxic chemicals and infesting the area with wasps.

Sure, stink bugs have always been a nuisance, but when they started flying into me while I slept, disrupting my sleep and freaking me out when I felt them walk across my skin, I had enough.  Using basic common sense,  I began capturing the smelly buzzing bugs in a pint size mason jar with a lid.  Originally, I started trapping them with the intent to kill the bugs behind glass doors, so to speak.  However, I realized they served a better purpose.  The chickens LOVE the stink bugs.

They do!  The chickens are now accustomed to the jar and flock toward the little protein crunchies.  It almost makes me want to find more stink bugs to deliver.

I’ve never read about chickens as a solution to stink bugs, but why not?  Now’s the time to get creative, through natural means.  Perhaps find safe traps for the stink bugs and deliver the tasty meal to some farm animal.   There could be other stink bug predators that are native to each area to use.  I don’t know if chickens could be the ultimate solution for farmers, but it might be a nice try.  This would also ensure we no longer have an egg shortage like we did a couple years ago.  Now that’s solving two problems at once, productive.

Anyone have a better solution?

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Kyle’s Christmas Scavenger Hunt

It’s true that adventures are good for people even when they are very young. Adventures can get in a person’s blood even if he doesn’t remember having them.  ~Eva Ibbotson

Scavenger-Hunt-Clue-for-a-Teen-Thrill-of-the-Hunt

This year, I had grandiose plans for Kyle’s Christmas gift, but alas they fell through.  So I found myself scrambling for his gift.  Keep in mind, I was up against time constraints and a 15-year old who has way too much in terms of stuff.  I was at a loss for last minute Christmas gift ideas.  Reluctantly, I turned to the ever popular and safe bet, gift cards.  Yes, I buckled.  However, my gift cards were strategic.  I got him iTunes (which I found out he has Google play, so money took that place), a movie card, since he likes to frequent the movies with his friends, and a Seven Springs snowboarding gift card, something we haven’t done in the last couple of years, but something we’ve always done together.

Instead of simply handing the kid the gift cards, because where’s the fun in that, I got creative.  I wanted Kyle to work for his gifts, plus have a little adventure and fun.  I made Kyle a custom scavenger hunt.  Why not?  I make them all the time for Thrill of the Hunt, and I’ve yet to do one for Kyle.

The idea rocked!  At least from my perspective, and from the enthusiasm and smiles that radiated from Kyle’s face, I’d say my assumption was correct.

There’s so many different ways to create a scavenger hunt.  This one, I added a lot of items that mean something, heirloom furniture, inside jokes, Kyle’s dog and so on.  Truth be told, I had a blast creating the scavenger hunt, and I had an even better time watching Kyle go through it.

I started off making Kyle a Christmas card that was placed under the tree.  I knew he thought he was getting money or gift cards, he was correct, but not that easily.  The front of the card gave Kyle an overview of what was happening, that he had to follow the clues exactly, how many clues were given, and how many gifts:

Get ready for a Christmas adventure of fun & prizes
Follow 10 clues to find your gifts of all sizes
But be warned, follow the instructions to a T
Hints are few, your Christmas gift rewards are 3

Let’s get started.  Good luck Buddy!

On the inside of the card, I gave Kyle his first clue, which had multiple steps.

Clue#1

Venture out to see the ladies
Also stop by House of Hades
Collect the clues at each spot  
They’re hints for your next trot

The first part “ladies” is a joke in our household referring to our chickens in the chicken coop.  The second part “House of Hades” referred to the 4th book from Rick Riordan, Heroes of Olympus series.  Kyle was a big fan of the books.  Each location contained a clue, the chickens housed the clue – Bowl, and the book contained the other clue – Punch.

You got it.  Kyle had to look in our punch bowl, which was brought back from my parents when they lived in Germany while my Dad was in the service.  Our family tradition is to bring out the punch bowl every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Over the years, Kyle has taken over the punch making responsibilities.

Clue number three was a blast, literally.  Dad just got me a new .12 gauge shotgun.  I figured I’d work it into the equation.  Plus, it’s been a while since Kyle shot a gun and I thought he might have a little fun blowing apart a milk jug.

Clue #3

Your next clue points to a gift
Remember backyard safety -be swift  
Any shotgun holds the key
Shoot the jug to set it free

In the backyard, I had a plastic milk jug filled with water and a clue floating inside (wrapped in a sandwich bag).  Kyle went straight toward the gun safe, pulled out my .12 gauge shotgun and shot at the jug, a few times for fun.  Once he was satisfied that the jug was pulverized sufficiently, he pulled out the clue Behind the guitar!  Not only did this location contain another clue, a rebus which was a little harder to solve, but he also received an iTunes gift card. 

Behind-the-Guitar-Clue-Teen-Scavenger-Hunt-Thrill-of-the-Hunt

The answer to the rubus was a bit tricky, but I couldn’t make it too easy on my guy.

The answer was, Aunt Heather’s Gravy Boat.  I made the gravy boat out of clay when I was in high school.  Since that time the gravy boat, like the punch bowl has made its appearance at the holidays.  The gravy boat housed a black light.  I wrote messages and some clues in invisible ink along the way.  Kyle loved that!  It added another element of excitement and adventure to the scavenger hunt.

Clue-4-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Scavenger-Hunt-1

Throughout the scavenger hunt, I included a Christmas ornament Kyle got my Dad in 2013, which held another clue hanging in the Christmas tree.  I included Kyle’s guitar, our punch bowl (mentioned above), a few books, a chess table built by my Grandpap Chester (a family heirloom piece, and Kyle and I like to play chess) and naturally Scooby, Kyle’s dog, who carried a clue around his neck.

Here’s the clue I placed around Scooby.  I didn’t place it on the dog until Kyle was close to the clue, for fear Kyle would jump ahead or worse, the dog would scratch it off.

 

Clue #5

Take a selfie with me Kyle!

Take me for a walk, let’s stop at the apple tree
Let’s take Seven, we’ll both run & be free

Kyle and I used to take the dogs (Seven is my dog) for walks all the time, and every Easter was spent in the orchard in the backyard collecting Easter eggs.  Kyle has also helped plant many of those trees on the property.  Not only was this location significant, but I also wanted to test Kyle’s tree knowledge.  He found it no problem.  Of course, I heard him ask my Dad which tree was the apple.  I had no problem with Kyle phoning a friend, so to speak.

In Kyle’s room, I hung one of my old snowboards as a shelf, and recently I added another snowboard to the wall.  Kyle and I have been snowboarding together since he was 4-years old, except for the last couple of years.

Clue #7

Under the Lamar, under the Ride
Another gift is found on the backside
For you & a friend to crush the slopes
You might have to show your friend the ropes

The one snowboard was a Lamar and my old snowboard was a Ride.  I got Kyle a gift card to Seven Springs for him and a friend.  I told Kyle I’d take him up alone so he could get his feet back on before going up with a friend, and I’d be tagging along.  Of course, I plan on riding the slopes, but I doubt I’d be welcomed with the young duo.

During the entire scavenger hunt, I had Kyle complete easy and difficult clues and challenges.   He even allowed me to shoot video clips of his excursion.  That really made my Christmas Eve day!  I’m sure Kyle won’t remember the gift cards or when he used them, but I’ll bet he’ll remember the scavenger hunt for ever.

Here’s my video montage of Kyle’s Christmas Scavenger Hunt adventure.

Great job Kyle!  I hope you enjoyed it.

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

Arnold Palmer was Already a Legend

Success in this game depends less on strength of body than strength of mind and character.  ~Arnold Palmer

The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.  ~Arnold Palmer

September 10, 1929 – September 25, 2016

arnold-palmer-logo-aunt-heather-piperLatrobe lost one of our legends, golf great, Arnold Palmer.  He passed away yesterday due to heart complications at the ripe old age of 87.

arnold-palmer-painting-aunt-heather-piperBeing a Latrobean, I grew up around the legend of Arnold Palmer.  I was even honored by witnessing the man behind that legend in passing at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, and driving passing his house to find him retrieving his mail.  Not to mention, everyone knows at least one person with an Arnold Palmer story, always a benevolent encounter.  I’m not saying we were BFFs, I mean he didn’t know me, but when you’re from the same close-knit area like Latrobe, you’re automatically friends by default.

The news was blowing up all day today with stories, memories and past images of “The King”.  Rightfully so, he earned the kind words and the fame that accompanied him.  He definitely brought pride to Latrobe.  Whether you were a golfer or not, he was respected and a household name.

Why was Arnold Palmer so famous, not just locally, but around the world?  I mean, besides having a drink named after him.  Seriously?  You bet the Arnold Palmer, consisting of half ice-tea and half lemonade.  In addition, he won numerous events in golf, dating back to 1955, on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.  What really made him a household name came from being the first superstar of the sport’s television age.  A man after my own heart, a true marketer.

arnold-palmer-drink-aunt-heather-piperMr. Palmer knew how to market himself and take his talent, along with his charm and good looks, to reach the masses.  Unlike a lot of superstars today, he wasn’t a troublemaker or a bad boy.  Nope, he was a positive role model and he was very appreciative of his own success, coming from humble beginnings.  His dad was a green-keeper at the local club where he took an interest in golfing.

Mr. Palmer even served our country in the United States Coast Guard.  That alone speaks volumes about him and his character.

I was not alive during the height of Arnold Palmer’s career, nor am I a golfer, but according to Wikipedia:

Palmer’s most prolific years were 1960–1963, when he won 29 PGA Tour events, including five major tournament victories, in four seasons. In 1960, he won the Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of the year and Sports Illustrated magazine’s “Sportsman of the Year” award. He built up a wide fan base, often referred to as “Arnie’s Army”, and in 1967 he became the first man to reach one million dollars in career earnings on the PGA Tour. By the late 1960s Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player had both acquired clear ascendancy in their rivalry, but Palmer won a PGA Tour event every year from 1955 to 1971 inclusive, and in 1971 he enjoyed a revival, winning four events.

Granted these are just some of his accomplishments, which continued throughout his entire life.

After hearing the news of The King’s passing, my heart sank a little.  He really was a staple in our community.  The next thought that came to mind?  We’re going to be bombarded with celebrities.  I remember when Arnold’s first wife, Winnie passed away.  The biggest news was George H.W. Bush was spotted in K-Mart purchasing a belt for the funeral.

Arnold Palmer wasn’t a man in everyone’s face, riding the edge of controversy and reality television, but he was friend to many far and wide, high and low.  In my opinion, that made him a true legend.

While I don’t have the fame, nor the fortune of Arnold Palmer, I’m still very proud to announce Thrill of the Hunt is a Latrobe company, and I’m looking forward to the day when I join our prestigious line up local celebrities and keep the good name of Latrobe alive.

God Speed to all of Arnold Palmer’s friends and family.  Rest in peace.

10/3/16 – Recently, I heard a fun story about Arnold Palmer from my cousin John Olczak.  He said his dad, my Uncle Frank, my Grandpap Chester’s brother, and the other brothers caddied together with Arnold Palmer at the Latrobe Country Club when they were younger.  Apparently, they always had to keep track of Mr. Palmer because he would sneak way to hang out on the putting green and practice, instead of caddying.

It just goes to show Arnold Palmer was meant to be a golfer.  He had a natural talent that I’m guessing was driven by a true desire and a love to play the game.

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh… Continued

My life is like tofu—it’s what gets added that makes it interesting.  ~Angela Johnson

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Our Google Pittsburgh Tour. Kyle, Duncan, Barb & Me Bakery Square 7/27/16

Last Wednesday, I took Kyle and his friend on A Visit to Google Pittsburgh to tour the facility as a birthday surprise.  Now I want to share my surprises and the details of the Google offices!

Yes, I knew the office would be Googled up, and fun, and unique, but what I saw blew me away.  First, I didn’t realize the size of Google Pittsburgh.  They employ about 500, and are planning on doubling that with the expansion of the new building.  Perhaps I had it in my head this office was the same office they originally occupied near Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).   Not that I was ever there, but I knew it was smaller.  Things have changed.

Google Pittsburgh is located in Bakery Square in Pittsburgh at the old Nabisco plant.  The office consists of seven floors of sheer fun.  There are no other words to describe it.  In addition to all the branding, which Google does it right, and the attention to detail, they’ve really honored Pittsburgh with the themes and designs.  Each floor has a different theme.  While I don’t remember which floor was which, and I don’t remember everything I saw, I’d like to give a general overview.

Floors

Kyle at Google Pittsburgh Candy bowl 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle helping himself to the candy bowl at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

As I mentioned each floor has a different theme.  There are seven floors total.  When you arrive in the Google lobby, you’re on the seventh floor and once you pass a secure door, the awesomeness is reveled.

One floor pays homage to Nabisco.  Each room is named for one of their products.  They even have a huge original mixer on the floor they kept from the old plant.  It sits near the pool table and pinball machine.

Another floor is dedicated to Kennywood.  There’s an actual roller coaster car in the lobby facing down the stairwell, enough said!  While walking about, they’ve incorporated ramps and railings and Kennywood styled signs to give it the feel of being in Kennywood.  It worked for me!

Another floor is dedicated to the bridges of Pittsburgh, again naming the rooms for each bridge.  There are design elements everywhere representing our beloved bridges.

One floor has the parks and trails theme, with bamboo dividers, rough cut wood paneling and total nature theme.  I mean they even have a live tree stretching up through one of the stairwells that connects two floors interrupted by an occupied floor.  Me coming from a family of loggers and woodworkers, I fell in love with that idea instantly.  I’d love to have a live tree for Thrill of the Hunt one day.

One floor captures the essence of our tunnels with hallways resembling the archways of a tunnel, the textured walls of cement and even the lighting gives you the feel of the Fort Pitt Tunnel or the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.  As you’re walking through the hallway, you almost feel like the cityscape of Pittsburgh should appear before your eyes at the end.

I wish I could remember the other details of the themes and the floors, perhaps it’ll come back to me.  I was in complete aw during the entire tour.

“Cafeteria”

As I mentioned before with A Visit to Google Pittsburgh, the cafeteria is a huge beautiful space with snazzy chairs, booths, real plates and silverware, and food stations.  All complementary for all employees and visitors.  They have a quality chef on payroll with a full kitchen staff.  Google doesn’t take this job lightly.  I heard it’s no easy task becoming a chef for Google.

Google Pittsburgh Roller Coaster ride 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Duncan, Kyle, me & Barb in the roller coaster on the Kennywood floor at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

In the corner of the kitchen they grow select fresh vegetables and herbs, to be used by the kitchen or the employees can help themselves.  One the roof of one of the levels, they even have laying chickens and more herbs growing.  Yes, real chickens someone takes care of and picks the eggs.  All the fresh ingredients are used in making the grub.  Great idea!  In fact, every food item at each station is labeled with the ingredients.  They’re even color coded according to taste and nutritional value.  The goal is to feed the employees healthy food, without it appearing or sounding healthy.

They have stations for hot foods and cold.  The kitchen staff is even on hand during the lunch hours to mix up your personal salad or serve your hot meals.  You can help yourself to fresh fruits, vegetables, water infused with a variety of healthy organic ingredients, desserts or even simply peanut butter and jelly.  They’ve got it all!  And it’s all unlimited for zero dollars!

The area is spacious and clean and very inviting.

During the tour we walked past not one, but several smaller kitchens and coffee shops scattered throughout.  You’re never more than a few feet away from a kitchen stocked with a variety of drinks (healthy and not so much), snacks, cereals and so on.  The kitchen staff stocks those smaller kitchens and coffee shop style areas of the building every day.  The Google employees are seriously hooked up.

No employee ever has to worry about bringing their lunch or snacks.  Google is also ensuring its employees are eating a lot healthier, at least that’s the goal.  It’s a proven fact that individuals who eat healthier are more alert, think better, have more energy and in turn can give back to their job.  Plus, Google just removed a major stress out of the day, what to eat?

Upon entering the lobby into the front desk area, I did notice (how could anyone miss it) a huge candy bowl.  Again, it’s a help yourself area.  When we walked in, Kyle immediately helped himself to some candy.  I gave him an “are you kidding?” look stating, “Did you ask before you helped yourself?”  His response?  “No, it’s here for anyone to eat.”  Trying to ensure he always uses good manners, I said, “Still, you should always ask first and don’t assume.”

Google even holds cooking classes in their test kitchen area for the employees.  They sometimes bring in celebrity chefs.  Wow!

Details

Google Pittsburgh lobby with Kyle Duncan Barb 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle, Duncan & Barb in the lobby at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

During our tour, Andrew, our tour guide, pointed out little corners of the offices, and side conference rooms to be used by anyone who needs a change of pace from their desk, or to meet up with fellow co-workers to discuss work.  It seemed like at every turn there was a sitting area or a mini escape from the daily grind.

While walking past a cubical section of the floor, watching our Google workers hard at making our lives searchably easy, Andrew pointed out a large hammock / jungle gym structure hovering over a corner of the work space.  He took us up there.  It was literally a huge hammock, suspended a floor above for anyone to sit and relax, take a nap or stretch your legs.  It lead to another private corner with a massage chair.

Speaking of massages.  They have a massage therapist on staff as another perk.  Another great idea!

Keeping with the theme of relaxation and exercise, in yet another area, they have a room with walking treadmills overlooking Bakery Square.  The employees can plug in and work while putting on mileage.  Although, traveling through the offices will certainly give you extra steps on your pedometer.

They have a couple lecture halls to keep up with continued education and to introduce new visitors, staff members and such.  Since they have so many visitors, they have a room containing several washers and dryers for anyone to use, especially for those out of town guests.  They’ve thought of everything!  Google is certainly very considerate.

Google even has their own tech support.  Sure that would make sense since they have not only enough computers for each employee, plus.

A few additional perks include, a fully equipped gym, a music room to jam out at the end of a day, and naturally it’s a dog friendly office.

Stories

While on tour, after walking through a vault style door, we came to a hallway sporting an enlarged image covering the entire wall.  Andrew shared one of his Google experiences with us.  It was a distant shot of a building with railroad tracks in the foreground.  The building held special significance to Andrew.

Google Pittsburgh lobby sign 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

This starts our tour of Google Pittsbugh Bakery Square 7/27/16

One of his first visits to Google Pittsburgh, when the office was near CMU, he said he came to the front desk, who asked him what size t-shirt.  While the front desk chick had her back to Andrew, she placed the t-shirt over her shoulders and was messing with something in the corner.  He said she all of a sudden turned around pointing Nerf guns at him and said “This office isn’t safe.”

Apparently, a few times a day the trains passed and literally shook the entire building for three minutes.  In that time, no one can get any work done.  So instead of the disturbance being a hindrance, they took advantage of the downtime with Nerf wars.  I love it!  Andrew even said that as per Amazon, a person is only permitted to purchase so many of the same product, for fear of that person reselling the product.  His friend is forever banned for life from buying Nerf products on Amazon because of their daily recreation.

Andrew also told us that Google employees get credit for visiting other data centers and offices, when they swipe their badge.  What do they get?  Simply a virtual trophy or some sort.  I love how Google encourages its employees to go above and beyond, in a fun and productive way.  Now that’s a vision the company mastered.

Keep in mind this is all just in Google Pittsburgh.  Can you imagine the headquarters?  Which is now on my list to tour.  I thoroughly enjoyed by visit to Google Pittsburgh.  They have taken their success and done right by their employees and customers alike.  Great job Google!  I’d love to build a scavenger hunt in any Google office.

I can’t wait for Kyle’s next birthday.  It’s a big one, sixteen!

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posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Hello Mary Kay Andrews!

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.  ~C.G. Jung

Mary Kay Andrews Book Signing 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Mary Kay Andrews book signing for The Weekenders Great lady! Oakmont, PA 5/22/16

I love meeting authors.  Who doesn’t? (perhaps none readers, maybe?)  Especially ones I’ve followed and are very familiar with their work, not to down play meeting new and upcoming authors.  Nope, that’s a different kind of fun, the finding of a new book, a new author, especially one unheard of in the mainstream, and becoming one of their original fans and spreading the word on their new work.  On the other hand, meeting accomplished authors carries an intrigue and excitement with the encounter.  Plus, it tends to carry a celebrity status.  I’ve met a few authors, some mainstream and some nearly unheard of (not as many as I’d like), and they were all really amazing and down to earth people, just like my newest encounter.

Let’s talk Mary Kay Andrews.  She’s a New York Times Bestselling Author, of Hissy Fit, as well as other novels.  She’s also the author of one of my favorites, Summer Rental.  Currently, she’s on her book tour promoting her 24th novel, The Weekenders.

I was introduced to Mary Kay Andrews by a good friend of mine, Kelly Berger.  Yep, she was shopping and came across one of her books, and was instantly drawn to the idea of a story taking place at the beach.  Kelly’s a HUGE beach fan, especially the areas around Hilton Head, Cape Hatteras and the Outer Banks.  I don’t have to tell you, Kelly read Summer Rental and was an instant fan, purchasing all published pieces by Mary Kay Andrews.

Book Signing at MLB Mary Kay Andrews 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Mary Kay Andrews during a Q &A session at Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA  5/22/16

Since Kelly and I have always swooped books, and discussed authors and new releases, it was only a matter of time before Mary Kay Andrews would remain a staple on my bookshelf, too.  Kelly and I mostly have similar tastes when it comes to reading material, although her interest stops shy of fantasy.  Summer Rental happened to be a story fit for both of our personalities, and once I’m hooked on an author, I’m hooked.

I met Kathy Hogan Trocheck, a.k.a. Mary Kay Andrews this past Sunday, May 22 at the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont. (514 Allegheny River Blvd. Oakmont, PA 15139).  What a cute little bookstore!

The day started out rainy and kind of ugly, you know a typical Pittsburgh day, perfect for staying inside and getting acquainted with an accomplished author.  Since I had Kyle, I thought this was the perfect opportunity for him to meet an author too.  I didn’t think it mattered if he read her works or not.  At least that was my thinking.  Kyle had a different opinion.  I guess it would have been a better time for him if he knew the author, but regardless it was a good experience.

Mary Kay Andrews The Weekenders 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

My signed copy of The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews. 5/22/16

All the ladies who showed up were fantastic!  I enjoyed the company as much as I did the purpose of my visit to MLB.  Mary Kay Andrews discussed The Weekenders and answered questions about her books, her influences, her family and so on.  It was great!  She’s so down to earth with a touch of sass!  I loved listening to her!

While waiting in line to get my book autographed (I got one for Kelly too), I struck up a conversation with the lady behind me.  We began talking about books, naturally, and somehow I mentioned I’ve written a book (plus a few started).  Let me step back, during the Q & A session, Mary Kay Andrews asked if we had any authors in the audience.  I didn’t raise my hand, only because my book still needs to be edited and isn’t published.  Well, by the time it was my turn, this wonderful lady, stepped in and informed Mary Kay Andrews of my secret.  You know, Mary Kay Andrews seemed very interested, and asked me questions about my book.  She told me to keep writing and go for it.  What an inspirational lady!

Mary Kay Andrews at MLB Oakmont 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Mary Kay Andrews discussing her newest novel, The Weekenders at MLB in Oakmont, PA 5/22/16

The entire day rocked.  Not only did I get to meet Mary Kay Andrews and get to purchase her latest book, and have it autographed, but spending the day with Kyle was much needed.  Granted, he played his video games during the entire book signing, but when it was my turn, Kyle jumped up and snapped a picture of me and Mary Kay Andrews.  Thanks buddy!  I really wanted a picture with all three of us, but Kyle already put his foot down in advance.  I didn’t want to push the issue and so I let it alone.  I simply happy to spend some time with Kyle.

During the Q & A session I learned a number of fun facts about Mary Kay Andrews.  Second to my addiction of reading, is my love of random fun facts.  Here are a few to wet your whistle.

Career

  • Mary Kay Andrews is a pseudonym for Kathy Hogan Trocheck
  • Received a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia in 1976
  • Began her career in newspaper journalism, working at the Savannah News-Press 1976-77
  • Worked for the Marietta Journal 1977-79
  • Reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1980 until she left in 1991 to write books
Family
  • Born July 27, 1954, in Tampa, Florida
  • A native of St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Married her high school sweetheart
  • From a big Catholic family
  • Mary Kay Andrews is a combination of her children’s names—Mary Kay for her daughter Mary Kathleen, and Andrew, for her son, Andy
  • Self proclaimed “junker”
  • Owns two restored beach cottages on Tybee Island, GA, both of which named for fictional locations in her novels

I can’t wait to begin this book!  Check her out!  She’s a southern hoot!

Happy reading everyone!

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

Hello Richard Branson

A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.  ~Richard Branson

Scavenger Hunt in Annapolis MD Thrill of the Hunt 2014 Aunt Heather Piper

Posing proudly, with a few graduating students while conducting a scavenger hunt in Annapolis, MD 10/4/14

A while back I read this article on Richard Branson, well, over the years I’ve read several articles on this mega entrepreneur, but this particular interview sparked my interest.  Why?  He stated that he actually tracks his own name online.  I’m sure a lot of top executives, entrepreneurs and every day people do the same, I know I do.

So why did this strike my fancy?  Well to start with, he goes through the action of uncovering his mentions himself, not an assistant or employee.  I’ve never heard anyone of his stature admit to basically Googling himself.   Perhaps I should test the waters?  I bet Donald Trump has eyes online, although with all the presidential campaigning chatter, I’m sure this post will only get lost in the mix.

So big deal if Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson Googles his own name?  He justified his actions by saying he’ll read the articles.  So?  If your going to Google yourself, one would think you’d actually read the information, right?  Yes, but he’ll sometimes reach out to those who mentioned him.  Light bulb!  (pun totally intended since my title at Thrill of the Hunt is The Light Bulb)   It’s been a while since I read the article, but that’s what I remembered.  As an entrepreneur, I look for any opportunity to help me in my journey.

In trying to find that exact article on Richard Branson, which I couldn’t, I found an even better one. 65 things you’ve always wanted to know about Richard Branson.  Okay, now some fun facts.  We both wake up at 5:30 am (in my case sometimes earlier), we both like to play chess (although I suck), and we both carry notebooks (mines on my iPhone).

His favorite social media tool and the best way to communicate with him is through Twitter @richardbranson.  I’ll be sending out a Tweet today.

Seton Hill University Scavenger Hunt Alumni Weekend 2015 Thrill of the Hunt Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Mary Cox at the Seton Hill University Alumni Weekend Scavenger Hunt. 6/6/15

When asked how Richard Branson would describe himself in three words, he answered, adventurous, curious and fun-loving.  Yep, that’s me!  In fact, I started Thrill of the Hunt with all three in mind, seriously!  I’m thinking we’re long lost relatives.  After all, my maternal grandmother came from England!  Perhaps Ancestry can clear up the mystery?

What do I find so intriguing about Richard Branson?  It’s not stated anywhere, but I bet he has a great sense of humor.  I mean is autobiography is Losing my Virginity!  I think he’d be a hoot to meet.

So what got me on this kick all of a sudden to test what I call the Richard Branson theory?  It began at 5:30 am, when I started my day scanning the morning news online.

On a side note, admittedly, I love reading fun facts and behind the scenes type of articles over serious news.  I do follow the news and try to stay current, but I simply prefer to keep my day bright and upbeat, especially in the early morning.  Let’s face it, the news doesn’t exactly fit that bill.  Plus, for some odd reason, the media will continuously repeat the horrible and the worst of the worst, day in and day out.  If I missed something news worthy, or I skimmed it, I can always pick up where I left off.  The feel good stories, and fun facts are short run.   I have to gobble them up before they disappear, and are overtaken by a bad day, somewhere.

Dog Scavenger Hunt Winchester VA Thrill of the Hunt Aunt Heather Piper 5-30--2015

Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, VA 5/30/15

Anyway, this morning I read an article on the facts behind Shark Tank.  Yes, fun facts always catch my eye.  One might say, I’m a fun fact addict!  I’m not going to rehash the Entrepreneur article, but it stated “More than 50% of the Tank’s TV handshake deals do not close.”  Wow.  What really flabbergasted me was “One out of every four entrepreneurs appearing on ‘Shark Tank’ was invited to apply.”  A quarter of the pitches were actually asked to be on the show?  I didn’t see that one coming.

Being a stinker, I instantly thought Shark Tank looked for some sort of drama to add to the ratings.  However, as I continued reading, they sited an example and I began to dig deeper.

It’s true, to be in business, you need to be seen.  You can’t sell goods or services, while being a secret.  This is where I’m falling short with Thrill of the Hunt.  Actually, that’s half true.  Over the years, I’ve received emails and calls from interested parties inquiring about scavenger hunts, and some wanted to interview me.  How did they find me?  Online.  Unfortunately, I didn’t find them first, it’s the passive way to find business and recognition.  I would prefer to be proactive.

Is there a point to my ramblings?  You bet there is!  I would like to meet Richard Branson and sit down and discuss my business plan.  All I’m asking for is his advice, and maybe the use of his fan base for advertising wouldn’t hurt either.  (joking, unless he will)  I’ve learned that knowledge, networking and guts is priceless in business.  Plus, I’d like to see if the article was true.   

I would also like to tell Mr. Branson about my other ideas for business ventures.  I have a ton!

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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… ~Henry David Thoreau

Happy 38th Birthday Ryan!

Believe it or not, Ryan would’ve been 38-years old today!  He just turned 24 when he pertinently went to his grand woods in the sky.

Ryan with his boss 1996 Aunt Heather Piper

Ryan joking with his old boss at Ryan’s graduation party. Like me, Dad & Kyle, Ryan carried the sarcasm gene & the sweet tooth. 1996

A fun fact, something I’ve noticed more recently, I use Ryan’s birthday as our birth date for Thrill of the Hunt.  Really?  Yes, not the year, but I always claim September 24, 2012 as the beginning of Thrill of the Hunt.  To be honest, it was September of 2012 that we sold our very first private scavenger hunt.  I could probably find out the true date, but in all reality which date do I credit?  When we received our first proposal, the approval for the quote, or when the scavenger hunt took place?  We also held our very first public scavenger hunt on September 22nd of that year.  In fact, I believe our corporate paperwork went through in 2011, not that we did anything with the company until later.  September became our breakout month.  So yes, Ryan and Thrill of the Hunt share the same date of birth.  It’s my way of including Ryan in our adventures.

To be honest, I got the idea from another event.  This might be silly, but the town of Forks, Washington, holds September 13th as Stephenie Meyer day, actually, they call it “Forever twilight in Forks.”  You know the lady who brought Twilight to the masses and brought a little unknown town to the world.  In the book, September 13th is Bella’s, the main character’s, birthday.  In honor of Stephenie Meyer, the town holds this day, and the days surrounding it, as a time of celebration and to pay homage for everything the author did to their dying town.  I liked that idea, and wanted to include Ryan in on Thrill of the Hunt in a subtle way, besides Kyle’s involvement in the company.

I’ve had some ask me if Kyle knows who Ryan is?  Yes he does.  But Ryan, his dad, doesn’t mean the same to Kyle as Ryan meant to us.  It’s a shame, considering between Kyle’s birth and nearly three months, Ryan already showed traits of being a stellar dad.  Perhaps down the road, Kyle will feel a connection with Ryan, maybe one unique to them.  I hope so.  I’d like to think Ryan’s always with Kyle, and Ryan’s looking out for our little teenager.

Happy birthday little brother, you’re still remembered and in our hearts, always.  One day we’ll run through the woods together again, this time no mosquitos!

 

 

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Busy Little Bees

Every grain of experience is food for the greedy growing soul of the artist.  ~Anthony Burgess

Beekeepers-Picnic-cupcakes-8-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

A little bee humor at our beekeepers picnic / meeting 8/9/15

I love our bees!  I simply find them fascinating!  What’s been going on with my newest hobby?  A lot!

At the end of July, Dad and I added the super to our bee hive.  What does that mean?  Ultimately, it means honey for us!

Our hive is two boxes high.  Those boxes contain honey strictly for the bees to keep the hive going and healthy, especially since winter is right around the corner.  Dad and I added a smaller box, called the super or sometimes the medium, to the hive, since our bottom boxes were nearly full.  Plus, let’s get real, we couldn’t wait any longer.  Before adding this addition to the hive, we placed the queen bee blocker between the boxes, so the queen can’t enter the top box and lay eggs.  She’s confined to the rest of the hive, while the worker bees, who are a lot smaller in size, can enter the top domain to make honey for our consumption.  The Piper’s honey and not the bees.  Pretty simple.

Adding the super to the bee hive 7-26-15 Aunt Heather PiperPrior to adding the super to the hive, we had to do a mite treatment.  Evidently, there are different methods for destroying the mites in the hives.  Mites, really?  Yes!  It’s a huge problem, one that is unavoidable, yet maintained.

To do this, we have a contraption that contains a metal plate and two electrical cords.  I added two scoops (one for each box) of this fine powder material to the metal plate.  This treatment is actually wood bleach, better known as oxalic acid.  Seriously?  Yep.  Then, we took the plate and hooked it up to a car battery to give it a charge.  Really?  True!  The plate heats up and creates a smoke that’s not toxic to the bees but kills the mites.  The procedure only takes about two minutes for the actual smoking process, and about fifteen minutes to allow the smoke to settle.  This process is repeated a few days later, about a week before a super is added to the hive.  Do the bees like it?  Not at all!

Beekeepers-Picnic-8-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Beekeepers come in all sizes, even young. Great beekeepers picnic & meeting. 8/9/15

The first time we treated the bees for mites, Kyle assisted.  We waited till nightfall, to ensure the bees were snug in their beds.  Dad and I dressed in full suit, while Kyle argued and said, he wasn’t entering the hive area, and that he’ll be fine.  We needed him to help time the process.  However, what Kyle didn’t realize, was bees don’t stay in a certain area, they’ll fly ten feet from the hive and certainly the five foot distance from were Kyle was standing.

On a side note, it’s pretty difficult moving around in the pitch black, wearing bee suits with a black mess intercepting our vision and leather gloves.  I’m just saying.

As with everything in life, we learn valuable lessons through experience, some faster lessons than others.  Dad and I didn’t smoke the bees first to calm them down, assuming the treatment wouldn’t be so negatively received.  Well it was!  As Dad and I stood there, the bees were actually hitting us, bouncing their bodies off of ours.  We didn’t get stung, but it felt like someone was throwing tiny rocks at us.  This chest bumping is a warning from the bees saying “I’m going to sting you if you don’t back off, I’m not happy.”  Next thing I heard was Kyle screaming, “Ooouch!”  and he took of running down the hill.  He even dropped his precious iPhone 6 were he once stood.  I’ve never seen that kid move so fast, not that I was able to really see him, but I can only imagine.  Dad and I thought he was being attached by a herd of bees.  Was he?  No!

Bee mite Treatment 7-17-15 Aunt Heather Piper

After things settled down and we completed our mission, we returned to the house.  I asked Kyle if he was alright and how bad was the attack.  Kyle pointed to a single spot on his arm.  I about died laughing.  Not because he was stung, I agree that hurts and that doesn’t make for a good day, but because he sounded like he was being mulled by our flying friends.  Even Dad joined in on the humor and all that fuss for a single sting.  Of course, if I was in his shoes, the fear of not being able to see and not knowing what to expect, would have been the worst part.  Then, naturally we added, “Why didn’t you wear the extra bee suit?” and “I guess you wished you were wearing the bee suit.”  Kyle simply snickered and ignored our teasing of the truth.  Originally Kyle argued and claimed he’d be fine without the suit.  I guess he was wrong.  I did tease him and mention, “Is that what it takes to get you off of your phone?”  Kyle only responded with a grunt.

Beekeeper Meeting Twitter feed 8-9-15 Aunt Heather Piper

What really happened, was Kyle freaked out over a single bee that landed on his arm and he swotted at it, resulting in a sting.  I’m guessing the bees weren’t even concerned with him in the slightest.  I told Kyle, “You shouldn’t have swotted at the bee.  Leave them alone and they won’t hurt you.”  Granted, that’s a general rule, but truly one worth trying.  The honey bees are pretty docile and don’t go attacking for no reason.  Again, this isn’t a one-hundred percent guarantee.

Do we have honey yet?  Alas, no.  We just checked recently, but they’re beginning to make the honey combs!

Beekeepers-Picnic-Meeting-8-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

At the beekeepers picnic / meeting in Stahlstown. To the left with her back towards us is my cousin Pat Piper. 8/9/15

Last weekend, I was able to discuss our bee experiences with others of like interest.  I was able to attend my first bee keepers meeting. This one happened to also be a picnic on the president of our organization’s farm.  What a great day!  They taught us about all things bees, the topic of this meeting was harvesting queen bees.  A subject I have no interest in, at least not at this stage of my beekeeping experience, but information worth noting.  They also gave a few life hacks and supplied information on wild flowers.  Dad was right when he said, “They’re all above our level of understanding and experience.”  However, everyone is really great and helpful.  These group of people are a wonderful resource.  Thanks to my cousin Pete (David) Piper, who got us into bees and supplied us with our first hive, we’re able to hang with him and his wife Pat at the meetings and discuss bees alongside others.

Kyle joined us at the picnic, but I don’t think he has an interest in bees.  Maybe later in life, or when his iPhone dies.

As you might imagine, the bee community is close-knit.  Recently, we received an email stating a bee keeper from Stahlstown was getting out of the bee business and was selling all his equipment and supplies.  Naturally, every bee keeper in the area swarmed to his house and raided his stock.  Dad and I were no exception.  Why not?  It’s a way to build a back log of needed material at a low investment.  We scored an electric bee extractor and bunch of boxes and inserts and even some plastic containers to bottle the honey.  Not only is obtaining these pieces valuable because they’re at a great price, but talking to an expert helps us learn.  He was a great guy who offered us a lot of advice.

Beekeepers-Picnic-wild-flowers-8-9-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Wild flowers that bees LOVE! It’s good know this stuff! Beekeepers picnic / meeting 8/9/15

While speaking to this gentleman, who I know will miss his bees, I made him do a double take.  We were talking about wearing our bee suits, (he only ever wore his mask) and the number of times he was stung.  I mentioned that I’m allergic to bees so I always wear my bee suit.  He almost fell over with surprise.  Relax, I have yet to go into anaphylactic shock!

I know my garden is really flourishing and our fruit trees are producing so well because of our bees.  They’re a much needed asset to our existence, and they’re a truly interesting hobby.  I can’t wait till we get our very own swarm!

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

What’s All the Buzz?

Okay, I’ll admit it, I totally cracked myself up with this headline!  If you didn’t get it, read on.

First-Day-of-our-Bees-Aunt-Heather-Piper-6-1-15

This is my first look at our bees, they’re buzzing around, even though it’s a bit chilly (high of 50’s, low 60’s) 6/1/15

On Monday, my new hobby arrived.  It’s no secret I keep myself pretty busy with my eclectic interests and hobbies.  Such as what?  I love to read and I really love to write.  In addition to my blog and my freelance work, I’ve also written a book for Kyle (I thought it’d be neat to write a book for him that includes his interests, minus the video games.  Perhaps one day I’ll give it to him) and began a few others, but that’s not the big news.  Unbeknownst to some, I’m an outdoorsy person.  I spend a great deal of my summer mornings and evenings in the garden, and tending to the fruit and nut trees, and raising our chickens and turkeys, but that’s not the big news.  I enjoy fishing and during the winter months, I snowboard and hunt.  With all this rugged activity, I do have an artsy side to me.  I enjoy photography, mostly shooting nature and documenting family traditions through imagery.  In my past life, high school and college, I used to express myself through pottery, throwing on the wheel was my favorite, but that’s not the big news.  I do try and be active, either going to the gym, running, or hiking with the dogs, but that’s nothing new.  And everyone knows all these activities are usually spent with Kyle and my family, except the exercising part.  So what else could I possibly add to my hobby portfolio?  Bees!

Yes, honey bees!  I’m a beekeeper!  How on earth did I get into bees?  Along with my dad, I’ve always had an interest in bees, being a huge fan of honey, especially honey on the comb.  I LOVE honey!  Maybe not as much as Kyle, but regardless, it’s a staple in our household.  Ironically, I wrote a blog post about these buzzing pollinating creatures in 2013 Random Fun Facts:  Bees.

How does one become a beekeeper?  Well, I’m very blessed to have my cousin Pete, who is a beekeeper, who tends to about eight hives of his own.  Not only did he give us our first hive from a swam he gathered locally, but he’s been teaching dad and myself everything he knows about bees.  He even introduced us to an organization of beekeepers that he belongs to, in this area.  They hold monthly meetings to inform and educate local beekeepers on bees and everything associated with this activity.  There’s an organization dedicated to beekeepers?  In the Latrobe area?  Oh, YES!  Unfortunately, I missed the first meeting this year, but I’ll bee (pun intended) sure to attend the next one, which is around the corner.

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The bees arrived Monday thanks to my cousin Pete. Even though the bees were slightly ticked off from the car ride there, I just had to lift the lid to the bee box and look inside… 6/1/15

How much is there to learn about bee keeping?  A lot!  First and foremost, bees are very delicate creatures.  We can’t use anything unnatural on the garden or fruit tress for fear of killing them.  Mites are also a very real danger.  Believe it or not, they can wipe out an entire hive!  Dad’s been doing a lot of reading on bees and our new hobby.  He found a natural remedy for the mite problem, dust the bees with powered sugar.  Seriously?  Yes!  Well, the bee knowledge list goes on and on.  Similar topics are addressed and discussed at the bee meetings, to learn from the experienced beekeepers.  Very exciting if you ask me!

Did you know consuming local honey actually helps the body build up an immunity to local allergens?  That’s the word on the street.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but ingesting honey over long periods of time, will decrease allergies.  At least that’s what I read in an article.  In a way, I wish our bees would hang around the poison ivy, to build up my immunity.  Regardless, how can anyone go wrong with such a natural sweet treat.  It’s great for all meals in just about anything.

On a side note, did I mention I’m allergic to yellow jackets?  Not terribly, I’ve never gone into anaphylaxis, but I guess there’s always a chance.  I do swell considerably and get huge, I mean huge, three inch diameter hives, all over my body.  I know it sounds silly for me to be a beekeeper, but bees are so very interesting, and nothing beats fresh honey.  I’ll just have to be cautious.  Who knows, I might not even have a reaction to the bee sting.  After all, bee stings are said to be good for arthritis and those suffering with multiple sclerosis.

Bee (again pun intended) prepared for more bee talk in the near future.  I have a feeling this is going to be quite the adventure!

Happy Beekeeping!

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

Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

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

Random Fun Facts: Seton Hill University

I would wish to fit you for that world in which you are destined to live.  ~Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Educate a woman and you educate generations.  ~Sr. M. De Chantal Leis

Seton-Hill-University-Panel-Dr.-Giunta-Mike-Aunt-Heather-Piper-11-4-14

Me, Dr. Catherine Giunta & Mike Fecik at Seton Hill University for the Customer Centricity Panel, Cecilian Hall 11/4/14

This past Tuesday, I was asked to be a part of the Customer Centricity panel at Seton Hill University.  Dr. Catherine Giunta, my adviser when I attended Seton Hill for marketing management, asked me to join the panel, totaling of three alumni.  In fact, I’ve been included as part of the venue every year since its inception in 2011.

Speaking to Dr. Giunta’s MBA and undergraduate business majors is an honor, one I enjoy.  Not because I like to build presentations, which I do, but because it helps me reflect on Thrill of the Hunt and my own business model.  It’s a great exercise to go through to truly reevaluate the direction of the company and it recharges my energies when discussing my start-up and the progress made.  Having students interested in Thrill of the Hunt and inquire about the steps and the processes I took to get to present day, is inspirational.  Plus, public speaking is a talent that needs to be exercised.  This is a perfect way to do so.

Over the years, Thrill of the Hunt has built scavenger hunts for Seton Hill’s homecoming block party Discovering Greensburg in the Rain, Scavenger Hunts – Getting Our Start at Seton Hill University & Continuing and as part of the alumni weekend activities.  Building these scavenger hunts are a lot of fun and educational, not only for those participating in the scavenger hunt, but for me as well.  I try to incorporate history or fun trivia as part of the game, in turn, I usually learn a thing or two.

Since I’ve spoken about Random Fun Facts:  Saint Vincent College and Random Fun Facts:  Latrobe, Pennsylvania, why not my old Alma Mater?  Join me as I outline some of the history that created the tree lined drive, to the top of the hill.  Seton Hill, a place where a whole new world exists, one that is working to make a difference with its students and community.

Random Fun Facts:  Seton Hill University

Sullivan-Hall-Seton-Hill-University-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2004

My black & white photography, Sullivan Hall at Seton Hill University 2004

History

  • Founded in 1885 as a college (Seton Hill Conservatory of Music & Seton Hill Conservatory of Art)
  • Seton Hill was named in honor of Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton,  founder of the Sisters of Charity & the 1st American-born saint

A statue of her is in the lower level of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.  On one of my trips to visit my sister, Nicole, mom and myself went to mass there & toured the Catholic Church.

  • August 7, 1882, Mother Aloysia Lowe (Mother Superior of the Pennsylvania Sisters of Charity) purchased the hilltop farmland for the site of a Mother House for the Sisters in the region
  • The farmland was known as the Jennings farm
  • In 1883, Saint Joseph Academy, boarding school for girls was established & operated until 1947
  • In 1914, the Sisters opened the Seton Hill Junior College & in 1918, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania approved Seton Hill’s charter for a four-year institution of higher learning
  • April 21, 1887, the cornerstone for the new building was laid in place
  • Everyone in attendance of the ground breaking ceremony, each signed their name to a scroll of paper that was placed in the cornerstone of the building (along with a medal, rosary, or relic from each, copies of the newspapers of the day, a number of rare coins, & pictures of Bishops Phelan & Tuigg)
  • 1887 – the Sisters’ Mother House were permanently & officially established at Seton Hill
  • 1887 – 1st year a class graduated from Saint Joseph Academy (The Saint Joseph Academy class of 1887 consisted of Sarah Sullivan, Rose Padden, Anastasia Casey & Alice Akers)
  • 1889 – Saint Mary’s Preparatory School for Boys moved from Blairsville, Pennsylvania to Saint Mary Convent at Seton Hill (since then always referred to as Saint Mary’s Hall)
  • 1908 – Maura Hall (originally called Saint Mary’s Seminary) was completed to serve the boys of Saint Mary’s School
  • Seton Hill was a working farm from time of purchase until the 1960s
  • In 1909 the original barn, located near the bend in the current drive burned to the ground
  • In 1911, The Pennsylvania Railroad built a new road to bridge the gap between Seton Hill’s hilltop buildings to College Avenue at the bottom of the hill  (prior to, it was a long wooden boardwalk)
  • 1914 – The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was built in a wooded alcove below the Administration Building (remains to this day)
  • April 1916 the coal rights to 18 acres of the property were sold.  The proceeds were used to fund the construction of new buildings
  • 1921 – Mother Mary Raymond Creed was inaugurated as 2nd president of Seton Hill
  • 1923 – Saint Joseph Dormitory completed
  • 1924 – Saint Mary’s School for Boys discontinued
  • October 25, 1929 – official opening of Sullivan Hall (called the activities building for nearly 20 years)
  • 1930 – Seton Hill establishes its Honors Program
  • 1931 – Rev. James A. Wallace Reeves inaugurated as 5th president of Seton Hill
  • September 30, 1958 Reeves Library was dedicated (named for Seton Hill’s 5th president)
  • Reeves Library houses Reeves Theatre & Harlan Gallery
  • Fall of 1958 – Havey Hall opened (Havey Hall named after the 1st president of the College, Mother Mary Joseph Havey)
  • Fall of 1965 – Brownlee Hall (named for Sr. Francesca Brownlee, 1st academic dean of the College) opened
  • 1970 – Sr. Mary (Thecla) Schmidt inaugurated as 7th president of Seton Hill
  • 1970 – the Clay Frick Lynch Hall of Science completed (commonly known as Lynch Hall)
  • September 14, 1975 – Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized (founder of the Sisters of Charity)
  • In 1986 – the School of Fine Arts began accepting male students interested in pursuing majors in art, theatre, communication & music
  • 1987 – JoAnne Boyle, Ph.D. (a 1957 graduate of Seton Hill) was inaugurated as 9th president
  • 1987 – National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education as established at Seton Hill (in response to Pope John Paul II to recognize the significance of the Holocaust and to “promote the necessary historical and religious studies on this event which concerns the whole of humanity today”)
  •  April 19, 2005 – McKenna Center Opened (The Katherine Mabis McKenna Center)
  • September 2009 – the Performing Arts Center opened (73,000 square foot)
Saint-Joseph-Chapel-Seton-Hill-Univsersity-2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Saint Joseph Chapel at Seton Hill University. My color photography 2004

Saint Joseph Chapel

  • On November 18, 1896 – Saint Joseph Chapel (“the heart of Seton Hill”) was dedicated
  • Pillars of rose Georgian marble & side altars of Carerra marble
  • 18 stained glass windows (including 2- 16 foot rose windows & a circular angel window in the ceiling above the altar)
  • Hand carved wooden pews
  • Artist Mother Joseph Doran directed the construction of the chapel & designed the stained-glass figures in its south front doors
  • Donations from the families & friends of the Sisters furnished the chapel including gold jewelry, which was melted down & reformed as a halo for the statue of the Virgin Mary
  • Above the main entrance stained glass window depicts the values dear to the  Sisters of Charity: humility, simplicity & charity (actual words are part of the stain glass)
  • Pipe organ was donated by Andrew Carnegie a few years after the chapel’s completion
  • The wing housing Saint Joseph Chapel contains Cecilian Hall (The same hall I spoke in for the Customer Centricity Panel)
  • November 11, 1998 the Tenzin Gyatso (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet) visited Seton Hill Mister Fred Rogers  introduced the Dalai Lama at the 1st public lecture
  • 2011 – The 112-year-old Administration Building re-opened (3-years of renovation)
  • 2002 -Seton Hill College was granted University status by the Pennsylvania Department of Education & became Seton Hill University
  • 2002 – Seton Hill officially became coeducational
  • September 2004 – Farrell Hall (residence hall named for former president Eileen Farrell) opened
Admin-Building-Seton-Hill-University-2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Administration Building at Seton Hill University. Black & white photography 2004

General

  • 35 miles east from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Mascot is the Griffin
  • The legendary medieval character, the griffin has a head, beak & wings of an eagle & the body & tail of a lion As per the myth, griffins are blessed with the speed, flight & penetrating vision of the eagle, & the strength, courage & majesty of the lion.  Symbolically this represents the combination of intelligence & strength
  • School colors are crimson and gold
  • University motto is Hazard yet Forward
  • Originally the campus sat on 200 acres of old farmland, near downtown Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Curriculum

  • In 1914, the Sisters began further their education to prepare to teach college level courses
  • In 1914 the Seton Junior College opened to provide 2-years of college instruction for women
  • 1992 – The National Education Center for Women in Business (re-named E- Magnify in 2006), was established
  • In 2006 – E- Magnify achieved designation as a Women’s Business Center (WBC) by the U.S. Small Business Administration
  • 1995 – Seton Hill College offered first 2 graduate programs (Master of Arts in Elementary Education & a Master of Arts in Art Therapy)
  • 2,000+ students attend the university from across the U.S. & around the world
  • 80 + undergraduate, 8 graduate degree programs offered & an adult degree program & advanced certifications in a variety of disciplines
Window-of-Admin-At-Seton-Hill-University-2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

I had to lean out a top floor window from the Admin Building at Seton Hill University to get this shot.  Worth it!  What a beautiful view of Greensburg, Pa.  2004

There is so much more to Seton Hill than what is listed above.  The school will always have a soft spot in my heart, not only for my scholastic education, but also my cultural exposure, and the opportunities it gave me to shape my professional career and later my entrepreneur journey.  Seton Hill is like an old friend, one that has been with me through many ups and downs in my life, and has helped me through life in one way or another, while attending and post graduation.  The students, past and present, and facility are very special and are monumental to shaping lives.  I received so much more from Seton Hill than what my diplomas state.  Hazard Yet Forward!

Resoureces
http://www.setonhill.edu/aboutus/history_and_traditions/then_and_now and the Westmoreland Historic Society (books and newspaper clippings)
posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Pittsburgh Has the “Ugliest” Accent?

Just growing up in Pittsburgh and knowing different neighborhoods, having family there and just loving it, it’s like no other place.  ~Wiz Khalifa
Pittsburgh entered the core of my heart when I was a boy and cannot be torn out.  ~Andrew Carnegie
Gateway-Clipper-8-5-06-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Me, Kyle & mom on the Gateway Clipper in Pittsburgh, Pa. We rode the locks & dams!  Kyle has a blast, he was 5 yrs old.   8/5/06

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

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

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

We have Heinz ketchup!  Say no more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think Team Building … Think Scavenger Hunts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacred-Heart-Saint-Cecilia-Youth-Group-Ligonier-PA-4-27-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text Messaging Humor – Piper Style

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

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

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

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

5-12-12 Kyle Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

10-1-12 Kelly Berger Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

10-28-12 Chipmunk Aunt Heather Piper

Chipmunk Incident 10/28/12

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

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

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

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

11-13-12 Cold Showers Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

12-21-12 Soft Kitty Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

12-27-12 Farts Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

8-7-13 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

8-11-13 Checkmate against computer Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

8-21-13 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

2-13-14 Cooking Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

12-14-13 Aunt Nikki Aunt Heather Piper

Good old Aunt Nikki! 12/14/13

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

Random Fun Facts: Becoming a Saint

God shows to men, in a vivid way, His presence and His face in the lives of those companions of ours in the human condition who are more perfectly transformed in the image of Christ. He speaks to us in them and offers us a sign of this kingdom to which we are powerfully attracted, so great a cloud of witnesses is there given and such a witness to the truth of the Gospel. It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek rather that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened.  ~  Vatican II  (Lumen Gentium No. 50)

Giotto di Bondone St Francis & St Clare 1279-1300 Aunt Heather Piper

Saint Francis & Saint Clare a Fresco by Giotto di Bondone 1279-1300

With the dual canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, Pope & Saints it got me thinking, ‘How exactly does one become a saint?’, not that I am in the running for that honor, and certainly not a candidate, but merely an interested party.

With my roots strongly planted in the Catholic faith, (I’m no expert on religion nor am I the poster child for a perfect Catholic specimen)  I know some popular qualifications, but never the entire process.  The canonization of these Popes two Sunday’s ago sparked my curiosity.

Over the years, I’ve had others ask me the very same thing.  Ashamed, I did not know the entire answer, I thought it was about time I did.  Through a little bit of reading and reviewing, this is what I’ve found.  Exactly how true it is, I’m not really sure, but some of my sources are legit and some of it sounds familiar, like it has been taught to me before.

Apparently, the process of canonization was established in 1234 by Pope Gregory IX.  Prior to that time, saints were honored upon their deathbeds, usually due to martyrdom.  Over the years, since some were falsely honored with the prestigious title of saint, but did not quite live up to the standards and were only done so through hearsay and legend, a standard process needed to be established.  Way to to Pope Gregory IX!  I couldn’t agree more.

This process has been followed and refined year after year.  It starts with the candidate for saint who dies with “fame of sanctity” or “fame of martyrdom.”, which is not gender specific.  The Bishop of the Diocese initiates an investigation to find one piece of any special favor or miracle granted through the potential saint’s actions.  Basically, did divine intervention happen for all to witness through the prayers and direct actions of this person.

Yes, the Catholic church does a real uncovering of the life and good works accomplished by said candidate.  There needs to be proof in the pudding so to speak.  This also includes any writings and teachings from this potential saint.  They are looking for “purity of doctrine”, to ensure the faith was upheld and not bastardized or disregarded in any way.  This does not include the entire life of the candidate.  Believe it or not, some saints began their roots in the not-so-pure of heart.  Of course we are all human and sinners alike, even saintly figures, but sometimes a life fell more on the impure side.  However, during the saint’s conversion, the church is looking to see if they upheld the teachings and the faith.  It’s true, some canonized saints’ backgrounds were not holy, yet along their journey they answered God and chose a different path to follow, never to return to their unholy beginnings.

All this information that is required and collected, is appropriately and faithfully recorded and placed in a formal document to be submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.

The Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, formally known as the Congregation of Rites manages and monitors the entire process.  Thanks to Pope Sixtus V, in 1588, he gave this duty to this organization and it has remained in its jurisdiction since.

Angelico Story of St. Nicholas The Death of the Saint Aunt Heather Piper

The Story of St. Nicholas: The Story of the Saint done in tempera & gold on panel by Fra Angelico 1447-48

However, this is all just preliminary work.  The Congregation needs to accept this candidate as worthy to continue the investigation proceedings.  If the hopeful saint is worthy, now the nature of his or her death is fully uncovered.  If that person died a martyr, then it has to be determined the true intentions of his or her death.  Did they die for the love of Christ and the church?  Was there evidence of a life of self sacrifice and complete dedication and servitude toward God?  Did they live an extraordinary life of walking with Christ?  Did they serve the community gallantly and wholeheartedly with high moral standards, leading by example for the sake of God and not ones own personal gain?

Believe it or not, these actions are scrutinized and picked apart to raise doubts and criticisms.  The Congregation takes this potential saint and places them under the microscope, picking apart their every action.  Then, they find the answers to justify the proposed saint’s intentions, answering all skepticism and apprehension to possibly declare this candidate as Venerable.

Moving onto the next step, Beatification.  Mother Teresa is in this stage currently.  “A martyr may be beatified and declared “Blessed” by virtue of martyrdom itself.” or the candidate needs to have performed or be associated with a miracle.  There is two ways of looking at this, either God, Himself performed the miracle or He used the blessed one to intervene on His behalf.  Big difference and that’s what the Congregation tries to uncover.

Once the candidate is Beatified, yet another miracle needs to be proven to complete the final process.  Sometimes this could take years upon years, hence why the process is so long.  I would think it’s easier to prove actions rather than the true intent of the person at the focus of the investigation.  Actions do speak louder than words, yet intentions are the heart and soul of the matter.  Sometimes the miracle could also takes years to reveal itself.

Miracles could take on many different forms.  It could be something as jaw dropping like Saint Alphonsus Liguori who would levitate when preaching at Foggia; or Saint Francis of Assisi who suffered from the stigmata.  Those are extremes, however they don’t have to be.  Sometimes miracles could be modest and almost over looked like with Saint Edith/Teresa Benedicta.  She interceded for a little girl who almost died from a Tylenol overdose some forty years after Saint Edith’s death.  Again this is why a very detailed investigation takes place with each potential saint, and that’s also why there are so many steps and protocol to follow in this process.

Another question that popped into my head, ‘Can a non-Catholic become a Saint?’  I found this excerpt:

But the fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, (paragraph 16) admitted the possibility of extraordinary grace when they noted that “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.” This principle can also be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 847.

My old CCD Teacher once said, there are people who do not attend mass, they may not even really know a lot about religion or God, yet they have an innate grace and Godly presence about them.  They are truly good people and lead by example, even though they don’t know it.  I believe that!  For the opposite can be said.  There are those who attend church regularly, read the bible and so on and so forth, yet are shortsighted by their arrogance or righteousness and holier-than-thou attitude.  Going to church doesn’t make you holy, it’s whats in your heart and your intentions that do.

Receiving the Stigmata Angelico 1429 Aunt Heather Piper

Receiving the Stigmata done in tempera on wood by Fra Angelico 1429

Those declared as Saints seemed to cover all bases, humility and charity and a deep understanding of the faith and a personal friendship with the Lord.

On a side note, I want to debunk a misleading idea perceived about the Catholic church.  We do NOT pray to saints.  That would be worshiping a false god, breaking one of the top three commandments.  Nope, we pray for the saint to intercede on our behalf.  We ask the saints to pray for us, a tour guide if you will, leading us in the right direction and putting in a good word.  Personally, I think the saints have more pull with God Almighty.  It’s no different than asking a friend or a relative to pray for you.  Usually we select a specific saint that focuses on a certain area of interest, i.e. Our Lady of Guadalupe (honored on my birthday) is the patron saint of the Americas / Mexico and Saint Nicholas (Kyle’s confirmation Saint) is the patron saint of children.

Another item for the checklist in the canonization process, is what I call the death test.  When exhuming a body of the potential saint, it is found free of rot and decay.  No composition has taken place like any other normal body.  The corpse is usually still juicy and almost preserved.  Believe it or not the body has a sweet fragrant smell, not one of decaying corpse.  I also read about the liquefaction process, whereas the dried blood liquefies on the feast day.  This was new information to me, but I have heard of the host bleeding during the Eucharist prayer during mass.

I think this process is needed and, yes I do believe there are those that should be honored on a high esteem of sainthood.  They earned that title for their dedication to God on a different level then I could ever fathom.

 

 

Sources

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0136.html

Saunders, Rev. William. “The Process of Becoming a Saint.” Arlington Catholic Herald.

http://bustedhalo.com/questionbox/are-there-any-non-catholics-that-the-church-recognizes-as-saints

Catechism of the Catholic Church

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-become-a-saint-in-the-catholic-church.html

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

Happy Birthday Aunt Nikki! The Big 40!

Life begins at 40 – but so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times.  ~Helen Rowland

Nicole-Piper-Senior-Picture-Class-of-1992-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Nicole’s senior picture. Greater Latrobe Class of 1992

Today marks a truly momentous day, Aunt Nikki is the big 40!  Yes, my sister is officially over the hill, even though she’s resided on that hillside for some time now.  Giggle giggle.  (Unlike me, I’ll always remain on the other side.)  Or as Kyle used to say, “Aunt Nitti is ozer (over) the hill!” as he motioned going over and down a hill with his chubby little figures.

Nicole came from a time before the internet and email, when we still used rotary phones, listened to record players and tapes (heck dad still had his 8-track player in his truck), and before cable and satellite.  Nicole has lived through eight presidents and counting including Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

Nicole has seen and accomplished a lot over these forty years, graduating from Penn State University in engineering, traveling the world over (sometimes with me), starting a side company (with me) and most importantly becoming Aunt Nikki, a title she does not take lightly.

So what has gone on over these last forty years from that faithful day, March 16, 1974?  A lot!  Let’s focus on 1974.

  • Blazing Saddles was the top movie of the year
  • Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care Of Business” was a top, pop music single hit
  • Sadly, the Amityville horror happened in Long Island, New York on November 8th.  Six family members were shot dead
  • Richard Nixon becomes the 1st United States president forced to resign after the Watergate Scandal & President Gerald Ford gives unconditional pardon to Richard Nixon
  • 55 mph Speed Limit is imposed to preserve gas usage, nation wide
  • Sears Tower in Chicago becomes the worlds tallest building
  • President Ford announces an amnesty program for Vietnam War deserters & draft evaders
  • Gasoline shortages and price increases (guess some things never change)
  • On June 5th – Henry Kissenger convinces Syria & Israel to agree to a ceasefire on the Golan Heights
  • Work begins on the 800 mile long Alaska Oil pipeline
Nicole-&-Kyle-at-Chad's-wedding-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Nicole & our little man sipping on his bottle at my cousin Chad’s wedding Our little 1-year old – BYOB. 2002

Nicole shares her birthday with some famous people.  Here are a sampling:

  • James Madison – president
  • Curtis Lovell III – magician
  • Erik Estrada – actor
  • Alexandra Daddario – actress
  • Victor Garber – actor
  • Jim Bridger – explorer
  • Jerry Lewis – actor
  • Rupert Sanders – director (I had to throw that one in, because of the Kristen Stewart scandal)
  • Felisha Terrell – actress
  • Chuck Woolery (we loved watching Love Connect as kids!) – TV host
  • Tim Kang – actor
  • Walter Cunningham – astronaut
  • Sienna Guillory – actress

Please review the years of Aunt Nikki.  Moving clockwise, starting with the upper left corner, Nicole’s 15th birthday (yes that’s me to the right & my cousin Katie to the left), to the right Nicole’s 6th birthday (my cousin Casey to the left of Nicole and cousin Timmy to the right), below that is a her sophomore class picture – 1990, below is Nicole sitting with our cousin Chad for her 2nd birthday -1976 and finally to the left is Nicole’s 7th grade picture -1987. (Apparently she really, really loved those glasses!)

Happy Birthday Nicole!

Happy-40th-Birthday-Aun-Nikki-Aunt-Heather-Piper-3-16-14

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Travels and have No Comments

Mr. & Mrs. Piper Add Another Year – Happy 44th Anniversary!

The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time.  ~ Julia Child
I’d like to give a big shout out to mom and dad, a.k.a. Gigi and pappy.  Today marks their forty-fourth wedding anniversary!  They were married in 1969 at Sacred Heart Church in Youngstown, Pennsylvania.
Mom-&-Dad-in-Germany-1970s-at-Carol-&-Lynns-Party-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Mom & dad in Germany in the early 1970s. The caption read at Carol & Lynn’s Party … looked like they had a good time!

Besides my parents getting married, which six years later became my birthday, what else was going on in 1969?  According to Google, Wikipedia and all other “reliable” internet sources, 1969 was a full year.
  • Richard Nixon was our 37th president
  • 1st man landed on the moon on the Apollo 11 mission by the United States – Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin – 1st humans to set foot on the moon
  • In August, more than a half a million people gathered in the small town of Bethel, in upstate New York better known as Woodstock
  • 250,000 marched on Washington in protest against the Vietnam War
  • The US institutes the draft lottery to determine draft into US Forces for Vietnam War (dad just signed up for the Army)
  • The very 1st United States troop, withdrawals are made from Vietnam
  • The FCC banned all cigarette advertising on television and radio (good thing!)
  • Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) established
  • Top movies included Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Wild Bunch and Easy Rider
  • One of the top books was Mario Puzo’s Godfather
  • On August 9th, members of a cult led by Charles Manson murder 5 people (I read the book Helter Skelter a couple of times, scary interesting)
  • Hurricane Camille hits the Mississippi coast killing 248 people
  • Militant black students at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York use force to take over Willard Straight Hall demanding a black studies program
  • Cost of new house $15,550.00
  • Average income per year $8,550.00
  • Average monthly rent $135.00
  • Average cost new car $3,270.00
  • Gas per gallon $.35  (That’s a huge change at about $3.45 per gallon now)
Aunt-Heather-Piper-Christmas-1979

Me (4 yrs old) in my cute little Christmas outfit. Check out the plastic clip on earrings! Dad was holding Ryan (3yrs old) & Nicole (6 yrs old), like usual was cut off from the picture. We were at gram & paps house on the ridge. 1979

 

Yes, on the exact same day only six years later on December 12th, in 1975 I was born.  I guess it’s no surprise that I really enjoy winter and the snow, after all I came into this world with that as my backdrop.  At this point mom and dad moved back to the United States after living in Germany for two years while dad was in the Army.  They lived in the same house that my grandpap Chester built, the same one they live in, to this very day.  What else was going on in 1975?

  • Vietnam War ends as Communist forces take Saigon and South Vietnam surrenders unconditionally
  • The United States carries out Vietnam “Operation Babylift” bringing Vietnamese orphans to the US
  • The United States pulls out of Cambodia
  • New York City avoids bankruptcy when President Gerald R. Ford signed a $2.3 billion loan
  • The unemployment rate in the US reaches 9.2% and recession is recognized by President Ford
  • Jimmy Hoffa (ex teamsters boss) disappears never to be seen again
  • Patti Hearst becomes most wanted and is arrested for armed robbery
  • Margaret Thatcher defeats Edward Heath for the leadership of the opposition UK Conservative Party (Thatcher was 49 and Britain’s 1st female leader of any political party)
  • Average cost of new house $39,300.00
  • Average income per year $14,100.00
  • Average monthly rent $200.00
  • Average cost new car $4,250.00
  • Cost of a gallon of gas $.44 (an so the spiking gas prices begins)
  • The UK implements the Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Act
  • Construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System begins
  • Bill Gates and Paul Allen develop a BASIC program for the Altair 8800
  • Motorolla obtains patent for the first portable mobile phone
  • The name “Micro-soft” (for microcomputer software) and Microsoft becomes a registered trademark
  • Sony introduces Betamax videotapes and Matsushita / JVC introduce VHS
  • Cray-1, the first commercially developed supercomputer, invented by Seymour Cray
  • Volkswagen introduces the Golf
  • Wal-Mart incorporates as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc
  • Charlie Chaplin is knighted by Elizabeth II
  • The Rocky Horror Show opens on Broadway in New York City
posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Mom Adds Another Year – Happy Birthday Gigi!

You know you’re getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.  ~Bob Hope

As of today, mom, a.k.a. Gigi, turned 64 years old!  Yes, the oldest in our family, even beating dad, and kicking strong, celebrating another year.  I can’t believe mom dates all the way back to 1949, October 26th to be exact.  Mom, our fiery redhead, is the oldest, beating out Uncle Denny by a few years, I think five.

So pondering the days all the way back then, what was going on in October of 1949, besides mom making her first appearance?

First of all Harry Truman was president, who signed the Mutual Defense Assistance Act (for NATO) on the 6th and then increased minimum wage from $0.40 to $o.75 on October 26th.

That Lucky Old Sun by Frankie Laine was the number one song according to Billboard Magazine, from October into part of November.  The Lone Ranger was also making its debut.

And this little found snip of world news, is just for mom, our half English and half Polish decent.  On October 22, 1949, two hundred were killed in a train derailment near Nowy Dwor, Poland.  Hope none of our family was involved.

Happy Birthday Mom!!

Eugene's-Baptism-Mom-1954-Aunt-Heather-Piper

My Aunt Irene (cousin & godmother) holding her brother Eugene at his Baptism, along with a blank stare, Rita Piper.  Mom would have been 5 years old.  1954

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Travels and have Comments (2)

Random Fun Facts: Saint Vincent College

Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn’t matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.  ~Richard P. Feynman

Saint-Vincent-Church-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Statue of Saint Boniface Wimmer in front of Saint Vincent Church at Saint Vincent College. I received the Sacrament of Confirmation in this church… Ryan was the alter boy.

Since I recently wrote about Random Fun Facts:  Latrobe, Pennsylvania, it wouldn’t be complete without addressing Saint Vincent College.

This past June, for Kyle’s birthday gift I got him, Bricks 4 Kidz, Kyle’s Lego Camp Birthday Surprise at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe!  Actually I got him two different Bricks 4 Kidz sessions, Animal Grossology for the morning session and Space Adventure – Star Wars for the afternoon session.  The Lego camp lasted a week, from Monday June 24 through Friday, June 28.  Kyle’s birthday is in July, so he was really surprised.

Boniface-Wimmer-Saint-Vincent-College-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Saint Boniface Wimmer, Saint Vincent College

The first day of Lego Camp, on Monday, I thought it would be neat to hang out with Kyle for lunch.  So I packed us a picnic and we ate on the college grounds.  It was a warm day but really pleasant under the trees.  Afterwords, I thought he might find a tour of the campus interesting.  In my head, I remembered how cool it was when Father Alred gave our sixth grade class a tour of the college when attending Sacred Heart.  He talked about the history, the architecture, the stain glass windows, and so on and so forth.

Well, as it turns out, I remembered the feeling more than the facts.  I must say, I fell short and needed a refresher.  Kyle wasn’t amused at all!  It was at that moment when I thought, I need to revisit Saint Vincent College, in the books.

Ironically, when I was doing research for the Discovering Greensburg Scavenger Hunt for Seton Hill University Discovering Greensburg in the Rain  (the sister college of Saint Vincent), at the Westmoreland County Historical Society, I came across a lot of intriguing content on  Saint Vincent College.  I hope you find the history of the college as interesting and almost mind blowing as I do!  Please read to the very end!  I promise it will shock you!

Saint-Vincent-College-Sportman's-Hall-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Sportman’s Hall, built in 1790 by Father Theodore Brouwers- later become Saint Vincent

Random Fun Facts: Saint Vincent College

  • Founded in 1846 – Saint Vincent Arch-abbey and College
  • In 1766, before the monks John Fraser, an Indian trader, acquired land on part of which Saint Vincent is now situated
  • February 10, 1766 granted a tract of land along the Forbes Road to John- made in the name of the King George II of Great Britain by Captain William Murray, Commander of Port Pitt.
  • December 3, 1768 John Fraser transferred teh entire parcel of land to James Hunter, a farmer for Five Pounds Lawful Money
  • James Hunter owned the land for 21 years
  • March 12, 1790, the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted Joseph Hunter “a certain tract of land called ‘Sportsman’s Hall'” – 1st time the name of Sportman’s Hall was given to individual tract of land (name retained for over half a century)
  • Sportman’s Hall was called “the Cradle of Catholicity in western Pennsylvania”
  • April 16, 1790 Joseph transferred the deed to Rev. Theodore Brouwers, O.F.M.
  • Father Brouwers died on October 29, 1790.  As per his will his body was laid to rest in a plot overlooking Sportsman’s Hall.  Since 1869 his remains have reposed under a a stone cross in Saint Vincent Cemetery
  • Father Brouwers provided his successor by bequeathing all of his real estate “to a Roman Catholic priest that shall succeed me in this same place, to be entailed to him and to his successors, forever.”
  • In 1787, 6 Catholic families moved from Philadelphia and settle near Greensburg
  • A small log church was erected
  • Sportsman’s Hall stood northeast to the present Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica until 1883 – in 1930s a marker was erected on this site
  • Reverand Michael Galllagher succeeded Father Stillinger as pastor, serving until October 21, 1846 – then Rev. Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B. was pointed as pastor
  • Boniface Wimmer was a monk from the Benedictine Abbey of Metten in Bavaria

Hence the name Wimmerton for the neighboring housing development

  • Boniface Wimmer received the monastic name of Boniface upon his entry into the monastery, a name with deep significance for German Catholics
  • Saint Boniface was an English monk who in the 18th century brought the Gospel and the Benedictine Rule to the Rhineland, where he established  monasteries and served as bishop of Fulda

He wanted to provide education for the sons of German immigrants and train clergy for the German community in the United States.

  • Saint Vincent is the 1st Benedictine college in the United States
  • Saint Vincent sits on roughly 200 acres of land
  • First buildings were built by the monks
  • The Benedictine Rule is known for spirituality and practicality
  • By 1855, Saint Vincent was divided into the Seminary, the Classical Department, and the Commercial Department – basic structure of college for next 50 years
  • In 1870, the college was incorporated by the State Legislature of Pennsylvania and given the power to grant degrees in the arts and sciences
  • February 25, 1931 Benedictine Sisters left Germany to go to America, set up residence in Saint Vincent, to earn money to send back to mother house during World War I
  • By 1987, one sister retired and founded Saint Emma’s Retreat House in Greensburg
  • In 1948, there were 19 majors available in the divisions of Humanities, Social Sciences, Science and Business
  • January of 1963 – a fire destroyed part of the campus – no life was lost

On the campus they have a memorial with a rescued bell saved from the bell tower.  The bent and torn metal of the once perfect bell is so surreal yet intriguing.

  • In 1983, Saint Vincent became co-educational

Until that point it was an all male college, sister college to Seton Hill University, which used to be an all female college

  • The college is sponsored by the Benedictine Monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey and shares the campus with Saint Vincent Seminary (4-year graduate school of theology), and Saint Vincent Parish
  • Saint Vincent College offers undergraduate degrees in business, education, medicine, engineering government service and church.
  • Saint Vincent College offers Masters degree programs in education and business
  • The Fred M. Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media (yes THE  Mr. Rogers!) is a college center
  • Nationally known, students from 24 U.S. states/territories and 20 foreign countries – half of these students are in the top 20% of their high school graduating classes
  • Accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and School
Saint-Vincent-College-Bell-Tower-Aunt-Heather-Piper-

Bell Tower at Saint Vincent, built in 1871 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the Benedictines in the U.S. In 1963, destroyed in a fire

Ok, now for the the really fun and interesting information I stumbled across.  Evidently, the students at Saint Vincent College need or did need to write a senior thesis before graduation.  Using primary resources, they were permitted to write about anything.

One student narrowed his focus to Latrobe and decided to write about the history of Latrobe’s volunteer firer-fighters and the Latrobe fire company.  Nice little topic!

Unbeknownst to him, he was going to stumble upon some really ground breaking news that was overlooked, even by Saint Vincent scholars, even to present day!  When I had lunch with my cousins John and Sherry Business Leader in the Form of a Youngster, in September, I asked John if he ever heard of the news I will reveal to you below.  He didn’t.  Dr. Olczak who also translated books for Saint Vincent College and most certainly was knowledgeable in the history of his Alma Mater, had no idea!

In the 1870’s, the Latrobe Advance, the local paper which is now the Latrobe Bulletin, circulated a story which dealt with a recent incident at Saint Vincent College.  What made the news but never made any other history books regarding the college and was forgotten?

Boniface Wimmer, yes the founder of Saint Vincent monastery and college, made the paper in the form of a small hidden story.  On October 1, 1879, the newspaper reported that the then 70 year old Abbot was nearly assassinated by a “lunatic”.  YEP!  No joke!  Keep in mind at this point in history, Boniface Wimmer was no stranger to the world, especially when concerned with his dedication and progress towards education and as a missionary.  In fact, he was recognized by many as the American Roman Catholic Church leader.  Kind of a big deal!  The paper reported that the mad man tried to assassinate Boniface Wimmer in his monastery room.

The story goes, a stranger was found lurking around, outside the monastery for several days.  On Saturday, September 13, 1879 the stranger gained access to the monastery where Boniface Wimmer resided.  A monk cut him off at the pass and ejected him from the premisses.  A week later the creepy stranger, on Tuesday September 23rd made his way back in the monastery and proceeded towards Brother Nicholas room.  He was the Porter or the gatekeeper of Wimmer.  This crazed stranger struck Brother Nicholas on the head and bolted up the stairs to the Abbot Boniface’s room.  (currently located in Mauer Hall and is used as a guest room) The lunatic took the key and tried to lock himself inside along with Boniface Wimmer.

Quick witted and matching reflexes, even from an aged man, the Abbot noticed this unusual sight and took the would-be assassin off guard before he could lock the door.  There was a tussle between the two men and that’s when Boniface Wimmer received a blow to the head, but not before gaining a hold of the intruders arm and managing to gain the upper hand. The 70 year old Abbot took down his attacker!  Yes!  He wrestled him to the floor!  This just proves, you have nothing to fear with God on your side and when you have complete faith in Him.

The recovering Porter came to Boniface’s assistance, after gaining his wits about him, and eventually a couple of monks arrived at the scene, hearing yells for help.  They removed the determined stranger from the premises.  No charges, no cops, no finger pointing, nothing.  Now-a-days that would have made front line news and opposing sides would be talking about it and pointing fingers at everyone including the Abbot for days, or weeks, heck months.  Everyone would have someone to blame.

The reason for this situation?  Not an Anti-Catholic message nor a hatred against Saint Vincent nor its Abbot.  The intruder was a Latrobe native who had mental issues and recently escaped from an asylum.  He felt if he killed the Abbot Wimmer he would in turn take his place as the Abbot of Saint Vincent.   At least the mentally disturbed man had goals!

Since this was not recorded anywhere else or brought to the spotlight, how can we know this actually happened? Even though back then the reporters needed to check and verify their sources, so I would be pretty confident they did their due-diligence before including the story in the paper.  Well, I came across documentation of a letter Abbot Wimmer wrote to the Vatican giving them an update on the church and the college.  This was a standard letter, with pleasantries and general day-to-day stuff.  At the conclusion of his letter, yes not as a headline, the butt end, as if just mentioning it in passing or as an afterthought, Abbot Wimmer made note of this incident.  Why didn’t he make it out to be the big deal it was?  Simply, because he was a humble man and didn’t want to upset anyone or have the general population turning on the assailant.   At least that’s my guess.  Or perhaps he didn’t like the negative publicity.  Either way, it was real history.

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