Archive for June, 2012


running thoughts (iv)

   Posted by: liz    in health, running

we live in podunkville, america. this is deliberate, not because we don’t like people or neighborhood-living, but because “out here” we can do so much more when owning more than a postage stamp sized property. we can stretch our limbs (important with three active boys), see thousands more stars on clear nights, and raise animals with many teachable moments along the way.

but that means it’s hard to run out here, safely and smartly. there are no “neighborhood running meets” at dawn, or sidewalks to run on. i usually run in a public gym, or on a track with other neighboring runners/walkers. not to mention (and i know i complain about this a lot!) the hills of western Pennsylvania are many. and steep.

last week, my neighbor (she’s a mile or so away) friend of mine (another homeschooling mom!) suggested that we run together. at first i was going to say “no thanks.”  running with others hasn’t been a positive experience for me – mentally or physically. i just decided at my last race that i loved running alone. and i do love running races alone…that probably won’t change. also, i was afraid i would appear rude saying, “please don’t talk with me while we run because i will run out of breath.” but i said yes because i have been really dreading my runs lately and thought the company might help get me excited about it again, and not just “running to run.” not to mention the accountability! she said that the road wasn’t very hilly, and she runs with a 9mm, so i could finally run and not have to worry about how to fend off a bear. or more likely, a rabid raccoon.

our first run was last week. we did 2 miles in just over 18 minutes. that broke my normal pace…we talked the entire two miles, didn’t stop to walk (even on that hill at the 1.6 mile mark)!, and it went so fast.  it was a good, challenging run, but more enjoyable than 8 laps around the track or on the busy road that i normally do. i suggested that next week we add a mile to our run. it might be harder to finish strong, but i think the running buddy system can help us achieve any goal that we set for ourselves! by our third run, we shaved nearly a minute off of our time!

i still love to run solo. it’s a good time to get your thoughts in order and listen to some music without interuption. but i think i’ll be saving solo runs for the exception to the rule. the running buddy system works for me, and i can’t wait to see where we’ll be, distance-wise, come turkey trotting time!


our grammy

   Posted by: liz    in family

their love was what novels are written about, turned into movies that open in the summer and make all who watch it wish they had a fairytale beginning, middle, and ending in their own relationships.
it was high school, there was a chance meeting at a water fountain and the rest is history. it was war time, so the boy had to go fight. he returned home early to marry his girl (in a whirlwind weekend winter wedding where two other war brides were married, all borrowing the same bridesmaids dresses) and then finished his job at war, praying he would make it home to begin his family and build the rest of their lives together.

and he did, and so they had the perfect family (one boy, one girl) and raised them in the 50s and 60s in smalltown america. those kids married and had kids of their own and “grammy and grampy” were born.

grammy passed away on sunday, after a few difficult years in a nursing home after she had suffered a few strokes. we all miss the grammy that she was to us grandkids, and the mom that she was to my mom and uncle, but i’m sure he misses his bride even moreso. 67 years of marriage.



when your baby turns 6…

   Posted by: liz    in family

…you find ways of avoiding their baby pictures for fear of falling into a nostalgic tailspin. you look at every single one of them any way and still distinctly remember of the first minute you laid eyes on him.

…you look at your family of rapidly growing boys and wonder what the teen years will look like, and you’re not exactly sure whether to laugh or cry at the thought.

…you can’t wait for your boys to be teenagers so you can have deep conversations with them. then you remember the incredible conversation you had with them just this past week and you wonder when they went from babble-speak to intelligent question asking. 

…you pray fast and hard as you fall asleep at night that you didn’t do anything major to screw them up for the past 6 or 8 or 9 years (i’m not the only one, am i??).

…you keep hugging that “baby” and saying things like, “six years ago i was in so much pain, but it was SO worth it!” and he looks at you like you’ve been in the sun too long.

…you wonder what it’s like to be six again.


adam henry, there is nobody like you!  we love your excitement and your love for living. we’re so thankful we were chosen to be your parents!  happy 6th birthday!


game night and chocolate-peanut butter

   Posted by: liz    in family fun, food, friends

i’ve already blogged about our fabulous day in the city last saturday, but i haven’t yet told you about the fun evening we had the night before.

the marquiss clan invited us over for dinner and game night friday night. we then spent the night since they’re only a few minutes from downtown where we could breakfast-and-museum on saturday.

after a fantastic grilled steak and veggie with salad dinner they served, we spent the evening watching a play that our kids performed, passed out cookies for their dessert and then put them all in bed so we could enjoy the grown-up dessert that i had prepared. it was a “pinterest dessert” full of chocolate peanut butter goodness. it was only a “grown up” dessert because there wasn’t enough to feed the kids. don’t worry – the cookies they all enjoyed were large and full of chocolate goodness, so they weren’t left out. completely. :)

i am not a chocolate PB expert like my husband is, so he’ll provide the “review” of this dessert. i made a chocolate peanut butter torte from this recipe. it was one of the more simple recipes i’ve tried, except for having to convert all of the ingredients from grams to AMERICAN-STANDARD (really now…why can’t the whole world have the same measuring system? what was up with the silly americans changing the perfectly fine metric system to american standard?).

an oreo cookie crust sits beneath a peanut butter filling, topped with a dark chocolate ganache. i found a separate no-fail ganache recipe that i will use forever (and ever, amen) for all of my chocolate-covered dessert recipes (buckeyes, chocolate-covered-strawberries, etc).

review: i thought it was super yummy. kenny, who loves nothing more than chocolate peanut butter for any dessert, liked it, but he would have preferred smooth peanut butter to the crunchy peanut butter that the recipe called for. perhaps it would have been more buckeye-like with smooth peanut butter.

definitely a keeper, especially for adult gatherings. but you might want to consider stearing away from the crunchy peanut butter for this recipe.

then we played games…

a few rounds of 7 Wonders (i’m slowly getting it!) and then a lightning round of The Amazing Labyrinth. a very late night, but a great night’s rest and perfect weather for our saturday outing. games and chocolate and friends…a fabulous weekend habit!



i’ve got 6 books on my nightstand

   Posted by: liz    in books

i finished one this morning over my steaming hot cup of coffee.  i think i inhale books during the summer because i feel guilty reading for pleasure during the school year. that’s not to say i don’t read for pleasure at all – i always have a book with me when we are out and about, or on my nightstand, or when we’re done with school by 10:30 a.m…

i like to read a lot of different genres, so i think it’s completely possible to read several books at once. right now i’m reading…

~ Cradle in the Grave by Sophie Hannah. It’s okay. It’s my 4th Sophie Hannah book this summer already and while her stories hook you from the beginning, she follows a formula that is tiring by the 3rd book. I’ve been enjoying mystery-thrillers for novels lately, so it’s a nice “light” read for when I’m easily distracted (like waiting for gymnastics or play rehearsal to end…)

~ City of Refuge by Tom Piazza (author of Why New Orleans Matters). my mom recommends this book (her book club is reading it now) who got the recommendation from my brother Andrew who is living in New Orleans now. it’s fiction, but reads like an account of two actual families: one black family in the lower 9th ward, and one white family who lives in the neighborhood in which my brother currently lives. i’m waiting to find the silver lining from Katrina, and perhaps this book will produce one. or perhaps not.

Waiting for Superman by Karl Weber. the film was highly acclaimed. i didn’t see it. i’m hoping the book is just as interesting. i am curious about the success of charter schools in inner cities. i’ve heard this book lays it all out on the line. the good, the bad, and the ugly. i will probably not review it as we are not in the public school system.

Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. i finished this one this morning. i need to re-read a few of the chapters and just let them soak in. so comforting. so encouraging. i whole-heartedly recommend this one for anyone who feels stuck/stagnant/dead in the western, modern idea of church.

Blue Nights by Joan Didion. she’s a fantastic writer. but geez, this book is sad. sad. sad.

The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer. this is one that i have to read when nobody else is around to interupt me. i have to pay close attention, take notes, and re-read a paragraph sometimes. but it’s been an interesting read. i don’t remember learning about the cultures of the beginning of human time. so far, I’m eager to learn more. since we’re using Bauer’s Story of the World Volume 1 in History next fall, i figured i should brush up on what i don’t remember learning the first time!



10 things I love about Britain

   Posted by: liz    in food, thankful

a writer on a blog that i read (a working sheep farm!) made this same list in honor of elizabeth II’s 60th, and since i have a laundry list of things i love about ol’ blighty, i thought i’d join in the fun.

10 things i love about britain

  1. oxford. the magical spires, the bells ringing on sunday mornings, the cobblestone streets. the shaldonian, magdelen college deer park, st. cross road and the covered market. temple cowley school (where i attended 3rd form), st. aldate’s church, Brown’s restaurant, and blackwell’s bookshop.
  2. london. the underground, paddington train station, and the black london cab. the theatre district, the fringe theatre district, and the national theatre. westminster abbey, st. paul’s cathedral, the tower of london and its ravens. gorgeous old pubs and haunting walking tours (like the jack the ripper walking tour after dark). the british museum, tate gallery, national portrait gallery.
  3. castles. CASTLES! real, medieval CASTLES!
  4. cathedrals. gorgeous and awe-inspiring.
  5. the accent. the different spellings and pronunciations of “schedule” and “aluminium.” and different words like, “chips” for fries, “the lift” for elevator, and “tea” for dinner.
  6. the landscapes of ancient, old, magical, and country-lush.
  7. the british B&B. broiled tomato and egg breakfast, shared loo, ceiling-chain-for-toilet-flushing. british youth hostels.
  8. the food: bangers and mash, meat pies, and custards. the best “sweets”: cadbury chocolate, maltesers, aero bars, flake-bar-in-vanilla-ice cream, wine gums! tea with milk and sugar, scones and clotted cream and jam. a pint at the local. restaurants like Browns, Wagamama, and Harrods for afternoon tea, but also the small cafes that serve curries and fish and chips.
  9. the big issue. i bought it as often as i could on my walks to and from the tube on work days. usually from the same location.
  10. royalty. yep, i’m a sucker for the Royals. as patriotic as i am for America, i have a bit of a crush on British Royal history.

i love our city!

   Posted by: liz    in family

techinically, we’re much closer to the city of Butler, which was recently named one of the 10 best small towns in the U.S. according to the Smithsonian magazine,  but today, i’m referring to Pittsburgh (which also has its ranking in a popular magazine lists), the city in which i grew up. i still think of Pittsburgh as “our city” since we’re really only an hour outside of it, and kenny and i met and started our family there. although i’m now a 6-year-old country girl and could seriously consider growing old in the country, i still think The City is a great one.

our big-little city brings the best in the worlds of culinary arts, theatre, sports, music and family-friendly educational centers (ie, museums). it’s been a long time since we just spent a day walking around the wonders of pittsburgh, but this weekend we were able to do a bit of that on saturday with friends that just recently moved to pittsburgh. it was as if we were tourists, and they were our tour guides.

we started with breakfast/brunch in the Strip at Pamela’s.  kenny and i used to frequent the shadyside, oakland, and squirrel hill locations but had never been to the Strip location. i just noticed that their web site lists two other locations that we need to check out (millvale and mt. lebanon). Pamela’s has been around as long as i can remember. there are many, many places to get a good breakfast in the ‘burgh, but Pamela’s seems to always win out. it’s because of their crepe pancakes. Even President Obama prefers Pamela’s over any other Pittsburgh breakfast.

after a very filling breakfast, we hit up Peace, Love, and Little Donuts for some…little donuts! they’re so small that even after a huge breakfast, a few bites of a non-greasy-tasting lovely little sugar-cookie donut was perfect. we had to take a stroll through the Pittsburgh Public Market since it was on the way back to our car where we were pleasantly surprised to see an old friend in her own traveling espresso business, Caffe d’Amore (hey, sarah!).  i love that pittsburgh has added a “covered market” to its already long list of awesome offerings. i think the public market will grow into something bigger as it “gets older.” it’s a great location (the strip!) and it offers quite a lot of different things: food, drink, local, art, etc.

we then headed over to the Carnegie Science Museum where i wasn’t sure how long we’d stay due to some over-tired boys. but as it turned out, it was the best medicine for the grouchy,tired youth in our midst. we stayed in the SportsWorks center the longest (an hour and a half? two hours?) and then hung out with the robots and the miniature trains on the second floor. by then we were all tired and headed home.

that was a 6-hour day in the downtown area of pittsburgh and it was full of awesome. we didn’t even touch the other great pittsburgh things (theatre or outdoor summer concerts), so we have many more day trips in our future. when we moved WAY out to cow-country, i vowed to take day trips with the boys into the city at least every-other-week. that never happened. it turns out there is a lot to do out here as well, if you don’t mind a slower-paced way of living. which i have grown to love.

but it’s a reassuring to me that the city is just a short drive away, and if i’m craving some thai food, or a BIG library, or an outdoor music festival on a hot summer night, i know just where to go.

some pictures of our time at in the city with the Marquiss family ~ 

adam, climbing the 24-foot climbing wall. 24-feet doesn’t sound very high, but it was high enough if you ask me!


her majesty

   Posted by: liz    in bees

no, this isn’t a post about the Queen and Her Jubilee celebrations this week in London…although i was quite impressed with the glorious pageantry that the royal family put on the river thames today.

i’m talking about our queen bee. i checked the third hive today and found larvae right away – they bees and the queen are doing their work, but i caught a rare glance of the actual queen today while checking the hives. fortunately kenny had his phone with him so we were able to get her on camera!  i’m sure you can find her by enlarging this photo – you might even be able to spot her without enlarging the photo. she’s the largest of the bees in the hive. also, the apiary marked her with a yellow dot on her back.

we witnessed her walking around and laying eggs in a few of the cells, and we were able to spot more eggs, larvae, and capped cells (which each hold larva-growing-into-a-bee at which point it busts out of the capped cell buzzing, “hello world! where do i start working?” bees are hard, hard workers. i love them).

your interesting honeybee fact of the day: the “average honey bee” will produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. to make one pound of honey it would take 556 workers and 2 million flowers. 50-100 flowers are pollinated during one collection trip. about one ounce of honey is all it takes to give the honey bee enough energy to fly around the world (although the farthest they usually fly away from their hive is six miles).



garden 2012

   Posted by: liz    in earthkeeping

we planted our garden this week just in time for today’s long rainy day.

  • tomatoes: large, roma, and cherry (grape tomatoes were nowhere to be found – we’re still hunting for the plants)
  • pole green beans
  • pole lima beans
  • sweet red peppers
  • a few hot pepper plants
  • cantaloupe
  • butternut squash
  • acorn squash
  • pie pumpkins
  • sugar pumpkins
  • cilantro
  • basil
  • kale
  • and the ever-present row of zinnias

you can see the bee boxes in the background. i hope they love the flowers on our garden plants this year!

i know it doesn’t look like much now, but i like to take the “first day of garden” photos to compare it when it becomes overrun with plant matter. the beans and tomatoes will no doubt get taller than our boys. we always plant the cherry tomatoes at the end of a row for easy snacking access.

we’re back to the straw-wet newspaper method that we used several years ago because it’s the quickest, cheapest, and much better method of weed prevention. (that link will take you to a cute picture of adam when he was 1, crawling around in our garden). we’ve tried black gardening paper before and it’s just expensive, hard to remove and doesn’t prevent weeds nearly as well as straw and newspaper. this was two bales of straw. we’ll be getting mroe to spread this week, as soon as the pole beans pop up from the soil.