Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I'm thinking about running a marathon.

There. I said it.

In fact, I've moved past thinking about a marathon, and I've started planning to run a marathon. I'm debating between the Pittsburgh Marathon and the Flying Pig Marathon. There's a difference of 2 weeks between them, and one happens to be located significantly closer to our home. However, Pittsburgh has family nearby, and I'm pretty sure they'd come to cheer me (or possibly us) on. (Dan is thinking about training for one too. He just hasn't informed me if he's doing it or not.)

Why a marathon? Why now?

Part of it is so I can join the other family members who have run marathons -- my Dad, brother, sister-in-law, and multiple relatives.

Part of it is because I want to know that I can run a marathon. The Biggest Loser finalists can run marathons -- I'd better be able to as well!

Part of it is because the timing is right.

Part of it is because we have amazing bike ways that I can run along, located not a quarter mile from our apartment, with drinking fountains at convenient intervals throughout.

Part of it is just that I want the challenge.

And the last part of it is because I've been eating way too many of these:

And these:

And I've made toffee and hot fudge sauce and caramels since. Uh oh. Training, here I come.

P.S. The bottom spritz cookie is a camel. How cool is that?

Monday, November 29, 2010


Mondays after long weekends stink. Since this isn't PA you do not get off of work. In PA the Monday after Thanksgiving is the first day of buck season, so in PA, you get off. The students are even off. This is because most people in PA over the age of 13 will be hunting, and even if they weren't, I'm pretty sure every single bus driver in PA is also a hunter. Anyway...

We do not live in PA, so I had to go to work today and it wasn't any fun. Tomorrow will be better though, the first day back is just rough.

This past weekend we traveled north to visit family and friends. Due to traffic it took us 5.5 hours instead of 3. There was a lot, a lot of traffic, but we made the best of it by listening to Christmas music, talking about previous Thanksgivings, and stopping for fuel and hot drinks. I borrowed a neat little video camera from work to recored the events of the 5k, but the 5k was postponed a year due to pouring down rain and 35 degree temperatures. I did manage to capture the inside festivities though...so here you go.

I hope you liked it, more to come in the future.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving -- Hip Hip, Hooray!

Today we are off to Dan's sister's house so we don't have a crazy hectic morning tomorrow, what with the 5K and all. I volunteered (or was asked?) to bring pies and rolls, so I've been preparing since Monday.

I made two different kinds of rolls on Monday. First I made potato rolls, melt-in-your-mouth delicious and a reminder of the Fredonia establishment The Upper Crust. Later in the day I made oatmeal rolls, complete with some white whole wheat flour (love that King Arthur brand!).

Yesterday I made pie crusts and put them in the fridge, and this morning I finished up the pies. Chocolate pecan pie and apple with a crumb top. My motto is that cooking/baking ALWAYS takes longer than you think it will. And I was right. The kitchen looked like a war zone even with that step out of the way, and I spent all morning making the fillings for 2 pies.

Now they are cooling on the counter (and the kitchen is cleaned up), so I have some time to reflect on the past few Thanksgivings.

In 2007, our first "married" Thanksgiving, we went to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving #1 and then to Fredonia for leftover Thanksgiving #2.

In 2008, the first year we were in Wisconsin, my parents and my sister made the long drive out to Williams Bay, and we celebrated with my Aunt Faith and cousin Frankie, too. That was the first Thanksgiving I was somewhat in charge of, although my parents brought a turkey, stuffing made and frozen, and some other Thanksgiving essentials (including recipes, which I now have safely tucked away). I made cornbread stuffing (I think?), Dan made mashed potatoes, and I also made the most amazing crescent rolls, if I do say so myself. It was also the first year we tried Chocolate Pecan Pie, and I fell in love.

In 2009, we did a pre-Thanksgiving celebration at Halloween with Dan's family because my student-teaching break far too short to drive all the way to PA. It was fun to have Thanksgiving with everyone and then go trick-or-treating. I loved it.

Then, for the REAL Thanksgiving, Andrew & Shelley drove out to WI to celebrate with us! They got totally lost in Ohio, but made it out to Williams Bay. It was my first Thankgiving without any parents, so I was (overly) prepared. I made a list of the menu, complete with what dishes the finished food would go in. As I was student teaching, I had to go to school on the day before Thanksgiving, and Shelley and Dan did most of the prep work for the big meal. It was like having a sous-chef.

On the day of Thanksgiving, we were joined by our friends Ryan & Virginia (and her amazing sweet potato casserole) and Jay. It was awesome -- I absolutely loved everything about this Thanksgiving, and apparently had so much fun that I didn't take a single picture. Of course we missed the family members who weren't there, but it was great to have friends and family to share the day with.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. You spend lots of time making delicious foods, which are laced with memories of years gone-by. You get to sit around eating and talking and laughing with family and/or friends. And then you can relax for a few hours, only to get out the leftovers to enjoy them again. So excited for the memories that this Thanksgiving will create.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks #16

My friends from college are as dear to me now as the day that we graduated. (An appropriate picture to insert would be one from graduation, but I am unable to find any. ANY. We took like a billion pictures, jumping in our gowns, and yet I have not a single one. Digital pictures are great, but I need to start printing them and filing them in an organized manner. So as a substitute, here is some of my wonderful friends at Kate's wedding. But I digress from the real topic at hand.) Our lives have taken unexpected twists and turns, and we've grown more unique in the years since our time at Houghton, but I still rely on their words of wisdom, their encouragement, and their own stories of growth and change.

These words are from the journal I kept freshman year, when college was still new and terrifying and exciting and overwhelming. I think I can be forgiven for the bit of drama infused in this entry.
My memories of summer fun, of laughter, of joking around and of camaraderie are haunting reminders that everything is different now. And I'm scared I'll never have that again, that friendships like those were for one brief moment in my life. It is so foolish, but I am afraid I will never have friends again. Who is Kate, then, and Adrienne? Sure, they are my friends. But are they the same friends as I had in high school? Am I expecting them to be the same friends? No, but I think I am longing for the closeness and ease of jest and the fun we shared.

Friendships are not made in a day, or a week, or a month or even two months. But I wish they were.
Even then, the makings of amazing friendships were underway, with more to be formed in the months following this entry. I could write an entry on each of these women and how they have impacted my life, but suffice it to say I am abundantly grateful to God for them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Giving Thanks #15

I'm not burned out of being thankful, but I am tired of making a daily post giving the details on what I am thankful for. That's why I skipped yesterday.

Today on Facebook I declared that I was thankful for a healthy body and to celebrate, I was going to run! And run I did, my hair blowing in the warm breeze, dog pulling me onward.

On the topic of running, I am super excited for Thanksgiving. Dan has organized a Family 5K. Here's the reminder email he sent out today:

Dear Registered Racer,

Race day is only a few days away, so are you ready? Have you been running? Walking?

I wanted to take a moment and cover all the basics so that you can arrive ready to go. If you have been looking at the weather you maybe thinking, "maybe I'll just stay inside and not go to that race", but before you make any crazy rash decisions, think of this...you probably won't remember the day you staying inside on Thanksgiving morning, but you will probably remember the day you got up to move yourself 3.1 miles with friends and family. The race director and his staff have also gathered supplies for the race and made beautiful finisher medals last night, so please come.

Cold water will not be provided anymore, so please bring a water bottle for yourself. Hot chocolate will be at the finish line instead of cold water.

WHEN: Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 25, 2010. The race starts at 8:30am. Don't worry about showing up too early but we will start promptly at 8:30. The racers meeting will be about a minute long and it will start at 8:29. The race goes at 8:30!!!!!

PARKING: Parking is available at the Cuyahoga Valley Towpath Trail, Brecksville Station parking lot.

Directions: For most of us....go North on Route 8, turn left onto Route 82. Go 3.8 miles and turn left onto Riverview Road. In .2 miles turn left onto Valley Parkway. Parking lot is straight ahead.

COURSES: The 2010 5k course is an easy, flat out and back route.

Follow the link below in order to see the route. http://www.mapmyride.com/route/us/oh/brecksville/783129047809255458

AWARDS: Finisher medals will be awarded to all finishers.

RACE RESULTS: Race results and photos will be posted online at danandhilary.blogspot.com following the race.

If you have any questions email me or call me.

Looking forward to seeing everyone!


Thursday, here we come!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Giving Thanks #14

Dan is a pretty cool guy. I think he already got his own "thankful" post, but what is to stop me from giving thanks another time for him? (I'm such a rebel.)

Interesting facts about Dan:

1.) He likes pottery. He purchased a birthday mug today -- thanks Grandma B! This is good for me, as he has too many mugs to use on a daily basis, so I get to use parts of his collection for my morning cup of tea.

2.) He is more artsy and creative than he would seem on first acquaintance. Again, this works in my favor when he helps me when I bite off creative art projects that are larger than I can chew.

3.) He does fun things like take footage from our adventure today in order to share it with others. (There's a moment of bike lust in the middle of the footage. Can you spot it? I think it is a common trait shared among cyclists.)

So that was a taste of mountain biking at John Bryan State Park. If you chose to watch, I do feature in the video, going very slowly. My previous mountain biking trips have resulted in scarring and bruising, so I decided that I needed to focus more on staying upright than going fast. I'm still working on that steering thing...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Giving Thanks #13

Today, I am thankful that I got a phone call from a school, asking me to be a long-term sub for a 7th grade math class. Woot woot!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Giving Thanks #12

Dan has a job. It was a long search to find the right one, and I am so glad that he persevered through the waiting period, actively searching for a good fit, not giving up even when he didn't have much hope. We are so glad to be where we are.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Giving Thanks...

I'm glad my conscience was clear this weekend: my previous post covered me for the weekend. I had no time to blog while at my parents' house! However, even though my posting was absent for the weekend, I had an abundance of joys.

1.) Lots of giggling with my sister. And boy, did we have time to chit chat. Chocolate covered animal crackers take some time to make! (We were so amusing that we distracted my mom from her first batch of chocolate cupcakes. Whoops!)
2.) Jo and I were roommates this weekend, too. Nothing like staying up for a half an hour talking about the doo-dads of childhood that still decorate her shelves.
3.) Seeing my brother and sister-in-law, who are pregnant with their first child. They are going to be excellent parents. Seriously. And Shelley looks so cute!
4.) An amazing shower to welcome Baby Ben into the world. It was also a lot of fun, with family, church family, and friends to share in their joy!
5.) Spending time with my wonderful parents. I had such a great time that I teared up when I left Fredonia. (True story.)
6.) Sunday afternoon: lunch with my aunt + uncle and my favorite mother-daughter-sister activities of reading magazines, pointing out silly ideas/products (Real Simple wins the prize for that one) or things we like.
7.) Visiting with friends from Houghton! They were really Shelley's friends first, but I got to join in on the friendships during my time there at college and in the year following.
8.) Watching Mama Mia with my amiga Ashley. Ashley has overcome so much in the past 3 years (and I don't say that lightly). Her attitude and sense of humor are remarkable.
9.) Walks around Fredonia. I love small towns. Multiple people at church said, "Oh! I saw you walking yesterday!" So great.
10.) MEAT. My parents have a meat emporium in their basement, and until you've tasted Brautigam Bacon (raised by an uncle) you haven't LIVED! :) Not to mentioned the other cuts of fantastic meat that I brought back with me. We're set for a few months now. Not only do they give it to us (so kind) but it's all raised locally (well, local to Fredonia). I'm fairly sure that the farmers, 4-H students, and nearby meat processing plant all provide conditions that are much more humane than the industrialized meat farms, so my conscience doesn't have to suffer either.

I had a wonderful, fantastic weekend, but I was also so happy to come home to my sweet husband Dan. I missed him this weekend, but we were able to celebrate his birthday (the big 2-7!) together when I returned home. Excited to enjoy another piece of blueberry buttercream cake tonight for dessert.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Giving Thanks Ten

This is Dan. Hil is off at her parents house this weekend. I have no new photos, so I will describe my thanks w/o pictures.

Hil left Thursday morning, so I have been doing meals on my own since then. Tonight I made salad, and it is that which I am thankful. The order of making things if you wish to copy...Dan style.

grab a skillet, start heating it up. Pour 3 full gobble fulls of veggie oil in that skillet. Grab a large potato and wash if it off a bit. Take your sharp knife and cut that guy down into fry size shapes, long style. When the oil starts smoking drop all those little guys in there and let em' cook. In the meantime, get out all your salad fixin's. Chop up the lettuce or whatever green you have. Add a chopped pepper, carrot, and cucumber. Stir those fries a bit, flipping them over to get them browned and evenly cooked. Grab a large happy glass bowl and put all the fixin's in there. Now take those fries you just made and put them on a paper towel so some oil gets soaked up. Grab the chicken breast you had marinading all day in the fridge and cut it up and put it in the hot skillet. Let that cook while you salt, season, and sample the fries. Dump the rest on the salad and cover with your favorite dressing. Once that chicken is cooked put it on the salad and pour yourself a large glass of milk. Sit down and enjoy it, knowing you only have to wash one knife, one bowl, one skillet, one fork, and one cutting board, all because you remembered to cut up all the salad parts before the chicken. Booyah.

Add a BAM of allspice if you want, or whatever seasonings make you smile like a Halloween night trick-or-treater.

THAT was my dinner and it was awesome. You know what Hilary will find funny though? I totally forgot to put cheese on my salad, and I always get grumpy when Hilary doesn't put cheese on salad. Growing up cheese was ALWAYS on salad in the Sahli house, but not so in the Brautigam house. I knew something was missing tonight...I missed the cheese, but I miss Hil too.

Tomorrow will be Macheese w/ meat and something green.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Giving Thanks #8

This "thankful" post will probably last through the weekend. I'm going to be visiting my hometown in order to help throw a friends-and-family shower for my dear sister-in-law, who is pregnant with their first kiddo. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be busy. Thank goodness that I currently have 5 nieces and nephews I'm thankful for, so that should last me through Sunday.

The oldest is K. She is full of sweetness and loves to give hugs to anyone who is deemed a friend -- and most everyone is. She is intelligent and enthusiastic and most definitely a people person.

Our other niece is E. E can be quiet and shy around strangers, but she is charming and goofy with the people she loves! Dan particularly loves how she can look like an angel but say tomboy-ish things.

Then we have the three holigans, described in age order from left to right. C is a super athlete and he loves school. I mean LOVES. He also is a talented artist (I think he can draw better than I can) and would play outside all day if he could.

V is one of the funniest kids I know. His mom tells me that he is most commonly described as daper. He has personality coming out of his ears! When there aren't other kids around, V will entertain us all day, but if the cousins are together, I'm lucky if I catch his attention to say hi!

C is the littlest of the guys, but does his best to keep up with his various buddies (Pap, V, the uncles, etc). He loves monster trucks and loves to pretend. I think that a cartoon character could be based off of him -- he has the perfect mix of big features and adorable chubbiness.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Giving Thanks #8

Back in August, when the call came offering Dan a job in Dayton, Ohio, it gave us some pause. We were on the way back from picking up the textbooks at the school where I would be teaching. He had four job interviews lined up over the next two weeks, some in more exotic locations. He had done the interview over a month prior, so he was a bit fuzzy on what the job entailed. And last, since his interview was via Skype, he -- and we -- had never visited Dayton.

But after we weighed our options, we made the decision to move to Dayton. Dan arranged a visit to his job site in order to get some of the formalities out of the way, and we decided to kill two birds with one stone. I'd come along and we'd find an apartment together. We knew it was optimistic to hope that we'd find a place to live in one afternoon, so we decided to spend the night and continue searching the next day.

So we arrived in Dayton and had a whirlwind tour of the city, driving around the hip and trendy Oregon district, driving over the dam, and stopping for ice cream at Graeter's (the highlight of my trip). After our three-hour-tour was over, we drove to a grocery store to change, grabbed a free paper with only a few housing options listed, called one or two places from the car, and then realized we needed to drive around looking for the FOR RENT signs.

Keep in mind that Dan and I were at the end of a long period of limited employment, so we were attempting to be as frugal as possible. To that end, we had hardly any minutes left on our cell phone, but we were wary of bumping up our plan. We also had noticed the air conditioning in our car dying, but it's not exactly a necessity. And we decided to camp outside for free instead of stay in a hotel.

After we drove around Dayton and surrounding suburbs for several hours, making phone calls and being astonished by rent prices, we decided to drive up to the park where we were camping out for the night. There we also made dinner. Yes, so frugal that we brought our own food to cook. We were a bit discouraged, but we knew we had an entire day in front of us in which we would certainly find something, or at least have several decent options.

The next morning, full of optimism, we headed out after eating our cereal in lukewarm milk (yum). Today was the day! We drove down to the city of Dayton. And drove. And drove. And drove. The temperatures soared toward 95, and our car's a.c. would work for 5 minutes at a time and then putter out for 15.

The entire day is now somewhat of heat-soaked blur. I know that we looked at several sub-par apartments on the edge of a great neighborhood, one apartment in a bad neighborhood, and the upper apartment in a good neighborhood on a busy road. Somewhere in the middle we made ourselves pb & j, the makings of which were also brought from home.

After lunch, it was my turn to call the number on the sign, and boy, was Dan lucky! I spent 15 minutes on the phone with an elderly woman. I learned about her pets, her husband, and the things she expected from her tenants. I finally got off the phone with her, after extracting a promise that she'd show us the apartment later in the afternoon.

I'm not sure what Dan and I did between the phone call, but we were sitting on the steps of the apartment at the designated time. We waited. We waited some more. Dan called his mom. We watched cars go up and down the street. I eventually called the number again to see where the landlord was, and her husband assured me that she had left the apartment at least 20 minutes ago. Eventually, a Saab put on its right turning signal and ever so slowly pulled into the driveway. A slight, withered elderly woman ever so slowly got out of the car. (It probably took her 2 or 3 minutes to get out of the car. No joke.) She then pulled out a baggie of keys, which she handed to Dan, saying that she was not good with keys. So we made small talk as Dan attempted to open the front door. After every key was tried and some were retried, she declared that we could go through the back door and while we were at it, look at the downstairs apartment.

As Dan and I had been there for 45 minutes with nothing to do except look at the outside of this house/apartment, we knew someone was occupying the downstairs. We informed the lady of this, and she was shocked!

"Well, I told him he needed to be out of there three weeks ago," she said, as we stepped over filthy plates, clothes strewn all over the floor, and sidestepped between the couch and the door leading up to the second floor.

We admired the older apartment the best that we could, but both Dan and I knew that this probably wasn't going to be the best situation to become entangled in. So as politely as we could, we told her we'd call her if we decided to rent it and made our way out into the hot safe-haven known as our car.

Then, dejected and overheated, we decided to find a hotel, get some dinner, use the Internet, and resume our search in the morning. We cranked up the a.c. in our room, ate enough to go into a food coma, and attempted to search the internet for additional options. Eventually, we made a game plan, which included looking further outside the city and in big apartment buildings.

So the next morning, we set out again, still hoping that something would open up. This time, our game plan (differing from the previous day by having actual places to visit instead of just driving aimlessly around the city) showed a bit more promise. I had been watching the addictive channel HGTV, and especially the show House Hunters, far too much in the weeks and months preceding this move, so the options of the third day were narrated by Susanne Wong, with a script that went something like this.

Do they want the older town home outside the city in the need of some adjustments?
The trendy loft inside the city, but without parking?
Or the basement apartment with unique features in an old school building?
Find out when we return.

And our choice was... #3!

I am so grateful that we found something during our whirlwind trip, and I am even more thrilled that it is working out wonderfully for us. It's a great location for work and a really neat apartment.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Giving Thanks #7

Thank goodness for sunshine in the morning again! I'm much more cheerful when there is sunlight streaming into our apartment while I'm eating breakfast. I also didn't mind the nice long morning on Sunday -- made the whole day feel very relaxed.

What made Sunday even better was that Dan and I were able to spend some quality time together. We drove to the town of Yellow Springs in order to hike in John Bryan State Park. I love spending time outside on Sunday with Dan.

Dan is all about teaching Lander to jump up on things, although he has to put himself in the same positions to convince Lander to follow.

Fun day in the woods!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Giving Thanks #7

I am abundantly grateful that we found a church on the second Sunday we were here in Dayton. We were immediately drawn to the welcoming atmosphere. As the pastor said, "We want to be a place with sticky on our hands," and we are evidence of that goo.

The second week we attended, we decided to take the plunge and sign up for a small group. Our life group has just started recently, and while we're not all in the same places in life, almost all of us are new to the church or the area. It was a bonding experience to share our stories and learn that all of us are searching for connection, from one of the new pastors on staff to two military families to other transplants. We've only had three meetings, but since we've started getting together, we've seen friendly faces every Sunday. It's so great to know names to put to those faces and a little bit of their stories. I am thankful for this community.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Giving Thanks #6

Last night I planned on what to be thankful for today: deep dish pizza.

We've recently joined a small group, and we've been reading John Ortberg's The Life You've Always Wanted, on spiritual disciplines. One of the chapters is on the discipline of celebration, and in that chapter, he encourages us to practice having joy, giving thanks for simple pleasures. So yesterday, when pizza was on the menu, I decided to amp it up to Deep Dish Pizza, which makes regular pizza pale in comparison. It was, as always, delicious -- stringy cheese, crumbled sausage, a crisp and flavorful crust, and we even had a bottle of Henry Weinhard's to share. Then we rented a movie -- The Ghost Writer -- because we had listened to the book during one of our car rides from Wisconsin to PA or NY and really enjoyed it.

I'm happy to say that we practiced the discipline of celebration to the best of our abilities yesterday. I'm thankful for good food, an enjoyable movie, and the company of my husband.

P.S. I'm even more thankful that there are leftovers for lunch today!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Giving Thanks #5

Dan recently ran a 1/2 marathon. I was so proud of him!

A short list of some of the things I have loved about my husband in the last 24 hours:

1.) He washed the dishes after I made dinner.
2.) He covered me up with another blanket after he got up this morning.
3.) He generally comes home for lunch.
4.) He suggested that we have a big breakfast on Saturday (one of my favorite things!).
5.) He laughs out loud at t.v. shows with me.
6.) He gladly eats all the sweets in our house so I don't have to.

I'm thankful for my sweet husband.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Giving Thanks #4

Several years ago, I was home from college on Christmas break and, as with every break, I was hanging out in the living room, going through all the issues of Country Living, Better Homes and Gardens, and Martha Stewart (affectionately called Martha Stew-Stew in our house) that had arrived since I'd been gone. I was fascinated with the December issue of Martha Stewart and the knitted items featured. Dan knew that his mom knew how to knit and offered her services. The next time I was in PA, his mom graciously showed me (and showed me and showed me) how to knit and purl. I was smitten.

The number of items I knit fluctuates from year to year and season to season, but it is a hobby I enjoy. I think it stems from my favorite phrase: I can do it myself! There is such satisfaction in creating something usable out of a couple of sticks and a ball of yarn.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Giving Thanks #3

Yesterday I was issued my Ohio Teaching License! It is a huge relief to know that I am able to teach in our new home state. The certificate is in the mail, arriving in the next few days.

Now I just need a job to go with my skills. I can hope that that will be a thankful post sometime this month.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Giving Thanks #2

One of our apartment-neighbors has taken the responsibility of beautifying our apartment building with gorgeous planters. They have been breathtaking since we moved here, and I've enjoyed them daily while outside with Lander. I was worried that they would be left to turn brown and die in the cold, but fortunately, she moved them indoors, with two of them in close proximity to our apartment door!

This plant has large, light pink flowers and perfumes the air with its scent. In fact, that's how I knew the plants migrated inside -- I could smell it. The neighbor told me that they are native to Jamaica, so I guess that tells you about our summers if they bloom and grow here!

And this plant has astonishingly large leaves. Dan likes to say that they'd make good group T.P. (Outdoor guy, obviously.)

I'm thankful for this neighbor and how she adds beauty to my life, and I'm thankful that the Creator wasn't satisfied with one or two flowers, but created the stunning variety of plants, some of which I enjoy daily.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Give Thanks #1

I've been inspired to give thanks for something every day this month. It's really something I should be doing every day, regardless of the month, but somehow it seems especially pertinent during November. So while we work our way up to Thanksgiving, I'll be posting a daily thanks.

Today, day #1, I'm thankful for energetic walks with Lander on crisp fall days.

(So this picture actually just shows Dan + Lander (boy + dog = bff) in our backyard, but I wasn't up for faking a picture of me walking Lander.)

Walking a dog makes me more open for greeting the people I meet while outside. I'm not freaked out that they'll harm me, as I do have a rather uncontrollable dog whirring around me, and I've exchanged more pleasantries with my neighbors about Lander than I would have by myself. It also gets me out of the apartment, which I need. Fresh air and Vitamin D have become part of my morning routine. I might not be so thankful for this come snow (if we get any), but for now, with these beautiful crisp mornings, it's something I enjoy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Life Lately

1.) We discovered that a local grocery store carries our ultimate favorite, the splendidly delicious Henry Weinhard's Root Beer (and cream soda!).

2.) Dan ran a Halloween 5K, along with 3,749 other people, or thereabouts. He dressed up as a Chilean Miner. He did an awesome job, especially when you consider that he hasn't run since his half marathon.

This picture isn't focused on Dan because I was really taking a picture of the Star Wars dude behind him. As I took the picture, though, I realized Dan was right in front of me.

3.) You know you've lived in Wisconsin when you think that PacMan is really a hoop of cheese with a wedge cut out of it.

4.) This costume was creepy, but strangely eye-catching.

5.) I liked the bouncing udder in this costume. Added some verisimilitude to the costume. Poor cows. (Once, during college, my friends and I went to a diary and helped do the milking. It was quite the experience!)

3.) We're dog sitting this weekend. I'm pretty sure the other dog is going to be sick and tired of Lander's incessant play. I get a little freaked out -- those teeth! those yips! those jumps on top of each other! -- but I'm doing my best to remain calm until Dan gets home. Then I am off duty.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sister Sister!

This post is for one of the bravest people I know, my little sister. Although she probably wouldn't characterize herself as brave (after all, she doesn't like rock climbing or heights!), she certainly goes out of her comfort zone. She's been in more countries than I have and regularly tries things that scare her silly -- like zip lines in Costa Rica. Fresh out of college, Joanna decided to use her gift for teaching and her big heart to volunteer with AmeriCorps, in the heart of inner-city Buffalo. She is working at the King's Center and when not at school, she is reaching out to her neighbors. She lives in Buffalo with a group of Houghton alum, and these individuals gather together for shared meals frequently. Yesterday she bought a slew of chicken to make into White Chicken Chili (yum), and I told her that this might be a cheaper way to feed her friends. So this post is for her.

Cheap Chicken

Start with a fryer chicken, which cost 89 cents a pound for me. If you want the chicken and broth to have a little more flavor, you'll also need an onion, some celery and a carrot.

I peel the skin from the onion but otherwise leave it whole. I don't peel the carrot, but I do lope off the top, and the leafy inside stalks of the celery are apparently great for soup.

Next, fill a large pot about 2/3s of the way. Rinse off the chicken (I guess this is an optional step, but sometimes there is gross syrupy stuff that has been injected into the chicken and comes oozing out, so I do it), and make sure you dump out the stuff that they shove inside, like the heart and gizzards and a sheet of fatty yellow fat. (I forgot that once in Belfast!) I'm not sure if one should drop the innards into the pot with the chicken, but yesterday I did (but not the fatty piece). Then throughly wash your hands and bleach the sink.

Then toss in the carrot and celery and onion, and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, set the time for an hour and fifteen minutes, and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. As it starts to cook, you'll notice some yucky scum on the top of the pot. I use a spoon to skim it off and I did not take a picture of it. It was yucky, as I mentioned before.

It'll boil happily on your stove, and your apartment will start to smell like chicken noodle soup. Yum.

Once the timer goes off, take two big spoons and wrestle the chicken onto a plate. You'll have to let it cool there for about an hour. Otherwise your hands will be really hurting as you try to shred the chicken. You could always use rubber gloves if you were in a big hurry, but I'd recommend waiting for awhile.

I shredded the meat, discarding the skin and throwing the bones back into the pot of broth. (I continued cooking the broth for several hours with the bones, onion, carrot, celery, and a half tsp of salt to make stock. I probably should have added more water, as I probably made a rather condensed stock, but I forgot. Oh well. Currently it is sitting in the fridge, waiting for me to skim off the fat that has risen to the top, and then it'll be ready to freeze or whatever.) As you can see, I got about 5 1/2 to 6 cups of chicken from a 5 pound chicken, plus at least 2 quarts of chicken stock.

Shredded chicken can be used for a whole variety of quick meals, freezes well, and can be defrosted very quickly. So... do it to it, sister! Love you lots. :)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Things I'm Considering...

I already revealed my deep desire for my house (or currently, our apartment) to look like it belongs in magazine. It still looks pretty much like it did a few weeks ago and will stay looking like that for the foreseeable future. But, having a lot of time on my hands, I can't help but plan what I might someday buy for our apartment. So here is the current list, with items picked from stores which I would, in reality, probably buy from. Although I absolutely love looking at expensive pieces in magazines, catalogs, and in stores, it won't happen, at least not now.

A cart for our television and DVD player. Our set-up is such that to be watchable, the t.v. has to be pulled out from the wall, in the living room space. However, it looks ugly when you walk in, and blocks the flow of the room. I'd like to buy some sort of rolling cart that we could easily wheel in or out, depending if the t.v. was in use or not. There are plenty of expensive carts, but this one is pretty economical.
Product Image Seville Classics Chrome Mobile 3 Shelf Storage Unit
Fabric Cubes for Storage: Dan made an inexpensive solution to our kitchen storage issues by screwing together several pine boards into shelves, which we then painted white. My crockpot, rice cooker, food processor, kitchen aid, and cookbooks are all stored there, as well as other kitchen essentials, such as ziplock bags, light bulbs, and paper towels. I need some baskets in order to hide some of the essentials that don't look quite as nice as the appliances. I'm thinking these (but perhaps not in bright green):

Product Image Full Size Fabric Bin-ITSO
Shoe Rack: I have a cute, hot pink, back of the door shoe storage thing to corral my shoes. Dan does not. He (we) need something to control the shoe chaos, both in our closet and by our door. This would do the trick.
Sheer Curtains: Some privacy, please! Our apartment is on ground level, so it is really easy to see directly into our apartment. It's only the dog people that are out back, so it's not like we're on a major highway, but I'd still like to have a little more privacy without always having to keep the blinds down. Curtains can be super expensive, but I think these are pretty (and in my price range!). I'd need to hem them, and perhaps would still pair them with a heavier curtain, but it'd be a start.

Carpet: Let me just say, for a brief moment, that I have seen this area rug a couple of times in different magazines, and I just love it (in blue multi). Just do. A rug would help define our living room space better, but I'm pretty sure an $800 rug is out of the question. So, what about carpet squares? I could reconfigure them when we no longer live here, and in any case, I like Martha's take on them.

I also like the look of this for under our table, which is located on carpet, again defining the area for eating.

Any opinions on these choices? My only concern is that our apartment has a very neutral wall color and all of our pieces are in pretty neutral colors -- is it going to start looking boring? Or did I pick enough color in the carpet to help spice it up? Just a query.

And now, I need to stop dreaming, and perhaps start looking for a job. Otherwise, our apartment is going to stay exactly as is. And if does, that's fine: learning the lesson of contentment is ultimately much more valuable than furnishings.

An (unsuccessful) Interview

Even if you have earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching and (as my Grandma B points out) you have some experience, which is wonderful, moving as the school year begins isn't fortuitous for finding a teaching job. As of yet, I'm still unemployed and half-heartedly searching. It's a half-hearted effort because my Praxis score won't be available until 10/19, so I can't get certified to teach quite yet, so I'm not actually very employable. In light of that, I took my mom's advice to look up the closest Ann Taylor store. I happen to love Ann Taylor's clothes -- well made, versatile, and a perfect staple for a teacher wardrobe. Lo and behold, I found one about 20 minutes away, and they were actually hiring!

I drove over about 2 weeks ago and discovered that it is located in one of those new-fangled shopping areas, designed like a small town and with limited (parallel) parking spots which are all metered. Not only can you shop there, you can live there (gasp!) so you can shop whenever you want.

Not exactly my cup of tea, but a job is a job. And the associate's discount is 50%. So I was pretty psyched.

I filled out an application and completed an online survey to determine my "hirability" (their words), and soon after got a call from a manager to come in for an interview. Sweet, I thought. I'll wear some nice (AT) dress pants and the job will be mine.

On the day of the interview, I arrived about 10 minutes early and then flubbed parallel parking. I think I need to go practice with my Dad again. Then I only had one quarter, which only bought me 15 minutes, but I figured it'd be a pretty quick interview. After all, it's a job in retail. It is not rocket science. The customer is always right. That's the main rule, correct?

The first part of the interview was filled with typical interview questions. Tell me a little bit about yourself, tell me about a time when (insert scenario). All of the questions were relatively easy to answer. Although I wasn't thrilled about committing to work the day after Thanksgiving or the week of Christmas, I was cognizant of my need for a paycheck and the perk of filling out my wardrobe.

And then the interview took a turn for the worse.

Interviewer: Imagine a valley-girl, cheerleader*, ditzy voice. "And to work in retail, you have to be a fashionista. So, now I'm going to ask you some questions about your style."

Me: Seriously? Fashionista is a made-up, pop-culture word, you dummy. Okay! Great!

Interviewer: In two words, describe your style for me.

Me: Shoot! I'm not trendy, for sure, and I really only wear comfortable things. Ok, comfortable is a decent word. Comfortable, like, I don't like to wear heels and um..... Oh no, what else can I say? Should I say modern? But that's kind of a lie. What other words describe style? Ugh. Outdoorsy? No no, that's not a good word for AT. How about like organic or natural? Natural! Noticing the woman's strange look, I attempt to explain. Like I like organic fibers and not a lot of synthetics. Sort of. Whatever. That was so the wrong answer.

Interviewer: Slowly says, Alright. Now, where do you find your fashion inspiration?

Me: Inspiration? Oh no. Well the Internet, of course.

Interviewer: Like where on the internet?

Me: You know, websites. And also magazines.

Interviewer: Which ones?

Me: I used to flip through People. Only at Grams and only because it was on the table, but she doesn't need to know that.

Interviewer: Okay. What is your favorite cosmetic product?

Me: Oh gosh, I don't know! I don't really use that much makeup and I just buy whatever happens to catch my eye and use it until it runs out! The only really branded thing I have is... My Clinique moisturizer. It's just so great, lamely attempting to give my answer some merit.

Interviewer: What is one style that you've wanted to try but just haven't had the guts to?

Me: What style? Seriously? I don't know! What IS in style? Anything, Hilary, think of anything that is in style. You haven't tried any of it. Like a flow-y dress with a wide belt around the waist. I think it looks really great on other people but I don't know how it'd look on me. Oh, that answer at least got some recognition. Yes. Maybe I'm redeeming it after all!

Interviewer: What is one product that you never home without putting on?

Me: Oh dear. Back to the slippery slope. I have lip gloss in my purse, or maybe I should say mascara because I do wear that when I do wear make up, but I really leave the house without it a lot of times. Like 90% of the time right now. I don't put anything on to take the dog out, and I sometimes see people out there. I just can't help but say the honest answer.... Chapstick!

Interviewer: Giving me a pitying smile, and no longer even trying to respond to my answers. What are you favorite stores to shop at besides Ann Taylor?

Me: Looking around the room, desperately attempting to recall some stores that are cool and that I own something from. Anything from. The only store I can recall purchasing anything from is Old Navy and Kohls, both of which are kind of like Wal-Mart when compared to AT. Even in my despair, I recognize that these are not stores I should admit to purchasing clothes from in this interview. I remember walking into Gap recently, and in the past I have purchased clothes there, so Gap! it is. And where else, let's see... Hmm, I can't even remember buying new clothes since I've been married**. Oh wait, I did buy something on super sale from Eddie Bauer, and that pops out and then I sink into the floor and disappear and relieve myself from finishing this embarrassing interview.

Oh wait. That didn't happen. Instead the interviewer explained to me that they like to be a "really genuine stylist" for their customers, making sure that they don't only have the top, they have the bottoms and the scarf to make the outfit and so on and so forth. (People actually buy entire outfits in one go? They don't just buy what they need to have a decent wardrobe? Hmmm. Maybe I won't fit in here.) She then ended the interview by saying, "I still have some other people to interview, so I'll be in touch." And then, as I picked up my brown purse, her eyes saw it and my black shoes and I was toast. Just like that.

It's been a week, and I still haven't heard back. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that my stellar interview really sealed the deal, and Dan no longer has to worry about me spending my entire paycheck at my place of employment.

*Just stereotyping, sorry if it offends.

**I really have purchased new clothes in the past three years. T.J. Maxx baby! And a couple of times I've visited various outlet malls and found some good deals, but none of this sprang to mind.

Moral of the story: When interviewing in retail, attempt to be current with something. Anything. It might not help you get the job, but it will save you some glowing red cheeks and laughter/tears as you explain your interview to your hubby.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Staying Busy

Dan is about three weeks into his new job, and he is really enjoying it. (Praise the Lord for that!) He's been working some pretty long days, as fall is a busy season for his organization, so I've been trying my best to stay busy. We've pretty much finished settling in, so I've been doing quite a bit of reading. Our public library is a 15 minute walk from our apartment so it's close enough to go as often as I need new books! However, I've also been re-reading from my stash of books in our hallway (no bookcases yet), attempting to convince Dan that many books = happy wife. Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books are some of my perennial favorites, and while I was working at the HC campus store, I snagged full color collector set copies of 4 of the first 5 books. (I still need to find Farmer Boy in the same edition; I love Almanzo's adventures growing up! And I see that the publisher has some of the later years in the same addition. This is going on my Christmas list!)

Anyways, Dan has never read them, so I can't wait until we have some little girls and we read them out loud on a family adventure. I really think he'll be impressed by how ingenious and industrious Pa was. The stories are so amazing. They had so little but they were so happy and content with what they had. And Ma was an amazing wife. She never failed to support Pa, no matter if they were sick or smashing grasshoppers or doing chores in a blizzard. So very many lessons to learn from the Ingalls family.

One thing I've adopted in my effort to make time pass quickly while Dan is at work is by completing a chore a day.

Ma's chores went like this:

"Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday."

I decided to modify a bit:

"Bills on Monday,
Kitchen/Living Room on Tuesday,
Grocery Shop on Wednesday,
Laundry on Thursday,
Bathroom on Friday,
Bedroom on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday."

I guess one could say I'm a person who thrives on schedules.

Monday, September 13, 2010

(Becoming) Home

I love looking at people's homes in magazines. I love admiring how they've decided to arrange their rooms, the curtains they chose, the art displayed on their walls, what the color of their teapot is, and how their quirks are expressed. In my ideal world, my home would be of the caliber to be featured in a magazine -- with a housekeeper to keep it neat and tidy.

Our apartment building totally has potential to be in a magazine. It's an old school building near downtown Dayton, and some of the rooms have some of the original school-house architecture, like the stage for the auditorium or blackboards that used to be on the wall. Our apartment, however, used to be the bathrooms for the kiddos, so most of the original got ripped out (thank goodness!). To me, though, our apartment is perfect, but I hate to admit how much time I spent trying to ready our apartment for a few pictures. Besides the regular straightening up to make it picture worthy, I also needed to wash the windows. We're in the basement/ground level, and the windows were filthy with dirt and dust. The smudges wouldn't have been visible in the pictures, undoubtedly, but when you aspire to magazine greatness, you have to be pretty picky. While I washed the screens and the windows (both inside and outside), the light from the morning passed me by, so I was left to take pictures in the darker afternoon.

Here is the tour:

This is our entrance to the building, with beautiful potted plants lining the sidewalk. One of the residents loves to garden, and we get to enjoy her labor!

If you skip down six wide concrete steps, turn to your left, and then open the door on the right, you'll most likely be greeted with Lander, making sure you're acceptable.

Our door opens into the living room-kitchen-eating area, but because I don't have a wide-angle lens, you'll get it in stages. Here's the living room:

Notice the couch we bought before leaving Pittsburgh. It's pretty big, but it works really well in this space! Also, notice our t.v. sitting on a chair. I'm pretty sure I've never seen that in a magazine, but you know what? Works well for now.

Also notice the presence of an exercise ball. Where do people put their exercise balls when their house is being photographed for a magazine? I bet they throw it in their basements. Me, I leave it out. More real that way.

Another really neat feature of our apartment is the two foot deep windowsills. They are marble or slate (it varies), and so beautiful. They are also south facing, and I'm hoping to keep my herbs alive all winter. Our windows look into the backyard -- something that Lander particularly likes. It allows him to keep tabs on when the other dogs go out to play. I'm thinking that we could use some sheer curtains, especially as our dinner was interrupted yesterday when Lander and a yellow lab had a stare off.

Our kitchen is just dandy. It's pretty simple, without tons of cupboard space, but what we sacrificed cupboards for was a dishwasher! I love it. To supplement the kitchen area, Dan let me use a shelf that he built for his backpacking stuff (behind the table in the previous picture). We're going to add another couple of shelves and paint it white, and then it will look a bit more polished than it does now. We'll also try find a couple of stools or tall chairs for counter, but right now our shoes are happily living there.

Our hallway is lined with books -- we need to buy another bookshelf. If you peek in the door on the left you'll see the bathroom.


On the right you have our storage room -- and theoretically a guest room. It's where Lander sleeps, our off season clothes reside, our chest freezer freezes, and our outdoor gear lives. Give us a few days before you decide to swing by. This room needs some work.

Our bedroom is at the end of the hallway. If I were a designer, I'd make some snooty comments about needing a headboard to give the bed some weight, some more art on the walls, etc. As is it's fine for sleeping in. And it has a nice big closet (no picture; I was tired of making things neat and tidy).

I'm still waiting for the magazine stylists to arrive, with accessories in hand, but until they do, I'm happy with our lovely apartment. I'm sure I'll make small changes -- rugs, curtains, pillows -- but you'll have to come see them for yourselves! We're excited to be settled in Dayton and even more excited for all of the adventures that lie ahead.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

accepted a job and moving to a place we have never been to...

Since I was once told that Facebook was the easiest way to communicate I have decided to write a blog post about this to prove him wrong, but link it to my facebook account, so I have decided to use two dimensions of the electronic digital world.

I found a job, probably close to 150, I applied to a lot of them. For this specific job I interviewed via Skype webcam, I gave up hope, I was wrong. They called me, they told me they decided on who to offer the job to, they told me the offer was for me. I was excited, a bit bewildered with the humor of Christ. I accepted the job, and then cancelled 4 of the interviews I had lined up across the country. I went to one of the interviews that was local: the reason, to wear my new suit that I picked up the night before.

Hilary and I will be moving to Dayton, OH.
I have accepted a job as Outdoor Coordinator-Cycling for the Five Rivers MetroParks.
I will be coordinating, planning, running events, activities, trips, etc. I believe I will help with all aspects of the Outdoor Recreation department, but my focus is cycling related.

We don't know where we are living or anything. We have never been to Dayton, so details will be forthcoming if you want to help us move. Hilary hopes to get certified in OH to teach, so she'll be busy doing that.

If any of you have been to Dayton and have suggestions of what part/area to live in, that would be great. We are driving out next week to check it out.
I start in around 2-4 weeks.

Thank you for your prayers if you have been praying, keep it up...lots of people desire employment.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reasons being unemployed stinks that no one else thinks of...

Letterman style....here goes.

10. You have to delete files on your computer so you don't send out the wrong cover letter or resume

9. tea doesn't taste as good as if you made it at work

8. it takes all day to do 3 things on your to-do list because you lack motivation and desire

7. the bag of chocolate chips seems to have learned how to feed themselves to you

6. you look forward to going to bed early so you can get up early to check email

5. weekends aren't any fun because it just means you have to wait until Monday to hear back from people and look for new jobs posted

4. you don't even want the phone to ring, because when it does, it is never the person you want it to be

3. walking to the mailbox is depressing, not exciting like it should be

2. you use a lot more of your own toilet paper

1. you get so bored sometimes you stage pictures of yourself. Pictures that you would find on the front page of the newspaper titled "Frustrated that you haven't found a job?"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sowing Seeds

One day way back in April, while walking accompanying Dan on a mission to find dog food at Tractor Supply Co., I spied a display of seed packets. Last year was my first attempt at sowing seeds directly in the ground, and I was amazed when they actually grew. This year, I decided to attempt starting some cilantro and basil. At $1.50 per packet, I figured it was worth the try.

While my attempts to grow cilantro have now failed two times, my basil is growing like mad. It looks fantastic! I have three plants in a pot and four more plants in the ground, next to my two tomato plants.

On my to do list for tomorrow: pesto.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Beach Bum.

Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Coming Home

Last week, Dan and I went to the Outer Banks, NC, for a family trip to the beach. It was a lot of fun and quite relaxing. I'll post some pictures and stories from that trip, but I have more pressing things to share.

Sunday, when we got home, our fridge was barren. Empty, except for the end of a half-gallon of milk and the ever-present condiments. When Bruce and Sue dropped off Gram, we ordered Chinese take-out, so we were saved for the night, but the next morning the reality of our empty fridge struck: I found a piece of bread in the freezer to make toast and Dan used the last cup of milk for cereal, but other than that, we really needed some food.

I've been hoping to find fresh produce somewhere besides Giant Eagle, so I googled "local produce" and "Gibsonia, PA" and landed on a website that pointed me to the Dillner Family Farm, located up the road. They do a CSA program, which I'd like to try some year, but they also have a farm stand. I drove the several miles to the farm and was instantly in love. It's a serve-yourself and pay-before-you-go kind of place, and it was FANTASTIC.

I bought fresh lettuce, $2.

1 bunch of onions, $2.

1 head of fresh garlic, $1.
4 red tomatoes, first of the summer, $2.50.
1 pint of unshelled peas, $2.50.

1 container of thyme and 1 container of rosemary, $2 each.

2 quarts of ripe strawberries, red through to the center, $7.

And, just because I could, 1 zucchini, $1. It wasn't on the list, but it looked so delicious, so fresh, so summer-y that I just had to. So I did.