Outdoor Movie Night

outdoor movie night

We have been thoroughly enjoying the outdoor space in our new home, and our most favorite activity to date was our outdoor movie night. We threw this party at the end of October, when it was still getting dark at 7pm and we hadn’t yet had a hard frost. Under the guise of Shawn’s Birthday/Housewarming/Why The Heck Not, we invited a few friends over for food, fire, and an outdoor showing of Hocus Pocus. (It was the weekend before Halloween, after all. I put a spell on you!)

We borrowed a tarp/white sheet screen from a friend, along with a moveable fire pit and a few crockpots. Actually, we borrowed the projector, the speakers, and the movie as well. I even used some leftover decorations from an event the week before at my work! (Thanks to everyone who lent us stuff!) I made a few different kinds of chili and some hot apple cider and lined up crockpots under lamps on a table outside. We used a lot of extension cords. We grilled hot dogs and roasted marshmallows and enjoyed pumpkin beer around the fire. We asked the guests to bring their own lawn chair/blankets, and everyone curled up to enjoy the movie. We managed to have perfect weather– cool enough to cuddle, but no one got frostbite– and there were no bugs! We had a great time, and we are already looking forward to doing it next year!


Day 1 in the Open Air: A Confession {31 Days}

art credit: Kelinda Ganow

art credit: Kelinda Ganow

As I mentioned yesterday, I am joining The Nester for her 31 Days of blogging. Which means there will be a new post here every single day of October. Unless it gets too hard and I quit. Just kidding! I’m not a quitter. (Yes I am). As we settle in for the long haul, I want you to know a few things about me.

I am an amateur. I have forayed into various aspects of outdoor life: kayakingcamping, backpacking, and super-hiking. I have dallied in all sorts of outdoorsy events, but I am an expert at none. I simply can’t (or maybe just won’t) give the committed time and attention to one sporty endeavor– and why would I when there are so many other great things to try?

I don’t have any adventures on the docket this month. I will be working quite a bit, we have some visitors coming into town, and I told myself that I would give myself a break after the Super Hike. (Which was three weeks ago. So this is a long break).

I live in a small town outside of Philadelphia. Not Colorado, or Utah, or Wyoming, or any other place that practically begs you to get outdoors. I’m not exactly urban, but I’m not a hop-skip-and-jump away from the Grand Canyon either.

My dog just had surgery. I know what you’re thinking: What a weird thing to say. Where is this going? You see, my dog is often my main excuse to get outside. He is a one year old golden doodle and he is, as they say, crazy. He needs to get his energy out, and we do that by going for a walk in the woods. But, since he just had a washcloth removed from his small intestine (don’t ask), and he needs to take it easy, I will need to find some extra motivation to get out there.

What I am trying to tell you is this: there is nothing special going on here. I don’t have extra resources that you don’t have, or extra time that you don’t have, or some crazy passion that you don’t have. I am an average joe here, trying to spend some time outside because it is so good. And for the next 30 days, we’ll find out why.

What about you? Do you get outside? What are some of your favorite things to do?

31 Days of Being Out in the Open Air

31 days out in the open air 3

31 days straight, in a row, consecutively, of blogging.

Here’s what I’m thinking: I like blogging. I want to get better at it, and forcing myself to do it for 31 days straight seems like a good way to accomplish this goal. Also, I like being outside. I think that good stuff happens when you venture outdoors. You don’t have to a climb a mountain to experience the magic of this wild world (although that would certainly be magical); that same beautiful world exists for us when we walk around our neighborhood at dusk or drink our coffee in the backyard. Alone or with friends or with your dog, there is something to learn and experience and be blessed by as we step out our front door and into the open air.

Therefore: I am going to blog for 31 days about all the good things that happen when you go outside into the open air.

I hope it’s awesome. I’ll be posting a link to each blog post here, so please check back and follow along with the adventure!

Day 1 in the Open Air: A Confession

Day 2: Down to the River

Day 3: Tales of a City Girl in a Rural Garden

Day 4: Lola the Caterpillar

Day 5: Technology Can Help You Get Outside

Day 6: “The best remedy for those who are afraid…”

Day 7: Outdoors at a House Tour

Day 8: On Living in the County

Day 9: Nature Through A Child’s Eyes

Day 10: Out in the Open Air in Your Fancy Pants

Day 11: Top 3 Reasons We Love Walking in the Rain

Day 12: Next Best Thing: Reading

Day 13: “The secret powers of nature…”

Day 14: Out on the Ropes Course

Day 15: Half-Way Through 31 Days of Blogging

Day 16: Walking the Dog At Night

Day 17: Pumpkins, Sharp Knives, and Good Talks

Day 18: Pumpkins, Revisited

Day 19: A Walk in the Autumn Air

Day 20: “Some people, in order to discover God…”

Day 21: A Trip to the Apple Orchard

Day 22: That “This Is Who I Am” Feeling

Day 23: Sharing Out in the Open Air

Day 24: Debriefing the Challenge Course: Fear

Day 25: Fall Foliage Report

Day 26: “I account it high time to get to the sea…”

P.S. Check out this awesome button I made! I am too legit to quit.

31 days button out in the open air

I’m linking up The Nester for her 31 Days 2013 Series! Along with 1,200 other bloggers… Go check ’em out!

What? September Already?

Hi Guys! I’ve missed you!

We were a bit busy over our blogging break. We took a much-needed trip to Minnesota to visit family and friends. And to visit the Minnesota State Fair. I’ll post some amateur-league iPhone photos of that trip tomorrow. We did not move into our apartment, which was also the plan. Something about HVAC problems. Our new move-in date in September 14th– keep your fingers crossed for it! And of course Mowgli and I visited the vet again. I suggested we just make a bi-weekly standing appointment.

I was planning on returning to this little site the day after Labor Day, but something very important has consumed my time over the past few days. And that something was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I laughed, I cried, I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning and then showed up late to work because I couldn’t put it down. I actually tried to bring it to work and read it on my lap under the table, but this is the kind of thing that needs your full attention, you know? Work, I mean. Work needs your full attention. Ahem.

And that little Super Hike I signed up for is on Saturday. I had been “tapering”, aka doing nothing, until last Sunday when I hiked the last seven miles of the course and thought I might die. It was hard. Soul-crushingly hard. I think I have convinced Shawn to meet me at the last checkpoint that day, just in case I need to go home early. I also bought Swedish Fish. So at least I have that going for me! Unless I am completely humiliated by my inept attempt at hiking on Saturday, you should see a riveting summary of the day here next Monday.

I hope the end of your summer was wonderful. September here we come!

An Afternoon at the Apiary

The community center took a field trip this week to visit an apiary. And no one was stung! A small miracle.

bee hives

The Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County partners with a local beekeeper to offer free educational “Open Hive” days to people interested in learning more about bees. I was actually not all that interested in learning about bees, but we like to bring our kids to quirky free things, and this fit the bill. But let me tell you: It was fascinating.

Did you know that 90% of the bees in a hive are female? The ladies do all the work, collecting pollen, making honey, stinging invaders, and taking care of the babies. The men, or drones, just kind of hang out. They don’t have any of the physical attributes, like pollen catchers on their legs (please excuse my technical jargon), that make them useful to the hive– so in the winter, the females kick them out into the snow to die. Isn’t that crazy?

bee hive

The beekeeper “smoked” the bees to dilute their sense of smell, which is how they detect threats and communicate with each other. He pulled out a number of different frames where the bees had built their combs and let the kids stick their fingers in the raw honey. He dug deeper and showed the kids where the bees had laid their babies, he pointed out the queen bee, who was marked, and then he let the kids hold the drone bees, who don’t have stingers, poor guys.

bee hive

I am so glad we went. Go find your local beekeeper and ask for a lesson. And some honey. Trust me.

Camping With Teenagers

photo (32)

We took our community center kids camping this past weekend. It went a little something like this:

We left late and arrived even later. We set up our tents in the primitive youth camp site as the sun was setting. The boys decided to set up their mega tent in the middle of an open field. Something about “the high ground”. I don’t know. It did not look all that high to me.

We went through three bottles of bug spray. In one night.

We got our fire started on the third try. We cooked hot dogs and baked beans and s’mores. I have no idea if everyone got enough to eat because we had two lanterns and 16 teenagers and I kept asking where the graham crackers were and never found them.

The two porta-potties were out of toilet paper.

We told ghost stories around the campfire, and the teens took turns walking around the outside of the group and tickling people’s necks with a dead leaf to make them scream. It worked 100% of the time.

At one point, someone found the strobe-light setting on a headlamp and we had a dance party.

We finally retired to our respective tents, but it didn’t really feel like separate tents because you could hear every single conversation.

One girl and I had a conversation [talking in normal voices in our separate tents] that went like this:

Sarah: “Let’s go scare the boys!”

Me: “Sarah. Do not go scare the boys.”

I remember this exchange vividly, because we had it 300 times.

And then suddenly: It was 5:30 AM and everyone was wide awake.

I am not kidding.

We somehow, incoherently and without coffee, made everyone pancakes and bacon and eggs.

And as the last person finished their pancake, it started to rain.

And it rained, and rained, and rained. Steady, drenching, great-in-april-but-not-in-july-rain. We cleaned up our camp kitchen in the rain, we went to the beach in the rain, we ate lunch in the rain, and then we recklessly tore down our tents in the rain and threw them in the back of the van.

If that’s not a true introduction to camping, I don’t know what is.

photo (33)

Fire Starters: Cotton Balls and Vaseline

How, in all my years of camping and girl-scouting and camp-directoring, have I never heard about this??

We are taking our kids from the youth center camping this week, and as we were brainstorming an activity to do with them yesterday in preparation, my friend Meggie casually said, “My roommate just made fire starters for her camping trip out of cotton balls and vaseline.”

And my life was forever changed.

vaseline cotton ball fire starters

I googled the steps to this, just to make sure we had it right. But it’s basically this:

1. Take a cotton ball.

2. Cover it in vaseline.

3. Light it on fire.

photo (29)

We used this experiment as an excuse to roast marshmallows over a charcoal grill on the blacktop behind the youth center. Anything for s’mores, right? And we now have a bunch of baggies with vaseline-covered cotton balls, ready to start a fire on our camping trip. Brilliant.

cotton balls vaseline fire starters s'mores

Scenes From Our July 4th Weekend

We have a great, busy, stressful, fun, relaxing July 4th weekend.

photo (23)We spent July 4th in Pittsburgh, cheering on the Phillies as they beat the Pirates. America’s favorite pastime on America’s birthday. We ate pulled pork-potato perogie-pretzel roll sandwichs that endeared us to Pittsburgh forever.

photo (25)Friday and Saturday were spent packing and moving out of our first-as-a-married-couple apartment. We spent our first Christmas here, brought our puppy home here, and made our first joint-furniture-purchases here. We couldn’t send too much time getting nostalgic, however, because the AC didn’t work and it was 95 degrees both days!

photo (24)We were so thankful for the friends that helped us move. Emma is pretending to take a nap on our mattress, but every time I see this now, I think she looks like Jesus. We were surprised that all our earthly possessions could fit in this one trailer!

photo (26)Did I mention it was 95 degrees this weekend? We spent some quality time in the pool.

photo (28)We did manage to hit the trail, although it was nowhere near the mileage I’m supposed to get for my Super Hike training. We walked the first mile in the creek and it was awesome.

photo (27)This is what hiking in the country looks like.

It was a busy and beautiful weekend. Monday here we come!