Sharing Out in the Open Air {31 days}

So, how cool is this? I “met” Jennifer on Instagram through a mutual friend. She has a great blog called Our Life’s Happenings and she has jumped on the 31 Days in the Open Air bandwagon and is blogging about it! Isn’t that awesome? I’m super jealous of her pictures of Colorado– and they’ve already had snow! Go check her blog out right now.

We are prepping for an outdoor movie night this weekend, and Shawn and I have a slight difference of opinion about what food to serve. What do you think– whats the best thing to serve as an outdoor treat?

I completely failed at making apple crisp from the apples from our apple picking adventure last week. This seems outdoor-related somehow. Do you have a favorite crisp recipe I should try?

This is my favorite poem right now. I’ve officially discovered Mary Oliver.


That “This Is Who I Am” Feeling {31 days}

fall leaves

I read a blog post recently about getting lost in foreign cities. The writer described the experience of exploring unknown streets as helping her recognize who she was; that she was alive and part of something bigger. When I read this I said “yes, exactly”. I know that feeling. I’ve wandered around my fair share of foreign cities, but I’ve had my most “This Is Who I Am” moments in the great outdoors.

Sometimes it’s all about perspective. This world is so vast and grand and extraordinary and I am so itty-bitty. Sometimes it’s the rush of endorphins I get when I am starting a new adventure. Where will this trail lead me to today? Sometimes it’s another person literally speaking into my life as we walk alongside each other on the trail. And sometimes it is a presiding sense of peace that seems elusive in everyday life, but seems to waiting around each bend in the river and atop every lookout point.

It’s this feeling that drives me outside everyday, that pushes me to seek new adventures on the weekends. Not just to be healthy, or to have something to blog about, or to exercise my dog (although those are all large supporting factors). I get out in the open air to know “This Is Who I Am.”

A Trip to the Apple Orchard {31 days}

apple picking 4

Nothing says fall more than a trip to the apple orchard. We piled the girls from the youth center into our cars last week and headed to one of our local orchards. (One of my favorite parts of living in Pennsylvania– these orchards are plentiful!) It was a dreary weekday afternoon, so we had the place to ourselves. Which was a good thing, since our girls ran around like five year olds, screamed at bugs, and tried–unsuccessfully– to climb the apple trees.

apple picking 2

We chomped on apples as we went row to row, trying to find just the right apples to stuff into our 1/2 bushel plastic bags. Once we could no longer carry our bags, we loaded them into the car and stopped at the market for my very favorite part of apple picking: eating apple cider donuts. (Not pictured, because we ate them too quickly.)

apple picking

I brought two dozen apples home, because I promised the girls that I would make apple crisp. And caramel apples. And cinnamon sugar apples. And applesauce. Basically, we have all of our youth center activities planned for the next few weeks.

apple picking 3

Pumpkins Revisited {31 days}


Remember how we carved pumpkins yesterday? Well when I went into work today, I saw them all sitting on the table where we had left them… And realized that we need to come up with something to do with these pumpkins before they rot. (Last year, we left them on the windowsill so long they liquified. It was gross).

So I turned to trusty old pintrest to find some good ideas. Which led me to find some good things to do with pumpkins in general. Check ’em out!

What To Do With Leftover Pumpkins (I really want to try the hummus…)

What do with the seeds:

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (with paprika)

I really do love carving pumpkins, but in case you don’t want to get quite so messy:

Picture Decoupage Pumpkins

Gold Dipped Pumpkins

Do you have any other ideas? What do you do with your leftover pumpkins?


Pumpkins, Sharp Knives, & Good Talks {31 days}

Carving pumpkins has become a bit of a tradition at the youth center. We haul plastic tables out onto the blacktop, give the teens permanent markers and sharp knives, and let chaos ensue.

carving pumpkins

I settled in yesterday next to two freshmen boys who were teaming up on one pumpkin. They were alternating between using a stencil to outline their pumpkin, viciously chopping holes without looking, and pulling out the insides and tossing them on the ground, instead of the wastebasket next to them (this is why we do this outside).

I bit my tongue and decided against giving them step by step instructions about how to correctly carve a pumpkin, because hey, it will probably turn out ok whatever they do, right? I started cleaning the pumpkin seeds to roast later, methodically dumping the seedless pumpkin guts into the trash can and watching my fingers turn orange. As we scooped and sliced and cleaned, the boys launched into an unprompted dialogue about their day, each interrupting the other one to clarify a detail or interject an anecdote. They didn’t actually have homework today because they had an assembly with the seniors because the other grades were taking the PSATS and this guy talked about a car accident and he had been drinking and he had two million dollars in medical bills and his friends in the car sued him and ten minutes later, cleaning the same seeds over again, I had heard every detail of this presentation and what they thought about it.

Both boys tried to convince me later that they had in fact done homework that day in order to get a prize.

But their pumpkin looked awesome.

carving pumpkins 2

Walking the Dog at Night {31 days}

Pulled this little piece for you from the archives. Is that cheating on my 31 days? Maybe. But I’m doing it anyways, because believe me when I say, this is exactly how I feel tonight.

Sometimes, when the dog won’t sit still, when he keeps dropping his tug toy on my computer keyboard or knocks my book out of my hands, we go for a walk at night.

Now, while there is a spring chill in the air, I throw on whatever clothes are closest. Tonight it is my oversize old navy sweat pants, my blouse from work, and my ever present black down vest. And my birkenstock sandals.

I put his leash on and out the door we go. He always, always, always tries to pull me down the first staircase we pass. Shawn takes him down those stairs to throw a tennis ball.

I grab one of those handy disposable bags from the dispenser and stuff it in my pocket. Even though we are only walking around the neighborhood, I still bring my keys and my phone. Pockets are very important when walking the dog at night.

We soon settle into our usual cadence. The dog is constantly looking to the right and to the left, walking his leash in circles around my legs, and I am moving the leash back and forth around my waist trying to keep up. I can anticipate his moves, now, and I do it without thinking.

I look up. Under the glare of the streetlights, the black sky has a strange orange hue. You can see just a few stars. I think about what I saw, lying on my back on a dock in Northern Minnesota. The milky way; one large bright glittery strip across the sky, so many stars jammed together that the sky couldn’t possibly be black. The sky looks different, one night to another.

I breathe. Out here, in the fresh air, my mind seals up my day, stamps it done, and sends it off. I process work, my thoughts, my expectations, but not in the over-analyzing manic way I do inside. As we walk in and out of the streetlights, our shadows moving in circles around us, I acknowledge my day and then let it go, letting my mind look ahead to tonight, to sleeping, and to waking up tomorrow to a new day.

Back inside, we have both settled down. I climb back into bed and pick up my book, and the dog settles down next to me. Still breathing hard, but with body and mind at rest.

Half-Way Through 31 Days of Blogging

We are 15 days into blogging for 31 days. And I have completely run out of things to say. Or at least interesting things to say.

Over the past year, I have noticed this cycle I send myself through: some days I feel totally jazzed to write and blog and post, and then some days it all just feels so dumb. However, previously, I have just not blogged on days when it feels dumb. But now I am supposed to be blogging ALL THE  DAYS, even the dumb ones.

So here I am! We went to the dog park yesterday, for the first time since Mowgli had his surgery. This is one of the easiest ways for me to get outside, because it requires almost no effort on my part but totally wears the dog out. Everybody wins.


And… That’s all I got. Hopefully I’ll see you guys here tomorrow. Happy Tuesday!

Out on the Ropes Course {31 days}

ropes course

I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to work outside. I am especially thankful when those work days aren’t also rainy days.

I work part-time as a challenge course facilitator, which means that this past Saturday I met a bunch of middle school kids at 9:00 AM and spent the rest of the day in the woods, learning about teamwork, leadership, and trust. The morning is typically spent doing initiatives and activities on the low ropes course. We played getting to know you games, did activities that made us communicate, made us frustrated, and sometimes made us ask for help (kind of like in real life, right?). In the afternoon, we hit the high ropes course and the zipline. These elements are 30 or 40 feet off the ground and require you to traverse through mid-air on one tiny cable. You are clipped in, of course, to a harness and a rope and a belayer (me). If done correctly, its very, very safe. And a lot of fun.

Days like these are sporadic for me because of my other permanent job. But I’m always thrilled to combine my favorite things: the great outdoors, working with youth, and helping them conquer their fears and develop as leaders. And I learn something new every time.

Have you ever worked at or participated on a ropes course? Tell me about it!