blog_banner 20

Saturday, July 12, 2014

52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 27

In my family, we take our sparklers very seriously.

As I've mentioned in the past, in my family we take our sparklers very seriously. My grandfather just loved them, so each 4th of July we light 'em up in his honor.


Here's Lauren perfecting the patented "Pranty Twirl."

Happy sparkler girl.

The "other" Lauren getting indoctrinated into our family's obsession.

 Mystery man.

Yes, it gets a little intense. Thankfully, he hasn't attempted fire eating. Yet.

 There she blows!

Craig "Pyromaniac" Cathell supervising the annual backyard fireworks show.

4th of July chalkboard.

We couldn't have asked for a better Independence Day. This year the weather was perfect, I had no food crises and all of our friends and family were in attendance. And because the 4th fell on a Friday, I could actually have the party on the holiday. So we were able to even close the evening with everyone joining us for our community's firework show.

Great gardens.

 My old Pennsylvania home.

While Lauren and I were at camp, Mark was hosting visitors to our garden.

 Hanging basket.

Each year, the Shaler Garden Club hosts the Great Gardens Tour which features several private gardens in the area. The proceeds of the tour benefit the Shaler Area North Hills Library, which received a national award for excellence in 2012.

Flower bed.

That same year, we entered the library's Great Garden's contest which lead us to be invited to feature our garden on this year's tour.


Since April, Mark has labored tirelessly for countless hours to get the garden into shape, and this is just a sampling of the fruits of his labor. All the tour visitors raved about his work.

Boxwood bunnies.

The garden is really in full bloom right now. And it wouldn't be a Ross Family summer without sitting on the porch watching the hummingbirds flutter around the bee balm.

52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 26

On the loose.

Here we have arrived at one of the highlights of the summer:  Girl Scout camp. This year, we went back to Camp Redwing for their 3 day activity filled program, Me & My Gal. We had almost our entire troop attend together, including moms too. While this certainly added to the fun, it also made for some excitement. Our group started with 22, but only 17 made it to the end. One of our scouts slipped in the mud and broke her arm, so she went home the morning of the first day. One of our moms fell victim to the so very unplush cots and left a day early because of a sore back. Lastly, one of our scouts that attended independently could take a second night sleeping in a bug infested tent, so she had to be picked up by her mom.


But in spite of a few bumps in the road, we still had an amazing time. After all, it's camp.


This year, we were assigned to the Orchard platform tent unit. To say it was lacking the comforts of home is an understatement. One of our group had an unwelcome visitor in their tent during the night - a bat. All of the tents were crawling with bugs. Lauren and her friend would sit huddled together on a cot pointing them out with their flashlights so that I could shoo them out of the tent.

Our unit also had a unique feature:  Composting toilets. While we were grateful that these were indoors (and not the bug infested stalls in some of the other units), they took a little getting used to and now I've come to appreciate how water adds to the whole commode experience.

By the canoes.

Although our unit was right next to the boathouse, we unfortunately didn't get to go canoeing this time because the river was running high and fast due to all the rain in our area from the previous weeks.

My girls.

Here are some of my girls. They are just the best. It's amazing how well they all get along. While they all have their best buddies that they hang with, they are never "clique-ish" and are always good to each other.

Which way...

This sign is posted next to the rest rooms in the dining hall. While we're on the subject, I cannot state enough how awesome the food is at Camp Redwing. Here's how they fed us:

Day 1
Breakfast:  Buttermilk pancakes and sausage
Lunch: Cookout at our unit with hot dogs, hamburgers, pasta salad, watermelon and giant chocolate cookies
Dinner: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, warm rolls, and wait for it - apple cobbler.

Day 2:

Breakfast:  Bacon, egg and cheese muffins with home fries.
Lunch:  Grilled chicken sandwiches, buttered noodles, fruit and sugar cookies.

Fire building.

Here are the girls participating in fire building session. All weekend, the councilors had a terrible time building fires because the ground was so damp.

Might as well jump.

Swimming in the pool is always a favorite activity.

Orchard unit's buddy board tags.

Girl Scouts take safety extremely seriously. Each camper gets a "buddy board" tag. The color denotes whether you've taken the swimming test and are therefore permitted in the deep end (Most of us opted out of the test because it takes awhile and eats into your swimming time). Anytime you move in or out of the pool area, you move your tag to that place on the board. It helps lifeguards keep track of everyone at all times.

Camp mementos.

These mementos are on the mantel above the fire place at the camp's main lodge.

Horsin' around camp.

No visit to camp is complete without a souvenir stuffie from trading post.

Wandering the pasture.

Of course, the highlight of camp is the horseback riding.

Happy horse rider.

For some reason, they put Lauren on a huge horse named Burk. The counselors had to help her down because he was too big for her to dismount on her own.

Target practice.

A close second favorite is archery.

Right on target.

Lauren even got a bullseye.

I did my best to savor these moments because they may be the last at this camp. The other leader and I concluded that we may not be the outdoor type of troop and probably require a little more comfortable accommodations, or at least bug free sleeping quarters. It's all good because whatever we choose to do in the future, it will still be an adventure.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Roxy the Marijuana Dealin' Chocolate Eatin' Cat.

A couple of months ago, I put up for sale a photo of my parents' cat Roxy eating at her dish. I have a similar photo of Cookie that sells pretty well, so I thought that a cat should do equally well.

Occasionally I use Google's image search function to find where my photos that are sold through Getty Images end up online. Although the internet uses are the easiest to track down, they typically only earn me a buck or two. These are no different, but I since I know my parents will get a kick out of them, I thought I would share.

Here she is on AOL Pet's homepage!

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 7.59.18 PM

But it gets better. Then I found her picture on this website:

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 8.00.05 PM

Her photo is actually used in this Huffington Post video about a cat who brought home a bag of weed. You can see it at the 19 second mark. It even has my name credited - lol!

So there you have it. I guess if you put it altogether, Roxy must have been out sniffing some weed, got the munchies, and then chowed down on some chocolate. Hopefully my parents don't sue me for defamation of character because I didn't ask them to sign a model release.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 25

O long may it wave.

Another week has gone by, and we continue to be very busy. Lauren spent the weekend with her friends, while Mark continues to work hard to get the garden ready for the tour one week from today.

He means business.

When Lauren saw this photo, she exclaimed, "Look at those dirty hands! He means business!"

While I was taking photos of the fruits of his labors, Mark pointed out a butterfly that was enjoying one of his daylilies.

I know I left it in here somewhere.

I think he must have dropped his wallet in there.

This week, Lauren will be attending STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) camp during the day, and I'll be making preparations for next weekend's Girl Scout camping trip. So expect something camp themed for next week's photo!

Rain o'er me.

Burchfield 3rd Grade sings the National Anthem at PNC Park

I'm a little late in posting this story, but it's better to tell it now that not at all. For the past few years, the music teacher at Lauren's school has arranged for the 3rd grade class to sing the National Anthem at PNC Park where the Pittsburgh Pirates game. When 3rd grade began, one of the first things that Lauren said to me was, "I am NOT singing the National Anthem." So I was pleasantly surprised that she changed her mind once April rolled around.

The big day was scheduled for Wednesday, June 11th. Tickets were purchased and the kids practiced there "O'er"s. When the day arrived, it was sunny and warm. Except the forecast was 100% chance of rain and a tornado watch for right around the time the kids were supposed to sing.

Since Lauren had to meet her classmates at the park no later than 5:30 PM, Mark left early to drop her off. Mel C, my dad and I headed down separately about an hour later, around 5:15 PM. As we arrived in the city, we could see that the sky was very dark, and just as we entered the park, it began to sprinkle. As we headed up the ramp to find our seats, we stopped to look across the park towards the section where we would be sitting. There we saw a lone person sitting in our section - Mark. We waved and continued on to meet him.

Our seats were in section 308, but once we got to around to section 320 the rain and the wind was so strong that the PNC Park employees waved us into an elevator hallway. There was a small window at the end of the hallway, but you couldn't see anything outside because the rain was coming down so hard. I called Mark to let him know where we were and to find out if he had gotten to safety. Everyone that was sitting in the stands were told to take refuse in the kitchen of a nearby concession stand. He didn't get any free food though.

After about fifteen minutes, the rain subsided enough that we could leave the safety of the hallway, but it was still coming down pretty good. We eventually met up with Mark along with some of our family and friends and spent a good bit of the evening speculating if they were going to cancel the game. Eventually, the rain stopped completely, and they started to remove the tarp from the field. The show really was going to go on, just like in the song!

At 8:30 PM, an hour and a half late, the moment that I waited three years for finally came:

About a half inning into the game, Lauren made her way to our seats no worse for wear, but very hungry and a little irritated for having sat around waiting for three hours. After a hot dog, cotton candy and a drink, she was ready to enjoy a few innings of the game and even got to cheer for a couple of runs scored by the Pirates.

Monday, June 9, 2014

52 Weeks of 20134 - Week 24

 Let's dance.

And now for something completely different - I'm actually posting this week's photo on a Monday! This is because today is my birthday, and the photo that I want to use for this week was taken as part of my birthday festivities. I haven't been to the Three Rivers Arts Festival in years, so since I took the day off, I thought that today was as good a day as any to check it out. So the three of us ventured downtown this afternoon. Because it was a weekday, we had a terrible time finding a spot in a parking garage near the festival's location at The Point, so we ended up parking in Macy's garage.

This ended up being a good thing because I don't know if we would have otherwise happened across this.

Monumental painting.

As an Impressionism aficionado, I couldn't be more excited to see this statue being installed. For me, this is right up there with the rubber duck. The artist based the sculpture of two people dancing on Renoir's “A Dance at Bougival.” It's absolutely breathtaking. The sculpture will be on display in Pittsburgh's PPG Place until October 3rd.

Three Rivers Arts Festival.

While the statue was the highlight of the day for me, we still had a nice time looking at everything the art vendors had to offer. Lauren loved everything and can't wait to go again next year. She got a stuffed dragon, a very cool hidden art drawing by Chazmania and a funny book titled, Zombies Hate Stuff by Greg Stones.

This year's birthday cake.

And it wouldn't be a birthday without a cake from Jean Marc Chatellier!

Glad I was able to catch up the blog because we have a busy week ahead. We have our Girl Scout troop's year end celebration tomorrow and the big Pirate game on Wednesday when Lauren and her class will be singing The National Anthem. So an all around great start to my forty-second year!

52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 23

 Can you dig it?

Continuing with our gardening theme, here's Mark posing with his shovel. They have been spending a lot of time together recently, preparing our garden for the upcoming garden club tour at the end of the month. I took this when I was playing around with my new Nikon 185mm f/2.8 lens. I recently told Mark that I finally felt satisfied with my camera gear and no longer had urge to accumulate more. Famous. Last. Words. I had been practicing with my old manual focus lens and thought that it may be nice to have a longer telephoto lens. Manual focus lenses are much cheaper than their newer, auto focus counterparts, so I starting researching to find which one would be a good choice. Anyway, it ended up that the 185mm was around the same price as some of the manual focus lenses that I was looking at *and* it was auto focus. Plus, it's super sharp and produces a really nice background blur.

Hey, bud.

This little peony bud seems pleased with it.

52 Weeks of 2014 - Week 22

Bucket o' sprouts.

This week, I actually took quite a few photos, but then I got lazy and didn't post one for the project. This is Lauren proudly holding her sunflower sprouts. She picked this little kit from the prize box at school (I can't recall why she got the prize - the kids get prizes quite frequently for doing good work). We also recently picked up another kit with strawberry seeds and a red bucket, but so far they haven't broken through the soil yet. I might check Target to see if they have for the basil / green bucket kit so that we have the whole set. Thinking of the photo possibilities with the trio of course!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

52 Weeks of 2014- Week 21

Out for a stroll.

I'm still trying to push through my creative funk. After about a year and a half, I thought it was about time that I updated the blog's look. Black is out, and white is in. I couldn't come up with an idea for a new banner photo, so I just used one that I took this week of the dahlias that I got for Mother's Day and played around with it in Photoshop. The font that I used is supposed to be Hannibal Lecter's handwriting - lol.

This week, I've been taking photos with my old Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E lens. You have to manually focus with it, so I thought shooting with it would be good exercise. It's tricky to hit the focus, but when you do, it's really sharp. I wouldn't dare try to use it on a moving object.

Growin' my beard.

Other than the dahlias, Marcus was my model. He's been very busy growing his beard and his eyebrows.

Just sittin'.

He put aside his roguishness for just a little while stayed nice and still for me too. He looks so sweet and innocent when he's not trying to eat your underwear, doesn't he?