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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hello, summer.

 Peach coneflowers.

Ugh - I can't believe it's August already. I don't feel like I've gotten a chance to get acquainted with Summer 2015, and it's practically putting on its coat and heading towards the door. Mark's garden was especially beautiful this year, so while I haven't been motivated to pick up my camera otherwise, I made sure to capture at least some of the flowers. I think the peach cone flowers above were new additions this year.

Bee balm.


Stargazer lilies.


Hello, Mr. Cardinal.

And sometimes I like to pretend I'm a wildlife photographer. I noticed this male cardinal just having a grand old time flying about the lower part of the yard, so I stalked him until I got this shot. It wasn't the one that I wanted though. The little stinker refused to land on the fence post, so I had to settle for him perching on the fence itself.

Hummingbird in flight.

One of the things that I look forward to every summer is seeing the hummingbirds. This year, we had at least two or three visiting the bee balm at any giving time. I've tried in the past to get a photo of one, but it's difficult because they get easily spooked by the giant black thing known as my camera. This one is a little out of focus, but it's progress!

One ticked off hummingbird.

This one cracks me up - that is one ticked off hummingbird!  One moment, he would be busy feeding on the flowers oblivious to my presence, but as soon as he figured out I was there, he would zoom away, only to come back a minute or so later. We repeated this exercise at least ten times, so at this point, he had to be fed up with me bothering him.

Hangin' in the coop.

Now here are three ladies who are never shy around the camera! Pepsi, Poppy and Blossom have adapted well to their new coop. No eggs yet, but hopefully sometime this fall we will have that news to report!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fun on the Fourth.

Patriotic cookies.

We had a wonderful 4th of July this year. The weather was perfect, the food was perfect and oh heck, the people were perfect too.

Red, white and blue M&M cookies.

I'm very proud of the red, white and blue M&M cookies that I baked, so they deserve two photos. I think this recipe is going to be my go-to chocolate cookie recipe.

Patriotic shed.

Even our shed was decked out in red, white and blue.

Of course, our day wouldn't be complete without the annual fireworks display, courtesy of Uncle Craig. For some reason, the fireworks always bring the crazy.

Scott and Melissa

Our friends brought champagne poppers. No one was supervising the two Laurens, so they decided it would be fun to shoot them at people. Here is the result.

 Lauren x2 throwing snaps at Melissa.

 Here they are throwing snaps at Mel C while she danced.

  Melissa and Beth

Thankfully, she survived the onslaught of explosives.

Wacthing fireworks.

And the Laurens settled down to watch the fireworks.

 Cookie with the girls.

Unlike big brother Marcus, who is terrified by them, Cookie isn't phased one bit by fireworks, so she sat and enjoyed the show too.

Craig before.

Look at Craig in action - he's a master!

Craig after.

On second thought...



We've been doing this for at least five years now, and until this year, I could never get any decent photos of the fireworks. 

 Mark playing with sparklers.

 Pappy with sparklers.

Then we ended the night with sparkler fun!

Rainy day women.

Shell to Wee Lodge

At the end of June, our Girl Scout troop went on it's yearly camping trip. This time instead of going to a council organized camp event, we decided to go on our own as a troop to Camp Guyasuta. It's a campground owned by the Boy Scouts that's less than ten minutes from our house. So weren't being particularly adventurous for our maiden voyage. Nonetheless, it took months of planning, paperwork and packing to make it happen, and my co-leader and I had to attend an all day outdoor training in order to meet Girl Scout's requirements for camping.

Finally, the weekend arrived. The forecast? Heavy rain and thunderstorms. This was quite a downer since the majority of the activities that we had planned, like campfire cooking, archery, swimming and geocaching, were outdoor activities.

Like the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scout motto is, "Be prepared." Our troop motto for that weekend became, "Make the best of it." Well, we did more than make the best of it - we made a heck of a good time! With the exception of swimming, (Because there really was a torrential downpour most of the day Saturday) we actually got to do everything that we had planned. In fact, we had so much fun, Lauren said that she didn't want to leave!

When we arrived on Friday, the weather was still clear, so we were able to start with some campfire fun. First we made these awesome sit-a-cans:


A sit-a-can is basically a bucket with a lid that acts as both storage for your camping gear and your seat at the campfire. Speaking of campfires, since it rained most of the weekend, we were only able to make one campfire, and that was due to the tenacity of my co-leader who would not give up on getting our fire started even though we were dealing with very damp wood. Thanks to her efforts, we all got to enjoy campfire cones.

Making bandana pillows.

We woke up Saturday morning to lots and lots of rain. Thankfully, we rented a lodge with electricity, indoor bathrooms and a full kitchen. Not so lucky were the Boy Scouts that were tent camping on the grounds across from our lodge. I just noticed that you can see them sitting outside the window in this picture - lol.

So since swimming was out of the question, we did a craft - no-sew bandana pillows.

Bandana pillows.

They came out awesome, and the girls loved them.

Playing cards.

While we are on the topic of awesomeness, I have to take the time to brag about our girls. What you see in this photo is what makes me so happy and proud to be part of Girl Scouts. Everyone is included. Everyone is having fun. When the girls had down time, they would just breakout in a spontaneous game whether it was cards, hand clapping or just being goofy. As volunteers, we do all this work and planning to come up with fun things for them to do together, but leave them to their own devices and magic happens.

After a busy morning, it was time for our archery session. Big props to the Boy Scouts for having an indoor as well as an outdoor archery range!

By the time the afternoon rolled around, it actually cleared up enough for us to head out and do some geocaching.


The wellies that I had purchased for this trip were a very, very good investment.


After slipping and sliding through the muddy trails, the girls found a cache!

Geocache find!

We signed the log and exchanged one of the pins that we made for a mini magic trick kit.

Happy girls.

Here's girls posing in at the outdoor chapel.

Silly girls.

When I asked them to make silly faces, they were happy to oblige. There should be a badge for that!

And that wraps up another successful year of scouting. Here's to many more!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Meet Mr. Pancakes.

Meet Mr. Pancakes.

Time for a long overdue introduction. Meet Mr. Pancakes - he's a Syrian or "teddy bear" hamster. Lauren has been begging us for hamster for sometime now. We had been hesitant to give into her on this one because our inn is quite full here with the two dogs, a cat, several fish and chickens.  To convince us, she wrote an essay all about teddy bear hamsters and promised that she would take care of him all by herself and on top of that, wash dishes.

Cuddlin' with mama.

We have yet to see any dishes being washed, but Lauren has been a great mama to Mr. Pancakes.

 Littlest Bucco fan.

 And apparently he's a Pirates fan, so he fits right in with the rest of the Ross Family!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My Bucco birthday.


Since I've become obsessed with baseball, I decided that I wanted to spend my birthday at the ball park. I even splurged and bought the best seats available - no peanut heaven for me!

Helmet nachos.

My birthday dinner - After I saw a fan on tv with them, I had to have helmet nachos. I'm slightly embarrassed by how much they cost, but hey, it was my birthday. And I will say that they give you so many chips, that you could easily split the cost with four friends and have a reasonably priced concession.

 Me @43.

Here's the view from our seats. We weren't quite as close to the action as I thought we would be, but we were right at field level.
 My glove still in use.

Our seats were in one of the sections where you're most likely to get a foul ball. So Lauren brought her glove, which is really my old glove from when I was her age (See the initials). Unfortunately, three little kids were sitting around us and scarfed up all the balls. As Charlie Brown would say, "Rats."

 Parrot frisbee.

 Little fan.

T-shirt toss.

 Our seats also afforded us lots of close-up Pirate Parrot action.


Ballgame with dad.

PNC Park on 6/9/15

In the end, we didn't get a ball and the Pirates lost to the Brewers, but it was still a great way to keep my birthday from being just another Tuesday.

Monday, June 8, 2015

What we did in May.

 On the verge.

After Lauren's birthday weekend, May continued to be a busy month. The next weekend we went to Phipps Conservatory's May Market to browse the plants, flowers and other horticultural items sold by local vendors.

 Locks of love.

On the way over to Phipps, I had to get a photo of our very own "locks of love" display on the Schenley Park Bridge. They've been doing this in Europe for years, but Pittsburgh is always about 3-5 years behind trend.


For Mother's Day, we went to see the Pirates play. Baseball has always been my favorite sport, but I've become a little obsessed with it lately. I've either watched or listened to almost every Pirates game this season and already have tickets lined up for several games this summer. Anyway, it was an incredibly hot 90 degrees that day, which made it impossible to sit comfortably in our seats.  We ended up standing underneath the stands in right field for the majority of the game, but it didn't really matter because the Pirates won and I got a free tote bag just for giving birth to Lauren.


After showing her the trailer for The Birds, Mark convinced Lauren to go see the full movie at the Row House Cinema, a new single screen theater in the hipster Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. There is nothing more terrifying than having to listen to the children of the Bodega Bay School sing what Mark calls, "the song you hear before the birds peck your eyes out as you're left kicking and screaming helplessly on the street."


When I came home from work on May 21st, I was surprised to see Lauren's photo on the cover of our local newspaper! Her GATE class was being featured for their project where they built a simulated lunar colony out of duct tape, plastic and fans. Alison, the girl next to Lauren, is also in my Girl Scout troop. You can read more about the project here.

Bronze Award!

Speaking of Girl Scouts, our troop earned their Bronze Award, the highest award you can earn as a Girl Scout Junior. For their service project, girls collected donations of comfort items such as toiletries, socks and towels and assembled care bags to give to children in foster care.

Strewing petals on Memorial Day.

For the second year in a row, we attended our local Memorial Day ceremony. Our area Girl Scouts strewed petals to honor and remember those who served.

Stuffed donuts!

Lastly, after seeing giant stuffed donuts given out as prizes at Kennywood's impossible to win games, Lauren decided that she would just make her own and give them to her friends. She did most of the work herself, and they turned out awesome!