Hobby Adventures Part II

I have been thinking a lot about some of the new hobbies I would like to try out. Luckily, many of them either do not require a huge investment into supplies, we already have the supplies, or someone we know has the supplies which we can borrow.

Two posts back I wrote about my first attempt at photography. I have been playing with the camera, mostly taking pictures of Fargo and sunsets.

Some are pretty terrible.

blurry fargo pic

Some are pretty good.

faro face

fall sunset

I mentioned that I had crocheted, but I have never knitted beyond a few rows of basic knit/pearl. When I visited my parents, I looked through some of my mom’s MANY bins and bags of yarn and found some I like. I think I will try some sort of smaller shawl/scarf type item.


I would like to try and build a piece of furniture. We have most of the tools necessary, or we have access to them. This past summer we planned to build a pergola. Actually, hubby was mostly planning it, but I think I would like to be more involved if possible. But I also want to try and build shelves, or something for the kitchen, or a potting table, or something to go under the pergola.

Maybe something like this.

I would like to try and refinish an older piece of furniture. My father-in-law refinished many pieces in his time, and I love them all. The issue with both building and/or refinishing, is where to do this. Between the dust and the fumes, I’m not sure we have an appropriate space. Maybe we need to spend a few weeks really working on the garage…

messy garage 1

messy garage 2

Ok, maybe it might take a few months. And then I think our first furniture project will be this one.

My father-in-law gave us directions on how to build a quilting frame. This could be a two in one project, building something and then use it to making a quilt. I like this pattern, but would likely wait until I can enlist the help of my youngest, the artist, to come up with the color combination.

I did a ton of baking the past few days and we canned another batch of peppers. We’ll continue to work on updating the house, the master bedroom is on the list for this winter. Of course there is always dishes, laundry, playing with the crazy puppy, raking leaves, etc, but I’m excited to add a few of these new projects to the list.

Oh, and does rescuing another dog fall under the “hobby” category?





RW Hat Trick Race Report

I had my doubts, many of them, going into the Hat Trick (5k and 10k Saturday, Half on Sunday) during the Runners World Half Festival last weekend.

RW half

My achilles was aching, I had an IT Band flare up a few weeks back, I walked somewhere in the vicinity of 24 miles during travel the previous weekend, and I’m just not a strong runner. I was fairly certain I could do the 5k and 10k on Saturday, but I was waffling about the Half, even pondered just giving up before even starting and switching to the “5 and Dime” at the expo. But I didn’t.

Thank goodness I didn’t!

It was a crazy beautiful weather weekend. Started out super cold on Saturday morning, in the low 30s, but blue skies after a beautiful sunrise. My running partner, Monica, and I met up with my wonderful high school friend, Beth, who also was in for the Hat Trick.

Monica and I had our hats, gloves, fleece, etc. for the 5k.

cold saturday

Beth hung with us a while pre-race, but she is an impressive runner, so she moved up to the faster pace section before the start. Monica and I took it slow, knowing we would need to conserve…and because we’re slow. I think I felt my worst during the 5k, but got warmed up some by the end. The highlight for me was getting to high five THE Bart Yasso just before the finish line!

After the 5k we found Beth and waited around together for the 45 minutes until the 10k started. I ditched the extra fleece hat and pullover. Given that I hadn’t felt very good for the 5k, I wasn’t really sure what would happen with the 10k, but we lined up in the same pace area as we did earlier.

The 10k course was beautiful! A few more hills, but also Main Street and some historic neighborhoods. I actually felt better and enjoyed myself more. Unfortunately, Monica had hamstring pain about the half way point. She stayed strong and our overall pace was not far off from the 5k pace. We felt very proud of that!

The steel stacks made the perfect central location for everything that went on over the weekend. There were also indoor bathrooms and warmer places to wait before the races.

steel stacks

Unfortunately, neither Monica nor I felt great the rest of Saturday. We relaxed, napped a little, and took a walk in the evening to try and loosen up. Monica did what she could to address the hamstring issue. I was not feeling confident about the Half.

The next morning was about 10 degrees warmer. Still chilly, but not nearly as uncomfortable. I had on a lighter fleece and gloves I could toss. Got a fun starting line selfie.

rw half start

As you can see, we were in the back again. Beth moved up to her quicker pace a few minutes before the start. Monica thought her hamstring was feeling better, but it didn’t last. We had a pretty strong first 2+ miles, but then she was hurting.

Again, beautiful course, Main Street, neighborhoods, residents out cheering, lots of hills. LOTS OF HILLS!! It stayed cloudy until the last two miles, so perfect temps. We definitely went even slower than our usual slow due to the hamstring. As hard as it was for Monica, it did allow me a little extra energy, so I thanked every first responder and volunteer along the way, cheered for runners on the few out-n-backs, encouraged people we passed or who passed us, and just took it all in. I felt way, way, WAY better than I anticipated.

As we got close to the finish line, there were a lot of runners who were leaving (because they finished long before us) and they encouraged us and we congratulated them. The high school marching band members were leaving and I thanked them all for coming out to play. I high fived spectators who hung around for the back of the packers. And, one of the best parts, was seeing Beth along the side, near the finish line, cheering for us. She had finished over an hour earlier with a rockin negative split run.

These are some happy faces.

rw half finish

It was a fantastic weekend overall. I am proud of myself for attempting something way out of my comfort zone. The hubby, the girls and my parents were proud of me, which means everything.  I need to thank my family, Beth, Monica and my Running Girls for believing in me and for encouraging me. I am very proud of Monica because she pushed through the HILLIEST course I have ever been on, with a bum hamstring, to finish. THE HILLIEST!!

Check out these cool medals.

rw half medals

Two mornings later, the quads are still complaining (they have been loudly complaining since the finish line on Sunday), but I feel pretty great overall. Just a fantastic weekend!


Hobby Adventures: Photography

Well, my first attempt at a higher level of photography beyond cell phone pictures wasn’t exactly smooth. A few years ago we gave the girls some pretty nice cameras for the holidays and I borrowed the eldest’s when we saw her last weekend (a Canon T5i). She was nice enough to let me keep it and play around with it until we see her again in December, so I can decide if I want to invest in a camera for myself.

Hubby and I went on some beautiful sunrise hikes while visiting her. I brought the camera along on Saturday, but was so afraid of missing the beauty that I mostly used my phone for pictures. When I did actually try to use the camera, I could NOT get it to work. Turns out, having the battery in the camera is helpful. Ooooops….

The eldest and I were going to sit down together for her to show me a few things about the camera Saturday night, but I fell asleep. So, on Sunday, I figured I would just give it a go…this time with the battery in place.

It seemed to me like everything was a little blurry through the viewfinder and on the digital screen, but it was sunrise and fairly dark. I tried taking a few pictures with the hope that it was either my eyes or the lighting. It wasn’t.

TP blurry

TP Blurry II

What a bummer!!!

I played with the zoom and was somehow able to get some beautiful shots, but so many more of these would have been amazing if I had known that the lens was set to MANUAL and not automatic. Sigh…

Here are a few of the successes.






I really enjoyed using the camera, so, I will try to learn more and I will use the camera for food, Fargo and fun stuff over the next few months. Hopefully my skills will improve.


Hobby Adventures Part I

I’m not sure if anyone pays attention to the categories I tag for each post, but there were 6 of them. I have now added a 7th and it is Hobby Adventures. I mentioned this new category in my Mother Earth News Fair post. It came about during a great talk hubby and I had while driving to the Fair about my need to figure myself out.

I am going to try as many hobbies as I can, with a project or two, and write about how they go, how I liked the projects, whether I was any good at it (which may be obvious by pictures), if I will continue with the hobby, etc. Some of the hobbies are ones that I used to spend time on either before the girls came along, or when they were younger, or with them as they got older. I am going to mention those in this post, thus the “Part I.”

One of the first things I did was sort through all of the craft type books on the book shelf. I am giving away quite a few that I will never use. Most had projects I was interested in for the girls when they were younger. Here is the pile that is moving out.

craft books

For example, I used to scrapbook.


This example page is from one of the many figure skating competitions my eldest took part in. I have about 5 huge scrapbooks from over the years, nothing more recent than about 10 years ago though. I do not think I’ll go back to scrapbooking, but it is a reminder that there are still a ton of pictures which need to come off the computer onto paper and that there are a ton of pictures in boxes that just need to go into albums.

I used to crochet (though not for very long).


I made a few afgans. The biggest success was one like above that I made for the in-laws. To this day, it is my mother-in-law’s favorite blanket. I would like to work on some knitting and crocheting projects. I am very lucky in that my mom is a champion with the knitting needles, so pretty much any sweater/hat/scarf/blanket/etc that the girls or I have ever wanted, she has been able to produce. That is a hard act to follow.

I used to stencil.

garbage cabinet

stencil fence

The top was a quick add on to make the garbage cabinet slightly more decorative. The bottom was a pretty amazing project in the youngest’s room, but at the old house. I stenciled the fence and then my mom helped with the freehand flower vines. One thing about artwork directly on walls is that if you move, it doesn’t move with you. I’m not sure I feel like randomly adding stenciling in the house, but two of the new hobbies I would like to try are to re-finish furniture and build furniture, in which case, there might be some stenciling involved.

I made a quilt…once.


It was far from perfect, and it wasn’t really the traditional style of quilting, but it came out reasonably well. I still like the colors/prints. I definitely want to do a quilting project, but I’m not sure if it would be another blanket.

I used to cross stitch, quite a bit actually. I made a number of gifts for babies and weddings, etc. This is a partial picture of my biggest achievement, big in terms of time and size.

cross stitch

I will try a smaller project and see if my eyes can still manage the close up work.

This is a pretty good summary of the previous hobbies I’ve tried. Some of which, I’ll try again. In another post, I’ll include some new hobbies I am going to research. I want things that can be done at home. I’m open to suggestions.




My Nemesis…the IT Band

I was all set to write my Hobby Adventures post, and then I got derailed by my long run this morning. I haven’t talked about running as much lately, partly because hubby’s running days are over and that’s been hard, but I’m still plugging away. I have that crazy (for me) two day event coming up VERY soon. I haven’t been as dedicated with my mileage, but I have been running 4 times/week with back to back weekend runs.

This morning was supposed to be a 10 miler, the last long run of the training cycle. Just over a week ago I did something, I have no idea what, to my Achilles tendon. All of a sudden I had pain/burning and then swelling. I was freaking out, but between my hubby, my Running Girls, and my friend Beth, I calmed down. I iced and did some exercises and stuck with bike time last week, but I missed all weekend running miles, and it was supposed to be my biggest mileage weekend.

Yesterday I tested the Achilles out with 3.5 on the nice flat treadmill. Seemed to go pretty well. I was nervous about this morning. I went out there and took it slow, walked up all of the big hills, etc. What I didn’t do, was plan for my IT Band to CRAP OUT ON ME! This honestly has happened at least once each training cycle for the past 10 years and I usually have issues in the final miles on race day, so you think I would have been prepared. I always worry about the darn ITB, but I was so focused on the Achilles that it caught me by surprise.

I have to say, that this week, with the bike time, I can’t remember if I stretched the same way as I do after each run. My hips did feel tight in the early miles this morning. Maybe I unknowingly altered my gait to try and baby the Achilles.  No matter what, it stinks and it really made me sad and angry and nervous. It still hurts right now, though usually within a day or two, with stretching, it is fine. That is what I’m hoping.

Best guess, I did just over 8 miles. This was not how I wanted the morning to go. There was going to be a lot of finger crossing for the body to cooperate on race weekend, and now there will be toe crossing as well.

On the up side, I already have two cute outfits planned for race weekend.

Pumpkin (Hubbard Squash) Cream Cheese Bread

We had one last bag of hubbard squash puree in the freezer, time to try some new recipes. The first one I made was Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread. I love my Central PA Winter Squash Bread, but I wasn’t sure about just adding a cream cheese batter into that recipe, so I followed the new one for the bread, as well as for the cream cheese batter.

I used the hand mixer vs the pretty power tool KitchenAid for the cream cheese batter. Probably the cream cheese could have been a little softer than it was.

two batters

The pumpkin batter called for mini chocolate chips. I did not have any, so I decided to add chocolate later. Pouring layers of batters is a challenge for me. I am not very good at estimating how much is the right amount for each layer. And then I am not sure what the best way is to spread the batter so that it just spreads and doesn’t mix too much. The cream cheese batter was definitely thicker.

better layers

The recipe divided it all up into loaves of bread and a dozen muffins. I decided to do my usual and just make one large 9×13 baking dish full. And let me tell you, it was FULL. I was a little nervous about how this would go, to be honest.

very full dish

It took a while for the middle to cook through, but it looked great, no spillage. I liked being able to see the cream cheese area through the cracks.

pumpkin cream cheese bread

The finished product is beautiful and it is delicious.

pump cr cheese bread

I took another picture, trying to be artistic, but also trying to show off the beautiful bouquet of dahlias from a neighbor. I’m not sure I did a great job showcasing the bread in this one though.

bread and bouquet

Just a note that I typically do not include cloves when they are an ingredient in a recipe and I did not use them this time. I do think I will try the cream cheese batter with my old favorite for the bread part next time.


Mother Earth News Fair

The second piece to our day trip, after the Flight 93 Memorial, was the Mother Earth News Fair. We have wanted to attend for the past few years, but the timing wasn’t right. A few months back I received a promo email for a great deal on a flash drive with 40 years of Mother Earth News articles and two weekend passes to the Fair. I ordered them. We’ve been magazine subscribers for probably 10 years and have learned a ton about homesteading. We do what we can in our current living situation, but we are in no way close to being off the grid.

The first thing we encountered when we arrived, was a HUGE line of cars on the windy road that leads to the parking areas. It probably took 20 minutes just to get to the parking lot, then there were buses (or you could walk) to get from the lot to the Fair. Unfortunately that meant we missed the first session we had planned to attend.

This was the first guy we ran into upon reaching the main vendor area.


Cute, right?

We spent the next  hours wandering around the many booths, both indoors and outside. In order to fuel up for the big day, we thought we should try some kettle corn. We bought a bag from Urban Kettle. SO SO SO GOOD!!

kettle corn

Not far from the kettle corn booth was KingView Mead. We did a little mead tasting (at 10:30am) and ended up purchasing two bottles from them. They give 10% to help the bees, which we appreciated. We entered a raffle to win a bee keeping kit from them, but I guess we didn’t win.


Next to KingView was HaloDips. They had about 20 different dips you could taste test. We picked out 5 and I’m anxious to mix the first one up–if I can decide which to choose.


After the first round of booths, we meandered to the area reserved for booths with animals. There were some beautiful heritage breeds represented. Sheep, alpaca, goats, bunnies, cows and more were among the booths selling hand spun yarns, felt, clothing, feed, fencing, and so on.

These colors at the Underhill Farm booth grabbed me. Thick strands with a core. I have no idea what I would make, and they were justifiably spendy, but I just loved the colors.

underhill yarn

Then we worked our way back around to the main building area. On the second floor was a booth with overalls and coveralls. We learned that the company is Rosies Workwear inspired by Rosie the Riveter and all of their clothing is made specifically for women. This was where our big purchase was. Overalls, in petite, with tons of pockets (I love pockets), removable knee pads, adjustable waist, and zip off legs to make a summer version. Wow! I chose the eggplant color.


At this point, we needed more sustenance. We started seeing people walking around with dishes of what looked like ice cream and followed their trail. It was actually Coconut Bliss, a non dairy, non soy, gluten free frozen treat. There were quite a few flavors to choose from, but my love of chocolate led us to share a dish of the dark chocolate variety. OH. MY. GOOOOODNESSS!! It was absolutely delicious and I will be looking for it in the stores. Also, they have a very cute animated story about their start.

We saved the indoor booths for last. It was a little bit of sensory overload indoors. And so many different companies/products. I did love the colors in the Youghiogheny Yarns booth, which the owner hand dyes and paints.

yough yarns

The last thing we did was attend a session on making yogurt. It doesn’t seem that difficult, and when I started talking with friends about it, more of them said they had made it before than I had anticipated (I had anticipated no one would have made it before). We are definitely going to try it very soon.

There was so much more that we saw and vendors whom we talked to, but this is a good sampling. We had a really great day together. During the drive I talked about my desire to find another hobby or two, besides the gardening and baking and Fargo-ing, to add to my life. I am still feeling like I’m Empty Nest lost. Stay tuned for when I add a new category to this blog called Hobby Adventures. I’m going to try a bunch and I’ll take you along with me as I do.



Flight 93 Memorial

Yesterday the hubby and I went on a road trip. I will tell you about the Mother Earth News Fair in my next post, but our first stop was the Flight 93 Memorial. I have been to the Memorial in NYC. These are both very solemn, very impactful and very beautifully designed memorials and yet, they feel completely different. I realize that part of that is due to the overwhelming crowds of people who were with us in NYC while, for a while, we were the only ones yesterday. Of course the settings are extremely urban vs rolling hills rural. But there was something else I couldn’t quantify that I know I felt in both places, but in a different way. I will stop there and just share some pictures, though pictures cannot replace the experience of being there. Visiting any memorial is a way to recognize tragedy, sacrifice and loss, and we should all visit when we can.

misty morning

“A common field one day. A field of honor forever.”


memorial area

wall of names

field of honor

My First Recipe

After writing about the pumpkin bread I made in my last post, I started thinking about all of the ways I tweak the Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread recipe I use. The question that I came up with is, how many changes in a recipe constitute a new recipe?

I think I change enough when I make this bread that it is not the same recipe. Therefore, I have decided to post my first original recipe. We will name it Central PA Winter Squash Bread.

To start with, it is rarely “pumpkin” bread. I most often use Hubbard Squash instead of pumpkin, but have been known to use butternut or other winter garden squash.

Monster Squash

Next, I substitute unsweetened applesauce for half of the oil. We don’t typically eat applesauce on its own unless it’s homemade, by me or by our neighbor who makes amazing apple sauce, so I keep the lunch box containers around, which are about 1/2 c.


The original recipe calls for 3 cups of sugar. With the extra sweetness of the hubbard, or butternut, etc., and the applesauce (even the unsweetened is sweet), I can reduce the sugar to 2 cups. On top of that, I use one cup of white and one cup of brown sugar.

Next, I often substitute at least half white wheat flour for white flour. I like the softer consistency of Trader Joes flour.

tjs flour

It is rare that I put cloves in any recipe, and this one is no exception, I do not use cloves. But I do use semi sweet/dark chocolate chips or chocolate chunks! Dark chocolate is healthy, right? Once the batter is in the pan I sprinkle chips/chunks over the top. Instead of loaves, I use a 9 x 13 baking dish.

pupmkin bread

Here is the recipe (I have no idea how to make a printable version yet, sorry!):

15 oz hubbard squash, roasted and pureed

4 eggs

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce mixed with oil to measure 1 cup

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 1/2 cups flour, combination of wheat, white wheat and/or white (I use 2 c white wheat, 1 1/2 cups white)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

chocolate chips/chunks

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray oil (coconut oil works well) a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together squash puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the squash mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pan.
  3. Cover the top with chocolate chips/chunks (I like to make sure there will be chocolate with every piece)
  4. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Bread is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Catching Up

It’s been an interesting few weeks, and the longest number of days between posts since I started this blog about 9 months ago. We have said some temporary and more permanent good-byes, and saying good-bye is hard. There has been a lot going on with garden veggie processing, baking, Fargo-ing, kitchen updating and some running. There has not been enough going on with cleaning, organizing, weeding…but really, when is that list ever done?

Also, blogging is fun, but it’s hard work. I’m pretty sure I’ve had Blogger’s Block (is that a thing?). The process of coming up with ideas for posts, taking and editing pictures, and putting words together has seemed like too much time and energy…until today.

I have done a lot of baking, mostly to gift to others, but I’ve been baking the old favorites and not adventuring into new recipes. The most recent thing I baked was Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread, also an old favorite, but maybe new since the blog.

pupmkin bread

Though I generally follow the recipe, I have tweaked it quite a bit, using hubbard squash just for starters. I also cut the sugar down by one cup and use a cup of white sugar and a cup of brown. I use 1/2 cup applesauce in substitution for 1/2 of the oil. I use 1/2 white wheat flour instead of all white. I leave out the cloves, which I do for most recipes that call for cloves. I finish it off by adding semi sweet chocolate chips because everything is better with chocolate.

I spent a few hours over the weekend making fresh salsa, now that we finally have a few ripe tomatoes. I added onion, cucumber and peppers (green and Hungarian Hot Wax) from the garden, locally grown corn (more on that in a minute), a little vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper. Hubby said it was the best ever.

fresh salsa

In the top left corner of the salsa, you can just see a plastic bag full of many ears of corn. That bag is actually the second bag of corn our neighbors gave us. Here is a picture of the first bag.

bag o corn

Although I didn’t actually count, I believe we husked, steamed, cooled and sliced (for freezing) around 6 dozen ears. Thank you wonderful neighbors!

And, to top off the weekend, for the first time in our homeowner lives, we have an over the stove microwave. Thanks to the hubby for his hours of work on this baby!


Although it made good sense on its own, especially given that the current unit is 20 years old, there was some ulterior motive. We are hoping that we can use the space our current microwave is sitting on for more baking room.

I will stop there for now. Happy Monday to all!