Thursday, September 30, 2010

Do you remember....classroom parties?

Normally, I do not use my blog as a place to complain or sound off.  In fact, I usually leave the cranking to my husband.  But this really ticks me off.

I heard on the news today that yet another local school has banned birthday treats and classroom parties in the name of fighting childhood obesity.  Really, REALLY?

This angers me on a couple of different levels.  First of all, do you really think an occasionally cupcake is how these kids got obese?  No, and there are ways to make these treats healthy.  Put guidelines on them, yes, ok, I can agree to that.  But banning them completely seems so big brotherish.  If a parent wants their child to abstain from treats, let them decide that, not you, school district.  Any parent involved enough in their child's life to make birthday treats is probably an adequate judge of his or her child's nutritional needs.

Secondly, if these schools are so concerned with childhood obesity, why are so many of them cutting gym classes, and funding for athletic activities?  And why do so many sell sugary soda and juice drinks at lunch time?  One school I was at for a job a few years ago served ice cream.  To kindergarteners.  Yeah, I can see your "concern".  Just like that controlling boyfriend I had back in college.  He labeled his behavior as concern as well.

Why were birthday treats and classroom parties ok when we were kids?  Oh, that's right, it was ok, because childhood obesity was not an epidemic when we were kids.  So, this MUST be the cause right?  What flawed logic that is.  Why not look for what is different between now and then, like the hours of video games and television shows kids consume, leading to a sedentary lifestyle by age 4.  When we were kids, we got out and ran and played.  Or maybe it is the fast food that so many people end up feeding their kids, because they are exhausted after both parents putting in 10-12 hour days, that no one has time to cook nutritious food.  When I was a kid, we never ate fast food.  I mean, maybe once every 4-5 months, and it was a treat.  My parents always cooked dinner, sometimes enough for a few nights if they both would be working.

Look, I get the concern, really I do.  You know why I get it?  I was a chubby kid (shocker, I know).  And my chubbiness was because I was a sedentary kid.  I did not play any sports, I did not live in an area with other kids to run and play with, so I sat inside and read all the time.  It was no fault of my parents, who always provided me nutritious food.  And it certainly was no fault of little Sally's parents for bringing in cupcakes for Sally's birthday.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Word Filled Wednesday: My Lamp

2 Samuel 22:29 You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light.

Sometimes, I look around me, and simply marvel at all my blessings.  My life is not perfect, far from it, and I struggle all the time, with things large and small, but it is my faith that helps me through my struggles.

For so many years, I yearned to find a man who would be a good spouse for me.  I believed with all my heart that God created me to be a wife, but I had no luck finding a mate.  My God was simply preparing me for the most remarkable man I could ever imagine, and when the timing was right, He led me to my husband.

When we started dating, we faced some difficulties, not living in the same place, and each of us dealing with our own stressors.  But God again brought us closer together through these trials, and allowed us to prepare for our marriage.

We are now preparing to celebrate our first anniversary.  Everyone said this first year would be the hardest.  I say, if this year represents the hardest, bring it on.  Hubby and I have been so blessed over these 12 months.  We did have to make some really tough decisions, and face some difficulties during this year, but the reason this year was so wonderful is that we faced them together.

God truly saw me through some dark times, and filled those dark times with glorious light, and He used my husband as a way of showing me His light.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Small Town Elements: Fall Festivals

Well, according to my calendar, it is officially Fall, even if the weather does not always feel like it, so to get into the spirit of things a bit, we spent some time this weekend at a local fall festival.  I saw signs advertising a "Pumpkin Festival" in Rural Valley, another nearby small town, so I talked Hubby into taking the dog and going for a bit.  Back where I grew up, we have a huge Pumpkin Festival in Barnesville, Ohio, and I miss it a lot, so this was a nice substitute on a smaller scale.

When we arrived, the day was gorgeous, and the festival was a little bigger than I expected, so I was pretty amped.  But when I saw this

well, that is when I knew magic was going to happen.  Because it is not everyday that you see a cow eating fried rice.

Basically, the festival was a lot of local organizations selling home made food, including pumpkin themed items like pies and rolls and cookies, as well as semi professional food vendors.  As I mentioned, we took Dexter with us, so when we spotted Todd's Weiner Wagon, it was a photo op we could not resist.

Todd was a great sport, and asked if he could hold Dex in the picture.  He said they own 2 doxies themselves.   After that, Hubby had no choice but to buy a hot dog from Todd, which he said was delicious.  I love small town folks, for reason like this!

There was a little picnic area where people could eat, right in the middle of the festival.  It was pretty well packed, and we were there fairly early.  I was glad the weather was so nice, had it been rainy, I doubt many people would have gone.

No local festival is complete without entertainment.  There was a stage set up with a band, but as we were passing by, they were getting ready for Pumpkin Idol.  Yes, that is right, Pumpkin Idol.  Hey, you could win money, and who doesn't like that?  I thought it was pretty cute, and had I been prepared, Dex and I may have sung Ain't Nothin But a Hound Dog (complete with him in an Elvis costume).  No one would have been able to beat us!

The thing I was most excited about were the craft vendors.  Like any thirty something small town wife, I love to look at craft vendors, even if I am not going to buy a thing.  I do not tend to have a lot of knickknacks or things around the house, and do not decorate much, but I do love to look at the stuff, so I was checking out all the booths.

I did eventually get something for a friend, to help decorate her classroom a little.  I was impressed with a lot of the vendors there, no only for the quality of their work, but the really reasonable prices.

All in all, we had a great day, and I can not think of a better way to help officially usher in Fall!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Do you remember....Saturday morning cartoons?

This morning, I woke up feeling nostalgic, and having a yen for some good old fashioned Saturday morning cartoons.  Hubby turned on the tv, and you know what he found on all the major networks?  News.  NEWS.  I mean, ok, I get it, it's 8 am on a Saturday, but when I was a kid, by 8 am I had watched the Smurfs, Flintstones, Bugs Bunny, and Gummy Bears all do their thing.  Still, I know, times have changed, and this is cable, but not everyone has cable (they don't?) so what do those kids watch?  I tried PBS, and what did we find?  Some technology show.  BOOOOORING, I mean not for me, but for a 6 year old kid who wants to watch talking animals, yawn.

What ever happened to the days of Saturday morning cartoons? I know, I know, there are entire cable networks devoted to cartoons now, and do you know what they were showing on Saturday morning? Spongebob flippin Squarepants.  Now, I will cop to watching me some Spongebob occasionally.  But, that is NOT Saturday morning cartoons.  Saturday morning cartoons are something special, to be savored in the mote filled sunshine of a fall Saturday morning, with powdered sugar donuts and chocolate milk.  Spongebob, well, he is on t.v. every friggin minute it seems.

So, here I am, 32 years old, literally craving some Looney Toons like nobody's business.

Hubby contends that Saturday morning cartoons died because parents have been socially bullied into entering their kids into every extracurricular activity on earth, lest they be deemed bad parents.  Therefore, kids have no time for t.v.  Maybe.  I guess t.v. on demand just makes the experience of cartoons a less special event, since kids can watch whatever, whenever, either on t.v. or online.  And that is not a bad thing, really, but I can't help but miss the ritual of Saturday morning cartoons.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Word Filled Wednesday: Storms and Rainbows

Genesis 9:16 ESV

"When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

God used a rainbow after the great flood as a sign of His covenant with man.  In rainbows, I see hope, God's promise for our future.  When my life gets the stormiest, I always look for the rainbows, and true to His word, God always sends them.  Sometimes, the rainbow is a kind word, a gesture, a blessing, an opportunity, a good friend, a cute purse, an unexpected card, one just never knows what form these rainbows will take.

Just when I think I might be at my lowest, I am reminded how blessed I truly am, and the best way I can thank God for the blessings and rainbows He sends me is to try to pass blessings on to others.  I do not do this nearly enough in my life, and it is something that I want to work on more in the coming days.  I promise to keep you posted on that.

So, if you are going through a stormy patch in your life, please, take a moment to look for a rainbow.  It may show up in the least likely of places.  Better yet, if you know of someone else who is in the middle of a storm, why not try being their rainbow instead?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Explorations: Penn's Colony

Sunday, after sleeping in and having a lazy morning, Hubby and I decided it was way too gorgeous outside to not take advantage of the day, so we struck out for historic Saxonburg, to go to Penn's Colony, a colonial folk art festival.  I was not sure we would enjoy it, and even said to Hubby, if this sucks, we can turn back.  When we were greeted by the parking attendants who looked like this:
Hubby said "Oh yeah, we are totally doing this."

So we park, pay our admission price, and into the woods we go.  It was pretty amazing.  I mean, there were standard craft booths, with standard craft wares,

but then, there were much more traditional colonial type goods, like handmade goods, and people in period dress making things on site.

There were military drills in a field, and recreations of military encampments.

There were all kinds of unique vendors with really clever names, like this one:

and artisans selling really unique goods.

There were some games for kids, horse drawn carriage rides, and even some goats to pet.

But the absolutely best part of the whole thing was the food vendors.  Some of them were standard fair food dressed up in colonial titles and names, which was really clever,
and then some were more traditional colonial type foods, like, oh why not, whole turkey legs,

Hubby also wanted to partake in the entertainment, which was a nice little trio playing Celtic music.  It was really nice, and Hubby even sang along a little.

During the time we were there, I mentioned to Hubby how different this was from what we had done the day before (PodCamp), and how both were pretty nerdy, and how much I loved that we enjoyed both of them.  I love that we are big dorks, equally at home at a tech convention and a colonial arts fest.  I say we are well rounded.  I can not imagine any other man not only putting up with my interests but also sharing and relishing them.  Yet another reason I love Hubby so much.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In the Big City: Podcamp Pittsburgh

Have I mentioned what a blessing it is that we live so close to Pittsburgh?  Beyond the awesome sports teams (I'm looking at you Pens, see you on Wednesday night!) and the delicious eateries and shops (I will miss you Coco's Cupcake Cafe), Pittsburgh has the absolute best community of social media gurus anywhere.  And this weekend, Hubby and I entered the fold.

We attended the most awesome event ever, known as PodCamp Pittsburgh.

This is a "un-convention" where people from the social media community gather together to learn and teach new information to each other, to strengthen the community, its bonds, and its impact.  We learned techie stuff, warm fuzzie stuff, and generally, how awesome Pittsburghers from the internets are in real life.

We got there bright and early Saturday morning, because, you know, we are big nerds, and registered, then settled in for the keynote speech from Bill Peduto.

Imagine my surprise when everyone started twittering during it, and not only was it NOT considered rude, it was encouraged!  We even had our own hash tag!  I felt like I was finally at home.  I whispered to Hubby, it is like I got to do high school all over again, with people like me this time, and I am the homecoming queen.  It was a room of several hundred people who all felt social media was worthwhile, important, potentially lifechanging, capable of being revolutionary, and so we all were revolutionary as well.

  It. Was. AWESOME.

This is one of the videos Bill showed us.  How can one not be inspired by this?

After the keynote speech was over, we started our sessions.  My first one was with Scout, about Social Media 101.

It was a good first session for me, it made me feel completely comfortable, and eased me into the whole set up.  She was so warm and friendly, and had already been tweeting with me, so I felt so welcomed by her!  These people were so amazing!  I related well to her, because she used social media to create her support in a new city, just like I did when I moved to the burgh, back in the days of MySpace.

My next session was with Michelle, otherwise known as BurghBaby.

 Oh My Goodness, she is so way awesome, and, I might add, it was in this session that I also got a chance to sneak a peak at my favorite burgh blogger ever, Ginny, aka Jane Pitt.  Can I just say how completely gorgeous and gracious these two women are in person?  Seriously.  Michelle talked about creating good material for your blog.  It was so helpful, and hilarious, all at the same time.  It is so great to get guidance, particularly from other women bloggers.

After this we broke for lunch, during which time I swallowed my fear and actually said hello to Jane Pitt before she had to dash off to catch a seat for her next session.  I was so glad I got to say hi to her, and Hubby thinks I should volunteer to help her with a project, so, Ginny, if you are reading, I would love to help you in some of your do goodery some time!

My next session was with Justin B., and it was the session that probably made me feel the best about the course I have chosen as a blogger.

 The message was, be true to your goal and your audience, write good quality work of which you are proud, and the readers will come, just give it time.  Justin is a purist, and I admire that.

I ducked out to get a seat for my next session, and got to sneak a peak at Secret Agent L.

She is a beautiful as she is kind, really.  And if you have not heard of this amazing example of the redemption of humanity, you must go read about her.  Right now.

So anyway, my last session was with the women of BitchBurgh, and I do not think I laughed so hard all day.  It was all about living out loud online, boundaries, and consequences.

These women were funny, but also really astute, and had sage advice to give.  They spoke from experience, and I actually probably applied more from their session than anyone else's.  It certainly got me and Hubby talking on the way home, to make sure I never violate any of his privacy online.

There was another session yesterday, but we had to cut out early, and then there were sessions today, but we did not make it to any of them, because we overslept, and by the time we would have made it down to the city, a lot of the ones we wanted to see would have been over.  Luckily, they were recording them, and they will be up on the PodCamp website for future perusal.

We are so fortunate that Pittsburgh has this community!  I know that not everyone "gets" social media.  I get heavily criticized for living my life online sometimes, but, to me, it is the way life is.  I do not remember a time when I was not accessible at all times to people, via cell phone and the internet.  Social media is not a hobby for me.  And when I get criticized, while my first reaction is to just "give it all up" I know I never could, because this is my way of life.

I think about my book blog, and the impact I am having on some of these writers' careers.  Me, little old me, is helping people sell their books, and make their dreams come true.  Me, little old me, writing a blog from my house in western PA.  Because I am doing something I love, with heart, and passion.  This is my life, and my love.  And I won't give it up for anything.

Thank you to all the beautiful, wonderful people I met at PodCamp Pittsburgh 5.  I look forward to getting to know you all more over the coming months, and learning more at PodCamp 6 next year!  <3

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Word Filled Wednesday: Fruit of our Lips

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
— Hebrews 3.15

Thankfulness.  Not something that comes naturally to some people, particularly in youth.  And I am sure we have all had our days when we do not feel particularly thankful for the mounds of laundry, or stacks of bills, long hours of work, or crying children that await us.  But we should be.  Because no matter what craziness we have going on in our lives, there is always someone who has it much worse than we do.

Why is it that as a nation, we are willing to give tons of money to people who suffer devastation from hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods (and rightly so), but we still will not act thankful for what we have, and bristle at anyone who suggest we should?  It amazes me the number of people who will so openly complain, on a constant basis, about their jobs, how hard school is, how much they hate so and so, how much   such and such annoys them.  And yes, I am all for freedom of speech, but really, is your life that bad?  Tell that to the kids that child protective services have to remove from homes because their parents are raping them.  Then that to the quadriplegic trapped in the body he once was able to control before a drunk driver changed all that.  Tell that to the man who had to put his newlywed bride in a nursing home, and turn off her feeding tube as per her wishes.

I am not trying to stifle anyone's voice, I am just suggesting that your life may seem a little more manageable if, the next time you go to utter a complaint, instead you offer a prayer of thanksgiving.

So, thank you Lord, for every bump in the road, every emotional scar, every blessing, every setback, every yes, and every no.  Because each has shaped me, and guided me to further carry out your will for my life.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Small Town Elements: Block Parties

Until I moved into our house last year, I had never really lived "in town".  I came close, when in grad school, but it was not at a place that had a real sense of community.  The town I live in now is a real small town, with a very real sense of community.  The very day we closed on the house, we were invited to the upcoming block party.

Last weekend, it was our second chance to participate in the annual block party.  It is still a little odd for me, having neighbors that actually talk to you.  Growing up in a rural area, that was pretty rare, we knew a handful of neighbors, mostly from church, but not many in a social manner.  And apartment dwelling did not really provide me any opportunities to get to know my neighbors.  So, I am still learning how to be neighborly, and finding it is not a skill that comes real natural to me, but I do try.  The neighbors on either side of us are simply wonderful, and lately, the whole street is really pulling together, as we are facing some upcoming construction at the end of the block that will mean big changes for us all.  So, little by little, I am feeling more a part of the community.  And liking it.

We did not stay very long at the block party, in part because we still do not know many people, and in part because we had other plans for the evening.  I did make Hungry Girl Scoopable Macaroni Salad for the party, and I think people liked it ok, it's pretty yummy.  Hubby ate, I did not (will power, go me!), instead I took Dexter out to mingle a little, which was a good way to talk to people.  I learned that we have a new couple moving onto the block, and they are getting married on our first anniversary.  This makes me happy!  Not only are we not the newbies, but we have more new neighbors to get to know.  Also, they have an adorable little doggie!

We left early into the party, and got home much later that night.  The party was still in full swing, but it never got loud or rowdy, no one bothered us, there was no trash left in our yard, and early Sunday morning, everyone got up to help clean up.  By 11 am, all evidence of a party was gone, it was amazing.  There is something truly special about my block.  These are good people, who look out for each other, and stand up for what is right.  I could not be happier that we ended up where we did, and look forward to getting to know my neighbors even better over the years to come.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Do you remember....Trick or Treating?

I know it seems a little early for thinking about tricks or treats, and Halloween costumes, but when the air starts to get a little nippy, I can't help but think about October 31st.

As a child, Halloween was my favorite holiday.  It was the one day that I could be someone else for a day, and get rewarded for it.  I could pretend to be someone prettier than I was, or someone uglier than I was, someone evil, or saintly, funny, or frightening, just someone completely different from everyday, plain old Tiffany.  When I was a kid, there were not a ton of big box retailed selling cheaply made costumes for outrageous prices, and my parents both worked, so there was not a lot of time to spend on home made costumes, so we went to a small shop not far from our house that sold stuff.

It was is the home of a woman named Peggy Tomer, and gosh golly gee did I look forward to taking a trip to Peggy Tomer's.  I thought her place was the bees knees, there was so much cool stuff in there, make up kits, fake blood, fancy costume sets, all kids of stuff.  She also sold spooky decorations, but we did not need those, because we had plenty of things that my parents had made, including a ceramic haunted house that was my favorite decoration for Halloween.  So, we would look up and down the racks and display's at Peggy's shop, and my parents and I would come to some kind of agreement on my Halloween costume.  One year, I was a crayon, one year, a clown with full face paint.  One year, my grandma made me a poodle skirt, and I was a bobbie soxer.

We never did a lot of actual trick or treating since I lived in a somewhat rural area, where neighbors were spread out.  Instead, my parents drove us to see neighbors, relatives, and people from church.  Occasionally, we might go to a friend's neighborhood to get some goodies as well.

As an adult, I got away from the Halloween tradition.  I was never one to go to bars, so I never went out on the holiday.  I had a boss once who had a party, so I dressed up like a goddess once.  Spent tons of money on a costume, and stayed out for like, 2 hours.

 So, when Hubby and I started dating, I was excited to learn that our friends, the B's, have an annual Halloween party.  The first year we went, we were newly dating, so we were tame.  We went as Johnny Cash and June Carter.

Last year, it was just a couple of weeks after our wedding, so we decided to dress as something more, um, "mature".   I was Cherry Pie.  Hubby was....the Pie Eating Champ.

I have yet to figure out what we will be dressing as this year, any suggestions?  I like couple costumes, and would prefer not to spend a ton of money.

Because I lived in apartment buildings after I moved out of my parent's house, I never had trick or treaters.  Last year, the first year we were in the house, was our first time for trick or treaters, they were so adorable, and so polite too!  I can't wait for this year.

So, tell me, what do you love or hate about Halloween?  Favorite past costume?  Best Halloween treat?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Word Filled Wednesday: Your Body is a Temple

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

God intends us to treat our bodies as our temples, with the purpose of glorifying Him, right?  So, I will be the first to admit, my body, not such a great temple in the past few years.  Not that I have been that awful to it, no illegal substances, no smoking, and very little alcohol (though like some Biblical figures, I do enjoy some wine now and again).  No, as many of you know, my vice is is more related to my weight.  In short, I like food.  I love to cook it, I love to use it to make people happy, I love the smell of it, the taste of it, I love shopping for it, food brings people together.  I think we see this sentiment echoed throughout the Bible. But my past choices with food have led to my temple being not so glorious.  I have been working on it, as you know, and I think that each day I make smart choices, it is in part due to grace.

God has a plan for me.  I am not sure what it is, but I know there is one.  I am certain it involves me being around to love my husband, family, and friends, hopefully for many years, but I know in order for that to happen, I have to do my part and take care of my temple.  Each day is a struggle, and sometimes I slip.  But that is the amazing thing about God.  When I slip a little, He is there to help me up.  Him, along with the rest of my fabulous support system.  So, I am continuing to revamp my temple.  I have a feeling this will be a lifelong project, for a long life.  And I am perfectly ok with that.

It Made My Day: Post It

We are quickly approaching one year of marital bliss.  Often, people will ask us if the honeymoon is over.  My response is that it never will be!  And I truly mean it with all my heart.  Everyone warned me the first year of marriage was so hard, with so many adjustments.  Honestly, we did not have it that difficult.  Not with each other anyway.  We adjusted to each other so easily.  I think other people had a harder time getting used to us being married, and how that changed our lives, than we did really.

Hubby and I are just one of those couples who can not help but show each other how much we adore each other.  We know it might be annoying to some people, and I would apologize, except I do not think that is anything that warrants an apology.  I love the way that Hubby and I are, and I would not trade it for the world.

Case in point:

I picked up my laptop to work on a blog post, and when I opened it up, this is what I saw on my screen:
Just a simple little note from Hubby telling me to have a nice day, and that he loved me.  It was such a simple act, but it meant the world to me.  He put it somewhere he knew I was sure to look at some point, and I could not help but smile.

It totally made my day.  Thank you Hubby.  I love you too.  Here is to a lifelong honeymoon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Birthday to you Hubby!

Sorry that I was away for a few days, but we had a busy weekend!  Friday was Hubby's birthday!  We celebrated the entire weekend.

His birthday started off with red roses and presents.  I got him a t shirt, a new mp3 player, and tickets to the upcoming Pens preseason game!

He had his actual birthday off of work, so we took a day trip down to Fort Necessity, in Uniontown PA.  We had a very good time, and even took the doggie!

We had a great time, then we came home and Hubby and I went to dinner.  We came home, relaxed, and then it was time for cake!

The celebration continued on Saturday with a jaunt down to Pittsburgh for the Pirates game, followed by Skyblast.  The Pirates lost of course, but we had a great time with our friends, and the fireworks and concert were amazing.  We had a wonderful night with friends!

Finally, rounding out the weekend, we went to Ohio yesterday to visit my family.  We had a cook out, saw my sister's new house, and celebrate Hubby's birthday.  Everyone got him a joke gift, all bat related, thanks to our bat issue a few weeks ago, but he took it in stride, and it is just proof how much they love him and how well he fits in to my family.  We even surprised him by singing Happy Birthday, and having a cake.  We ended the evening around a fire outside.

All in all a wonderful, perfect weekend.  What a wonderful way to wrap up the summer.  Bring on the fall.