Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sweet and Sour Tiffany: Royal Wedding

Sweet SourI tried hard to not talk about the Royal Wedding, but it became glaringly obvious that I was one of the few bloggers out there in the blogosphere NOT talking about it, so, I decided to cave.  I know so many people in the United States woke up at the crack of dawn to watch the wedding.  I chose not to, and shied away from a lot of the media coverage, though I will admit I looked at a website or two.  I am more interested in the whole cultural focus on the wedding, the coverage, every last detail.  So, yes, I am caving, and talking about the wedding.  But instead of being all schmaltzy, I am going to take a look at the whole hulabaloo, both the Sweet and the Sour.

The Sweet

While I did not get wrapped up in "The Wedding", I certainly understand why a lot of people did.  First off, talk of princes and horse drawn carriages just reminds us of fairy tales.  In a country where royalty does not exist, the idea of a girl marrying Prince Charming for real is ridiculously romantic.  Many little girls love the idea of being a princess, marrying a prince, and living happily ever after.  Just ask Disney.  So, to me, it is no surprise that women in America are so interested in this wedding.

In fact, women tend to be drawn to wedding festivities of every kind.  I personally do not like weddings all that much, though I like them more now that my own is over.  I always hated going to them as a singleton; so depressing.  I am in the minority, however, as most women I know go coocoo crazy over weddings.  They love talking about all the details, the dress, the ring, the music, the flowers.  So, the fact that women are talking about Kate like they are BFFs is no surprise.  Women love a good wedding.

However, I think the biggest thing I "get" about the fascination with this wedding is that this is history in the making.  The future king of England has taken a wife.  That is historic.  His wife was a commoner.  That is even more historic.  People the world over want to be a part of the history of the moment.  Those who were around for Diana's wedding can still remember it, and so it will be when Kate's child marries.


The Sour

As I said, I am just not a wedding person.  The fact that I was single for so many of my friends' and relatives' weddings was just depressing.  I also am not a big fan of opulence.  I am a simple girl, with simple tastes, so I am not terribly interested in seeing the crown jewels.  The fancy schmancy wedding, to me, just seems like a waste of money.  Good for them that they requested that money be given to charity instead of gifts, but how much money could they have given to charity themselves had they had a simpler wedding?

Also, the media coverage was really over the top.  One would think there were nothing else going on in all the world, when in reality, the economic situation in many countries, including England, is less than wonderful, and Americans in the southern states are dealing with yet another natural disaster.  So, perspective here might be helpful.

The thing that drives me craziest of all is the ridiculous merchandise tie ins.  Royal Wedding nail decals, condoms, and lord only knows what other crap can be found on places like etsy.  Seriously, I am glad my wedding favors were boxes of candy, as opposed to some stupid and creepy masks of our faces, or some other ridiculous piece of merchandise.


***

When it is all said and done, I may not be interested in the Royal Wedding, but I certainly understand the appeal of it.  The ceremony is one that is affecting history.  Of course people will make a big deal out of it.  Just like the Americans did when we had an inaugural ceremony to swear in our first African American president.  We all want to be a part of history.  And yes, I will always remember where I was when the future king of England got married.  I was in my bed, sleeping next to my very own Prince Charming.


So that being said, if the Sweet and Sour didn't completely fill you up, move along to the fortune cookie.
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Friday, April 29, 2011

Out of Town: Erie Wine Country

On our last day in Erie, we decided to drive a little on the wine trail, and see some of the wine country.  I hoped for beautiful sunny skies, but mother nature had different plans.

Erie is well known for its award winning wines, so there was no way we were not going to stop and check out the scene.  After breakfast, we headed out, to see some of the vineyards.  It was pouring rain, and I do mean pouring, so we did not get to enjoy things as much as I would have liked.

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I really love looking at vineyards, with rows upon rows of vines as far as the eye can see.  I grew up with both my parents and grandparents having small sets of grapevines from which we would make home made wine.  My dad still makes wine, and though I am not a red wine girl, my dad's Polish Pink is simply the best.

Of course, I was not just going to look.  We decided to stop at a winery to buy some wine.  This winery had won lots of awards.  I picked my two favorites, Niagara and Gew├╝rztraminer, both sweet whites, and both usually hard to find unless you go to a winery.  Somehow my friends found some Niagara and got me some for my birthday, which was from an Erie vineyard.
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At this point, the rain is pretty miserable, so we decided to bid Erie adieu, and head for home.  The ride home was not bad, mostly because I slept, but I will tell ya, it was tricky keeping my German dogs away from my German wine.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Out of Town: Erie Odds and Ends

I covered most of the major points of our time in Erie, but there was a whole different aspect of the trip that I never talked about.  It is just the assorted adventures and discoveries we made in town.

First off, remember, we went to Presque Isle.  On the way there, I saw this creepy hot dog statue, and I knew I needed a picture of it, so we decided to stop on our way out.  By then, it was snowing, and that just added to the creepiness of the pictures.

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Where is your other hand there Frank?

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Someone call Chris Hanson.

Later, as we were driving toward our hotel, I pointed out a Jelly Belly store, to which Hubby excitedly, really excitedly, replied "Is that Kali's? OMG IT IS MR. FUDGIE FUDGE".  He then proceeded to treat me like an idiot for not knowing, or caring, who Mr. Fudgie Fudge was.  His old high school friend Corey lives in Erie, in fact we got a chance to visit him, and he had long spun to lore to Hubby about this delicious chocolate cartoon man.  When we tried to check into the hotel early, our room was not ready, so, to kill time, we went to visit, you guessed it, Mr. Fudgie Fudge.

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Hubby is a bow tie away from being Junior Fudgie Fudge.

The oddest thing was this store also sold knives.  Throwing knives, swords, mace, all kinds of weaponry.  But their best weapon was that delicious fudge.

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The lady under charged us.  I think she gave Junior the family discount is all.

That night we got to visit Hubby's friend Corey, whom I had never met, as well as his wife Nicole and their son Owen.  That baby is a total doll.

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I got some Fudgie fudge for you too sweet cheeks.

I also got to see a slew of cartoon drawings Hubby and his friends did in high school.  Even then he was snarky, I love it.

The next day, during our adventures, I discovered the Erie frog statues.  Much like the cows in Chicago, and the dinosaurs in Pittsburgh, Erie had dozens of frog statues around the city. as well as a few fish.  It was like a scavenger hunt trying to find them.  In fact, we discovered an elaborate geocache puzzle based on several of the frogs.  It was too late into the trip to try it, so we will be returning to Erie in the future to do this very nerdy activity.  I can't wait.

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Have you noticed Hubby likes posing with ridiculous things?

There is even an Erie Frog Blog, though it is not terribly active.  But I love the Erie frogs!

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I do not, however, love bad puns.
The rest of the second day was fairly normal, though we did have some run ins with some very odd and rude townies.  Oh well, you will have that everywhere.

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Townies were not the only odd ones.  We are capital C Classy.
That night we met our friend Torri, who also lives in Erie, for dessert.  It did not occur to me until just now that we visited with two relocated Kittanningites whose names rhyme.  Spooky.

On the last day, which I have yet to fully blog about, we fought the rain the whole time.  It made our checkout a muddy mess courtesy of two excited dogs.  The whole time we were in Erie, Hubby drooled over Tim Horton's, so we had to stop there before leaving town.

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Can I take the plate as a souvenir, pleeeeeeaaaase?

We also spent some time in the local vineyards, and stopped to by some wine.  Which is where I saw this lovely piece of propaganda.

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Better yet, buy our wine, get wasted, and feel each other's. Or I can do it for you.  CREEPY.

By this time, we were antsy to get home.  We had seen enough for one trip.  But mark my words, we are going back sometime, so fudgies, froggies, and frotteurs be warned. 

Thankful for .... being a townie

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In most places, being a "townie" is considered a bad thing.  It usually means that you have a limited world view, and perhaps a less than open mind.  But for me, being a townie means being being a part of the community.  This is something I took for granted in my home town.  While I was a part of my school community, I never got terribly in my larger community.

When I left my hometown, it was to go to graduate school.  Again, I was a part of the school community primarily.  Because it was a faith based school, we did do some community outreach in the form of ministry, so I was a little more involved, but working full time and studying part time, I did not have too much time left over.

After graduate school, I moved to Pittsburgh.  I knew no one, and so I initially got very involved in the community, in the form of volunteer work, but the more people I met, the more I stayed within my comfort zone.  I never really felt at home, though there was so much I loved about living in Pittsburgh.  I just could not become a "city girl".

When I moved to Kittanning, for the first time in 8 years, I had a sense of being home.  We live right in town.  Our street has a local cop, a local postmaster, and a county commissioner living on it.  We are involved in the community, I serve on a couple of different committees and boards.  And I have devoted the majority of this blog to living in a town I love.  But it is only recently that I have started feeling like a "townie".

I am finally learning who is who, what the real deal is, what the important issues.  I can hold my own in conversations about town and community issues with people born and raised here.  I have finally found my own place within the community.

So, if anyone wants to call me a "townie" now, I will take it as a supreme compliment.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Word Filled Wednesday: Do Not Conform

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Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

As a child, I watched a lot of Sesame Street.  And one of my favorite sketches on the show was "One of these things is not like the other", where four things were shown, three of which were the same, one of which was different.  I always like the thing that was different.

Today, I was outside taking pictures, when I caught the shot I am using for today's post.  They are my neighbor's tulips, most of which is red, one is yellow, and one is a red-yellow variegation.  I found it to be a great metaphor for how Christians function in the world at large.  Many Christians want to blend in, be like everyone else.  They conform.  Then there are the Christians who want to bridge both worlds, the sacred and the secular.  They make it clear that they are Christians, and in many ways different from the status quo.  And then there are those Christians who are brightly, boldly different.  They will never conform to the secular world, but still find ways to function within it.

At different points in my life, I have been all three of these types of Christian.  Right now, I would have to say I am at the point where I am trying to straddle both worlds.  I wish I was at a point where I had the courage to be bolder, and I pray that someday I will be bold again.  But I know that even where I am right now, even without being that bold yellow tulip, God is using me in amazing and powerful ways.  So, who knows, maybe slowly that red will fade away and that yellow will overtake, and my boldness will be used for even more of God's glory.

Do you remember.... your first job?

My nephew is currently in the process of getting his first job.  I have to say, I am proud of the initiative he is showing in getting a job to help pay for his car expenses, as well as have spending money, since he turned 16 in January.  A lot of his friends also have jobs, and while I hope they are focusing on school still, it is nice to see work ethic instilled in our youth.

I got my first job in high school as well.  I was 17, and I did not drive, so I was pretty limited to the local mall, since my parents could drive me there in less than 10 minutes.  I ended up getting a job through a connection my sister had, from her working at the mall since she was in high school.  She knew the manager of a clothing store called "Rave", and got the manager to interview me.

Photo Source


Let me explain what this store is like.  Think cheaply made, slightly slutty clothing for teenage girls built like prepubescent boys, knock off fragrances, and cheap plastic jewelry.  That was pretty much it in a nutshell.  But, I got the job.  Part of the deal was we got a discount, which was good because we had to wear their clothes to work.

Needless to say, I did not last too long there.  Even though I was very thin in high school, I never dressed in a way that was revealing, so wearing tiny little skirts while climbing a ladder to wash a wall of mirror did not really fit into my comfort zone as far as work went.  Luckily, the boy I dated knew the manager of the local Ponderosa, and he got me a job there.  In fact, he got most of our friends jobs there as well.  So it was super fun to work there.  I worked there my entire senior year of high school, and helped pay for my graduation expenses and senior pictures with the money I made. I still remember how I would smell after a day around all that food, and I quite distinctly remember how the dish room smelled when we would have to take our bus pans back.  Ick.

I think that working in high school was good for me.  It made me more mature, and responsible.  It also helped me understand the value of money a little bit better.  So, kudos to my nephew for wanting to work.

What was your first job?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Delicious Healthy Snack!

Today, I had the opportunity to review a new treat:  Newtons Fruit Thins.

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Now, I have never been a big fan of Fig Newtons because, well, I do not like figs.  But when I heard about these cookies, I decided to try them, because they were not only healthy, they were also fig free!  The flavor I chose was Blueberry Brown Sugar.

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The first thing I noticed was the info on the packaging.  One serving was 3 cookies, containing 140 calories, with 5 grams of fat and 2 grams of fiber.  That is not too shabby for cookies, as long as they are good.

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Next I noticed that these cookies had appeal for those in stricter diets.  They contain real fruit, whole grain, and NO high fructose corn syrup.  So, in other words, Moms can feel good about giving these to their little ones.

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But, how would they taste?  I decided to dive in.  As I opened the package, I noticed the cookies smelled like real blueberries, which is always a plus.  The smell was sweet, and fresh, like homemade blueberry muffins.  I was getting really excited by this point.

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I got the recommended serving of three cookies.  I immediately noticed that their thin, crunchy texture reminded me of what the British call biscuits, so I paired them with a cup of chai tea.  Finally, time for my first taste.  I took a nibble, and was pleasantly surprised.  They were delicious!  They are very flavorful, and the serving of 3 cookies is just enough to satisfy a sweet tooth.  They held up well being dipped into my tea as well.

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I am happy to say, I am a huge fan of these cookies, and so is Hubby. And since he is suspicious of anything healthy, fruity, and with no chocolate components, that is saying a lot! I will definitely be getting these again, and most likely will try the other flavors they have out as well.

I was given a package of these to review as part of the Amazon Vine program.  All opinions are 100% honest and original.

Easter Traditions

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Much like Christmas, Easter is packed full of traditions for my family.  Many of them have roots in our Polish heritage.

Each year, we gather together for Easter brunch, a tradition that started with my grandmother.
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Our menu includes traditional Easter ham, sweet potatoes, potato salad, kielbasa, and my personal favorite, pickled eggs and beets.
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But the star of the show, for sure, is beet borscht.  Polacks eat their borscht a little differently than Russians; we eat ours warm, with eggs, cheese, ham, and kielbasa in it.  And of course, you have to have some horseradish in there too!  To those who have never had it, this sounds like an odd concoction, but to those of us raised on it, this is the best holiday food you could imagine.  All of us, my siblings, cousins, parents, aunts, and uncles, we all LOVE this soup.  (I was so excited for it I forgot to take a picture of it before digging in!).

But, before we can even sit down to the meal, we have another tradition.  We take a hard boiled egg, and divide it into the same number of sections as there are people at the meal.  Each person takes a portion of the egg and eats it, symbolizing new life in Christ.  Then we each take a taste of honey and horseradish, to symbolize the sweet and bitter that Christ suffered in his crucifixion and resurrection.  We never, ever forget the meaning of this holiday.
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After dinner, we all rest and visit, and eventually make our way around to dessert. Then, we have an egg hunt. Each year my sister puts a new, creative twist on the egg hunt. Since the weather was bad this year, the egg hunt was inside my sister's house. We stayed at my parents while she hid the eggs, then the kids went across the street to their house so the hunt could begin.
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Then we always spend the rest of the day visiting, cleaning up, and dividing the leftovers.

We had a wonderful day yesterday, and I hope you all did as well!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Out of Town: Downtown Erie

The second day of our trip, we awoke to me being a little under the weather, and pouring rain.  Those two things foiled our plans to go to the zoo, so instead we headed into downtown Erie to check out some of the sites.
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The first place we went was the Erie Maritime Museum, where the Flagship Niagara is located.  The museum is dedicated to the history of the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812, and moving on to present day.  However,  most of it is dedicated to the War of 1812.
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The coolest part of the whole darn thing was that we got to board the Niagara and take a look around.  The weather was not too cooperative, but it was still amazing!
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After this, we decided to find the land lighthouse, the 3rd of the lighthouses located in Erie.  It was still raining pretty good, so we did not linger too much, but this would be a great place to visit in a prettier day.

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After this we headed to State Street.  The first place we headed was Ye Olde Sweet Shoppe.  Everything here looked delicious, so we got some cookies and of course treats for the dogs.  The cookies were amazing, and judging by the dogs happiness, so were the treats.  
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We then decided to take in some more history at The Museum of Erie County History.  This was a really neat little museum, run my the Historical Society.  There was more nautical history, as well as some other unusual sites.  We particularly like the room dedicated to the history of the telephone.
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Next, we headed to the Erie Art Museum.  The Spring Show was going on, so we got to see some really amazing stuff.
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Plus, they have a gallery where all the art is made by kids.  One piece was interactive, in that we got to stick a scale on the dragon.  I loved it!


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After the museum, we grabbed some lunch, and headed back to the room to spend some quality time with the doggies.  We packed a lot of activity into one morning in downtown Erie!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day in a Small Town

Hubby and I had no real plans to do anything special for Earth Day today.  Instead, we went to the grocery store, then decided to stop at Subway for lunch.  As we approached the counter to order, we saw this sign posted.
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A tree with our meal?  Yes please!  Suddenly our plans for the day took a drastic turn.  We ordered our food, and we were promptly presented with 2 pine tree saplings.  How awesome!
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After we finished eating, we ran home to drop off the groceries, and grab a shovel.  After some discussion, we decided on a place to plant our trees.  Our own yard was not an option, since it is so small.  Instead, we decided to plant them in a super secret location, which is already lush with vegetation, so we knew they would grow nicely.

Out we went, in the rain and cold, to plant our trees.  Hubby let me pick the spots, then he dug the holes.
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I hope our little trees grow big and strong. We plan on visiting them, to see how they do!
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Out of Town: Presque Isle

For my birthday, we usually take a short trip out of town.  Typically it is somewhere within 3 hour driving distance.  This year, we chose Erie, and we decided to take the dogs with us.

On Monday morning, off we went.  Since it is only a 2 hour drive to Erie, we thought we would go early, and enjoy some of the sites before we checked into our room.  Our first destination was Presque Isle.
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This peninsula  juts out into lake Erie, providing lots of places for swimming, fishing, and generally enjoying nature.
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 Most people visit in the summer, when the activities are more plentiful (and I suspect we will be making a return trip in the summer).  Unfortunately, the weather was not as cooperative as I would have liked, but I still managed to get some amazing pictures.

If you are a bird watcher or lover, Presque Isle is a great place to go.
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 Just walking along, we saw tons of different birds.  My goal was to take an awesome picture of a gull, but it was a lot harder than it looked.  In the end, I got a so so picture of one, which was good enough for me, because my fingers were starting to freeze (it was sleeting and snowing).
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 I can only imagine how nice it is to photograph the birds in late Spring/ early Summer.

Presque Isle is home to 2 lighthouses as well.  I have always liked lighthouses, so it was fun to go visit these ones.  The first one we visited, we walked all the way out to the end of the pier to see it up close.
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 By the time we got to the second one, it was snowing pretty good, so we looked at it from afar (i.e. inside the car).
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We saw some amazing houseboats as well. It made me want to buy one immediately, and spend my entire summer on the lake.
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Finally, we kept up our tradition of out of town geocaching by finding a geocache at Presque Isle.  As always, we were excited to find the cache, and perhaps will do more caching in the Erie area in the future.
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We wanted to spend a little time on the beach, and let the doggies run a bit, but it was so cold and nasty out, we had to skip it.
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The beaches are very pretty however, and hopefully we will get to experience them sometime soon.

All in all, we spent about 3 hours on Presque Isle. Trust me, on a nice day, I could have spent 3 times as long there, but with it being cold, snowy, windy and rainy, 3 hours was good enough.

If you are interested, you can see all my photos from the first day of our trip here.