Monday, November 9, 2015

Pumpkin Investigations

Reading and elementary science are two passions of mine.  Family literacy is HUGELY (it is a word now if it wasn't before. It is on the internet, it HAS to be true) important to me.  That is one of the things I am most excited about with this new opportunity, the opportunity to help families read together!

This post isn't reading necessarily reading related, but definitely science related.  It was just Halloween. What better subject for discovery than a jolly orange pumpkin?  Our pumpkin fun was spread over a couple days.  The first day we talked about the outside of the pumpkin. The second day we talked about the inside of the pumpkin.

We counted the seeds. There were piles of 10 which turned into piles of 100.
The number we ended up with?
(The weekend caused our seeds to mold before we had the opportunity to roast them)

Starting the conversation with them is the easy part. Listening to them continue the conversation about how it feels, or what it smells like is the BEST part.  Some days I wonder who has more fun...the kiddos or me. HA!!!!!

Most everything has a teachable moment!

Hugs from my small town to wherever you may be!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Finding My Place. Finding My Voice. Rediscovering My Purpose.

Hello Blogosphere!

Many of you know there have been inner struggles in my world. One at a time (and not nearly as quickly as I would have liked) they seem to be working themselves out. Yes, in typical life fashion, you figure one out and something else comes, but it wouldn't be life if it didn't work like that.  I am grateful for so many things, even some of the things that have hurt or set me back.  Here is what I know!

Moving back home to this small town was definitely the best decision!  It hasn't been heartache free, but it HAS been AMAZING!  Prior to moving back a few years ago, I hadn't lived here in 20 years. It was home, it should be easy right?? Pretty sure I couldn't have been more wrong on that thought process!  There were things that were easy about the transition. Moving my "things" back to this small town area was definitely the thing to do, but in doing so it changed who I was.  I had to relearn who I was, relearn the what and where of my place, my voice, my purpose.  As I type those words, they seem harsh. Perhaps if I had pondered it differently, some of this would have happened sooner, perhaps not.  I was no longer the girl that made amazing paper crafts. I no longer had a story and a half home that had been gutted and refinished. I no longer had an amazing backyard garden that would produce awesome vegetables to can or freeze. I still have the desire to paper craft. I still have the desire to decorate a home. I still have the desire to garden and preserve.  All obstacles with a solution, just not an immediate one. The norm had changed, but yet it hadn't. My world was still split in two just rearranged. I was now near my family but my friends and my job were 2 hours away.  I made it work. It is what I do, until the day we received word that a couple thousand of us had just lost our jobs and we wouldn't be getting them back. PLOT TWIST! ROAD BLOCK! DETOUR! Call it what you will.

This plot twist brought many blessings and silver linings with it. Lunch visits, being available in times of need, memory making opportunities, so many great things to be found in a time of uncertainty. The biggest question was "What now?" I had been at that job for over 12 years. Yes, I was looking for a new job. That doesn't mean I was ready for the blow of losing the one I had. The one that provided stability and comfort. It. Was. Gone. Though.

Many people thought it was the perfect time to put my elementary education degree back to use.  I had mixed feelings about doing so.  I don't want to teach in a system that doesn't let me teach in the ways that make me good at it. I don't want to teach in a system that doesn't allow me the time to help those that need the help.  I don't want to teach in a system that is all about teaching to a test and not about teaching to learn and discover.  I feel strongly enough about that that I put it off.  I didn't explore that avenue.

This summer a friend of mine approached me about helping out at day camp for kiddos with autism.  I was hesitant, but agreed.  It only took a couple days with those amazing kiddos to realize I am still good with kids, still good in a classroom, that making a difference in the lives of kiddos is still my purpose!!  That discovery lit a fire inside of me that hadn't even thought about being lit in a long time.  Many conversations. Many what if's. Many hours of research.  Many mind changes.  An opportunity to work in the school system with a couple different kiddos with autism led to more mind changes and reaffirmation of my feelings of not wanting to teach in a system that is strictly governed and to me feels as though it is failing our children.  This opportunity also taught me that the therapeutic side of things isn't for me either.  Life is different on therapeutic side of things than it is on the educator side of things.  My brain and passion is definitely wired on the educator side of life.  This is neither a good or a bad thing, just a truth.  Therapeutic staff are angels in their own rite and are needed!! You guys are awesome!  We shared conversations that therapy isn't for me and that educating (by my definition) isn't for them. We're all cool.  I learned so so so much from this experience. I learned things that I can do, things that I can't, things that will hopefully make me a better educator and advocate, and more.  An experience that taught me "this isn't for me" also taught me so much more and I forever grateful for that!

Professionally, I am one week into a new job working with kiddos at a community-centered, family-oriented organization.  Promoting and encouraging opportunities for all to grow through interaction, education, awareness, and recreation is part of the mission.  I can support that.  I will be working some great people to help enhance an already great program!  I have come home challenged and complete.  I have come home with a smile, not with a stress induced headache and total frustration. I am realist enough to know not every day or every week will be this way, but it is refreshing.  I am working with kiddos PreK to grade 5.  That means there is plenty of room to play and explore which leads to learning.  I am working in a preschool atmosphere and an after school atmosphere.  A varied workday, but the opportunity to spark a fire inside so many young minds.  Will this be the next 12 year job? No way to know, but it feels good to be using the gift I was given and to have rediscovered and be able to fulfill my purpose.

Running taught me it was all about one step at a time, one foot in front of the other.  That is so true. Truer than that is the realization that we aren't completely in control of things we would like to think we are.

I feel more me than I have in a long time! I am hoping that means my voice has been found too.  I am thankful for the friends and family that were a great sense of strength through all of the ups and downs to get here!

One foot in front of the other until next time... from my small town to wherever you are...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Reunited with Charleston, SC

What a fast, but amazing handful of days! Back in March, Small Town Guy and I took a few days and headed south. We headed away from the relentless winter of 2014/2015 and headed to the state that makes my soul happy - South Carolina.

I lived in SC for two years (what feels like a lifetime ago). I still can't believe that I am back in the amazingly cold, yet beautiful landlocked state of Pennsylvania. Before you tell me Lake Erie is nearby, I will reassure you Lake Erie is NOTHING like the ocean or even the views along the creeks and waterways of SC. Yes, there is plenty to see and do in my home state of Pennsylvania, but it is cold and dreary here more often than it isn't, especially this year.
I have a list of things I want to see in Pennsylvania, but South Carolina just makes me genuinely happy.

Our trip was based around the 38th Cooper River Bridge Run. This would be my first. We would meet up in Charleston with my Aunt and Uncle and some of their friends. This was not my Aunt's first time across the bridge.

Our first stop was at my bff's house. She lives two hours from us. We went there when Small Town Guy got home from work. We would have a brief visit with them and catch up on their recent vacation, and then off to try and sleep. I usually sleep amazingly well at her house, but not so on this night. Much too excited to be returning to South Carolina. It had been 14 years since I moved back home.

{{"Framily" is the BEST!}}

Our first photos of the trip were in West Virginia. The sun is up and the mountains can be seen.

Sheetz!! A pit stop for the car and for us!

We prepared and packed for a road trip. We were far better prepared for a road trip than I was for a 10k run. Our first stop would be on the western side of South Carolina, where we would stay with some family. What a special afternoon, evening, and early morning. It was a quick visit, but memories were made and hearts were touched! We couldn't have asked for anything more. That isn't true. We didn't get any pictures, that is the one thing that we missed. We have the memories and are grateful for the hospitality extended to us.

We stayed with my Great Aunt and Uncle. They opened their home to us and had a dinner party for us. It was kinda neat being so far from home, but still having so much family in one place.  We were no sooner in the door and my Great Uncle had Small Town Guy off in another room. He is loved and that makes my heart smile. That evening, a few of us went into downtown Greenville so Small Town Guy would be able to experience both sides of the state. Greenville is such a charming and enjoyable city. Small Town Guy's favorite part was all of the live music in the restaurants and shops (I knew it would be!)

Sleep didn't come nearly as easily as I thought it would this night. Excitement and exhaustion were keeping me awake. Weird right? Not a good thing to be just a couple days out from a 10k and already sleep deprived. Onward we go though! Friday morning was upon us and we said our thank yous and goodbyes and headed out. First stop...Waffle House! Small Town Guy needed the whole southern experience ;)

We met up with my Aunt and Uncle and friends. We did lunch, race packet pick up and race expo fun, dinner, a night in with games and banjo playing, and an attempt to get some sleep with an early wake up time. The three of us participating in the 10k were up and at it early. Headed to Mount Pleasant for the race start! I couldn't believe I was there and had no idea how amazing of an experience was in front of me.

My aunt, a great friend of hers, and me.
Guess who lives in the south and who doesn't?
Starting time is drawing near!

A look at the starting line from the back of my starting wave.
Crazy to think how many folks had already started the race, and even crazier to think that the person that won the race, finished BEFORE my wave EVER STARTED!

I wasn't prepared for the race, mentally or physically.  Winter had been rough and I hadn't been training the way I should. I knew I wouldn't cross the finish line with the goal I had set when I registered for the event. I also knew I didn't stand a chance at an awesome finish time, so why not enjoy the total experience and do my best to have fun and hopefully have a time that I would be able to live with.

10k = 6.2 miles = 2 5 k's = one 5k followed by another. I've totally got this. Run/walk the first 3.1 (besides a good portion of this part is UPHILL) and do my best to run the second 3.1. Ultimately all that mattered was crossing the finish line in the upright position on my own power.

I moved out of SC before the the present day Cooper River Bridge was constructed.  I had seen pictures, but nothing could have prepared me for the beauty and awe of the experience. So many great places and sights with great memories attached to them. I would see them all soon. I would see them all while putting one foot in front of the other.  I would soon step foot on Charleston City streets, not because I drove to the city to see something, but because I had just walked/ran 5 miles to get there, with the last mile going by some of my favorite sights.  I had no idea how overwhelming any of that would turn out to be.  I had no idea how hard that last 1/2 mile would be. I had no idea how GOOD a freezer pop would taste (thank you to the kind soul that thought of such a great idea). I had no idea how much pain was in my foot until I slowed to enjoy the sights of King Street. I had no idea how cool it would be to hear my name over the P.A. system after I crossed the finish line. I had no idea watermelon could taste so amazing.  I had no idea how exhausted I would feel or how amazing it would feel to collapse into Small Town Guy's embrace when we met up at the finish party!  I FINISHED!!! I finished 17 minutes slower than the original goal I set when I was delusional and thought I would force myself to run all winter.  I finished in under two hours and I will take it. 

My Aunt and our friend finished too!

I, did, hurt my foot along the way and walking would be painful and difficult for a few days, but I finished!!!

Our group was reunited after everyone finished, and with hop a long cassidy in tow, we walked around the finish party and to the vehicle on this side of the finish. Up next would be showers and a trip to the beach.  A trip to put my toes in the water and get some fresh seafood! But first, let's look at event photos, shall we?

 Aw, Shem Creek. The location of the restaurant where I had my first lobster...MANY moons ago!

A look at Shem Creek.

 MUST love the people that make you laugh along the way!

ON the bridge!!!!

Live entertainment lined the course!

Some people ran in costumes! MUST love these people too!

Looking over and back at Patriot's Point.

Looking BACK! On the downhill side now.
Just a few more....MILES to go!

2.2 miles until the finish...

Run now, wine later....YES, PLEASE!!!

LOVED this firehouse when I lived in SC. What a welcome sight, I'm almost there!

The word "finish" never looked so good!

LOOK! KISS ran too!
Too Cool!

Event SWAG!


Too cool!  There are still moments when there are no words for the experience.
I was back in Charleston with my Aunt and Uncle and I had the opportunity to share the city I love with Small Town Guy - what a great weekend. To make it better, we made some friends and lots of memories!

I have learned so much from running and the adversity that I have faced in the last year.
One step at a time.
I am so much stronger than I sometimes give myself credit for.

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other...
(and wait for the post about the beach)

Thank you to EVERYONE that made our weekend in SC possible and for the memories we made!!!

Hugs from my small town to wherever you may roam!
xoxo Small Town Girl

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Running, the first day of spring

The first day of spring has come and gone. The month of March has done the same. March and it's lions couldn't pack their bags fast enough as far as I am concerned.

The first day of spring seemed like a great day to plan for a longer (for me) run. The Bridge run is a 10k (6.2 miles) distance. Just shy of 3 miles had been the norm. Let's make the first day of spring a 4 mile day, I said to myself.

Then I looked outside. Below are pictures from my run. The same route I ran and shared here

What a difference a week can make.

This is the boat launch. Look close, you can see part of it is under water.
That is where I was standing when I took the shot of the ice and the shot of my foot.

The swans are almost always spotted. This one is looking dirty from winter.
Always cool to see.

A rare photo for you, one of me.
Winter wonderland...on the first day of spring.

It may be pretty to you, but it isn't pretty to me at this point.

In the other post I shared a photo looking at a feeder stream
This is the same stream, taken from the same bridge.
The water is much higher today.

4 miles wasn't in the cards. It was neat to listen to the snow crunch under my feet with each step, but I came home with only 2.5 miles.

Thanks for checking out my snowy first day of spring pics.

Hugs from my small town to wherever you may roam.

Small Town Girl

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spring Is Coming!

Spring HAS to be coming!!! It HAS to be! The odd thing is, it is April 1st when I write this post. The first day of spring has come and gone. There are signs of spring, birds, plants poking through the ground, melting snow, and the temps are warming, but then wham! it is cold and snowing again.

Back in October 2014, I registered for the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC. Who knew that 6 months later I still wouldn't be working. The run was scheduled for March 28,2015. Some time in February I made the official determination we weren't going to be making the trip to Charleston, for a number of reasons. That decision being made, I didn't keep up with my running. Winter has been bitterly cold and harsh this year.

Sometime during the first week and a half of March it was decided we WERE making the trip to SC. Guess who needed to start running??? Yep, THIS GIRL!!! I had gotten a couple shorter walks and/or runs in, but because of bitter temperatures and LOTS of snow, I hadn't kept up with it. We were SLOWLY starting to thaw and this was allowing for more time outside. Great timing since March 28th and 6.2 miles were fast approaching!

The following photos were taken roughly a week before the first day of spring. My first choices for running were still snow covered. That was ok, because this route offers some great views of the Allegheny River. It was a great run! Hearing birds and the water and feeling the sun was good for my soul.

A look across the Allegheny River.

I spy...a canoe.

Looking left.

Looking right.

Standing on a small bridge looking out over a feeder stream.

I found this kind of cool.
The ice was  melting. Air bubbles could be seen. The water was so clear right here.

Standing on the boat launch looking left.
Check out the ice.

Standing in the same spot and looking right.

A look at my shoe. 
I don't know why, just because!

It sure felt good to be out and about. It was great knowing I could still run a non-stop mile.
I lost a little speed over the winter, but I wasn't fast before so I guess it doesn't really matter.
What matters is I am still more active than I was just one year ago!!!

Just get up and do it!!!

Hugs from my small town to wherever you may roam!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Baking with memories and treasured heirlooms

Hey everyone!! Lots of oddness around here today. I baked AND I am blogging. The last couple day have been the "perfect storm" for so many things!

I was up early and cinnamon rolls sounded good. While Small Town Guy was catching up on some zzz's (or maybe I was just up too early) I went to Pinterest to see if I could find a recipe that sounded good. I found this one. I had everything I needed, so off to the kitchen I went.

As I started gathering the recipe ingredients, bowls, and boards it was as though I was receiving approval from heaven above. In the kitchen was myself, a recipe on an electronic device, and memories and love, sweat, and tears from some amazing women before me. Some of those women I know/knew and loved and others I never had the opportunity to meet. It was as if we were altogether in the kitchen this morning making a batch of a cinnamon rolls to have for breakfast when Small Town Guy awoke.

The board has been used by my Great Great Grandmother, a Great Great Aunt, my Great Grandmother, and most recently, my Great Aunt. This board just looks awesome!!! The bowl holding the dough belonged to my Grandmother on a different side of the family. I am sure many of you have seen the set of Pyrex bowls this bowl came from. My Grandma gave me the set about a year and a half ago. She had received the set as a gift many years ago.

I have never been one to wear an apron. I love looking them, and quite possibly collect them, but wearing them...nope. There is even one that hangs in our kitchen. Had to have it, never worn it. Never worn it until this morning. I was thinking about a different Grandma and how she so enjoyed her time in the kitchen. She always wore an apron, ALWAYS! I have a couple of her aprons, but she was a petite lady. Those sweet aprons won't fit. Something compelled me to take the must have apron off the hook and actually put it on. Once tied, it brought a grin to my face.

Time to get to work! Mixed, beaten, left alone to rest. Then rolled, buttered, cinnamoned (new word) and sugared.

Small Town Guy stirred before the sugary goodness made its way to the oven. I was told I had flour on my nose and that somehow made me cute... anywho, since he was in the kitchen he was asked to hold the baking sheet while I cut the rolls.

They kind of look amazing already don't they??? When they came out of the oven I added the glaze.

Sooooo good! Had them with  a glass of milk. YUMMMMMMM!!!!! The recipe was simple and definitely a " I will make them again." sort of recipe. They also received Small Town Guy's approval!

Once I decided this morning would become a blog post, I knew I needed a picture of our iPad. It is my generational contribution to cooking with the generations before me.

And yes, I did take a picture of part of that must have apron. Perhaps now that it has been used for the first time it will be used more often. It is much more convenient than looking for the towel that SHOULD be on my shoulder but NEVER is!

Hugs and love from my small town kitchen, where I had a blessed morning, to wherever you may be reading this from!!
Small Town Girl

Monday, October 6, 2014

Warren Historic District Walking Tour **photo heavy**

Awhile back, I had picked up a pamphlet for the Warren Historic District Walking Tour. Like most pamphlets, it came home and was added to a pile. While cleaning out my office/creative space the other day, I came across the walking tour pamphlet again (in addition to similar pamphlets for nearby towns). I knew the immediate forecast only had one more sunshine in it before too many days of raindrops. I told myself I would complete the walking tour this weekend, and I did!

Combined with the photos I blogged yesterday, I walked 2.5 miles. That puts me another 2.5 miles closer to my goal of 93 miles for the month. 93 miles, that is crazy right? Anywho...

There are 12 buildings listed as part of this walking tour. It seems as though a  more extensive tour is available by contacting the historical society. The walking tour begins outside of the historical society building.

The historical society can be found at 210 Fourth Avenue.
Construction began in 1870 and was completed in 1873.
The Struthers-Wetmore-Schimmelfeng House is of Second Empire Style and became the central location for the county historical agency in 1964.

Next up is The Mansion House at 215 Fourth Avenue.
This Greek Revival Style structure was built in 1833. 
The original use of this building was as a tavern.
This building has also served as a hotel and a bank.
This house was marketed toward judges, jurors, witnesses, parties and others, due to the courthouse being across the street.
Present day, this building offers apartments.

Stop #3 is the Noyes-Donaldson House at 216 Fourth Avenue.
This home is listed as being constructed in 1843 and is Greek Revival Style.
This is one of Warren's oldest homes.
According to the pamphlet, it is believed the front section of this home was built before 1843. This belief is based on the width of the floor boards and the use of corner risers all the way up.
The house was sold in 1895 for $5000. Members of the same family have owned or resided in this home since the 1880s. 

Next up is the Siggins - Smith House.
This house is at 315 Liberty Street and is of Eclectic Style, completed in 1907.
The house was built for the then president of the Warren Electric Street Railway, David Siggins.

Stop #5 is the Brown-Citro House at 318 Liberty Street.
I didn't take a full house shot since they were working on the missing corner.
This home is of Second Empire Style. The construction of this home is said to have been well documented in the Warren Mail from 1867 to 1869.

Stop #6 is the Struthers Library Theatre at 302 Third Avenue.
This structure was completed in 1883 and is Second Empire Style.
This building began as a library and cultural center. This landmark is no stranger to change, with changes being made to keep up with changing needs.
If you read yesterday's post I mentioned one of my favorite shops. 
That window can be seen here. The Dan Van Gogh Flower Company is housed in the corner of the Library Theatre building.

#7 is the Jackson-Sill House.
This Greek Revival Style home is at 224 Liberty Street is circa 1830.
This is one of the oldest cottages in Warren. This structure has been home to many things, including a press, patent medicine, jig-saw puzzle making, photography studio, in addition to others.

This one, not mentioned on the tour, but cool none the less.

Our post office, also not mentioned on the tour.

Next stop is the Falconer-Smith-Borger House at 301 Market Street.
This home was completed in 1866 is of Italianate Style.
Despite becoming home to modern offices, much of the original detail work has been retained.

#9 on the walking tour is the Scofield House at 307 Market Street.
Complete in 1890 this home is Tudor Style.
In the 1940's the home was turned into apartments.

Another not on the tour.

#10 is the Jamieson House at 311 Market Street.
I love the  leaves on the ground.
Construction of this home began in 1874. The home was nearly finished when it damaged by a fire. The house was rebuilt and completed late 1875.
The house remained in the Jamieson family until 1938 when it was turned into apartments and offices. 

House number 11 is the Mead-Shear House at 312 Market Street.
Completed in 1868 this house is of Italianate Style.
The house had a few different owners before being sold to the First Church of Christ, Scientist in 1929.

What a beautiful day.
Another not mentioned on the tour.

The final stop on this walking tour is the courthouse at 204 Market Street.
Completed in 1876 this building is of Second Empire Style and cost $97,434.59.
The original statue of Justice, raised in 1877, can now be found in the entryway. There is fiberglass replica atop the tower today.

Next to the courthouse is the historical society, where we started.
The historical tidbits about each of these structures is information provided in the brochure for the walking tour.

This entryway made me smile!
I just had to share.

A special thanks to the society for putting together such a brochure and giving me a reason to get out and walk yesterday.

Which building is your favorite?
Thanks so much for stopping by.

Hugs and love from my small town to wherever you are!
xoxo ~ Small Town Jen