Three things — 9.7.17

Things I’m loving this week:

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Heated seats. I bought my dad’s old car and it has heated seats and I knew the first time I fired that seat up under my fanny that I will never be able to go back to not having them. I wish I had heated seats at work….then I wouldn’t have to wrap myself in a fleece jacket and blanket every day.

Lauren’s new haircut. I love Lauren’s new shorter ‘do. Long hair is in, sure…but she didn’t take care of it and she never even put it up in a ponytail (except for swim), so it just sort of hung there.  This shorter cut is easy to take care of and so much more her.

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You can see the tunnel opening behind us

The Allegheny River Trail. Friends invited us to join them on a bike ride down the Allegheny River Trail on Monday. I believe the trail goes from Franklin to Pittsburgh, though it’s got a few names as they were separate trails that were eventually connected together. We started in Emlenton, Pa. (about 90 minutes from Erie) because we wanted to go through the train tunnels that are about 7 miles and 11 miles from the start of the trail there. It was the perfect day for a bike ride and the trail is mostly shaded. We went through two long, very dark train tunnels (bring flashlights!) that was very cool, figuratively and literally. We biked about 14 miles up the trail before it diverged onto a dirt/stone path and we opted to turn around and head back.

Things I’m not loving this week:

Timmy Ho’s idea of “assorted”. Last Friday was my birthday and so when I went to Tim Horton’s that morning, I thought why not pick up a box of TimBits for me & the girls because…it’s my birthday. I feel like a jerk standing there pointing out with donut holes I want, so I always just say assorted. I got home and opened the box to find all 10 of them the plain, old, boring yellow glazed. Who likes plain glazed donuts? Boooooring.

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Plantation wedding fun. I frequently fall down Internet rabbit holes and on a recent deep dive after reading this GQ story about Dylan Roof (long, but…good …and also terrifying), I looked up a plantation that was mentioned in the story and learned that many of these former slave plantations in the south, but particularly in South Carolina, are used as special event venues,  like weddings. And, then I saw these photos and my jaw literally hit the keyboard. That’s a wedding party, peeking out of the windows of a slave home on the Boone Plantation which also features a quaint little walk down historical “Slave Street” and I was like….this is what is wrong with this f$%^ing country. This should be a source of deep national shame. But…no…we have wedding parties posing in the cabins where human beings who were treated like animals recovered from 18 hour workdays and whippings from their masters.  Humans likely BLED on those floors, and now…today….it’s a destination for some couples on what is supposed to be the happiest day of their lives. That is f&*(^ed up, man.

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This country’s ridiculous war on immigration. I just want to scream: Do you realize we’re ALL immigrants. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US. Unless you’re a native American, you don’t belong here either, so…  Diversity and dreamers are what has MADE this a great country. I just cannot believe how far we have fallen and how fast.

The west is ablaze, the east coast is under water, North Korea is threatening nuclear war, and 45 is busy coddling and cozying up to Russia, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. God Bless America, eh?

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Worth Reading — 9.6.17

A random collection of articles, blog posts, books, and other things I think are worth sharing.

Outside Magazine: The Case for Giving a Shit

“Being ‘too cool’ for everything is not establishing your impeccable taste, it’s establishing you as a person with a shitty attitude.”

On Being: The Disease of Being Busy

The Atlantic: ‘We Are Living Through a Battle for the Soul of This Nation’

“You, me, and the citizens of this country carry a special burden in 2017. We have to do what our president has not. We have to uphold America’s values. We have to do what he will not. We have to defend our Constitution. We have to remember our kids are watching. We have to show the world America is still a beacon of light.”

Outside Magazine: Curse You, I-70 (I love the “voice” of this piece. Hilarious.)

Three Things — 8.31.17

Things I’m loving this week

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Back to school. Summer break was all fun and games for awhile, but it was time for them to get off the couch and go back to school. I’m happy to be back to a normal routine (until I hate it and the constant homeworking nagging, lunch packing, and crabby girls again in Mid-March and start coasting toward summer again.).

Mortal Keys Brewery/Lago Winery. I don’t even drink, but most of my friends do and Dan and I joined them on a Sunday trip to Jamestown, Pa., to kayak in Pymatuning Lake and then have lunch/drinks at Mortals Key/Lago, which was across the street from where we launched the kayaks. While the menu was limited, it was pretty remarkable with wood-fired specialty pizzas and a Tuscan sandwich at the winery and loaded mac-n-cheese, fresh baked soft pretzels, burgers, and BBQ pulled pork at the brewery (looks as though items available change….not a static menu). The cool part was the outdoor seating. There was a ton of it….some with shade, some in sun. Leashed dogs and kids are welcome, too, though I’d suggest you keep both outdoors. There was a live band playing on the Sunday afternoon we were there.

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Eriez Speedway. If you’re going to pay money to watch race cars go round and round, dirt track is the best to watch. It’s exciting…it’s local…it’s fun. And, if you’re a people watcher like me, the audience in the stands are worth price of admission (which is not cheap, but….I hear the beer is.)

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Two big bills gone and one Trailblazer sold! We recently paid off two big bills that had been hanging over our heads/bank account — the home equity line of credit (pool fence, pricey tree removal) and Dan’s truck. AND…we sold my Trailblazer. This means, of course, that our furnace and/or hot water heater is going to explode or some big appliance is going to die or the transmission is going to drop out of the truck, right?

Things I’m not loving this week

Pardoning racists and militarizing police. This is the country we live in now….a place where our “president” waits until the height of the Texas hurricane storm to capitalize on the “big ratings” to announce that he’s pardoning a pig of a man and is arming our police (which are embroiled in a lot of abuse of power allegations) with automatic weapons. If this doesn’t scare you…it should….it really should. (Read any dystopian novel — here are ten good ones).

Tailgaters. Look, if you tailgate me, I promise you I’m going to slow my roll all the way down to five miles BELOW the speed limit just to make a point. I will also take great pleasure in your pain.

Cycling. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but everyone can kill me on the bike. You’d think my big muscular runner’s legs would be helpful…

 

Worth reading — 8.30.17

A random collection of articles, blog posts, books, and other things I think are worth sharing.

Fox 11: New app freezes your kid’s phone until they answer your messages (YES! I hate when people don’t answer phones I’m paying for.)

Discover: Harvey’s Lesson: Always Be Prepared (I remember flying into Baltimore and Boston…seeing all these homes built on spits of land between water and thinking….my God, how irresponsible. Are we supposed to save all of you when the inevitable occurs? Now….the flooding in Texas is a tragedy and I’m not blaming the victim, but I am saying that some of the places people build homes is completely irresponsible — like, you know, on the edge of the ocean or in deserts…where they expect the rest of us to provide them with water. It’s like the three little pigs…lots of them are building straw houses).

Veronica Valli: How to say “No” (I’ve been working on this..and I’ve gotten pretty good at it.)

NPR: Why Didn’t Officials Order The Evacuation Of Houston? (Short answer: Because nothing is ever as simple or black-and-white as it may seem)

 

10 Reasons to Join the Eastside Y Swim Team

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I don’t work for the YMCA of Greater Erie, but I’m tossing on my Strategic Communications Writer hat to beat the drum for the Eastside Y’s awesome youth swim team.

Lauren has been on the team for the last two years and I wish I’d have put her in it five years ago. But, to be honest, I heard four-day-a-week practices and thought, nah, I’m not committing her (or myself) to that. Then, I talked to a swim team mom who told me much of what you’re going to read below and we decided to give it a try.

So if you’ve got a little fish and/or have been pondering the swim team, here are ten reasons why you should consider it:

1. It’s cheap. It’s $200 for a season that lasts from early October and runs through February. ($180 for additional siblings). Note: Your family (or, at least, your child) must be a YMCA member.

2. Meets are free. You don’t pay any entry fees for “dual” meets (one Y team versus another) which is what most of the meets are.  Invitationals are the exception, but they are optional and still quite cheap — $4-$5 for each event your child wants to swim (they choose at invites). There are rarely admission fees to events (sometimes invitationals charge) and never for the dual meets.

3. You get an hour to yourself M-Th for months on end. Practices for Eastside Y Swim Team are held at Harbor Creek High School and are an hour long four nights a week. Later in the season, the older kids’ practice goes to 90 minutes. Some parents sit in the stands and do work or read…others go for a walk/bike or run errands…some go to the gym. (Kids 11 & under practice from 6-7, kids 12+ practice 7-8).

4. There are no “requirements” on how many practices you need to attend. Nobody is going to give you the stink eye or passive-aggressive comments if your kid only makes it to practice twice a week. That said, you’ll get out of it what you put into it, so…

5. Meets are never more than an hour away. Dual meets are against other YMCA swim teams in the area, i.e. Corry, Titusville, Jamestown, N.Y., etc. The farthest team we compete against is Bradford…and we’re due for a home meet with them this year. (Some invitationals, which are optional, are farther, like the Goodwill Meet in Buffalo).

6. The parents and kids involved are awesome. The kids are all friendly and welcoming, as are the parents who help keep the team running with volunteer support and the occasional fundraiser.  (Don’t worry…none of the volunteer jobs are hard/overwhelming, nobody “makes” you volunteer, and the fundraisers have been pretty low-key and easy).

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7. You don’t have to buy a pricey team suit. The team usually picks a team suit from swimoutlet.com, which is usually not more than $30.  You can buy it or not. It’s up to you. (It is cool when they all look the same.) And, word to the wise parent: buy a couple of practice suits (check out swimoutlet.com’s clearance section), they’ll need them because the chlorine eats them up.

8. The coaches are encouraging and kind. I’ve never once seen a coach appear to be frustrated, annoyed, or angry with any swimmer. They’re always supportive and skilled at delivering criticism without bruising feelings.

9. It’s a way to keep kids moving in winter. It’s hard to keep children active in winter when it’s cold and dark at 5 p.m., but it’s bright and 80+ degrees at the pool. (Even warmer on in the stands…which is a nice winter benefit for parents. More words to the wise swim parent: Dress in layers when you go to meets!).

10. Swimming is a low-pressure sport. The Y swim team has room for “players” of all skills, abilities, and enthusiasm. Kids need only be able to swim one length of the pool (25 yards) unassisted to join the team. While it’s ultimately a team competition, it’s also a very individual sport, which means if your kid falls off the block, gets disqualified for a technicality, or misses his event…his or her teammates aren’t going to know/care.

BTW…if you live a little south of Erie, there is a county team in Edinboro that practices at Edinboro University’s pool.

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Here’s all the info you need to know to join the Eastside Y Narwhals:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Things — 8.24.17

Things I’m loving this week

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Replay by Ken Grimwood. I read this entire book in one weekend. Granted, I was home alone (kids & hubby went camping) with a bad back that prevented me from doing pretty much any form of physical activity, but….it was a pretty riveting read anyway. The concept was fascinating and it’s set in a time period that I enjoy (1960s to 1980s).

Timmy Ho’s at Behrend. Penn State is a Starbucks University, which is to say that Starbucks pays a lot of money to be the exclusive provider of coffee on all PSU campuses. But, Behrend’s new Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation Center is not technically on campus as it’s in Knowledge Park and so….Timmy Ho’s has moved in….and now good coffee is just (a few hundred) steps away.  Hallelujah!

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Kelly’s baking skills.  Kelly made these “campfire cupcakes” for this weekend’s Cass Family Camping Trip to Cook Forest. (The photo doesn’t really do them justice.) They were delicious, too. I’ve been telling her she should print up some flyers and start selling her cupcake creations to family, friends and neighbors who need them for parties, picnics, etc.  Trying to spark that entrepreneurial fire.

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Weekend alone.  Dan and the kids went camping and I did not. I don’t like camping. I find it supremely boring and I hate campfire smoke in my face and, with my back, it’s good I didn’t go. No way I could’ve slept on an air mattress, tubed down the Clarion River or sat in a camp chair for hours on end. ANYWHOO….this meant I was home alone in my house by myself the entire weekend. It was glorious. I could easily be a hermit, though I did go out and do some stuff with my friends. By three p.m. on Sunday, though, I was getting bored and missing all the noise and chaos.

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Kids with cousins. My kids are so lucky to have close cousins on both sides of the family. They’ve got built-in friends for life. They occasionally get on each others’ nerves and fight like siblings, but they’re growing up with the shared experiences and family members that will bond them—like it or not—for life.

The eclipse. Even if it was only a partial eclipse here, it was still pretty cool. Seven years from now, Erie will get to shine (er….go totally dark) when the eclipse passes right over our area. Dan and I are already thinking about how much we can charge on Airbnb to rent out the girls’ rooms (In 7 years, Kelly will have graduated from college and Lauren will be in her senior year—hopefully).

Things I’m not loving this week

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Shattered patio table. Two hours before a dozen or more of my friends were arriving for a book club meeting I was hosting poolside at Casa Cass, Lauren did this to our poolside patio table. It was an accident, but one born out of her irritation at being tasked with cleaning the table and setting up the pool umbrella.  Blinded by indignation, she didn’t get the umbrella all the way through the hole, it tilted in the wind and smashed the table. *sigh*

Another big, dead “Smart” TV. OH. MY. GOD. This is our THIRD…third Smart TV in about five years. One Lauren broke when she ripped the vacuum cord out of the outlet and it hit the screen, now just occurring to me there’s a pattern here. One just flat out died…after the warranty period, of course. I caved and let Dan buy ANOTHER 55″ monstrosity in November and this week, it went off and would not come back on. Fortunately, this one is still under warranty and they’re supposed to be sending a repair person. I’m going to ask if I can still get a three-year extended warranty on it because, clearly, these “Smart TVs” (all different brands) aren’t made to last.

Our Jester in Chief.  Another day, another rambling incoherent speech at another “rally” facilitated by his handlers to prop up our “president’s” fragile ego. I just don’t even know what to say about him anymore….but he continues to disgust me on a daily basis. I keep hoping our country has hit rock bottom. We have, right? Please tell me this is rock bottom. How much farther can we fall?