Monthly Archives: October 2013

Every Day is Halloween

By Mary

A man gave me free roses today. He told me to take as many white roses that had been sprayed with either a black or orange mist in lieu of the days celebration as I liked.

I picked the best roses that I could scrounge from the bucket and took them back to Kate’s so that they could add a cheery orange and white cast of color to her dining room.

Coming back to my sister’s house with the flowers in hand I reflected on how today is Halloween and why I was not feeling very attached to the holiday. It might be because I am not at home so I don’t really have my typical Halloween costume which can fluxuate between re-using one of my many bridesmaids dresses, or wearing my normal clothes and double H cowboy boots. That’s right, I am one redundant costumer. Either a cowgirl or a princess seems to be my typical go to.

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Halloween attire aside, I think the real reason that I feel so very uninvolved in today’s frenzy is that for the last two weeks I have been with my sister, Kate in Pittsburgh. Life with Kate transcends into every day being Halloween. In all my life, I have only known one person who loves dressing up more than Kate. The other week Kate, our friend Maqui and I stopped at a Goodwill. I ended up snapping some pictures that illustrate my point.

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This black gown was not purchased to be worn on October 31st. No, it’s just another dress that Kate with pull out of her closet on a random day for a harp gig or to galavant somewhere in with some theatrical purpose.

While this blue 80’s number did not make the purchasing cut, my sister was drawn to it for a reason that I have yet to understand.

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Shopping makes me weary. The bonus of doing so with a sister is that I don’t have to with hold pretending how I feel.

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Fortunately, Kate did take the hint and after I left to retreat to her van she checked out a few other items of interest.

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By the end of the shopping trip, Kate did come out of the store victorious with a few black garbage bags of well….’Kate’ stuff, you know, costuming, or um, everyday Kate clothing. I am sure none of it will be on display today. But just wait a day or two and my sister might just be sporting it.

For another Halloween related post check out:

The Belle of Halloween

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Happy Campers

By: Colleen

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I am not what you would call a happy camper.  (And in fact, I take issue with that phrase.  When is it ever even used positively?  Nowhere, that’s where.  No one says, “Boy, she’s such a happy camper!”)  But, despite that, last week I just couldn’t take the city anymore, and I grabbed some friends and took to the hills, errr rolling plains, ummm, okay, well there was a lake.  C’mon, it’s Texas! We did the best we could.

It’s been a long and hot “fall” here in Texas.  Each year around September I realize that I have been secretly expecting the weather to be like it is at home, to wake up to crisp, cool mornings, and that my 6 am cross country practice will not be sticky and grossly warm.  But, it always is.  Texas is in the South, and Texas is hot, at least up until mid-to-late October.  And so, when the weather did finally clear and cool within the last two weeks here, my Northern, countrygirl nostalgia kicked in, full force.  And I just wanted to be outside.

Last week, we had a day off of school for “Fall Reading Day”, and so I proposed a camping trip to anywhere reasonably pretty and wild and full of nature.  Luckily, I have a very competent boyfriend, Joe, who did all the sensible things like look up campsites for the guys and the girls and arrange car rides, and look too good after a night of very little sleep and a lot of dirt (alright, that is not really that sensible, but hey, he pulled it off).

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And so, on Thursday afternoon, the first in the caravan of cars to come set off to Cedar Hill State Park, just 30 minutes away from the UD campus.

We arrived just in time to see the sunset.

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Expert camper and former Boy Scout, Hermes, built the fire with a little help from my good friend, Clare.

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And of course, we then realized that our tent did not have any poles to hold it up.  Although Mary and I have a one for one record of putting up tents successfully (see this post for details), I did not quite have the skills to magically pull poles out of thin air.  And so it was tarps and blankets and a night under the stars for all.

Later on, my friend Anthony arrived with his bagpipes, and as he played, we all danced around the fire, leaping over it and clapping to the inexorable sound of pipes.  There is something so compelling about bagpipes; one cannot help but to want to dance.  Life needs to be more of firelight and music and laughter and stars.

We all woke up early the next day to a gray dawn.  Anthony, who had slept on the roof of the little metal shelter at the campsite, pondered the dawn.

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And as we headed back to campus, there was the lingering smell of woodsmoke and the musty-clean scent of earth.  And for once, I truly was a happy camper.

Busy Times

By: Mary

The effort to produce regular content for this blog has been a problem for several months now. While we do appreciate you readers, and enjoy the outlet of blogging, it’s been tough to do do for several reasons. Kate has been busy helping launch a magazine, and I have been lucky if I can get the extra time to do a most basic to-do list that I scratch on my chalkboard door panels completed by the end of the week.

The “little girls” Colleen and Clare are also busy.

Colleen is in school, working two jobs, running cross country and working on a huge poetry project.

Clare is back at Cashton High School, helping out at home, taking dance lessons, and teaching CCD to 5th graders, as well as fundraising for a mission trip to Peru that she’s leaving for in February.

Despite all of the busyness or may I say craziness, we still want to share it with you. So be patient, and we will work on posting more again in the near future.

Sincerely,

Mary

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Wild Places

by Kate

My sister Mary loves her horse.

portrait of mary and horse by nicole slattery

 

She loves our family, and the big white farmhouse high on a ridge where we grew up.

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She loves sunlight.

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She loves solitude and silence.

nicole slattery photography portrait horse wisconsin

These pictures were taken a week ago by my lovely and talented sister in law Nicole, as Mary soaked up some of the last autumn sunlight in Wisconsin before boarding a train to the big city of Pittsburgh. The light of autumn is pouring down upon this city too, but the buildings are packed together and reach toward the sky, and the traffic roars down city streets.

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For my solitude and silence loving farm girl sister, it’s a bit of an adjustment- even with an enthusiastic city bred niece ready and willing to show her how to embrace the world of the city.

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I’ve worked hard to raise my daughter as a confident city child who is equally comfortable running wild in the country.

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I know that Mary will never be a city girl, and I wouldn’t want her to be. But it is my hope that during her stay here (no matter how long or how brief) she can find in this stone city the wild places she needs to feed her soul.

morning glories and a castle pittsburgh

Porch Time

By: Mary

Yesterday morning in the grayness of early autumn morning light I sent my horse back to my oldest brother’s ranch. A friend had lent me some gates, so those also got loaded and returned in the stock trailer that delivered Mars to his band of mares. To top off the process of fall packing, I dug up my dinnerplate dahlias bulbs before actually getting stuff together to come on the train to see Kate.

It’s been 24 hours since I left the comfort of the quiet ridgetop that I call home. As I write I can hear the noises of the busy city that Kate calls home. Life here is so different than the one that I know of. However, one universal thing that Kate and I share in the midst of our polar opposite environments is porch time. The two of us are well known for being able to sit on our porches late into the night.

Kate’s porch is very different than mine.

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Usually my porch is littered with siblings. Namely, my one and only redhead sister, Clare.

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Bright fire might just be inspired by this bright haired girl, or perhaps this fire started as a result of a failed attempt to roast marshmallows over a blazing fire of old furniture.

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Flowers, always flowers can be found in my surroundings.

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Kids and flowers seem to go together pretty well on the porch

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And in the past days of summer, often a sibling attempting to rid the world of rabbits.

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Though Kate and my porches may be different, our roots are very much the same. It’s good to be with my sister in this big city, and I look forward to sitting on her porch talking late into the night.

Whereabouts

by Kate

This morning felt like fall. The air was chilly, the leaves scarlet and swirling down against a grey sky, and the park was full of small children in brightly colored sweaters.

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It’s been a long hot entry into autumn here in Pittsburgh, but this morning it was clear that the seasons have shifted. I am adding extra blankets to the beds, drinking more coffee in the morning, taking more time to curl up on the couch and read to the kids while across the street an avenue of trees blaze into fiery color. There may even be more time to blog. Somehow this is preferable to other time consuming possibilities, including but not limited to catching up with the laundry. The laundry situation has hurtled out of control here in my home. Browsing through the photographic record of the past month or two, I begin to see why.

Life has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. There was samba dancing at Kennywood Amusement Park.

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There was the addition of a brand new chicken coop and three elderly laying hens to our urban backyard, bringing a sweet peace to my farmgirl soul.

urban chicken coop pittsburgh pa

Speaking of farming, I’ve spent a lot of time with a camera around my neck…

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at the farmer’s market and way out in the country, taking notes and photographing the Farm Kings for their new magazine, which you should head right over and subscribe to. They’ve been shooting the new season of their reality show, which makes things particularly interesting in their neck of the woods.

farm kings behind the scenes

The day of the Farm Kings tomato field shoot, I sprinted across those hay bales to get some shots, jumped down, drove back into town, and got all gussied up in red lipstick and rhinestones to play the harp…

rhinestones and red lipstick

for a spectacular, high society style Downton Abbey fundraiser at the WQED Studios here in Pittsburgh. It was pretty stunning.

downton abbey fundraiser WQED

Watching young ballerinas from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre rehearse quietly before the madding crowds arrived, dripping with jewels and sophistication, was one of my favorite moments of the night.

pittsburgh ballet theatre school

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to dance myself at a huge party comprising the entire Cultural District of downtown Pittsburgh, to welcome the Giant Rubber Duck to the city.

Pittsburgh Downtown big rubber duck sunset

It was a fantastic evening. The kids got to have a dance party in Katz plaza and see one of the largest Rubber Ducks in the whole wide world, and I got to work with some truly lovely women on a bellydance flash mob, and also had an excuse to wear bright red harem pants in public.

harem pants style downtown urban chic

Here in my own neighborhood, I had the privilege of spending an afternoon in my neighbor’s sunlit garden, playing the harp for the Lawrenceville House Tour.

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I am both exhausted and exhilarated by the various gigs I’ve had in the past few months, but it is possible that the most tiring thing I did was go on vacation for three days, with four women and six (small! loud!) children. Here is a picture of the sweet peace and sunlight that actually eluded us for the entire three days we spent laughing and snorting, occasionally crying, staying up far too late, and shivering because those were the only FRIGID three days of the entire fall. Holy cow was it cold.

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Also? I am shockingly inept with a rowboat. It was still great though. And I saw Lake Erie, and heard the thunder of waves upon the sandy shore.

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Back in Pittsburgh, there have been impromptu picnics….

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many wagon rides…

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and a lot of walks.

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Back in the park with the leaves swirling down, something about the change in the season makes me realize I am ready to sit down on my wooden stool and spend a bit more of my time here, on this blog. Come on over- you may just find me here. And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll get started on that laundry.