outdoors · slice of life


I was minding my own business this afternoon, just taking the trash outside to the garbage can. On my jaunt back to the front door, I noticed two oddly shaped, orange “carrots” were sticking out of the mulch in front of our house. I whipped my phone out of my pocket and snapped a photo of each one giving a shudder after taking the second picture. They were disgusting.

Once inside, I flashed my phone towards Marc and asked, “Have you noticed these outside?”

“What is that?” he spat.

“I have no idea, but they’re kind of terrifying!” I replied.

Marc zoomed in on the images and shook his head.

“I can pull it out,” he offered.

“No, I can do it,” I said, wanting to take one for the team.

“You might want to wear a gardening glove,” he suggested.

I reached under the sink and grabbed one of the latex gloves from the box I keep there (for chicken prep). “Gardening glove? Not a chance! I’m using one of these disposable gloves.” He nodded knowingly. “Would you grab me a couple of plastic bags so we can throw out whatever it is in the outside garbage can?”

Marc grabbed the bags while I donned the glove. The two of us walked to the front door where I muttered, “Buy a home, he said. It’ll be fun, he said. You know… this wouldn’t be happening now if we lived in an apartment!” Marc snickered. He’s heard a similar refrain out of me any time something has gone wrong since we became homeowners a dozen years ago.

Once outside, I grabbed the first orange horn and pulled it out of the ground. “Yuck!” I declared as I tossed it into the double bag. I smoothed the mulch around so as to cover up the hole that was left. Then I made my way to the second one, but when I reached for it, the horn snapped like a piece of cheap foam pool noodle. That’s when I had to use my gloved hand to feel for the bottom of the horn to grab it out from the base. Once I got there, I trashed the carrot-like pieces in the bags Marc was holding, but discovered something just as gross beneath the surface: several brown mushrooms!

“Ugh! Yuck. There’s more down here. YUCK YUCK YUCK!” (I may have used the f-word. Who can remember?)

Marc had some kind of quip, but I was too grossed out to recall it. He tied up the bag that I filled with detritus and pitched it in the outside garbage can. I removed the glove, turning it inside out, and pitched that too. (I may have shuddered again.)

Hours later, I was deleting photos from the day from my phone. That’s when I realized I never looked up what those “carrots” was. A search of orange fungus in mulch led me to several pages on stinkhorns, which are a fungus. Apparently, besides looking gross, they smell bad! (Thankfully, I must’ve been too grossed out to breathe normally so I never got a whiff!) There’s also no solution for them so — they could be back!

All I know is that I’m here rethinking home ownership yet again!

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outdoors · slice of life

Reminder: Look Up!

Get out in nature. Go for a walk. Whatever you do, don’t scroll on your phone while you stroll along! Instead, observe the world around you.

Behold the way autumn bestows its first changes to the leaves as they fall to the ground. Keep track of the spookiest Halloween decorations as you wind through the streets. Admire the pumpkin stacks, hay bales, and mums that dot walkways and front porches.

But most of all, remember to glance upwards for you never know what you might see.

Here’s a hot air balloon I saw during my afternoon walk. It was right overhead at one point… so close that I could see and hear the balloon’s burner.
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outdoors · slice of life

We walked until the sidewalk ended.

My first memories of poetry come from my second-grade teacher. This woman was meaner than mean and yelled at students regularly because she probably should’ve retired five years earlier. (Case in point: She screamed at me in front of the class because I regrouped 108-9 incorrectly at the blackboard.) She wasn’t too perceptive since she never caught on to me fake reading all year long.

But, if there’s one thing she did right, it’s that she read aloud to us regularly. I don’t remember much of what she shared with us that year, but I do remember her reading poems aloud from Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. I couldn’t rhyme like Shel Silverstein, but I LOVED it when my teacher read aloud to us from his books!

Where the Sidewalk Ends

It’s been nearly 40 years since I finished second grade. I still have an appreciation for Shel Silverstein’s books. So when Ari and I decided to go for an after dinner walk tonight, we talked about going around the block. The sun was setting and we wanted to see more so we decided to walk to the end of our neighborhood. Finally, when I realized he had enough steam, I asked Ari, “Would you like to walk to where the sidewalk ends?”

“Yes! Let’s go to where the sidewalk ends!” (He doesn’t know Silverstein’s book yet. There are some things I try to save for his future elementary school teachers to introduce to him.)

It was the sweetest little response. And even though he doesn’t realize that he recited a book title, he knew exactly where to walk to — and where to stop — before turning around and heading home.

outdoors · slice of life


Ari adores strawberries. Both of my kids do, but Ari is OBSESSED with them. He wants to eat strawberries daily as part of his lunch. (He’d probably eat them as a snack if I’d let him, but I try to get other fruits into him at those times of the day.) He grows strawberries in his backyard garden. So, when strawberry season arrives in Central Pennsylvania, Ari is ALL IN.

This morning, Marc, my-in-laws, the kids, and I drove about 45 minutes north of our home to an orchard that advertised their “best crop of the past 5-10 years.” That was enough to make the drive worthwhile… so long as it was true.

After we washed our hands and purchased a 5 qt. bucket for the four of us, the kids began arguing over who was going to hold the bucket. 🙄 Somehow, I convinced Isabelle to let Ari hold it since it would eventually be too heavy for him to manage. She relinquished and allowed Ari to hold it.

Once we were assigned a row, Ari got down to the serious business of the day. If you think that was picking berries and putting them in the bucket he was holding, well, then you’d be wrong. No, no. He got down to eating berries! As we attempted to fill our bucket, we realized we’d have to take it away from Ari or we’d never fill it up with enough berries to bring home. Somehow, we wrestled the bucket away from Ari and handed it over to Isabelle who has samples far less than she did as a young tyke.

For awhile, Ari picked a berry, removed the crown, and shoved it in his mouth. This kept up for awhile until he must’ve gotten tired. Eventually, we overheard Linda, my mother-in-law, ask Ari to stop removing the good ones from her container. (Apparently, he didn’t want to be troubled with picking the berries so he tried to skim them off the top of her container!) Once Ari realized that wouldn’t work, he tried sticking his hand into the five-quart bucket again, but kept getting caught by Marc, Isabelle, or me. Ultimately, Ari picked most of his own berries, which showed since his hands and face were stained with sticky, red juice.

We love PYO season, more so now that our options still feel limited due to the pandemic. And while I wish Ari would do more picking-to-take-home and less eating-in-the-fields, there is something so endearing about watching the joy he gets from eating berries on summer mornings. Plus, he looks adorable with his lips and fingernails ringed in red!

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outdoors · slice of life

Golden Glory Yields a Different Kind of Blossom #SOL21

We planted two Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (aka: Golden Glory) Trees in our backyard last fall. Today, on the third full day of spring, I noticed yellow buds beginning to peek out from them, which is exciting! Therefore, I thought one of them would be the perfect tree to host a different kind of blossom, if you will, this spring.

That’s right. I tried to make Ari’s wish come true by creating a granola bar tree.

Once he woke up from his afternoon nap and had a snack, I led him outside to see what was blooming in our backyard.

Good thing I used kitchen twine to hang the bars — rather than doing something Pinterest-worthy — since he was less than impressed with what he saw! Though, perhaps if I had gone all-out he would’ve been wowed. (We’ll never know!)

Alas, he did request to unwrap and eat one of them in the backyard before playing. So, I suppose his wish came true!

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animals · outdoors · slice of life

Not-So-Lucky Ducks #SOL21

Ari and I brought two bags of bread to the park: week-old wheat bread and week-old, gluten-free, four-seed bread. (That’s a lot of hyphens, isn’t it!?!?)

Since it was chilly out, we were the only people feeding the ducks so one would think they’d be desperate for food. (You’d think that if you didn’t read “Discerning Ducks,” my post from last year and the same park.) However, we started tossing the gluten-free bread into the water and — after a nibble and a look — the ducks let the gluten-free bread float by. A few of them (who I jokingly claim have Celiac disease) took some nibbles, but even the nibblers refused full slices of gluten-free bread when I tossed it towards them.

“Can I toss the wheat bread now?” Ari asked.

“Sure, buddy,” I replied, handing him a slice.

Wouldn’t you know it, the ducks began flocking to the space where Ari tossed the wheat bread. One duck dove over another one, flapping its wings wildly, when the wheat bread hit the water.

“They like the wheat bread!” Ari declared.

Just then, a woman walked by with a scruffly dog who began sniffing us in search of our bread. She pulled him back. I told the woman what was happening with the discerning ducks.

“I can’t believe they won’t eat your bread!” she said.

“I know! And it’s good bread from the local gluten-free bakery!” I replied.

“That’s unbelievable!” she said, truly shocked.

It is shocking that on a 29-degree day, that felt like it was in the teens, hungry ducks would be that finicky.

family · outdoors · slice of life

Let me tell you about hike #2… #SOL21

Last night, Marc and I were thinking about where we’d go for our second family hike. I specified three non-negotiable on the Lancaster Conservancy website:

One of three options was Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve, which was listed as about 35 minutes from our house. Why not?!!?

Isabelle and I were the first ones out of the minivan. When she arrived at the trail head, she opened the box and said, “It’s empty. There aren’t any more maps left.”

I groaned, audibly. I had lectured her about the importance of always having a map last week since she lost her grasp on it last week and it blew away. Now, we had nothing.

“There’s another big board on the other side of the parking lot,” she said taking off in that direction. “Let’s see if there are more maps there.”

I followed, Unfortunately, there weren’t.

Ultimately, all of the adults took a photo of the trails map with each of our phones. Not the same, but it would have to do.

On the steep part of the blue trail — waiting for the rest of the crew.

Marc loaded Ari into the stroller, which hadn’t been used in about a year. My in-laws joined us at the large map. Despite the gravel-covered ADA trail being to our right, Marc thought we should try the blue trail, to our left. It was a true trail. My foot, thankfully, could handle it, but I wasn’t so sure a third of our group (of six) could hack it. But they insisted so we went on the blue trail.

After a few minutes, Isabelle and I — who were quite a bit ahead of everyone else — discovered the trail getting tighter, rockier, and steeper. I called out to the others to implore them to turn around, but they kept moving forward. As they neared, I insisted that the stroller wouldn’t make it up the hill any better than a person with a four-month-old titanium hip.

“I picked this place because there’s an ADA accessible trail,” I said with a level of snippiness in my voice. “That’s the trail we need to take.”

We turned around and walked back to the flat trail. We splintered into two separate groups. Eventually, my father-in-law went back to the car. Isabelle, my mother-in-law, and I eventually found Ari jogging towards us with Marc pushing the empty stroller. As pleased as I was to see him walking, I noticed he had a granola bar in his hand. Apparently, food was a motivator to keep him moving!

Ari in front; Marc in back.

Next hike, we have to keep Ari moving, sans snacks, on level ground. 🤣🙄🤪

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outdoors · siblings · slice of life

We drove nearly a half-hour to see a caboose. #SOL21

Oh, what a difference a day makes! Please note that the 47 minutes did not include stand-still times when we waited around for Ari. That was actual MOVING time.

Last year, one of my goals was to go on hikes with my kids. I thought I’d be able to do it by the time I was six months post-op from ankle reconstruction surgery, but I didn’t meet my goal. However, in the mid-fall, I started walking for exercise on flat, paved ground. At first, I was able to do a couple of miles and my pace was terrible. As the weeks passed, my stamina and speed increased. In January, I walked for five miles. And while I haven’t done another five miles since then, I have continued to walk about four miles whenever the weather permits.

Yesterday, I achieved my fastest mile, 17:36 min/mi, since the surgery. (I credit the wind at my back!) So, despite the cold and the wind, I told my husband that I wanted to finally go on a light hike with the kids today. Initially, I picked a park that was 40 minutes from our house, which Marc thought was a bit much considering the cold.

“What about the Enola Low Grade Trail?” I asked him.

He hadn’t heard of it so I filled him in. “It’s on the Susquehanna River near Columbia. Plus, there’s a caboose there.”

Ari LOVES trains so the caboose felt like a good sell on this cold March morning.

We didn’t rally the kids to leave the house until a little after 10. By the time we got to the Enola Low Grade Trail, it was nearly 11 since we made a restroom stop because I avoid porta-potties at all costs!

The caboose is 1/10 of a mile in on the left side of the trail. It was a hit with both of the kids.

But then, it was a lot of river, a lot of rocks, and not much else. To my surprise, Isabelle was excited to walk beside me and kept pace nicely. By the time we were a half-mile into the trail, Ari was lagging behind with Marc. Isabelle and I took off power walking downtown the trail. Eventually, my phone buzzed.

“He’s complaining about all of the walking so we’re sitting on some benches,” Marc told me.

“Okay. We’re almost at the one-mile marker. As soon as we get there, we’ll turn around and head back to you.”

Once Isabelle and I headed back, we heard voices. Seconds later, we saw Ari running towards us.

“I wanna walk to one mile!” Ari told us.

It was probably two-tenths of a mile more for Ari to reach the one-mile marker so the three of us had to convince him to turn back.

Ari continued to walk slowly on the way back to the caboose. I tried a few races between the kids, “There’s the half-mile marker. Let’s see who can reach it first!” and “There’s the signal house. Who will be the first one there?” These things moved Ari forward, but it was slow-going back to the car. At one point, Marc carried him until I told him to “Make sure Ari’s train has oil, give him a boiler treatment, and keep moving.” (Yes, I’ve been faced with Ari not walking quickly around our neighborhood before. These things have worked for me since I’m not in the shape to carry a four-year-old child in my arms.)

Despite the kvetching from Ari, we’re going to keep doing family walks. Perhaps we need to bring a stroller for the way back next time so we don’t have to cut our walk short. Or snacks. Or maybe a stroller and snacks!

outdoors · politics · slice of life

Abe on Ice

Last spring, sometime when we were ordered to stay at home, Isabelle discovered the Presidents Song. She showed it to Ari. Together, they became obsessed with the quirky facts shared in the video.

I found the video to be a unique combination of annoying, weird, and oddly addictive. While annoying and weird would be the first words I’d use to describe the video, I appreciate the way it launched my kids into a mild obsession with the U.S. Presidents.

Last Friday, when Isabelle had a day off from school, we drove to Downtown Lititz for the Lititz Ice Walk, a reimagined version of the Lititz Fire and Ice Festival for pandemic times. The kids and I arrived early (since I didn’t fully trust that people would be properly masked and practicing social distancing) to view the ice sculptures. While we saw at least ten, I discovered that more were being put out during our time in town. By the time we drove away, my kids yelled, “I see Abraham Lincoln!”

“C’mon,” I said. “No way is Abraham Lincoln an ice sculpture.”

Well, as I discovered by viewing my friend’s Facebook photos from the Ice Walk over the weekend, Abraham Lincoln was indeed an ice sculpture. I admitted to the kids that I was wrong and showed them my friend’s photo. There were a fair share of I-told-you-so utterances. That’s okay. They were correct.

This morning, I asked Ari (who has a deep fascination with Lincoln) if he wanted to return to the Ice Walk to see Abraham Lincoln. His eyes lit up and he said, “YES!” immediately.

You know how we aren’t supposed to touch works of art? You know how we aren’t supposed to touch anything these days thanks to COVID-19? Well, try telling that to a curious four-year-old who is enthusiastic about Abraham Lincoln. Thankfully, Ari was gentle.
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COVID-19 · outdoors · slice of life

Discerning Ducks #SOL20

Over the weekend, Isabelle asked if we could go to the park to feed the ducks. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of being in a park with lots of other people so we made a deal. If the kids could get up and out EARLY this morning, then we’d grant Isabelle’s wish and go to the park.

Marc gathered wheat bread and hot dog rolls and put it in a plastic bag for the ducks. I remembered some not-so-tasty gluten-free bread I’ve had in the freezer since President’s Day Weekend. I hadn’t thrown it out, despite disliking it, since I kept worrying about food shortages. Now that I know the local gluten-free bakery is baking consistently, I felt as though I could part with the remaining eight slices. I defrosted the bread, put it in a separate plastic bag (You never know when you encounter a duck with Celiac disease!), and put it in the car with the bag of regular breads.

Once we arrived at the park, I untwisted the twist on the gluten-free bread bag first. Ari and I began tossing the gluten-free bread in. The ducks swam over and nibbled on it. Then, they SPIT IT OUT. Seriously! I couldn’t imagine why they’d spit it out. They are ducks! How could they be that finicky?! So, Ari and I kept tossing the gluten-free bread into the water. The ducks swam away from it!

Next, I opened up the bag of wheat bread and hot dog rolls. And do you know what happened next? The ducks devoured it!

Apparently that gluten-free bread was really that bad. No longer did I feel badly about getting rid of good food since it was NOT good!

If you look closely you’ll notice bread floating in the water. That’s the gluten-free stuff that none of the ducks wanted to eat!