Labor Day Weekend Camping (the End and the Beginning)

As a child, Labor Day weekend gave me the feeling of being pulled between two worlds.  I wanted to soak up the final few hours of summer and freedom, and yet the inevitability of school and backpacks and homework loomed, but with it the hope of a new beginning.  Labor Day weekend meant enjoying the final moments of one season while preparing for the start of the next.  

This Labor Day weekend Andrew and I joined our friends Elliott and Lauren for two days of roughing it in the woods: camping, hiking, peeing behind trees.  We drove into the mountains Friday evening and set up camp in the dark.  Saturday morning, after filling up on oatmeal and French press coffee, we began the first of two hikes planned for the day: Mount Pleasant.  Andrew and I had hiked it on a previous camping weekend, and the views are stunning.  On a clear day, this is what you’ll see:

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However, after hiking 3-ish miles to the top this Saturday, this is was our view:

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Heavy fog everywhere.  Womp womp.  

We finished the hike, ate lunch at our campsite, then started our second hike of the day:  Cold Mountain.  This hike is an approximately six-mile loop with nice overlooks on the way to an open meadow with beautiful mountain views all around.  

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We did encounter some lingering fog, but thankfully we still were able to steal a few glimpses of those beautiful blue mountains that I love.

Back at camp, with achy bodies from 12.5 miles of hiking, we cleaned up as best we could and started cooking dinner.  Just as we put the steaks on the fire, we heard the rain rolling in.  At the threat of not being able to cook the steaks, Andrew sprung into Eagle Scout mode in a way I’ve never seen.  “Tarp!  Someone grab the tarp!  Two tall sticks!  Twine!  Tent stakes!”  Before the rain could touch our fire, Andrew had constructed a shelter for us with a tarp hung over a rope (strung between two tree branches), with two corners held up by large sticks, which were secured to the ground with tent stakes and twine.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture because, well, it was pouring rain and very dark at this point, but suffice it to say we were all thoroughly impressed.  We ate our steaks (which were unbelievably delicious after hiking all day) as the fire roared and water rushed under our feet–because, hey, we were still outside in a torrential downpour– and we laughed at how disgusting we all felt covered in sweat and mud, and life was very good.  

In the morning I woke early and hiked up the Appalachian Trail a bit to catch the sunrise.  


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It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for a good sunrise–the colors, the stillness of the morning, the promise of a new day.

For me this Labor Day weekend evoked that childhood feeling of being torn between two worlds.  On Friday I wrapped up six years working as a youth minister.  It was a time full of joy and challenges and working with people that I love, but like every season, it had to come to an end to make way for something new.  Today is the start of a new season for me as I pursue a career in personal training.  For the next few months I will be a full-time student preparing for the certification exam, and while I am nervous about venturing into the unknown (and yes, giving up a paycheck for a period), I am thrilled to embark on this journey.

The sun is rising on the first day of a new season for me, and I am giddy about the possibilities of what it may hold.  

28

Today is my 28th birthday.

I love celebrating birthdays, and I am not working today, so I have some good activities planned–starting with my annual birthday run.  At some point in my early 20’s, I had the idea that it would be really cool to run my age on my birthday every year… but quickly decided I was already too old for that to be a good idea. 😉  I just go for a comfortable, enjoyable run now.  The rest of the day will be packed with reading on the back deck in this gorgeous spring weather, visiting the greenhouse and planting a few flowers, and tonight going to our local trampoline gym and dinner with friends!

Yep, 28 is off to a good start.  As I look back over the last year, I must say: 27 was very good to me.  Here are some of the highlights of 27, in no particular order:

-Ran some great races, and PRed in the 5k and 10k:

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-Celebrated 1 year of marriage with Andrew:

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-Filled this garden plot with seeds and dreams:

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-… and watched it turn into this:

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-Spent time on retreats and mission trips with the amazing teens in my youth group:

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-Hiked to my heart’s content (almost ;-))

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-Spent lots of time playing outside:

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-Celebrated with friends getting married:

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-Put my wedding dress back on and pretended I was getting married 😉

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-Traveled to Jamaica:

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-Traveled to Colorado: 

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-Most importantly, spent lots of time with family and friends:

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I am incredibly thankful for the year behind–really, it was kind of an epic year in terms of everything I had the opportunity to do–and can’t wait to see what the year ahead has in store!

Have a great March 11, everyone! 😀

In Defense of (Posting Pictures of) Food

My name is Catherine, and I am a foodie.

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I’ve seen a disturbing trend on social media lately: food photo hating.  That’s right–there are people out there right now who are bored to tears by the photos we post of our delicious meals and culinary masterpieces.  If you are one of those people, this post is for you.  I’d like the chance to explain to you why I post photos of the food that I grow, eat, and love.

When I initially wrote this post, I included a witty, but snarky apology for forcing others to look at our food photos.  Before posting I decided it was probably a little too heavy with the sarcasm, so instead, I will say this: if you don’t like what anyone posts online, hide them from your news feed, don’t follow them on Instagram, and don’t click on the link to their blog.  That’s what I do when you post photos of… er… never mind.  The choice is yours.  I won’t be offended.

I post photos of food because I get excited about food.  You post photos of what excites you, right?  Scrolling through my Facebook news feed right now I see photos of: new boots, a sailboat, a double-layered marble cake with chocolate frosting, a baby deer, a wedding, a new haircut, the sorority squat, a football helmet, a new purse, a baby with a dog–We post little glimpses of our lives, and a good meal is one of those glimpses for me.  Here’s why:

1. Food powers everything we do.  All the activities we love are possible because we have good food in our bellies.  Running marathons, hiking, playing with your kids, focusing in school or at work (okay, maybe you don’t love that, but it has to be done), simply hanging out with friends–your performance and ability to be in the moment will suffer if you are not well nourished.  What you put in your body matters;  while we may not be what we eat, we certainly feel the effects of what we eat (or don’t eat).  

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“We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us be much more than what we are.” -Adelle Davis

2. Food tastes amazing.  As vital as food is to our lives, it could have been as boring as breathing–something that just happens naturally and keeps us alive.  Instead, God gave food taste, and why in the world would He have done that if we weren’t meant to enjoy it?  Eating, like other activities that ensure the survival of the human race, is meant to be pleasurable.  Food is a gift, not only in the fact that we have it and aren’t starving, but that it tastes so good!  Why would you not celebrate that?

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“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” -Voltaire

3. Food builds relationships.  Because we need food to power everything we do, and it’s not a boring pill that we have to take each morning, the act of eating gives us reason to pause a few times during the day, often with other people.  How many relationships in your life have developed over the course of many meals?  The vast majority.  From childhood dinners with your family to school lunches in the cafeteria with friends to dates with your husband, sharing a meal bonds us with others.

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“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… people who give you their food give you their heart.”       -Cesar Chavez

4. Food is art.  Some of the most beautiful colors I’ve ever seen are in my garden.  I take no credit for this, but I certainly enjoy it!  Fresh produce is inherently visually pleasing.

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“Did you ever stop to taste a carrot?  Not just eat it, but taste it?  You can’t taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie.” -Astrid Alauda

That’s why I post pictures of what I ate for dinner–because that meal was a crucial piece of my day that gave me energy to do what I love, provided quality time with people I care about, and pleased my senses in a way that compelled me to turn and thank my Creator and Provider.

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If you aren’t at least a little bit excited about food, it might be time to reconsider what you’re eating or the pace of your day–I wouldn’t get excited about eating a fast food hamburger in my car or macaroni and cheese from a box before running out the door either.  Good food doesn’t have to take hours to make, it just has to be real food.

So, happy eating to all.  And don’t forget to post photos. 🙂

Our Fall Vegetable Garden and Reflections on the Summer Growing Season

This week we said goodbye to our beloved tomato plants.  Some of the other summer plants had withered away prior to this, and some are still growing and producing, but the loss of the tomatoes felt significant.  Perhaps it’s because when you think of growing vegetables in the summer, tomatoes come to mind first.  Or perhaps it’s because we nurtured them from seeds, turned our bathroom into a greenhouse to give them the best chance possible, and then watched them grow into 8-ft Lycopene-producing power houses.

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All I know for sure is that Andrew and I both felt a little bit sad to put what remained in the compost pile.  (Yeah, I know.  We have a compost pile and feel sad over the death of plants.  I promise we are not these people.  Like seriously… we are not part of that group.)

What feels like the end of the season, however, prompted me to reflect on our first real attempt at gardening, and I’d like to pass along a few tidbits we gleaned along the way.

Plants that thrived: tomatoes (cherry and slicing), peppers (bell, cayenne, and pimento), green beans, yellow squash, zucchini, tomatillos

Plants that didn’t thrive: broccoli and Swiss chard (better as fall plants… oops!), cucumber, cantaloupe, and pumpkin (all eventually got some kind of disease and the vines looked terrible), watermelon (still growing…Andrew disagrees), carrots and beets (all grew as miniature versions of what they should be).

Tips for Next Year’s Garden Rookie (From This Year’s Garden Rookie) :

Vegetables that produce continually and quickly are the most fun–cherry tomatoes, green beans, tomatillos, and squash were among our favorites.  We lost interest in the melons and pumpkins, which take up a lot of space in the garden, and the reward (if any) takes a long time.  

Grow vegetables that you’ll actually eat–we thought it would be fun to grow cayenne peppers, but we have yet to eat any.  We now have dozens drying in our dining room because we don’t know what to do with them other than dry and crush them into what will probably be a lifetime supply of pepper flakes.

Don’t be afraid to prune and thin–when our tomatoes and peppers were little sprouts living in the bathroom greenhouse, we were so thrilled to watch them grow that we couldn’t bear to thin them to one plant per square inch (see photo above).  When the time came to plant them outside, we practically had to do surgery to get the roots apart without damaging the plants.  And I think we have pruning to thank for our huge tomato plants and fruits.  Definitely cut off leaves and branches that look bad, but cutting off a few healthy ones as well helps the plant grow stronger and the fruit grow bigger.

Cage plants that have the potential to be tall before they are actually tall–it may look silly (again, see photo above :)), but if you don’t, they will shoot up and bend over before you know what happened.  

I’m sure there’s more, but those are the tips that come to mind as ones you might not find if you Googled, “tips for first time gardeners.”

Additionally, I’m pleased to present to you our first fall garden:

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(The forest on the left is the pepper plants still going strong!)

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Butternut and acorn squash, broccoli, cauliflower, red cabbage, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, sweet peas, kale, chives, and lettuce

So, as much as we’re going to miss having these guys around:

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…we are pretty stoked for the new recruits. 😀

What thrived/didn’t thrive in your summer garden?
Are you planting anything this fall?

NC Mission Trip Recap- Part 1

I am home from North Carolina and excited to give a full account of the week, but first, I must acknowledge what happened yesterday:  Andrew hijacked the blog.  It was a legitimate hijacking.  Not only did he not tell me he was writing a post, but he didn’t tell me he’d done it afterwards either!  I happened to glance at the stats page on my phone, saw a few notifications, and thought, two people commented on…what post?  Oh…  What a funny guy. 😀  Because the stolen post seemed to be well-received, Andrew has landed himself a contract job as a monthly guest blogger (he’s not getting paid for it.)  I hope those of you that we don’t know in real life enjoyed “meeting” Andrew!

Now the mission trip summary…I’ll do my best to keep in concise without leaving out any juicy details 🙂

The team:
Our team consisted of twelve middle school youth and four adults.  I’ve probably mentioned this on the blog before, but I love middle schoolers.  I think they are absolutely hilarious in that you never know what they will say or do.  In that regard, they did not disappoint this week.  Actually, they did not disappoint in any way this week;  I was impressed by how hard they all worked and the great attitudes they had despite the heat and persistent mosquitoes.

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The people we served:
As I mentioned in my midweek report, we worked with a man named Chuck and his two teenage daughters, Ashley and Haley, who are in a very tough spot in life at the moment.  Chuck is sharp, witty, knowledgeable about many, many subjects, and full of hilarious one-liners.  “She’s as tough as woodpecker lips.”  “At least my report card didn’t stutter;  yours kept saying, “D-D-D-D-D…”  More importantly, he has a deep love for his daughters and a rock-solid faith that was evident to all of us.  Despite losing his wife, job, and being left to raise teenage girls, his devotion to God has not been shaken.

In addition to teaching us some legitimately useful life skills, Chuck showed us how “we rednecks” get strong out of in the country:  using heavy metal bars and sledgehammers:

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And that block of wood they are pounding with the sledgehammer?  After we took turns hitting it all day, Chuck stood it up and split it in two with the sledgehammer, prompting this response from one of our boys:

“If I took a girl out on a date, and you were her dad, I would treat her so well…”  😀

The work:
Half of our team painted the outside of Chuck’s trailer, and half the team replaced the floor in a few rooms inside.  As I mentioned above, everyone worked incredibly hard and finished the tasks we set out to do.

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The funny (part 1):
The man living next door to Chuck owns a bunch of goats and keeps them in a barely charged electric fence.  Think static electricity.  Or a first grade science experiment using a battery and a light bulb (I know this to be true thanks to one of our awesome adults, Robin, who teaches science to elementary school students. :))  One afternoon Chuck showed a few of our youth what that fence feels like, and, because they are twelve years old, that entertained many of them for longer than you might think.  Weird, but harmless.  Well, the phone calls home that night sounded like this:

“Catherine let us electrocute ourselves on an electric fence today!  We kept shocking ourselves over and over!  What?  Why not?  Yeah, I’m okay… No, it didn’t hurt… No, we didn’t do it for very long…”

Oh boy.  Parents, I did not let your kids electrocute themselves.  Again, think static electricity, and please consider that your twelve-year-old may have exaggerated.  I do think, however, that a few of them seemed slightly more balanced afterwards… 😉

I will leave it here for now, but I have plenty more to report tomorrow.  Thanks for reading!

Hijacked!!!!

Finally, what you thousands of fans of this blog have been waiting for:

The namesake is posting!  Because let’s get real for a minute,  I have provided the Storey of ‘A Two Storey Home’.  All Catherine does is manage it, think of posts, write the posts, keep up with the comments,and, most of all, stop me mid-action to take pictures of whatever we are doing to post on the blog.  But without the hilarious pun that my name has provided, who would read?  A name is everything.  If Melville had called it ‘Some Guy Overly Fixated on Catching a Whale’, would he have had a best seller?  Or, would people have called for Clark Kent’s alter ego to save them from burning buildings if he called himself ‘Better-than-Average-Man’?  I think not.  Count It!

Andrew = 1

People who disagree with Andrew = 0

Glad that’s out of the way.  Catherine, you’re welcome 🙂

Now on to more important things.  While I have read exactly 4 sentences of the blog. Side bar: I have lived most of it.  Reading it would just be literary deja vu.  I imagine it could get trippy. Un-Side bar.  I can imagine though that Catherine writes a lot about our house, our garden, what we do, running, etc.  She probably also writes about “feelings” and “emotions”  So with this post, I would like to turn the needle back to the manly side of the dial.  So what is the opposite of “feelings”?  How about ‘sgnileef’…no I guess that’s just ‘feelings’ backwards (Feel free to laugh out loud at that one…I bet Catherine doesn’t make awesome puns like that).  I think I’ll go with numbers.  No emotional significance to numbers.  Well, I guess 7 is lucky, 13 isn’t, 3&5 are prime, π is irrational, and, of course, 1 is lonely, or so they say.  There must be a conspiracy to connect ‘feelings’ everything if numbers haven’t even been able to resist emotional attachment.  So, let’s fight back.  Here’s the week in numbers from my engineer brain with the garden harvest update leading off and a photo of today’s crop:

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1 – yellow squash harvested

109 – cherry tomatoes harvested

4 – green peppers harvested

2 – pimento peppers harvested

2 – cucumbers harvested

18 – tomatillos harvested

24 – green beans harvested

3 – hours spent on the phone trying to get a new water heater delivered and installed…still working on it

2 – episodes of ‘Property Brothers’ watched

1 – yoga class attended

5 – fish fillets fried

5 – fish fillets eaten

4 – days of work so far

1 – Food Network Magazine read

7 – levels of Jewel Mania beaten

2.5 – hours of ultimate frisbee played

6 – mosquito bites 

1 – mouse caught…thought we had that problem fixed. Hmmm.

and evidence for 1 being a sad and lonely number…

1 – pair of athletic shorts thrown away when the elastic gave out and the draw string broke after at least 10 years of good and faithful service….tear 😦

Wait…there are those dang emotions popping back up again.  So for good measure and to honor all who have used graphs excessively before me, I will end with a graph of how my week has gone…

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Yes, my graph goes to 11.

Please comment on my post using a scale of 1-10.

 

NC Mission Trip- Midweek Report

The week so far…

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This week we have been working with a man named Chuck and his two teenage daughters, Ashley and Haley.  Chuck’s wife passed away in April, and around the same time he lost his job.  Due to the tough financial situation,  the three were forced to move into a broken down trailer.  One of the girls told us that life has been so crazy that they haven’t even had time to mourn the loss of their mother.  Our crew has been replacing an old, rotted floor this week, as well as putting a fresh coat of paint on the outside of the house.  It’s been a joy for us to spend time with Chuck and the girls too!

In addition to sweating like crazy from 8:30-3, here are some other notables of the last few days:

Highs:

-beach time

-awesome food

-a surprise ice cream delivery by Mr. Oguich

-goats at the worksite (yes, everyone else is just as excited as I am about this ;-))

-worship on beach blankets in the sand

 

Lows:

-broken AC in the girls’ room the first night (which has been fixed! We are nice and cool :))

-Mosquitos that laugh at our Off! Deep Woods bug spray…

-noisy neighbors (I laid the smack down last night 😀

All around, it has been an awesome week… And we have over 3 days left!  I will give a full report when I return… Blogging via smart phone is a painful task.

Have a great week!