Monthly Archives: February 2012

Rags and Riches

by Kate

A few days ago we returned from a whirlwind week in California. After months of low grey skies looming over this grey East Coast city, a week of bright sun on the West Coast was incredibly rejuvenating. We plucked ripe oranges from citrus groves, ran through avocado groves, explored San Diego, the ports of L.A., and sleepy Santa Barbara, and drove the coastline all the way to San Francisco. I look forward to sharing the pictures and stories we gathered along the way, but first I want to share the story of another epic journey.

On the day before we left for California, a battered tan van dragging the remnants of a muffler and proudly emblazoned with the Devils Hole Ranch logo pulled up in front of our humble Pittsburgh abode….

and my sister Mary and sort-of-sister-in-law Emily (see here for the inside scoop on this) emerged.

Granted, they were looking a great deal less glamorous than this shot would imply. After hard labor revitalizing historic mansions together and a grueling drive from New York state to Pittsburgh, they were ready to collapse on my couch and have some hot tea, followed by Southern Comfort. Please note that even in an exhausted state, Emily was able to borrow a stylish hat from my toddler to accessorize her outfit.

Emily and Mary were headed to the Wisconsin homeland. Spring is calling Mary home- in fact, I believe she even has her eye on a new set of lambs. As for Emily, she was headed to harvest a crop of sequins and bows. That is, she was on her way to help the rest of her spectacular female relations clean out her Grandmother’s closets. This sounds like a pedestrian pursuit, but no. Oh no. First of all, I want to state that Emily’s grandmother wore a strapless ballgown constructed out of peacock feathers to a wedding a few years ago. She is well over 80. It was spectacular. A glimpse into her closets and home is available by way of this wonderful blog post. Please go read Jenna’s blog! She is Emily’s cousin, and a wonderful writer and cook and great inspiration. So! Emily was en route to clean out her grandmother’s closet, mostly so her Grandmother can purchase an entirely updated wardrobe at Rummage. (Read that link too, it is worth it I swear, oh dear this is a convoluted post but worth it in the end, I hope. ) In order for Emily to help clear out her Grandmother’s closet(s) she had to clear her own in preparation for the tsunami of clothing she was about to inherit, so Emily and Mary entered my home laden with garbage bags full of evening gowns, heels, and hats.

But wait, you say, I spy sober male apparel upon that heap! You are quite correct. I recently happened to inherit a great deal of high quality extra large coats, jackets, and flannel shirts. I’d been trying to find a way to deliver them to my broad shouldered farmer father and carpenter brothers, and this was the perfect opportunity. Mary and Emily agreed to load them into the van, with the condition that I needed to immediately try on every flounced, sequined, and sparkling item they had brought me, find the most ridiculous item possible, and greet my husband while wearing it in their presence.

This sounded like a great deal to me. As I said, it has been a long dark winter. Sequins and gold silk shoes went a long way to cheer me up. Casey was less impressed- but I am pretty sure the look of confusion and mild horror on his face was exactly what Mary and Emily were hoping for.

The next morning the girls headed off, bearing a heavy load of high quality coats and leaving sequins in their wake. As for our family, away we flew to California. I left the hat and glittering backless dresses at home, and spent my time in baggy beat up jeans gathering memories. I promise to share them with you soon.

Till then,


One Sweet Year

By Mary

The upcoming month of March marks the first year anniversary of this blog. It hardly seems like an entire 12 months has gone by since it’s conception. The original idea for this blog came to me last February when I was challenging myself to broaden my creative horizons beyond spending hours putting metallic heart beading on a purse that I was creating from the airbag of my beloved Passat that my little brother James had recently crashed, and counting down the days til spring.

At this point I was turning the corner from thinking that all blogs were a waste of time to becoming quite the fan of the Pioneer Woman’s blog after discovering her site and finding it much to my liking. I thought “Wow, my sisters and I could totally do something similar.” I figured as the descendants of a highly skilled journalist, we are all decent writers. And like Ree, we are a little witty and distinctive. Obviously each of us has our own style of writing as well as our own interests and talents.When the blog initially took off, Kate was the only one with a working camera. Mine was broken and Clare’s needed a new charger. Buying myself a new camera and getting Clare’s back in working order was the solution to enhancing the visual expressions of our chronicles. It has been a good way to display Clare’s photography talents on a larger scale as well as to give visuals to the posts. Clare and Kate were even able to work together long distance on their famous Anthropologie post.

I am especially proud of Clare for changing what was then her 13 year old attitude, and jumping on the Slattery Sister blogging bandwagon. She is at a fragile point in life but chooses to simply be herself and let her voice be heard.She writes with great honesty and heart, and it is a pleasure to watch her grow as a writer.

It was a big year for Colleen, as she graduated high school and headed off to college. Having Colleen move to Texas was very difficult for me. Connecting with her thru the blog is an extra incentive to keep it going. Every time that she writes a post about her college experience, I smile.

Essentially all acknowledgement regarding the accomplishment of beginning and maintaining this blog go to Kate. Without her there would be no blog. I may have had the idea, but it was simply a vision. Kate has been the one who has held this project together. Her work of setting up the site, publicity efforts, writing often times melodramatic and always entertaining posts, and acting as the editor, have given this blog life. She is the one who sends out the constant (and often disregarded)  message “BLOG POSTS!” to all of us sisters. At times our editor goes to the length of calling us on the phone to specify “I NEED a post.”

Metaphorically speaking: when Kate takes a break from acting as captain…..

and I step up to take on her responsibilities….

….our ship is just doesn’t operate the same way. Without her choleric bossiness, there is no blog.

Lastly, there would be no blog without you loyal readers who have been gracious enough to read our tales. Thank you sincerely for subscribing to, reading and commenting on sweetridgesisters. Speaking for all the girls- we are honored that you enjoy reading our posts, and feel as if we have made new virtual friends whose faces we have often times never met before. Thank you, thank you!

We look forward to continued writing in the year to come. Many known and unknown surprises are sure to be written of within the coming year. Keep reading our posts to find out, and we shall keep writing them. That is, of course, as long as Colleen, Clare and I keep getting facebook messages that read: BLOG POSTS!

Most sincerely,

Your friend from Sweet Ridge Sisters,


West(Wisconsin)ward Ho!

by Colleen

Well, hey there.  It seems to have been approximately forever in the blogging sphere since I’ve written…but I’m back!  Even with midterms looming this week, I took my orders and am doing a blog post.  You know it’s serious when Mary actually asks you to do a post. I would put up all the paltry school excuses which actually are valid, but I simply don’t have the time to list them all.  And it’s not important.  What is important is this: in one week I will be back in Wisconsin!

Spring break starts next Saturday, and while most college students will be heading to the beach for booze and debauchery, I will be heading home with four of my friends to (hopefully) temperatures in the upper 30s.  And we’re all pumped.  I do feel a bit of pity for my friends, a group of Southerners from Texas, Missouri, and South Carolina.  In response to their questions about proper attire for the cold, I simply stated, “Do you KNOW how many hats, coats, gloves, scarves, and  mittens we have in our house??”

I feel that I managed to offer sufficient attractions, though: beer, cheese, bonfires, wood stoves, bluffs, my family.  What more could one ask for?  Okay, yes a beach with pearly white sands and sun.  And luckily, all my friends are optimists about the 18 hour car trip up.  Me, on the other hand, would gladly like to be unconscious for all driving.  Yup, please just knock me out.  Oh, the sacrifices I will go through to get home!

My Southern friends are about to get a taste of the Slattery household. complete with cocky little brothers mouthing off at the table

the beautiful St. Peter’s,

and there is bound to be some ping pong.

Get ready, my friends!  It’s going to be a long ride, but in the end it will all be worth it.  Spring Break 2012: Wisconsin!  Home.

Nieces and a Nephew

By Mary

Gabe and Aurora’s kids have a very special place in my heart. Their typical presence in my life didn’t go unnoticed while I was away. As an aunt (or Aunty Mare Mare as they like to call me), I feel it’s my obligation to spoil them with dotting aunt abandon. On Saturday I babysat while their mom was away shopping with family.

Eventually Clare, Adeline and Thaddeus piled into my car to drive to the tiny gas station  in Ontario for ice cream cones. Afterwards I then took them to a local park so that they could scream and rush about on the playground equipment with reckless glee. All the while ice cream trickled off their hands and chin while they mastered the monkey bars, swings and merry-go-round with one hand cupping their sugar laden afternoon snack.

Before we left the house though, they implored me to let them take pictures. One of them dashed out to my car to retrieve my camera and before I knew it, I had three kids all under the age of 8 trying their luck as young photographers. Some shots worked out better than others.

And some well-wern’t so great.

My 7 year old niece, Clare tried her luck as an artistic photographer after she informed me that she now likes to listen to opera music before bed, and sigh-“it’s sooo tragic.” Ah, the the wisdom of a first grader!

Clare wasn’t the only one informing me of things. Thaddeus who is three, told me two separate stories about ” the one time when he was a little kid”. Obviously that was so long ago.

Though there are many new photos that my nieces and nephew took this past weekend, featuring the likes of a crooked view of the dinosaur on Thad’s shirt and 3/4 view of my neck, I’ll abstain from uploading them. And now if you’ll excuse me, I think I just might listen to some ever so tragic opera music.

The Life And Exploits of A Freshman Girl

By: Clare

Freshman year of high school is a whirlwind of activity. I’m halfway through the school year already, and I almost can’t believe it. Everything seems to have gone so fast. It makes me wonder…..was it a whole semester ago when those two of my friends hated each other. Did my one friend really date him for a whole week? And most importantly….how have I put up with that one kid in my class this whole school year!? Ah, high school, your constant entertainment is ever so time filling.

My family is convinced that I am quite popular in my class. This is true, and I can almost tell you readers that with some pride. But the truth is , Cashton High School has about 150 students over all, tops, and my class about 38 kids in it. Wa-hoo. Colleen was really horrified when she found I was at the top of the social ladder in school. She had found popularity completely pointless, and had gone her own way, being completely cool and unique. I myself easily settled into the role of “the girl everyone likes”. This wasn’t a hard spot to fill, because I found that everyone liked me most when I acted…like myself. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a mindless zombie who dresses, talks, and acts like every other girl in my grade. I still have my own distinct style, totally different than the monotonousness Aeropostale tee shirts and Silver jeans most other girls wear on a daily basis. I don’t have to throw a swear word in or two to express my anger, and I act however Clare Slattery normally acts.

But, now, Cashton High School holds a winter dance every January called Snoball. What a cool name! You can already tell it is a super hip party, right? Right? A-hem. Well, Snoball requires a Snoball court, which is made up of students who are voted onto it by their fellow students. The time had come to vote and I found, to my extreme surprise, that votes were really flowing in for the freshman class that had MY name on it. Me? Oh. Oh, well, wow. Except that freshman girls are silly, and they are the only little naive creatures who will actually take this vote seriously. In other words, all of the other high school students voted for the most special ed kid in their class. All of the freshman boys actually voted for the girl in my class who….well….it takes you a while to realize that she is, in fact, a girl and NOT a boy. So many boys voted for her that a tie-breaker actually had to be held between her and I, which I did end up winning. And, so, I was catapulted onto the most special ed high school court ever, making it look as if I had been another pity vote too. Greeeat.

The thing was, though, only girls were voted onto court, meaning I had to choose a boy from my class to go with me to this dance. “Oh, gosh”, I thought as I approached the boy I was about to ask, “I’m never gonna live this down with my family”. And I was right. I was oh so very right. My brothers will never let me forget this boy.

Excuse my demonic look in this picture. And that I am staring intensely at something far away from the camera pointed at me.

I have to say, with all of my sister’s scattered across the country I was feeling very hopeless about how I was going to get ready for the dance by myself. Finding the dress was easy, I simply had to walk into Mary’s room and pluck out the dress I wanted. But what was I going to do with my hair?!

Thankfully, a very kind friend saved the day by deciding I could get ready at her house, where my hair and makeup were overseen by her and her little sister.

I had actually been invited to eat out with my friend and one other girl at a local restaurant before the dance. And yes, my “date” did come along too.

The dance itself was not too highly attended, and I surprised myself by actually having a great time. And that was that. My very first high school dance.

Shhhh..I don’t think my brothers know I had to slow dance with The Boy. Don’t worry, he and I kept as far away as our arms would let us. Oh, freshmen.

Sister Spats

By Mary

For the last month or so conversations with Kate have been stormy. We seem to argue about any tiny thing. It’s always a traditional phone ritual that Kate blows a fuse over my habit of only talking on the phone on my time. Admittidly, my time isn’t too generous. Generally it is when I have my hands in the sink washing dishes, or on the wheel while driving. To date I haven’t come up with an exact solution to our disunity.

About four years ago I visited my elder sister while she was living in her city girl apartment overlooking the downtown streets of Asheville, North Carolina.

At this point in time, Kate was going through a particularly moody, less-than-thrilled over being single phase of gloom, doom and drama. And as for myself, well I was acting like a melancholic cabin fevor crazed brat. Needless to say- we weren’t a terrific combo.

Hiking a gorgeous Carolina mountain seemed like a great way for us to re-group and rectify the relationship.

Unfortunately, this planned outing led to both of us insisting the other needed to see a therapist.

Kate sobbed in the midst of the rainstorm while parking herself in the middle of the trail, and my snooty little sister-self hiked back alone.

A pre-arranged blind double date set up by one of Kate’s coworkers did nothing to alleviate the situation. The guys we ended up going out for drinks with worked in white jumpsuits at a sprout factory tending to huge vats of organic sprouts. Kate’s date ended up being a good foot and a half shorter than her. He was a sweet boy from Israel. Kate, in her heels, towered over him. My date, on the other hand, weighed so much more than me that  he made me feel tiny. I also felt  like my large earrings were a tiny accessory in comparison to the huge gold chain that hung from his jnco jeans. Still at war with my sister, I convinced her to let them come back to her apartment so that I could proceed with my plan of going to sleep and having her carry on the chore of entertaining the sprout boys.

Oddly enough, the two of us ended making peace just because we figured out how to laugh with each other. We went thrift shopping (which really does solve so many problems!). Back at the downtown apartment with a bottle of port and a camera on hand, we laughed together while Kate posed for one of her ever transpiring photoshoots.

Obviously, I am not in the position to photograph Mary Poppins….

Err, I mean Kate at the current time. I am confident though that somehow we will both find a way to unite our laughter and patience over the phone lines.

Heck, on second thought; perhaps skype, boots, hats, gowns and umbrellas might just do the trick!


Looking for more completely ridiculous Sweet Ridge Sisters photo shoots? Here you go….

Blue Haired Belle of the Ball (Diamond)

Dress Drama


Frumpiness and Pleather

by Kate

Fashion has been the last thing on my mind of late. In fact, for the past two months my style has consistently been that of a depressed farmer reluctantly trudging out to the barn to perform chores. Perhaps if I lived anywhere near a farm, or actually had chores to perform, this would be appropriate. Sadly, I am instead in the midst of a city, and therefore highly likely to encounter other people instead of chickens and cows. Faded and baggy jeans, worn and beaten boots, oversized sweatshirts, and large caps to cover my tangled hair twisted into a glob on the top of my head have been my mainstays. Granted, this look can be done in a glamorous manner- but let me assure you that in my case, glamorous it is not. I have abandoned my beaten silver and painted wooden earrings and even stooped so low as to skip applying smoky eyeliner in the morning. It has been a sad state of things for me.

In the midst of this style crisis, I received an alluring invitation in my email inbox last week. The invitation was from Maniac Magazine, a locally based monthly magazine covering Fashion, Celebrity, Style, and the Arts. Maniac was holding a special event for Pittsburgh bloggers at an abandoned storefront in the super hip South Side Works, showcasing the upcoming issue of the magazine. The invitation promised food and drink and complimentary massages- but most importantly for me, it offered a chance to put aside my tattered barn clothes, rip apart my closet, and attempt to find some semblance of stylishness.

I built my outfit around a pair of pleather leggings buried in an old trunk full of dance costuming. These leggings cost me an exorbitant seven dollars three years ago, and have been worth every penny. Pleather leggings must be deployed carefully, but in the right context they can really make an outfit work. In this case, I paired them with a black Target minidress with jet beading on the collar. I topped that with the only designer item I own- a black Christian Dior blazer with a zebra print collar, purchased from Goodwill for four dollars. This blazer, like the leggings, requires caution. It has a cut that can be construed as classic or ridiculous, depending on how it is paired with the rest of an outfit. I personally like to throw caution to the wind and assume that being six feet tall and sticking my chin in the air will somehow carry me through wearing it without looking like a complete fool. In this spirit, I slipped on a pair of 80’s style pumps (also a thrift store find) and confidently applied a great deal of eye makeup. On my way out the door I noted that my hair was in rather desperate need of another henna treatment, and also that wearing pumps in the middle of winter was a chilly proposition. I grabbed a magenta mohair beret that my grandmotherly neighbor recently gave me, and headed out to see the world of the sophisticates.

Actually I headed out the door with my husband and toddler in tow due to a complicated set of logistics. My husband is amazing, but not capable of multitasking as a fashion photographer while also taking care of the toddler. This meant that there was a serious possibility that there would be no documentation of my pleather look to share with you. Luckily for me, an incredibly sweet blogger from The Pittsburgh Look took my picture and shared it on her lovely blog, which you should definitely check out if you get the chance. Without further ado, here I am in disguise as a stylish person:

I really do recommend pleather leggings. In my case, they gave me the courage to confront this spectacularly stylish scene. Here is a shot of the party from the outside looking in:

So sleek. So stylish. So sophisticated. And it is a great cover, isn’t it? Inside the door, there were many fashionable people talking about fashionable things, and hip photographers on hand to document the action. Here is the dashing Tobi Makinde of Makinde Photography.

I did instantly realize that I was not quite the only one seeking comfort in pleather pants. At least, I think these are pleather…

There were chic people wearing carefully chosen and colorful  outfits and accessories.

And of course, there were great shoes.

Actually, great shoes and great tights and a really photogenic dog.

I really do love those grey tights, worn by the blogger Nicole. You can read all about her dog, Gwendolyn on her blog as well, here. I am pretty sure Gwendolyn was the belle of the ball that night.

In case the other attendees weren’t up to Gwendolyn’s level of fabulousness, there were hair and makeup teams on hand, ready to help party people take it to the next level. Staff from the Harmony Salon were providing instant trims, blowouts, and layering.

Makeup artist Katherine Reel worked her magic.

And for those in the market for further fabulous accessories and beautiful jewels, Stella and Dot was on hand to serve those needs.

There was a great deal of White Diamond Vodka, a massage table from LaVida Massage, and the food was lovely- but fashionable. So, light. So, sushi and cupcakes.

Needless to say, I ate quite a bit of sushi. Which was very nice. Pleather leggings are surprisingly forgiving.

I sipped, and mingled, and photographed, and was delighted to have my fill of sushi and of the world of high fashion. The one thing I didn’t do was get a chance to sit down and seriously apply myself to instantly blogging the new issue of Maniac Magazine.

But lots of other people did! You can read all about it herehere, and here– or even better, pick up a copy yourself if you happen to see it at a chic boutique or newstand near you.

I am grateful to Maniac Magazine for bringing style back into my life- even if only for a night. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to add another frumpy layer to my current chicken feeding chic outfit.

Adventures at the Derby

By Mary

On Sunday I left my books and beading behind, and journeyed with Emily past New York and on into the mountainous ranges of Vermont. Emily’s old van spiraled up the curvy mountain roads, ascending above dotted hills of mostly pine timber. Eventually we passed thru Vermont and headed over the New Hampshire state line.

The designated destination of the days trip was a roller rink located in rural New Hampshire surrounded by rolling crests of land and a vast still lake. Unlike the calm image shrouding the secluded rink, inside of the establishment high commotion was in session.

In addition to being a Land Baroness, Emily spends 2-3 nights a week involved with a roller derby team. Her days of playing derby have passed, but she is still as committed as ever to derby and now volunteers her time and talent to acting as a referee at derby bouts. The striped ref jersey that she wears when officiating displays her derby name on the back. While out on a rink floor, Emily Menn becomes Miranda Wrights, which is most appropriate for a lawyer whose derby slang name has a narrative of humor and truth to it.

Before Emily got suited up in her stripes, and put on her serious official face, we laced up skates, and hit the rink. Emily shines when she skates. Watching her makes me think of my sister, Kate. Like Kate, Emily is a dancer too. She’s a dancer on wheels who moves with collected rhythm, grace and poise.

I am not a dancer, and my days as a rollerblading child with bloody knees have long ago passed. However, I discovered that wearing a dress is a fool-proof way to have the incentive to not take any embarrassing spills.

By the time my feet were starting to blister, it was time to get off the floor so that the 2 combating teams could warm up. Emily became Miranda, or should I say Miss Miranda Wrights. She lay the law down in the midstsof wipeouts and speeding skates. Her home team lost by a few points, but on the positive side of things, no members ended up injured in the ER (though 2 players did need the attention of EMT’s on call.)

At the bouts end, all participants seemed happy with the afternoons calamity. I too was in good spirits, even if my books and beading missed me two states and a steep mountain decent away.