Monthly Archives: April 2013

On To State!

By: Clare

When the majority of your neighbors are cows, and horse and buggies don’t cause a second glance as they wander aimlessly through your local town, its a nice treat to have the opportunity to  visit a city full of culture and urban life. This was the case as I traveled to Madison last Friday to participate in State Forensics.

Although I didn’t quite manage to get away from the cows (we are America’s Dairyland, so I guess I’ll allow it)…


I did have the chance to see plenty of other things you wouldn’t normally find on the Ridge where I live or the village of a little over a thousand where I go to school.

Most people get to shopping as soon as they arrive in Madison, but my friend and I decided we were there for strictly sightseeing as we ambled along State Street and stared into the colorful, assorted storefronts.


A quick stop at the Cold Stone Creamery was necessary, however.


Turns out, no matter how delicious the ice cream, eating the cold dessert on the freezing streets of Madison with a vicious wind chilling you to the bone is not quite as enjoyable as you would hope, so we proceeded onward in search of a more warm adventure. What we found at the end of State Street was just the trick…Wisconsin’s majestic, sprawling Capitol Building.

wisconsin state capitol building madison

I was delighted at the idea of warmth AND a historical building.

So through the old revolving doors we went.

Our quick impromptu tour inside (conducted by myself..I took us wherever my heart led me) involved a lot of responsible and practical acts on the part of my friend and her chaperon father, and a lot of wreckless, Slattery-like acts on my part. This involved trying (unsuccessfully..dang) to find a way up to the balcony of the Capitol, sliding down multiple banisters, and sneaking into the Hearing Room, which may or may not have been a place that I was allowed to be in. But it’s all good, me and Governor Walker are like besties.


I quickly got a picture and then ran soundlessly out after I was reminded that this is the 21st century, and there were probably several cameras trained on me in that room.

Despite all my messing around, I was reminded of how beautiful Wisconsin’s Capitol building is. There’s an amazing amount of symbolism involved in the architecture and artwork, it’s a shame I don’ remember much of what they taught me about it in the 4th grade.


Once we left the Capitol, we made a quick random detour into a Wisconsin apparel shop, to look at unoriginal, insanely overpriced t-shirts. I tried on a cheesehead just for the heck of it, despite my extreme disdain for all things Packer-related.


Pretty soon we had spent enough time fooling around, and made our way back through State Street to the UW-Madison campus, where we were to perform that night.


Night fell over the city.


I performed, earning myself a perfect score, and then it was time to get back to good ol’ rural Wisconsin. And, although I do love experiencing the hustle and bustle of Madison,


I’m just fine with my Ridgetop view.


A Wish To The Moon

By: Mary

Cold rain battered down in intermittent frigid cycles all of yesterday. This morning the white powder of snow has been layering the ground as it falls from a grey and windy sky. Everybody is talking about the weather as it continues to become more difficult with week after week of dismal conditions. My laughing line that I have shared with friends, family and even cashiers at my favorite food co-op is “well, I am starting to understand why they drink all the time in Russia.”

russian park

Laugh as I may when sharing my observation, I have been thinking back upon my time in Vladivostok.


Vladivostok is a sea city. It’s a big city with about 5 million people getting through life in the commotion of it’s city boarders. The city is next to the sea. Because of the proximity to fresh water, many fish are sold at markets, or even on street corners heaped upon a pallet.


One dear sight to me was on Saturdays when a man would come to the orphanage with a black gym bag packed with presumably fresh fish to sell to the nurses on duty.

The city of Vladivostok is many things other than just a sea city: It’s cosmopolitan in part, and impoverished in part, and it’s also very sad.


The parks in Vlad confirm this. I do believe that I took these pictures on a random weekday afternoon. Drinking in the parks during daylight hours is common as it is even on a bus or sidewalk or in a grocery store.


Sunlight is strained and smiles are seldom, but there are still so many beautiful faces.



Sunny skies and the beginning of fresh growth can’t solve all problems.

beer and plant

However, it’s one heck of a good jump-start into positivity and production. I wish to the moon for sunlight and the freshness of spring brightness in both Russia and here, in the Midwestern states.

Hooligans and Shenanigans

By: Colleen


I was woken by the sound of voices, a group of boisterous male voices, outside my window.  I blearily groped around the windowsill next to my bed, searching for my cell phone to check the time.  3:30 am? What the heck? The voices grew louder.  “Okay guys, let’s keep this short and sweet.  Just verses one and three..,”  Promptly a chorus of male voices began to sing  the popular Irish tune, “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?”  And true to form, they sang verses one and three.  The harmonizing and pure volume of the song informed me that this was no random group of college boys.  Theses were the Stillwater Hobos.

The University of Dallas is no ordinary place.  As a Catholic, liberal arts school, it is dominated by children from huge, Irish Catholic families.  Being one of nine from a family that is Irish to the hilt is nothing unique for me anymore.  And I am now only one out of at least three Colleens at the school.  In any case, the Irish heritage is much celebrated here, and especially through song.  Every Friday night, there is an open invitation to any and all to head out to the woods near campus for a rosary, campfire, and good ole Irish folk tunes.  From this tradition, a group of boys formed their own group, The Stillwater Hobos, and play on the streets of Ashville, NC all summer long.

And so, I found it hard to be annoyed as the boys belted out their two verses and ran off into the underbrush.  The campus security officers were hot in pursuit of the 3 am trouble-makers, and I smiled sleepily as I heard the scuffling and muffled shouts of “This way!” and “No! This way!”  They’re just carrying on an old tradition of Irish shenanigans   And I may not be out there, jumping in rosebushes and hiding from authorities   But there is a little part of me that will always want to.


Sunlight and Forsythia

by Kate

In this grey stone city, the forsythia has burst forth into belated flame.


It’s difficult to trust the thaw after such a slow and frozen spring, but if the peach blossoms can open to the new warmth so can I.

branch and blossom, garden, pittsburgh

Goodbye, socks. Hello, swing.

baby swing arsenal park

Hello, sun. So good to see you again.

sunglasses 2013

Thank goodness we can leave the huge heaps of coats and sweaters at home when we head out into the city.

exploring the city pittsburgh

The sunlight opens wide the great world outside our tiny home. I can’t wait to explore it.

red doors heinz chapel pittsburgh



Slow Spring

By: Mary

Though this is just a mason jar filled with last fall’s jam:


to me- it a vessel filled with the sweetness of summertime. Since making jam last September and October, the supply has slowly been consumed with the exception of one jar that I held on to. That is, until the other night when I used it as a substitute in a blackberry cobbler that my niece requested for her First Communion party.

I don’t usually hoard jam. The problem is that after 6 month of winter I am reluctant to believe that soon enough I will have fresh produce and fruit to use again.

I know I believe in God, and the Blessed Mother, and heaven and hell…. but I am not so sure I believe in spring anymore! This week has brought on more snow and ice. It’s less than amusing to be having to use windshield wipers to clear off snow and heat my car to thaw off the ice that coats it on early Ridge mornings. On Thursday I went to Tractor Supply to pickup more pellets for my pellet stove and was told they were out of them. What the heck? Hello we are still in the midst of a 6 month winter…. I say that with snappy assurance after having been on a long Saturday run with a winter stocking cap on my head this very afternoon.

This morning I showed my god-daughter how to make flowers out of egg cartons while Clare finished off the rest of the jam with some pancakes.


The jam is gone and egg carton flowers are this spring’s April substitute for fresh blooms.

But next month…

spring green

Might just be a good time for daffodils and apple blossoms



and kites


and dabbling with sheep


and coveting how adorable they are as lambs,


and of course, digging in the garden and fields.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALife will bloom soon enough under sunny spring rays,


but until then I’m hoping the Tractor Supply will keep getting shipments of wood-burning pellets, because this is one slow spring.

Anthropologie: Mary Style

By Mary

Anthropologie embraces a shabby-chic-country feel inspired with an edge of urban elegance in its line of merchandise, which offers both household and fashion selections. My sister, Kate, was the one who introduced me to their retail chain. Due to living in a more remote location, I’ve never ever seen an actual store with the exception of walking past one Anthropologie storefront in New York City with Colleen last winter.

dress anthro

Obviously seeing a window display that included the same packaging that I use to sell blackberries, plums, and raspberries provided a moment of snide amusement between my little sister and I.


While in Pittsburgh recently, I had the opportunity to actually browse an Anthropology store, and it was an enjoyable experience. The store in itself is a beautiful retail space, and the salespeople couldn’t have been more accommodating to Kate and I as we perused the store in a state of curious merriment that included multitasking when wrangling the energetic Olympia, and distracting Francisco whose main interest seems to be seeking out food at this point in life. This applies to not only when with his mom, but also when within range of anything that he can put his mouth around and chew.

marystuff 065

While I enjoyed the artistic aesthetics of the store, my reflection of their offerings can be summed up in a nutshell, or should I say: an egg carton.

marystuff 047

At Anthropologie they sell ceramic egg cartons that are cute and useless. In my own life, I tear up egg cartons on a daily basis to start my fire. The cartons don’t look cute, but man, are they ever useful in the midst of soot and a cold floor.


The life I lead is not cleanly polished like the effortless presentation that Anthropologie offers. However, I do feel that I am surrounded in beauty, and that I can capture the same quaint glamour that the store markets. This comes from thrift store finds and creating similar styles with my own two hands. This can all be done at a fraction of the prices they set, and with limited materials. All one really needs is an eye for beauty and a heart with appreciation for its goodness, along with an artistic imagination.

Here are a few of my own Anthropologie-like innovations:

These Anthropologie headbands are about $30 worth of fun color and flair.

haedband, anthro

Here we have one of the headbands that I recently made with a bit of elastic and 2 ends of scrap left over from a quilt that Mom and I made for the newest niece.


Anthropologie has great bags. But I do too! And it’s all because I couldn’t bear to part with an ancient piece of fabric that inspired me to find a new purpose for it. I love that this purse has a modern edge to it with the link chain and offers lots of pocket space. Vintage cloth is such fun to find use for!


Anthropologie displayed a lovely rack of aprons when I was in the store.

marystuff 051

But none of them are as interesting to me as this most recent one:


This apron came from a design that I got off of Etsy. The reason I took an interest in the pattern is because it is reversible.


It is so nice to be able to support an entrepreneur by purchasing their design and being able to reuse the pattern as much as desired. I like spending next to nothing on fabric which is something that I tend to collect and love to mix and match as I please once a thought comes to mind.

Much like my two sided apron, I strive to be versatile.  Versatility paired with simple artistic beauty is a needed impression of inspiration, but to each their own. As for myself, well, I am more inclined towards creating it as my own. Olympia however may disagree. That 2-year- old niece of mine was starstruck by a rather lovey hair clip when at the Anthropology store. Oddly enough, the turquoise and beaded accessory ended up coming out of her little pink jacket pocket a few days after having left the store. I am sure she and her Mama will be returning the clip, and perhaps when she is a little older I can teach her how to make her own accessories.

To read more of Kate’s Anthropologie posts:

anthropologie, slatterie style

Inspiration, Expectation: Anthropologie, Spring 2012