Tag Archives: friends

Happy Campers

By: Colleen


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).


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.

sunset two sunset clare

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


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.


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.

Creek Jumpin’

by Colleen

While Kate may have been busy with her sophisticated city adventures, I was busy showing my friends a good time in the country. Once the snow melted and we had all already tromped a few miles up and up and eventually down the hills surrounding our home in Middle Ridge, WI, it was time to come up with something more daring to do. And so I proposed the idea of a little Polar Bear Swim in the creek. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my Southern friends, but to my happy surprise they did not look at me like I was a crazy idiot and walk away shaking their heads. “Haha, suckers,” I thought to myself. “You don’t know what you’ve been swindled into.”

What we had in store were the icy waters of Coon Creek, the little swimming hole which my family has populated every summer for as long as I can remember. Spring fed with a surprisingly strong current, the deep green waters have chilled me on even the hottest summer days. Luckily, I was the only one with this knowledge, and not wanting to scare my friends off, I kept it that way. And so, on a sunny but brisk 35 degree day, we made the ten mile drive down to Coon Valley and to the creek.

The troops and I made the walk down the path to the creekside.

Layers were shed.

And consultations about the the intelligence of this move were made.

“Okay guys, now how the heck are we gonna do this??”  Selena, Hermes, and Killian, weaklings all, were worried about the rocks.  Pffffttt, come on!  There was no choice but a heroic leap.  And so we all lined up for the Olympian feat.

Too impatient to listen to their dither, I ran on headlong and leapt into the icy waters, followed closely by the rest.

And it was cold, oh so very cold.  To my utter humiliation, it was noted by everyone that I screamed loudest upon breaking surface.  Texas-what have you done to my Midwestern toughness??  But to climb out of the water was amazing.  The cold penetrated everything but in a way, I was the most awake and alive then I’d ever been.  From my purple feet to my blue lips, I tingled and shook.  And it was lovely.  I looked into the pale noonday sun and just smiled with joy.

I was so proud of my friends, each of which fared as well or better than I in our creek jumpin’ excursion.  To finally find people as crazy as me, what a blessing!  I think I have the toughest Southern friends ever.  And I think that maybe, just maybe, next time I’ll take them to the creek when it’s oh, say 50 degrees?, hotter.  But I don’t think it will be nearly the same.

Learning from the Land Baroness

By Mary

Looking at the header on this blog, you may note that there are a more than just the Slattery sister’ gracing the top of grain bin on Kate’s glorious late June wedding day. The maid in the hot pink dress is Emily Menn. Emily was Kate’s Maid of Honor, and is the older sister of our Sister-In-Law, Aurora. Emily was educated as a lawyer but in more recent times has found herself owning 8 rental properties in Troy, New York. All of her property was constructed in Victorian times. Some apartments were once huge brownstone private family homes. One was built for use as a coach house, another was made to be filled with nuns as a convent. Each have an individual story behind them. The 54 tenants that rent from Em might refer to her as a landlady. Personally, I like to call her a land baroness.

For months I have known that I needed to take time away, and go out into the world. Time and distance away from the quiet frozen ground back home has been a much needed desire. In October or November, Emily and I started co-conspiring for me to come to Troy to vacation, or as I like to approach it, work-cation. A few months have passed since the conspiring to take the trip north on the train was presented, and I am happy to report that I have taken the opportunity to come to New York and keep up with Emily’s workaholic stride.

One of the big focuses while I am here is to completely caulk, plaster and paint a large three bedroom apartment. With the past history as my carpenter brother’s semi-useful assistant, I am really enjoying my time learning home improvement skills. There is nothing like a knife, drill, caulk gun, and a bucket full of tools to make a woman feel useful!

Most days are filled with paint splatters and caulk. Some days have a different twist though- such as on a  recent Saturday. After spending the morning craning my neck sanding down a ceiling , Em and I headed 2 blocks down the street to a rental property. Our task at the apartment there had nothing to do with home improvement skills. Nope. The job there was to attempt to bag and discard of whatever we could. The former occupants had moved out of the house in a hurry. This could have had something to do with a team of US Marshal’s breaking down the door to look for the husband who was on the run due to involvement in illegal sales of certain substances. The past occupants of the apartment left behind 2 floors of things. The most humorous finds of the cleanup effort were very different from each other. The first find was a tiny scale that we could say was,uh, a marketing scale. The other find was the collapsed remnants of a baby grand piano in a dark scary corner. Ah, the exciting life of a Property Baroness!

When Emily I are not working , sleeping , watching wretched reality tv, or eating (we haven’t wasted the time to turn on burners, so coffee, cereal, ice cream, and microwaved marshmallows are our main substance), we have been known to change our clothes and self renovate.

Dressing up and going out for the evening are a rare occasion. More likely than not, my days have been filled with the goodness of busy pleasing labor, and little outside conversation with the exception of the guys on Emily’s payroll who tend to the electrical and craftsman tasks.

Recently, Em and I have gone thru a phase of watching reality tv on netflix at night. It’s fun to do while Emily keeps herself busy making a chandelier, and I have thrown myself into a fixation of making copious amounts of jewelry thanks to a bead gallery down the street feeding into my jewelry addiction. The two of us have watched so many episodes of Say Yes To The Dress, that I never want to see a white dress again. Our newest reality tv show marathon has been keeping up with the clicky tattoo artists on LA Ink. I giggle as I watch the trendy culture displayed and copy the “rad” way the washed out Cali stars talk. My joke is that I am going to go home speaking like the stars of the show from the East Coast.

That’s hardly likely. For no matter where I am- at heart I’m a mid-western girl. Whether climbing up Sioux grain bins, or on top of a ladder, or standing on 3 inch heels, my roots are within the Wisconsin earth, and so are Em’s. It’s a special gift to share this time and laughter with a kindred sister from the Badger state.

The Winter Cotillion

by Colleen

I am not the dancer of the family.  While Kate can bellydance like no other, and Clare can catch on to dance moves crazy fast, I got put in the front row of show choir because I smile.  After weeks of practice I would finally realize that at this point in the song you go-wait! let me think, let me think-oh yes, left, and next you go right.  Suffice to say, I had everything down by the performance, but it really was my stage presence and ever beaming face that got the judges to like me.

And so when the Winter Cotillion rolled around this past Saturday, I was not to hopeful about my chances of dancing.  The Cotillion is an annual tradition here, complete with six classical dances and dance cards for the ladies.  I knew only the waltz (barely) and the swing as I walked into the room on my smallest heels (which still got me to about 6 feet in height).  Somehow I knew that I wasn’t going to find a plethora of willing partners.  But, I felt better standing next to my friend, Katie.

And of course, we had to get a picture in with our friend, Meghan, fellow cross country runner and tall girl.

I eventually did ditch my heels, and hit the dance floor.  Somehow I found at least three guy friends (none of whom actually knew how to dance either) taller than me, and of course the ever-faithful Killian to go out there with me.  The people who did know how to dance were magnificent, and the ones who didn’t were just as fun.

It was a night filled with laughter and  music.  I may not have had a full dance card by the end of the night, but I did come away with a new appreciation for the waltz and tango and a new sympathy for the girls of Jane Austen’s time.  It was truly a night to remember.

Dancing in Dallas

by Colleen

Last Saturday night, the first semi-formal dance of the year was held here at UD.  It was in celebration of the end of a thing called Charity Week here, a week filled with Princess Bride (the theme of the week) references  because of course, everyone here is awesome and knows the script verbatim.  Seriously.  My history professor has quoted it more than once in class.  If you haven’t seen it, do it now.

Anyway, I wasn’t quite sure if I even was going until the night of the dance.  My family (ie, Cale and Mary) had come to visit for the weekend, and I was not going to miss hanging out with them if I could help it.  Luckily, they didn’t have any plans for the night, so I threw on a black dress (compliments of my sister-in-law, Aurora), let down my hair, and headed out to the dance with my trusty sidekicks, Emma and Killian.

This picture brings up the issue of height that I’ve been having here in college.  Simply put, there is a startling lack of tall people here-specifically guys.  A couple of weeks ago, I asked Clare what I should write a a blog post about.  Her answer was: guys.  The fact is, there really aren’t enough guys here that live up to my standard of being at least (come on, please!) an inch taller than me.  College was quite the culture shock in this aspect.

But, I’m done with that tangent for now.  The dance was a success at least.  Guys or no guys.  They played “Cotton-eyed Joe”, the ultimate Slattery dance song, and I danced until my feet hurt, looking like the Irish, country bumpkin that I am.  I returned back to my dorm that night happy to have gone, feet aching pleasantly, and eyes heavy with sleep.  But then again, this IS college.  When am I not tired?

Until later, everyone.  I have a paper to write!

A Sunday Adventure

The Slattery family usually spends Sundays with a big meal with the whole family crowded around the table, followed by a special recreation that it seems each person has to celebrate the special day of the week reserved for rest. But this Sunday, the Slattery family packed up kids and food alike, to spend the day at a family friends’ house for a little get-together. It took at least 45 minutes of complete chaos to figure out who was going with who, and who’s going to take what dish we prepared, but eventually we got on our way. I, Clare, of course, was stuck going with Mom and Dad because there was “no room with the big kids for me”, which I was none too happy about, and poor Raph and James had gone to a separate mass and were left behind because of some miscommunication.

The Kinsmans have been friends with out dad since college, so we’ve certainly seen them before, but I can barely remember the one time I’ve been to their house. Mom would always come home from visiting gushing about their gardens and house, so I was very curious as to what their house would be like. It looks pretty average from the front.

But not so average from the back…

We all went ahead and helped ourselves to some delicious food from the kitchen.

We all ate our dinner on the magnificent shaded porch at the back of the house.

Following the meal, we were free to do whatever. Some took time to relax.

I myself went to explore the grounds. There were quite a few pretty flowers and a beautiful fountain. I just love fountains. Too bad this fountain didn’t have the water running.

They also had a pond, which Adeline had been very excited to swim in. She was quite disappointed when she learned it was too scummy for swimming. She had even come all prepared, wearing her swimsuit instead of clothes. She wears her swimsuit quite a lot.

All good things must come to an end, and after a few hours, it was time to head home, stuffed to the brim and content.

What did you do this Sunday?

Sunday at Sparta Farm

by Kate

When I was growing up, my family visited Amish friends once a month or so. These days, my Dad spends more time than ever with his Amish brethren. The Organic Valley vegetable co-op is full of Amish families, so Dad has lots of business meetings in Amish kitchens and backyards. He has always loved the simplicity and order of the Amish lifestyle, and in fact when he picked me up on my visit home last month we made a pit stop to watch a family with 16 children (at least) packaging asparagus in bare feet on a cold June afternoon. I loved visiting our Amish friends and climbing the haymow, riding horses and galloping through the pasture, trying to ride cows now and then. I have no idea how close the nearest Amish settlements are here in Pennsylania, but we are lucky in that we do have very good friends on a farm an hour and a half outside of Pittsburgh. Although they are not Amish, they do have a beautiful (and very erudite) outhouse.

I met my friend Rebecca long ago at Ave Maria College in Michigan. It was her first teaching job out of grad school. The first day I met her she was dressed in chic impeccable black with sleek short bottle blond hair. She held out a hand with manicured blood red nails and announced that she understood my desire to be a farmer and a philosopher. I secretly scoffed, having trouble imagining anyone so sophisticated and manicured being a real farmer. I was wrong. It turned out she grew up with back to the lander parents like mine, with similar interludes without running water. Today, Rebecca teaches Literature and Philosophy at the University of Steubenville and runs a full scale organic farm on her parent’s land along with her husband Brendan and her two (and a half!) children. Here they are, contemplating their bright future. Ha.

Luckily for me, her parent’s farm is only an hour and a half from Pittsburgh- perfect for a Sunday afternoon visit. This past Sunday was hot and humid and beautiful- a gorgeous day to be out on the farm.

The front porch is very reminiscent of the Slattery farm- broom, garlic, scales, beat up boards and all.

If the garlic looks familiar, it is in fact originally Pat Slattery garlic from my Dad. He has been cultivating a variety for years that is huge and flavorful at the same time. Amazing stuff. Rebecca had lots of it drying on the porch.

She and Brendan have done incredible work farming together. This year they built a greenhouse, which allowed them to expand their growing season and production.

They also have really beautiful children. I love this shot of Avila, looking like a little farmer princess.

We brought a drum full of castanets, tambourine, rattles, and a plastic trumpet as a present for the kids, who loved it. I figure they can use it in out at the farm and then when the winter comes Rebecca can hide the noisemakers so she doesn’t go insane.

It was a lovely afternoon. We had beer and brats on the cool shaded porch. In fact, a super secret family recipe for Sheboygan beer brats is coming to this blog soon. I was able to document my 92 year old Grandmother making a batch during my Wisconsin visit this summer. During our Sunday visit I tried the recipe myself for the first time.

After the beer and the brats and all the fresh organic produce we could eat, we headed down to the field where Brendan and Rebecca have set up a stock tank swimming pool for the kids. The cold water was perfect on a hot day.

 We left in the twilight and drove the long hour and a half back towards town. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon to spend visiting.