life · through my camera lens

Photo Fun

So this weekend I decided to splurge on me a bit. Typically I spend more money on everyone else in the house, but from time to time I say… I need x, y or z.

So… this weekend we went to Famous Footwear and I got hiking shoes. I’ve been talking about getting shoes for hiking since we moved here last summer and I finally gave in and bought a pair. I got new gym shoes while I was there since I’d worn a hole in the side of my old pair.

My other splurge was a bit more expensive, but totally worth it and time! I ordered a new camera on Amazon. I actually go the same brand and style I’ve had for my last two cameras, just a newer bit more elaborate model. I am a point and shoot photo taker. I have a Panasonic Lumix camera.

So, on Monday when the boys went to there second to last mountain biking class I put on my new hiking shoes and tossed my camera in my backpack. I thought I’d share the photos I had playing around with my new camera

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


family · life

One year ago…

Richard is home! He came home very early yesterday morning. There is something about having everyone back under one roof. Today on my facebook “on this day” feed there was a picture of a ton of empty packing boxes. That was the beginning, one year ago we started packing up our Florida house. We started the adventure, but had little direction on where we were headed.

Last March, we headed up here to Pittsburgh for spring break. We came up to see where Richard would live while we were still in Florida. We came up to see where we would consider looking at houses. It was a hard, yet fun journey. We stayed in downtown Pittsburgh, which is very different from where we now live. We originally were looking in a total different township area than we decided upon. Our real estate person that we were connected to was awesome! She had been sending us links to houses, we were sending her links to houses, and through this process we narrowed it down.

It is strange to try to figure out where you want to live when you have never even been to the area before. When we arrived in Pittsburgh we went through a whirlwind tour of house hunting. We looked at existing homes. This had two issues to it… .one I wasn’t moving here until after the school year. Could we afford two houses until that time? How much work would there be to transform a new house into “our house”? I think I found maybe one that we might have considered as a possibility, but… nope!

We looked at new builds. Richard was building his house when we met. Then we sold that and built the house our sons grew up in. There is something about moving into a house no one has ever lived in. There is something about starting the process from scratch. Picking out every detail and making the house your own. So we found two house plans we really liked the one we purchased and one in another area, that I originally swore we were going to move to.

So how do you pick. How do you pick one over the other?  For me… it came down to what the neighborhood offered for my sons. The house we did not purchase was a smaller neighborhood. It did not have sidewalks. It did not have common play areas. The lots available to purchase were narrower than the one here. One was mostly slopped woods and the other had a retention pond at the bottom of the slope. The neighborhood we picked is the complete opposite of this.

The other draw was things around. The neighborhood we live in is about 3 miles from North Park, this is a county run park with SOOOO many amenities.

One year ago today all we knew was that Richard had a job. That we were packing up the house we had lived in since 2005. That the boys would be starting at a new school. That I would not have a job. That our lives would change and that the packing of these boxes was the start of this process.

No automatic alt text available.

We told the boys… change is hard, but change is good. And this change has been good for us!

food · through my camera lens

Photo Challenge – Sweet… Maple and brown sugar oatmeal cookies


When I saw that this week’s photo challenge topic was “Sweet” I knew I needed to post about the cookies I made yesterday. I typically bake about once a week. Richard takes most of what I bake to work with him. So I get to enjoy baking and his co-workers get a homemade sweet treat. I call that a win-win situation!

We recently purchased a large variety pack of instant oatmeal. Colby often eats this for breakfast before school since it is quick and filling. He heats the water in our Keurig bonus points for this kitchen tool!

So we already had some maple and brown sugar instant oatmeal and then in the variety pack it has more maple and brown sugar than the other flavors. Guess which flavor Colby likes least…. yep exactly. So I decided on a random whim to see if there was a way to bake cookies using the instant oatmeal packets.

I found this recipe which is for apple cinnamon instant oatmeal cookies. I decided to give it a whirl. The only other change I made to the recipe, beside switching the maple and brown sugar oatmeal, was to use only brown sugar not brown sugar and white sugar. I wanted the brown sugar flavor to shine.


Let me tell you this was easy and yummy. Colby decided he really liked these cookies and took some of out of the tin I’d packed for Richard to take to work. Colby wanted to make sure there were some for him to have at home.

The cookies are a nice chewy cookie and the flavor was wasn’t super sweet, but brown sugar forward. I think this would be really good with cinnamon spice or raisin spice oatmeal as well. So if you have extra oatmeal packets laying around, or want to buy some I’d say this recipe is a “go for it” one!


**this post contains associate links. please read my disclosure statement**

family · life · through my camera lens

Weekend update rambles

Happy Tuesday that feels like a Monday! This weekend was fun and busy. We recently No automatic alt text available.purchased Catan. We had been looking at this game since it is often recommended for people who enjoy playing Ticket to Ride. We started the game on Saturday and then put off finishing the game until Monday. This meant that the game lived on my kitchen table all weekend. It worked out since we went out to both lunch and dinner on Sunday.

For lunch we went to Dibella’s, have you figured out yet that we enjoy this sub shop? I actually had a chicken philly salad. This was really good. Even though I ordered it I questioned what it would be like to eat a salad with cooked onions and peppers on it. Let me tell you this was yummy. For dinner we went to Monte Cellos for pizza.

We have been having a ton of different trade people in our house lately. The builder is trying to finish off our list of must fixes from our 60 day walk through that didn’t happen until almost 90s days. We have already had the painter, wood floor guy, heating guy, low voltage install guy. Yesterday the cabinet guy showed up, but we didn’t know they were coming. Then they managed to not have the correct size cabinet doors. Today the electrician, fire place guy, someone to fix my stove top and someone to replace the cracked window.  I’m ready for all this to be done! (I had to stop typing in the middle of this post because other workers came to fill in the caulk on the trim of our slider and scared Dixie because they just showed up on the back steps)

This weekend we saw winter and spring. We had snow. We had rain. Today we should have sun and it’s forecast to get to 74F. I actually have the heat shut off and one window Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, food and indoorin each room opened up. We had to open the windows last night too. Richard was grilling burgers on the grill pan (we don’t have an outside grill yet, it’s on the list!). This set the smoke detectors off. So we opened up the sliders and a ton of windows to try to dissipate the smoke. The boys and the dog were not happy with the smoke detector going off. At least it wasn’t enough to set off the alarm system’s smoke detector and send the fire department!

Colby decided he needed to learn how to form the burgers last night. I love this picture I captured of Colby and Richard working on the burgers. Richard was having Colby put the dent in the middle to help avoid burger bulge.

After dinner, we started a game of Uno. I was saying to Richard that we need to learn some new card games. The nice thing with card games is you can keep them going day after day and still clean up the game and finish another time. We love to play hearts, spades, king in the corner, Uno, Skip-Bo, Phase 10, Uno Hearts, and Monopoly Deal.

Today was hard to get moving. I love having Richard and the boys home on long weekend, but the week always feels off. I never seem to know what day it is. We all struggle to get up and moving on Tuesday. But, at least it’s a short week! Hope you have a great Tuesday that feels like a Monday!

**This post contains product links. Please read my disclosure statement**

family · life

Valentine Box, Monster Jam and Visiting the Mall

Today was a busy fun filled family day. I knew we were going to have brunch and linner today so I made breakfast burritos. They turned out really good. I made a batch of scramblers with ham and cheddar cheese. We then wrapped it in tortillas and baked it in the oven for about 5 min.

After breakfast, we decided to work on Colby’s Valentine box. This will probably be the last box we make. His teacher is running a decorating contest before they give out their valentines. We went back and forth between a few different box decorations and he settled on Cut the Rope.

Then we headed into the city to go see Monster Jam. We went to see Monster Jam many times in Orlando. When we went to Monster Jam in Orlando it took place outside in a football stadium. This time it was inside the PPG Paints Arena which is where the Pittsburgh Penguins play. Needless to say it wasn’t as big of a show. I don’t think we will be back to see it, but if we didn’t know what it was like to see the big shows it probably would have seemed like a lot more fun.

When we were done, we decided to go to Chili’s for dinner. Then went to the mall. We had yet to visit this mall and decided since we were right there we would. Colby didn’t like his meal at Chili’s… I’m not sure I blame him. He ordered kids chicken and pasta and the sauce was spicy. When I was putting it into the to go box we saw pieces of jalapenos. I wonder if they put the wrong sauce on it? So we decided to stop at the food court and he decided to get a burger from Five Guys. Blake ended up getting a hot dog even though he ate his quesadilla at Chili’s.

It was a fun day for the four of us. Now to play a game before bedtime. Hope your Saturday was fun for you as well.

food · through my camera lens

Baking Fail!

I post a lot about the recipes that I cook, but cooking is not my favorite thing to do in the kitchen. Now, don’t get me wrong I enjoy cooking, it’s just not my favorite… Baking now that is my true kitchen love.

Now that I’m a stay-at-home mom again I find myself baking more. Baking is very relaxing to me. I love the chemistry of it. Cooking is creative, but baking taps into the scientific side of my brain. I really wish I could create my own baking recipes, but I don’t know enough about the chemistry of baking to try. I do enjoy tweaking the recipes that I bake.


Right now, as I’m typing this post, I’m waiting for a batch of Cara Cara orange muffins to come out of the oven. I discovered Cara Cara oranges after reading about them in a comment on Maureen Gets Real. I’ve puchased them the last few weeks. This week the bag was on sale for $3.99 or I could buy them individually for 10/$1..,. umm I’ll get the bag! So had Cara Cara oranges to use.


I found a recipe for Cara Cara orange muffins. I was intrigued and decided to try it out. I did make a few changes! I did 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar. I used 1/4 cup cara cara juice and 1/4 cup of cranberry juice. I found this mixture VERY soupy. I went with it and said… we will see what happens.

The muffins smelled yummy while they were baking. When the timer went off, they were obviously not done. I gave them 3 more minutes and they looked so much better at that time.

I was being lazy and didn’t use muffin wrappers… this may have been part of my downfall, but hey that’s what spray in a can is for… right?

When I tried to get the muffins out of the pan they totally fell apart. I knew that batter looked way too wet. So now I have a cooling rack covered in falling apart muffins. They taste… ok. I’m going to wait until the finish cooling and see if they taste better then.


Oh well… a baking fail from time to time keeps you on your toes. Or something like that!

family · life · through my camera lens

Into the kitchen

Over the years I’ve tried to get the boys to help out in the kitchen as much as possible. I have so many pictures of them helping me bake and cook when they were little, but as they got older the interest started to fade.

But, I have insisted that they learn to make certain foods that they like to eat on a regular basis. I feel it is my job to teach them the basics of cooking so that they will be able to cook for themselves as the get older. This is just one of the many things we do to help our sons realize that independence is something you need to work at and strive for.

So, Colby was asking for more Larabars. I took this as an opportunity to teach him to make them on his own. These homemade larabars aka Loribars, are not only yummy but very healthy. He enjoys them as either a breakfast or snack. His favorite flavor is peanut butter chocolate chip.

through my camera lens

Welcome back to the north- your old friends snow and cold

This past weekend we found ourselves hunkered down trying to stay warm. The boys didn’t have school on Friday because of the severe wind chill temperatures. The high on Friday was 9F (-12C), but the wind chill had it as -18F (-27C). Saturday was a bit warmer with the high being a whopping 11F (-11C), but the wind chill wasn’t as severe. Being a family from Florida we choose to stay inside the warm house!

On Sunday we went to the gym and then the grocery store. Typically I go during  the week, but we didn’t have any milk in the house, so if we were stopping for one item might as well shop. Sunday’s high was 27F (-2C), which was a great improvement, but still cold.

IMG_20180108_094333.jpgWhen we woke up yesterday it was already 32F (0C) and it was one of those… wow it’s actually not completely frigid outside! The boys and Richard are shocked at how 32 doesn’t feel super cold anymore now that we’ve had subzero days. We also woke up to a wintery mix or snow, sleet and rain. By the time Richard got to work it was a true snow storm. At 11am I went outside to shovel the driveway. There was a good 2″ of snow on the driveway to shovel. I shoveled before the plow came, this is typically not a good thing to do, but I wanted to stay ahead of the snow since I wasn’t sure how long it was going to snow and at the rate it was snowing I would have been overwhelmed trying to shovel later in the day. When the plow came through our cul de sac the first time he was a goodIMG_20180108_115834.jpg 7-10 feet away from the end of our driveway. Then he was gone. Let me tell you I was cursing. I’d already shoveled 2-3 feet of the street since they never get close to our driveway. Just when I thought I’d have to go out again he came back and did 2 more passes around the circle. I was a much happier camper at this time. I still had to go shovel out the plow pile at the end of the driveway, but that was better than what I thought I had to do.

When I had finished shoveling the driveway the 1st time, I decided I should go toss some more bird seed out for the ground feeding birds and make sure the tray feeders had sunflower seeds for the cardinals and other birds who prefer this to the tube feeder. When I went to step out onto the back deck steps I noticed a strange mark in the snow… look bird prints! Yes, a bird was walking around the deck, guess they were telling me they needed more food?

No automatic alt text available.

The boys were so excited when they came home from school. They wanted to go right out and play in the snow. Mean mom I am made them do their homework first, but they had plenty of time outside too. Ever since the first snow they have wanted to make a snowman. The snow that fell yesterday was perfect snowman snow, but they decided they didn’t want to make one. Oh well… next time? They had a blast outside. They helped a neighbor shovel his driveway, had a snowball fight and were using their snow scooters in the front yard.

I grew up in Massachusetts and lived for a time in Rochester, NY as well. I know snow, I know cold, but that doesn’t mean I am used to this stuff. I lived in Orlando, FL for 17 years. I look back on my Facebook posts of the last 8 years and laugh when I read myself complaining about temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Right now we are excited to see that these temperatures are in the forecast for later this week… a virtual heat wave!


family · through my camera lens

Snow Day

Image may contain: sky, tree, snow, outdoor and nature

It’s a snow day. Those words you long to hear as a child. Waking up and finding out you don’t have school because the world is white and wonderful. Image may contain: one or more people, snow, tree, sky, outdoor and natureImage may contain: house, sky, tree, snow, plant and outdoor

My sons got to experience this today for the first time. Well they originally woke up and heard they had a 2 hour delay, but then the phone call came and school was cancelled.

Today we had our first dose of accumulating snow here in PA. The boys got their first real snow. We had about 4 inches fall over night and then another inch this morning. This was on top of the dusting we got the other day. Image may contain: one or more people, snow, tree, outdoor and nature

Richard and I shoveled the driveway. Then the boys went out and played and played and played. They ran, the fell, they threw snow and went sledding. They got that true dose of being a child in the winter. They played outside for about 2 hours.

Image may contain: one or more people, snow, tree, outdoor and nature


Soergal Orchards

When we moved to Wexford, we looked for a place to go strawberry and blueberry picking. In this search we found Soergal Orchards right here in Wexford. Soergal not only has pick your own, but it also has fresh baked good, farm fresh produce, fresh cider, local/regional specialty items and so much more.

IMG_20171014_110724.jpgThere is so much to see and do at Soergal Orchards on a typical day, but it’s pumpkin time so there is so much more to do!  On weekends in October they have their Fall Festival. We decided to go check this out today. There were carnival style games, hay ride, pony rides and much more. They open up their bbq stand, cider press and bring in additional vendors. This on top of having bins and bins of all types of squash products, pumpkins, gourds, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash and more. They also have a pumpkin patch open to pick your own pumpkins. That is where we headed.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting, child, outdoor and natureImage may contain: 1 person, child and outdoor

The boys each picked out a pumpkin to take home. We will carve them closer to Halloween.

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor and natureImage may contain: 1 person, standing, child and outdoor

We also went and picked a peck of apples from their apple orchard. The boys had never picked apples off a tree before so this was fun for them. Blake ended up picking about 3 apples and Colby picked 7 or so.

Image may contain: 1 person, plant, child, outdoor and natureImage may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and outdoor

We stopped and had BBQ for lunch. This was really good. Colby had a pulled pork sandwich that I wished I had myself. I had “Dirty Mac” which was mac and cheese with pulled pork. I liked the concept, but he mac and cheese was just OK. Blake had a hot dog and Richard had nachos with pork on top.

Before we left we stopped into the store and picked up a gallon of cider, 2 half pies (one apple walnut and the other dutch apple, apple cider donuts, cookies and 2 chocolate covered donuts. We have a lot, but everything we’ve purchased at their bakery in the past we have enjoyed.

We didn’t spend money on any of the games. Each ticket cost $1, some games were 1 ticket and others were 2. It was even more tickets to take the tractor ride up the hill to the pumpkins. I am way too frugal to spend money on things like this.

I’m ready to dig my teeth into the apples we got and use them to make yummy apple treats!  I’m sure there will be at least an apple recipe coming from me soon.

So local friends… check out Soergal Orchards now in the fun fall activities or another time just to get their yummy baked goods. I know I’ll be back!