ordinary… mostly

"We have nothing to offer each other, except a haven." — K. Nafziger



Ornaments of joy

You may have your color-coordinated Christmas tree with classy ornaments. Not us. These are our favorites…

Continue reading “Ornaments of joy”

Jonas 2016 – the wrap-up

Well… Jonas came and Jonas went. He didn’t exceed expectations, but he didn’t really disappoint, either.

It’s hard to say how much snow we received. When I measured the depth yesterday morning, we were at 17″. But as the snow kept falling, it was clear that it was packing down. In the end, we probably got the two feet that we were supposed to get, but maybe¬†not as much as some locations to the northeast.

Continue reading “Jonas 2016 – the wrap-up”

Jonas 2016 – Here we go!

We’re only minutes away from our first snowflake! ūüôā

Something snowy this way comes!

And apparently, we’re calling this storm ‘Jonas’.

Continue reading “Jonas 2016 – Here we go!”

New Year’s Eve at Starrywood

Hello from Starrywood! It’s New Year’s Eve, and we’ve got crazy warm weather.

It’s my first blog post from Harrisonburg, Virginia, so here’s today’s¬†beauty from our new home.

March 12, 2014
Menno desserts

The Ordinary Family is feeling all Mennonite-ish tonight. Middle Daughter made carrot cookies from the “Simply in Season” cookbook. And Stella (the Mennonite convention dove) stopped by for a visit.

January 22, 2014
Icy window

Snow yesterday. Cold today.

Saying good-bye

(In which we get emotional and anthropomorphize our van.)

After nine years and 150,000 miles, we are saying good-bye to our van…

Our last photoIt joined our family in 2004 when there were only four of us, and the next year it took us to North Carolina.

And in a symmetric (and poetic) twist that only a scientist could love, the van took us to North Carolina a second time – a year before this good-bye. In between, we picked up a third passenger for the back seat.

The van was photographed quite a bit through the years. Interestingly, it was the occupants of the back seats that took the most pictures…

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Farewell, faithful van! Maybe you’ll be reincarnated as a future vehicle of ours somewhere down the road.


Here comes the fair!

Westmoreland Fair Banner

The end of the summer is here, and the Westmoreland County Fair has arrived right on schedule!

Westmoreland County FairLast year, we visited the fair for the first time shortly after we moved. It was a whole bunch of fun, and we immediately started planning to get more involved this year. At the time, I thought that maybe I should make some marmalade (partly because there was so little competition).

Fast forward a few months… Frequent readers may remember that I worked on pink grapefruit marmalade back in December.¬†Also, the girls got involved in 4-H, and started working on sewing, baking, gardening, and art projects. And Ordinary Spouse came out of fair-entry-retirement*, and decided to work on a few sewing and baking projects.

* Here is a major side note… Ordinary Spouse was a professional fair entrant as a child. Check out her ribbons from back then…

All of OS's fair ribbons!

I’m guessing that other 4-H members saw that she was entered in the same category and immediately ran up the white flag in surrender.

Ok… the major side note is done. ūüôā

All of our work reached its culmination yesterday. We woke up early to put the finishing touches on a total of seventeen fair entries:

  • Ordinary Spouse – a dress, a loaf of bread, and cinnamon rolls
  • Oldest Daughter – a blouse/culottes outfit (2 entries), a watercolor painting, and blackberry jam
  • Middle Daughter – flower arrangements (3 entries), a multimedia painting, cornbread, and stuffed animals
  • Youngest Daughter – a flower arrangement, a painted wooden fish, and pumpkin muffins
  • o(m) – pink grapefruit marmalade

Some scenes from the day…

Starting work on fair entries at 7 a.m. Get the coffee brewing!
Reading the rules
Oldest Daughter looks over the rules before putting finishing touches on her work
Kitchen counter
The kitchen is ready for baking
Get the dough rising!
Prepping the cinnamon rolls
Making cinnamon rolls. Note how they even get weighed.
Finished cinnamon rolls
Finished cinnamon rolls
Making pumkin muffins
Youngest Daughter making pumpkin muffins
Arranging flowers
Middle Daughter arranging flowers
Messy counter
By the end of the day, the kitchen was a mess

And here are the finished entries!

We had a four-hour window to drop things off yesterday afternoon…

Dropping off fair entries
The lines to submit fair entries

The judging happens this morning (I think), and we’ll go back to see how we did tonight when the fair officially opens. (Ordinary Spouse noted that there was only one other marmalade entered in my category, so maybe I have some hope!)

In the meantime, here are some things we can look forward to…

The midway
The midway – home of motion sickness
Fried food
Fried food heaven… or is it hell?

Stay tuned for more fair reporting!

Where has the summer gone?

My last blog update was on June 21st – the first day of summer. And now we’re in August, and it feels like summer is over. One wonders how July slipped away (Answer: Summer camps mean long work hours and little time for much else.) and why it feels like Summer is over¬†(Answer: The summer camp staff have left and the weather is oddly cool. More on that below.).

Nevertheless, I have collected some pictures and other tidbits since that last post, so here’s a look back.

Weather: late June

In the Laurel Highlands, June was washed away by rains. This was the waterfall on Jacob’s Creek on June 26th:

Jacob's Creek waterfall, June 26thIt hasn’t been that high since Sandy rolled through here last fall. Then the late-June wetness gave way to early July oppressiveness…

Weather: early July

Many of you in the eastern United States may remember the beastly weather about a month ago. This was the source of our discomfort:

Jetstream - July 3, 2013This jet stream map (from the California Regional Weather Server at San Francisco State University) shows a big ‘U’ shape in the center of the country. Winds swept down from Canada over the western states, made a U-turn through Texas, and then brought heat and humidity north from the Gulf of Mexico. From the perspective of those of us in western Pennsylvania, this pattern stayed in place for roughly ten days from June 28 until July 8. Ugh.

Weather: late July

But what a difference a month can make. Who would have thought that we could make it through the last week of July and first week of August without getting into the 80s? This was the forecast on July 24th:

Weather forecast, July 24thNow I’m looking ahead, and we still don’t have any 80s in the picture through August 10th. For someone who doesn’t really like summer all that much, this is great!


Of course, we always love the forest creatures around here. We’ll start with moths…

The cecropia, imperial, and sphinx moths caught my attention because they were big. And the rosy maple moth looks as if it were colored to indicate that it’s radioactive.

We’ve had two photo-ops with dragonflies. Middle Daughter snapped this awesome close-up of a green darner (I think) on her finger.

Green darnerAnd I captured this twelve-spotted skimmer in our backyard.

Twelve-spotted skimmerAnd then we’ve got a random assortment of other animals: Middle Daughter’s hissing cockroach molted; some baby phoebes showed up; a prionus beetle was looking for some wood to chew on; a crayfish wandered away from its stream; and our cat wanted to go back to school.


And what would this update be without throwing in some plants? Middle Daughter has been raising sunflowers for the Westmoreland County Fair.

The rhododendron bloomed…

Rhododendron blossomAnd the promise of green and red berries turn into the yumminess of blackberry pie. (Thanks, Ordinary Spouse!)

July fun

Not everything was work in July. We had a reunion with our small group from Illinois…

Small group…and another one with my father’s siblings and their families. The family reunion was followed by the traditional “It’s all downhill from here!” bike excursion on the Great Allegheny Passage. My father and his brothers start at Deal (essentially at the continental divide, so it really is all downhill) and ride to Cumberland. This is the second time I’ve tagged along.

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(The slideshow includes pictures of the Deal (“It’s all downhill from here!”) access point; the riders; me at the Mason-Dixon Line; my flat tire; Mile 0; and lunch at the Crabby Pig.)

Random pictures for grandparents

Since grandparents love pictures of their grandchildren, these are thrown in for fun.

(Middle Daughter spent a week at Grandma and Grandpa’s house; underwater pictures of Oldest Daughter and Middle Daughter with MD’s camera; Youngest Daughter came home with quite the prize from the library.)

And so the sun sets on another summer at Laurelville. It’s time for a rest.

Sunset past the Dining Hall

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