Encountering dangerous animals out on the trails

I stumbled upon a good article on Flotography, a new-to-me blog on running written by a photographer/designer – fun because it touches on several of my interests! He wrote about what to do if you’re bitten by a venomous snake while out on the trails.

On VenomByte, you can look up venomous snakes and spiders by state to view information and photos of the varieties specific to your area. Luckily, we have few here in Maryland but in the south and midwest they look to be much more common.

It seems like there is a lot of conflicting and misinformation out there on how to handle bites in the wild, but the most important suggestion is to get yourself to medical help as soon as possible – don’t waste time trying anything else.

For this and other safety concerns, REI offers two day Wilderness First Aid classes at their stores. C was asking about what to do out on the trails in an emergency recently, and I found out that the Scouts offer a training as well that I will look into for him when he’s older (Scouts need to be at least 14). In the mean time, there are plenty of books and information online!

If you’re planning to spend considerable time outdoors, consider the SAS Survival Guide – it covers every emergency situation I could come up with and then some!

 

Hiking and treasure hunting

At the beginning of the week, I wasn’t able to go on my usual run while C ran trails with the Mighty Milers. It was a day of cardio flare ups so I did the smart thing and opted for hiking despite how much I wanted to run. It was a cool, misty day and I’m just glad I didn’t have to miss out entirely! SFG and I walked and talked about soap making and geocaching and generally enjoyed being able to get outdoors. C had a great four mile run, finishing strong up the last big hill with his running BFF to meet us again. I’m incredibly proud of how hard he pushes, particularly during the more difficult runs. We’ve had a lot of talks lately about how this is good practice for perseverance in all aspects of life. Running is so much more than just the act of running itself.

C did his cool down stretches and chatted with friends, climbing up hills of dirt near the trail head, and eating edible mustard flowers. It really felt like a perfect evening. After that, we went to a nearby cache. Parks and trails are perfect places for geocaching! C quickly found the cache and dropped in his first travel bug, which was pretty exciting – I keep checking my email for log updates! Hopefully another cacher will pick it up very soon. C wants to see how far around the world it can go…

This park in particular, Oregon Ridge, has a few ruins and historical sites on its grounds…a house from the 1850s and remnants of stone walls. It is a really pretty, peaceful park in general and I’ve found myself thinking of it a lot while sitting in my office. It is tough to sit in the office knowing that very close by, there is a such a serene place to escape to!

 

Maryland Geocaching

 

Oregon Ridge Park Maryland

First attempt at cheddar, and learning where we failed.

Last night, we picked up our aging cheddar to see if there were any changes. This cheddar was scheduled to be ready in mid-June, but unfortunately we discovered a good amount of dark colored mold had grown under the wax. It looks like our wax application wasn’t correct – not only was it very thin compared to store bought cheese, but a large crack had formed around the top edge of the cheese wheel. We peeled off the wax and broke the cheese in half to see what the progress looked like otherwise. Other than the mold, the cheese looked great and it smelled amazing! I was so sad to have to throw it away after waiting so long and having it otherwise come out well.

We have some more cheddar culture left and will give it another try this weekend, putting some research into wax application and storage before then. Our cheese making journey will continue!

 

Race Review: Roar for Kids 5k at Kennedy Krieger Institute

This is a special edition of Race Review because it is the first 5k that C ran by himself! C has been training with the Mighty Milers, a local rec team, and all three of us love the group. The coaches are friendly and encouraging and C has made some new running buddies. It has been a perfect mix of socializing and exercise for him, and SFG and I get to run during the practices too. This race was the first of three races that all of the Mighty Milers are running in this spring season.

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C did so well running by himself! He came in with a time of 37:17.9 – right about where we predicted for his first solo 5k.

In addition to the 5k itself, there was a family festival that followed the race and offered lots of games, healthy food giveaways from Wegman’s, and food trucks. The race site is a favorite park of ours already and it has a huge playground. There was also a mascot race with our Baltimore Ravens and Orioles mascots participating, but unfortunately we did not stay for this due to the poor weather that day.

 

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The race benefits Kennedy Krieger, a local organization that treats children and young adults with developmental disabilities and brain disorders – definitely a worthy cause that we are happy to support! Kennedy Krieger has many different options for supporting their organization throughout the year. Check out their event calendar!

 

 

We found our first geocaching treasure!

Earlier this week, we embarked on our first real attempt at geocaching! We used the Geocaching App for iPhone and found that our area has a plethora of caches waiting to be found.

Geocaching is a fun hobby to take up because it combines time with family and friends with exercise (walking/hiking) and of course, the thrill of finding “treasure” once you locate a cache. On the Geocaching App, locations are rated for difficulty, terrain, and size of the cache to help you choose where to begin your search.

While out with our son we stick to safe terrain in familiar areas, but I’d love to search for some of the caches in abandoned buildings sometime. I used to be heavily into urban exploration for photographic purposes, but being so busy it has been pushed to the back burner for quite awhile (plus I get to go in steam tunnels and things for work now!).

On this venture out, we started at one cache very close to home but weren’t successful. Someone who found it just a few days earlier said it was in plain sight, but the area was freshly mulched and mowed, so I wonder if it got picked up or otherwise misplaced by the landscaping service.

We decided to try for one more nearby cache, as the sun was starting to set. We hiked a bit on a rocky path in a wooded area, and lo and behold, buried under rocks…

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C wrote our names in the log and we looked at the goodies left in the cache, discussing what sort of things we can carry around to leave in future finds. This one had a small Halloween card, a pegasus, a BandAid, and three cute Halloween erasers.

 

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We also placed an order on Geocaching.com for a tracking bug to drop into a future found cache. C is working on setting a goal for the bug and its travels and the location can be tracked on Geocaching as each bug gets its own page where others who find it can add to the log.

Have you tried geocaching? Leave me a comment below about your adventures!

 

Plant Nite for O’s Birthday!

For my sister’s birthday, we tried out the new Plant Nite event – same idea as the Paint Nites at local bars and restaurants, but for making terrariums! Our Plant Nite event was hosted by Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop in the Little Italy area of downtown Baltimore. Vaccaro’s is on two levels and was really busy on the Sunday afternoon of our visit. The desserts in the cases looked amazing!

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Plant Nite was held on the upper level, where rows of tables were set up for us dotted with containers of brightly colored sand and pebbles. We were given aprons to wear before getting started. The instructor led us through each step of building our terrarium, so it is very beginner friendly if you haven’t made one before or you aren’t particularly crafty!

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Vaccaro’s had drink and food specials for

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Plant Nite Baltimore

After we finished our plant arrangements, we went to ZAATAR Mediterranean Cuisine for dinner. We had falafel, chicken shawarma, baba ganoush, and chicken kabobs – all of which was delicious. The restaurant itself was very relaxed, peaceful, and the service was excellent too. This is definitely a place to check out if you’re in the area; I’m eager to go back soon!

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March Planetarium Show – Pluto/New Horizons

Last Friday,  we went to Towson University’s monthly planetarium show. Each month has a different theme that the head of the Astronomy department lectures on – this time, he discussed updates from the New Horizons mission, which was released in 2006 to collect information about Pluto while passing a few hundred kilometers above the surface of the planet. New Horizons is now on the way to the Kuiper Belt at the very edge of our solar system. It will arrive in about three years. As it travels, it will continue to send us information about Pluto, as the professor explained that data transfer is pretty slow. Pluto has already proven to be different from what astronomers expected!

This portion of the presentation was about Charon, one of Pluto’s moons. We learned that the red spot has been named Mordor, which got a laugh out of the audience.

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We were able to see Jupiter fairly well that night! You could make out the reddish bands on the planet pretty easily. We also viewed the moon, which was extremely bright through the eye piece – you can see it reflecting on C’s glasses in the photo above. We looked at Orion as well. C got to man the controls to the roof of the observatory as the telescope was moved to the different bodies, which he was really excited about. 🙂

If you haven’t been to a planetarium show or had the chance to view the night sky, find one in your area and check it out! In my experience the lectures that are open to the public are very conversational and spoken in plain English – you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy the night sky and learn a lot.

Until next month! 🙂

Recently Read: On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing by Stephen King has been on my TBR list for a few years. I have been a huge fan of his since I read The Shining in middle school. I’ve been sneaking in non-textbook reading time as much as I can in order to finish this one because I’ve loved it so much right from the start.

The first part of the book is autobiographical, beginning with King’s childhood and his very early writing experiences. I found it really interesting to read about his writing in high school and early adulthood, knowing what a prolific author he would later become. King described writing Carrie in a cramped little room with the hopes of making a small sum of money to help support his family. I’ve always looked up to him as such an impressive writer and it was almost reassuring to read that he came from such humble beginnings, working in a laundromat at one point. Sometimes I’m very hard on myself and I feel like it is taking so long to reach goals; it is both comforting and exciting to see hard work (paired with great talent in this case, of course) pay off for someone.

The second part of the book is instructional and King shares a wealth of information on improving one’s writing style. After reading this book, I’ve found myself changing my word choices and sentence structure not just here on my blog, but in business emails at work, while writing papers for school, and even in casual emails and social media posting. I’ve always loved writing but feel like I have better direction now when I sit down to work.

At the end of the book, King lists his recommended reading. There are quite a few good books listed that I’m eager to read and I was excited to see that Harry Potter made the list. 😉

I’ve also taken King’s advice in setting a word goal and writing each day. My current goal is 1,000 words per day in the style of a journal. I’m not writing on any single topic right now because I’m not working on a book, but I do have a few ideas in mind that I think would be benefitted by having more words put on paper (on screen?) to help me better organize my thoughts.

I loved reading this book and was sad when it came to an end. I felt thoroughly absorbed in it while reading, as I always do with his books. That is what I enjoy most about King’s writing style – I immediately get a mental picture of the story and the rest of the world disappears when I read. I become very invested in the characters (which sometimes leads to the emotional devastation I experienced while reading 11.23.63). Because of these reading experiences, I’m eager to take the advice found in the book and work on improving my own writing! I can’t recommend this book enough.

On Writing by Stephen King

I used this adorable Sprout bookmark while reading On Writing. The Sprout was a gift from my sister and I love how cute and happy they are! The package came with several Sprouts that are all shades of vibrant greens and yellows. They don’t fall out of my books at all (though you can put them in the top of the book so the leaves rest on the top of the pages) and have been a cheerful reminder that spring is on the way.

 

The Scouts meet a visually impaired guest speaker

Yesterday we had a special meeting with C’s den. They’ve had several guests in the past, including a firefighter and an astronaut. I love that scouting allows the boys to have access to different people and fields that they probably wouldn’t otherwise.

The guest for this den meeting was a gentleman named Steve who went blind due to a brain tumor that developed when he was about the scouts’ age. The scouts were able to ask questions about Steve’s daily life, how he gets around, and how his service dog assists him.

The scouts had the chance to try Steve’s braille typewriter, and Steve helped them each type their names on a strip that they could take home with them.

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Steve showed the scouts the different ways he utilizes technology for help. I was really impressed with an iPhone app he uses called Be My Eyes, where visually impaired users in need of assistance can place a call via the app to a seeing person. The seeing person can access the visually impaired user’s iPhone camera to see what the person needs help with. Steve said that he’s used the app previously to help with cooking, when the bump indicating a frequently used temperature on his oven fell off and he needed to know where the control was set.

Be My Eyes has a video that explains more about what they do. The app is open source if you’re tech minded and interested in assisting with improvements. Sighted volunteers can sign up through the app to help.

I thought this was such an exciting idea and I’m really happy to share it here. I had no idea such a service existed! Steve and the scouts used the app together and called a sighted volunteer based in Utah, who happened to be an Eagle Scout! They were able to ask questions of the volunteer about his experiences helping – he and his wife both answer calls from the app.

Be My Eyes – helping blind see from Be My Eyes on Vimeo.

I was so proud of our group – the scouts were respectful and asked a lot of thoughtful questions. They also learned how to approach a blind person in public or ask if they need help. They were told to never take a blind person’s arm to guide them, but to instead offer their arm to the blind person to hold onto and allow them to follow. They learned that a service dog is in “work mode” when being led by their harness and they shouldn’t pet or otherwise approach the dog (something I’ve taught C for any dog – ask the owner before approaching!).

I’m so appreciative to the den leaders for arranging Steve’s visit! Opportunities like this are perfect for the scouts to learn more about the different people they will meet as they get older and experience more of the world.

 

Wedding dress musings

After spending entirely too much time browsing designers and shop websites for a wedding dress, I’ve finally made some decisions!

I’m going to go with separates – since our wedding is outdoors in late September, it could be warm and the thought of a heavy dress and thick fabric sounds awful. For my top, I’ve found a few soft black v-neck shirts with three quarter sleeves just by browsing on Amazon. I don’t want a sunburn being outdoors all day so the shoulder coverage will be good (that’s where I usually burn). I was leaning toward a medium gray top at first until I realized that any sweat stains would be highly visible in any other color than black (and captured forever in photos)! I’ll probably order my favorite top sooner rather than later, so there’s plenty of time to return and replace it if it doesn’t work out for some reason. It is a fairly generic piece so I don’t anticipate too much trouble finding such a top that works for me.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to sew my skirt! I’m really excited because I love sewing and haven’t had a chance to work on that for a long time. I’m a big fan of full skirts with interesting gathers and details in the layers. Straight tulle skirts I think are best for shorter skirts for little girls and otherwise look dated on adults in my opinion.

This is a skirt I added to my Wedding Pinterest board (I can’t embed pins for some reason, and a quick Google search told me that many other WordPress users are having the same problem – has anyone figured out a work around?). I’m not sure what the fabric is, but I plan on going and browsing fabric selections in person soon. I’ll have to break out the dress form for draping – can’t wait to use that again! I’m thinking light grays and light mossy greens for the colors of the skirt. I’m a big fan of slate blues as well, but I want to avoid darker colors due to the black top.

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Now that the major dress-related decisions are made, I feel such a weight off of my shoulders. People kept telling me that I was really behind on dress shopping, but as much as I was looking I couldn’t find anything that wow-ed me. At one point, I almost settled on a generic white strapless gown that was on sale, but thankfully didn’t. Even SFG’s mom saw it and said that while it was pretty, it wasn’t me. That’s been the overall consensus on the gowns I’ve been browsing…nothing felt right for me. I want to look back on the photos from our wedding and see us as we truly are, not us dressed up as the stereotypical wedding characters because we felt we “had” to. No one should pick a wedding dress – or anything else, for that matter – based on what current trends or tradition dictate. That’s been the most important part of planning the whole day to me. 🙂

A nerdy bonus? It has already occurred to me that I can pair the skirt with a pretty green corset I have to wear to the renaissance faire this fall after the wedding! 😀