Monday, July 29, 2013

Steelers Training Camp

This weekend, we went to Steelers Training Camp with my parents. Before the season begins each year, the Steelers, Pittsburgh's professional football team, hold open practices the public can watch. 

It was such a perfect day to be outside---not too hot, with a nice breeze blowing. We arrived early to find a good spot to put our lawn chairs. 

The practices are held at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, about an hour an a half outside Pittsburgh. 

Everyone wore their black and gold, the Steelers colors. Dave, who is actually a Patriots fan, wore black and gold, too---he was just holding on to the hat for my dad. 

Some people lined the fence to try their hand at getting autographs as the players arrived for practice. 

Big Ben, number 7, participating in a practice drill. 

There was lots of action going on in the field. Defensive players wore gold jerseys and practiced on one field while offensive players wore white jerseys and practiced on the other field. 

These neat machines sent the balls up into the air as if they had been kicked to allow players to practice punt returns. When seen in real life, it is amazing how high in the air a ball can go from a single kick! 

Offense and defense joined up for some exercise drills. 

Everywhere you looked was a sea of black and gold. 

Offensive lineman ran through their blocking assignments.

Saint Vincent College has a beautiful setting in the Laurel Highlands, the same region where we are getting married later this Fall. 

About an hour before practice ended, Dave and I snagged a spot along the fence to try for autographs from the players on their way off the field. We couldn't have asked for better people to stand next to; hello Melissa and Carmen! It was great meeting you both. Hope you have a safe trip home. We're so glad you got your William Gay signature! 

Here, the Steelers mascot stopped to give these little fans a signature and a smile. 

Willie Parker, former player and a current coach for the Steelers, stopped to sign our Terrible Towel! 

Number 51, Sean Spence. 

Everyone was screaming for Ike Taylor; we were lucky and got an autograph from him, too! 

In the end, we got 14 signatures on my Dad's Steelers hat and one signature on the Terrible Towel. It was so kind of the players to stop for autographs; after a long practice, they were hot and sweaty, and I'm sure a shower was all that was on their minds. It was very kind of them to take the time for their fans. 

Friday, July 26, 2013


There's nothing like the fresh-picked bounty of summer fruits and veggies. Last weekend, we went blueberry picking at Reilly's Summer Seat Farms. 

We each picked a pint of berries. Nibbling on fresh blueberries as you pick them is the best! 

Dave's bounty. 

The next day, Dave made from-scratch blueberry pancakes with the fresh berries. They were so delicious. I also made from-scratch blueberry muffins, and we ate the rest of the berries for snacks or on our morning cereal. Raspberry season will be in full swing at Reilly's in August, and we can't wait to go back to pick those, too! 

Remember the garden we helped my Dad plant in early June when we were here? Look how much it's grown! 

We all laughed about the 7-foot tomato stakes my Dad put in, but now, the grape and cherry tomatoes are right at the top of those 7-foot stakes! 

Onions stretching out for sunlight from underneath the beans. Even though we followed the spacing directions on the seed packets to the inch, everything grew too close together. We suspect each plant in the garden would have gladly taken over the whole plot if given the space. 

We are going to have so many tomatoes soon! I've never seen such productive plants. I think the combination of really good soil, plenty of sunshine, putting crushed eggshells in the holes for calcium, and companion planting with basil made these tomatoes very happy. 

We've already gotten several tomatoes, and they are so tasty. This garden demonstrates to us the contrast between vegetables that are local or home grown and the vegetables in the grocery store. Because local or home grown fruits and veggies can ripen on the plant, they pick up such fantastic flavor, color, and texture. Grocery store veggies just cant compare! 

Our sweet banana peppers are doing great, as well. We've been enjoying them raw and in salads. 

We thought these were the snap peas that are tasty to eat raw, but it turns out the pods are a bit bitter and tough. The actual peas inside the pods are great lightly steamed, with a smooth texture and a very sweet taste. 

The Italian beans are fun to hunt for. They hide under leaves and in plain sight. 

These beans are so delicious! Before cooking, they have this gorgeous purple striping, but as soon as they are cooked, the purple disappears. We've had these several nights for dinner to go along with homemade lasagna. 

Today's harvest---peppers, peas, and tomatoes. 

Shelling the peas. We cook them with dinner whenever we fill up this small mason jar. 

We planted basil in between the tomato plants, and it was almost completely consumed by the tall tomatoes. We had one plant remaining that wasn't looking too great, so we decided to harvest the entire plant at once and make a batch of homemade pesto. 

Basil is incredibly healthy for you. (I'm fond of this site to find all kinds of nutritional and health information.) The flavonoids present in basil protect cell structures as well as chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage. Basil is also anti-bacterial, active against bacteria such as E. Coli and staph. Essential oil of basil, obtained from its leaves, has demonstrated the ability to inhibit several species of pathogenic bacteria that have become resistant to commonly used antibiotic drugs. Additionally, basil is anti-inflammatory, acting like an NSAID such as Asprin. Basil is also very high in vitamin K. I could go on for pages about Basil's health effects, none of which, of course, would be listed on a Nutrition Facts panel, one of the many reasons it's so key to arm yourself with your own knowledge of foods. 

The pesto was so yummy, we completely forget about taking a picture once it was done, and went straight to eating. We served the pesto tossed with bow-tie noodles, pan friend chicken, fresh-grated Romano cheese, and peas from the garden. Yum yum! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lions, Tigers, and Bears: Part 2

Another of our family favorites is the elephants. They all have distinct personalities, and we love watching them interact with one another. It is amazing to watch them eat, picking up bunches of straw with their trunk, dusting it off, and bringing it to their mouth. The elephant has many, many times more muscles in his trunk then humans have in their entire body! 

The bottom of an elephant's foot has a pattern as individual and distinct as a human fingerprint. Unlike fingerprints, they alter over time with growth and wear, but always remain unique to each elephant. 

This elephant looked so wise and thoughtful. 

When my parents and I were at the zoo together last year, the baby elephant had just recently been born. Now, he is growing up, but he's still young, playful, and completely adorable. I love the quirky way elephants stand with one leg resting on the other. 

An elephant goes through 6 sets of molars for grinding food in their lifetime. Their teeth emerge in the back of their jaw and move forward like a conveyor belt, breaking off with age and wear.

Dave loves how tall and majestic the giraffes are. 

This duck family was happy to make the zoo their home. The goldfish living in this water were intensely vibrant in color. 

Leaping lemurs! 

A male gorilla is called a silverback and is such a surreal sight in person. 

Mom gorilla. We speculate she was missing her little one. 

Last but not least, baby gorilla, who was just born a few months ago. 

It was hard to believe how similar this little one was to a human baby. It was so cute, cuddly, and loving. We were so lucky to be able to capture this sequence on film. 

Mr. Black Bear was cooling off with a dip in the pool. 

We loved being in the aquarium. There were so many neat creatures of so many sizes, shapes, and colors.

This little girl was in awe of the stingray. 

It seemed fitting to leave off with this photo. It was intensely unsettling it was to look this powerful predator in the eye, only a few inches away, until I realized that this is how he may feel, too. We couldn't help but occasionally feeling sad for some of these majestic animals living in captivity, but overall, the zoo is wonderful for the awareness it raises, the resources it garners for conservation, and for the home it provides to many injured or orphaned creatures.

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