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‘Mam down the road

Growing up my paternal Grandmother lived quite literally down the road from our house so appropriately she was referred to as ‘Mam down the road. Reflecting back on my childhood I remember spending so much time at her house, down the road, while my father was busy being absent. In her basement were two magical things: a ringer washing machine that made her curse like a sailor when it chomped at her fingers and a shelf filled with freshly canned peaches. Sunny, sweet, fleshy globes of tasty amazing goodness. Despite what you may have heard, these peaches didn’t come from a can; they weren’t put there by a man, in a factory downtown. Well, at least I don’t believe they were, but truth be told I don’t remember ever seeing her can them herself either. What I do remember for sure is pulling the light cord at the top of the steps to the basement, pray that the monster under the steps wouldn’t get me while I went running like hell to the shelf to get a jar of peaches. Luckily the monster never did catch me but if he had it would have still been well worth it as long as I had a bowl full of peaches in my belly when he did.

Fast forward a few decades and it has become an annual tradition for Wesley and me to visit Strites’ Orchard for picking our very own peaches for canning. I’m not sure if it’s the reflection of childhood memories or the yummy goodness that I cherish most. This year however was a little different — I found myself daydreaming that perhaps someday our child would be standing at the doorstep of the boogie monsters lair, screaming the entire time as he runs to retrieve his very own jar of peachy goodness.


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Maybe not this time — but it’s going to happen.

Sadly today we came to learn that our attempt to adopt David from El Salvador is statistically and nearly legally impossible. While it breaks our hearts, we must move forward and attempt to pursue other avenues to fulfill our ambition of welcoming a child into our family. If you know of a young child in need of a loving home please let us know:

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Cabin Fever – Lancaster Symphony Orchestra

Percussion dynamite, Viennese elegance, and Brahms at his happiest

Billed as an opportunity to “Shake off the winter blues with the theatrical thrills and evocative percussion of Peck’s Glory and the Grandeur” with rising violin star Asi Mathatius, it was our third time to the Symphony.  I’m quickly coming to the realization that I’m not nearly as cultured as I had once hoped that I was.   I’m sure like my willingness to drink coffee my appreciation for the Symphony will need time and exposure to develop.  At this point I find Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 is almost as effective as Ambien – which is more lively than the ballet.   I think my true favorite has been my first experience with the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra and the Cirque de La Symphonie.


Peck: Glory & the Grandeur.
Percussionists: Tom Blanchard, Principal, Brian Kushmaul, and Shawn Galvin
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5, Turkish
Asi Matathius, violin Brahms: Symphony No. 2

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I’m turning sour over sourdough bread. . .


So I think after about a dozen or so loafs of bread made in the last few weeks I’m starting to turn sour over the entire experience.  Apparently on Sunday I woke Wesley up by caring on a conversation with a YouTube video about dough needing techniques.   Okay, not so much a conversation as much as a heated critique. 

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I Wasn’t Treating My Husband Fairly, And It Wasn’t Fair

husbandMy “Aha Moment” happened because of a package of hamburger meat. I asked my husband to stop by the store to pick up a few things for dinner, and when he got home, he plopped the bag on the counter. I started pulling things out of the bag, and realized he’d gotten the 70/30 hamburger meat – which means it’s 70% lean and 30% fat.

I asked, “What’s this?”

“Hamburger meat,” he replied, slightly confused.

“You didn’t get the right kind,” I said.

“I didn’t?” He replied with his brow furrowed. ” Was there some other brand you wanted or something?”

“No. You’re missing the point, ” I said. “You got the 70/30. I always get at least the 80/20.”

He laughed. “Oh. That’s all? I thought I’d really messed up or something.”

That’s how it started. I launched into him. I berated him for not being smarter. Why would he not get the more healthy option? Did he even read the labels? Why can’t I trust him? Do I need to spell out every little thing for him in minute detail so he gets it right? Also, and the thing I was probably most offended by, why wasn’t he more observant? How could he not have noticed over the years what I always get? Does he not pay attention to anything I do?

As he sat there, bearing the brunt of my righteous indignation and muttering responses like, “I never noticed,” “I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” and “I’ll get it right next time,” I saw his face gradually take on an expression that I’d seen on him a lot in recent years. It was a combination of resignation and demoralization. He looked eerily like our son does when he gets chastised. That’s when it hit me. “Why am I doing this? I’m not his mom.”

I suddenly felt terrible. And embarrassed for myself. He was right. It really wasn’t anything to get bent out of shape over. And there I was doing just that. Over a silly package of hamburger meat that he dutifully picked up from the grocery store just like I asked. If I had specific requirements, I should have been clearer. I didn’t know how to gracefully extract myself from the conversation without coming across like I have some kind of split personality, so I just mumbled something like, “Yeah. I guess we’ll make do with this. I’m going to start dinner.”

He seemed relieved it was over and he left the kitchen.

And then I sat there and thought long and hard about what I’d just done. And what I’d been doing to him for years, probably. The “hamburger meat moment,” as I’ve come to call it, certainly wasn’t the first time I scolded him for not doing something the way I thought it should be done. He was always putting something away in the wrong place. Or leaving something out. Or neglecting to do something altogether. And I was always right there to point it out to him.

Why do I do that? How does it benefit me to constantly belittle my husband? The man that I’ve taken as my partner in life. The father of my children. The guy I want to have by my side as I grow old. Why do I do what women are so often accused of, and try to change the way he does every little thing? Do I feel like I’m accomplishing something? Clearly not if I feel I have to keep doing it. Why do I think it’s reasonable to expect him to remember everything I want and do it just that way? The instances in which he does something differently, does it mean he’s wrong? When did “my way” become “the only way?” When did it become okay to constantly correct him and lecture him and point out every little thing I didn’t like as if he were making some kind of mistake?

And how does it benefit him? Does it make him think, “Wow! I’m sure glad she was there to set me straight?” I highly doubt it. He probably feels like I’m harping on him for no reason whatsoever. And it I’m pretty sure it makes him think his best approach in regards to me is to either stop doing things around the house, or avoid me altogether.

Two cases in point. #1. I recently found a shard of glass on the kitchen floor. I asked him what happened. He said he broke a glass the night before. When I asked why he didn’t tell me, he said, “I just cleaned it up and threw it away because I didn’t want you to have a conniption fit over it.” #2. I was taking out the trash and found a pair of blue tube socks in the bin outside. I asked him what happened and why he’d thrown them away. He said, “They accidentally got in the wash with my jeans. Every time I put in laundry, you feel the need to remind me not to mix colors and whites. I didn’t want you to see them and reinforce your obvious belief that I don’t know how to wash clothes after 35 years.”

So it got to the point where he felt it was a better idea — or just plain easier — to cover things up than admit he made a human error. What kind of environment have I created where he feels he’s not allowed to make mistakes?

And let’s look at these “offenses”: A broken glass. A pair of blue tube socks. Both common mistakes that anyone could have made. But he was right. Regarding the glass, I not only pointed out his clumsiness for breaking it, but also due to the shard I found, his sad attempt at cleaning it up. As for the socks, even though he’d clearly stated it was an accident, I gave him a verbal lesson about making sure he pays more attention when he’s sorting clothes. Whenever any issues like this arise, he’ll sit there and take it for a little bit, but always responds in the end with something like, “I guess it just doesn’t matter that much to me.”

I know now that what he means is, “this thing that has you so upset is a small detail, or a matter of opinion, or a preference, and I don’t see why you’re making it such a big deal.” But from my end I came to interpret it over time that he didn’t care about my happiness or trying to do things the way I think they should be done. I came to view it like “this guy just doesn’t get it.” I am clearly the brains of this operation.

I started thinking about what I’d observed with my friends’ relationships, and things my girlfriends would complain about regarding their husbands, and I realized that I wasn’t alone. Somehow, too many women have fallen into the belief that Wife Always Knows Best. There’s even a phrase to reinforce it: “Happy wife, happy life.” That doesn’t leave a lot of room for his opinions, does it?

It’s an easy stereotype to buy into. Look at the media. Movies, TV, advertisements – they’re all filled with images of hapless husbands and clever wives. He can’t cook. He can’t take care of the kids. If you send him out to get three things, he’ll come back with two — and they’ll both be wrong. We see it again and again.

(On a side note, I have a friend in advertising, and I asked him why so much of that stereotype exists. He basically said, “‘Smart wife/dumb husband’ is really the only joke that’s allowed anymore. Imagine doing a commercial with a clueless or helpless wife who needs a man to come in and save the day. Customers would be up in arms because of the company’s antiquated views on women. Plus women make the majority of household purchases in this country, and you want to make them feel smart for choosing your product. So what you always get is the dumb husband character foil.)

What this constant nagging and harping does is send a message to our husbands that says “we don’t respect you. We don’t think you’re smart enough to do things right. We expect you to mess up. And when you do, you’ll be called out on it swiftly and without reservation.” Given this kind of negative reinforcement over time, he feels like nothing he can do is right (in your eyes). If he’s confident with himself and who he is, he’ll come to resent you. If he’s at all unsure about himself, he’ll start to believe you, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Neither one is a desirable, beneficial outcome to you, him or the marriage.

Did my husband do the same to me? Just as I’m sure there are untold numbers of women who don’t ever do this kind of thing to their husbands, I’m sure there are men who do it to their wives too. But I don’t think of it as a typical male characteristic. As I sat and thought about it, I realized my husband didn’t display the same behavior toward me. I even thought about some of the times I really did make mistakes. The time I backed into the gate and scratched the car? He never said a word about it. The time I was making dinner, got distracted by a call from my mom, and burned it to cinders? He just said, “we can just order a pizza.” The time I tried to put the new patio furniture together and left his good tools out in the rain? “Accidents happen,” was his only response.

I shuddered to think what I would have said had the shoe been on the other foot and he’d made those mistakes.

So is he just a better person than me? Why doesn’t he bite my head off when I don’t do things the way he likes? I’d be a fool to think it doesn’t happen. And yet I don’t remember him ever calling me out on it. It doesn’t seem he’s as intent as changing the way I do things. But why?

Maybe I should take what’s he always said at face value. The fact that these little things “really don’t matter that much to him” is not a sign that he’s lazy, or that he’s incapable of learning, or that he just doesn’t give a damn about what I want. Maybe to him, the small details are not that important in his mind — and justifiably so. They’re not the kinds of things to start fights over. They’re not the kinds of things he needs to change about me. It certainly doesn’t make him dumb or inept. He’s just not as concerned with some of the minutia as I am. And it’s why he doesn’t freak out when he’s on the other side of the fence.

The bottom line in all this is that I chose this man as my partner. He’s not my servant. He’s not my employee. He’s not my child. I didn’t think he was stupid when I married him – otherwise I wouldn’t have. He doesn’t need to be reprimanded by me because I don’t like the way he does some things.

When I got to that point mentally, it then made me start thinking about all the good things about him. He’s intelligent. He’s a good person. He’s devoted. He’s awesome with the kids. And he does always help around the house. (Just not always to my liking!) Even more, not only does he refrain from giving me grief when I make mistakes or do things differently than him, he’s always been very agreeable to my way of doing things. And for the most part, if he notices I prefer to do something a certain way, he tries to remember it in the future. Instead of focusing on those wonderful things, I just harped on the negative. And again, I know I’m not alone in this.

If we keep attempting to make our husbands feel small, or foolish, or inept because they occasionally mess up (and I use that term to also mean “do things differently than us”), then eventually they’re going to stop trying to do things. Or worse yet, they’ll actually come to believe those labels are true.

In my case it’s my husband of 12+ years I’m talking about. The same man who thanklessly changed my car tire in the rain. The guy who taught our kids to ride bikes. The person who stayed with me at the hospital all night when my mom was sick. The man who has always worked hard to make a decent living and support his family.

He knows how to change the oil in the car. He can re-install my computer’s operating system. He lifts things for me that are too heavy and opens stuck jar lids. He shovels the sidewalk. He can put up a ceiling fan. He fixes the toilet when it won’t stop running. I can’t (or don’t) do any of those things. And yet I give him grief about a dish out of place. He’s a good man who does a lot for me, and doesn’t deserve to be harassed over little things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Since my revelation, I try to catch myself when I start to nag. I’m not always 100% consistent, but I know I’ve gotten a lot better. And I’ve seen that one little change make a big improvement in our relationship. Things seem more relaxed. We seem to be getting along better. It think we’re both starting to see each other more as trusted partners, not adversarial opponents at odds with each other in our day-to-day existence. I’ve even come to accept that sometimes his way of doing things may be better!

It takes two to make a partnership. No one is always right and no one is always wrong. And you’re not always going to see eye-to-eye on every little thing. It doesn’t make you smarter, or superior, or more right to point out every little thing he does that’s not to your liking. Ladies, remember, it’s just hamburger meat.

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Freshly Baked Cinnamon Raisin Twists for dessert











From The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree (Wiley, 2008)


Makes 12 twists

Cinnamon Raisin Twists:

  • 1 ¼ cups plus 3 tablespoons (326 g) whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 2/3 cups (275 g) black raisins
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon (70 g) very warm water (105° to 115°F)
  • 1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup plus ½ teaspoon (50 g plus ½ teaspoon) granulated sugar
  • 3 ¾ cups plus 3 tablespoons (560 g) unbleached bread flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons(57 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup (45 g) light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, for egg wash


  • 1 cup (120 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) whole milk

1. In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the milk until it just begins to bubble around the edges. Remove it from the heat and add the cold butter to cool it. Add the egg to the cooled milk and whisk to combine.

2. If the raisins are dry and hard, soak them in just enough warm water to cover for a few minutes. Drain.

3. Place the water, yeast, and ½ teaspoon sugar in a measuring cup and stir with a fork to dissolve the yeast. Let stand for 3 minutes. Add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture.

4. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, remaining sugar and salt and cinnamon and whisk together. Pour the liquid ingredients onto the dry ingredients and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until the dough gathers into a shaggy mass. Move the dough to a very lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes. This is soft, moist dough; if it seems stiff and hard to knead, add extra water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough softens. Don’t be tempted to use a lot of flour during the kneading. Leave the dough sticky and use a plastic scraper to lift it off the work surface. Gently shape the dough into a loose ball, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 20 minutes so it can relax. It should already look smooth at this point.

5. Gently dump the rested dough onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it to stretch it into a rectangle. Place the drained raisins evenly on the dough, all the way to the edges, and roll it up, then fold in the ends to form a ball. Knead the dough again for 2 to 3 minutes, until it becomes smooth, supple and elastic. The raisins will pop out at first, but eventually they will stay in the dough. Shape the dough into a loose ball, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, and turn the dough to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature until it has doubled in volume, 1 to 1½ hours. A hole poked into the dough with a finger should stay indented. The dough should hold its shape and not collapse.

6. When the dough has doubled, gently pour it out of the bowl onto the lightly floured work surface. Flatten the dough by patting and stretching it with your fingertips to form a 10 x 13-inch rectangle, with the short sides running across the top and bottom of the rectangle, working gently so you don’t tear the dough. The dough should stretch easily at this point, but if it resists, let it rest for 5 minutes before resuming stretching. Spread the softened butter evenly over the dough. Sprinkle a thin layer of brown sugar evenly over the butter. Starting with the upper edge of the dough, fold the top third down and the bottom third up, like a business letter, so you have 3 equal layers. All corners and edges should meet evenly. Pat this new rectangle with your fingertips to flatten it and to seal it around the edges. Place in on a lightly oiled sheet pan or work surface and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise for about 30 minutes, or until the dough is soft and slightly puffy. It should now be about 13 inches long and 5 ½ inches wide. While the dough is rising, line two 12 x 17-inch sheet pans with baking parchment.

7. Using a dough cutter with a metal blade or a long, sharp knife, make small indentations in the dough, marking 12 even twists each about 1 inch wide, along the length of the rectangle. Then cut the dough all the way through at each mark. Lift a strip of dough, give it a gently twist by moving your hands one turn in opposite directions, and lay it on one end of the prepared pan, about 2 inches from the edge of the pan. Don’t stretch it to lengthen it. These twists should be plump and about 6 ½ inches long. Repeat the twisting procedure with the remaining strips of dough, laying 6 twists side by side on each pan, in a straight, even row with about 1/8 inch between each. Cover the twists with plastic wrap and let them rise at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes, or until nearly doubled in volume. They will look very plump and puffy when fully risen.

8. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425°F and position two racks near the center of the oven. In a small bowl, mix 1 egg with 1 teaspoon of water to make an egg wash. Brush the twists with the egg wash, coating them evenly on the top and sides. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pans from top to bottom, and reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Continue baking for another 12 to 17 minutes. If your oven has a convection option, switch it to convection for the last 5 minutes of baking to improve the browning of the crust. Watch the twists carefully during the last few minutes. They can become dark very quickly. They should be golden brown but still slightly soft.

9. Immediately slide the twists off the baking pans and onto a wire rack to cool. After they have cooled, prepare a glaze made from the confectioners’ sugar and milk. Using a whisk or large spoon with a pointed tip, drizzle the glaze back and forth over the twists to coat them with icing. Serve them immediately or within 5 to 6 hours to enjoy them at their freshest. Store the remaining twists wrapped in plastic or foil at room temperature. Reheat the leftovers in a toaster oven to refresh them. 

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Pennsylvania could tip the scales nationally on same-sex marriage

Jessica Parks, Inquirer Staff Writer

In the six months since the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on same-sex marriage, a flood of lawsuits and legislation has pushed the France Gay Marriage FairUnited States to a tipping point – and Pennsylvania this year could be the state that shifts the balance.

In 2013, the number of states (along with the District of Columbia) allowing same-sex marriage doubled, to 18. In the last month, judges struck down same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma.

If those two rulings are upheld, nearly 46 percent of the U.S. population would live in places that allow same-sex marriage or civil unions. If Pennsylvania joins the list, it will be slightly over 50 percent.

“Clearly, the tide has turned,” said Ellen Toplin of Dresher, Montgomery County, who married her partner of 22 years in July and who is suing the state to recognize that marriage.

Hers is one of at least seven lawsuits challenging Pennsylvania’s 1996 marriage law, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman and doesn’t recognize same-sex unions performed in other states.

The suits span federal, state, and county courts. Some challenge the law as unconstitutional on its face; others take on narrower aspects, such as the voiding of marriages from other states or the inheritance and estate taxes same-sex couples wouldn’t have to pay if they were of different genders.

Similar suits are pending in almost every state that still bans same-sex marriage, but experts believe Pennsylvania may be the next to change.

John Culhane, a law professor at Widener University, said Pennsylvania is more vulnerable than most of the other states because its ban is not enshrined in the state Constitution. That means opponents can challenge the law on state and federal grounds.

The commonwealth also is unique in that it is home to 118 same-sex couples who married here but who aren’t sure whether their marriages are valid.

Couples such as Toplin and her partner came from across the state to Montgomery County last summer after Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes announced he would issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

The licenses, and a subsequent lawsuit by the Corbett administration, sparked protests and counterprotests and drew national attention.

A Commonwealth Court judge in September ordered Hanes to stop but didn’t say whether the existing marriages were valid.

“As far as we’re concerned, we’re married in Pennsylvania. The state, obviously, takes a different approach,” said Diana Spagnuolo, who married her partner in July in their Wynnewood backyard.

That uncertainty complicates things at tax time. Spagnuolo, a partner in a law firm that operates in multiple states, has to file returns in at least eight different states – some of which allow same-sex marriage, some of which recognize out-of-state marriages, and some of which do neither.

“That’s a very sticky issue. It’s going to require some thought, both legal counsel and accounting counsel,” she said.

After the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the IRS and other agencies issued a ruling that same-sex couples, regardless of where they now live, can file as spouses if they married in a state where it was legal.

The U.S. Justice Department went a step further for Utah, where about 1,300 same-sex weddings were completed before the Supreme Court put a hold on the lower court’s ruling.

On Jan. 10, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement saying that as far as the federal government was concerned, those couples are married.

“These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds,” Holder said in a video announcement.

No such clarification has come for the Pennsylvania couples. Until it does, Spagnuolo and others said, they will continue to spend hours on the phone with government agencies and lawyers, trying to figure out whether they qualify for joint taxes, spousal health care, shared pensions, Social Security, and familial rights.

The uncertainty adds an extra level of urgency to the lawsuits here. Commonwealth Court set a schedule for Spagnuolo’s case last week, ordering the state to file preliminary objections by Feb. 18.

A federal case also moved forward on Monday, when attorneys for two women who married in Massachusetts filed arguments on why Pennsylvania must recognize their union.

And on Friday, the state responded to an appeal Hanes filed in state Supreme Court. State attorneys wrote that whether or not the same-sex marriage ban is constitutional, Hanes didn’t have the authority to violate state law.

The state is also fighting another case in Commonwealth Court, a high-profile ACLU case in federal court – scheduled for trial in June – and at least two cases in county courts, challenging decisions on estate or inheritance tax bills.

Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which supports the current marriage law and says a majority of voters and elected officials agree, objects to the portrayal of same-sex marriage as “a growing tide,” when so many states’ laws are being decided in courtrooms.

“If they’re confident that public opinion is changing and it’s inevitable, if you will – well, then let this process work. It’s a policy decision,” he said. “In essence, it’s been taken out of the hands of the people of Pennsylvania.”

But supporters point to the numbers and say they’re optimistic.

“In a year’s time, I just hope this is a nonissue in Pennsylvania. . . . I can spend my time on other things,” Spagnuolo said.

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There is something about the first snowfall of the winter.

White the outside isn’t done I’m still excited about how it looked for the first snowfall of the season.  I can’t wait to put up the garland around the back door and finish the pine planters.

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Rings are purchased


I guess we got tired of waiting for our second choice ring to come in for viewing at Murphy Jewelry so we decided to order our first choice rings.  Thanks to Wesley we were able to find them online for over $3,000 in savings.  After a phone call to the manufacture to verify they were indeed an authorized dealer and checking with the BBB we ordered them. 

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