08 December 2010

spreading the cheer like cream cheese on a bagel

I spoke about this on the video in my last post, but I figured I'd say it again here just in case you are a) impatient and don't want to sit through a whole video, or b) unable to watch videos for some reason.

So here's what's going on. This Advent, I've made a resolution not to buy any presents (I made a couple, but that was months ago so it doesn't count). I've also decided to take a fast from buying things I don't need...so no Starbucks, no iTunes downloads, no going out to eat, no random Target purchases. Just rent, bills, and groceries.

It might be easy to take all that extra money (because I've discovered that it really adds up quick) and just stash it away or something...but I've decided to take that money that I would have spent on random crap/Christmas presents, and make a donation to a charity. After asking for suggestions on my Facebook page, I decided to donate to an organization called Heifer International. They do really great things, so you should check out their website to learn more about their work and their philosophy--mostly because it seems silly for me to type it all out when they've already got it posted themselves.

If you go to their website and click the big red GIVE button, you can look at their gift catalog. My goal is to donate what's called the "Milk Menagerie"--but it's $1000. So that's where I'm looking to you. If you're interested in helping out with this project, you can contact me here on the blog, or via Facebook/e-mail, OR by calling me. A few people have already committed to donating with me, and we've got about $400 so far--only $600 to go!

I think this is a do-able thing. I think the people I associate with are generous people. It doesn't matter if you can donate $10 or $100...every dollar counts. So if you want to help, please get a hold of me sometime this week and we'll go from there. THANKS, people! You are wonderful...or as my favorite college professor would say, "I think you're awesome, do you know that?"

Love you, miss you, blah blah blahhhhhhh!

01 December 2010

back from the dead...and then back to the dead...wait, what?

Before you keep reading, watch this video...it's a bit long, but it might put you in good spirits for the sad, disappointing, potentially soul-crushing news to follow. (If you don't have time to watch the entire 8.5 minute video, skip to about 3:06 for the most important part.)

So remember: if you want to get involved with this super sweet project, let me know as soon as possible!

Okay, now that you've seen that, you're ready for something of a bummer. Basically, the Grid Project is dead. As much as I loved doing it for the first several months, I started to get burned out. This isn't to say that I stopped doing exciting/adventurous/good-for-me things...I figured out after the novelty wore off that doing it in such an organized fashion only resulted in doing things out of guilt or obligation instead of the reasons I started the GP in the first place--making myself a better, more well-rounded, adventurous person. I think those are all things that happened, but I have to ask myself:

Is it really worth the guilt/negative feelings? And the answer was a resounding "NO WAY, JOSE! That is quite the opposite of what you're trying to accomplish!"

So...it's done. But I'm okay with it, and I hope you will be too. I'll try to update here more, but the GP updates are no more.

Well, I'm off to do some work stuff...love you, miss you, blah blah blahhhhh!

02 October 2010

time out

I know...you were probably expecting a GP update. But unfortunately, I have to put my updating on hold for a bit. Basically, I'm writing this from my bedroom in my parents' house in Minnesota, and the next few days are going to be a little chaotic.

What?! Jessie, did you have a secret trip to Minnesota planned that you didn't tell us about because you were afraid we would stalk you or something? Well, no.

Basically, my Grampa (my dad's dad) passed away on Wednesday, so I'm home for a few days for the funeral and stuff. So for once I'm actually giving you a reason for not updating this blog as often as I should. Please keep my Grampa and family in your thoughts and prayers...and I'll catch you on the flip side, or at least when I get back to the Burgh.

Love you, miss you, blah blah blah...

27 September 2010

grid project - week 12

[insert clever/interesting introduction here because I don't want to]

Sunday, August 8: Took myself out on a date to the movies--Inception!
Okay, if you have talked to me at all within the last two months and the subject of movies came up, you already know that Inception is the BEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME. Since I don't quite have a significant other, I decided to take myself on a date. It was great--Sunday nights generally mean near-empty theaters because people have to work on Monday...and I figured, what better time to go to the movies by oneself? So I went to Inception. And it was awesome. And I ended up seeing it three more times after that. But that's really beside the point, I'd say.

Monday, August 9: Met up with Pasutti in a resort town in Maryland.
Pasutti and I hadn't seen each other in a while, so we found a place in the middle and met up for the afternoon/evening. The town was called Grantsville. In and of itself, there's not much to it...at all. We walked around a little artisan village and then had dinner at the restaurant next door, then we drove a few minutes to a coffee shop on a lake, south of a little resort town called Accident. Yes, Accident. It was such a stereotypical lakeside resort town, I could have sworn I was back in Minnesota! But no, it was definitely Maryland. And as always, it was wonderful to spend some time with Pasutti!

Tuesday, August 10: Worked on/revamped the St. T's youth ministry website.
Our website was very outdated, so I took some serious time (a few days, really) to update the information and add a few new pages. And I have to say...it looks pretty great. Of course, much of it was already existing (having been created originally by our website guy), but it was still fun to play around with things a bit and use my creativity in a way I don't usually get to.

Wednesday, August 11: Went to Kennywood and got DRENCHED under the waterfall on the Raging Rapids.
Summer Stretch was amazing...and as our final session, we spent the day at Kennywood. It was fun/exhausting to keep track of fifty or so middle schoolers, especially on such a hot day...but lucky for me (?) I was the one who went under the waterfall on the Raging Rapids and was quite damp for the rest of the day. It was a fantastic end to a fantastic summer program. I can honestly say that I can't wait for next summer!

Thursday, August 12: Saw Inception...again.
This time, I went with one of my former youth group peeps, Molly, who is now off at college. We had our end-of-the-season softball party and then the two of us went down to the Waterfront and had our brains exploded for a couple of hours. It was awesome...I sincerely think that the second time seeing Inception is the best.

Friday, August 13: Went for a walk around the lake at North Park.
Pretty self-explanatory, I'd say. One of my friends called me up and was like, "Hey, you want to go for a walk?" and I was like, "Yeah, dude! Sounds peachy!" or something equally chipper. And then we did. Yup.

Saturday, August 14: Figured out/started seriously planning the youth ministry theme for Fall 2010.
I'll be honest and say that ministerially speaking, I had kind of a rough summer. I was in a bit of a funk, which meant that I was having considerable difficulty coming up with ideas for the fall semester theme and programs and whatnot. So it was already the middle of August and I had no idea what would be happening in slightly over a month...which worried me considerably. So I said to myself, "Self, you need to put your thinking cap on and get crack-a-lackin', homeslice!" And I came up with the theme and mapped out the entire semester and started working on lesson plans, and everything started coming together quite nicely. BAM!

Getting closer! I figure if I do an average of one GP update every two days, I'll be all caught up in no time! Though I might do another one later today, just because it's my day off and I have a crazy week coming up. Go team!

25 September 2010

grid project - week 11

Sunday, August 1: Attended a Latin Mass.
The first and only other time I had been to a Latin Mass was a couple of years ago when I was in Washington, D.C. for a youth climate conference. It was terrible--not because of the content itself (how could something as beautiful as the Eucharist be terrible?), but because I didn't understand what was going on. So this time, I went with a friend who frequents the Latin Mass at Holy Wisdom Parish on the North Side, and who was gracious enough to lend me a missal, complete with translations and bookmarks and whatnot. I was really surprised at the Latin Mass, especially after my bad experience with it in D.C.--I think now I can appreciate the opportunity that it provides for personal prayer and contemplation of the Eucharist. I definitely prefer the Novus Ordo Mass--the "regular" Mass for most of us--but I'm very glad for the opportunity to experience the Latin Mass in a more positive light.

Monday, August 2: Went mini-golfing.
I hadn't been mini-golfing in ages, so as a little "last hurrah" before my friend Dan left to do NET Ministries, we decided to go! It was pretty fun--the place we went to has two courses, one of which is suuuuper old...like, I'm pretty sure it's a historic something-or-other. Either way, it was a jolly good way to say "Adios!" to Dan before he made the trip out to Minnesota to start his NET training.

Tuesday, August 3: Survived a near-breakdown.
I had some unexpected drama come my way from Minnesota that I'd rather not go into detail about. But suffice it to say that I had a major freak-out which nearly ended in copious amounts of yelling and crying...but which got sorted out before too much of that happened--for which we should all be very grateful.

Wednesday, August 4: Discovered duck-pin bowling.
Ahhhh, Summer Stretch...teaching me new things, exposing me to new activities and opportunities. Like duck-pin bowling! It's basically the same as bowling...only mini! So the pins are about two-thirds the size of normal bowling pins, and the ball is super small too. So our social activity in the afternoon was to go duck-pin bowling. I was really only half-there all day (having lost a good bit of sleep over the drama mentioned above), so I didn't actually play...but it was still fun to watch the kids play and to discover the game's existence. It's the cutest bowling ever!

Thursday, August 5: Participated in Learning Days with the Benedictine Sisters of Erie.
Each August, the Benedictine Sisters of Erie have something called "Learning Days." They bring in a theologian to speak for two days on a particular topic, and they invite all of their Sisters and Oblates to be a part of it. Since I'm in the process of becoming an Oblate, I was also included on their invitation list. The person they brought in was Fr. Dick Sparks, a Paulist priest, who talked about Catholic morality. I was only able to attend the second day (due to Summer Stretch on Wednesday), but it was a really lovely day: back in the "learning mode" that I kind of forgot about after college, out of the Burgh, at a place I hope will become a sort of second home to me during my time in Pennsylvania.

Friday, August 6: Went to Starbucks with one of my youth.
(Sidenote: I keep reading articles where young people are referred to as "youths," and I think that sounds funny. Like, I actually chuckle to myself when I read anything about "youths"...anyway.) I met up with one of my girls and had a lovely little chat. I love relational ministry, I really do!

Saturday, August 7: Got back into the Lectio groove.
As part of my preparation to become an Oblate, I'm expected to pray regularly using a particularly Benedictine prayer form called Lectio Divina (Latin for "sacred reading"). Lectio is a way to read and reflect on a passage by taking a small chunk of text and reading it multiple times, deepening your reflection with each reading. My explanation doesn't do it any justice at all, but it's a wonderful way to pray, especially if you have a hard time knowing what to say/do in prayer. Normally you do Lectio with a passage from Scripture...but since I'm becoming a Benedictine Oblate, and one of the other expectations is that I study the Rule of Benedict, I decided to do something a little different--I take a small section from the Rule each day and pray through it the same way I would through Scripture. And I have to tell you...I love it. There's so much wisdom packed into the Rule. It's hard to believe that it was written over 1500 years ago!

Alright, one more done! Now I think I'm going to go grocery shopping. YAY! I love grocery shopping so much!

21 September 2010

grid project - week 10

Woo! I'm on a roll!

Sunday, July 25: Skip Day.
It happens.

Monday, July 26: Decorated a cake...badly.
By the end of July, the softball season was coming to a close. One of our coaches, Dan, was getting ready to head out to Minnesota for a year of mission work with NET Ministries, so at one of our last practices, I decided to bake a good luck cake. I would normally make everything from scratch, but I didn't quite have enough time, so I broke down and just did the whole box cake thing. I bought some white frosting and some green icing to decorate it, and it turned out...innnnnteresting. I wish I had a picture of it to submit to Cake Wrecks...but alas--no such luck!

Tuesday, July 27: Stopped and looked around the North Hills Art Center.
I pass the North Hills Art Center several times a week while I'm driving from place to place. I had always meant to stop in and look around, but I just hadn't gotten around to it--until that day! So I checked it out, and it was pretty sweet! They have art classes and stuff, and a gallery of the work of local artists and students.

Wednesday, July 28: Volunteered at World Vision.
As part of Summer Stretch, we took our group of middle schoolers to World Vision, an organization that (among many other things) collects and distributes clothing items to people in the developing world. World Vision receives thousands of new clothing donations every year from different retailers, and lots of times, they come packed in boxes with lots of wrapping and hangers and stuff. So our job as volunteers was to unpack them, take out all the stuffing, and inventory them. It was a blast, and the kids had so much fun! It's definitely a place I'd like to work with in the future, and I'm so excited that I was able to be a part of it for the first time through Summer Stretch!

Thursday, July 29: Dressed up for no particular reason.
Every once in a while, it's fun to get dressed up for the heck of it--and since my normal work attire is pretty casual, I decided to spiff things up a bit. Yeah!

Friday, July 30: Went to a backyard Mass and potluck.
I've never been to a backyard Mass before, but I absolutely loved it. The sense of community, the fresh air, the genuine authenticity of it...what a lovely experience! And I was able to meet some new folks and had a lovely conversation with them about church and ecumenism and other theological awesomeness.

Saturday, July 31: Cheered on my peeps at the Diocesan Co-Ed Softball Championship Tournament.
The super-sweet teens on the St. Teresa softball team made it to the diocesan championship tournament! We started the day by playing an intense game against some random team from the south section. (Still can't remember their name...St. G...Gertrude? NO! I remember now! St. Germaine!) Anyway, we beat them in the semi-finals, and moved on to an even more intense quarter-final game against St. Ferdinand's. Even though we lost, our youth played their best...and for what it's worth, St. Ferd's ended up winning the whole thing, so I thought we did great!

Okay, time to go to work! I have a big junior high mailing to get out this afternoon, so I suppose it would be a good idea to, you know, do it. Peace out y'all...

Love you, miss you, blah blah blah!

14 September 2010

grid project - week 9

What?! Two posts in one day?! That's madness, I tell you, MADNESS!

Sunday, July 18: Rode to Boone County, West Virginia for a mission trip.
What I didn't include in the last post was that the Saturday night I got back from Minnesota was also the night of the softball lock-in...so I was up until about 2am for that, and then woke up at 5am to pack for a week-long mission trip with an organization called Appalachia Service Project. I took a couple of kids from my parish, but we were with a larger group from St. Alexis up the road. I really wanted to see what it was like (without the pressure of bringing a ton of kids) so I can grow the group next year. So after 8am Mass at St. Alexis, we were off! That said, everything for Week 9 of the Grid Project has to do with learning skills and having fun on the mission trip. WOO!

Monday, July 19: Caulked the seams on the foundation of a house.
Yep. I think several of these things will be pretty self-explanatory.

Tuesday, July 20: Learned how to play Euchre.
Euchre is one of those old people card games that folks get really intense about in nursing homes. And apparently, so do the folks from St. Alexis Life Teen. So I learned how to play! It's kind of like Hearts, but not. I don't know how to explain it, really. Either way, it was pretty fun--maybe I can go volunteer at a nursing home and play Euchre with the residents or something...though I'm not sure who would want to be my partner. There's a distinct difference between knowing how to do something and being good at it.

Wednesday, July 21: Installed soffit on a house.
Soffit is cool stuff. Click here for a picture of how soffit, fascia (read "FAY-sha"), and gutters are supposed to work together on a house. Unfortunately, the soffit, fascia, and gutters for the house we were working on was absolutely terrible. So what did we do? We replaced it, of course...or at least started to. It was pretty intense. We got about half of the front side of the house done (about 30 feet of it) by the time we were done on Friday.

Thursday, July 22: Learned how to use a pop rivet gun.
Pop rivets are sweet, but I still haven't quite figured out how they work. For the sake of our argument, let's just assume it's magic. However pop rivets work, I got to do it. I felt really cool too. It was interesting how the roles of our crew members sort of decided themselves almost immediately when we started work on Monday...and how much they were determined by gender. You know, the girls doing things like painting and cleaning, and the guys doing...manly stuff, with power tools and the like. Of course, I'm not one to just accept gender stereotypes, so I was up on the ladder as much as possible--or using a drill, or a pop rivet gun, or a table saw.

Friday, July 23: Went to prom!
This one's going to take a lot of explaining, in two parts. First--the prom itself. ASP does fundraising within each week of service to help pay for the materials used at the work sites. The main way they do this is through something called Penny Wars, which is a competition between all the work crews. As an incentive to raise lots of money, the staff sets various benchmarks for dollar amounts. One of those benchmarks happened to be...a PROM. So naturally, we got a prom on Friday night. Now on to the second factor--chores. At the beginning of the week, we were separated into work crews. In addition to working together at our job sites throughout the week, we were also responsible for doing chores together every day. There was a giant chart in the hallway with various chores next to each crew's name. One unique chore is called "staff love," which involves showing the five staff members that you love them and appreciate all the hard work they do, and which we were assigned on Friday. It could be something simple like making them cards or buying their favorite snacks at the store...but our work crew is not the simple kind of crew. We staged an elaborate ceremony at the prom involving a scavenger hunt, each of the staff members' favorite Dairy Queen Blizzard, and all of it culminating in the staff members walking into a pitch black gymnasium, the lights flicking on, and the staff members being crowned the kings and queens of the prom. It went so well...I couldn't imagine it going any more perfectly than it did. And after that, we went back to dancing the night away. It was SO AWESOME! And I think the staff felt loved!

Saturday, June 24: Took a really nice shower and slept in a bed.
After a full week of sleeping on the floor and being in a constant state of dirtiness, it was absolutely heavenly to be able to sleep in my own bed and take a decent shower. It also made me think about all the blessings I have, and about how much I take them for granted sometimes. All in all, it was a very powerful and life-changing week, and one that I can't WAIT to be a part of next year!

And now, I'm going to sleep. It's way past my bedtime, and I've got a dreadful cold. Love you, miss you, blah blah blahhhhh...ahhh...ahhhhhhhh...ACHOO!

grid project - week 8

Ohhhhhh man. I am behind on this stuff. Well! Let's dive right in then, shall we? Last I recall, I was still in Minnesota...*cue dream sequence*

Sunday, July 11: Had dinner with the parents and some family friends in Dorset, MN.
Dorset is a funny little town that my family has visited every couple of years since I was little. It's full of restaurants and shops that span the length of about two blocks or so...they print an Onion-like newspaper every year and elect a "mayor" by having the people who visit Dorset pay a dollar to put their name in the running. Their website has an article about last year's mayor that had me giggling a few times, which you can find here (scroll down to the heading "Dorset Mayor Race"). Again, as you read it, keep in mind that Dorset is super small and, in fact, unincorporated. Gotta love rural Minnesota. Anyway, a bunch of us piled in a few cars and drove to Dorset to eat at the best Mexican restaurant ever (Compañeros) before heading over to Dorset House for the most delicious ice cream cones in all the world. It was a blast!

Monday, July 12: Visited Grampa in International Falls.
My Grampa is one old dude. I'm pretty sure he'll be something like 94 next month, so as you can imagine, things are starting to wind down for him. His memory is slipping a bit, he's losing motivation, that kind of thing. Every time I'm in Minnesota I make sure to take a day and drive up to the Falls to see him, which usually involves Bingo, a game of cribbage, and a cookie or two from my Gramma's super special cookie jar. Grampa brought it with him when he moved out of the house and into the assisted living place, and now has it in his room at the nursing home. My Gramma died when I was a sophomore in high school, but Grampa always keeps a good assortment of cookies in the jar...which we grandkids just love! I also like hearing his stories about the different jobs he had growing up--working in the logging camps when he was seventeen, or climbing towers to change lightbulbs as an electrician...my Grampa is quite possibly the most hardcore person ever. I'm glad that I get to hear about his life, even if he doesn't quite remember who I am.

Tuesday, July 13: Spent the day in the hospital.
This was the big day of my mom's surgery. For those who might not be aware, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2009 and has been dealing with the aftermath ever since: a right-side mastectomy followed by months of chemotherapy and radiation, and a few other preventative procedures...but all with a smile on her face, which is astounding. Anyway, the purpose of this surgery was to do a left-side mastectomy and to begin the reconstructive process. Sooo we piled in the car at 7:00am and arrived at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in the Cities a little before noon, checked Mom in, waited for a couple of hours until her surgery started, and then sat around for about ten hours while Mom had her surgery and spent time in recovery. Dad and I finished a puzzle in the waiting room and watched a couple of documentaries on PBS (one about two jumbo jets that crashed into each other, and one about two ships that crashed into each other...I'm sensing a theme here). And around midnight, we got to a family friend's house and spent the night there. Mom did great, and so did her surgeons!

Wednesday, July 14: Had lunch with an old friend.
I spent Wednesday visiting my college...ahhhhh nostalgia! I hung around my orchestra director's office for a bit and heard about all of his adventures, and then I headed over to the other campus to visit with my academic advisor and to see how things are going at my former place of employment (the School of Theology, where I was an office assistant). While I was at the SOT, one of my college friends (who is now doing grad school work there) stopped by unexpectedly and we went over to the fancy new Refectory to have some lunch. All in all, it was a wonderful conversation. We were on quite opposite ends of the theological spectrum in college, but lots of things have changed for both of us these last few years, and it was great to have a civil, meaningful discussion about theology and whatnot. I also had dinner with another college friend in St. Cloud, which is about fifteen minutes from campus. So much good conversation that day!

Thursday, July 15: Went to a Bastille Day party.
One thing that you can bet on when my close group of friends and I get together is that the making and eating of food will be involved. So since Bastille Day was on Wednesday, we decided to celebrate with a party at Robert's house! Lots of good food, good friends, and late night conversation was to be had, since many of us have been spread across the globe this year and hadn't seen each other since last summer. So we had quiche, Niçoise salad, yummy bread, and some super amazing chocolate mousse, and just enjoyed each other's company while we could! I spent the night at Robert's house and then woke up bright and early on Friday to go visit a fellow youth minister/college friend at her parish in Monticello.

Friday, July 16: Had dinner with friends at Pizza Luce in Minneapolis.
After returning form Monticello, I went to Minneapolis with Christa where my friends Jo, Karen, and Laura live. (Well, Laura got a place closer to campus with Madeline since then, so technically it's just Jo and Karen now, but WHO CARES?! You get the idea!) Anyway, we went to dinner and had a grand old time. Pizza Luce is a really cool place, but GOODNESS ME, THE HIPSTERS! All we could do was laugh...I mean, look at them--trying so hard to look like they aren't trying hard to be the coolest thing since the refrigerator. Slouchy hats, flannel, ironic t-shirts, skinny jeans, choppy haircuts, scarves galore, thick-rimmed glasses, obscure musical taste...need I go on?! There's a reason that Pizza Luce was voted "Best Place to People Watch" in 2008.

Saturday, July 17: Navigated the flight home with EASE!
I'd say that's pretty self-explanatory. No bad weather, no near misses, no screaming babies, nothing. It was great. I actually really like flying alone. Don't know why...I just do.

Phew! One more week down, and...so many more to go. AHHHHH! Stay tuned!

Love you, miss you, blah blah blahhhhh...

10 August 2010

grid project - week 7

Woooooo, GP Week 7 update as promised!

Sunday, July 4: Went to the Regatta/fireworks.
I spent the Fourth with one of my friends here in the Burgh. We started the afternoon with a little party up on Mount Washington--one of Fr. Bob's priest friends was having a potluck at his church/rectory, and somehow I got invited along. (For what it's worth, the taco dip was DELICIOUS!) Anyway, we rode the incline to the downtown area and went to this thing called the Regatta...it's basically a big shindig where the rivers meet--there are boat races, musical performances, kids' games, fireworks, and (my personal favorite) freestyle motocross shows. I tried really hard not to freak out with all the people--thousands and thousands of them, all crowded in a relatively small space. Luckily, I didn't have a panic attack and DIE. Anyway, we went back up to Mount Washington and watched the fireworks from the church up there before heading back to the North Hills for some well-deserved sleep. All in all, a very busy, very fun day.

Monday, July 5: Ate some raspberry sherbet with white chocolate chips.
Simple pleasures, right? It made me happy, and that's what matters in the Grid Project!

Tuesday, July 6: Went to Kennywood Park for the first time EVER!
Kennywood is a Pittsburgh tradition. For all you Minnesota peeps, it's the Pittsburgh equivalent to Valleyfair. It's strange, though--Kennywood has special days throughout the summer for different groups of people to come to the park and represent (what whaaaat), based mostly on where people live or what ethnicity they are. For example, there's Canonsburg Day, and Polish Day, and Italian Day, and Jewish Day, and more. Well, every summer there is a big event called "Catholic Youth Day" at Kennywood, and I brought a carload of youth. It was a fun day for the most part--except for the part when I almost fainted. But really, other than that it was fantastic!

Wednesday, July 7: Reminded myself why I LOVE middle schoolers.
This marked the first day of a summer program I'm coordinating with a bunch of North Hills area youth ministers called Summer Stretch. Basically, it's a six-week service/social program for kids in grades 6-8 that happens each Wednesday. It travels around to a different parish in the North Hills each week so that each youth minister only has to do one day of planning for six solid days of programming. All in all, it's a great program that I'm excited to be a part of. So when forty middle schoolers swarmed the auditorium at St. Teresa's for Summer Stretch's inaugural session, I instantly remembered why I love middle schoolers so much. They're HILARIOUS! They're open to anything, they always tell it like it is, and they have so much energy! I love middle schoolers. I LOVE MIDDLE SCHOOLERS! I can't wait for this fall when I start up a program for them! YAY YAY YAY YAY YAYYYYY!

Thursday, July 8: Had s'mores at a friend's house...in MINNESOTA.
Yes, in the midst of all the ministerial chaos, I was also getting ready to head back to the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes for a little "vacation." So after navigating my flight (scratch that, flights--three, to be exact!) to Bemidji, which involved SPRINTING through the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and uttering a few..."choice phrases"...I finally made it home. It was wonderful to see my mom and dad waiting for me at the little airport in B-Town, and after a yummy dinner with them, I went to my friend Erika's house and had some quality campfire/s'mores time AND some quality puppy time too!!! She saved a pregnant dog from certain death a while back (long story), and it had some kids, so we got to hang out with them for a little bit. The puppies were each about the size of a Chipotle burrito. SO CUTE! I need to get a puppy.

Friday, July 9: Traveled to North Dakota to see my grandma and other relatives.
Pretty self-explanatory, I'd say. It's so weird...my oldest cousin on that side of the family is going to be a senior in high school this year. When did that happen?! I guess I don't see them a whole lot, so my images of my cousins are stuck on a few years ago--no matter how many times I see them or get pictures of them or whatever, they're just...frozen in about the year 2005. So in my head, my cousin Joey (the senior) is in about seventh grade or so. It's wacky. Either way, it was a lovely (albeit SHORT) trip out to the No Dak.

Saturday, July 10: Went to an ordination.
You may remember from one of my Rome vacation videos that we visited a friend, Craig Vasek, who is studying at the Pontifical North American College (a seminary for guys from the United States who are preparing for the diocesan priesthood). Well, he was a deacon then, and on July 10 he was ordained a priest at the Cathedral in Crookston, MN. It was a beautiful thing, and I felt so blessed to be a part of it!

Okie dokie, one step closer! I'll try for another update tomorrow, but we'll see. For now...

Love you, miss you, blah blah blahhhhhh!

09 August 2010

grid project - week 6

Things have gotten pretty nuts around here. I'm sorry that these GP updates keep getting pushed back and pushed back...I'll be taking the next couple of days to update you on the last...oh, month or so of my life. Please be gentle with me!

Okay, now...GP update for Week 6:

Sunday, June 27: Successfully kept score at a softball game.
I know it doesn't seem like much, but I was really proud of myself when we got to the end of the game and I had hardly screwed up at all! There's a whole complicated system involved in keeping score for softball, and I've been trying to learn it for the days when Teresa (one of the other coaches) isn't there to do it, since Jeff and Dan are both base coaches/worried about other things. As of right now, I have a basic understanding of how the scorekeeping thing works, and though there's always more to learn, I'm satisfied with the working knowledge I have.

Monday, June 28: Skip Day.
I know, I know...but it's only my second Skip Day in the entire six weeks I've been doing the Grid Project! Cut me some slack, yo!

Tuesday, June 29: Went trash-picking and found a lovely table and chairs set for my "dining area."
It's common knowledge in Pittsburgh that if you have a big item in working condition that's going in the trash, you put it out on the curb a day early so that if someone driving by sees it and wants it, they can make arrangements to come and pick it up before the garbage man (or woman, I guess) does. So one of my friends and I went trash-picking after dark on Tuesday night. This one house was getting rid of a perfectly wonderful table and chairs set, which I snatched up, and a really nifty lounge chair and a TV stand, which my friend took. All in all, it was quite productive...and FREE!

Wednesday, June 30: Had some FANTASTIC frozen yogurt.
There's a little place up in Cranberry called Simply Yogurt. It's probably the most amazing thing ever, so I took a couple of my youth group kids there after a meeting we had. It's honestly the most genius thing I've ever heard of...you walk in and pick up a cup, put as much frozen yogurt in that cup as you want, then choose from a buffet of toppings ranging from granola to gummy worms to fresh fruit to candy bars. And THEN! At the end you just pay by weight rather than the specific things you got. BRILLIANT AND DELICIOUS!

Thursday, July 1: Beat a world on Super Mario Bros 3
Yeah yeah, I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's true! I've never been a huge video game person--we never owned an NES or anything like that when I was younger, but the few games I ever played were pretty much limited to Super Mario Bros 3 and Duck Hunt...and that phase in seventh grade when a particular friend and I played hours and hours of Pokemon Snap. Don't judge me! Anyway, I beat World 2 on Super Mario Bros 3 and felt really cool.

Friday, July 2: Went to a campfire and played Catch Phrase.
One of my adoptive families here invited me over for a little campfire. It was really fun to spend some quality time with this particular family--the summer has been pretty intense for them and for me, so it's rare that we get to spend time in the same place for any significant amount of time.

Saturday, July 3: Made some new friends around a bonfire.
Apparently my Fourth of July weekend was all about fire, because I went to a young adult BBQ/bonfire hosted by the other church I attend. It was so much fun--they had some sweetomatic fireworks and good food, and everyone was really nice. One guy brought his guitar, and we sang songs around the fire as things quieted down toward the end of the night.

Okay, so my plan is to have a Week 7 GP update for you tomorrow...AHHHH!

28 June 2010

grid project - week 5

Your weekly GP update (sorry it's a day late!):

Sunday, June 20: Went to Third Service.
Third Service is a contemporary worship service at a non-denominational church up the road from me...I have been meaning to go check it out for several months, but I finally got around to going for the first time on Sunday. While it's nothing like the Catholic Mass, I really enjoyed it a lot, especially the music. They do several praise and worship songs at the beginning, say the Lord's Prayer and Apostles' Creed, and then do a sermon on a Scripture passage...and they encourage folks to bring their own Bible so they can follow along and make notes, which I always appreciate. I am definitely planning on going to Third Service as much as I can this summer (in addition to Mass, of course). I think it's going to be a nice supplemental experience for me--something away from my parish so I can really focus without all the distractions of worshiping where I work.

Monday, June 21: Learned a new song on the guitar.
I learned how to play "Eleanor Rigby"...the chords are about the easiest thing in the entire world (literally, C - Em - Em7 - Em6), but the rest (the finger picking and all) is kind of difficult for me since I'm self-taught...so I stuck with the chords. Maybe someday I'll be able to play it all fancy-like, but this is good enough for now!

Tuesday, June 22: (though it applies for this entire week) Survived a bunch of elementary school kids.
Though it might not seem like much of a feat for most well-adjusted adults, it's a serious challenge for me. I was in some skits for Vacation Bible School at my church all last week...and I really don't like kids, so I struggled a lot with it. I know, I know: "But Jessie, aren't you a youth minister?!" Well yeah, because I can deal with middle schoolers and high schoolers...but any younger than that and I go nuts. Maybe someday I'll be able to handle spending significant amounts of time with small children, but for now...nope. Not there yet.

Wednesday, June 23: Did ALL of my laundry.
I'm the type of person who waits until the last possible moment to do laundry. Normally, I just do a couple of loads and have a bunch of clothes left in the hamper. I think, "No problem, I can just do the rest tomorrow!" or something equally ridiculous and improbable...and then the next time I see that awesome shirt is the next time I find it in the bottom of the hamper and say, "I'll do it tomorrow." So on Wednesday, I did all of my laundry. All of it. And it felt AMAZING!!! Yeah...

Thursday, June 24: Read a book for leisure.
I know, seems pretty commonplace, right? Well, it should be, but it isn't. I hardly ever take the time to just sit and read a good book...so I think I'm going to change that by making a conscious effort to read at least a few pages every day. Seems like a good summer project, right? I also want to get back into some of my theology books from college. As crazy as it sounds coming from a person who struggled a lot in school, I've found that I really miss learning.

Friday, June 25: Encountered a GDC without screaming, but instead delivering a clever CSI-like one-liner.
Mmmmmhmm, you can say it. I'm a total BA. So I found another Giant Demon Centipede in my bathroom. I calmly went into the kitchen, got my trusty green creepy-crawly-catcher cup, trapped the GDC in it, and because I had to leave and didn't have time to take it outside, I looked down on it with squinty eyes and said, "Now you stay in there and think about what you've done." Okay, probably not the cleverest thing in the world, but it sounded cool at the time. Never mind that I was talking to a centipede.

Saturday, June 26: Cheered on some friends at a softball game.
The other coaches for the St. T's softball team are all on a team together, so I decided to go to one of their games...it was pretty exciting--it was interesting to see how different grown-ups play than high schoolers. For one, there was wayyyy less walking (like, four-balls-and-you-automatically-go-to-first-base kind of walking) and things were a lot faster. It was a good way to spend an hour, anyway! And I learned more about the game, which is always helpful. Annnnnnd I was very impresssed with my fellow coaches too...they really played great!

Okie dokie, that's it! Until next time...

23 June 2010

the rain in spain stays mainly in the plain

A little howdy-doody to my peepskis back in the Midwest/anyone who cares--rain, rain, rain, Vacation Bible School, rain, rain.

20 June 2010

grid project - week 4

Is it already Week 4 of the Grid Project? Daaaang, time sure flies! Well, let's get right to it--your weekly GP update:

Sunday, June 13: Played foursquare.
After an embarrassing softball game in which we lost to a team that hasn't won a game in THREE YEARS, a bunch of high schoolers came back to St. Teresa's for root beer floats and some sweetomatic hangin' out. We ended up playing foursquare in the parking lot for over an hour. It really brought me back to my Underground Foursquare League days during the summer at St. Ben's--playing on the grass, making squares out of stakes and string, developing our signature moves (UNICORN STING!), and making arbitrary rules ("Name a state every time you hit the ball!"). It was just a really fun time all around, and I was excited to have a chance to get to know some of the softball kids a little better.

Monday, June 14: Started the day with Sun Salutation.
For whatever, reason, I was just in a yoga-type mood when I woke up on Monday morning, so I did the most obvious thing: sun salutation! It's basically a series of poses that help you stretch out and wake up. So I was like, "WHAT UP, SUN?!" and that day ended up being much more productive than I would have imagined.

Tuesday, June 15: Had a delicious smoothie.
The daughter in one of my youth group families invited me over for a mid-afternoon smoothie, and it was amazing! She made it with frozen strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, plain yogurt, and Splenda, so it ended up being not too terrible for me, and quite yummy at that!

Wednesday, June 16: Survived a trip to the Home Depot...with three teenage boys, an 8x4 foot piece of foam board, and my YARIS.
I honestly don't know how we pulled this one off, but...we did, and it was awesome. Basically, we had to create a set for Vacation Bible School (which starts tomorrow!), and it's typically a job left to a group of high schoolers...which means that I get to be in charge of it. Great. Anyway, while three girls made palm trees in the youth room, the three boys and I went to the Home Depot and bought a giant foam board (you know, the pink kind that's apparently used for insulation or something). Of course, an 8x4 foot anything is not going to fit in my little car, even without three teenage boys, so the logical thing was to have them cut the board into three pieces before we left the store. The dude who cut it for us definitely got some funny looks from several of his co-workers who actually stopped whatever they were doing to watch him complete the task. (I guess they typically only cut big wooden planks...but when have I ever been conventional? Haha...) Either way, that was only half the adventure, as we also had to get back to the church with our soon-to-be foam hippopotamuses. Five cool points to me for spelling hippopotamuses correctly the first time! Needless to say, it was an adventure.

Thursday, June 17: Dug my summer clothes out of storage.
It has been insanely hot here the last little while...and I finally gave in and pulled the flat tote containing my summer clothes out from under my bed. Now, when I say "summer clothes," what I really mean is "several capris and one pair of shorts" because other than that, my wardrobe stays the same year-round. Coming from Minnesota, I'm conditioned for cold weather--which is why I have absolutely no problem wearing short sleeves in the middle of winter, and why I don't really own any thick sweaters...but I don't think all Minnesotans are like this, and it's possible that I'm just weird like that. This also means that crazy hot weather (hellooooo Pittsburgh!) doesn't do well for me--I've had several headaches these past couple weeks from a combination of generally crazy weather and a bit of dehydration. NOTE TO SELF: Migraines suck, so drink more water, fool!

Friday, June 18: Developed a completely legit budget.
I know, I know...I should have done this months ago, and I kiiiiind of did. But now that my loans are going into repayment, I had some adjusting to do. So now, in addition to having the general monthly amounts that I'll be paying out, I also figured out which paycheck those amounts will be coming out of and what day they're due (or when I have automatic payments scheduled). ALSO! Something slightly related that I'm a bit proud of is this: with the exception of (I think) one or two accounts, all my accounts/statements/bills are PAPERLESS! I'm so happy that I don't have to deal with all that junk mail and all those stamps and envelopes and blah blah blah...it means I can save my envelopes and stamps for writing letters to people who really matter to me. Yay!

Saturday, June 19: Bought fair trade vanilla extract.
I've been meaning to get some more vanilla extract for the last three weeks or so, but I'm quite particular about my vanilla, so I hadn't gotten around to it...until yesterday! I try to buy fair trade vanilla if I can, because I like knowing that the people who produce it receive fair wages and all that...but not many places around here have fair trade certified vanilla extract, so it took a bit of research to find out that a store called Right By Nature in the Strip District has exactly the kind of vanilla I was looking for! So during a torrential downpour, I traveled down to the Strip and got my vanilla, and there was much rejoicing.

Alllllllright, peepskis, it's time for bed. I had quite the early day today (which I will talk about later), so I'm absolutely exhausted! Hope you're doing well--and Dad, on the off chance that you're reading this:


14 June 2010

grid project - week 3

Your weekly GP update:

Sunday, June 6: Saw the Avett Brothers in concert.
I don't really think I need to talk more about this, since I already wrote a whole post on it. But let me say once again that it was one of the best concerts I've ever been to. AMAZING!

Monday, June 7: Cleaned my apartment.
It was badly needed. Like...reeeeeally badly needed. So I did it! Anyone who's ever lived with me knows that it's difficult for me to give a flying rat's nose about how tidy my living space is...so it took a heck of a lot of willpower for me to clean everything up. (SIDENOTE: The GDC [that is, GIANT DEMON CENTIPEDE] made another appearance just moments ago. But this time, I didn't scream. AHHHHHH. Well, I dunno...does a digital scream count?)

Tuesday, June 8: Squeezed some lemons.
I know this seems kind of silly, but I'd never squeezed lemons before, and we were having lemon oregano chicken for dinner, so I was charged with this difficult task. And don't worry--I completely prevailed. Who's "we," you ask? Well! Tuesday was an exciting day, because I spent most of it with a fellow youth minister who works down the road (Caroline), her husband (Chris), and their two daughters (one's two and the other is nine months). Caroline and I have similar interests (namely, social justice-y things) and we have very complimentary personalities, so it was nice to spend time together--we accidentally locked ourselves out of her car (thank you, AAA membership! I knew I'd need you someday!), perused the Ten Thousand Villages Store, went to the South Side farmers market, had some delicious dinner, and generally just had some good conversation. It was a wonderful day, and I hope Caroline, Chris, and I can continue to get to know one another and all that. So you see, squeezing lemons was one of many things I could have used...Tuesday was a great day!

Wednesday, June 9: Went for a late-night, post-thunderstorm walk through my neighborhood.
It was so nice...there was hardly any traffic, the stars were finally starting to peek through the clouds after several dreary days of rain, and I was able to sort through some complex thoughts I've had recently.

Thursday, June 10: Went early-morning grocery shopping.
Here's something you might not know about me: I absolutely love grocery shopping. Like, it's one of my very favorite things in the whole world. I especially like going when hardly anyone's there (so, either really early or really late). Even if I do go during a peak time (say, right when people get off work), I like being able to take my time, follow my list, and smile through the chaos. And even though I really could use the self-checkout line, I never do. I love talking with the folks who are working at the register...I remember what it was like to work at Target--having crabby and mean-spirited people snap at me for no reason, or not even acknowledge my existence aside from asking who to make the check out to, or get angry at me because of a store policy that I had nothing to do with creating...and I try to bring a little bit of sunshine to that person's day (or night, depending on when I go). This grocery shopping adventure was especially wonderful because this last month has been a little challenging financially and I was down to soup and sandwiches every day. I admit, I was getting a little stressed out and sick of it, but I kept reminding myself that it's good to want and need things, and it's good to know what it's like to not have something you need. (Sidenote: I should also mention that Pasutti and one of our other friends from CSB/SJU came up for the Ingrid Michaelson concert and it was fantastic...a beautiful night for an outdoor concert enjoyed with good company!)

Friday, June 11: Went to the Farmers Market!
HOORAY! I don't think you understand how much I love the farmers market. It's probably because I was utterly spoiled with the farmers market in St. Joe (the town where my college is located)...either way, I love the farmers market here. I got a bunch of stuff--strawberries (which turned out to be terrible and sour, but oh well...there's always next week!), fresh pasta (the dude who was working gave me an extra whole wheat spaghetti for free!), rhubarb, potatoes, and kettle corn. HOORAY AGAIN!

Saturday, June 12: Had two very nice telephone conversations.
I got to talk on the phone with a couple of my friends from college (separately, of course). I like maintaining those connections back home, whether it's letters or phone calls or Skype chats or whatever...though I've readily admitted before that those aren't ideal means of communication, they still matter to me, and I still get great amounts of joy at getting a letter in my mailbox, or hearing my phone ring and seeing a Minnesota area code, or watching a little conversation box pop up on my computer. So talking to Madeline and Laura was absolutely lovely.

Okay, sorry this is a bit late (not that you really care, I'd imagine)...tonight was a crazy night of youth ministry and I didn't get back to my apartment until 10:30 or so, and I had some other stuff to catch up on too! So please forgive me.

Love you, miss you, blah blah blah!

08 June 2010

shoot i forgot to change the month on my calendar again

As promised, here's a little post about the Avett Brothers concert I went to on Sunday night. I originally didn't think I could go, but things rearranged themselves in my calendar and I was able to go at the last minute! A friend of mine was also going, so I called her a couple hours before the concert and we met up with another one of her friends and drove down to the venue together.

Here's a video I took of one of my favorite songs by the Avett Brothers ("Laundry Room"):

I didn't get home until almost 1:00am, but it was totally worth it...it was definitely one of the best concerts I've ever been to!

And this Thursday, Pasutti is coming into town and we're going to see Ingrid Michaelson again--this time, she's doing a concert at the Three Rivers Arts Festival. It's a good week!

Alright, time to go do something productive! Love you, miss you, blah blah blah!

07 June 2010

grid project - week 2

Your weekly GP update:

Sunday, May 30: Successfully made a batch of apple-cottage cheese pancakes.
I deliberately use the word "successfully" because it is an incredibly rare occurrence for me to get pancakes right. If I have a culinary weak spot, pancakez is it, yo. I have a tendency to under/overcook them or mix the batter too much/little or only half-flip them or make any number of other stupid mistakes. So wasn't I pleasantly surprised when I pulled it off and only screwed up two of them! And they were crazy delicious, too...I feel like they'd be an awesome snack. I'd highly recommend them...and you could even put something like applesauce and cinnamon on them and they'd be delicious.

Monday, May 31: Made whole wheat French baguettes from scratch.
I think that when the Grid Project is all finished, a good percentage of my activities will have had something to do with food. And I'm perfectly okay with that. Either way, I made some baguettes and they were marvelous.  That night, I had dinner with one of my youth group families (the folks I lived with when I first moved here) and I was running late, so I literally pulled the loaves out of the oven, grabbed one, wrapped it in a towel, and brought it over to their house. There's nothing like a fresh baguette, let me tell you!

Tuesday, June 1: Traveled to a new place for small group.
I'm part of a young adult small group through another church in my area, and the people who normally host it at their house were on vacation in Florida this week, so we had it at someone else's house. And this other couple lives in a place that I've never been, so it was kind of exciting to go somewhere new. I can't wait to do some more city-exploring when the summer really kicks in--it seems that Pittsburgh is a pretty happenin' place during the summer, so I'm super stoked!

Wednesday, June 2: Skip Day (I think it's fair to have one of those every once in a while, right?)

Thursday, June 3: Caught up with a friend over Chinese food.
My mentor from college (who lives in Minnesota) just happened to be in Pittsburgh on Thursday for a conference/round table discussion thingy about lay ecclesial ministry, so I picked him up from the airport and showed him around my area a little bit before his event started...and what's a trip to the North Hills without a stop at Sesame Inn? It's seriously the best Chinese food ever (I highly recommend the orange chicken), and it's ultra classy too, haha! We got to chat for a while, which was wonderful. It's nice to talk with someone from Minnesota in person...I mean, I love talking with people on the phone and on Skype and all that, but sometimes I wish I could just squeeze through the phone and talk with people face-to-face. So it was really nice to spend some time with Jeff and talk about life and ministry and all that fun stuff.

Friday, June 4: Wrote a letter to a friend.
I know this probably seems like a cop-out because I write lots of letters...but this is one that's been on my to-do list for a while. Nothing big or dramatic, just a letter that I've been meaning to write, and I did it. Now if only I were a bit more diligent about mailing my letters in a timely fashion...

Saturday, June 5: Created my own ice cream treat at Bruster's.
I love ice cream. I also love Nerds candy. So you may know from an old post that a couple of my youth group kids work at an ice cream place called Bruster's...it's kind of the local equivalent to Dairy Queen. Anyway, because I am so freakin' awesome (haha), I walked over to a convenience store two buildings down from Bruster's (how convenient!) and bought some Nerds. I then gave them to the kid who was working at Bruster's and instructed him to make a Nerds blast (like a blizzard), which he happily did. I've had a Nerds blizzard before, but there was something about this one that was exceptionally delicious...probably because I had to put in a little work to get it.

I know I've designated Sunday as my GP update day, and I know it's technically Monday, but I just got back from a fabulous concert, which I will detail at a later point in time...for now, just know that it was really wonderful.

Love you, miss you, blah blah blah! And don't forget, if you have any GP suggestions, leave them as a comment or Facebook me or whatever...I'd love to hear your ideas of things I can do!

02 June 2010

whiskers on kittens?!

Alright, let's clear up a couple of things:

First, and most importantly...YES, there were literally hundreds of tiny bugs in the pansies and YES, they were out of control so YES, I threw out the flowers. So much for that one. At least I tried? Oh, and my dumb cane (I love saying that) has a tiny mushroom growing in the dirt next to it. I don't know how to fix it...so I figure I'll starve it out--stop watering it for a bit, that kind of thing. A mushroom seems like something that really likes creepy, dark, water-logged situations. So there...we shall see.

Second, and least important of any detail ever...YES, I think I might have accidentally gone on a blind date last Wednesday. I mean, I can't say with 100% certainty, but I just have a feeling that we had different ideas of what kind of casual get-together this was...especially when he paid for my dinner. I went into the situation with the intention of making a new friend...but I'm not exactly sure what he was thinking about the whole thing. Either way, it was terribly awkward. I don't want to talk about it anymore. So let's watch this video instead!

30 May 2010

grid project - week 1

What? A title that actually has something to do with the topic of the post? Jessie, that's BANANAS!

Meh, I just figure that with something like the Grid Project, it'll be easier to keep track of (and you can call me out/harass me if I skip a week or something, haha).

So let's get on with it, shall we? I am currently five days into the Project and going strong. Here's a look at my exciting week:

Tuesday, May 25: Began the Grid Project.
I figure I can put this as a legitimate activity, because I had to make a giant grid to put on my wall...and I've really never done anything like that before, so I figure that making the decision to start the Project can count. :)

Wednesday, May 26: Planted some flowers in a pot and put them in my window.
Pansies! I bought them at a local farmers market and then went and got myself a pot and some organic dirt...err, potting soil? Either way, the end result is the same: they're in a pot, in some dirt. I did have a bit of a bug problem when I first got them, but I think that's pretty much under control. What I love about pansies is how they communicate. I mean, I've never had flowers before (only green plants), so I don't know if this is a general flower-thing, or a pansy-thing, OR just a these-particular-flowers-thing...but they definitely get reeeeeally droopy when they're thirsty. The first day after I potted them, I woke up to find them basically flopped over on their side going, "Waaaaaa...ter..." in a raspy, I'm-in-the-desert-and-will-certainly-perish kind of way. But then I watered them and an hour later they were all like, "HOORAY! Let's be ALIVE!" So there you go.

Thursday, May 27: Ate Lebanese food.
If I were being honest, I'd tell you that I actually ate Lebanese food on Wednesday while I was on what I didn't know was a terribly awkward and horrible blind date until we were about to leave, but I'm just...not going there. Anyway, I did have leftovers on Thursday, so I figure it's close enough. I had an exciting shish kabob pita roll at a place called Aladdin's Eatery, and it was really intense. I mean, it had turnip in it. Turnips are purple, and kind of look like purple lettuce when you cut them up. For anyone who knows me fairly well, you may or may not know that I am very prejudiced against purple lettuce...I always pick it out of my salad, even the smallest little bits. I don't know why, but I've been doing it ever since I can remember. It's kind of a complex, I guess. But I did not pick out any of the purple turnip in my pita roll (well, except one, and then I decided not to do it anymore, for the sake of my personal growth and development).

Friday, May 28: Made homemade cookie cutters.
This one's pretty self-explanatory, I think. And you can make some too...here's how! I made some pretty cool shapes, based on the recommendations of some lovely folks on Facebook: a star, a tree, a turtle, and a hat.

Saturday, May 29: Went shopping at Trader Joe's for the first time.
I've heard about this lovely store that has lots of good things...lots of naturals and organics and whatnot. And I know for a fact that they have excellent dark chocolate covered cranberries, because my friend Christa sent them to me once (and my life will never be the same)! I feel like Trader Joe's is a good place if you need something extra fancy (or special...like gluten-free stuff), but there's no way that I could ever shop there on a regular basis. Everything there is...kinda expensive. I also bought some quinoa (it's pronounced keen-wa), and I'm hoping to make some chicken quinoa soup for the Grid Project in the near future.

Okay, I'll post another GP update next Sunday. For now...I think I'm going to try a baguette recipe.

24 May 2010

you should try pringles and cottage cheese together sometime

I've been thinking a lot recently about the last year of my life, and all the crazy sh...tuff that has occurred.

One year ago, my mom was recovering from surgery after being diagnosed with breast cancer. My sister and I were both back in Minnesota. I didn't have any real plans other than to "find a job." And now, my mom is healthy. I'm sitting in an apartment--my apartment--in Pennsylvania of all places. I have a job doing what I love. It's nuts to think about all the challenges and the blessings that I've experienced.

And today, I came across a reflection/article. It got me thinking, and it gave me an idea.

I'm going to recreate the grid from that article and put it on my wall. Each day, I will do one new/exciting/fulfilling/exceptionally awesome thing and write it in the square for that day. And I'm going to do that for a full year. I'll try really hard not to repeat anything (though it might happen, depending on the nature of the activity). I'm calling it my 2010-11 "Grid Project."

So I will do my best to give you a Grid Project update once a week. We'll say...oh, I don't know. How about Sundays? I'll figure it out. Either way, I hope you enjoy the Project as much as I do!

Now, I'm sure you probably have a couple good ideas of things I can do. Leave it in the comments or call me and tell me about it or something! Love you, miss you, blah blah blah...

21 May 2010

orange soda floats

Sorry it's been a while. Life is fun like that.

I have an ant problem in my kitchen. Big time. I know where they're coming from--there's a gap behind the stove, and they crawl up from there onto the countertop and crawl along the edge to the sink. They only go that far for a reason, though. Like cookie dough. Man oh man, do they love cookie dough...especially if it's the last little bit in the bowl soaking in the sink. Trust me, I make cookies enough to notice the corresponding behavioral patterns of ants. Most of the time, I'm pretty good about cleaning up after myself...but the ants usually come out if I make a late night batch and forget to wash up my dishes before I head to bed.

BUT! I have found a solution. I can't remember where I read/heard it, but ants hate cinnamon. Like, HATE it. They also really don't like lemon juice. So I put cinnamon and lemon juice all around the area where they normally come out. I know I'm treating the symptoms instead of the cause, but I tried those little poison houses and they really just didn't work...plus all those chemicals kind of freak me out. At least with the cinnamon and lemon juice, I don't see them nearly as often. So that is something interesting happening in my life right now.

My friend Erika (from high school!) came to visit overnight last weekend! She came here with two of her aunts--one of them was here for a physical therapy conference or something, and the other was with us on Saturday. It was super exciting to see Erika and show her around Pittsburgh...even though we took detours the entire time because I still can't quite figure out how to get from one place to another in this ridiculous city. We went to the Pittsburgh Zoo and the Carnegie Science Center (which was awesome), caught the view from Mt. Washington, and of course made a stop at Primanti Bros. in the Strip District before bidding Erika and her aunt farewell. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday in the Burgh!

Other than that, things have been pretty normal. I can't believe how fast these last few months have gone by! It legitimately kind of freaks me out.

Okay, well...I'm going down to South Side for St. Teresa's annual women's retreat. The Passionist Fathers at St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center put it on every year, and one of my "moms" offered to pay my way, for which I am super grateful! So I guess I'll catch you on the flip side! I'll try to appease my loyal followers (coughcoughSARAcoughcough) and write more often upon my return.

PS: I am VERY excited about farmers market season in the Burgh! It's finally here!!!

07 May 2010

grapefruit is delicious!

I uploaded a quick video on the 'Tube a little bit ago, so I just wanted to let you know! It's kind of random, but I want to do a few random videos every once in a while just so you know I'm still alive and that I LOVE YOU! So...yeah! You can check out my YouTube channel or watch it below.

I'm heading off to Virginia to see Miss Pasutti today...should be a good little weekend trip! Springtime in this area is gorgeous, so I'm looking forward to the drive as well.

Okay, well...have a wonderful weekend! Love you, miss you, blah blah blahhhhh...

04 May 2010

run joey run!

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Jessie.

(I will forego telling this story in the third person, because it will be exceedingly difficult and quite annoying.)

So in March, I go to Target to buy a TV...because we all know how much I love Target. So if you work at Target, when you see a guest that you haven't seen before, you are supposed to ask them, "Can I help you find something?" And the answer is usually, "No, I'm just looking" and the underlying message is, "Bugger off, I'm in a hurry." WELL, on this fateful day, I go to Target, and I have lots of questions because clearly a purchase this big should be an informed one. So when the electronics team member, a guy about 1-2 years younger than I, approaches me and asks me if he can help me find something, I say, "Actually, yes!" and I proceed to ask questions and blah blah blah. Again, I have a lot of questions. Well, I think somehow this team member (who, by the way, I did not find attractive in any way...not to say he was particularly UN-attractive, but definitely not my cup of tea at all) must have thought that I was flirting with him or something...because apparently asking questions about the number of pixels in a television just screams "Heyyyyy there, fella!" So he starts talking to me about other things. Lots of other things. A full hour's worth of other things. Of course I'm too nice to just say, "Give me my TV and let me LEAVE, ya creep!" so he just keeps rambling on. And of COURSE in the midst of all his jabbering I still have lingering questions about my television purchase, so I can't just walk away anyhow. But in addition to telling me stories about this and that, he randomly throws in things like, "You seem like a really awesome girl, so..." (RULE #1: Never call me a girl. Ugh.)

If you want to know the kinds of things he talks about, here are two examples:
1. "So you're from Minnesota? South Dakota's near there, right? I drove through South Dakota once with a bunch of my buddies while we were following this band on tour, and one night, we were at a hotel and I saw a dude commit suicide by jumping out the third story window." (YEAH.)
2. Me: "I hate the saxophone a lot." (EDIT: Someone came up with a Dave Matthews Band CD and he asked if I liked DMB, and I said that I would except I hate the saxophone a lot.)
Creepy Dude: "Okay, so hypothetically...and this is just for the sake of the story...let's say it's a few years down the road. We're married (what?), got a couple of kids (WHAT?!), and one day, you come home from work and catch me playing the saxophone. What do you do?"
Me: "Instant divorce. Oh crap, I'm late for choir practice." (Not even kidding on that...I really was late.)

And to top it all off, even though the TV is actually very light and the box has very accessible handles, and even though I said, "It's okay, I've got it," he decides that he needs to call someone from another department over to watch the electronics boat while he carries the thing out to my car, claiming that "it's all part of the Target experience." Trust me, I know about the elements of the Target experience, and having one's TV carried to one's car by a creeper is not a part of that equation.

After that, I vowed never to return to that Target store ever again.

Fast-forward to Sunday, May 2. Before I go any further, you should know that there are two Target stores within my general vicinity...in fact, it takes exactly the same amount of time to get from my apartment to both of them. So if I ever need to go to Target, I always go to the one that does not contain the creeper. But next door to the Creeper Target, there is a Sam's Club where I go sometimes to buy youth ministry stuff. For Sunday's youth group meeting, I needed to get some juice boxes, shaving cream, two hula hoops, a bouncy ball, and some play-doh, so I headed up to Sam's. However...Sam's does not have toys. I was already running a bit short on time, so...I had no choice but to go to the Creeper Target (though believe me, I considered driving fifteen minutes in the opposite direction to avoid it). I walked into the store, already freaking out because the toy section is right across the aisle from the electronics boat and AHHHHH what if he's there and he tries to talk to me and blah blah blah?!?! I generally overthink things anyhow, so I was feeling a bit paranoid about the whole thing. Clearly.

I walked to the back side of the toy section, and I was literally peeking around every aisle (like a ninja) to see if he was there. After sneaking around for a little bit, I saw the hula hoops and got really excited! But before I could take a closer look, I saw...him...and freaked out. I immediately turned around and walked away really quickly to get my head together, and to get the shaving cream on the other side of the store. I actually contemplated changing the activities for youth group so I wouldn't have to go back to the toy section, but I knew I couldn't completely give up because the things we were doing were SUPER FUN.

And then...I got a brilliant idea. So I confidently walked back to the toy section, ready to put my genius plan into action. When I rounded the corner, I got out my phone, and just as I approached the hula hoops for the second time, I "answered" it. As you may or may not know, I am really good at engaging in fake telephone conversations...so that's what I did for ten minutes as I looked for the play-doh and bouncy balls. I figured the plan would work on multiple levels:
1. No stranger would ever interrupt a telephone conversation unless absolutely necessary.
2. Why would I even think to look over at the electronics section if I were so engrossed in conversation? That's right, no possibility of eye contact.
3. I really like engaging in fake telephone conversations.

And that is the story of how I avoided a creeper. Looking back, I wonder why I didn't actually call someone...I guess #3 above may have something to do with it...

So what about you? Any fun creeper stories to tell?

Love you, miss you, blah blah blah...

01 May 2010

hey...this coffee table wasn't here before!

I know I said that I would try and get the video of the focaccia bread up when I got back, but SCREW THAT because I got frustrated and I'm a loser who gives up at the first sign of a challenge. And by that I mean I tried for a couple of HOURS to get it to work and it just didn't. So. No focaccia bread video for you! But for what it's worth...it was absolutely lovely.

So you may recall that I was away on retreat from Tuesday to Friday. I went up to Erie and spent some time with the Benedictine Sisters there, and it was exactly what I needed. The Sisters are wonderful and gracious, and they're so good at the whole Benedictine hospitality thing (which makes sense, I suppose). I stayed in a hermitage out in the woods, which has a nice little living room, a full kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, and is about a five minute walk from the main building. "The Mount," as they call it, houses their chapel, library, and dining room, in addition to their living space, offices, and guest rooms. It was an awesome four days that I will surely look back on with fondness...especially on those days when I want to throw in the towel and give up my ministry forever (because everyone has those days every once in a while)! I was able to read a couple of really good books, color a picture with some crayons, and do a lot of journaling.

I wanted to share a bit of what I wrote on Wednesday:
Back in January, I heard this quote by St. Francis when I was on the youth ministers' retreat, and it really stuck with me: "Who we are before God is all we are, and nothing more." I think I've grown from that so much--just the fact that I could acknowledge my brokenness before God was (and continues to be) an important part of experiencing God's boundless love. Because that's just it: God's love doesn't stop when I'm angry with God, or when I don't pray, or when I sin, or when my trust in the Church is shattered. The love of God is always true, always present, always boundless.

Of course, this isn't an excuse for me to slack off spiritually or turn my back on the Church altogether. That's where the whole faith thing comes in. But it's good to be reminded that God's love is bigger than all the drama and the flaws...and that's the biggest thing that I got out of my retreat. It seems so simple, doesn't it?

And I definitely learned a lot of other things about myself and God and all that jazz...but I'm sure you'll understand if I don't write out all my ultra-personal journal entries here. :)

For what it's worth, the books I read were The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser and The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. They're both excellent books that I would highly recommend!

I'm so drawn to the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. Their community has so much life, and you can just feel the Holy Spirit running around the place like crazy! So...I've decided that I'm going to start the process to become an oblate with them. Basically, an oblate is a layperson (not a nun, Mom--DON'T WORRY, haha) who has a job and a family and all that, but who makes a formal commitment to the Benedictine way of life, especially to prayer (Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist) and the Benedictine values. Oblates commit to a particular religious community--in my case, to the Benedictine Sisters in Erie--to their ministries and to financial support of the community if able.

So that's what I'm doing! And now, I'm going to bed. My system is still a little off...I went to prayers with the Sisters at 6:30 each morning, so I had to be in bed pretty early. Also, last night I went to bed at 7:45 because I had a killer headache...and I woke up this morning at 9:00. Dang.

Okie dokie, that's all! Love you, miss you, blah blah blah...

27 April 2010

crayola kid

Yesterday, I made some delicious focaccia bread from scratch. I had hoped to have a new video of that adventure up today...but I'm experimenting with Windows Movie Maker and I will spare you the gory details of file conversions gone horribly, horribly wrong to tell you that it just didn't happen. Whatever I do, it'll have to wait until Saturday, because...

I'm going on a four day silent retreat! In fact, I'm leaving in about an hour and won't be back until Friday! I'll be staying with the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, going to Mass and prayers with them and all that, but I'm generally just trying to spend some silent time alone, away from the ministry--and the Burgh--for the first time in a ridiculously LONG time. (Other than Rome, the last time I was out of the city was...Christmas.)

So please pray for me over these next few days. Or if you're not the praying type, I would appreciate it if you'd send some good thoughts my way! Thanks everyone...and I'll catch you on the flip side!

Love you, miss you, blah blah blahhhhhhhhhh...

21 April 2010


I went to a Pirates game at PNC Park last night with a friend (we got free tickets a few weeks back at a meeting for the Pittsburgh Kids Foundation). The Pirates played against the Milwaukee Brewers and lost...of course.

Now, this is not to say that I could do any better...we all know about my softball skillz (which, if given a point value, would be at -9 right now), but really? Get your stuff together, Pirates! You get paid to do this! I mean, come on. You know you have a bad team when fans stay just long enough to see the Pierogi Race (you know, those Polish dumpling things) and then they leave. Seriously, check this out.


Did you know...
...the Steelers have won the Super Bowl six times?
...the Penguins have won the Stanley Cup three times and are in the playoffs right now, possibly to win a fourth?
...the Pirates are statistically the worst team in all of professional sports history with SEVENTEEN losing seasons in a row?

I saw a shirt once that said, "Pittsburgh: City of Champions" and then underneath in smaller print it said, "...and the Pirates." Yup. That about sums it up right there.