Tag Archives: travel

Molly in Costa Rica #4


The next installment of the blog written by the GLA students attending the Sea Turtle initiative with Molly:

“This morning we woke up to clear skies, and had arrepas with syrup, and fresh fruit. Due to the good weather we finally had our boat tour.

DSCF0488 (2)DSCF0465DSCF0452

Throughout the tour we managed to see a caiman, multiple tropical birds, fresh water turtles, and the poisonous dart frog.

DSCF0498 (2)DSCF0499DSCF0497DSCF0490DSCF0469IMG_5450

Directly after we went to town and made empanadas and tortillas in a cooking class and we had the pleasure of eating them.

DSCF0520 (2)DSCF0532DSCF0518DSCF0531 (2)


We traveled to ASTOP and had lunch which was hamburgers and chips for the Fourth of July. We were able to purchase gifts and keepsakes at the local artisan fair as well as having our hair partially braided.

DSCF0539 (2)

After the fair, we walked over and joined the locals for games of volleyball and soccer, sad to say Costa Rica beat the U.S. 8-2.


We had the opportunity to meet the children of Parismina as well as practicing our Spanish with them.

_DSC1927DSCF0540 (2)DSCF0543 (2)

Sadly we had to leave, but enjoyed the truck ride back to home base.


We enjoyed a rose, bud, thorn exercise and talked about our day, we had a delicious dinner of pasta and garlic bread. Our Fourth of July wasn’t as traditional as normal but we had more fun celebrating the diversity and culture of Parismina.”

DSCF0565 (2)

Molly in Costa Rica #3


The next installment of the blog written by the GLA students attending the Sea Turtle initiative with Molly:


“This morning we were all blessed to wake up to more mosquito bites and howler monkeys near our lodge. We enjoyed eggs, toast, and fresh fruit for breakfast. Our plan for the day consisted of a boat trip around Parismina, leadership activities, and reforestation, but because of the nonstop rain, we had to cancel our boat trip.

DSCF0285 (2)

Instead, we had a lot of spare time to bond and share stories and snacks. We also played activities such as human knot, shoe tower, and “walk a mile in my shoes”. For lunch we ate rice, beans, caramelized plantains, and vegetables. We didn’t let the rain stop our next adventure.

DSCF0587 (3)

GLA staff

As a group we walked on the rainforest trail and collected fallen coconuts that were sprouting small trees. With those, we walked the beach to bury the coconuts into the sand with our shovels. After about two hours, we counted a total of 109 planted coconut trees. We were all very proud of our hard work and team effort to make a positive impact on our environment.



There was an opportunity after the reforestation to take a dip in the ocean for a while.

DSCF0395 (2)DSCF0441 (2)


After showers and rinsing off, we had some free time to relax. For dinner, we enjoyed rice, mac and cheese, salad, and weenies. Since there was no night patrol tonight, we were able to have early bedtime. This will contribute to tomorrow’s next adventure.

Reforestation project–109 trees!
The winning Shoe Tower!
Planting a sprouted coconut
Human Knot

Molly in Costa Rica #2


The next installment of the blog written by the GLA students attending the Sea Turtle initiative with Molly:

DSCF0404 (2)

“Today was day 2 in our expedition at Parismina lodge. After we woke up we were BLESSED with an amazing breakfast, especially fried dough that was the definition of comfort food (shoutout Julianna).

DSCF0291 (2)

Next we took a 45 minute walk through the rainforest and across an airplane runway into town.

DSCF0251 (2)DSCF0258 (2)

During the walk we had the opportunity to see multiple monkeys and a sloth.

DSCF0658 (2)DSCF0643 (2)

In the village we all got to eat ice cream and snow cones.

Then ASTOP gave a second presentation which went more into depth about the turtles.


It was pouring rain by the end of the presentation, so we caught a ride on the back of a truck to home base. It felt like Indiana Jones!


At home base we took a 2 hour siesta in our hammocks,

DSCF0284 (2)

Which was followed by a leadership activity on the beach.


After a quick dip in the water, we ate dinner. We were rudely interrupted by an 8-legged friend in our room 🙁 but Jason saved the day and got rid of the traveler spider. Last night we didn’t see any turtles, only their tracks, but hopefully tonight luck will be on our side and we’ll get to see some tonight.”

DSCF0395 (2)

Molly in Costa Rica #1




At the airport at 4:30 am.

DSCF0761 (2)

After braving the adventure of international travel, Molly arrived in Costa Rica.

DSCF0069 (2)

While transferring planes in Houston, Texas she was thrilled to see another young lady wearing the identifying t-shirt of the GLA and got to become acquainted with a fellow Sea Turtle Initiative participant before arriving in Costa Rica. Both girls were glad to see each other. Their seats weren’t together but upon departing they were able to navigate customs together, making the process a little less intimidating.

DSCF0061 (2)

Students trickled into the airport through the afternoon from all corners of the globe. Once everyone had arrived GLA staff helped everyone securely exchange their dollars into colones,


And then they headed to Hotel Pacande to freshen up and settle into their next 10 days of Pura Vida!

DSCF0073 (2)DSCF0079 (2)

After enjoying lunch at the hotel, students had the option to rest, or participate in activities to break the ice and get to know their new GLA family.

DSCF0077 (2)DSCF0117 (2)

Because the trip to home base involved a 6 hour trip via car then boat, the group spent the night at this local hotel and left for the remote village of Parismina the following morning.

DSCF0686 (2)

DSCF0138 (2)DSCF0128 (2)

Day 2 involved a long drive, followed by a boat ride to arrive at the organic fruit farm where they would live and work for the next 10 days.

DSCF0144 (2)

DSCF0630 (2)

Along the way there was a planned stop at the first adventure of the trip: Ziplining through the jungle of Costa Rica.


They also stopped at a village store to purchase munchies before heading into the wilds of Costa Rica.

DSCF0120 (2)DSCF0121 (2)

Located on the Caribbean coast the farm they were staying at was quite remote. Travel to the closest town involved a 45 minute walk through the jungle, but was only about 10 minutes from the beach.

DSCF0372 (2)

This beach is known for being the prime location for four species of sea turtles to nest.

DSCF0212 (2)

While in Costa Rica, as part of the Sea Turtle Initiative, Molly and the other participants spent their days helping protect and improve conditions for the sea turtles through night patrols with ASTOP (an anti-poaching organization,) beach clean-ups, surveying nesting sites, and raising community awareness.

DSCF0267 (2)
DSCF0266 (2)

After a long day of travel, the students and staff arrived at the eco-lodge Friday night and settled in for a week’s worth of adventures. As parents we were privy to some of their adventures through blogs written by the students and posted every few days on the GLA website. Since they can better express the experiences they enjoyed than I can retell, I will be posting their recaps of their days in Costa Rica. (Because internet access is spotty in the jungle there were not blogs posted every single day, but I will share what they shared.)

DSCF0145 (2)

Here is their first blog entry:

This morning we all woke up in our new rooms in our lodge here on Parismina. A lot of us learned an important lesson about tucking our mosquito nets into our beds, because we woke up with upward of ten bites.

DSCF0319 (2)

We then had some morning free time and many of us headed downstairs to rest in the hammocks.

DSCF0287 (2)

The “living room.” This open area, filled with hanging hammocks, was the gathering area of the home.


After our breakfast we got ready for our first walk of our organic farm tour led by our house leader Jason.

DSCF0223 (2)

The “dining room.” Molly said she loved the sand floor.

Here we saw various plants, fruits (some of which we got to taste!) and insects.

DSCF0150 (2)

The tour of the organic fruit farm.

DSCF0173 (2)

DSCF0168 (2)

The students got to taste many of the fruits grown on the farm.

DSCF0203 (2)DSCF0204 (2)
DSCF0310 (2)

DSCF0171 (2)

Molly sampling the fruits…

During our nature walk we got to see a sloth, some iguanas, grasshoppers, a ribbon snake, and a nest of biting fire ants.


DSCF0211 (2)DSCF0183 (2)

DSCF0166 (2)

A Sloth!

DSCF0158 (2)

Molly said this plant felt and smelled like soap.

DSCF0149 (2)

After some free time we got to see a presentation from ASTOP, an organization for the preservation of sea turtles. This group taught us the reasons poaching of sea turtles occurs here in Costa Rica and what they have been doing to stop poaching.

DSCF0269 (2)


This information got us very excited for our first night patrol. The very nice man left and then we were given time to go swim in the ocean.

DSCF0368 (2)

The ocean was gorgeous, and had black sand which many of us had not seen before.

DSCF0370 (2)

After we passed a swim test (which we all did AWESOME at) we got to swim.


About half-way through swimming, more and more people went off to go play in the sand. Some people were buried while others of us just relaxed on their towels. The heat of the day was wiped off of us while swimming.

DSCF0175 (2)DSCF0177

After that, we came back where we all rinsed off and then had some downtime to relax and talk with everybody. All in all we had a great day and are looking forward to hopefully seeing a turtle on our night patrol.


If not, at least it will be an awesome week!



The Jimmy Stewart Museum




Grace and I concluded our week with a road trip to Indiana, Pa.

Located 1 1/2 hours northeast of Patchwork Farm, Indiana is the birthplace of another one of our Hollywood favorites, and happens to be home to a museum dedicated to his life:

IMG_1211 (2)

Yes, I am talking about Jimmy Stewart, star of classics like:

“It’s a Wonderful Life”

jimmy stewart 7

“Mr. Smith goes to Washington”

jimmy stewart 12



“Rear Window”

jimmy stewart 11

and “Harvey” (one of our personal favorites!)

Jimmy Stewart harvey

IMG_1208 (2)

Located on the 3rd floor of the local library, this humble but endearing museum was so appropriate for the man it payed tribute to. It highlighted his Hollywood career but was anything but “Hollywood,” focusing more on the man himself than the roles he played…A true tribute to a man of character.


In my research to learn more about this special man I came across a wonderful blog entitled “Lessons in Manliness: Jimmy Stewart” that I found beautifully expressed my thoughts and feelings about the traits that sets Jimmy Stewart apart from other Hollywood royalty and makes him one of my favorite actors of all time. For me his appeal is not only his on-screen talent, but the way he chose to live his life.

Here is the article:

jimmy stewart actor headshot tuxedo black white


“His type is as normally average as the hot dog and pop at Coney Island. He is good looking without being handsome, quiet without being a bore, ambitious without taking either himself or his job too seriously and unassuming without being dull. Stewart’s growing appeal has sometimes been difficult to peg. He’s no Gable and certainly has none of the qualities of a Valentino. A sixteen-year-old fan seems to have hit it when she wrote to him, ‘I like you because you’re like the boy next door.’” -1938 MGM biography of James Stewart

James “Jimmy” Stewart was an unlikely candidate for silver screen fame. Lacking the suave handsomeness and virility of a Cary Grant, the tough masculinity of a John Wayne, and the dark grit of a Humphrey Bogart, he was unlike anything else to come out of Hollywood at the time. Beanpole thin, with a famously slow drawl and awkward mannerisms, studios initially couldn’t imagine him as a leading man. Everyone could sense that Stewart was enormously talented, but few had a clue on how to use him. It would take directors like Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock to recognize his strengths — openness, emotional complexity, intelligence, and authenticity — and coax out some of cinema’s most unforgettable performances.

If Stewart broke the mold of the typical leading man, his behavior off the set was equally antithetical to the rest of Hollywood. Never one to be flashy, married only once, courteous to everyone he met, disciplined and professional, his life provided little grist for the town’s gossip columns. There were no shortage of people who agreed with President Truman when he said, “If Bess and I had a son, we’d want him to be just like Jimmy Stewart.”

While often remembered for his wholesome turns in movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stewart was an actor of tremendous emotional range, equally adept at delving into the dark corners of the human condition. Over the course of his brilliant and wide-ranging 55-year career, Stewart appeared in 80 films, several of which have become true American classics.

In following his own course on screen and in life, Stewart left behind many lessons in manliness. Here are just a few.

1. Forge Your Own Path and Follow Your Passion

jimmy stewart actor soldier garb with his father

“My earliest memories are of hardware smells. The dry aroma of coiled rope. The sweet smell of linseed oil and baseball gloves. The acid tang of open nail kegs. When I open my nose, they all come back to me.” -Jimmy Stewart

James Stewart did not come from a family with connections to Hollywood. Raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania, his father was the proud owner of the town’s hardware store. His father worked tirelessly to make the store a success, and believed that one day his son Jimmy would take over the business that had been in the family for three generations. Starting at age 10, he expected young Jimmy to come to the store after school to help out and learn the ropes.

Alexander Stewart was an Ivy League educated man who had served in both the Spanish-American War and World War I and presided over his family with manly bearing. Stewart idolized his father and wanted to fulfill his expectations and make him proud. Thus, though Jimmy wished to be a pilot and attend the Naval Academy, he acquiesced to his father’s desire that he follow in his footsteps and attend Princeton.

Upon graduation, Stewart planned to continue his education by getting a masters degree in architecture. He would then be expected to come home to Indiana, take over the hardware store, and perhaps expand into the home building business.

But after matriculating from Princeton, Stewart joined an acting company for what started as a summer stint. When Stewart made the decision to keep on acting instead of returning to school in the fall, his father was not at all pleased with the change in plans. Remembered Stewart:

“Dad was upset. My father didn’t like it at all-till the day he died he didn’t like it…he kept shaking his head, saying, ‘No Stewart has ever gone into show business!’”

jimmy stewart2

Indeed, the elder Stewart never completely warmed up to the idea of his son being an actor. Even after the huge success of Jimmy’s first breakout film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Alexander called him and told him to quit the movie nonsense and come back home to get married, start a family, and help run the store. It was a plea Jimmy would hear for pretty much the rest of his life.

2. Be Dignified with the Ladies

jimmy stewart actor old age with wife black white

While we often think of the stars of yesteryear as more upright than the current crop of tabloid fodder, the Hollywood of the past was much like it is today; studios just worked harder to cover up their actors’ misbehavior and the media kept a respectful distance. While Jimmy Stewart was assuredly no saint, next to fellow actors who juggled multiple women at a time, had affairs with married women while they were single, and liaisons with single women when they were married, Stewart was considered downright prudish.

Stewart had relationships with some of the most beautiful and alluring women of the time — Ginger Rogers, Olivia de Havilland, Dinah Shore, and Marlene Dietrich to name a few. But he preferred to keep his relationships out of the public eye and was notoriously circumspect about the women in his life when probed by reporters.

While other stars burned through multiple marriages (Clark Gable and Cary Grant both married 5 times), Stewart held out to find the right woman to settle down with. She was hard to find in Hollywood; women threw themselves at Stewart in hopes of hitching their star to his, but he found these brash, sexually aggressive women off-putting and quickly tired of the vapid ladies he met in Tinseltown. Seeing many of the women he knew cheat on their husbands, he became extremely cautious about tying the knot. As his fortieth birthday approached, he began to despair of being a bachelor forever.

But then he met Gloria Hatrick. Athletic, smart, and funny, she was an elegant and beautiful woman who shared his love of fishing, golfing, and sailing. Stewart said:

“I could tell right off that she was a thoroughbred. For me it had been love at first sight. She was the kind of a girl I had always dreamed of. The kind you associate with open country, cooking stew and not fainting because it was made of cut-up squirrels. She’d look at home on a sailboat or a raft; in a graceful swing from a tree branch into the swimming pool.”

jimmy stewart5

Stewart and Hatrick were married in 1949 and stayed married for 45 happy years. If Stewart had been something of a playboy in his single years, after his trip down the altar he became a devoted husband. Gloria remembered:

“Jimmy was working with some of the most glamorous women in the world. My constant fear I suppose was that he would find them more attractive than me and have an affair with one of them. A lot of men in Hollywood became involved with their leading ladies. Jimmy was a red-blooded American male so naturally I thought it could happen to him, too. I was convinced it was only a matter of time before the telephone would ring and it would be James telling me that he had to work late at the studio or that he would be out playing poker with the boys. Well, no such call ever came. And I can honestly say that in all the years of our marriage Jimmy never once gave me cause for anxiety or jealously. The more glamorous the leading lady he was starring opposite, the more attentive he’d be to me.”

3. Do Your Duty

jimmy stewart actor air force getting medal pinned

All the generations of Jacksons on Stewart’s mother’s side of the family had served honorably in the military, going all the way back to the Revolutionary War. So when it was Jimmy’s turn to serve, he was ready to fulfill his duty. Although he had numerous opportunities to get out of service, Stewart did everything he could to serve.

In 1940 Stewart was drafted into the military. But when he took his physical, the army rejected him; at 6’3″ and 130 pounds, he was deemed too skinny for service. He could have bowed out honorably but instead he appealed the rejection and set up a second physical. He spent the next 3 months constantly gobbling up milkshakes and fried chicken wings in attempt to put on 10 pounds. When the second physical came around, he was still underweight, but he convinced the doctor to look the other way and approve him.

And so a week after winning an Oscar for The Philadelphia Story, Stewart became the first major American actor to don a uniform. He humbly transitioned from acting to peeling potatoes and gracefully accepted the drastic change in his pay — from $3,000 to $21 a week.

Stewart had a lifelong fascination with flying that started with building model airplanes as a child and progressed into getting his private and commercial pilot licenses as an adult. As an avid flyer, he decided to transfer to the Air Corps. While eager to just be one of the boys and start flying missions, Stewart grew increasingly exasperated as the other men were shipped overseas while he was left to train other pilots, make recruitment films, and be trotted out in uniform for various publicity events.

The Army, afraid that losing Stewart in combat would be a heavy blow to American morale, was intent on keeping Stewart from shipping out. But Stewart continually and persistently implored his commanding officers to put him on active duty.

Thus when Colonel Robert Terrill, Commanding Officer of the 445th Bombardment Group needed a man who would be able to lead his men into combat and get them home safely, the Army, knowing there was no more capable or qualified man for the job, finally relented.

When Stewart joined the 445th in Sioux City, he so impressed Terrill that in a matter of weeks the Colonel put him in command of the 703rd Bomb Squadron division, consisting of a dozen B-24 bombers and 350 soldiers and flyers. Once in Britain, Stewart flew missions as dangerous and harrowing as any other Airman, leading squadrons on bombing runs into Germany and occupied France. Besieged on each mission from the Luftwaffe, Stewart escaped many narrow misses. Many of his fellow men were not so lucky, and Stewart watched with sickness as they fell from the sky.

For his service, Stewart received the Air Medal for flying 10 successful missions over Germany, the Distinguished Flying Cross for leading an air raid on Brunswick, and the prestigious Croix de Guerre from the French Air Force.

Stewart remained in the Air Force Reserves until forced into retirement and left the Force with the rank of Brigadier General.

4. Be Humble

jimmy stewart as cowboy talking with young boy

Stewart’s dignified manner with women extended to his treatment of everyone he met and worked with. He refused to let fame give him an inflated sense of self-worth nor deter him from his values. Although his money would have allowed him to, he never lived in an ostentatious way. While the car of choice in Hollywood was a Mercedes, when he finally hit it big he went out and bought a Volvo. He drove it for many years, and then replaced it…with another Volvo. During the energy crisis of the 1970s, when he was in his 70s, he refused to heat his pool for his daily dips, seeing it as an extravagance.

Stewart always sought to make his co-stars shine and respected his fellow actors immensely. Known as a consummate professional, he never had an ill word to say about a co-star, even when their antics on set had been anything but respectable. And he was always rooting for the success of others. When Stewart was up for the Best Actor Oscar in 1960 for Anatomy of a Murder, he wanted very much to win as his star had dimmed a bit after the poor reviews and box office performance of 1958’s Vertigo. Walking into the Academy Awards ceremony, he bumped into another nominee in the Best Actor category, Charlton Heston, and the two posed for pictures together. Heston recalled, ”As the flashbulbs finally petered out and we turned to go to our seats. Jimmy took my arm and said, ‘I hope you win, Chuck, I really mean that.’ I don’t know another actor alive who would’ve said such a thing. He’s an extraordinary man.”

Stewart’s humility extended to his military record as well. The public was enamored with the idea of this movie star turned Airman, and when he returned home, he could have easily used his service record as a way to garner attention for himself and promote his films. It would have certainly been tempting, as his postwar transition back into movies did not go smoothly, and industry insiders were beginning to doubt his ability to make a comeback.

But Stewart had long insisted that he was just one of the boys, no more important than any other serviceman. To this end he refused to talk to reporters about his war experiences or appear in any kind of publicity event that capitalized on his service. He also refused to act in movies that depicted combat, leading him to turn down lucrative roles in big movies like Midway and The Longest Day. As Stewart explained, “They’re just hardly ever the way it really is.”

jimmy stewart

The museum was reflective of the man himself…hometown, personal, and humble. We loved it and left Indiana, PA even more enamored with its Hometown Hero.

IMG_1212 (2)

As we walked the halls of the Jimmy Stewart museum I couldn’t help but think of my grandfather who visited this same museum a decade ago with my parents. Much like Jimmy Stewart he lived a life reflective of the same values that set Jimmy Stewart apart…

He too was hard working, honorable, duty-driven, kind,  gentlemanly, funny and humble. Both tall and lanky with a quiet steadiness and quick smile they are men worth emulating and a rare treasure in this world that sings the praises of the slick, the shiny, and the shallow.

IMG_1215 (2)

As we were exiting Grace said to me, “You know who Jimmy Stewart reminds me of?” I smiled knowingly, caught in my own reflection of the similarity between Jimmy and my grandfather. I assumed she was having the same thoughts but surprised me with her answer…

“He reminds me of Rusty.”

jimmy stewart8

It seemed fitting that while I was remembering my Grandfather Russell, Grace would be taking note of similar traits in his namesake, Rusty. Both tall, lean, humble, kind, funny, steady, and “GENTLE- men” to the very core…so very like the man we were paying tribute to in Indiana, PA.

In a world filled with “James Dean’s”

I am grateful for these “James Stewart’s.”

IMG_1209 (2)



Happy 4th of July!


On the 4th of July Grace and I found ourselves home alone for the third day while the boys were away at Boy Scout Camp and Molly was serving the people of Costa Rica. We considered different possible plans for the day but in the end decided that a day in Pittsburgh was the best plan, since we would end up in the city that evening for fireworks anyway.

Grace had a paper to write for one of her summer college classes so we got a later start which allowed me to get some chores done… chores that had been ignored the last two days while we were playing tourists around town.

At 10:00am we were on the road and headed down to the Strip District of Pittsburgh to do a little shopping. Grace had never visited the Strip District (home of ethnic food stores and international restaurants) before, so we thought it would be a fun way to start the day. It turns out most places were closed because of the holiday. That didn’t deter us from enjoying those stores that were open. It just meant we were in and out of the strip far quicker than we had planned.

Our final stop before leaving the strip was Pittsburgh Popcorn where we each purchased a treat to enjoy later during the evening fireworks show.

IMG_0980 (2)IMG_0984 (2)

From there we headed down to Point State Park where the fireworks would be taking place that evening. We thought we would find our parking spot before the crowds converged on the city and enjoy a day down at the Point.

IMG_1086 (2)

It was a HOT day to spend outside so we countered the 8 hours outside with some indoor sightseeing at the Fort Pitt Museum:

Fort Pitt Museum is an indoor/outdoor museum that’s in downtown Pittsburgh. It is at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, where the Ohio River is formed. Fort Pitt Museum is surrounded by Point State Park named for the geographically and historically significant point that is between the rivers. This piece of land was key to controlling the upper reaches of the Ohio River Valley and western Pennsylvania, before, during, and after the French and Indian War, as well as the American Revolution.

The museum is in a recreated bastion of Fort Pitt, which was originally built in 1758 by the British. The historical focus of the museum is the role that Fort Pitt played during the French and Indian War. The museum also features detailed information on Fort Pitt’s role during the American Revolution, the Whiskey Rebellion and the founding of Pittsburgh.

This was a Pittsburgh historical site that neither Grace nor I had ever visited before. It was a perfect day for a first time visit, not only because the air conditioning felt so good after our 100 degree walk in the heat, but also because of all the added activities being offered at the fort in honor of the 4th of July holiday.

We stepped inside and stepped back in time to the 18th century frontier to discover what life was like for the earliest residents of the region.

IMG_1031 (2)

Grace learning some period games with one of the volunteers.

Grace learning more about the fort at the meticulous diorama that gave a glimpse of 18th century Pittsburgh in miniature.

IMG_1017 (2)

Like a trader of old we were able to bring furs to market at the Trader’s Cabin and peer inside a replica Casemate to see munitions being made deep within the walls of Fort Pitt.

IMG_1033 (2)

Grace and I learned about the artillery that kept watch over the fort during the French & Indian War and were able to see if we had  what it took to be part of the crew on the replica cannon.

IMG_1029 (2)

Then we headed to the Soldiers’ Barracks to discover what life was like for the troops that garrisoned and protected Pittsburgh.

IMG_1025 (2)

With a wide range of interactive exhibits for visitors of all ages, the first floor gallery was the place to learn about daily life in 18th century Pittsburgh. We were so impressed with all the stations offered that allowed us to really step back in time and experience life at Fort Pitt.

IMG_1022 (2)

From there we moved upstairs to the second floor where we learned more about this area and Fort Pitt’s role in our country’s history.

In the mid-18th century, the contest for control of the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains was far from decided. Among the relative newcomers to the region were Shawnee, Delaware, and Seneca Indians in search of autonomy in the Ohio Country, as well as military representatives from the two most powerful nations in the world: England and France.

IMG_1014 (2)

The clash of these two great empires, which began in the backwoods of present day Western Pennsylvania, forever changed the course of world events, had powerful repercussions for Native America, and ultimately inspired thirteen rebellious colonies to declare their independence from Great Britain.

Explore these momentous events and their impact on our region in the permanent second floor exhibit, Fort Pitt: Keystone of the Frontier. The exhibit features two audio-visual presentations covering both the French & Indian War and the American Revolution, intricate dioramas of the earliest forts at the Point, and numerous artifacts, all of which paint a vivid picture of war, trade, adventure, and diplomacy on the 18th century frontier.

IMG_1038 (2)IMG_1049 (2)

After a few hours touring the Fort Pitt Museum we headed back out into the heat and sunshine. First stop: The Blockhouse. Located just outside the museum is the Blockhouse, the only original structure left standing from historic Fort Pitt.

IMG_0998 (2)IMG_1027 (2)IMG_20180704_141104

Grace and I enjoyed an afternoon of strolling, sightseeing, and people watching at the point.

IMG_1073 (2)

The heat eventually led us the water stairs (across the river on the north side) where we enjoyed some Rita’s Italian Ice while we sat with our feet in the water, trying to cool off.

IMG_20180704_160700IMG_1075 (2)

As the sun lowered in the sky the air cooled, due in part to a front moving through the area. The front brought with it its own impressive light show…

IMG_1117 (2)IMG_1148 (2)IMG_1127 (2)

A prequel to the fireworks that followed.

IMG_1191 (2)

I’d be hard pressed to decided which show was more stunning!

IMG_1143 (2)IMG_1136 (2)


It was a delightful day with my first born daughter.

IMG_1006 (2)

Happy birthday, USA!!


Panama Rocks


Years ago Toby and I enjoyed a weekend away for our anniversary. He booked a hotel in western New York near Jamestown. While staying at the hotel a fellow visitor told us about a hidden gem, revered by locals but widely unknown by those outside the area, called Panama Rocks. It was recommended we check out this scenic park before leaving the area so we did and were so glad we did. It was one of the most magical places I had ever seen! 

When Grace and I made plans to visit Jamestown I knew a visit to Panama Rocks was a must, so following our morning at the I Love Lucy museum I told Grace we had one more place to visit while we were in the area, not giving her any clue of the magical world she was about to enter…

IMG_0791 (2)

Panama Rocks Scenic Park:  “an enchanting world of towering rocks, deep crevices and passageways, cool, cavernous dens, and small caves.”

IMG_0866 (2)

Formations are composed of conglomerate sedimentary rock, according to their website, and extend “about a half a mile and read upwards of 60 feet tall — one of the largest of its kind in the world.”

IMG_0860 (2)

There’s not many people in this day and age that aren’t familiar with the J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous trilogy, Lord of the Rings. Most of Tolkien’s well-known story line takes place in the magical setting of Middle Earth, a fictional fantasy world that’s covered in vibrant green landscapes and mythical wonders. If the idea of not being able to visit such whimsical place like this has always broken your heart, then no need to get upset…

We found Middle Earth!

And it is only a 40 minute drive from Erie!

IMG_0806 (2)

Operating since 1885, Panama Rocks Scenic Park is touted as one of the best outdoor attractions you’ll find in this area of New York.

IMG_0837 (2)

From deep crevices to cavernous dens, there was so much to see and explore in this extraordinary scenic park.

IMG_0939 (2)

Not only does the scenic park feature a one-mile long trail that leads visitors to fascinating places, off-trail exploring is also allowed here! Grace and I were able to make our way through passageways and explore crevices that looked like places from out of this world.

IMG_0845 (2)

The trail is great for visitors of all ages but does feature moderate inclines and pathways that will take you over the many roots you’ll find exposed throughout the park. (Which adds to the magic but requires watching your step.)

IMG_0922 (2)IMG_0915 (3)

One of the main reasons that this park is so eye-catching and unique is that the mosses and ferns create a lush scenery amongst such rough formations.

IMG_0889 (2)IMG_0914 (2)IMG_0884 (2)

It really was nothing short of magical and we found ourselves looking for the fairies and gnomes that we knew must call this fantasy land home.

IMG_0943 (2)IMG_0966 (2)

Pictures just don’t do justice to the awe-inspiring magnificence of this magical park. It really is another world and by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

IMG_0965 (2)IMG_0906 (2)

IMG_0875 (2)

I was so grateful I was able to share the experience with Grace but we both agreed we must return soon with the entire family so that we can enjoy a day of exploring together in this fairy tale forest.





I Love Lucy!


This week we are experiencing a rare phenomenon at Patchwork Farm. Grace and I find ourselves alone for a whole week, something that hasn’t happened for the last 18 years. This week Miss Molly is in Costa Rica working with the endangered sea turtle population and Toby, Rusty, Ozzie and Tyler are all at Boy Scout Camp for the week. Which means Grace and I have had 6 days at home together.

When we realized we would be home alone for the week we began making plans, determined to make the most of this rare gift, recognizing that it will probably never happen again. We decided to use this week to be tourists in our own town, visiting places we have always wanted to go, and participating in activities we normally can’t do when we are a family of 7.

This week has been all about connecting with my first born child and making memories that will be treasured years from now.

Our week of mother/daughter adventures began with a road trip on Monday.

We decided to make the 2 1/2 hour pilgrimage to Jamestown, New York to pay homage to the queen of comedy and one of our favorite leading ladies…



There in the heart of Jamestown (the birthplace of Lucy) is the Lucy Desi Museum and Desilu Studios. We spent the morning learning more about this comedy icon and falling deeper in love with Lucy!

IMG_0721 (2)

Since 1996, Lucy’s hometown has welcomed visitors from all over the world to the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum. Inside its doors we found a warm salute to the First Couple of Comedy with priceless costumes, awards, photographs, and other vintage memorabilia on display from the estates of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

IMG_0725 (2)

With a push of a button we could hear audio clips from Desi’s autobiography as well as stories of their youthful antics told by Lucy’s childhood pals. A unique radio plays clips both from Lucy’s 1940’s radio series, My Favorite Husband, and some of Desi’s famous Latin songs.

IMG_0727 (2)

IMG_0730 (2)
The panels on the left of the Museum (as you look toward the back) described Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s personal histories. As we proceeded down the panels, we learned about Lucy and Desi’s early careers, how they met, and their creation of the most famous comedy series of all time.

IMG_0736 (2)IMG_0740 (2)
After touring the museum we headed next door to Desilu Studios. Desilu Studios is devoted to the “I Love Lucy” TV series. It is home to original props, costumes, memorabilia and more. Inside we found complete re-creations of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s New York City apartment and the Hollywood hotel suite where Lucy pantomimed with Harpo Marx and set her nose on fire with William Holden.

IMG_0752 (2).JPG

Desilu Studios is the permanent home of the “I Love Lucy” 50th Anniversary Tour Sets that traveled the country in 2001-2002 to celebrate the most popular show ever on television. Exhibited at convention centers, state fairs, music festivals, casinos, and more, it featured exact reproductions of the original sets.

IMG_0776 (2)

Here are some of our favorite Displays & Exhibits:

IMG_0743 (2)

My Favorite Husband Radio Studio Set: When CBS asked Lucille Ball to bring her wildly popular radio program, My Favorite Husband, to the new medium of television, she agreed–as long as her real life husband, Desi Arnaz, could play her television husband. Desi was traveling the country most of the year with his popular Latin band, making it difficult for the Arnazes to achieve their dream of starting a family. CBS declined, believing that the public would not accept this “mixed marriage” of an all-American woman to a Cuban with a heavy accent–despite the fact that the couple had in fact been married for several years. Here we were able to pick up the headsets and listen to excerpts from this radio show!

IMG_0748 (2)

“I Love Lucy” Episode #6–“The Audition”: To prove to CBS that the American public would accept them, Lucy and Desi created a vaudeville show that they took on the road in 1950. In one of their touring skits, Lucy plays “The Professor,” trying to break into Desi’s night club act with an audition on her special cello. After six months of tremendously positive live audience response, Lucy and Desi produced a pilot episode and CBS agreed to Desi’s playing Lucy’s husband. “The Professor” skit was part of the pilot as well as “I Love Lucy” episode #6, “The Audition.”

IMG_0763 (2)

623 East 68th Street, The New York Apartment: This was Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s apartment after the birth of Little Ricky. Their first apartment, which did not have a window over the piano in the living room, was too small for the three of them, so they moved upstairs to a larger apartment (episode #61, “Ricardos Change Apartments”).

IMG_0754 (2)IMG_0760 (2)IMG_0755 (2)

Artifacts: Among the costumes and props on display from “I Love Lucy” are the original cello and professor costume from the show’s pilot and episode 6, “The Audition,” as well as a 13-piece clown outfit and a lion tamer ensemble worn by Pepito, the Spanish Clown in episode 52, “Lucy’s Show Biz Swan Song.”

IMG_0778 (2)

Beverly Palms Hollywood Hotel: When Ricky was cast in the motion picture Don Juan, he took the whole gang (Lucy, Fred, Ethel, Little Ricky, and his mother-in-law) to Hollywood with him. During this period from 1955-56, the Ricardos lived in the Beverly Palms Hotel. It was on this set that Lucy burned her nose while meeting William Holden. Harpo Marx also re-enacted one of his most famous movie scenes here with Lucy, in what later became one of her favorite episodes, #124, “Harpo Marx.”

IMG_0771 (2)

Wall Mural: Enlarged from a 4×5” image, this wall shows the studio audience at a taping of “I Love Lucy.” Desi Arnaz can be seen (back to camera) “warming up” the audience, and both Lucy and Desi’s mothers are in the top row near the center.

IMG_0770 (2)

Episode #30, “Lucy Does a TV Commercial”: do you pop out at parties? Don’t be tired and listless or unpopular! This hands-on exhibit allows all “Vitameatavegamin” lovers to give it a try. The dialogue is in front of you. Here you can amuse your fellow visitors with your own version of “Vitameatavegamin.”

lucyIMG_0780 (2)IMG_0782 (2)

After touring Desilu Studios and enjoying a morning of belly laughs with my oldest we drove past Lucy’s childhood home in Jamestown, NY before heading to our second adventure of the day. (Don’t you just love the paint job on the garage?!)

IMG_0790 (2)

When Grace and I finally made it home (after a day of galavanting around western New York) we put on our PJs, stretched out on the couch, and enjoyed an “I Love Lucy” marathon,

Watching all of our favorite episodes before heading to bed after a long, eventful, and fun day of adventures.



Spread your Wings and Fly!


And she is off!


Last Thursday Molly embarked on a trip of a lifetime.

Her 3:00am arrival at Pittsburgh International Airport was a culmination of 6 months of prepping, planning and praying her way to this adventure. For the next two weeks she will be joining teens from all over the globe on a Global Leadership Adventure in Costa Rica where she will be working with Peace Corps volunteers as part of the Sea Turtle Initiative. This is an experience she sought out in hopes of “trying on” this field of work as a possible future calling. Driven by desire to serve she looked into opportunities offered to teens that mimic the Peace Corps experience in hopes that her experience will guide her future schooling and career decisions. She prayerfully approached this experience, petitioning the Lord to lead her to the program she was meant to pursue, and diligently setting aside funds to pay for this experience out of her Philly Pretzel Factory paychecks. After 6 months of eager anticipation she was off on the adventure of a lifetime. Below is an overview of the Sea Turtle Initiative program and all it entails as well as the first blog posting of her adventure with GLA. It is our prayer that Miss Molly might be a blessing to the people of Costa Rica and that this experience might be a blessing to her…


Highlights of Costa Rica’s Sea Turtle Initiative

  • Protect endangered nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings
  • Assist with night patrols and visit an animal rescue center
  • Spot sloths, monkeys and exotic birds as you cruise through the mangroves
  • Soar through the rainforest canopy on a zipline adventure
  • Learn to surf the warm, mild waves of Costa Rica
  • Explore a small beach town and the local market

The population of Costa Rican sea turtles has declined by 90% since 1980. Sea turtles face a myriad of threats, including boat traffic, climate change, accidental catch by industrial fisheries and pollution in their ocean and beach habitats. As a volunteer, you’ll live and work on the coast of Costa Rica, assisting a turtle conservation organization with critical efforts to preserve the natural areas where this endangered species lives. Ensuring that the turtle population will thrive for generations depends largely on our ability to educate the local community and protect the places where turtles nest. With the right timing and luck, you might be rewarded with the sight of turtles hatching.

Community Service

Each year, leatherback and green turtles come to Costa Rica’s beaches to lay their eggs. Poachers steal the turtles and their eggs to sell on the black market for profit. Although this practice is illegal in Costa Rica—as it contributes to the depletion of the endangered sea turtle populations—it is hard to enforce without the help of the local community’s participation. You’ll be assisting on night patrols with a local nonprofit and anti-poaching organization started by a Peace Corps volunteer, to protect nesting animals and safeguard their eggs. During the day, you’ll participate in beach cleanups, survey nesting sites and raise community awareness of environmental challenges. Your projects will improve living conditions for turtle species hovering on the brink of extinction.


Hands-On Learning

You’ll be fully immersed in topics centered around the animal world. Learn how critical each species is to the health of all life in the ecosystem, including human. Hear local speakers’ and community members’ perspectives on sustainable conservation efforts, and begin to understand how competing interests of the civilized and natural worlds can intersect. Visit an organic farm and learn about growing and maintaining local fruit trees such as the cacao, vanilla, and banana.



In Costa Rica you’ll be constantly surrounded by incredible natural wonders. Fly through the treetops of the nation’s lush inland as you go on a thrilling zipline adventure. On the coast, ride a boat through a local mangrove, where you can spot sloths, monkeys and exotic birds. You’ll also connect with the strong cultural roots of Costa Rica’s coast by visiting the local market and taking workshops on traditional dance and cooking. Finally, learn Costa Rica’s soul sport—surfing—with a lesson on a calm beach.


COSTA RICA – The Sea Turtle Initiative – June 28 – July 7, 2018

Thursday June 28, 2018

¡Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!

It’s a lovely day in San Jose! Our local and international staff have excitedly been preparing for our newest GLA arrivals! FINALLY the big day is HERE!!!

Here is our staff from left to right: Local Director Jason, Mentor Brittany, International Director Adriana, Mentors Emily and Erin at the Green Gold Lodge in Parismina, Limon, Costa Rica.

Each student began their adventure by securely exchanging their dollars into colones with the help of a mentor, and arrived safely at Hotel Pacande to freshen up and settle into their next 10 days of Pura Vida!

After enjoying lunch at the hotel, students had the option to rest, or participate in activities to break the ice and get to know their new GLA family.

Tomorrow, we will depart for our beachside rainforest home base, but not before stopping in the cloud forest for a zipline excursion! We are so excited to share updates and photos of our trek to the Caribbean coast where students will call home.

We are so excited for Miss Molly and will continue to keep you updated as more GLA blogs and photos are posted.

Old Economy Village…a journey back in time!


IMG_9767 (2)

For two decades I have resided in the Pittsburgh area and for two decades I have heard tales of the wonders of Old Economy Village but had never managed a trip to visit it in person. That all changed last Friday when we were invited to join friends who are PA Virtual families for a field trip to Old Economy Village. A good portion of our co-op attended and it was fun to catch up with friends. Thanks to a state grant received by the cyber school admission was free (an unexpected blessing!) which just added to the enjoyment of the day.

Upon arriving we had the opportunity to stroll around the Visitor Center and become better acquainted with the history behind this Beaver County gem. Here is an brief overview of the Harmonites who settled and developed this historic community we know as Old Economy Village.

“In 1804, the followers of the Separatist George Rapp (1757-1847) emigrated to America from Iptingen (near Stuttgart) in southwest Germany seeking religious and economic freedom. Nearly 800 farmers and craftsmen followed their leader to Butler County, Pennsylvania where they built the town of Harmony. Ten years later they migrated westward to Posey County, Indiana founding a second town named Harmony, which today is known as New Harmony.
In 1824, the Harmony Society returned to Pennsylvania, this time settling in Beaver County along the Ohio River. There they founded “Oekonomie,” now better known as Old Economy Village. It was here that the Society gained worldwide recognition for its religious devotion and economic prosperity.
The Harmonists developed a simple, pietistic lifestyle based upon the early Christian Church. They turned over everything they owned to the Harmony Society when they became members. Everyone worked together for the good of the Society and received, in turn, what he or she needed to live simply and comfortably. Because they expected Christ’s Second Coming to Earth at any moment, they adopted celibacy in 1807 in order to purify themselves for the Millenium – Christ’s 1,000 year reign on Earth.

The Harmony Society successfully “placed the manufacturer beside the agriculturalist,” an accomplishment held in high regard in the early nineteenth century. National leaders like Thomas Jefferson viewed this as the ideal plan for America’s economic and political future. This ideal would be a national economy that would thrive in both agriculture and industry, independent of foreign influence.

The Harmonists created, adapted, and adopted the new technologies of their day giving them a competitive edge in the growing early American economy, particularly in textile manufacturing—wool, cotton, and silk—and agricultural production.
By 1825 they had constructed textile factories powered and heated by steam engines. They built shops for blacksmiths, tanners, hatters, wagon makers, cabinetmakers and turners, linen weavers, potters, and tin smiths, as well as developing a centralized steam laundry and a centralized dairy for the community. Later, they perfected the technology of silk manufacturing, from worm to fabric, for which they received gold medals during exhibition competitions in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Despite the Society’s economic success, time and events brought about its decline. In 1832, one third of the members left Economy under the leadership of Count de Leon, a self-proclaimed prophet. In 1847 Father Rapp died. Although the Harmonists leaders turned to new business ventures – railroads, oil production, and building Beaver Falls and its industrial complex – their economic vitality, like their membership, eventually waned.

By the end of the nineteenth century only a few Harmonists remained. In 1905 the Society was dissolved and its vast real estate holdings sold, much of it to the American Bridge Company who subsequently enlarged the town and renamed it Ambridge. Six acres of the Society’s original holdings, along with seventeen buildings, were acquired by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1916.

Today, these six-acres, surrounded by Ambridge’s National Register Historic District, are administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission as a National Historic Landmark site.
The historic site, which contains the seventeen restored historic structures and garden built between 1824 and 1830, originally was the religious and economic hub of the Harmony Society. The buildings, grounds, library, archives and 16,000 original artifacts are a memorial to the Society’s commitment to the religious discipline and economic industry that built their American Utopia.”

Once all families had arrived we were led from the Visitor Center to the village, where we stepped back in time 150 years, by walking through the doors of the Feast Hall into historic Old Economy. 

IMG_9777 (2)

Old Economy Village is comprised of 17 historic buildings and  various “stations” that function as a living history experience. We had the opportunity to split into self -guided groups and tour the village independently. Many of the buildings had volunteers in period dress demonstrating skills from that time period and sharing more about the history of the Harmonite people.

Other locations offered fun, interactive, hands-on activities common to that time period that the kids could participate in and experience first hand.

In my group I had my four kiddos (Grace was at work), as well as other friends from co-op. They enjoyed moving from station to station, learning about life in the early 19th century from the fascinating and engaging volunteers dressed for the part.

IMG_9877 (2)

Here are some of the places we visited during our tour of Old Economy Village: 

Feast Hall / Museum Building  Built in 1827, the first floor showcased a Natural History Museum (now recreated) open to the Society for free and to the public for a ten cent admission fee.  Harmonists gathered on special feast days for communal meals or for musical performances in the second floor Feast Hall.

Here the kids were able to experience school as a 19th century student, complete with a handwriting lesson using a quill and ink.

IMG_0009 (2)IMG_0015 (2)IMG_0018 (2)IMG_0021 (2)

George Rapp Garden
Visitors to Economy described George Rapp’s garden as “neatly laid out in lawns, arbors, and flower beds.” The 1831 Pavilion once featured a wooden statue carved by American sculptor, William Rush. The current figure was made in the 1950s.  Also built in 1831, the Grotto’s rough exterior belies its elegant neoclassical interior. Harmonists viewed this building as a metaphor for their Society – rough on the exterior but refined inside.

The gardens were our final stop for the day and everyone enjoyed strolling these beautiful grounds, inhaling the intoxicatingly sweet scents of the garden.

IMG_0050 (2)IMG_0038 (2)IMG_0034 (2)IMG_0053 (2)

Baker House, Garden and Family Shed
Storekeeper R. L. Baker, his mother, and sister lived here. Following George Rapp’s death, Baker, Jonathan Lenz, and Jacob Henrici led the Society and maintained their business ventures. The Baker House is a typical Harmonist dwelling. Every household had its own garden, even though food was provided by the Society. The shed was vital to the household as a food storage area, tool and wood shed, chicken coop, cow stall, root cellar, and outhouse.

In this part of the settlement the kids got to walk through the herb garden and learn about its preservation, as well as try their hands out at egg gathering and cow milking.

IMG_9807 (2)IMG_9919 (2)

Water Pump
Pumps were located on Economy’s streets in various locations. Water was distributed through wooden pipes from a spring on the hill east of town. This pump is a reproduction, plumbed to the city water supply. Visitors are invited to experience wash day at Old Economy.

The water pump was one of the biggest hits of the day. Everyone was impressed with the hand pump and had fun attempting water hauling and hand washing the laundry.

IMG_9942 (2)IMG_9951 (2)IMG_9932 (2)IMG_9967 (2)IMG_9955 (2)IMG_9926 (2)IMG_9939 (2)Cabinet Shop
The woodworking tools that helped build and furnish Economy are exhibited in this original wood frame building.


The volunteer who was demonstrating his craftsmanship in the cabinet shop was a delight. He was a retired school teacher who loved sharing his knowledge with the kids and engaging them in what life would have been like for the settlement’s cabinet makers in 1830, including letting them see how cabinets were constructed and allowing them to try out some of the hand tools.

IMG_9786 (2)IMG_9790 (2)IMG_9801 (2)

Blacksmith Shop
This structure was built in the early twentieth century as a garage for the site’s caretaker. It was later converted into a blacksmith and cooper shop for demonstrations. The original structures for those trades were located elsewhere in Economy, outside of the site’s present boundaries.

The two gentlemen who ran the blacksmith shop were equally engaging and we were all fascinated with their work as they created beautiful, decorative hooks as they spoke of their trade.

IMG_9898 (2)

Cobblestone Street
This is the original Harmonist Street, where visitors can roll hoops, walk on stilts, and play games of graces.

But the cobblestone street was the biggest hit of all. Home to the old fashioned games available for the kids to try out and play, this was the epicenter of activity for our group. I had a hard time pulling Tyler away once he discovered this stop on our tour of Old Economy.

IMG_9990 (2)IMG_9984 (2)IMG_9853 (2)IMG_9832 (2)IMG_9840 (2)IMG_9874 (2)IMG_9844 (2)

IMG_9815 (2)IMG_9818 (2)

IMG_9825 (2)

It was an absolutely delightful day at Old Economy Village. It took me two decades to make it there but hopefully we will be returning in a more timely manner, with Toby and Grace in tow…

What a lovely day to visit such a lovely place!