Hurry Up, Kate, Life’s Not a Fashion Show

If you were to ask my mom, she would most likely tell you that I am a bit high maintenance. I rarely leave the house without hair and make-up fixed, and I will never go to the store in pajamas. On more than one occasion, this has caused me to run a little late.

I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve heard my mother say, “Hurry up, Kate, life’s not a fashion show.” But maybe, for me, it is. I have been told on more than one occasion that I shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks about how I look. And I don’t. I do, however, care what I think. 

My favorite shade of war paint, I mean, lip color.

Let me pause for a moment to assure you that I am no fashionista. My style is basic. Super basic. But I like to present my best self to the world, even if my style is lacking.

Some may say my need for make up in public comes from a lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem. And maybe that’s part of it. I’d like to say I have good self-esteem. But who knows? Maybe I don’t. But I do know that when my hair and make-up are done, and when I have decent clothes on, I feel like I can face the world. It is my war paint. 

Not to compare myself to a prostitute, but there is a scene in Pretty Woman that hits this topic rather perfectly. If you’ve never watched it, warning: spoiler alert (also do yourself a favor and go rent that movie right now!!). In the movie, after Edward’s friend, Stuckey, finds out Vivian is a prostitute, he approaches her and makes her a–ahem–business proposal of sorts. She is left clearly upset by the conversation. Later she confronts Edward, saying that if she had been in her own (hooker) clothing, she could’ve handled the situation and would’ve been prepared to deal with the creep.

I feel the same in my work. I work in an environment where business casual is acceptable as long as it doesn’t interfere with my nursing duties. But if I have a day full of meetings with parents, I wear scrubs. A presentation about STDs or suicide prevention to the students? I wear scrubs. Wake up with a feeling it’s going to be “one of those days” in the clinic? I’m in my scrubs. Scrubs are my war paint for nursing. I hate public speaking in general, but I can step up and talk to high schoolers about uncomfortable medical topics like a pro when I wear my nursing war paint.

Even beyond my workplace, clothing has always been a quiet passion of mine. I used to dream of being a fashion designer. It started with old dress up clothes and sheets and curtains and anything I could get my hands on and could fashion into a dress. Grandma taught me to sew. That was only fuel to the fire. I have made a few articles of clothing for myself and for my daughter. In fact, designing and creating a formal dress is still on my bucket list. 

Photo by EVG photos from Pexels

I feel like I’m starting to stray off course here. My point is that I strive to be in the appropriate outfit with the appropriate make up for every occasion. It’s how I function. It’s how I cope in stressful situations, and it’s my own way of improving my confidence. 


A Trip Through The Cranberry Backcountry

The time is upon us for a summer-fun staple: a bicycle ride through the beautiful Cranberry Backcountry. My family has done this ride every summer for many, many years.

For those of you who do not know, the Cranberry Wilderness Area (or the Backcountry, as it is also known) is a section of the Monongahela National Forest. Motor vehicle access is restricted in areas, one of them being the area where we ride our bicycles.

Our ride takes us down a 16 mile section of gated gravel road that is restricted to forest service vehicles. In the 25 plus years I have ridden there, I have only seen a forest vehicle a small handful of times.

In fact, you can sometimes get 10 miles into the trip before you see anyone at all. For me, that is the best part of it all. On this week’s trip, we only saw two people on horseback during the entire ride through. I was surprised, given that it is a holiday week and the campground past the gate at our trip’s end was fairly full.

The ride can take as much or as little time as you want. The kids (and sometimes my husband) would be happy to peddle through it like a race, but my mom and I are of the same mind. We pack a lunch, take our time, and enjoy the beauty of nature that lies right in our backyard. At a moderate pace, it takes about three hours.

The Dogway Low Water Bridge. This is one of our favorite spots to stop for lunch.

The road meets up with, and then follows along with the Cranberry River for the last 8 or so miles. There are countless beautiful fishing and swimming holes. There are also a handful of shelters and camp sites for anyone who wishes to make a camping trip of it.

A set of picturesque falls lies just off the path. It’s perfect for a quick head dunk on a hot day.

If you like to ride bicycles, or enjoy the great outdoors, I highly suggest this trip for you. Anytime the subject of bikes or camping or fishing comes up with another person, I recommend the Backcountry very early on in the conversation.

Stress Level: Overwhelmed

Earlier this year, I created a post about managing stress. I am going to admit to you now: I have slipped. I have been overwhelmed by life the past few weeks. And the sad thing is, this happens to me every summer.

I am a creature of habit. I have a routine and I stick to it. I thrive when my routine is on point. I wake up, I get dressed, go to work, come home, do housework, make dinner, wrestle the little one into bed, go to bed. That is basically my life. And I love it.

And then summer comes. Please don’t get me wrong. I LOVE summer break. I NEED summer break. I have that time to recharge and be mentally prepared for the madness the next school year brings.

But summer break throws my routine into chaos. I have always had a love hate relationship with sleeping in, and I always find myself sleeping in on break. And because I have no place I have to be, I have no gumption to do anything. I find myself lazing around all day instead of the mountains of housework that need done or summer projects that should be completed.

And then I look at the piles of laundry and the picked over fridge and the dirty counters and become terribly overwhelmed. I try to ignore it and write a blog post, but my youngest is wild and loud and says ‘mommy’ every five seconds. I can’t concentrate. And it only spirals from there. It always ends the same way: At the end of July, I am kicking myself because I didn’t get anything done that I wanted to.

This has been what the past few weeks of my life has looked like. My past couple blog posts (including this one) have been thrown together the night before or even the day of, meaning they are not the quality I want them to be. I even completely forgot a doctor’s appointment, which is not like me at all. But today, it changes. I am feeling up the the challenge of putting my summer life back together.

Step one: laundry. Especially my bedsheets. A fresh, beautifully made bed can do wonders for the soul.

Step two: the kitchen counters. Stacks of junk mail, random toys, and crumbs have overtaken my counters, and I plan on winning them back.

Step three: clean the cobwebs. There have been cobwebs hanging out in the corners, and they have been irritating me. Today, they go down.

There is much more that I need to do. I think I will set an alarm for tomorrow morning and wake up at a respectable hour. And get myself in gear to finish the rest of the housework. And by getting that first step of housework done, I believe it will lead to a more productive summer.

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem from Pexels

A Trip to Oglebay

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Oglebay Resort in Wheeling, WV with my husband on a business trip of his. I think a lot of people who have heard of Oglebay Park know it for their spectacular Winter Festival of Lights, the driving tour of over a million Christmas lights that runs throughout the holiday season. But, as I learned this past week, that certainly isn’t all that Oglebay has to offer.

The resort features the main building, Wilson Lodge, several cottages, and estate houses. We stayed in one of the cottages, which was what I like to call a “luxury cabin”. Our 4 bedroom cabin came equipped with a flat screen TV, gas fireplace, stainless steel appliances, and two bathrooms.

The lodge is home to an indoor pool, hot tub, and fitness center for guests of the resort. We brought our oldest son and one of his friends along with us on this trip. They really enjoyed relaxing in the indoor pool. The lodge also hosts two restaurants and the West Spa, which are open for public use.

The park is host to multiple outdoor attractions, all of which are open and available to the public. We were given a tour of the Good Zoo by Dr. Joe, the zoo’s director. I will admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of zoos. I’ve always felt like they are a little cruel. But I LOVED this experience. It was by far my favorite of the week.

Sweet Pea the sloth and her keeper

I loved getting to learn about how the staff at the Good Zoo cares for these animals. It was amazing to see the inner workings of animal conservation at it’s finest. We learned the very specific diets that are created for each species, as well as the kinds of puzzles and activities they use to keep the animals from getting bored through the day.

We were also given the chance to meet and feed some of the animals. Andi and Frankie, the cheetah brothers, Felipe the mongoose lemur, and Sweet Pea the sloth were among my favorites.

Andiamo (or Andi as his keeper affectionately called him) waiting patiently for someone to feed him.

Other outdoor activities at the park include paddle boats on the lake, segway tours, an aerial challenge course, a mini golf park, an outdoor pool with inflatable climbing toys, tennis courts, multiple golf courses, horseback riding, and several walking and hiking trails. And skiing, snowboarding, and tubing is available during the winter.

There is so much to do at Oglebay, obviously. I spent a lot of my time relaxing, eating, and watching my husband work. The boys took full advantage of the resort wrist bands that gave them access to almost all of the activities. They had a blast.

We were sent running inside by a sudden rainstorm during our dinner at the Garden Bistro. Despite the rain, the food, drinks, and view were unbelievable good!

Part of watching my husband work included a quick tour of the historical Oglebay mansion. As a lover of history and old houses, I was fascinated by it. If you like history, this is definitely something to put on your to do list.

Overall, I highly suggest visiting Oglebay Park! Even if you don’t have it in your budget to stay at the resort, the day activities and the food alone are worth a visit! I would also like to send out another thank you to everyone at Oglebay who made our trip there as fun and awesome as it could possibly be!

PSA: Kids Have a Sunny Outlook on Life

A few years back, we took the WORST vacation ever. I swore I would never go on a family vacation again. The kids fought with each other, they argued with us, nothing made them happy, and tears were cried by all on multiple occasions. It was absolutely horrible. Since then, I have blamed myself for that trip. I planned too many outings for one trip, I didn’t schedule enough snack times, etcetera, etcetera.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, the Terrible Vacation was brought up during a family talk. And you know what blew me away?

The kids only remember all the fun they had on that trip.

The epic tantrum that my daughter threw that ended with a cracked Ipad screen? She only remembers accidentally breaking the screen in her sleep. But she does remember all the fun she had at the beach.

The extreme disappointment that led to an entire afternoon of pouting by our oldest son (all over the shark tank not being a blood bath)? He only remembers how cool it was to touch the rays in the touch tank.

The entire day we spent at Busch Gardens listening to all three of them complain and cry over basically everything? They only remember how awesome the rides were.

So I’ve been carrying around this weight of the Most Horrible, Awful Family Vacation for the past few years for absolutely no reason. I have been vehemently swearing off family vacations because why? Because I have let the bad memories outweigh the good.

Photo by Daria Obymaha from Pexels

I think sometimes, as adults, we have a tendency to focus on the negatives in life. At least I know I do. I stress and worry over everything, especially when it comes to things related to finance. The good times slip right by with barely a glance. And unfortunately, what we focus on the most is what we remember later in life.

Since that eye opening conversation with the kids, I have been making a real, solid effort to see more positive in the world around me, especially when it comes to spending time with the kids. I want them to look back on their childhood with fond smiles. Not only that, but I also want to have happy memories. I don’t want to be some bitter old woman who remembers her kids as being awful terrors all the time.

The Best Banana Muffin Recipe Ever

I’m not sure I would consider myself a morning person. I don’t necessarily love mornings, but our house tends to sleep in. Oftentimes I like to get up early because it is silent. I sit and brood over a cup of strong, dark coffee, and soak up the tranquility of a house before chaos.

A lot of times, morning is when I get my best work done. Some days I write. Some days I clean. Some days I organize. Some days I throw on an apron and rock it like Betty Crocker.

Those are my favorite days. So much of my childhood was spent in a kitchen. It’s my go-to happy place. Even when it’s messy, which it frequently is, I am at my happiest sitting, singing, or dancing in my kitchen. After all, a sink full of dishes means a house full of happy stomachs.

One of my favorite early morning recipes to make is banana muffins. They are so easy and taste so delicious. And everyone tends to wake up a little brighter when they smell these coming out of the oven.

I was given this recipe by one of my best friends’ mother, Debbie Alt. One weekend she had come to visit us at our college apartment. I woke up to the amazing aroma of these muffins, and fell in love with them. So, being the amazing momma she is, she took the time to teach me how to make them.

These muffins always turn out so moist and yummy. I definitely eat more than my share of them! But that just gives me another excuse to be in my favorite room, right?

A New Front on the Fight Against Malaria

As a nurse, I am pro-vaccine all the way. And I also get really excited when I read up on research being done on new advances in immunology. Did you know there is research being done on the BCG vaccine (which is already used to help prevent tuberculosis) in its relation to ‘curing’ Type 1 Diabetes? That is another post for another day, but as I perused the BBC News website this morning, I was delighted to see an article about a new vaccine to prevent malaria being trialed.

Malaria is a HUGE issue in the world. While it is not a major concern for us here in the United States, nearly half of the world’s population does live in high risk areas. These areas are tropical and sub-tropical areas that also have higher rates of poverty.

Malaria is a blood-borne pathogen most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes of a certain species. The disease causes high fevers, chills, and other flu-like symptoms. Repeated infections of malaria cause long-term damage to internal organs like the spleen, shortening a person’s life expectancy. The disease was responsible for 445,000 deaths in 2016 alone. The majority of malaria related deaths are children. Cases of malaria are not always fatal, however, most of the cases occur in poverty stricken areas where access to healthcare is severely limited.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Another issue that arises with malaria is the fact that the parasite responsible for causing it is indeed a living thing. It evolves to survive. There have been anti-malarial treatments developed in the past, but the parasite has mutated to become resistant to many of these treatments. But this is where vaccines come in handy.

I’m a very visual person, so I would like to give this analogy. Treating a disease after you have already contracted it is like being in a boxing ring with an opponent. They get the first hit in, but then you jump in and start hitting back. But you have already been punched in the face. You are already behind in the fight and it is harder to get the upper hand back.

Vaccines are like waiting in a dark alley after the boxing match is over. Your opponent walks by, you jump out, and beat the absolute crap out of them. You have the upper hand now, and it will be much harder for them to come out with a win.

According to the article, the research for the new malaria vaccine has actually been ongoing for more than 30 years, and has taken an estimated $700 million to fund. At this time, it is being used in vaccination programs in three high risk countries. It’s effectiveness is still being studied, and currently sits at being 40% effective over 4 years.

I know, I know, 40% doesn’t sound like a lot. But at just 40%, it could still prevent the untimely death of thousands of people! This is really exciting stuff for the world of healthcare!

Because this a new vaccine, there is still much work to be done before victory can be claimed. But it does provide so much hope to these countries horribly affected by malaria and the deaths it causes.

Want to find out more information on this vaccine? Click here to see what the World Health Organization has to say about it!

Strawberry Delights: The Week of the Strawberry

With summer well on it’s way (9 days of school left, but who’s counting?), I am ready for some summer dinner recipes! And what is more summery than a plump, red strawberry?

This week, Kroger had an awesome sale on some delicious looking/smelling strawberries. What could I do but buy more than I should have? I have a myriad of recipes that involve strawberries, and most of them are desserts. However, I have had a dinner recipe sitting in my Pinterest board that I have been itching to try.

Chipotle Lime Grilled Chicken with Strawberry Salsa sounds absolutely amazing in my opinion, so I thought I would give it a try for dinner at the Murray house! My favorite part about this recipe is that I could prepare the salsa and marinade the night before. As we are still in the midst of baseball season, time is of the essence most afternoons.

The salsa is sublimely easy to make. I definitely could have done with fewer red onion, however I am just not a fan of the flavor. I also neglected to add the cilantro. I do love the taste it brings to a dish, but I forgot to pick it up at the store and am too hopeless to keep an herb garden alive.

I am also quite hopeless when it comes to grilling. That is definitely my husband’s area of expertise. Instead, I sliced my chicken breasts in halves and popped them in the oven for about 20 minutes, until they were cooked through. I think cooking them in the oven allows them to simmer in their own juices a little, helping to retain the marinade flavor. I feel it also helps prevent the meat from coming out too dry.

Guys, this meal was pretty darn good! I paired it with green beans and a baked sweet potato. So. Stinking. Good. The meat was juicy with a nice bite of the chipotle, which was then immediately cooled by the sweet strawberry salsa. Definitely planning on putting this one on rotation in the Murray Book of Meals.

Even after this recipe, I still had more strawberries in my fridge than we could possibly eat, so I decided to use some to top a delicious spring mix salad! I love a good baby spinach salad with fresh fruits, sunflower seeds, and feta cheese on top!

I certainly didn’t want what was left of the strawberries to go to waste, so I decided to use a recipe from for Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie.

Ingredients and instructions for topping

  • 5-6 cups quartered and rinsed strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Combine two cups of strawberries and the remaining ingredients in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Once the strawberries begin releasing their juices, mash them with a potato masher or fork until the concoction is mostly liquid. Combine with remaining strawberries and set aside to cool.

Ingredients and instructions for cream cheese layer

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Combine all ingredients with mixer until smoothly blended.

Spread cream cheese layer in 9 inch graham cracker crust. You can use your favorite recipe, or cheat and buy a pre-made crust like I did. Add in the strawberry topping, cover, and refrigerate until cooled and set.

Photo by mali maeder from Pexels

As for the rest of the strawberries in my fridge? What doesn’t get eaten within the next day or two will be sliced and topped with sugar, covered and placed in the fridge to be a scrumptious topping on the next waffle or pancake day in our house!

Salad, dinner, pie, and breakfast topping are not the only strawberry foods in my life this week. May 22nd is my grandma’s birthday. This year, she would have been 90 years old. So, come Wednesday, you will find me where I always am on her birthday: sitting on a front porch enjoying a chicken strip basket and a strawberry milkshake from Dairy Queen.

Have any favorite strawberry recipes? Feel free to share in the comments!

To All My Moms:

In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I would do the most cliche post I could do: a post about mothers!

First, I want to send out a big thank you and a big hug full of love to all the moms I’ve had in my life.

To my Momma: You birthed me (and won’t let me forget it), loved me, fed me, and raised me to be the woman and mother I am today. I try to make you proud in everything I do as a thanks for everything you have given me in life. I also still really want to write a book about you. Readers, be on the lookout in the future: Mountain Mama: The True Tales of Lumber-Jackie. The front cover will most likely feature a picture of my mom in flannel and swinging an axe, standing next to a bear or something.

To my Momma-In-Law: Thank you for accepting me into your life when I waltzed in with Tyson. You are a truly amazing woman! And thank you for helping to raise Ty into the wonderful man he is today! You and I may have only been in each other’s lives for a few years, but I am so grateful to have you!

To my Momma #2: Thank you for feeding me, loving me, teaching me (both life lessons and math), and putting up with me even though you were not legally required to do so. Also, thanks for not ever killing Marie and I after every time we made some sort of recipe/disaster/mess in your kitchen.

To all my friend moms, sports moms, and band moms: Thanks for chaperoning all of our events, and keeping us crazy kids from getting lost or killed. Thanks for putting in all your hard work to make our experiences in life the best they could be. Thanks for inviting herds of crazy girls to spend the night in your homes. (Sorry for being so loud and eating all of your food)

To my nurse moms: Thank you for taking a scared, newbie nurse, and teaching me. Whether you were my instructor in nursing school, or one of the ones who took me under your wing when I started new jobs, I appreciate all you had to teach me. I hope I can make you all proud throughout my nursing career.

Secondly, did you all know that Mother’s Day got it’s start right here in West Virginia? Thanks to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, the first official Mother’s Day celebration took place in Grafton, WV. It all started as a service to honor the work her late mother, Anna Reeves Jarvis, had done in her life.

Anna Reeves Jarvis had been an advocate for improved sanitary conditions in the area. as well as a teacher for mothers caring for newborns. After the Civil War, she coordinated peace meetings between Confederate and Union veterans to help piece the communities back together.

Once the Grafton Mother’s Day celebration gained momentum, Anna Jarvis (the daughter) wrote countless letters to lawmakers, trying to get Mother’s Day recognized as a national holiday. Finally, in 1914, she was successful when President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day to be the second Sunday of May.

Since then, the holiday has been mercilessly pirated by commercialism (something Anna Jarvis spent the latter half of her life fighting against). Jewelry, flower, and card companies, as well as many others, push us to buy extravagant gifts and tokens to show our love for our moms.

But did you know the unofficial official flower of Mother’s Day is a white carnation? This was said to be Anna Reeves Jarvis’ favorite flower, and was handed out by her daughter at the first celebration.

The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying.

This is a quote from an article I found on National Geographic. It is a quote given by Jarvis in an interview dated 1927.

So thank your mothers, and give them hugs and love everyday, but especially today!! And if you have the money to spend on the finer things for your mom, good for you, but I’m sure she would be happy enough with a hug and a thank you.

Week Night Sports

Do you have kids? Do you have kids who play sports? Then maybe you are wondering the same thing that many other parents are wondering right now. When did team sports become SUCH a big deal?

A friend of mine recently posted her thoughts on Facebook about youth sports, and it got me thinking.

Once upon a time, youth sports were a thing that kids did for fun. You had ample time to do both sports and homework after school, and still could make it home before the streetlights came on. If you missed a practice or a game, it wasn’t a big deal.

Not so anymore.

I often hear from many of my high school kids that, between school work, sports, and work, they aren’t getting to bed until after midnight through the week. Even kids who aren’t balancing a work schedule with school are struggling to fit everything in.

At our house, we have baseball 5 nights a week. One kid is on two different baseball teams. One baseball league plays until the end of June. Then, about 3 weeks later, the “optional” football workouts start, lasting until two-a-days start. He barely gets a summer break to just be a kid.

I put the word optional in quotes because the kids feel pressured to go to these. If they don’t go, they feel like the coach won’t think they are serious enough about the sport. And when they miss a practice or a game whether it’s because of an illness or because of a scheduling conflict, the kids feel like they are letting their team down.

Right now, honestly, I think my kid is borderline over his head. I appreciate his willingness to follow through with what he started. But no matter how I try to explain to him that his well-being is more important than any sport, he is not willing to quit a team. He doesn’t want to let any of his coaches or teammates down, or to feel like he is leaving them high and dry.

And, yes, I know as a parent I could just not sign him up for these sports or tell him no. I could have never allowed him to sign up for two teams or I could make him quit a team. But my point is that I know we aren’t the only ones going through this. A lot of kids on our baseball teams also play for the travel baseball teams. Their weekends are spent out of town at tournaments.

Practices and games are getting later as well. One night, we had a game that was scheduled to start at 7PM, but didn’t start until much later. Thankfully the game was called “early” at 9:30 since it was a school night. However, it was an out of town game. At the end of the night, we didn’t get to bed until 10:30.

It’s not just middle school age facing this conundrum. Elementary age kids are having practices and games that run up to or past 9PM on weeknights. Even our little guy has practices that last until 7:30PM, and he is only 4.

Throw in homework that needs to be done, and you have a good chunk of kids who are not getting the needed amount of rest.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night. School age kids (6-12 year olds) should be getting 9-12 hours per night, and preschool kids should be getting 10-13 hours.

What’s a little missed sleep, you might ask? We as adults rarely get the recommended sleep we need, and we manage to get through our days. But our kids’ brains are still growing. A little lost sleep can cause a lot of issues for our kiddos, including behavior issues and higher risk for obesity.

I’m not trying to write a fear mongering article. I really am not. I’m in the same boat as everyone else. No one in my house consistently gets the sleep they need. The question is, what can we do about it? Not allow our kids to participate in any extracurriculars? Take down the societal expectation of youth sports? Demand that schools give out less homework? Demand that coaches not schedule late practices/games on weeknights?

I have no answers. I’m sorry. If you do, I’d love to hear it!