Pie a la Mode for July: Did We Sweat?

close up of berry pie

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This month I dared Kristen to sweat (or, more specifically, to get outside despite the increased likelihood of sweating). I theorized that we’d experience beauty, connect with others and ourselves, dream a little, and get some exercise.

How’d we do?

From Kristen:

Oh, I sweated this month.

Twenty days this month were over 80 degrees, and no day was below 75 degrees. And I live in Massachusetts. We have what meteorologists like to call “the Three H’s—Hazy, Hot, and HUMID” So, yeah, I have gotten my sweat on. Literally.

I did my best to get Out There, too, though. There was the hiking up Mt. Chocorua in New Hampshire, and the hiking at Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts with Mary. There was a beautiful saunter at the Sachuest National Wildlife Reserve in Middletown, on Aquidneck Island. I even kept up with my garden (mostly, Wild & Unruly is the look I have been going for, okay?!).

I’ve been thinking a bit more about the idea of pilgrimages, and of connecting with the Almighty, and of finding my way. In these few short weeks, I’ve not gotten very far.  It is something that I think I will be sitting with and stewing on for a while, yet.  And, I’m okay with that.



From Mary:

July in Maryland has been a bit challenging. We’ve had record-breaking rain the last few weeks (my cherry tomatoes actually exploded from the rapid input of water) with thunderstorms forecast almost every day. Despite this, I managed to connect with others more than I anticipated.

Early in the month, before the rains, we had some new neighbors over for s’mores. It was unplanned and delightful to watch our kids chase lightning bugs and smear goopy warm marshmallow on their faces after toasting them in our jack-o-lantern-shaped chiminea. (It’s Halloween somewhere.)


As we reported already, Kristen and I were able to bond in real life, which included a gorgeous day out seeing the Bridge of Flowers and exploring around the top of Mt. Greylock.

Also before the rains, I camped out several times in the backyard with two of my kids.

Once things got soggy, we started taking short walks anywhere we could grab a relatively dry spell. My oldest and her wife came to visit and re-introduced us to Pokemon Go, giving the younger kids new incentive to get outside. We also spent some time at a local manmade pond admiring the turtles and birds. It was gratifying to see that the actual wildlife still captivated the kids more than the screens (though I myself enjoy both, and refuse to demonize the fun little app—I’m not yet that curmudgeonly).

Because of travel and visitors, I didn’t get out on my own much. I did manage to grab a few morning walks, though, and even a few sunrises over the water.


The month didn’t include long hikes in state parks like I’d envisioned. I didn’t increase my endurance or shed a bunch of pounds. But I did get to connect with friends and family and expand my heart a bit. It was well worth every drop of sweat.


Favorite Dishes


baked blueberry cupcake dairy product

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

From Kristen:

You Guys! I spent the whole weekend with Mary! In real life! It was great!

We spent the first day with some of my closest friends at the Yankee Candle Village . (It smells so good there. And they have fudge.)

We picked blueberries and baked muffins.


I took her on a LONG drive along the Mohawk Trail into the Berkshire Mountains (aka My Happy Place). We crossed the Bridge of Flowers.


We had a picnic at Natural Bridge State Park (in an old marble quarry).



We drove to the summit of Mt. Greylock and hiked our first mile of the Appalachian Trail together. (We *may* also have crashed a wedding.)

She was subjected to my children, their dogs, a niece and some nephews, and some really incredible cooking. My husband, man, he is a wonder. Everyone should marry a chef. On Sunday, we went to church, and I wasn’t even struck by lightning! When we got home, we picked more blueberries for pancakes.

It was such a wonderful weekend. I’m still giddy over it all!


From Mary:

Cronekind, Kristen is even more wonderful in person than she is online. Her friends took me in. Her family took me in. Truly, if you get the chance to meet her, I hope you take it–they are the kindest, most generous bunch of people. (Psst…you all have the chance to meet us both in Pittsburgh at the Convivium conference in November, if you’re interested.)

It is true that her husband is an amazing chef. It is also true that Kristen herself makes pure magic with blueberries, and packs a mean picnic. And by “mean” I mean, it was difficult to force myself off the picnic table to go hiking like we planned. (Did you know that chocolate hummus exists? Sweet Christmas, go right out and buy some. Really.)

Mt. Greylock is a wonder. What I didn’t tell Kristen ahead of time, and what she was too kind to mention, is that I’m quite afraid of heights. I’m not afraid of being on a mountain per se, but climbing the tower at the top of the mountain was an experience. There was no pressure to do so, of course, but…when you’re staring at a wizardy tower, and you know there are steps inside, it’s difficult to turn down.



It felt amazing to get out on the Appalachian Trail. We didn’t have time to go far, for which I’m grateful–our one short mile kicked my butt. I’m going to pretend that it was partly the elevation (Annapolis is a mere 40 feet above sea level; the mountain was over 3,400 feet higher), but it was also evident that I have a lot of work to do to get ready for more serious hiking. This is a good realization–I love a new project!


Next time, trail, I will own you.


I’m so grateful for the chance to get together, and for all the generous hospitality. We are already plotting more ways to visit each other again!


Blue Plate Special: Kristen’s Response to the July Dare to Get Out There & Sweat

cold cool drink field

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What <slightly> overweight, middle-aged woman doesn’t love to work up a good sweat? Count me in.

Seriously, as we talked back and forth about what this month’s challenge should be, I was surprised when it morphed from setting traditional fitness goals into this dare to do something good for our whole selves.

I mean, of course, YES, we need to move our bodies more. Yes, we should set goals around that. Our bodies aren’t machines, though. They are beautiful, complicated creations of body, mind, and soul. So, yeah, Mary is onto something.

Here I was thinking:  I just want to wear jeans that I can zip without lying down. Mary is all: One day I want to hike the Camino de Santiago. The CAMINO?! Are you kidding me?! Now THAT is a goal, man, to make a spiritual pilgrimage that is also a feat of physical endurance completed while immersing oneself into a totally different culture.

I’ve been thinking about Mary’s dream for a few weeks. Initially, I was fantasizing about going with her. I made mental lists of the things we’d need, checked out some hiking blogs to get ideas about training, wondered if I could get by on The Camino with my high school Spanish. I started getting excited about the possibilities.

The reality is, though, that Mary and I likely won’t ever make it to Spain. We’re too old. We’re too broke. We have too many responsibilities. We have too few skills for making such a trip… The odds are stacked against us.

I didn’t get crushed by that thought. Rather, I dug into what it is that makes the idea of The Camino resonate with me.

It’s this: the idea of going on a pilgrimage is a way of engaging my full self in a quest for connecting to God.  Pushing my body through the long-distance hike, while connecting to the creation all around me (you know, the other people, the landscape, the flora and fauna, all of it) just seems like a powerful way to really experience God–not the long-haired guy in the robe and sandals, but GOD the Almighty, Creator of Heaven & Earth, of All That is Seen & Unseen—THAT God.

So, yeah, I’m going to get out there. I will get out into the mountains, and the forest, and the sea. I’m already off to a good start. I mean, I climbed a mountain on the first of the month, right? That totally counts! And even if I can’t get out into the wilderness, I can sweat just as much in my own yard. I’ve spent many hours in the garden and in my kitchen, growing and preparing food and flowers. The blueberries and the weeds alone can keep me bent over in labor and prayer for weeks.

In a few days, Mary will be HERE at my house where I will show her around some of my favorite places to walk, and introduce her to some of my favorite people and animals, and maybe together we will come a bit closer to our Creator. And who knows, maybe we WILL make it to Spain. Crazier things have happened. Heck, when I was six, inspired by a National Geographic special about Dian Fossey and her apes, I wished I could go to Rwanda. Forty years later I got to go TWICE. If we do make it to the Camino, we will have already figured out how to bring God along with us for the walk.




Favorite Dishes

barbecue bbq beef charcoal

Photo by Francesco Paggiaro on Pexels.com


From Kristen:

Basically, I am at the age and stage of life where I am just a hot mess. All the time. Well, screw that. I have decided to have the best summer despite myself. Damn if deciding that didn’t make it so!

My first week out of school has been full of all my favorite things! I ate ice cream as a meal—twice. I puttered in the garden every day—weeding, yes, so much weeding, but harvesting, too! Herbs and lettuces and blueberries and radishes so far. I have had time to bake—a birthday cake for a dear friend, and cookies for my kids, and breakfast goodies for my Other Favorite Niece.

That Other Favorite Niece happens to be a world-class, professional photographer (http://www.crystalallenphotography.com/about/ ), and she treated my youngest kiddo to a full-on photo session for his senior portraits. Now, I was tickled to have some time with my niece one-on-one. I was especially jazzed to see her at work, and to have a bit of a chance to discuss her process with me.

I went to Tanglewood http://www.bso.org/brands/tanglewood-music-center/about-the-tmc.aspx   (the summer home for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, out in the Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts—aka, My Happy Place) twice in the past five days. First my husband and I had an impromptu day-date to picnic on the Tanglewood lawn as part of the live audience for the taping of NPR’s “Live From Here” radio show. Then, as is our family’s tradition, we went back for the annual July 4th James Taylor concert. As my youngest son once said, “It’s better than Christmas! James Taylor at Tanglewood is NEVER disappointing!”

I went with one of my besties to see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”  http://focusfeatures.com/wont-you-be-my-neighbor/

I know that everyone loves Mr. Rogers, but I am an early childhood educator who has in fact modeled her career on the work of Fred Rogers, going as far as to be engaged with the amazing work going on at the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College.  http://www.fredrogerscenter.org/

I am not ashamed to admit that I was teary-eyed from the opening refrain to the ending credits.

Impulsively, this past Monday, I fulfilled a decades-long dream of hiking the summit of Mt. Chocorua in Tamworth, NH.  https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/new-hampshire/mount-chocorua-loop-trail

I was completely unprepared for the trip—I was wearing a hippie sundress and my gardening clogs, I kid you not. I had a terrible trail map—that I misread. I had plenty of time and water, and a boatload of blissful ignorance to keep me going up the rocky slope. A mile-and-a-half before the summit, I passed what looked like “actual hikers” who had just abandoned their trek to the summit, intimidated by the rough trail. I shrugged and kept on going. When suddenly I found myself on the top of the mountain, all by myself, I actually jumped up and down and said, out loud, “I did it! I did it!” It felt pretty great.  Of course, it was another 4.5 miles DOWN, in the wrong clothes with no other gear. I was a soaking, limping mess by the time I got to the car, still grinning like a kid at Tanglewood on July 4th.

Oh, and when I woke up yesterday, I got an email that Mary and I had our first-ever proposal accepted to sit on a panel at a literary conference!


Best. Week. Of. Summer. Vacation. Ever. (So far.)


From Mary:

I just want to add my own SQUEEEEE! To Kristen’s mention of our proposal acceptance for Convivium. Come join us in Pittsburgh this November!

My week was lower-key than Kristen’s, but I did get the chance to hike with one of my daughters (I got us lost—but then found!) at a local park. The day was grossly sticky, but gorgeous.


Another unexpected favorite from the week was catching a smidge of the neighborhood fireworks display. I didn’t think I was in the mood for the 4th this year, but it turns out the boom, the cheers, and the waft of smoke still hold a place in my heart.

Last, I’ll leave you with this doggie-shaped bread.





Blue Plate Special for July: Sweat!

picnic champagne strawberries plaid

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com


This month for our dare, we’re going to sweat.

No, not with ‘80s headbands and Olivia Newton John. (If you know her, though, please bring her along. I’d love to meet her!)

I challenge you, in icky sticky sweaty smelly July, to get outside. Go for a walk, or a run, or a swim, or a bike ride. Work in the garden or sit on your porch and drink lemonade. Listen to the birds. Feel the sweat trickle down the back of your neck.

You may be asking why. Or, if you’re like my kids, you may be asking whyyyyyyyyyy.

There are so many reasons to avoid going outside in the height of summer. I’ve experienced several pretty big ones myself.

A few years ago I had two surgeries to remove melanoma from my face—wear that sunscreen and those big floppy hats!

Last summer I was on an extensive round of antibiotics for suspected lyme disease that increased my chances for sunburn—use your bug repellant and more of the sunscreen and hats!

I’ve developed mid-life allergies—hello, Claritin!

There are all kinds of heat warnings and charts that show the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion that are downright frightening—drink water and bring some with you, much more than you think you’ll need!

But I realized this spring that I’ve missed a lot. Outside is where the birds are, and the fish and squirrels and frogs even the creepy spiders.

It’s where you can walk so long with your kids that they finally say what’s on their minds.

It’s where you can cross paths with new neighbors, and invite them over for impromptu s’mores.

It’s where a deep breath that includes mint and lilies and grass and distant water can flood you with a thousand memories at once that make you want to hug someone for no reason at all.

It’s where you can be alone, and still feel connected.

It’s where you can glimpse just how big the world really is, and dream accordingly.

Feel free to set goals if you like. I’m hoping to someday hike the Camino de Santiago in Spain, so I’m trying to expend my hiking endurance (and trying to learn how to not get lost—that’s a story for another day). But you can also just sit and breathe and take it all in—there’s an awful lot of beauty out there.

Hug the humidity. Accept the sweat. Come out and play.


More ‘80s sweating, just for fun:


Our Favorite Dishes: It’s Finally Spring


Mary writes:

I have been eyeballing the Calamityware website on and off for a few months. Their Things Could Be Worse porcelain mugs (featuring UFOs, pirates, giant frogs, and cephalopods, among other things) are an obvious draw for this kraken-lover. But then I saw this scarf—what could be more adorable than a legion of dinosaurs nibbling strawberries? On silk? If your mama is a bit odd, you just finished your Mother’s Day shopping.

I want to wear this EVERYWHERE.


It’s been a long-time dream of mine to hike the Camino. I am completely out of shape, I’m busy at home, I have no money to travel, and I’m inexperienced at hiking—and I see no contradiction here. In the process of digging around for information, I accidentally joined a closed online women’s hiking forum for the Appalachian Trail (which is much closer to home). These ladies are fantastic, encouraging badasses. I loved it so much I joined a few other hiking forums. It got me motivated, and I went out for a short hike with one of my girls. When I finally got up the nerve to post a picture of the two of us near a waterfall on one of the pages, admitting that I’m a total novice and in need of some guidance, I was immediately flooded with hundreds of messages of encouragement and tips. It’s pretty rare to find such an encouraging group of people online. Have you dug deeper into any wanna-be interests lately?



I look less majestic and more stumbly when I hike.


Kristen writes:

The flora and fauna at my school is incredible. The Lemberg Firefly Scientists’ Garden is this beautiful growing/playing/learning space right outside my classroom door. Today my students (the Navigators) picked some kale to taste and some daffodils “for their moms”. They hid in the forsythia fort. They searched for the baby bunnies—a litter was born last week, and we’ve been watching them venture further and further out of the nest over by the raspberry bushes.


Boston Sports!  Seriously. The Bruins and the Celtics are both in their second playoff series. The Red Sox are at the top of the standings.

I Love that Dirty Water!


And, May the 4th be with you!