Tag Archives: crafts

Thank you to our #FoodAllergy allies!


I’d like to once again say thank you from the whole family to everyone who took the time to spread the word, and especially those who were able to make a donation to support us in the Pittsburgh FARE Walk for Food Allergy this year!

FARE Walk for Food Allergy 2016 - Pittsburgh, PA

FARE Walk for Food Allergy 2016 – Pittsburgh, PA

We had a great day with so many others affected in some way by a food allergy or multiple food allergies.  It’s really nice to know that we’re not alone, and that we all have the support of family and friends to enable us to get to the walk and work to make a difference in all of our lives.

Upon arrival, we did many things in a special event tent before the opening ceremony.  Several “top-8-free” food samples & small toys were handed out.  The kids colored some food allergy related pictures, decorated some foam teal pumpkins, made a beaded necklace & bracelet (Ian even threaded some beads all by himself!), danced with a DJ, played with masks in a photo booth, and just mingled with people who “get” it.

Molly also had an EMT help her wrap “Miss Daisy” (a stuffed bunny/dog/thing that was Bethany’s when she was little) in some gauze bandages, apply  a regular band-aid, and administer a practice EpiPen auto-injector with the Teddy Bear Clinic.  She did really good!  She may need to help me or any of her friends some day.

We listened to a speech by that very same brave young lady about her struggles she has had as someone with 15 allergies that can all lead to anaphylaxis.  More important than the struggles are the many things she has learned to overcome, the incredible friends she has made, and how well she has learned to adapt while moving away from home and going to school at Pitt.  She has used an EpiPen, and it has saved her life.  She leads a normal active life and is dedicating it to service to others by being an EMT!

Along our walk, there were many food allergy facts on signs throughout the zoo.  We used them to start conversations with the kids about how Molly has outgrown her allergy to eggs, how I will not outgrow mine, and how they will probably have a few friends in school with food allergies and that they need to be good friends to those kids and help them avoid their allergens and get the proper help quickly if needed!

It’s amazing that last year Molly knew at 2 years old to ask if a food item contained things like eggs, mayonnaise, or ranch dressing.  She understands now that daddy can’t eat shellfish.  She even pointed out the (incredibly creepy spiny) lobsters in the aquarium & said “You can’t eat that.”  I know Ian is a bit young to understand, but I don’t think it hurts to throw all the information out there and see what eventually sticks.

In the zoo, we had the incredible opportunity to get a photo with Victoria the elephant, pet (and get liked by) a deer, and pet some goats and sheep.  Ian loved the peacock roaming around, and I think he almost touched him.  Ha ha.  We also talked about how similar yet different Butterscotch is to all the big cats among many other animal facts that we have read  in books & on the signage there in the park.

You can check out more photos on my Facebook or Instagram, or Bethany’s Facebook.

My Week at Camp


Archery Camp 1997

This was a few years ago at camp, and years before the wife & I realized that we kinda liked each other. Ha ha.

So, if you’ve known me for a while, you know camp Living Waters is a big part of my life, and has been for a long long time.  It was near & dear for my family and many friends growing up, it’s where I met the girl that eventually became my wife.  It’s where I have made friendships that defy logic and are somewhat closer to a family than being mere friends.  It’s actually close to the feeling you have being in a band… it’s a sense of belonging, not quite a gang mentality, but there is a strong bond that goes beyond mere friendship that’s hard to explain.

Hogan 4

This is where I stayed for the week.

I have been lucky enough to not only be a camper, but a counselor for many many camp functions, eventually inheriting the director title for Jr./Sr. High Camp that we had this past week.  Luckily for me, all of our counselors have their duties and functions where they take charge, and I think we pulled it off.  I don’t think we’ve had many direct discussions on who needs to do what… it amazingly all just falls into place and we understand what needs done and who’s best suited to do it.  We dive in & do it as a team.

Church camp may scare some people.  Those that know me from outside of camp may be surprised or questioning of my affiliation with such a thing.  I try to take all the things that I have been taught, and lead life by example.  I’m generally not preachy about religious subjects (or at least I try not to be), but I will delve into the subject if someone asks me about it.  I have a respect for all religious beliefs or non-belief, and ask that in a conversation I am shown that same respect.  (I have some good friends that should also be able to tell you that it’s pretty hard to offend me on such subjects.)

Pavillion

This is where we hung out for most of the week.

I feel like I have been called to work with the camp that has given so much to me, to provide campers with their own version of the experiences I had over the years that have helped make me into the person that I am today.  I hope to be a good example to the kids on how go out into the world and be good examples to others themselves.  You don’t have to run around spitting scriptures, knock on people’s doors, or force others to believe what you believe or feel what you feel.  You do need to treat people with respect and kindness.  We discussed being a good seed this week, and how we’re planted in the world to serve others around us.  Serving can be as simple as listening to a friend’s troubles, cutting grass or washing a car, or just telling someone that they are important to you.  We don’t often pause for the simple small things, yet they can have such an impact.  Sometimes I had to be goofy with the kids to get the gears turning, but turn they did.  Once we were able to get into discussions & past answers that were perhaps subconsciously what they thought I wanted to hear… I got some fantastic examples and ideas on how you can do small things to help those around you.

Some of the activities at camp besides bible study in the AM were Archery, a night game pattered after an one one called Get Smart & a flashlight tag game that has morphed into one we call Star Wars, a terrarium craft, a creek walk, a trip to Shawnee, team-building games, orienteering, making mountain pies, lots of singing, vespers every night headed up by Laurel, science time making bandanas with Kirby & Kaylyn, and a campfire where we talked about everything from what we’re thankful for to what our hardships are… and how we can help each other through them.

Archery!

Archery!

I feel like Archery is such an incredible activity for teens… it seems like something that is hard to do, but if you listen to the instruction given by Kirby & Adam, you are consistently hitting the target within a day or 2, and you can become a great shot by the end of the week (when we start putting things like playing cards & water balloons on the targets for fun).  It’s an incredible self-esteem builder, and teaches great discipline and focus.  It’s easy to understand that you must do things correctly or someone can get hurt.  The kids encourage each other and commend each other without any prompting from us old people.  It builds a positive environment easily & organically.  It’s amazing to see them light up when they hit a bullseye, hit a playing card, or pop a water balloon.

We of course sometimes had problems with losing attention quickly… and I blame social media.  We’re luckily able to reel them back in.  I think it helps that most of our staff are smart-asses.  I try to show & tell the kids that you don’t have to conduct yourself differently at camp than you do at home, or vice versa.  Also, I find it fascinating how many of the younger kids constantly asked me if they could go to the bathroom.  It must be from school.  I feel that they’re all old enough to conduct themselves responsibly & can take care of such things without disruption to whatever’s going on.

Some of my personal highlights for the week were when one kid had told us how he had never experienced any kind of group or camp setting before & couldn’t believe how all the other kids had been so accepting of him.  In fact, I didn’t hear a negative word from any of the kids to another.  They would instantly take to the kids that seemed to be outsiders and make sure to include them in the group.  It was an awesome thing to see.  It’s also great to see the kids that have grown up together in various camps form friendships that will last a life time.

Living Waters 2012 - Jr./Sr. High Camp & Recreation Camp

We Are One Big Happy Family – Living Waters 2012 – Jr./Sr. High Camp & Recreation Camp

Camp Flags

Camp Flags

The big highlight was our interaction with the other camp there this week… Recreation Camp is for special needs adults to come enjoy a camp setting.  We did several activities with them besides our 3 meals & singing in the dining hall each day.  We had science time where they learned about chemicals that make up ink and the separation, and we made easy tie-dye-like bandanas with Sharpies and rubbing alcohol.  Our campers mixed with & assisted the rec camp, and it was fantastically fun.  We also mixed again with our trip to Shawnee, singing on the bus and swimming and relaxing together as one big group.  Campers from both camps expressed the need to do it more often.  It was enough to move me to tears to see how the kids accepted the rec camp group who were so different, and made their day by just spending time with them, sharing a laugh, a splash, bouncing a beach ball, and lots of good-natured teasing.  Then there was our campfire sing-along, our seeing one of their campers’ collection of over 150 flags I’ll have to talk about him in another post), and them visiting us on the archery range one day.  It’s a feeling of great joy to see all of our campers make such connections.  My wife & mom are directors at Rec camp, and I feel like that helps us bring the camps closer together.

That feeling is why I was moved to make this a while back…

Check out my photos and my wife’s photos on Facebook if you’re interested.  If you’re a camper or counselor & want to share your photos too, please paste the link in the comments below!

SATURDAY! Star Wars, Guitars, and Antiques …all in one place?


A while back, a friend of ours who is a teacher invited my wife & I to a Learning Festival that’s happening at her school this Saturday (May 12th).  I can’t wait to go check it out!  All of my favorite stuff is going to be in one place.  Garrison Carida of the 501st Legion will be walking around in Star Wars attire, there will be a dude showing his guitar collection (there’s 50 of them!), they’ll be raffling a Fender Stratocaster from Moonlight Music, there will be free appraisals of collectables, and much much more!  Looking at the flyer, it’s like I put the thing together with all of my favorite stuff.

Our friend is taking her 7 year old nephew, my wife is taking me.  Ha!  At any rate, I know other geeks read this that may be interested.  Here’s the official flyer:

Apollo-Ridge Education Foundation Learning Festival

Apollo-Ridge Education Foundation Learning Festival – Sat. May 12th, 2012 (Click the image to go to their website.)

So, that’s Saturday 10:00am to 4:00pm at Apollo Ridge School District.  Admission is free, and it’s located at…

1825 State Route 56 East
Spring Church, PA  15686

Check it out, maybe we’ll see you there!

Inspiration from Hoke·E·Geez (My new ‘New York Pro’ Strat copy)


So, I bought a guitar this past Saturday.  I wasn’t looking for a guitar.  This guitar was looking for me.

Hoke·E·Geez | INDOOR FLEA MARKET · CRAFTS

...and SO MUCH MORE.

Some of my extended family had rented out the lodge at our church camp for the weekend.  My cousin & I were out killing time and exploring while the ladies stayed in for their main objective; scrapbooking.  When in the area with time on my hands, a trip to Hoke·E·Geez is an absolute must.  It’s located right on Route 30 in Bedford PA by the Sheetz(Sheetz is a good bright red & yellow landmark, right?)

In what was once (perhaps obviously for people my age and older) an Ames department store, rests the one of the craziest/coolest places I have ever been.  My first trip there was in search of antiques… I collect old Coca~Cola & other glass bottles.  I had no idea what I was in for.  Hoke·E·Geez is full of …Everything. 

Stuffed Squirrel on display (& for sale!) at Hoke·E·Geez (Bedford, PA)

"Help! I'm not dead! Some redneck just stapled my nuts to this driftwood!"

It’s got crafts, antiques (from old pop bottles to the machines), furniture, a weird leather biker-jacket section, a hardware section like someone emptied a Harbor Freight in 1978 and dumped it there, of records, new stuff made to look old (think the store in Cracker Barrel), toys, tools, books, records, a section chock full of cassette tapes (mostly hair metal), musical instruments of all varieties, a stuffed squirrel that my cousin photographed with his phone, nunchucks, swords, toilets, knives, flooring, gun parts, cabinetry, pistol crossbows, stuff you’d see in a thrift store or at a garage sale, a Weinermobile pedal car, … and other scattered oddities/treasures.

Yeah, I said musical instruments.  Of course, I flock nearly immediately to the old guitars.  Hoke-E-Geez also serves as an aged acoustic graveyard.  They have several dried out yet beautiful acoustics ravaged by time & strings that pull the neck past the point of no return. They would be great as decorations, or for this…

Guiar Fail | Acoustic Guitar Recycling

Guiar Fail | Acoustic Guitar Recycling

There I Fixed It | First Smash, Then Season

There I Fixed It | First Smash, Then Season

In fact, if I ever find one for the right price, it might make a cool antique bottle shelf… with some glass shelves & a light or 2.

Back to the story at hand though…  There we are strolling through the wonderland that is Hoke·E·Geez, like a bee doing its “tell the others where the honey is” dance. We were exclaiming “Woah!”, “Look at that!”, or “What is that?” with each erratic hop to the next section.

Toy Accordion (or Button Box?)

I can already play "Iron Man" and "Happy Birthday" (very poorly).

The first beauty I spied was this toy accordion for $12 and change.  It seems ridiculous and awesome.  Maybe I’ve seen The Bloody Seamen one too many times lately.  Looking online, it seems to be a fair price… and not difficult to master. I’m not sure of the name brand.  I have no idea if it’s a Hohner, Schylling, Barcelona, First Act, or something else.  I have found a bunch online that look similar.  This doesn’t match the colors of any others exactly, and of course it has no brand/name/logo in it.  Also, it appears that I have been shorted a book.  Also, is this really an accordion, or is it just a button box?  What’s the difference?  Are the butterfly-like designs up top too girly?

The next thing of interest that I saw was this beautiful New York Pro Strat knockoff…

New York Pro - Natural Finish Strat Copy
“Psst… you, yeah you… buy me. Yeah. I know I’m not a goofy guitar, but you need me. Look at my woodgrain. It’s not fancy or elegant, it’s just ‘there’. Buy me. I probably have really crappy electronics and hardware. Buy me. I bet no one has ever heard of ‘New York Pro’ or knows where we’re made. Buy me!
New York Pro - Strat Copy

New York Pro - Strat Copy

Well, the photo to the left is the photo that I sent to my wife along with the price, asking (only half kidding) if I should buy it.  There was some other black no-name Strat copy behind it.  The body on that black POS wasn’t nearly as solid, hefty,  or well-cut.

My cousin pointed it out I believe, & remarked on the natural finish.  I was stuck drooling over the $95 price tag since the neck was straight, there were no cracks, and it was nice solid body.  This was about the time we got into a conversation with a local cat who was into weird guitars and punk rock… and actually in a punk rock band up that way.  I can’t remember the name of the band.  I need to pop stuff like that into my phone.  The guy stopped & asked if I really had an accordion in the box marked “Accordion”.  I showed it to him & he’s the one that remarked that it was a button box & not an accordion.  After talking forever about weird guitars, rocking out, and goofy venues… we moved on.  He mentioned that there were other guitars “over there” pointing to a little music store-like area within the hallowed walls of Hoke·E·Geez.

This is where we happened upon some beast, made by a local cat that goes by Merle Kegg or Merle R. Kegg.  One of his custom-built axes had the letters “M R K” on the headstock.  The first one I spotted was a doubleneck… one 6 string guitar & one mandolin neck.  Yeah.  You read that right.

Merle R. Kegg - Guitar/Mandolin Doubleneck

Merle R. Kegg - Guitar/Mandolin Doubleneck

I apologize for the horrible quality cell phone photos, but I’m sure you get the point.  I find it an odd placement for the pickups… but then again some people like that neck pickup sound.  I generally stick as close to the bridge as possible.  The custom cases are pretty cool.  Then I came upon this one…

Merle R. Kegg - White Guitar

Merle R. Kegg - White Guitar

It caught my eye, and I believe the price was only $64 or $65… but I didn’t even take it out of the case once I got a closer look.  If there was a Regretsy-like site for homemade guitars, this may top them all.  I mean, I love the shape… and I respect the intent and the labor that went into this beast, but… wow.  The placement of the bridge directly up the neck’s ass is crazy.  The pickguard looks like flooring or wall tile.  I’m hoping this cat is Amish or 97 years old or has 7 fingers total or something.  I hate to be so harsh, but when I think a guitar is ugly, we have a problem on our hands.  There was no attempt to smooth out the edges or anything… the paint is applied like it’s the side of an outdoor shed… not a guitar.  Wow.  I’d like to see more of his work, maybe these were the odd ones out.  If you know anything more about his work, please post in the comments!  There were some other cool guitars (not made by Merle), ukuleles, mandolins & other stuff in that section.

I still hadn’t received a reply from the wife.  I got the accordion, my cousin picked up a few things, and off we went.

When we got back to camp, I asked my wife if she had seen the text with the photo.  She hadn’t.  She checked it out & liked it.  She asked that if I got it I could place it on the stand in the living room instead of my Batman Logo guitar.  She liked the wood (which I have since come to learn is mahogany).  We talked it over and she suggested that I go get it.  I told her it would need new guts, but she was still behind the idea.  After lunch, my cousin went to a nearby farm to hunt coyotes, and I went back to Hoke·E·Geez to hunt that guitar.

I came back with my prize:

New York Pro - Stratocaster Copy

New York Pro - Stratocaster Copy

I also managed to stop by the Bedford Banjo Shop.  It was small but very cool and reasonably priced in there.  They had banjos, guitars, ukuleles, mandolins, & more.  They were also very friendly and quite busy.  I tried to stop by another store nearby, but they were closed as it was after 2:00pm.

I have plans for this guitar… GFS Lil Killer rail pickups, some wooden knobs, a leopard-print pickguard, black hardware (& bridge & tuners), and I guess a leopard-print strap.  As soon as I put away some money, I hope to get all this stuff & have it all set up nice & pretty.  My go-to guitar guy has been Aaron at Lawrence Music lately.  He helped set up the Batman Logo guitar… and dropped in my Seymour Duncans.

Oh what I'm gonna do to this guitar...

Oh what I'm gonna do to this guitar...

You didn’t think I’d leave it alone did you?  It needs something in order to fit in with my other guitars.

I’m still at a loss with any concrete information about the New York Pro brand.  I’m not sure if it’s pumped out of a Chinese factory that puts many different brands on the same guitars?  They do have an odd cut in the top of the headstock that seems to be on every NY Pro guitar I’ve seen online.  I’ve seen them as kit guitars, for $99, for $149.99 and for $279.95.  Maybe they’re made by Galaxy Guitars and the same as their Starfire line?  It looks like they might call it the “Galaxy New York Pro Star Gazer”.  They may be distributed by Lou Capece.  I may have to write to them for more information.

If you have any comments/stories about Hoke·E·Geez, any information about the accordion/button box, any info on that other guitar store in Bedford, any information about the New York Pro brand, or any comments/suggestions about my plans for the guitar… I’d love to hear ’em!  Please share in the comments below!