Cornbread and Cast Iron: My Latest Obsessions


I have never owned a cast iron anything in my life. Okay, that might not be entirely true. I may have owned a skillet once, but I never knew what to do with it and it may have gotten rusty and I may have put it away and never used it again. But to be honest, I’m not really sure if that story is even true.

But. Now we have the internet, and the internet knows everything. I researched how to take care of a cast iron something, and I ordered a single-serving baby one online. It is so freakin’ cute. I also sifted through tons of cornbread recipes until I found one that looked 1. Good (it used buttermilk), and 2. Easy (it didn’t use very many ingredients). I’ve since started experimenting with swapping ingredients, and honey works just as well as sugar. Also, I only bake as much as the server can hold at a time and keep the rest in the refrigerator until I’m ready for it, which is pretty much the next day.

And this is the result. Isn’t she beautiful? If only because she was created by someone who never really learned how to cook and thinks time is better spent creating something that will last a little longer than a 24-hour cycle. But still.

I think she’s adorable. I could just eat her up. (And already have, several times over.)

Get Out: Wildlife

Took advantage of the cool(ish) temperatures and low humidity to get out of the house. Today we rode our bikes from Ohiopyle to Confluence and back, and along the way we ran into a bit of wildlife.

Purple Flowers

Dame’s Rocket. Found these little guys in Ramcat.


Also in Ramcat a few minutes after I took the photograph above. I think he was chowing down on the very same flowers in the top photo. He had a wingspan of maybe five inches, so, pretty big. Looks like a Fluted Swallowtail butterfly.


And, of course, our buddy the cicada. Found him off the trail about five miles southeast of Ohiopyle, but really, they’re all over and pretty loud. We had stopped to take a stretch and a look around, and this one literally fell out of a tree in front of us. While I was taking this picture another one fell out of the tree and landed beside us.

Taking the Ankle to the Bike Trail

Looks like I won’t be running for a while (or hiking, for that matter), so it’s off to the bike trail for me. (Did you see my last post about the stupid thing I did to my ankle?) Otherwise, I would need to stop eating completely because, you know, calories don’t burn up much from writing blog posts.

And although we just rode Confluence last week, we decided to ride it again because of my Lucky Dog Café black bean burger obsession. Here’s the thing: Lucky Dog is closed from November to April, and once they do open for the season, the hours and days when they’re actually open for lunch don’t always fall conveniently. And so far this year, the nice days when we were able to get on the trail have yet to coincide with a day they’ve been open for lunch. So I’ve been patiently waiting for my Lucky Dog fix since LAST OCTOBER.

Last. October.

But the wait is over. I get my Lucky Dog fix To. Day.



Let me start with these “It Was a Beautiful Day!” shots. Because, seriously, it was. The cicadas were so loud in some places we couldn’t hear what the other person was saying. I would say, “Man, those cicadas are so loud,” and my husband would say, “What?” It’s like they were having their own rock concert.

But let me finish by saying, it’s Thursday. When we drove past the Lucky Dog to the trail parking lot, the food delivery truck was parked in front. Apparently, Thursdays are delivery days. We biked. We loaded our bikes. We walked (I skipped, metaphorically) to Lucky Dog. Their menu had changed since we were there last October, but black bean burgers were still on it. Yay!

Well, no. Not really. According to our server, they were “out.” We asked if they still had them, and she said the food delivery truck delivered the goods, but the person who makes the burgers hadn’t yet.

NOOOOoooooooooo o o o   o      o.

So many things in this world to be sad over, and I choose black bean burgers.

Where my ankle used to be…

I had just finished a run in the pouring rain and decided to hang my sopping wet shirt on the garage door handle to let it drip dry outside. The bottom step from our porch is only about three or four inches high, not a full step, and when I hit it with my right foot I must have mostly missed because when I landed with all my weight on my left foot, I rolled it inward and landed on my ankle. I’ve walked up and down those steps for 15 years. You’d think I would have them figured out by now.

Self-diagnosis is a sprained ankle, but giving it a name isn’t making it get better any faster. Here’s a picture of the day-after ankle. Or, at least, where my ankle used to be. Since this picture I’ve grown and lost a bruise right down the edge line of my foot. I bought an ankle “stabilizer” today because I tried walking my running route yesterday, and I’m thinking I probably shouldn’t have. The doctor isn’t worried and told me to come back if it stops getting better.

She also said that biking is perfect for it. So. Doctor’s orders.


Away from my desk (and on my bike)

This week’s “Get the Stink Blown Off You” outing took us to Confluence and the Great Allegheny Passage. We rode southeast to a little past Fort Hill before we turned around to head back to reality. Our chaser was lunch on the porch at the River’s Edge Cafe.


Again, another gorgeous day.


Look at all that green!


Here’s a little history of the area from the back of the River’s Edge menu.

A Day on the Bike Trail

We’ve been running between raindrops and appointments and deadlines to carve out a little mental health time for ourselves on the trail. Today we started in Rockwood, PA, and rode through the Pinkerton Tunnel, about eight miles west.


Looking toward the Pinkerton High Bridge, just east of the Pinkerton Tunnel.


The Pinkerton Tunnel, built in 1911 and reopened for trail use in 2015. Until the tunnel reopened, riders took the Pinkerton tunnel bypass route to reconnect with the bike trail on the other side.


Dame’s Rockets near the Pinkerton Tunnel.


(That action shot I always take and never post.)

Ohiopyle to Confluence on the bike trail

We managed to squeeze in a beautiful day in the middle of a few not so beautiful ones, so we squeezed in a bike ride while we could. Being a Thursday (a weekday) in May (the kids are still in school), we took our chances starting at Ohiopyle, and it totally paid off. By summer, especially on a weekend, Ohiopyle is swarming with people, and a very uncomfortable place to be. It’s great for the businesses there, but definitely not the Ohiopyle I grew up with. But then there are days like today, and it was fantastic.


Just look at that sky.


And all that green! I didn’t think it would ever get here!


Railing and trail at Ramcat, about two miles from Confluence.

If it has to be cold, at least it is sunny

Too cold for a bike ride today, but it was time to get out of the studio! We took a hike on the Five Star Trail that stretches between Greensburg and Youngwood.


The Five Star Trail runs along a former railway system, so we had great opportunities for shots like this.


The trail also runs beside towns and factories, some abandoned, some not. This one caught our eye with its great earthtones and strong horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines. I took a ton of pictures of this one.


We passed over a couple of former railway bridges that still span automobile traffic below.



Getting set for lots of rain (on the bike trail)

Here comes the rain again.

Rain is all over the forecast for next week, so we decided to get out while we could. Today we rode the Great Allegheny Passage starting at West Newton and heading southeast to a bit past Van Meter.



We always take a little time with our bench just east of Smithton.


And this little guy! I had to chase him off the trail. He was basking in his daily dose of Vitamin D, and wasn’t happy I made him do it somewhere else.


And finally! Look at all the green! It feels like it’s been a long time coming.

Get outside while you can

The day started off a little iffy, and we weren’t sure if we could get a hike in without rain, but the weather totally cooperated. After days and days of unseasonal and beautiful weather, it looks like we’ve hit a long stretch of rainy, drizzly, wet and soggy conditions. Today may have been our one shot at getting outside this week, and we decided to go for it. This time we took a walk on a section of the Indian Creek Valley Trail that we hadn’t been on before.

ICV Trail

ICV Trail

The rainclouds thinned out as we walked and gave way to sunshine and spots of blue.

ICV Trail Discharge Point

ICV Trail Catch Basin

Coal mines were a big part of our history in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and unfortunately they left a lot of environmental damage in their wake. Acid mine drainage is prevalent in the area, but thankfully the Mountain Watershed Association is doing something about it. The “Catch Basin” photo reads, “This structure collects the primary source of mine drainage and directs the contaminated water to the treatment ponds using a network of underground pipes.” You can see how orange the pipe is to the left of the catch basin from the iron in the water. (The pipe is black plastic, by the way; it’s not rusted metal.)

ICV Trail Settling Ponds

This is one of the treatment ponds. It looks bad, but it’s actually a good thing. This is where the iron gets removed from the water before they direct it into Indian Creek. If it weren’t for these kinds of ponds, the water in the creek would be orange, acidic and unusable. Not sure what the boat was about, but I thought it made a great photo.

Sunday on the Trail

We decided to take advantage of the blue skies,
and today we got our nature fix on the I.C.V. (Indian Creek Valley) trail.

ICV trail

ICV trail

We met this little guy while we were there.
His name was Charlie.

ICV trail


ICV trail

We found some fungus that made me think of barnacles
which sounds like a pirate swear word.

ICV trail

So technically we didn’t actually see the beaver,
but obviously he was here for a while.

ICV trail

Kind of sort of nature?
A cow in the creek?
That counts, right?

ICV trail

And, of course, the beautiful blue skies showing through the trees.
Some were just starting to bud, so we’re close to green.

Getting our butts out of the studio (Ghost Town bike trail)

This week’s “Get Your Butt Out of The Studio” day took us to
the Ghost Town trail in Cambria County.
We hopped on at Nanty Glo and rode to the end at Ebensburg.


Another exceptionally beautiful day, as you can see.


Here’s one of the mile markers on the trail. How about that logo?
It’s a ghost. On a bike.


Just can’t get enough of those blue skies.
We’ve decided to take advantage of these kinds of days
as much as we possibly can. One of the things we’re alive FOR.

We ended our ride with lunch at the Stadium Bar & Grill in Nanty Glo.