Falling out of Summer

31 Oct

A picture of one of my favorites cities in the world:

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MY city ❤

 

Summer season was winding down, and like any season (in both nature and life), it had its ups like:

  • The best friend sleepover at the dream flat with MY best friend and Emily’s best friend! We got to snuggle in the dream flat and wake up the next morning with mimosas in hand.
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#dreamflat pic minus the #dreamflatmate

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The Best Friend Sleepover Squad –  Champagne for breakfast!

 

  • Micromanaging the chocolate chip cookies when Helen and I were baking. We watched these little suckers minute by minute to make sure the cookies would rise like a phoenix from the ashes — but in the end they pretty much just stayed ashes. “Damn us.” Said Helen as we took the first bite.  We’d left them in for a mere minute too long.

 

  • Having a jam sesh with Emily, Bel, and Kevin in the dream flat!  Finally, all of the musical instruments that “we” own in the living room at the same time!  Helen was elated!!

 

  • Going on a date at a Hungarian restaurant and going to banjo night afterwards. “Thanks for coming out!!”, The head guy yells.   “We’re music lovers”, yells someone else. “We’re fans of leisure”, my date responds.

 

  • My NEW TAX GUY, JP.  He’s changed my life for the better.  Thanks to Matt for linking me with him! I celebrated my clean money with a dirty martini.

 

But the fleeting weeks also had its downs, like that one time I:

  • Came back from Burning Man with my skin SO DRY that I constantly had to put lotion all over my body to try to replace the moisture. I basically became a slug.  Bel, remember when I was so slippery that I dropped a coffee mug all over my dresser?!

 

  • Had a very bad day (but got cheered up by taking a walk through the park, in the rain, to a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar).

 

  • This also very, VERY bad day:

 

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Don’t need to explain this one…

 

  • The Friday night that I was feeling down and Helen was out of town.  After I met a police woman who was somewhat of a sorority sister to me, I drove to a well-lit Get Go parking lot and ate panang curry in the car, windows up and doors locked.

 

  • Unrelated, I went on a bad date with a guy who’s “not a feminist.” Check please.  The bright side was that Helen and Victoria were there to console me when I got home.

 

But even though there would be bad days, they didn’t last.  I started seeing Julia again (she’s so helpful) and here are some more of my FRIENDS…

  • Sam Tallent.   I hadn’t seen him in YEARS, and he’d come from Colorado to perform at a new comedy club that opened in Pittsburgh. It was so great to see him! I saw his standup show for the first (and second) time. (So good!) Afterwards we found time to catch up and reminisce.

 

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Thankful for how many funny people I know.

 

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Talkin’ bout Greg. You know, Greg. From college.

  • Victoria, who has made Helen (and I) suuuuuper fancy-adjacent nowadays. She’s so talented and has hung up her gorgeous art on the dreamflat walls, which she said are perfectly untextured, and which, if you don’t know, is one of the fanciest of compliments. #PinkyUp. She also gave me and Bel matching pumpkin necklaces on Halloween ❤

 

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#GetAFlaw

  • Our beautiful Katie who started her globe-trotting journey in Iceland and sent us a text with the houses she picked out for Patrick, me, and Helen. Who NEEDS House Hunters International when you’ve got a friend like Katie?

 

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The row of best friend houses; moving in ASAP.

  • A hangout sesh where I had some balloon flowers made for me which..I hated.. They popped and scared me. But, other times, I had fun made-up bedtime stories told to me and another time still, I got a chocolate flight (yum).

 

  • Emily C. and I had our first official friend hangout!

 

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New, happy friends!

 

  • Nina, with her short-notice visit to Pittsburgh.

 

  • My pregnant Colleen who visited us in Findley Lake!  I finally got to meet Ben (he’s lovely). We now know SHE’S HAVING A GIRL!!!!!! (squeals of joy).

 

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Supporting our Colleen and her little bun in the oven.

 

  • This beauty (below) who let me join her kickball team called Pitch, Please! I played one game but I loved it.

 

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Make them say “Pitch, Please!”

 

  • After my first and only kickball game I got to meet this dog who LOOKS LIKE A NOVA SCOTIA DUCK TOLLING RETRIEVER!!!! (That would be the THIRD that I’ve met, for those of us keeping track) The owner wasn’t actually sure what his breed was but I ACTED ACCORDINGLY AND TREATED THIS ANGLE WITH THE REVERENCE AND HONOR HE DESERVED!  

 

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Love at first bark.  He didn’t bark though, so….

 

Some family time:

 

  • Aunt Betsy and Uncle Marvin visit at Findley Lake.

 

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Nature + Family = Great Photo Opp

 

  • We went to visit the SUPER INTERESTING National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY.  I’d recommend it. Afterwards we had a delicious family dinner with only a little bit of plastic in my (comped) meal.

 

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National Comedy Center!! 

 

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Sportin’ my new, souvenir t-shirt, thanks mom!

 

  • My parents came to visit me in Pittsburgh and we got to spend some family time at Aladdins ❤ ❤ ❤

 

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The OG best friends.

 

And of course…summer parties 🙂 I went to the:

  • New most memorable Labor Day celebration I’ve ever been to.  It was a Nolan’s party, which are SO MUCH FUN!   And then afterwards, Bel and I went stargazing (and laughing) with Sarah, Mindy, Emily, and Kevin.

 

  • The graveyard for a surprisingly playful day.

 

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Don’t trip on any of those headstones, you two.

 

  • SOUP PARTY, thrown by Emily T. There was SO much good soup, and we also got to dress in costumes for Halloween. SOUP-er fun!

 

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The soup party. Not pictured: The soup.

 

  • Ian’s Super Soft Birthday Party, complete with a cupcake making station!

 

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Cupcake party! Not pictured: Any of the attendees.

 

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Trick or Treat!

 

And I know I don’t need to say it, the pictures will do most of the talking, here’s the goods.  I mean, the food.

  • A delicious vegan meal from Apteka. My first.

 

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You never forget your first Apteka.

 

  • A dream flat meal that I took extra care to plate.  One of those omelets is dairy free and the other one actually looks like an omelet.  

 

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Victoria has taught me well.

 

  • Roasted veggies that Katie Barbaro taught us how to make! We were resistant at first but now….THIS IS HOW WE DO!

 

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Not pictured: Katie. Or the vegetables.

 

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST….

  • Helen had her BIGGEST GIG TO DATE! On October 3rd, she opened for CAMERON ESPOSITO in a sold out show WITH A LINE AROUND THE BLOCK!!!  I COULDN’T BE PROUDER!!!!

 

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From V: BIG flowers for a BIG show!

 

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Glimpsessssss.  (That’s Katie B.’s shirt on me ON HELEN’S BIG DAY!)

 

  • Earlier that week we had gone to to the venue (The Rex Theatre) to suss out things and to see Addi sing.
  • Anna C. Riley made some SUPER cool, notebook sized stickers to try to help woo Helen some of those sweet, sweet Cameron fans!

 

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I want to bumper sticker my car!  HOW CUTE ARE THESE?!!!

 

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Cameron and Helen in an Espi-tweeto.

 

  • Cameron loved Helen so much (how could she not?!), that she invited her to perform at another show IN ANOTHER TOWN as her opener the following night!!!!!!! And that is how OUR HELEN went about on a mini tour with THE Cameron Esposito!!!

 

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Is she famous now?

 

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Outside of the venue, pre show, with names you don’t often see together on a billboard.

 

I’m “falling” onto cloud nine from (late) summertime,
‘mi

Fun in Atlanta: A Blog about Dallas

15 Oct
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Goin’ on an adventure!!

 

It was a glorious, rainy early morning. Kevin and I parked in 9F (we reviewed this so many times that I still remember) and I practically (okay, I did) spun my way inside of the airport.  THIS WAS SO EXCITING!!!  We relaxed in the lounge until the last possible second — “Go big or go home”, they say… and we weren’t going home because we had practically just gotten to the airport. — As we ran to the gate we heard our names over the loud speaker.  Perfect timing.  WE WERE ON OUR WAY TO TEXAS!!!!!!! ….with a not-so-quick layover in Atlanta.

The first flight went well.  But as we headed to our gate for the second flight we couldn’t help but notice the board said “New Orleans”.  Huh?  Is this plane going to New Orleans?!  Everyone in the boarding area was just as confused as we were, but then the announcer came over the loudspeaker and cleared everything up… Flight 4099 has been canceled.  CANCELED, Y’ALL. Not delayed, but full-on canceled at the exact moment we were supposed to be boarding.  

Kevin and I looked at each other and I started laughing so hard I teared up.  WHAT.  After waiting in line, getting out of line, and waiting in line again, we finally talked to a representative who gave us a couple of options.  The best one was (not to take a plane back to Ohio but rather) to stay in Atlanta for eight hours and then catch the 6pm flight to Dallas.  The flight itself was going to take longer than usual due to weather and needing to be rerouted.  We were just hoping it wasn’t going to get canceled altogether…again. We snacked on the veggies I’d brought from home as we took the metro into the heart of Georgia. We interacted with a lovely metro-station attendant who helped us buy our tickets. So far this trip was so fun (!) and had us on a plane, surfing on the airplane train, and now on an actual train.

And thus, our weekend in Dallas began in Atlanta.  What are you supposed to do in Hotlanta (but actually Coldlanta at the early hour we got there) in the morning after a canceled flight? We choose the traditional route… an Israeli breakfast.

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Shakshuka– traditional Atlanta cuisine?

 

After our shakshuka that left me #shook because it was amazing, we left to do some more exploring and stumbled into Piedmont Park and Atlanta’s gay pride festival.  Now normally, in Pittsburgh, we don’t stumble upon Pride; we joyfully anticipate Pride; we prepare for Pride.  And not knowing about Pride in Atlanta, as Kevin simply put it, we showed up “looking like squares.”  No sequins, no bright colors, no tutus, no rainbows all over our bodies….it was a shame.  We did our best to make ourselves as visually PRIDEFUL as possible (although, to be clear, we wear Pride in our hearts ALL THE TIME) and picked up some sweet, sweet swag.

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Stickers and beads — quick! Blend in!

 

We continued to walk around Piedmont Park in our make-shift Pride gear, but, as the day wore on it became clear that not being covered in sparkles and colorful garb wasn’t our only fashion faux pas. Turns out that Coldlanta really does turn into Hotlanta in the afternoon. IT WAS SO HOT, and Kevin really regretted not bringing a pair of shorts — but hey, in his defense, we most definitely thought we’d be in Dallas at that very moment where the temperature was much lower.  

We stumbled upon these hot clear balls full of, what turned out to be, good exercise and great fun. We signed up, got a running start, rolled around, built up more of a sweat, and emerged laughing and giggly.   I mean….Do I use this as an accessory for the furries next year? 

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Human hamster balls.

 

After ditching our balls, we left the park and settled on a new pair of wheels…one we’d seen all around town. Scooters!

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We’ll just leave these here for the professionals.

 

….We totally underestimated this thing. Honestly, Lime scooters are a great idea, but neither of us possessed the talent to do the “full” (er…1/12) Atlanta city tour that we had dreamed.  We weren’t skilled enough to turn our heads when we were in the wrong lane. Cost wise, it was efficient but for us but that’s where the efficiency ended.  Wanna know how far we shakily got? See below.

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The Lime scooter challenge: Last longer than 11 minutes. 

 

So instead of scootering, we decided to walk around the city. We saw some sights (including a web MD office) and took the long way (not the pretty way) to the puppet museum. You know, for variety’s sake. 

Once our 8 hours in Atlanta were over, we headed back to the airport, gave our extra metro passes away, caught our flight, and had some snacks: we split a sample-size Laura bar, a nectarine, and a tiny bag of pretzels. Not a Texas sized meal, but then again, we weren’t in Texas yet.  We still felt hungry and had enough time to RUN into the Atlanta lounge where we picked up some much needed fuel.  

Kevin kept reminding me that our vacaion hadn’t started yet. “Vacation doesn’t start until we get to Dallas.” Great news!

And we finally did it, we made it to Texas 🙂 All smooth sailing from there, right? Oops.  I booked the rental car from the wrong airport.   Sigh.  What a novice mistake and meant even more time between us and downtown Fort Worth.  We sleepily brainstormed, problem solved, and eventually figured it out.  We headed out on the town and saw some of Fort Worth… at least the part that we likened to Pittsburgh’s Southside.  Here it is:

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So different at night and during the day.

 

We couldn’t bring ourselves to party in Fort Worth.  We’d given Atlanta our all and…well, we had seen Fort Worth at night.  That was all we could muster until the next morning when it felt like we’d hit a RESET button.  A new day that I got to start with a Texas steak.

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Chom chomp chomp.

 

After we were finished breakfast, we decided to hang around a bit and see what this place had to offer.

We found a great cattle drive — which is most definitely not a cattle parade, mind you. After watching the cattle parade down the street during the cattle drive, we headed towards Billy Bob’s (a bar) that you had to pay to enter.  Once paying, finding no one inside (including a bartender who would serve us), we decided to just head out and go to Dallas.  Or, more specifically, the Texas State Fair (in Dallas). But not before we rode a mechanical bull, walked all around town, played ski-ball at the White Elephant, and got a life-saving coffee at one of the places I had marked on the map.

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Not a cattle parade

 

Ok…so, The Texas State Fair is, by far, the best state fair that I’ve ever been to.  To be honest, I haven’t been to many but, THIS ONE WAS SO GOOD!  If I ever make a Superlatives blog, this State Fair will be featured.  It started off extra promising when we found FREE street parking.  Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but we were stoked!

The way this fair worked was that we bought a certain amount of tickets, and then we paid for everything in the fair with the tickets. Each ticket cost $.50 and there were SO MANY GOOD DEALS. Everything was reasonably priced — for example, water was two tickets ($1) and beer cost six tickets ($3).

 

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Giant Cowboy (that moved!)

 

So I promise that  the fair wasn’t only cool because it was economical (although, again, IT WAS!). It also had soooo many games, a sky tram, talks about milking and farming AND AN ODDITIES TENT (so cool) where we saw a LIVE TWO-HEADED SNAKE. I repeat. A LIVE  two-headed snake!! (I added the repetition there for 1. Each head and 2. Dramatic effect).

We also saw a two-headed stuffed piglet and conjoined turtles with many legs, but the snake was by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.  I’d never seen anything like it before. A LIVE TWO HEADED RATTLE SNAKE!  Both heads had tongues that flickered out to ‘smell’ the air.  It was alive for sure! We kept going back to look at it; there were no pictures allowed inside the tent. 

 

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4 coupons is $2.  And this is the only photo of the two headed snake I could get.

 

They also had regular, one-headed animals, which were fun to check out. Including piglets and snakes.  Not kept in the same tent.  We went to the snake area (of the one-headed variety), and Kevin let me gush about my old pet snake, Namastay (RIP).  It was so thoughtful and nice of him to inquire about her so sincerely. 

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Remembering Namaste.

 

Other one headed animals included dogs and cats and birds doing amazing tricks like making doors open and flags fly and a separate petting area where we got to pet and feed this zebra…

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Kevin, aware of the top AND bottom teeth.

 

The atmosphere was just so lively and fun. It was a completely different vibe from Fort Worth, and we were both so glad to be there.  Not only did we indulge in the animal oddities, but we also indulged in food and beer. We were really surprised that in the land of food-with-lots-of-butter and oversized portions that we found HEALTHY food sans butter (but still in oversized portions) like this mango:

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Mango as tall as that guy in the background.

 

The mango above was SO juicy and SO good. It might be the best mango that I’ve ever had and I’ve lived in the Caribbean #credentials  The best mango I’ve ever had was on a stick, at a fair, in Texas.  This fairs fare was more than fair…it was remarkable!

Don’t worry, it wasn’t all vegan and all natural, they also had healthy (?) fried food, like the fried avocado (still dairy free). The beer choices were also super unique like this corndog beer (pictured below) and the cotton candy beer (not pictured and also not very good):

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Side of mustard.

 

After all of the mishaps we’d had earlier on in the trip, everything went according to plan. Even the weather behaved for us!! It was supposed to rain all weekend, and during our day at the fair the weather was great! It did start raining at night — actually pouring — but not before we were able to ride the huge Ferris Wheel.  We ran back to the car soaking wet (which somehow made running more bearable and fun).  It was a super successful day. 

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Not mad about it!

Happily, our artistic Airbnb was close by and we went to dry off.

The next day, the weather took a turn for the worse and added cold-wind to the rainy mix.  So, we decided to do a self-guided driving tour around the city.  We drove around downtown, saw sculpture gardens and parks (just from a distance, no need to get out in that really cold rain…brrr!), cool buildings, graffiti, Dealey Plaza where JFK was assassinated, and a suspension bridge that we circled and ultimatly crossed.  

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Chasing bridges.

 

For lunch, we had been planning to check out this raw restaurant that I’d been eager to go to. It was near the airport, perfect location for our final meal; but when we pulled up, all the lights were off, and it looked very, very closed. I was short of devastated, but Kevin, the hero, decided to go outside in the freezing rain and check the doors to see if he could get inside.  AND IT WAS OPEN!!!! So glad he checked (thanks, Kevin!). It turns out the lights were off because the power had gone out — but luckily we had picked a raw restaurant and they don’t need to cook anything so it didn’t really matter.  YAY!!!

I WAS ECSTATIC!!!!!!! And may have over ordered although I loved it all and don’t regret a single dish.

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Raw sushi… but like, not the regular raw kind.

 

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Delicious food you don’t even need to cook.  These two dishes were the best; raw enchiladas and avocado “toast”.  

 

So after eating this healthy, invigorating meal, and taking some to go, we headed back to the airport. We had what we thought would be a cushy two hours once we landed before Kevin had to be at Arcade for the Improv 101 Class Show that he taught but, in fashion with the earlier parts of this trip, our flight kept getting delayed.  We looked at the weather.  It was warmer and drier in Pittsburgh than it was in Dallas and we held out hope that we were going to make it to the theatre on time.  And we did!  With 15 minutes to spare, Kevin showed up at Arcade before his class successfully took the stage to preform.

So, not only did I get to begin my Dallas vacation in Atlanta, but I got to end it cracking up to comedy in Pittsburgh.

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Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?

 

A Texas-sized smile,
‘mi

Glimpses of Friends & Food

24 Sep

After our trip to Baltimore, Katie CAME BACK TO PITTSBURGH WITH US!!!!!! On our first night back, we snuggled in my bed and got to know Victoria better 🙂

 

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Friends are for snuggling, laughing until you cry, actually crying, practicing for the school of hard talks, and holding each other (literally and) to a standard of rigorous honesty.

 

We had such an amazing time talking and turning downtime into uptime (let’s not slander ‘mi), but I’d like to use this blog post to talk mostly about how FOOD connected us in such a solid way.

Let me formally introduce Victoria, my new favorite foodie.

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Here she is with Katie who loves superlatives and is also my FAVORITE.

 

Victoria is not only an amazing human but she also knows everything you need to know about food (and more) like … how to make it look INCREDIBLE. And how to break a yolk properly..  She works for Table magazine and invited Katie to participate in the winter issue! Oats prepared three different ways, coming at you November 2018! Victoria described Katie as a “high-energy creative who planned an on-brand spread in just a few hours!” They wrote an article and had a photo shoot!  All of my food pictures from here on out should reflect everything we (collective knowledge) learned.

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I mean… come on.  Food that looks as good as it tastes!

Our time turned into:

 

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You get invited to participate in ONE food magazine, and suddenly everyone’s a photographer…

 

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Please take note of the three matching white pumpkins, which Victoria got for Helen, Katie, and I because  — BEST FRIENDS, BESTFRIENDS, BEST FRIENDS!

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Katie showing me how it’s done with an Onion Fritata! This PILLAR is moving food!

 

One of Victoria’s most impressive techniques was putting the food on the floor in order to get a stunning photo. OK, Victoria…

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Respect the process.

 

But then, of course, even after any lingering (do you have to!) doubt, the picture ended up looking like this:

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SHE WAS SO RIGHT… #getaflaw

 

So now that Victoria has become a part of our lives, I’m more obsessed with food pictures than I’ve ever been.  Sorry not sorry, mum.

Victoria invited us to her gorgeous house for a dinner party (thank you!!!) where we had nacho night and enthralling conversations about tattoo deliberations and boyfriend MANifestiations (hehe, get it?).  Thank you to Katie for illustrating both.

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Dinner party nacho night — we all took a photo from different angles but I won’t bore you by posting all four.  “Maybe we should put it on the floor?!” – Katie proving she’s the fastest learner of us all. Those skull plants got to come home with us!  

 

One day, Victoria gave us complimentary tickets to the Pittsburgh Pierogi Fest to eat our weight in píerogis.  Helen and I had made ourselves dairy-free the night before which helped limit our options. Dairy-free month day one. “Does Auntie Anne’s have butter in it?”  “Of course it does!” Helen snapped after first going to check and having her heart broken. #hurtpeoplehurtpeople We met up with Sarah, Randy, Andy, Patrick, Victoria, and a new friend, Madeline. We spent most of the day riding roller coasters (okay one, the Thunderbolt) since the pierogi lines were long and we opted not to get our faces painted like a pierogi.   I may or may not be (definitely am not) into roller coasters and was fretting before I got on the Thunderbolt. Sarah eased my nerves so patiently and Helen got out of having to actually ride the ride (lucky). Helen just got to do the fun part, which is obviously waiting in line #friendship  

Later, a group of us sat down and hung out, chatting, which was honestly the best part. We talked about how none of us had tattoos, which was crazy because we were travelers and since Katie had been planning on getting one that very morning.

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Ready for pierogies! There’s a pocket inside Sarah’s jacket that I covet!  

 

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Not too long after the pierogi fest (but like… on a completely different day), KATIE AND HELEN GOT TO PERFORM TOGETHER. I REPEAT: KATIE AND HELEN PERFORMED TOGETHER. I repeated that because it happened not once BUT TWICE!!! And both times were incredible. We gathered up a group and headed out to see this magic unfold:

 

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Katie+ Guitar + Jokes = Perfection

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Helen + Microphone + Jokes = Perfection

 

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Wee Emily and Tall Laura (also Bel and Bam – but you avid readers of the blog probably already know that!)

 

Before Friday’s show Victoria (and Katie) did the absolute cutest thing and made these amazing wristbands for Katie and Helen in support of their performance, which we all wore proudly — like a sign but a bracelet. You get it. Man, do I love matching! Emily and Laura were still wearing them when they went to the Steelers game the next day… even though Katie and Helen weren’t playing. But support from the two of them is endless!

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Repping their favorite comedians while footballing.

 

Speaking of repping, Katie and I decided to rep our ears and hark back to the most wonderful time of the yEAR (hehe), aka the furries.

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Eyes eyes, ears ears, tails tails, LEGS LEGS.

 

And after the Brillobox show night, we gathered an all-star team who came back to the house, and EVERYONE was given a pair of ears.  Aawoooogah!! Victoria ordered us all an UNREAL spread of pizza, and I had the divine pleasure of reading the Letter from the Editor (written by our very own Victoria) in Table magazine’s fall issue OUT LOUD! 

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Pack storytime, we’re all ears!

 

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Such a magnificent night where we had a lot to celebrate… so we celebrated like DOLPHINS! Goodness I love these girls.

 

 


 

Here are some more standouts from Katie’s hangout with us:

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Are you sick of food yet? Me neither. Cafe du Jour with Emily, Laura, and Katie – all about that Roasted Pork Crostini (not pictured) and Watermelon Salad.

  • Katie and I had to take a quick walk– I’m talking an hour from the southside to the northside during rush hour.  We stopped to split two slices of pizza twice because the first place only had one…and then we absolutely loved how even that felt so we did it again.
  • We saw A Simple Favor with VIP seating. We admired Blake, the sunset, and ate at Primanti brothers (om nom nom nom).

 

 

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“Pittsburgh…STOP.” – Madeline…My sentiments EXACTLY

 

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Even her umbrella is fancy!

  • There were two laughter yoga sessions where we “won the lottery,” Katie almost peed her pants, and had some other realizations about bodily functions. “I feel downright mirthful!” 
  • Katie and I recorded a podcast in Helen’s room!

 

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Welcome to our podcast, “Helen’s Room.” JK that’s not what it’s called… it’s called  Showing Up Messy! You should check it out!

  • I took Katie B. and all of her worldly possession on a scooter ride in the rain, but it was our favorite one yet because THE FUN IS IN THE RUSHING.

 

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Pinksburgh is up and back in action!

  • We played a game of giant Uno with my best friends and I got them to dairy-free-fudge the rules. AND I got a lil somethin’ from mom & mom (wink)
  • We sat near each other talking, texting, and also Facebook-ing.  ALL THE FORMS OF COMMUNICATION in the same room!!! #downtimeintouptime
  • Bel, I love Down Time.

 

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Are we in London or Pittsburgh?!

 

Alas, before we knew it, it was time for Katie Barbaro to go off on her year-long international adventure, Iceland bound. She wrote us a note on our white board in the dream flat, which, even though she set us up for success by writing a matching, handwritten note – because SHE SEES US (sobs) – it will probably still never get erased.  

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Katie always leaves us notes on the whiteboard and we refused to erase them because KATIE WROTE THEM AND WE LOVE HER. This time, she did this. WE FELT SO SEEN.

 

One of the many pieces of wisdom Victoria gave us was that your best friends are glimpses of you. Not only did that make my heart explode into a million glittery pieces, it also makes perfect sense. To quote Victoria quoting Oprah quoting Maya Angelou: “You are a compilation of the five people with whom you spend the most time.” I have THE best glimpses, and I’m so lucky to call these girls my best friends… #stilltriggered.

 

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Sammi and her glimpses… BEST FRIENDS, BEST FRIENDS, BEST FRIENDS!!!

 

Love
‘mi, a proud best friend

Best friends (#triggered) in Baltimore

9 Sep

Helen and I decided to go to Baltimore for fun one weekend and to meet Katie Barbaro (two bars and an o) before she went off on her year of solo travel (WOOHOO!). At the time we were planning this trip we didn’t know she was going to COME BACK WITH US TO PITSBURGH #wildplan But that story is for the next post…for now, Baltimore.

…or should I call it Balti-POURING DOWN RAIN! The 4 hour drive took us 5 because of the weather.  It didn’t stop raining the entire weekend but LUCKILY we had designed this trip entirely around the National Aquarium — which is a Baltindoors activity, and most certainly not the last Baltimore pun that this triad of woman has come up with #foreshadowing

We checked into the Envy Hotel, whose name is definitely overcompensating for something.  Maybe they were trying to use reverse psychology? — It was really anything but envious. Actually, I take that back. The room was extra shareable, which…you know, is something I love and something to be jealous about. For example, there was a bug in one of the beds (the other bugs, not that we saw any, were probably envious that this one bug got a whole bed to itself), so Helen and Katie shared a bed while I took the bug bed for myself that first night.  We switched it up for night two because fair is fair. The bathroom handle was also broken, so you could see into the bathroom, which meant that we shared a lot of private moments together…and learned where other bathrooms in the hotel were located. Another few unique traits (questionably enviable) were that breakfast was served in the dank basement with instant coffee and that when you were in the lobby, you had to push the down button so that the elevator could come “down” to you. I mean, I guess that’s enviable for an up elevator– it’s way more work to go up than down, right?  “They do things differently in Baltimore,” said Katie, as we headed past homeless people back into the pouring down rain in search of dinner.

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A few enJOYneer best friends enJOYneering their best friend fun!

 

We ultimately picked an Afghani restaurant called the Helmand. It was DELICIOUS. It only took getting out of the hotel, out of the rain, and five bites into the meal to completely change my mind about Baltimore, this place was great!

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Equal parts of everything.  The pumpkin (bottom of the plate) was exceptional!

 

During dinner Katie and I learned that we didn’t like raisins, but by process of elimination. We ordered this delicious rice dish (to share, of course), and finished it all only to discover the one thing left in the bowl was the pile of raisins we had subconsciously ignored. Talk about passive aggraisins.

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The “after” picture looks just like this, except everything else besides the raisins are gone.

 

We had a great time at the restaurant; our table was a share-table… like a potluck, but with feelings! While sharing at the share-table we discussed how amazing it was that we got to share it with THREE BEST FRIENDS. We’re each the best friend of our best friends, and it was just a whole best friend fest. We soon realized that “best friend” is our trigger word and sends our heart rates through the roof.  BEST FRIENDS, BEST FRIENDS, BEST FRIENDS!
For some added entertainment, we noticed a mouse scurry around the restaurant, but we weren’t bothered — it made me feel like I was a patron in Ratatouille. Spirits were high, the three of us had nothing to complain about.

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A best friend and her best friend!

 

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A best friend’s best friend; not pictured: their best friend.

 

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Before the mouse sighting.

 

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The mouse sighting caught in action.

 

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Squeak squeak! We disQUEAKly told the manager so the restaurant would not get shut-down by Food and Safety.  We didn’t want to be out in that rain either, mouse!

 

Giddy and HAPPY AS EVER the three BEST FRIENDS!!! (an exclamation point for each of us) headed back to the Envy Hotel to rest up for the next day.

 

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Snug as the bug in the other bed.

 

The next morning, we headed to the aquarium at 9 AM, right as it opened, and put school kids on field trips to shame by staying there for a whopping SEVEN hours.

 

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Good morning, Baltipouuuur!

 

We literally savoured each step we took, obviously, as we took seven hours to see the whole aquarium. In the beginning, Katie said something that really set the stage for the rest of our aquarium experience, and that was this:

“Wow. Life really imitates art! And by art I mean nature, which is really just life.”

I mean…truer words have never been spoken. And so we decided to actually watch art imitate life imitate nature by heading to two of the aquarium’s movies in 4D.

 

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“4D?!  Balti-MORE dimensions?!”  – HW

 

We decided to see Shark and Being Dolphin (the titles did not leave us much room for guessing what these movies were about…but that was fine! We couldn’t wait!)

We learned a few things from these movies:

  1. Kids do not like 4D depictions of marine life, which is actually hilarious.
  2. These movies needed a content warning because they were definitely not relaxing.
  3. Shark skin is as sharp as teeth. They cut with their skin just to see if people bleed (no, these aren’t Simple Plan lyrics; it’s real science). But sometimes people will think they’ve been bitten by a shark, when in reality, the shark just brushed up against them.
  4. 4D includes being sprayed by water and getting punched in the back. When that part of the movie took place, Helen leaned over and asked us if we just got shanked. This was Baltimore, after all. And yes, we all had. The kids in the audience screamed. Everyone watching the movie got punched in the back, that was supposed to be a positive feature, I guess.  We renamed the film the Shark-shank Redemption.

After the movie, we explored balti-more of the aquarium. Here are some standouts:

 

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Feeding time!!

 

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Seahorsing around.

 

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Peacock Mantis Shrimp. Andrew’s new fursona.

 

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“That fish looks like it’s going as that rock for Halloween” — Helen

 

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MesmeriSEAing

 

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Showing off turtle shells.

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Not in their natural habitat but still SO DARN PERFECT!  Those bubbles!

 

Our favorite exhibit was the jellyfish one. We loved the way they moved so fluidly and just bounced around and hit the walls. We realized we had just never seen jellyfish before — “like, ever.”

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Could there be any balti-more jellyfish in this aquarium?

 

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Interpreting a jellyfish — Whiskers and Labia.

 

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Matching phone screens 😉

 

Exploring an aquarium for seven hours is hard work, so for snack time (thanks, Katie!), we had a blue Clif Bar– yes, that’s the flavor– blue. And we split 2 clementines into 3. We just loved how fair that felt.

Besides the jellyfish, we were also drawn to the dolphins because, I mean…dolphins. After seeing the Being Dolphin 4D movie, we were thrilled to find out the aquarium has an open dolphin exhibit where trainers feed and play with dolphins all day. You’re welcome to stay in there as long as you want but every few hours, the trainers give a Dolphin Talk. We visited them multiple times and went to every dolphin talk they had. One of the coolest things we learned (and that is a LONG list of #dolphinfacts), is the dolphins will willingly give their tails so the doctors can draw blood. They are trained to do so and practice that pose every day so that when the doctors come for testing, the dolphins are not stressed out.

Dolphins are so smart, curious, and playful. Three of my favorite qualities. The trainers have a symbol that means the dolphin can swim out and do whatever trick it wants. When it comes back, the dolphin gets rewarded with big celebrations and cheering. The trainer then did the same symbol and the dolphin knew it meant to go out and do a different trick. The same symbol has multiple meanings — these animals are so advanced! They also had a symbol to say “swim around the perimeter of the tank and show me any 5 tricks you want, as long as you don’t repeat any!” DOLPHINS ARE SO SMART. They have to be constantly teaching the dolphins new tricks because they crave innovation and creativity. I’m not sure how we figured that out about dolphins but I’m glad we did! HUMANS ARE SMART, TOO! 

DOLPHINS ALSO LOVE TO CELEBRATE!!! How cute is that?! Anytime they did a trick correctly, they would celebrate with their trainers! It was so full of joy and positive reinforcement. The trainers celebrate when they do something correctly and just ignore if they do something incorrectly so as to not reinforce the behavior. They said that works for children, too. #lifehack 

The trainers told us that sometimes the dolphins play baseball with flavorless jello, to which Katie, without missing a beat, turned to us and asked:

“What’s a dolphin’s favorite flavor of jello? Trick question!! Flavorless!”

When we left the aquarium seven hours later (seriously – go to the Baltimore Aquarium and see the dolphin talks), the three of us wanted to get something matching so we scoured the gift shop for anything that called our names — it had to call all three names or else it was a bust. We ended up just using that magnificent picture of jellyfish (shown above #captionfacts) as matching phone screens, which is perfect, but we also got this great picture, which we wanted but didn’t want to pay $50 for.

 

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A few puffins with special powers. WE, THOUGH. ❤ ❤ ❤

 

And since 1 Clif Bar +  ⅓ of 2 clementines does NOT = a sufficient meal, we decided to head out for some food and have some more best friend time where we just constantly made each other laugh because we though.

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“Helen: Sayer of words, mumbler of gems.” – Katie

 

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Katie asking Helen on a best friend date. SHE SAID YES!

 

After we made the best use of Baltimore by going to see the aquarium and having dinner, we decided to balance it out by making the worst use of Baltimore and going to see an improv show, which apparently, in Baltimore stands for “Needs improvement.”

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Couple celebrating their one year anniversary on stage. Happy one year, baby. #Badprov

 

Katie and Helen went up on stage as audience participants — they were my favorite part of the show.

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“I need this 4th wall to get wayyyy thicker”– Katie

 

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Moral support!

 

After sitting through some…some really ENVIABLE — there we go–  improv, we decided to just leave early. After all, it wasn’t our town. We didn’t know these people (thank goodness).  We could just leave right? Right. We left. After we left, we debriefed and wondered if we were clapping with them or at them. Like, how would we like it if someone came to our jobs and just started clapping at us? Our debrief was funnier than the actual improv #sorrynotsorry.

The next day, we got a delicious breakfast sans basement and decided to skip the trampolines and head home early, which is great because I love to stop.

 

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Aquarium and food; the absolute best uses of Baltimore.

 

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Sooooo good — also, no mouse sighting!

 

After breakfast, we got in the car and drove back to Pittsburgh. The 4-hour road trip took us 6 which I considered to be not bad at all. We also managed to go back in time when we stopped at a Burger King on the way home, and if you don’t believe me here’s proof (cameras still worked back then).

 

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We let Katie drive.

 

We also stopped at an international market, and Katie and I realized it was the first time we had gone international together. Our destination? Goat cheese and caramel lollipops from Mexico.

There were also several realizations made on the way back home, which was a great way to turn our downtime in to up-time #always The first epiphany came when I realized, in real-time, that I was a quarter hoarder when we had to pay a toll. The first step is admitting you have a problem, and I did just that while making eye contact with Helen. I am a quarter hoarder.

The second realization came after we had made our last stop; Helen was driving (thanks for driving!), and she didn’t want to make any more stops (woe is me) so that we could get home on time to see Bonus Stage at Arcade Comedy Theater (good improv!). Helen noticed in the rearview mirror that Katie was getting her water from some grapes — something that dolphins do from ice-cubes or fish, by the way, because all mammals need fresh water! When she realized Katie was so thirsty that she had resorted to getting her water content from a grape, Helen agreed to stop because “I didn’t realize what a monster I was being!”

This Baltimore trip was definitely anything but a Balti-snore, we got to see everything that this city had to offer (and by “everything” I mean the massive aquarium.).  And it really made me appreciate a couple of things. First: my gorgeous, beautiful, funny best friends who are the best best friends in the world. Second: Pittsburgh improv. Third: Dolphins. 

 

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A BEST FRIEND WITH HER BEST FRIEND AND HER BEST FRIEND’S BEST FRIEND, WHO IS ALSO HER BEST FRIEND #SOTRIGGERED

Burn, Baby, Burn(ing Man)

3 Sep

Burning Man is a world of its own.  If you haven’t heard of this crazy, week-long event (held in the desert at the end of August), here is a definition to explain the wild pictures and crazy outfits that are in this post.

What Is Burning Man?

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Burning Man takes the harsh (and ridiculously dusty) desert environment and pairs it with 70,000 people who are willing, excited, and inspired to temporarily live in said environment for a few weeks.  They build radically interactive, COOL, BEAUTIFUL, GORGEOUS art (disclaimer: my pictures will not do it justice) and survive by building their own shelters, supplying their own food, water, clothing, transportation, entertainment, ect.  Cell-phone usage is rare to non-existant and HIHGLY discouraged.  And a cornerstone of Burning Man is that it’s a “leave no trace” event, meaning that just as we build this crazy community, we also have to take it down as if we were never there — an element that adds to the dreamlike nature of it all…Was it even real?  Luckily I have the pictures (and dust on all of my belongings) to prove it.

 

There are 10 principles to which Burners subscribe:

  1. Radical inclusion – Anyone may be part of Burning Man.
  2. Gifting – There is no bartering or money exchanged.
  3. Decommodification – No sponsorships or advertising.  Tickets (I’m talking tens of thousands) sell out in minutes, as soon as they go on sale.  Burning Man is not a music festival. (Although this year, Skrilliex and Carl Cox — two DJs for those of you who, like me, aren’t in the know — played, much to the delight of Mikhail and thousands of other people.  But these shows were not announced in advance.)
  4. Radical self-reliance
  5. Radical self-expression — So many fun, interesting styles!
  6. Communal effort
  7. Civic responsibility – Outside laws still apply.
  8. Leave No Trace — The desert will be left better than it was found.  This means, among other things, no glitter, feathers, or other foreign objects.  A pack it in, pack it out mentality.
  9. Participation – !!!!!!! !!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!! ! ! !
  10. Immediacy – One of my favorites.  Follow whatever is in front of you.

 

So hopefully this explains some of Burning Man… but really, it probably won’t because Burning Man is one of those things encapsulated by saying: You just had to be there. Anyway, this was my second time attending. The first was 6 years ago (2012), but this time was going to be different (aka I would be more prepared and it would definitely be more fun).  Brittny and Ricky were the reason I decided to go, they spent years convincing me on how much they would help ease me into the scene AND THEN THEY DID 🙂 The two of them brought supplies. Michelle and Scott helped, too!  They encouraged me every dusty step of the way.  And Natalie graciously brought an air mattress that she shared (thank you!).  It was because of these people that I was nurtured into this intimidating event; they were my gateways into Camp Gallivant and my saviers along with Jake (aka Cuddle Puddles), who literally saved my life.  If it weren’t for him I probably would’ve just turned into dust and became one with the desert (leave no trace, amiright?) in an entirely un-fun way.  But he provided EVERYTHING — a yurt, safe place to sleep, a respite from the wild sun, and most rejuvenating of all, friendship.

 

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Mikhail and Brittny

 

It made the most sense for me to fly from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Reno, Nevada and then to take the Burner Bus to Black Rock City, Nevada (a city that only exists during Burning Man, aka a city that doesn’t exist for 50 weeks out of the year).

The Burner Bus was great.  I was so excited that we were about to experience playa magic. But in fact, the magic started on the bus before we even got there with everyone on board acting generous and friendly.

 

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The “I haven’t left the airport” look.

 

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Enjoy the running water while you can, Sammi.

My “Time” at Burning Man

Almost as soon as I stepped off of the bust into this arid artist’s desert city, I felt like like there was no time — only more continued moments of now. #deep #butforrealthough #whatistime.  Most things are unplanned (see Principle No. 10: “Immediacy”, follow what’s in front of you), but there was a hand-held schedule of events that was mailed to me (along with my ticket) and thus, I diligently went about reading the entire thing and making a list of everything that I wanted to do and see (even though of course I saw many more things than listed and I missed most what I had planned).  Here are some excerpts:

  • Rise and Shine Yoga
  • Delicious hot donut holes
  • Healing foot wash
  • It’s watermelon time
  • Knot tying workshop
  • Legit Hobby Horse Course
  • LAUGHTER YOGA
  • Joy climbing wall
  • Tutu Tuesday
  • Costco Soulmate Trading Outlet
  • And literally hundreds of other things happening ALL THE TIME


Once on the playa, and after seeing how my INCREDIBLE group set up their theme camp (REPPIN’ CAMP GALLIVANT), I got a sense for how much work, effort, forethought, and perseverance (especially in the desert climate) it takes to set-up. And once I saw that, it served to make me appreciate Camp Gallivant EVEN MORE!

What follows are excerpts from my Burning Man Odyssey — events, art exhibits, art cars, dust. things, and people who would beautifully and chaotically distract me on the way to nowhere in particular.

 

  • When the Burner Bus arrived on the playa we were welcomed on The Red Carpet, which was a carpet that was only red in name, and not in color.

 

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You can be whatever you wanna be, carpet, you’re at Burning Man!

 

  • Being part of Camp Gallivant I had a role: Procure ice for the day.  FULFILLING IT WAS AN HONOR!! 
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Welcome to the desert.

 

  • Natalie gave me a handmade rainbow scarf and a new notebook (thank you!!).  Sidenote: That notebook is totally filled with scraps of notes I wrote to Patrick telling him how much I wished he were there.  Soon come?

 

  • Mikail gifted me with random facts (for example, did you know if you want to say grandfather in Russian you just replace the Bs with Ds– babushka → dedushka). 
  • Michelle’s father, Firefly, also gifted Camp Gallivant and offered us flights over the playa (he’s a pilot). We got incredible bird’s-eye views of Black Rock City and I got to ride to Reno and back… The views were breathtaking and the company fantastic ❤  

 

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Early morning beauty.

 

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I’d add co-pilot to my resume… but I’d be lying.

 

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The whole planet was here for Burning Man and put on quite the impressive art display.

 

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The dunes being dune-lightful.

 

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Burning Man, Burning Lake.

 

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Pasting this picture next to the ‘co-pilot’ title on my resume.

 

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Black Rock City from the sky.

 

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Take me down to paradise city, please.

 

Here are some other standouts from my journey (once I got back on land, that is):

  • Everyone was so willing and ready to engage, so welcoming; making genuine eye contact was commonplace and wonderful.  (So many people at Burning Man have these gorgeous, light-colored eyes).  Alternatively, I felt understood, like I could leave a crowd at any moment with no hard feelings. 

 

  • Night dreams at Camp Gallivant, snuggling and staying warm; laying underneath that COOL SPIDER with a fire underneath its belly.  THANK YOU, TERRY.

 

  • Mikhail and I found our Burning Man theme song — “Up all Night to get Lucky.”  It’s not necessarily that we wanted it, but we heard it sung every way possible, ways we didn’t even know were possible (like acapella, country, and rock), repeated over and over again, all in a row.  So maybe I should say our Burning Man theme song found us.

 

  • I felt so much generosity and love from others and of course I wanted to dish out as much as possible too, so I accompanied Brittny to a Burners without Borders talk instead of going to a BBQ Tri Tip event that I had been desperate to attend.  IF THAT’S NOT LOVE, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS.

 

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The inspiration for my LOVE.

 

  • Taking literal notes while talking to my guru, Michelle.

 

  • The time I ate a fancy, 3-course French meal in the desert.

 

  • I appreciated the continuous ‘thanking’ of various positions — like the Trash Removers — involved in the Burning Man community .

 

  • Meeting Glory, glory hallelujah when I was struggling to drink water and ride my bicycle at the same time because that’s hard.  My cup runneth over, and my heart was OVERFLOWING.

 

  • Meeting Allison Grey and getting to share with her.  I was also invited onto their art car, which in and of itself was pretty incredible, but I had to respectfully decline because I had plans with my Camp.  CAMP GALLIVANT ❤

  • The nights when we planned to reconvene at Camp “whenever we got cold” rather than at any specific time because, again, what is time?

 

  • During my adventuring, I realized that I’m more of a day-burner than a night-burner.  For me, Burning Man becomes overstimulating at night and after I realized that I mostly stuck to daytime activities.

 

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Night time still has cool elements but day time is my preference.

 

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Cuddle Puddles and Natalie

 

  • Nurse Kickstand (named that in conjunction with both her profession and with her innate ability to hold Scott upright) reiterated my belief that I’m normal.  For example, I was talking to her about how hard it was for me to swallow my vitamins, and she gave a great reaffirmation: “It’s hard for most people.”  See, totally normal.  It was also amazing to be around her infectious, pure, and wonderful laugh.

 

  • As I wandered the desert, Michelle told me what plug and play camps were — people could pay a group to set everything up for them; basically like a Burning Man hotel.  My goal was to sneak into one of them…and I ended up doing it!  — They had an incredible breakfast that included freshly baked chocolate chip scones. Desert??  More like dessert.

 

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Sneaking into a camp with my new, international friends.

 

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At Burning Man, rainbows bring in the morning.

 

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And the playa is a rainbow at night.

 

  • I went to an event where I got a bowl of cereal but only AFTER I had offered up a “cereal confession” of sorts.  I’ll never tell what I shared.

 

  • I found tacos at Burning Man, which was pretty cool.  I also met Sir Who What and Tid Bit while I was in line.  They were great.  I followed them around for hours, going on my first full day’s adventure while rocking super cool red boots, a gift from Natalie. 
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Sir Who What’s feet and my newly acquired red boots went for a climb.

 

  • The dust acts as both an equalizer and a cleanser, making everyone look white-washed and like they’re wearing an Instagram filter which is (happily) exacerbated by the very small amount of clothes attendees wear during the day.
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Thanks to Brit, I got to participate in tu-tu Tuesday.

 

  • Remember how I’d had that list of everything I wanted to do? (Ha!

 

  • I did end up taking one “regular” yoga class.  But, in true Burning Man fashion there was a twist…my yoga teacher was dressed up in a shark head.  She was a great teacher and kept telling us how impressed she was with all of us!  The yoga class, as a whole, made her so proud that she started crying literal tears of joy (but she didn’t take the shark head off, which only served to add to my joy.). 
  • Speaking of joy….I GOT TO PARTICIPATE IN LAUGHTER YOGA!!!!!!!! 
  • LAUGHTER YOGA WAS THE BEST THING I DID ON THE PLAYA!  I did it four times, four days in a row.  My biggest regret is not going to class the very first day it was offered (but I was happily distracted thanks to Sir Who What and Tid Bit).  Laughter Yoga, like most things, is better when everyone (including me!) participates. 
  • I was five minutes late to my first Laughter Yoga session on the playa (#mistake) BUT THEN NEVER, EVER AGAIN.  I PLANNED MY ENTIRE DAY AROUND LAUGHTER YOGA, hanging out at my favorite nearby bar (DPW) until it was OFFICIALLY TIME TO LAUGH!  The leader of the Laughter Yoga sessions was awesome!  He was humble and modest, and if he had comment cards I would tell him not to change a thing except to MAKE IT LONGER!  

 

  • Throughout the day if anyone asked what my favorite thing was at Burning Man I’d say (or did I yell?) “IT’S ABOUT TO HAPPEN!!”. 

 

  • Laughter Yoga was my favorite place to make friends on the playa because you could tell how easily a person laughed BEFORE you befriended them! #lifehack   Michelle joked that if anyone came to the camp looking for me she would ask them to “show me your laugh!”  Which is amazing and how I’d like everyone to greet me from now on.  “Show me your laugh!”
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Nicolina and the birthday boy (was his name Strawberry?).  Nicolina was my favorite laugher.

 

  • The friends pictured above are who I hung-out with on my last night.  We named ourselves Team Eventually Adventure.  Or, Rock, Paper Scissors.  We often called a roll-call so we (I) would’t get lost.  Yours truly was almost always scissors. 
  • Team Rock, Paper, Scissors (ROCK!, PAPER!, SCISSSORRRS!) needed a respite from the over-stimulating lights and night sounds so we went looking for a camp that was dark and quiet.  We stumbled upon one with a gentle light up teddy bear sign out front and several empty benches that looked like they were glowing.  This camp also had a cave-like area that seemed to be fairly protected from the elements, great!  Just what we were looking for.  Giggling non-stop from our adventures, we stepped inside.  As our eyes adjusted, we could see that there was a mass-pile of soft, giant teddy bears skewed about all over the floor.  Nice. Hopefully we could use these as pillows.  But before we jumped onto the pile, we let our eyes adjust more and we slowly realized that THIS WAS ACTUALLY A PILE OF PEOPLE SLEEPING IN SOFT BEAR COSTUMES. I mean… WHAT?! Taking the furries to the next level.  We started whispering the news to each other and got really quiet, backing away cautiously, just as you’re supposed to do when you encounter a cave full of bears.

 

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Safely out of the woods, with my human friends.

 

  • By the end of my time at Burning Man, I was having so much fun that I almost missed the Burner Bus back to the airport.  I miscalculated how far away our camp was from the terminal and Ricky sweetly offered to bike me (and all of my stuff) to the station.  We made it on time but not before the two of us toppled over while scrambling to catch the bus. Everyone was fine and it definitly made the journey more memorable. As Molly would say, “The fun is in the rushing!”.  Thanks to Ricky for helping me not to get abandoned in the desert! 
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“Thank God!” is right!  It’s a jungle in the desert.

 

  • When I got back to the airport aka ‘the default world’, I could tell who had just been in the desert (and not only because they had just gotten off of the Burner Bus with me but also) by their dirty legs, interesting outfits, and most notably, their shoes. 
  • I started the deep de-dusting of all of my possessions outside at the airport, since I had 12 hours before my plane departed.  A couple of white clothing items had to be thrown away (see those white overalls in an above photo), but others I methodically wiped down and beat out the dust.  I had just started this MASSIVE undertaking when one guy saw me and said, “Give it up!” Ha!  Two hours later, I was really grateful I had taken the the time to do it. I love taking care of my belongings! Note to self, it was an important part of my 2018 post-Burning-process to de-dust all of my belongings at the airport. 
  • My final thoughts before I slept on the floor of the airport were ones of gratitude: ‘Are airport stalls and toilets always this clean?’.  And ‘Wow, how good does it feel to wash your hands with warm, running water?!’  (‘ooo, girl, wash those hands!’)

 

Least favorites.

  • Playa names (these are names people use solely for Burning Man). For some, I think they like the anonymity of theses names.  For me, I felt like it didn’t create long lasting connections and only served to further the ephemeral encounters. 

 

  • Before I found Laughter Yoga I struggled to find enough laughter on the playa. There was joy and generosity (SO MUCH GENEROSITY IT WAS MIND BLOWING! Especially from Camp Gallivant and specifically JAKE!  I CAN NEVER MENTION ENOUGH HOW GRATEFUL I AM FOR JAKE! ❤ ).  That being said, unfortunately, outside of my camp, I couldn’t find people who shared my same sense of humor. It’s probably there.  In fact, I’m sure it’s there.  But I didn’t find it (until Laughter Yoga came along).

 

  • How sticky some of the men could be. (#notallmen but let’s not derail the issue.)  The Burning Man environment encourages openness — it’s an absolute pleasure for me to be easygoing, happy, and engaging.  That’s my default, for those of you who know me, AND I LOVE IT.  But I found, even at Burning Man (where I thought I could be myself), I had to be careful (read: more closed) about sending the wrong message with my very pure (I stand by that) interactions.  Lame! I think a lot of it has to do with how I look, as I discussed at length with my seatmate on the Burner Bus who followed up with me after.  My bubbly, respectful personality was misinterpreted.  Friendship intimacy was mistaken for romantic intimacy by a married guy in a monogamous relationship (smacks face).  Come ON.  In the end, we had a healthy adult conversation (which, as a compliment to him, was not the case with lots of these stories) where he listened, apologized, and encouraged me “not to change just because he misinterpreted” which was sweet and heartening.  J****, if you’re reading this, we did have a happy ending but I’m writing about this inappropriate interaction because it was personality-suppressing, exhausting, unnecessary, and far too common.

 

  • It’s always easier for me to send boys away when it’s for my team, I get super protective.
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On the Burner Bus.

 

  • The lack of women friendships that I developed.  I realized towards the end of my Burn this was the case and, once I realized it, focused on making it a goal (helloooo Laughter Yoga). Outside of Camp Gallavant, men were easier to meet and more readily available, but I’d like to find some of those desert gal pals!  #Lessonsforthefuture 
  • The effects of the elements on my skin, eyes, nails, and legs.  It was sooo tough out there; It’s difficult to imagine living in the desert for any longer than the five days that I spent there.  My whole body needed to be soothed (but my mind was happy!). 
  • The intensity of the night-time lights and music.  As I said before, it was overkill for me.  When I did stay up all night I couldn’t wait for the daylight to come and make the stimulation stop.  It was a total overload. 
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Not a good example of the overload,…look how cool this moving art piece is!

 

List of Things I’d Want if I Came Again:
*GASP*
…Does That Mean That I Would?!

  • More bike lights (can’t have too many)
  • Carabiners
  • Cute boots (thank you, Natalie, for those red ones!)
  • A strong, fancy coat for at night with fur and lights — think outrageous
  • A cup with a handle and ID attached
  • A traveler’s outfit — I saw a girl that looked like she was going on a safari.  Dark green jumpsuit. Bandana accent cloth around head… Need I say more?
  • Multiple pairs of goggles. One for the day and one for the night. Possibly ones that will fit over my glasses?
  • Gifts to remember the interaction. I’m thinkin’ stickers with contact info…
  • And Bam, remember, for better or for worse, the playa destroys.

 

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The more lights the better!

 

 

The End of an Odyssey

Burning Man is a difficult environment to be in, you really end up understanding just how much effort it takes to survive in these elements.  That might sound dramatic, but it’s true. Burning Man is hard. But, with that being said, Burning Man is also a bunch of sexy humans who embrace the outdoors and harsh environment #rugged and allow it to inspire them artistically and spiritually.  Everything about Burning Man — the people, the art, the cars, the values, the interactions, the sand — is beautiful. In 2018, Black Rock City captivated me.

Overall, I enjoyed the earlier days of this Burn the most because of all of the people who had put in hard work.  And all week I took advantage of “Radical Inclusion”; Everyone is constantly sharing and offering up invitations (that I gladly accepted!).

As I was at the Reno airport, leaving Nevada, I saw a girl turn on her phone after a week of having it off in the desert.  “What happened in New York?” her friend asked, to which the girl responded, “I promise you, nothing more interesting than what happened at Burning Man.”  I couldn’t help but agree; It was a fascinating week.

 

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And just like that…

 

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We were gone.

A Midsummer’s Night (and Day) Dream

25 Aug

So I’m not going to write this blog post in Shakespearean prose because…that sounds really hard. But I will say that in my midsummer (which, honestly, doesn’t rival the original, I’m not trying to compete, Shakespeare) — there was absurd fun, laughter, drinking, hanging out in nature, waking up to random fairy creatures (just kidding although I did witness some really awesome clouds with magic-like qualities).  Please sit back, relax, and enjoy the show (aka my blog).

 

PARTY EVENTS

  • Helen, Kristin, and I got ourselves invited (by asking to be invited) to Nanny Stock (thank you, Lauren!) where we set up a camping spot and enjoyed this small, friendly memorable festival.  As we were pitching our tent, which was a daunting task, Helen lifted our spirits by reminding us that camping “looked hard, but it was just fun in disguise.” Once we set up, we hung out, laid on that Peruvian blanket, and watched the clouds roll by.  We each got to make a wish…and all of them came true. Helen even saw a shooting star (which made me wonder, was her first wish for a second wish?!). It was a great weekend.

 

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That camping fun sure does look like a lot of work. Thanks for the help, everyone!

 

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Sky Blot test: what do you see?

 

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Can’t get enough of these clouds!

 

 

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Making wishes that all came true.  

  • I also went to….my second Hanson concert! Hanson was playing live with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra — how special — and Laura, Emily and I had center seats…but all the way up in the back as if I didn’t book these tickets 3 months ago. We had to take an elevator to get there, haha. Regardless, the show was fantastic.  The Hanson boys kept switching instruments and even sang a brief acapella song at the end which was my favorite. No offense, symphony. After the show we waited outside in the hopes that we would get to chat with them (a true fanson always holds out hope). Alas, they escaped to their hotel without time for photos.

 

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Look at all of those brothers on that stage.

 

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Sisters from other misters going to see the brothers.

  • Another concert that I LOVED was Taylor Swift, opened by Camila Cabello. We got “Ready for it!” at the dreamflat and walked over to Heinz Field.  I got to sit next to Helen which was invaluable because she whispered little known facts and commentary in my ear, really enhancing my experience. Such a good show.
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Pregaming for End Game (wink, wink).

  • Another cool mid-summer party:  A Harry Potter-themed event by Eva, whom I had met only once anywhere from 3-6 years ago, I couldn’t remember. The two of us had really connected over a random lunch but I hadn’t seen her since.  This was the first time that we were in touch and again, it was because she invited me to a Harry Potter themed house-party!  I said yes immediately, sent her a message confirming that she had indeed meant to invite me (she had!), asked if I could invite Helen (I could!) and took the night off of work to attend.  There was no way Helen and I were going to miss out on this golden snitch of an opportunity. Per Eva’s request, Helen and I got sorted into houses on Pottermore before the event (we were both Ravenclaw), dressed up in all the HP these clothes we had, and drew lightning bolts on our foreheads (see below).  We were very excited.

 

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Hindsight:  Wishing we had a spell for face recognition.

 

It wasn’t until we arrived at the house and went inside that I realized I had totally forgotten what Eva looked like. Talk about a party house-cup foul.  I panicked but we started mingling right away, surely I would recognize her….right? We ended up on the porch talking to a guy who also hadn’t seen Eva in awhile but had gone to highschool with her.  “She’s great!” I said. “Yeah, she’s great!”, he said right back. “Which one is she?” I asked. “What, are you kidding?” he asked. Helen was cracking up, I shot her a glance and said “Yeah, of course, but pretend I’m not.  Will you point her out?” He looked at us like surely this was a joke and pointed to a group of 3 women. “The one with glasses?”, Helen asked. “No”, he said. “The one with the crazy pants?”, I countered. “No!”, he laughed.  Haha, okay, great, the other one! Two wrong guesses later, Bel and I went to say hi to our gracious host whose face both of us will totally recognize from now on. To Eva’s credit she recognized me right away and was excited to see me, too 🙂

Shortly after that little mishap, which nobody knew about except the guy (sworn to silence because we used the silencio charm on him), the party officially got started. It was so well organized!!  Eva hosted with a fake British accent. Bel and I grouped up with the other Ravenclaws. We played flip cup with spells, quidditch, find the Horcrux, wizard chess, and trivia. We got a little competitive, lost horribly, but still had so much fun that we are inspired to throw our own theme party.  (This post is a reminder for team #dreamflat to plan that.) Our night ended in the Southside eating delicious Cambodian food.

 

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Ending a midsummer night in Southside.

  • Regardless of how it started or how competitive we got, we must not have totally blown it at the HP party like we thought we did because I ended up meeting Allison who invited me to Phipps conservatory.  She had served in the Peace Corps in Guinea (not Papa, or French… just OG Guinea). She then invited me to an awesome Peace Corps dinner where she cooked a ton of delicious, homegrown food and I got to meet her other Peace Corps friends from Moldova and South Africa.
  • In other ‘foreigners I’ve met this summer’ news, I hosted a Couchsurfer from Niagara Falls who helped me go on a little staycation. I got to explore the city with a fresh perspective and end another night in the Southside watching the chaos.

HOUSE EVENTS

  • I started growing my own mushrooms. No, not the magic kind.  The shiitake kind. After carefully cultivating, growing, and harvesting my first round of ‘shrooms, I was delicately moving them while we were cleaning the dream flat — after I had spent days soaking and caring for them — WHEN SPLAT! I DROPPED MY PRECIOUS MUSHROOM dirt all over the floor. *Whisper Scream!* I couldn’t real scream because Patrick (Hi, Patrick!! We love and miss you!) was sleeping upstairs. (Whisper screams are more concerning anyway, I guess.) And Helen came running to see what was wrong. Such a shame to lose them, they were really fun-gis (lol get it?).
  • Our fridge got clogged (never again, jello shots) so Helen brought the cold items to wee Emily’s house to store in her fridge.  Moving in the first time she ever went there. Classic lesbian. Thanks, Emily!
  • Helen got new glasses 🙂 They are a -.75 and look adorable but are a slight buzzkill because they’re always so negative and complaining about how she can’t see.
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Negative glasses for a positively wonderful person.

  • Speaking of Helen, she and I were long overdue for a bestie date (haha do we just always feel this way or is this just always true?!), so we headed to Eighth Grade (the movie, because nobody needs to go back to experience puberty). It was great — we love Bo Burnham — and made us thankful that we are, from now on, grownups.
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Bestie date.

  • I was inspired to get a job in government work (highly classified)– or at least tell people I work for the government.  “I’m a government contractor. I do government work. I can’t talk about it.”
  • I found out the owner of the bar where I work is selling (but hopefully everything else remains the same)  …Maybe I really will have to work for the government, Josh.
  • I hung out with Jodi and Bella and went for a walk (one of many because….)
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A walk by the river where we ran into the Regatta.


PLANES, MOTORCYCLES, AUTOMOBILES

  • …My scooter got hit by a truck (all the crying emojis!!!!)  PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE: a Chevy Silverado. But not all of them. Just the red one that hit my scooter. Luckily, she was parked (legally – “Excuse me, ma’am, you know nothing.” / “I’m not going to thank you for doing the right thing.”), no one was driving her, and the people who hit her came inside to get me and their insurance paid for everything. But for an entire month during the best part of the summer (but not early or late summer — read: mid summer) I didn’t get to drive Pinksburgh. I fought hard with their insurance company, and ultimately they rented me a motorcycle for three days.  Ahhh!!!! HOW EXCITING!!!! I ended up getting….
  • A monster. A complete monster (pictured below). An 800cc BMW machine that was waaaayyy too big for me and held waaaaayyyy too much power. The guys at Eagle Rider were incredibly kind and patient with me but I could. not. handle it!  I needed to downgrade. Didn’t they have any scooters I could rent?? No. After spending 30 minutes trying to ride the 800cc beast I had to return it. In it’s place, Eagle Rider gave me another monster. This one was larger (in height) but smaller (in CCs — 400).  I still couldn’t leave the parking lot. Every day (for 3 days) I drove my car to the rental place, geared up, and drove that motorcycle around the parking lot getting better each day but never actually taking her out onto the road. It was like a motorcycle carousel ride (but more dangerous) and I’ve decided that it’s the scooter life for me, thanks!

 

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Monster #1

 

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Monster #2

 

  • I visited Findley Lake with some beautiful women I don’t get to see very often:
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Two aunts and a niece.

 

  • I also learned about my mom’s stunning garden– like mother like daughter, eh? Just kidding, she wasn’t growing mushrooms indoors.
  • I got ready to feel THE BURN. AKA prepped for Burning Man.
  • And, after the furries (most wonderful time of the year), I headed to Toronto to visit a legend for a hot minute and to support England in the World Cup.

 

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Seeing double (and not just because my phone case still has fuzz on it from the furries).

 

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Ordering traditional fish & chips to honor the OG motherland.

 

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We started the weekend on an Austin Powers themed couch and ended it with our faces painted to root for the monarch.

 

Anecdote: I sent the above picture to Nikola in Croatia, congratulating him on the World Cup win over England but included “ignore the face paint” in the caption. He said “that would be like my wife sending me a naked picture but telling me to ignore the guy in the background.” Ha!

 

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Nikola, Congrats to Croatia!

 

  • On the way back from Toronto, I slept in the car to harness all of the energy I possibly could before seeing Patrick and packing for a mere hour to then rush off on our 25-hour transit into Kazakhstan. They asked me if I had anything to declare at customs… I sure did.  

 

FRIEND EVENTS

  • I went to Goat Fest with Emily where I got to meet her bestie, Erin and, later, Erin’s boyfriend, Josh. Josh brought a penny (not one cent but, like, a sports shirt) for Erin to wear and all the girls went into the bathroom to switch clothes. We took photos to commemorate. See below.

 

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One of these is now hanging on my mirror.

 

  • I got to have a fun dinner with Josh and Kristin (what a group!) at my favorite restaurant, Cafe du Jour.
  • I played darts, went to a bonfire, started Anne of Green Gables and was “one curry away from eating a curry” (beans, veggies, and pineapple from a can).
  • At one point during our midsummer, Helen and I were 85% positive (still are) that someone is pregnant  (hint: it’s not one of us!) 

MmmMOPIN’ AROUND

  • Helen got to perform twice at the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival, plus a special edition Harry Potter show at Penny Arcade. Harry Potter was a theme this midsummer (wink). During Helen’s shorter second set (which was so fun) she told a Hanson joke and then, because of that, Mmmbop – by her favorite band – was the closing song of the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival!!! AHHH!!!!!  You can only imagine how excited we got! I told you… this midsummer was a DREAM!!!

 

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I still feel the anticipation and it’s already happened.

 

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After her closing set, Helen and I got to help clean up Arcade Comedy theater, which we were honored to do. Cleaning, you say? Honored? YES!! You know the feeling where you get to take care of the things you love? Like making your bed after you’ve slept in it?  Welllll…

 

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Mmmoping with love & elbow grease.

 

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Faces of the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival #PGHisfunny

 

HAMILTON, HAMILTON!

  • Earlier this year, I bought Helen Hamilton tickets for her birthday (watch her amazing reaction below!).

 

The day finally arrived for the show and we road tripped to Cleveland with her besties, Patrick and Andy (hi, guys!), stayed at an airbnb, popped into the original Moe’s Tavern (which inspired the Simpsons’ bar as the writers lived above it!), and went to Playhouse Square to see one of the greeeeatest shows around!  It was so good, even better than Helen and I thought it was going to be. We loved it. We got into an Uber in the best moods of our lives and said “HELLO! …. stranger” to the driver. 

 

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Young, scrappy, and hungry.

 

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“Talk less. Smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”

 

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“And when my time is up, have I done enough? Will they tell my story?” — Eliza

 

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Bestie’s Best Belated Birthday!


Helen and I ended the night at a hot chocolate bar, i
t was truly a midsummer for the ages.

‘Til summer’s end,
‘mi

 

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Pittsburgh in the (MID)summer #nofilter


PS.  Hi to Paul and Siri who always read until the end 🙂

PPS.  Katie, did you know I knew Siri too?

Kazakhstan #3 – Hitching

18 Jul

The Life-Changing Magic of Hitchhiking

The final installment from our trip to Kazakhstan  — A guest blog by Patrick

Our hearts raced as we considered hitchhiking at night. We both had strict rules against it, but this was our hard trip and we were supposed to be daredevils and things had gone so smoothly thus far. We were leaning towards risking it as we departed Kolsai Lake 1, but then the universe spoke up: the construction crew was back at it and they refused to let us pass. After some aggressive back and forths with the grumbly foreman, we were eventually allowed to pass. We still hadn’t made up our mind as we approached Saty, the point of decision. We could stay comfortably there in our yurt again tonight, or risk it all and continue on with the Germans. As we drove down the main street one final time, we looked at each other and decided to go for it: we were throwing ourselves back into the life-changing magic of hitchhiking.

The sun goes down on Saty.

 

Our ride down the hill from Saty was quick thanks to Anna’s adept driving, but our spirits dropped as we noticed clouds on the horizon. The lightning started in the distance and grew closer as we approached our drop off point. A storm? Really? Had our luck run out? We said a heartfelt goodbye to our amazing German teammates, and hopped out of the car just as dusk settled in.

That massive storm was headed straight for us.

 

Hitching at dusk, a new experience!

 

We hurriedly prepared ourselves (Sammi had washed herself in the freezing cold lake before we left, but we both changed our shirts and transformed into non-threatening humans) and got to the road as quickly as we could. There was no time to waste! We were passed by three cars before the nicest Kazakh guy pulled up, smiled profusely as we explained we wanted a ride to Kegen, and immediately told us to hop in! Well, that was a stressful 8 minutes.

He knows how to count “One, two, three” in English. I know how to say “Shop” in Kazakh. It was a great conversation.

 

Our driver was so amazing – just genuinely helpful and interested in us. Unfortunately, he spoke about nine words of English, and our Russian was a little weak (Note to self: Learn Russian!). We somehow managed some broken exchanges about numbers and boxing and the USA. Luckily music is the universal language. Our new savior turned up his Kazakh tunes, finding a catchy dance/trance tune with some English. “It’s my life!” bellowed through the car on seemingly endless repeat. And never stopped. Our driver was so excited that the song had English in it that he had put it on repeat. “Is this torture?” Sammi asked.

One of the interesting things about traveling in Kazakhstan is that for many of the locals we interacted with we were the first Americans they had met. Apparently Kazakhstan isn’t at the top of American bucket lists. That was awesome for us, as many of our hosts and new friends were overly eager to meet an American in the flesh and brag about us to their friends. Or, in this case, girlfriend. Our driver was so excited that he insisted that we FaceTime with his girlfriend. While driving. On windy roads. In the dark. And rain. All of a sudden our dream ride had turned into a death trap with mind-numbing music. With that said, it was so much fun to soak up the joy he had from having us in his car, and we were more than happy to talk to his girlfriend in a language she couldn’t understand.

#safetythird

 

As we approached Kegen, the town near the border we hoped to stay in, we tracked down the location of the hotel we had read about on the map and instructed our new friend/driver to take us there. It was pouring down rain when we arrived, and the place looked not only deserted but slightly haunted. Uh oh. Our fearless friend got out of the car and tried to wake up someone in the hotel to no avail. He even stood out in the rain and called the number on the hotel to try to help us out. No luck.

gen·er·os·i·ty – (n) finding random Americans a hotel in the pouring rain after you’ve driven an hour out of your way out of sheer kindness

 

Sammi and I were somewhat concerned at this point, but luckily we were able to find another potential lead on the map. Our driver conversed with some locals, navigated around a massive hospital to the ‘Sauna Hotel’, and once again got out in the rain to try to find us some accommodation. This time the owner picked up his phone, came over, and showed us our warm, dry room. We took a photo with our new friend before saying goodbye. As we were parting we realized that he wasn’t even heading to Kegen (where we were) in the first place; he had driven an hour out of his way to take us where we needed to go.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 

One of my favorite things about traveling is having the opportunity to accept the incredible generosity of strangers. Fundamentally, this world is an amazing place and people are full of love and joy. Traveling constantly puts you in situations where you don’t just want the help of others; you need it. And I never fail to be overwhelmed with gratitude for the locals who are willing to go out of their way (literally and figuratively) to help people who don’t even speak their language. This is what makes hitchhiking so magical – you literally put yourself at the mercy of the kindness of others, and they rarely disappoint you.

From my journal: “It’s amazing how much travel can broaden and deepen your belief in the goodness of people. The sheer generosity of others, especially when asking nothing in return, frequently brings me so much joy.”

This text exchange between Sammi and Helen is perfect.

 

We enjoyed the banya (we were staying at the Hotel Sauna, after all), got some sleep, and started prepping for tomorrow’s adventure: hitching across the border to Kyrgyzstan. We woke up to blue skies, high spirits, and incredible thirst. We set off to find a magazine, where we promptly bought too many cookies (#theme #youliketotryeverythingdontyou) as well as some much needed water. We found a small cafe tucked away next to a shop and enjoyed a delicious meal of soup and dumplings. We were joined by a Japanese traveler who was biking around the world, and enjoyed swapping travel stories. He also agreed to take our extra cookies, which was a huge win.

The morning scene outside of our hotel.

 

Breakfast! Don’t ask what a Wenice is.

 

Buoyed by full stomachs and having finally found the bathroom (“The lady finally just walked me there”), we set off to the border. It’s not everyday that you wake up with the goal of hitchhiking into Kyrgyzstan! After Sammi epicly missed a high five with a local and a man with a gun went running by, we caught our first hitch with the nicest father and son who were driving to the next town in an old Soviet car that was missing it’s front seat. The father had the heartiest laugh ever and enjoyed talking to us in Kazakh about things we couldn’t understand.

Hitch #1: Is that a tar truck?

 

From there we had a short walk past a mosque before catching a ride with two construction workers to the end of the town by the border. Now we were a mere 11 km from the border. We were passed by four cars in a row before we hit the jackpot. A car pulled over with plenty of space and motioned at us invitingly, pointing to the back seat. We started to get in and were surprised to find a large British man with a bigger backpack than we had ever seen. The man then started to wave us out along with the British guy. The driver, satisfied by his empty car, then sped off in the other direction.

“What just happened?!?” I asked Sammi. We thought we were getting a ride but then we got an extra traveler instead. It was the INVERSE HITCH, every intrepid traveler’s worst nightmare. Instead of getting a ride to our destination we now had to figure out how to hitch with another human and twice the luggage. Alas, Kazakhstan wasn’t going to let us go that easily!

We started walking and were beginning to accept our fate when a tiny Soviet car packed full of people pulled over. After some careful rearranging of children and things, we somehow managed to get our stuff into the trunk and pile into the back seat. And so, the eight of us went on our way, Sammi and I, our inverse hitch British friend, three children, and two adults, along the final 11 kilometers of bumpy, rocky road to the Kyrgyz border. The car literally scraped the ground every time we hit a bump, and everyone’s foot fell asleep. But we made it to the border and were overly grateful for the three rides that had made our day traveling over rough roads so smooth.

Smalled up.

 

We watched the tiny car drive off into the distance (it turned out they were headed North along the border) and walked across the border. Things were going smoothly and we were feeling a little too confident. Sammi snapped a quick photo of me heading into Kyrgyzstan, and was immediately called out by a soldier. He demanded to see her phone and threatened to deport her over and over again. He was pretty clearly looking for a bribe, but Sammi was so surprised by the turn of events that she didn’t recognize his intent. Fortunately, he eventually relented and allowed her to cross through. Our morning was a success, and now it was time to turn our focus to a place we were even less prepared for. Readers, we’re headed to Kyrgyzstan…

Walking into Kryz…I mean Kyrz…I mean Kryg…