All the Countries I’ve visited

29 Jan

I’ve JUST NOW LANDED in the *50TH country that I’ve ever been to.  WOW (that’s not the airline I flew, but rather just a word describing my feelings)!  I’m so excited to see what kind of friends I’m going to make and what kind of adventures I’m going to have.  This is going to be an amazing trip.  I haven’t even gotten off of the plane yet and I’m already planning on coming back (it does help that I have a work visa.  And that my besties wanna join…! And there’s so many places I want to see on the way!)

In honor of this unbelievable milestone, I’ve compiled a list of all of the countries that I’ve been to in the order that I’ve been there.  Scroll down to find out….where is Sammi now?!









Mexico (Cancun and then, 2016, Mexico City)




Northern Italy


The Czech Republic


The Netherlands









Costa Rica
































Bosnia and Herzegovina


Denmark (Copenhagen)






Israel and Palestine






Transnistria (Moldova)











Now, drumroll please………..number 53 (I miscounted before)…..  New Zealand!


Here’s to 50 (*53) more but also, you know, sincerely loving the one you’re with.

November and Beyond

16 Jan

It was fall, the most magical season of all.  In Pittsburgh this year, we were treated to especially beautiful foliage.  I made it a goal to spend as much time walking amongst the beautiful, changing leaves a possible.



Classic with my classics.



I went hiking in Frick Park.




Went walking in my own neighborhood.




Hung-out with Emma!




Participated in democracy.


For me, the official end of autumn is when I have to put Pinksburgh away for the winter. This year (and every year), we waited as long as possible to put her away.  We wanted to scoot for as long as possible.  Scooter Cat would be proud.  Once the weather officially turned, we had no choice but to put her away.  Laura graciously offered to give her refuge for the winter in her parents’ garage. Thanks, Laura! 🙂  When we drove Pinksburgh to her winter home, we got to see some of the most gorgeous leaves of the season.  It was a particularly cold day and life on the scooter is even colder.  As a preventative measure, I put on as many layers of clothes as I could comfortably ride in while Bel followed me in her car to drive me home.  THANKS BELLA! 



Could I *BE* wearing any more clothes?



Bel’s perspective.


Bel and I did a diet where I had to know every single ingredient in everything that I was eating.  This challenge was surprisingly fun and it led to some really delicious meals.


Girasole Salad.


At Pierogi Fest, I met Madeline. We had our first friend hang out a few weeks later. We met in my neighborhood for lunch and stayed so long it turned into dinner.


Ingredient aware.


“What did you eat today?”  Mostly we ate potatoes. Potatoes for breakfast.  Potatoes for dinner. And then a hard boiled potato for dessert.



SPUDPALOOZA in the DreamFlat.


Before Bel went to Ireland for her cousin’s wedding, she had to go to REI to get hiking boots. “I’LL GO WITH YOU TO REI!” I told her enthusiastically. “I have a bunch of things on my REI shopping list. I’ve just been waiting for someone to ask me.”  We spent hours shopping and only left when we realized we absolutely had to go to make it to our pre-Amy Schumer plans.



Schumer Schquad.


In 2018, I went to Colombia and was unable to go to the Amazon because I did not have my Yellow Fever vaccine. I promised myself I would get it upon returning Stateside. The experience was unexpectedly positive. “What other vaccines do you guys offer here?” They provided me with a full menu. “ I’ll be back to get those.”

At work, a potentially life changing thing happened, my club was sold.

On November 16th, light up night. Helen and Victoria made it official!  Congratulations!



The happy couple.


Arcade Comedy Theater had an auction in early 2018 to raise money.  There were tons of incredible prizes to bid on. I bid on (and won!) an evening with Joystick (Helen’s old improv team)! The full prize included dinner at Kesab’s, Joystick’s fave hangout) and a fun night of Arcade games and drinking at an arcade with the team.  At dinner, each of the 9 members on Joystick brought a gift for me and presented them in an “UNFORGETTABLE CEREMONY” where I then had to guess which member picked out which present. Writing about it here now is the proof that it was truly unforgettable. Well done, Joystick!

We then headed to the arcade down the road to play all sorts of games.  I was provided with quarters for the games of my choice and $20 for drinks. Helen and I learned Tetris is the best bang for your buck at the arcade as only 2 quarters seemed to buy us infinite time on that machine.

Drew and I had an epic game of Battleship. I asked if it felt like he was playing with a child, he said “ No..just someone who cheated on a test but got the wrong answer sheet but still feels really confident that it’s going to end up right.”





I applied for Global Entry at the airport which had been on my To-Do list for a while! During the interview, the employee told me I was flagged because it looked like I had been to a lot of “terrorist countries.”  

“Oh? Like where?” I asked.  I was shocked by his response. “Some of these aren’t countries.  Like where’s Myanmar.?” A man working for an airport’s GLOBAL ENTRY does not only not know where Myanmar is, he had never heard of it.  “Does Burma ring a bell?” I asked as politely as possible. It didn’t. I bit my lip and tried to keep being respectful.  Thankfully, I got my Global Entry anyway!  Can’t wait to use it!


I then went to visit Patrick in Seattle which gets it’s own blog post.  And a plus one.



Katie and Helen together in HER-fast.




Thanksgiving feast! Gorgeous plating. and look at that salad 🙂



Thanksgiving brood.


My mom and I were casually snacking when she told me: “Grapes are my favourite fruit because there’s no commitment.”

On the way up to Thanksgiving, I realized I had $2.40 off of petrol with my fuel perks! $2.40! What a bargain! To make the most of this deal,  I bought 3 gas canisters and filled them up as well as my car’s gas tank. At this rate, the cans cost me about $7.5 each but they were an investment. A wise one, I thought. Why wouldn’t I always get gas this way?! Then I VERY CAUTIOUSLY drove 2.5 hours to my parents’ house with them full. I was highly flammable. #couldIhavethoughtthisthroughbetter?

The next day we stored them in the garage but also decided to use one and fill up my car as it had been depleted from my drive. Perfect idea!  However, filling it up with my dad took almost an hour of futzing with it. We needed to go buy a funnel. I added that $1.79 to my overhead costs. This was still a bargain. As we were filling up the car (which was DEFINITELY a two person job) my dad said “Sam, can see you why this is a pain?” hahaha. I still hadn’t noticed and was determined to recoup my losses.



My Findley Lake home.


I had a friend date with wee Emily to Siempre Algo for new memories and a wall of heat! After dinner, we went to New Amsterdam for dancing and new friends and capped off our evening at Dijlah for our favorite hookah.




Emily, always so much fun ❤


I went on a few dates in the past few months, some of which were good: Meat and Potatoes with Rosemary smoked drinks with champagne; The Hungarian spot and ultimately sharing a seat during The Green Book.  One of them was a mediocre date and food with sin. I asked “Food with sin? Should we order dessert first?” Apparently not what he meant by sin.


Remembering when the paint truck spilled all over the road and a car broke down one minute later. My sneakers still have white paint on them as a memory.


Madeline and I spent more time together and continued to grow our friendship! Highlights include her tipping her invisible hat to me and meeting her best friend, Jane! Jane and Madeline came back to the dream flat to meet Helen and then Jane went back home and met Patrick in Seattle. Best friends meeting best friends!!





Emily Chin and I went on an incredible cookie tour in Lawrenceville. At first I was left wondering if we would be able to get enough cookies. #teamhungry  But by the end of the tour, we had both definitely had our fill. The cookie tour brought me into new businesses that I hadn’t noticed before in Lawrenceville and have since revisited. On our cookie tour, I bought a plant to mix things up but I named her Cookie to be on theme with the day.  Unfortunately, Cookie is no longer with us.  RIPlant.  Cookie, December 2018 – January 2019. 



Do you like cats?!!!


In 2018, I hit a massive milestone at work. It was a goal I had been working towards all year. I texted my loved ones to let them know it was happening ahead of schedule. I got to leave at 11 PM, mid shift.  In the vending machine all week, there had only been orange Cliff Bars available. But as if the universe was celebrating my milestone, as soon as I hit it, there were 3 blue Cliff Bars available. I got all 3 before rushing home to a very, very clean room (as we were having a party in just two days) and FACETIMING WITH PATRICK!!  The perks of being home from work at a reasonable hour (and having a best friend with a 3 hour time difference)! It was so nice to anticipate being so close to my goal especially once I knew I was definitely going to hit it.  I took a break when I was $54 away to just enjoy the feeling of knowing it was going to happen that night. Patrick asked me what I was up to the following day and my answer was pure proof of relishing the milestone: Go to the gym and then not take a shower all day.  BOOM.




And just like that it was Chanukah. We had a big Challah-Day celebration planned and leading up to the party, I made Matzo Ball soup (in a wok #dreamflatstyle) for me, Helen and Victoria. It was the perfect treat to nourish us as we ran around like crazy preparing for our party.





Our bestie friend Katie Barbaro (DOLPHIN SQUEAL) was a contributing editor in the winter issue of TABLE Magazine. She did an incredibly charming and delicious editorial about savory oats (which I highly recommend reading!). Helen and I were so proud! Always making us proud, Katie also left her job and her life in NYC to go traveling around the world for an entire year starting in late September. For her birthday in December, we wanted to send her a special treat but wanted to send her something she could use.  We deliberated for hours. What do you get the globetrotter who has everything? Answer: Nothing heavy. We didn’t want to send her something she had to be responsible for or to haul around the world with her. We didn’t want to add any extra weight to her traveler’s backpack. We opted to make her a birthday video of us making one of her recipes from TABLE Magazine. Unfortunately, we choose a recipe that was mostly a footnote. So much so that it started with the words “OR make it a fiesta bowl!” We knew a fiesta bowl was the one for us because the Dream Flat is always stocked with cans of corn and black beans.

With Madeline and Jane’s help, we tried to whip up a fancy rendition of Katie’s beloved recipe but we failed miserably. We sent Katie the video and some pictures including one of us holding our failed attempt and this version that Madeline had photoshopped to include the image from the magazine. Thanks, Madeline! Katie got a big kick out of the whole operation.



Happy Birthday, Katie!!! We love you!


Traveling the year is a brave and empowering thing to do, but it can get lonely.  Katie met up with Helen for Thanksgiving in Belfast while Helen was in Ireland visiting her family for her cousin’s wedding. As Katie was facing her own plans for her first Christmas away from her family, I wanted to do something special for her. I had the idea to plan a MYSTERY TRIP for her! I opted to send her to Amsterdam (without her knowledge) to spend the holiday volunteering with my friend Soraya whom I had met years before in Singapore.

Katie dropped this beautiful quote about traveling: “When everything is new, I have no choice but to be present.”  — Katie Barbaro


The scariest part of 2018 was my dad’s open heart surgery in December 2018.  There had been a lot of back and forth about when the dates would be and even on the day of, they pushed it back one more.  Thankfully, the surgery went well and he is doing great!  I spent time in Cleveland during the surgery and made separate trips back to Cleveland and Finley Lake during the recovery.


I got to see Andy in Ohio! Some highlights included seeing her family’s home for the first time, seeing Potted Potter together, reminiscing about Peace Corps, and going to an island-themed bar with some gorgeous drinks. We also went to another farm to table restaurant. She is currently traveling in Berlin and I had the honour of taking her to the PIT airport and being the last person to spend time with her before she left the country for 2 months!



Look at all those Santas!




I often donate to the Arbor Day foundation (because trees are the lungs of the planet)  which I love to do, but every so often they send me trees as a thank you. Or at least twigs that will become trees. I had a tree delivery of what looked like 4 twigs waiting in our kitchen when Helen got home. “I got some trees.” “You did?” “Yeah. They’re in the kitchen. You didn’t notice them…. But you can see why.”  Eventually, I was left with finding a home for these trees before the died. The Arbor Day people are supposed to love and save trees and use my money to protect them, not send me them to accidentally kill.


Another exciting thing that happend this fall was Cass, my wonderful yoga teacher, hooked me up with some LuLu Lemon!


Finally it was time for the most wonderful time of the year: The Arcade Holiday Party! This was my 3rd year attending and it was the best year yet! This year, the party felt especially organized with some helpful additions made by Apryl! There were lists posted all over about the happenings on each floor: Coat rack in the basement, White Elephant on the first floor, Food and dancing on the second floor! So helpful to new arrivals at the party.

This year, the food was catered by Bae Bae’s Kitchen which was an incredible touch. After having so much fun cleaning up after Pittsburgh Comedy Festival Party (at Arcade with Kevin and Aaron), Helen and I volunteered to be on clean up crew again. Or as we call it “overstaying with a purpose”!  We got to see lots of old friends and meet new ones and take some fun selfies and group photos.



Nia ❤



Our friend and our very first improv teacher, Kristy


And then it was winter.


I took a trip to LA to see Molly and was there over Christmas! We got to have Christmas dinner with the Barbaros!  The blog is coming.


I made sure to be back to Pittsburgh in time for New Year’s Eve! Helen had two shows at CAPA as part of Pittsburgh’s First Night called “The Complete New Year’s Eve Experience in 30 Minutes with Comedian Helen Wildy.” She and Victoria had gone to Idaho to visit Victoria’s family for the holidays and got snowed in. They wouldn’t be landing back in Pittsburgh until 10:30 AM on the day of the shows. Helen asked me to pick up a few things for the evening including the helium tank (every good party needs one) and some bonus decorations for the space. When we were setting up, Victoria and I were *blown* away by the fact that only Helen knew how to use a helium tank. She was giving us tips. “Why do you know how to use a helium tank??” “Well, I’m kind of a clown.”  Together, the 3 of us set up the room for the shows. Victoria used the gift of her gorgeous handwriting to decorate the whiteboards while Helen and I set up the (fake) champagne flutes and blew up balloons. The shows went well! Bel took selfies with the crowd and a woman named Sherri volunteered to twerk.



Team Theme is at it again!





I left after the second to show to go ring in the actual New Year at Madeline’s party. It was my first time celebrating NYE in the USA in 5 YEARS. We danced at The Clurb while Lizzie and (mostly) Madeline DJed.



To end the night went into Grub Hut for some adventure.

And on the very first day of the year James came to visit.


BRITISH ACCENT CAPTION: “I realllly enjoyed reading that.”


We had some wholesome fun reading articles from Table magazine and ordering in Thai. It was a wonderful way to start the year.


One week in to 2019, I had gotten all of my taxes done for 2018. Another milestone!


Victoria, Helen, and I had some incredible Blue Apron, paired perfectly with friendship and food photography.




Blue Apron not included.



“I love that we are just never needing to learn new names” – Helen


Kevin and Laura came to see Helen’s show at Club Cafe in almost identical outfits.



It’s a really good look!



For the entire month of January, Helen is the Comic in Residence at Burning Bridges Comedy Club here in Pittsburgh!  This meant a show every Sunday (and some Saturdays) with a final, headlining set on 1/27/19 to close it out (where I hear she nailed it!).  She was so excited about the opportunity and it was so fun to watch!



The coolest, funniest, and nicest.


In January, I went to my first ever #bachelornation night and I was instantly hooked. It was so legit. My favourite was the girl dressed as the sloth who got eliminated right away. #furrynation

I was honoured to be the surprise guest at delicious, playful burger night with Brittany, Lindy, Emily, and Laura!


I spent lots of family time checking on Dad in Findley Lake.



Home sweet home.

While visiting, I got snowed in and had to shovel (read: flag down a plow) to help get me out.



Snowy Mouse.


The drive home took longer than ever. I had to crawl along the highway and eventually stop for safety.  On the stop, I went into a shop and came across this gorgeous RAINBOW sweater which has quickly become one of my favourite pieces in my wardrobe.







Eating Nepali food and having solo time with Ricky.


Back in the Burgh, I had a night on the town with Madeline!  We had a really fun Friday that was a total success.  Does the Kylie lipstick get credit for being our good luck charm?!



Lookin’ cabulous!



Madeline, Sammi, and Kylie.


In the dreamflat, we had a chirping smoke detector in the beginning of 2019 but we quickly realised it was not in our apartment. We went hunting everywhere and discovered it was on the third floor of our building. Two weeks later, seemingly riled up by the 3rd floor alarm, our basement one also began chirping. But by then we were so positive it wasn’t in our apartment that we just let it go on for weeks.


Whew!  Long post for a long life.
Until next time,

2018: A Recount

31 Dec

It’s about that time of year again, folks.  Of course by “that time of year” I mean the end of it.  And while December has passed by the time I’m actually posting this… it’s fine.  It’s my blog and my life.  For when I want to look back and remember…”What exactly did I do in 2018?”

It was this year that I started to travel less.  My trips were shorter and I worked in downtown Pittsburgh for 175 hours more than previous years.  By my calculations that’s 20% more and, if that’s not proof that I stayed put, I don’t know what is.



My room, where most of the staying put happened.


I still traveled, of course, you’ll see below, but I spent way more time living the dream in the Dream Flat with my dream flat mate.



Or, make it a fiesta bowl!


In 2018 I posted several blogs a month, and Patrick was even in on the action.  I’m up to date with all of them (forgiving myself for the 2 month lag time that it will always take me to process and to post).  This time last year I was five months behind.

This year, of course, there were some lows:  A breakup, lonely nights, my club getting sold, some lame dates, my dad’s open-heart surgery, the state of world affairs, and the current U.S. government’s leader.

But there were also highs: Meeting Rick Steves, THE FURRIES, winning 4th of July, getting triggered by my Glimpses, a cowboy trip with Molly, the 47th state with Patrick (and Russ!), Helen’s magical birthday weekend, Colleen’s Team TEAM, meeting Victoria Bradley, some really great dates, spending more time with my parents, planning my first ever Mystery Trip for Katie from AFAR, throwing the best party we’ve ever been to, and looking forward to my taxes.


Here is what my 2018 looked like across the USA (with live links)

Pittsburgh (duh)
New Orleans for Colleen’s birthday
Philadelphia on a road trip
Mississippi with Patrick
Arkansas as a bonus
Cinco de Mayo in Colorodo, of course
Driving to Findley Lake as often as possible
The most memorable birthday in Bandera, Texas
Exploring the Baltimore Aquarium with my dolphins
Getting dirty at Burning Man, Nevada
Stopping in Atlanta on a layover
And Dallas for the big ol’ Texas State Fair
Spending (not enough) time in Seattle: Heaven
Having a side trip to Olympic National Park
Ohio for a site visit (and then again for a hospital visit)
And the Jews did Christmas in California


For a total of 13 states (and heaps of trips), filling out my year.


And here is what 2018 looked like, for me, as a list of countries


January 1st, 2018 I woke up in Ukraine
And went to sleep in Armenia
The Mystery Trip continued on a literal Midnight Train to Georgia
I traveled solo to Azerbaijan
Flew on my own to a divided Cyprus
In Greece, I learned about olive oil, islands (like Santorini), and ancient Athens
Then came back to the USA to see RICK STEVES
Canada for a wizard
Checked on my family in Jamaica
Had the most casual trip to Kazakhstan
Decided to make it harder by hitchhiking into Kyrgyzstan
And booked a last minute flight to Colombia


That’s a total of 12 countries visited, which is not bad for a girl who tried to travel less.


Thank you to every single person and every single place that made 2018 special.



l’shona tova,

Challah-Day Party

8 Dec

Victoria, Bel (Helen), and I decided to throw a themed party after Helen and I had attended Eva’s incredibly well-done Harry Potter House Cup party this summer. Even now, months after the party, Helen and I always talk about how Eva nailed it with a smashingly good and wickedly British night we won’t soon forget. Inspired and excited, we wanted to throw a party with a theme we could really get behind. There were loads of contenders in the running that were silly and fun but we wanted a theme we felt personally connected to. Eventually we had the perfect idea: Let’s throw a Hanukkah party. Let’s throw a Chanukah party. As long as we don’t have to agree on how to spell it.

In the dreamflat, we believe strongly in being and celebrating who you are. And who we are is a proud Jew and a lesbian couple who are proud of their proud Jew!

Once we knew we had the right idea, we were ready to lean all the way in. We picked December 8th as the date, Night 7 (aka the only Saturday) of Hanukkah 2018. Thanks, theme, for lending yourself so beautifully to picking a date. The brainstorming started a month in advance while Bel was in Ireland for her cousin’s wedding. Victoria and I had a 5-hour long meeting (our first solo hangout <3) to finalize the guest list and break down every possible pun and game idea we could come up with. Bel and I had learned at our housewarming/birthday party of 2017 exactly how many people cannot fit in our wee dream home. We opted to keep an intimate guest list of people we knew would come ready to mingle, play silly games, learn, and lean in HARD to a theme. People who were generally down to clown.

We walked away from our first meeting with tons of ideas, excited about how ready the team was to commit to the theme. #TEAMTHEME With the general idea of the party in mind and the guest list ready to go, we sent out our invitations:




We were all a-bustle with the excitement of the invitations having gone out! Bel was back from Ireland exactly one week before the party and like the passenger on a very exciting road trip, we had LOTS of jobs to do. Our first order of business is always food. #teamthemeishungry How can we even think about any other details until we know what we’re going to be eating? We decided this party would have a Bagel Bar (a bar full of bagels). We brainstormed lots of fun toppings: Schmear, onions, tomatoes, locks, capers, even sweet toppings for our party goers who like to live on the edge. Victoria was happy to take this on as her job. #blessup

Our drink of choice? Manischewitz wine, of course! (In addition to lots of other wine options and two coolers full of beer. All of the beer was Michelob Ultra except 8 bonus beers — 4 in each cooler — one for each night of Hanukkah.)


Bagel Bar: A Bar full of bagels


Guilt-free but not Gelt-free


Next up was agreeing on the games and the order. We came at the games with all our training from Arcade Comedy Theater: These games needed a host and the host needed to be prepared. Games were combined to create a better flow of the evening and we decided to each host one main game and one mini game. We loved how fair that felt. We did run-throughs of the games, the order of the night, and our hosting because we are fun and normal and this is how parties are thrown, right? RIGHT??

We put up the Christmas tree but in the corner because, COOL IT, Christmas, this is Hanukkah’s party!



While the party prep was happening, Hanukkah began! We kicked off the first night in the dream flat with this beautiful, handmade menorah I picked up at a Kibbutz when I was in Israel with my parents. Because this menorah is handmade, the candle holders are not exactly uniform in diameter and it’s hard to find candles that fit. During our festival of lights in 2017, we used candles that were too small and it was truly a fire hazard. Even after measuring the diameter before ordering specialty candles, they were were slightly too big. We found ourselves taxed #waxed with a job, shaving the ends of each candle to fit or using our other menorah and getting new candles. After much deliberation, we finally submitted to using the other menorah. After all, we were about to have a house full of loved ones drinking Manischewitz and an open flame (times 8) in the living room. Better safe than on fire.



Shaving down two candles for the first night of Hanukkah seemed much more doable and was well worth it to use this GORGEOUS menorah.

The night before the party, all(iday) systems were GO! In addition to last minute jobs BEING assigned, we had to do a dress rehearsal of all of our games, PROPS INCLUDED. Just normal people doing normal things. We spent the night making dough for our Challah braiding competition. Victoria, our hero, came to the house with ACTIVE YEAST! You know, normal party host stuff. #madprops



Victoria made most of the loaves in our kitchen without many baking supplies. Each loaf called for a cup of water but we only had a ¼ and a ⅓ cup measuring tool. Always thinking, Helen put 3 ⅓ cups into a red solo cup and drew a line at the top of the water. “This would really work better if we hadn’t used the last clear cup to sample the Manischewitz.” Even without the proper baking supplies, Victoria was such a trouper and whipped up some delicious dough #getaflaw By the end of the night she looked at us, panic-stricken. “It’s possible that one of these loaves is missing two eggs.” Dough well!


Why did the chicken cross the road? To find those two missing eggs.



None of us had made Challah before so there was a lot of laughter. We especially found great joy in that Trader Joe’s brand for flour called Baker Josef’s and these two honey bears putting their heads together. Consolidation is key!


UnBEARably funny


After lots of planning and brainstorming, we put on a party that we were (and still are) incredibly proud of. It went like this:

Upon arrival at our party, guests were greeted at our doorbell with this sign made by our own resident artist, Victoria, to assure them they had come to the right place:


Making Lionel proud


Once you had buzzed in, Bel or I would let you in, take your coat, and ask you to spin a dreidel to determine which team you were on, for this was a party with 4 teams: Gimmel, Nun, Shin, and Hey.


Spoilers for the winner of our celebrated-shin! #shinners


“I would LOVE to go to a party where I could earn and lose points.” – Victoria, our enthusiastic score keeper


Art in action


Once we had announced to the party which team the new arrival was on, we all shouted “MAZEL TOV!” and sent them over to join their teammates for their FIRST MANDATORY FUN ACTIVITY: Coming up with as many puns for their team name as possible. The Nun team had the advantage of Kristy and Jethro Nolen, comedy pros who churned out about 100 puns #nuns in 3 minutes. Each team had to put a Star of David by their favorite puns. You got a point for each pun you read aloud and 6 low-key bonus points if you actually put a Star of David by your favorite puns (one bonus point for each point on the Star of David).

We turned off all of the lights in the apartment (including the Christmas tree — COOL IT, CHRISTMAS!) for the lighting of the menorah. It was reverent and respectful. Everyone was silent while I, along with Jill, said the prayer in Hebrew.


So much safer than a handmade menorah #whoisdavid


In the time between choosing our theme for the party and Hanukkah, there was a tragic, anti-semitic shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in our own beloved Pittsburgh. The nation mourned along with the Jewish community. Once the menorah was lit, we asked our party guests to join us in a moment of silence for the victims and their families. We were thankful to our guests for taking a moment from what was about to be a silly, playful, fun party to join us in silence.


Paying our respects


The party reconvened with a hug from Helen to me before she took over party hosting duties as our Torah Guide. Part of the fun of planning this party was how much we learned. We did loads of research in preparing and inventing the games. One of the most interesting things we learned was about the Torah. Helen took the reigns on the Torah and explained some of our favorite Torah facts to our party goers.

Torah 101:

  1. A Sefer Torah, or Torah scroll, has to be written by a sofer (scribe).
  2. A sofer must know over 4,000 (!!) Jewish laws.
  3. On average, it takes 1 year to 18 months to make a Torah.
  4. They need to be written on a special parchment made from the skin of a Kosher animal.
  5. They have to be written with a special Kosher quill.
  6. Every time before the word G-d can be written, the sofer has to take a take a special kind of bath.
  7. If any mistakes are made, you have to start entirely over.
  8. If a Torah is dropped, everyone present must fast for 40 days.

As a representation of how precious the Torah is, we hard boiled 4 eggs, one for each team, and drew their team’s symbol on them. Each team was presented with their Torahgatchi to protect for the rest of the evening. At the end of the night, if your Torahgatchi had been cracked, your team lost 40 points. We had some rules of our own about the Torahgatchi:

  1. It could not be hidden in a purse or reindeer wine pocket (looking at your sweaters, Laura and Wee Emily)
  2. It could be smashed by members of other teams.
  3. We didn’t tell the party guests they were hard boiled to give them the fear of a smashed, raw egg.
  4. One member of your team had to be holding the egg at all times.
  5. Throughout the night, there would be random “Torahgatchi checks” where Helen, Victoria, or I could yell “Torahgatchi check!!” and each team would have to show us their Torahgatchi.

Get you a party that has side games.

From there, Victoria took over as party guide by hosting the Challah braiding game. We decided that because we did not have aprons to offer to our guests and flour can be messy, this game was optional for 20 bonus points if any member of your team volunteered. Not surprisingly, each team had a brave volunteer! #gryffindors We had Betsy from Shin, Victor from Nun, Vince from Gimmel, Jill from Hay! Victoria awarded them each bonus 5 bonus points #sowild for various reasons (Victor for teaching Vince how to braid, Betsy for finishing first, Jill for making the most beautiful Challah, Vince for cleaning up the kitchen, etc.). Helen and I as the homeowners DEMANDED more points for Vince for cleaning up the kitchen and all of the flour on the counters. Thanks again, Vince!! 🙂

While the Challah was baking, we moved straight to trivia! Helen was our trivia MC and our 8 (you get it) questions were as follows:

  1. What is the next major Jewish holiday and in what month will it occur?
  2. Name the 10 Commandments (Bonus points for order and accuracy).
  3. The Maccabees go to Applebees. Moses parts the seas.  At which Jewish holiday would you have a feast (called a seder)?
  4. Use “mecsugana” in a sentence.
  5. List the 5 countries with the highest Jewish populations.
  6. How many letters are in each edition of The Torah?
  7. In the original Adam Sandler Hanukkah song, he sings “_____ is half Jewish, ____ is half too, put them together what a fine looking Jew. (Bonus points for naming as many Jewish people mentioned in this song as possible.)
  8. Spell Manischewitz.

Party perk of the Challah-braiding game: WE THEN GOT TO EAT FRESH CHALLAH!


Jill’s award-winning Challah!


Throughout the night, everyone was loving Victoria’s method of giving out bonus points arbitrarily. People started asking for ways to earn them. “If we do a shot of Manischewitz, will you give Hay some bonus points?” Absolutely.

After trivia, we moved on to a game called “Text Your (Jewish) Mother!” where each team had to pick a Yiddish word out of a yamaka. The paper had the Yiddish word and its definition. You had (you guessed it) 8 minutes to craft a text to your mom smoothly incorporating the Yiddish word. The team whose mother responded first got a point but you also got a point if your mother responded without questioning the Yiddish word and bonus points if she used a Yiddish word back.

And just like that, it was time for our final game of the night: Each team would put on a play of what they thought the story of Hanukkah was. We had a word bank of (say it with me!) 8 words you got points for using (Maccabee, oil, miracle, etc) to assure some accuracy but the goal was entertainment. We had 8 props available for use (including coconut oil) and points were given for each prop used. We had 4 hilarious and wonderful renditions of the story of Hanukkah including a Groundhog’s Day version and a hot take on a relationship where one partner got the wrong oil from the store and they fought about it. Someone even sang MMMBop for some bonus points for our Hanson loving lesbians. #panderingpoints #handering

Planning and hosting this party was the cherry on top of a wonderful 2018. Let’s do it again next year.



Oh, hi, oh!

17 Nov

Some trips are better than others.  And, unrelated, some trips are farther away than others.  Sometimes you go to Malaysia, or France, or Jordan. Sometimes you visit a good friend in Ohio.  This post is about the latter. My fabulous trip to places near Cleveland, Ohio with my good friend, Andy.

First a little background.  Andy and I met in the Peace Corps; we became really, close but, like all good friendship, we lost touch over the years.  Luckily, we reconnected about a year ago — read a little bit about it here and here.  This blog post is all about HER and US and FRIENDSHIP!!!!



Reunited #AndItFeelsSoGood


These days, Andy is managing a farm called Spice Acres.  Going to see her this trip felt a bit like when I would go to see her in Jamaica — hanging out with Andy on a site visit 🙂  

I arrived just as it was getting dark but of course I wanted to get the full farm tour!  And, I almost got to ride in a tractor….but, unfortunately, it wouldn’t start (Andy texted another farmer to make arrangements to have it fixed the following day).  Walking around was just fine though!  We stopped to say hi (taste) to some microgreens, broccoli, and arugula — it was a teeny bit awkward because they were still in their beds (ha!), There had been a frost recently so the produce was super sweet, just like Andy.  We saw everything we could and I heard lots of descriptions (’cause, actually, hearing was the primary sense we were using now that it was dark.)

Next, we went to the section of the farm that was really hoppin’ (aka, we got to smell the hops) while Andy taught me about Indian pale ale and how they added extra hops to it when they transported it by boat so that it wouldn’t get skunked.  “Hoppy, hoppy, Like they say in India!” And we laughed ’cause we were ‘hoppy hoppy’ ourselves.


Here’s a picture of Andy sharing some extra CSA produce with me; leeks, onions, rutabaga, potatoes, and carrots.


After my trip, Andy send me her favorite rosemary rutabaga recipe to make (see the results below).  Even got the leeks (which Helen and I found out are really hard to clean) made it onto my plate.



Farm fresh and so so good.


Also, while you’re salivating over that picture (no worries, I am too), keep in mind that the eggs on that (cute) plate also came from Spice Acres Farm.  They raise healthy, happy chickens!  During my stay, Andy had to go and collect their eggs and I got to take part in feeding the chickens delicious (read: stale) cornmeal bread.  Since it was already dark outside, we had to turn on the lights. Andy told me that this would wake up the roosting chickens and they were going to be very confused.  But really, who could be upset at waking up in the middle of the night when a baked good is involved?



Birds of a feather, roosting together.


While Andy collected the chicken eggs, I scattered the cornmeal for the hens.  You can see the results below, along with Andy and her headlamp diligently working.



Cluck, cluck, FOOD!


Fun fact about chickens:  If a wolf comes into the coop and kills one of them, the others will continue to sit there nonchalantly, without trying to run away.  Guess chickens really need to be EGGED ON with cornmeal in order to make a move #farmpun but also #truth

Another farm fact: Buying the egg carton with your eggs costs about $0.30 – $0.50 per carton.  So, next time, if you’re at the store and you can fit all of the eggs into your shirt, you’ll save a few cents.  But you might also get arrested because, you know. stealing.

After we were finished on the farm, we drove to the house where Andy was house sitting and met a mopey, sweet dog and a fluffy black cat, and got ready to go out for the night.  Andy had lots of fun options/activities such as pinball or shuffle board, but my preference was just a quiet space with her where we could soak up every moment together with talking, laughing, sharing and, of course, eating.

Patrick had just written the Kazakh blogs (check them outcheck them out, check them out — Note: the repetition isn’t for emphasis, there really are three.).  Andy and I sat on the couch where she patiently let me read all of the posts aloud while she sat and listened.  It was really fun and we built up quite an appetite.

We headed to a restaurant called Spice, owned be the same person who owns Spice Acres Farm (reminder: where Andy farm manages).  The restaurant specializes in quality farm-to-table dining and everyone who works there, of course, knows Andy.  She’s the best!!  I was honored to see that part of her world.

To eat, we ordered one of everything (!) from the vegetarian menu and a bottle of bubbly to celebrate (Thank you to Lou, a Spice Acres farm volunteer, for treating us to the champagne.)  Pop pop pop pop!



I recognize that broccoli and arugula… 🙂



Farm to *our* table, specifically.


I was really impressed with the variety of tastes and overall amazing quality of the food we ate.  The dish on the left (see above) was interactive (beyond, you know, just eating it) — every 1 out of 10 peppers is really spicy, so it was kind of like a roulette to see if one of us would get the spicy one.  Neither of us did.

The food at Spice was absolutely fantastic, sans one dish.  Andy let the restaurant manager know how we felt about it when she came over to check on us, socialize, and to ask me, “What do you do for a living?”  Without missing a beat, Andy told the restaurant manager that I was a food critic. Of course I played along.  Yes and(y). I channeled my inner Victoria Bradley (thank you very much) and said I worked for Table Magazine.

For the rest of the night, unbeknownst to me, Andy played up my new title.  One dish we ordered had been made with frangipani, a flower that I knew and loved from Fiji.  Andy encouraged me to recount stories from my 2014 trip visiting the island.  And when her boyfriend, Steven, arrived (Hi, Steven!) she entertained him with anecdotes from the Kazakh blogs that we had read aloud earlier, specifically that time I drank fermented camel’s milk.  Da tree a wi took our time, relaxed in the moment, made new memories, and even got dessert.  When the bill came, we saw that our entire meal had been comped.  *Gasp*  Thank you Spice and Andy!!  I guess that’s a perk of being such a great farm manager (or, in my case, going out to dinner with one).  On the whole, speaking as a food critic from Pittsburgh, it was a wonderful night.  And, speaking as regular me, ‘I totally agree with food critic me’.

Stuffed and happy, Andy and I went home to play with a mopey dog and a fluffy cat before heading off to bed.

The next day, we planned to go for a hike in Cuyahoga National Park.  On the way we passed through a small town with no running water but the town still had houses and several restaurants.  Andy told me that at those restaurants they served food on disposable plates and that they weren’t very tasty.   #Noted

In the park, we stopped her truck and looked at the map.  Which trail to choose?!  We picked a hike that was new to both of us, a 2.5 mile cross country loop.  It was mostly flat, except for when it wasn’t, and we concluded that it would be way too steep to do any actual cross-country skiing on this trail.  Good thing we were on foot!




The spot where Andy pointed out a beautiful owl. Who? Who?


About five minutes into our hike, we started hearing music…an acapella rendition of Silent Night.  It was gorgeous! Where was that coming from?! Heaven?! Seattle, is that you?! Turns out no. It was a group of people standing under a cement tunnel.  Apparently, cement tunnels make perfect acoustic sounds.  Andy and I stood quietly and enjoyed these wholesome Saturday morning melodies.

Where did that cement tunnel come from, we asked later.  We found a plaque telling us that a bobsled track had run directly over this tunnel sometime in the 1950’s. (Or was it the 1980’s?)  Either way, the tunnel had been built so that that people could walk underneath the bobsled’s path without putting themselves in danger.  It was unclear to us where, exactly the bobsled path had originally led, but at this point it looked like it ran directly into the lake.  No wonder they had to shut ‘er down.


A path diverges in the woods. #metaphor #InstagramThat


It was a great morning, walking and talking.   Andy gave me some tips about buying boots and insoles — she’s an expert, working outside all the time.  Toward the end of our happy hike though, I was convinced I smelled poop.  Andy, on the other hand, was completely convinced that she smelled wet dog.
“This is just what Ohio smells like.” Andy explained, “I don’t know what you want me to tell you.”
“Haha, no! I smell poop!” I laughed, wiping my feet in the grass.  It didn’t work.  The smell followed me.  More wiping, more grass, more walking.  Repeat.
Andy looked at me laughing.  “That’s just mud.”
“It’s poop!”  I countered.
We were bent over, cracking up, but the smell was still there.  We kept walking and it followed.  Eventually, we passed a small creek and I bathed my shoe in the water.  Finally, relief!  I knew I had smelled poo.  Now I could finally smell what Andy was smelling…
“It does also smell like wet dog….” I said, “Why?” I asked.
Andy was glad that I was rid of the mystery poop that she could never smell and explained to me that, basically, we were just in a compost pile of forest.  And compost piles of forest smell like wet dog.  Woof.



Standing below a pond.


After the hike, no surprise here, we were hungry.  Andy had another farm-to-table restaurant in mind (one with actual plates, not the disposable kind) called 24-carrot.  Ha! What a cute name!  Alas, they were closed, but Andy had a backup plan… Heinen’s, a delicious high-end grocery store where saw another one of Andy’s farm volunteers.   This one was pushing a grocery cart full of milk.  “Makin’ cheese?”, Andy playful asked.  “Yup!” said the volunteer.  What a life.

Anyway, Andy and I thoroughly scouted all of the prepared food and, after careful deliberations, chose sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts (regular and pickled), tofu meatloaf with cranberry sauce, and seitan chicken bites (which was best thing).  It was a pre-Thanksgiving feast!  We commandeered the grocery store microwave as we heated up our food, talked about how much fun we were having, ate the food as it was ready, ranked our favorite items, and contemplated what to do next.  Did I have to go home?  Not just yet…  

I was so inspired by farm life, I was like… well, what’s a cow’s favorite place to hang out?

So we went to the … yes, I’m going to say it.  We went to the moooovies. Andy booked us the most luxurious, loungey seats I’ve ever sat in (thank you, Andy!) and we settled down to watch the previews (fun) and then the main event…. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald!!  THIS WAS SO WONDERFUL!!!  I loved the whole experience!  We happily watched the movie, munched on our smuggled-in popcorn and chocolate (thank you to Heinen’s for supplying it and thank you to our large winter jackets for hiding it on the way inside).  On the drive back home, we read reviews for the mooooooovie and hated on anyone who didn’t like it.

Sadly, it was time for me to head off.  Andy and I hugged goodbye ❤  I reflected on the farm tour, the amazing food, the bonus movie, and the great company.  Andy’s wonderful, it had been an awesome trip!

Like I said, sometimes you don’t need to go to the edge of the world to find fantastic beasts OR fantastic friends.  Sometimes you just need to go to Ohio.

Until next time! One love,

Seattle: Road Trip!

13 Nov

Patrick and I both woke up feeling great; it was a(nother) gorgeous day!  We were heading on a road trip!!!!  The plan was to head west.  And I know what you’re thinking…’Road trip?! Seattle is heaven but oookay.’  Because when you’re staying in heaven, it’s like…’why would I need to go anywhere else?  I don’t need a vacation from this!  It’s perfect!’  BUT there’s a HEAVEN for people who already live in heaven and it’s called Olympic National Forest.  Patrick and I wanted to explore the serenity!  

After a brief debate on if we should bring the kayaks (next time), we walked to the car (yippie, it wasn’t broken into!) and headed out of Seattle into the wilderness.



Keeping a vigilant lookout for Wolf Beach sightings.


We road tripped for a bit, stopped in a queue for the ferry we intended to board, got coffee, and ultimately drove our vehicle onto the large, fun boat.  The car was coming with us!  We parked at the bottom and Patrick and I went upstairs to enjoy the views. 



“I’M ON A BOAT!”, said the car from below.


The worst part about this ferry ride was how short it was; 30 minutes and we both WISHED it were longer!  There was so much to see!  The ferry had a gorgeous, detailed map to check out, lots of surface area to explore, puzzles (that we didn’t get to) and EPIC SCENES ON EVERY SIDE!!  Patrick and I walked everywhere we could but, before we knew it, the fog horn sounded and we had to head back downstairs to get into our car. 


We continued on our way to Olympic National Forest, admiring the trees, driving over a bridge with a naughty name and coining the phrase LLF (life long friends).  Patrick and I were making so much progress that, uncharacteristically, we forgot to eat.  We acknowledged that we were hungry and, at the next town, looked for a(n open) Mexican restaurant (not a closed Thai one) to have lunch.  We found a place that also was serving free chips and salsa — a double edged sword.  On one hand, FREE CHIPS AND SALSA! We were so hungry!  On the other hand… never-ending free chips and salsa.  Not realizing the extent of exactly how hungry we were, Patrick and I innocently sat down in front of a bowl of (free) chips and salsa (and foolishly added guacamole to our order).  If I’m being honest, we went through at least three baskets of tortilla chips.  “We mowed them down”, laughed Patrick.  And if you know me, then you know how much water this means that I must have drunk.  “Our poor waiter”, lamented Patrick, “you were always flagging him down.”  “Señor? Uno más, por favor”, I said with a sheepish smile, pointing at either the chips, the water, or both.  “Gracias!”

IMG_6574 2.jpg

The sizzling main course as the side course to the (free) chips and salsa.


By the time our meals came we weren’t hungry at all.  And as we got back into the car — bellies bursting and bladders full (didn’t I just empty mine?) — we laughed at how we had let our hunger get away from us.  Welp, at least we weren’t going to need to stop (again) for food today.

With gorgeous scenery all around us, Patrick and I made a couple of phone calls to our other friends.  Russ was first, and while we caught up with him we also learned about his tick (yelling “Oh nooooooo!” and cracking us up).  Later, we chatted to the incomparable Katie Barbaro.  Patrick reflected, “I’m glad we drove so far because we had both the time and the space to have a conversation with those two.”


Heaven to the heaventh degree.



A screen grab from our traveling Katie.


Driving through the lush greenery was wonderful but also, so was stopping to breathe it all in.  Patrick and I pulled over in search of a hike.


The car wanted to park here and we wanted to hike here.  Perfect.


We zipped up our jackets, put on our hats, and gratefully got ready for a nature stroll through the woods.



“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” – Henry David Thoreau



Covering this tree like a moss.



“If you foolishly ignore beauty, then you will soon find yourself without it.” — Frank Lloyd Wright


Back in the car, we made several more stops, taking care not to “…foolishly ignore beauty…”…


…but pushed on to La Push.  We wanted to make it there before sunset.



That feeling of being exactly in the right place at the right time.


Thanks to Patrick, we made it!


“I think it annoys God if you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice.” — Alice Walker


Patrick and I stood in silence, taking in the moving beauty of this hour.  The scene was mesmerizing.  I wish I had a video of that water with the tide, lapping, retreating back and forth, hypnotizing us.  What you can’t tell from the photos is that there was no sand on this beach.  The shore was made up of perfectly sized black rocks.  The landscape was fascinating.  “I see purple in the water”, I said, and we didn’t ignore it.

The two of us waited until all of the light had faded from the sky before we slowly made our move back to the car.  Patrick, the saint, had already booked us a cabin near a different part of the water where we were going to sleep that night.

It was dark when we pulled up and neither of us knew what to expect but we took it as a good sign when, during check-in, the woman at the front desk asked if we’d ever stayed there before.  “Nope”, we responded.  “Wow, well, you guys have got a really great cabin”, she remarked.  As we drove through the woods to cabin (lucky) number 24, Patrick ruminated, “I wonder if it will have a fireplace?” AND THEN IT DID!  Our cabin had an easy to use, gas fireplace…with a timer.  It was absolutely luxurious.  We kept that fire turned on for so long that by the end of the night the cabin was so hot that we had to sleep with the windows open.  I know, I know, #GetARealProblem



MTV: Welcome to Our Crib (for the night).



I’m even jealous and I got to stay here.



Yes, of course we took a bath here in the morning.



Finding cabin 24 was like finding a needle in a haystack! Just kidding… but it was the last one available and we did find haystacks off of the porch.


Settling into the cottage, we could hear gentle sounds of the nearby ocean.  We were staying right next to the water and we reminisced about another time (this past summer) when we also stayed right next to the water (in a yurt near Lake Issyc- Kul) and how there too, we’d admired the perfect sunset (hellooooo, Kyrgyzstan).

Patrick and I spent that evening — in our cabin by a fire — elaborating on how much we value each other and postulating about what sharing with best friends looks like vs sharing with partners.  For dessert, which we ate first, we savored a delicious gourmet organic peach-kiwi gummy.  Our travel conversations from earlier that day led us to read, out-loud, some of 2018’s favorite blog posts: My Herd and Soul: The Furry Blog, Transnistria: Hipster Nation, and Adventures in Tbilisi, Georgia.  Thank you to Patrick for writing the latter two with so much detail.  They are a gift.  We laughed until we cried (because what else is new?) 🙂 

For dinner, Patrick had brought chili and other various, healthy goodies from Seattle.  The cabin had a kitchen (of course it did) to warm up our food.  We lounged on the couch, ate hot food with metal forks, and LOVED OUR LIVES!  I’m so thankful for that cosy cottage.

“Do you wanna hear Helen’s standup?”, I asked, while chillin’ with chili.  Patrick’s eyes grew wide “YES!”.  We listened to a recording of Helen’s biggest show to date — that time she opened for Cameron Espositooooo!  I was SO PROUD and SO IMPRESSED ALL! OVER! AGAIN!!!!! Her show gets better every single time, but also, that’s impossible because IT CAN’T GET ANY BETTER!!!!  It’s just SO good.

After that, we listened to Katie B’s inspiring podcast called Showing up Messy, (check it out!).  Katie starts with an update on where she is in the world (Iceland) and regales us with stories from her travels.  My favorite quote (and there are so many to choose from) is when Katie’s Icelandic host suggests that Katie go outside to which Katie responds, “This is my outside.”  Ha! So true!  The episode that Patrick and I listened to is the one where I was a guest (my first podcast ever!).  Hearing Helen and Katie in their element(s), both sounding so professional, talented and funny WAS SUCH A JOY!!!  Patrick and I felt uber grateful to be way out in western Washington and have, in the same room with us, the voices of Helen and Katie. #blessed

The next day, Monday, was the most memorable Veteran’s Day I’ve ever had.  Patrick had the day off of school (wahoo! holiday!) and we could (finally) see what our perfect cabin looked like in the light.  “I’m definitely going to come back here.” said Patrick.  Heaven’s heaven?  Yes! Great idea.

Later that morning, Patrick went for a walk, we took a bath, packed up the cabin, and waited until the last minute to check out (you could see why).
“Are we going to drive back the way we came?”  I asked as we loaded into the car.
“No, we’re making a loop.”  Patrick patiently responded.
I smiled. ” I knew that, I was just making small talk.”
And we both looked at each other, cracking up. ❤



Why would we use the same route to get home when we could just.make.a.loop?


On our way out of town we wanted breakfast (#lessonlearned #chipsandsalsa).  We stopped at this particular restaurant that was, unfortunately, closed, which was how Patrick and I ended up seeking out some very local, very smoked king salmon.  


Do we want the smoked salmon or the smoked salmon?



We went with the smoked salmon.


Honestly, the huge salmon was a little disappointing.  We ate as much as we could and hid the rest in our vehicle but since it was the beginning of our day every time we got back into the car the salmon made its presence known: “Do you smell that?”  “Yes, yes I do.”  Eventually (but not soon enough), we found a hungry, homeless man to graciously gift the rest of our smoked fish. 

Since the salmon hadn’t *quite* hit the spot, we stopped again for breakfast.
Take two:
The heat wasn’t working at the second restaurant — it was colder inside than outside — and we shivered our way through an omelet and delicious local huckleberry waffles.  On the way out, I couldn’t help but be enticed by homemade ice cream sandwiches.  The two of us are only human, after all, and it’s never too cold for ice cream.


“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.” — William Shakespeare


We filled up our gas tank with petrol, made a bit of progress on the road, and then stopped for a walk in the rainforest.  IT WAS SO GOOD and so beautiful that, once we got to the end, even Patrick was excited about backtracking…we walked the entire rainforest loop (again) in the reverse direction.



“And into the forest I go to lose my mind and find my soul.” — John Muir



Opposite ends of the spec-tree-um.



“This forest eats itself and lives forever.” — Barbara Kingsolver


As per all of our strolls in the Olympic National Forest, we could not get enough of the moss — looking at it, touching it, admiring the tanquility.


Living moss is my favorite color.



Big beauty.  (and you know I’m not talking about ‘mi.)



Heads up: Natural, wild skyscrapers.


After our rainforest stroll, we started driving.  We stopped at a thrift store to stretch our legs before making it back to the big city where we had hoped to eat at Patrick’s favorite Seattle-Jamaican restaurant.  Alas, it was closed, so we picked a different Seattle-Jamaican restaurant, one that was new to both of us.  Irie!

Arriving, we looked at the menu.  Obviously we were going to order jerk chicken.  To drink, our waitress recommended the “hot buttered rum”.  We had never heard of it while we were in Jamaica but…Sure!  The server came back a few minutes later to inform us “they are heating up the butter for your drinks.”  Patrick and I looked at each other quizzically, “Oh?”, we murmured “So…is it actual butter?”  Turns out, yes, actual butter.  These drinks tasted like warm, liquefied butter that had been flavored with rum.  Gross.  Patrick jokingly asked,  “Do you have any popcorn to go with this butter?”  I laughed because behind every joke…

When the jerk chicken was served, we were unimpressed; It was overpriced and didn’t look anything like what we “nyamed” in Jamaica.  But, even though the food was disappointing, the company was not.  Mi deh yah wid mi bredren, evryting criss.



This plate isn’t a “yardie”.  #inauthentic #RUDEBOY


We finished our meal as quickly as possible because John Marti (Patrick’s dad — Hi John!) was in town and we both wanted to see him.  Street parking in Seattle was (still) testing our faith and so we ended up using a parking garage where Patrick gently reminded me to “bring your backpack in.” #neverforget (I think I’m using that hashtag correctly.)

Mr Marti, Patrick and I chatted and caught up.  It was lovely and an ultra pleasant way to end a really amazing weekend.  I just can’t believe we don’t have a picture of da tree a wi!  Let’s get one next time, please.

The next day, I had a plane to catch at what felt like an ungodly hour and Patrick had to work.  Bright (it wasn’t) and early (it was) Patrick walked me to my Uber, handed me one of his Orca cards (thank you!), and gave me clear instructions on how to get to the airport once I arrived at the train station.  He’s SO thoughtful, SO thorough, and SO SO generous!! #THEME

This trip was, at the risk of sounding like a broken record (wait, is that a music reference?), absolutely heavenly.  It literally became Happy Hour when Patrick and I showed up.  Everyday I was inspired to write and the weather was GORGEOUS; we strolled, we ate incredible food, we laughed until we cried, and our stuff was safe the entire time (faith restored).  Patrick and I left each other with THE MOST TRAVEL BALLS WE HAVE EVER HAD UP IN THE AIR! !!!  !! ! !!!

As my plane was taking off Helen asked me, over text, “What was the best part of your trip?” and I responded, “Ha! Was the best part when Patrick and I were laying in bed on that last night talking about all of the best parts?!”


The golden hour of happy hours.


Documenting the fun and sharing the LOVE,
‘mi and my LLF


Seattle: Heaven

10 Nov

Dear Readers, (aka my friends — Hi guys!  And also my future self — Hi Sammi!)

I’m here to spread the good news!   The good word!  The gospel!  You don’t need to die to go to heaven!! !  !!!!!!  !!!  !

Yes, this November I found out that heaven is actually in the U.S.A.  More specifically, the Pacific Northwest, a city called Seattle.


That ray of light was shining directly down on me because I was in heaven.


Patrick, the angel, had been living in Seattle for about 3 months and it was high time I visited.  Luckily for us, 2018 was the year that Alaska Airlines started a non-stop flight from Pittsburgh to Seattle….Are you kidding me?!   A direct flight straight to Heaven’s Gates?!  Sinfully perfect!

I got so much done during my 5 hour flight with no internet (isn’t it amazing what we can accomplish sans distractions?).  It had been a long time since I’d flown across the length of the U.S., and I was excited that even with the 5 consecutive hours in the sky, I was still going to land in the same country.  No need to buy another SIM card!  My Cricket SIM (which I already owned and used) would work just as poorly in Washington State as it did in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I landed at the confusing Seattle airport, Patrick picked me up, AND WE WERE SO EXCITED TO SEE EACH OTHER!!!!!!!  We hugged, chatted, and laughed as he drove, chose a place for dinner, and pulled in to park for the night.  “Bring your backpack with us, my car was just broken into,” he told me.  And even though, as you already know, Seattle is heaven, we’ll call the fact that his car had been broken into a test of faith.  

So, with our belongings safely with us, we walked through Freemont (super cool), past Troll Street (below), and I got to see some of Patrick’s modern world…as well as a bit of his past.  For dinner, he took me to Chiso, a Japanese restaurant where Patrick (courtesy of Allison), had tasted sushi for his first time ever.  In part, Patrick chose Chiso for us because we had planned to eat healthy this trip (#always) but as they say… ‘God laughs at our plans’.  (And we all know I love laughter.)


They see me trollin’….


Luckily for our protagonists, it’s pretty hard to overeat when sushi is involved, but we tried.  Not long after we arrived, Happy Hour began — which meant that everything we wanted was 50% off….And so we ordered it all “again, please”.  It was just as delicious the second time as it was the first!  Another round of tuna, hot sake, and ALL THAT EXCITEMENT!!

With our bellies full and DID I MENTION HAPPY?! 🙂 We walked down the block to see a show at ComedySportz Seattle, where Patrick had been taking improv classes.  [Side note: Katie and Molly (#bestfriends #triggered) met through ComedySportz, LA!)]  

With tickets in hand, Patrick and I walked up to the bar and ordered the smoothest beer I’ve ever had; Tropic Haze by Silver City.  I’m talkin’ an effortless, dark, silky, incredibly handsome black matte-finished can.  Oh, you thought I was talking about the taste?  The taste was fine but it was the can that was sensational.

With our suave beers, we settled into our seats to watch a show called B-Rated Moviewhich had various self-appointed improv critics discussing two different cult classic “movies” (that had never been seen before or since) called “My Beating Heart” and “Saturn is Not Enough”. 


 I’d rather see B-Rated than be berated.



Is it time for a ‘who wore it best’…?


Sidenote (and shameless self-promotion): During the show, I saw a girl (above) wearing this shirt with the iconic Banksy character that I had dressed as for Halloween.  

After the show, we met the owner of this theatre, a really nice guy named Alex (below).  He was charming!  And it wasn’t long after Patrick and I started chatting to Alex that we found out… HE KNOWS MOLLY.   OUR MOLLY!!!!! 🙂 I WAS THRILLED.


A selfie for Molly.


On the stroll back home (with all my stuff, because #safety), Patrick and I called Molly to tell her about our adventures at ComedySportz and left her a voicemail as long as the walk.  When we got back to Patrick’s we made (spicy) jerk popcorn in a late-night Jamaican throwback before it was bedtime.  And while, like I said, it technically was bed time (as in, I was in bed),  I did not fall asleep quickly.  I WAS SO EXCITED!!!!!!  PATRICK WAS NEXT TO ME!!!!   BEST FRIENDSHIP!!!  HEAVEN!!!!!!!

After a restless night (talk about sleepless in Seattle…amIright?), I couldn’t wait to start our morning.  We woke up (first thing’s first) and started our day by reading and posting a fantastic Kazakh/Kyrgyz blog called BINGO that Patrick had written and then PATRICK READ TO ME (OUT LOUD) ALL OF THE OTHER KAZAKHSTAN BLOGS THAT HE HAD WRITTEN!!!! Let me break this down for you in case you don’t fully understand what was happening: MY BEST FRIEND WROTE THREE AMAZING BLOG POSTS ABOUT OUR BEST FRIEND ADVENTURES IN KAZAKHSTAN, AND THEN HE READ THEM ALOUD TO ME WHILE I GOT TO RELIVE THE WHOLE THING OVER AGAIN. Needless to say, I was all sorts of #TRIGGERED.



I’m SO HAPPY! “Could we please hug right now?!”


Patrick and I finally got out of bed and went outside to a literally perfect day.


In my experience, it doesn’t rain in Seattle.


We toured around the Pearly Gates.  I mean, Patrick’s neighborhood.  Honestly, it reminded me of the television show The Good Place (except *spoiler alert* we really were in ‘the good place’).  Do you want to go to a gym?  “I live right above a great gym!”  Interested in a good brewery?  “That’s right here.”, said Patrick as we continued our stroll.  What’s that delicious, sweet smell?  “There’s a chocolate factory right over there.  I can smell it when I leave my house.”  Patrick laughed and said, “Yeah, everyone who visits me here loves it.”.  Oh?  The mortals that have visited you love heaven?!  Knock me over with an angel wing.

“Do you want to try the most delicious chai I’ve ever had?”, asked Patrick in a question that did not need answering.  Do I ever!  “It’s a 2 minute walk from my apartment.” Patrick was right about both.  It was a 2 minute walk AND it was delicious chai!  In fact, it was so heavenly that, similarly to the Chiso sushi, we ordered it twice.  But not in a row.  With the way caffeine affects me that would have been irresponsible, and even I know that you can’t chai your way into heaven.



Patrick held my distinguished chai while I took a picture of heaven’s stairs.


We continued strolling, seeing healthy, fit, attractive people out jogging, and talking about Patrick’s incredible job and upcoming opportunity to seamlessly partner with the University.  (The most difficult part of our jaunt was a complicated crosswalk, which we can agree, doesn’t sound difficult.)

We walked uphill, taking the time to chat to Colleen, and heading to see Allison (Patrick’s sister — Hi Allison!), Adam, and (to meet) Lucie (YAY!).  We spent the morning in Allison and Adam’s beautiful home tea-partying and getting my earrings admired (Lucie has good taste).  As soon as Lucie saw me she enthusiastically pointed, learned my name, and boldly announced: I want to play with Sammi!!  My heart exploded, and I felt like I was the luckiest person in the world.  Lucie was so cute, wearing a yellow “izhak” t-shirt (that means hedgehog in Ukrainian).  Every time I see an “izhak”, I’m reminded of our LOVELY friend Iryna, so in lieu of a picture of Lucie (no pictures allowed!), here’s one of Iryna 🙂


Heaven must have sent you.


It was so great to see Allison and Patrick interact (siblings <3) and before I knew it, it was nap time (for Lucie, not for us), so Patrick and I put on our shoes and walked over to Bounty Kitchen where we filled ourselves up with some delicious, healthy food; a rejuvenating salad aptly named The Not-Fried Chicken.  We laughed (duh), drank water (I was eating, after all), had immensely heartfelt conversations, and then continued our journey throughout heaven, I mean Seattle.

We caught up about friends we know in common (hello, Cambridge Five!), and I was tempted to stop in the “open” Honey Bucket to use the loo but Patrick and I suspected it was more sticky than advertised so we kept walking…towards our second cup of chai for the day that I had alluded to earlier.  I WAS SO HAPPY!!!!!  THE DAY WAS STUNNING!!!  A PERFECT CUP OF CHAI!!  BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!!!!!!!!!! 

Patrick and I relished our hot drinks as we sauntered to Gaslight Park where we overheard worldly, well-traveled people all around us as we started to make some travel plans of our own.  The sky’s the limit, literally (cus, you know, airplanes).  Here’s a tentative schedule:

  • Portland (and another Seattle visit) in *January??
  • Africa in July?!  How about New Zealand?
  • Scottsdale for a weekend? (Never mind.)  You were right, let’s try…Sedona?
  • A festival in Oklahoma? #50
  • A Galapagos b-day trip?! (Find out which way ‘she’ is going, we’ll take an alt route.)


*I amended the month.


“This is why we need to see each other more”, emphasized Patrick seriously — “We plan more trips when we’re together.”  Preach!


We found ourselves at (well, Patrick mapped the walk, so for me it did seem like we just stumbled upon) Patrick’s favourite oyster bar.  Guess what time it was when we got there?  If you guessed “Happy Hour,” you’re only 30 minutes off.  Good things (and in this case, good things that are half-price) come to those who wait, so wait we did, in the delectable sunshine, loving our lives.  No rush, Happy Hour, WE WERE ALREADY IN OUR HAPPY HOUR(s)!


Waiting in this gorgeous sun, which is exactly what we wanted to do anyway.


When it came time to order we knew what we wanted (at half-price, please):  prosecco and oysters.  The glasses came first, filled with surreal, mesmerizing bubbles.  Mixed with the sunlight and lake water, the effervesence did not disappoint.  The bubbles were celebrating, JUST LIKE WE WERE!!!  

Then the oysters came.  And, even though this wasn’t my first time eating oysters, I didn’t have very much experience.  “How do you decide which type to eat first?” I wondered.  Patrick answered, “Well, we’ll go off of this question:  Which vanity plate would you date?”  Haha, good question!  The answer?  Hmm, I guess, vainly, whichever oyster comes with a pearl.    …Jk.  I prefer my oyster-vanity-plate-date to come with a passport.


Time to play the dating game.


While we slurped up the oysters we also talked at length about their names, specifically Wolf Beach.  “Do you think we will ever, EVER see a Wolf Beach in the wild?!”  

After a couple of happy hours (ahaha, get it?), we headed back to Patrick’s for a quick snooze and to get ready for the night’s festivities.



Giddy on the bus to downtown.  The Orca cards are back in his pocket (THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING WITH ME!)


Our first stop of the night (near the gum-wall) was an improv show at a theatre we hadn’t yet been to called Unexpected Comedy.  And you’ll never guess what…  IT WAS HAPPY HOUR!  The show was about jokes but I’m not joking!  The name of the show we saw was Happy Hour; it was meant to be.  We bought popcorn (impossible to resist) and watched a spicy (thank goodness it wasn’t the popcorn this time) all-female performance.  I’m convinced, ALL OF THE HOURS IN SEATTLE ARE HAPPY!



Girls just wanna have…laughs.


This show was especially fun because:
A. It was a new venue
B. The women, obviously
C. There were new games that we had never seen before like Britty Britty British, where the group had to get progressively more British each time the bell sounded or another one called Question. Period, where someone from the audience could ask any of the performers a question while the scene froze and they stayed in character.  We surmised this one is the most fun with performers in the audience.  

The Question. Period scene we saw involved the ladies at a skating rink.  There was also a first date scavenger hunt turned musical, and we heard an opening monologue about a time the host was rudely interrupted.  It was a *British accent* SMASHING time.

After the show was over we went upstairs to Matt’s in the Market, a phenomenal restaurant near Seattle’s Public Market.  Saturday night, prime time, living in The Good Place.



Famous view.


The first drinks of the night, which Patrick ordered, were two (large) tequila shots.  They were BOLD, they were FUN, they were INSPIRED (by the last improv scene we had just seen).  We had lots to cheers — Like friendship and how SEATTLE IS THE BEST! [(or is it just that Patrick showed me the best (time ever!)?!]

We switched to mixed drinks.  I patted my head and rubbed my belly and the bartender brought over of exactly what I wanted. (Decoded: This was the name of the drink I was ordering and also the visual that the mixologist suggested I try.)

The next bits are going to be about food, you’re welcome.  We started off with the highly recommended brussel sprouts.


Working on my food photography.



Even an amateur photographer can convey how much we didn’t like them.  #Sarcasm


Our main course at Matt’s in the Market: Patrick and I both shared the seared scallops and the sturgeon.  The food was incredible but, of course it was…We were in heaven ❤


From actual water into mouth-watering.


For dessert, we had fluffy peanut butter with a side of women on a girls’ trip chatting us up (aka, our cue to leave).


A fairytale ending.


After dinner, we had two more stops before the night ended.  At the first, I got a veto from Patrick about a job, and at the second, a night cap from a closing hotel bar.  We were both exhausted, it was time to head back to Patrick’s in order to prepare for tomorrow’s…