Archive | April, 2018

Helen’s Magical Birthday Weekend

29 Apr

We’re going to get cryptic here in this blog post, and by cryptic, I mean that there’s a 95% chance you won’t understand what I’m talking about. Unless you’re Helen, then you’ll 100% know what I’m talking about. No, I’m not going to write the whole blog post in morse code because who has the knowledge or the time? So if you want, put on your detective hat, grab your spyglass and your Sherlock Holmes pipe, and start an investigation to figure out what the heck is going on here. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the ride.


CLUE #1: The beginning of mystery weekend

The weekend began on Thursday, in Erie, where we went to see our one-time favorite comedian, Brian Regan, perform — both our past and present selves had a fantastic night.


Brian Regan!


CLUE #2- A coincidence or planted evidence?

Sometime during the weekend, an individual we had just met asked me how old I was, which I declined to answer because it was rude. So they asked a less rude question which was  “How much do you weigh?”  “Would you like that answer in pounds, kilos, stones, or ounces?”, I offered.  “How about in cans of beans?”, was the response. I laughed, how could they know how much I LOVE beans.

ANYWAYS, Helen and I get back to our house and guess what? We come home to an open can of beans in the fridge. Shall we call it LegumeGate? Was it all a coincidence? Regardless, LegumeGate had its own theme song — “You Bean-long with me”– a parody T-Swift song created by Helen (better than the original if you ask me).


CLUE #3- The classic “switcheroo”

After Bella performed at Cruz with Poppy Champlin, I drove her car which — hard to believe — is slightly different than mine. It’s the exact same, only Bella’s is a newer model and actually feels different to drive. But no one believed that it was not my car….or was it?


CLUE #4- The onion bowl infiltrators

At the dream flat, Helen kept the clementines and the onions separate. But I combined them because I didn’t think we would get confused.



Bowl mates.


Later on in the night, we decided to squeeze The Cuties in our mixed drinks because it was a good idea.  


CLUE #5- The unusual suspect


A heart-to-heart.


On Saturday, bright and early, we  worked out at our local gym where Helen had the most gleeful burpees our trainer had ever seen.



Back at headquarters.


CLUE #6: Gathering intel at the theater

At 2pm we went to go see Potted Potter and took some selfies by the stage.



Taking selfies with Mr. Potter at Potted Potter.


CLUE #7:

At our local bar (and since we “never want to be more than spitting distance” from our house) they had a mandarin infused vodka drink. Helen thought the onion infused vodka would not be far behind…
We woke up on Sunday, Helen’s actual birthday, and couldn’t believe there was still more birthday left.  I gave Helen her birthday present: Tickets to see Hamilton! I took a video; however, it is classified and you can just imagine that I’ve attached a link below: the video of Helen screaming, receiving Hamilton

CLUE #8: Operation: Double birthday bash

So, when it came time for the actual party, I had to attend a meeting…standard procedure…nothing strange about it. Very normal.  Once it was over, Brit and I went to the party together, which was also a joint birthday party for a Great Dane turning one.


CLUE #9: The reenactment

During the party, Kristin had us recreate a moment from history: The frenemy side-eye, a classic.


Frenemies. Just kidding…just actual friends.


Bestie bliss.

CLUE #10- That magic Monday

“Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day. It was the nightingale, and not the lark, that pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear; Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate tree. Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.”  -Shakespeare
The nightingale has left the pomegranate tree. I repeat: the nightingale has left the pomegranate tree.
CLUE #11 – Harry and his muggles


Bonding with Mr. Potter himself, the ultimate gay ally.


For us, the clues from Helen’s birthday add up to one of the best weekends of our lives.  There are lots of loved ones who shared it with us who aren’t pictured, or they are pictured and they’re wearing their invisibility cloaks.  Our gauntlets (of fire) runneth over.
Happy birthday, Bella!


Mississippi: The 47th State

24 Apr

Mississippi crew of 2.


So…Mississippi was not the 47th state to join the good old US of A.  (#47 is New Mexico, thanks Google). Luckily, this blog post is not based on historical accuracy, and Mississippi is, in fact, the 47th state that Patrick has visited!

For Patrick’s birthday this year, we headed out on a road trip to visit a state that he had never been to before.  Just FYI, one of his goals is to visit every state. We started out in Memphis, Tennessee, because it was the only ten I saw… (okay, I guess that joke only works in the present tense).

The morning of our trip, despite only getting 5 hours of sleep, I woke up on the first alarm, put in my guitar pick earrings (because “when in Memphis..”), and got to the airport an hour and a half early. Let me repeat that: This was the type of trip that I was so excited for that I got to the airport an hour and a half early. Thanks to Chase Sapphire and their priority pass, I was able to spend this extra time in an airport lounge eating jelly beans.



Right off the plane it was obvious that Memphis is known as a music city.  I started pointing out all of the musical imagery to Patrick just to make sure he knew he was included.  



I wonder what “sounds” encompasses…is it different than music? TBD


So besides the music, sights, and sounds (that may or may not also be music), the sign should have also included BBQ. Because there’s a lot of it, and they only sell it by the pound. The first thing we did after a super easy car rental pick up was drive to A&R BBQ.  We ordered 1 lb of hot sausage and 1lb pulled pork. They wouldn’t sell us any less.  Was it a ton? No, it was only 2 lbs, I told you. But was it a lot? Yes. But was it also delicious? Extra yes. It was probably the best BBQ I’ve ever had.


Now, in my right hand is one lb of meat smothered in sauce.


So we had some sights (that bbq shop was definitely a sight to see), we had some sounds (Does talking count as a sound?), so of course we had to get in some music.  And because Patrick was the bday boy — and when it’s your birthday you’re not supposed to do an ounce of work even though he was the one who knew the most about music — I decided to check out some funky jazz. I came across this one band — Thump Daddy. And if you’re not already impressed by the name, and if you don’t immediately picture a bunch of cool cats with black berets and sunglasses, then you know less about music than I do. 

Anyways, yeah. Thump Daddy. I checked out some YouTube videos of them; they were smooth, they were hip, they were super jazzy, and I was into it. I checked to see when they were gracing Tennessee with their presence, and, just our luck, Thump Daddy was playing at Cafe 152, which was right in our general vicinity.

Before we made it to the heart of the night life though, HQ was on and we pulled over on the side of the road to play and got our highest score yet… 11/12!  So close to winning!

We headed to Beale Street, specifically Cafe 152 in search of Thump Daddy, but we couldn’t find the bar. A little defeated, we ended up going to a random spot that wasn’t too crowded and didn’t charge cover because, let’s be honest, that’s almost as good as seeing Thump Daddy. There was also live music at this random bar, but it was just a bunch of old white guys singing Backstreet Boy covers. As we gazed upon this throwback cover band, we realized there was a “152” on the screen behind them. Could it be? Was this the Cafe 152? Was this the opener for Thump Daddy? With spirits high, I excitedly asked the bartender “Is this Cafe 152??  Do you know Thump Daddy?  What time will they be coming on?!”  

“That’s them.” She says pointing to the guys on stage, who were singing “Toxic.”

I was really confused. “Huh?”
Patrick said to me “Is this Thump Daddy?”
No! It couldn’t be!  I turned to him puzzled “No, this isn’t them, I looked them up before this.”

Patrick laughed at me the whole night as it dawned on me that this was indeed Thump Daddy.  They had become gentrified. They were no longer Thump Daddy — cool jazz cats with black berets — they were now “Papa Daddy” or “Thump Papa.” But hey, to be honest, this was kind of our demographic and it was really fun.


Thump Papa…at least one of them is wearing sunglasses.


After the Thump Papa show, we ended up going to a brothel-turned-bar. The brothel had shut down in 1992, and being in there was kind of eerie; I felt for the women. We met the bartender, Nate, who had been working there for decades, and (after finding cash) I even got him to sign a $1 star note (heads up, Andrew and Brian, one’s coming your way!).



Nate, the bartender and music selector.



Nate signing the $1 bill for my friends.


After our one wild night in Tennessee (which induced a memorable moment in Rayfords disco and Dominos that took so long to arrive that I fell asleep and ate it cold the next day), it was time to keep moving. We headed to Mississippi, Patrick’s 47th state. On the ride there we talked about if the leaves fall off in this part of the country (they do) and bought Russ a fake plant (you’re welcome).

So, of course, the first thing we did when we got to Mississippi (like the first thing we did when we got to Tennessee) was order some BBQ. We arrived at this BBQ place that I had researched and had won the title of world champion ribs for 6 years. WORLD CHAMPION RIBS! As we ordered the ribs, the woman asked:
Do you want the ribs wet or dry?
Us: …Yes…?
Silly Yanks.  We didn’t know how to answer that question, but after her recommendation, we ordered them wet. Which was a great decision.


Wet ribs and dry rinds.  If that lst BBQ wasn’t the best I’ve ever had than this definitely was.


Even though we were incredibly full after our world champion ribs, Patrick asked if I thought there would be good pecan pie anywhere. While we couldn’t find it at the rib joint, I made it a point to find some pecan pie while we were in Mississippi. I was determined to find pecan pie; I made it my mission to find pecan pie. I was going to find some amazing pecan pie if it was the last thing I did….for Patrick, of course.

We continued on our way to see Russ and I had 2 double shot cans of coffee on the way (YUM), SO IF I WASN’T ALREADY PUMPED TO SEE HIM NOW I WAS!

We met Russ at an arts festival (where I bought the perfect necklace) and also got to meet Ryan, the guy Russ has been working with for years (who I’d never gotten to meet until this point). He’s great.  We admired their booth where they were selling beard oil products and had a blast playing with some of their photobooth props:



The three amigos.



Don’t mess with Munson and Brother..actually yes, mess with them. Buy their beard oil.


After the art show and checking out some Southern Belles, we went to grab dinner. It was Italian night at the place Russ chose and, since he had been there several times before and has good taste, we all decided to order the exact same thing as him. For dessert I ordered the “energy bar” which, with condensed milk and lots of chocolate, was more like an anti-energy bar.  Still no pecan pie for Patrick.  As we were standing in line, Russ kept saying how exhausted he was. Our conversation went something a little like this:
Russ: Wow, I’m so tired, I can’t wait to sit down (Pause…)
Sammi: I can take a hint. Do you want to sit down? I know what you’re going to order. They call me Take-a-hint Sam.
And thus, my new nickname was born.



Russ had cleaned his entire place, gave us keys to his house, and made us feel completely welcomed — THANK YOU!  That night Patrick and I watched ALL the movie trailers in bed and unscrewed the lightbulb because of the clinking I couldn’t figure out.

The next day, we woke up, went for a run, and decided to go on a cultural excursion to church. I was vetoed from going to a methodist baptist church and we ended up at just a regular baptist church. It was a massive place, had hundreds of attendees, lots of singing with karaoke style entertainment and words on large screens above us (at one point on the screen there was a question in the form of a song called “Who can compare?”, but I leaned into Patrick and told him this was a non thinking question, a rhetorical question.  Take-a-hint Sam knew not to try to answer this).  In addition there was a live band and live singers — the whole shebang (but not with a bigbang theory…if you catch my drift). And I was really getting into it, singing, standing, sitting, standing again, sitting again.  It was engaging and I was all in.

I started off in the middle seat (between my besties) but every time we had to sit or stand (often) I moved so Patrick and Russ could have a turn.  The two of them stayed stationary but I, like a happy seal, moved all around. It was so fun to have the middle seat!  Everyone should get a turn! This was great!

That was, until, the message got unnecessarily mean. As the pastor was giving the sermon, he started getting hateful and judgmental. I was shocked and mad! I started crying — the message really rubbed me the wrong way, to say the least, and I felt like I was betraying my soul for not speaking up for the ones I love. But, I was a visitor here and I’ve traveled enough to know that there is a time to be respectful even when you disagree and so I held my tongue (but not my tears). Once the service was over, we got out of there ASAP and I let my sobs flow freely.


To make me feel better from that less than wonderful experience, we finally got to meet Russ’s girlfriend, Marnie, who he’s been with for over a year and who I still hadn’t met. But it was amazing to meet her. She’s a musician, so it was cool to get to hear her talk about all of her music stuff.  She plays with multiple parts of her body!  Very talented. I ordered exactly what she did for lunch because I figured she had really good taste (spoiler: She does).


Marnie & Russ sittin’ in a tree…ok, sittin’ in a booth…



Sammi and Patrick sittin’ in the other booth!


Later that day, the 4 of us went all around town.  Bowling, arcade games, we even rode backwards on stationary motorcycles. We also got to visit Russ’s stomping grounds. He and Ryan gave us a tour of where they make beard oils and also (separately) where they make candles. 


Patrick and I each got to pick out a souvenir candle and Patrick said it was the best birthday present he’d gotten this year.  Not jealous, just remembering.



That’s Ryan telling a hilarious joke 🙂


One morning Russ told us he was training someone else to lead a meeting and I asked if he was looking for a new role.  He said he was and I asked if he wanted the “Take-a-hint” position.  He said, yeah, he was vying for it.   I told him solemnly, “I can take a hint, I’ll step down.”


We love Mississippi!



Visited Lydia’s moms estate, had a tour, and learned about local history.


By midday, Marnie had to go to work (her last day at her old job), and the three of us went to go see Amy Schumer’s new movie. Aka my previous favorite movie. “3 I Feel Pretties.”, please.
I feel pretty.
I feel pretty.
I feel pretty.


We hung out so long in the movie theater after the movie was over that the movie started playing again.  Same trailers and everything.  We dipped into the movie next door — Blockers.  We basically got a double-feature and both movies were hilarious, I’d highly recommend either one.

They (clearly) didn’t come to clean out the theatre between shows and, in the second film I was glad they hadn’t because I found a bag of gummy worms that someone left and shared them out with my crew.  (Better than the crawfish I had initially suggested as a snack, eh?)


Double-feature aka we just stayed so long we got to see two.



Some more delicious BBQ,  *bbq tacos*


On our final day in Mississippi guess what we found? Yes, correct!  We found what I… er, I mean, what Patrick… had been looking for this whole time. PECAN PIE.


And finally Patrick got what “Patrick” had been asking about.

But wait, not only did they have pecan pie but also they had…. 


PECAN PIE WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS!!!!!! MINE HAD CHOCOLATE CHIPS IN IT!!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!!!?!!  Pecan pie with chocolate chips exists! 


On our last stop in Mississippi, by a fluke, we found birthday cake popcorn.  What..!  Birthday. Cake. Popcorn.  If you know us, you know that we’ve bonded over popcorn for 7+ years. And birthday cake popcorn on Patricks birthday?!  This was living! We must be doing something right.



…After a while we couldn’t tell what was the wax and what was the colorful popcorn. 


As we were driving, we realized we had more time than we thought before our plane the next day and so, impulsively, we thought…you know what’s better than 47 states?  48 states! We decided to head to Arkansas, Patrick’s 48th state.



Buckle up for safety…are they talking about the roads…or about Arkansas in general?


We looked on the map and tried to pick a spot.  Here were our requirements: We needed a place that was still close-ish to the Memphis airport, that had a bar that was going to be open past midnight, a hotel in town, and Uber.

As they say in Jamaica, “Arkansas was brata.”.

IMG_2304 2

Couple of crazy kids partying in….Arkansas….? 


After some quick, off the cuff planning we ended up staying at the Red Rood Inn. Not a typo. They had new bathrooms, new beds, but they couldn’t change the wifi code and so, we laughed a lot about at how fitting that felt.  The Red Rood Inn, where Patrick woke up on his official birthday.

That night we walked across the street to the casino to check it out.  They had live dog racing.  Neither of us had ever seen that before but when in Arkansas, right? So, we bet on a few dogs with crazy names and I lost every time…but Patrick won every time! And, since we pooled our resources it’s like I ultimately won.  We left with a collective $15 more than we walked in with.  They had a non smoking area which cost $3 to enter so we saved our money and just left smelling like smoke.



“Here comes Rusty!”


So, what did we do with our extra funds? We grabbed an uber to Ethels Old Airport club, a bar we had picked out from Google Maps.  It had 4 reviews with a 5 star rating and was open until 4am on a Monday night.


They thought it was hilarious that we had picked this bar off of Google.


We incorrectly kept calling the bartender Lisa until someone corrected us…”No, it’s Litha.” Right.


New bartender, who dis?



In birthday heaven.


Along with great music came great conversation, and by great I mean reality-show quality.  I learned from the manager of the bar that one of the girls there had a boyfriend who was locked up (for hitting her) and she was now secretly dating his best friend. This was the same girl who really wanted to hear her favorite song by Evanescence, so she jumped the birthday boy’s que, paid the the machine a little more, and snuck in her Evanescence song.  “This isn’t mine…” said Patrick laughing.


After celebrating midnight three separate times — for Pittsburgh, Arkansas, and Denver — we took the same Uber driver back to the Casino where we began our night because that feels like how it is done in Arkansas.   One uber driver forever. 



Casino? More like casin-yes!

We ended our memorable night with fried catfish and then began again, a mere several hours later, with cookie dough dessert for a breakfast in the Red Rood bed.  I insisted we check out the Bass Pro Shop because it had come highly recommended to me when we were at Ethels Old Airport club. But wait, I’ve been to a Bass Pro Shop before, wouldn’t this one be like any other Bass Pro shop? Turns out, no.  With very little expectation, we went and were stunned by how cool it was! It was massive, and they had everything inside — including loads of live animals. I could definitely understand why this was a recommendation.





At first, he thought it was the convention center.



Actual view from the Bass Pro Shop roof.


We took photos at the top with a women from Alabama who was also there, celebrating her birthday.  These two were practically twins. Er, birthday twins, don’t worry Patrick.


That moment when you visit a 47th state…and then a surprise 48th.


Overall, the trip was a success! The music, sights, and sounds were wonderful. And so was the bbq, the pecan pie (which, again, was totally for Patrick), and the company!


Until the 49th & 50th states — Oklahoma and Kentucky, here we come!
Happy birthday,

April (snow) Showers…

15 Apr

If anything, bad weather just makes me appreciate the (few) days where the sun was actually shining and made me get my butt outside!

I kicked off April by helping the Pirates kick off their season; heading to the home opener game, it was worth it.  I also ran in a 10k race where, the morning of, we woke up to see actual, literal snow outside on the ground. All I could think was “this was a mistake” but we both powered through. I mean…Ben powered through. And I watched him collect his medal for 3rd place, pretty neat. Afterwords, I reminisced at the Wexford General Store.


Since this weather was pretty much a joke, I thought: what a great time to stay indoors and see some comedy! During the Burning Bridges Comedy Festival, I went and saw a comedy show for three days in a row.  I saw sketch comedy (the Philly team is amazing), an all-star hootenanny show, and an actual  Burning Bridges Comedy Festival show where Helen was performing. 


Tickets with Helen’s name on it…Look Martin, she’s made it!



Helbo’s professional festival pass.



Knock knock… who’s there?? Helen with some better jokes than this one!


As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m starting to become a huge fan of the non-event. Some of my other favorite moments included going to Cafe du Jour, Phipp’s Conservatory, the night a plant said “Hello back.” to helen, all the cherry blossoms, when Russian twists became freedom twists, getting invited to Joyce’s 70th birthday party, and a now a shout out to Katie Barbaro’s podcast: Showing Up Messy.


Hollywood visits Pittsburgh.




A non-event great night.



My first time at Eddie Merlots.


Hard to beat Pittsburgh in the SPRING!



Betting on children baseball games, we can’t get enough!


Just screen-shotting my own Snapchats.


So yes, April does come the many (snow) showers; however, every day I awoke to find more flowers than the day before.

Spring is my favorite,

And I’m Philly’n Good….

1 Apr

Even though Philidelphia is in the same state, I had never actually been there before this trip.  It felt like traveling; not a staycation since I was traveling five hours by car to a new city.  It was traveling. Spoiler alert: I think traveling in your own state is great!  



Map of Philly to help us tourists get around.


This was a very food-centered trip, and if you read any of my Greece blogs, just be warned that I’m doing a Philly cheesesteak showdown (inspired by the Greek salad ‘who wore it best’). 



Navigating our way through fish town.

We stopped at one market where there were a lot of Amish sellers. We tried all (ok, not all but a lot) of the baked goods they were selling…they were AMAZING. The Amish know how to make some pretty great desserts.  Chocolate chip whoopee pie is my all-time favorite. 




So now the moment I’ve been waiting to show you… THE CHEESESTEAK. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much from the Philly cheesesteak. Sure, I never doubted they were good, but were they really worth the hype? “Take a hint Sam” was on the case. The verdict is yes. Yes, the philly cheesesteaks are worth all of the hype. Here are the three that made it to the winner’s circle.

In third place, we have:


This delicious number from the famous Pat’s ,topped with some grilled onions. My mouth is watering just looking at it.

In second place, we have this fatter, fuller cheesesteak with some fries on the side.


This was the first cheesesteak of the trip.

And last, but of course not least (because it came in 1st place) is, drumroll please:


You can tell this is #1 just by looking at it.

This little number. Look at the onions, the peppers, the spinach, the cheese is super melty, and there’s a lot of it. You can’t blame me for choosing this as first– it even looks the part.



Nate loved the cheesesteak so much, he bought it flowers.


So, while we did do a lot of eating, Philadelphia does have a lot of history, and history is just as cool as food, right? Right.  And since history is so important, we decided to book tickets at Independence Hall. Easy enough… or so you’d think. When we actually showed up at our reserved time, we still had to wait in line for a bit. There were a lot of lines and a lot of people everywhere, and I was pretty sure (like 85% sure) that the line we were standing in was the correct one. But after standing in line for a while, and only a few minutes before our time slot, we figured out that we were in the wrong line, and we had to sprint to Independence Hall before we lost our reservation. Luckily, we made it there on time, and it became a funny little story of how we got to see Independence Hall instead of a not-so-funny little story about how I made everyone miss out on seeing Independence Hall because I was 85% sure we were standing in the right line, which was 100% the wrong line.


Made it to Independence Hall!


On our Philly history tour extravaganza, we also stopped at the Liberty Bell (of course). The bell was obviously pretty neat, but what was also fascinating was a machine in the giftshop that made a Liberty Bell coin out of your loose change; however, the fun thing about this machine was that it would give you extra money after it dispensed the Liberty Bell coin. Probably a flaw in the system, but definitely beneficial to anyone trying to make an extra two cents. Put in $1 and receive four quarters and two pennies!  Could this go on forever?? We considered standing by that machine all day.




This is a photo of the liberty bell from its better known angle and contains the smile of two people who just make an extra $0.02.


I had a great time walking around the city, soaking up the history, eatin’ some great cheesesteaks, watching improv, creating a scavenger hunt for Dana, daydreaming about how Odessa was spending this April Fools Day, about and enjoying the cherry blossoms blooming all around us. If you do visit: do not leave without getting a cheesesteak, even a vegetarian one. It’s for your own good. 



The new background on my home screen.



Let freedom ring,