Archive | January, 2019

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.

West Coast Bopping

28 Jan

I 100% could not have done this trip without the generous, generous Patrick who let me borrow his car (keeping costs to a minimum).  And so, because Patrick is amazing and also because his car is in the Pacific Northwest, this leg of my trip began in Seattle.

(As I mentioned,) SEATTLE

Patrick picked me up from the airport, and thanks to Carmageddon (pile-up of traffic due to a major highway closing), we had extra time to catch up and chat in the car while we headed to The Octopus to watch a sports game and then back to his place to drop off his vehicle in favor of walking around in the GORGEOUS SEATTLE WEATHER!   It doesn’t rain there, I swear. 


Hello, beautiful Seattle 🙂


That evening for our first dinner, we went to a Mexican restaurant, where Patrick and I both had “good orders” including a fantastic soup which I tried to eat while a plate was still on top of it — The bartender, Samantha, watched me try with a spoon but, as I said, a plate was still on top of it. Not the smoothest I’ve ever come across to a stranger.

I recovered, with class, at that bar though with another interaction (sarcasm) — Here’s the story: A man named Fernando, with a gorgeous mustache, was also working behind the bar.  Because of him, between Patrick and I the conversation topic was: “Would you prefer to be told ‘nice mustache’ from a guy or from a girl?  “Fernando!” I yelled as we were talking about him. Of course he looked over. Oops. Um, I stammered, yes we were talking about you but no, we don’t need anything.  Ugh, not smooth, Patrick whispered. (My cheeks turned red and) Patrick and I left shortly after that.

But we didn’t got far!  Right around the corner the two of us *accidentally ducked into a place that became one of my new favorite restaurants — The Barrel Thief!  Why was it so amazing?? Because of this item on on their menu: Cold baratta, beets, and toasted, hot bread.  Fact about me? I absolutely love hot-cold combinations.  Hypothetical warm cookies, chocolate sauce, and ice cream?  I CAN NOT SAY YES FAST ENOUGH! Cold baratta, pickled beets, and hot bread??  LET’S ORDER ANOTHER ONE, please!! 

But even after that surprisingly perfect stop, my night with Patrick wasn’t over.  We still had one more restuarant left — it wasn’t time for bed until we consumed two orders of muscles and two orders of fries.  Sure, it felt like a mistake the next day….but that night it was a blast!  Thank you for taking me out, Patrick ❤

The next morning, luckily for both of us, Patrick lives v close to the best coffee shop.  He enjoyed an espresso while I downed, as fast as I possibly could, the best chai latte I’ve ever had (except for that other time that I was in Seattle and I’d had the best chai latte that I have ever had), and then Patrick and I shared treats.  The treats were 1. I had brought Patrick homemade chocolate-covered goldfish (a la Kyrgyzstan) and 2. Patrick presented AND READ OUT LOUD two blogs from central Asia ❤

Our second night together we went to bed early both because of Patrick’s work schedule and because of my impending road trip to Portland the next morning.  Earlier, Patrick had told me about the time his car had been broken into because there was a blanket on the backseat.  He told me to seriously never leave anything in his car because the homeless population on the west coast was a bit dangerous. I assured Patrick that I would be careful with his vehicle and promised to heed all of his warnings.  



My road-trip to Portland was kind of a bust.  But not because the car got busted into! Yay! I choose not to (but wish I did) get a hostel. #sleepinthecarlyfe Hindsight is 20/20 though, and my perfect vision is telling me that it would’ve been a better idea to splurge on a hostel so that I’d have had a safe place to leave my belongings (and hopefully make friends) instead of bringing my bag with me everywhere I went and driving very far out of town in order to sleep and feel safe.  At the time, the reason I didn’t get a room felt justified: The only hostel in town had ALL of their beds available.  Meaning that there weren’t any friends to be made at that hostel anyway.   So I saved my money and tried other avenues for friendship, like a Couchsurfing event!  But that got canceled.  And then, for other activities that I attended (like an open mic) I was forced to bring my backpack inside with me #nerdalert and that, apparently, doesn’t scream camaraderie in Portland.  


A view of the city.


Also, the job I applied for didn’t pan out, and the second place I tried needed a social security card, which I had not brought with me. I told them they could have my passport, and, even though it’s the most valuable thing that I own, it wasn’t good enough. Sigh.

I ended up finding a nice hotel that let me leave my backpack with them for a few hours (thank you, thank you!) while I got ready in a fancy bar. Since the hotel staff was babysitting my luggage, I felt safe enough to walk around downtown. I found some ramen to eat and a FedEx driver to ask: “Which part of town do people leave their keys in the car??”

Answer: Lake Oswego

I drove 20 minutes to sleep in a safe part of town i.e. the parking lot of a hotel in a (notoriously) safe part of town.  I knew I was in the right area of Portland when I stopped at the gas station in Lake Oswego — it was fancy and had the perfect solo bathroom to brush my teeth.  It wasn’t until the morning, however, with this discovery, that I knew I’d made it to the big leagues:  Home Depot.  I found the most wonderful box store in Lake Oswego — it opens early, has a filtered water fountain to fill up my water-bottle, had a hairdryer (er, hand dryer) in the bathroom, and had the word “home” in its title! My strategy to bathe at “home”:  Use a refilled water bottle to wash my hair (and bits) in an empty parking lot and then head to “Home” Depot  to blow dry my hair with that hairdryer/hand dryer.  I’ll call it the “Minimalist Chic” beauty regimen, if you will. And I will.


So much good food in the Land of Port.


But, as is on-brand for me, I didn’t let my accomodations (or lack thereof) keep me from eating delicious food.  Besides that incredible ramen I’d had, I also had some burger sliders, and went to a food truck called Jurassic Cart, which was splendid because of both the food and its amazing name.

Some other major highlights include (but are not limited to):

  • Powell’s bookstore which is a portal for really cool people
  • Sean Whiteman, a friend from college who I got to catch up with. We hung out at a nearby bar where there was a dog inside. Sean was pretty astute, although I might have just been dirty, because somehow he knew that I was sleeping in my car.  Once he told me that he knew my secret, I invited him over to my hotel parking lot spot in order to more thoroughly check out my digs. The tour of my temporary home didn’t last long because there was only one room (and weirdly lots of people outside plus this creepy tree branch that kept tapping on the window), so afterwards, Sean invited me to sleep on his couch, which was so nice, but I stuck to my plan and instead switched hotel parking lots for more privacy .
  • This really fancy grocery store called Zappans where I found myself several times this trip.
  • ICE CREAM. I know, I know. I talked about food already, but I was saving this olive oil flavored Salt & Straw ice cream for its own highlight. It was so good that I may or may not have ordered the same flavor twice in a row.  And the employees were so nice that they may or may not have only charged me half-price the second time. Was this the friendship I’d been looking for??


Finally, after a week that felt like a month, it it was time to move along back to Seattle to pick Patrick up from his school trip.  The three hour trip took me seven hours, but I made it right as he got off the bus, so, essentially, the world’s best soccer mom even though I don’t have a kid and Patrick doesn’t play soccer. On the way, Scrappy stopped at a casino but didn’t gamble except on them having wonderful amenities. And I won that bet! They had a bathroom, a charger, Internet, and free bottled water. JACKPOTTTT!


(Back to) SEATTLE


One part of The Unit.


Back in Seattle, I finally slept in a real bed, and it was so wonderful that I slept for a well-deserved 10 hours.

I was staying at Patrick’s (duh), and he said one of my favorite things he has ever said: “My roommate smells so bad or maybe it’s the ecology I have growing in my bedroom.” Hilarious. And true.  Anyway, it was nice to get up at 5am, not have to hold my bladder, and be able to go back to sleep.  It’s the little things.  Or the big ones, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Seattle was great! And contrary to everybody’s expectations, it didn’t rain once while I was there.  I got to see Lucie and Allison a couple of times, too. We played in the park and ordered Indian food for the house.  On another occasion, Allison, Patrick and I got burgers and vegan ice cream.


This charcoal ice cream was hard to beet.



We scream (internally) for ice cream!


While Patrick ran 8 miles (wowza), I showered at his gym and used an ACTUAL hair dryer — not a hand dryer.  Later on, he and I had wine and tapas while we talked to Katie B. on the phone for hours. And, as a pair does when they are conjoined by headphones, when we ran out of wine, Patrick and I got up together to order more.  We were really happy about saving $12 at happy hour and asked Katie what the last thing she spent $12 on in Bhat. She couldn’t think of any single item worth that much in Thailand.

Also in the cards for us on that Seattle trip?  A Comedy Sports show and some Turkish lunch with rainbow hummus (see below).



Rainbows always mean something good; in this case, it meant hummus…which is good.


The next day, the Unit (Patrick and I) decided to go on a hike with Shane.



When the sun was deciding on whether to keep to itself…



…Or to come out to play!



An ocean of clouds.


When we got to the top, we ate some apples and nuts but had to shield ourselves from the The Birds happening overhead. They swooped and tried to get our snacks while we talked, fit in some trip-planning, and of course laughed, especially about Patrick’s favorite quote from the day: “It takes a village to help Patrick make a decision.”




Later that night, The Unit went to Comedy Underground to catch Matt Donahue’s show. We weren’t ridiculously impressed, and we weren’t mildly impressed, and we weren’t generally impressed. But it was fun, and we got to talk to my parents on the phone outside beforehand, so that was a great time.

The next morning, before the sun was awake, I took a Lyft to the train station (felt “Uber” bad for my Lyft driver, who got pulled over right as I got out), a train to the airport, and a plane to….


Wait for it….



Molly picked me up at the Burbank airport (variety, fun), and we headed out for a leisurely lunch, walked around, identified plants, and headed to a doctor’s office for a visit.



New hat who dis



The meal we wanted.


Molly and I used our time wisely, I was there for one very full day.  During lunch, a whole new genre of jokes emerged, as we evaluated our leases on life and as Molly made concerned facial expressions when I said something alarming. At our office visit, Molly got a clean bill of health and I marveled at her heart sonogram. I quite literally got to see the depths of my best friend’s heart. And, before I headed back to the airport, the two of us celebrated by going on a sour beer mission and discovered that the key (listen up, folks) is oak-aged, not kettle-aged. You heard it here first.

West coat boppin’,


Oh, baby!

20 Jan

Colleen’s baby shower was upon us, yay!

After a rather sleepless night in the airport (unless you count that one hour I slept on the ground), Ben, Nina, and a very pregnant Colleen picked a sleepy Bam up from the airport to begin best friend baby festivities. Though I was exhausted– (I had been on my way to New Zealand but wouldn’t miss this for the world [quite literally])– the excitement and happiness of being with my friends kept me awake. And the gorgeous brunch we went to… that kept me awake too. We caught up for hours before we headed back to their house where I was introduced to all of their plants (very friendly) and we decided that the best way to enjoy this snowy, cold weather would be to go on a mini road trip (where captain and co-pilot were at it again) that ended in a wintry hike.



When in Wisconsin….



The moment of the Sasquatch Tattoo Discussion



Captain, Co-pilot, and our favorite Co-Co-Captain-Pilot, Buffy



Keeping the bun in the oven warm with HUGS and friendship


Before the hike, we stopped at the capital of appital (ok, that doesn’t make sense, but we were there for apples and I love puns).



VIP parking for our VIP mommy-to-be


Unfortunately for the pun, they were out of apples so we settled on some cider that wasn’t as good. But Ben made up for it by showing us what Wisconsin is truly all about when he asked the clerk THE MOST Wisconsin thing ever to be asked, probably in the history of Wisconsin: “What’s your recommended cheese curd variety?”



Gettin’ in on some cheese action #TalkCurddyToMe



Had an eggselent time at the market!


Later that evening, I spent some quality time with Ben and Colleen by getting burritos (spoiled by bleach being thrown on the floor) at Burritos House before rejoining with Nina and going to see the new (loud) animated Spider-Man movie.


When the burrito doesn’t cut it you go for the movie snacks — but also you go for the movie snacks even when the burrito does cut it


The next day, Nina nad I had to share Colleen with everyone else for a while during the baby shower, which was an AMAZING experience. We got ready at Colleen’s house and since teamwork makes the dream(team) work, Nina helped Colleen do her make up for the big day.



Colleen and Ben– Hey, Colleen, you’re PREGNANT!


We got to celebrate Leeny and Ben and their creation which happens to be A TINY PERSON.  I absolutely loved seeing Colleen pregnant in a way that I didn’t anticipate; witnessing the change; I couldn’t stop telling her how PREGNANT she was (even though she *clearly already knew). It was honestly the best baby shower I could have imagined (big shout out to Peggy for throwing it!). It was really fun getting to know more of Colleen’s friends better, mingling with her family whom I love (Hi Mary and Paul!), and getting to hang out with my best friend’s best friend, always a good time.



Baby Loveeeee!!! Photo credit: Nina



Four gal pals; although, the fourth one hadn’t come out to play yet


The weekend was a great bonding experience.  The baby shower was co-ed, multi-generational in a not so extreme way (as in no one was under 5 but also no one used a walker), both families were there (his and hers), which meant I also got to meet some of Ben’s family, and there weren’t a ton of games that took up invaluable getting-to-know-you time. We were in a gorgeous house, celebrating THREE gorgeous people, drank “mom”osas, and had lots of general merriment.

It only got better when Collen, Nina, Mary and I played pool upstairs and Nina and I (Team Captain and Co-pilot) lost, won, and then lost again almost instantly.  But even though we were technically losers according to the rules of the game, it was so much fun, really, we were ALL winners.

There was also an after party, where Nina and I got to hog Colleen again. We went on an exciting grocery store run where I saw an abundance of rainbows and we all grabbed up some drinks for the party.  Then there was a dinner run where we picked up Indian food for the hungry group. Back at the house, the after party continued, and Colleen made the time to craft an Anthrocon letter to Turtyle.  He hasn’t responded yet, but we’re determined to get a reply.  Stay tuned, Anthrocon 2019.

Like all good things though, my time in Wisconsin had to end, and in the wee hours of the morning, Colleen drove me back to the airport.  I’d accidentally left myself a mystery present at Mary’s house, and it actually was a mystery because I honestly couldn’t remember what I had left for myself at her house the day before. Mary, who is the equivalent of Sherlock Holmes, figured it out, and Colleen and I swung by to pick it up from her mailbox as we continued on our way to the airport.  I was SO excited when I opened it because it was BUBBLE WRAP.  And not only is bubble wrap fun on its own, but it was also a reminder that I got to wrap Victoria’s very special birthday present!!  I want to thank Mary because she made my mystery present extra sweet by throwing in some bonus almonds for my journey on the plane. Everyone connected to Colleen contributed to make my time in Wisconsin glorious.  I love and miss you all!


And before I end this blog post…. I MUST introduce the GIRL OF THE HOUR:





Bea Fae Olson Skemp was born healthy during a home birth February 19th, 2019. CONGRATULATIONS TO THE ADORABLE PARENTS!!!!! ❤

Empowered by happy, strong women,

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,