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,

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