Unleashed

26 Jun

In honor of one of my favorite things in the world being less than 10 days away….
This is a (fun) parody of a poem by the former Slam Poetry World Champion, Harry Baker.

 

 

Anthrocon (aka, the furries)

Prelude:  I’ve spent most of my young life trying to fit in because at school I was told I was a big eared, lanky girl who would never get a boyfriend.  Teachers can be cruel.  I was also told that I was creative, intelligent, thoughtful, kind, and brilliant.  Thanks mom.  But what if we were made to stand out?  What if we were made to escape the rat race?  I’m going down that rabbit hole.  This playful poem is for my “people”.

 

As I refur you to the animal kingdom
We’ll just puff puff pass like a dragon’s own wingdom

I’m a furryyyy roaming canine
Who just signed on to wolf it down
Pittsburgh is my hometown

Furisky is my fur name
EEL-ated is my fur name
I prefer things when they’re off the chain

Feel the power
touch your howl
It’s not complex
read the syntax

At Anthrocon I never quite know what to expect
But every year has been the best yet
So on your mark get set
GULP

Try to swallow this down your esophagus
I’m an optimist, rhinoceros, with a hypothesis
A cat with a dog tail ain’t preposterous

A.D.D. has never been a con.  What’s the con? Anthrocon. Imagicon.  This is context.
Here’s two cents.  I get the sense that it’s all nonsense

Having a cow!? Cat got your tongue??
Hold your horses — we’ve heard how they’re hung

In a squeaky accent you can say anything
and it’s difficult to sound menacing

(squeaky accent) I’m not pro life, I’m fur life!
Like that owl amongst a rodent pack
who left without a single snack

Personify.  Person imma fly.  Imma fly fly outta here on the buzz of my fursona
Get so high yinz think that I’m a stona

Metaphorically creeping
and lyrically speaking
Our birds and our bees are real birds and real bees
who know how to please
while you’re on your knees
I’ll climb on your back
Where are all my Tauras’ at?!!

Some fursuiters are naked underneath.
Now imagine the fun that we’re having and then adding the feeling of fleece

Life is an expression
not a depression
and there ain’t no reason the furries shouldn’t be kickin’
and licken’
and sticken’ their noses in all kinds of fun

My giraffe taught me the gift of not fitting in
So in a way, these things I say, are an embodiment of him

My snake taught me it might take awhile for folks to see your hidden worth
So in a way, these things I say, are a reflection of her

We need less teasing, less telly, less CSI
More jungle, more wagging, more give it a try

Pile meta facts with questionable reality as perception starts to teeple
It’s us animals who stand around and pretend to act like people.

The Taste of 32

23 Jun

(Editors note: This post is a requisite 3 months behind.)

You know how some people celebrate their birthdays for a full week? I’m not that extra, but, I have to admit, this year I was spoiled by the people around me ❤  

It started on Saturday, with Bel, and some pre-birthday cardio at the gym (thank goodness for that exercise, you’ll see what I mean) followed by our favorite gorgeous scooter ride through the park.  Afterwards, we spent time at the Dream Flat drafting up a super fun furry email and making a delicious Blue Apron pizza before going on (yet another) fun scooter ride. Later, I dropped Helen off downtown at her show. 

When I picked her up, we had a hiccup on the scooter and decided to call it a night before midnight.  But, the fun wasn’t over because when the clock actually struck 12 – on my legitimate birthday – I was privy to a private, hilarious, 7 minute standup show from Collin about Budweiser and the dentist.  And then he and I got to play one of our favorite games: brush each other’s teeth before bed.

The next morning (Sunday funday) was a day of lasts and firsts. It was my last day taking my live-typhoid pill (I’m coming for you, Ethiopia!), but more importantly, it was my first day of being 32.  And I was gifted one of Helen’s jokes for a year (thank you!).  32: “The age we dream of being, am I right, ladies?”

At 8:30am, Emily and Laura brought the party over with flowers and champagne. I opened my two adorable cards (thank you girls!), and we ate some cookies for breakfast because we’re all grown-ups.  Luckily, the cookies gave us the energy we needed to (literally) run to the aviary so we could make the very first bus of the day on our hop-on-hop-off tour at 9:46am.  With a little bit of birthday luck and a boomerang of Old Town Road, we made it on time.

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Humans have 32 teeth so we were smiling like this all day to celebrate

 

It was a gorgeous day!  We had a fantastic bus (Francis), tour guide (Heather), and driver (Ken), who we found out immediately (because of his accent) was from the same suburb in Ireland that Helen’s mom is from. Cool! We took a seat on the top and waited, excitedly, for our tour to start.

There were 21 total stops on this tour, but we weren’t going to stop at all of them. I was going to choose wisely! And thus, we didn’t get off at the first stop, the Warhol museum. That would have been crazy! Getting off right away?! We would never make any progress! But then we got to second spot — The Heinz History museum. Intriguing. None of us had ever been. “Should we stop?!” I turned and asked. “This is like being on a road trip with you. We’ve only just started”, laughed Helen. But, because the birthday girl was the designated chooser and this particular birthday girl subscribes to the notion that “the fun is in the stopping”, we got off at the Heinz History museum, “stop number two, please”.

 

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Next stop: Pittsburgh!


The museum was AMAZING! None of us could believe we hadn’t been in there before. It’s a Smithsonian and it was so interesting and well done.  It was over an hour before we realized that we hadn’t even gotten to the second floor (there are 6 floors total). Helen, who was about to be moving to Seattle, was inspired by our surroundings and said “Is it called Heinzsight when you look back on how great Pittsburgh is?”

At one point, while perusing the exhibits, I’d lost my notebook. I calmly said, “I’m not concerned, but I think I lost my notebook,” to which Helen responded: “I am [concerned]” but as I turned around in a circle, she pointed down to my notebook, which was resting snuggly under my arm. Haha, whoops.

On that first floor, we learned a lot about the Vietnam War and, randomly, Marvin Gaye.

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The headsets that were mistakenly took for recreations of Agent Orange wands…awkward.


An interesting story: Marvin Gaye’s brother, Frankie, fought in the war and would hear his brother’s pop songs on the radio. When Frankie got back, he told Marvin all about the war and what it was like to be a black man in the trenches. Marvin used those experiences in his songs, and that’s when his music started getting more depth; it was a reflection of what his brother, Frankie, had relayed to him.

After over an hour (the first floor was essentially a stop within a stop), we decided to go up a level since there was still so much else to see. We learned, for example, the origin of the word “Nickelodeon”– it’s a mix of nickel (5 cents) + oideion (Greek word for theater).

Beyond language lessons (and other lessons), we also spent time in a lot of interactive exhibits. And the more we learned, the more questions we had. For example, at one point Emily turned to me and Laura and asked, “How long has mortuary science been using formaldehyde to preserve dead bodies?” We waited for the answer because we had no idea. Turns out, she didn’t either. Instead, she answered her own question with, “That’s where our day has taken us…Thinking about that.”

At noon, we were only on the 3rd floor with still a BUNCH more to see. Bel had turned to me and whispered, “If there’s one thing we can skip, it’s the sports section.” But then, as soon as we turned the corner into the sports section, Emily said, “Oh! Here’s the best part!” And Helen and I laughed to ourselves. We went in and it was true, we would have missed out on a lot of fun.  Like. we wouldn’t have been able to see Emily Athleteon pull a hat trick and sink three footballs in.a.row. Ink-credible!

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Hut Hut, Heinz!


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Moments before Laura scored a goal on herself.


It had been three hours in the Heinz museum and we still had so much left to explore (which is a great excuse to go back) but we had to leave.  It was time for us to get back on our tour bus.

On the way out, we exited via a slide. Emily was so eager that she bumped her head before going down and said she “felt betrayed.” The slide was tight and small, and it was amazing to stretch our bodies as we came out the other side. Laura went down last but a bunch of little kids cut her line just before it was her turn so we all patiently waited for her to arrive.

But while we didn’t get to see the whole museum, we were able to weasel our way into getting a prize by running up the stairs and getting a stamp on each floor. Our prize was a pickle pin– a pinkle. And we each got one before we headed back outside to meet the bus. We’d just spent so much time indoors that we’d forgotten what a gorgeous day it was outside!

Luckily, we had the same guide (Heather, yay!) and made some progress (as far as more stops went) on the bus. The learning didn’t end at the museum, either. We learned about what was happening to the strip district (total reconstruction), and then, it was most definitely time to stop again but first we got to lean over and touch the roof of the Roosevelt building on Penn! It was so cool to touch a part of Pittsburgh that so few have the opportunity to.

We chose our second stop to be in a part of downtown that none of us were too familiar with.  We went for a walk to see the Union Tower building (which we had just heard had been renovated), and admired its beautiful architecture. Not to mention the gorgeous orchids! They were stunning and I muckled them with my eyes.  They were safe.  Not too long after we entered the Union Tower a security guard came over and asked if we worked there. We obviously didn’t, and she told us the building was closed.

So we left and walked some more. The four of us found a new restaurant called Wolfies. We loved the furry title. And our waitress, Carrie, was so nice and extremely helpful. Plus, there was great music playing at Wolfies, for those in the group that were excited about that sort of thing 🙂 Food wise, I always want nothing more than people I love loving something too, so we all ordered food that we could share including buffalo jackfruit dip. [Obviously we over-ordered, but Saint Carrie packaged food for us to go (some if it before it even reached our table). We also ordered coffees, that she graciously let us grab to-go, while we, once again, ran to our bus.]

WHAT A FUN DAY!!!!

This time, we hopped on and had a new tour guide (Sarah) and a new driver (Rich). I didn’t catch the bus’s name. Honestly, we didn’t like Sarah as much as Heather, but the tour was still great. We all loved being on the bus– it gave us scooter vibes except taller, more secure and very safe. PLUS we were getting a new perspective on our city, which was fantastic.  Helen, Emily, Laura and I were all having the best time. We had one more stop — to pick-up some much needed water bottles — before completing our Pittsburgh tour.

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Laughs-burgh

 

At 4pm, we all got back to the aviary a little sunburnt, a little tired, a little dehydrated but OH SO READY for the second part of the day with….

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COLLIN AND VICTORIA!

 

The two of them set up an Iron Chef layout…they had brought ingredients (and bonus cooking supplies) to the Dreamflat to put together an amazing, multi-course meal.  But, PLOT TWIST (but actually not really because this is how Iron Chef works), Helen and I got to go to the grocery store to pick out $32 worth of surprise ingredients that Collin and Victoria had to include in their dishes.

So, while Helen and I were hopping on and hopping off, Victoria and Collin made an  hors d’oeuvre: black olives, fresh pesto, BURRATA (my newly discovered. favorite cheese) and roasted chickpeas that tasted like popcorn. All served with an absolutely stunning bouquet of red roses ❤ 

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Knocking on heaven’s door.

Helen and I went on a Giant Eagle run with our $32 budget and brought back:
a “hottie mix” (spicy peppers)
2 mangoes
grapes
broccoli
asparagus
guacamole
a pasta shape I’ve never tried before
ricotta
portobello mushrooms
whipped cream
and one (free) nectarine.

Our total was $32.48, less than .50 cents over our $32 birthday requirement!

 

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For the second appetizer of the night (have you ever heard of such a thing?), the chefs made ricotta mango bread covered in hot pepper flakes. Delicious!

 

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Spectacular foodtography feat. flowers by Emily+Laura and FRESH pasta feat. mushroom sauce and a dollop of ricotta. #drool

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Veggies decorated with a homemade balsamic reduction. 

Next up, one of my favorite dishes of the night!  Pasta in a shape that I’d never tried before.  The chefs cooked it in water and then put it in a frying pan, with the “hottie mix”, to make it crunchy.  It was hot and crunchy, indeed! So Collin and Victoria cooled it down with guacamole (because guacamole can be a pasta topper) and it was delicious and SO fun to eat. When it was time to re-heat the left overs, this was one of the first things I grabbed.

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Guasta… Guac+pasta


On Iron Chef, there is one winner.  But on my birthday…We were ALL winners.  Seriously!  The food was exceptional.  The company was sublime.  And then, the chefs CLEANED THE KITCHEN!!  Winner winner, so much food left over from dinner. I was a happy birthday girl.

The four of us retired to the living room/porch in order to relax and digest.  We debriefed about all the amazing food we just ate, brainstormed how to get Victoria’s key back to her house without her leaving, and filled the Brita more than it’s ever been filled in its life.

Eventually, albeit still full, it was time for dessert.  Collin and Victoria had made a watermelon cake decorated with grapes, a (free) nectarine, and totally smothered in whipped cream. They had successfully completed their Iron Chef challenge!

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The birthday glow.

I had a DELICIOUS!, fun, spectacular day AND night, which only got better when Helen and Victoria gave me their Pittsburgh themed present — which I adore, thank you!! I felt special and taken care of all day; it was an absolutely fantastic birthday with people that I love.

The next morning, Victoria and Helen had an early flight to Mexico and Collin and I got to spend one more full day celebrating my 32nd. Col gave me a gorgeous necklace and, because he told me he had something planned, I asked him when the next part of our birth-date would start. Collin responded, “Anytime, cus it’s already here.” *mic drop
I was incredulous. What were we going to do??

The two of us went downstairs (at, like, noon, ’cause we weren’t hungry after the Iron Chef) and continued with the food theme (because obviously).  Col had brought us Matzah ball soup, to make together.  I’d never made actual Matzah balls before, and neither had Collin so it was a really fun first-time activity.

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He’s my Matzah, Matzah man.

Col and I lounged the rest of the day.  We did all the things we love.  Went for a walk.  Watched our show together.  Played a game of Dutch Blitz.  Responded to phone messages.  It was perfect. And if all of this wasn’t enough (it was!) my other best friends had sent me some sweet birthday vibes too.  Molly and I chatted; she had had some fun alone time on my birthday, along with seeing a few Fringe plays. Patrick, hilariously, sent a lone link to an Ethiopian coup, with no further details, and Katie left an adorable video voice mail.  I felt SO. MUCH. LOVE. all. day. long.

That evening, after getting help with cocoa butter application (which was such an unexpected delight), Col and I went on our dinner date. But not just any dinner date.  Cols idea was that we were going to set a timer for 32 minutes and whenever it went off, wherever we ended up, that was where we were going to stop to eat. EXHILARATING! As the birthday girl, I got to dictate the entire drive, deciding which direction we were starting out, if (and when) we were going to turn right, turn left, stay straight, etc. Col was going to steer wherever I told him and, this won’t come as a surprise, we had such a fun drive.

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A game AND a date with this gorgeous man?! Happy birthday to ‘mi.

We ended up driving over our allotted time by 1 minute and 46 seconds but I’ll blame the rain storm that happened on our drive.  We found ourselves at Juniper Grill, a place in a strip mall that neither of us had heard of but that had great reviews.   We never would have tried to eat here without this game. On entry, the lighting wasn’t great, it was like a spotlight on our table, but that was about the only thing that wasn’t tip-top about our experience.  The food was phenomenal and the service was even better (big thanks to Kathy, our waitress). I started with the martini I’d been dreaming about, and fresh corn bread that tasted like cake. Col and I then shared some shrimp flat bread and ahi tuna. Again, this birthday and the spectacular food!  I switched to a mojito and Col stuck with the old fashioned because he’s old fashioned and wonderful like that.  For dessert, we shared (free) ice cream with a candle and a chocolate shell. It was blissful.

 

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About to make a wish that has already come true ❤

After dinner, Col and headed back to the house to play some (more) games (like cards) before I fell asleep hours before I meant to.  This was SUCH a great birthday.  My mom must be right, everyone in heaven is in their thirties.

Here’s to 32 tasting pretty sweet. And savory,
‘mi

May-ments in time

31 May

The month of May had me feeling amorous ❤

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Like this view: Giving me love, despite the grey skies.

 

For this post, there are *8 categories of love. 
*Editors Note:  Eight is arbitrary.   Or, arb-eight-trary. 

 

  1. Friendship Love:

 

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Matching energy

 

In May, I was asked to be interviewed on stage about travel and, for those of you who know me (which you probably do because you’re reading my blog), you’ll know that I have stage fright.  I don’t like the attention.  I said yes, despite this, both because they were friends of mine and because I was flattered.  However, when the week finally arrived…I was freaking out. Helen had also been asked, by the same friends, on the same show, to come and do a little standup.  She was going to close out the night. Spoilers: She crushed!

Bel and I had not been on a show together (because, duh, I don’t perform comedy) since our Improv 101 class show.  This was an exciting night! Officially, we got to hangout out together in the green room, talk to the other performers, and relish the experience…right up until the time I had to go on stage. Gulp.

Luckily, Helen, (aka my best friend), came on stage with me. (THANK YOU, HELEN).  We had been planning to do this since I had been asked to come on the show and luckily, the hosts had said that it would be fine.

 

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Moral (and actual) support.

 

Bel acted as my initial mouthpiece and stepped in whenever I became overwhelmed. She rubbed my back, reminded me of the stories I was going to tell, and provided invaluable support.  She made the whole experience fun(ish) from start to finish.  And then — I got to return the favor. Kind of. She let me (and Sarah) sit on stage with her while she performed her killer set.  Bel and Bam, in bright lights! 

 

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The after show hang

 

———-

 

  1. All sorts of other shows, Love.

 

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A magic — I mean, a comedy show

 

A music show:

One Wednesday, I met an awesome group of friends at banjo night.  Emily had gotten wonderful people together; Laura, Trisha, Joe, Erin, Josh, myself, and of course Emily! It was such a fun night, hanging out with people I don’t get to see often enough.  We even got to take a private tour of the Elk’s Lounge — courtesy of Erin — and it was super cool. I’m (still) considering becoming a member.

 

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#friendship and #memberperks

 

———————-

 

  1. Exercise Love:

 

Sure, I worked out in the gym. #alwaystrying   But outside of that (I’m talking literally outside), I joined a kickball team with a fantastic name (see photo caption below).

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Kickball team name: Pitch, please. 

 

The selfie below was taken on a particularly messy game day when Emily, Dan, and I made, in my opinion, the best possible use of some very muddy fields.

 

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Not pictured: my car’s interior… but you can imagine

 

The photo below is from an actual mud run. Or rather, it was inflatable 5k that felt like a mud run, celebrating Laura’s birthday. So fun! (Happy birthday, Laura!)  And afterwords, we all went to Hitchhiker brewery to celebrate. Because what’s a birthday party without having to explain to everyone else why you showed up dirty. 

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Running into 31 like…

 

—————

 

  1. Dating Love:

 

I’m keeping (some of) the juicy details to myself, but I went on some pretty fantastic dates — including a surprise date that I got to plan.  It was May 24th, on a Friday night, by most metrics a classically romantic time. This evening was going to be no exception. I gave Collin, my date, some clues and a couple of chances to guess, but mostly, I chose to keep the suspense — and the mystery — alive:

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This was exciting.

 

Question: What (and where) was our surprise date?!

 

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A Bright Star surprise. 

 

Answer:  An (adorable) Northside date to the New Hazlett Theater to see a production of Bright Star (a musical that Steve Martin wrote with incredible bluegrass accompaniment).  

But wait, there’s more!  Would a romantic evening be complete without a walking picnic (especially when I knew my date was going to show up at my doorstep hungry)?!?  I could let you guess, but the answer is ‘nope’.

I packed us a walking picnic — aka rotisserie chicken in a bag — that we ate (the food, not the bag) on our way to the theater.  And when we arrived at New Hazlett my handsome, traditional, Friday night date chose the best seats in the house, and we fully enjoyed the phenomenal show.

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Enjoying live theatre

 

I genuinely felt the full range of emotions at this play;  I laughed, I cried, I loved;  The experience was incredible — especially the music, the storyline, the location, and the company.  Col and I left LOVING LIFE and, great news, our date didn’t stop there.  Once the show was over, we walked back to the dreamflat to make, unbeknownst to us at the time, THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES I’VE EVER EATEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!!!! Let me repeat that, the best chocolate chip cookies that I’ve ever eaten in my entire.life. “And I love cookies!”  Bonus: These incredible cookies are vegan (#dairyfreemonth) and OH MY GOD ARE THEY GOOD.

 

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Cookies so good I (almost) forget it was dairy-free month.

 

——————-

And then, the great dates kept on coming.  Like the super fun double date we went on with Mike and Kendyll.  Mike and Kendyll are people whom I was destined to meet. These two gems are past-Sammi’s neighbors (circa 2012-2013). They live directly next door to where I used to live. (And when I lived there, they lived there too…except on the other side.) The universe has been trying to connect us for awhile 🙂 Thanks, universe! 

 

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Double the fun

 

As the four of us hung out on a restaurant patio, Kendyll and I could not help but notice…and then laugh at…a guy wearing a neon bike helmet dining with his family.  Were there some hidden dangers we were unaware of?  A piano falling from the sky?  Mike, like a champ, changed the subject and told the waiter “we’ll take another round!” And, my night ended perfectly, with Col and I alone at the dreamflat, laughing hysterically until we cried… just the way I like it.

Collin and I continued to organize lots of at-home dates in May.  One that stood out, in particular, was this one (pictured below) that Col planned:  He greeted me at the door with a bouquet of stunning, fresh roses *happy sigh* ❤️  And then we went food shopping at the farmers market directly across the street #northsidepride Our dinner that night was prepared ONLY with the ingredients we had bought there. Local, home cooked, and made with love?!  You can see the results below.  Collin is fantastic in the kitchen!  And those roses that he had brought were absolutely gorgeous!  I wanted to make room for them on our table.  So, to save space, I put a single rose in my water glass, and that rose and I got to sip from the same, refreshing drink all evening long. Talk about a tall glass of water! 

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Sooo much goodness in one picture; it’s like a Where is Waldo, except everything is Waldo

 
That evening, as I mentioned, it was *supposed* to be a date night at home. Except. Well, I had just found out that the Harry Potter house party that Helen and I had attended last year was happening again.  And Collin loves Harry Potter!  So, we went, for Collin.  We cleaned up our dinner, left the dreamflat and, we went to the Housecup party — Team Ravenclaw (Claw! Claw!) — for the rest of our very fun(ny) night.

We got there just as the party was getting started.  Games galore!  First up?  Flip cup (which I’m not good at) with spells.  Followed by a horcrux hunt.  And, well, this is where Col points to as the turning point in his night, a game of quidditch where we had to finish three bottles of wine before our seeker could be released.  Allison coached us. Collin was competitive. Jesca was a masterful seeker. AND RAVENCLAW WON (this game)!!! Claw! Chug! Claw!

Next game? Act out a scene.  Collin was on the microphone and he narrated the Ravenclaw’s skit.  While our scene was good, the most memorable part, for me, came when the Slytherians pointedly defended their choice to cut down an “invasive species of plant”.

“Can I say something?”, Col, not very quietly, leaned in and asked me.

“Uh, no, I don’t think so. What do you want to say?”

“I would tell them that they are DORKS!!”

“Yeah, don’t say that. It’s time to go.”

And with that, we left, missing the final game of the night  — trivia. We got into the car with mumbles from Collin…“We were supposed to stay in.  I thought you said we would have fun. Why did I drink like that?”  I did my best to comfort him and when we got home, into bed, I read a text from Allison…. Ravenclaw had won the Housecup this year!!!! WAHOO!!!  THIS WAS GREAT NEWS!!!!  I leaned over to share the glory with Col but, understandably, he’d already fallen asleep — I’m sure with dreams of the Harry Potter world flip (cupping) around in his head.

 

———

 

  1. Family Love: 

 

I was happy to spend time with my parents this month as well.  It was on a road-trip to FL where I quantified exactly how much I like to stop and got to play the question game.  Then, when I arrived, I GOT TO TRY OUT A NEW VERSION OF SURF AND TURF: Lobster pizza with a side of steak. YUM!   After dinner, my family took us to see the sights; a mini road trip around the gorgeous lake.

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When the steak hits your eye with a big cauliflower-pizza pie, that’s amore

 

My parents also came into Pittsburgh to visit me to see a slanted house.  Which was an interesting experience (and a no go) but the best part was driving around afterwards, looking at and appreciating all the other the cute houses that I didn’t have to own.  Then!  I took my parents to Hello Bistro (for their first time ever) where we enjoyed each others company and ate huge salads.

———

 

  1. Bonus Love:
  • A Thai dinner with Emily’s mom (Hi, Cindy!), sister, nephews, and girlfriend (love to you, too, Laura 🙂 ).

 

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 Meeting mom!

 

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Those precious nephews

 

  • Being asked to write out a set list for my first time ever. It was AN HONOR!

  • I got myself an official boyfriend, and my boyfriend got himself an official girlfriend ❤  (Looks like I really wanted to bury the lead back in May.  ’cause it’s August right now and I’d like to shout this fact WITH JOY!)

  • Dinner at Fat Heads to meet some family with a hashtag I shouldn’t spread and a game I made up…but Taylor Swift was my inspo (Is it more disrespectful to wear Pappy’s glasses or to wear black?)

 

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Fashion guru.

 

  • BECAUSE I went to Fat Heads, I got to “woo” when, later at a comedy show, the audience was asked who’d been to Fat Heads most recently.

  • …emphasis on that Club Cafe after-show hang, which was full of first time LOVE.

  • I drank a bed beer after therapy, asked for matching dogs, and came to terms with the fact that I’m not good at transitions.

  • Meeting the infamous Triplets at a fun Park House hang, with an exciting kamikaze, and a bonus, late night scooter ride.

  • Spoiled by stuffed breakfast mushrooms.

  • The friendly cabin for Memorial day!
  • A happy encounter — Brian and Andrew at the Game of Thrones bar. 
  • And, speaking of GoT, I know this post is all about love in May, but the one thing that there’s questionable love for was that GoT finale… it was “like finding out they had run out of PhDs after getting all the way through school.”

  • Spending a belated Mother’s Day with my mum, in Pittsburgh, house hunting, and eating a delicious Caribbean lunch.

  • Pride party planning commenced!

  • “Have you ever ordered from Amazon?”

  • A hang with Jodi (!) and Bel, eating pizza from the Northside.  That must have been on my dairy free cheat day because there’s no other explanation.

 

———————-

 

  1. Photo Love:

 

Here are three photos of 3 things I’m grateful for:

 

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A snuggly place to sleep.

 

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Homemade breakfasts with arugula.

 

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And sweet views out my car windshield, reminding me of best friendship.

 

———————-

 

  1. Selfie Love:

 

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Good morning, I love you!

‘mi

Memorial Day Cabin

27 May

There are many, many things I love about Victoria and Helen, but their infinite list of lovable traits got even longer when they decided to arrange a trip to a cabin in Ligonier for Memorial Day weekend.  

Cabin Crew: Victoria, Helen, Betsy, Emily, Laura, and yours truly.

—————

We headed out for the weekend; cars brimming with drinks, snacks, food, and everything to share.  Big thanks to our cabin crew!  It was clear that we were all ready for an unforgettable weekend. 

I drove up with Emily, Laura, and Not your Father’s Root Beer.  The cabin didn’t have a house number– bold — but we had no trouble finding it because Victoria’s truck was already parked out front.

 

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Gettin’ cozy.

Betsy manned that fire while the rest of us got to lounge 🔥

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Talented Victoria’s spot-on painting of the view.

 

Stunning views, fresh air, outdoor fires, and deepening friendships weren’t the only beautiful parts of our Memorial Day weekend.   There was also the well-plated, delicious sustenance [which we took gorgeous pictures of (below) before devouring].

 

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Definitely as good as it looks.

 

 

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Breakfast of champions.

 

Bel and I decided to make the best chocolate chip cookies on earth, which you will see featured (and pictured) in another blog. This time, though, we had put the coconut oil in the fridge, making it difficult to mix the batter…but no matter! They turned out amazing — they always do. 

———-

In between the talking, the laughing, the cooking, and the eating, we played board games like What Do You Meme and Pandemic.  Emily and Laura decided to spice up (literally) our Pandemic-game by making a new rule where we had to eat a spicy peanut ghost pepper everytime we had an “outbreak.”  They were INCREDIBLY hot, as you can imagine.  Betsy, the genius, stayed within the new consumption rules but decided, instead of chewing the peanut, to swallow the ghost pepper peanut whole. What.an.innovator!  

—————

Our cabin bliss checklist:

✅ fantastic company

✅ scrumptious food

✅ rambunctious games

✅ hot-tubbing….

Yes, there was a hot-tub! We didn’t even let the rain stop us– in fact, it only enhanced our experience.  I would go so far as to say that hot-tubbing in the rain is my favourite type of hot-tubbing.  Another perk of hot-tubbing at this cabin?  Admiring Emily’s gorgeous bathing suits!  Next time, thanks to Amazon, Bel and I are going to match with her.

Of course, since we were at a cabin in the woods, it would’ve been very confusing to not actually go into the woods. And so, with our powdered drinks, we went for a walk 😃 ✅

 

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Cabin Crew feet.

 

On the walk, we came across a house with absolutely no windows and then, farther down the road, a sign that clearly read “No Trespassing for Any Reason,” which Victoria and I thought would be fine to check out since we were trespassing for no reason (the devil’s in the details, your honor).

We took a lot of pictures along the way. Actually, Victoria took most of the pictures.  Including a serious where we got to smoosh our faces together. When she got to “3” we had to change our pose.

123  123  123  123  123snake

We all turned at the same time and we all saw what she was looking at — a snake that was the size of a house python — and then we all simultaneously SCREAMED AT THE TOP OF OUR LUNGS AND RAN!! 

 

!!!!!!!!!!

 

It would have been comical if we weren’t so genuinely scared.  #screamedandscattered

 

 

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Post-python attack. And by python I mean snake, and by attack I just mean appearance.

 

Now, this next part isn’t chronological, or much of a transition…but I did save it for last because, wow.  The MOST gorgeous pond that I’ve ever laid eyes on:

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Does it get any better than this?

 

This well-maintained pond had tadpoles (huge ones!) and frogs (cute ones!).  And it was here that we found out that Emily is really (really) good at catching frogs — which is a talent you wouldn’t find out about your friend unless you spent time together at a pond. 🐸 

 

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Princess charming? Is that you?

 

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Glimmering.

 

I’d like to reiterate that almost all of the photo credit goes to Victoria (thank you!). And, this is one of THE MOST GORGEOUS PONDS that I have ever laid eyes on.  Luckily for me, it also had a rope swing — so this was about to be the most gorgeous pond that I had ever plopped into… 

 

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Getting a running start!

 

 

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Walking on water– another talent you wouldn’t know your friends had!

 

Emily had a very memorable drop like a starfish ⭐️

But there is one thing about this pond that I didn’t tell you.  What you didn’t know, but what we did was that this was the neighbor’s pond and not public property.  Eek!  Jim, the owner, caught us red-handed (probably literally, since our hands were red from holding onto the rope) and came over to give us a scolding. He told us that he “wasn’t a bad guy”, but that it was a liability issue.  We understood!  And tried to express lots of gratitude for our afternoon spent in that idyllic pond.

After that, our cabin crew wasn’t quite done with water… So, we decided to spend some (more) time in the cabin hot tub where we brainstormed about how Jim might’ve told the story (about catching 5 girls swimming) to his wife.  We had fun musing about the possible iterations of Jim’s subsequent interactions.  

 

———-

Despite (or maybe because of) getting in just a teensy bit of trouble, our cabin crew left Ligonier closer than ever.  It was a fantastic Memorial Day Weekend.  Thanks to everyone for making it so special 💕

Cabin bliss,

‘mi

Ba*es in Boston

22 May

It was the first flight in the morning — the 5:40am flight.   Our alarms were set for very, very early.  Collin and Sammi’s first trip together!  Boston!  AHHHH!!!!!!! WE WERE SO EXCITED!  After some yawns, we got to the airport way before I thought it was necessary but since we were flying standby, it was crucial to ensure that we got seats next to each other. 

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Happy in the morning!

 

Collin works for JetBlue, so he got to fly for free (incredible) and I got to use his (super duper) discounted buddy pass. Thank you, Collin! And thank you, JetBlue!  We took our seats and before the plane took off, “angel Don”, popped in to give us a wave.  I promptly closed my eyes and fell asleep with reassurances from Col that “in 50 minutes”(ish), we’d be in Boston.

 

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Welcome to the east coast!

 

Speaking of free and discounted transportation, did you know that Boston has a FREE public bus-turned-subway into downtown straight from the airport?!  Col and I took it as we began our (very jam-packed) adventure.  First stop?  Breakfast.

Before the trip, I’d done research about where Col and I should go, taking into account our specific interests (like his love of diners).  We’d been going dairy-free for a bit, with one day off each week to get down and dairy #downanddairy.  Muls Diner, a classically Boston spot, was the perfect time to splurge.

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They had fantastic Eggs Florentine and spectacular taste in ketchup.

 

True to every movie that I’ve ever seen featuring a Boston waitress serving food in a Boston diner, our waitress had a thick Boston accent, a heavy Boston attitude, and served up a stereotypically perfect cup of hot coffee.  Needless to say, Col and I left full and satisfied, to walk around Boston Harbor and to listen to a downloaded walking tour.

One of our stops had us looking at a building in the financial district.  It wasn’t until we got to the end of this particular audio chapter that we realized we’d been staring at the wrong building for the entire talk.  Whoops. So, Collin took matters into his own hands and playfully pointed out the importance of this mural, which was a stop on his (better) tour. 

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“The According to Collin Travel Guide” says this is important.

 

The tour I had downloaded wasn’t great, but we had fun following it along the Boston Harbor anyway.

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Boston Harbor: Home of America’s Best Tea Party. Some say the water is still caffeinated.

 

The last, official, stop of this particular walking tour was at a touristy market with loads of food.  Since Col and I were still full from Muls Diner, we gave it a miss and instead headed to The Green Dragon, a really cool old pub that Collin had picked out for a drink and a warmer.  Next door, literally, was Bell in Hand, which is advertised as “America’s oldest tavern” — we couldn’t help ourselves, we also popped in there to see what we could see.  

Ambitiously, he and I then set out to go on (yet) another walking tour this one called, The Freedom Trail.  And, since freedom was the name of the game, Col and I decided to just stop wherever we pleased as we made our way across town.  We walked for miles, learned about cool history, passed through Little Italy, saw the oldest publisher’s house which had been converted into a Chipotle (burrito bowls are the new books, folks), and visited Paul Revere’s grave. 

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The final destination on ‘Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride’ (January 1735- May 1818)

 

Eventually, our hunger reached historic proportions, and so, in keeping with the ‘freedom’ theme, we got some pizza to celebrate our free-from-dairy-free day.

 

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The Boston Pizza Party– a significantly less revolutionary but way more delicious event.

 

Belly’s full of pizza and brains full of historical facts that we could use to win Jeopardy, Col and I headed to our Airbnb to check in and rest.  It was 4pm — we’d been walking around with our backpacks on, awake and active for over 12 hours!  I needed a nap; knowing that when I woke up in 50 minutes…. we’d STILL be in Boston.  Plus, then it would be dinner time.  I was thrilled with the restaurant options and Col let me pick where we would go.

 

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Map Code: Pink pins are must-sees that I’d researched prior to the trip.

 

I chose a place called Bergamot. I’d read lots of reviews that complimented both the food and the service and we were not disappointed on either front.  Col and I got to the restaurant around 8pm.  Even without a reservation, the hostess greeted us with gusto and gave us the best seat in the house (right next to the window).  The lighting was dim — just the way I like it.  While she got the table ready we sat on a couch and, while we waited, pretty much every employee at the restaurant came over to check on us, to make sure we were taken care of and that we didn’t need anything.  So attentive! When our spot was ready, the hostess sat us down at a table set for four.  When the hostess came back, she removed the extra table settings.  I apologized to her saying “there are only two of us”, and she told us that she had set out all of the place settings so that we could choose where to sit and not have her choose for us.  So thoughtful!  We were thoroughly impressed.  

Col and I were served complimentary freshly baked bread and fava bean butter.  We ordered lobster risotto, Brussel sprout salad, and a plate of ravioli to share.  The customer service was impeccable and so was the food.  Dinner at Bergamot was one of my favorite things we did in Boston.  Date night while we were already on a date… Was this a double date?

 

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Incredible food. Incredible place. Incredible company. See you in 20 years!

 

I wanted to be awake and see live music, so we headed to Toad, albeit just for a second.  It was very loud (and I was very tired).  When our Uber driver dropped us off he said, “I rate you 5 stars, and I hope to be your driver again.”  Which I loved and immediately started to repeat.
Ultimately though, we went to bed.  And it was a good thing we did.  We couldn’t sleep in.  The people who lived above our Airbnb were up early making a ruckus, BUT, we were HAPPY TO BE AWAKE!!!  HAPPY TO SPEND THE DAY IN BOSTON!!!!!

For breakfast, Col and I were back to the dairy-free grind.  We got Acai bowls from a cafe called Nu and I even got to drink my water from a sustainable pasta straw.  

 

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No surprise, these were delicious.

 

After eating our dairy-free delicacy, we called a Lyft and headed to Beacon Hill, the poshest part of town.  Col and I enjoyed the next part of our day holding hands, walking around, admiring the brick houses, the streetlamp, and the shops.  We went to the Botanical Gardens, played in the park, and saw a “Make a way for the Ducklings” installation.  We then walked across the street to THE place to be in Boston: 

 

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Cheers, yinz!

 

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The gangs all here.

 

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Grabbing a beer with Norm.

 

We got to the bar right when it opened and saw the owner giving a TV interview.  Our friendly neighborhood bartender, Pearse, was great to chat with, especially with his thick and memorable accent.  We drank and cheersed to Cheers.  Col even got us matching hats as a memento, so fun!

For lunch, we had our hearts set on some dairy-free pizza.  Neither of us had ever heard of it before…so we ordered, to go, vegan pizza with VEGAN CHEESE, from Upper Crust.  We walked back to the Botanical Gardens for a picnic….and ate just a couple of bites before promptly deciding that while we were all about that dairy-free life we were definitely not all about vegan cheese.  It was so bad it almost ruined our day.  Almost.

We tried to forget what had just happened and walked through some more interesting parts of town, stopping for edamame, and visiting an exclusively Harry Potter shop (SO neat!) before heading to the “Mapparium” at the Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity, or what I like to call ‘The Library.’  Now, you might be wondering what a “Mapparium” is.  I certainly was.  I knew it had the word “map” in it, which I liked.  The “Mapparium” is a giant map at The Library which is made up of glass — it’s so big you can walk through it! I was v excited… that is until we actually got there and it was located in the Christian Science Monitor building.
What?
Col and I were both pretty confused, the propaganda was hard to ignore.  We were required to join a tour (and even though we were in the birthplace of the Revolution, we couldn’t claim our independence from the group).  We learned, on tour, that the Christian Science Monitor has won 7 Pulitzer prizes.  #themoreyouknow

After several minutes of listening to whatever we had to in order to gain entry…into the world we went!  Col and I entered the “Mapparium” and were suitably impressed.  Even though there were countries missing and a few of the boundaries weren’t accurate, it was really cool.  Since they’d made this map in the 1930’s, I was in a forgiving mood. After all, they didn’t have Google back then, we gotta be understanding.  Col and I walked around, admired the stained-glass world, and listened to the echoes. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but, below, is the Christian Science Monitor-approved selfie we snapped.

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World explorers.

 

After that, we got some delicious, dairy-free, Thai food in the air conditioning and enjoyed lots of noodles . To work off our huge meals, we walked to Fenway Park to see their community center, sit at a bar called Bleachers, and enjoy the views.  

 

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I like to call this one ‘Fenway through the Fence’.

 

The next stop was “home”.  The Airbnb was perfect.  We relaxed, got changed, and talked about how badly we needed a coffee.  We were about to head to…. the Boston Handbell festival!!!  This only happens once a year and, this year, it was on one of the nights that Collin and I were in town!  It was 100% fate!!!!!  I reminded Collin that he loves live music, which he does. “I’m taking you somewhere that you’re going to love.”

 

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Gotta hand (bell) it to them, they did a great job.

 

At Old South Church, Collin knew the first song that the handbell musicians played.  Yay! I knew he would love this festival!  Throughout the show I kept whispering, “Isn’t this the greatest? I know how much you love live music.” 

The festival was chill and relaxing but the two of us still needed a caffeine jolt.  Col and I left to go to Dunkin’ Donuts in order to grab a warm cup of joe. We took our coffees to go, got onto the subway (shout out to the orange line), and headed to Mr. Dooleys where I got some peach in my Jameson from Terry the Irish bartender.  Collin and I then lounged and relished (some more) live music — this time from Calm O’brien who played Irish songs including Molly Malone, a favorite. 

The coffee did the trick and Collin and I appreciated a late night in Boston, hung out for hours, until eventually heading back to our apartment.

—————-

The next morning, we got this good-looking grain bowl that I had been craving (see below).  

 

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Energizing grain bowl is equal to or greater to energizing coffee.

 

I LOVED IT SO MUCH!!! I swore I could’ve run 6 miles.

However, ten minutes later, the grain bowl decided it didn’t love me back so Collin had to carry my bag.  We walked to Harvard Yard where I read us a walking tour out loud, learned about their library, and saw a statue of a guy who’s not who he says he is.

 

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The imposter statue.

 

The Harvard Yard was our last stop in Boston, and, soon after, we headed to the airport where we hung out and lived our dairy-free life in the lounge.

 

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A look of satisfaction.

 

Overall, the trip was a raging success.  Setting the tone for many more.  There were enough things that kept us moving and exploring… but we also went with the flow.  It was full of love, joy, play, serious talks, incredible food, and experiences to remember for a lifetime.

Long live Boston,
‘mi

Take a picture, it’ll last longer (another sort-of slideshow)

30 Apr

April brought a lot of beautiful things like….

 

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These gorgeous pink flowers

 

  • Planning and embarking on a trip to Guatemala! (posts to come!)

 

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Hiding a note in the Pittsburgh airport

 

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Patrick’s birthday!!! ❤ ❤

 

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Helen’s birthday!!! ❤ ❤

 

  • …At Helen’s birthday party where I got to pet Victoria’s cat and micromanage some seating arrangements 🙂 — so it was really like I was the one getting the presents.

  • “They call me Crash.”
  • A visit to Findley Lake where I got to see my cousins Wendy and Paul! (and, at the local restaurant, briefly meet that weirdo.)

 

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Photo credit: the beautiful Wendy

 

  • THE RETURN OF GAME OF THRONES, which brought about the smiles below.  And then, spoilers, took away the smiles below.

 

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Playdate

 

  • A fun brunch (but not a delicious brunch) at Enix Brewery with April, Emily, and Laura.
  • But then a stopover at the super cool Voodoo Brewery, plus VB shirts!
  • An emotional breakdown after The Improv.
  • Eating, with Matt (all the way from Australia!) and Col (a hometown favorite) in the Northside at, what the sign referred to as “the best chicken salad in town,” (it’s not) and, on a different day, getting to actually eat the best chicken salad in town (it is) back at my parents’ house.  

 

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A party at my new friends Joe and Trisha’s with Emily, Erin Tobin, and April ❤

 

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This VIEW outside of my bedroom! I love this season!

 

  • A bad-beer power hour with Bella.

 

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And lots of board game days ❤

 

….Which we were assured would be fun.

 

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Peppered reassurances are as good as a money-back guarantee

 

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The peppered reassurances were accurate — It was fun!

 

  • Spicy, yummy soup delivered to me when I was sick.
  • A Federal Galley date involving the question game.
  • The Table celebrations edition was published!
  • A(n annoying) closure of our 9th street bridge.
  • A gorgeous dinner party for 5 hosted by my best friend, VB.
  • Inspired by outdoors-y films, in particular a mother daughter movie, at the Banff Mountain Film Festival ❤

 

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Great lightening in the Byam Theatre loo!

 

  • Victoria Pinksburgh coming out for the year!!!!!  Huge shoutout to Laura who babysat, and by babysat I mean stored the little cutie. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

 

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Her maiden voyage.

 

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Full bloom.

 

  • A new tradition with Emily and Laura, we eat lunch together every week!

 

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All this friendship is making us hungry. 

 

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LUNCH WITH LAURA’S DOG CHARLIE (AND HELEN) – who also gets her name in caps because, honestly, it’s just as exciting

 

  • April 12th: My and Victoria’s best show ever!!  Drinking champagne, celebrating, sitting next to the Wildys.
  • April 19th.  At The Improv again.  Sitting next to Victoria.  Always glad to be there together! But this time wishing we had ordered our small drinks earlier.

 

 

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Helen got to do a guest set on Ray’s show.

 

  • MATT FROM AUSTRALIA COMING TO VISIT!! ! !!! !!!! !!! ! !! !  HOW EXCITING!!!!!  

     

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    Forever friends.

     

  • Going with Matt to Bingham Tavern to watch the Penguins game (FYI: I’m a fan now) and getting involved in trivia on accident, which, thanks to our bonus player, we ended up winning ON PURPOSE.
  • And then, taking Matt to the Micro Diner for pancakes and listening to his accent while he spoke with Dana, our server, whose Yinzer accent (and openness!) served to remind me (thanks for the service, Dana!) how there are people in each corner of the world with a genuine eagerness to show off their hometown (#hometownpride)  — and to help someone from a different place realize why ….(whatever city they’re in)…. is so great. 

 

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Battle of the accents, except not a battle because everyone wins.

 

I always love this time of year,
‘mi

3. GUATEBUENA: The one with the birthday!

24 Apr

Hello! Helen here again! Fresh off the trail, literally, we went exploring for the perfect place to spend the night and to wake up on Patrick’s birthday. We had one set birthday goal: Hike a cloud forest in search of Guatemala’s national bird for whom their currency is named: the RESPLENDENT quetzal. If you’re not using the word resplendent in your day-to-day vocab, I recommend throwing it in your rotation.

RESPLENDENT, adj.: attractive and impressive through being richly colorful or sumptuous.

The word you didn’t know you were missing in your life. We first learned it in Spanish when we were reading about the quetzal and it was described as “resplandeciente.” After a quick Goog, we learned “resplandeciente” was Spanish for “resplendent” which, I’ll remind you, was English for “attractive and impressive through being richly colorful or sumptuous.” I’m using the full definition twice so you feel comfortable using it, too. Go ahead! Try it. You might like it. Here’s an image from Google of the quetzal as a visual aid:


Shining, shimmering, resplendent.

 

We found a place to stay near the cloud forest and ventured into the nearest town, Purrulha, to find snacks and supplies for the night. If there’s one thing we love, it’s matching. If there’s a second thing we love, it’s going on a quest. We knew what we needed for the night: Snacks and a few birthday Gallos. After finding FREE PARKING(!!!), we took to the streets of Purrulha, exploring the stores for ice cream (always), snacks to take to the hotel, and Gallo.

 

Little town, full of little people, waking up to say……. Hola.

 

She’s the leader of the pack. Vroom Vroom!

 

First, we found a stand selling CDs and games. We were so excited because we had been wanting to pump some jams in our perfect rental truck and had only been using whatever music was downloaded on our phones and a wee bit of radio. We each picked out 2 Spanish language CDs (which had 100+ songs on each), and spoke in Spanish to the store’s owner. We told him we were visiting from the United States, staying nearby and going hiking in the morning in hopes to see a famous Quetzal. He immediately said “You can’t hunt them. It’s illegal to kill them.” Apparently, we Americans have a reputation. We assured him we just wanted to look at them and had no interest in killing them. He was thrilled. Glad we talked that out!

 

Continuing on our quest, we popped into another Comedor to give it a shot. This time, we were the only people there. We asked if we could order a meal, pay in advance, and come back in 15 minutes to eat it after we ran through the grocery store on a snack mission. They were confused, but they decided that would be fine. We meandered through a grocery store on our timed side quest and found all sorts of delicious snacks. Our ever-wise Sammi told us it was important to pick snacks with funky shapes and she was right; the more unique the shape, the more delicious it somehow tasted. Two women who worked in the grocery store followed us around and started speaking to me in Spanish. They told me they wanted me to teach them English. I spoke to them in English and told they responded in Spanish. It was very sweet.

 

Clasicos

 


Hen’s pic of hens.

 

SNACKTRICK, n.: Our best friend who is always on the hunt for fun, interesting, and delicious snacks. Keeper of the Snackpack (n.: a backpack full of snacks) and distributor of the snacks. Happy birthday, Snacktrick! #alwaysbesnacking


Patrick saw one of these baseball-themed gumball machines from his childhood and scored a gumball homerun!


I scored an out! Does that count as scoring? Negative points? This is why we prefer cooperative games. #pandemicforever

 

Come once more to the Comedor! (We actually don’t recommend them.)

 

We made it back to our hotel which was beautiful. It was rustic and cozy, with wood-burning fireplaces in the corner and private huts for sleeping. There were wild birds that were allegedly turkeys, but they looked even more terrifying somehow (am I the only one who is afraid of turkeys?) and squawked at us as they roamed the property. One thing you may not know about Guatemala is that 40% of the people are indigineous. There were parts of Guatemala that spoke in tribal languages, rather than Spanish. There was a traditional dish called Kak’ik, which is a spicy turkey soup. Our resort served its own, homemade Kak’ik with the wild turkeys they raise right there on the property. As a vegetarian, I didn’t try any but Patrick and Sammi said it was delicious! This random place we found to stay for the night served some of the best food we had in Guatemala (except the Macadamia Nut Farm #neverforget). We put on our matching Gallo hats (reminder: WE LOVE MATCHING!) and had a few birthday Gallos outside.

 

#notsponsored


Birthday feast-esta (This is a fiesta pun. Is that coming through?)

 


Kak’ik-ing up with the Kardashians

 

Never been more thankful for a window.

 

They’re simply the best. Better than all the rest.

 

As it turned to night, we moved inside and continued our bestie fun by a wood-burning fireplace. Our waiter for the evening, Miguel aka Mike, was the sweetest. It was our entire experience that Guatemalan men are super polite and respectful. We were never catcalled, approached, or bothered in any way. Over the course of the evening, we grew to love Mike more and more. We were thankful he didn’t speak any English so we could practice our Spanish. And, with a few Gallos in us, we were feeling more confident than ever in our team’s ability to speak Spanish. “I feel like we know enough Spanish to ask questions, but not always enough to understand the answers,” Sammi observed. “Okay, team!” I declared before every interaction with Mike, “I’m going to ask some questions and I need all ears on deck for the answers!” Together, we could usually figure it out. Our Spanish was taken to new heights as we asked for wood (madera) to burn in the fire, and to arrange a surprise at midnight for Patrick’s birthday. We couldn’t believe the vocab words that were coming back to us. Thanks, Gallo!

 


What would Usher do? Let it burn.

 

Mike was sweet and helpful and got us everything we could ever ask for. He was on board for our midnight surprise. We told him our plan was to stay up till midnight to ring in Patrick’s birthday, and then we would go to bed. We sat around the fire for hours, laughing, chatting, translating, admiring Mike (and Guatemalan men, in general), and bonding. It was the best.

 

Fireside chats

 

Birthday boy’s birthday joy

 

After a delicious dinner, we had another round of Gallos and then were pretty exhausted. It was only 10 PM. We realized, unfortunately, there was no way we were going to make it to midnight. Patrick promised us he was not disappointed and was excited to start more birthday fun in the morning on his actual birthday. We pulled Mike aside so Patrick wouldn’t hear, and explained to him that we were not going to make it to midnight after all, so the surprise was off, and thanked him, verbally and financially, for everything he had done for us. On the way to our beds, Patrick made us promise we could sleep through the night and we wouldn’t wake him up at midnight. It would be his birthday all day (“It’s the day all day!”) and we had an early hike in the cloud forest to try to catch a glimpse of that sweet, resplendent Quetzal, afterall. We promised and went to bed.

 

Our home for the night.

 

“I’ve never slept in a room of this shape.” – Dr. Patrick Marti

 

IMAGINE OUR SHOCK, when we awoke to a knock on the door at midnight. We were all terrified. We had no idea what time it was or who would be knocking on our secluded cabin door. It was Mike in his pajamas with a cake and a crew, serenading Patrick in Spanish. It was jarring. We thanked him profusely, and realized our Gallofied Spanish was not as good as we had thought. He had not understood our request to cancel the surprise. But he had understood our request for a midnight surprise! Go team! We all went back to bed and fell asleep laughing.

 

The next morning, we awoke and gave Patrick our present! Those of you who know Patrick (and/or followed his viral #tayoftheday on Tik Tok — check it out @og_marti_parti), know he is #craycrayfortaytay. That is to say: The man is in love with Taylor Swift. (Aren’t we all?) As fate would have it, the one and only TAYLOR SWIFT had cryptically announced that she was releasing SOMETHING on April 26, 2019. However, she gave no indication of what it was. April 26th was just 2 days after our beloved Patrick’s birthday! We were excited to all be together in Guatemala for this exciting release! Based on Taylor’s Instagram messaging and colour-schemes, we knew it had to be one of two things: She was either releasing new music OR she was opening a boutique clothing store in upstate New York. Desperate for a new Taylor Swift album, we gambled on new music and got Patrick an iTunes gift card so he could get whatever it was. (SIDE BAR: IT WOULD TURN OUT TO BE LEADING US ALL TO HER 7TH ALBUM, “LOVER,” WHICH IS THE BEST.) Our girl Swift was SO good at Easter Eggs that she planned a new music video for her single “Me!” to be released THE WEEK OF EASTER. Are you kidding me? Easter eggs on Easter week?! The woman is a genius.

 


He never goes out of style.

 

After a birthday breakfast, we went hiking in the GORGEOUS cloud forest across the street. It was genuinely across the street. I highly recommend Ram Tzul as a place to stay if you’re ever in Guatemala! Ask for “Mike.” We chatted as we made our way up through the cloud forest, keeping our eyes open for quetzals and other critters. The cloud forest was called “Biotopo del Quetzal,” after all. We were optimistic.

 

 

On the top of the world, looking down on creation.

 

Not a bad way to start one’s 36th year, eh?

 

We only saw one quetzal, sadly, and it was the taxidermied one in the information center at the end of the hike. But even in death, it was resplendent as ever.

 


RIP: Resplendent in Peace

 

How do you top a birthday morning in a cloud forest?! A birthday evening in a bat cave, of course!

 

About to get batty,

Bel