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,

2018: A Recount

31 Dec

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

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



My room, where most of the staying put happened.


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



Or, make it a fiesta bowl!


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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



l’shona tova,

Merry Christmas to Jew

25 Dec

‘Twas sometime around Christmas, and to make the day jolly,
I went to LA to go visit Molly.


There she is!


’twas the end of December and we noticed a lack of traffic in her ‘hood.
“We could go to the beach,” said Molly, “we won’t but we could.”

So avoiding the sand, we went for something delicious,
A breakfast at Millie’s to celebrate Christmas.


Intensive air quality.  Also, I know, you know, my phone needs to be charged.


After breakfast I got to hug both Dave and Pace
And we all laughed and played, none of us keeping a straight face.

Later on at dinner, we ate sushi and sake
The three of us Jews continued to get talky.

The next day we split my visit all around
Visiting with Al and Betsy in their new hometown!

Betsy made soup,
It was pure veggies for our group.





Now before I continue, it’s important to know…
That for Christmas, I switched places with Katie Barbaro.

I sent Katie to Amsterdam for a total travel mystery
to celebrate with Soyara (See: My Singapore history)




Katie creating Love Mischief before sleeping on a house boat.


To stand in for Katie while she was away…
I went to the Barbaro’s to spend one Christmas day.

Jumping in an Uber with a loud Chinese man
We brought the family a tulip, origin: The Netherlands.



Guess who’s coming over for Christmas dinner?? 


Molly, Dave, and I had a WONDERFUL time with Katie’s parents and brother
You’d never know it was the first time for all of us to meet each other

Over text I’d been introduced as a “best friend” to the “best mom”
It felt like we were participating in our very own Freaky Friday sitcom;



Maggie, Bruno, and Bruno Jr. ❤


The Barbaros were so generous and the night was sublime
I’m glad having that much fun and food isn’t considered a crime.

Once dinner was over, there was exquisite dessert
Dave (who’s vegan) couldn’t eat it, which had to have hurt.

So to add to the fun, Molly and I described without fail
how the dessert tasted in very complex detail.



Adopted by a family for Christmas ❤



From now on, this is what I will  think Christmas dinner looks like.


When the plates were all empty and the wine just as so
Everyone was tired, it was time to go.

Our goodbyes at the doorway were such a sore sight
The three of us could’ve stayed with Katie’s family all night!

‘Twas truly a Christmas like never before
But you shouldn’t stop reading, because there’s definitely more…


Although, this next part doesn’t include rhyming for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s about a lucky, luxury vacation. And the word “luxury” is kind of like the word  ‘orange’ — Does anything rhyme with it?


    2. No one needs to be rhyming for this long.


Okay, so this luxury vacation came about because I found myself in the right place at the right time (a Christmas miracle!) and because my generous friends Molly and Dave have equally generous friends in all the right places.  Zach (hi Zach!), had invited Molly and Dave to spend a few days at a luxury resort outside of LA, and I got to be the plus-one to Zach’s plus-two.

Molly, Dave, and I made some potted plants to give as gifts.  ‘Twas the season of giving, after all, and when someone gives you a weekend at a luxury resort, the least you can do is offer small terrariums to the family in return.

The next day, we drove to a gorgeous oasis in the greater Los Angeles area, taking special care of those sweet potted plants along the way.


Christmas with a view.


When we got there, Zach gave me yet another present; a nickname he thought people called me in high school: Samster the Hamster. Classic.  And potentially my new fursona for next year’s furries??  Hilarious, adorable, and rhyming?!  Be still my heart ❤

Anyway, the resort was massive, and all of us had an incredible time exploring the complex, which had a variety of pools to choose from (one of which Molly and I used simply to spin around in). We enjoyed going to fun dinners, playing games (like adding “hole” to the end of words), getting to know everyone better-hole, and perhaps the most luxurious part of it all: taking the shuttle in our robes #teamrobe.



One of the many pool-holes.


It didn’t take more than 36 hours for Molly and I to really get into character– to really embody the essence of fancy, at least for a few hours. And how did we do this? We went to a windowless spa (windows are so last year) and chowed down on some delicious blondie brownies. And let me tell you, you know you’ve made it when every beautician in the spa comes up to you a comedic amount of times asking if you’re Ms. Jackson.  She sounds great, we mused, as we headed back outside, probably to find ourselves at yet another pool.



On December 25th it rained briefly (God’s present to earth), but you can’t tell from this sunny photo.


Our last night in the villa, we had a smashing time (I say words like ‘smashing’ now because of how fancy I now am).  The group of us made up our own Jack the TV game before engaging in a rousing karaoke session.  Zach. the gift that keeps on giving, sang a karaoke rendition of Man, I feel Like a Woman!  It was such a delight.

I think most of the pictures are with Dave and Molly.  But the memories are in our hearts 🙂

The next morning, we parted ways.  Some of the group took their private jet back to Las Vegas where they live, and since my private jet is still in the shop (jk…jk..), Molly, Dave, and I drove to wine country.



The wining part of wining and dining.


We checked into our airbnb and then took an uber (yay for safety!) all over wine country to, duh, drink wine.  At the end of the night, happy and hungry (what’s new?), we asked our Uber driver, Pedro, if we could stop and get a bit of food at the grocery store.  Pedro was (dare I say, more than) happy to oblige.  He seemed to really like our company (or was super into the assortment of snacks were picked out) because he decided to stop working and hang out with us.  The Pedro hangout was fine… but after he left Molly hit the nail on the head when she finally pinpointed the source of mild discomfort: “Pedro wasn’t well traveled enough… in his mind.” Well said, Moodel. 



Hangin’ with Pedro: Christmas edition — the only edition.


The next day, we headed back to LA where more presents awaited.  One gift was the experience of going to my first ever weed dispensary, which was like the Apple store…so sleek, so fancy. So luxurious. It must’ve spent the weekend in a villa too.

The other gift was the business name that Molly and I got to name when we went on a solo adventure after Dave got back from the DMV.  Molly and I landed on a possible business name (but no actual business).   The Betas! “I feel beta with my dog.”  said Molly.  And, my parting gift, getting to sift through a leftover clothing exchange that Molly had hosted before I had arrived in LA.  It was like I went shopping and picked out new outfits for free. Thanks for everything Moo ❤



Clothes that are new to me.


Merry Christmas to Jew,
Sam(ster the Hamster)

Challah-Day Party

8 Dec

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

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

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

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




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

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


Bagel Bar: A Bar full of bagels


Guilt-free but not Gelt-free


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

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



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



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

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



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


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



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


UnBEARably funny


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

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


Making Lionel proud


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


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


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


Art in action


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

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


So much safer than a handmade menorah #whoisdavid


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


Paying our respects


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

Torah 101:

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

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

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

Get you a party that has side games.

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

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

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

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


Jill’s award-winning Challah!


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

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

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

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



Oh, hi, oh!

17 Nov

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

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



Reunited #AndItFeelsSoGood


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

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

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


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


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



Farm fresh and so so good.


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



Birds of a feather, roosting together.


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



Cluck, cluck, FOOD!


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

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

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

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

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

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



I recognize that broccoli and arugula… 🙂



Farm to *our* table, specifically.


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

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

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

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

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

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




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


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

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


A path diverges in the woods. #metaphor #InstagramThat


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



Standing below a pond.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time! One love,

Seattle: Road Trip!

13 Nov

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

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



Keeping a vigilant lookout for Wolf Beach sightings.


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



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


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


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

IMG_6574 2.jpg

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


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

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


Heaven to the heaventh degree.



A screen grab from our traveling Katie.


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


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


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



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



Covering this tree like a moss.



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


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


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



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


Thanks to Patrick, we made it!


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


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

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

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



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



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



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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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


Do we want the smoked salmon or the smoked salmon?



We went with the smoked salmon.


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

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


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


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



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



Opposite ends of the spec-tree-um.



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


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


Living moss is my favorite color.



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



Heads up: Natural, wild skyscrapers.


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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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


The golden hour of happy hours.


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