It seems like it’s been a few years since we’ve made it to the Buckeye Pancake breakfast up at Ohiopyle, an annual tradition for Paul’s family. One year it was because of Katie and Jacob’s wedding, and if I’m right and we didn’t go last year, either, I’m gonna guess it was because of a wedding then, too.

The breakfast was nice, and so was the brief walk we took by the river. The weather here kind of went from the 80s down to the 50s in, like, days, so it was a pretty chilly and kind of dark, rainy morning up there, but still nice to go.

My mom had heard about a talk at a local church about human trafficking and wanted me to go with her that evening, so Paul took a case of beer over to his parents’ house and Mother and I went to the church. Paul and I kept joking that it was gonna be the self-defense class from King of the Hill, but in reality, it was more of an informative session about what to look out for. I actually kind of feel like I learned something.

We were pretty hungry when it was over, so we decided to have dinner at Meloni’s, the best Italian in the area, and then Paul met up with us and we went back to his parents’ house to enjoy a beer with his dad for his birthday.

Normally, I’d want Sunday to just hang out at home, but Row House was in the middle of a witch-themed week of movies with a solid like three or four I was interested in seeing. We settled on Suspiria, partly because of the remake, and it was the only one I hadn’t already seen. We both really like it. It’s a very colorful, visually stunning movie, and while I didn’t find it to be super scary or, like, an outstanding movie, we still enjoyed it.

The area has a bunch of interesting restaurants and we’ve only ever eaten there once, so we picked a random place for dinner. We went with a Middle Eastern place, and I’m glad that at this point, there’s not much we haven’t tried, so we were familiar with a lot on the menu. Paul tried a couple appetizers and a dessert he’d never had before, and I went for a simple wrap, but all of it was really good and we were glad we tried the place.

This weekend, we celebrate Emily’s 21st birthday a couple weeks late with a casual night of drinking and playing with the cat at our house.

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Saturday 9: Unbreak My Heart

Saturday 9: Unbreak My Heart (1996)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) Songs like this are enduringly popular in part because each of us has had our heart broken. Give us the name of a heartbreaker from your own life. I think I gave a similar answer last week, but I’ve been put through worse, more difficult things emotionally than romantic heartbreak.

2) Toni Braxton sings that “nights are so unkind.” What did you do last night? Went to the gym after I wrote an article and hung out a bit, got stuck in construction traffic for a half-hour on my way back, showered, went to bed after watching some John Oliver segments.

3) While this song has Toni singing the blues, in real life her love life is happier. Now aged 50, she’s engaged and has been sporting a diamond on her left hand. Do you believe that a bride is ever too old to have a big wedding? No! A wedding is a celebration, and that shouldn’t have an age limit. I understand why some people who are remarrying decide not to do a big wedding, but I still think if they want to do it up big, go for it.

4) Growing up, Toni Braxton’s parents severely restricted how much TV their children could watch each day. Ironically, today Toni and her sisters participate in a reality TV show on the WE-TV network, so TV cameras are a big part of their daily adult lives. What TV show do you try not to miss? I don’t watch anything regularly because I don’t have cable. We stick to one or two shows we stream, then move on to the next.

5) She is prone to dry skin and applies Kiehl’s Hand Salve to her hands and arms throughout the day. Tell us about a product you’re brand loyal to. Man, I’m the queen of brand loyalty. If I find something that I like and that works, I stick to it. We’ll stick with the skincare theme–I, too, have dry skin, and I use Simple Sugars scrubs. Plus they’re local!

6) Toni admits to being “a bit of a germaphobe,” and always maintains a supply of hand sanitizer and wipes. What is always on your shopping list? Food staples and things we eat a lot–milk and yogurt I’d say are the two biggest ones.

7) While she is not shy about her body and has worn revealing outfits on the red carpet, Toni Braxton refused a 2011 offer from Hugh Hefner and Playboy to pose nude. What’s the last thing you said “no” to? A small task at work. I was right up against a deadline and couldn’t spare the time.

8) In 1996, the year this song was popular, Mattel introduced a Star Trek Barbie and Ken set. Have you ever fantasized about space travel? For a brief period, I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid. I wanted to be just about everything at one point or another, really.

9) Random question — Would you (or did you) invite an ex to your wedding? I didn’t because neither of us had seriously dated anyone else. I would depending on how things ended and what the current relationship was. It’s one of those things I see both sides of, though–I think it’s kind of weird to invite exes at all unless you’re good friends with them, to be honest, but I also think people can be a little too jealous and that sometimes, too much is made of an ex at a wedding.

Friday 5: Again or Not Again

  1. What is the story behind one of your scars? I don’t really have any. I was more of an indoor kid who never did anything that could cause an injury, and I’ve been fortunate as an adult to not get seriously hurt, either. I do currently have small scratches from the cat everywhere, though.
  2. What’s an example of your being pretty much like everyone else? My husband jokes that at heart, I’m pretty basic. I’m pretty easygoing and predictable.
  3. What’s an example of your being pretty much unlike everyone else? I have purple hair, and although that’s a growing trend, it’s still pretty rare. I think my attitudes about things are different from a lot of people, too. Money isn’t a priority. I followed my dreams, so to speak, instead of a high-paying career. I do my own thing.
  4. Of websites you look at daily (or almost daily), which have you been paying attention to longest? Ooh, I don’t know. But I think most of them have pretty much stayed the same for a long time. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, some news sites.
  5. What’s something you wish a smartphone was capable of? I don’t know, but I do have a great idea for an app for fellow frequent concertgoers.

As always, from Friday 5.

Virginia Is for Lovers

This was one of those weekends that feels like a long way off for months and months and next thing you know, you’re like, “Oh, shit, I’m going out of town and haven’t packed.”

One of Paul’s cousins decided to do a destination wedding at Virginia Beach. We were on the fence about going for a good while, having just bought a house and all, but I figured we could swing it. Plus, being a destination wedding, most of the family couldn’t go, so it kind of feels like if you can go and be there for them, you should.

It’s also the off-season, so that made things considerably cheaper and easier. And honestly? If I were to plan another beach vacation, I’d do it in the off-season. The only issue we had was traffic on the interstates driving down, and I blame that on slow driving more than anything else.

We decided to make a long weekend of it and booked the hotel Friday night through Sunday night, and being fans of sleeping, we also decided not to do the usual thing where you get up and leave super early. Instead, we let ourselves sleep in, then loaded up and left. We didn’t get on the road until almost noon, but we didn’t think it would be so bad–we were due to get in in the evening, so we figured we’d have time for dinner and maybe a quick beach visit. Wrong. Said traffic killed us, putting us two hours behind. Ultimately, we got in after 9. Jacob and Katie drove down Thursday and we were originally gonna go to dinner together, but once we figured out we weren’t gonna make it in time for dinner, we told them to go on without us. Instead, we met up in their hotel bar for a drink, then moved up to their room for wine. And we walked there and back. I opted for a cheaper hotel than they did, so we were on opposite ends of the boardwalk, but the plus is we got a lot of exercise. And we still had a beachfront room, so, I mean…

We slept in Saturday and got up for breakfast down the road–our hotel was pretty affordable, but it didn’t include free breakfast. Then we needed to run some errands, and by the time we were done with that, it was time to get ready for the wedding. Fortunately, the rain held off for the nice, short beach ceremony, and the reception was essentially just a party in a beach house. The four of us hung out a lot with each other, plus one of Paul’s cousins. Normally, I’d spend the evening dancing, but we all kind of seemed to enjoy just hanging out, especially on the beach. How can you not walk down there around sunset and just kind of…stay there until it’s so dark you’re being harassed by small crabs?

It was an early wedding, too, so we’re at this beach house for hours, thinking that it must be like 1 a.m., and turns out when we were all getting sleepy by the pool, it was like 9 p.m. The music did have to be shut off around then, so we decided to get going and enjoy the hot tub in our hotel room, the other selling point of the place.

I learned pretty fast that if we wanted to do anything down there, I was gonna have to wake Paul up, so I started doing it a little earlier each day. So Sunday, we went out for breakfast again, and with pretty limited time for the rest of our stay, we settled on visiting the Virginia Aquarium a few miles away, which we enjoyed. It wasn’t a huge place, but they had pretty cool exhibits and we had a good time. And then we hit the beach proper–getting splashed in a dress at a wedding doesn’t really count for me. I mean, yeah, sure, I went in the water, but feet barely count. You need to go play in the waves, so we got ourselves beach ready then walked from our room down to the beach and had ourselves a great time. Then we hit a dinner buffet, because it’s the beach and you have to and Paul gets our money’s worth. Hard to argue with six plates of basically everything on the thing.

The one downside to the off-season is a lot of places close early, so when I wanted ice cream at 10 p.m. on a Sunday, it took a few blocks to find it. But Ben & Jerry’s came through for me. And then I had another round in the hot tub.

I really wish we could’ve gotten in one last round of proper ocean fun, but we just didn’t have the time for it. I thought I got us up early enough Monday morning to have a little bit of time, and really, we probably could’ve done it and left later, but after the hassle we had getting down there, I wanted to leave earlier than we had on Friday. By the time we were showered and packed, it was about time to go, but I walked down for one last quick dip in the ocean before we left.

The good news is we didn’t lose to hours to traffic, but the bad news is we still probably lost one hour and did stop more, so there went another hour. We got home around 8 after leaving at 11, much to the chagrin of the cat, who had Brandon and my parents checking on her over the weekend. I don’t think she was very pleased with us, but she got over it pretty quick.

It was a really nice, fun weekend, but it went by way too fast–even just one more day of sun and sand would’ve been nice, but our vacation days for the year are dwindling. It was the first real trip we’ve taken on our own, not counting weekends in State College, and we definitely needed the downtime, but it wasn’t enough. Hopefully, now that wedding planning and moving are over and done, we’ll have more time and money next year and can take another trip to a beach, or anywhere, really.

Saturday 9: Treat You Better

Saturday 9: Treat You Better (2016)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here. 

This song was chosen because October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Please share this information about The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Let’s spread the word that there’s help out there.

1) In this song, a young man advises his neighbor to stop wasting her time with a guy who makes her cry. What is something you regret wasting time on? (It doesn’t have to be a romance.) Not advocating for myself. I wasted a lot of time letting a lot of people get away with a lot of shit because I was too scared to speak up, and I suffered for it.

2) Much of this video takes place in a very sparely decorated apartment. Because Shawn Mendes and the girl he’s singing to both appear young, it’s easy to assume they are both in their first apartments. Tell us about the first place you ever rented. Although I was in an apartment for a few years up until this summer, I was in a rented house in Pittsburgh up on Mt. Washington for six months before that with some friends. I really liked it up there–it was an old house with four bedrooms, so we had plenty of space. I really liked Mt. Washington, too. It wasn’t a super busy part of the city, but it was the kind of place that I loved as more of a city girl. Close enough to go do stuff, removed enough that it wasn’t noisy or packed with traffic. The house was older but kept up pretty well.

3) It’s clear he can hear his neighbors’ conversations and arguments through the walls. Are your neighbors quiet? Do you consider yourself a quiet neighbor? Our neighborhood now that we’re in a house is really, really quiet–that’s one of the things we commented on the most our first few weeks here. We’re the babies of the neighborhood, by far. Most of our neighbors are retired, and the ones who are too young for retirement are the same age as our parents. As for us, we’re pretty quiet–no loud noise from us. We’re gonna start entertaining soon, though.

4) This song received a lot of attention and airplay because it was used in a Southwest Airline commercial. When you last visited an airport, were you traveling yourself or meeting someone? I was probably meeting someone. I can’t remember when I was last in an airport, but I haven’t flown in a few years, so a pickup or drop-off is most likely.

5) This week’s artist, Shawn Mendes, was a serious skateboarder during his high school years. Sam has never even set foot on a skateboard. How about you? I tried it briefly. My brother had a short skateboarding phase and I hopped on it once and promptly fell right off.

6) Shawn is happy eating cold cereal with milk for every meal — breakfast, lunch and dinner. He prefers cereal with almonds in it. What about you? Do you have a favorite cereal? I don’t have one that I love about all the others. Most like a few I cycle through. When I run out of cereal and go to buy more, I usually pick something I haven’t had in a while.

7) He says he started eating cereal beyond breakfast because it’s convenient, and it helps him avoid “junk food” when he’s in a hurry. Do you often order your food “to go?” Not often. Usually only if we’re busy or just don’t feel like sitting down somewhere and eating.

8) In 2016, when this song was popular, a German shorthaired pointer named CJ won Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show. Is there a dog who holds a special place in your heart? All the dogs! But in particular, all the dogs I had as pets–Mandy as a kid, then Dandy and Duke in college until Dandy died a couple years after we adopted him and Duke died a little over a year ago. Now it’s my parents’ dog, Seger, my puppy brother.

9) And this week, we’re trying a random fill in the blank: I wish someone would create an app that _____________________________________. Okay, I have this great idea for an app that sounds like it’s kind of been done, just maybe not on the scale I have in mind. But it’s essentially a concert app with a calendar, ticket links, etc., designed for people like me who go to a lot and don’t want to miss anything and can keep track of everything.

Paul ended up with a bit a of a cold last week, and I might be getting it, too, just in time for a destination wedding of a cousin of his. So far, I just have minor congestion, so I’m hoping it’s more of a seasonal/environmental thing or that my body’s fighting it off.

But he still wasn’t feeling great over the weekend, so we really didn’t do much. We stayed home all day Saturday, and all we did Sunday was a coffee run and walk in the park.

Monday night, Paul’s sister Emily was reading on her campus again, this time as part of the annual alumni reading. We initially weren’t going to go because we’ve seen said alumni many times, and although we love them, we didn’t think driving an hour when they’re usually reading in the city was worth it. Emily had mentioned the reading twice but only mentioned her part in it once, so we kind of forgot about it–and then the professor in charge mentioned it on Facebook and I texted Paul essentially saying it was up to him. I think we both thought we ought to go, so we did. We went to Greensburg for like the third time in two weeks, four if you count me picking Emily up after my hair appointment when we saw Rollins.

We grabbed a quick dinner at Wingharts, and I kind of wish we’d eaten there on our previous Greensburg trip. Paul thinks they’re a little pricey, but I think we got better and more filling food than we had at Headkeepers the week before. Part of that is that Headkeepers is tapas, but we also both kind of felt like although the food was good, we have places we like more. Wingharts is one of them, and since we’d decided to go late, we were pretty pressed for time. Luckily, Mondays aren’t hoppin’ bar nights and we were out of there in less than 40 minutes. It was kind of perfect.

Emily was surprised to see us, since, you know, we’d said we weren’t going, and she read two short creative-nonfiction pieces we got a kick out of. Her fellow students were great, too, as were the alumni. My goal is to get invited one year, but being that I haven’t had anything creative published in going on two years now, I need to actually have work out in the world to present. I’ve got some stuff in progress and some publications in mind, I just need to get around to it.

I’m really glad we went. We ended up chatting for a while with everyone, and I think Paul and I both get a nice bit of motivation anytime we’re listening or talking to writers. They tend to make me want to get to work, but it’s also great to talk to people who kind of “get” you, as kind of dumb as that sounds. I get a satisfaction out of those kinds of conversations that I don’t get anywhere else–when people talk about “finding their tribe,” that’s how it feels.

If you want some great stuff to add to your bookshelf the (published) alumni writers were Adam Matcho and Dave Newman. And my lovely, amazing professor is Lori Jakiela.

Saturday 9: So Into You

Saturday 9: So Into You (1977)

Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) The singer says that he noticed the lady in question as soon as she walked into the room. Tell us about someone who made a powerful first impression on you. I can’t think of anyone who was, like, super memorable, but I know a few people who I had a negative first impression of, ignored it and gave them the benefit of the doubt, and go burned in the end. So my takeaway here is my negative first impressions, at least, tend to be pretty spot-on and I should trust them.

2) He sings that he’s so into her, he can’t think about other, more mundane things. Do you find you get easily distracted from your daily tasks? Or do you enjoy seeing your everyday chores through completion? I’m pretty focused–if I’m getting distracted easily, it’s because I’m burning out and need a break. My husband’s amazed at my ability to focus intently on whatever I’m doing, to the point that I once was writing while he was watching Netflix in bed right next to me and I had no problem ignoring it.

3) The band took their name from Georgia’s biggest city. Have you ever been to Atlanta? Just on a layover. But I’d like to go back and enjoy the city.

4) The Atlanta Rhythm Section once played the White House. President Carter’s son, Chip, was a big fan and invited them to play at his 28th birthday party. How did you celebrate your last birthday? Just went to hibachi. My husband’s not a big hibachi fan, so I play the birthday card to go.

5) Studio One, where the band made all their recordings, was torn down and replaced by a parking lot. Can you think of a structure that you missed, after it met with a wrecking ball? A big, old building in my hometown growing up was torn down and also replaced by a parking lot. It was a really cool building and I understand that it had sat vacant for a long, long time and repairing it probably would’ve been more difficult and expensive than demolishing, but still, it was a bummer. It still sucks to lose that kind of history and heritage, especially in that town.

6) This song hit #7 on the US pop charts. 7 is the number most often chosen as “a lucky number.” How about you? Do you have a lucky number? No.

7) Today the Atlanta Rhythm Section reunites with to play at classic rock concerts. What oldies band would you love to see again? I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of the classic acts a love, some of them more than once, but I’d love the chance to see the original Queen lineup and The Beatles. Prince and David Bowie, too, even though they’re not really bands.

8) In 1977, the star of NBC’s Chico and the Man, Freddie Prinze, took his own life. Is there a celebrity death you found shocking? Most of the ones from a couple years ago, when it seemed like the entire year was just death after death. David Bowie and Prince were surprising to me, and going back farther, Robin Williams.

9) Random question: What word do you always misspell? For a good while, I kept messing up “amphitheater,” but I’ve had to use it so often in writing about music that I’ve got it down now. More often than not, I just have dumb typos that I repeat, most recently typing “quarter” instead of “quartet.” You know how the iPhone has text replacements so you can type something shorthand and it’ll put out a longer word or phrase? We can do that at work, and I’ve put in a ton of my common typos. Makes things so much faster and easier.