So, Paul and I, after a solid month of being busy, finally had a weekend to ourselves where we could just stay home and hang out. So that’s pretty much what we did, aside from a quick walk up to the church festival, actual church, grocery shopping, and two trips to the park to go walking.

We’ve gotten back into the habit of walking every night as long as it doesn’t rain. We average about a half hour each night, covering a distance of a little over a mile. On weekends when we go to the park (or maybe the mountains), we’ll go a little longer. The goal is to increase how far we go each week. We’re starting small around 2 1/2 miles, but I’d love to get to the point where we do the length of the park’s trails and back. God knows how long that is, but who cares?

So were on our Sunday walk when Paul decided he wanted to move from the paved trail to alongside the creek that’s sort of the center of the park, partly because it’s cooler and partly because he just likes things like that. To get over there, we had to cross the road that runs all the way through the park, and when I looked, there was a pickup truck coming, so I thought, “Better go fast.” So I went to do a little jump from the grass onto the road to go into a job across, and somehow, I lost my footing. I think what happened is there was a dip in the ground that was just enough to throw me off just enough to make me fall, but I’m not positive. All I know is one second, my foot was leaving the ground, the next is my face was hitting the pavement.

Honestly, the whole thing felt worse than it ended up being. My knees and hands both hurt, and I hit the left side of my face when I went down and heard my sunglasses break, so I was convinced I was gonna come up bleeding and that my pants were gonna be ripped and my knees all scraped. I did draw some blood on my face, but only a little. Nothing was as bad as I thought it would be, fortunately–no real injuries anywhere except for some minor scrapes on my hand face. I’m probably lucky I didn’t hurt my eye the way I hit and the way my sunglasses broke. I had some scrapes, though, and a long scratch that kind of disappeared by later that evening.

I was sure I was gonna bruise, and I don’t know whether it was the fact that I iced my face when we got home or what, but I didn’t. It’s pretty sore, though, and I had some trouble sleeping because it hurts to lie on that side. Otherwise, I’m fine.

When I told my mom, she took the opportunity to make a 16 Candles reference, as expected.


“You beat up your face!” she said.

My birthday was Tuesday!

The older I get, the more birthdays start to feel like just another day, though. I feel like this has more to do with the fact that I have a summer birthday, though, and never had to go to school or do anything on my birthday until I started working. But I still enjoy birthdays. Getting another year older doesn’t bother me or freak me out, even if this one was 27 and my dad said a few days before, “You’re gonna be 30 soon.” I think I’m still young. I think 27 isn’t a big deal.

I had to work, of course, but in the evening, we celebrated by going out to dinner. I considered trying someplace new, but I didn’t want to risk not liking a place on my birthday, so I went for the new-ish President’s Pub, a place I liked a lot the first time we went but that Paul’s not as big a fan of and never wants to go to. I was really hoping for some of their truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, but they changed their menu up a but since our last visit and their mac ‘n’ cheese is now of the lobster variety, which I’m sure is delicious, but, you know, I’m a vegetarian. I’m known for visiting a restaurant and getting the same thing every time, though, so it was a good excuse to try some of the other menu items that appealed to me. I went for their grilled cheese with gruyere and avocado, which was really good. Next time, unless the truffle mac ‘n’ cheese is back, I’ll try the veggie sandwich.

For dessert, I had the lemon-berry-mascarpone cake, which I also loved the last time. I also tried one of their summer cocktails–it was winter last time we were there–called the Jackie O. I can’t remember what was in it, but it was really, really good, and I’d go back there just to drink that. Which I easily can since it’s within walking distance.

Later in the evening, we had some frozen-custard cake from Rita’s, and Paul gifted me with some tee shirts he picked up in Altoona that I not-so-subtly hinted that I wanted. He wanted to get me more but ran out of time, so he paid for a dress I picked out on a quick trip up to the outlets Friday night.

And now we’re settling into a weekend where, finally, we have no plans, no commitments, and intend on enjoying the time at home.

Saturday 9: As Long as You Love Me

Saturday 9: As Long As You Love Me (1997)

… Because Bookstraveller suggested The Backstreet Boys. Unfamiliar with this week’s tune? Hear it here.

1) This video shows the boys in the band nervously await an audition. When were you last nervous? I don’t know that I’d use the word “nervous”–“apprehensive” might be better–but the last time I saw my fiancé’s mom last weekend. She’s such a difficult person and she’s so pushy with wanting me to have a bridal shower that I’m guarded every time I interact with her, expect the worst, and prepare in advance how I’m going to respond to certain things.

2) BSB Brian Littrell was born with a congenital heart problem and had open heart surgery the year this song was released. Who is the last person you visited in the hospital? Oh, man, I honestly don’t know because fortunately, no one I know has ended up there in a long time. I think my fiancé’s grandfather a couple years ago, but I can’t remember why he was there.

3) Littrell had different health trouble in 2009. While working in Japan, he contracted swine flu, which caused the band to cancel several events. Have you battled a cold or flu this summer? No, thank God, but I usually do get one, so…

4) When you feel a cold coming on, what’s your favorite remedy? Vitamin C, sleep, and depending on the symptoms, tea.

5) Brian and his cousin, fellow BSB member Kevin Richardson, are both from Kentucky and have been inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. According to their website, if you tour the Hall of Fame you’ll see exhibits that celebrate Kentucky’s contribution to American music. Do you enjoy museums? Or do you think they’re a snooze? I do, but it sometimes depends on the museum. My dad and brother like military museums, for example, which I get bored with, and I’ve been to Pittsburgh’s art and history museum so many times that I’m kind of bored with that. But it’s still worth going when there’s a new exhibit.

6) BSB Nick Carter was named one of People magazine’s “Most Beautiful People in the World.” Who is someone you think is especially gorgeous? There’s a lot of celebrities I find attractive, to be honest.

7) This spring Nick became a father for the first time. Is anyone in your life expecting a baby this year? Nope.

8) The band has been involved in ongoing litigation with their first manager, saying he had been dishonest with them about how much they had earned. Tell us about someone you trusted, but shouldn’t have. I’ve had some issues with friends, but I don’t know that I’d say trust was among them. In fact, I don’t know that I can think of anyone who truly broke my trust, fortunately.

9) The band’s recordbreaking 1999 tour was sponsored by the Sears department store chain. Sam remembers the twice-a-year shopping trips to Sears — spring and fall — with her mother to update Sam’s school wardrobe. What’s the last article of clothing you bought? I actually did a little shopping last night! I got plain black pants for work since most of my jeans are either too tight or too worn to wear there, a Cure tee, a Harry Potter Marauder’s Map dress, and a nice, plain white dress I saw last week. My fiancé bought that one as a late birthday gift because he felt he owed me more than what he’d given me on my actual birthday. And my mom and I both have coupon books for those outlets and I knew she wouldn’t use hers from that store, so…

Friday Five: Scattergories

The letter I got was “H.” I’m honestly relieved.

  1. What brand or model of car, whose name begins with the letter, would you like to get? Honda. My mom recently got one, and it’s serving her well and has lots of cool features that my nearly 10-year-old car doesn’t.
  2. What summer activity, whose name begins with the letter, are you looking forward to? Hammock lounging. Except I don’t have a hammock. But if I did…
  3. What’s an item in your desk whose name begins with the letter? I can’t think of anything, but also, I don’t have a desk.
  4. What’s something, whose name begins with the letter, that you find frightening? Hairy spiders. Thanks to my fiancé for that one.
  5. If you had to get a tattoo on your upper arm, what’s something whose name begins with the letter that you could live with? Heart. Even though I already have one on my wrist.

My family decided to push festivities for my birthday and Father’s Day back a couple weeks. Kelly’s bridal shower was the weekend before my birthday, my actual birthday was on a Tuesday, and my dad is gonna be out of town this weekend, so we figured next weekend will work better. The plan I think will be a trip to the zoo and my dad will pick where we go for lunch.

So that freed us up for Father’s Day itself and meant we could head out with Paul’s family and not have to worry about splitting our time up that day. It also meant that his family’s usual method of last-minute plans wasn’t too much of an issue–just the fact that we live an hour away and can’t exactly just come when we’re called.

But we did make it up to Ohiopyle to meet everyone, and with pretty good timing–we showered and left right after we were told the plan and got up there a few minutes later.

Being a nice summer day, the place was packed, as usual, but Paul was excited to be there–we’ve been talking about heading up, we just haven’t had a weekend to do it. We set off on a hike through the woods, and Paul took off as usual, climbing on everything and going off on every little trail. But his family, particularly his mom, aren’t really into that method of hiking, so after a side trip over some rocks, I pulled him aside and told him that and said we’d come back some other weekend and he could go nuts, but for the time being, tone it down and let them lead the way. I had to remind him a couple times, but he got the point. And ironically, his dad made the comment to him privately that he wished he could come up alone and go off wherever. Must be where Paul gets it.

After the hike, we had some food back at the car, then drove back down the mountain to his parents’ house, where Julie was working on a Father’s Day feast. She did something similar a couple years ago for breakfast, but this time, she made a dinner of twice-baked potatoes, pasta salad, green beans, and a bunch of other foods that I don’t remember, other than strawberry brownies. We ate and hung out while his parents fell asleep, and we got going after a little bit.

All in all, it was one of the nicer, calmer holiday outings we’ve had. I actually enjoyed the day overall.

So, after a weekend out of town, we packed up and headed home on a Monday morning, then had a typical but short work week before the weekend rolled around again.

Saturday brought my brother’s fiancee’s bridal shower.

My mom texted me that Tuesday saying something like, “Your brother is driving me crazy with this shower,” and when I asked what was going on, she sent me screenshots of texts between the two of them just to make it easier. In short, he was asking her if she’d invited my future mother- and sisters-in-law to the shower, and she hadn’t–she’d only been given a small number of invitations and decided to cut it off at our family. My brother was telling her she could call them and tell them to come, and she was trying to explain that you just can’t call someone and invite them to something a few days before, in part because it looks like they were an afterthought. I told Paul that I had a very strong hunch that Brandon, in an attempt to be nice and include everyone, had gone and told these people they could come after my mom and I had both already told them on separate occasions it was gonna be a small shower and implied they weren’t invited, not realizing that it makes my mom and I look bad and that you can’t just throw people in at the last minute. Then, just after I texted my mom, Paul’s soon-to-be sister-in-law Katie texted, asking about when and where the shower was. So I called my mom and we came up with the plan to just honestly explain the situation to Paul’s sisters, and I made it a point to make it clear that they were welcome to come. Julie was at the beach anyway, and although Emily seemed like she wanted to come, she was at the mercy of her mother, who felt uncomfortable and thought it would be rude to come without a physical, formal, written invitation. I absolutely understand her discomfort because I’d be uncomfortable, too, but I do think it’s a stretch to say it would’ve been rude to go when they were told it was fine.

After all that, the shower went well and was nice. I feel a little left out among my fellow bridesmaids–they all already know each other and I’m kind of the odd one out, but they all seem like cool girls I could get along with. We were talking concerts for a little bit.

The shower made the wedding seem so much more real, too. It wasn’t until Kelly was opening blankets with their names embroidered on them that I had a moment where I thought, “Shit, my little brother is actually getting married. In barely over a month.” It didn’t really hit me until then, and Katie pointed out that within just over a year, three of us will be married. Said three couples have been together so long that it’s not really surprising and it’s pretty much already like we’re one big family, but the fact that it won’t be long before it’s all official is weird.

Katie and I also swapped wedding-planning stories. It’s nice to have an ally in the mother-in-law-law battle who understands what it’s like. Not to mention how similar Paul and Jacob are–we had so fun comparing some of their quirks. They’re definitely brothers.

I spent some time at my parents’ afterwards, mostly watching some Preacher I had my mom record for me and doing free laundry. We also got sucked into the Pens Stanley Cup highlights she’d recorded for Brandon, since he’s off at his annual two weeks’ training with the military. One of the things about being in Altoona when we won was that the news afterwards actually covered local news, whereas Pittsburgh news after any sports win, really, is pretty much about that win. I kind of missed it, honestly, because it’s part of the celebration. It was fun to watch reporters in screaming crowds on the South Side or quite literally chasing down players on the ice for interviews.

I also got my birthday present a few days early, which quite appropriately was a few Pens Stanley Cup 2016 shirts and some Wizard of Oz things my Aunt Gina had found.

Then it was back home before an Ohiopyle trip for Father’s Day.

Hotel State College

When Paul and I were looking for a place to stay in State College, we were looking for a place downtown so we could walk basically everywhere but that was as cheap as possible. Without a whole hell of a lot of research, we settled on Hotel State College, because it’s above our favorite bar and its was $65 per weeknight and $85 on weekends.

I kept joking that it was basically hotel roulette and that with that price, we could be walking into a horrible place, but it really wasn’t. It’s just that Hotel State College isn’t exactly a modern hotel. The rooms are all on the third floor, and the building has no elevator, so you’re taking the stairs every time you go in and out. Most of the rooms don’t have air conditioning, although they do have pretty effective ceiling fans. The rooms also don’t have microwaves or mini-fridges like most hotels no do, and they don’t have WiFi, either. I was able to pick up a signal from downtown State College, but you have to pay to use it and it’s something like $10 for 24-hour access or $20 for a week. The hotel also doesn’t have its own parking, so you have to rely on and pay to park in garages nearby. Fortunately, those aren’t very expensive, but between that and the WiFi, the extra costs are something to consider if your goal is to save some money. For a little more money on the cost of the room in another hotel, you’ll probably have Internet and free parking.

Costs aside, those aren’t necessarily complaints–the only reason I wanted WiFi was to have something to do other than watch TV in our room at night, and everything else I didn’t really mind. Two things that were kind of an issue, though, were the noise and hot water.

First, the hot water. Twice when I was showering, the water went completely ice-cold on me, presumably because someone else somewhere in the hotel was showering, too. The first time, it never warmed back up, not that I gave it much time to–I rinsed conditioned out of my hair and got the hell out. The second time, though, it came just as I was getting ready to get out, so I stayed in and basked in the heat.

Noise was the bigger problem, though. For being above a bar and restaurant, it’s actually generally pretty quiet–one evening when we went out, we couldn’t hear a thing until we opened the door leading downstairs. But the other side of that is street noise. It’s not too bad during the day, and even the usual noise from cars and buses isn’t too bad in the evening. But late at night, it’s tougher. I think it has to do with old, thin windows, but at night, it feels like you can hear people on the street below just talking at a normal volume. But when it’s late and people are out hitting the bars–and there are a few very close by–the noise is at its worst. I woke up a few times over the weekend because of it, including once at 2 a.m. when the bars close and everyone is in the streets yelling and laughing. If it wasn’t for the fact that we were able to sleep as late as we wanted and are both pretty heavy sleepers, it might’ve really detracted from the stay, and I’m sure for some people, it does.

All that said, the rooms are cute and our overall stay was pleasant. We did have a good time.

But we’ll be back in State College in September for a bachelorette party, and we’re leaning heavily towards going with a different hotel. The noise is a tough one to deal with.

One of the places Paul always wanted to take me to in State College was this Indian restaurant he discovered late in his time there, and when he realized late in the weekend that we hadn’t managed to make it, we decided to squeeze it in before we left town Sunday. As long as we were checked out by noon but weren’t stuck trying to kill time in Altoona before we could check in to our hotel there at 3, we had some time to play with. So we had a small breakfast of bananas and granola in our room, lounged around for a bit, checked out a little before 11:30, and got to India Pavilion in time for the start of their lunch buffet.

I’ve been told by multiple people now to try Indian food. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here, but everyone who knows me knows I just cannot handle spicy food. Now, I used to think Green Bowl’s pineapple curry sauce was spicy and I don’t anymore so I like to think I’ve built up some sort of tolerance, but overall, my tastebuds can’t take much, so I was worried about trying Indian. Fortunately, Paul has a pretty good idea of what I’ll like and what I can handle, and I trust his judgment. India Pavilion was a good choice.

I honestly don’t remember what I even ate, but I can tell you I tried every vegetarian dish on the buffet and I like every single one and went back for seconds on most of them, although it was very, very new–they were flavors I had to get used to, kind of, and keep in mind that I’m of Polish/Hungarian/German descent so I’m used to very different foods. I like trying new things, it’s just that this was probably about the biggest difference in foods I’ve experienced, but I liked it. I’d go back. I had about two plates before my tastebuds tapped out from the spice, which is respectable for me, and then I tackled the desserts they had out. Which were probably my favorite, of course.

And best of all, the whole meal cost us like $18, which is probably the cheapest date we’ve had in the history of dates.

We hit the road after that and had a pretty short drive to Altoona. We went straight over to Sci Fi Valley Con, which was pretty neat. It was very, very similar to Steel City Con, honestly. From what I hear, it’s grown quit a bit over the last few years and expanded to two floors this year, but all in all, I’d say it comes close to the same amount of space Steel City Con uses spread across one large floor with very similar vendors. But Sci Fi Valley had cooler celebrity guests, better organization, and seems to value their customers more. I can’t see us going back unless they get a great guest we can’t miss just because I don’t feel it’s worth the 2+ hour drive otherwise, but we did have a good time. And I know Paul bought me some birthday presents there.

I do think it’s interesting that some of the vendors that no longer go to Steel City Con go out there, though, and I’ve noticed that there are vendors that’ll hit Steel City once or twice but never come back. Sure, could just be that maybe they don’t do well, but with rumors floating around about vendors being unhappy with how it’s run, it is really interesting. I’ve bought from a few people now I’d buy from again if they ever came back.

We went back to the hotel and hung out for a bit until I got really hungry. Somehow, Paul wasn’t hungry, even though it had been hours since lunch, and I waited as long as I reasonably could before we hit a small local chain for dinner. And then it was back to the hotel to watch the Pens game.

And then the Pens won the Stanley Cup, and all was well.

Saturday 9: Papa Don’t Preach

Saturday 9: Papa, Don’t Preach (1986) 

If you’re not familiar with today’s song, you can hear it here.

1) Madonna has sold more than 200 million records worldwide. Do you have any of her songs on your iPod/mp3 player/phone? I do, but I’m not sure which ones–I haven’t finished migrating things over to my new computer.

2) When she first arrived in New York in search of fame and fortune, Madonna supported herself by working at Dunkin’ Donuts. What did you order last time you were at Dunkin’ Donuts? Probably a strawberry glazed donut and some sort of iced coffee.

3) Madonna and her first husband, Sean Penn, ended their marriage on New Year’s Eve, 1988. Sam’s New Year’s Eves are never that dramatic. What about you? Do you have any vivid New Year’s Eve memories you’d like to share? Not particularly. Except I think it was New Year’s when my friends had started what we called “physical challenges,” which usually involved lots of alcohol, and one such challenge was for two of them to drink a whole bottle of wine in a short span of time.

4) Madonna admits she suffers from brontophobia, aka the fear of storms. Are you scared of thunder and lightening? Not at all.

5) Onstage during the 2015 Coachella fest, Madonna shocked the audience by planting a kiss square on the lips of much-younger rapper Drake. What’s something that surprised you recently? Not much of anything, really.

6) More recently, Madonna was at the center of a controversy because Prince fans didn’t like her tribute at the Billboard Music Awards. They made themselves heard on social media. Was your last Facebook post or Tweet positive or negative? Negative on both fronts, kind of–Facebook was an article about a journalist live tweeting a Trump rally, most of which had to do with horrible things his supporters said and did, and my last Tweet was complaining about people who complain about political correctness.

7) One of the things Sam’s papa preaches about is car maintenance. He reminds her to check her car’s air filter regularly, because a dirty filter can reduce mileage. Share your own car maintenance tip with us. Ha, I don’t really have any. Except learning to change your oil yourself seems like a useful skill I would like to have one day.

8) When she was growing up, Sam’s father was often away on business. He always remembered to bring back the complimentary shampoos, conditioners and lotions from the hotels where he stayed. When will you next stay in a hotel (or motel, bed-and-breakfast or Airbnb room)? I think in August. A few years ago, my beagle had cataracts removed, and my parents opted to get the surgery done at a vet school in Ohio because it was a lot cheaper than having it done in Pittsburgh–because it’s a school, they could do the surgery for about half the cost it would be here. He has to go for annual checkups there, and I tag alone because traveling with dogs is fun. Or at least it’s fun with that particular dog.

9) To celebrate Father’s Day, Sam is giving away her father’s favorite candy: LifeSavers. Would you prefer a roll of Wild Cherry, Butter Rum, Winter Green or Peppermint? Cherry! Cherry everything always.