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.


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.

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, after a couple hours sitting in Friend Emily’s stylist chair, I came out with a pretty great shade of violet hair and a new subtle undercut in the back, then went over to Sister-in-Law Emily’s dorm to bring her back our way to see none other than Henry Rollins.

We didn’t have enough time to eat nearby–with traffic, parking, and events, especially when I believe there were both Pirates and Pens games that same day, I like a nice two-hour chunk of time to eat, and we didn’t have it. But we did have time to eat elsewhere, so we introduced Emily to the wonders of Mad Mex. It’s a shame she didn’t have the proper appetite to truly enjoy it because it’s the best.

And so is Henry Rollins. He’s one of those guys who’s come through tow a few times in the last several years and I’ve managed to miss him every time, so I jumped on this chance–25 bucks to see him in a small lecture hall in Oakland. Not bad at all. This tour is focused on his travel stories, and he has a lot of great things to say not just about what he’s learned and experienced abroad, but how some of that can apply to us here, with a nice dose of why everyone ought to travel. All three of us loved him.

We came back to the house and slept in pretty late–Paul and I have been experimenting with letting the cat roam the house now that she’s settled in, and the weekend was the first time trying it. I was worried about her getting into trouble so the slightest noise kept waking me up, and on top of that, she has a thing for attacking you under the sheets. We think the issue is that, being a cat, she doesn’t get what they’re for, so when they move, she absolutely must investigate…with her claws. I’ve noticed that for the most part, she only does this right before bed and when she’s awake and ready to take on the day in the morning, so it might also be a play/attention-getting thing, but it hurts and is not conducive to sleep. Which is how I ended up sleeping late into the morning and also why she sometimes gets kicked out with the door shut behind her, as much as I’d love to sleep with a kitty.

We took Emily to our usual coffee run, then took her back to Greensburg. We made a pit stop at the mall for a bit, and after we dropped her off, we headed over into Uniontown to see Million Dollar Quartet.

And turns out half our family was there. I knew my godmother and her husband were going, but my mom’s Aunt Elaine and Uncle Del were there, too, and we were all coincidentally in the same row, just different sections.

Million Dollar Quartet made the Broadway rounds a few years ago, but it’s a great, short musical if you like early rock ‘n’ roll. Brandon and I first saw it when the tour came through Pittsburgh a few years ago and loved it, so hearing it was gonna be in little Uniontown was a pleasant surprise. It has a runtime of just under two hours and is structured almost more like a concert than a musical, so it’s great for the non-musical-theater types, too. And funnily enough, Brandon and I enjoyed it more this time around than the first.

I took Monday off to sleep in, which I really needed, and then we were out yet again Tuesday night. And who did we run into yet again–an hour away from home in Greensburg–but Aunt Lainie and Uncle Del?

We all chose the same place, The Headkeeper, for evening food and beer. We were in the area to see Emily again, this time doing a reading on campus, and they were heading into downtown for a concert.

Emily was one of a few students on the bill opening for a pretty cool, well-known poet, Guante. I’ve never read any of her poetry before, and I was honestly impressed. And she read with the perfect amount of attitude and sass and looked awesome in this jumpsuit she got while we were shopping Sunday. All of the kids were great–and Paul kept saying, “They’re not kids!” We had a really good time, and the only bummer was that my former professor wasn’t there.

And so a solid three days of good times–four if sleeping in counts as a good time–came to and end, and the nice thing is it’s already the middle of the week. Keeping busy can be fun. This weekend, I don’t think we have any plans, but Paul mentioned maybe inviting his parents over. Failing that, my vote’s for a movie. We don’t see enough movies.

So our weekend went from a planned trip to Gettysburg to a canceled trip and no other real plans to being jam-packed with activities.

It started Friday night. One of my co-workers was getting a group of us together to go into town where said work is for the annual Oktoberfest, and originally, I figured either we wouldn’t be able to go or we’d pop in for a quick bite to eat before we hit the road. But when the trip was canceled, that freed us up to go–except Paul made plans to meet up with a friend of his later in the evening. No problem, I thought. We’d take separate cars so he could leave when he had to and I could stick around. It was a great plan that didn’t work out at all. First, construction on the interstate to get there was horribly backed up, so we took a different, longer route. And then I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going and my phone’s GPS ended up being nothing but lies, and it took us so long to get on track that there was no point in Paul sticking with me so he headed on his way. After some more struggling and then the struggle of where to park in a small town with streets closed, I finally made it and did have a good time drinking, bullshitting, and perusing the various vendors one can find at these things.

A few covered bridges are in the area, so every September, they all have festivals at the bridges. One is in one of the parks we go to a lot, but we’ve never made it to the festival because it’s always the same weekend as the annual Gettysburg trip. So I figured hey, we’re free this time, let’s check it out, so we took in more artsy vendors and more fair-like food.

Now, while I was out Friday night, my mom called with a very important question. We’d gotten word a few weeks earlier that Morris Day & the Time were gonna be playing at the casino that’s like 10 minutes from my house, but the good seats were mostly sold out by the time we found out. But something made my mom decide to take a look and see if anyone was reselling, and sure enough, someone had two tickets for pretty good seats. Originally, my mom and her best friend were gonna go and I was the backup in case said best friend couldn’t go, and sure enough…that’s how I ended up with Morris Day tickets Saturday night.

I figured it would be a good, entertaining show, but I was honestly surprised. He was super entertaining, completely in the Morris Day Purple Rain character, with all the showmanship and dance moves and attitude you see there. And getting to go to something then being home not at all long after was really nice.

And finally, on Sunday, we went to brunch as a very belated Father’s Day celebration for my dad. He wanted to go to the Grand Concourse in Pittsburgh but didn’t want to actually do it on Father’s Day, and this was the first weekend all of us were free to do it. And it was pretty delicious. Afterwards, Brandon and Kelly came over to the house to meet our new kitty, Robbin, and deliver a new toy she’s a big fan of.

And…there’s a little more to the story than that, but it’s not time to tell it just yet.

Having a cat is fun. I’ve missed having a pet–I couldn’t have any at my apartment, and although we had Paul’s gecko, a reptile who is rarely seen isn’t really what I want out of my pets. So the cat is nice. She hide for the first day or so, to the point where we pretty much never saw her, and by Friday afternoon when I finished up my work, she’d come out and was ready to play, and she’s been running all over the house ever since. Well, sort of. She seems to prefer to stick to the end of the house with the bedrooms and seems a little intimidated by the rest, although curious, and she seems to like to stay close to us. If she’s not actually sitting with us, she’s typically no farther than across the hall. Hell, she won’t even really go more than halfway down the hall if one of us isn’t at the other end. I was expecting her adjustment period to take a bit longer and I’m sure she’s still in it to some degree, but she’s very much active and having a good time. She kills us with her cuteness. She purs a lot, she has big eyes, and has the tiniest meow I’ve ever heard. We love her already. Although she did run up the chimney the first night and Paul had to grab her and pull her down. Yep.

Meanwhile, outside of the house, we’ve had rain for a few days straight, to the point that it’s causing flooding in other parts of town and nearby areas. We wanted to go see a movie since we had nothing else going on and didn’t want to go too far with a new kitten at home, but the road to the movie theater flooded. And then I thought about venturing at least to the South Hills, but we decided we didn’t really feel like it. Turns out that was probably for the best because the mall lost power. It’s stopped for now and we may get a reprieve for the next 24 hours-ish, but the rest of the week is a washout.

We were supposed to go to Gettysburg this coming weekend, but that’s up in the air now, too. For starters, we don’t want to leave a kitten alone all weekend, even though my mom could come check on her. We kind of feel like it’s a long time, and she’s young and still adjusting. So one of us may stay home while the other goes–no sense in us both missing out, I say. But there’s a chance that’ll be a bust in the end, too, due to rain, especially since the event we go to, World War 2 weekend, is outdoors on a farm. It’s a bit of a bummer since I haven’t been able to go in a few years, but at least if we do all bail, we don’t have to decide who stays and goes and can kind of chill. We still owe my dad a Father’s Day dinner, so there’s talk of doing that if the plans are canceled.

And then there’s the issue of grass needing cut…

Well, the downside to this being my last Saturday having to work is that the way the scheduling works means I didn’t get a three-day holiday weekend–but the perk is that normally, I’d only have Sunday off and would use a vacation day for Monday. So at least I got what would be a normal weekend without having to use a vacation day.

So Sunday, we mostly ran errands. We went for our usual coffee and pastries, but Paul wanted to try this donut place he somehow only just noticed next to Planet Fitness. Turns out it’s more of a hardcore but amazing dessert place, where you can get things like a donut ice-cream sandwich, which is as delicious and terrible for you as it sounds. We got a carrier for our new cat and stopped at the outlets for a bit, got a good gym session in, and then got frozen custard, and that’s how we ate nothing but ice-cream like products for a whole day.

We’ve had a lot of rain lately and Paul and I have a few weekends this month already booked, so the goal is already to cram in what we can when we can. So this weekend, that meant the annual trip to the Renaissance festival. We had the usual plan of getting Emily from her dorm while we were nearby anyway, and with this being the first summer that Jacob and Katie are back from California, Emily had the idea to invite them. Now, I’d thought about the two youngest siblings in the crew, but them joining would mean someone would have to pick them up and take them home, which means a solid two hours of driving out of our way, as opposed to, like, the 20 minutes it takes for Emily. But Jacob suggested we invite them, so we did the whole we’ll-take-them-home-if-you-pick-them-up deal that’s all too familiar to those of us who were constantly asking for rides as teenagers. And suddenly, I felt like my parents. I’d have had a better attitude about it if it were just teenagers without licenses, but one of them is a 20-something who just…has no motivation to drive, and that’s where I start to get annoyed with it. I have no problem driving siblings to hang out when they’re so much younger than Paul, but it’s different when you’re dealing with an adult.

Being out with them all is also kind of hilarious. There were five of them, with Julie living in Erie, and Katie and I were the only significant others in tow. And with five siblings out on a really hot day all trying to manage what to do and where to go, naturally, they got on each others’ nerves, and I feel like almost every single sibling complained about another one at some point over the course of the day. But all in all, everyone had a good time. I think I’ve talked about this before, but I’m very big on doing my best to make sure everyone in a group gets to do what they want to do–I’ve had too many times in the past where I’ve felt ignored at best and pushed out at worst, so I’ve swung hard the other direction when the roles are reversed. The catch is that based off my experience with Paul, I’m pretty sure not everyone’s gonna say, “Well, I’d like to go to this vendor or that show,” but I do what I can and hope for the best.

And we did have a nice visit with the in-laws when we dropped the boys off. They made me watch Spaceballs at last, and I realize for those who know me that the fact that I never saw it before is a major shock. Honestly, though? I enjoyed it, it was funny, but I’ve heard so many of the jokes so many times before out of context that they weren’t as funny. I think The Producers holds strong as my favorite Mel Brooks movie.

And tomorrow, we pick up our new cat! We might have the parents come hang out and see her this weekend, and maybe other than a movie or something, we’ll probably stay in–as much as I want to cram in Shakespeare in the Park this month, I also don’t want to leave a kitten alone the first weekend we have her, especially if we’re only picking her up on a Wednesday. I’d like to have an idea of what sorts of shenanigans she gets into, if any, before we head out into the city for a day.