blog_banner 20

Monday, November 30, 2009

Back to school.

Cathedral of Learning - Oakland

Today was not a good day. Among other things, I waited over an half and hour in the cold for the bus which, by the time it arrived, was packed with enough people to fill the three buses that were scheduled to come along by that point. Then, after several incident free days, Marcus decided to eat our kitchen. To top it off, Lauren took a temper tantrum during dinner and pulled out the old trick of working herself into such a frenzy that she spit up.

Just me.

But let's think back to happier times, shall we (See, look how happy I used to be)? So last Saturday, we picked up Nick and Noreen and headed out to breakfast at Pamela's in Shadyside. Pamela's is a local chain that is famous for their breakfast. They are so good, that President Obama invited the owners to the White House to make pancakes for him.

As expected, there was a bit of a wait, about fifteen minutes or so. However, after about a half and hour went by, we became a little concerned. Apparently they skipped over us. While we waited in line, Nick amused us by asking anyone wearing Penguins gear, "How about those Red Wings?" I think the hostess must have overhead him and "accidently" crossed off our name. ;) In spite of the wait, the food was served fast and delicious, and we were quickly on our way.

Inside the Cathedral.

Our first stop was the University of Pittsburgh campus, also known as Oakland. Mark and I are both alums of Pitt, and it's also Mark and my father's current employer. The Cathedral of Learning, shown above, is center of the campus. And yes, it really does look like a Cathedral inside.

Second floor view of the Common Room.

This is the Commons Room. Students can sit and hang out in the wooden chairs, which are spread around various nooks in the room. It was my favorite place to study. Oddly enough, when I went to school there in the early nineties, there used to be a Roy Rogers restaurant in the basement. That place was largely responsible for my Freshman Fifteen. That and the truck parked outside Hillman Library that sold fried rice.

Lauren and Noreen.

The big wooden thrones in the Commons Room are roomy enough for two.

Lauren hanging out in the Indian Room.

The Cathedral is also famous for it's Nationality Rooms. These are actual functioning classrooms designed around the traditions of various countries. Lauren got a kick out of playing school in each one.

Lauren adn Noreen waiting for the lecture to start.

Here's Lauren and Noreen pretending to listen to a lecture in the Indian Room.

Chandelier in the Austrian Room.

My favorite was the Austrian Room. Check out that chandelier and gorgeous mural on the ceiling!

Enjoying the big table.

Everyone liked sitting at the long table.

Little smartie pants.

Especially Lauren.

Super pose!

After our tour of the Nationality Rooms, we headed back outside. Before we moved along, Lauren insisted on performing a pointy pose.

Heinz Chapel

Our next stop was Heinz Chapel, which hosts weddings for Pitt alums. Being that it was Saturday, there was a wedding in progress, so we didn't get to tour the inside.

Laurne and Noreen in front of Heinz Chapel.

But we did get to enjoy the view from the Chapels big red doors.

The last installment of our adventures with Nick and Noreen to come tomorrow. I noticed that this post will be #78, which means there are 22 to go before the blog hits 100 posts for the year. I feel that 100 posts would be a somewhat respectable showing for the year, but can I really post an all time record of 22 times during the busy month of the year?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The night the lights went on in Pittsburgh.

Hard Rock Cafe Pittsburgh Station Square

You know, I just realized that we went from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas in three posts! I knew that time flies, but not that much!

Our chronicle is heading slightly out of order now, as the following events happened last weekend. And to get to bottom of why that is, we have to go back to the beginning of the November. At that time, I contracted a horrible respiratory infection that left me fairly incapacitated for two weeks. By the time I started getting better, Mark hurt his back while raking leaves and refinishing our floors. While that was going on, Marcus developed a taste for baseboards, followed by drywall, leaving us with a hole in our power room wall. This ultimately lead him to having a bout of explosive diarrhea.

All the while, we were preparing for last weekend when my cousin Noreen and her husband Nick were scheduled to visit us from a far away place called Michigan. After that, it was time to get ready for for Thanksgiving. So now you know why there were no blog posts for most of November!

Getting back to last weekend, we were super excited to show Noreen and Nick around town. They couldn't have picked a better weekend because the Friday of their arrival was Light-up Night, when hundreds of thousands of Pittsburghers descend upon the city to enjoy the start of the holiday season with lights, music and fireworks. Normally, we would stay as far away as possible from this event, but not even throngs of drunk holiday revelers could stop us from showing my cuz a good time!

Buca di Beppo

To be on the safe side, I made reservations at Bucca di Beppo in Station Square. We picked it because Crazy Uncle Craig works in Station Square and could easily meet us there. Not-so-Crazy Aunt Phyllis was not so lucky, as she had to fight her way through traffic to get our guests to the restaurant.

Sofia Loren & Jane Mansfield

While we waited, Mark and Crazy Uncle Craig debated the merits of Sofia Loren and Jayne Mansfield.

Happily, our guests arrived only a half-an-hour later than expected. We then got down to business of getting caught up after many years and chowing down on dinner. Since this was the first time that we had eaten at Buca, we weren't sure what to expect, but everything we ordered was very good. Because the portions are family sized, everyone got to sample apple gorgonzola salad, manacotti, braised short ribs, and of course, spaghetti and meatballs.

Lauren at Light-up Nght 2009

After dinner, we strolled around Station Square and enjoyed the sites. I have to mention that, once again, despite all the waiting and boring adult conversation, Lauren was a total trooper. This may be due to the magic of the iPuppy app on mommy's iPod Touch, but I like to think that it's because my child is perfect.

By the way, the blue shiny thing on her sweater is a necklace that I got her by donating to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It broke yesterday. *sigh*

Bessemer Court Station Square

Here she is enjoying the fountains at Bessemer Court. Lauren desparately wanted to ride the incline (or "trolley" as she called it), but the line was just too long. She didn't even fuss too much when I broke the news, once again proving that she is the perfect child.

Fireworks over Heinz Field

The evening was topped off by a lovely fireworks display.

Since I have a lot of photos to share, I'm going to break up our adventures into separate entries. Next will be Saturday's tour of the sites of Oakland...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas is popping up all over.

Trimming the little tree.

I used to make fun of people who started decorating for Christmas in November. That is, until I became one of those people. Then of course, it became the sensible thing to do.

This year, I've had to deviate from my usual procedure in order to puppy proof our decorations from Marcus. I'm debating whether I should risk my snowman tablecloth because I fear he might eat it.

Setting up the nativity.

Lauren was eager to help out. This year, she took particular interest in setting up the nativity.


I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but one of the Magi in my nativity (I think he might represent Balthasar) has some serious attitude. I imagine him saying, "C'mon, Gaspar, give the baby the frankincense already and let's beat it! The meter's running, and it's a looong way back to Persia!"

Okay, maybe not.

Elf on the typewriter.

You may have heard about The Elf on the Shelf. It's a set that includes a storybook and your very own little elf sent straight from Santa to keep an eye on your children. By day, the elf sits quietly observing, waiting for your child to stick one toe out of line so that, by night, he can travel back to the North Pole and snitch to Santa. The next day, he shows up in a another part of your home so he can patrol a new area.

While it sounds like a cute and effective way to get kids to shape up during the holiday season, it comes with an eye popping pricetag of $30. And that doesn't even include room and board for the elf! Our elf, however, cost about $4. I think he must be freelancing or something because he came to us so cheap.

Besides, we already have other well established Christmas traditions. For example, when Lauren was a baby, she loved Popping Santa. To this day, he continues to thrill.

Friday, November 27, 2009

We are thankful.

Uninvited Thanksgiving guest.

For uninvited guests.

Knight in pink armor.

And knights in pink armor.

Checking out the competition.

For healthy competition.

Potato chip stare.

And potato chips.


Lastly, for seat fillers, that are very good sports who wouldn't get mad at me for posting this photo.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Scary. Very scary.

Halloween 2009:  Scary.

When I indicated on my Halloween party invitations that the attire was "Your Spooky Best," I didn't expect much. A silly mask, or maybe a goofy pumpkin sweatshirt. So was I surprised when my guests went above and beyond the call of duty.

Halloween 2009:  Red Riding Hood.

First, there's yours truly as Little Red Riding Hood. I chose this costume because it was on sale for $10 at K-mart.

Halloween 2009: Me & my old man.

Mark dressed as a dirty old man.

Halloween 2009: Me givin' my old man some lovin.

In case you're curious, his t-shirt says, "I Support Cheerleaders." While we were very sad that Crazy Uncle Craig was under the weather and therefore could not join us, having Mark dressed this way was almost like having him at party.

Halloween 2009: The Queen.

Next we have Mel C as The Queen, with a capital "Q." All night, I couldn't think of who she reminded me of, but it finally came to mind - Cate Blanchette in Elizabeth. We all had fun trying on her wig.

Halloween 2009: The spider, the Queen and Red.

Aunt Phyl was a very cool spider.

Halloween 2009:  The Bee and The Sewer Man.

And Grandma Pinky was cute bee. She brought the Sewer Man as her date. As we were trick-or-treating, he was checking the condition of the manholes on our street.

Halloween 2009: Penguinman and Robin.

Penguinman and Robin also paid us a visit.

Halloween 2009:  Scary face.

And last, but not least, we have a very own little elephant. Lauren was in no mood to have her photo taken last night, so thankfully, Mark had taken some during a much happier time (when the costume arrived in the mail).

Of course, what would be a Halloween party without some spooky decorations and tricky treats?

Halloween 2009: Cute skeleton plates.

Cute skeleton plates that I found at the dollar store.

Halloween 2009: Spooky chandelier.

Creepy chandelier.

Halloween 2009: Eye-petizers.


Halloween 2009: Pizza mummies!

Pizza mummies!

Halloween 2009: Pumpkin bundt cake.

Pumpkin bundt cake.

Halloween 2009:  Jack o' lanterns.

Outside, we had carved jack-o-lanterns, of course.

Halloween 2009: Luminarias.

And luminarias lighting the way on the patio.

A few more photos can be seen on Flickr.