Hello all! Sorry I haven’t posted in a bit. But, we’ve been busy enjoying back-to-sorta-normal summer activities with family and friends. Rather than living a more virtual existence on the computer or watching TV, I’ve been out and about. How about you?
Following ten days in Philadelphia, we drove back across the state with my mom and Whiskey — the puppy, not the alcohol lol! She spent nearly three weeks here with us enjoying summer activities, including trips to the zoo and aviary.
A couple of weeks later, we had the best July 4th in years! Both our adult sons were here for an extended visit. It was a big dose of happiness and fun!
There was a Pirates baseball game, riding roller coasters at Kennywood, dining out at favorite restaurants in different parts of the city, and playing amusing games together. On July 4th we all pitched in to create a wonderful meal on the porch, followed by fabulous community fireworks.
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Indulging in Summer Activities
With a high vaccination rate and low transmission rate here in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, we’ve been able to visit with family and friends; enjoying many summer activities and gatherings we use to take somewhat for granted.
How about you?
Revisiting Pittsburgh with Mom
While mom was visiting from Charleston, SC, we were “ladies who lunch.” It was great seeing aunts, uncles and cousins at different locales around Pittsburgh. It had been nearly two long years since we last got together. On nice evenings, hubby, mom and I also enjoyed dinning alfresco at favorite restaurants.
Mom adores animals and was thrilled to spend a good part of one day at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium. Lunch was under the shade of a thatched roof at a safari theme restaurant. It provided a great view of the nearby grazing giraffes. We all agreed that the best part of our visit was seeing the happy young families and children.
Another afternoon we went Bird Bonding at the National Aviary.
There we got to see many endangered species, including the Andean Condor. You may recall Mr. Buzz and I seeing them while in Equador on a Hacienda Vacation.
Other favorites included seeing eagles and South African Penguins. Mom and I are both really into penguins. During a Galapagos Islands Cruise, hubby and I got to swim with them in the ocean. While on a cruise to Antarctica, my parents were mesmerized by colonies of penguins.
A Most Happy Birthday
One of the best parts of mom’s visit was celebrating my birthday.
It was the first time we were together on my actual birthday since I turned 21! Way back then, the entire family dined on lobster at the legendary Bookbinders in Philadelphia! Sadly, it closed several years ago.
During mom’s visit last summer, I introduced her to acrylic painting. She’s endowed with lots of natural talent and has taken to it with a passion! For my birthday, she painted me a panda — a creature I have adored ever since the first ones arrived at the National Zoo.
Recently in, Energetic & Playful Scottie Puppy, I shared how mom also spent a lot of time bonding and training with Whiskey. It was a wonderful visit!
Best Birthday Gift Surprise
Earlier, while visiting with our sons in Philly, I lamented how much I miss the years when they were both home to celebrate July 4th. I promise it was a passing remark, and not meant as a “mom guilt trip” lol! I also said that hubby and I were interested in experiences rather than things.
So for my birthday, the boys surprised me by announcing they were coming home for an extended visit over the upcoming holiday. They also planned a lot of summer activities we would all do together. Woo who!
Tapas Style Dinning Out
Our eldest son and his girlfriend V flew in from NYC for an entire week. Although they had to spend the first few days working, we enjoyed lunch breaks together on the porch. During the evenings, we introduced V to different parts of the city, while dining at favorite restaurants.
The first night was a Spanish meal over a pitcher of a Rioja sangria at Morcilla, a nationally recognized restaurant. We sampled and shared twelve different pintxos — tapas snacks and small plates — followed by dessert. The intimate and atmospheric restaurant is located in an old brick building in trendy Lawrenceville.
Dining at Morcilla brings back all the fabulous experiences and tapas dining we enjoyed while visiting Spectacular Spain in September, Remarkable Ronda Gorge, Moorish Town, and Seductive Seville with Flamenco Dance.
Among the things Morcilla is famous for, is the chef’s signature charcuterie. Although hard to pick a favorite dish, we all agreed must-eats include the oxtails, scallop crudo, duck confit, and chorizo. But all the dishes were delicious! Sorry I have no pictures to share, but I was just too busy eating and socializing.
Craft Brews & Gourmet Pizza
While waiting for younger son D to arrive later the following night, the four of us headed to a local craft beer spot.
Although Hitchhiker Brewing has a great outdoor beer garden, rain was threatening. We manage to grab one of the few high tops inside, before the deluge. Each of us tried ordered a different handcrafted brew; sharing and sampling all four choices.
By the time we were finished, the weather had cleared. So we headed off to dinner at Bado’s, a local pizza spot. R’s First Communion and birthday celebration had been held in the party room there, many years ago.
Bado’s popular gourmet pizzas were also served at the Peacock Theme My Favorite Things Party. So I ordered their Pollo thick crust pizza, topped with chicken, bacon, mushrooms, green onions, and gorgonzola. Fab-u-lous!
Later that evening, D and his lab mix puppy, Bentley, arrived. Unfortunately, they hit a lot of bad weather, making for a long, stressful trip.
Now six months older than his visit here for Christmas, Bentley was very well behaved. But much, much larger!
Whiskey and he were already acquainted from our visit to Philly in May. Still, the two pups interactions had to be constantly monitored for exuberant play and wresting. Although going on dual walks, much of the time they were either separated, crated or on lease. Neither seemed to ever run out of energy!
Take Me Out to the Ballpark
On Friday, the three “kids” finished up their work early in the afternoon. They were anxious to kickoff the holiday weekend at another local brewery. Not wanting to leave the pups crated for too long, hubby and I dog sat so the three could have some time together.
Then, we all headed downtown together, parking across the river from the stadium. On the way to the Northside, we came across a pop-up beer garden with a live band. The city had converted several lanes of road into a pedestrian zone. So, we each had a beverage and enjoyed the riverfront view, before walking over to PNC Park via the Clemente Bridge.
It was a festive atmosphere.
R had gotten us tickets perched directly above home plate. We enjoyed a beautiful view of the city as day turned into night.
Although the Pirates didn’t fair well against St. Louis, we had a great time. My husband loves baseball and the Pirates in particular. As a kid, he use to ride the trolley to see his hero, Roberto Clemente.
Since the first two times V came to Pittsburgh we were under virus restrictions, R made sure this visit she got a thorough introduction of his hometown.
Funniest was when I told her I couldn’t wait until the pierogi race that takes place after the fifth inning. Perplexed, she asked, “how do they race pierogis?” I explained they were people dressed in giant costumes running around the field. We each picked a character to win — Cheesy Chester, Sauerkraut Saul, and Potato Pete. Halapeno Hannah won, but only because she cheated — hitting the others with her oversized purse, lol!
Have you been to a baseball game this year?
Thrills & Chills of Roller Coasters
On Saturday morning we got a fairly early start, wanting to reach Kennywood Amusement Park shortly after it opened. Part of it was to beat the heat and humidity, but also the crowds we anticipated over a holiday weekend. However, they never really materialized. My guess is that families with young, unvaccinated children didn’t want to take the risk of exposing them to the delta variant. I noticed there were a lot fewer kids at the Pirates game too.
Founded in 1898, Kennywood overlooks the Monongahela River and is one the world’s great amusement parks. In 1987 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Three wooden roller coasters date back to the 1920s. Alongside those classics are modern thrillers like Phantom’s Revenge and The Steel Curtain — headlining Steeler Country at Kennywood.
My sons’ primary interest in going to the park, was to ride those world-famous coasters. Here we are about to take off for our first ever plunge on the new Steel Curtain. It has what feels like a near vertical, long climb up the first hill!
No amount of dramamine however, was going to convince my husband to join us. It wasn’t worth it for the motion sickness that was sure to follow! He’s okay on the wooden coasters like the Thunderbolt and Racer. It’s the turning upside down and spiraling that gets him.
When we first got married, Mr. Buzz and I loved riding coasters together. I’m fortunate that I didn’t develop motion sickness as he did. Over the years, my continued enthusiasm for riding coasters has given me “cool mom” status (at least temporarily).
As I looked at those waiting in line, however, I was definitely one of the oldest females, lol! Are you a coaster person?
We had so much fun. Other than the coasters, we also enjoyed the newly renovated Noah’s Ark (think rocking, dark fun house), bumper cars, and food.
Having taken two cars to the park, hubby and I headed home a couple of hours earlier than the kids. We needed to relieve the puppies. Besides, hubby was looking very green after he couldn’t resist riding the Phantom’s Revenge. Poor guy!
Runaway Pup & Margaritas
A few hours later, the kids came home and showered. I had to confess to my son about Bentley’s great escape. He had bulldozed right through the porch gate, gone running down the steps and out of sight in the blink of an eye! Fortunately, by the time I raced to the front of the house with a lease and treats, he was waiting by the front door.
Those thirty seconds took about five years off my life lol!
Once safely crating both puppies, I was more than ready for an icy cold margarita at a nearby Mexican restaurant!
Festive Fourth of July
Rather than heading downtown to The Point for concerts and fireworks, the guys decided they’d rather celebrate at home sweet home.
We started with a nice breakfast served on my Liberty Blue dishes. I featured the setting and table favors recently on, Festive Stars & Stripes Patriotic Decor Updates.
After cleaning up the kitchen, my youngest son immediately started the hours-long prepping necessary for the smoked barbeque ribs.
Later, we used festive paper products for an easy lunch of grilled hot dogs on the porch. I had pulled out lots of Independence Day Decorations; including bunting, spinners and flags. Here’s V sporting her light-up starry crown.
Everyone contributed to our July 4th meal and celebration. While D oversaw the four racks of ribs on our smoker (a Christmas gift), I put together Memphis baked beans to bake for several hours in the oven.
Fun & Games
While the racks and beans were cooking, the five of us played a number of fun games. First up was the strategic board game Santorini, where you build blue-domed buildings — like those we saw on the island during a cruise to Santorini, Greece: Gem of the Aegean. Greek god cards give each player unique powers. We particularly like playing in teams.
There were also numerous rounds of the great card game, Hide Your A$$ets. The first person to acquire one million dollars in points win. I highly recommend both games, and the card deck is great to take along on trips.
What are some of your family favorites?
There was also a lively round of Flamingo Croquet. All while sipping frozen watermelon margaritas, courtesy of hubby.
Throughout the afternoon, we rotated which puppy was outside on the deck and the other inside. Everyone got the opportunity to bond and play with both Whiskey and Bentley.
The boys had picked up a small arsenal of fireworks, sparklers and smoke bombs on their way home from Kennywood. One of their favorite summer activities, they set some off in daylight and the rest later that evening. Hubby kept the hose at the ready.
During fireworks, we were careful to keep the dogs inside and crated, with music playing. Surprisingly, neither seemed bothered. After returning from the local show, both puppies were taken outside to potty and walk. Despite lots of fireworks going off in the surrounding area, they seemed oddly oblivious.
Finger Lick’n Good
Everyone pitched in for the barbeque dinner on the covered back porch. There were three kinds of seasoned ribs, baked beans, and corn on the cob. Hubby made warm strawberry rhubarb crisp with vanilla ice cream for dessert. I was stuffed!
What did you have to eat on the 4th?
I kept the table setting festive but simple, using paper products. Large rimmed platters made cleanup fast and easy.
Fabulous Firework Show
Afterwards, we grabbed a couple of big blankets and drove over to the park. We wanted to stake out a good viewing spot for fireworks, clear of the trees. Listening to the live concert made for a pleasant way to pass the time, while waiting for it to get dark.
Since the park is adjacent to the high school, rec center and pool, R took V for a walk to show her around his alma mater. Here he is, remembering time spent as a snare drummer in the marching band. Mr. Buzz and I have many happy memories of when the boys were in the drumline.
It was a beautiful evening. Surprisingly, the crowd was significantly smaller than in normal years. Like at Kennywood, we saw a lot of young couples, but very few little children or strollers.
As usual, the firework display was nearly thirty full minutes long. We had to lie on our backs in order to appreciate the huge fireworks filling the sky directly overhead. I love the intimacy or close proximity to the fireworks, so that you can watch and hear the rockets launch. Then, feel the booms vibrate through your chest and smell the pleasant scent of smoke in the air.
Our community is known for its great fireworks. However, the finale was so spectacular, we teased that maybe they had combined unused fireworks from last year. It was tremendous!
Mr. Buzz and I feel very blessed that our sons have such a love and appreciation for having grown up here.
More Summer Activities & Meals to Come
In the next post, I’ll share the Cultural Cooking Adventure: Vietnamese Dishes V and I prepared together.
I hope you also had a wonderful holiday and are enjoying lots of fun summer activities.
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