Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pennsylvania Road Trip: A Preview

We're back after a great weekend that consisted of over 800 miles of driving (done solely by my saint of a husband), four cities, 12 family members, two baseball stadiums, lots of historical stuff, one heatwave and over 800 pictures. All in all, I would say our Pennsylvania road trip was a success!

As is the norm when I return from vacation, I need some time to get my life together before I recap. Not only do I have tons of pictures to weed through, but we also have quite a bit going on this week to keep me from being glued to my laptop. So, I bring you this preview post to whet your appetite, and the rest of this week will be recaps of other things (I might actually even go out of chronological order, which may make me break out in hives, but sometimes you just have to live a little, right?). Then next week, we'll talk Pennsylvania in depth. Everybody cool with that?

In the meantime, this is the CliffsNotes version of how things went down this weekend:

We left at the crack of dawn on Friday and made perfect time to Hershey, Pennsylvania. We arrived right as Hershey World opened (a wise choice), so we breezed through the Chocolate World Tour and then had time to get our Masters degrees in Chocolate Tasting on the Chocolate Tasting Adventure. That also means we ate chocolate at 9:00 in the morning, so that was a fun way to start vacation/my birthday!

Chocolate World!

Eric receiving his Chocolate Tasting diploma

After Hershey we made a quick lunch stop, then it was on to Gettysburg. We hit up the gift shop right away, where we purchased an audio tour to listen to in our rental car as we drove through the battlefields. It was beastly hot thanks to a heat wave in the Northeast, so we were pretty glad we opted for the air-conditioned auto tour, rather than the "dress-up-in-soldier-uniforms-and-ride-a-horse" tours we had previously considered. Gettysburg was beautiful, and we took a bit longer going through things than we anticipated so we were a little rushed at the end, but we did get to see everything we wanted to see. My favorite spot was Little Round Top - it's so amazing to stand on that ground and imagine what happened there all those years ago. Wow.

Hanging out with Lincoln

Surveying the battlefields

Robert E. Lee statue

Little Round Top

We got a little turned around on our way out of Gettysburg, and that coupled with our late departure and the rain delayed our arrival to Pittsburgh by about an hour from what we had been hoping for. But, we made it safe and sound. We were the second-to-last to arrive at the family reunion, and as soon as my cousin Jacob and his wife Zita arrived, we celebrated all of the birthdays in my family. There's a whole clump of us with birthdays on July 21 and 22 (myself included, as well as my "little" cousin who celebrated his 21st this year!), plus more in August, so we always have a big joint birthday cake. Mmm, cake.

How many people does it take to blow out one candle?

We had planned to take my newly-21-year-old cousin out on the town for his birthday, but it ended up being a much later night than we expected so we ended up just sticking around the house. All of us cousins went outside and hung out around the firepit, drinking beer and catching up. It's always so great to see these people!

Cousins around a fire

How is my cousin 21 already? It seems like he was just born! But, I was eight years old at the time, so I guess time has passed, hasn't it?

Saturday was our Pittsburgh Sightseeing Day. Our family split into two groups, and my aunt and uncle led a great tour for my group. We started at the top of Mount Washington for great views of Pittsburgh, then walked across the bridges and around the Cultural District, with a stop at the Toonseum.

Enjoying the Pittsburgh scenery

One of the bridges we walked across

Fun with statues in the Toonseum

The Pittsburgh Transformer, made of (or to resemble?) pieces of the bridges

We had tickets to the Pirates game at PNC Park that night, and my aunt and uncle had the great idea that we should tailgate beforehand. So, after our sightseeing we went back to the parking lot, where we fired up the grill, cracked open some beers, ate some hot dogs and roasted marshmallows for s'mores.

Uncle Mark serving as grill master


Then it was time for the baseball game, which brought Eric's "MLB Stadiums Visited" count up to 14. The Pirates lost, but we had great seats at the game and very much enjoyed the Pierogi Race. The lovely (but hot) evening ended with a beautiful fireworks display.

In PNC Park


Sunday morning we all went to church, then out to brunch. We returned home for some horseshoes and family photos, then it was time to bid everyone farewell.

My family (minus a few)!

Goofy photo time!

We made good time to Philadelphia, where we stopped right away at the Art Museum to see the Rocky Statue and run up the Rocky steps.

Looking out at Philadelphia from the top of the Art Museum steps

We found our hotel pretty easily and got checked in. From that point on, the rest of the night was a lesson in Murphy's Law. That's all I'll say about that for now.

Monday we did lots of Philly sightseeing, starting with the historic stuff: Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Declaration House, etc. We also walked downtown a bit, past City Hall and that famous LOVE statue.

Liberty Bell

Independence Hall


We then took the subway to Citizens Bank Field for a Phillies game, which means Eric has now officially visited half of the 30 MLB stadiums. Way to go, Eric!

At the Phillies game

We left the game early, then went back to the Historic District for a quick walk through the National Constitution Center, where we perused the exhibits and hung out with signers of the Constitution. You know, the usual.

Eric and Ben Franklin

By that time, we were spent, so we retrieved our rental car from the hotel and made our way back to New York. It was a great trip!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love Premiere

Well folks, today is a pretty fun day, if I do say so myself. Not only are we currently off on Day 1 of our Pennsylvania Road Trip (as this post goes live, we'll probably be in Hershey!), but it's also my 29th birthday. That's right, I'm staring down the barrel of 30. But I feel good about it, really. The 29 years of life I have enjoyed so far have been fantastic, and I have high hopes for year 30. And what better way to celebrate a birthday than with a fun vacation? Not only do I get to visit The Land That Smells of Chocolate today, but I also get to tour historical battlefields in Gettysburg, and by tonight I'll be in Pittsburgh with many of these awesome peeps:

Oh, family!

And in between all that fun, I'll be spending quality time in the car with my fabulous husband. What more could a girl want for her birthday?

But hey, enough about me!

In other news, on Tuesday we attended the Crazy, Stupid, Love premiere red carpet at the Ziegfeld Theater. It has been a while since we hit up a red carpet at the Ziegfeld, but now that Eric's firm moved offices he is super convenient to the Ziegfeld, and the promise of a Ryan Gosling sighting will get me to go pretty much anywhere.

It was hot and the arrivals were pretty sporadic at first, but towards the end there was a flurry of activity and we saw everyone we wanted to see, plus a few extras: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, Steve and Nancy Carell, Analeigh Tipton, Kate Upton, Crystal Reed and Jonah Hill. You know how I like when celebrities are friendly, so of course I must mention that Steve Carell and Jonah Hill came over to greet fans for a few minutes, but Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling spent by far the most time signing autographs. They were great! Sadly, Marisa Tomei didn't so much as turn around to wave before rushing in, which was disappointing. But hey, you can't win them all.

Steve and Nancy Carell

Julianne Moore, and the back of Marisa Tomei

Crystal Reed and Kate Upton on the left, and Jonah Hill on the right

Emma Stone looking fabulous, and Ryan Gosling looking just as drool-worthy as expected.

That's me, trying to take a picture of Emma with our new point-and-shoot camera! Nice shot, Eric.

Ryan Gosling signing autographs

Another successful celebrity-watching event to add to our list!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Giving Picasso a Run For His Money

My last post was all about creativity inspired by Pinterest, but we don't need no stinkin' Pinterest to come up with ALL of our creative ideas around here, now do we? I should think not.

A few weeks ago, Eric and I were browsing around in Michael's (I wanted to get some knitting supplies to practice with, and he is a saint and went with me) when we came across these tiny little canvases that came with tiny little easels. They were packaged in a set of two for $5, so an idea was born: we should paint portraits of each other!

Come on, people. Don't be surprised. Surely you know by now that we are dorks.

So, we stocked up on all the necessary supplies: two of those canvas/easel packs, a big ol' assortment of brushes, a starter set of acrylic paint, and even a little artist's palette. We were good to go.

Then at last, it was time to let the creative juices flow. I painted Eric, he painted me, and I painted Achilles. It was a blast.

Our workspace

Let's get this painting party started!

Eric looks like a natural.

Hard at work painting my pooch

At last, the finished masterpieces were ready for their unveiling:

Me with the painted version of myself, by the great Eric

Eric gives his portrait the side-eye right back!

Achilles shows off his profile, although the real inspiration for his portrait was the picture below:

Ah, there's that tongue we know and love.

Not too shabby, eh? We may have found our calling!

W. family masterpieces!

Monday, July 18, 2011

How Pinterest Has Changed My Life

So, is everybody familiar with Pinterest by now? Because this post is about to be all Pinterest love.

In case you are not familiar, Pinterest is a sort of online bookmarking website. You can "pin" pictures from all over the internet, organizing them into categories of your choosing. When you go back to Pinterest to review your pins, clicking on the picture takes you to the original website. It's quite a handy little contraption. Oh, how I wish something like this had existed when I was planning my wedding, because I would have been ALL. OVER. IT.

Not only can you pin things yourself, but you can also follow friends to see what they are pinning, and even peruse "everything" to see all kinds of other pins people are finding. Let me tell you what, it is a creative DREAM. Pinterest is basically an orgy of creative and inspiring ideas. It's amazing. On Pinterest, you can pretty much find any delicious/inspiring/crafty/beautiful/artistic/organizational/stylish thing you could ever dream of, and then some.

To illustrate, let's look at some examples...

First, let's talk food. I started a "Food" category for myself, which quickly turned into "Booze and Sweets," because let's face it, I'm not pinning veggies. So, you want crazy desserts that boggle the mind? If you want cookie dough wrapped in a brownie dipped in hot fudge stuffed with peanut butter cups frosted with cheesecake and baked into a cake, you could probably find it. Some of the ideas are delicious and quite tempting, and some are so out there that I feel like I gained 10 pounds just by looking at pictures of them.

Peanut butter cup brownie tort. Yeah.

This candy corn cheesecake rocks. I'll be shocked if it does not show up on our Thanksgiving table this year.
Source: grinandbakeit.com via Meghan on Pinterest

How cute is this cookie?
Source: crazydomestic.com via Meghan on Pinterest

Maybe you're not so into stuffing your face, but prefer some home decor/organization inspiration. Don't worry, Pinterest has you covered!

This is definitely on my MUST-DO list: frame some lace, and use it to store earrings. So much more elegant than my current "throw earrings in Ziplock bag" storage solution.

Seriously, how brilliant is this? Bread tags as cord labels. Genius.
Source: unplggd.com via Meghan on Pinterest

Love this.
Source: etsy.com via Meghan on Pinterest

Adorable towel storage in the bathroom! (Obviously as an inhabitant of a storage-challenged apartment, I am drawn to organizational/storage-related pins!)

Are you bored and need some crafty inspiration? Oh, have no fear. Inspiration abounds.

I know I'm just learning how to knit, but it is my goal to get good enough at knitting to make these little Gators. How cute are they?!
Source: mochimochiland.com via Meghan on Pinterest

Clearly, I need to start drinking more wine to make this adorable heart wreath.
(Heather? Molly? Mom? AD? A little help here?)

Or, maybe you're just looking for a pick-me-up or some words of wisdom or encouragement. Look no further, my friends.


Love this. Dare to try new things!

This is something I struggle with quite a bit, so this reminder helps me remember to have faith.
Source: google.de via Meghan on Pinterest

Of course, there is even more to be found on Pinterest: Fashion. Jewelry. Photography. Hair and makeup. Cute animals. Absurd products. Et cetera, et cetera. There's something for everyone, and it is a tremendous time-suck.

However, I can't say that all my time spent pinning has been wasted time. I have already put some of my Pinterest inspirations to use! Care to see how Pinterest has already changed my life?

First, remember those paintings I told you I made for the bedroom in my post about our new apartment? Well, guess where the inspiration came from? That's right - Pinterest!

This inspiration picture, found on Pinterest...
Source: lets-explore.netvia Meghan on Pinterest

...became these paintings in our bedroom!

Also, it's nothing earth-shattering, but Pinterest inspired me to use all those mason jars we have floating around (thanks to sweet tea from Daisy May's) for some bathroom storage:

This inspiration picture of a votive holder stuck in the mouth of a mason jar...
Source: flickr.com via Meghan on Pinterest

...led to the creation of this corner of our bathroom sink, with cotton balls in a mason jar, and bobby pins and Q-tips in old votive holders.

Also, remember that red, white and blue (or really, pink, white and blue) cake I made for July Fourth? Yup, you guessed it - Pinterest.

This inspiration picture (with much more vibrant colors than mine, I must say)...
Source: google.com via Meghan on Pinterest

...brought us this delicious cake in patriotic pastels.

As far as fashion/style goes, Pinterest brought me a great alternative to my normal hair-styling technique of curling with a flat iron. Thanks to a tutorial found on Pinterest, I now mix up my normal heat-heavy styling routine with a new way to get heat-free curls, to give my hair a little break periodically:

This photo on Pinterest led me to this YouTube video for heat-free curls...
Source: flickr.com via Meghan on Pinterest

...which turned out like this, and now is a regular in my hair rotation.

And, have I told you that in addition to magnets, Eric and I have been collecting postcards from our travels? I was at a loss for how to display/store them, because their varying sizes made a photo album impossible, and because we also try to buy local stamps along with our postcards, I didn't want to just glue them in a scrapbook. What is a girl to do? Well, enter Pinterest!

This idea for binding old cards and letters...
Source: simplemom.net via Meghan on Pinterest

...inspired this storage strategy for our postcards. I punched holes in the corners, and strung them onto a book ring. I used a foam sheet to make a front and back cover to protect them. (I'm not over the moon about how my front cover turned out, as the foam "markers" I used wrote a little thicker than I expected, but it works!)

Not bad, eh? I consider myself a fairly creatively-minded individual, so Pinterest is right up my alley. If you are a member of Pinterest, find me! (My username is gatormeg, or there is a link on the right hand side of my blog.) If you are not on Pinterest but want to be, leave your email address in the comments (or email me directly) and I'd be happy to send you an invite.

And thus ends my Ode to Pinterest. Happy pinning!