Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pittsburgh: 31st Annual Family Reunion

When I left off yesterday, we had completed the first two stops of our road trip (Hershey and Gettysburg) and were on our way to the main event of this trip: my family reunion in Pittsburgh.

*A quick word of warning: This post will be long, detailed, and photo-heavy. But, as I am sure it will probably serve as the official record of this year's reunion, I wanted to be thorough for that purpose! People who are not my family, feel free to skim as you see fit!

This year marked the 31st Annual Family Reunion, and they are always great fun. The reunions first began when my cousin Jacob (the oldest grandchild) was just a wee lad (one-year-old, to be precise), and have continued on faithfully each year as our family has grown. In fact, we're still growing -  in just the past few years we have added a few new grandchildren and several new spouses, and the first great-grandchild is on the way this year, to proud parents-to-be Jacob and his lovely wife Zita! (You may recall when we attended their amazing wedding in Győr, Hungary two years ago!)

In years past we have held reunions at a variety of fun places, including Conneaut Lake Park in Pennsylvania, Lake Hope in Ohio, the Outer Banks of North Carolina (including one rather sad hurricane evacuation), and the mountains of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, as well as the hometowns of various family members. In recent years, we've primarily stuck to our homebase of Cleveland, OH for our reunions (with the exceptions of graduations and weddings held elsewhere), but this year we mixed it up a little bit and went to my aunt and uncle's house in Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh proved to be a great reunion venue, and the host family made us all feel ever so welcome. And it's always so great to see family travel from all over the country to get together every year!

Unfortunately, we were missing a few this year, including all of the Idaho division (my Uncle Nathan, Aimee, and cousins Alex, Taylor, Henry and Jackson) and my mom and Gary. Because she was so upset about missing the reunion, however, my mom did make an appearance in Mom-on-Chopsticks stay tuned for pictures of that!

Eric and I were some of the last to arrive in Pittsburgh on Friday evening. Of course, our hosts (Aunt Rachel, Uncle Mark, and cousins Adam and Sarah) were already there. My sister (from Florida) and grandfather (from Cleveland) had arrived earlier that afternoon, and my cousin Molly, her husband Arturo and my Uncle Peter (all from Illinois) arrived that evening. Eric and I arrived around 9:00 p.m., and by the time Jacob and Zita's flight (from Boston) got in and they got back to the house, it was about 11:00 p.m. So, we pretty much spent the first part of the evening hanging around the house and waiting for Jacob and Zita to arrive so we could eat the ice cream cake my Aunt Rachel bought for the summer birthdays. As I mentioned, I'm a part of a cluster of people with birthdays on July 21st and 22nd, and we have a couple others in August. When Jacob and Zita got in, it was cake time!

Family congregating for ice cream cake

Jacob, Gramps, me and Adam blowing out the candles, with Uncle Mark hiding out in the background

Because my cousin Adam turned 21 this year, all of his old cousins hatched a plan to take him out on the town to celebrate that evening. Unfortunately, we are all old people and it was pretty late, so we scrapped that idea. Sorry, Adam! Instead, Adam built a great fire in Uncle Mark's new firepit in the backyard (which Arturo lovingly attended to all evening), and the cousins stayed up late drinking beer and chatting around the fire.

Cousins around the fire

Me, Zita, Molly and Arturo catching up

Heather, Jacob and Eric

21-year-old Adam

Saturday morning we took our time getting up and ready, as we all worked on a plan for the day. My Uncle Mark went above and beyond in helping us all prepare for the trip, and a week or two beforehand he mailed out Pittsburgh visitors guides to everyone. Plus, when we arrived, we each found a map of Pittsburgh waiting for us on our beds. So thoughtful! Our hosts helped us all develop plans for the day: some of the group (Gramps, Uncle Peter, Jacob and Zita) went to the aviary and Andy Warhol museum, while the rest of us (Aunt Rachel, Uncle Mark, Eric, me, Heather, Molly and Arturo) went to Mount Washington and to the Cultural District. But be patient - we'll get to that!

Our bed, neatly made with our bath towels and Pittsburgh map waiting to be put to use

Mom-on-Chopsticks helping Molly and Arturo develop a Pittsburgh plan for the day

Before we hit the town, we had a little Skype session with my mom so she could say hello to everyone. Then we had a quick lunch to fuel our sightseeing in the heat!

The family gathered around the computer to Skype with my mom

Hi, Mom!

After lunch, Uncle Mark drove our tour group into Pittsburgh, where we started with a stop at Mount Washington for some fabulous views of the city.

View from Mount Washington


Heather, me, Aunt Rachel, Uncle Mark, Molly and Arturo taking in the view

Enjoying another new city

From there we drove to the baseball stadium and parked nearby, staking out our spot for that evening's planned tailgate. We then set out on foot for some more sightseeing, starting with the grounds around PNC Park.

PNC Park

Fun with baseball statues: Eric playing catcher, and me giving a great high five.

We then walked across one of the pedestrian bridges and made our way through the Cultural District.

Uncle Mark was a wonderful tour guide!

One of the bridges we walked across

Agnes R. Katz Plaza

Walking through town

We stopped to cool off and admire the artwork in the Toonseum, which had a nominal admission fee and very friendly, helpful employees. They also had a little desk where you could sit and draw to really get the cartoon creation experience.

Inside the Toonseum

Heather and Eric having fun with superhero statues

Hard at work at the drawing table

My masterpiece!

Back out on the town, we had our Pittsburgh celebrity sighting, because clearly we attract the celebs and can't escape them. Apparently Ben Roethlisberger got married that Saturday (I know...crazy, right?), and held his reception at the Convention Center downtown. As we passed the Convention Center, we passed Jerome Bettis on his way in.

Jerome Bettis

We then made our way back to the bridges and over to the other side, to meet up with the rest of our family at the Andy Warhol Museum.

Pittsburgh construction (or rather, destruction)

The Pittsburgh Transformer

Walking back across the bridge (with Mom-on-Chopsticks, of course!)

Zita and Jacob at the Andy Warhol Museum

We then walked as a group back to the car for some tailgating fun. Aunt Rachel and Uncle Mark supplied all the tasty food for us, which included lots o' beer and water, hot dogs and brats (unfortunately we forgot the buns, so Adam, Sarah and friends ran to the store to track some down), chips, salsa, etc. Molly also brought supplies for s'mores, which were amazing. As far as I can recall, the last time I had a s'more was before moving to D.C. in 2005, so I would say I was due. S'mores or no s'mores, we had a great time sitting around the car, eating, and gearing up for the baseball game!

Molly, Gramps and Uncle Peter walking to the car


Uncle Peter and Heather

Uncle Mark grilling up our dinner

Gramps, me and Adam

Sarah, Arturo, Molly and Jacob

Roasting marshmallows!

S'mores are where it's at. (Clearly, my sister agrees.)

At game time we all walked over to the stadium and found our seats. Our hosts got us great seats (courtesy of Gramps), with a perfect view of the field and the city behind it. Unfortunately, it was steamy hot with no breeze in our section, so not long after getting settled Eric and I decided to explore the stadium (and take advantage of the breeze along the Riverwalk). This was number 14 of 30 MLB stadiums on the list to visit, and it was quite nice!

PNC Park

View of the skyline from our seats

More view from our seats

Enjoying the cool(er) air along the Riverwalk

After our walk we settled back in to watch the game (the Pirates were playing the Cardinals), but the highlight for me was the Pierogi Race. Cheese was out to an early lead, but got cocky and started showboating, leading to his ultimate demise and Onion's victory. Mmm, pierogis.

Hanging out in our seats

Albert Pujols at bat for the Cardinals

Pierogies, ready to race!

Cheese is getting a little too confident...

Oh, cheese. You had to let your lead go to your head. Now look what happened! Face plant!

Onion wins!

As the night wore on, we all started to get excited for the post-game fireworks. Eric and I passed the time with a yummy sandwich from Primanti Brothers.

Mmmm, sandwich.

The Cousins Club

Enjoying the evening view

The whole gang

Finally, it was fireworks time! They put on a really great show, set very well to the music. Nice job, Pittsburgh.

Pretty, pretty


After the fireworks we all went back home and basically crashed. It was a long, fun, exhausting day!

Sunday we went to church as a family, then Gramps treated us to brunch. Thanks, Gramps!

Out to brunch

After brunch we returned to the house for our family photos.

Back row: Jacob, Arturo, Adam, Uncle Peter and Uncle Mark
Middle row: Aunt Rachel, Zita, Molly, Heather (and Mom-on-Chopsticks), me and Gramps
On the floor: Sarah, Shelby and Eric

Fun times!

Adam and Uncle Mark went to a lot of trouble building great horseshoe pits in the backyard (horseshoes are kind of a tradition at our reunions), but we had been so busy all weekend nobody had the opportunity to use them until Sunday afternoon before people started leaving. So, Arturo, Adam, Uncle Peter and Jacob got in a quick game when they could.

Horseshoe pits, and Uncle Peter putting them to use


Molly, Zita, Gramps, Jacob and Uncle Peter hanging out by the horseshoe fun

And that was about it! Uncle Peter, Molly and Arturo were the first to leave, because they had the longest drive back to Illinois. Eric and I were next, heading off to Philadelphia. Heather, Zita and Gramps all left that night, and Jacob left the next morning to go straight to a business trip. Another great reunion had to come to an end!

Thanks to our hosts for organizing such a great reunion (they really went above and beyond for us!), and thanks to everyone for traveling to be together yet again! I'm so lucky to be a part of such a wonderful family. Love you all!

Up next: Our time in Philadelphia, coming up either tomorrow or Friday, depending on when I get my life together!


moderndaywife said...

Your family all looks like they have the greatest times together :-) I love Heather's new do!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Meghan for the write-up! I was hoping someone would "volunteer". Thanks so much for coming. Glad you guys all had a good time. We loved having you all here!
Aunt Rachel

Jessica Renee said...

Aww your family looks awesome! :) I looove that your mom was there too! haha. Great pictures!