When in Pennsylvania

Have you been waiting in anticipation to figure out WHERE I could have possibly gone after being in Hershey all week? No, I didn’t think so, either, so we’ll just let it out.

Obviously I had to go back to the ‘burgh!

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As soon as I found out I was going to be a mere 4-hour drive from my first home-away-from-home, I told everyone I could think of to make sure that they’d be around. I even convinced Erin to fly in from chilly New Hampshire!

We were really happy to be together again.

We were really happy to be reunited.

After finding her roaming around on campus and completely freaking out about being back, we remembered that we had a last-minute Friday Night Dinner to throw together. Off to Giant Eagle!

Erin works for Lindt at the moment, so we joke about our career rivalry sometimes, but I think I still got her trained…

Hershey love in Giant Eagle

Hershey love in Giant Eagle

Our next stop was to our friend Wes’s new place to 1. see what the hell everyone has been up to, and 2. make some delicious things! Apparently, Texas has worn off on me more than I thought it would because we chose to make my new favorite: fried pickles.

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And, I mean, if you have a bunch of pickle juice left over, might as well do some pickle juice shots, right? The Midwest boys were troopers and humored my request for something Southern.

Look at that concentration.

Look at that concentration.

We went bar hopping in the neighborhood of Bloomfield for the rest of the night, which was a first for me. With so many nooks and crannies, Pittsburgh neighborhoods leave a lot to be explored! I think I could have lived there for 8 years and still had things left to discover. (There’s my aside for why everyone should visit Pittsburgh at least once.)

The rest of the weekend was spent strolling through campus, eating our way through Pittsburgh’s quirky food offerings, and catching up with whoever we could find.

Pittsburgh popcorn: MUST have

Pittsburgh popcorn: MUST have

My go-to for anything Mediterranean. The place I got both of my tattoos is just left of this picture's frame!

My go-to for anything Mediterranean. The place I got both of my tattoos is just left of this picture’s frame!

Rain in Shadyside calls for a stop at Iron Cactus for happy hour.

Rain in Shadyside calls for a stop at Steel Cactus for happy hour.

Unsurprisingly, our happy "hour" turned into a happy marathon.

Unsurprisingly, our happy “hour” turned into a happy marathon.

I found an Abi!

I found an Abi!

It was strange enjoying the city from such a different perspective. Erin and I stayed with our friend, Nick, in South Side, so we didn’t have our own cozy apartment to go back to whenever we wanted. It was nice that we didn’t have to worry about classes or homework, but that meant that we also didn’t really have any purpose to be in Oakland, which was the center of our Universe for 4 years. That pushed us to try a lot of new places, which I hadn’t expected! It’s just an odd sensation feeling slightly out of place in a city where you belonged and called home.

The last activity before having to fly back to San Antone was to meet up with my friend, Alexis, to plan our trip to Peru and Chile!

Trip planning over coffee and baked goods has to be one of life's greatest pleasures.

Trip planning over coffee and baked goods has to be one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Bold coffee fuels bold ideas.

Bold coffee fuels bold ideas.

We hit a point in our brainstorming when we kind of decided we would just wing it and do what we felt like once we got there, which is RIGHT when a girl sitting at a table behind us turned around to ask, “are you planning a trip to Peru? I travelled through there for 6 weeks. Do you want some suggestions?” LIFE SAVER! I love when strangers come out of nowhere and are awesome people.

After all that excitement, I had to grab Erin and head back to the airport. It felt like the weekend had flown by and we didn’t get everywhere we wanted to, but I was so appreciative of being able to get a different view on “my city” and spending time with some of my favorite people without any distractions. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my short time as an “adult”, it’s that mini trips will save your sanity!

Speaking of, next on the blog brag list is quite a bit more than just a mini trip. Back to South America we go!

– Alexa

If you actually listen to me, and go to Pittsburgh, here’s where I ate and drank my face off on this last trip that I’d definitely recommend:

Pittsburgh Popcorn
Steel Cactus
Franktuary
Espresso a Mano
Big Dog Coffee

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Chimmies

Argentina has come to Fitchburg, WI. Recently, an argentine sandwich shop named Chimmies opened near my house. The menu isn’t extensive, but my parents were both quite pleased with their sandwiches; I stuck with the humita empanada (corn). The filling was quite different from the humita empanadas from good old Lo de Fercha, but it was still very tasty. They seemed to be fried, but were not the least bit greasy, and were nice and crunchy. Overall, definitely a place to visit again!

Empanadas (humita and beef)!

Empanadas (humita and beef)!

– Maddy

When Hell Freezes Over

Abi and I just got back from a trip to southern California (that post is in the works), and it’s in the 80s and sunny today in San Antonio (sorry to brag), BUT it’s still February = many of you reading this are chilling. Literally. I haven’t written in forever, so I thought I’d use a wintery, icy theme to catch up on everything big that’s happened the past few months.

So, the question is: WHAT DOES ONE DO IN SAN ANTONIO WHEN IT’S COLD?

Let me tell you.

1. Escape to Austin with your roommate from college and warm up with spicy fried pickles and beer at Banger’s on Rainey Street.

You’re right, that doesn’t answer the “what to do in San Antonio” question, but I’m getting there.

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Skeptical.

Skeptical.

2. Grab your co-worker, go out on Sixth Street, and continue the weird pickle theme by making your East Coast roomie try pickle juice shots for the first time ever.

Fairy lights make you forget it's windy and freezing. For a second.

Fairy lights make you forget it’s windy and freezing. For a second.

My minions

My minions

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I told you they were real!

3. On your way back from Austin the next day, grab some wood-fired coffee and breakfast tacos from Summermoon, then get a hat and a hug at Buc-ee’s.

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4. Attempt to sightsee in downtown San Antonio.

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Alamo drive-by

Alamo drive-by

5. Give up, and ummmm… drink some more!

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SoHo and Barriba Cantina are both highly recommended. By me. Take that for what it’s worth.

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6. Buy some touristy drug rugs on the Riverwalk, and hang out like it’s a Sunday before classes start again.

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7. Exchange a friend for a mommy, and do pretty much the same thing all over!

San Antonio, your margaritas are definitely a redeeming quality. My mom agrees.

San Antonio, your margaritas are definitely a redeeming quality. My mom agrees.

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This time, step it up a notch, and get spiked coffee at Halcyon, which is my true love.

Get some boots to keep them jeans out of the slush!

Get some boots to keep them jeans out of the slush!

8. Do that whole celebrating Christmas thing. That’ll make you all warm and fuzzy.

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The Gristmill in Gruene, TX is extra adorable for the holidays!

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9. Throw New Year’s in there, too, while you’re at it.

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10. Finally, volunteer locally to get the feel-goods flowing and help out some people in need.

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Part of Hershey’s Austin district helped out at Morgan’s Wonderland!

As you can see, the list gets a little more wholesome towards the end, but let’s be real, there’s a reason why chilly Russians are stereotyped as big drinkers. San Antonio doesn’t usually have an excuse, but yesterday was National Margarita Day, at least! Stay warm, y’all!

– Alexa

“Tuhn awn yah lights!”

Right when I thought I had finally settled enough to accept the Texas weird-isms as normalcy in my new life, it was time to visit Erin, my college roommate, in New England. Talk about contrasting cultures.

After driving to Austin in a violent mist and BARELY making my connection in Nashville, I landed in Boston.

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Erin and I had a quick running-through-a-meadow-of-flowers moment, then we jumped in the car to brave the Boston streets. For real, though, bravery was needed; almost immediately after getting on the road, a man flailing out of a truck window kindly reminded Erin to turn on her headlights (hence, the post title), then we got hopelessly turned around and *almost* got stuck on a road that I was told is the traffic equivalent of purgatory.

After some quick problem solving (“There’s a museum! Those are safe. Park there.”), we set off to grab foods and roam around the West/North End.

Mike's Pastry - HIGHLY recommended - Get cannolis. The line doesn't exist.

Mike’s Pastry – HIGHLY recommended – Get cannolis. Insider tip: the line doesn’t exist.

The conclusion I made after 10 minutes of winding through cobblestone streets, past bars, preppy college kids, and edgy Bostonians: I could totally live here.

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Yet, the weekend was not made for big city plans. Erin and I had some redneck things to do. Off to New Hampshire we went.

Things to do for fun in the country: gas up your car!

Things to do for fun in the country: gas up your car!

After driving for an hour and a half through complete darkness on twisty roads, where I thought the forest was definitely going to swallow us whole, we arrived at the House of Erin and were greeted by the biggest puff ball (“dog”) that I’ve ever met.

Meet Dakota!

Meet Dakota!

Then my old person lifestyle kicked in, and I passed out for the night.

When I woke up to this the next morning, I knew I had made a great destination choice to get away from work for a few days.

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I forgot to mention that what originally sparked my plane ticket purchase was an event in my calendar titled “Chicken Roast in NH!” It was mostly a joke… but actually not at all because that’s exactly where we went.

Cheers (& an antler chandelier) to country living!

Cheers (& an antler chandelier) to country living!

We strolled on down the road to the next door neighbor’s barn, where we were greeted by a whole mess of people in jeans, work boots, and ball caps and a flatbed trailer covered in a table cloth and full of food. I could not be more excited. Erin and I raised our glasses of sangria (one step above jungle juice but still very college) to our country upbringings, and dug in.

Hours passed by in a whirlwind of pickup trucks, family friends, and an army of grilled chickens before we called it a day.

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Or, we would have called it a day if Erin’s dad hadn’t force fed us his signature margaritas (the signature being that they’re REALLY STRONG).

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The next day we climbed to the top of the world. No biggie.

Survival skillz

Survival skillz

… then counteracted all the super fit outdoors-y hiking exercise with New Hampshire’s best ice cream. SURPRISE! It wasn’t Ben & Jerry’s.

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The long drives had me feeling a little claustrophobic. I guess I never realized that I’m not a forest animal.

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The next day brought a clearing in the trees, though, because we had some ‘sploring to do. I needed another taste of Bahston.

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AND IT TASTED SO GOOOOOOOOOOOD…

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I exercised mine and Abi’s tried-and-true method of understanding the personality of a city: walk into the first H&M you can find. My suspicions were correct, and Bostonians like their edgy/preppy combo. It was beautiful.

Once Erin and I realized we really shouldn’t be shopping because we still haven’t become insta-rich, we settled on a toast to being alive and not homeless post-graduation.

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We strolled some more. Took in the sights. I had a moment where I thought I was in Scotland.

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Then, sadly, it was time for me to mosey on back to San Antone. For my first vacation since being a “real person”, I couldn’t have asked for a better mix of relaxation and sightseeing. Thanks, Erin, my dear!

The fun part will be getting to see how she handles the Texan life when she comes to visit in November. MUAHAHAHA.

– Alexa

Tea at the Frick

DSC_0069I’m in this weird do-I-stay, do-I-go limbo. Most of my friends have left Pittsburgh for bigger and better places (most recently, our BFF Robby up and moved to Seattle, and my roomie Steph is camped out in Chicago for the next four years) and I’m still…here. I love it here, but I want to leave. I want to leave, but since I’ve never left (except that one time I went to Argentina for 5 months, but there was a specific end date to that, so I’m not going to count that one) I’m overwhelmed with this feeling of terror and “how will I survive outside of Pittsburgh?!”. Everyone I know who has left is surviving perfectly fine in their new cities, however it still doesn’t help shake the feeling that I’m going to be that one person who absolutely hates their new city/job/life. My main concern is the matter of finding the “right time” (which, I’m told, doesn’t exist. It’s like what they always say about having a kid, but people do that all the time!) and the right job and the right place.

I’ll let you all know when I figure out what I need to figure out. For now I’m about 75% content with living at home, being harassed by my new kitten, saving money for those loans that start in, oh, 105 days, and enjoying my current job, which I am very fortunate to even have.

I just needed to share what’s on my mind and hopefully learn that some of you are going through/have been through the same thing. It’s not fun, but the prospect of an exciting future has never left anyone empty-handed in the long run. And hey, I can always come back and start again, right?

Now, on to what this post is actually about…I DRANK TEA!

***

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m one of those people who hate tea. Sucks, I know, with all the soothing remedies it has and the fact that it is a staple in the UK and I’m an anglophile. The first time I drank tea in a long time was a few short weeks ago at the Frick … Cafe or something. Tea house, maybe? Who knows. It’s not important. The important thing is ELLEN AND MARGOT WERE THERE! You don’t remember Ellen and Margot? Well that’s probably because Alexa and I were too stupid to get a picture of them when we were staying in their lovely house in England! Aaaand I didn’t get a picture of them when I saw them at the Frick either because I’m apparently incapable of taking a single picture of people (that’s what Alexa’s for! Except Alexa wasn’t there so there really isn’t a picture of all of us. Sorry I suck.)

I drove across town to meet up with Ellen and Margot, who were staying with Lisa (Ellen’s sister and my mother’s very good friend, hence the connection between us and them). We had a lovely time catching up, meeting some of Lisa and Ellen’s oldest friends, talking about their glory days at Pitt (and the pranks they pulled), and then snapping some pictures around the Frick with Margot. Here’s a little bit of what we saw:
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Apparently it’s called “The Cafe at the Frick.” There we go!

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SCONES!

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Mini Phipps is mini

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World’s smallest watermelon!

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It was so great to see them again and so unfortunate that Alexa had decided to move across the country and miss this shindig. I can say, however, that one more afternoon with some Brits did not convert me to a tea lover. It still tastes like watery herbs (oh wait…)

Have a good weekend!

-Abi

Like Food? So Does Pittsburgh.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it on this blog, but I’ve been taking a class called Advertising and Social Media all semester. How appropriate, right? I lovingly refer to it as “Twitter class”, but there’s a whole lot that we’ve learned beyond how to use social networks as relatively cheap advertising tools for big, evil, corporate agendas. (MUAHAHA! Kidding. Business school doesn’t teach you how to be evil. Not explicitly, anyway.)

Our big project for the semester was to create a viral video (very loose definition on the “viral” part because, well, we’ll see how that goes) about Pittsburgh. My group, being a bunch of female humans, latched on to the fact that Pittsburgh has a pretty bangin’ food scene. Thus, I give you: A Day of Pittsburgh Food.

Don’t you wish you could have such a delicious day? You can! Unless you don’t live in Pittsburgh. If that’s the case, come visit me, and we will frolic through all of the colorful and quirky dining rooms that the ‘burgh has to offer until we must be forklifted out of our chairs and rolled home.

– Alexa

Restaurants:

Quiet Storm – 5430 Penn Ave.
Station Street Hot Dogs – 6290 Broad St.
Waffallonia – 1707 Murray Ave.
Famous! Primanti Bros. – 3803 Forbes Ave. (This is closest to us, but there are tons around here, and 3 locations in FL!)
Hofbräuhaus – 2705 South Water St.

Throwback Thursday: Everything Points to Argentina

Thanks to my harassment via Twitter, Maddy and Abi can both vouch for me when I say that I’ve been a little Argentina-obsessed lately. I don’t know what it is, but the universe keeps leading me to all things Argentina: Buenos Aires blog posts, pictures of our favorite barrios, empanada recipes, and on and on and on forever. It won’t leave my head. Rather than let it continue simmering in my brain, I figured I’d dump all of my recent finds here to share with you. Tell me if I’m being crazy or if the rest of the world really is buzzing about Argentina lately!

Exhibit A:33 Things We Love About Buenos Aires

#16: Sunsets over Puerto Madero

#16: Sunsets over Puerto Madero

I found this Globetrotter Girls post on one of the blogs I read regularly, Twenty-Something Travel, as part of a compilation of what was good in the travel niche of the Internet for January. Commence serious nostalgia.

Exhibit B: Fernet con coca discovery

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Obviously, when you get a text from a fellow BsAs study abroad alum (see above: Merritt!) about a Pittsburgh tavern that has fernet con coca on the cocktail menu, you go. Immediately. You also don’t get upset when the place only has enough Fernet Branca for one drink because that’s what multiple straws are for, and even a little taste of the best six months of your life is totally worth it.

If you’re as intrigued as I was, check out 1947 because it’s awesome.

Exhibit C:Palermo y Belgrano

Gurruchaga - One of the adorable streets that was near our house!

Gurruchaga – One of the adorable streets that was near our house!

I follow I ❤ BA on Pinterest, and obviously, the name of this particular album caught my attention because it was in Palermo and Belgrano that we spent a majority of our time in Buenos Aires. Enter vivid daydreaming and more nostalgia.

Exhibit D: Pittsburgh empanadas

Pierogi or empanada? No one can be sure.

Pierogi or empanada? No one can be sure.

Remember our search for the perfect café that got carried over a bit into Spain? I just realized within the last week that we should have been continuing it in Pittsburgh! Seriously, what’s wrong with us?

Anyway, in an effort to see more of the quirky side of Pittsburgh, I stopped at a little café in the neighborhood of Polish Hill called Lili Café. Thought I’d grab some tea to warm up after traipsing through snow in the Strip District, but lo and behold, there were empanadas on the menu. Not just any empanadas, I might add, but potato/white cheddar/rosemary empanadas. If you think that I stood drooling while staring at it through the case and impulse bought the last one, you’re absolutely right. The funny thing is that the potato filling made it just seem like a pierogi in an empanada shell. That’s so Pittsburgh.

Exhibit E: Gaucho

The day has finally come. An Argentine restaurant has invaded Pittsburgh.

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As mentioned before, Abi, Maddy, and I are in the Society for International Business at Pitt. Apparently, we’ve trained everyone well because one of our freshmen members posted an article on the club’s Facebook page about Gaucho Parrilla Argentina in Pittsburgh’s Strip District just days after its doors opened. If we have anything to say about it, there will be a club trip to the restaurant ASAP.

Exhibit F: My response to this onslaught in the form of food

What else is there to do but make some emps?

What else is there to do but make some emps?

This deluge of Argentine greatness bursting forth from the back of my mind just can’t be ignored. Rather, I plan to fully embrace it. How so? By fumbling through another attempt at making empanadas, of course! This time, I’m going less traditional with a recipe for sweet potato and black bean emps. I’ll let you know how that goes.

So, what’s the conclusion? Am I going through some PTSD (Post Travel Stress Disorder)-induced obsessing, or is life trying to point me somewhere?

– Alexa

An Update (Of Sorts)

Oh heyyy, I promise we didn’t forget about you guys! We’ve just been busy getting back into the swing of a new semester (our last semester!) and we honestly haven’t been doing anything too eventful. I have, however, had mini “oh I could blog about this” moments that never amounted to any real blog posts so I thought I’d throw them all together now and give you guys a little rundown of random goings-on!

  • Exciting events coming up!
Ed Sheeran concert next week and Stephen Colbert is coming to Pitt!

Ed Sheeran concert next week and Stephen Colbert is coming to Pitt!

  • I love everything about this video. 3-minute time lapse of a cross country road trip. Definitely an inspiring piece of art.

Roadtrip USA from Mike Matas on Vimeo.

  • I’ve been trying to catch as many matches of the Australian Open as possible recently. Tennis really one of the only sports that I take time out of my day to watch and enjoy, besides for the two weeks for the Olympics where I’m borderline reclusive. I love it because you can watch it while doing something else, but there are also those times when you can’t take your eyes off the match (like that Djokovic vs. Wawrinka match today – DID YOU SEE THAT?!)
  • Pinterest has made me a baking/cooking machine this weekend. I currently have some Baked Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken in the oven (edit: just ate it and it was very good! I highly recommend this – it’s super easy and you’ve probably never had anything like it before!), and I made these babies last night:
  • I’ve also begun a new Tumblr account, Downina, where I’m going to be showcasing some of my photography. I thought some of you guys might like to see a little more of what I’ve seen over the past few years, and I hope it will motivate me to take more pictures of my daily life 🙂
  • We’re also trying very hard to get abroad after graduation, so keep checking back for travel-related plans!!!

I hope you all are having a fantastic 2013 like we are! Have you been keeping up with your resolutions? My one (unofficial) resolution was to keep up learning French on sites like Duolingo and Memrise, but I’ve failed miserably… On the bright side, I could probably hold a conversation with a little French 3 year old!

-Abi