Monday, December 22, 2014

The Past Month

To start off, Happy Hanukkah to all of my Jewish friends and family!!!  I hope everyone is having a happy and healthy holiday season so far.  I've obviously been busy, and hence the lack of posting - my apologies!  But now I've got a quick update on what I've been up to since Thanksgiving:

We flew to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving at my parents' house.  They are retiring in 2016 and will be selling the house in Fox River Grove and moving down to Florida, so this was the last year that we will ever celebrate Thanksgiving up in the Chicago burbs and it was definitely bittersweet.  I kept thinking to myself "this is the last time I'll ever see/do _____ here" and it felt quite sad.  But on the other hand, we got to spend a wonderful holiday weekend with family that included a huge Thanksgiving buffet for 28 friends and family members cooked entirely by my mom, sister-in-law, and myself, a fun Thanksgiving evening of spiked spiced cider, catching up with family, and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity with my cousins, waiting in a crazy long Black Friday line out in the cold with my sister-in-law just to get some special release Chicago craft beer for S, and a girls afternoon with pedicures.  And that was just the first 2 days!
The line for beer
On Saturday we had our classic Thanksgiving Weekend Family Day which always includes a movie (we saw Interstellar in IMAX - so good!), dinner (last time eating at our favorite Chinese restaurant in FRG), and bowling.

On Sunday we spent our morning sifting through boxes in the basement helping my parents clean out some stuff before their big move.  I took a whole extra suitcase worth of stuff back home with me and my brother took an entire truck full (he drove obviously) of stuff back with him, so I hope we helped make a dent.  We followed that up with some Mr Beefy's for lunch (an old jr. high favorite) and Julie Ann's frozen custard for desert (flavor of the day was a family favorite: blueberry cheesecake!)  We definitely tried to hit up as many of our old favorites as possible, this being our last time back and all.  My dad and my brothers all had to head out on Sunday, but S and I were in town through Monday evening, so  we spent Sunday night and Monday having some quality time with my mom.  Big story, though, is me realizing that I forgot my purse at my parent's house after we'd been in the car for an hour and 15 minutes in traffic on our way to Midway Airport on Monday evening....  believe it or not, you can get through airport security without an ID, but it's a bitch to do.  Luckily we got home ok (and thank goodness I had my cell phone on me!!)
 We arrived home (lighter one purse) to two very happy kitties.  As soon as my luggage was cleared out Dante made it known that next time he's coming with!  I also spent that following week decorating the house for the holidays!  Since Thanksgiving fell so late this year and we had travel plans coming up the following weekend, we decided to forgo a big tree this year.  But I went to town with all of the rest of the decor!

The weekend after Thanksgiving we drove out to San Antonio to visit our friend K, who had been staying out there on business.  I was still short my purse (the US Postal Service is currently on my shit list....), so I dug out my passport so that I could have some sort of ID on me and of course so I could drink at all of the breweries and bars that we planned on going to.  It was my first time in San Antonio, so we did a lot of the touristy stuff, but it was such a fun weekend with K!  We ate lots of tex mex, hit up 2 local craft breweries (Freetail was actually a brewpub, and the pizza was delicious! And the second was Busted Sandal, which was quite small but had some interesting offerings), and of course went to the Alamo and the Riverwalk!

On Tuesday my purse FINALLY arrived and so I celebrated by going on a huge buying spree at the grocery store.  S had been treating me to most of my meals since we got back from Chicago, so I made it up to him with a solid week of homecooked meals.  I was also supporting on console at work that week, so there was plenty going on to keep me busy.   The next weekend we actually didn't have anything planned, and yet we somehow managed to completely pack the weekend full of stuff including a huge baking spree.  I baked over 200 cookies, made 2 gallon size bags full of homemade chocolate covered pretzels, and did some pickling over the course of two days.  Throw in a friend's birthday party and some holiday shopping and I was BUSY and exhausted!

This past week I found out that the hardware that I'm lead for at work is going to be installed on-orbit on Christmas Eve, so there's been plenty of prep work involving that.  I've also been working on cleaning the entire house before the holidays (a habit I learned from my mom) and celebrating Hanukkah (tonight is night 7) at home.  This past weekend I helped S's brother move, met up with my Aunt B for dinner and a show (we saw the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes!), finalized holiday gifts, and finished cleaning the house.  So that's what we've been up to!  It's definitely been a busy and fun holiday season and we're looking forward to getting some time off of work in the next couple of weeks and celebrating Christmas and the New Year with family!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Kate Spade, You Slay Me

My inner design freak and my inner space nerd are both geeking out together over Kate Spade's new monthly releases, which for the month of December are SPACE THEMED!  A Kate Spade Space Shuttle purse?!?!?  Be still my beating heart!  To say I'm completely and utterly obsessed would be an understatement.  Now if only they'd go on sale.....
I love the glittered space cadet clutch with what appears to be a bejeweled, gilded Saturn clasp as well.  Kate Spade and space in one - truly a dream come true.  Time to start saving up!!!
In the event you're just as space and design obsessed as I am and just absolutely cannot stomach the Kate Spade prices, I've also come across this delightful little space themed wallet from Marc by Marc Jacobs that happens to be on sale!  PLEASE designers, take note and run with these space themed products as I am love, love, loving it!

On a space-related side note, finally saw Interstellar over Thanksgiving weekend (an update of the past 2 weeks is coming up  soon, I promise) and it was AWESOME!  Was a little disappointed that the ending had to get the Hollywood happy ending treatment, but I was definitely having a major space nerd moment during that film!  And while there were a few moments where I questioned the physics, I LOVED how they were so true to most physical explanations like the Theory of Relativity.  Neil deGrasse Tyson even gave the movie his seal of approval! (although he admittedly questioned parts of the plot as well...).  If you haven't been, you must go see!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Orion Test Flight Launches Successfully!!!

NASA's Orion test capsule successfully launched at 7:05 this morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on top of a Delta IV Heavy rocket!!!  NASA TV dropped the ball big time, starting to peter out around 30 seconds before launch and completely losing signal (for me online at least) at 8 seconds til launch, so I was FURIOUS that I missed it.  However, there is already a spectacular video online for everyone's viewing pleasure:
So why is this unmanned test launch so important?  Because this is THE next generation NASA space vehicle.  The Orion is what is going to take astronauts back to the moon, to asteroids, and even to Mars.  We're looking at the start of the next 30 years of NASA spaceflight here.  This test vehicle is the first spacecraft to go higher than ANY OTHER spacecraft since Apollo (it travelled to to a distance of 15x higher than the orbit of the ISS!!!).  Since we haven't sent any manned or soon-to-be-manned vehicles this far in over 40 years, this important Orion test flight will get NASA (and primary contractor Lockheed Martin) real-life data on the performance of Orion’s avionics, software, radiation protection (this is the first time since Apollo that we'll be traveling through the Van Allen Bbelts), heat shield, parachutes and recovery systems. 

The entire test flight only lasted four and a half hours.  Most of that time was flight powered by the Delta IV Heavy and it's associated rockets.  The Orion test capsule took 2 orbits around the earth before reaching it's peak orbit at 10:11 am (EST) and starting it's insanely fast return trip to Earth, which engineers estimate will take it to a top speed around 20,000 mph with a peak acceleration of 8.28x the force of gravity and reentry temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit!  Those are some big numbers and you can start to see why this test mission is so important if we want to eventually man these Orion capsules.  Orion successfully splashed down into the Pacific Ocean at 11:29 am EST.  You can see here a visual overview of the test mission:
If you are interested in more information about the Orion Program, you can check out NASA's Orion webpage, and you can also see the timeline of the test flight and read the real time play by play of the mission at

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Have a Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  We will be celebrating with my family this weekend and cooking up a storm tomorrow!  Friday I'll be checking out some of the more low-key Black Friday sales with my sister-in-law followed up by some pedicures (my toes are starting to look like claws again...).  And Saturday we'll be partaking of our Thanksgiving weekend family-day tradition of bowling, a movie (we're finally going to see Interstellar!) and dinner out.  So looking forward to getting to spend some quality time with the family!

May you have a fun weekend of family, friends, great food, safe travels, and maybe even some good shopping deals as well.  Let the holiday season officially begin!

(picture from here)

Monday, November 24, 2014

An Unexpected Weekend

We wound up having a much different weekend than we'd planned on, but it was still quite enjoyable and surprisingly productive!  On Friday we celebrated 2 birthdays, the first in our friend's backyard gathered around a fire pit, drinking beers, and snacking on a delicious pork loin.  The second was in town where we met up at Tacos a Go Go for dinner and then proceeded to A Fistful of Soul, a monthly event at Big Top Lounge with plenty of oldies and soul music. Lots of fun dancing and chatting with friends!

On Saturday S's autocross event got rained out - boo!  So instead we slept in a bit, ran some errands (hardware store, book store, and groceries), and then when the rain really started coming down we cuddled up on the couch with some hot cocoa and 80's movies.  I whipped up some tacos for dinner and we ended the night with more movies and some spiked hot cider.  It was so nice to just relax!!!

On Sunday we slept in for a little while as well and then got to work outside.  The temperature was in the low 70s and the sky was blue, blue, blue, so it was an ideal day for yard work.  I finally got my little citrus plants into some bigger, more permanent containers (see above) and I love the pretty blue pots we selected!  We also re-mulched the front landscaping to make sure the plants are all properly insulated for the "winter", put down more rocks around the front walk way, pulled weeds (and in the process discovered a HUGE fire ant pile in the middle of the flowers.  luckily I only got one bite...), and trimmed some of the trees back a bit.  Eventually the few mosquitoes that were still alive managed to find me and I ran across a fuzzy white caterpillar that looked suspiciously like one of THESE horrifying creatures (I'm traumatized....), not to mention we were just straight up exhausted, so we headed back into the house.  That evening I made salmon burgers from HEB along with our favorite kale salad and some delicious yucca fries and we had a Boardwalk Empire binge. 

Overall a surprisingly productive and fun weekend!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Have a Lovely Weekend!

Well Autumn came to Houston momentarily over the last week with temperature dipping down into the 30s at night and hovering in the 50s during the day and it was amazing.  We enjoyed snuggling under blankets, wearing boots and sweaters (more me than S, admittedly), and cooking up thick and hearty soups for dinner.  That is now over with as temperatures this weekend are flying into the upper 70s again!  I feel a bit disappointed, but since the weather in Chicago is down in the brutal 20s and 30s (although you Chicagoians get a minor heat wave to a high of 48 over the weekend too!), I feel like I should just shut up and enjoy it.  With the exception of a scatter of brown leaves on the ground, everything here is still pretty much green anyway so we might as well regress back to summer....

So since I'm trying to see the glass half full on this, we are planning to take advantage of the warm uptick in the weather and spend some time outside this weekend.  On Saturday we are headed to the north side of the city so S can use his birthday gift, 3 laps on an autocross track in a Ferrari or Lamborghini.  There's a 90% chance of rain on Saturday, though, so we're really hoping it will hold off until after his runs are complete.  Afterwards we're hoping to hit up Southern Star Brewery, as it's been on S's list for a while and we'll (sort of) be in the area anyway.

Sunday is going to be the first free day I've had in weeks.  We have absolutely nothing planned and so I'm hoping to fit in a combination of just vegging (reading magazines, watching movies, etc), going for a bike ride in our neighborhood, and getting some stuff done around the house like re-potting my little citrus trees and mulching the front yard.  See, definitely glass half full/taking advantage of the weather!

(picture from here)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More Space Updates!

I've been reading up on more articles and fascinating space tidbits lately and I realized that a link compilation was in order.  If you're in the mood to learn more about the work currently being done in both the private and government space sectors right now, or if you just want to look in awe at the nearly inconceivable size of our universe, then read on!

  • This article explains more about the James Webb Space Telescope, aka the Hubble replacement unit, and what capabilities it will have as well as the remaining testing it will need to undergo to certify it for launch.
  • NASA's New Horizon's probe is about to wake from hibernation just in time to go visit Pluto, now classified as a dwarf planet, in July 2015!
  • Here is a really great breakdown of Spacecraft of the Past, Present, and Future.  It covers the Space Shuttle, Orion (next generation NASA capsule), and the three privately design vehicles that were vying for NASA's Commercial Crew contract (spoiler, the Boeing and SpaceX designs were chosen).
  • And finally, a Carl Saga-esque pictorial comparison of earth, to the sun, to the universe to add a little bit of awe (and a smidgen of humble pie) to your day.  The universe is just so mind-bogglingly amazing!!!
I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ren Fest Weekend

It's a busy week at work this week, so no time for a long post.  But just a quick update on this past weekend, which was very cold and yet very fun!  We went camping on Friday night at the Texas Renaissance Festival camp grounds with 5 of our friends.  The weather was definitely chilly (it got down into the 30's that night), but we had fun sitting around the fire, drinking spiked hot cocoa, roasting marshmallows for s'mores, and attempting to tell ghost stories.  It was after the fire died down and we were all huddled in our tents under multiple layers of blankets and sleeping bags that we really felt the chill.  On Saturday morning, after about 5 hours of questionable sleep, we forced ourselves into the cold of the morning, made hot cocoa and oatmeal for breakfast, packed up camp, and headed into Ren Fest for the day!

In the fair grounds we met up with more friends (yay!) and hit up some shows, including the riveting bagpipe and drum band shown above.  One of the best parts of Ren Fest, though, is the people watching!  It was "barbarian weekend" so there were lots of warriors and animal skins in addition to the usual renaissance-type costumes of knights, maidens, fairies, etc.  Our friend dressed up as Waldo of Where's Waldo fame and his costume was actually quite the hit.  See below if you can find Waldo:
We went through a maze, saw a magician/comedian, ate lots of good food, drank our weight in hot cocoa and warm apple cider, saw glassblowing and blacksmith demonstrations, wandered through the shops galore, and even tried our hand at knife throwing!  We left a little early from the fair to meet up with our friend K back at the house that evening.  We went out for Tex Mex for dinner and wound up talking at the table for about 3 hours!  Always fun to catch up and chat!  On Sunday we slept in (definitely needed after the cold night of camping on Friday), then we very uncharacteristically (for S and I at least) went to a sports bar to watch some football and nosh on appetizers for lunch and afterwards we saw K off.  That afternoon/evening we finished unpacking from camping, did a few chores, and finally just relaxed.  I love our busy weekends, which is good because we have a bunch more coming up over the next couple of months, but at this point I'd love to have just a few days of total nothingness as well....

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Space Updates

While two weeks ago was a bit of a shit storm so to speak for the space community (both Orbital Sciences and Virgin Galactic saw catastrophic failures on their spacecraft), this week has been a welcome celebration of successes!  First off, the Rosetta mission, launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2004 released its Philae lander and successfully soft landed on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko today!!!  The spacecraft took 10 years to reach the comet, which is 4 billion miles away from earth (it had to travel aross the asteroid belt and into deep space, more than five times Earth’s distance from the Sun).  Apparently there were some thruster issues along the way, but ESA stuck with it and received confirmation this morning that Philae was successfully landed and trasmitting.  This is the first time we (humanity) have ever landed a spacecraft on a comet and to do so successfully (with full telemetry available post landing) is incredible!  Way to go ESA!  In addition, the Rosetta mission will achieve many other historic firsts:
  • Rosetta was the first spacecraft to orbit a comet’s nucleus.
  • It will be the first spacecraft to fly alongside a comet as it heads towards the inner Solar System.
  • Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to examine from close proximity how a frozen comet is transformed by the warmth of the Sun.
  • The Rosetta lander’s instruments will obtain the first images from a comet’s surface and make the first in situ analysis to find out what it is made of.
  • On its way to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Rosetta will pass through the main asteroid belt, with the option to be the first European close encounter with one or more of these primitive objects.
  • Rosetta will be the first spacecraft ever to fly close to Jupiter’s orbit using solar cells as its main power source.
This is much more information on this amazing accomplishment all over the interwebs.  In fact, if you attempt to google "Rosetta mission" you will see that even Google has updated its logo to show the Philae lander as one of it's O's.  Live coverage of the event can be found on

In other good space news, NASA's first Orion capsule was delivered to the launch pad last night!  On the way from the Launch Abort Systems Facility at KSC to Space Launch Complex 37 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station the capsule passed by the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building for a photo op and also travelled past Launch Complex 39B, the former shuttle launch pad which has been refurbished and modified to launch future Orion capsules on the currently-in-design SLS rockets.  This first Orion capsule is intended for a test mission.  It will be launched unmanned on December 4, 2104 on a Delta IV Heavy rocket, which will send Orion around the Earth twice, reaching an altitude of 3,600 miles on a four-hour, 23-minute mission to test out the crew module.  So bummed I won't make it to Florida to see the launch.  Good luck Orion!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Halloween 2014 Recap

Four parties in two and a half days and we were still productive at home!  What a weekend!  We started it off on Friday night with some party hopping to two Halloween parties.  Our costumes of choice this year?  Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction.  You can see why I had to come up with a different costume to wear to work on Friday as my official costume this year was not quite work appropriate (hello overdose nose bleed...).
We got a lot of compliments on our costumes (a random lady stopped us in the liquor store to take our picture), which was nice since we put a lot of thought into the details.  S got some drawn on sideburns and a widow's peak as well as a gold hoop earring that we scotch taped to his ear, and a toy gun that he borrowed from his nephew.  I got 90's make up, Chanel Vamp-colored nail polish, a tiny baggy of white powder(ed sugar), and a bloody nose dotted with tiny remnants of white powder.  We watched the movie on Wednesday to get our dance moves down too! 
The parties were a lot of fun, all of the hosts really went all out on some fantastic Halloween decorations and food!  The stand outs at the first party included the host's AMAZING homemade Loki costume and their homemade Battleshots game (both above) which I had never heard of before.  The second party went dark with their decor including a mock up of a Dexter-style kill room that also served as the food buffet (sadly no pictures of that one, but they also did an incredible job).
On Saturday we slept in and it was amazing.  We got up briefly to make breakfast egg sandwiches, which we proceeded to eat in bed and then we remained in bed until noon.  The kitties were in heaven with all of the snuggles.  In the afternoon we headed out to S's best friend's son's 1st birthday party.  And it was some party!  They had a bounce house/slide for the kids as well as games, delicious homemade tacos, an awesome cake, and even a pinata.  It was all shark-themed and they did a great job!
Here's the birthday boy in action whacking away at the shark pinata.  They also had a pin the fin on the shark game, a coloring table with undersea creatures (which naturally I partook of along with the other 8 year old girls), and awesome little take home bags for the kids.  We may have swiped a game of Go Fish and played for a bit during the party...  After the party we went home to grab a quick bite to eat and change back into our costumes and then we made our way to the fourth party of the weekend.
We met up with yet another group of friends to party it up Halloween-style.  This party included beer pong, some great conversation around a fire pit, a delicious punch that did not taste like it had any alcohol in it (it did), and the evening ended with a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity.  We left at the second 1:00 am (the trick of daylight savings) happy and exhausted.  On Sunday morning we basically repeated Saturday morning except I whipped up some spinach, onion, and ham omelets instead of breakfast sandwiches.  After we finally crawled out of bed, we had a super productive day including doing three loads of laundry, stocking up on sale Halloween candy, getting groceries for the week, cleaning the kitchen, and we ended our weeeknd by having S's brother K and his son over for dinner.  Yet another fantastic weekend in the books!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Have a Fun Halloween Weekend!

Perhaps the single most terrifying Halloween pumpkin ever carved.

Happy Halloween everyone!!!  I think this may be my favorite holiday - candy, costume, parties, booze, it is just meant to be fun!  We have a total of 4 parties to go to this weekend, though only 3 of them are for Halloween (the 4th is a 1st birthday party!), so I will have plenty of opportunities to get all costumed up.  I'll post some pictures of my official costume this year on Monday, but for now, here is my work-appropriate costume:
That's right, I'm getting my girl-power on Rosie the Riveter style - WE CAN DO IT!  Aside from a few gentlemen here at work who mistakenly thought I was Aunt Jemima (???), it's been a big hit in the office today.  It's so fun to dress up!!  After all of the parties, we currently have an empty Sunday, so we're looking forward to relaxing, maybe fitting in another stick-shift-driving lesson for me in S's car, and finally starting to cook with my now-ripe Meyer Lemons!

Do you have any fun Halloween plans!  I can't wait to see everyone's costumes!!

(top picture from here)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pittsburgh Vacation

So I am way behind on my posts, once again.  Sorry!  Let's start where we left off about 2 weeks ago.  The week after S's birthday we took a long weekend trip up to Pittsburgh, PA.  The trip was primarily for our good friends N and H's wedding, but we took the opportunity to turn it into a mini-vacation and explore the area a bit since neither of us had ever been before.  The best part other than the wedding was that I GOT MY AUTUMN THIS YEAR AGAIN!  The leaves were all amazing shades of yellow, orange, and red and the mountains especially were just absolutely spectacular.  We fit a lot of other activities into our approximately 3.5 day trip as well.

As soon as we left the airport we headed straight for Primanti Bros. for their famous sandwiches.  I got the sliced steak and S went for the capicola with egg.  Both were topped with melted cheese, tomatoes, coleslaw and french fries and they were huge!  After stuffing ourselves, we hit up the Andy Warhol Museum.

Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures inside (though I did sneak that second one), but the entire museum was chock full of Andy Warhol pieces ranging all the way from his childhood and through the many artistic phases of his adult career.  My favorites were his blotted line drawings and the room filled with floating mylar balloons, but there were also the classic Cambell's Soup images, his multicolored portraiture, and Brillo boxes.  After the museum we checked in at our Airbnb apartment and got settled and then headed out for some pre-dinner drinks.
Since we had a lot of places that served beer on our to-do list, we made time to fit in a trip to a cider house as well.  Arsenal Cider House and Wine Cellar had a bunch of delicious semi-sweet and bone dry ciders on tap ranging from classic apple to sour cherry, to blueberry.  S was digging their honey cider mead and I particularly liked their semi-sweet sour cherry cider, so after taste testing a bunch of others we grabbed a glass each and went to sit outside in their "cider garden".  The weather was crisp, but not too chilly (apparently the mosquitoes were still alive and kicking as well since I got 2 bites while we were out there) and perfect for leisurely sipping a glass of cider and chatting.  For dinner we headed a few streets over to the Church Brew Works.

Apparently back in the day every neighborhood in Pittsburgh had multiple churches to cater to all of the different ethnicities of the working class.  Eventually all of the different ethnic groups began to spread out, live among each other, intermarry, new generations identified as "American" rather than "Italian" or "Polish" and there was no longer a need to have a separate church for each group, creating an overabundance of churches.  A number of the churches became abandoned and as of late a number have been bought up to use for other purposes, in the case of our Thursday night dinner, a brew pub.  They had a huge number of beers that they brewed in the old church and served in the restaurant.  The food menu was fairly varied as well and included some unique options such as a roasted boar barbecue pizza (which we ordered and quite enjoyed) and other classics like burgers and pasta.  We also ordered their Seven Onion Soup which was ridiculously good, so much so that I spent a while hunting down a recipe online so I can try making it at home.  After dinner and drinks we hit up a grocery store for yogurts and fruit for breakfasts over the next couple of days and then went back to the apartment.
The next day we ate a quick breakfast at the apartment and then got started on our day fairly early. Our plan was to spend Friday driving through the mountains, touring Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, and then finding an apple orchard.  Quintessential fall.  As I said before, the mountains and the trees were just stunning to look at, I could have spent all day driving around and been perfectly happy.  But I'm even happier that we made it to Fallingwater.

Frank Lloyd Wright was based out of Chicago and so growing up in the suburbs of Chicago resulted in numerous school field trips to see his work.  So I've always been a fan.  But this house was just incredible.  I loved that they left it exactly how it was when the Kaufman family had lived there with their art and furniture still in the same places.  And the fact that the house was made to appreciate/be a part of nature while the trees all around were changing color made my appreciation of the architecture all that much greater.  If you're ever in the Pittsburgh area, I HIGHLY recommend a trip here, it was completely worth it.

After the tour we grabbed a quick lunch in a nearby mountain town on a stream and then proceeded to drive through the mountains some more to get to Simmons Farm, which happens to have an apple orchard.  This was S's first time every picking apples and I was so excited to share such a quintessentially fall pastime from the Midwest with him.  After we both picked our half pecks, we grabbed some fresh apple cider and a caramel apple to snack on outside.  So sticky.  So delicious.  S was amazed at how good the fresh apple cider was.  For dinner that night we splurged a bit at Butcher and the Rye and then hit up Fat Heads Saloon, where we met up with friends for some more specialty Midwest beers.

On Saturday was the wedding!  We got all gussied up, checked in to the hotel (which was also where the reception was held - so convenient) and then drove up the hillside to a beautiful historic church with a glorious view of the city where N and H got married.  H was probably the happiest bride I've ever seen - she literally danced down the aisle she was so excited.  After the ceremony we had a couple of drinks at the hotel and then proceeded to celebrate at the reception!
One of the fun Pittsburgh wedding traditions is to have a Cookie Table.  Friends and family of the couple spend weeks before the wedding baking up a storm for the wedding day, providing hundreds of fancy little specialty cookies to be displayed at the cookie table.  I even participated and made some of my German spice cookies for the occasion and flew them up in my carry on!  The effort everyone puts into this is such an amazing labor of love (not to mention delicious!)  In addition to the cookies, there was good food, plentiful drinks, and lots of dancing.  And we were just so thrilled for N and H!  The following morning we slept in (there were hangovers to account for) and then met up with some of our Houston friends for a delicious brunch buffet at Grand Concourse, a gorgeous old art-deco train station that had been converted into a restaurant.  And that was it.  From the restaurant we headed straight to the airport for our flight home.  It was such a fun weekend!