Next time, I’ll give the travel gods a sacrifice…

22 Jul

What a weekend! Whew.

Getting out of D.C. on a Friday afternoon is like trying to escape an impending zombie invasion by driving toward the only bridge out of town. Needless to say, our trip to Pittsburgh started with five hours navigating traffic on I-270, I-70, and the PA Turnpike. PennDOT, in its infinite wisdom had I-70 closed down to one lane for absolutely no reason. There was no one working and the pavement was fine, yet they were too lazy to pick up the cones which therefore led to a huge bottleneck. It was not pleasant. A trip that normally takes me 3 and a half or 4 hours took 5 and a half instead. We got in around 9:30 and headed out for a bite and a beer with my parents and brother.

Saturday was, of course, the big day–my Grandma’s 80th Birthday Party. We spent most of the day icing cupcakes, chopping vegetables, setting up the band, and running out for last minute things like ice, paper plates, and rolls for the pulled pork. After a quick dip in the pool, we all changed into our party clothes.

The guest of honor arrived in style wearing a beautiful black dress and a lovely corsage. Here she is with her daughter, granddaughters, and great-granddaughter. L to R: Sarah, Me, Aunt Armida, Grandma, Lily (the newest addition to the family), and Emily.

Soon, my parents’ backyard was full of family members chatting while an accordion played in the background. This was very clearly an Italian party (haha).

After a few words from my Aunt Armida, Rendezvous (my Aunt Regina’s band) began their set with my cousin John as their guest guitarist. He was in a state of nervous terror, but you’d never have known it by the way he played. He sounded great and my grandma was certainly beaming from her seat on the porch. My Aunt Armida had asked each of the grandchildren to do something special at the party. John played his guitar, Emily and Sarah gave short speeches, and my brother and did what we both do best (albeit verrrrrrrry differently). We sang. I was up first:

I joined the band on their rendition of K.T. Tunstall’s “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree.” As nervous as I felt beforehand, I just kind of blanked out and went with it. It was a blast to sing with a real band (something I don’t think I’ve ever done before outside of choir) and of course, my grandma really enjoyed it. Here she is smiling with her kids, my Aunt Armida and my Dad:

As soon as the Happy Birthday song ended, the kitchen was flooded with cookies (I think people in our family travel with cookie trays at all times), cupcakes, and copious amounts of fruit on skewers. This poor watermelon was impaled and sacrificed for the sake of aesthetics:

Then it was my brother Michael’s turn to be the center of attention. I should probably mention that he is a classically trained vocalist. Like I said, I’ve got the lounge act down, he can have the concert hall! My grandma was also trained when she was young, so she has a deep appreciation for opera. Michael sang two pieces by Tosti without breaking a sweat. All he needed was a swig of Corona in between songs (haha).

As the evening wound down and the crowd dwindled, I sat by the pool trying to make sure that Lily didn’t plunge in face first while she tried to catch the bubbles that the jets made. She reminds me of myself in the way that she “accidentally” slips into the water. She’s going to be quite the little fish. After finishing off the last of her sugar high (people were giving her cookies and fruit all day), she finally fell asleep in the living room. Joe and I gave my cousin Sarah a ride home and then sat on the porch with my brother, John and Katie until 1 am. After everyone went to bed, Joe and I sat out on the porch chatting. With how quiet it was, it was hard to believe that it had ever been remotely chaotic.

Alas, after a nice lunch with my folks and a couple rounds of Wii Bowling the next day, it was time to return to Virginia. For the first hour of our trip, everything went smoothly. Then this happened:

“What is this?” you ask? That, my friends is Joe and I standing at mile marker 131 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. And yes, traffic is completely stopped. Supposedly, 9 miles ahead of us there was a huge accident that shut down BOTH sides of the highway. Fortunately, my family had sent us on our way with leftover pulled pork and chicken, and I had a bag full of protein bars. We had a picnic standing outside and then cleaned my car out of sheer boredom. Around 2 hours passed and suddenly we saw….cars!

Well, it took another 45 minutes before traffic started up in our direction, so I took some pictures of the sunset.

We finally got home around 12:30 and after inhaling a fudgesicle I crashed. Maybe we did something to tick off the travel gods or something, but this was the hardest time I’ve had getting to Pittsburgh and back. Still, it beats driving the 12 hours from Boston any day. All in all, it was a really fun weekend and I got to see everyone I wanted to see at once.

My boss was kind enough to let me go home an hour early on Monday after I told her about our debacle, so I got home early yesterday and the evening was very relaxing. Joe and I went to see “The Dark Knight” which I was so excited for I could barely sit still waiting for it to start. Since I really didn’t want any single frame spoiled for me, I won’t spoil it for anyone else. But it was undoubtedly brilliant.

There isn’t much on my agenda this week, which is absolutely fine by me. I ordered some samples of protein powder from a fellow WLS patient’s website to see if I can find a palatable chocolate flavor to use for ice cream. I’ve come to a revised conclusion regarding the NitroCore24. While my opinion of it still stands (quite highly, I might add), what I thought was a too-sweet taste from the sugar-free pudding mix I added to the last batch was actually from the powder itself. Others tasted it and didn’t notice, but that doesn’t surprise me. It’s very common for WLS patients to have a sensitivity to very sweet or very salty foods. So, while I will absolutely continue to use it for baking, I’m back to the drawing board for the ice cream. The search is on fo
r something as creamy and smooth as the NitroCore, with just a hair less sweetness. Luckily, the website I ordered from offers sample packets of different kinds, which is nice when you don’t want to spend $35 for a tub of something that might be gross. If you’re interested in sampling bars or protein powders on your own, you can find them here.

Also, I hope to have formed some opinions on the rather bizarre trades going on in the NFL right now, and any other training camp news that might pop up.

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. Ciao for now!

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