dear old state

This post is woefully late, but, as they say, better late than never!

Warning: This post is chock-full of photos, mostly so my dearest Emily can see this place that gives Andrew and me so much joy.  Enjoy!

Andrew and I spent the weekend at Penn State for Columbus Day weekend.  As our alma mater, Penn State has so many happy memories for us, so it’s always high on our list of places to visit.  (It doesn’t hurt that it’s only four hours away and lodging is FREE with our good friend, Adam, who teaches there.)

We left that Saturday morning with plans to get breakfast at a diner about an hour into the drive. Andrew was less than thrilled we left before 9 a.m.

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I was all decked out in my Penn State gear for the drive!


We stopped outside of Bradford, PA, at the Derrick City Diner:


I ordered a veggie omelet, but could hardly stomach the ‘cheese’ on it… I’m not normally that picky, but something about it just ruined it for me.  ‘Processed Cheese Food’ (a.k.a. American cheese) is not cheese, people!

Note the piece of cinnamon swirl bread behind my plate…it was grilled and topped with a gooey cinnamon roll icing-like sauce.  YUM.  Andrew and I polished that off easily.

We hopped back in the car and continued our drive to State College and arrived by 1:00 p.m.  After dumping our bags at Adam’s place, the three of us headed to campus for lunch.


But first–a pit-stop at Rita’s Water Ice (sadly not there when we were students) on our way to…Baby’s!  (I took a few bites of a kid’s chocolate before pitching it so as not to ruin my appetite!)


This was, perhaps, my favorite place to eat off-campus while we were students here.  It’s a 50’s-themed diner that features all the typical greasy-spoon meals you’d expect and waitresses in saddle shoes.  The chicken ‘wimpy’ basket (two slider-sized burgers) is the only thing I’ve ever ordered.  And peanut butter milkshakes.


(Adam split the milkshake with me.  This wouldn’t be the last item Adam and I share–we have similar taste!)


Our first stop on College Ave. is always The Family Clothesline, our favorite clothing and accessories store.  We stock up on new t-shirts and sweatshirts each time we go.  You’d think we’d have enough by now, but no.  We can never get enough.

It’s always mobbed, and this weekend was no exception.  Turns out it was Parents’ Weekend, which was both good and bad:  with 3x the amount of people, everything was packed, but seeing all the parents in their PSU-gear (I’m sure a good number are alums themselves) is so heartwarming.


We walked along College Ave a bit before grabbing coffees and finding a spot to sit on campus.

View of campus from College Avenue:


View looking away from campus down Allen Street from College Ave:

Views of campus near the Alumni Center:


The obelisk on campus that marks the center of the state of Pennsylvania:


A side view of Old Main:

Carnegie Hall, where the College of Communications is housed:


View from the Patee-Paterno Library:



Inside the library:


Adam wanted to check out a classroom in which he’ll be teaching this spring, so we tagged along.  It is in Thomas Building, which features the largest classroom on campus–seating for 726!  I had a class here–History of Landscape Architecture–my first semester freshman year.  Talk about overwhelmed!  See the placard on the wall in the photo below, it’s not hard to find which room it is:


Inside 100 Thomas:


The campus certainly has changed since Andrew and I were there more than ten years ago (!!!).  Below is some new materials science building or something, which used to be an open field:


Despite all the new buildings popping up all over, the campus has done a nice job preserving and enhancing ‘green spaces’ throughout.  There are gardens with seating, trees for shade and places to play everywhere you look.

Where I lived sophomore year, Mifflin Hall:


Simmons Hall, below, is an honors college dorm and where Andrew lived for three years before moving off campus senior year.  I moved onto a girls’ floor for my junior and senior year.


South Halls, which are currently getting a bit of a face-lift, and where I lived freshman year are pictured below.  Almost all the freshman live on the other side of campus in East Halls, but I was one of the ‘lucky’ few to avoid the ghetto.  I say lucky because East dorms are definitely the worst of all (no wonder–it’s where the freshman live), but it also creates a sense of community.  To orient yourself a bit, South Halls (Simmons is included in that) are just off College Ave, while North and East Halls are about a 10-minute walk up campus closer to the stadium, and West Halls (nicest, by far) are near the Lion Shrine and the other end of College Ave.


We ended up getting ice cream cones from the Creamery (one of Penn State’s claims to fame is its Food Science Department and ice cream) before heading back to Adam’s place to re-group and rest before going out to watch the football game.



That night ended up being a bit of a debacle.  Remember how I said it was Parents’ Weekend?  Yeah.  Well.  Penn State has just shy of 9,000 first-year freshman at the University Park campus.  Let’s be conservative and say only 10% of those students have 1 or 2 parents visiting (perhaps not even that many students have parents coming, but the extra will just account for the families who DID come, and who also brought along grandma, grandpa and younger siblings.)  So, all of a sudden, you have an extra 1 or 2 THOUSAND or more people roaming around campus, all wanting to go somewhere fun to watch the game.  So yeah.  The restaurants were packed.  After failing to find seating at three different places and driving back and forth from one end of State College to another, it was half-time in the game and Andrew was NOT HAPPY.  (To his credit–he told me the ONE THING he wanted to do this weekend was go somewhere fun to watch the game.  I felt terrible.)  Our last-ditch effort was at Hi-Way Pizza, a State College stand-by, and the waitress took pity on us and seated us in just a few minutes. I find telling people in positions of power your sob story can only help your situation.


I’d wanted nachos since I started thinking about the game, and Adam said he’d help me eat them.  I don’t think I’d had nachos in 10 YEARS! Adam is such a good sport.  We’re always sharing hawaiian pizzas and things since Andrew doesn’t like anything that I do.


The next morning, we were up bright and early to get into the Waffle Shop before the line formed.  I snapped this photo at about 8:15 Sunday morning:


The Waffle Shop is THE place to go for breakfast at Penn State.  There are three locations, one on College Ave., and the other two are just a couple minutes from campus.  They’re all a madhouse with lines out the door from about 9 to 11 (or later) each Saturday and Sunday morning.  We knew if we didn’t get there early, Andrew would throw a fit about having to wait in line.  We were seated immediately, and within 15 minutes the line began inside.

I’ve always ordered the chocolate chip pancakes:


Adam discovered the grilled blueberry muffin on a previous trip and I had to try it.  OMG.  It’s heavenly.


And here’s the line when we left, which is NOTHING compared to how long it WILL get:

After our breakfast, we went back to Adam’s apartment, where I baked him a batch of muffins as a ‘thank-you’ for hosting us.


I even brought my own apron–the Andrew apron–that Adam gave me a while ago.  He tends to do funny things with photos of Andrew…there are two blankets and mug as well!


Adam helped a bit, too!

Once the muffins were finished, we said our goodbyes and headed off to do some more campus-walking ourselves.  We were blessed with a beautiful weekend, especially as we’d prepared for rain.

Our first stop was the HUB, which is the student union building.  Many fond memories here–meeting up with friends, grabbing lunch at Panda Express or a wheat bagel with peanut butter and honey for breakfast.


The giant aquarium downstairs is a well known meeting place for many students, and Andrew and I were no different.  We met up there many times a week on our way to or from classes.  We always take a picture there.


More views of campus:

Old Main from College Ave:

Here’s Rec Hall, on the west side of campus, where my ROTC flight-mates and I would gather twice a week at 5:50 a.m. for PT.  


Rec Hall is next to the Lion Shrine, where countless students, friends and family gather to take photos.  One day we may have a family photo there.


Here’s looking from the Lion Shrine inward toward campus.  At the end of this long road is the stadium.


More views, this one just outside the Forum Building:


The Forum is a round building of classrooms, all set up with theater-style seats.  Andrew took chemistry there.  He tells a story about how he won $5 sophomore year from a friend who bet him he’d end up going out with some other girl in their class.  Just a few months into OUR relationship at that point, this friend gave him the money and said the writing was on the wall:  Andrew was going to marry that girl, Holly.  And he did 🙂


This is the Palmer Art Museum.  I’ve never been in it.  Not once.  But I’ve always loved it.


View from East Halls down toward the South end of campus and College Ave:



East Halls has 14 dorms and houses about 5,000 freshman.  It’s the largest block of dorms on campus:


View from East Halls over the tennis courts with Mount Nittany in the background:


Wagner Building, which is next to the tennis courts and across from East Halls, houses the ROTC programs on campus.  It has an armory around the back. I spent A LOT of time in that building.



Just beyond Wagner building is the intersection that separates the campus from Beaver Stadium (capacity: 106,572) and the Bryce Jordan Center (basketball, concerts, commencement, etc…):



Apparently brand-new Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula is a Penn Stater, too!  Note the also brand-new Pegula Ice Area, below.  Makes him feel like family.  (For those who don’t know, the Buffalo Bills, our home team, was up for sale recently and the collective *sigh* heard when Pegula announced that the team would be staying here was almost audible.  Let’s just say he’s a hero around these parts.)


Our last stop was Cafe Lemont, which is just a few minutes from campus.  Some friends of ours used to live near it and told us to stop by when we were next in town.  It’s definitely for the hippie-crunchy-I-know-good-coffee-types, but quaint all the same.

We grabbed a couple mugs and sat outside in the sun before heading back home to New York.


I’ve always said I wanted to live in State College.  Always.  I absolutely love East Aurora and have ZERO intentions of moving, ever.  BUT.  If one of us ever wanted to teach at the collegiate level…  I’m just saying, it’s possible.


furniture shopping in the living room

We’re having vision again!  Andrew and I ran into Pottery Barn the other night to pick up some lampshades, and while we were there, he fell in love with some chairs they had on the floor.  (Yes, you read that right.  Andrew is a closet home decorator–I swear.)  He’s been on this ‘we need two chairs in the front room somewhere’ kick for awhile, and after seeing something he liked, it was all too much.  I thought we might actually come home with lampshades AND chairs!  But now, the engineer in him won’t do anything without mapping it out on the floor…so here we are:



On the other hand, this whole time I’ve been the one chanting “We don’t need any more seating!” over and over again.  We have a couch and two chairs on the other side of the room, none of which we actually sit in.  But what in the world do you do with this front space we have here??  Seriously, it’s a mystery.  We don’t have a piano or another dining room table or ANYTHING that would be appropriate…

So, we’ve been playing around with our furniture to see what we like.  We moved the leather chair into the corner (the one spot we can area on to put a chair), and then have been moving that floral one (if only I could snap my fingers and make slipcovers appear) to either window to create a pair.

Unfortunately, there is no way to create a pair of chairs centered on either window due to space, and Andrew felt like the second chairs also stuck out too far from the wall.  So, then he brought out this white table, which belongs on the porch.  I love a table in front of the window!  We’re looking at this one.  It matches the tables we have on the other side of the room.

Meanwhile, my plants are feeling VERY displaced.  Not only are they being moved and shoved about, but now Andrew wants to put furniture in front of my ONLY available sunny window.  What is a girl to do?!?!




mid-semester freak out

Yup, we’re there.  All of us.  All sixteen of us in the program are just balls of stress right now, for one reason or another.  One girl’s dad has been in and out of the hospital for months now.  Another girl–a dear one to me–is going through a break-up.  Another is juggling multiple out-of-town trips this month, which tend to wreak havoc on school.  Yet another has been in TWO car accidents in a week–neither of which were her fault.  My carpool buddy just found out her senior practicum, the 5-week rotation we plan for ourselves in the spring, just fell through and now she has to start from scratch. All of this, in addition to working part-time jobs, dealing with boyfriends and families and kids and such.

I’ll say it again–going back to school is not for the faint of heart.

While this semester so far seems worlds better than last semester (the one in which I tried to hit the gym every morning at 5:30 yet didn’t go to bed early and thus crashed and burned halfway through), it’s certainly no walk in the park.  We’re 6 weeks in (praise God!), yet I haven’t been able to stick to a bedtime (I have yet to get more than 6 hours of sleep, and lately it’s been more like 5), or the KISS eating plan of chicken and veggies I kept thinking I’d implement.  Thankfully my workouts have stayed pretty steady, thanks to my pretty awesome schedule, which is probably the only thing keeping me sane right now.  I’ve barely cooked a ‘real’ meal (oh well), barely baked anything (probably better for the waistline), and just realized I haven’t updated our dry-erase calendar from September to October yet…if I wait much longer, I might as well just go ahead and put November up there!

This week in particular has been a banner week in the Layer house.  Due to evening engagements, Andrew and I have taken to corresponding via email–me writing to him in the a.m. while he’s still asleep and him replying (if I’m lucky) during the day.  Other than yelling ‘goodbye!’ as I leave and a few phone calls and glimpses of each other, we pretty much roll into bed at night and manage to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodnight.’  It’s that kind of week.

But, on a positive note, school really is amazing.  I’ve never felt more interested, excited and confident about what I’m doing.  I absolutely LOVE walking around the hospital in my white lab coat, reading about my patient in the electronic medical record, and then coming up with their nutrition diagnosis.  I just come alive when I do patient education–it’s so second-nature to me.  We had a workshop yesterday on tube feedings and I loved it.  We learned how to calculate the rate of a feeding and how to recommend everything.  I’ve also got my senior practicum set–it will be clinical–and it’s exciting.  I’ll get to experience both in-patient and out-patient, bariatric and general patients, as well as spend time in some of the ICUs and hopefully oncology and transplant units, too.  I definitely did not anticipate this, but I’m so glad clinic has proven to be a good experience.  Who knows what I’ll end up doing after I graduate at this rate?

On another positive note–it’s FALL and I’ve been stocking up on all the fall-scented goodies at Bath and Body Works like crazy!  (Gotta love those coupons.) I’ve completely outfitted my gym bag with all the necessities, and used my ‘pumpkin pecan waffle’ shower gel at home yesterday.  Amazing.  I’ve never been more hungry taking a shower in my life.

With the long weekend, Andrew and I are looking to get some R&R, and hopefully I’ll have some time to catch-up on school work and start the week off right next week–AND implement that earlier bedtime routine!