we <3 philly

Last weekend, as part of our Penn State Reunion, Andrew and I spent the weekend with Marvin and Abigail, who live outside of Philadelphia.  Visiting them is always especially fun for me, as Marvin’s home town is actually MY ‘hometown’ (if I could call a place that, having moved more times than I can count and never spending more than a few years in one place–the only places I actually remember well enough are Doylestown, PA and Chesapeake, VA), and he and I would have graduated from the same high school, had I attended high school there. And, as Marvin and Abigail as also Penn Staters, I suppose it was our own little college reunion, too. WE ARE!

On Friday night, the took us to Stove and Tap, a fabulous restaurant in Lansdale. Marvin and I are HUGE foodies (seriously, on family meal outings we always sit within arms-length so we can trade bites) and where they take us to eat is always a highlight of a visit.  Stove and Tap did not disappoint; my meatloaf with bacon jam and blue cheese was ridiculous, Andrew’s fried chicken drizzled with honey (he made an exception on the ‘no-added-sugar’ thing) was a work of art, and Marvin’s smoked trout with gnocchi was literally melt-in-your-mouth.

The next morning, after a long run (I always come prepared as I’m an early riser), we set off on the train to Philly for the day.


Our first stop was Marvin’s office at Aramark, located in one of the city’s skyscrapers.  We didn’t even have to leave the train station, as the stop is in bottom of his building, certainly a perk in the winter, for sure.

After checking out his office and the awesome views from the 23rd floor, we walked across the way to the Reading Terminal Market, which is a mass of food vendor stalls.  It was very crowded, but we managed to take a lap before we each decided what we’d have for lunch.



Andrew and Abigail opted for some meat sandwiches, Marvin grabbed a greek salad and I chose a small mac and cheese and a ‘farmhouse’ salad from Hunger Burger.  The salad had hardboiled eggs, avocado, bacon and onion rings–so unique.


After lunch, we hopped back on the train to the Penn Museum, where Andrew wanted to check out some Middle Eastern artifacts.


The museum had some special events going on that day to celebrate the re-opening of their viewable artifact lab, where we were able to ask one of their conservators about how they clean and preserve the pieces.

We also jumped into a cuneiform class, where we were able to see and touch a 5,000 tablet inscribed with the ancient writing, and learn how to write our names on our own clay tablets.



After we finished up the museum, we hopped into our first Uber (!!!!) to head over to The Good King Tavern, a little French bar Abigail and Marvin liked.  We got some drinks and ordered a socca to share, which is a chickpea ‘crepe’ Andrew and I tried in Nice last summer.  We’d already decided to get cheesesteaks for dinner, but it took every ounce of willpower not to beg to stay there for dinner–it’s definitely somewhere Andrew and I would frequent if we lived in the area.


After our libations, we walked to South Street, where Abigail and I popped into a consignment shop and the boys checked out a shoe store selling used Jordans for astronomical prices–only in Philly.  We waited in a long line for cheesesteaks and Jim’s (not uncommon at some of the well-known locations) and were thankful for mild weather.






We all polished off our cheesesteaks in no time flat (so full, so good!), and Andrew insisted we find a water ice place he’d heard of, called John’s.  We’re both HUGE Rita’s fans (in fact, when we first started dating, I brought frozen Rita’s to his house as a treat), and Andrew was intrigued by its history. I begged off, sticking to my no-added-sugar commitment, and I was still very full from dinner.



We walked from there to the train station around 9 p.m., ready to take a load off.  Abigail caught us ‘resting our eyes’ for a few minutes on the way home.


On Sunday, after a quick uphill treadmill walk, we lazed around their apartment before meeting Marvin’s family for lunch in town.  I love that we know Marv’s family and they enjoy spending time with us!  They are fantastic, and I’m so glad Abigail has such great in-laws so close, since she’s far from home.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking in the sunshine around Doylestown before Andrew and I headed home.  We’re already planning our next visit so we can eat more good Philly food, and help them move into their NEW HOUSE!

Penn State Reunion

This past weekend, Andrew and I were able to sneak in a quick visit to some of our college friends on our way into Philly to see Abigail and Marvin. We got up super early and drove through snow (?!?!?) so we could spend a couple hours with Leslie, Kim and Wendy (and their families) before starting the weekend with Andrew’s sister. (Leslie and Wendy were both in our wedding, and Kim was a friend who was also in Campus Crusade for Christ, where we met.) Leslie offered to host, as she and her husband, Christian, just bought a house in Pottstown and we were all dying to see it.

img_3105After a quick lunch of sandwiches, salad and some of my no-added-sugar goodies, the kids got right down to playing!  Between the three couples, there are a total of TEN children, two of whom weren’t with us because of school.









The girls caught up around the table (below left, L – R: Wendy, Leslie, Kim), while the boys chatted in the living room (below right).  Leslie’s twins (on table) are just over a year old and cute as buttons.  They INHALED my banana oat cookies.

Andrew and Christian are both engineers, and Gary (Wendy’s husband, not pictured) is an orthopedic surgeon. Kim’s husband, Ross, wasn’t able to make the trip due to a speaking engagement that evening; they’ve been working with Campus Crusade for Christ since we graduated in 2005.







The kids ran all over the house like wild banshees, although the highlight was definitely the GIANT beanbag in one of the twins’ rooms. The boys tossed the kiddos onto the bag one by one and only heard shrieks of delight.  Sadly, we were only able to stay a few hours before we had to hit the road again to continue our trip and make it to Marvin and Abigail’s house for dinner!





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.