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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

holiday recap

Finally!  A sigh of relief can escape my lips after my whirlwind of a week…

1.  I finished my last exam Tuesday morning and after a celebratory lunch and manicure, I immediately went into Christmas-prep hyperdrive.  By that evening, presents had been mailed ($50 for three SMALL boxes–good grief!), Christmas photo taken and annual letter finalized and printed.  Andrew and I tag-teamed at the table addressing and stuffing envelopes until our eyes gave out.

2.  Christmas, in my house growing up, means Christmas cookies, but I knew my mom would be flying (she’s a flight attendant) until late Wednesday night, and probably wouldn’t have the time to make the spread of sweets she typically does (the woman is a chocolate-dipping machine at Christmas), so I brought some with me.  I made two bags of white-chocolate dipped pretzel rods, two batches of those peanut-butter kiss cookies, some of those pre-decorated sugar cookies.  The relief in her voice on the phone when I told her my plan was audible.  I even did a special “Christmas Sweets” blog for the co-op; many of those yummy goodies appeared on our table this year, however, we never got around the the holly cookies!  I’m still bummed…

3.  This Christmas was very different from years past; almost all of my dad’s giant family came to visit, which brought the total number of people for me to see into the 50s.  It was fantastic!  We had a Christmas Eve bash at an aunt and uncle’s house who live in the DC-area as well, spent Christmas morning at home with another aunt, uncle and cousin who stayed with my parents, then moved to a banquet facility (owned by my mom’s brother) where BOTH sides of the family (my dad’s out-of-town relatives and mom’s in-town family) gathered for a potluck and to exchange some presents.  Definitely not enough time socializing, but at least it was something.

4.  I made a ginger pumpkin pie with toasted coconut and balsamic-glazed green beans, both from November’s Cooking Light.  Both were well-received and I LOVED the pumpkin pie.  Even my mom, who doesn’t really like pumpkin pie, liked the ginger version.  I will definitely be making it again.

5.  I’ve been calling this year ‘the year of the gloves.’  I ended up getting FOUR pairs of gloves, and it would have been five if the Dick’s in Virginia carried the running gloves I asked for.  Get this–my mom went to get them and the salesman said it didn’t get cold enough there for them!  Ha!  However, as I’ve learned already, one can never have too many pairs of gloves here.

6.  Which brings me to my next tid-bit: my cold-weather haul.  Check out my new running gear and other winter apparel:

Andrew’s mom got me the beautiful white hat and gloves that I’ve been wearing EVERYWHERE, praying I don’t get dirty.  Andrew found the black heavy-duty gloves for me to use to take the dog on walks since they have grippy stuff on the palm-side, and I totally scored the matching pink-and-black running gloves, hat and earband just yesterday at Dick’s on sale.  Sweet!  And the best part?  The fleece hat even has a hole for your ponytail!

7.  It was also the year of running stuff for me…  My mom gifted me with LLBean sport sunglasses, a pink and blue earband and an awesome pink running top:

8.  We kept the Christmas tradition of opening jammies on Christmas Eve alive (just barely–mom was going to skip it until the boys and I put up a stink, so we headed off that afternoon to find suitable outfits), except that the shirt I ordered for myself didn’t come on time…so sad!  We found a stand-in at Old Navy, but nothing will beat this:

We found it at a local store weeks ago but it took FOREVER to come, so I’ll have to enjoy it post-Christmas.

9.  Because of visiting family and our Christmas Eve party at my aunt and uncle’s house, we skipped another tradition: reading Luke and having a birthday cake for Jesus.  I’m still a bit bummed about that one, too.

10.  We left Monday evening and drove to Philly to visit with my sister.  Along the way, we stopped for Geno’s cheesesteaks.  (Andrew insisted–surprise, surprise)

Grossest cheesesteak EVER!  We should have walked across the street to Pat’s, which is mildly better, but still not as good as Silvio’s, which is our hometown cheesesteak joint near my parents’ house there.  They make their own bread, are take-out only and are THE BEST cheesesteaks in the world.  I kid you not.  I’m almost salivating writing this.

11.  We stayed the night with my sister and FINALLY got to meet her daughter, Danika.  Sweet girl!

We brought all their presents and goodies from Virginia, so we did our own Christmas morning with them.  Danika is walking all over the place and starting to jibber-jabber as well.  It was crazy to see a little “mini-Allison” toddling around!

12.  We scooted out around lunchtime to meet two of my best girlfriends from college, Betsy and Leslie, at an upscale American place in Doylestown.  Leslie’s husband, Christian (also a friend from college) came along as well, which was nice for Andrew.

We all, apparently, got the memo to wear shades of brown (and so did the wall behind us).  It was such a great time exchanging gifts and catching up, but not nearly long enough (pretty much the theme of the whole trip).  We try to get together at least once a year, which is surprisingly difficult given Betsy’s deployment schedule (she’s in the Air Force), Leslie’s work schedule, and now my school schedule.  I’m just thankful Betsy’s parents only live a street away from my parents’ house (which is where my sister is currently living), so I can always combine a visit.

13.  After lunch we made the drive home and I’m STILL recovering from being out of town…  I’m in the midst of thank-you note writing, cleaning, gift returning/exchanging and holiday-sale shopping, as well as trying to get back into the gym routine and working on two articles for the Advertiser.  Whew!

14.  Stella has a new home…  At Thanksgiving, my green-thumbed friend Emily gifted me with a clipping of her purple houseplant, Stella, and she’s been freezing to death in a jar of water on a windowsill in our kitchen ever since.  (It’s not exactly the time to buy pots and things around here, or anywhere, for that matter…)  When she really started to look poorly the other day I decided I had to do something.  I bought the cheapest pot I could find at Lowe’s and threw in some potting soil.  She joined Gerard (center) and Victor (or Vincent, I can’t remember), that was a gift from an aunt for Christmas. Cross your fingers for their survival!

Whew!  Busy is the name of the game right now…  I have lots more to share, so stay tuned!