My Funny Valentine.

Year after year, Valentine’s Day comes and goes, and after 26 years, it still makes me cringe a little bit. I guess I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with this holiday. The part of it that I love? The celebration of love – my love, as well as the love of those around me. The part that I hate? Everything else.

Hear me out.

My relationship with Skyler makes me smile so much that it hurts sometimes. He’s hilarious and he’s serious; he’s strong and he’s understanding; he’s reliable, yet he’s spontaneous. He’s my perfect counterpart in life, and we challenge each other every day. Of course I want to celebrate our relationship. I want to shout it from the rooftops, and I want to do whatever I can to make sure he knows how grateful I am for him.

But I want to do those things in ways that are meaningful to us, not just in ways that are Instagram-able and will garner the most likes on February 14th. Instead, I want to make him feel loved every day of the year, just as I want him to put in that same effort. I feel the most appreciated when he does small things, like picks up a bottle of lime-flavored Perrier at the grocery store because he noticed I was almost out. Or when he wakes up before me for work and makes sure that the ice has been scraped off of my car. Or when he sits down on the sofa and watches The Bachelor with me each week with no complaints about wishing he were watching ESPN instead. Or when we happen to wake up way before we have anything to do, and decide to go have breakfast at the local diner, rather than rolling over and trying to fall back to sleep. Those are the things that are meaningful to me. Not a heart-shaped box of chocolates or overpriced flowers, red and pink in honor of this commercialized “holiday” of love.

So today, February 15th (just an ordinary day), I want to take the time to brag on Skyler, and share a few of my favorite things about him. Valentine’s Day is one day a year, but he’s the kind of person that deserves 365 of them.

  1. His sense of humor. Day in and day out, Skyler makes me laugh. Whether it’s a random meme that he’s sent me, a witty one-liner or his impression of my pet voice, he brings me to laugh-tears almost daily. For example, we have a house plant in our bedroom that was gifted to us by my grandma on the day we moved into our house. I’ve somehow managed to keep it alive for 5 months, but barely. I always forget to water it, and regularly trim off the dead leaves that seem to have appeared overnight. So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, he showed up at my office with a vase of fake flowers, with a card that said “Try not to kill these.” It was an inside joke with a Valentine’s Day twist, and something he knew would make me smile in the middle of the day.
  2. His kindness for others. Skyler is someone that I would call a ride-or-die. For the people that he loves, he’d go to the end of the earth. In the past two months alone, I’ve watched him drive hours to help a friend move, offer up our home to members of my family who just needed a little time away and help his boss with an hours-long project on a Saturday morning. He’s selfless for those closest to him, and it’s something I admire so much in him.
  3. His thoughtful gifts. You may remember that Receiving Gifts is one of my top love languages, and that can be really difficult for someone to be on the other side of. But time after time, he continues to blow me away. For years, my grandfather had gotten me a subscription to Smithsonian magazine as part of my Christmas gift. I couldn’t tell you how that tradition started, but it had been a constant in my life for a very long time. However, this past Christmas, I knew that my subscription would not be renewed, and it was a heartbreaking disappointment that I had shared with Skyler many months before. Fast forward to Christmas night. I was sitting on the sofa, exhausted after a long day of traveling all over the area to spend small portions of the holiday with everyone in my family. We had just finished opening our gifts to each other when he said there was one more. He walked back the hall and brought me a white box wrapped in twine. Inside was a flannel, which my grandfather always wears, a card to “Goober,” my nickname from him since I was a kid, and a Smithsonian magazine. Not only did he make sure that this Christmas tradition remained unbroken, but he also made sure that it came packaged as a gift from my grandfather, not from him. I’ve never cried so many tears, and I truly doubt I will ever receive a more thoughtful gift in my whole entire life.
  4. He’s pretty handy. I know this is pretty surface-level, but it’s comforting to know that when something goes wrong, Skyler can probably fix it. Not to mention, I know that my dreams for our home aren’t outside of his wheelhouse. If I want a new light fixture, he can hang it up. If I want to build shelves for storage, he can tackle that, too. If we need to finish our basement entirely, he’s my guy! It’s a small thing, but it really is nice knowing that he can come to the rescue in almost any situation.
  5. His intelligence. One of my favorite things about Skyler is his opinions. And that doesn’t mean I always agree with his opinions, because quite often, I don’t. But people in our generation are so often uninformed and easily swayed, and he is one to do his research – and lots of it. He’s also someone who will listen to my opinions, and even when he disagrees with me, can acknowledge that I have my own point of view. If you were on Facebook for any amount of time during this election, you know that not everyone is like that.
  6. His aptitude for teaching. My best example of this is from last September when I began my first season as a coach for the local Soccer Shots franchise. If you know me, you know that a) I don’t have a single athletic bone in my body, and b) of those non-athletic bones, really none of them have ever touched a soccer ball. Before my very first session, I was nervous. Like, stomach-churning nervous. So, he took me outside with two soccer balls, and taught me the things I needed to know to make it through that first week. And then the second week. And even the third week. And, lo and behold, I think I convinced those kids I knew what I was doing.
  7. His unending support. Within a three month time period, I started a new job and moved, we went on our first international vacation, we bought a new house and we moved again. That’s a lot of high-intensity life-changing things happening in a short span of time. And through it all, he didn’t waver. When I would be freaking out, anxious before an interview, he was there to talk me through it, calm me down and reassure me. When I was nervous about something falling through with our house, again, he was there. When we packed and unpacked and packed and unpacked again, I felt overwhelmed, but he remained steadfast. In fact, I think that he feels energized by the tetris-like puzzle of fitting oversized items into the bed of his truck.
  8. His family ties. Not to be too forward/creepy, but when I watch Skyler play with his niece and nephew, my ovaries get all (heart-eye emoji). I love watching him interact with his family, because I know that he’ll be a great family man himself some day, too.
  9. His quirky habits. One of the best and funniest things about getting to know Skyler has been learning about his quirky habits. For example, every single night he turns on the light under the microwave, so the pets can see at night. He also prefers the flip-top toothpaste to the twisty top toothpaste. He will never choose mayonnaise as a condiment. For breakfast, he’ll order a sausage and cheese omelet, and he eats it in one particular way every time – cut into thirds, then the middle third piled on toast to make a small breakfast sandwich – and he always gets cheese on his home fries.
  10. Everything else. It’s impossible to encompass my favorite things about him into a comprehensive list, so this is my catch-all. (PS: This is where I would write that I really love his hands because they’re big and strong and make me feel safe, but he always tells me that it’s weird that I like his hands, so I won’t put that on the list. Hehe.)

Love you more than anything – and happy random Wednesday in February. Thank you for being you.

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Delightfully Happy Lives.

Last Friday morning, Skyler’s alarm went off early. I dug deeper under the sheets and curled up tightly into the blankets. I had another hour before I even needed to think about getting out of bed. It’s Friday, finally, a day that I’ve been looking forward to since my alarm went off on Monday morning. I was not in the groove last week. I hadn’t been feeling very well, and despite it being an unseasonably warm week, I had been so chilly. And, just like every other winter, I felt so unenergized and frustrated that I rarely see the light of day. It’s usually dark when I wake up, and the sun is normally setting by the time I leave my mostly window-less office. I get into this funk every winter, it never fails.

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When I walked into the office, it was a little after 8:30. I moved through my typical work-day routine: I took my laptop out of my bag, and opened it on my desk, lightly pressing the power button. I fished through my purse to pull out my cell phones, and tossed them on top of my calendar. I picked up the empty coffee mug that sits in front of my mercury glass jar of pens, pencils, highlighters and markers, and I walked through the small maze of industrial cubes, through the door, down the hall and back toward the kitchen. I opened the metal drawer that holds the office supply of K-cups, and automatically reached for the light teal Caribou Coffee canister. I plopped it into the holder, pulled down the lever and pressed the 10 ounce button. (Like 10 ounces is ever enough.) As I waited to hear that gritty, gurgling sound of coffee trickling into my cup, I peered absent-mindedly around the kitchen. And then I noticed for the first time that someone had rearranged the magnetic poetry on the refrigerator.

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Happy
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Three tiny, separate magnets, arranged in a vertical line. Delightfully. Happy. Lives. As the stream of coffee pouring into my cup came to an splattering end, I walked back to my desk and began to wonder, “What makes my life delightfully happy?” The answers to that question weren’t hard to come by; in fact, there are actually a lot of things that make my life delightfully happy. But I realized that maybe I didn’t feel like I was in the groove last week because I’ve been focusing on the things that don’t make me happy (like cold weather, piles of laundry, burning food on the stove and talking to people on the phone), rather than the things that do (like spontaneous games of rummy in the living room, using my creativity, reading and when all four of us – Dale and Bux included – are curled up in bed late on a Sunday morning).

A delightfully happy life for me means being more mindful, more present and more intentional about spending my time on the things I love.

Example: One day last week, after an exceptionally rough day at work, I blazed through the front door. I said hello to Skyler, Dale and Buxton and charged back to our bedroom, changed immediately into more comfortable clothes, and then I threw myself down on the sofa, still just stewing. After a little bit of back and forth conversation, Skyler asked, “Did you notice that I cleaned the kitchen?” And I hadn’t. I hadn’t noticed at all. I’m someone who gets really stressed out in messy areas. When I was in high school, I had to clean my room and make my bed before I could get started on my homework. I can’t do my job well if my desk is messy. Similarly, I can’t relax at the end of the day if our house is messy. So Skyler, who knows how anxious the dishes in the sink and the oil splatters on the stove had been making me, had cleaned. I was so annoyed about my day that I didn’t even notice that he had taken the time to remove a stressor from my life. And I felt like such a jerk.

So, I’m making an effort to focus on my delightfully happy life, rather than the small, nagging things that sometimes try to get in the way.

  • For me, that means spending quality time with our friends and family. But it also means knowing when I’ve spent too much time extroverting and need to unplug and recharge in the quiet comfort of my home.
  • It means getting back into the kitchen and experimenting with new recipes, regardless of the fact that our oven is a little temperamental and I usually burn food. Truthfully, it’s become like a running joke between Skyler and I.
  • It means reading more books and watching less TV. Except for the Bachelor. I will always love that show.
  • It means learning new things, whether they’re big or small. Like the dice game Skyler spontaneously taught me last week or how to knit or maybe even a new language.
  • It means understanding the voices and personalities of the people around me.
  • It means spending our money differently. Being homeowners means that it’s more important to spend $100 on a space heater that we’ll have for years, rather than $100 on a sweater that would likely have a much shorter shelf life. (Note: Skyler has been the biggest influence here. Admittedly, I’ve never been great at saving money, but he’s really helped me understand the value of a dollar. For example, there are these smoothies that I love to have for breakfast. At our go-to grocery store, they are 30¢ more expensive than somewhere else. So, if I drank one every morning for an entire year, making this switch would save me over $100.00. In the grand scheme of things, $100.00 over a year seems minuscule, but that’s just a small example.)
  • It means actually using our gym membership. Even though working out is the worst.
  • It means getting outside a little more. Last year, we both bought skis, and we live 5 minutes away from the nearest mountain, but I’ve yet to break mine in.

It means a whole lot of things, to be honest. And I feel pretty darn excited about my delightfully happy life.

What helps you lead a delightfully happy life?

To Give & To Get Him This Christmas.

Thanksgiving is now officially behind us, and the gift-giving season of Christmas is (acceptably) in full-swing. At home, our stockings have been hung, our tree has been decorated and gifts are already wrapped and waiting patiently under the tree for Christmas morning. I’m telling you – I love this stuff. Swoon.

Between my boyfriend, my dad and my three brothers, I’ve spent a lot of time this year searching for some quality manly/boyish gifts. More often than not, Google will offer up suggestions like “52 Reasons Why I Love You” books, cuff links, expensive shaving creams or bomber jackets. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I ever gave Skyler a “52 Reasons Why I Love You” book (or my dad or brothers, for that matter), it would be opened once (maybe) and then gather dust in a corner for the rest of our days. If it didn’t somehow end up in the trash can in a whirlwind of spring cleaning a few months down the road.

So, with that in mind, I rounded up a few of my favorites for the men in your life that are, well, normal, and don’t need a “goes-with-everything” tie or a tote bag for Christmas this year.

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  1. Beer Cap Map. First of all, I’ve always been a fan of interactive wall decor. Secondly, if he’s got a thing for beers from all over the place, this would be a super cool addition to his man cave and a visual representation of beers he’s enjoyed.
  2. ETip Gloves. Last year, Skyler found a new hobby, and I reinvigorated an old one: skiing. I remember riding up the ski lift one night when Skyler got a call from one of his friends. And the whole ordeal began: digging his phone out of his pocket, ripping off his gloves, handing them to me to hold (and hoping I wouldn’t drop them on the slope like I had dropped his ski pole earlier) and finally answering the call. Phew. In today’s society, we’re never without our phones, so this little tech-cessory is the perfect stocking stuffer to keep you connected at all times throughout the winter.
  3. A Dopp Kit. Okay, I’ll admit this made the list for more selfish reasons. I can’t imagine that Skyler would be super thrilled to open up a toiletry kit on Christmas morning, but with the amount of travel we’ve been doing lately, this handy little guy would help keep us organized while we’re on the go.
  4. HyperChiller. While this was originally created to cool your coffee quickly (like I said last week, the cold brew trend is here to stay), it can also be used to chill beer or spirits in one minute. Literally. Gone are the days of throwing a room temperature beer in the freezer and forgetting about it… until it explodes. (Guilty.)
  5. Mini Flip Cup. I’m a sucker for games, and I’m a sucker for small things. Enter: travel-size flip cup. Play anywhere you are – a tailgate, a picnic, the living room, etc.
  6. Velvet Santa Boxers. I’ve already told you – velvet is back and bigger than ever! And nothing quite says Christmas than these. (Note: I acknowledge that these are probably 0% practical/comfortable to actually wear, but come on… they’re velvet!)
  7. Socks. When I think of giving socks as a Christmas gift, I think of how many pairs my brother has received from my grandma over the years. But still, these are a little bit quirky and a must-have this year. (Note: I bought these for Skyler’s stocking this year. One day before they arrived in the mail, he sent me a picture and asked for them. Surprise ruiner.)
  8. Swiss Army Knife. As someone who feels like I am perpetually looking for the scissors/fingernail clippers/a screwdriver/etc., I love the idea of something this handy.
  9. Bluetooth Beanie. When I think of shoveling snow, I can imagine that it’s pretty cold and really boring.So, you might as well stay warm and entertained during the inevitable snow-filled mornings of winter. (Thanks in advance to my wonderful boyfriend who will be handling our driveway.)
  10. A Man Crate. I’ve been a huge fan of this concept for years! Man Crates pride themselves on being just that – manly. And quite literally a crate. No wrapping paper or bows or any of that girly stuff. From jerky to booze to sports to outdoors to personalized man-things, these are some of the coolest gifts I stumble upon each year.
  11. A Flannel. I’ve always loved flannel, especially in the winter. (I guess that’s obvious. You wouldn’t wear it in the summer.) In fact, I basically begged Skyler to buy one last week. I recommend the black watch plaid – it’s a personal favorite!
  12. A Decanter. Everybody loves a good whiskey, and every whiskey needs a good decanter. Make it personal with a manly monogram! (I know, I know. Manly monogram. But it’s true – some of them actually aren’t feminine.)

*Spoiler Alert: Hey Skyler/dad/Tyler, here’s a list of everything you’re getting this year! HA, just kidding. You guys are all getting “52 Reasons Why I Love You” books. Merry Christmas!

To Give & To Get Her This Christmas.

I’ve always been head-over-heels in love with Christmas. For me, it’s everything. The colors (white and gold), the sounds (“Last Christmas”), the scents (pine trees and baked goods), the traditions (candle carousels, Chinese food and Charlie Brown trees) and the sights (gifts under the tree and smiling faces). I believe it brings out the best in people – the spirit of Christmas is kind and giving.

But my favorite thing about Christmas is giving gifts. And not just any gift. The perfect gift.

I should probably mention that Receiving Gifts is my love language (although it’s tied with Words of Affirmation). While that may sound super materialistic, it’s not. The focus isn’t on the gift itself, but rather the love, thought and effort put into every gift that I receive. (Which also means that, despite my best efforts, I have really high expectations. I’m working on that.) But because receiving thoughtful gifts is how I feel love the most, it’s naturally how I show love the most. (Even if it’s not how the people around me feel love the most. I’m also working on that.)

So, with the gift-giving spirit of the Christmas season, I’ve compiled a list of just a few of my favorite things to give (and get) this year.

Holiday Wishlist 2016
  1. Smithsonian Magazine. I’m kicking off this list with a little mental stimulation and a whole lot of tradition. For the past who-knows-how-many years, I’ve received a subscription to Smithsonian Magazine for Christmas, and it’s always been one of my favorite gifts to receive. We could all stand to step away from the mind-numbing articles of People, and go for something a little more educational.
  2. Birthstone Necklace. This necklace makes sporting your birthstone cool again.
  3. Travel Bag. Love to travel? Want to do a little good this holiday season? Look no further than this Madewell x FEED travel bag. For every bag purchased, 30 meals will be provided to children in need through the United Nations World Food Programme.
  4. Sorel Out N About Leather Boots. This Friday, Skyler and I are going to cut down our Christmas tree, and all I can think about is how I wish I had these shoes! No matter the weather, these will keep you warm and cozy.
  5. Coffee Cold Brew Gift Set. The cold brew trend is here to stay, so you might as well hop on board.
  6. Cozy Christmas Throw Pillow. What good is a sofa without an absurd amount of throw pillows, right? Typically, I avoid the color red in holiday decorating, but when you find a dog on a pillow (that kind of looks like our dog, Dale), it’s a must-have.
  7. Photo Booth Props. Liven up any Christmas gathering with this set of photo booth props! Bonus: they’re less than $5!
  8. Velvet Bodysuit. Bodysuits are big, but velvet is even bigger. Why not have both? The details on this thing add the perfect amount of oh la la to any outfit.
  9. Soy CandleHand-poured in Los Angeles, P.F. Candle Co. has always been a favorite of mine. The Teakwood and Tobacco fragrance is my personal favorite.
  10. Phone Case. While at Anthropologie’s corporate office, I had the pleasure of working with Lauren Carlson Walcott, the artist behind this print! You can now find her art on sweaters, pillows, wallpaper and much more with her new-ish brand collaboration.
  11. Custom Desk Calendar. For something with a more personal touch, I recommend this easel calendar from Artifact Uprising. Upload 12 of your favorite photos and relive the memories year-round.
  12. Faux Fur Throw. It’s Christmas, it’s cold outside and I can’t get enough of faux fur this season. If this lived on my sofa, so would I.
  13. Wassail Mulling Blend. Wassail reminds me of Christmas in middle and high school at my best friend’s house. We used to make it all the time – using a variety of juices, of course. This little guy is good for 3 gallons of wintry, warming wine.

Happy gift-giving!

Election Day.

I’m not a politically outspoken woman. In fact, talking about politics genuinely makes me uncomfortable. It’s not because I’m uninformed or because I lack an opinion or because my belief system is weak. But the truth is much more simple: I believe that every person has the right to their own opinions, even they don’t align with mine. Some people say that’s absurd. But it’s who I am, and it’s not likely to change.

With that disclaimer aside and with the acknowledgement that this has been the most contentious election of my lifetime, I’ve felt waves of pride wash over me today, an emotion I didn’t expect to feel as strongly as I have. And here’s why.

While it’s sometimes been painful to see people battle their opinions out with those of opposing political views on various forms of social media, it’s been encouraging to see my generation researching, understanding and sticking up for what (and who) they believe in. I’ve been thrilled at the bombardment of “I Voted” selfies that have flooded my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It means that people aren’t being lackadaisical, but rather taking the time out of their day – maybe a few minutes, maybe a few hours – to cast their vote. And I’m proud of that.

Secondly, regardless of political affiliation, I feel proud today to be a woman. In a time not so long ago, women, even as citizens, were not granted the right to vote. Yet today, a woman’s name is on the ballot to be the next President of the United States. No matter the results of this election, this marks an extraordinary milestone for women across the nation; we’ve come a long way.

So, I hope you’ll join me in casting your vote today – for whomever it is that represents what’s most important to you – because all of our voices matter. And I hope that when the sun rises tomorrow and a new President has been elected, you’ll remain proud to be an American, regardless of the outcome.

Octobers.

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My favorite thing about October is everything. Seriously. It’s a visually stunning month full of crisp mornings and hot ciders and dirty, smooth-skinned pumpkins and bumpy, unattractive gourds, high-energy sports games under the dark sky and bright lights and – most importantly to me – colorful, vivid memories of growing up.

My memory is a weird thing. Just last night at dinner, I was sitting across the table from Rob at this dope Mexican restaurant, sipping on an apple cider margarita as I listened to him talk about the future. At one point, he looked up at me and said something along the lines of, “Have we not talked about this?” Ooooooh yeah. My bad. We definitely did.

I’m the absolute worst when it comes to remembering words and conversations. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve started a story, recognized the look of familiarity on someone’s face and said, “Have I told you this already?” and received an eye roll in return, I could retire at 25. But my visual memory is steadfast. I remember exactly what I was wearing. I remember the look on someone’s face or a crooked smile of laugh. I remember how my food and drink looked before I could ever remember how it tasted. My memory is almost entirely visual.

And my October memories are the most beautiful ones. I remember sharing my birthday celebrations with my brother and great-grandmother, simultaneously blowing out the candles on cakes she made. I remember my 13th birthday party, where I received a 14th birthday card from one of my oldest friends. I remember Homecoming dances – the black dress, the red dress, the teal dress, the other red dress, the navy dress and the purple dress. I remember Homecoming football games: the speckles of black and purple athletes that scurried across the field, cupping hot cider in between my hands to stay warm, and the prickling of my skin as my friend smeared cold purple paint across my stomach. In my college years, Homecoming meant tailgating with my dad and his friends while decked out in blue and gold from head to toe. I remember jumping into the crunchiest pile of leaves next to the tree that once held a wooden swing on the farm. I remember the whipping wind next to the water in Erie on our very first wine tour as a group. I remember my grandmother ordering another round of shot pitchers for my 21st birthday at a local dive bar and my mom just shook her head and laughed. I remember scoring a goal against our rival in the pouring rain. I even remember the best hair day I’ve ever had.

So, it’s hard not be a basic white girl on the first day of October and shout from the rooftops how glad I am to live in a world where there are Octobers. I woke up today genuinely happy. I wanted so badly to share my joy with my coworkers that I brought a dozen doughy donuts with too-sweet icing and fall-colored sprinkles into the office just to celebrate the arrival of my favorite time of year. To me, this month means spending quality time with my friends and family, creating new memories and reminiscing over old ones. I’ll never get tired of October. Anne of Green Gables really had it right.

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The Next Chapter.

At least once in every person’s life, there is a defining moment. A moment they’ll look back on with the ability to pinpoint the exact circumstances under which they made a decision that would change everything.

And I have a feeling that this is my moment.

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Next month, I’ll be packing up my belongings — a whole house full of memories — and moving to Philadelphia to begin a brand new career at Anthropologie. My love affair with Pittsburgh is officially coming to an end… but what a great love affair it’s been.

I moved here in the fall of 2009, young and naive and anxious to experience a city for the first time. I threw myself in deep. I made a few forever kind of friends and I lost my narrowed views on the world; I’ve experienced great joys and I’ve survived the deepest hurts; I’ve both hated and loved this city with a fiery passion. I grew up here, in the truest sense of the phrase. It was in this city that I really became my own. I learned more about myself here than I have anywhere else, and I’m proud (and grateful) of the woman I’ve become in Pittsburgh.

But now, it’s time for the next chapter. Like every book lover knows, the end of one chapter and the beginning of another opens up endless possibilities. It’s impossible to know what’s coming next — anything could happen — and that both thrills and terrifies me. I’ve had friends who have picked up and moved their entire lives across the country, and while I’m only moving five hours east, I’m still leaving the comfort of a place I’ve called home for so long.

To Pittsburgh and the people that I love here: I’m so grateful to have known you. And, for the sake of a cheesy cliche, it’s not goodbye, it’s see ya later.

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Stay tuned for my first installment of The Pittsburgh Philadelphia Food Diaries.