Shadyside Sweets, Nerd Stuff and a Diner!

If you ever find yourself in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh, make your way to Prantl’s Bakery.

It’s a quaint landmark for good reason. Truth be told, I’ve only ever had their Burnt Almond Torte, a delicious little treat that literally melts in your mouth. However, if this decadent morsel isn’t your speed, there’s more to choose from. Lots more.

And while you’re in the neighborhood, there’s a host of cute stores including a fantastic little nerd shop called Kards Unlimited. It’s packed with books, games, stationary and some of the most unique gift items you never knew you needed.

My big splurge this trip was a pretty little pair of green turquoise earrings to match a necklace I purchased there last year. Plus I finally found a black cat Christmas ornament that I couldn’t live without.

Next door to Prantl’s is a Pamela’s Diner. Click here if you want to read about my experience with this funky local chain.

In addition to places to eat and shop, you’ll find that Shadyside is walkable and is home to some talented buskers. This gentleman made my day.

Quirky shopping, sweets and music in the air? Sign me up! In fact, I told Nichola this should be a stop every visit! The neighborhood is also just a stone’s throw from the Frick and some other attractions to keep you entertained.

Want to visit Shadyside? Read more on the Visit Pittsburgh site. If you go, I expect to hear all about it!

Vacation and Reflection

My October vacation was nearly perfect but not for the reasons most people love their vacations. I liked it for the way it was structured.

Hear me out.

A few days were spent away from home, in places I did not know and could explore for the first time.

A couple days were spent exploring in my own region.

There was a day spent with my folks and an evening around a camp fire with extended family.

And there was time spent at home cooking, doing projects and relaxing with Scout.

Nothing cost a lot of money. I had time with others and plenty of solo time as well.

The last day was spent at home doing small chores, reading, watching a movie and reflecting on a nice, long break from work.

Going back to work the next day was ok.

It was important to allow that down time and to prioritize reflection. Too often we we don’t stop and think about what we have just experienced. We simply enjoy the moment and then push forward to the next. Happiness is connected to gratitude and it’s important to be grateful for the good and even the mundane that we have experienced.

Whether it’s a vacation, dinner with your family or an afternoon at the museum, you will be well served to revisit those memories as much as possible.

You will be happier for it.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about a fun discovery I made while exploring my own area. Hope to see you back here soon!

The Perfect Long Weekend (And Some Free Advice)

Nothing says freedom like a solo road trip. I hit the road Friday afternoon for a trek down to Winchester, Virginia where I made my home until starting the leisurely trip north Monday.

When planning this trip, more than a dozen scenarios were on the table but nothing really excited me. I was studying a map of Virginia when Winchester caught my eye and a vague recollection that Patsy Cline was from here made me pause.

A visit to her museum was one of the highlights of my trip to Nashville this spring and I had to wonder if there were other things to do around Winchester. Turns out this was a silly question. The area is rich in history and natural beauty and there is no shortage of things to do.

In fact, I packed a lot into my long weekend but needed far more time to do everything that looked interesting. I did hit the highlights and saw a lot in places along the way as well.

Sometimes I wish that I had a specific interest- a certain period of time or a field like aviation or rock collecting. It would be nice to be an expert in something.

But that’s not how I’m wired and trips like this make that especially clear.

My activities ranged from Civil War era attractions like Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters and the battlefield at Mannasess to a flying circus, an awesome cavern and the childhood home of Patsy Cline.

The good news about having such a broad range of interests is that there’s always something to learn and a lot of surprises to enjoy.

The highways were useful when I just needed to make time but secondary routes were more fun when the goal was to sit back and enjoy the view. It was about 50/50, a ratio that worked well given the mountainous terrain of West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia.

This trip was memorable despite the fact I’ve been battling a sinus infection for weeks and still wasn’t feeling my best. For this reason, I took it easier and rested more than normal but still finished each day satisfied with all I had done.

This also helped some with the mental fatigue that’s been dogging me for a few months. I didn’t know what time it was most of the weekend and did not care.

Regardless of how fast or slow I move, I have a knack for attracting people who want to talk.

At the flying circus, I was befriended by a 74 year old gent with a soft Virginia drawl and a curiosity about the sign he saw me taking a picture with. He listened with interest as I told him why solo travel is fun. I also explained that it’s a necessity as I’m not prepared to stop going places simply because I don’t have a mate or someone to go along for the ride.

He gave me two pieces of advice:

1. If you want to retire early, live well below your means and lower your expectations. He should know – he retired at age 54.

2. To never lose my sense of adventure and bravery.

I liked him and appreciated the advice.

On the other hand, a younger man in the same conversation said that no wife of his would be out running around by herself like I do.

I smiled and told him it’s a good thing I’m no one’s wife. Jerk.

I’ll stick with the wisdom of the older man, thank you.

Sunday Mannassess and the road there (95)

After leaving Winchester Monday morning, I followed the recommendation of a friend and took a detour to Lurray Caverns about an hour south of Winchester. Then it was a meandering journey to Clarksburg, West Virginia by way of Oakland, Maryland. My use of Hotels.com finally paid off and I cashed in a free night’s stay at Clarksburg before heading home the next day.

This was a perfect long weekend. With no real schedule and no one to please but myself, it was easy to just enjoy the adventure without pressure or worry. There are several stories to share including some unexpected things from along the way. Those usually make for the  best stories, those things you don’t plan.

We’ll get started tomorrow with a visit to the Patsy Cline House!

Notes From the Field

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Most of my hiking trips are squeezed in between work and chores at home – usually no more than two or three miles in an evening. It’s usually enough to get some exercise and to make me want more time. Saturday morning’s goal was to get out for a longer hike in the Hocking Hills.

Evidently, that was everyone else’s goal too. Fall is a busy time at our local parks. It’s more or less the Smokys of the north so there were a lot of people, even in sections of the trail that normally are sparsely populated.

Here are a few notes from the field.

  • It’s funny how people behave differently in groups than they do alone. There were a number of groups – anywhere from three to fifty people – clumped together, talking and seemingly paying no mind to their surroundings. I was sad for them because there’s so much beauty to be enjoyed and not just visually. If you’re quiet, you can hear an orchestra of birds, the chatter of squirrels and leaves crunching underfoot. If you take a moment to breath deeply, you’ll notice how the turning leaves almost flavor the air and that sharp intake of a cool fall morning will give new life if you let it.
  • On the other hand, I’ve been seeing an uptick in people hiking alone. I’ve always seen men going it alone but there was a huge number of ladies out solo yesterday. A few had dogs but most were just alone and it made my heart happy to think that I’m not alone in my belief that you can’t wait for a partner to go out and live your life!
  • There was an unusual number of dogs off leash yesterday. You may love your pet but it’s alarming to see someone’s Great Dane barreling down the trail when you’re timid or afraid of strange dogs.
  • More people than normal appeared to be lost. I gave directions to several groups that had launched out without maps or any clue where they were going. If you know the area, offer to help. Most people are thrilled to have a little guidance.
  • Along those same lines, if you see someone taking a selfie, you may offer to take their picture. I noticed a woman struggling to get a selfie with her dog and thought she would cry when I offered to take their picture. She said they have few pictures together because they’re always alone. If you’re on vacation, you typically want some pictures of yourself in context or your entire group together. It takes just a minute to give this gift to a stranger.
  • The best thing I saw all day was a man helping a female companion along the trail. I thought that he was just being sweet until I got closer and realized that she was blind. Ironically, it made me think of those groups of people who seemed to be oblivious to their surroundings and I realized that this woman with visual impairment probably would absorb as much or more of her surroundings than those people did. It also made me happy to think that she’s not allowing anything to hold her back.

 

 

 

 

 

Where Would You Go?

If you had free time in October, where would you spend it? I’m looking for a low cost adventure within driving distance of southern Ohio and just can’t get excited about anything that’s on my radar.

Therefore, I’m taking suggestions!

I’ll be adventuring solo and would like to be somewhere that feels like fall. Y’all know the kinds of nerdy things I like – history, architecture, cool diners and the like.

Comment and tell me what you would do with an October vacation!

Pets, Travel and Separation Anxiety

Scout is about seven months old now and seems comfortable in his role as King of the House. When I planned my summer vacation and arranged for Scout’s care, I thought he would struggle but it never occurred to me that he would be crippled by my absence.

But that’s exactly what happened.

I arranged for my aunt to stay with him for a few days and for my mother to take care of him the remainder of the time. Despite having company and care, Scout was terrified and acted out.

Actually, he was just mean. Viciously mean, in a way that only a terrified pet can be.

When I found Scout, he was about ten weeks old and living on the street. A tiny tyke, he weighed two pounds and had terrible food insecurity issues but was an absolute doll.

Almost immediately, I became his human. He’s nice to other people and happy to play but he’s very quick to come back to me and is even a bit clingy at times. He seems to remember being on his own and to understand that I was his rescuer; he rewards me every day with affection and gratitude.

However, he still gets mad when he’s hungry, scared or feeling somehow insecure so I was apprehensive about leaving.

Turns out I had good reason to be and I feel terrible for the pain he experienced that week and for how mean he was to my family.

Poor little guy. He just missed his mom and didn’t understand.

When I came home he was thrilled to see me, purring and sweet for about ninety seconds. Then he remembered himself and became angry. Another week passed, alternating between being angry and ignoring me before life returned to normal.

I stayed at a friend’s house Monday night and Scout came through like a champ with me being gone for just an overnight. So I’m hopeful that he has figured out that I’ll come home when I leave.

Is it possible future vacations won’t be so scary for him?

Want to read more about Scout? Here’s the story of how I found him and a more recent story about his temperament.