Come On Vamanos … Everyone Let’s Go!

Barcelona- Here We Come!

Oh hello there! The pugs send warm March snuggles to everyone trying to stay warm in these last weeks of winter. I hope these Nor’easters haven’t got all of my friends on the East Coast too down.

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Olive is giving you her sexy look. Try not to be seduced.

The Grumblers have begun the process of selecting a location for our International vacation of 2018. We have gotten a bit stir crazy here and need to go explore a few foreign destinations and get lost in a non-English speaking city. Last year we were a bit limited because Freddie was just turning one and the thought of packing him up and schlepping him through a foreign airport made my back hurt.

This year is a whole different story! He can walk substantial distances by himself, and can communicate with us a whole lot better. I know I might be pushing it, but fingers crossed that he is potty trained by the time we leave.

We threw around a whole bunch of destinations that sounded like a good time. The tops of our list included: Portugal, Tel Aviv, Corsica, and Costa Rica. Decisions, decisions … Of course I was trying to pick a vegan friendly destination that Aaron would also enjoy, and since we have been hibernating from the cold these last few months, warmth was a definite requirement.

And then over a lovely dinner out, Aaron threw out the idea- Barcelona. I don’t know why, but I just wasn’t expecting that from him. Hmmm…. Barcelona. I studied abroad in Valencia, Spain in college, but my Spanish skills are quite rusty and I never thought that he had ay interest.

How vegan friendly is Barcelona? If it is anything like Valencia was 10 Year’s ago, we are gonna starve. I did some research. I found a very helpful book entitled Barcelona Vegan Travel Guide Who knew that there would be a whole book dedicated to my cause?

Barcelona Vegan Guide
I hope this saves me from Spanish meat and dairy!

Well, Barcelona it is. We leave in September, and on this vacation, we will be bringing my sister. Freddie’s Aunt Bananas (aka Hannah). I tried to convince her to come as Freddie’s nanny, but she shut that down real quick. Aunt Bananas will be a regular old tourist like us (I’m secretly hoping that she will entertain Freddie on the flight at least).

This brings me to my new project. Brush up on my Spanish! Oh Duolingo, how have I not tried you until now. I even enlisted the help of a professional. I found my new Spanish tutor, whom I refer to as Ana Excelente on Thumbtack. She’s beating my language challenged ass into shape. I get tested and everything. I always get an A+.

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Freddie is brushing up on his Spanish too. Dora to the rescue. Now if he only could figure out English sentences.

I am very excited to try out the CatBar, Dolce Pizza y Los Veganos, and the several macrobiotic restaurants that appear in my vegan guide book. Have any Barcelona traveling tips? Or fun spots to visit that are off the beaten path? I am very aware all things Gaudi BTW. Let me know!

Fall Festival Time!! Part Deux…

This weekend Pug Daddy’s parents were visiting. That’s right, the INLAWS!!! Noooo! Instead of the usual gathering around the television and addictively watching Fox News like they typically like to do, we decided to take them on a trip to a local farm to enjoy a bit of the Fall Festival season.

I was pondering going to Trax Farm, which is about 30 minutes from our house and located directly off of Route 88. I heard through the daycare-parent grapevine that Trax allows fracking on their property. Yuck!

Instead, we thought that we would try out Simmons Farm. This farm is located in Peters Township, sandwiched in between mega mansions. It’s very spaced out and makes good use of the apple orchards, pumpkin patch, and small stores that are all on the property. I have to say that this farm takes fall decorations very seriously.

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Freddie’s favorite part was definitely the small field where the farm had several animals. His favorites were the goats and sheep.

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We did pick a few apples and it seemed like the hike to ripe apples was a long and sweaty one. I’m not sure why I thought carrying a bushel of apples, with a toddler, walking uphill, on a 75 degree day, was a good idea.

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…And the rope just keeps going…

Overall, Simmons Farm was a very nice trip. It wasn’t too far away and we didn’t have too much trouble with Fall Festival overcrowding. Next time I might take Freddie on a Friday morning when his daycare is having a day off so that we can have more of the farm to ourselves. Excellent option to entertain the in laws.

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An Evening with George Takei

So while Aaron and I were out getting some ice cream, I noticed a flyer on the wall. It was advertising “An Evening with George Takei.” I knew he was a Star Trek fan so of course, I said, “Hey, wanna go?” He was not interested and then I dropped the topic.

The very next day, one of my besties Jenny Liu, texted me and asked if I wanted to go to …. “An Evening with George Takei”. Because of the fact that I was already mildly intrigued since seeing the flyer in an ice cream parlor, I agreed to go.

Jenny Liu and I purchased our tickets and planned a time to meet. Since we are both busy ladies, we didn’t have time for dinner before the show. I arranged for Mama D to watch Freddie and she arranged for Mama Liu to watch her boys.

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We meet up in an auditorium on the Pitt campus. This talk was part of International Week and the theme of the week was “displacement”. A Pitt professor gave us an introduction citing all of the recent examples of people being displaced. Dreamers, Myanmar, Syria, and the victims of the recent natural disasters. More groups of people than I had really considered.

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The outside of Soldiers and Sailors where we saw Takei

Then George Takei came out and started his talk. I had known that he had been in a Japanese internment camp, but never really knew the details about how everything had happened. It astounded me how fast anyone could lose absolutely everything. One day you have a successful business, a home, and a family, and the next day, you’re living in a swamp in the Deep South with an empty bank account.

How his parents were able to live the rest of their lives without resentment amazed me. I get so angry whenever Pug Daddy doesn’t empty the dishwasher. I don’t think I could peacefully live in a place that caused me to lose all of my earthly possessions.

George Takei switched gears and started talking about when States started to pass gay marriage legislation. We learned that his husband “Brad” also had come to this lecture. They both became gay marriage activists and got to see gay marriage become legal in all 50 states. It was very inspirational. He seemed so happy and proud. Warm tingly feelings were felt all around.

I was so glad that I got to see Jenny Liu and have a night out. Hopefully neither of us will ever be displaced from our homes and hopefully the people who are currently displaced find some sanctuary. We both enjoyed hearing George Takei’s motivational talk and it had us feeling good for the rest of the night.

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Jenny Liu and I after Takei talk

It’s Fall Festival Time!!!

It’s Fall Festival Time!!! That means corn stalks, apples, and my favorite PUMPKINS! This weekend Pug Daddy, Freddie and I took a drive out to a local orchard; Soergel’s, to take in some of the fall season. Little did we know that it would be 80 degrees outside and so packed full of people that we parked really far away and had to hike across a pumpkin patch just to get to the main part of the festivities. We, of course, had Freddie riding in his aquamarine City Minnie stroller and pushed him “off road style”.

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Risden Family at Soergel’s Orchard, October 7, 2017

I believe everyone in the Tri State area had the same idea because there were sooo many people there. We popped into the farm stand style store for a quick drink and we had difficulty moving around. Pug Daddy may have accidentally run into a handicapped woman’s walker on accident (oops!). Long lines combined with a ton of children made quickly doing anything very unrealistic.

Despite the uncomfortable heat, and crowds, we did get to see the rows of apple trees, pumpkin patches, and fall wildflowers. We took a few obligatory pictures and popped our heads into a few shops to see what Soergel’s had to offer. I was super excited about the local Arsenal Cider House that was selling jugs of adult cider. It was the perfect drink for a warmer than expected day. I was also pleasantly surprised to find dairy-free ice cream being offered right next to the plain old cow’s milk ice cream. Freddie wasn’t really feelin’ the orchard after about an hour, but a soy root beer float would have been oh so delightful.

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We had a pretty nice time overall, but I would also like to check out other fall festivals in the area. I’m hoping that we are able to go to one that isn’t’ quite so congested. Hopefully we will actually try the soy ice cream too.