Our forays into Pittsburgh and Silver Spring, with some quality cousin time and a birthday to celebrate!
As Maki and I planned our trip, at the top of our priority list for the first part was surprising his mother for her 60th birthday, a couple days late. We had everything arranged with the family — we were planning to arrive mid-afternoon and would have dinner on the table (or close to it) when his parents turned up from work (his father was in on the surprise). That plan, however, required either a stopover en route or leaving too early to be advisable. And we thought a little bit, and thought, hey, let’s go visit cousins in Pittsburgh! So we did. Our first stop was to pick up my cousin, Alex, and we went and had a drink with him, followed by a very pleasant dinner. On the agenda was a trip to the Church Brew Works, a very unusual brew pub in the city. So with that, we’ll start our soundtrack (PS. Mom and Dad, probably not the song for you).
The first drink was, in fact, a little hilarious, as we accidentally crashed a private event where the mayor would be making a formal announcement (it turns out, to announce he would not be seeking re-election, with some sort of scandal to boot). We told the people at the entrance we were just trying to get a peak, and they shooed us in, and before we knew it, the workers at the bar were offering us beer, no doubt included in the price of entry. We had a couple samples but ultimately retreated, feeling we had outstayed our welcome (so sadly, we were not there for the announcement). But the place was cool, and the dinner we had afterwards — basically, a nice round of enormous salads — was also pleasant, as Alex told us more of us life and plans after his April graduation. Afterwards, he showed us around the main building of the University of Pittsburgh.
Most exciting were the “Nationality Rooms” — small rooms decorated in various styles. Here’s a number of them, caught as fast as we could as an employee was simultaneously locking the doors up:
Maki was, of course, especially excited about the Ukrainian room!
Anyway, from there, we dropped Alex off at his place and went off to find Maki’s cousin and her family, though we had a bit of a problem: did you know there’s an Emerson Road AND an Emerson Street AND another Emerson address? Yeah, we didn’t, and it took us a little while to find the place. We didn’t see much of his cousin (Lydia) that night — just his aunt, though we did catch up with Lydia a little that evening, and with the whole family (husband Richie, boys Alex and Koki) the next morning, though with no pictures to prove it. From there, it was onwards, through a blustery winter storm and our eventual arrival in Maryland. At which point, we’ll switch up the soundtrack, from which the post takes its title. Anyway, we arrived in Maryland and it was straight to shopping and cooking. Maki brought his grandmother over to help, and she was a marvelous sous-chef, regaling me with tales of her life (in Ukrainian!) while she chopped vegetables for me. The end result: a delightful Caribbean feast, with two kinds of mofongo (yuca with vegetable sauce; plantain with shrimp), black beans and rice, and a huge, marvelous salad. And, of course, piña coladas!
It was a festive occasion, complete, of course, with a cake, a copy-cat of the one I made my mother:
Making a wish:
And who could forget, some requisite family pictures!
The following day, we spent the afternoon with Roman in College Park. Here’s his place.
After a mid-afternoon meal, we headed back to Maki’s parents house to bid our farewells. A short visit, but we had a lot of miles ahead of us. And with that, we were off to North Carolina.