Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: Definitely an Improvement

It's cliche, sure. But I cannot believe 2012 is already over. Tonight we usher in 2013, and I'm really excited. 2011 was a total bummer. I came into 2012 full of hope that it would be a better year, and it definitely was. (Truly though, the bar 2011 set was extraordinarily low.) I feel like the positive momentum of 2012 will carry into 2013 and whatever it has in store. As excited as I was for 2012, I'm just as excited for 2013.

In these final hours of the year, here's a look at some of my favorite moments and posts. 

I started the year by repeating a move that took me into the worse year of my life. I was a little anxious to kick 2012 off in the same way, but I figured I was more prepared and at that point mostly acting on gut decision.

Coming out of the Mon on New Year's Day. Love that this is becoming a tradition. Tomorrow will be my third jump in a row.

The brave souls who welcomed 2012 with an icy-cold dip in the river.

Ringing in 2012 with Rob and champagne and lots of dancing (and lots of '90s music).

Carrie and me at the river jump on New Year's Day.

There was hockey in 2012! Which, sadly, it seems like that may not be the case in the first half of 2013. I miss games! I miss my Pigman! I miss Tommy the Beer Vendor! I miss my hockey family!

Continued another good tradition of winter camping. I'm happy to have friends who thinking sleeping outside in the cold in a bag on the ground is terrific fun too.

Allie and I drove to Bethel Park, hometown of my youth, after Mitt Romney's Cookie-Gate broke, to pick up the most wonderful thing in the world: a Bethel Bakery cake. Oh, and we broke down and met a black pug named Petunia.

Hey, have you guys heard about how I like to bike and stuff?

My brother - my baby brother! - treated me to a night on the town. We went ate burgers. We saw a zombie musical. We went to a Halloween bar. It was pretty special.

My brother and me sitting in the splash zone in our ponchos at the zombie musical.

John took me on my first motorcycle ride. And I survived. (And I kinda loved it.)

Need a book to add to your list of things to read in 2013? I'd suggest a book about my new favorite Pittsburgher.

I may have missed out on the fireworks, but I think white-water rafting on the Fourth of July was a very American thing to do. (Beer on the river and jumping off a huge rock also seem that way too.)

Papa Rowland and me, at the Pirates Skyblast featuring Boyz II Men. 

I celebrated two years being back in the city. Is it weird that it's only now seeming permanent?

I. Rode. My Bike. To Washington D.C.

Dirty, scratched up legs on the C&O Canal.

Rode my bike to D.C., and then rode another bike past the White House.

I turned 29. I spent it in wonderful ways.

Celebrated my 29th birthday by going to an amusement park for kids.

I got to see and do some pretty super things because of biking this year. It's weird to think there was a time in my life when biking wasn't a huge part of it. Was I just bored all the time?

Trying to power up a blender to make margaritas at the Carrie Furnace. My long legs weren't long enough!

Made sure to sneak a trip up to The Hat this year too. Always a good thing. (Sneak Peek: There's a big adventure in the planning stages that combines two of my biggest loves.)

Found these dinos hiding up in Niagara Falls. (On the Canadian side, of course.)

My bloody knee after crashing my bike on Queen Street West in Toronto. (So embarrassing.)

Put my feet in Lake Ontario.

I stayed up all night riding bikes with a bunch of people I'd never really met! And it was a really really good experience. I can't wait to do it again next year.

Participants of the second leg of the DC-PGH 24-hour relay. (No one told me about the dress code!)

The Bloomfield Halloween Parade 2012.

We had a pretty epic fall this year. Thanks Mother Nature for the drought? Is that what happened? Whatever. It was so beautiful for so long.

Guys. This movie. This book.

Ross and I went to go see a Halloween laser show. It was not exactly what we expected.

I rode my bike 3,000 miles! (I was trying for 4,000 on a dare, but Australia and that whole lefthand-side of the road thing...)

Me and Corey at the Steelers-Eagles game. 

Someone thought it would be a good idea to put me on TV. Yeah. I know. I love hot dogs. (And I love WQED and Rick Sebak!!)

I went to Australia. And I had the best time.

Souvenir from a crazy night out in Melbourne.

And, finally, my biggest fans of 2012: baby Australian goats.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

30 Before 30: The Casino

I'm not exactly a risk-taker with my money. I prefer to make it, put it in the bank, and then buy really necessary stuff with it. Like groceries, shoes, trips to Canada and small plastic dinosaurs. I've never been the gambling kind. I've even stopped from entering March Madness pools or Fantasy Football leagues because I have zero knowledge about college basketball and a very small attention span. I'm not into throwing away my money on betting or gambling, but every time I've biked past the Rivers Casino on the North Shore, I've wondered about it.

The only time I've ever been in a casino was during a road trip around the middle of the country a few years ago. We were camping on the casino's property (totally above the board, the campsite was part of the complex) when a sprinkler system turned on in the middle of the night. Fortunately for my friend Lindsay and me, the trajectory of one of the sprinklers went directly into the top of our tent. We woke up and thought it was raining. It was only after three trips running between the tent and the car that I realized there was no rain. Our tent completely flooded. Lindsay and I, soaked like rats, walked into the casino at some ungodly hour (as it was naturally open 24 hours/day), and demanded a room in the hotel. Well, I should admit that Lindsay demanded the room. I tried my hardest not to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

So, I put going to the casino on my 30 Before 30 list.

What better way to check it off than on Christmas Day?

I gave myself a spending limit of $100. Sticking a crisp $100 bill into the first slot machine was anxiety-inducing. I was terrified of losing all $100. Anytime I dipped below $90 in credits, I would feel my heart start beating way too fast. Fortunately, that only happened a few times. 

Gambling is confusing! I still have no idea what I was doing half the time. I only played the slots, because if pressing a button or pulling a lever was confusing, I can't even imagine what playing a table game would have been like. 

Depressing but true: I lost the most of my moneys on the dinosaur and Ghostbusters slots. No one told me the slots would be themed like this! I was beyond tickled. Even if they did take most of my moneys. (And by most I mean like $5-10. I walked away if I lost more than $10 on a machine. I ain't no dummy!)

And then I made back all the money I had lost by playing dinosaurs and Ghostbusters on the Sex and the City slots. I feel like there is a analogy for my life in these facts, but I'm just going to try and ignore it and be happy about hitting a weird bonus thing where Charlotte showed up on my screen gushing about diamonds or something along those lines.

And looky what I did! I hit three sevens! And made some money back that I had lost on other strange themed games, including Kitty Glitter.

The last machine of the night was the real winner. And also my real taste of just how addictively fun gambling can be. When I started at this last machine, I think I was either up a small amount on the $100 I brought in or just slightly under. I told myself I would keep pulling that lever until I hit $80, because losing $20 after a few hours of stupid fun felt justified. But then I just kept winning!

Once I got up over $200, I cashed out and walked away. I figured: I'd doubled my money. Time to go home and bask in the glow of coming out on top.

So, I started with one $100 bill and wound up walking out with two. Not a bad way to spend Christmas afternoon. Perhaps a new holiday tradition has been born...

Monday, December 17, 2012

EvBetPGH Down Under: The Blue Mountains

On my second day in Australia, Marlana, Courtney and me took a drive to the Blue Mountains for a few hours of hiking. We went to the Three Sisters area and wandered along the trails. For the first hour or so, I was really concentrating on keeping an eye out for snakes, as Australia has something like eight of the ten deadliest snakes in the world. But eventually the fear subsided, and I could enjoy more than the ground under my feet. Here's a sampling of what I saw a couple hours outside the city:

The Three Sisters

Rules and Things

Tic Tac Toe

Hmmm. Looks almost like being back in Pittsburgh.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Surviving December: Whiskey Before Breakfast (& Pittsburgh Boozes)

Let's be honest. A lot of drinking happens in December. There are holiday parties with friends and for work. There are holiday dinners with family. There is New Year's Eve.

As I write this, I'm recovering from my work holiday party. Well, a work holiday party preceded by a day of whiskey drinking, which started before breakfast thanks to Pittsburgh's Wigle Whiskey.

2401 Smallman Street (in the Strip)

I never used to be a whiskey drinker. It's been a semi-new development over the past year. See, when your main mode of transportation is a bicycle, it's not terribly easy to get a case of beer from the distributor to your fridge. It's a whole lot easier to transport a bottle of whiskey, and thus I have become a whiskey drinker.

Yesterday morning Wigle released their first bottles of aged whiskey. I arrived with friends a little before 9 a.m. and got in a line that was already wrapping around the building. While waiting, we placed our orders for the whiskeys we wanted to take home. We were also served a delicious drink called the Bees Knees (Wigle White Wheat + cream + honey). I picked up one of each of the aged whiskeys (one regular, one cherry wood, and one maple wood). Anyone who, like us, got out of bed early enough on a Saturday to get their hands on these limited bottles was welcome to sign one of the small casks used in the aging process. It's nice thinking our names will be on that cask and that the cask will be a part of Wigle's history for (hopefully) many, many years to come.

My aged Wigle whiskeys, at home atop my fridge.

Now, if whiskey's not your thing, Pittsburgh has other options for local alcohol. Fortunately for me, two of those options (as well as Wigle!) are located along my route home from work. 

147 Julius Street (Larimer)

East End Brewing may be located in Larimer (they've recently moved into their newer, bigger building on Julius Street), but they have a very convenient growler station at the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip. They stay open til 6 p.m. on Fridays, which is the perfect for a quick stop after work to bring home a growler of one of my favorites (Pedal Pale Ale, Big Hop, Fat Gary...).

300 39th Street (Lawrenceville)

Arsenal Cider House is such a treat to have in the neighborhood. Really. The ciders are tasty and the fun of sampling and choosing which growler to take home with you is made even more fun when your growler is labeled with your name and a ranking. Last time, I received my growler with "Admiral Allison" on it. 

December is a long month. Thankfully, we've already survived half of it. As the rest of the month goes into the books, make an effort to drink locally. Wigle, East End, and Arsenal are only a few of the many ways to do so. With so many hardworking local businesses serving up homemade and homegrown brews and libations, there's good reason we've been described as a football town with a drinking problem. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Surviving December: Larrimor's Windows

I'm one of the only people in my group of friends who works downtown. That seems odd to me, especially because in Boston it was unusual if someone did not work downtown. I've been downtown nearly every day for two and a half years now, and something I've truly enjoyed during my walks around town at lunch are the Larrimor's window displays. I've actually never thought to photograph these and document them, but they are normally truly bizarre. Their holiday offering, "It's Christmas in Pittsburgh and My True Love Gave to Me..." is a great example of why you should venture downtown more often. Goofiness abounds.

One view of a great city.

Two steep inclines.

Three Stanley Cups.

Four parking chairs.

Five golden rings (plus one).

Six Penguins Skatin.

Seven pickles picklin'.

Eight perogies fryin.' [sic]

Nine heads by Andy.

Ten gunbands snappin'.

Eleven Steelers chargin'.

Twelve I.C.'s chillin'. [sic]