Sorry, Ohio State. It’s Nothing Personal.

Never have I ever cheered for Ohio State. Now, before I get the blog-equivalent of carried out on a rail, let me explain…

Head Coach Urban Meyer after the OSU vs. Cal game.

The Ohio State University just ended a perfect football season, going 12-0 this fall. I think that’s fantastic, and I’m happy for any university or college that can claim that sort of streak. It truly says something about the strength of the team and the wisdom of the coaches. Unfortunately, for the 2012 Buckeyes, this past weekend’s game against arch rivals, the University of Michigan Wolverines, brought the end of their undefeated season. During the 2010 and 2011 football seasons, while the team was under Head Coach Jim Tressel (the coach who led my alma mater, YSU, to 4 NCAA Division I-AA titles in the 1990s), several players were found to have traded tattoos for autographs or selling memorabilia, violating NCAA policies. The fallout from these and other scandals led to Coach Tressel retiring from football, wishing to remain a “Buckeye for life.” Urban Meyer was named as the new head coach for the team, but his first season at the helm would not include postseason activities due to the sanctions set in place by the NCAA.

 

This is ridiculously tame and the exact opposite of anything involving those two teams today.

A lot of people are quite angry that despite their perfect record this season, Ohio State will not be headed to any bowl games, including one where it was likely that they’d be matched up against the Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish. Fans of the team, who are flung to all corners of these United States, attempted to petition the White House, seeking a pardon for the team and allowing them to participate in postseason games. This petition, however, was removed. (I would petition to have “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” brought back, but I think the President has bigger things on his plate.)


Welcome to ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’, the show where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. That’s right, the points are just like Angelina Jolie’s breakfast.

Getting back to why I can’t bring myself to root for the scarlet and gray… I just don’t have a reason to. I don’t have a personal connection to the university, so I guess I don’t understand fervently cheering for a school I’ve never attended. It doesn’t mean anything to me, really. Going by that standard, a lot of universities hold no meaning for me. You know who I will always cheer for? The Youngstown State Penguins. Since I called it home for six years, I always will. Even if they’re not not in the playoffs, they’re still my team. I’ll probably be a big fan of the football program of whatever university or college I get to work for in the future, too. (I will try to get excited about basketball and baseball, but that’s asking a lot.) If you didn’t have a personal connection to Youngstown State, I wouldn’t expect you to root for them. OSU has fans all over the country, if not all over the world, so I understand the “pride is nation-wide” thing. As a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, I’m part of a similar nation, but more about that in a minute. However, my friends who are alumni of Ohio State can take comfort in the fact that I don’t cheer for the Wolverines, either. 

Alright, so I’m not a fan of Ohio State because I didn’t go there. Ok. What about the fact that they’re from Ohio? Eh… that doesn’t hold much for me, either. It’s not like they’re the only good university football program in the state — look at Cincinnati. This goes for my NFL allegiance, too. Just because I’m from Ohio, it doesn’t mean that you’ll ever catch me in orange on game day, for either the Bengals or the Browns. (Actually, never the Browns.) I live closer to Pittsburgh than I do Cleveland, and I guess you could say I’m Pittsburgh Steeler-born-and-bred. I can admit that we’re very likely not going to the Super Bowl this year, but no one can ever call me a bandwagon fan.

These guys know what’s up.

So there it is. It really isn’t personal, Ohio State. I have plenty of friends who have attended and loved their experiences at Ohio State and that’s great for them. I appreciate the strong traditions of the school, including the annual “baptism” in Mirror Lake and Script Ohio. But, I didn’t go there, so I just don’t have that connection. At the same time, I don’t actively root against them, or any team… unless they’re playing against YSU. They’re a good team, and if they have a lot of players returning next season, I don’t see why they can’t make it to the bowls next year. Coming off the postseason ban, I’m sure they’ll have the drive to do so. Besides, I know several other people who cheer for universities they never attended, including Duke, Alabama, WVU, and, yes, even Michigan.

Now I’m curious, and there’s no right or wrong answer. If you’re an Ohio State fan, did you go there? If you didn’t, what about the Buckeyes makes you cheer for them? Or, do you root for another school that you didn’t attend? Why? These are just my reasons, and I’d like to hear yours. Just keep it civil. 🙂

Need A Laugh? Watch “Pittsburgh Dad”

We all need an escape from time to time. And sometimes all we need is a really good laugh. The kind of laugh that leaves you gasping for air, slapping whatever surface is near you, and thinking of one-liners for days.

Now, of course, this “best kind of laugh” is often attached to a joke or funny scenario that you identify with. That’s why some people find certain things funny while others don’t.

For me, my new “go to laugh generator” is the YouTube short film series “Pittsburgh Dad” which is one of those things that I identify so much with that it is simply hysterical.

I grew up less than a mile from the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line, my Mum is from Pennsylvania, most of my family lives there, and PA has really helped define me more than my home state of Ohio has. I root for the Steelers, not the Browns, and I would pick the forested beauty of the Alleghenies over the flat expanses of Ohio any day.

Because I’ve straddled the Ohio-PA border for my entire life and because Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania culture and customs aren’t really that different (remember my cookie table explanation?), so many of the themes, anecdotes, jokes, and countless other nuances that appear in episodes of Pittsburgh Dad are immediately recognizable to me.

Since its debut in October 2011, Pittsburgh Dad has become something of an internet sensation, particularly in the Pittsburgh area. An ever-growing series of of 1-3 minute short films, Pittsburgh Dad is the creation of Pittsburgh-area natives Chris Preksta and Curt Wooten. The character is an exaggeration of Wooten’s own father and talks and complains about typical Dad stuff in a thick Pittsburghese accent. (For more information on Pittsburghese, check out this website.)

The premise of Pittsburgh Dad is simple. Preksta directs while Wooten stars as the title character — the only character to ever appear on camera. There are other characters, but they always remain off-screen.

Every Tuesday Curt Wooten transforms himself into Pittsburgh Dad, complete with Dad glasses, facial hair, and wardrobe.

Pittsburgh Dad appeals to me mostly because of my regional connection to it and my understanding of the Pittsburghese dialect in which the character talks. While I don’t use all the vocabulary or pronunciations that Pittsburgh Dad does, I do use/understand a lot of his words. For example, I call my mother Mum, not Mom. Water comes out of a spicket, not a faucet. You need to wear Tennies (tennis shoes/sneakers) into the woods or weeds so you don’t get pricked by a jagger bush (thorn bush).

But, you don’t have to be a Pittsburgh-area native to understand or enjoy Pittsburgh Dad. The Pittsburgh jokes aside, Pittsburgh Dad is just a funny reflection of real life — of the behavior that we all exhibit, about things we did as kids and things our parents did too.

You just have to watch to see….

Pittsburgh Dad premieres new episodes on YouTube every Tuesday. Currently, there are over 60 videos to watch including dozens of original episodes, outtakes and deleted scenes, and behind the scenes discussions.

Here are some of my many, many favorites:

“Going to Church”

“Family Dinner”

“Going to Gram’s”

“Dad Yelling on the Answering Machine”

“Slumber Party”

———————————————————————————–

Disclaimer: Pittsburgh Dad is exclusively the property of Chris Preksta and Curt Wooten.

Daycations: The Best of Northeast Ohio and Pittsburgh

If you found your way here from Once Is Enough, welcome! We hope you’ll click around and check out our other posts!
 

Earlier this week, I wrote my first ever guest blog post for Sam over at Once is Enough while she went on vacation. I focused on daycationing, outlining several tips to help you have a great time while being a tourist in your own town. Head over to her blog to read more about finding the best local spots to explore and save money — great for the college girl on a budget! While you’re at it, read posts from Sam and the other guest bloggers for the week. 

If you’re still in school, summer is pretty much half over already… unless you’re in graduate school, and you’re very likely still in class till very late at night or early on Saturday mornings. I feel your pain. I’m currently still looking for a job, and while I’m cutting back on unnecessary purchases, I still plan on taking a daycation or two. I’m lucky that I live in an area filled with hidden cultural jewels, right between two large metro areas with experiences totally unique to each of those cities. It’s unlikely that people from outside of the area plan to vacation in Northeast Ohio, there’s much to do for those who are willing to explore, and do a little research ahead of time. Here are four of my favorite day-trips for a quick weekend excursion. Click through on the links to each of the attractions for more information about hours of operation, admission, and directions. 

Youngstown, Ohio

Home of my alma mater and Ed O’Neill from Modern Family, Youngstown is in the middle of a cultural revival, working to rebuild itself from the fall of the U.S. steel industry and shed it’s image as hub of organized crime. It boasts a rich ethnic heritage, and on any given weekend in the summer, you can sample Greek gyros, Italian sausages, or Polish pyrohies at any of their popular festivals held each year. In the six years I spent living in Youngstown earning my degrees, I learned to love the area and discovered many of the gems of the city and surrounding area. 

First, visit the Butler Museum of American Art, the first museum of strictly American art in all types of media, dedicated in 1919. Featured on the National Register of Historic Places, admission to this museum is free. Take time to reflect on paintings by Edward Hopper, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keefe, and Robert Rauschenberg. For lunch, take a very short drive over to Casesse’s MVR, one of the most popular restaurants in the Mahoning Valley. While you wait for a (massive) plate of cavatelli, or any of the other old school Italian dishes, look around at all of the Youngstown sports memorabilia, from the years the YSU Penguins won four national championships under Coach Jim Tressel (just before he went on to coach for Ohio State) and boxing greats, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Kelly Pavlik. Take your to-go box and head to Mill Creek Park, the second largest metro park in the United States. With over 4,400 acres for you to explore, its easy to spend an entire day here out on the hiking trails, paddling around Lake Glacier, or simply relaxing and enjoying nature. You might even happen upon a wedding in any area of the park, especially in the gorgeous Fellows Riverside Gardens and its visitor’s center. As the sun sets, head back into town for dinner and drinks at the Lemon Grove, part bar and restaurant, part performance venue, and part art gallery. Almost every night of the week, you can catch live music, poetry readings, or events like trivia games or karaoke at this lively downtown establishment. Don’t forget to check the schedules for the Dana School of Music and the Department of Theater and Dance at YSU, bringing top notch vocal, symphonic, and theatrical performances to the valley. 

Bonus Youngstown Sites
Charlie Staples’ Original Bar-B-Cue
Mahoning Valley Scrappers Baseball
The World’s Largest Pair of Drum Sticks, in honor of Warren native Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters 
Oakland Center for the Arts

Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio

Geneva on the Lake has become one of my favorite weekend getaways for two simple reasons: there’s a beach and the wine is plentiful and delicious. The beach is on the shores of Lake Erie, and though I don’t think I would take a dive into it, it is quite beautiful to look at. Start your day at Geneva State Park, and don’t forget to pack your towels, sunscreen, and a good book. Bring a picnic lunch, too, and soak up the sun watching the waves coming in from the lake. After relaxing at the beach for a few hours, head over to Lake Road for food, drinks, and entertainment. For family fun, stop at the Adventure Zone for mini-golf, bumper boats, and go-carts. You can also rent bikes, golf carts, and surrey limos. To sample some of the area’s best vino, grab a map and choose your destinations. I recommend Ferrante Winery, Chalet Debonne Vineyard, and The Lakehouse Inn & Winery.  In the evening, park your car along the strand and grab a bite to eat at one of the many food stands that line the road, or pop over to my personal favorite, The Old Firehouse Winery, for a breathtaking view of the lake and live music nightly. Don’t miss their Ferris wheel and the wine slushies! Find your favorite wine and bring a bottle or two home to enjoy for the rest of the summer.

Bonus Geneva-on-the-Lake Sites
Eddie’s Arcade (on Lake Road)

Laurello Vineyards
Old Mill Winery

Cleveland, Ohio

While you could easily visit their amazing visitor’s page, I thought I would highlight some of my favorite things to do while in Cleveland. Since Brian and I love going to zoos, the first place I would go is the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo & Aquarium, featuring The Rainforest and the new African Elephant Crossing. It doesn’t matter how many times or how many different zoos I go to, I’ll always take pictures of the penguins and the bears. They’re just too cute. After a hot morning and afternoon wandering around the zoo, head over to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a uniquely “Cleveland” experience. Nowhere else in the world can you find such an expansive collection of rock n’ roll memorabilia and learn so much about the music and it’s roots. See tour costumes, handwritten lyrics, and other belongings of your favorite musicians and watch films featuring all of the inductees. In the evening, find dinner and drinks in the East 4th Street entertainment district. I prefer the House of Blues for dinner — their cornbread is nothing short of incredible — but there are plenty of great little restaurants in the area, including Flannery’s Pub and the Corner Alley Bar & Grill.

Bonus Cleveland Sites
The Christmas Story House
CLE Clothing, Co. <– Stop here! The shirts are brilliant!
West Side Market
Great Lakes Brewing Company

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Ok, so this one isn’t necessarily in Ohio, but I live within 45 minutes of Pittsburgh, hence why I’ve always been a Steelers fan over the Browns. Recently, the city appeared as part of Gotham City in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, and I won’t pretend that I didn’t get more than a little excited to see Bill Cowher’s face on the sidelines during the Heinz Field scene. I must insist that you take the Fort Pitt tunnel entrance into the city. There’s no other way to arrive, as Pittsburgh truly is the only city with an entrance, and it blows me away every time. Start at the Phipps Conservatory and immerse yourself in the beautiful botanical wonderland, featuring art glass hand-blown by Dave Chihuly. For lunch, make your way over to Oakland and stop in at Primanti Bros. for one of their famous sandwiches.  Take in the architecture of the University of Pittsburgh and other universities in the area as you head to the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. Admission gives you access to Dinosaurs in Their Time, the Hall of Ancient Egypt, Monet’s “Water Lilies,” the stunning Hall of Architecture (can you sense a pattern here?). Cross the river to Station Square for dinner at Bar Louie, and at sunset, take the Duquesne Incline to the observation deck for the most beautiful view of Pittsburgh.

Bonus Pittsburgh Sites
Warhol Museum
Carnegie Science Center, IMAX, Laser Shows, and USS Requin
The Mattress Factory Art Museum
Pittsburgh Public Theater <– Always check for Student ID discounts!

While I could go on for days about the cool things to do in Pittsburgh, I really recommend checking out this link for lots of free ways to explore the city. Let me know if you’d like more ideas about where to go!

Locals, did I miss anything? Have you been to any of these places? Add your must-see attractions in the comments, or give me the daycation of your city!

Tackling the Cookie Table: Why Pinterest Has Made A Wedding Tradition Easier

It’s hard to believe that it’s the end of February. It seems like 2012 just started and now we’re already 2 months in. Crazy. I have a lot of things to accomplish in the next 2 months including: decide what the heck I’m doing with my life, finish my thesis, take comprehensive exams, and find something awesome to wear to 2 different weddings (one for the sister of a fellow Dame and one for my cousin).

But a smashing outfit is not the only thing I have to worry about when it comes to weddings, my cousin’s in particular. No, I have time to worry about a dress and shoes. Right now, my main concern is cookies.

Yes, cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.

You see, here in Northeast Ohio (Western Pennsylvania too), we have this tradition at weddings called the cookie table. And it is epic.

This is one example of a wedding cookie table. Cookie tables range in size and arrangement, but a traditional cookie table is laden with dozens of cookie varieties.

While the wedding cake is still a mainstay of the wedding reception, the cookie table is equally, if not more, important. A traditional part of the wedding reception in the Northeast Ohio/Western Pennsylvania region of the United States, the cookie table is truly a force to be reckoned with. No one is really sure of how it got started or where it actually began, but it’s easy to make an educated guess.

Most likely, the cookie table tradition became prevalent from a combination of the high influx of immigrants that came into this region in early twentieth century and their baking traditions, the expense of an elaborate wedding cake, and the hardships caused by the Great Depression. For a more nuanced explanation, one of my history professors (a Youngstown native) explained that the cookie table was (and still is to a certain extent) all about social power and social debt.

Mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends, cousins, etc. spend months before a wedding baking and freezing cookies for the big day. Requests go out – “Can you make cookies for s0 and so’s wedding?” The number of cookies you display and the number of people you can get to bake them for the occasion says something about your social power, but it also puts you in debt to the person baking the cookies. They call in that debt later when they need cookies for a wedding.

As for where the cookie table exactly originated, both residents of Youngstown, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania both claim their city to be the birthplace of the cookie table. We’ll probably never really know, but I’m betting on Youngstown.

Today, cookie tables are different at every wedding. It depends on the bride and groom’s preference, the number of cookies people have time to make in this busy world, the size of the wedding, ethnic and religious traditions, and your family’s past usage/experience with the cookie table. My family definitely adheres to the cookie table tradition, but we don’t have anywhere near as elaborate a cookie table as some others do.

That doesn’t mean the cookies are in short supply though. Recipes won’t just be doubled or tripled. Some will be octupled. (Yeah, I know this might not really be a word. But for my cousin’s wedding 5 years ago, my Mum made 8 times the normal recipe for one cookie alone.) Needless to say, I didn’t eat any of those cookies at the wedding, nor do I have an easy time even looking at them now, 5 years later.

IMG_1332 - Copy

 

IMG_1331 - Copy

So, it’s full speed ahead with the cookie baking. And, all I have to say is: Thank God for Pinterest!

Over the next few months, I’m going to be using Pinterest to seek out some new (to me at least) cookie recipes to make for my cousin’s wedding in June.

I’m going to catalog my cookie baking progress on here where I’ll share the recipes and my take on the cookies I try.

First up is Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies.

Here’s a picture of what they’re supposed to look like:

I hope to make them this weekend, so check back soon to see whether they are cookie table appropriate.

🙂