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Oglebay’s Winter Festival of Lights

December 9th, 2014 2 comments

Oglebay Lights When it was first suggested we go check out the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay a few weeks ago I was against it. I didn’t want to spend my Saturday night loading up the family, driving to West Virginia to look at Christmas lights and then driving back a car of people snoring. As the nights came and went we would drive around the South Hills and my kids would gawk at the lights on houses. Yeah, you can see where this was leading. Either they really loved the lights or mommy bribed their butts.

Last week while picking up my youngest from preschool he asked me if we could go look at lights some night because they really make him happy. Looking at the calendar the only date we had open that would work was December 6, my dad’s 8th anniversary. I felt a blanket of peace come over me and knew this would be a fitting tribute since the man was crazy obsessed with Christmas lights and going all out to decorate. He was the Clark Griswold of Erie.

The drive felt faster than I expected and while the wait in the car might seem long (see the list below) what you’re going to experience is worth it. Oglebay does a great job of traffic control and making sure you don’t have many bottlenecks along the way once you’re in the park. The use of LED lights over the old bulbs when I was growing up made the designs brighter but also helped the displays with moving parts appearing more lively.

It’s hard for me to talk about what I loved without ruining the trip for you so I’ll leave you with this. The glow on my kids faces were the brightest I have ever seen. Every turn was “WHOA! LOOK!” and at the end Teaspoon said thanks for taking him because it was really cool.

Here are a few thoughts.

Know Before You Go
This isn’t just a quick “wham-bam-nice lights ma’am” kinda trip, it’s an adventure and you need to be ready for it especially if you’re taking kids.

  1. Easy drive – From Greentree to the exit right off I-70 was approximately 1 hour. All you need to know is I-79 to I-70 and be able to read signs. It really is THAT easy to get to. Once you exit and turn right onto National Rd/rt40 stay in the left lane. You turn at Sheetz unless…
  2. OH MAH GAWD! TRAFFIC! – Here’s how you get around the first wave of cars. Weekday nights won’t be as bad but Fri/Sat/Sunday is a mess. Stay in the right lane and pass Sheetz. You can turn around at the plaza a block away and then when you come back you’ll have the right turn on red.
  3. OH MAH GAWD! TRAFFIC pt 2 – If traffic is backed up at Sheetz you will wait for at least 75 minutes in traffic. Traffic moves at a crawl and there are very few places to pull over on the way. Plan ahead for road trip food.
  4. Bring your wallet – Suggested donation is $20 per car (great price!) and there is a DVD for $5 which is worth it. The kids have played it to death plus we got to learn more about the resort. There is also a cool gift shop and activities for families.
  5. Christmas Jams – They have a radio station to tune in to for music while you’re touring the area along with info breaks to tell you more about the displays.
  6. Bring a camera but don’t stress over pics – Unless you’re stopping for pics don’t sweat it if you can’t get that perfect blurry picture of lights. Enjoy the moment with the people you’re with.
  7. Beer in Sheetz – It’s mostly macros but if you want to feel what it’s like to live in just about every other state in the U.S. and buy beer at a convenience store, this is your chance. There’s also a Kroger’s at the exit but their selection is really weak.
  8. Drive back is really fast – We had no idea how close Wheeling really was. I mean we KNEW it was a short distance but if you haven’t been there, you need to experience it.

The trip was a great experience for the family and next year I think we may make a full weekend out of it. There was so much to do we didn’t know about and next year I think getting a group of us together would be a blast.

Categories: Family, Fatherhood

Pittsburgh Polish Festival

November 11th, 2014 No comments

Polish Dancers

There’s a lot about my Polish heritage that I’m unfamiliar with. Until recently while working on my family tree, I knew I was Polish but I didn’t know where on the tree it came from. My mom’s family is hardcore German so I knew the answer was on my dad’s side, but where? When I heard the Pittsburgh Polish Festival was going on I knew I had to be there. Handmade pierogies, smoked meats and chocolates on every corner along with exposure to a culture I wanted to learn more about.

Last Sunday Teaspoon and I made the trip to the Cathedral of Learning to see what it was all about and the things we found were amazing.

This was my first trip to the Cathedral since I was a student at Pitt in the 90’s and right away I felt like I was at home. We were greeted by a very friendly polish couple who explained what was going on and asked what brought us in. Saying that you want to find out more about your heritage is the golden ticket as they gave me more handouts than I could handle, offered Teaspoon free homemade bread and told me who I should speak with if I have questions. Awesome people.

I have attended the Polish fest in Erie called Zabawa a few times but really went for the food and beer. When you’re 22 that’s all which matters. They were nice events but nothing to this scale. Although I’m sure going back now would be a different experience.

We watched the dancers for a few minutes and Teaspoon was in awe at how the little kids moved plus I think deep down he wants one of their outfits. We sampled foods, walked around the upper floors of the building since it was Teaspoon’s first trip, and met with a few elders who were able to help me out with family tree info I brought along.

One thing the Cathedral doesn’t have is a steady flow of air so after awhile it got REALLY warm and we were ready to go. Teaspoon asked if I could show him our family tree and what I do to work on it. A 5yr old wants to know about history? WIN! We walked across the street to the Carnegie Library and visited the 3rd floor which is where I spend a lot of time when I get a break from the kids. I showed him how to use the microfilm machine and how to do research on the computers which is similar to what I do at home. I could see the little guy was wearing down so we picked up and left. Well I thought we were done.

As we pulled out of the parking garage he realized he didn’t have sunglasses and the meltdown began. Library was closing in 6 minutes, he wanted his glasses and I really didn’t want to drive back to Oakland later this week. I floor it around Oakland and somehow manage to find a parking spot in front. We sprinted in and back up to the 3rd floor to see his specs sitting behind the microfilm machine. Of course, he blamed this one me.

The day was fun and it brought me joy discovering our family heritage together. My wish is that someday he carries on the mission to find out more about our family and history.

Oh, and just because it’s freaking beautiful, here’s a pic of the Cathedral of Learning we took before leaving.

Cathedral Of Learning

 

Million ways to die in the west on mom’s night out

November 8th, 2014 4 comments

MomsNightMillionWaysBanner

It’s difficult for us to make time to watch movies at home that don’t have cartoons, kids, or some kind of superhero. There have been several times we’ll hit up a RedBox and the movie sits for days unwatched before we return it. My wife and I go in with high hopes that we’ll sit together on the couch eating popcorn and enjoy a flick. Reality is by the time we get the kids to bed and house picked up, we last 20 minutes before someone is snoring and it’s usually the one who picked the movie. Last night the stars aligned, corn was popped, beverages were served and the 2 movies were… UGH.

Mom’s Night Out
Moms Night OutLushie’s pick for movie night and at the end both of us were “meh”. It was free and that was about all I would pay for it if I had the choice again. Here’s what you need to know about the movie. Mommy blogger is at her wits end from being home with the kids all the time and needs a break. This was something both of us could relate to very well (Seriously, as I’m typing this Little Thor is naked, running around the house while riding a wooden horse and playing a harmonica while Teaspoon is in his gutchies yelling at his Nintendo 3DS) so the movie started out with promise… and then it sank. Not like a slow leak in a boat and everyone could escape but “OMFG SOMEONE BLEW A HOLE IN THE BOAT!” and everyone dies. Here’s why.

Surprise! Dads in this movie are bumbling idiots or space cadets. Abso-freaking-lutely they are. Why wouldn’t they be? Every dad has his quirks but in this movie if you’re a dad you’re either oblivious or a knucklehead. Next, the main character Allyson is over the top OCD. All of us like to keep a clean house but her obsessiveness is exhausting. I’ve seen the actress in other roles and she’s god but I feel bad for her being in this one. Honestly, it felt like the movie was written by people who don’t have kids but think they know what parenting is like because they have pets or their brother has kids.

If you’re parents like us and have a free night to watch a movie, pick something else. What ever you do, don’t get this next movie.

A Million Ways to Die in the West
A Million Ways to Die in the WestI’m a Seth MacFarlane fan. Love Family Guy and I think “ted” was fantastic but this, dear lord almost a 6 pack of Merry Monks and Charlize Theron couldn’t save this. Trust me, I tried. I REALLY wanted to see this movie when the previews came out. I knew this would be a dude flick that I could shut out everything around me and enjoy stupid humor. Only problem, this lacked the humor.  Seth’s rants weren’t bad but seemed more like a time traveler going back to the West and being a smart ass to everyone. Speaking of time travel, there’s a Back to the Future 3 reference. Funny, but inaccurate.

I love all of the actors in this movie but something just didn’t click. The only plus side to the movie was the fact I was drinking good beer and Charlize Theron. Mmm Charlize Theron.

By the end of the night I was crashed on the couch and everyone else was in bed. It wasnt a waste of a night because I did get time to chill, I’m just glad we didn’t waste a babysitter to see these in the theater.

Categories: Family, Fatherhood, Movies

Should I Eat That? – Dogfish Head Craft Beer Brats

September 3rd, 2014 1 comment

An educated person in my family once said to me at a cookout “I don’t want you serving your brats (in a beer bath) to my kids because I don’t want them to get drunk and like the taste of beer!” Can’t make that one up.

I’ve always loved cooking with beer but it’s not everyday I discover food with good beer in it. Granted there are sauces and condiments with alcohol ingredients but I’m talking something already infused even though that word gets trampled to death. So hey, it’s infused meat!

DogfishHeadBrats

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery posted a video on YouTube last week showcasing bratwurst made with their various beers and they were available at Whole Foods. I tweeted Whole Foods and they in turn messaged the store to find out they did indeed have some in stock AND they were on sale for $6.99/4pk (Excellent use of social networking by them!). After spending the afternoon at the pool with Teaspoon, I strapped him into the car and we road tripped to East Liberty.

I picked up 2 of the 3 available at the store. The Greek Feta Brat and Heirloom Italian Brat had me most curious while passing on the standard bratwurst. There is also a Spicy Espresso Brat that sounds amazing but I didn’t see it in stock. Check out the DFH brat family on their website.

Fired up the grill on Labor Day and treated the family to a special dinner. Here’s what we thought.

The Greek Feta Brat
made with feta cheese, mint, spinach, cumin, lemon and a dose of Midas Touch.

Me: LOVE LOVE LOVE this one. Ate it with no toppings, just a bun and it’s a winner served naked. Could you add on to it? Sure, why not but as a standalone chicken brat it was fantastic. Great snap when I bit into it and the flavors exploded. I would be anxious to try it without the Midas Touch just to see what flavors it brings that aren’t masked by the ingredients.

The wife: I like it and will cut you if you touch my plate

The kids: Can’t we just have a hot dog with ranch?

The Heirloom Italian Brat
based on a recipe from Dogfish founder Sam Calagione’s family. Sam’s great-grandmother used pork, fennel and red pepper in her classic Italian brat. If it was good enough for her, it’s good enough for Dogfish. (Well, the Italian gets a helping of beer/wine/mead hybrid Midas Touch for good measure!)

Me: It was a little on the bland side for overall flavor but it packed a nice heat punch that would make it perfect on a bun dressed with green peppers and onions. Watch out though because with the slightest pop while on the grill, I had a serious case of flare up.

The wife: I don’t like it.

The kids: Why can’t we have a hot dog already? COME ON!

Here’s where Dogfish Head also nailed it, the packaging. The back tells you which beers are suggested to drink with it. I’m sketchy on drinking the beer the food is made with so it’s not overkill and they seem to agree. One beer in common, which I haven’t had in awhile but agree that it would be an excellent choice, is their Burton Baton (10% ABV | 70 IBU). I think the raisiney and vanilla notes would complement both well.

There you go, the official Derda Family thoughts on the brats. The kids are still coming around to eating non-hot dog tubes of meat no matter how I try to sell it to them.

Dogfish Head Brats Collage
(Gallery on Flickr)

That’s a big twinkie

September 2nd, 2014 No comments

It brings me great joy seeing my kids appreciating some of the things I did as a youth.  Not just sports but certain cartoons, TV sitcoms and of course movies. Yesterday was the 30th anniversary showing of Ghostbusters and, just like with Back to the Future, it was a father and son moment I’m glad we shared.

Teaspoon_Ghostbusters Teaspoon and Little Thor have seen the movie multiple times off Netflix. In fact the first time I showed it to them I was curious how they would see the movie. They didn’t retain any of the swearing or (many) of the key lines but they loved the special effects with Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Watching it on the big screen was a new experience for me and one where I noticed a few things.

1) Smoking is big – Back then no one thought twice about lighting up but today if this movie would come out I’m sure there would be people flipping out. Teaspoon’s thoughts “Daddy, they smoke a lot. That’s stupid!”. Now if he says that at 15 we’re golden.

2) Janine is nebby – I need to watch this a few more times but in the background it seemed like she was always poking her head up or looking around a corner.

3) Dana is loaded – How on earth does someone have that beautiful of an apartment on the top floor by Central Park and makes a living as a musician?

4) What’s their insurance like – Unless they have a way to fine tune the streams to cause less destruction, they will trash your building like the hotel. Shelling out 5k to have a ghost captured and contained  and then you have damage to the walls and replacing a ballroom. I mean you could sign a contract but that Sedgewick Hotel is pretty much screwed.

I can’t wait until his brother is a little older so we can go as a family to enjoy the theater but until then, it’s special time like this with my Teaspoon that I’m cherishing.

 

 

Categories: Family, Fatherhood