Coming to America – Day 3

After breakfasting at the hotel, we set out to visit our relatives in Brownsville.  It was an absolutely beautiful day with blue skies and warm, comfortable temperatures.  As I mentioned earlier, my mother took us by train to visit Brownsville in 1964.  As we drove onto the street, it was just like we remembered!  The main house that belonged to my mother’s uncle and aunt, and where we stayed in 1964, is in the middle of the block with two family homes above it and two family homes below it.  Such a lovely area, very green and open.  The chicken coops behind the main house are even still there, but no chickens today.

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We met our cousin Jim Despot (who remembers our visit in 1964) and his son Dustin and his two children who all live on the block.  Dustin was a fifth generation coal miner until recently.  They were so welcoming and kind.  We all sat around Jim’s dining room table talking family, both past and present.  Jim prepared a delicious lunch for us of pasta and meatballs and homemade apple pie.  Jim shared recipes with me, and I was very grateful for that.

On our way back, we followed Jim to another cemetery where his grandfather and grandmother are buried.  His grandfather was our grandfather’s older brother.  Jim and Dustin told us how he arrived in America by boat before World War II, where at some point he was drafted and sent to war back in Europe on the very same boat he came to America on!

Back in Pittsburgh at our hotel, Gary, Kyle, Kelsey and I went for a walk over the Sixth Street Bridge, also known as the Roberto Clemente Bridge, one of the nearly identical “Three Sister Bridges” that spans the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh.  This bridge was erected in 1927, and you have a beautiful view of the baseball stadium right on the river.  The bridge is closed to cars on game days so that fans can cross it.  On the walkways of the bridge, many locks (Love Locks) are placed on the railings, similar to what you might see in Europe.

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Dinner that night was Clark’s choice, and we ate at a wonderful Mexican restaurant called Las Velas.  We all enjoyed the food very much.

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When we got back to the hotel, it was time for Liverpool Rummy, the favorite card game in our family.  My mom used to play this with her lady friends betting dimes.  They were quite the group!  Mom, my brothers, and I, along with Uncle Al when he was in from fishing, would play this game.  Mom taught it to all her grandchildren.  Luckily, Kelsey had purchased three decks of cards earlier that day.  We took over a large table in the hotel lounge area and proceeded to have a wonderful time.  It is always fun to play this with the family.  Shout out to Clark who won the game!

Coming to America – Day 2

June 20th

Our mission today was to travel to Cheswick, PA to find Deer Creek Cemetery and the graves of our Grandfather George and Uncle Felix.  We had breakfast at the hotel and set off with an overcast sky.  The scenery was beautiful, so green and so different from the Los Angeles area!  We found the very old cemetery and set out looking for the graves.  Gary had looked up the information, and we knew which sections they were in, or so we thought.  We all got a lot of steps in as we went back and forth, row after row looking at gravestones.

deer creek cemetery.

I personally find old cemeteries very interesting and can wander for hours looking at the headstones and wondering who these people were, what their lives were like, etc.  A lot of the people buried here were born in the mid- to late 1800s.

Kyle and Clark found George Despot’s headstone (1888-1941), and we gathered around.  He died of black lung from working in the coal mines.  It was emotional for Gary and I, remembering our mother had told us and knowing that she had been here when he was buried.

It started lightly raining as we looked for Felix’s grave.  Back and forth, up and down we went in the grass.  We couldn’t find the grave, but our shoes sure got wet!  We finally went to the office, and the groundskeeper looked it up right away, so we followed him in his vehicle to the correct section.  We found Felix’s headstone (1916-1947), who died of a burst appendix, and that of this daughter Judith.  We thought of the stories our mother had told us of her big brother.

Our mother had a younger brother who also came to America; his name was Albert, or Uncle Al as we all called him.  He joined the Navy and ended up settling in San Pedro, CA to work as a fisherman.  After our mother’s dad and brother Felix passed away, she moved out to Long Beach, CA to be near her brother Al.  Our next stop was in memory of him.  We climbed into the van and headed to Oakmont Country Club where Uncle Al had worked as a caddie when he was a kid.  Gary fondly remembers Uncle Al telling stories of working at Oakmont.  A little history for those who don’t follow golf:  the course at Oakmont Country Club, designed in 1903, is one of the most difficult in North America.  It has hosted more combined USGA and PGA championships than any other course in the United States.  We arrived at the guard shack and explained that we just wanted to go to the pro shop and pick up a few souvenirs because Uncle Al had worked here many, many years ago.  The gentleman gave us the once over (being sure we were properly dressed because golf courses can have dress codes) and said we could go in.  What we could see of the golf course was absolutely beautiful as well as the buildings.  We picked up some gifts to take back home and set off.

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Coming to America – Day 1

Hello, my name is Aunt Cindy, and I am Kelsey’s aunt from California.  I am honored and a little scared to be a guest writer on her blog.  I recently flew to Pittsburgh from Los Angeles to meet up with my brother Gary (Kelsey’s dad and a former guest blogger) and my nephews Kyle and Clark for what I have named the “Coming to America” tour.

Our mother Goldie Despot came to America from the then Yugoslavia (now Croatia).  Her father Grgo (George) and Uncle Stipan (Steve) had arrived in America and were working in coal mines outside of Pittsburgh.  George sent for his children one-by-one; my mom Goldie was 11 and traveled by herself on a ship to New York.  She stayed on Ellis Island for several days and was then put on a train to Pittsburgh where her father was to pick her up.  My mother lived at different times with her father in Harmarville and uncle and aunt in Brownsville.  She grew up in these areas, went to school, and learned to speak English without an accent.  She eventually moved to California, married, and had my brothers and me.

My mother took us three kids on a train to Pittsburgh in 1965.  We all have memories of that great adventure.  My mother kept in contact with a few of her friends and cousins in Brownsville, but since she passed in 2001, no one has been in contact with them.  Gary decided he wanted to go back and visit and found a few relatives, so the new adventure began.

Wednesday, June 19th – Arrived in Pittsburgh

Gary and Kelsey drove to Pittsburgh from Atlanta and picked Kyle, Clark, and I up at the airport.  Here are a few photos of Gary and Kelsey’s driving adventure.

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We left the airport in the rented minivan and, thanks to the Neuwirths (friends of the Alabama Andrich family), we were ready to video this awesome sight as we came out of the tunnel into Pittsburgh.

After we checked into our hotel, the Springhill Suites Pittsburgh North Shore, we enjoyed tasty appetizers of crackers with three different flavors of easy cheese and whiskey shots in the boys’ room.

We set out to find something to eat and walked in the light rain to Mullen’s.  We ordered beers and other things to drink.  I spotted a Black and Tan on the menu.  I love a Black and Tan and this one was made with Yuengling Beer, which we on the west coast cannot get.  It was delicious!  Looking at the menu, the Pittsburgh Wrap caught my eye.  The menu said it was the #1 best seller, and I have to agree!  I loved it.  Grilled steak tossed with cheese sauce, coleslaw, and French fries.  My plan was to share it, but only a small portion went to Kelsey for a taste – I ate everything!  I never had French fries on a sandwich but have to say these French fries were not the usual boring fires.  I don’t know what they did, but they were delicious.

Kelsey went with the pierogis (which are filled dumplings of Central and Eastern European origin, made by wrapping unleavened dough around a savory or sweet filling and cooked in boiling water or pan-fried).  Kelsey and I were both looking forward to these, as they are not common in Atlanta or the South Bay area of Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, they were pretty firm without enough butter and, ultimately, very disappointing.  Clark had the chicken wings and enjoyed them very much.

After dinner we were all pretty worn out, so we walked back in the rain to our hotel for a good night’s rest.

macon and andersonville

WOW!  What can I say, Kelsey and I recently had a “father/daughter” weekend and it was FANTASTIC.

Macon, GA and Andersonville, GA.  Granted, these two locations may not sound glamorous, fun, etc…but we had a TERRIFIC time.

First of all, a big “shout-out” to Kelsey’s husband Phillip for being “part of the solution” for this weekend.  As a way of saying thanks, I did provide Phillip with some goodies.  Three sleeves of Pringles, a package of Thomas’ English Muffins, and an entire jar of Smuckers Orange Marmalade.  Guys are so simple.

And now to the highlights, and there were plenty.

I drove from Birmingham to Altanta one Thursday night back in September, pouring rain and I mean pouring the entire way from Birmingham to Anniston.  Of course i slowed down to 86 MPH but managed to hydroplane my way to Kelsey’s condo.

As some of you know, one of my “trip traditions” is to bring a baseball cap and have people that we meet and chat with autograph the hat as a keepsake.  Kelsey reminded me that a couple of years ago I gave her a modest collection of the vinyl albums that I had.  One of the vinyl albums was from the Allman Brothers titled Eat a Peach.  Since part of the trip included a stop in Macon, GA to go to and visit the Allman Brothers Museum (AKA The Big House), I had a BFO, or blinding flash of the obvious.  Instead of having people sign the baseball cap, have people sign the album cover.  HOME RUN!

For my visit, Kelsey had baked my all-time favorite breakfast, her world-famous cafeteria coffee cake.  MAJOR YUMMO that Friday morning!

Our next step was Macon, GA and the Allman Brothers’ “The Big House.”  We arrived, and it was almost a religious experience.  We walked around and toured The Big House for almost two hours.  If you or your mom or your dad are Allman Brothers fans, this is a terrific trip.  The Big House includes almost everything you can imagine:  lyric sheets, contracts, drums, keyboards, clothes, etc…If you are looking for a unique/creative gift, a trip to The Big House would be perfect.  We met and talked with several different “hippy-dippy” types and had a great time.

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It was then early Friday afternoon, and since Kelsey and I were both hungry, we opted for a restaurant that the Allman Brothers enjoyed, the now world-famous H&H Cafe.  The perfect little “hole in the wall.”  Kelsey had fried chicken and I had the brisket sandwich.  Great stuff.  Our server was nicknamed “Panda,” and she signed the album cover.  Sidebar, there were two Alabama football fans at H&H.  I guess they’ll let anyone with money come in.

Kelsey’s husband Phillip attended Mercer University in Macon, GA, so our next stop was to drive to Mercer and take a very nice walk around the campus.  The campus just oozes with education and smart people, and I was overcome with all the knowledge surrounding us.

One of the big highlights of Mercer was the time we spent with the statue of Jesse Mercer, the founder of Mercer University.  One of the many great traditions at Mercer involves the rubbing of Jesse’s head.  Well, in addition to rubbing Jesse’s head, I also poked him in the eyes, picked his nose, etc…

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the wedding chronicles | decision #21

THE FOOD

Hello, all!  It’s Kelsey’s dad again, back to share with you thoughts of the recent menu tasting for Kelsey and Phillip’s upcoming wedding.

First of all let me start with this:  I was honored and flattered to be invited to this event.  Since Kelsey is my only daughter I have never been to a wedding  menu tasting before.  As such I had no idea what to expect.  From my position, though, everything turned out terrifically!

Setting the Stage

As you might know, the wedding is going to be in Peachtree City, GA.  There were three of us at the tasting, Kelsey, Phillip, and me.  Prior to the actual tasting I suggested that the two of them “narrow the field” of what we would be trying, and for the sake of this post I am going to focus on the entree options.  At the beginning I believe there were approximately 20 entree options.  This is way too many options for me!  Kelsey and Phillip narrowed the entree options down to six.  Thank you, both!  Phillip designed, printed, and brought “score sheets” for us to rank the entree options.  Thank you, Phillip.  This helped me greatly to focus and stay on course.  Jena at the Manor, for lack of a better description, runs the Manor.  Jena’s dad owns the Manor.  She was at the tasting and provided descriptions of each dish, sharing various dining etiquette protocol, for example, for each sample.  Thank you, Jena.  However, I have been sworn to secrecy and will not share any specific details for any menu items you will enjoy at the reception.

Entree Tasting

Jena brought out and shared ingredient information about each entree option.  She also shared the preparation details for each.  This was very, very helpful.

My Role

I saw my role as a sort of “tie-breaker.”  If Kelsey and Phillip were tied on an entree, then and only then would I share my vote, comments, etc…In my opinion, the menu selections were ultimately Kelsey and Phillip’s decisions.  The only point that I would have stepped forward on was the type of entree selection.  I thought options would be a good idea.  I would have said “no” to two chicken entrees.  I would have said “no” to two meat entrees, etc…As it finished, Kelsey and Phillip decided on two different types of entrees, and you will love them both!

Suggestions

I have never been part of a wedding menu tasting, so I learned a lot.  Jena had a great sense of humor that really, really helped.  If you are planning or have scheduled a wedding menu tasting I would STRONGLY suggest the following, which Kelsey and I have talked about on many occasions:  INVITE/TAKE THE FEWEST NUMBER OF PEOPLE POSSIBLE.  You don’t want an entire posse with you for the menu tasting.  The bride and groom are under enough pressure already and do not need 10 different tasting opinions to muddy the decision-making process.  The fewer people the better.  My suggestion would be the bride, groom, and father of the bride.  🙂

Speaking of father of the bride…Jena, bless her heart, during the tasting mentioned that on the wedding day the father of the bride (that would be me) “is a celebrity at the event.”  Guilty as charged, this is the last thing I needed to hear!  Kelsey has already given me very strict instructions as to what to say, what not to say, etc…And even though I will have a microphone at the wedding, I promised Kelsey that I would not do anything to offend or embarrass her.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed the menu tasting and hope that this blog helps you if you are invited to a wedding menu tasting.

andrich invasion – chicago!

WOW.  What a trip.  It had a bit of almost everything:  travel drama, meeting famous athletes,  BYOB, etc…!  I hope that you enjoy reading about the trip as much as we had living it.  Kyle, Kelsey, and Clark know how important chronological order is to me, so, in the famous words of Jackie Gleason, “Away we go!”

Travel Drama #1.  Wednesday Night.

My original flight plan was Birmingham to Chicago.  Sounded easy and simple enough, but NO!  Flight was re-routed from Birmingham to Minneapolis (no extra charge for the stop in Minneapolis or the overnight stay in the Minneapolis airport, LOL!) to Chicago.  The overnight stay in Minneapolis was an “interesting” adventure, so I tried to make the best of it.  The Minneapolis airport at 1:29 A.M. was interesting and very, very deserted.  Anyway.  The next morning I was on a 5:15 A.M. flight to Chicago.  Early but okay with me.  The flight would have been even better if my baggage was with me but, again, NO!  Clark met me at the L and the baggage arrived on Thursday at about noon.  A nap and shower and I was ready to explore Chicago!

Chicago – Day 1 – Thursday

Clark suggested I try Dry Hop for lunch.  I took the L from Clark’s apartment to the Belmont stop on the Red Line.  After about a 15-minute walk, I was there.  A very, very good restaurant call by Clark.

In the early evening, I went to check our group into an apartment that Kelsey had booked for Kyle, Kari, Phillip (AKA Maxx Gruber), and I to stay in during the rest of the weekend.  In the famous words from the TV series Dragnet, “The names have been changed to protect the innocent.”  The location of this apartment was terrific, only a single block from the Belmont station.  Kelsey booked this apartment via an online service named very similarly to “ground B-N-B.”  I think the owner described this location as a condo, but it is NOT a condo.  It really was a large one-bedroom apartment.  Quirky and different but fine for the five of us.  I won’t mention anything about having to dodge the exposed pipes that were hanging below the ceiling…plus, the owner seemed surprised that three sets of keys were needed for our group.  Yikes!

Anyway, back to Clark.  Clark and I walked to dinner and then took the L to Target to do some light shopping.  Very, very important point here:  As Clark pointed out, Chicago is a very pedestrian town with lots of walking, which is okay because Chicago is very, very flat.  I did not see a hill the entire time I was there, but walking is walking.  Shopping at Target was very, very strategic because we had to carry all the items that we bought.  Plus, we then walked 4.8 miles back to Clark’s apartment.  Did I remember to mention that by now my FEET WERE KILLING ME?!

Later on Thursday night, Kyle, Kari, Kelsey, and Maxx arrived.  The humor started almost immediately!  Apparently Kari had packed her suitcase and then someone decided to unpack some of her delicates…Yikes again!  This someone explained how this unpacking occurred, which was interesting but still difficult to understand.

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memphis, the blues city

hello all, kelsey’s dad here.  it is my honor and privilege to be a guest blogger again.  this past weekend was my birthday and as a gift i was given the dream of being the guest duckmaster as the peabody hotel in memphis, tennessee.

as kelsey will tell you, one of my favorite sayings is “complete home run.”  i use this when anything or any place is spectacular, worth the time, worth the money, etc…as you read this blog, when you see COMPLETE HOME RUN, you can “take it to the bank” – it was worth it.

friday night we arrived at the peabody hotel in memphis.  tori was completely surprise to see our best friends mark and kathleen (from dallas) when we arrived.  our kids had arranged for a special birthday cake to be in the room as a celebration for me and for mark (his birthday is later this week).  COMPLETE HOME RUN, kids!  the chocolate cake was delicious.

now, saturday was a full and fabulous day!  mark had done the research for all the festivities, so we started at breakfast only a block from the hotel.  we took the ultra exclusive vip route through the alley to the bon-ton café.  COMPLETE HOME RUN.  whatever you do, be sure you order the big sammie.  COMPLETE HOME RUN.  while at the bon-ton, we struck up a friendly chat with locals hart and sarah.  hart is a third generation memphian, so it’s obvious that he should work for the chamber of commerce up there.  i told hart we were in memphis just for a short time and were looking to “blow it out.”  he kindly obliged and provided a complete list of “what to do and where to go” during our stay.

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let’s get organized!

last weekend my parents were in town to visit since they had monday off for the martin luther king, junior holiday.  jeeeaaalllous!  there’s no rest for us tech folks who keep the world running!  regardless, we were all glad to host them in atlanta for their little getaway and some quality family time together.

saturday was pretty lazy, so sunday (after licking our wounds from the packers’ heart-wrenching loss to the cardinals) we got a good night’s sleep and woke to a lazy afternoon full of coffee, fruit, orange juice, and homemade banana nut bread (this recipe is to die for!  i also highly recommend adding chocolate chips).

we chit-chatted between bites and sips and then eventually got all freshened up and ready for the day.  per mom’s request, we made a trip to the nearby container store for, as it would turn out to be, a much more exciting venture than any of us had anticipated.

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