Going home is like traveling back in time to my childhood. Picking up exactly where I left off before I decided to venture out into the world seek what the heck was out there.  When I’m home I am the penguin trapped in a perfect world.  When I go back to visit, I fall right back into my small-town, into the comfort of all the things I once knew, and its delightful.

Inside the snow globe on my father’s desk, there was a penguin wearing a red-and-white-striped scarf. When I was little my father would pull me into his lap and reach for the snow globe. He would turn it over, letting all the snow collect on the top, then quickly invert it. The two of us watched the snow fall gently around the penguin. The penguin was alone in there, I thought, and I worried for him. When I told my father this, he said, “Don’t worry, Susie; he has a nice life. He’s trapped in a perfect world. ― Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones


I can’t even tell you how many church festivals we have in our town and the surrounding ones in one summer. But I can tell you its a lot. Growing up outside of Pittsburgh everyone’s got some Polish in them and if you don’t, well you better just embrace it.

What’s the best thing about church festivals you ask? Perogies, Haluski, Kalbusi, the 50 cent cups of Yeungling don’t hurt, the gambling (yep church goers in my town are hard core gamblers) and at most of these festivals you can also find yourself a good polka.

Not only was I going home but it just so happened I was able to plan a reunion with one of my best friends Liz (WHOSE A DOCTOR (she hates that I tell everyone that)) who now lives in California.

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Perogie, Haluski, Yeungling, Must be PA.

Where did we run first? The food stall of course. Loading up on Perogies and haluski, we couldn’t get enough. She even demanded seconds!

Back to America! 36What’s even better about church festivals? The Gambling. Our all time favorite game called “The Pill” game. So simple, and you could spend hours playing it. If you aren’t familiar, there are 16 pills. Everyone buys a pill, most of the time for a dollar. Then, one person rolls the ball hitting the end with nothing on it first and it rolls down into the slot area. Each slot has a number. Whichever slot the ball rolls into, the number is called and whoever has the pill that corresponds to it Wins!

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3 time Pill Game Winner!

I never have much luck but those Sunseri’s always seem to have plenty. Nancy won 3 times in the half hour we were standing there.


If there’s one thing my mom loves to do its go biking. Convincing her that she was plenty fit enough to bike up to Ohio Pyle from Connellsville on the bike trail took some serious convincing, but Liz and I were able to do it.

So the next morning we broke the air compressor trying to fill up the bike tires and had to have my dad walk down the street from work to help us, we loaded up our bikes on the bike rack, and we were off.

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Help me I’m poor.

Back to America! 5On the trail which is 17 miles up and 17 miles back. Its pretty covered the whole time by trees so the sun isn’t beating down on you the whole time. Its just a gradual up hill slope that you barely notice as you pedal along. My mom had no problems making it with us.

Back to America! 6When we got to Ohio Pyle, I saw that they re-did the old store, its really nice in there now. Even has seating to eat. We bought a few snacks and then pulled out our packed lunch for a picnic by the river.

Back to America! 7Sandwiches, trail mix, BBQ chips, iced tea, you can’t go wrong with a lunch like that.

Once there we had to stop for a quick game of checkers, because who wouldn’t?

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The Liz and Cassey Show

Soon to be neighbors in CA. Pretty exciting stuff.

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Heading back

After our picnic and some time down by the water, we got back on the bikes for the journey home. We opted to forgo the natural water slides this time so we could enjoy our picnic longer.

Back to America! 8Crossing the bridge heading out of town.

Back to America! 10Turkey crossing.

Back to America! 9My mom came up with an even better idea for the next day. We decided we would buy rafts and float down the Youghiogheny River the next morning. Once we got back to town and our car we stopped at Spotto’s in Connellsville to buy rafts and a floating cooler for the next morning.

Back to America! 12That night we went to one of the local club my dad’s a part of  “The Assunta”, enjoyed a couple drinks and threw some darts, but most importantly met up with more childhood friends.


Back to America! 13We got down by the river and realized we didn’t have any water but somebody was going to have to stay back and watch the rafts right?! Justin and I were just the 2 for the job.

Back to America! 14When we finally had all of our things in order, we blew up all the rafts, packed the cooler and set off.

Back to America! 15Hey girl Hey!

Back to America! 16Mandatory coronas for everyone, yes even at 9 in the morning.
Back to America! 17Headed towards the first train trussel. We better center ourselves better so we don’t run right into the column holding that bridge up.

Back to America! 19I did say only 1 mandatory Corona but I had 2 cup holders.

Back to America! 20We were trying to get a group photo and failing, haha.

Back to America! 21Chillin out relaxin, maxim all cool.

Back to America! 22While stopping to buy water, my mom also bought us a 2 foot long hoagie which we all had to take a bite out of.
Back to America! 23Finally, we were all in it and you can actually see our faces.

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Relaxin on the river!

Sunny summer days are best spent this exact way.

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River Selfie

Back to America! 46After 6 hours of floating we were definitely getting a bit sunburned. We were near the end of the stretch. We’d even thought it out too, dropping one car off where we intended to get off at the river and parking the other at the start point, we were set… until Justin realized he hadn’t brought his car keys with him, he’d left them at the start point.


My first time legitimately hitchhiking in America

We called my dad but he wouldn’t be able to pick us up for another 4 hours. It would have been fine of the bar was open, but it wasn’t so that left us only one other option. Hitchhike. It took about 10 cars, most of them laughing at us, but one lady drove by saw our rafts and figured we’d left our keys. She was heading into Connellsville anyway so it wasn’t out of her way.

Justin and I went with her to Connellsville and drove back and picked my mom and Liz up.

That night there was a pizza party! Plus there were more Depalmas to hang out with! Since I’ve been gone, Mark build his own pizza oven using a “How to Build Your Own Pizza Oven” book, and he wanted me to have a few pizza pies and tell me if his were better than the pizza capital of the world, Naples Italy.

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Pizza Oven at Pavilion #9

Back to America! 31Chris was on pizza making duty, preparing them for the oven.

Home aid pizza oven

John was doing some of the cooking

These pizzas are great!! A few weeks back they had their family reunion and made 20+ pizzas for everyone, the fire was never put out. haha.

home aid pizza oven 2


We ended the night with a night swim which used to be one of our favorite things to do when I was growing up.

History from my hometown

Some info about my hometown


Back to America! 27 I went for runs around town. Just to see what all has changed since I was last home. Not much.

Back to America! 26I went by to see my grandparents. Grandpa Hauser and Grandma and Grandpa Walko. 

Back to America! 28Mom and I went shopping at the mall and stopped for Wendy’s. I used to work at Wendy’s so idk I feel a small obligation to stop at one when I’m home for a visit. Wendy’s is not world wide like the other fast food places.

Which also ended in a 2 hour stop at Barnes & Nobles. God I love bookstores where all the books are in English. They’re the best!


One of Morgan’s favorite sushi places

Morgan and I met up for dinner and she took me to a sushi place where we got her favorite rolls. It was really good and nice to catch up since her and Jess came to Italy in June.

Birthday Card

Celebrating John’s Birthday

It’s John’s Birthday August 2nd so we had dinner and went to one of the Mount Pleasant clubs afterwards. We even decided to buy UFC fight 190 and watch Ronda Rousey kick Betch Correia’s ass in 34 seconds. Booyah!



Pennsylvania Miller High Life


Back to America! 30One morning we got up and went to Sandhill Berries Winery to have a wine tasting, buy bottles of wine, have a few snacks, and listen to some live music. The music wasn’t that great but the winery was fun. Emmeline used to dress up as the blueberry girl and give out blueberry samples while Linnie worked in the kitchen making strawberry pie!

Sand Hill BerriesSandhill berries with the family, and friends!


Giant Jenga

Part of the best thing about going home is the food. From Lobinger’s to the Village, its hard to not indulge in some of the best places Mount Pleasant has to officer. Working in Pittsburgh now, Emmeline used to work at a BBQ pulled pork place called Gorky’s. We stopped for some food and had a game of giant jenga out back.

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DAD! Don’t let it fall over.

jenga 3


Back to America! 29Mom made one of my favorite dishes, stuffed peppers!

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Sunday church service at mammoth park

On Sunday we had an outdoor church service at mammoth park followed by a covered dish lunch.

Back to America!Dad pulled out the Imperial and we had to go get some ice-cream in it!

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Actually it was custard.

Back to America! 32On my final night we decided to go to the drive in and see Despicable Me 2 and Train Wreck with mom’s home aid popcorn.

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By this time I had fully turned into a kid all over again.

Back to America! 33The next morning it was off to the airport and I was flying to Washington for a road trip up into Canada. I hadn’t been home for a year and a half previously, so coming back and falling into an old routine, getting to see everyone, it just came together so perfectly. To all of the people who made time for me even though I blow through only every so often, Thank-you. I love you all.

This article appeared first on Dynamic Soarer.