A South American Inspired Picnic at the Allegheny Observatory

I had very concrete plans to spend my 30th birthday sipping flat whites and beholding the beauty of the Sydney Opera House. However, life happened, and plans changed unexpectedly. Though I still long to venture to the land down under, I have a feeling that trip will happen serendipitously, in a way that will exceed all my plans and dreams. In one of our early conversations, the Urban Farmer told me how he had envisioned renting a jeep for his 30th and driving it through South America, with his surfboard in tow. Like me (and luckily for me!), his life steered in a very different course.

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As his big 3-0, his Dirty Thirty, rolled around, he found himself rooted, literally, to this steel city. He had buried his travel dreams behind catalogs of seeds and under mounds of compost, but the visions of Chilean beaches were not lost on me. Though I couldn’t give him his South American surf excursion, I channeled his former wanderlust into a series of surprise experiences.

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Bundled with a vintage Mexican blanket (because his journey would have begun with a long drive through Mexico) was this illustrated card of Rio de Janeiro and the Save-The-Date details (and some private, lovey dovey stuff, from which I will spare you). This was my way to say I’m truly grateful life steered him onto a new course because that course included me! He’s been my Urban Farmer for one year now, and this was my anniversary gift to him. To the fella who makes me a better person and fills my days with laughter, dirt, dancing and wine-induced snooze fests, I can’t say enough how happy you make me!

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Had the Urban Farmer rented that jeep and journeyed to all those beaches, he would have spent countless night blanketed by the stars, so Experience Número Uno was all about star gazing. Experience Número Uno was a surprise South American Inspired Picnic and a tour of the Allegheny Observatory, a giant telescope perched atop a lovely Pittsburgh hilltop.

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The Menu: A South American Inspired Picnic

Mango, Pineapple & Basil Fruit Salad
Roasted Corn, Avocado & Feta Salad with Corn Chips
Ceviche & Roasted Plantain Chips
Mexican Brownies with Mole Bitters
White Wine Sangria with Fresh Peaches, Basil & Nasturtium (I used a Trapiche Pinot Grigio from Argentina, for thematic effect)
Coconut Water (though I wish we could have jammed straws into fresh Brazilian coconuts…alas)

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Pro tip for my friends in the very prudent state of Pennsylvania: Paper bags are too cliche. Make your libations look rustic and pretty, and it won’t look like you’re illegally drinking in public.

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Alas, much like my postponed Australia trip, there were elements beyond my control, specifically, the haziness of the sky. Though we weren’t able to use the giant telescope, it was still inspiring to stand at the base of such an impressive instrument and to know it was made so long ago!

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For all you history and astronomy buffs out there, here are the details:

The observatory was founded on February 15, 1859, in the city of Allegheny, Pennsylvania (incorporated into the city of Pittsburgh in 1907) by a group of wealthy industrialists calling themselves the Allegheny Telescope Association. The observatory’s initial purpose was for general public education as opposed to research, but by 1867 the revenues derived from this had receded. The facility was then donated to the Western University of Pennsylvania, today known as the University of Pittsburgh. [source]

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The 30″ Thaw telescope is the primary instrument of the Allegheny Observatory. It took ten years to build and was finished in 1914. It is the third largest refractor in the United States and was constructed by the Brashear Co. It has a lens made from two glass disks cast by the Shott Co. of Germany. The original lens was designed by Professor Charles Hastings to be used with photographic plates which were sensitive to blue and ultraviolet light. The Thaw telescopes’ primary mission has been to study the distance to nearby stars. The parallax program is responsible for the collection of over 110,000 photographic plates in the Allegheny collection. Information gathered from the Thaw observations have helped set the distance scale of the universe. [source]

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We’ll have to return for a proper look at the night sky, but listening to our tour guide, a perfect cross between Noah Levenstein and Michael Scott, was something special nonetheless. Plus, I’ll take any excuse for another picnic!

Stay tuned for recipes from this picnic!



ps: If you want to take a tour of the Allegheny Observatory, i.e.: the GIGANTIC telescope, here’s the info.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Linda

    Looks like you had a delicious picnic 🙂

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