Mandy Boyle

NEPA-er with Moxie. Writer. Sometimes Actor. Nerdy Girl.

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Feeling Like a Butt

Have you ever had a day when you just felt like a butt?

Maybe you said something completely stupid, which made you worry about whether or not people thought you were a racist.

Were you a little too mean? Your tongue too sharp?

Leslie Knope's 33 Best Lines On "Parks And Recreation"

Or maybe you cut somebody off in traffic.

Perhaps you took the last cookie.

You clogged the toilet.

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You regifted. Poorly.

Guess what? You’re human. It’s okay.

We all feel like butts sometimes.

And that’s a good thing – feeling like a butt.

Because if you were actually a butt, you probably wouldn’t feel it.

Rejoice, friends!

You may have a butt, but you are not one.

One More Sleep ‘Til BlogCon!

NEPA BlogCon

This morning when I woke up, I smiled.

Because NEPA BlogCon was only a day away.

If you’ve kept up with me, you know that I co-organize this regional blogging and social media conference with some amazing people. I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am for the support we get from our sponsors, our volunteers, our speakers, and of course, my colleagues Karla and Michelle.

We’ve worked hard all year to put this together. We’ve planned, we’ve talked strategy, we’ve contacted and networked our butts off. We’ve coordinated, updated spreadsheets, and messaged each other at all hours. We shook hands. We went to meetings. We went to meetings that weren’t ours.

And it’s all worth it. Every year, since this whole thing was born out of the idea that NEPA should have something better, I’ve been inspired. When people believe in something so much, do the work, and champion their cause it’s hard to ignore what that brings.

I know that NEPA BlogCon has brought hope to our region. We’re not as behind the times as we claim to be. We’re not uneducated or unmotivated. Hundreds of people who come to BlogCon every year show the exact opposite.

I’ve seen the look on their faces as ideas bubble up and out of them. That spark and pure…joy. Yes, it’s a lot like joy.

I know that NEPA BlogCon has helped people. We get tweets, email messages, and have conversations with people who tell us how NEPA BlogCon helped them get a job, find what they love to do, and gave them courage. We’ve heard from the non-profits who put the money we raised to good use in delivering much-needed services to our community.

And most importantly, we’ve seen the joy in the faces of 16 girls who spent a week of their summer learning about technology. They didn’t want to go home. And neither do we.

SGTC Pic

Sometimes I’m asked why I do this every year – why I spend so much of my time meeting and planning and emailing. I do it for joy.

The joy of knowing that I’m helping people in our area do something better – to be better.

The joy of meeting new people every year who inspire me to always look at the world with wonder and excitement.

The joy of working alongside talented volunteers and co-organizers, from the beginning to where we are now. People who make me want to work harder, learn more, and try fearlessly. The founders of this whole gig – Karla, Michelle, and Leslie.

The joy of always learning something new from speakers and presenters who bring so much to this area, this event, and to the world.

And tomorrow, I’ll get to share in that joy again.

What a gift it is to be able to do that. 

What Washed Windows Can Do

Photo By: nefasth

Window washers were outside the Steamtown Mall several times over the past week, and with each swipe of their sponges, I saw a little bit  more hope from the place.

The first glimmers that something was happening popped up about a week ago when my co-workers and I took our daily walk over to the Starbucks on the street level.

There was a flurry of activity that morning. There were large wooden standees of comic book styled characters and signs moved into the vacant store windows along Lackawanna Avenue. I don’t recall the exact words, but they said something along the lines of “Wait until you see what’s coming.”

Dead trees were replaced with live ones. Topiary bushes were placed in planters long filled with trash and cigarette butts. A crew on ladders scrubbed the scum and filth off the windows and stainless steel around the doorways.

I smiled, watching them. Because it was a step.

And as a Scrantonian, I can tell you that recognizing that first step can be hard. If you’re not keeping up with what’s happening in the news (or what’s happening behind the scenes, if you do some homework), you hear rumors and get your information through that lovely grapevine that snakes through the valley.

“Someone bought the mall.”

“I heard a real estate guy who turns buildings into lofts bought it. It’ll be apartments.”

“We really need a grocery store downtown. Let’s hope they’ll finally put one in.”

“Nothing will change.”

“They’re gonna flip it.”

“It’ll be a parking lot.”

“Maybe they’ll turn it into a Hunger Games arena.”

Those buzzings? They risk that fragile part of you that wants to be optimistic about the future.

Because words are not action.

But – words can motivate action.

It’s why the conversations around the Electric City Marketplace have been such a driving force for change in our downtown. It’s why architects and entrepreneurs have given their two cents, advice, and support. It’s why I’m continuously reinvigorated by the debates I have with friends, fellow professionals, and Scrantonians who all have skin in the game.

We want to see this place get better.

We want our city to be better.

Dammit, we want something good to happen to the Steamtown Mall property.

When I heard it was bought at auction by someone local who seemed to have had success in reinvigorating other properties, I felt it was a positive move.

I don’t know this guy or know much about his business. But I had hope that this was going to be better than the status quo.

Today, I walked through the Mall and the feeling of possibility was unmistakable. While far from crowded, there were people. There were signs for patrons to get easy access to wheelchairs and strollers. It looked clean.

Although small, there was action - and that means something.

Photo By: Daytona24

Even if it’s just a feeling when you’re standing inside a long neglected building, flooded with sunlight from newly washed windows.

 

Let’s Talk About the Wedding Food

When I think about what excited me most in planning our wedding, choosing the food was ranked right up there with the dress.

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Food is a big deal in my life. It brings me happiness. I enjoy cooking and baking. Trying a new food? Thrilling.

I think the whole love affair with food comes from having a grandmother and a great-grandmother who both put a lot of focus on ensuring everyone in their nests were well fed.

For a 2-year stint in junior high, I wanted to be a pastry chef. Today, I get my fix by hosting brunches for the theater ensemble I’m in and trying Chopped challenges in our kitchen.

Picking the food for our wedding was a fun experience. It was pretty stress-free, too (thanks, Appletree!) But, I did take away a few lessons from it:

  • Pick things you like. Both the Mister and I chose foods that we personally enjoyed eating for our menu, but we balanced that out with things we knew everyone would like or appreciate.
  • Be sensitive to your guests. We have a lot of food allergies and lifestyles to be mindful of, so when we planned our menu, we kept that in mind. Having our guests have a good time is really important, so we thought about what people could and couldn’t eat. We chose a good variety of dishes so that there was something for everyone.
  • Don’t take yourselves too seriously. The best wedding food I ever had was at a backyard BBQ. Keeping things simple is usually the best way to go. Don’t try to do something super fancy if that’s not your gig. Don’t know what it is? You don’t have to serve it. We went with what we considered to be our comfort foods.

I’m really excited to try what we have planned. Here’s a teaser including a few of the items:

  • Mini Assorted Grilled Cheese & Reuben Station Featuring Tomato Soup
  • Mashed Potato Bar, including Buttermilk Ranch with Jack Cheese and Scallions, Cheddar, & Homestyle potatoes
  • Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms with Roasted Grape Tomato and Green Onions in a Bourbon Glaze
  • Sculptured Fresh Fruit & Cheese Display with Signature Dip & Assorted Crackers
  • Carved Encrusted Fresh Pork Loin Encrusted w/ Italian Seasoning, Lemon, Garlic & Panko
  • French Vanilla Ice Cream with Hot Fudge

Hungry? So are we.

 

A Worldview on Cookouts

As Liz Lemon would say,

“Can I share with you my worldview? All of humankind has one thing in common: the sandwich. I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.”

I agree with Liz when she says that everyone just wants to sit down and enjoy a sandwich. I know I do.

But I also believe that everyone – absolutely everyone – deserves to experience the joys of the backyard cookout. Or at the very least, the act of eating food outside in the company of others.

BBQ Photo By: Kenny.Kim

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a few this summer, each one renewing my soul and faith in mankind.

Over burgers (or veggie burgers, if you prefer), hot dogs, and pasta salad, we’ve shared laughs and told stories. Played Kan Jam. Put on sunblock and bug spray and sat in the grass with our shoes off. Drank some sort of shandy beer. Debated the virtues of Jurassic World and 90’s R&B. Noshed on some sort of ridiculously good dip that someone’s friend made. Made plans for when we’d see each other next.

Summer should be like this for everyone. 

Relaxing, enjoying a good meal with loved ones, and reveling in the knowledge that despite what that nagging voice in your mind is screaming at you, you can take the moment for what it is: paradise.

Take another bite of that burg’, buddy. It’s gonna be okay.

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