A Letter to my Readers:
This post has been a long time coming.

In truth, I've been letting you readers down for some time, almost keeping the reality at bay. As hard as this is to say, I think I'm finally in a head space to allow my self to type this all out.

I can't blog anymore.
Fortunately, it's not because I'm being forced to stop posting, but simply because it doesn't serve it's original purpose any longer - I can't justify keeping this blog going when I'm not able to contribute to it's content. This feeling began with me shutting down my public health blog, Well Aware, several months ago, admitting to myself that I didn't have the time to write two blogs. How silly of me. Only now have I really understood that I don't have time to dedicate to write a blog at all.

In the beginning, A Dash of Spectacular was an outlet for me to talk about the comings-and-goings of my life, nothing too intense. Brief posts about my week, a spectacular dish I'd made or an update on my beloved car's repairs. Readers were folks I knew. When we moved to Pittsburgh, it melded into a way to meet new people {mostly food bloggers} and still be in touch with my family and friends in Texas. And, I got to call myself a lifestyle blogger. Ooh, fancy.

There are so many things that this blog has done for me over the years.
It's served as a creative outlet for my ideas and discussion points.
I have met some great people all over the country.
I've added countless restaurants to my 'to dine' list.
Sheepishly, I admit it was also a venue to let my emotions loose.

But now, life has changed.
I'm not an out-of-work job seeker anymore. I'm not just working a full-time job, but have chosen to take on a master's degree plan, part-time. I'm not in a new city anymore, but, as of December 2, have lived in Pittsburgh for 2 years.

It's all about time.  As selfish as it may sound, I want to concentrate my free time on bettering my understanding of my industry, and this blog takes away much of that free time. Even if I'm not posting, I'm worrying about how I'm not posting. Then, when I do post, I start to think about the next one almost immediately after hitting the publish button. It can't go on if I want to achieve my long-term goals.

THANK YOU so much for reading, especially those that've been with me over the past 5 and a half years.  Your support, comments and emails have been such a source of joy for me.  Please don't lose touch - I'll still elusively be on Instagram, Twitter and Goodreads.

Life has changed so much during these past 5 years, and it continues to change all the time. It's almost too fast for my heart to catch up.  I hope to one day return to blogging, but for now, these words will be my last.



{Travel} Toronto

It's been almost two months since we were in Canada, but Toronto is too spectacular to not post about. I'll go ahead and tell you now that this trip was so short that we were barely in the city for 24 hours. {18 hours is my best guess.}
So, it was a brief spectacular.


Wreck 'Em Wreath

Get ready. I'm about to show my roots. 

I got my undergrad degree from Texas Tech University, which is located in far West Texas - the Dust Bowl, if you will. There aren't many trees, and the dirt swirls like small tornadoes, called dirt devils. Still, I loved every minute of my four years there.

So much so that I convinced myself I needed a hand-crafted wreath for my door during this football season. I think it's already bringing us luck...

My inspiration for the Wreck 'Em wreath came from Pinterest. I've pinned a few of my favorites on my Dust pin board.
I should have taken a video of this fool hula-hooping this wreath base.
Sunday afternoon we visited our local Michael's, and generally made a ruckus looking for the perfect color of scarlet. Not Christmas red, crimson or bright, true red. Scarlet.


Guest Blogging on Chels & the City

I'm still here, I promise. It's been a crazy few weeks since school started - no worries though.
This face is representative of how I feel about weeknight homework.
I do have something for you to read: Today, I guest posted about Biking in the 'burgh on Chels & the City. Chelsea's blog is about Pittsburgh itself and dispelling some of the worst-dressed myths Pittsburghers try to live down. {Please forgive the profanity in the worst-dressed link...however true it may be.}


Bachelorette Marathon

It's wedding season up here in Pittsburgh, and I've had lots of bridal showers and bachelorette parties to go to. Twitter/Facebook followers, you already know this from the smattering of tweets/posts I sent out last weekend and this past Saturday. Good times.
The two bachelorette parties were quite different, but an absolute blast nonetheless. 
I'll let the select photos speak for me.
Ninja Bachelorette.
Bacon-Wrapped Quail Eggs at Tamari in Lawrenceville.
Hashtagging the party van at Franktuary before heading to the Southside.
{Party #2}
Treats at the shower.
Drinks at MadMex to start off.
Comedy Club at Latitude 40.
Good luck to the future brides! I couldn't be happier for you and your delightful mates!


{Over the Weekend} Hatch Chile Pork Stew & A View

BIG BREATH. This past weekend was one of our last before starting the fall semester. Tear. We used our freedom to do 10+ miles of walking, I did an exploratory bike ride, and Husband showed me how to use several of the weight training machines in the gym. It was a fitness extravaganza!
Then, I spent Sunday night making a Hatch Green Chile Pork Stew. Delish. It is Hatch season afterall. {If you're in Dallas, I hope you made it to Central Market last week; if you're in PGH, don't miss the roasting at Market District this weekend, Aug. 24 & 25!} Hatch is the best, bar-none. This stew goes nicely with the minty cocktails, Husband's specialty.
Check out the recipe after the jump! 


Reviewing Restaurants: Bad PR or Be Polite?

Tuesday night was Pittsburgh Restaurant Week's bi-annual Blogger Dinner, this time featured at Sausalido in Bloomfield {thanks for the delish wine, Pittsburgh Winery!}. An interesting topic was brought up among the blogger folk:
When you have a somewhat bad to really terrible dining experience, do you go ahead and blog about it? 

A few fellow bloggers were on the fence, but several said they would not blog about it period, quoting everyone's proverbial mom, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it!"  I do remember my own mom telling me this, then proceeding to ignore it and say what I please. The claim Tuesday night was that you wouldn't want the negative comments coming back and reflecting negatively on you, as a professional, parent or community member. Perhaps because I do not hail from PGH, this isn't a solid issue for me, but I completely understand this for others.

As someone who frequently writes food reviews, I believe in letting them know if they've done something... unsavory, let's say, so they may try to fix it. I'm not a prestigious Pittsburgh food blogger with hundreds of readers, but I'd hope someone would read the review and take something useful from it. In a weird way, choosing to not post a review seems a tinge dishonest.

Readers, what do you think? Would you rather read the good, bad and ugly of a restaurant experience, or just read positive reviews? Is relying on word-of-mouth sufficient for hearing about bad restaurants?
Restaurant folks, what are your thoughts on bloggers writing a negative review?


{Travel} Road Tripping to Lexington & Cincy

To continue the streak of short, cheap value-conscious trips, Husband and I jumped in my beloved 2006 Jetta and drove to Lexington to meet our friend James, who recently moved to Nashville. {Evidently it shall not be referred to as NashVEGAS, which is likened to calling San Francisco, 'Frisco. Oops.} You may remember James from his guest post during Pittsburgh Craft Beer week last year.  Anyway, according to Meetways.com, Covington, KY is the mid-point between these two fine cities. Covington is across the river from Cincinnati, so we called for a road trip.  
Cincy is about 4 and three-quarters hours from Pittsburgh, so we left around 2pm...to get stuck in PGH traffic! Lesson learned.
Husband and James love craft beverages, thus we made a side trip {or a starting point?} of Lexington, Kentucky. We rolled into town around 9pm on Friday night, amidst the rain. Husband and I had just finished listening to Wave, so we were definitely in the mood for a drink.


Sad Day - Hello Bistro Downsizes

As a new office resident of Oakland, I've become even more familiar with Hello Bistro, an Eat'n Park Hospitality Group dining concept. I frequent their Forbes Avenue location for delicious treats like mini smiley cookies and what I refer to as Dog Bowl Salads:
You can fill your $7 bowl with as many toppings as you'd like, and protein options {Grilled Chicken, Salmon, Shrimp, etc} are only around $2 more. Not a great price, but not bad for the quality topping you're getting. They chop it up to your liking, then garnish it with tasty crunchy bits {like tortilla strips or roasted soy nuts} and a dressing. Eating is pure delight.

By some sad twist of fate, the dog bowl is now more like a beta bowl. {tiny exaggeration} They are about 20% smaller than before, which is enough cause in my book to cause a stir. This stir resulted in my opening of the Web browser, finding them online, then giving them a shout:

While I love going to HB for one of the best salads in PGH, I am majorly disappointed in the new size of the salad dishes. As a working professional and grad student, I was already a bit 'arched-brows' over the prices, but now that the bowls are smaller, it's even more dissatisfying. I hope you will consider taking a dollar or two off the price of the smaller size - I'd buy them more often! (Now they're just a treat). 

Maybe this is the universe trying to tell me I do not need to eat a dog bowl-sized salad for lunch. Perhaps. Or, maybe I'll get a few free salads that will put a dent in the deficit. Probably not. At least it's off my chest now!

Has this ever happened to you?


Summer Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Picks!

It's here again! The week that is all about discounted delicious food around PGH - Pittsburgh Restaurant Week. This summer it's held during August 12th through 18th, and there are few new faces in the lineup of participating restaurants - however, I'm disregarding those for a handful of places with menus that put them on my short list.

My top choices {tune in Husband!} for this PRW edition:

Lidia's {Strip District - $35 Four-Course Fixed Price Meal}
Via Lidias-Pittsburgh.com
Caprese Salad {Local Heirloom Tomatoes, House Made Mozzarella, Red Onion, Basil & Aceto Balsamico} Or Insalata di Barbabietole {Roasted Red and Gold Beets, Apples, Fresh Goat Cheese,  Frisee}
Cacio e Pere Ravioli {Cheese and Pear Ravioli with Cracked Black Pepper Butter}
Pollo al Limone {Scallopine of Chicken Breast with Roasted Lemon, Capers and Olives} Or Saltimbocca alla Romana {Pork Scallopine, Fresh Sage, Prosciutto San Danielle and Wilted Spinach and Arugula Salad}
Lemon Basil Crostata

Lola {Northside -$30 Three-Course Fixed Price Meal}
Via www.pghcitypaper.com
1st course
House made goat milk ricotta and sweet pea ravioli
2nd course
Lomo mix salad. {Mixed greens, Dijon oyster mushrooms, pickled red onion, hazelnuts}
3rd course
Portuguese seafood stew {Saffron fume, heirloom tomatoes and peppers, fingerling potato, bruschetta}

James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy {Northside - $30 Three-Course Fixed Price Meal}
via jamesstreetgastropub.com
House Salad with Fresh Garden Vegetables,
Peppered Bacon and Candied Onion Or Spinach Salad with Toasted Almonds, Craisins, Fresh Apple
Chicken Breast with North Side Farmer’s Market Peaches {Balsamic Basil Cream Sauce, Jasmine Rice} Or Cajun Grilled Shrimp & Grits {Black Tiger Shrimp, Creamy White Cheddar Grits, North Side Farmer’s Market Seasonal Vegetable}
Crème Brulee Or Strawberries & Cream Cake

My picks aren't  'new restaurants,' but the menu choices just drew me in.  Lemon basil crostata? Goat Milk ricotta and sweet pea ravioli? White cheddar grits? Yes. If these three don't start your stomach rumblin', check out the full listing here.

What are your choices for this summer? Any surprises on your list?