{Currently Reading} Pnin & Wide Sargasso Sea

Hi from Texas! 
I've been spending time with family/friends, eating butter-filled dishes, and chatting my face off.  It's been grand. 
I've also been reading a ton since classes have finished for the semester {made the grade!}, and I'm on holiday. Along with the books I mentioned earlier, I'll share my thoughts on two of the best and the boring.


Somehow, the subtle humor of this short novel was lost on me, and I only found myself chuckling at the most obvious of Pnin's blunders. I had a great deal of sympathy for him {that ex-wife was terrible!}, and I would have liked Nabokov to explore his relationship with his son in greater detail. 
I can see how this story would work well broken into smaller pieces and published in a magazine, as it was initially in The New Yorker; however, the multitude of somewhat pointless breaks in the plot {rests, maybe?} caused me to lose interest and set the book down many times.
I have Lolita just waiting for me on my bookshelf, but I'm not sure Pnin built up Nabokov's case to dedicate more time to his novels. One day, maybe.

    by Jean Rhys

"The house was burning, the yellow-red sky was like the sunset...Nothing would be left, the golden ferns and the silver ferns, the orchids, the ginger lilies and the roses...When they had finished, there would be nothing left but blackened walls and the mounting stone. That was always left. That could not be stolen or burned."
In the first section of three in Rhys' response to Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Rhys explores the same dark, uncontrollable trauma that Eyre experiences in her lifetime. The quote above is plucked from the end of part one, and struck me as one of the best descriptions in the novel, as it helped me connect to the main character, known by the name of Bertha in Jane Eyre, or the 'madwoman in the attic'.  A Creole in the West Indies, Antoinette {or Bertha} grew up hated by both black and white people, as she and her family where somewhere in between. Her home is vandalized, her mother is/becomes crazy, and she's driven to marriage as she's told it's her only option. Part two of the novel if from Rochester's perspective, and details why he detests the unknown land he's sent to to find his wife. The hatred is from the same vein we see his character erupt from in Jane Eyre. It's interesting that I was sympathetic to his character in both Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre. I remember reading Jane Eyre in high school and every girl in the class despised Rochester, but somehow I still liked him. The same was true for this novel. Then, in the last section, we meet the mad woman in the attic of Rochester's huge house. It's tragic, dark and beautiful.
If you've read Jane Eyre and loved it, look into Rhys' response.  On the other hand, too, if you didn't care for Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea can perhaps help you to connect or identify with the characters of Bronte's classic novel.

What are you {Currently Reading}?  Just curious, but who is your favorite Bronte and why?


Decembear, Again

Hi guys.
With finals, major family events, preparing to travel and work deadlines, this week has been filled to the brim with emotion.
In an effort to avoid recounting every detail of my week, I'll give an update on Decembear instead.  Where has he been over the past few days?  All over the house!
December 12: He looked in the toy chest.
He might be a little old for those toy blocks. Decembear doesn't care.
{Never heard of this adorable bear?  Read up on his history.}


{PGH Dining} Alexander's Italian Bistro

This might sound odd {or alcoholic to some}, but every once in a while I get a craving for red wine and pasta covered in red sauce. 
Each time I get that craving, I know the place I'll be having my dinner - Alexander's Italian Bistro on Liberty Ave. in Bloomfield. Again, I wax nostalgic about this place because it was out first 'real Italian' experience when we rolled into Pittsburgh last December. And, was it a good one.


Finals & Chifforobes

It's finals week, y'all.  Graduate school finals, at that.  Twenty-five-percent-of-your-grade finals.  
Are ya with me?
To top it off, this is deadline week at work, too.

Time to go cry a little.


{PGH Dining} Arsenal Cider House & Wine Cellar

Early Saturday afternoon, we stopped into Arsenal Cider House & Wine Cellar in central Lawrenceville.  We'd been hearing about the cidery {It's a real word, people.} for awhile. It was one of the last stops on our personal Cookie Tour, and I was ready to taste a few of their artisan-crafted hard ciders.


Over the Weekend: Tacos, Target {+ Neiman Marcus} & Tours

After a long week of getting back into the swing of things after a fantastic 4+ day holiday break, I was ready for a cocktail.  A coworker and I planned a happy hour for Friday evening at a favorite of mine in Lawrenceville.  It was a merry group!
Festive wall paper/ceiling.



Each year, my Mom had my Dad bring down the Christmas decorations from the attic, and began putting things up the day after Thanksgiving.  The sparkling lights, the bright colors - we were able to enjoy all of these things even before the month began.
I am my mother's daughter, so I decked our halls on November 18.  Looking around afterwards, I thought something might be missing. Recalling my memories of my Mom's decorations, I thought about the holiday calendar my Granny hand-made: Decembear: A Beary Merry Christmas


Cookie Tourism

This is one of the weekends each year that makes me proud to be a Lawrenceville resident. 
It's the weekend of Lawrenceville's "The Joy of Cookies" Cookie Tour!  Last year, we were welcomed by the Tour on our first official weekend as residents of Pittsburgh.  What's really neat about this event is that local bakeries take a shop's favorite cookie recipe and bake dozens and dozens of those cookies, which in turn the shoppers get to enjoy. Our plan is to brew a large batch of coffee to take with us, then shop Saturday morning. We can't wait to get a few extra gift items for folks back home! {And, the cookies...!}

The Tour will run from Thursday through Sunday at 5pm. Many stores will have discounts, so shop early! 



This past Thursday I gave thanks for my husband, family, friends, the life we live, and...good food. We were able to celebrate on a small-scale, which was nice {keeping in mind that we'll be flying to and staying with family and friends in Texas for almost 2 weeks!}
The small feast started with Husband making Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery {are you seeing a trend yet?!} Buttermilk Biscuits.
Certainly worth the small amount of work required. It goes without saying that these were the best biscuits I've ever eaten. Including restaurant biscuits. Sigh.
A look at our tiny kitchen counter as we cooked.


{Recipe} Boozy Cranberry Sauce

As we speak, we have buttermilk biscuits in the oven, clove-spiced pumpkin cobbler prepped to go in, and boozy cranberry sauce finished on the stove. As I was Instagramming photos of my cranberry progress, I found that one of my good friends from college said she was making a similar version with amaretto and lemon zest. Sounds fantastic! Either way, you have boozy goodness!


Over the Weekend: Light Up, Inside and Out

This weekend really started on Thursday night, with a healthy version of one of our favorite guilty dishes.
{Thursday Night: Pasta Carbonara made with wheat pasta + center-cut bacon + skim milk + reduced amount of yolk, cheese; Friday: apricot and walnut rugelach on the house at my favorite cafe; Friday Night: {3} starting off Pittsburgh's Light Up Night 2012 at Rivers Casino, {4} "Circus Candy" dessert at Six Penn, {5} Just before the fireworks at the Bridge Party; Saturday: {6} gift shopping at Williams-Sonoma; {7} Found my holiday party dress at J Crew; Sunday: rewarding ourselves for doing laundry and cleaning the house with spaghetti squash and roasted veggies; Sunday Night: Putting up Christmas decorations on November 18. Shh. I won't tell if you won't tell.}

Of note: It's been one year since I first laid eyes on Pittsburgh.  It's been a journey, but I'm happy I'm here. 


Over the Weekend: Soup, Wok and Soergel's

Friday night we had dinner out at an old favorite, then proceeded to have a busy weekend.

{1.&2. Saturday: Spent at the Bulgarian Macedonian Center's flea market {wok for $2.50!}, and grabbing soup for the road at Soup Sega; 3.&4. Sunday Morning: Husband's coffee cakes via Thomas Keller; 5. Duck action at Soergel Orchard's fall sale; 6. Toe-to-toe; 7. Sunday Afternoon: Using our saved-up 20% off at Giant Eagle to buy pantry staples...and cheese;  8. Sunday Night:  Putting the newly cleaned/seasoned wok to use with Healthy General Tso's for dinner; 9. Cuddle buggin' while working on school work.}

How was your weekend? I hope you're enjoying this fantastic weather!


Adding to the Wishlist

With the holiday season and someone's birthday coming up, I've been filling my wishlist to the brim {and purging it of a few items I must have added after a cocktail or three}.

An item that won't fit on that wishlist {as it's not offered through anyone but Williams-Sonoma} is this beauty:
via Williams-Sonoma
Now, I'm not one for overindulgence, but how can you say no to something that can make Thomas Keller's cassoulet? You can sear/brown meat or toast breadcrumbs in the metal insert, slow cook the dish, then finish it in the oven {bubbling, crusty cheese, anyone?}. It's such a multi-tasker in comparison to my current version. With a model with a timer I could make dishes on my own schedule, and not have to worry about rushing home {or having Husband rush home} to turn something to 'warm'.
It was love at first sight.  I've told Husband about it, but neither one of us can stomach the $250 price tag {which is reduced from the shelf price of $400!}.  I wish it could be mine.  I am, however, on the lookout for something similar within the sane price category.

What are you wishing for this holiday season?  Tag me in a Pin or tweet it to me!


The True Story of Rally Monday

The beginning of this week has been one to remember. Yes, we potentially have an elected leader, and I've been assured once more that my views and hopes for this country will be taken into consideration in the White House.

We have two items to discuss.

One, is a veeeeery good thing.  The other is quite terrible.

First thing's first.


Over The Weekend: Starting November

My weekend went a little like this:

{1. Friday Evening: Imperfect Health exhibit at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University; 2. Friday Night: Bun Cari Ga or curried chicken noodle soup for a cold and rainy dinner date; 3. Saturday: Texas Tech football game watching in the Northside; 4. Sunday: A Better Nutter, baked by Husband from the Bouchon Bakery cook book.}

Today is a busy one at work, full of meetings and deadlines. Then, tonight we're off to Youngstown, OH for that rally. See you soon, and don't forget to vote tomorrow!


Football Game!

Wreck 'Em Tech!
It's game day here in southwestern PA, but not for any local teams - we're heading downtown with several fellow Texas Tech University graduates out to watch the Tech vs. UT game this afternoon. 
Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas.
 Hopefully, I won't come home in a terrible mood because we have Trick-or-Treaters coming tonight.
Get Your Guns Up! 
{Metaphorically, of course.}

 - - -

So, we lost.  But, I got to meet some fun people, and reminisce over my college days. And, I got some material for a PGH Dining post! Soon to follow.


A Pennsylvania Dem in a Rep's Court

I've said, "Good Morning," to Friday with some big news {well, relatively big news to some} - Husband begged on his hands and knees asked me to attend a political rally with him on Monday night in Youngstown, Ohio. A Republican rally, mind you.  He cited the fact that these are truly historical events, and that he's never gotten to attend a rally before.  Insert sad puppy-dog face.  Of course, he prefaced all of this with, "I know you'll probably say no, but I wanted to ask anyway."  What's a good wife supposed to say to that?
I conceded.
{Only after he promised to buy me dinner first.}

With that being said, I have a lot to think about this weekend prior to the rally.
 1. What am I going to wear?  If I show up wearing my team's colors {BLUE}, I'll surely be mobbed. Maybe compromise with a purple cardigan?
2. Where should we eat dinner?  This is certainly the most important question to cogitate.

If you can't read between the lines, I'll shout it out to you - Our house is a divided house on many issues, which directly relates to the political candidates we choose.  Case in point: our views on health care delivery in this country.  Paul Ryan's ticket will not be getting my vote, but I do want to hear what he has to say.

I jokingly said to Husband that if I were pulled out of the crowd to ask Mr. Ryan a question, I'd just remark at how happy I was that my husband let me out of the house and I didn't have to rush home to cook dinner for my family.  Burn.

In all honesty, I do want to attend the rally to hear from this Vice Presidential candidate. It's especially exciting because we're attending a rally in a true swing state, Ohio.  I've only been to one other rally {in Durant, Oklahoma}, for VP hopeful John Edwards, during my senior year of high school.  I'm not going to lie - I was dazzled as an eighteen-year-old girl by his attractive smile and the prospect of shaking his hand. His speech inspired, and I was ready to go cast my vote.  Too bad that backfired, and maybe this is karma.  I won't say that Paul Ryan's speech will instill the same feelings {even though he reportedly has spent many hours with Tony Horton}, but I think it'll be interesting to sidle my views up to his answers for comparison.
If anything, I hope this post makes you laugh go cast your vote.  This election will be close, so every vote {Republican or Democratic} counts!


{Over The Weekend} Games, Scones & Hurricanes

Well, people, we're still here and we haven't floated away...yet. The rain is coming down, and has kept coming down since yesterday late afternoon.
This weekend was mostly a lazy one.  We started things out with a college football game at Heinz field, which thankfully wasn't rainy {however, the threat was there!}. Then, my wonderful baker of a Husband decided to crack open his new cookbook, Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery,  and bring out his new food scale. He's subscribed to the notion that everything in baking needs to be measured by weight, or it won't come out right. Psssh, fine, leave that to him! {I prefer cooking, where I can just play things by ear and throw things in as I please.}
He flipped to the section on scones and announced that he was planning to make cinnamon honey scones. I about died. His first choice on what to bake happened to be one of my all-time favorite baked goods. And, these did not disappoint.


{Travel} NYC Part 3

Day three of our anniversary trip started with a 'breakfast' at Laduree, which specializes in French macaroons. This was a must-stop on our Upper East Side list.

{Dining} Finger Lakes Food

Per usual, our recent travels to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York centered around nature and the local food that results from those surroundings.  Both were gorgeous.  
Our weekend trip started in Northwest PA, but that evening we made it to our destination.  We started the night off with drinks and small bites at Dorothy's Music Room in Trumansburg, NY. {T-burg to the locals.} We sat down at the bar and was greeted by Dorothy herself.  As our first stop in the NY wine country, Dorothy did a fantastic job of setting the stage for the wines of the region.  After pouring us what seemed like our own local wine tasting, we chose glasses of Hosmer's Estate Red and one of Lamoreaux Landing's reislings {easily my favorite winery of the trip}. We listened to a truly unique band, Technicolor Trailer Park, a duo who sang everything from Alanis Morrissette to their own songs about squirrels. Loved them.


Patisserie Show & Tell

It's Friday!  How did it get here so fast?  I'm not complaining, because this is going to be an excellent weekend. We're planning to go to a college football game, make soup, and generally be lazy.
This morning we treated ourselves to a breakfast at La Gourmandine Bakery.
The love affair continues.
For those in the area, you should know that La G is making pumpkin tarts for the holidays. 
And, they've made smaller, dainty versions for those that won't allow themselves to eat a whole tart. Bless them.
If pumpkin doesn't float your boat, they still have these other lovelies:
No, this is not a sponsored post. I just truly love La G.
We each bought croissants: almond for him and chocolate for me. Such is love.
I gave a parting glance to the raspberry-filled cookies, and sighed. Can I have one? 
Of course!
You guys, I don't know what I'd do if I actually made it to France.  I would probably spend all of my time in tiny patisseries, admiring the delicacies.