Secret Love

Secretly, I look forward to the days that Husband has to go into work early.
No, I’m not being a spiteful wife when I say this, but rather I’m delighted in the fact that I’ll need to walk to work that morning, passing by one of my favorite bake shops in the whole of Pittsburgh.

I wake up at my normal time, getting ready as Husband kisses me goodbye and heads for the door. I finish by throwing on a pair of running shoes, replacing my usual heels or flats of the day. After turning my key in the lock, I speed-walk down my street and around the corner to the busy main neighborhood drag, quickening my steps as I go.

As I begin to get a bit misty from the speed-walk, I think of the lovely items I might purchase that morning. Will it be a loaf of fresh bread? A glassy apricot tart? Or, better yet, a sandwich for lunch? I know it will all be worth it, as I kid myself into thinking, “I’m burning the calories in my breakfast by walking to work today!”

I walk up to the bakery storefront just in time to enter the recently unlocked door. I silently cheer as I get closer to the case of baked goods and begin choosing what I’ll have on this cherished rare morning. The lighted case smiles back at me as I decide on a sandwich for lunch and a large coffee with lots of cream. Real cream.

I fill up my large travel mug with coffee after I pay for my treats, spilling some hot coffee on my fingers. I tell the shop workers to “have a good day, y’all,” and wipe off the spilled coffee, going out the door. My bag full with a baguette sandwich of prosciutto and cornichons, I pad up the 1-mile hill to my office. Lunchtime seems so far away!
via BeezusKiddo


Weekend Report: The Olympics!

With dinner in my stomach, my feet propped on the coffee table, I'm queuing up some more of my 2012 Olympics coverage.  Our weekend has been full of watching the insane, incredible action of the Olympics, starting with the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night.
via dailymail.co.uk

PGH Dining: Rock Bottom

As I said before, I am very backed up on PGH Dining posts.  For example, the post you're about to read was from a dinner we ate in late February.  I apologize for my tardiness!  Rock Bottom is part of the restaurant chain that encompasses Gordon Biersch (Craft Works Restaurants & Breweries), which was one of our favorite "beer and bite" restaurants in Dallas.  Husband and I had no idea when we first stopped in to the location in Pittsburgh's Waterfront shopping area. 


Quick Hello!

Hi there.
Yes, hi to you.
There’s really no reason for this post, but only for me to stop by and say “hi.”
What do I want to be doing with this post? Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to dedicate to typing a PGH Dining review, as I so desperately want to because of the multitude of food photos and the STACK of reviews I have lined up; however, while promising nothing, I am planning to write up a storm this weekend. No pun intended, considering the monsoons we’ve been having.

My days this week have been full of coffee, reading, a tad of cooking, listening to new music, trying to get back into spinning, and making holiday travel plans. What can I say? This planner married a planner, thus, we plan.

So, how are y’all doing? Anything new in your lives?


Weekend Recap

Hi!  Hello.  How's it going?  I'm sitting on my couch, having just finished a phone call chat with my parents.  They took a trip to meet my sister in the Lake Tahoe area last week, and were telling me how beautiful it was.  At this point, other than being super jealous, I'm hoping we can make it a future family trip location {when Husband and I have the time to take off from work}. Planning soon, I hope?

This weekend was packed.  Saturday morning, Husband and I volunteered with Pittsburgh Cares and Lawrenceville United to clean up the 10th ward section of Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
Our new t-shirts, donated by Lawrenceville United.
Tree Pittsburgh came to the event to show us how to clean out the 'tree squares' cut into the city sidewalks for plantings. We cleaned the trash out of the squares, weeded, then spread new mulch around the trees for their health in the soil surrounding it. We met two folks at the event who happened to become a part of our small group:  An older guy named J.P., who is an active professional gardener and from the northeast corner of Oklahoma, in Miami {pronounced Mah-am-ah}; and a University of Oklahoma graduate who is also a Braum's fan. Believe me, we had some conversations! From Ginko tree history to peppermint hot fudge sundaes, we chatted while we improved the neighborhood. It was a good time with people from our neck of the woods!

That night, we went over to the newly engaged {!} Vanna's new apartment for dinner.  Husband and I had Swiss Steak for the first time {homey & delightful}, then listened to some Texas Country while eating my mom's recipe for her bride's cake with raspberry filling. Such a fun night!

Today was spent on having a leisurely morning before heading to the Benedum Theater for Pittsburgh CLO's Fiddler on the Roof. I'd never seen the movie read the script, so it was a new experience for me. It's a story of a family and their struggles {and tradition!}, with a touch of sadness. I could say it is a masterpiece, but I'm pretty sure that's been said before. Afterwards, we made a date out of it and stopped into Braddock's American Brasserie {PGH Dining review} for an early dinner.

This weekend was busy compared to our usual grocery shopping, TV-watching affair. What did you do this weekend?


PGH Dining: Franktuary Food Truck

When my in-laws were in town we stopped at the Lawrenceville Farmer's Market, and there it was: the famed Franktuary food truck. Ever since Pittsburgh's first restaurant week, I'd been hearing about Franktuary and their delicious offerings {no pun intended} at their location downtown.  It was on my list of places to try, but it jumped the line quickly when I saw the truck in the parking lot of Goodwill.  


Visual Evidence

I promise to stop blowing up your Twitter feeds, Google Readers and Facebook pages about the Giant Eagle Market District and Creta Farms event after I share this one last thing: You can catch photos and a video of the event on the Acrobatique blog, The High Wire. 

My thoughts on my demo: Someone should have told me to turn down the bubbliness!  I’m fairly sure I seemed like an idiot, and I apologize to bloggers everywhere for giving us a {potentially, likely eventual} bad rap!  I was just happy to be there!  Honestly.
Cooking Demo: That's me on the far left! {Courtesy of Acrobatique Creative}
In other news, this weekend was full of prepping for the aforementioned event, then was followed by recouping with Husband through the aid of homemade Thai food and movies on the couch.  Now it is Monday again, and it’s back to the grindstone.  Tonight is a laundry night, so you might get a two-fer posting today!
How was your weekend?  What did you think of the video?


{Travel} New York!

Each year, Husband and I take a short trip to celebrate our anniversary.  Our first year we headed to El Dorado Lake outside of Wichita, Kansas, to camp out under the stars.  The next year Husband completely surprised me and took me on a trip to San Antonio, to spend our anniversary on the Riverwalk.  Our third anniversary was in the windy city, Chicago, which I recounted in not one but many posts {1, 2, 3 & 4}.
Those are some of my favorite vacations and certainly some of my most cherished memories.
This year, our minds were just about made up for us shortly after we moved to PA - We're taking a trip to see The City: New York!  It's such a short distance now that we're not in Texas, and we couldn't pass up visiting NYC for our first real trip outside of our new home.
via http://www.theflyper.com
If you've visited at ANY point in your life, please comment with your favorite moments.  Even walking down a particular street to see something out of the ordinary.  Even a tiny hole-in-the wall restaurant with amazing food.  Even the touristy stuff.  I want it all!


{Recipe} Kielbasa and Caramelized Onion Quesadilla

Since you're all dying with suspense for my recipe for the Giant Eagle Market District and Creta Farms "I Heart Picnics" Event, I'll share it before I pop over to the Market District in Robinson Township.  If you're in the area, please stop by!  I'll be there from 11:00am-early afternoon. 
I sincerely hope I don't botch this demo!


{Book Club} Same Kind of Different As Me

Full Title: Same Kind of Different as Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall and Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent.
I read Same Kind of Different As Me for the book club I’ve recently joined since moving to the PGH area. {Side note: I was invited to the book club after meeting a local writer at a happy hour at Round Corner Cantina.  We bonded over the fact that she lived and covered the turmoil surrounding the border towns in far south Texas for almost 10 years.  Chance meeting!}  It was a very unlikely book for this particular club to read, as other titles have included Madam Bovary, The Tiger’s Wife, Picking Cotton, and The Saskiad.
A friend of mine saw that I was reading the book from my page updates on my Goodreads, and asked a simple question: What is this book even about?  I completely understood his question, and was left somewhat puzzled after reading the back cover as he was, too. The summary leads you to believe it will be some epic inspirational story, but that's far from the truth, in my opinion.
If I had my way, which is the cynical type, the summary would look something more like this:

The first third of the story is about a husband and wife trying to save their marriage {after he has cheated on her with a much younger woman}, and along the way the wife is called to serve God through volunteering at a dilapidated, slummy soup kitchen.  As the chapters continue, each written from either the husband’s prospective or from the homeless man on the cover’s prospective, the two are pushed into an unlikely 'friendship' by the wife. This whole arrangement seems forced, unrealistic and very unlikely. This is the second third of the book.
The final third of the book is spent detailing the last days of the wife, who has cancer that cannot be squashed by treatments.  It's not inspirational - it's a beating.  
I love inspirational reads. Reading something uplifting has always been a respite for me.  Had I known this book was riddled with unbelievable partnerships and the process of dying through the viewpoint of a depressed, cheating husband, I would not have opened its pages.
Coming from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which happens to be the setting for the book, the story was immensely boring to me because it was so typical: the religious, well-off couple feeling like they need to 'give back' and volunteer.  It just gave me a sense of disenchantment.
I did enjoy the telling of the homeless man’s early life, and learning how one can be so shut-off from the constantly developing world.  Of course, these chapters required very little research, as it was most certainly first-hand.  I also liked that it was a very short read.
Bottom line: It was far too religious/preachy and emotionally weighty for me to enjoy. Most of my book club agreed with these points.
Book Club Vote: 2 liked, 6 disliked, 1 did not vote.

Goodreads Review
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

View all my reviews


Blog Revision & News

The time has come again to rethink my vision and outlook for this blog – over the next few weeks, minor changes will come in the form of subject and text rather than aesthetics.  The ‘core’ of what this blog is about is really the ‘core’ of who I am and how I live my days.  I’ve wanted to make some sort of ‘statement’ post regarding these changes for many weeks now, and a silent push of encouragement from a good friend has made it finally happen.

Some ‘featured posts’ I typically do {or have done frequently in the past}, are being let go.  For one, who really cares what I’m wearing for the day?  Is that truly why people are reading this blog?  I don’t want any readers confusing me for any fabulous fashion blogger they may know, and subsequently expect daily outfit posts from me.  Fashion is not what drives me in the least.  I do have a respect for the art form, but mostly, I just want to be assured that I look put-together and decent for the day’s events.

Another point begging to be mentioned is my love for public health.  It’s my chosen profession, and I post about it over on my other blog, Well Aware, from time to time.  Anything personal that I want to share (i.e. Weight loss, working out, and eating healthy food) does not necessarily fall under the large heading of public health, and therefore will remain on this blog.  Keeping things compartmentalized is how I roll.  Please go and enjoy Well Aware if that’s your thing!

On that same note, I have some exciting news to share – 
I’ve been accepted to attend a Master in Public Health program to get my MPH degree!  
I’ll be starting in the fall, attending classes part-time, until I finish the degree in 2015.  It’s a long road, but it will do nothing but help my career in the end.  I’ve taken about 5 years off from school at this point, and I’m ready to delve back in.

I'll also be continuing {or starting?} my book reviews.  Sure, I have my Goodreads page at the top of the blog, but I'd like to share more of my reading opinions here.  After moving to the area, I joined a book club - these folks are usually my sounding board for my thoughts on the books we read.  Look forward to a post on our most recent read soon!

I hope you like the changes I'm making around here!  One last thing - I LOVE when people comment.  Even if you think you don't have anything good to write, please make a comment anyway.  It lets me know folks are reading this garble I'm writing.  Thank you for reading!


{Featured In} Quoted by Acrobatique!

Exciting things - 
Earlier this week I was quoted by the folks over at Acrobatique's blog, The High Wire, talking about the Creta Farms and Giant Eagle Market District event on Saturday.  
If you need a refresher on that, click here.  Here's a few quick tidbits from the post:

The ‘Creta Farms I Heart Picnics,’ blogger event is open to the public. All are encouraged to attend and sample recipes from their favorite blogger chefs using Creta Farms product ingredients including AHA certified Hot Dogs, Bologna, and Sausage. After the event, Creta Farms will donate $100 to the American Heart Association in each participating bloggers’ names.

“Picnic food is all about convenience and the taste of comfort without running into boring-land,” said Ashley Oates, writer of Pittsburgh food blog A Dash of Spectacular. “Creta Farms’ line of ready-to-eat sausages, hot dogs and bologna is a healthy way to bulk up your options for picnic fare without going overboard on slow-cooking ribs or other heavy food.”
Oates has been selected as the lead blogger to demonstrate her recipe at the July 14th event. The Market District chefs will also be on-site to prepare recipes submitted from other participating bloggers including Food Collage, B-More Healthy, Annie Oakley’s Kitchen, and eatPgh. The recipes will be announced on the Creta Farms Facebook page at (facebook.com/iheartcretafarms) a week prior to the event.
When selecting a summer recipe to submit, Blogger Ashley Oates recommends something that is “easy to make, tastes great, and is light enough to still eat a decent portion without regret!”

You can read more of their blog post here.  Now that you've read about it, come see me at the event! I'll be there around 11:00am, but I think the event starts closer to 12:00pm noon.

{Hint} I'll be making tasty samples of my picnic food, y'all!  I'll post the recipe Saturday before the event so you'll know what you're getting into.


Checking In

Our final visitor for the spring/summer is here!  
My sister-in-law is here to enjoy PGH's sights, tastes and sounds.  
I'll be back to post soon!


PGH Dining: Church Brew Works

Husband, James and I went to Church Brew Works in late April, on a Sunday for lunch.  You can just imagine the colorful religious jokes that resulted from this. Anyway, we entered the nave {!?} and then the sanctuary {!?}, to be seated in the back.
Church Brew Works 


Recipe Writing

Happy weekend, y'all!  How did you spend your weekend?  Husband and I installed our new A/C unit, did some errands, had some good friends over for dinner, cleaned up the house, and did a smidge of grocery shopping.  We picked up a few items for an exciting opportunity I have coming up:
Last week a representative from Giant Eagle invited me to participate in their I Heart Picnics event they're hosting with Creta Farms in honor of National Picnic month, which is July! The challenge is simple: Come up with a recipe featuring Creta Farm's lower fat sausage, kielbasa, hot dogs or bologna, then perform a demo of your recipe for Market District customers on July 14. Sounds fun, yes?
Thanks to Market District's supplies gift card, I picked up a ton of ingredients to recipe test with. I'm thinking of taking a multi-country dish that'll be perfect for taking to a picnic. These are the items I'm working with:
Any ideas on what I'm making? 
I'm so thrilled to be able to demo my recipe at the Robinson Township Market District - I went there to shop for ingredients, and it's huge! They even have a Williams-Sonoma style area you can buy any cookware or piece of equipment you'd need. I also passed by an area where they were hydroponically growing lettuce...there in the store!
Anyway, I'll post more information on where I'll be in the store for my demo - I'd love to meet you!