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?


We're Back!

We're back from Canada!
What a trip - we barely had time to have a few eats, jot off a post card or two and get to the concert before having to leave.
More to come soon*!
{*First, a mentor interview, fellowship meeting, Craigslist deal, and lots of work. Cross your fingers I can update soon!}


Off to Toronto!

As the summer semester winds down for husband {mine is ramping up!}, we are planning to use our weekend the best we can.  He'll be studying in the car for his financial accounting final exam, but hey, all eyes will be on our destination:
Shapes of Toronto, print available here.
Starting dark and early on Sunday, we're road tripping to Toronto, Ontario {Canada, y'all}. It's so close to Pittsburgh {< 5 hours, around 300 miles}, and we've been dying to go check it out some weekend. We've cut back on a few things so that we could go this year, what with two graduate school tuitions, moving, mandatory? holiday travel, the usual anniversary hullabaloo, etc.

We scored some good tickets to an unmentioned-until-husband-approves concert on Sunday night, so that'll be the main event. Since it's such a quick trip, I have a few things lined up that we may or may not have time to do - so everything will be shrouded in secrecy until we come back to PGH.

If I don't see y'all before then, have a wonderful weekend! See you guys Tuesday!


{Over the Weekend} House Righting

Even if it's Wednesday, I still feel the need to tell you guys what we did over the weekend: house-righting.  As in, getting everything in the new home just right. Hanging picture frames, rearranging the furniture, rethinking kitchen tool placement, washing pillowcases until they just about shine - you get the idea.
It was a madhouse, and we had to take a break at one point. I calmly sat on the couch with a good book and a tall glass of ice water. Husband and cats on the other hand...well...


{Home} Houseplants = Happiness

Whoa. So, where did July come from? Time certainly can slip away when you're busy making life happen!

Big news. We've finally moved. Finally. It felt like such a long time coming {we had to give notice to our property managers in late February!}, and we're beginning to get settled in our new apartment in Shadyside. It's quite a different feel from UpLa, that's for sure. We've walked to a few dinners, caught a sale on Walnut Street, and have watched the sunset from our 7th floor view. I'm in love.

Once we have everything out of boxes and somewhat in order, I'll take you on a tour of the new place. For now, let's talk about my new favorite part of the apartment.
The addition of these beauties: houseplants.
My apologies for the iPhone photos. Who knows where the real camera is? In a box? Down by the river?
I'm sure you've heard how good houseplants are for your indoor air quality, but if you haven't: Nerdy Version. Non-Nerdy Version with HuffPost.


Upcoming {PGH} Summer Events!

We're inching closer to our official move date, but I wanted to take a few minutes to post an update amid the boxes. We've sold so many of our moving sale items {even some I didn't get the chance to list}. Honestly, it's still a little unreal. We've been in Lawrenceville for more than a year and a half now. It'll be fun getting to know our new neighborhood. 

On top of that, there are so many great things going on this summer in Pittsburgh, so I thought I'd do a round up of a few of my favorites. 

We've been a couple of times to the farmer's market off Butler in the Goodwill parking lot. It's super convenient, and always full of the prettiest vegetables. New folks and sometimes food trucks make appearances each week. {Saturdays from 12pm -4pm, now through October.}


{Over the Weekend} Moving Prep, Shop Love and Curried Shrimp

After a long week of this:
We needed a little of this:
Of Monsters and Men Concert on Wednesday Night
And this:
Friday Evening Happy Hour
Before trying to sell this:
and pack up the basement, attic, guest room, etc. {See Moving Sale updates here.} We spent Saturday and some of Sunday chatting with our Dad's for Father's Day, moving items to the storage area in our new apartment {more on this later}, and getting a few odds and ends for the move.
We stopped in The Strip District for a jar or two of spices for our Sunday night dinner, and were drawn into Roxanne's Dried Flower Shop
It's a wonderful shop to explore, and they sell everything from terrariums to arrangements. 
Yes, they have "fresh stuff".

What a lovely shop!
They have classes, too. If you want to learn how to make a terrarium, they're teaching a class this coming Thursday (6/27) from 6pm-8pm for $35. All supplies, lecture and light refreshments included. What a deal! Call 412.281.6950 to make your reservation.
We then made out way over to Shadyside to do some errands. Soba now has a patio area! These tables accompany their new space in the corner building. Who wants to go check it out with me?
We ended the weekend with a curry.
This is a peppercorn shrimp curry with a coconut milk sauce, from the 660 Curries cookbook. 
It features chunky peppercorns, tumeric, coconut milk, and curry leaves. Good stuff.
I served it with a saffron and cumin spiked polenta, reminiscent of shrimp and grits. Can't take the Southern out of the girl...
It made enough for class night dinners and lunches. Perfect.

{Peppercorn Shrimp with Coconut Milk}
Adapted from 660 Curries

2 T Ground Tumeric
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb large shrimp
2 T canola oil
2 t Mustard Seeds
1 can light coconut milk
1/4 c fresh curry leaves
1 T lightly crushed peppercorns

Combine Tumeric and garlic in a resealable plastic bag, and add shrimp. Toss to coat, then marinate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight. Heat oil in a large skillet, add mustard seeds and cover. Let them pop for about 30 seconds, then add shrimp. Sear on each side for 30 seconds. Pour in coconut milk, curry leaves, peppercorns and salt. Cook for 1 minute for flavors to begin to meld, then removed shrimp to a warm plate. Continue to cook the sauce until reduced and thickened, 2-4 minutes. Arrange shrimp over rice or polenta, then spoon sauce over top. Serve!

How was your weekend? Did you get any relaxing time in with your Dad? 


{Currently Reading} Kingsolver, Fitzgerald, DFW & Gawande

It's time for another "Currently Reading" update! In an effort to not spoil any of the novels for you, I've hidden the remaining reviews after the jump. If you have no qualms reading revealing notes on The Lacuna, This Side of Paradise, The Broom of the System, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and Complications, have no fear and read on!

The Lacuna {5 Stars}
I read Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna as part of the newly formed Seestor Book Club, which first met in May 2013. My sister and I are the only members, and chose this book based on a recommendation from Seestor’s friend.  I was a bit cautious at first, as I hadn't read any of Kingsolver at that point. In truth, I had some notion that her books were just pop fiction, as they were always charted – even Oprah touted them as some of her favorites. It had to just be hovering above chick lit, right? Reading the first few pages of Kingsolver’s writing, I soon learned that this was completely false. Her imagery was so fitting for the story, scenes just came alive. "The mood of the fiesta was enclosed in a perfect square: four long lines of electric bulbs strung from posts at the corners, fencing out a bright piece of night just above everyone's heads." I felt as if I was accompanying the narrator, Harrison Shepard, through the avenues of the market.


{Travel} Chicago 2013, Part 2

Instead of studying for my Six Sigma quiz for Monday, I'm going to talk to you readers about Chicago. Yes, again. However, this will be the last post for this year's Chitown trip - I've run out of photos to upload. It's true.
Day Three
We started our last full day in Chicago with a coffee and a stroll through the Loop's parks. {This seems to be a trend.} One thing I didn't pick up on last time we were there in September was that Chicago certainly loves their planters. Truly. There are pops of gorgeous color all over the city, this time to welcome the warmer months. 
Case in point:

Not a planter but a tree, ok.
 What a glorious way to celebrate the change in the seasons. Unbearable cold, wintriness to bright sunny days with flora perfume in the air.


Follow Me on Bloglovin!

I'm not sure how you guys choose to read ADOS, but something new is now available -
Follow my blog with Bloglovin
I primarily use Google Reader {added through Google Friend Connect}, which is going away forever on July 1{sad day}, and if you do, too, please consider using and adding me to your Bloglovin'. Read on!

 - - -
Update: Some of my readers have had questions about how to make the transition from Google Reader to Bloglovin - no problem! It's super simple, and here are a few tutorials on how to do it:
Nutritionella's Tutorial
Drab to Fab Design's Tutorial

Also, a note: Google Friend Connect is likely being disabled on July 1, so it will disappear from my page. I hope to see y'all on Bloglovin!


{PGH Dining} La Vite Ristorante at La Casa Narcisi Winery

Husband and I desperately needed a date night a few weeks ago.
A coworker of mine {Hi, Cathy!} mentioned La Casa Narcisi Winery a few months ago as a potential date or girls night location, and I pulled that thought out of the depths to give it a try. A quick look at their Web site events page told me that we were in luck - it was jazz night at the winery. We made the scenic 25-minute drive from Upper Lawrenceville along Saxonburg Boulevard and turned onto Gibsonia Road to find a decent-sized winery to our left.


Civic Leadership

I am a proud wife.
Earlier last month, Husband graduated from a ten-week program on civic leadership in Pittsburgh. He got a chance to see behind-the-scenes of the city, and learn more about what makes Pittsburgh tick.  The program was designed to build up the base of civic leaders, thus empowering them to put their ideas, wishes, and hopes for the city into action. As the weeks went by, three class representatives were elected, and Husband was among those selected. Insert 'Proud Wife' comment. At the graduation ceremony, Husband was asked to give a speech detailing his time in the program. It's inspiring to me that there are those in our community that take the extra step to serve our residents better.

To his endless embarrassment, I've taken excepts from his speech and posted them here. I actually think it's quite good, and gives insight into his experience with the program.
 - - -
"You may have noticed from a certain twang in my voice that I may not be originally from Western PA. My wife and I relocated here about a year and a half ago from Texas, Dallas specifically (don’t worry we’re not Cowboys fans), for my job in the oil and gas business. Many of our relatives and a few friends were surprised when we told them that we were moving to Pittsburgh. They only remember the stories from the evening news during the 80’s of shuttered mills, pollution, and massive snow storms (which is a complete unknown that is 'greatly feared' by most Southerners). It seemed to them that we were making a mistake.

In their mind, with so many people over the past two decades making the opposite decision and heading to cities in the south (and particularly Texas), why would we move here? But, we saw Pittsburgh in a different light.

A city full of promise and potential. 

There are many great assets this city holds, not the least of which is its governing body which, as I have learned through the Civic Leadership Academy, provides a multitude of services even in times of tight budgets.

[This program] provided an amazing opportunity to see the city government from the inside out. We were presented with an overview of each major department, much like an executive would receive an overview of a new company, with the ability to dive further in our particular areas of interest with data and leadership contacts. Areas that I was principally keen on where the Department of City Planning and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Pittsburgh, given its diverse economy, population, and geography, has the potential of any city in America to outpace standard growth during the 21st century. In fact, it’s already doing just that. According to the Brookings Institute, Pittsburgh is one of only three metro areas in America to have fully recovered from the great recession.

The Department of City Planning and the URA lead the development of the city through a wide range of efforts including fostering private investment, public art, strategic planning, and zoning laws. If successful, the plans being run through these departments can provide significant benefits to the city, its citizens, and businesses. This includes improved infrastructure, good paying jobs, new green space, and environmentally conscience buildings which we can all enjoy the benefits of. The public/private partnership that the URA focuses on is an excellent example of how making the right investment at the right time and in the right location can provide huge dividends. The gentrification of the East Liberty and Lawrenceville neighborhoods are proof that this method works. As a citizen, it was so beneficial to be exposed to the inner workings of these and the other departments that we covered.

Being a part of the Civic Leadership Academy has been such a privilege, not only because of the knowledge that we have gained of our city government, but from a transplants perspective, it gave me the chance to get to know parts of the city that I haven’t heard of before. It’s my hope that the graduates of this Spring’s Civic Leadership Academy take our newly found knowledge of the city’s management back to our neighborhoods to make contributions and help educate our neighbors, relatives, and friends.
The Class Representatives
We as citizens, business owners, and community volunteers each have a role to play in our community, and with the education we received through the Civic Leadership Academy and the Mayor’s office, we can make a significantly greater difference.

Congratulations to everyone and it’s been a pleasure going on this journey with you.

 - - - 
Congratulations, Husband! I'm proud of your achievements and commitment to the greater good. Looking forward to what this program may have sparked within you.

You can learn more about Pittsburgh's Civic Leadership Academy here