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{the week} it’s 7:27, and it is dark.

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the week:
Boring week, no? And totally depressing with this whole darkness-too-early thing. Regardless of how much you love fall and hate summer, THAT part is the worst of the transition.

Happy Birthday, Joe!

weekend:
Tonight is our first night playing in our new bowling league. *snort* The boyfriend and I aren’t even on the same team (weird, right?), but we’re playing against one another. So, this should be an interesting evening in NO, YOU’RE NOT HAVING THE SEX TONIGHT. Also, I have to bowl with my wrist guard. I PUT THE F IN FUN… in bed.

Also tonight: Dixie Doc is playing at the Elk’s. If you’re already a fan of Banjo Night, you’ll love this.

This weekend marks the seasonal opening of Scarehouse. I HAVE to visit this year!

Not sure if I’ll make it to my spinning class in the morning, but it’s for a good cause. Err, for the kitties… and doggies… and bunnies!

But I’ll definitely be chowing down on some GOOD FOOD at the Lebanese Food Festival in Scott Township. Runs today through Sunday.

seven things, seven days:
1. Did you read part one of my Finger Lakes adventure?
2. BETA open for Stress Free Recipes. THIS is totally up my alley, and I can’t wait to get my invite.
3. So honored to be asked to be part of a Bridal Brigade for my friend here in Pittsburgh. All the fun parts of weddings, without all the bridesmaids duties. We’re on to something, ladies!
4. Randomly came across THIS POST from 2008. You know what’s significant about that horoscope? THE DAY I QUIT SMOKING. Huh.
5. We decided not to plant anything for fall and winter in our garden plot. So, I’m considering buying into a Penn Corner Winter CSA. Thoughts from anyone?
6. Good luck to friends and skaters participating in WESTERN REGIONALS!
7. Go read this blog post from Burgh Baby. Seriously. GO NOW.

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{cooking for the boyfriend} the basics are lost on me

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{cooking for the boyfriend} the basics are lost on me

I swear that I used to know how to do this. This, being the assurance that I won’t die because of lack of essential dietary requirements and/or hunger itself. And I’m pretty sure in my former life that all of this involved a microwave. And a bottle of Jack Daniels. I lived on my own for years… how in the hell did I make it this far?

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{the week} january is over & this week is almost all about food and drinking

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{the week} january is over & this week is almost all about food and drinking

the week: oh, that pesky Phil saw his shadow, which means SIX MORE WEEKS of this awesome winter weather. Glass half full, guys.

It’s Friday, so here’s a cute cat picture:

Curious, this one, about EVERYTHING.

Like I am about 30 WAYS & DAYS OF MAC N’ CHEESE. Every time I think there isn’t a God…

weekend: duh, derby! Come to the Sweetheart Valentine’s Bout & Open Skate on Sunday! And if you go (and stick around for open session), I promise to hold hands with you during couples skate.

weekly reading wrap-up: Unsurprisingly (I suppose), I started reading a book about a girl who dates drunken rock stars. Or something. A guilty pleasure: I Don’t Care About Your Band (among your other professions and passions).

seven days, seven things:
1. last night’s pulled pork is tonight’s pork enchiladas, aka: our new mission of actually USING our leftovers. Have you ever had pulled pork enchiladas? You are missing out on one of the best things I ever put in my mouth.
2. New sunglasses. Word. But seriously, how many pairs of cheapies did I have to break to realize I needed to make a little investment in my eyewear. But definitely not a PRADA-size investment. I balked the shit out of the price on those things, thinking of all the ways I would break or lose them on the bus.
3. Wednesday afternoons need more mini bottles of sparkling rose.
4. WINE INFUSED WHIPPED CREAM!
5. GRAND OPENING: Station Street is now serving hot dogs again in the East End. That bahn mi dog is ALL MINE.
6. casual wine (and cheese!) tastings at Dreadnought in The Strip. This might be my new favorite thing-to-do every 1st & 3rd Friday.
7. I won the “I love you, blogs & coffee” print (that I’ve been seriously wanting for about a year now) from Rachel at It’s a Hero. My response to winning the print by Made By Girl went something like this: ASdjklds;fsadjfkl;ghadsf!!!

You, blogs and coffee. They truly are my three favorite things.

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{cooking for the boyfriend} redemption island: moussaka

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{cooking for the boyfriend} redemption island: moussaka

Coming back from the disaster known as Eggnog French Toast, I needed to redeem myself in the kitchen. And what better way than with mother-fucking moussaka.

Bend over.

Making moo-sa-KAA is no small feat — you’re guaranteed to be in the kitchen, actively cooking something for nearly 2 hours (and then another hour to wait for the fruits of your labor). I’ve made the Greek casserole only a couple times in my life… but it’s been nearly a decade. This also means that I lost my old cookbook in a flurry of ex-boyfriends, which meant I had to find a new recipe.

Seriously. Take a look at this recipe — the number of ingredients and steps and KITCHEN WORDS I DON’T UNDERSTAND. And prep time: 1 hour and 35 minutes. This, after Christmas shopping and running errands for an entire day. Surprisingly, I found my cooking Chi and went to work (with a glass of wine).

No coffee pots were used in this episode

The boyfriend attempted to intercept my cooking no less than three times. Every incident he got a “GET OUT!” with a smack of my spatula. I used a Greek accent. I think he liked it.

Eggplant. OR ZEBRA?!

But this Simply Recipes… err, recipe was fantastic. The directions don’t leave anything out for a beginner… especially when it comes time to make your first roux. Or temper eggs for the VERYFIRSTTIME. And why don’t I remember doing this the other times I made this dish?

I took a picture of my eggplants brining for you because I couldn't take a picture while making my awesome bechamel.

Probably because I was doing it wrong. Or not. I mean, it always tasted good.

Yeah, I chopped all those onions. The bastards. I also zested and juiced the shit out of that lemon.

Oh, HEY! I think this means I crossed off one of my cooking missives for the new year: Learn how to chop, cut foods. Or something.

Also, I like my moussaka with a layer of potatoes at the bottom. You can argue that is MOST DEFINITELY NOT THE GREEK WAY! But I had it once — ONLY ONCE — like this in a Greek restaurant, and it was my favorite.

Even if my potatoes were being little bitches. Oh, I’M SO SORRY POTATOES FOR LEAVING YOU IN THE COLANDER FOR 18 MINUTES.

Bitches = potatoes

You CAN make moussaka with only eggplants for a much lighter dish, of course. I mean, aside from the entire top layer of egg custard-like bechamel sauce. Also, also: I used beef. Which, I probably wouldn’t do again because of the grease factor (even after baking). Lamb is just so goddamn expensive for something that I could potentially fuck up.

WHICH I DID NOT.

Also, also, also: definitely find the Greek cheese. The bitterness complemented the little bit of citrus that cuts through each bite, and it is delicious. But let me tell you, the absolute best part (besides eating it) is when you are simmering the meat with cinnamon; it is heavenly.

Especially so, when everything comes out of the oven looking like THIS:

Mother Fucking Moussaka

But making such a meal provided me great pride — it was the boyfriend’s first taste of the cultural classic, and he was pleased. You know what, sometimes I DO know what the hell I’m doing. Especially when it comes to comfort food.

Your casserole dish doth runneth over.

Hey, do you like my apron?

Lovely bunch of polka dots.

Super cute, right? Don’t take yourself so seriously in the kitchen, feminist! Check out vintage-inspired kitchen attire from Jessie Steele. Disclaimer: I received an apron via my ad network courtesy of Jessie Steele, like, two years ago.

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{cooking for the boyfriend} the eggnog french toast incident

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{cooking for the boyfriend} the eggnog french toast incident

I can’t tell you how pissed I was when I picked up a container of Dean’s eggnog and read “corn syrup” on the label. I used to make homemade eggnog (and have been advised against because of the potential issues with raw eggs). But I’m sure that simply pasteurizing a product does NOT mean adding CRAP “to make it taste better.” I make my best attempt to purchase grocery items that are as “real” and organic as/when possible. While I realize I cannot prevent this CRAP in everything, I feel that every little bit of concern helps. Yet, I remain hypocritical in my penchant for Honey Nut Cheerios (seriously, one of the worst and MOST sugary cereals on the market… ugh) and Moon Pies (is there anything NOT scientific on this label?).

Ho-hum.

I mean, have you read about the effects of high fructose corn syrup? Well, for one: IT’S MAKING YOU FAT. And the industry has coyly attempted to rename HFCS, corn sugar(s). I mean, we’re all adults here, you know high levels of sugar in your food is bad for you, right? RIGHT(s)?! It’s about balance. Consumer awareness. Sadly, three other containers in the dairy section had the same problem. WTF, Giant Eagle: on labels, you explicitly promote your chocolate milk as NOT having high fructose corn syrup — why not the eggnog?

And what the fuck were we talking about here? Oh yeah, MOTHER FUCKING EGGNOG FRENCH TOAST.
Thankfully, I found that Horizon Organic makes an eggnog. And then I realized that I probably COULD have made my own eggnog in this case, since I would be cooking the battered bread anyways. Gah!

The boyfriend and I both like our French toast to be made with white or Italian bread for some serious eggnog-dippy action, so I used that for our Sunday breakfast of champions.

Ingredients
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups of eggnog
1/2 T cinnamon
1/4 T pumpkin pie spice
(optional: rum flavoring)

REAL maple syrup and powdered sugar for topping (I’ve read about an apple-cranberry compote to complement the French toast, which I most definitely will make in the future)

Let’s Make Breakfast
Whisk everything in a bowl; dip bread; place on skillet, cooking each side until golden brown.

BREAKFAST IS SERVED! Else, it should be.

This is the part of the story where you should NOT follow my directions (and why you only get “before” pictures with this post). See, I’m still getting used to this gas stove and asked the boyfriend which pan and heat setting I should use — and I followed his recommendation, but I wanted to cook by myself. My first pair of toast stuck to the pan… which, typical. I intended to start over, but it happened JUST as the boyfriend entered the kitchen to “check in” on me.

THIS IS WHAT I HATE: he attempted to take over breakfast, instead of kindly helping by offering suggestions. He told me to use oil (on what I thought was a non-stick pan), which would have been nice to know beforehand, right? But because my mind was already “FUCK YOU! GET OUT! I CAN DO THIS” (as he grabbed the spatula from my hand), his typical laughter at my expense sent me into an emotional tailspin.

I would have tried again and eventually figured it out (with butter instead of oil… ew). But at that point, I was so indignant at his response — to my doing something nice — he was being completely and totally insensitive.

So, he made breakfast for himself. I grabbed a blueberry cereal bar and went skating. The end.

MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!

Where my alcoholics at: Serve with a little rum in your coffee. Or an entire bottle of rum, in my case.

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{pursuit} Cooking for the boyfriend: #1

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{pursuit} Cooking for the boyfriend: #1

I signed up to make 25 new things this year, alongside Lead Paint Cookbook (among others). At one point, I was supposed to post a list of my 25, but you know that thing about time… THAT and that, well, getting behind blazing new trails in the cooking world was something I WANTED to do, but my brain was telling me, “YOU SO CRAZY!” And now without setting myself up for any unnecessary anxiety, I have the opportunity to both stick to my resolution, yet create something on the fly.

I’ve often considered myself a decent baker (blame those Hungarian genes) rather than a master chef, so I started my first mission with cinnamon rolls. I should also mention that I have been CRAVING these for about two weeks. This recipe online (and a somewhat easy one at that) contained ingredients that I already had in the cupboard. I did make a few substitutions: bread flour for all-purpose (didn’t appear to make a difference) and butter in place of margarine (we don’t keep the fake crap in our house). I would definitely cut down on the butter just a bit for the sugary insides — woof. Real butter means real business.

The worst part, of course, is waiting when you’re cooking — which is why I don’t particularly like to cook. When I’m hungry, I’m cranky; therefore, cooking doesn’t relax me – in fact, it does the opposite. I also don’t really like to measure… I find it stressful. But then, why do I like baking better than cooking? Perhaps because it is more exact?

Also, because I’m hungry, cranky and likely rushing, I make really stupid mistakes… like, when “softening” the butter.

exploding butter in the microwave

Ahem. And that I make a million messes BEFORE the process even begins. Seriously, boyfriend? I will cut you for opening the flour bag in that manner. *stab*

Since I had to roll out to a 9×12 rectangle, I figured using my plastic vegetable cutting board liner would help to ensure I had the right size AND keep the dough off the counter (even if I disinfected and cleaned the thing 803 times before starting). Let the dramatic foreshadowing commence…

setting up for baking

Rolling dough is fun! And I admit, I was quite impressed with myself for my FIRST TIME, that the dough was perfect. *back pat*

Of course, because I “forgot” to flour the plastic sheet, so the dough kept sticking. Somehow — with a zen-like acquired patience — I was able to roll it properly without any rips or tears… but a LOT of oozing.

*lick* Yeah… way too buttery. Also, my photography skills: severely lacking. That looks like a bloody sock, rather than a delicious soon-to-be-baked good. Regardless, the cut dough LOOKED like a promising end product, no?

After setting aside to double in size, I took liberties with making my own cream cheese-based glaze: cream cheese, powdered sugar, brown sugar, vanilla & butter. No, I didn’t measure, since I only had about 3.5 oz of cream cheese left, I guesstimated. Note: don’t use too much vanilla either.

Um… I think I have a little extra. I do really well with my beating arm. *wink*

Yada, yada, yada: a dozen cinnamon rolls!

Never use a beater to “drizzle” glaze over rolls. OR YOU WILL HAVE TO EAT IT. <eg> And look! I even have a black sheep in the family (he’ll just need a little extra frosting).

All that, and I still have a remaining manicure of which to speak. Hello, Zoya Pinta!

And obviously, a big mess to clean up.

I think I can label this first task a success!

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Exploring Pittsburgh in my blue shoes!

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I already had a friend who lives in Pittsburgh, prior to my moving here. I can’t tell you how nice it is having someone to recommend random places for services that I need or restaurants and bars in which to get drunk (classily, of course). Without being all strange-eyed, wondering why I’m asking if Pittsburgh has anything that resembles a penis.

So, we had a little girls night on Tuesday. She drove me around a few different neighborhoods, to get a small taste of where some things are located (including the dreaded DMV or whatever the shit they call it in PA). We now have a closer Home Depot (we’ve been driving up to the North Hills), a Whole Foods AND Trader Joe’s within an easy drive, another potential Farmer’s Market, a soon-to-exist Target, Vanilla Pastry Studio (must go back for the Pop-Tarts), cute creperie (yay, brunch!) called Paris 66. And a retro bowling alley. Must. Go.

And Pavement. Remember that whole idea about it probably being a good idea to find some new work? When it comes to this store, I will need a third job. Kill me now, boot season. Kill. Me. Now.

In any event, this was my GNO outfit for the night:

For the love of hair: I still despise mine, and I am actively looking for recommendations, please! I know I want color, but a good haircut would probably do me some good as well. I don’t want to completely chop it, but something more interesting. I feel… boring.

Seeing as how we were having delicious noms at the newly-open Salt of the Earth, the waist-cinching belt was probably not the best idea. Regardless, I got through four courses OK. You MUST go to Salt (and follow their delicious menu pictures on twitter), by the way, if you consider yourself a “foodie.” This restaurant is even better than most that exist in Cleveland — and we had a pretty solid foodie scene there. I’m even going so far as to say my entire meal was better than my best meal at my favorite restaurant in Cleveland. (And yes, that is a covert message, so bite me). I had the tomatoes and watermelon (omg, the hot pepper rings in this app are HOT, fyi), chicken livers and grits, pork belly (with an amazing pretzel polenta) and the parfait dessert — which was definitely one of the strangest desserts I’ve ever had, but every taste was something different, so I approve!

It was fun to have a spirited (and gossipy) night out. I don’t usually go out without the boyfriend because I enjoy his company so darn much, but since he was traveling so much before the move, I had to occupy myself with dinners with friends (you know, the whole not cooking for myself thing). And while I’m certain I will be back to Salt with AB, he would definitely pass on exploring cupcake shops and… *gasp* the location of Anthropologie.

Gulp.

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But you should see how I order a pizza!

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I take the prize in many areas for Best Girlfriend Ever and would probably even be a good choice for a housewife, if that was truly my calling — you know, save for my arachnophobia and the watering of plants above my reach and my preference for truffles, not Bon Bons.

But what lends very little to my contribution to a successful relationship is my cooking.

My parents are good cooks. They seem to regularly eat well when planned, and I’ve seen my mom make grand Thanksgiving feasts like none other. Yet, somehow I was raised to love macaroni in a box (with ketchup!) and peanut butter by the spoonful. “But I know how to bake,” is my eternal excuse (I really do, and that is because it is an EXACT way of making food, not nibbling and seasoning and playing with, well, fire).

I am just as content with eating white rice covered in yellow mustard and egg noodles blended with mayonnaise — or sour cream, depending on the refrigerator contents — as I am eating at any of the local amazing restaurants (which is why I have chosen not the foodie blogger route). I eat scrambled eggs nearly every day, sometimes formed into a sandwich because THAT’S ALL I KNOW. I make grilled cheese with the toaster, then the microwave — not awesomely in the griddle pan on the stove top like AB.

It’s how I survived for my turbulent years as a single woman. That, and those no-wonder-I-gained-30-pounds promotions of Pizza Pan’s BOGO infamy. That buffalo chicken pizza was the hottest, most bomb-diggity pizza ever. EVER.

Which leads to my sad, underfed — nee starving — boyfriend. He travels weekly for work, which forces meals of the room service variety and local bars, and once home, I expect him to cook for me like he used to. Every. Single. Meal. I ate very well then, before his Pittsburgh came calling. Now, I’m back to my own kitchen casualties of making horrible choices and trying new things that never quite work. I can no longer have perfectly-grilled cheese sandwiches or remotely even cook chicken properly… OK. Maybe once.  I do not realize the difference between sage and basil for a simple pasta salad for a potluck. My diet has resorted to eggs. Sandwiches. Ice cream. Cereal. Cat food. Oh wait… Ew.

I impress myself even when I can make a beef gyro or roast radishes. These are all flukes. I have figured out how to make a variety of salad dressings, but too lazy to cut up all those vegetables to make giant salads on a regular basis.

Did you catch the part where I didn’t realize until AFTER I MADE MY PASTA SALAD that I used sage. It tasted like old feet, but I served it to my girlfriends all, “Mmmm. Pasta Salad. Fresh. Light. No mayo base. EAT IT, bitches! I play roller derby. Grrr!”

So, the boyfriend is too tired to cook dinner, which is completely understandable, and what do I have to offer him?

Nachos.

Chips. Melted cheese. Salsa. Sour cream. My dinner of choice for nearly four years of my life.

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Resolutions. Kind of.

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I have some REAL resolutions that are in a draft post right now, but here’s something to hold you over until some serious stuff posts:

1. I have a cooking resolution, although I’m unsure how to fit it in. My boyfriend cooks almost every night, BUT there’s a chance I may have to cook a few things for myself a couple nights a week. I cooked for myself for years, but I really don’t do it anymore. I used to bake ALL THE TIME. While my waist line thanks for me the latter, I miss it. I’m on a mission to find goodies to bake and food to cook — while maintaining the standards of good, healthy & local in which I’ve instilled over the course of the last year. This resolution is so open-ended. Which leaves me the total judge of its completion next year.

2. Since losing 15 pounds this year, err… my undergarments do not fit well. While VS bras cost the amount of my mortgage, they DO last a few years — at least, they USED to. I have bras from eight years ago in perfect condition, but one purchased a year ago that the underwires have already pulled out completely! I am obsessed with matchy-matchy on the bra & panty combo. I’m NOT so obsessed with tiny, string thongs any longer. It’s a small price to invest… to overhaul my underwear drawer, that is.

3. From the inside to the outside, I consider every now and again if I should be more “girly.” I used to paint my nails EVERY day. Then, I got a boyfriend life and either stopped wearing polish, or let it chip for a week.  I used to get my hair done every two months. Pedicures every quarter. I like to save the money by pampering myself at home. And, my hair turned out to be pretty awesome when I stopped dying it. Anyway, I should probably pay more attention to my hair, nails and feet. That is all. I don’t really need to be much “girlier” than that.

4. I will spend money on PROFESSIONAL micro-dermabrasion this year. Likely, as my 33rd birthday present to myself (or, you know, *hint, hint*). I have invested in a sturdy wool coat, nice winter boots (although I should probably add “BUY HUNTERS!” to my resolution/shopping required list) and branded jeans — actually HEMMED to fit properly. My face needs to be done. And, frankly, I finally have the funds to do so. Sadly, my dermatologist went off to Chicago, and I have to find another that I like (and trust). Dammit.

5. The Great Tattoo of 2010! This is the year I will spend a good amount of time and money on tattoos. I have my Melt tattoo idea complete — yes, I intend to join the cult! — and currently waiting for the completed artwork to bring into Voodoo Monkey to get that started/finished. There is another geeky tatt I want for my back, which I will do with the leftovers of my vacation fund when I return from my cruise in January. Then, the sleeve begins…

6. You cannot end a resolutions list without more lesbians. EVER. What would YOU do with more lesbians?

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