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Swearing is good for the soul.

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If there is anything that I’ve learned in my 35 years, it’s that swearing can be good for you. Making up swear words is probably better than weekly therapy sessions because it’s getting to the root of the problem — that ass-shit wankbastage driving on your bumper in the slow traffic lane when you’re already doing 10 over the posted mph, for instance — instantly, at the onset of frustration.

Because seriously, why build that shit up? Get those words and emotions and your fucking front end the fuck out of there! You’ll also be adding to your vocabulary.

I’m frustrated easily. I’m not particularly fond of being rushed, being spontaneous or being hungry (hangry best describes my hours between 3-6 pm). The non-spontaneity thing is new, by the way. I used to live my life by not planning anything… now, I plan months in advance because it’s just impossible to function otherwise. And during these moments, I accelerate from 0-to-complete bitch in less than 2 seconds. Ask my boyfriend about dinner last night. He can vouch for that episode.

Blame it on my blood sugar, yo.

So I probably cuss more than I “should” – you know, for whomever made that made-up rule about the correlation between swearing and a decreased IQ score. But in all the stupid things you hear – or experience, rather – is the person who is “too good to swear.” Who is this holier-than-Christdick figment of my imagination?

Because, mother fucker please: you know if you stub your toe, you ain’t yelling Gawd Dang that Dumb Step.

Swearing is good for the soul. It’s also good for conveying your emotion. And we all know that bottling up your emotions causes bad fucking things to happen to you (depression, weakness, fatigue, probably gout). A stream of profanity gets you immediate attention. Also, loudly screaming the word “FUCK!” is downright therapeutic.

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Ingredients: This is probably all junk. And full of CRAP.

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Ingredients: This is probably all junk. And full of CRAP.

I sincerely believe the cleaner your diet, the better you feel. I’m already an avid label reader because of food allergies (thanks a lot, Trader Joes), but I feel like I already have a leg-up on healthy eating, considering I don’t eat frozen foods and rarely have fast food. Even more recently, the boyfriend and I decided to keep as close to natural as possible. We cook most of our meals from scratch; we’re now also growing our own herbs and vegetables (and some fruit); we make most of our own sauces and dressings; and he’s keeping me out of those tempting “middle aisles” at the grocery store (and that one awesome end aisle just past the frozen that holds a box of all the world’s awesome: BUTTERSCOTCH KRIMPETS).

This has spurred an almost-obsession with label reading of any packaged foods. Because as we’ve learned, I’m not the World’s Best Chef, and sometimes, I have to curb my voracious appetite IMMEDIATELY.

That’s called HANGRY, by the way.

Sadly, some of the foods that I crave or buy impulsively are terrible. Have you ever turned around a bottle of salad dressing and read the label?! Also: I’ll go out on a limb and guess that you’re probably eating one of those pie-flavored, fat free yogurts… IT’S CRAP! But that’s not the worst of what’s out there. Or sadly, what I enjoy. I have an extra tooth (seriously, true story) that craves cereal-and-only-cereal. I thought I was doing OK with honey nut Cheerios, but it is FACT that it’s one of the worst — or shall I say most misleading — cereals on the shelves. Here, I thought I was doing well giving up the multiple food dyes included in every bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Nope: CRAP.

I switched to a “healthy” brand (read: Kashi), but I can seriously polish off one of those small boxes in one sitting. Delicious? Yes. Good for my cereal budget? No. Eating disorder? Possibly.

CRAP? A resounding YES! I told you: essentially, EVERYTHING IN A BOX IS CRAP. Yes, even your Kashi. I’m actually pretty pissed that they duped me too.

So, I have some work to do on curbing my snacking addiction (yes, cereal eating is just snacking. I’ll have two bowls of cereal after having a full dinner… just because). But there were other predators in my pantry: peanut butter, jelly beans (OK, not a regular indulgence, but Easter just recently passed. also, a temporary stand-in for other sugary CRAP), frosting… a box of baking mix for carrot cake Whoopie pies (sounds delicious, right? IT’S NOT!).

Why so evil? CHEMICAL ADDITIVES. ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS… it’s all JUNK.

Here’s the Scary Seven, according to Naturally Savvy:

  • HFCS: High-Fructose Corn Syrup (AKA glucose-fructose in Canada)
  • TRANS-FATS: Anything listed as ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ‘hydrogenated’ (includes vegetable shortening)
  • MSG: Monosodium glutamate
  • ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS: Any artificial flavoring
  • ARTIFICIAL COLORS: Any type of artificial dyes
  • ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: Chemical sweeteners including Aspartame, Splenda (sucralose), Ace-K (Acesulfame Potassium), Saccharine, etc.
  • PRESERVATIVES: Polysorbate 60, 65 & 80, TBHQ, Sodium Benzoate, BHA, BHT, Sulfur Dioxide (sulfites)

And this is where Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer (and their love of junk food) come in. In writing “Unjunk Your Junk Food” they taste-tested a variety of salty-or-sweet snacky goodness — and were upfront and honest about the poor eating habits to which most of us can admit. Because WE ALL SNACK. We ALL have cravings. So, they’re not taking away your candy or potato chips or *gasp* ice cream — they’re helping you make better decisions in regards to your health.

The book is loaded with information, and if you have ADD like me, you’ll probably have a brain spasm over how much good and helpful info is included (a lot of fun history and company tidbits too).

Biggest take-away: there are no shortcuts to healthy eating. Yeah, that peanut butter discovery still shocks me a little bit. Thanks, JIF, but you can keep your corn syrup and strange protein “solids.” And no, natural peanut butter does NOT taste the same, but I know that it’s JUST PEANUTS. And I found how delicious it can be with a little dash of cinnamon. I dare you to go through your cupboard, freezer or pantry and read the labels of your favorite snacks (there’s an awesome tear-out checklist in the book on page 25 that identifies the “worst ingredients.” Pick up a copy at Barnes & Nobles or online at Amazon {Naturally Savvy’s affiliate link}.

Tell me in the comments the worst food products you have in your house (or crave, and purposely do NOT keep in the house).

Join the edible Revolution. Read Naturally Savvy’s four-step manifesto for alternative, healthy snacking options. Also, ‘Like’ Naturally Savvy on Facebook and ‘fan’ them on Twitter for your chance to win great prizes.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Naturally Savvy for review.

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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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I came, I saw, I got my picture taken with the Stanley Cup.

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I came, I saw, I got my picture taken with the Stanley Cup.
Yes, that IS the one.

Yes, that IS the one.

Have you been following my Toronto adventures?

#1: Road Trip!

#2: Toronto, the Roller Derby Experience

#3: That time I met Ryan Reynolds in Toronto

And the best way I know to wrap this up… in list form.

The good: The Hockey Hall of Fame was by far my favorite adventure (besides eating my face off… figuratively, OF COURSE). Also, St. Lawrence Market is a cheese lover’s (read: ME) paradise, and I could have om nom nom’d two more days here. Sadly, I didn’t get back to Kensington Market (neighborhood) for vintage perusing because of the stupid, stupid sickness, but what an amazing place. Note: a grilled cheese restaurant DOES exist, but it’s more Panini-style and less Melt. *sadness*

Also, I was so incredibly geeked to find that the Tim Burton exhibit was at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (the Toronto International Film Festival headquarters, for those who don’t know). Totally unexpected and unplanned, until I read about it in a hotel magazine. Of course, we put it on the schedule. And the visit to the gallery sparked so much emotion and nostalgia. Completely loved it.

Just like heaven...

Just like heaven...

The bad: The stupid, stupid nightmare-worthy elevator ride and glass observation floor at the CN Tower. Could not stop the shaking — and it certainly did not help matters that it was a particularly windy day in the city and the communications tower was ACTUALLY SHAKING. I was fine with the heights when I was on the exterior observation deck (and could breathe freely), but NOT on glass panels some 33 floors above the ground. Did I mention that the elevator had glass floors. I don’t know about you, but I kind of DON’T want to see myself fall to my death surrounding by fluctuating light patterns. Double rainbow or not.

CN Tower Straddle

CN = Can Not (Stop) Straddle

Decidedly, NOT the fun part of the tourist adventure for me.

The food: It’s probably easiest to direct you to my Yelp reviews for our eating adventures, as we experienced a LOT of food (and perhaps too much room service). Many, many thanks go to the couple behind Tasting Toronto for suggesting several options for dinner, markets, beers and everything in between. Between Yelp reviews and their referrals, we certainly experienced some gems.

I still haven’t quite figured out what Peameal Bacon is, but it is Emeril approved. BAM!

The beer: I was really impressed at the beer scene in Toronto. REALLY impressed.

Here were a few new brews to me during my trip (and a few notes):
Wellington County Dark Ale (Give me a Wellie! Love it — and my new bar coaster)
Amsterdam Black Friday Brew (exclusive: I like; only two other bars in Toronto carry it)
Flying Monkey Cascadian Dark Ale
Railway City Brewing Dead Elephant Ale (came highly recommended, but just OK; loved the label)
Beau Layered Ale
Black Oak Pale Ale (bubbly! nice in my mouth)
C’est What? Caraway Rye Beer (many times over: wow, wow, wow — excellent beer)
Alexander Keith’s Harvest Ale (reminded me of Sam Adam’s… weird)

We did attempt a stop at the Steam Whistle Brewing, but their open hours were only until 6pm. AND we missed it, but not for NOT trying — as it took us some 20 minutes to find where an entrance even existed. Cool building though and loved the trains. We didn’t end up back in that part of the city again to tour the brewery. We did stop into the Hard Rock Cafe (lame) in Yonge-Dundas Square (think: small Times Square). No interesting beers. At all. But Steam Whistle was available, which was so reminiscent of (disgusting) Heineken — in green glass printed bottle concept  and taste. Blech.

Very bright. Very COLD.

Very bright. Very COLD.

Another gem: Distillery District is a cute little neighborhoods in Toronto, which includes galleries, restaurants, bars and the like, converted from the shell of a huge, old Distillery. Located in that maze of establishments is Mill Street Brewing Company — another one of our “favorites” from our trip. Because I like to share hilarious stories… while we were sitting at the bar, a one-camera film crew came in, recording what felt like part of a reality show. Or the intro to a porno… because THAT WOULD TOTALLY HAPPEN TO ME.

My face was definitely on camera — so if you ever see something taking place at this bar, please direct me to YouTube. We were not asked to sign any releases, but the bartender mentioned that it was some overseas show (recording without permission, natch — hence: porn), and she had no clue what it was all about either NOR did she want to be on camera. Anyways… interesting.

I had the award-winning Tankhouse Ale and sampled the Coffee Porter — both fantastic beers, worthy of their medals. We also purchased a 2010 Barley Wine, which couldn’t wait until we got home, and we enjoyed it that night from the hotel. We made friends with the sales associate and would LOVE to do a trade for another Barley to age (she says it’s even better).

Toronto was an amazing place. Even better than I remember from that fateful band trip some 20 years ago. I cannot wait to return — for the food, the culture AND the beer. And definitely get in some more cheese tastings!

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You Know What I Hate?

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Well, that title is rhetorical because there is an ever-rotating laundry and “honey-do” list of things I hate. Add to that:

  • Crowds
  • Dirty pans that sit on the stove for three days (and especially that grill pan that I cannot use the scrubber on… UGH)
  • Touching surfaces in public (doors, revolving doors, railings, elevator buttons)
  • Elevators, for that matter
  • Slow drivers in the PASSING lane (this is mostly an Ohio problem, so thank you, Pennsylvania)
  • The Apple sales associate who got that damn Paul McCartney Christmas song stuck in my head all weekend

But I really, REALLY hate that I can’t be an angry bitch face to AB.

I get mad naturally because he wants to put needless speakers all over the freaking apartment when there’s things that NEED to be done, such as scrubbing the bathtub — or laundry has piled up and, well, it’s Football Sunday — what woman wouldn’t? And I’m exceptionally short and unpleasant when I HAVEN’T HAD BREAKFAST(!!!) while attempting to play Frogger with every third person who walks-five-steps-and-stops in The Strip. But when I calm down (just a bit) to ask what his stupid intentions are, he puts on this innocent, smirky grin, as if to say, “You’re so funny when you try to be mean” instead of fearful of me being mad.

And I can’t stop the breaking smile while trying to reprimand his inane decisions.

DAMMIT! Why won’t he let me be a bitch?

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My “Learn How To Cook” Missive for the New Year

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I’m so horrible at this that I can’t even come up with a decent list of 25 items of what I want to learn how to cook. I can bake fairly well and make salads. I do especially well with dressings, so I suppose that makes me a stellar prep cook. Or something. See? I don’t even know proper kitchen terms. And I make sandwiches like nobody’s business. Oftentimes, opting for the use of the toaster and microwave rather than dirty another hand-wash only pan for something grilled. I am nothing if resourceful.

A lot of what I attempt is a giant fail. Regardless of my return attempts. Or following directions to the T (whatever does that mean, by the way? Why “T”?).

There are some general sweet things I’d like to make:
Bark
Klotchkes
A Pie

But those won’t feed my family of two. It will feed ME, but boyfriend doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth.

Cook Chicken (I know how to do the brine, which is one step in the right direction)
Learn How to Chop, Cut Foods

But those things are lame. And besides the chicken haven’t entirely prevented me from cooking.

I can make baked macaroni and cheese, moussaka and even manicotti, if I wanted to make such an effort. But I need some dinner ideas — simple and otherwise — that will encourage me to want to prepare dinner, rather than wait for the boyfriend to arrive home from work when I am all kinds of starving.

So… readers. Suggestions to add to my list of recipes and my impending monthly blog challenge? Pictures and accounts of the challenges will be posted for your entertainment.

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One week in Pittsburgh. The first of many.

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Let’s start with food, shall we? First things first, I am in LOVE with the Pittsburgh Public Market (I’ve already been twice this week), and I am totally excited for its growth (and the eventual addition of East End Brewing to fill my Uni-growler). The vendors are great — and the herb guy even sells catnip. Love.

The Strip is both a wonderful and annoying experience — much like my frustration with tourists at the West Side Market while all I’m trying to do is my grocery shopping. We still haven’t figured out the “right” day or time to go to avoid the bulk of the crowds. AND WE ALSO NEED A BUTCHER. Recommendations, please. And if you tell me Gint Iggle, I will punch you in the sack. It was a bitch trying to find some decent ground sirloin (and we walked away with some lean yuck). This week’s treasures: cheddar-jalapeno bread from some bread vendor on the street (magnificently delicious for a Sunday hangover!) and swiss rolls from an amazing Asian grocery (hooray for strawberry and banana!).

I loved Nature’s Bin back home, so I was filled with hungry glee to find Right by Nature in the Strip District. I have also been there twice this week. And while the walk is some 20 blocks away (decent to do on a cooler day), it was totally worth it for the sushi. Also? Their partnership with Good Apples means I can have my groceries delivered to our downtown apartment when I am: a) sick, b) lazy c) hungover or d) all of the above.

And when I need something before our weekly grocery shopping errand, the Market Square Farmer’s Market on Thursdays (through November) is perfect. Last week I left with a Bumbleberry Pie and golden raspberries. But there are food vendors (I think I saw pierogies) and a significant amount of produce available. I’ll have to check again for cheese or meats. Note to self: next time, do NOT go during lunch hour. I keep forgetting that there are BUSINESSES in this city.

Stay tuned for a second post about my first week…

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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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A Listy Things of New!

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Let’s not overwhelm you, Dear Readers. I do a bulleted list to prevent your brain from exploding unnecessarily.

  • I joined fellow Tweeps last week for a dinner at AMP150, which was wonderful. For newbies, I recommend doing the six course Chef’s choice. And yes, Chef Cooley even arranged his selections around my shellfish allergy.  I will go back for another dinner soon — it was that memorable and fantastic. Kudos for an awesome night of good eats, Chef. More panna cotta, please!
  • Also, edamame is my new favorite vegetable.
  • I also went to the Ben Folds concert at the House of Blues last Thursday. More on that in another rant-y post. It’s bitchy.
  • AB & I had a nice Date Night at One Walnut downtown on Friday. It was a first visit for the both of us. We had the intentions of checking out during Restaurant Week, but was booked for the nights we were available. We will return soon for another great meal (and to enjoy the BOGO Happy Hour). It’s a concise menu with BIG tastes. We shared the spare ribs and the duck. Oh, and those spare ribs? Might have been the best ever. Definitely moved One Walnut into our Top Ten of Cleveland. We’re still in love, so back off anonymous phone and email stalkers.
  • Then, we spontaneously bought Cavs playoff tickets for the game Saturday. It goes without saying (or seven seasons of no attendance on my part) how awesome the experience and vibe of Game One is. But basketball is still not my favorite sport.
  • My good friend hosted the first part of her 30th birthday at Lilly Handmade Chocolate for a private chocolate and beer tasting. I wish I could suggest this to everyone making plans for showers, bachelorette parties and birthdays — it was a GREAT time. And Amanda is ever the best host. I don’t think there is a way to leave the store without a sixer plus a sixer. Beer & Chocolate my whole world over.
  • We continued the celebration at one of my favorites watering holes: Prosperity Social Club. And finished off at Edison’s (then of course, Edi’s pizza). We hung with a lot of cool people that night, and finally partied with Kelly & Jose again and the ever-awesome Heidi Robb. Reconnected with an old guy friend (AKA: friend of HSS) from Mentor High School. Random! And I totally yelled at a guy, “Hey I had dinner with you this week.” Only, I didn’t. That’s a little awkward in front of your friends when your boyfriend is standing right there. Another brilliant case of mistaken identity.
  • Also, Monday Massages are awesome. I want one nearly every week. More so, I might NEED one every week. And a chiropractor. More on that after my x-ray results on Wednesday. Also, I have no reflex in my left arm which makes me either a zombie or an alien. Or half of either. In any case, I’m already used to being “bi-” something, so this works out.  This is when I’m told for sure that I have arthritis at age 32. Because, that kind of stuff happens to me.
  • I started taking calcium supplements. *sigh*

Also, I don’t know why my font changes with bullets. For shit.

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City Exploration: Pittsburgh (Part Two)

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A huge “thank you” goes to Chris from Yinz Hungry and Jay (referred by our new friend, Kyle) for their restaurant (and more) recommendations. Holy crap, it’s a good thing I did a lot a walking because I did a LOT of eating. The hotel was in the perfect location downtown, enabling me to get out in the mornings to walk around and explore. I was up early because AB had to work. At least I could get him out on a couple school nights.

Whoo! That river moves quick!

Whoo! That river moves quick!

As I initially assumed, Pittsburgh food is based in comfort. But vacation is a perfect time to load up on pancakes and hotdogs, so NO PROBLEM THERE. There are definitely notable restaurants and a handful of creative chefs that do exist — if you get said suggestions or are feeling a little adventurous. I mean, Le Cordon Bleu is there — I imagine some students desire to stay and help Pitt become a foodie town to match the city’s vibrancy? Right?

I walked to The Strip neighborhood EVERY DAY from downtown – it was about 20 blocks, but incredibly quick. Day one, I visited the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (“Penn Mac”), and fell for another cheese guy. It’s nowhere near as glamourous as Paris, but I grabbed a hunk of Fourme d’Ambert and some bread and casually nibbled while wandering around. I was on a short mission to find flavored malted milk balls — seen at Daily Grommet. Let me tell you how delicious these things are that Mon Amiee Chocolat creates.

For lunch, I walked back into downtown for a Locavore hotdog (made Texan style) at Franktuary, which is housed in the Oliver side of Trinity Cathedral. This place obviously has nothing on Happy Dog here in Cleveland, but I devoured this thing. I also enjoyed the thin, almost toast-like bun.

Kind of creepy, but awesome nonethless.

Kind of creepy, but awesome nonetheless.

Now I have a damn hot dog to walk off, so I head back into The Strip area to visit the Heinz History Center. This museum combines Pittsburgh history, innovation and culture very well. I easily spent three hours there — and could have spent a few more. I got chills within the sports museum. The “tunnel” leading from the displayed “locker room” into the main exhibit was a fun approach. I got overly-geeked upon seeing Busty Brawler’s derby gear on display. Awesome.

Steel City Derby Demons!

Steel City Derby Demons!

Heinz obviously has an extensive history with Pittsburgh, and there is a giant wing devoted to that. There was also a wing dedicated to the innovations of Pittsburgher and a special exhibit all about glass.

Love this sign!

Love this sign!

I bought chocolate-covered Heinz pickles too. Sadly, gearing up for its Mr. Rogers’ special exhibit beginning this weekend, there was no collection honoring him available for viewing. Note: a wax statue was unveiled this past weekend on “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” Day, on Fred Rogers’ birthday.

After a seriously short disco nap, we had dinner at Yo Rita. This is how ‘burgher Jay described it to me:

This place used to be a shitty tex-mex bar before the owner brought Kevin (Sousa) in to revamp the menu. Now it’s a hip modern taqueria serving all type of crazy shit in local tortillas (from Reyna’s in the Strip District). Pork shoulder, duck confit, chorizo, you name it. Every week, there’s a special taco that’s usually made of something more adventurous: cock’s combs, kidney, bone marrow, testicles. Kevin’s the closest thing Pittsburgh has to a known chef, analogous to Cleveland’s Jonathon Sawyer.

I mean, makes you want to eat twelve tacos, right?! We shared four: duck confit (with mushrooms, bacon, Brussels and mustard crema), Bahn Mi (just like the sandwich), pork shoulder (mole poblano, jalapeno and granny smith apples) and the weekly special taco: sweetbreads (which were so smooth and dough-like and delicious). Everything was absolutely incredible Bravo, Jay… AND Chef Sousa.

After dinner, we trampled through the South Side, stopping at various bars with awesome things on tap: The Library (where I found a new craft beer — Moylans’s Hopsickle) & Smokin’ Joes Saloon (with over 60 beers on tap, I opted for a Sly Fox Odyssey from a PA brewery) were two of my favorites bar stops.

Hofbrau Haus was a total random find, after walking a few blocks to find something new. While the beer is very meh, Santa Claus singing karaoke classics (including Green Day in polka-style) was an entertaining treat.

Two more days of eating my way through Pittsburgh to go!

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Beer and Wine. Whine and Achuuu!

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There is plenty of beer to go around! This past Sunday, with thanks to Blogging Jason for the event heads-up, we spent the afternoon at the Winter Warmer Festival at Rock Bottom. Winter Warmer was a happy surprise, as my expectations were just of joyfully drinking local winter brews. Ahem, no Christmas Ale at this party! Glad to see Cellar Rats (Madison) making another festival appearance, and was pleasantly surprised with the deliciousness of Rust Belt Brewing Co. (Youngstown).

Then the sickness returned. I canceled my Saturday night plans because I felt “it” all in my throat. This stupid cold/throat thing killed me this week. I don’t get sick a lot — well, because I am rarely around other people, even less so since working from home. And last week I was around TOO many people. And children. TOO many children. I have meetings and calls and the like, which is very, very good. And I can’t taste my hot chocolate!

It’s also Downtown Cleveland Restaurant Week. While Restaurant Weeks in general leave little to be desired, I like the IDEA of focusing on restaurants in one particular area or neighborhood. Collectively, the menus for this DCRW suck. Hangar Steak. Yuck. Salmon. Yawn. One Walnut’s three-course selection was seriously the only creative option, but we took too long to make a decision on whether we would participate this year, and, not surprisingly, the restaurant was booked. Coming in second and third were Ponte Vecchio or Saigon – both restaurants I haven’t been. Being that OMG-It’s-Winter! and we live RIGHT THERE, the latter won out.

Saigon’s big draw was the “fourth course” – a glass of wine included with the meal. Upon seating, their menu reflected TWO glasses of wine with the meal. Super! Vietnamese food is, well, Asian food, so there’s nothing spectacular coming out of the kitchen. I enjoyed the chicken and cabbage cold salad a lot though. At $30 a person — with enough food for two more meals — it was worth it.

There is only ONE restaurant left on East 4th since becoming a downtown restaurant in which I haven’t eaten. It’s too embarrassing to admit, but I will eat there prior to my moving from East 4th. Promise.

Rock on, Cleveland. Oh, and I got a few music posts written about TRBX up at Addicted to Vinyl. I am a full month behind, I know, and I have so many more to go, not to mention everything about the cruise that was NOT music-relative. I’m sure by Rock Boat next year, thy will be done…

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What’s new?

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I caught up with my ex — The Fiance — yesterday. And no, it’s not some big secret that we conversed. AB knows we’re friends.

“What’s new?” he asked, in request of status from our last conversation a couple of months ago.

Everything is JUST as fantastic as the last time we spoke – downtown living arrangements, permanent awesome boyfriend placement, upcoming Caribbean travel plans, same good-paying job in real estate, complacent-yet-straddling-the-line-of-Black-Sheep familial issues… I couldn’t even really share that I was doing Taebo because that workout routine is not new to him (I’m sure we shared similar nightmares of Billy Blanks).

I struggle to think spontaneously! He had a bomb (which I’ll keep off Internets for his privacy). But are questions as such just rhetorical or a true well-intended curiosity?

I can’t believe I actually had to think what was New With Me. Lameness.

1. I tried a new fish last night: yellowtail. This is only my second time eating sushi, of which the afterlife should be entirely comprised, you know, if I make it to one of the good parts (and you know, my digestive system allows me to enjoy some shellfish). AB had everything but the fish to make our own, but decided to stop into Sapporo {map} after a hectic work day. All four types were delicious! Of course, I have a lot left to learn about sushi, but I know the day after having some, I want more. MORE! And I am completely in love with anything spiced mayo. Of COURSE.

2. I tried a new cookie recipe this week. These apple-cranberry oatmeal cookies may very well might be my most favorite of cookie ever baked. EVER. For serious.

3. I’m listening to some new-to-me Bob Seger, courtesy of the greatest music pal ever, Addicted to Vinyl. Seger further reinforces that I need to have a piano in my next living arrangement. Even if it’s just an iPhone app. But not really. Back to Seger, “Days When the Rain Would Come” is holy fucking shit amazing to listen. Consider it on 1,063 loop rotations.

4. *sigh* I think I need another new hairdresser. When I called last week to make an appointment, she was out of the salon for a couple days for “personal reasons.” She still has yet to call me back for a potential haircut on Friday. Looks as though I will be rocking some bad-ass split ends (and extraordinarily long hair) for the holidays. I really, really liked my haircut last time. Dammit.

5. I might jump on board with adding a bunch of new recipes and cooking techniques to my resolutions list. AB cooks for us almost every night, which I love, but I love trying to cook/make new things (and subsequently fucking them up gloriously!). Be that as it may, spaghetti squash is on the menu tonight. AB is not joining us for dinner. OMG, I can fart at home!

6. Remember all that running I used to do? You know, the activity I gave up the second my witches’ tits started freezing over? Yeah… I’m considering giving the half-marathon another Ol’ College Try. See, I’ll be 33 in May, and that’s what still-hot-in-perfect-condition 33-year-olds do. Right? Or do they become strippers? I always confuse the two.

7. I did this super horrible spray tanning at home last weekend with a new product. At application, it was running fast down my arms and chest, and there was no doubt I was getting streaky with it. I wasn’t even complete with spraying my abs on before it stained my hand (yes, with a spray can, wtf?). And that can ran out before my fracking back was even. So, for 5 hours I resembled an aborigine, and when I showered — HOLY CRAP! It looked fantastic! Not much streaking (although a tiny bit uneven on my back — but not noticeable). Three days of awesome coverage before fading. Billy Blanks could not even paint these perfect abs. OK, he had probably a quarter of the credit. All that being said, I still like the fake tan courtesy of Neutrogena (airbrush) and Banana Boat (aerosol). If only I could afford Optima Sun Lab on a weekly basis.

Yeah, so these would all probably bore my ex-non-husband to laughing tears, like, OMG, you are lameness and what happened to befriending porn stars and when are you going to Amsterdam again and your cooking totally sucks.

Man, I had a bit more to talk about when I was buying hookers. It’s like endlessly talking about children to someone without spawn.

Perhaps the Caribbean sells those things. The hookers, not the spawn, of course.

So, Readers, what’s new? And what stories do you share with your exes — good, bad, ugly, same? Do you make up shit? I don’t talk to my exes, Crazy Woman!

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