Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

This is one of those weeks when being an adult is not much fun. One of those weeks with a 40 minute call to a health care entity. It involved those annoying touch tone systems, being incorrectly transferred by clueless reps, more clueless reps, and me not being able to return to the issue for a couple days because I was so infuriated with incompetence. That's to be expected when dealing with health care these days, and yet I allow myself to become enraged anyway.

Side note: SP recently had his own health care from hell experience. After 3-4 useless calls, he got his company's health care concierge involved (they have a guy in the office once/week to help with issues). Actual exchange:

Health insurance rep: identifies self as health insurance and tells rep to do XYZ.
Clueless rep,"I'm sorry sir. I cannot do that. Insurance mandates ABC."
Health insurance rep, "I AM the insurance. I am saying it's OK."

There's also this:
Friday night, 9 pm, we had just settled in with tea and biscotti and TV when we heard it. Sigh. At least the grill survived (we had to pull it out from under the branches on the driveway). Here's the Saturday morning view:
It's hard to tell how much damage there is because we cannot/won't use the stairs. We can see at least part of the railing is crushed:
We can't get out to the deck from the sunroom, either. Here's the view out the sliding doors to the deck from inside the sunroom:
Fortunately, the glass isn't broken. But the screen door is most likely destroyed. We're afraid to open the doors. As the giant locust tree fell, it took out a pretty big branch of the walnut tree:
That railing doesn't look so good, either. Looks like it's falling out towards the woods.

Anyway, we started a claim with the insurance (just in case we actually file). The tree guys we use came out Monday, gave us a quote, and said they probably wouldn't get to it this week. Ugh. So I spent yesterday fretting because it was quite breezy and I kept seeing the downed tree swaying on the deck. Our neighbor offered to use their chainsaw to remove it, but we are afraid of someone getting seriously hurt since it's a steep drop off down into the woods and it's hard to tell how stable the deck is. It looks like it'll be OK, but you never know. So we decided we needed the professionals with insurance and licenses. After the tree is removed, an adjuster will come out to assess the damage. We're hoping it didn't damage the shingles/gutters that are only 2 years old.

On a more positive note, the garage door work is being done later this afternoon! I'm trying to not think about the other 3-4 things we need to arrange to get fixed.

What We're Eating:

  • Sunday we visited my parents to see their new kitchen. Mom made bolognese.
  • The rest of this week: roast chicken, rice, and green beans/broccoli.
  • Dessert: Bethel Bakery cupcakes, ladylocks, tea cookies.

What We're Watching:

  • We were all set to watch more of The Man in the High Castle on Friday, but the tree excitement ruined that plan. No idea when we'll get back to it.
  • We are caught up on Manifest.
  • The usual shows. It's been a "get up early" week, so we're going to bed earlier, so we're struggling to keep up with new episodes in the 1.5 hours we have for TV each night.

What I'm Reading:

  • Magazines.
  • Lethal White from Robert Galbraith. It's the 4th novel in the Cormoran Strike series. I'm about 1/4 of the way through a very long book but so far so good even if I have no idea where it's going.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

Spiced Biscotti
Sometimes home chores are just a giant pain. We had horrible carpet on the garage floor (the previous owners were obsessed with flooring; remember our carpeted walls? ugh) and it was horrible and stained and awful. SP finally ripped it out but of course, one cannot do any home "improvement" without triggering a bunch of annoying additional issues. I call it the domino effect. Removing the carpet meant there was a gap at the bottom of the garage door. Gap means entry for critters. Thanks to our "territorial view" (woods) we have lots and lots of critters. I do not want a repeat of last March. So SP and a friend tried to put up new, thicker weather stripping but there were still gaps. So we played phone tag with a garage door company for 2 weeks. Meanwhile, I was becoming increasingly paranoid about critters getting in. Finally, today, the garage door experts came out to take a look. We should have just called the experts from the beginning. We need a new channel at the bottom of the door and new weather stripping and of course it must be sized to fit your size garage door. So they have to get the right size and come back out. But soon, I can stop fretting about critters entering through the garage door gaps.

What We're Eating:


What We're Watching:

  • We started Man in the High Castle Season 3 on Amazon Prime. We've watched only 2 of the new episodes. I still enjoy it, but sometimes I get confused, not just by the plot but trying to remember all the characters since it has been a while.
  • We started watching Manifest on NBC. Just the first episode so far, so we're behind. We weren't going to add any new shows, but then we decided to try this one. We liked the pilot, so I think we'll stick with it for a while.
  • We also are giving Single Parent on ABC a try. It's on after Modern Family, which we still enjoy. We're both a little unsure of Single Parent. Last night's hamster plot seemed a little too silly to me.
  • This Is Us still makes me teary.
  • I watched a movie, Tully, and it was quite good. 

What I'm Reading:
Magazines. The pile is slowly shrinking.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we got our flu shots. It was just 2 hours before my arm was super sore. Unfortunately, I had them give me the shot in my left arm, the one I sleep on, so sleeping that night was miserable. Also, trying to clean the house on Sunday was not fun with a sore arm.

We finally acquired a new blanket, flannel sheets, goose down comforter/duvet, a duvet cover, and two king size pillows for the new (since July) bed. Appropriately sized bedding at last. Ready for winter. Of course it's been hot, too hot to use more than a sheet at night. What happened to cool fall days & nights?

Tonight is the first Penguins hockey game of the season. SP will be there so I'm on my own for dinner. Hopefully they will be more exciting to follow than the Steelers have been lately.

What We're Eating:


What We're Watching:

  • We finished American Vandal Season 2. It was just as good as Season 1.
  • We watched Won't You Be My Neighbor? I cried. A lot.
  • We started the most recent episodes of Unbelievable Kimmy Schmidt. It's still just OK, to me, but we feel obligated to watch.

What I'm Reading:

  • I read the latest Vince Flynn (Kyle Mills) novel in the Mitch Rapp series, Red War. It held my interest and was the usual. 
  • Lots of magazines. My mom dropped of a few issues of Food & Wine and Travel & Leisure, so I read those. I also read new issues of Cook's Country, Food Network Magazine, Bon Appetit, 2 issues of Pittsburgh Magazine. A busy magazine week. I still have a Saveur and 2 Smithsonian magazines to read.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

I'm avoiding the news today because I'm pretty sure I'll hear a whole bunch of things that will make me want to scream. Kind of like nearly every day since 8 November 2016. But some days are worse than others and I expect today will be a bad one.

This past weekend my parents invited themselves to dinner! Their apartment kitchen & dining room are being remodeled and for 2 weeks they have not had a stove or microwave or dishwasher. The kitchen has been blocked off by a plastic tap. They were in Las Vegas for most of week 1, then either dined out/ate sandwiches. The project is a bit behind schedule so it'll be more like a 3 week project. They wanted a "real" meal, so they offered to bring dinner if we'd cook. We said OK. They brought steak. We don't usually eat steak. These ones were so good. Really good. Really, really good. Probably the chef, right SP? He is a good griller.

What We're Eating:


What We're Watching:

  • We have 2 more episodes of American Vandal Season 2. We are enjoying the Case of the Turd Burglar.
  • "Regular" TV is starting up. This week we watched the premieres of Big Bang Theory, Sheldon, This Is Us, The Gifted, and Modern Family.
  • Tonight Shonda TV returns, although without Scandal. Two hours of Grey's Anatomy and one hour of HTGAWM tonight. I can't remember if Station 19 is coming back to Thursday TV or not?
  • Another season of Worst Cooks in America ended. I was happy with both finalists and had no strong feelings about who should win. The pasta the Oklahoma girl made looked awfully tasty.
  • Halloween Baking Championship started. We love the Halloween one best of the seasonal baking championship shows. 

What I'm Reading:

  • I finally finished Still Me by Jojo Moyes. I couldn't remember if I'd read the first or second or both (or neither) of the trilogy, so I checked out both to read (re-read) before reading the recently published third book. Turns out I had read both. I flipped through them, just to refresh my memory, and then picked up Still Me, which I enjoyed. A good conclusion to the series.
  • Magazines. Lots of magazines. My mom brought over a few, the new ones arrived. The pile is a little scary.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Molinaro Ristorante & Bar

Last weekend we saw The Play That Goes Wrong. I didn't know anything about it before we saw it. Oh my gosh, it was so funny! I enjoyed it a lot and at times I was laughing so much I was nearly crying. After the show, we went to dinner at Molinaro Ristorante & Bar in Market Square. Molinaro is in the space previously occupied by Poros. I think the restaurant just opened this past late June/early July. There is a great outdoor dining space, but after week of very hot and humid weather, it was suddenly breezy and quite chilly. We did not dine outside.

We each ordered wine. Chardonnay for him. Vermintino for me. Here's what we ate:
Bread & olive oil. A focaccia with tomato and rosemary, a white, and a brown.
SP's starter: Piovra (grilled spanish rock octopus, menaica anchovies sauce, cauliflower, pine nuts, raisins). Yum!
Daily Special - Three Cheeses with Three Mini Salads. In the lower right of the photo, ricotta with a zucchini salad (my favorite). On the left is a smoked scamorza next to a tomato-onion-basil salad. At the top is mozzarella (or was it burrata? I want to say burrata but the receipt says mozzarella and I can't remember) and hidden behind the scamorza and tomatoes is an eggplant salad. It was excellent. I did share with SP but I probably could have eaten all the cheese myself.
SP's main meal: Daily Special - Mixed Grill: mackerel, branzino, and sea bass atop carrots and asparagus.
My main meal: Veal Agnolotti (veal stuffed ravioli, chanterelle mushrooms, fresh thyme, veal reduction). As our server said, there was a lot of veal in these ravioli:
I tried to get a wee bite of mushroom with each bite of ravioli because together, the veal-pasta-mushroom flavors were so darn tasty.
SP ordered an after dinner drink: Grappa. I took one sniff and knew better than to try the tiniest of sips. Too strong for me.
For me, cappuccino.
My dessert: Zeppole with pastry cream. Oh. My. Close up:
Crispy on the outside, light and airy inside, smooth, cool cream and a raspberry. I shared, but I think I allowed him a half of one.
SP chose Italian Cheesecake - with pear in it and berries on top/around it. 

Overall, I enjoyed Molinaro. I was trying to decide between two wines and our server brought me a sample of each to try. Our server was great, answering questions, informed, pleasant & smiling. The meal was nicely paced. The food tasty. I can't really find anything wrong. And yet. I think it comes down to this: Molinaro is a pretty darn expensive place. Maybe we didn't need 2 appetizers, or 2 desserts, or the grappa and cappuccinos. But even without those, the bill + tax & tip would have been well over $100. It might just be us. I guess we are not cheap dates?! Since it was a daily special, I didn't realize just how much the cheese plate was ($28). When we eat out, we like to get foods we do not cook at home, like octopus, which happens to be one of the priciest appetizers ($19). 

So when I look at it like that, that it's one of the priciest meals we've had in Pittsburgh, that we spent more than we do at other places in/near the Cultural District when we dine out after shows, I'm not sure I can overlook the dirt we found on the tablecloth under SP's bread plate. Or the construction noise (?) that seemed to start up around 6:30 pm on a Saturday - ? At least that's what the noise sounded like. I was glad we dined right after the show ended so we were leaving shortly after the noise started.

But the food was good, especially those zeppole. I'm sure we'll be back because delicious pasta, cheese, and donuts are three of my very favorite things.


*Full disclosure: Due to a mishap with our leftover dinner food, we were not charged for desserts/cappuccinos. That wasn't necessary. It is appreciated. We did attempt to calculate what they would have cost and then tip on the bill + the dessert/cappuccino cost. We were still surprised how much it added up. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

I saw the fat groundhog today. We call it Otis. It's so fat I can't believe it can actually walk. But then I had a horrifying thought: what if Otis is a girl and is so fat because she's pregnant? We do not need more groundhogs. I'm not even going to look up when they give birth and how many they give birth to because I do not want to know how many destructive monsters could be in the area.

We ripped out the dead petunias and planted mums for autumn. It's time to toss the herbs and winterize the garden boxes. It was definitely a disappointing herb and vegetable year.

I've spent a lot of time this week (wasted a lot of time?) trying to figure out what winter bedding we want for the new bed. It's a king, so our queen blankets and comforter won't work. I don't like heavy comforters. I also don't like most of the comforters I see. Ugly designs, or too light colored for our bedroom. I'm not getting new carpet/re-painting. We're keeping the cream/white carpet and seaside sand paint color. All the light/pale colored things are not right. The gray/black/brown ones are ugly & boring. I didn't want plain. We don't like floral prints. I don't want striped because our summer bedspread is striped. Do we want goose/duck/down or not? And then buy a duvet cover? Or just stick with a comforter? Do we need flannel sheets? Split king sheets are proving difficult to find. We have one set of sheets and they're too cool for winter. We need a new blanket and I want what we have but size king but of course we got it 8-9 years ago so we can't find it now. How can this seem so darn difficult?!

It's just a giant time suck doing all the research and getting overwhelmed/frustrated. Such problems, right? I should be glad/grateful I have a bed under a non-leaky roof in a heated house. And I am. I realize I sound stupid being annoyed by bedding that doesn't satisfy my idea of what I want. 

What We're Eating:


What We're Watching:

  • We finished Iron Fist Season 2. It was better than Season 1.
  • We started American Vandal Season 1 on Netflix and so far 3 episodes in, we're really enjoying it.
  • We watched Oceans 8. It was a fun movie.

What I'm Reading:
Magazines. The pile is high.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Hofbräuhaus

Last weekend, we decided to go to Hofbräuhaus. It had been 9 years since our first and only experience there. As you might guess from the long time between visits, we weren't much impressed in 2009. But suddenly autumn, pumpkin spice, fall, Halloween, Oktoberfest, it all was in my face and I ended up thinking going to Hofbräuhaus was a good idea. I did not realize it was actually Oktoberfest time. I did not realize that Hofbräuhaus was having Oktoberfest festivities the weekend we chose to go.

Here's how the nearly 3.5 hour dinner event went:
We were in Kohl's, shopping for bedding, which always annoys me because I can never decide if something is soft enough, or warm enough, or light enough, or whatever. We decided to leave and go to dinner then stop at a different store on the way home. I checked No Wait. It said 10-20 minute wait. That was too soon to get in line because it would take us about a half hour to get there.
The navigation system route to the South Side was a way we never go and it took us into neighborhoods I had never before driven through, probably because they were kind of scary.
The entire drive, the No Wait app said 10-20 minute wait.
As we were attempting to get around the blocked off streets and into a parking garage, I added us to the No Wait list. My text message, time stamped 5:11 pm, said 10-20 minute wait and advised me to arrive by 5:21 pm and check in. Okey dokey.
We arrived at Hofbräuhaus around 5:20 pm. There was a line. To check in. It took SP 10 minutes to check in. At this point, our table should be ready, right? Right. But nope.
SP maneuvered me through the line and inside near the "to be seated" podium so that when our table was ready, we do not have to get through the crowd.
It was loud inside. Very loud. Too loud for my sensitive, old ears. I prayed we were not seated by the loud live music.
At 5:50 pm, our table was ready. That was a 39 minute wait on what was supposed to be a 10-20 minute wait. Twice as long as the estimate. I was not pleased. What good is this No Wait app? Are they using it correctly? I should have put our name on the list when we left Kohl's.
Then there was some kind of issue as 2 employees huddled and discussed where to put us (I guess that is what they were doing). It looked like they were going to lead us into the loud, live music area with communal tables & bench seating. This does not work for a wheelchair. I either have to sit on the end, sticking out into the walking "lane" and be kicked/jostled every time someone walks by OR everyone on my side of the table will have to stand up & slide the bench down (so the other end of the bench will stick out and be a tripping hazard) to make space for me to sit at the table. I was about to have a fit.
Nope, they led us through that area and to the outdoor area.
Outdoor dining. What had I said to SP as we went to dinner, before he checked in? I had said I didn't want to sit outside because it was so darn humid and I do not enjoy being out in that kind of humidity. It kills my appetite. It makes me feel slimy.
Too bad for me, we were seated outside. Fine. I wasn't happy but I didn't want to wait even longer for a table inside the quiet, air conditioned area. I'd deal with the humidity and the loud outdoor music.
There was some kind of metal bar across the bottom of the table that connected the left and right legs. It prevented me from getting close enough to the table. I was going to have to lean far over to eat, which usually ends up in my back hurting a lot, food in my lap, that sort of thing. Plus, I was very far away from SP. I didn't want to shout across at him and have everyone near us hear our conversation. I figured I could get my front caster wheels over the bar. Nope. I was repelled. So I backed up and with all my pathetic might thrust myself over the bar - and smashed my shin/knee into previously unseen thin, metal, crossed in an X shape bars underneath the table in the middle. It hurt. A lot. The pain took my breath away, which was probably a good thing because it meant I couldn't actually scream the curse words that were running through my head. I instantly backed up, grabbed my shin/surgically repaired knee, and put my head on the edge of the table to hide the tears coming. It was that painful.
I was beyond angry at this point. I couldn't speak. I could only glare at everyone and hate everything about Hofbräuhaus.
And then our server popped by to tell us the kitchen was really backed up so it would take a while for our food. Yay for telling us. But. How could they not be prepared to be slammed at what turned out to be Oktoberfest?

We stayed. Gradually my pain subsided. SP gently and carefully got me over the metal bar so I could be close to the table and not have food in my lap. But later on when I tucked a napkin under my thigh so it wouldn't blow off my lap, raising my leg caused me to smash the other knee into the same bar. I ended up kind of enjoying the music but somehow I don't think that Oktoberfest celebrations in Germany include musicians playing "Sweet Caroline" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

I had iced tea, at least they have fresh brewed iced tea. SP had a beer. Here's what we ended up eating:
Giant Pretzel Combo (Giant pretzel served with “Obatzda” Cheese, Sweet Bavarian Mustard, and  Signature Homemade Bier Cheese). I really liked the Obatzda cheese. Thanks to Wikipedia I now know that Obatzda is "is a Bavarian cheese delicacy. It is prepared by mixing two thirds aged soft cheese, usually Camembert (Romadur or similar cheeses may be used as well), and one third butter. Sweet or hot paprika powder, salt, pepper are the traditional seasonings as well as a small amount of beer. An optional amount of onions, garlic, horseradish, cloves, and ground caraway seeds may be used and some cream or cream cheese as well. The cheeses and spices are mixed together into a smooth mass. It is usually eaten spread on bread or pretzels. Obatzda is a classic example of Bavarian biergarten food."
Haus Salad (Hofbräuhaus Salad Mix, Red Onions, Grape Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Sweet Corn, Homemade Seasoned Pretzel Croutons, served with House Cucumber Dressing).
SP's second beer was a Märzen, a lager that originated in Bavaria, has a medium to full body, may vary in color from pale through amber to dark brown, and is the beer traditionally served at Oktoberfest.
SP ordered the Oktoberfest special Roasted Half Chicken served with German Potato Salad and Fried Cabbage.
I chose Bauern Schnitzel (Breaded Pork Cutlet fried crisp and golden brown, topped with Black Forest Ham, Swiss Cheese, and Signature Homemade Bier Cheese. Served with German Potato Salad and Fried Cabbage).
I was full but SP wanted dessert so I let him choose. He chose Apfel Strudel (Traditional German Apple Strudel, imported from Bavaria and served warm with Vanilla and Raspberry Sauces). I didn't expect strudel to be served swimming in a sea of sauce (I guess I thought the sauce would be on the side?), but apparently it is not inauthentic (I Googled it). I did find the strudel to be too mushy for my liking, not cinnamony enough, and I would have preferred no sauce.

Hofbräuhaus. I do not know what to say. I liked my meal and the pretzel & sauces. The iced tea was fresh brewed. SP liked his food and his beers and remembering his trip to Oktoberfest in Munich many years ago. The outdoor seating ended up not being as awful as we expected because there were lots of ceiling fans and a breeze seemed to be coming off the river, but it was still pretty humid as evidenced by the sweat coming off the sides of our cold beverages. We used a lot of napkins to mop the table and the sides of glasses and were extra careful to not have the huge, sweaty glasses slip from our hands.

Our server was friendly and quite nice. She did update us on our food and apologized (we didn't actually get our meals until almost 7 pm). We finally left a bit before 8 pm.

But the wait. The slow kitchen. The loud music inside, it reminded me of why I hated going to bars in my 20's (too loud to talk to people or hear yourself think).

And the not wheelchair friendly table. My knees were not happy.