Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thursday Thanksgiving Thoughts

1. Happy Thanksgiving!

2. We will be celebrating the holiday at my parents' apartment, feasting on roast turkey, sausage stuffing, sauteed green beans and mushrooms, roasted Brussels sprouts, and cranberry relish.

3. We are in charge of making the cranberry relish, which SP made Tuesday evening.

4. We also are in charge of pie. My dad and SP LOVE pumpkin pie, so we made a pumpkin pie. I insisted on apple pie, so we made apple pie, too. Two pies. Four people. Sounds good to me.

5. TXSIL and her family have been staying with us, but they are celebrating the holiday at her husband's parents' home. It's a short visit, just 4 days, and they're headed home already Friday morning.

6. Sadly, they have all been sick. I've been trying to avoid germs and not get any sicker or pick up a new sickness. I was feeling better, but yesterday I started feeling sicker again. So frustrating. Today is my 12th day of being sick. Not happy. I'm starting to feel like the house is a giant germ factory.

7. It's a day of giving thanks. I might get grumpy at SP and despair over my health at times during the year and have my moments where everything is NOT awesome, but it's not just on Thanksgiving that I am thankful for SP, for my family, and for my health being as good as it is in spite of several issues.

8. That being said, I am most definitely not thankful for this stupid cold.

9. Hope you have a wonderful day, if and however you choose to celebrate.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

BRGR (Mt. Lebanon)

Yesterday my mom and I went holiday gift shopping. It turned into me buying myself my holiday gifts for SP to give to me, but somehow I don't think he'll mind that he doesn't have to go to the mall. We got hungry around 11:30 am and since we were at the Galleria in Mt. Lebanon, we decided to try the recently opened BRGR. There are several other locations (and a food truck) but I had not tried any of the BRGR locations.

This one is on the third level. I think there used to be a Mexican restaurant in the space. Inside it's bright and spacious. Wood tables with placemats, wood beam walls, there is a patio that will be open in warmer weather, TVs placed around the space. Mom and I liked it - welcoming, not too loud, bright, and a nice amount of space between tables.

We were seated right away. There are a lot of items on the menu that I'd like to try. Fortunately, mom tried two of them, so I got to sample and taste. One was Crack Mac + Cheese - pasta with spicy homemade crack dip:
This was tasty. It definitely, for me, had a kick, and I would not be able to eat this myself. It tasted like a cheese and salsa mixture mixed with pasta and there were some beans as well.
Mom also ordered Pot Roast-n-Tots - slow braised pot roast over crispy tater tots, bacon lardons, beef gravy, smoked gouda cheese. Are tater tots becoming a "thing" or I have just been finding them lately? These were tasty! Mom really liked them, too - she ate all of these (but only half her mac n cheese). Definitely a good appetizer choice.
Many of the burgers sounded yummy. Many of the special burgers sounded yummy - like the bacon wrapped meatloaf with potato salad and onion straws. But I wasn't in a burger mood. I crafted my own burger, which was not a burger but instead was grilled chicken on brioche with smoked cheddar, bacon, mushrooms, and braised short ribs. I kind of wanted caramelized onions or onion straws and tomato and some greens as well but... well, no need to go crazy.
This was good. I love brioche, love squishy buns. Nicely cooked chicken (cooked through but not dried out). A nice helping of bacon and of short ribs. Delicious. I wanted to finish the entire sandwich, but I was getting kind of full and I don't like over-eating at lunch, so I brought half the sandwich home.

The hostesses were friendly, found a great table for the wheelchair and removed a chair without asking or needing to be asked. Our server was also friendly and explained he was training someone that day. He accidentally filled mom's Sprite with water and walked away, but he realized his mistake and returned a few moments later with apologies and a fresh soda. The manager was going around, checking on tables.

Will I be back? Definitely. Great service, tasty food, a parking lot (not street parking) plus several other items I want to try - Grilled Cheese Bites, Fried Pickles, Button Buster Burger plus the spiked shakes. I also really like the ability to create my own sandwich. And the desserts in mason jars sounded good, we were just too full. I can see some special burgers SP will be interested in (salmon patty, mahi mahi & shrimp patty) plus some toppings that will excite him (spicy mango slaw). I didn't realize it until after we left, but the burgers do not come with fries or chips, which seems odd, but since I'm not normally a fries/chips person, I don't mind the way someone else might mind.

BRGR on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 24, 2014

Emporio

This past Saturday I felt well enough to go see White Christmas, our second show of the season, and to go to dinner at a new-to-us restaurant: Sienna Mercato Emporio. We walked over after the show, so we probably arrived a bit before 5 pm. We were seated right away. I spent the first few minutes removing winter weather accessories (scarf, gloves, ear muffs) and blowing my nose since the medicine had started to wear off. Finally I got to look around. Brick wall with logo on it, lots of wood tables, dimly lit, TVs showing various football games, a bar area. Cozy.
SP had busied himself looking over the Draft list. It's huge - I think we counted 15-20 beers on the draft list. I decided to stick with iced tea since as soon as we got home I planned to take a huge dose of medicine! We both ordered fresh brewed iced teas. A water bottle was left on the table so we also had waters. And SP chose Fathead's Up In Smoke, which he really liked.  
At first I thought the menu would be kind of limited - meatballs. Pick your meat and pick your sauce. But there were a lot of dishes that appealed to us so as usual, we over-ordered and shared.  
Pepperoni Fritters, parmesan, marinara, provolone. Eight balls of pepperoni goodness.
Inside the fritter. SP isn't a fan of pepperoni but he tried two and said they were good. I thought they were yummy and pepperoni is something I do not eat much of anymore, so these were a special treat. I ate four and took two home for lunch on Sunday.
More to SP's liking were the Crab Balls Romano, spicy cocktail sauce. Five balls withe horseradish cocktail sauce. We both enjoyed these and ate all five. Interior view:
We couldn't resist trying the Crispy Pickle Chips with bacon-ranch dip. SP is to blame. Ever since he introduced me to fried pickles, if they're on the menu, we have to try them. There were a lot of pickle chips: 
These were tasty and the dip was really good but we could only manage to eat about half of the bowl. The other half went home.
A side of Tater Tots. We had discussions and negotiations - tater tot poutine? Tater tots plain? With a sauce? We just couldn't seem to decide/agree so we went for plain and dipped them in our slider sauces. The tots are yummy - they have a great crispy exterior.
Our three meatballs, served as sliders. 
The Meatball of the Day - Thanksgiving Meatball. Ground turkey, stuffing, sage, cranberry in the meatball with gravy. It really did taste like Thanksgiving in a meatball!
Interior view of the Thanksgiving Meatball. Loaded with good stuff.
SP chose a Spicy Pork Meatball (chili pepper, herbs) with pork bolognese sauce. I didn't try the meatball because it was labeled spicy but I tried the bolognese sauce and it was delicious. I smelled and tasted a hint of a warm spice, like cinnamon, maybe? SP said the meatball was a little spicy but not too spicy and he loved the bolognese sauce.
I chose a Classic Beef Meatball with mushroom gravy. Interior shot:
The meatball was moist and flavorful, the gravy was yummy, but I was getting full so I ate half and took the other half home for lunch on Sunday.
As soon as we saw Warm Ricotta Doughnuts on the dessert menu, we knew we'd be ordering them. Five delicious balls of fried dough coated in powdered sugar and served with hot fudge sauce:
We managed to devour four but had to admit defeat and take the fifth home for a treat on Sunday.

We both really liked Emporio. Our server was friendly and checked with us on the timing of our dishes coming out (which ones should arrive first, etc). It's fun to imagine all the possibilities with 4 meatball options and 9 sauce options plus 4 serving options. It's definitely a place we'll go to again, if not for the first floor meatballs then maybe the second floor pizzas or top floor bar area.

Emporio: A Meatball Joint on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

  • I think my cold is getting worse. Even my mom said I sounded worse when she called this morning. Grrrr.
  • Thank goodness we are not hosting Thanksgiving this year. Thank goodness all we are responsible for is pie. I do not think my stuffy and drippy nose plus aches plus messed up from medicine stomach could handle a meal for 16 people like last year.
  • The clear sign I'm sick: lack of interest in dessert. Actually, in any food. I can't even muster enthusiasm for turkey devonshire or lasagna or braised lamb right now. 
  • We just changed our sheets, but we'll be changing at least the pillow cases again this weekend. Stuffed nose = mouth breathing = drool at night. Also, once the medicine wears off, my nose starts dripping. I woke up to drool and nose drip on my pillow today. Yep. I am quite a catch right now. SP is one lucky guy.
  • I just got the new Michael Connelly novel (The Burning Room) from the library. I've had it for 2 days and haven't started yet. Unheard of. I devour the Harry Bosch novels. I really want to start reading it, but every time I settle into my recliner and open the book, I fall asleep. I'm still on page 1, word 1.
  • I cannot wait for Shonda night tonight! For some reason, I thought last week was the fall finale of HTGAWM and I kept waiting and waiting to see who killed Sam but then... disappointment as I realized I was wrong and had to wait one more week. But tonight is the night!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In the Kitchen

I don't know if it's because I'm sick, or if I'm bored with the blog, or tired of lugging the camera around and photographing everything, or if it's that we have not gone anywhere/cooked anything new and exciting, but I have no food photos, nothing new to blog about. Here's where we've been eating and what we've been whipping up in the kitchen:
  • My birthday dinner, on my actual birthday, was at Park Bruges. I enjoyed my usual Sauteed Chicken and Tarte Flambee. SP had his usual mussels. 
  • This past weekend, my birthday dinner with SP's family was at Central Diner & Grille. This time I tried the Monte Cristo sandwich. It was HUGE. Delicious challah french toast with lots of ham & turkey and melted Swiss. I got a side of onion rings and for dessert, raspberry-almond cake. SP had a daily special, leg of lamb with roasted potatoes and a salad. We still really like this place. The food is good, huge portions, reasonable price, friendly owner and servers, and close to home.
  • It's meatloaf week! We made it on Sunday. We never follow a recipe for meatloaf. We never make it the same way twice. This time we used 1.25 lbs ground beef and 0.75 lbs ground pork with panko, egg, mustard, Worcestershire, diced onion, and chopped mushrooms. This is one of the tastier versions - it stayed moist and flavorful, probably because of the addition of onions and mushrooms. SP slathers his with ketchup and mustard. I add a little mustard on top. Alongside the meatloaf, we are having a frozen biscuit and steamed broccoli. I didn't take photos because it's dark out by the time we eat dinner and because I've found that meatloaf is one of those foods that never photographs well. 
  • Our other meal this week is Dirty Risotto, which we've made many times. We always add the pancetta now (we didn't the first few times) and we now buy Ricci's sweet sausage for the sausage. We also use way more red pepper and mushrooms than the recipe calls for. The arborio was a little crunchy the first night, but when I reheated it the second night, in a casserole with the lid on for 30-40 minutes, the crunchiness was gone.
  • Last week I asked for Turkey Devonshire as a birthday treat and SP agreed (while grumbling). We cooked a turkey breast then sliced it and added tomato to the sandwich. I think I might actually like this better than lasagna - toasted white bread, bacon, turkey, tomato, creamy cheese sauce, paprika - yum!
  • The other meal last week was Coq Au Vin. We are still using the Joy of Cooking version, with 3 cups of red wine. And, of course, extra mushrooms.
  • A couple of weeks ago we made baked chicken breasts seasoned with herbes de provence and a salad with carrot, cucumber, tomato, black & green olives, and goat cheese. The other meal that week was simply apple-ham-cheddar panini.
This coming weekend is going to be a 'no cook' weekend -- which is kind of exciting. Even though we both enjoy cooking, sometimes it seems like more of a chore than fun hobby. We don't need to cook on Sunday (we have some lasagna in the freezer that we'll eat for Sunday dinner) because on Monday, we'll be cooking with family in town from TX and we'll eat those leftovers on Tuesday for dinner. Wednesday we're having dinner at SP's parents' house and Thursday is Turkey Day at my parents' place. Mom told me she's sending us home with leftover turkey and stuffing for Friday.

Hopefully, my cold will be better by this weekend and we can try a new-to-us restaurant for dinner. I'm not counting on that, though. It's Day 4 of the cold and I'm actually feeling a bit worse than I felt yesterday - ?! Stupid cold.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Blues

It's a gray, chilly, rainy, and possibly snowy Monday. Some people love winter and cold temperatures and snow. Some have no opinion. But others, like me, don't like any of it. I am a firm believer that it should not snow until mid-December. So this November snow of the past couple of years... yuck. This earlier, colder weather making my 2 broken hips and broken femur and other joints ache... ugh.

Colder, snowier weather means the return of cold season. From 1994 until 2004, my working years, I had the flu once, maybe 2-3 colds, and one bout of the stomach flu. Otherwise, I was pretty resistant to evil germs. Even though I rode the trolley to/from work, I managed to avoid germs.

But since 2004, since I broke my femur, since I've been in the wheelchair, since I've not been working, since I do not get out every day, I've lost my resistance. The tiniest, weakest germ makes me sick.

I was a good girl. I got my flu shot.

But guess what? I'm sick. For the third time in 2014. The arsenal of cold medicine is out. Good thing (?) we were so sick last March and bought all that medicine. I guess someone at Kohl's or the mall or at the doctor's office made me sick. I have a scratchy, sore throat. My nose is stuffed and also drippy. And I ache. Everywhere. I am so annoyed. By my count, I now get 2-3 colds a year. Mine last longer and are much worse than the ones SP catches.

So. Winter. Cold and snow season. Cold and flu season. I do not like it. I'm starting to wonder which warm weather year round office SP can transfer into ASAP.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday Thoughts - Resolution!

1. After 3 months and 8 days, my billing issue with UPMC seems to be resolved. Finally.
  • Last week, I did end up paying the amount due in full because in the end, I'm too much of a goody-goody to let something go to collections.
  • After last week's Thursday Thoughts post, I spent another 2 hours on the phone (one call alone was 67 minutes). That same day, SP spent about 45 minutes trying to resolve this issue on my behalf.
  • Yesterday I got a call from UPMC and guess what? They're going to refund the payment because, guess what? The form I asked them to fax way back in September, the form that numerous reps told me was not the issue despite both my insurances insisting it was, THAT FORM WAS THE PROBLEM. The entire problem was in fact exactly what my insurers told me in September - the reps at UPMC just refused to accept that someone at UPMC messed up. The doctor's office may have never even had me sign it, or it got lost when it was sent to billing, or billing lost it/filled out the paper work incorrectly because, guess what? They CANNOT FIND ANY EVIDENCE OF THE FORM. There is no patient liability. They cannot bill me.
  • Coincidence or sexist? The issue got resolved only after SP's one and only call to the final UPMC rep we dealt with. I know I have a soft, quiet, young, little girl voice, but... I'm not a dummy. SP didn't say anything I hadn't already said. Or did he just get lucky and get the one and only capable rep?
  • Now I just have to make sure the refund actually shows up on my credit card.
2. Speaking of UPMC, I had an early morning doctor appointment today. I got my flu shot, so now my arm hurts. In the same arm I had blood sucked out, so that poor arm has lots of band-aids/bandages. My blood pressure is still good (thanks to the medicine). And, best news ever:

I LOST SOME WEIGHT!!!!!! So you know what that means?

NO GUILT OVER THIS:
 Apple Donut from Better Maid, AKA The Pink House.
We finally got home a little after 11 am (after an 8:45 am appt!) and I ate lunch and then I ate my donut treat. It was sooo good!

Also, no guilt over more birthday cake tonight.

3. My mom and I went shopping on Veterans Day. We first went to Kohl's and gosh was it a mad house. No parking. Lots of people. It was like Black Friday or the mall during the holidays. It was awful. We stood in the check-out line for 20 minutes. Then we went to the mall. That was only slightly better.

Thanks to time spent shopping, I am already sick of holiday stuff. It was a sunny 70 degree day, and yes, it was November, but the holiday music really got to me.

4. I read one of the 4 National Geographic magazines!

5. I was having some eye discomfort. Watery eyes all day long, possibly allergies. Lots of that eye gunk stuff. But also dry, tired eyes. So SP suggested eye drops. He has to put the drops in because I cannot do it. I hate having drops put in my eyes. It's kind of comical because I'm trying to keep my eye open, he's hovering over me, taking aim and preparing to drop a cannonball into my eye and telling me to not squirm but the prospect of that drop smashing into my eyeball has me squirming. The first couple of times, well, let's just say I had Visine running down my cheeks. We are slowly getting better at this.