Friday, April 17, 2015

Happy Anniversary, SP!

Today is wedding anniversary #5! It seems like it was just yesterday that we got married at Old St. Luke's Church on a breezy & chilly day. 
No special plans today. SP is at work. He'll come home, we'll eat, and then crash on the couch. So exciting! Originally we planned to go away over our anniversary, but then we changed our minds. Instead, we'll be celebrating with dinner out on Saturday. The past couple of years, we've enjoyed our anniversary dinner at Arlecchino and while I really like it there and want to go back, we picked somewhere new this year. More details on that meal later - it's a new-to-us place! 

 Happy Anniversary, SP!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

1. Yesterday morning we were shocked and saddened to hear that an idiot driver drove through our favorite donut place, Better Maid, AKA the pink house donut place. I've always worried a bit when we pulled off to the side of the Steuben Street and SP crossed the street to get our donuts because that stretch of road seems to have a good number of idiot speedy drivers.

Sadly, two people were injured and the building is so badly damaged it must be torn down. SP & I hope everyone is OK and that the donut shop can re-open soon, not just because he's a great guy and it's his livelihood but because we're selfish and we want yummy donuts again!

2. It finally feels like spring. Actually, it feels a bit like summer, at least in our house. A couple of days this week it got warm enough/sunny enough outside that inside the thermostat said it was 77 degrees. Warm! So we ran the a/c for a bit right before bed. I feel kind of lame, it's only April, but it sure was nice to get the stuffiness out of the house & be able to sleep.

3. Our new yard guys have been here a few times. They've cleaned up the yard, trimmed stuff, edged, mulched, and started work on cleaning up the woods. It feels so nice to have the yard looking nice in April instead of August (looking at you, old yard guy who never showed up until it was almost fall).

4. My mom came over earlier this week and helped me spring clean. We cleared out the glass cabinets in the kitchen and washed everything inside and washed the glass. We washed the glass on the French doors between the dining room & sunroom. And mom washed the sunroom windows & screens and glass deck doors. It looks so much nicer and cleaner.

5. Over the weekend SP and I removed the glass tops from the sunroom wicker tables and cleaned both sides. That was the first time that's been done in 7 years! It's amazing how dirty they were underneath (the tops are regularly cleaned, but not the bottoms).

So the sunroom is ready for warm, sunny weather. We've been spending our evenings in there. It's quiet because it's in the back of the house, and it's bright with light yellow walls, and you feel kind of cut off from the rest of the house so it feels kind of like you're on a mini vacation from things.

6. We started watching Daredevil on Netflix. We're really enjoying the show but the violence sometimes gets to me, like the bowling ball scene and Russian guy & the car door scene. We've watched 5 episodes so far.

7. Justified ended, so I'm sad, but better to end on a high than go out on a low, overstayed its welcome note. And what an ending! I thought it was a great end and that it really did come full circle. I will miss Raylan & Boyd.

8. The Americans season ends next Wednesday. I won't write anything spoiler-ish, but I'm looking forward to seeing how several things get resolved, or if they even do, because there's a lot going on, just like in Game of Thrones. The first hour of this season flew by on Sunday and I was left thinking, wait, is that it?! There's so many stories to follow in GoT. It seemed like things were just getting started and then the episode was over.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blog Anniversary - Grandview Bakery Cupcakes

Today is the anniversary of the day I started this blog! It's been 6 years! I cannot believe it's been that long. I cannot believe that I am still photographing all our food and writing about it! It has become second nature. Well, usually. Sometimes we'll got out somewhere or sit down for dinner in the kitchen and I'll start to eat and SP will stare at me until I realize that I forgot to take photos!

Who knows how much longer I'll keep doing this. As long as it's enjoyable and not a dreaded chore. 

So I'm celebrating with cupcakes! Not really. My mom came over yesterday to help me do some spring cleaning. Over the weekend, she and my dad had dad's cousin and his wife over for dinner. There were a lot of leftover dessert items, so she brought over some cupcakes for us. The cupcakes are from Grandview Bakery on Mt. Washington. I've never tried anything from that bakery, so I was excited to try these red velvet cupcakes.

They were a tasty dessert last night while we watched Daredevil on Netflix. The cake was surprisingly still moist even though dad bought them last Saturday morning, so they were 2+ days old. The frosting was not too sweet nor was it grainy. I'd like to try more baked goodies from Grandview Bakery. Since mom & dad now live on Mt. Washington, perhaps they should frequent that bakery and bring treats to us?! That would be nice.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring Vegetables with Warm Vinaigrette

Every few weeks I vow to focus on the vegetable part of our meals and make it more exciting. That lasts one week and then we're busy with chores and the meat or pasta becomes the focus of the meal and vegetables become a sort of afterthought. We still eat them, lots of them, but if they're not already in the main dish, they're simply & quickly roasted or steamed or sauteed in oil. They're still tasty, but they aren't WOW! tasty. This past weekend I was back on the "make the vegetable more exciting" bandwagon. I even presented SP with a recipe ripped out of the April 2015 Food Network Magazine: Spring Vegetables with Warm Vinaigrette.
These are definitely WOW! tasty. They'll be even tastier when we have fresh dill & parsley. For now, we settled for dried herbs. This is a little time consuming because the veggies have to be blanched then sauteed, but the blanching can be done in the morning and the veggies kept in the refrigerator until it's time for dinner. It doesn't take very long to heat the veggies and vinaigrette in the skillet (probably 5-10 minutes). The white wine vinegar & Dijon vinaigrette with the dill & parsley are a very tasty combination on the crisp-tender asparagus and carrots.

Definitely a make again vegetable dish.

Recipe here.

*Notes: Instead of baby carrots, I sliced regular carrots into sticks, like I do when I make a veggie & dip snack tray. We used a half a small onion, diced, instead of spring onions and omitted the sugar.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thursday Thoughts

1. It's already time for another Thursday Thoughts. How can that be?!

2. I won the March Madness basketball bracket against my parents and SP! If only Duke hadn't won.

3. Last week I got to watch the dead tree come down. This week, I got to watch the new yard guys start to clean up the yard. I was shocked at how many leaves they blew out of the yard - someone slacked off last fall on the raking! They were only here for a couple hours and there is still lots to do, but so far I am impressed with their quote & questions response time and arrival to do the work time. We just told them the quote looked good & to come do the work last week and they're here already. I'm trying to not get too excited because there is still a lot to do, so we'll see when they get back to do more work and when they finish.

4. This week we watched The Theory of Everything, which is a very good movie, but I was a bit disappointed. I kind of wanted more from it.

5. We recently finished Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Just in time for the return of Game of Thrones.

6. This week I read Breaking Creed from one of my favorite authors, Alex Kava. I like the new series/character, Ryder Creed, and hope the next book is available form the library soon. I put it on reserve. Meanwhile, I decided to read a couple books by Steve Berry. I have read a few of his books, but not all, and not in order, so I decided to start with the first Cotton Malone novel and finally read them all in order.

7. Googer stopped by and helped SP get the deck table up on the deck. We're ready for outdoor dining. Except that the tables and chairs are filthy so someone (hi SP!) will need to give them a good cleaning. The current forecast calls for a sunshiny Sunday with temps in the 60's, so I am thinking we need to grill and eat outside.

8. I reserve the right to change my mind on outdoor dining. My spring allergies are awful. Lots of sneezing. Sinus headache. Sleepiness. If it's breezy, I'll probably want to eat indoors to avoid pollen getting all over me.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bocktown Beer & Grill

A few weekends ago, when Z was in town, we got together with her for dinner. It was just the 3 of us. Sometimes it's nice to have dinner with just 1-2 people from SP's family instead of everyone. When it's everyone around a restaurant table, there are way too many people to get to talk to everyone. We found that often, we would end up seated at the end of the table away from the visiting family and/or family we did not see very often and therefore would not get to really visit with them. When that would happen, we always left wondering why in the world we rearranged our schedules and made an effort to be available for a 4 pm dinner, which is not at all convenient for us.

Fortunately, Z eats at a reasonable hour: 6 pm. We wanted to stay in the Robinson/North Fayette area and we left the final decision up to Z. She chose Bocktown. Despite living so close, we had not been to Bocktown in a very long time. It's the same as we remember, same menu, but there is one difference: they no longer offer fresh brewed iced tea. Restaurants not offering fresh brewed iced tea really bothers me. Offering unsweetened pre-made, pre-packaged tea is not the same. It looks different. It tastes different. It is not good.

We all knew as soon as our 3 iced teas arrived that it was fake tea. We all sent it back. Z & SP changed to diet soda (and SP got a beer). I decided to stick with water since I do not like soda. It's too sweet and the bubbles bother my stomach.
Z started with a salad, SP had his usual She-Crab Soup, and I decided to try the Creamy Tomato Soup. I liked how creamy & tomato-y it was and that it wasn't super chunky, just a few chunks of tomato.
Z chose a gouda sauce topped chicken for her entree. It looked delicious, with mashed potatoes and a vegetable. SP had a special of the day, a venison meatloaf with a raisin sauce on top, mashed potatoes, and a vegetable. Meatloaf does not photograph well, so no photos. My meal also did not photograph well (see above photo). I got my usual Bocktown meal: the Bocktown Burgher, but with chicken instead of beef, topped with BBQ sauce, cheese, bacon, onion straws - yum! It did seem a little messier than it used to be, maybe the sauce is different? Maybe a little thinner? I ended up with my hands covered in sauce.

My other complaint: the front windows face west, so the setting sun was shining in, right on the right side of my face. It was uncomfortable. I thought they had blinds, but when I asked our server if they could lower the blinds a bit, she said they didn't have blinds. This surprised me. I refrained from putting on my sunglasses and instead just squinted and kept my head turned at an awkward angle until the sun sank low enough behind some shelving that it was blocked.

It was great to see Z and to get to really talk to her about her new life in MD and new apartment and how her husband is doing in his new job. Our meals were as tasty as we remember but please bring back the fresh brewed iced tea and get some blinds!

Bocktown Beer and Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 6, 2015

Monday Musings

1. I'm kind of tired from a busy weekend and over-indulging in food and drink. So I'm having trouble focusing enough to write a real post.

2. Yesterday was Easter. Since we saw SP's family 3 out of 4 weekends in March, we celebrated Easter with my parents. It was a repeat of last year's meal and it was delicious. The best part was being able to grill the leg of lamb. In warmth. And sunshine.

3. In fact, it was so warm and sunshiny that by 8 pm, the thermostat said the temperature in the house was 76 degrees! It hasn't been that warm in the house since last September. The oven probably contributed to that, too.

4. I'm feeling old. We drank 2 bottles of wine with my parents on Easter and the day before, I had cocktails at Butcher & the Rye. After those drinks and over-eating 2 nights in a row, I haven't slept well for 2 nights now and I feel blah.
5. I can't stop admiring the empty space where the dead ash tree was. It was covered in grapes leaves and looked awful with the dead vines so it was so nice to watch it all come down.
It's like the aftermath of having those dead trees in the front yard removed last September: Suddenly, I see a whole bunch of stuff I want removed. Clean it up, create some space, make it less jungle-like. If only having trees removed wasn't so costly.

I am still amazed at how much stuff the previous owners planted, how much died/got sick, and how much we've had to spend on having the dead/sick trees removed (hemlock, crabapple, ash, birch - all dead/dying in our yard).
SP walked a bit down the hill and took a photo of the stump left behind.

6. I know the trees we've had removed were all dead/dying, but I still feel a twinge of guilt over chopping them down, like I'm killing nature, but then again, the dead trees could fall and hurt someone or my house or car, so... Never mind. No guilt.