Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

My niece is off to college today. I can't believe she's that old already! I can still remember when I started university - moving into my dorm room, meeting my roommate for the first time, all those new & fun & scary things.

Meanwhile, another niece turns 7 this weekend so we'll be at her birthday party.

The sunflowers we planted are finally blooming. I like to sit in the living room and gaze out at them. They make me smile.

Next Monday is a solar eclipse. A lot of our friends are headed south to TN or KY to be in totality. I asked SP if he wanted to go away to see it but he said no because of work. So we'll be seeing it from here where I think we'll see 81% of the sun covered (I might be misremembering what I saw on a website for our area).

What We're Eating:

  • Shrimp Salad with Grandma's Tomatoes & Cucumbers in Vinegar
  • Chicken Salad on multi-grain English muffin with spiralized zucchini & garden tomatoes
  • Cherry Popsicles

What We're Watching:

  • Orphan Black ended. I suppose it ended the way it should have, the way we all really wanted, and yet I felt somewhat disappointed and I'm not sure why. But gosh was it satisfying when Helena used that screwdriver and Sarah used that gun.
  • Broadchurch ended. The case was solved. I don't want to say much because it just ended last night. We think Broadchurch is a fabulous show and loved all 3 seasons (season 2 was a little weak, but 1 & 3 were so darn good). As usual, despite the crime being solved, it leaves you feeling sad and devastated for all the characters.
  • Game of Thrones. Drogon liked Jon! Gilly revealed an important thing that Sam didn't hear because he was too preoccupied being mad about his maester training! And so much more! Two more episodes this season.
  • We started watching Ozark on Netflix. We're enjoying it. We have the last episode to watch and it's 2 hours long, so we'll finish it tonight.

What I'm Reading:

  • I had a lot of books on hold. I figured they would not become available at the same time. When I reserved them, some said 33 holds, or 100+ holds. You know what happened. By last Saturday I had a pile of 7 books. I read two. So now there's 5. My library account tells me 2 more are in transit. So there will again be 7. Help!
  • I read The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron. I really liked it. Not just because it's the kind of book I most enjoy, but the characters & setting were different. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series (this was the first of 9 books)
  • Resolve by JJ Hensley. It's set in Pittsburgh, and written by an author who lives in Pittsburgh. I really enjoyed it. I was hooked form the beginning and couldn't put it down. 
  • The magazine pile was up, then down, now it's up again. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sienna on the Square

This past weekend we ate at one of our favorite restaurants: Sienna on the Square. As usual it was delicious and service was great. Here's what we ate:
An appetizer special of yellow watermelon, prosciutto, arugula, some kind of nut, and balsamic drizzle. Yummy.
Calamari ('nduja aioli, parsley).
Ora King Salmon (fregola sarda, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, lemon emulsion, pea shoots). SP said it was tasty.
Mafalde Bolognese (veal, pork, beef, tomato, milk, onion, carrot). At first I was upset that the Meatball & Ricotta Flatbread is no longer on the dinner menu. But after tasting this - oh my gosh - so good.
Parmesan Cake with bourbon peaches. Yum.

We went home with happy bellies.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden

A couple of weekends ago, we decided to visit the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden near Settlers Cabin Park. I'm surprised it took so long for us to go check it out since it's only about 5 minutes from where we live. 
It was a beautiful day when we went, not too hot, not too cool. Along the trails are mailboxes with information inside about the trees, flowers, shrubs, etc.
I love how the pond is now clean and alive after years of coal mine contamination.
We went across the bridge and stopped partway for a closer look at the lily pads and flowers.
Lots & lots of lily pads.
The site says there is a mile of ADA accessible trails. Perhaps, technically, this is correct, but some parts, like the path leading to the gazebo near Dogwood Meadow, get quite steep and there are lots of rocks and tree roots that made it very bumpy and difficult. We ended up leaving me off to the side while SP went on and then circled back. The path to the Lotus Pond is not as steep but can be quite bumpy with rocks and twigs big enough to stop the wheelchair and send me lurching forward. The path across the bridge and up to the Asian Woodlands is pretty steep and we had to take me backwards up the hill because of how steep it was and the rocks and ruts. A wheelchair with different casters or a motorized one would probably not have as difficult a time as I did.
But I survived, no mishaps, and thank goodness for the seatbelt on the wheelchair! Across the street near the parking lot are the apple orchard, log house, and heritage chickens.

We really enjoyed walking around, and sitting on the benches. Next time, I think I'd take a book and sit near the pond while SP walked the non-accessible trails to the Hermit Hut, Apiary, and Giant Bird's Nest areas. There were a lot of families there and the kids seemed to enjoy running along the paths and reading the information in the mailboxes. Definitely a good place to spend a beautiful summer day. I imagine it'd especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing colors.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

A couple of weeks ago, when SP was at the farmers market, he bought some peaches. The peach lady told him that the peaches are early this year and the season would likely end earlier than usual. We figured that meant that there might not be fresh, local peaches for our annual Labor Day weekend peach pie, so we decided to make it early this year. We made it this past weekend. The peaches were really juicy and it was a delicious peach pie. All gone now.

This is how I feel every day. How I've felt every day since November 8. I'm still struggling with finding the balance of being an informed person versus the fear, hopelessness, despair, outrage, frustration, and tears I often feel when reading the news.

What We're Eating:

  • Grilled Steak with salad & corn on the cob
  • Pasta Salad - lots of veggies: tomato, cucumber, carrot, grilled zucchini, roasted red pepper, kalamatas, green olives
  • Dessert: Peach Pie, leftover pizzelles

What We're Watching:

  • Game of Thrones. Finally, a battle with a dragon! Yes, I was cheering for the dragon. I was upset when Bronn hit it and the poor dragon yelped in pain. SP looked at me and asked if I realized it had just incinerated hundreds of people. Well, yes, but they were the "bad" guys! Can't wait to see Cersei's reaction. To find out Jamie's fate. If the dragon is OK. For Jon and Bran's reunion and what Bran tells Jon.
  • I am enjoying the second season of Animal Kingdom. I'm curious to see where the Baz-Smurf thing goes (how far it goes and how it impacts the other family).
  • We finished Kimmy Schmidt Season 3. I remain so-so about the show. Has some good moments, Has some rather silly stupid moments.
  • This coming week: Season (and Series) Finales for Orphan Black & Broadchurch.

What I'm Reading:

  • I finally read The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Really good book. Lots of feelings and I'm not sure I can really express them,
  • I also read Michael Connelly's latest, The Late Show, which is not a Bosch or Lincoln Lawyer novel but introduces a new character, Renee Ballard. As usual with a Connelly novel, I couldn't put it down. I read it in a day.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

I cannot believe it's August already. I also cannot believe that GA nephew is back in school already! It seems way too early to have summer over and be back in school.

Last weekend we smoked for the first time this summer. Pork. It's yummy and smoky. We made the usual barbecue sauce to go with it.

Our Saturday dinner out was at Burgatory since we were still doing some errands in the area. As always, I created my own burger. I never get a beef burger. I really wanted chicken with fried egg and bacon but in the end, since we were eating chicken this week and since I had eggs for breakfast that day, I decided on the crab burger with smoked gouda, bacon, tomato, greens, cucumber with whole grain mustard on brioche. As always, I managed to eat only half, so I had lunch for Sunday.

What we're eating:

  • Smoked pork, homemade mac & cheese, sliced farmers market/our garden tomatoes
  • Chicken Saltimbocca panini
  • Pizzelles

What We're Watching:

  • We were sad after last night's Broadchurch. No spoilers, but what a sad ending to the episode.
  • We started watching CNN: The Nineties. We're only halfway through the first episode. And feeling old.
  • We watched Lost City of Z which was pretty slow and boring. The story was interesting, it was just too slow.
  • We also watched Colossal, which we both really enjoyed. 
  • And we watched Kong: Skull Island. Fun. Held our attention.

What I'm Reading:
Not much. I have no idea what I'm doing that I haven't found time to read. I did read 3 or 4 magazines but I have yet to crack open a book I've had checked out for 8 weeks now. Maybe I should just give up and return it?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Yard House

My final Hawaii food post - only because I feel obligated to write about every place we ate, especially if I have photos. For dinner on our first full day in HI, we went to a chain restaurant: Yard House. I'd been to one in Las Vegas and remembered it being fine. We did make a reservation, probably a good thing because around 6 pm it was very crowded with a lot of people waiting for a table. Even with a reservation we had to wait a bit. We were seated in a gigantic booth. I wasn't too thrilled because a booth is never terribly convenient for someone in a wheelchair and also because it was big enough for 6-8 people and it was just the two of us.

Anyway, I ordered a Passionfruit iced tea and SP a Blackberry-Jasmine green iced tea. Both were very good. He also ordered a Maui Brewing Seasonal beer. Here's what we ate:
SP's Clam Chowder (New England style, chopped clams, potatoes).
My Classic Ranch Salad (iceberg & Boston lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, sweet corn, jack, cheddar, croutons, buttermilk ranch). I'm not a fan of corn so SP ate it.
SP's Tacos: a Baja fish taco (cabbage, cilantro, pico de gallo, guacamole, sriracha a├»oli) in a regular taco shell and a Carnitas taco (roast pork, grilled onions, pico de gallo, guacamole, pineapple) in a vampire shell."Vampire Style" is a  taco wrapped in a grilled, crispy cheese-crusted flour tortilla shell. He said they were good.
My Roasted Turkey Club (Swiss, crushed avocado, bacon, tomato, lettuce, mayo, toasted sourdough, fries).

Our food was fine, nothing great, large portions (well, mine) and for the Waikiki area, not too expensive. Lots of beer choices. Our server was terrific. I just left feeling rather let down and I'm not sure why because I don't have anything bad to say.

Yard House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, July 31, 2017


While researching our Hawaii trip, I discovered malasadas. A malasada is a Portuguese doughnut, in my mind, the Portuguese version of a Polish paczki: balls of yeast dough deep-fried in oil and coated with granulated sugar. Traditional malasadas contain neither holes nor fillings, but some are filled. They are eaten especially on Mardi Gras - the day before Ash Wednesday, but are available year round in HI. Of course I had to try malasadas. Our fist stop: Leonard's Bakery on Oahu.
We got there just as a fresh, hot batch was finishing. There were a lot of people there, buying malasadas and then standing outside, eating freshly made doughnuts. We got 4 filled malasadas: dobash (chocolate), custard, haupia (coconut) and a special (I think it was mango).
We didn't attack the hot doughnuts in the car, nor as soon as we got back to the hotel because we had to rush to freshen up and get to our dinner reservation. After dinner, back in the hotel room, I ate the chocolate one. Honestly, I wasn't impressed. Maybe because I was so full from dinner and I felt obligated to eat one of the malasadas we bought on the day we bought it. Mostly, I wasn't a fan of the dobash flavor. The next morning I ate the custard one and it was so darn good. I scarfed it up and then moved on to the special one despite SP's disapproving look and comment about too much doughnut for breakfast. Whatever, it was vacation!
All the goodies at Leonard's.

Our next malasadas were from Tex Drive-In in Honoka'a on the Big Island. While they made some fresh, hot malasadas, we shared a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich because we were hungry. Then our doughnuts were ready: Bavarian, chocolate, mango, apple.
I ate the Bavarian right away. Oh. My. Gosh. Yes, I had sugar all over my face, my shirt, the car, but it was so worth it for this hot malasada. I wished I had eaten a Leonard's malasada while still hot just for comparison.
I'm not sure which malasadas were tastier. Thankfully, they're on different islands so you don't have to choose, location chooses for you. Are they tastier than my beloved paczki? Thankfully, I don't need to decide because malasada = Hawaii and paczki = Pittsburgh. Location determines my doughnut. Both are sugar coated, custard filled, pillowy, fried dough delights.

We definitely suggest trying malasadas from these places if you're in Hawaii.

Leonard's Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Tex Drive In Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Blue Room

For our last meal in Hawaii, after a disappointing day of heat, mugginess, lots of heavy downpours, thinking we were lost (on a road that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere with no place to turn around because it was one of those terrific HI roads wide enough for only 1.5 cars), and general ugh, it's time to head home, we headed back to Mauna Lani Resort and The Blue Room. It's a French restaurant reminiscent of a Parisian brasserie with Hawaiian influence in both food and culture (so says the website!).
It was casual, friendly, TVs above the bar showing basketball (we asked but but they couldn't get the Pens playoff hockey game, we had to settle for the highlights at the end of our meal). We both ordered fresh brewed iced teas and SP also tried a beer:
Sounded disgusting to me, but he liked it.
I chose Croque Monsieur (grilled ham, gruyere, bechamel, dijon). It was good, very good, but huge! I needed SP's help to finish it all. Also, it kind of felt like I was eating a French bread pizza (or open face hoagie?!) but it was really cheesy and the bechamel was creamy, both good things.
Of course while I was stuffing my face with bread, ham, melty cheese, and cream sauce with fries on the side, SP was all healthy: Coconut Prawn Salad (mixed greens, mango, coconut, sun-dried tomato, cucumber, coconut-lime vinaigrette). He got it without the blue cheese. He said it was very good.
My side salad, The fries were a mistake, but they left them for us to munch on. After the huge sandwich, I was too full to eat more than a lettuce leaf and half a tomato, so SP helped and finished this salad, too.

Overall we were happy with our meals, The server was very friendly. We were there around 4:30 since we wanted to get back to the hotel, pack, and get to bed for our early flight and it wasn't very crowded. It was kind of nice, being the only ones for a while. I do think it was a tad pricey but that's Hawaii and Hawaiian resorts.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

Last Friday we met friends at Morcilla for dinner. As usual, the meal was yummy. We ordered the usual: serrano ham, jamon croquetas, tortilla espanola, and oxtail montadito.

We also ordered Pork Belly & Peaches a la Plancha (smoked brioche soubise, blueberry mustard, basil) - this might be my new favorite dish at Morcilla. Really, really yummy. Sadly, I didn't take any photos.

SP ordered Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho (heirloom tomato, cucumber, serrano chili, black olive oil, chervil) and Octopus a la Plancha (sesame yogurt, crispy pickled chickpeas, merguez spice, cucumber, dill). I like, but don't love, octopus, but I really loved the crispy chickpeas.

And of course the churros for dessert.

My July-August allergies are giving me a hard time right now. My nose is drippy, or stuffed, and last Friday before we left for Morcilla I got a nosebleed. Ick. My eyes are puffy and watery and I have a constant sinus headache. They seem worse than last year.

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We watched Mars, a show that aired last December on National Geographic. I thought it was going to be a documentary but it's a fictional story set in the future with the first humans on Mars. I didn't really enjoy it. I was often bored. Everyone was so serious and talked in these super hushed, so serious tones. I felt like I saw it all before, like in Matt Damon's The Martian. SP, however, loved the show. I read there is going to be a Season 2. I have a feeling we'll be watching. Or at least he will be.
  • After Mars, we went back to Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. Only 3 episodes into season 3. I am still not sure I really like the show but it has its moments.
  • Last Saturday when SP was at Kennywood, I entertained myself by watching movies: Why Him (horrible), My Life as a Zucchini (cute) and Keeping Up with the Joneses (so-so).
  • We're really enjoying 3 of our favorite shows: Orphan Black (yikes, Rachel's martini glass scene!), Game of Thrones (no spoilers but so good!), and Broadchurch.

What I'm Reading:
No books. A couple magazines, but the pile got stacked up again.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Shiono at Mauna Lani

I realized when looking in drafts that I never finished posting from our Hawaii trip. It seems so long ago now! We had a lot of good meals, including this one at Shiono at Mauna Lani.
Once again, I felt transported back to Japan. We were seated inside, but next to open shutter doors, gazing out over the golf course at palm trees, the Pacific, and a gorgeous sunset.

I tea while SP had sake. Here's what we ordered:
Gyoza. Fried dumplings done right.
I had an upset stomach that day so I ordered small and "boring" Japanese food! Tempura and a Rice Set (miso, pickles, salad, and rice). I knew SP would eat the miso soup and pickles. The rice was for my stomach. The salad because I needed a wee bit of vegetable.
And a small order of tempura because I didn't want a lot of food and I love tempura done right (it's not always done the way it should be). I loved the presentation and enjoyed my food.
Sunomono (cucumber and seaweed dressed with lightly sweetened vinegar).
Ika (squid), Toro (tuna), Anago (sea eel).
Saba (mackerel).
Hamachi (Yellowtail).

We both were happy with our meals and service. We'd go back if we're ever again visiting the Big Island.

Sushi Shiono Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, July 24, 2017

Red Oak Cafe

Last Friday morning I had a doctor appointment in Oakland. It was not a pleasant or efficient experience. We were there 15 minutes early but I didn't get called back until 40 minutes past my appointment time. After that exam, I was sent off to another area for a test/exam. Another 25 minute wait. Two machines and two women later (and a lot of discomfort) there was still not a successful result so I got angry because the last time this was done there was no problem. So I told them I refused to try again. Back to the waiting room. Another 20 minute wait until someone asked if I was waiting for the next test/exam and I said yes. It was still going to be 20+ minutes before that one. At this point, we had been at the hospital for 3 hours. It was well past lunch, we were really hungry, and I was in a foul mood. So I asked for my 2 exam/test prescriptions back and said I'd make arrangements to get them done elsewhere. We left and went to get lunch. (Note: I did not have the 2 tests scheduled, just the initial exam, but my doctor wanted me to have them done so of course they shuttled me off; had I known how much time would be spent waiting and waiting and waiting I never would have agreed to have the tests done, I would have just scheduled them myself for another time).
We walked to Red Oak Cafe, a place we've driven/walked past many times but we've never eaten there. It's a cute cafe. It was crowded. You order at the counter, they give you a number, you find a table and place your number on your table, and they bring your food to you.  They serve breakfast all day and I love breakfast sandwiches so I was happy. Nothing like some bacon to improve your mood.

SP chose Galileo (egg, bacon, provolone, seared tomato, wheat toast) - pictured above. He said it was yummy.
I created my own breakfast sandwich: egg, cheddar, bacon, tomato on croissant. It was tasty. It was a good size for me, almost more than I could eat. I think SP was a little sad I didn't share!

They also serve egg scramblers, breakfast burritos, pancakes, salads, sandwiches, smoothies and have a lot of vegetarian options that can also be made vegan options.

A plus: fresh brewed iced tea.

Definitely a nice, casual, not too expensive cafe in Oakland worth stopping by and grabbing a bite. The person who took our order was very friendly and helpful. It's in Oakland so I imagine it's super busy in the fall/spring when there are a lot more students on campus.

Red Oak Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

This past weekend we finally used the dried pasta we bought at Il Corvo in Seattle last September. Sometimes we're not so great at using food we buy on vacation. I think there might still be a bit of Stumptown coffee in the pantry - that'd be 3 years old now (from the Portland, OR trip).

We went to see Spiderman Homecoming. We enjoyed the movie. I always say it's a good movie if I don't glance at my watch to see just how much more there is. I didn't look at my watch at all.

My parents are in Las Vegas. They were not looking forward to the heat but were happy to escape the rain we've been having here. Of course when I turned on one of the weather channels, I saw a flash flood warning for Las Vegas and the radar showed yellow-orange-red storms over the area!

What We're Eating:

What We're Watching:

  • We watched the 8-episode Feud: Bette & Joan, finally. It's been on the DVR since it aired in March. I never had a favorable opinion of Joan Crawford but now, after seeing this show on FX, wow was she ever an insecure, scheming, witch! Of course by the end of the last episode, I was a little teary and almost felt bad for her. I've always been more of a Bette Davis fan. 
  • Game of Thrones is back! That opening scene! That ending scene! I think SP is turning me into a nerd. Soon I'll be reading the books and complaining that George RR Martin hasn't finished writing book #6 and that the HBO series has passed the books.
  • While many seem to be freaking out that Jodie Whittaker is the next Doctor Who (oh no! a woman!), we're enjoying her work in the third season of Broadchurch. It's nice to have the new crime to investigate while also seeing how everyone from the first season is moving on (or not) from the crime in season one. (I don't watch Doctor Who so I don't care who the next doctor is. SP watches and is fine with the new Doctor Who and thinks people should get a grip.)

What I'm Reading:
House of Spies, the latest from Daniel Silva, became available. I made SP pick it up the day I found out it was ready for pick up (Thursday) and I finished the book on Sunday. I would have finished it earlier if we hadn't had weekend plans, like seeing a movie and dinner with friends. Many authors whose series I read seem to phone it in after a while, but Silva doesn't. Can't wait for the next one (hopefully the Allon books aren't finished).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Crab Salad

It's summer and we haven't wanted to spend much time in the kitchen. Last week we made a super easy meal for dinner: Crab Salad.
Easy to make. Super easy leftover night (just open the container of crab salad). And yummy. Light & cool on a hot summer evening.
Crab Salad

  • 1 16-oz can lump crab meat (we use Great Blue Crab Meat)
  • 3 stalks celery, finely diced
  • bunch of fresh chives, chopped (or you could use a finely chopped onion, or both chives & onion)
  • as much/little Old Bay Seasoning as you like (we like it, but not too much of it)
  • as much/little mayo as you like (we don't like too much mayo, but that means our crab salad might be "drier" than what you like)
  • fresh parsley, chopped (if desired)

Open the can of crab and pick out any bits of shell that might be in with the crab. Transfer crab to a mixing bowl. Add the diced celery, chives, Old Bay, parsley, and mayonnaise. Gently mix together. Enjoy with grilled bread, crackers, or greens/salad.