Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

It finally feels like winter. It's cold and there are flurries and I'm bundled up under a blanket but still cold. How many days until spring?

Last weekend was SP's work holiday party. This year it was at Heinz Field. It was a nice evening and we got to go on a tour of the stadium, into the Steelers locker room, and out onto the field (but not on the actual field, just on the path around the perimeter of the field).

Speaking of Steelers, I am so glad they defeated the much disliked Bengals but good grief that game was brutal. I was a little teary when Shazier was flat on the field, not because I'm such a huge football fan or super, duper Steelers fan but more because I was scared for him and it upsets me that a player's life has the potential to be so profoundly changed from something as seemingly simple as a football tackle. I know they know the risks, they choose to play. But. I hope he is able to fully recover.

What We're Eating:

  • Shepherd's Pie. Yum! I had forgotten how much I like this dish. Plus we used 2 of the 4 half bags of peas.
  • Salad. To make up for 2 weeks of pretty crappy eating habits.
  • Dessert: Snickerdoodles

What We're Watching:

  • I watched American Assassin and it was OK. I love the Mitch Rapp books and was disappointed because I thought the movie could have been so much more, much as I feel about the Stephanie Plum (books by Evanovich) movie and the Jack Reacher movies. The only books I always read and love that have been made successful on TV/in movies are the Harry Bosch books as Bosch on Amazon Prime.
  • I watched Shot Caller, which I thought was quite good.
  • Agents of SHIELD is back on TV and so far this season is much, much better than last year's stupid robot girl/framework crap.

What I'm Reading:

  • I finished Deep Freeze and enjoyed it.
  • I read the new Jack Reacher book, The Midnight Line. It was good, better than the last one which I found slightly disappointing, and it's a little... different. In a good way.
  • My magazine pile is down to 4. That's half what it was.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

It's been a week since Thanksgiving. It feels like it was just yesterday! SP took some time off form work, so we had an extra long holiday. It was quite a busy holiday, with more dining out than usual.

  • We saw The Color Purple at the Benedum and enjoyed it much more than we expected. After, we had dinner at Meat & Potatoes. I'm so boring & predictable: fried pickles, fried Brussels, and the Three Little Pigs sandwich plus 2 Sgt. Pepper's Old Fashioneds.
  • SP mowed one last time. Yes. Mowed the grass. In November, And cut down the decorative grasses that were over 4 feet tall. He also moved some outdoor furniture inside, got the snowblower ready for snow season, and got the mower ready for a winter nap.
  • We attended a family dinner at Central Diner where I enjoyed cheese sticks and a chicken salad club sandwich.
  • We went to see Justice League, which wasn't the best superhero movie but was not as bad as reviews had led us to expect. Not sure I like the character Aquaman but Jason Momoa sure is a good-looking guy.
  • We spent a lot of time in the kitchen for the holiday, including baking two pies, as usual, pumpkin and apple.
  • We went out to dinner with SIL to Industry Public House. We finally had another person with us so we could order the giant soft pretzel. It was huge! The beer cheese was yummy but we needed a larger bowl of it. More beer cheese!
  • We had Thanksgiving here, a small group this time, just 7 people, so that was nice but just as much work/clean up as when there are 14+ people.
  • We had our annual visit with friends from VA who were in town for the holiday. There were 8 of us and some people ordered pizza while others ordered Indian food and used Uber Eats. Uber Eats was less than impressive, taking nearly 30 minutes longer than they said they'd take to deliver the Indian food. The pizza was gone before the Indian food arrived.
  • We hauled out the holiday decorations and now the house is Christmas-ed up. 
  • We ate out, again, Burgatory, where I created my usual custom sandwich (chicken breast on brioche with BBQ sauce, cheese, fried egg, bacon, tomato, cucumber, greens).

What We're Eating:

  • Leftovers. We sent people home with turkey, but we still had enough for 4 dinners for us, with stuffing, green beans, and sweet potato. We had to buy some broccoli for additional vegetable with the turkey.
  • Leftover marinara sauce from the freezer with pasta and sausage. We had forgotten about the marinara sauces in the freezer until we had to clean out the freezer to make room for the turkey before Thanksgiving. We also found 4 bags of half used peas.
  • Leftovers for lunch: Central Diner, Burgatory, pizza, Industry mac & cheese, veggies and dip from Thanksgiving.
  • Dessert: Leftover pie for a few days and then nothing. Too much food and too much eating lately.

I'm tired of leftovers, do not want to see any turkey or stuffing or green beans, and have no interest in cheese or pizza or bacon.

On the plus side, I got my annual bloodwork done after Thanksgiving and everything was normal. My glucose was even back down where it should be. But I still feel like we need a week of detoxing with salad.

What We're Watching:

  • We watched the first episode of The Punisher on Netflix. We'll finish the series but we got sucked into some other shows.
  • Specifically, Mindhunter, which I didn't like at first but it grew on me and then we couldn't stop watching.
  • The usual TV shows, nothing really stands out.
  • I watched the movie The Beguiled, which was good but also slow.

What I'm Reading:

  • I'm trying to get a handle on the magazine pile. It threatens to topple over. In the pile, the latest Food & Wine (and my last issue since I didn't renew it), Bon Appetit, Food Network Magazine, Saveur, Pittsburgh Magazine, 2 Smithsonian issues, an old issue of Scientific American that SP thinks I should read, and a local magazine for the west area.
  • I read Widowmaker and Knife Creek, books 7 & 8 in the Mike Bowditch series. I really like these books and am hoping the series continues. Hopefully a 9th book this summer - ? 
  • I'm about one third of the way through the latest John Sandford, Deep Freeze, a Virgil Flowers novel.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thursday Thoughts - Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, and delicious food.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Thanksgiving Thoughts

It's Thanksgiving week - gobble gobble!

I know a lot of people get really excited about Thanksgiving foods, but I've never been one of them. As a kid, the best part was the turkey. I didn't like gravy, or stuffing, or mashed potatoes, or the green bean salad, or that gross canned cranberry crud. I guess the dinner rolls were OK. Back then I didn't even put butter on my rolls and I still don't unless it's a "fancy" butter. Even Thanksgiving dessert was awful. I didn't like (and am still not a huge fan of) pumpkin pie with it's off-putting squishy, orangey-brown color. My grandpa liked mincemeat pie, which is more disgusting than pumpkin pie. Grandma would give me a bowl of Cool Whip for dessert.

I'm still not that into Thanksgiving even though we are hosting here. Nowadays, I do like mom's gravy, and I've become a huge fan of grandma's sausage stuffing, but turkey is such a bland meat plus it's what I eat nearly every day for lunch. Everything else? It's just OK. The best part is that we make apple pie and I love apple pie. Also, I like the appetizers.

Thanksgiving does make me a little sad because my grandparents' birthdays were around Thanksgiving and I miss them a lot, especially at the holidays. My grandparents would have turned 96 this year - grandpa on Thanksgiving Day this year and grandma 2 days later. I was supposed to be a Thanksgiving baby, too, but decided to arrive early.

Even though this year there will be only 7 of us instead of up to 22 (both families, if everyone is in town and spending it here), there are still quite a few dishes to make. Last week I made my shopping list of things to buy over the weekend and things to buy tomorrow. I also made my "time sheet" of when everything has to get done so that everything is ready for a 5 pm dinner. The star of the show arrived last Monday: MIL bought a nearly 20 lb turkey from Soergel's and he's been thawing since Saturday morning.

Here's the plan:

Appetizers
Vegetables with Beau Monde Dip
Cheese & Crackers
Cashews

Meal
Roast Turkey with Gravy
Mom's (Grandma's) Sausage Stuffing
Bourbon Orange Cranberry Sauce
Brussels Sprouts with parmesan
Green Beans & Portobellas
Sweet Potatoes

Dessert
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Whipped Cream

Drinks
Wine (chardonnay)
Old Fashioneds
Gin & Tonic
Unsweetened Iced Tea
Coffee & Hot Tea

Type 1 Diabetes runs strong in SP's family so there are several guests who pick & choose their carbs/sugars carefully and eat a lot of vegetables. So we decided to cut out some of the dishes we'd normally make. That means no rolls, no mashed potatoes, no corn. Rolls & corn were mostly for the kids and there won't be any kids. Sadly, those are the easy things to make! Open a bag of rolls, dump in bread basket. Throw corn in casserole and microwave.

Usually we ask FIL to make his cole slaw, but with such a small group, I don't think we need it. We thought about adding some roasted cauliflower, but then decided against a third vegetable to make and instead upped the quantity of green beans and Brussels we'll make. 

Usually with a large gathering, we also have more appetizers, like shrimp cocktail and a hot appetizer like the Mushroom Turnovers or Gruyere- Prosciutto Pinwheels, but again, with this smaller group, some guests don't eat that kind of thing and the rest don't want to fill up too much before the big meal. 

Usually MIL also brings chocolate covered pretzels and cookies and maybe there will be a pumpkin roll, but with no kids and some of the seven people not eating dessert/eating just a very small portion of dessert, we figured 2 pies was enough.

It's still a lot to do, especially since we like to make the pies from scratch, including the crusts, but we both like cooking/baking so it's fun. Until it's 4:45 pm on the big day and things have fallen off track!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we went to see Thor Ragnarok and enjoyed it. Much better than the last Thor movie. After, we had dinner at Downey's House. I satisfied my fried food craving with fried zucchini and a cheesesteak sandwich. SP ordered fish and salad. I always feel so unhealthy chomping on my cheesesteak or meatball sub while he eats his fish and salad.

It's hard to believe that we've been in this house for 9+ years. We never got to know the neighbors across the street on the corner of our street and another street. One day they were there, then we heard a dog barking a lot so we assumed they got a dog, then one day Barky was gone, then he was back, gone, back, gone, back, then we heard from another neighbor that the husband left the wife, then the house looked abandoned, then it was foreclosed, and then it went up for auction. The people who bought it knocked on our door last July asking us if we'd sign a petition for the township saying we were OK with them changing the driveway from our street to the other street. Apparently the township needs neighbors to agree and then they decide whether or not to allow it. We said OK & signed.

Turns out "move the driveway from our street to the perpendicular street across from our bedroom window" really meant removing the old roof and old main floor, rebuilding the main floor, and adding an addition with basement level, main floor level, and second level plus all new roof, all new windows, all new siding, etc. There has been noise since July. Excavating dirt noise, truck beeping noise, hammering, chainsawing trees, jack-hammering concrete, more hammering, roof pounding noise, more beeping noise. Thumps and thuds. It's now mid-late November and we are getting annoyed with the near constant construction noise. It starts very early. It's on weekends. Lights shine in our bedroom window early in the morning. Trucks are always parked on the street in front of our house. It really is getting to me because I am the one who is home all day. There still are no windows installed and no exterior siding whether it's vinyl or brick or whatever. There are piles of dirt and wood. It dwarfs our house and the other houses on our street. It will be the most expensive house on the street.

I am calling it "The Monster." It's hideous. I despise it. I regret signing the petition but we were trying to be nice neighbors. Little did we know they didn't give us the full story. I can't wit for it to be done.

They better not bring a new Barky with them. Because with old Barky, I was ready to, well, silence Barky.

What We're Eating:

  • Sloppy Joes
  • Salad with Shrimp. For the week between birthday week & Thanksgiving week.
  • Dessert: Spiced Biscotti

What We're Watching:

  • We started watching Mindhunter on Netflix. Two episodes in and I'm still just meh.
  • The Punisher comes out tomorrow on Netflix. It's getting so-so reviews but we'll still watch it.
  • I watched A Ghost Story and regretted it. So slow & boring.
  • I'm looking forward to tonight's Shonda shows. 

What I'm Reading:

  • I read the 5th & 6th Mike Bowditch novels from Paul Doiron, The Bone Orchard and Precipice.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Birthday Brunch at Eleven

Last Sunday I enjoyed my annual Big Burrito Birthday Coupon Brunch at Eleven. I don't even consider using the coupon on a dinner meal anymore because I love the brunch so much. It was, as always, delicious. This year's brunch is noteworthy because I didn't order my usuals. I tried new dishes! Here's what we ate:
Short Rib Hash (poached egg, horseradish, mustard seed jus). SP ordered this the last time and I loved it then, and now. The short rib & sauce are so good.
Beignets (cranberry jam, chocolate, pistachio). Powdered, sugary puffs of pillowy dough. Yum.
Squash Crepe (squash purée, ricotta, béchamel, sage). I enjoyed this more than I expected. Really, really good, the creamy bechamel, the crisp sage, the ricotta.
Eggs Benedict (English muffin, hollandaise, truffle vinaigrette, prosciutto cotto, arugula, citrus). Usually I order this dish, but this time, SP did. He liked it as much as I do.
Eleven Breakfast Sandwich (brioche bun, fried egg, cheddar cheese, parmesan hash-brown, bacon, roasted garlic aioli, caramelized onion, mesclun greens). Oh my gosh. My favorite breakfast sandwich from Bakn has a rival for my affection. I asked for no aioli. The parmesan hash brown was divine, plus peppered bacon and cheese, plus sweet & soft caramelized onions which are always so much tastier at a restaurant than when we try to make them at home. So. Good. I want another. Now.
Crème Fraîche Brûlée (raspberry almond macaron). Yum! Nice to have a crème brûlée that wasn't runny (like the ones we made last spring) and that had a nice, crisp, burnt sugar top (not like the ones we made last week which were "topless" because both our torches are dead).
Apple Spice Cake (maple crème fraiche, ginger ice cream, speculoos crumble). The cake and crumble were good but the star was the ginger ice cream. SP usually likes ginger more than I do and I am happy to let him have it, but this time, I fought him for my fair share of that ginger ice cream.

There were cocktails, too (mimosa and bloody mary, as usual for us) and hot tea as well as the usual basket of baked goodies (croissants, mini muffins, mini biscuits with honey butter and jam). I look forward to birthday brunch every year because it's so darn good. I'm thinking we have to make more of an effort to get out for brunch on weekends because I'm not sure once/year is enough for these yummy brunch foods.

Thanks to Eleven for another excellent birthday brunch.


Eleven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, November 13, 2017

Mombo

I've finally arrived at the end of the NH-ME September vacation posts. The final post is our last night of vacation, back in Portsmouth, NH after driving from Bar Harbor, ME. We ate at Mombo. It's near Prescott Park & Strawberry Banke.
It was a chilly, drizzly evening so I was happy to be seated near the fireplace even if there wasn't actually a fire. When it gets colder, they do build fires, but I guess it was a little early for roaring fires.
One thing I love about New England is the old, historic buildings. The fireplaces, exposed wood beams.
It was cozy, inviting, warm, and romantic.
I didn't enjoy wine/cocktails because I was pretty sick. I was guzzling my favorite blue liquid medicine every 4 hours, so I asked for hot tea. SP had a cocktail called Maple Manhattan (Makers Mark, Jim Beam Maple, Sweet Vermouth, Bitters, Bacon Dusted Rim). He said it was excellent.

Here's what we ate:
Bread with butter and balsamic/olive oil. Yummy.
For an appetizer, SP chose The Deviled Trio (Maine lobster with tobiko, smoked salmon with everything spice, pancetta with English muffin crumble). He loves deviled eggs and said these versions were delicious. I didn't try any.
We shared Strawberry & Brie Salad (roasted balsamic strawberries paired with crispy chili scented brie cheese accompanied by a spinach salad tossed with a tarragon vinaigrette & topped with a lemon poppy streusel). This was a really good salad and the hunk of fried brie was so darn good. I'd never had fried brie before. I want more of it.
After finishing his Maple Manhattan, SP ordered tea, too. We liked the teapots and the fact that Mombo uses loose leaf tea.
Even though we do brew tea using teabags, loose leaf tea makes a better cup of tea than the tea dust in the teabags. 
The hot tea probably tasted extra good because it was such a chilly, damp, misty evening, and for me, because I had a cold. My cold meant I didn't have much of an appetite. For my meal, I ordered an appetizer:
Maine Lobster Flatbread (grilled flatbread topped with citrus aioli, Maine lobster, with fresh mozzarella cheese, grape tomatoes, arugula greens). It was definitely big enough for me. Even with a little help from SP, I didn't finish it. It was good.
SP chose Chili Spiced Duck Breast (pan seared and placed atop a warm potato salad accompanied by a grilled nut bread with a Maine blueberry mousse & paired with a strawberry demi glace). He said his duck was really good and he liked the blueberry mousse.
We had enough room to share a dessert: Italian Rum Cake Crème Brûlée (dark chocolate cream & strawberry coulie between layers of rum soaked cake with toasted almonds placed atop a classic vanilla bean crème brulee). It was good and small enough that we were able to finish it without feeling overly stuffed.

We both really liked Mombo. Service was great, the food yummy, the atmosphere cozy. Next time we're in Portsmouth, NH, we'd go back.


  Mombo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Travelin' Lobster

For our last meal in Maine, we decided to go to a lobster shack. We chose The Travelin' Lobster. We pulled off the road into a gravel drive, saw some open tables, and found me a table while SP went to the shack to order.
It's a cute, blue shack. The people are super friendly.
Some people might need to consider their options (mussels, clams, sometimes crab claws, clam chowder), but we were there for lobster. And when we saw this sign, pie:
Lobster saunas:
We waited at a round, wood table for our food to arrive. I was sipping water. SP chose beer.
Soon our food arrived:
SP went for the entire lobster. He didn't get the meal with mussels, just the lobster, corn, and cole slaw.
I had already experienced an entire lobster on this trip and wasn't up for making SP dissect my meal, too, so I had a lobster roll:
We both enjoyed our dinners and then we ate the blueberry pie:
It was yummy, too. SP left Maine a happy man: he got his lobster meal at a lobster shack and he got some blueberry pie.

Not much else to say: a lobster shack serves lobster. You order at the shack. They bring your food when it's ready. You eat at picnic style tables. Then you toss your napkins/plates/plastic utensils and set the tray on the stack. Very casual, quick, delicious.


The Travelin' Lobster Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thursday Birthday Thoughts

Yesterday was my birthday. It was much better than last year when my birthday was the same day as the presidential election. This year's celebrations:

*Family birthday dinner last Saturday at Cafe io with my parents and in-laws. I enjoyed my usual Cafe Iovino appetizer, Monster grilled cheese, and limoncello cake. No photos, though, because we eat there often and I order the same things and because the table was crowded with waters and other beverages and I was afraid something would spill on the phone.
*SP bought me a bottle of Blanton's bourbon. He gave it to me early so we could try it Sunday (Sundays are our cocktail days). It's not a wheated bourbon (my preference). It's a Buffalo Trace bourbon and it's a single barrel bourbon. It came in a cloth pouch in a box. Fancy.
And it has a horse topped stopper. We made old fashioneds. I really like this bourbon. We have to buy a bottle of cheaper bourbon for cooking over the holidays (we have a couple dishes we make every Thanksgiving/Christmas that use bourbon) because I'm not using the pricey bourbon to cook!
*Yesterday my mom & I went shopping and to lunch at Cheesecake Factory. I used to love CF, but it seems to be not as enjoyable as it used to be and not just because they no longer offer the shrimp-bacon sandwich. But they still have the passionfruit iced tea and that's yummy stuff. I had the chicken-avocado sandwich. Mom had meatloaf with mushroom gravy. So a nice birthday lunch. No room for cheesecake, though.
*For birthday dinner last night, SP made me Pasta with Peas & Prosciutto - yum!
*He also arrived home with birthday treats from Gaby et Jules. I shared the wine flavored macaron, Irish creme macaron, and chouquette with him but he knows I won't share my coffee filled eclair, so he bought his own.
*I used my new, super cute tea brewer last night to brew a cup of apricot tea. Thanks Googer, for the teas & infuser. In the photo above, from Sunday, the elephant is brewing cinnamon plum. I haven't had the cinnamon plum in a while and am happy to have some again plus somehow Googer knew I had no apricot tea left so the new supply is much appreciated.

*I spent my birthday evening with my toes tucked in slippers from MIL I am amazed at how warm my toes are!

So it was a good birthday and now I'm ready to think about Thanksgiving & turkey.

What We're Eating:

  • Coq au Vin with rice and roasted cauliflower
  • Pasta with Peas & Prosciutto
  • Dessert: Chocolate Creme Brulee

What We're Watching:

  • We watched Baby Driver last weekend. We were very disappointed. I actually hated it. We expected so much more after all the positive reviews and "hype" about this movie but we didn't like it. Two thumbs down!
  • Some new holiday baking shows on Food Network started, so we are watching them when we have time.
  • Last Sunday we settled on the couch to watch the latest episode of The Deuce and were super confused to see credits rolling 15 minutes into the hour and then discovered nothing was recording. Turns out there were only 8 episodes and the one we watched on Oct. 29 was the season finale. Huh. 

What I'm Reading:

  • I read the latest Michael Connelly novel, Two Kinds of Truth. I enjoyed the latest Harry Bosch quite a bit. His books are the I-can't-put-it-down kind of books.
  • I also read Massacre Pond, the 4th Mike Bowditch novel by Paul Doiron. I really enjoy the books, the 4 that I've read, but gosh I hope life throws some good stuff at Mike soon because things seem pretty depressing.
  • I'm finally interested in reading the Thanksgiving food magazine issues. I have a hard time caring about turkey before Halloween/my birthday.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thirsty Whale Tavern

After a day sight-seeing in Acadia National Park, we headed into Bar Harbor and grabbed some food at Thirsty Whale Tavern. We went early for dinner because our lunch had not been impressive. I think lunch was car snack food. We did have a good breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.) but lunch was sad.
As the name says, it's a tavern. Long wooden bar. People enjoying Happy Hour (a little too much enjoyment for a few patrons). SP ordered a Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale and I had iced tea:
My cold had really started to be annoying by this point, so I really wanted the Mozzarella Sticks because they're comforting, fried, yummy:
Ooey and gooey and they really hit the spot.
SP of course had soup: New England Clam Chowder. Definitely a good choice on a chilly late afternoon.
To my surprise, he ordered a pile of fried seafood, The Fisherman's Plate with fried haddock, shrimp, scallops, clams and salad on the side.
It was an impressive pile of fried seafood and he managed to eat most of it. He ate all the salad.
I chose a Grilled Cheese with bacon and tomato and a side salad. It was good and, again, comforting since I didn't feel great. The salad was a very nice side salad with feta, red pepper, and olives.

We liked our food, our server was friendly and kept the iced teas filled. We'd go back. There can be quite a wait later in the evenings so if that's an issue for you, go early.


Thirsty Whale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato